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10 Fun Things To Do In Second Life

Posted by SIM on April 10, 2007

10 Fun Things To Do In Second Life That Aren’t Embarrassing If Your Priest Or Rabbi Finds Out
By Mitch Wagner
Apr 10, 2007

I get frustrated hearing people talk about how Second Life isn’t entertaining, or it’s only useful for advertising to “freaks,”, “furries, ageplay perverts and prank-loving adolescents.” I finally decided to put together a list of things to do in Second Life, as a resource for people curious about the game, and also as something I can point to next time I read one of those misguided attacks.

I don’t really blame the people who think there’s nothing to do in Second Life. One of the areas where Second Life is weakest is in introducing newcomers to the world. The user interface is confusing, and, worse, once you’ve got that mastered, it’s hard to figure out what to do. The newbie is confronted with an array of cybersex areas, online casinos, and sleazy make-money-fast schemes. But, once you get past that initial barrier, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Second Life.

This list is a first draft. I plan to update it over time with links, more detailed information, and screen captures, while keeping it short, so it’s useful as a fast, informative read for the curious, and a quick guide to newbies. Watch the Second Life category of this blog for notices of significant updates.

Here’s the list of things to do:

Talk to other people. I interviewed one Second Life skeptic who dismissed SL, saying it’s just a chatroom with graphics.

But that’s actually one of its strengths.

I have very little patience with IRC and chatrooms on the 2D Internet, but the 3D nature of Second Life allows me to suspend disbelief and be somewhere else, not at my desk staring at a screen.

I can chat in Second Life for quite some time, exchanging jokes or having deeper discussions with friends.

Dancing. Here’s how it works: You send your avatar off to a SL dance club or bar. There’s music playing — it’s streaming audio that plays over your PC speakers. Everybody hears the same music. You click on a “dance ball,” and away you go — your avatar starts dancing, with all the other dancing avatars. Sure, it looks silly, but that’s part of the fun. And while you’re dancing, you’re engaged in text chat with the other dancers around you.

So there you are, in a chatroom while watching interesting graphics and chatting with pleasant people. What’s not to like?

I’ve become a regular at a place called … well, actually, I won’t say the name here, because the guy who told me about it asked me not to publish it in an article. If you’re interested in the name, send me an e-mail at mwagner@cmp.com and I’ll let you know. Meanwhile I’ll e-mail the guy who turned me on to the place to see if he’d be willing to release me from my confidentiality agreement.

Building and creating things. Earlier this month, I attended the O’Reilly ETech Emerging Technology Conference, and sat at a lunch table with some of the brightest minds in Web 2.0. They were dismissive of Second Life, which I’ve learned to expect from people who aren’t regulars in SL.

One of the people at the table was Cory Doctorow, blogger,, cyber-civil-libertarian, science-fiction writer and all-around smart guy. Wouldn’t it be swell (Cory mused) if there was a game called “World of Craft,” where you made things? Sure, there’s craft in World of Warcraft and Everquest, but it’s really just repetitive mousing and clicking, not involving real thought or creativity. What if you could really build things in-game, and that was the whole point of the game?

That game exists. It’s Second Life.

People spend huge amounts of time in Second Life building and scripting houses and furniture and especially clothing and avatars. Users write scripts to control haw the avatar moves. They create vehicles to drive or fly around or through Second Life.

They give a lot of this stuff away, and sell a lot of it too. Which leads me to…

Doing business. You can make real-world money in Second Life. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. Most of the people in business in Second Life aren’t making any significant amounts of money at all. Business is a game in Second Life.

The amounts of money changing hands are mostly pretty small. You can buy a nice suit of clothes in SL for about a buck and a quarter American. You can buy a house for less than ten bucks.

Doing business in Second Life has many of the same benefits that it has in the real world. To do business, you have to talk to other people. In SL as in RL, you have to find a place to sell your stuff, you have to advertise it and market it, you have to deal with customers.

Consider a Second Life dance hall: Somebody built it (more likely a team of somebodys). They employ DJs, spinning music over streaming audio. The dance hall will employ hosts and hostesses to make guests feel welcome. There are often people who work security, to guard against in-world pranksters, known as “griefers.” All these people are building community by talking and working together and having fun.

The employees — DJs, hosts and hostesses, and security guards — generally make only a nominal amount of money. Like the business owners, they’re mostly in it for fun, role-playing at having jobs.

Shopping. With all those people building clothes and avatars and vehicles and things, Second Life has plenty of shops, and you can while away many pleasant hours committing SL retail. I like to do it alone, but many people do it with friends, same as shopping in the real world.

