Home of the brave

Everybody has their own Freebie horror story, from the ‘cute little dress’ with the fatal flaw that you only notice when it’s way too late, all the way up to finding one of your generously donated creations being sold on some scuzzy sim. Put the words Freebie and Open Sim together and, for most people (especially anyone with a L$ axe to grind) they conjure up an image of utter tackiness, plus a boring re-hash of the whole creative rights issue.
 The free culture of Open Sim has so little to do with the make-a-buck mentality of SL that it may be hard for closed-worlders to grasp what’s really going on in places like the boutiques of Wright Plaza on OSgrid, or Greg Prince‘s Freeland megastore on Craft Grid.

Creators may outnumber consumers many times over in worlds other than Second Life, but even pioneers sometimes want a little Sears Roebuck in their lives. Vanish Tomorrow has a new website, OpenSim Creations where you can download (and upload!)  free items for virtual worlds. Straight onto your computer, so you can import them to any world you like. The ultimate in online ‘shopping’, perhaps?

Vanish Tomorrow:  Actually, my blog was kinda something like that for more than a year now. I just thought others would post their creations on their websites as well, because it’s just so easy to do. Well, not many people did, and so I thought about how to make it easier for people. There were mostly technical considerations, what software to use, how to manage users, that kind of thing. One big consideration was whether or not it was supposed to be “commercial”, i.e. allowing the sale of content. After talking with Pathfinder about it in general terms,  I just sat down and played with a lot of software to see how it would look.

Eloh Eliot‘s skins are probably the most famous free items on the web, and she has always actively encouraged others to modify and redistribute versions of the starlight skins. When Ina Centaur made some of her skins free to download and modify at OSAvatars , she worried in her press release that by “creating and releasing an open source collection of virtual goods, in an ecosystem where third party creators rely on micro-transactions, I run the risk of disturbing the economy.” The skins she’s made available are mostly male, and while not terribly handsome, they are certainly distinctive. A few weeks later, the economy seems to have handled it pretty well, but to Ina’s credit few creators with such a strong connection to SL have volunteered as much.  What about the whole ‘hey, they’re selling my freebies!’ thing? Pam Broviak of govgrid has a practical solution.
Pam Broviak: I figured people have to be pretty desperate to try that. Anyway, if we do a good job advertising the site, everyone should know they can just get it for free there.

Destination shopping is not going to disappear any time soon, though. It’s an adventure, and a fun way to meet new people, and discover new grids. It’s also going to take time to aggregate all the free things available. Many creators would like to use their items as a way to attract the public to their blogs and websites, which is why Vanish is focusing on things not offered elsewhere online.

Vanish Tomorrow:  Yes, I guess so.  It’s kind of a fine line. Right now, I’m focusing on things that are CC licensed, but only on a certain grid.  OSGrid has loads of that, and since I started OSC, people told me about things in SL too, that were CC.  When it comes to quality, well, you know, we’re all amateurs. Some make better stuff, some less good so. In the end, it’s not up to me (or anyone) to decide. You pick what you like, and leave the rest. Webspace is cheap, and code is patient, but if rubbish really becomes a problem, I’ll look into a possibility to sort stuff by rating.  I don’t think of it as “my” site, it’s a platform, it’s up to the users on how they, well, use it. That’s what I put the forum there. If someone thinks we need an extra category, or something, they can suggest it.

Speaking of suggestions, what about better clothes for men?

Vanish Tomorrow:  I see there’s such a lack of – well, anything! so I’m playing around with hair, clothes, and stuff, out of pure necessity. I’m really not made for that. I really really really would love to have just one clothing creator upload their stuff onto OpenSim Creations. They come by the thousands in SL, and there are so few in OpenSim. But honestly, men aren’t too worried about their appearances. If anything, I get requests for non-human avatars. Give men a generic shape and skin, and they’re fine mostly.

Pam Broviak and I disagree. The lack of decent clothes and shapes is a big deal for many men who don’t want to wander new worlds in prison tats and tee shirts inscribed with the grid logo all over it.
Pam Broviak: I am surprised no one seems to ask for clothing – would think that would be a much-needed item.  I know someone who tried OS, and I think he never came back because he hated going through the noob process. Well, a little more serious than clothing in his case.  This guy had trouble with his avatar and couldn’t change from a girl to a guy. I guess i can see how that would be disturbing.

Jokaydia Native Cider Jack has his own brand new site called  KJS and it offers another kind of free resource for all.

Cider Jack: No one is an island – or, no avatar is a region, as the case may be. We all need help sometimes. A person may be a programmer at heart and an absolute wizard with scripting, but doesn’t have the desire or the time to learn how to build effectively. It is a very rare individual who can master all disciplines.  KJS has just started with oars or at least empty regions, because it seems to be quite a gap in the market at the moment. Many OpenSim users (myself included) often want to just start building and planting their garden from the moment they initially acquire their new region, and this is a way to help people get started creating their vision more quickly. At this point, future plans for  KJS include offering more complex oar files with complete built environments, and  individual prim-based objects as well. I expect Kitely users to benefit from this too.

And before you turn your nose up at the prospect of a ‘freebie OAR’, bear in mind that The Far Away, AM Radio’s much visited sim in SL,  has been licensed as Creative Commons.

Vanish Tomorrow: I took the liberty to rip it from SL, and make it available to anyone who’d like it.  I actually posted that on my blog 9 months ago, just nobody noticed it at the time.

What’s the future of freebies? Among the dragons and chickens of his Jibe worldPathfinder Lester gave his verdict.

Pathfnder Lester: I think quality freebies for OS, distributed as import/export files on a website, is the way to go right now. Build awareness of your freebie products on the web,  get folks using them in OS,  then folks may be interested in buying things from you. The only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. Give away what you are comfortable giving away, and use that as a way to interest folks in things you want to *sell*.

Cider Jack: I’d love to see it continue as it has, with – I hate to say this – yet another Digital Rights Management tool in place. Something like a checkbox in the permissions of an asset that would read ‘This grid only’ which would be unchecked by default, allowing the next owner to take it off-grid either via hypergridding or by exporting to their local hard drive. And maybe some way to permanently affix the creator’s name (and possibly the name of the originating grid) & license