Role-playing games: The Second Life variety of RPG is half improvisational theater, and half re-enactment (like Civil War re-enactors in real life). Players behave and move in character, and interact with each other. Examples: Midian is sort of like Sin City or Bladerunner with vampires and hellhounds. The activity in Midian sometimes involves cybersex, so be warned.

Roma is a re-enactment of the pageantry, holidays, and gladiator combat of ancient Rome.

Tombstone recreates the cowboy town of Tombstone, Ariz., at the time of the gunfight at the OK Corral.

Other kinds of games. You can find WoW/Everquest style fantasy games in SL, as well as shoot-em-ups, and even quidditch, from the Harry Potter novels. The other night, while wandering around SL, I found a delightful bowling alley, with one of those futuristic space-age signs that were so popular in the real world in the 1950s.

See the sights. Sightseeing is one of my favorite things to do. Just wander around Second Life, exploring and looking at all the beautiful things users have built.

How do you know where to go?

Well, you can ask people — and that gets back to the very first item on our list, talking to other people.

The SL search tool, which is part of the software client, has a list of popular places, along with their coordinates. You can also search on keywords.

When you’re going somewhere, don’t take the most direct route. Wander and look around a bit.

Or just click places on the game map at random and see where you end up.

Sailing. The Nantucket Yacht Club and other in-game venues offer sailing in Second Life. Capture the virtual winds and cruise around the world. I actually haven’t been sailing yet, but it’s extremely popular.

Surfing. You can get a virtual surfboard in Second Life and hang ten on the digital waves. I did this once, and have been meaning to go back and keep it up; it’s fun.

What do you like to do in Second Life? What do you recommend to newbies? Leave a comment below, or IM me in-game, I’m Ziggy Figaro. (Heck, leave a comment and IM me; I’m a tough guy, I can take it.)

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‘Second Life’ Plans To Charge For Vanity Names

Posted by SIM on April 9, 2007

Participants in 3-D virtual world will have to pay for the privilege of choosing ‘avatar’s’ handle
By Rachel Konrad
04/08/2007

SAN FRANCISCO — In the real world, it’s something you’re given. In the virtual world, having a full name is going to cost you.

The online fantasy world “Second Life” will soon allow residents to customize their characters’ first and last names — at a cost likely to be $100 up front and $50 a year, said spokesman Alex Yenni.

Currently, participants in the popular alternative universe can give their digital proxies — called avatars — nearly any first name they’d like.

But nearly everyone has to select from a rotating stock of surnames — conventional surnames such as Geiger, Felix and Lancaster, or futuristic, foreign or odd ones like Cioc, Stenvaag and Pugilist.

Special Names

The 3-D fantasy world’s operators, San Francisco-based startup Linden Research Inc., have approved special names to only a select group of high-profile members, including IBM Corp. Chairman Samuel J. Palmisano and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards. So far the company hasn’t charged for them.

The company’s business development team decided to create a vanity name feature in part to help legitimize the growing number of executives, political candidates and other famous people who stage rallies and give stump speeches in the virtual world.

Trust, But Verify

With the new feature to debut by the end of the year, Linden Research will try to verify that avatars with high-profile names belong to same-named owners. For now, it’s nearly impossible to determine the offline identity behind any avatar.

There are already “Second Life” avatars named John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Wesley Clark, but Yenni could not say whether those avatars were controlled by the presidential hopefuls, members of their staffs or random poachers.

As of Wednesday, no one in “Second Life” was named Barack Obama, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney.

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Interview With Stroker Serpentine

Posted by SIM on March 30, 2007

Stroker Serpentine, Second Life’s Porn Mogul, Speaks
by Regina Lynn
03.30.07

Kevin Alderman might not be a household name (yet). Most people are more familiar with his alter ego, Stroker Serpentine, the Second Life business mogul who built the first in-world sex bed — a digital bed with built-in sex position animations — and whose Amsterdam sim — a digital city — just sold on eBay for $50,000.

I caught up with him by phone the day Amsterdam sold. He was on a “Sopranos Tour” in New Jersey, but ducked into an alley near an ice cream shop to talk to me about why virtual property has real value and how sexuality and 3-D go together like ice cream and Oreo cookies.

Wired News: Let’s start with the basics. Who is Stroker Serpentine?

Kevin Alderman: I get so involved in the character that Stroker really is more me than he is a character. But let’s see. Stroker is a pervert at large. Erotic facilitator. Pornographic mogul.

I like to think of myself in terms of being an adult friend finder, operating in an immersive environment where I can use my creative talents to bring people together. Stroker is a character I developed three years ago within Second Life, and I started out with small events with like-minded individuals who also enjoyed the aspects of avie (avatar) erotica.

WN: Why would anyone pay $50,000 for a virtual property?

Alderman: Why would someone pay real money for something that doesn’t exist except on a server and a rack in San Francisco? I think because of the immersive nature of a virtual platform, and the ability to interact in real time with people from all walks of life and different environments and different cities across the globe. It’s much better than a telephone because you have a visual representation, and we are tactile-visual creatures. It’s the next best thing to real life, barring some type of cortical interface a la The Matrix.

Amsterdam is unique inasmuch (as) it was our first adult-oriented property within Second Life. It was a favored hangout of the majority of Second Life escorts and developed a reputation as being salacious and erotic — and we developed it with that purpose in mind.

When you think about sexy cities, Amsterdam obviously comes to mind. I used actual photographs of the city to lay out the sim and created textures based upon real landmarks. The reason it sold for 50K is because there will be no other Amsterdam within Second Life. It’s like a unique URL — like Sex.com, which (is worth) millions of dollars.

The sim was bought by an investment group, which is in the Netherlands, and they see the potential for commercialization and marketing. And people from the Netherlands are automatically going to be drawn to a sim named Amsterdam.

WN: What do you think about sexuality in virtual spaces?

Alderman: I think it’s an inevitable progression. Static web pages were great for information connectivity. But (in virtual worlds) you make the paradigm leap away from something that is projected to you and toward something you create that represents yourself. You impress your own psyche, motivations, creativity, sensuality onto a group of pixels and become quite attached to it.

It’s interesting how much freedom you get in that you don’t have any inhibitions to restrain you. If you want to be a Gorean and prostitute yourself to a master or become their personal sex slave, then go for it. If you want to be an escort in Amsterdam, or a domme, go for it. So many freedoms — things you couldn’t normally do in real life or that you would love to do — the fantasy aspect is limitless.

Probably 60 percent of the women and men that come in-world at least try escorting or use the service because it’s the jumping off point, where you can explore your sexuality anonymously. You can see what it is that Second Life has to offer in terms of avie erotica. Until we get the cortical interface, this is the next best thing — and I’m holding out for qDot (to make the breakthrough).

WN: You sold Amsterdam in part because your focus has shifted to Eros. What is Eros?

Alderman: We’re a grass-roots community of residents who like to push the envelope as to what is available to us within this 3-D platform of Second Life. We have regular group events where we get together and collaborate. We dance — we do it naked, typically — and we brainstorm and try to develop avenues of expansion. We talk about products we’d like to see developed, and specific animations that a group of people would like to see.

Every element — the Goreans, the Amazons, the furries — all have unique needs and requests. We listen to them and then gather the animators, texture artists and builders, and ask: “How can we make this happen?”

Eros is a complete experience. It’s a community, it’s not just a place. We’re all over the place, and we have events and sims and attitude. And it’s a safe place to express yourself in a virtual environment — with no excuses and no explanations.

WN: How do you see Strokerz Toyz and your other adult developments in Second Life affecting the future of sexuality in-world?

Alderman: Somebody’s gotta be the bad boy. And it might as well be me.

This has been a progression for me over the years, from platform to platform and game to game. I saw a need and I’m filling that need. The actual expansion of the “Serpentine Empire” is being motivated and instituted by customers and requests. When people come to me and say, “You know what would really be cool…,” we use that and expand on it.

And SexGen, which is our best-selling animation system — it’s what we built our business on — was a combination of ideas and collaboration between a programmer, an animator and a pervert.

Stroker is just the icon. The staff and the group members and the supporters are really the driving force. They tell us what they would like to see and we do our damnedest to make it happen.

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TheBar.com Raises A Glass To Second Life

Posted by SIM on March 26, 2007

Virtual ‘cheers’, provided you drink responsibly
By Clement James
26 March 2007

Real world drinks promoter Thebar.com has introduced a virtual Bar Kit to be syndicated and deployed in bars and nightclubs in Second Life.

Virtual bars and nightclubs are already popular meeting spots for Second Life citizens, or avatars, but such venues offer little built-in interactivity, according to Thebar.com.

The Bar Kit allows patrons to be linked through their drink choices, each of which is associated with a catch phrase and animation.

The catch phrase and animation are triggered when avatars propose ‘toasts’ with their drinks. When one avatar proposes a toast to the room, all avatars drinking the same beverage automatically join in the animation.

Additionally, when one avatar proposes a ‘cheers’ to other patrons, all other avatars with the same drink will raise their glasses and have the option to repeat the ‘cheers’ or join in with an ‘I’ll drink to that’.

Thebar.com has also taken measures to ensure that the Bar Kit will be used responsibly by patrons and owners by building in features that promote responsible virtual drinking.

All bar patrons are asked to submit their age when they order their first drink at any bar.

An avatar who tries to overuse the toast function, thereby causing a ruckus for other bar patrons, receives a friendly reminder animation to ‘drink responsibly’ instead of the usual animation.

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Calvin Klein Launches Second Life Virtual Perfume

Posted by SIM on March 21, 2007

Virtual Scent for a Virtual World
by Clement James
21 Mar 2007

The Second Life virtual community continues to attract more big names from the real world.

Calvin Klein this week became the first global fragrance brand to launch in the virtual world.

Second Life residents and visitors will be able to visit the CK IN2U site to pick up virtual bottles of the new IN2U fragrances for him and her. They will be able to spray virtual partners with virtual “fizzing fragrance bubbles” to initiate dialogue.

Customers can also use specially modified Calvin Klein graffiti bottles to express themselves and whatever they or their friends are ‘in 2’.

UK consumers who want a sniff of the real thing will be able to click through to the CK IN2U website to request a free ‘real world’ sample.

Calvin Klein is also launching a photography competition and gallery, offering avatars the chance to post a snapshot of any image that inspires them in the virtual world.

The winner will become a ‘millionaire’, taking the 1,000,000 Linden dollar prize money.

Lori Singer, vice president of global marketing at Calvin Klein Fragrances, claimed that the perfume will appeal “technosexuals”.

Source

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A Virtual Visit To A Virtual Law 0ffice

Posted by SIM on March 8, 2007

by DICK DAHL
March 9, 2007

By day, Ralph J. Strebel is a mild-mannered commercial litigator in Mesa, Ariz. But at night, when he logs onto Second Life, he becomes Blackstone Lancaster, intrepid righter of wrongs in a lawless virtual land.

Early this year, Blackstone Lancaster opened a law office in Second Life — an Internet-based virtual world created by San Francisco-based Linden Labs. Players use Linden dollars to shop, date, rent apartments, buy clothes and do just about anything else a person would do in the real world. And those virtual dollars have developed a real-world exchange rate with American greenbacks that has made Second Life into much more than just a “virtual” economy.

Lancaster set up his office and living quarters within a sleek, airy two-story virtual building that Strebel bought for 750 Linden dollars (about $3 American) — joining the small but growing ranks of virtual lawyers in this increasingly popular virtual world.

On March 8, Second Life’s word-search function revealed that the Second Life Bar Association had 102 members. And if a recent foray into Second Life is an indication, they are mostly quite serious about the work they’re doing there — even if it is mostly a hobby.

In Second Life, a visit to a lawyer’s office is the same in some respects as it is in real life. A client schedules an appointment, shows up at that time, and then sits down with the lawyer to talk.

But there are differences.

Take transportation, for instance. Avatars (a player’s online persona) can walk and run, and they fly like Superman — over rooftops or high in the clouds. But serious travel to specific destinations like an office is accomplished via teleportation.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, a bearded and bespectacled young man (call him Moby) teleported to Lancaster’s office in the form of a Second Life avatar,

A virtual business

Moby scanned the second-floor office area, walked down the steps to Lancaster’s living area, failed to find him, and sent an instant message to the lawyer: “I’m here. Where are you?”

Lancaster responded that he was outside. In a few seconds, Blackstone Lancaster appeared at the bottom of the steps and walked up. He had a goatee, longish hair and a beautifully cut suit. His cufflinks sparkled.

He invited Moby to sit down across from him and as a virtual sun slowly rose above the horizon, bathing his face in orange light, Lancaster began to talk about practicing law in Second Life.

“Amazingly, people want legal help in Second Life,” he said.

“What kinds of matters do you handle?” Moby asked

“Contract drafting, matters related to the Terms of Service that Linden Lab (the game’s real-world creator) has everyone agree to, partnership and domestic issues, griefing issues — which is when someone intentionally harms your game play; it’s sort of both civil rights and criminal.”

Through Lancaster, Strebel explained that his goal is to make enough money to pay for his Second Life activity, but he also pointed out that this scale is extremely small. Like other Second Life lawyers, his initial consultation fee is 1,000 Linden dollars, which is less than $4 American. As a Second Life landowner, he pays $9.95 per month plus land-use fees, and he plans on investing more in land.

“Property and development, as in real life, is where the money is,” he said. “Renting apartments and land out generates good money for some.”

Lancaster is also involved in an effort to create an actual government of residents — an effort that could be immediately thwarted by Linden Lab if it feels threatened. Specifically, he said, he has a client who is heavily involved in land development and who envisions construction of a Capitol building that would be home to “government and lawyer types” and serve as an advisory parliamentary body to Linden Lab.

“Many people would like a bit more security in transactional matters and a way to get such issues addressed and adjudicated,” he said. “I think if enough people want this, the Linden Lab folks will have to listen up.”

Strebel, speaking through Lancaster, said that he is a Swiss-American dual national who went to law school in England. He’s been practicing for 10 years and is a senior associate in the Winsor Law Firm in Mesa, Ariz., doing commercial litigation, domestic relations and bankruptcy work.

“I guess it is sort of odd that that I practice all day at the office and then play lawyer online,” he said.

‘Here it is the Wild West’

In another corner of Second Life, a virtual lawyer calling himself Monday Beam created a law office in late January and announced that he was open for business. Monday Beam is the avatar of a Chicago solo practitioner (and actor and writer) who also requested that his name not be used.

His request for anonymity stems in part from the fact that he’s chosen to perform some of his Second Life law on the wild side and he’s concerned that the image wouldn’t go over so well in the real world.

At the appointment time in his office, Beam materialized with an “associate,” Alfonso Descenna, who has slick hair, carries a violin case and looks like a mobster.

“Mr. Descenna handles clients and is also working with me in a real-estate venture,” Beam said. “He also provides me ‘protection,’ of sorts.”

“What do you mean by protection?” Moby asked.

“You do know there are guns and violence here in Second Life, yes?” Beam responded. “When we are investigating ‘cases,’ we sometimes come across rough characters.”

Moby asked Descenna if he is armed and Descenna said no.

Then Beam spoke. “Go ahead and show him the guns, Fonso.”

Descenna reached into the violin case and extracted a very large handgun with a silencer.

“See Colt 45,” he said.

Then Beam extracted his own weapons, a pair of handguns given to him, he said, by a “dwarf demoness, of all people.”

“Here it is the Wild West,” he said and explained the lawlessness is what brought him and Descenna together when the two entered the world at about the same time only weeks earlier.

“We were at a shop, in a ‘mature’ area, exploring. In the midst of my shopping experience, my avatar, through my own newbieness, bumped into a female who was accompanied by a male friend. The guy used profanity and told me to ‘watch it.’ He made several slurs. I told Mr. Descenna about it and we approached the couple together. The guy continued with his insults, and Mr. Descenna ‘did his thing.’“

(Shooting avatars on Second Life doesn’t harm them. It only bounces them back to their home location.)

Beam loves the guns. But he said also loves practicing Second Life law. His first case, he said, was representing two gay cross-dressing men who were kicked out of a bar after the owner read their profiles.

His most lucrative Second Life matter to date has been a custody battle resulting in drafting a document for 30,000 Linden dollars, or “about a hundred bucks.”

“There are plenty of Second Lifers in need of legal aid,” he said.

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Posted by SIM on March 1, 2007

Ideas are focus of Paris fashion shows
By Joelle Diderich
March 1, 2007

PARIS — The Paris fashion shows on Tuesday ran the gamut from primitive to refined, with a cave girl theme at Vivienne Westwood and a celebration of 1940s elegance at Christian Dior. But don’t expect to find the outfits in a clothing store near you.

Women have taken to running up advance wish lists on the popular Web site Style.com, which features full photo coverage of every major collection, but find that many of the items showcased on the catwalk never make it to the shop floor.

The reality is that by the time the shows take place, buyers for department stores have filled up to 70 percent of their order books for next season.

Hal Rubenstein, fashion director of In Style magazine, said the advent of the Internet had created confusion about the primary function of catwalk presentations.

“This was never designed to be the market place,” he told The Associated Press. “The runway was always about ideas, it’s always about a conception of how somebody is thinking for the season.”

Nowhere has this been more true than at Dior, famed for featuring outfits that verge on the unwearable. Criticism of its over-the-top approach recently prompted the label to tone down the theatricals, but without losing any of its luster.

Dior’s blockbuster show celebrated two milestones _ the house’s 60th anniversary and British designer John Galliano’s 10th year at the helm of the brand.

Models swept down a grand double staircase in ladylike ensembles including cinched coats with oversized fur collars and sleeves, multilayered cocktail dresses in shimmering silk gazar and sinuous evening gowns fit for a Hollywood siren.

Even if the show is not designed as a catalog, Dior is keenly aware of the importance of the Internet. It launched its new jewelry collection last month in the virtual world “Second Life,” creating avatars for 200 editors that allowed them to view the gems.

British designer Vivienne Westwood is a self-avowed technophobe _ perhaps that is why her collection of nip-waisted dresses with pointy breasts was inspired by cartoon character Wilma Flintstone.

Models in bluntly chopped wigs paraded in perforated sheepskin jackets and sack dresses printed with caveman art. These were shown alongside more sophisticated pieces to convey a sense of civilization-come-unstitched.

Standouts included a russet taffeta peak-shouldered jacket with a mini cape back that may well end up on the racks of avant-garde Paris boutique Maria Luisa.

Its owner, Maria Luisa Poumaillou, is a rarity among independent retailers, many of whom are reluctant to stock brands like Westwood because they buy few advertising pages in magazines and consequently receive little press coverage.

“Maybe they are going to learn gradually to measure the impact of Style.com, which is in the process of replacing all the missing editorial pages, and it will give a bit of courage and energy back to all these retail outlets that are crushed by branding,” she said.

In the meantime, the shows remain all about spectacle, as evidenced by a trio of guests who caused a small sensation by coming dressed as cave dwellers. Hollywood has also grasped the entertainment potential of the fashion world.

Westwood said she had been contacted by Brian Grazer, the producer of “The Da Vinci Code” and “A Beautiful Mind,” to make a movie based on her life that will stretch from London’s punk heyday in the 1970s to the present day.

“I want it to be a true film and so do they. It’s not just a sort of fashion story, it’s really going to be my story,” the 65-year-old designer told the AP.

Westwood has no preference for the actress that will play her part. “I don’t know, because I never go to the cinema and I have never really seen many people act,” she said with a shrug.

Gaultier referenced the punk era’s tartan fabrics and mohair sweaters in his Scottish-flavored autumn-winter collection, sending out models in dashing feather crests inspired by mohawk hairstyles.

A tapestry print peplum jacket with a black fur tail was evidence that the former enfant terrible of French fashion now caters to the establishment that punks hoped to destroy.

Retailers cheered a see-through crocheted black dress and a long gray tartan coat lined with strips of silver fox fur.

However, the biggest hit was Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha, who opened and closed the show with a display of the Irish dancing skills that got her discovered at the age of 14.

Source

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Study: Virtual Men Are Standoffish Too

Posted by SIM on February 21, 2007

by Peter Svensson
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Males stand further away when talking to other males in the virtual world of Second Life and are less likely to keep eye contact, according to a study that shows at least one aspect of human behavior carries over into the virtual realm.

The study led by doctoral student Nick Yee at Stanford University found that male “avatars,” or three-dimensional representations of Second Life players, stood on average 7.7 feet away from each other, compared to 6.9 feet for mixed-gender pairs — measured, of course, in the virtual scale of Second Life.

Female-female pairs stood only slightly closer to each other than male pairs, but were more likely to maintain eye contact.

Avatars of all genders were more likely to look away from each other when standing close, much like people in the real world face away when crammed into an elevator.

The results, published in the latest issue of the journal Cyberpsychology & Behavior, indicate that interaction in virtual environments, such as Second Life, “are governed by the same social norms as social interactions in the physical world,” according to the authors.

Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual world, superficially similar to many computer games, where users have great freedom to shape their virtual representations. It is run by San Francisco-based Linden Lab.

Yee’s research assistants used a small program that took “snapshots” of the environment in Second Life, collecting data on the relative distance of hundreds of avatars, how they were facing and if they were talking. Genders were deduced from their names, which excluded many androgynous avatars. The distance and gaze comparisons looked at avatars within 12 feet of another avatar — generally taken to be the upper limit of “social” distance in the real world.

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Living A Virtual Life On The Internet

Posted by SIM on February 18, 2007

NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2007

(CBS) On the Internet, there is a virtual world called Second Life. It’s not a game: no one wins, loses or dies. It’s not a show: nothing happens here unless you make it happen.

Second Life is all about wish fulfillment. You’re represented by a computer-generated character. You can make it walk around. You can fly. You can exchange typed comments with other people’s characters. You can make yourself young and beautiful. You can even make the sun set on command.

“I, as a kid, always wanted to kind of make the — the world’s biggest Lego kit,” Philip Rosedale, the CEO of Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life told Sunday Morning correspondent David Pogue. “It’s driven by personal expression, creativity, ownership. It has commerce. If you want to make money, you can.”

And that is what makes Second Life different from other Online 3D worlds. In this one, people spend real money for imaginary stuff.

“You see land for sale, virtual real estate,” said Eric Rice is a Second Life fan who’s part of this $220 million a-year economy. “You’re renting space to be able to store your things. So that translates to a world where you can walk around and interact with people as real estate. And some people do extremely well with it.”

Some people make a living in Second Life the old-fashioned way, by making stuff and then selling it. Rice has built entire building complexes like a music center. Online, he looks pretty close to how he looks in real life.

“There are very basic tools,” he said. “I can make it big. I can make it small. Here, we can make a fake skyscraper.”

In shopping districts, people sell everything from virtual clothes to better hairdos. People even pay for imaginary drinks so their imaginary characters can stand around looking chic in imaginary bars.

“You would do it because you believe so passionately in it as an experience from the real world that you cannot help but take it there,” Rosedale said.

Reuben Steiger, a consultant to big-name companies like Toyota, Microsoft and Intel who want to be represented in Second Life, said that people who participate in it are showing not who they are, but who they would like to be.

“When Armani sells me a shirt, they’re not selling me a piece of cloth. They’re selling me the transformative capability of that product,” he said. “Companies find it very interesting to see what their customers would like to be if they had the power to determine that.”

Second Life has its own currency called Linden Dollars, which are currently trading at $270 per real dollar.

“Establishing some micro-transaction currency was really important because obviously there are a lot of things you might want to make and sell for a very small amount of money because there is no inherent costs associated with those things,” Rosedale said.

Those micro-transactions can add up. Several Second Life entrepreneurs are clearing $200,000 a year. Of course, in any world where people have money to spend, there will also be a sexual element. Rice said Second Life is about 30 percent sex driven.

“And you know, in its early stages, everything kind of starts that way, I guess. I see more casinos than I do weird clubs,” he said.

Nevertheless, a lot of Second Life is rated G. You can take a balloon ride. You can listen to a live concert through your computer speakers. You can join a Harvard Law school seminar with fellow students who are actually scattered all over the world. Still, Second Life isn’t quite a paradise yet. It’s experiencing growing pains in the form of software bugs and freezes and Rosedale acknowledges that there’s a lot of work yet to be done.

“In just a few years, this is gonna look like walking into a movie screen,” Rosedale said. “And that’s just gonna be such an amazing thing.”

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Second Life Being Hailed As Next MySpace

Posted by SIM on February 11, 2007

Second Life is being hailed as the next MySpace
By Cary Darling
February 10, 2007

So I show up, first time in the place, and this fox is speaking to me.

Not talking here about the way-old-school slang for a beautiful woman but something closer to Animal Planet than the Playboy Channel. Bushy tail. Canine features. The works.

Can’t remember exactly what the conversation was — a mere exchange of passing pleasantries before it walked off — but the whole thing left an unsettling feeling, like this could really get weird. Like I’d fallen through the looking glass and Alice definitely wasn’t living here anymore.

That’s because it was my first foray into Second Life (SL), the buzzed-about and controversial online role-playing and social-networking site that’s being hailed as the next YouTube, the next thing to bedazzle the tech-savvy and befuddle the technophobes.

Sort of a combination of MySpace, “The Sims” and Monopoly with the three-dimensional touch of “Star Trek’s” holodecks and the video game “World of Warcraft,” Second Life is not a competitive pursuit — even though it’s technically what’s called a “massively multiplayer online game” — as much as an alternative state.

Users choose a fictional name and create an avatar, an animated version of themselves that can walk, run and dance, and then are dropped into a landscape where they interact with others’ avatars, including those of real-life friends who are also “in world,” buy or sell Second Life land, set up businesses, build houses, buy clothes, work a job, go bar-hopping, make art and, yes, even some NC-17 activities.

It’s free to join but potentially expensive — in the site’s made-up Linden dollars or in real currency — if you want a super kickin’ SL lifestyle. Just like real life.

And if that doesn’t sound all that much different from everyone’s first life, it’s their life buffed to perfection. You can be whomever — or whatever — you want. You can fly. You can teleport. No taxes. No politicians. No war. No terror. No war on terror.

But there is plenty of hype.

Hatched in 2000 by a San Francisco company called Linden Lab, which didn’t make the site publicly accessible until 2003, Second Life includes eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar and Amazon.com pioneer Jeff Bezos as backers.

Major companies and organizations — from Dell and MTV to the American Cancer Society — are flocking to the site to set up “islands,” worlds within the world dedicated to their products.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and Sun Microsystems have held news conferences in Second Life. Reuters news agency even has a reporter “embedded” in Second Life full time.

Although most of the site’s 2 million-plus residents conduct their commerce in Linden dollars, some are raking in real money.

Last fall, Linden Lab Chief Executive Philip Rosedale estimated that $1.5 million (in actual currency) changes hands through Second Life monthly. In November, a German woman named Ailin Graef — known on the site as Anshe Chung — reportedly became the site’s first real-life millionaire, buying and selling Second Life real estate.

Brains behind project

Second Life is the brainstorm of Rosedale, 38, a former chief technology officer at RealNetworks who helped develop the streaming technology that is the lifeblood of Second Life.

“He had a great idea: to create a collaborative online space where people could do things together,” says Linden Lab marketing director Catherine Smith. “I don’t think anyone knew how it would evolve.”

Adam Pasick, dubbed “the Reuters Second Life bureau chief,” has been stationed in-world since October. “There are a lot of smart, creative people in Second Life,” he said. “Some are there to start a business, some are here to create art or write software, and some are in it for purely the social nature.”

Potential downside

For all the glowing talk about community, sharing and a bright, shiny, happy future — an anarcho-libertarian paradise of unfettered creativity and commerce — there’s a potential downside to Second Life. As the world becomes more populated — and subsequently moves away from being just a high-tech monkey bar for early adopters — it can become more prone to crime, hacking and inappropriate behavior, just like real life.

Second Life is no less susceptible to the same elements that have haunted the Internet since its inception — people not being who they say they are — than the often-criticized MySpace. Meanwhile, in September, Linden Lab’s system was hacked into, forcing the company to contact the FBI and mandate that all residents change their passwords. There also have been cases of online harassment, called “griefing.”

On top of that, the government may start to take a closer look at the tax responsibility of those making money on so-called “unreal estate” through sites like Second Life. Economist Daniel Miller, whose congressional Joint Economic Committee has been investigating virtual gaming since October, is due to deliver a report early this year. “Congressional and IRS interest in this issue is simply a matter of time,” he was quoted as saying in The Weekly Standard.

“If you take money out of Second Life, then you’re responsible for claiming that income, like eBay,” says Linden Lab’s Catherine Smith.

Pasick, the Reuters reporter, points out that the site has been the victim of more mundane issues.

“As with any new technology, there are a fair amount of glitches,” he says. “The whole grid will go down periodically. That’s been compounded by the fact that it’s growing so quickly. … I get the sense they’re constantly putting out fires to keep the thing running.

“It’s not very user-friendly, and for those who aren’t technologically savvy, or their graphic card isn’t up to speed, they may just get confused and never come back.”

For now, though, there’s not a lot of bad news for Second Life. With a virtual land mass four times the size of Manhattan but with only 2 million inhabitants — and with generally around 20,000 online at one time — there’s room for growth. Many “islands” are empty, real estate just waiting to be bought, traded or populated.

Certainly, there seems to be a lot of smiles at the privately held Linden Lab. Profit figures aren’t released, but Rosedale told the Chicago Tribune, “We’re very close to profitable. The business itself, on an operating basis, is very profitable.”

Too real

But some things never change.

As I maneuvered from island to island, group to group, it became clear that it can be just as difficult to make contact with someone in Second Life as in the world of flesh and blood. It could mean stumbling across two women having a rapt discussion in French who obviously don’t want to be bothered — “Bon, tu le veux, mon secret?” (OK, you want it, my secret?) one says to the other, who replies excitedly, “Ouiiii.”

Or it could mean observing the painful, halting throes of a virtual guy trying to strike up a conversation with a virtual woman sitting on a virtual bench.

“Can I take this seat, miss?” he says.

“No law against sitting is there,” she responds, the testiness oozing through the typing on the screen.

His avatar plants himself at the other end of the bench.

Long, awkward pause.

“Now I’m thinking I overreacted,” she finally says, perhaps offering a tender olive branch of tentative conversation.

He says nothing.

They continue to sit next to each other in uncomfortable silence.

Just like real life.

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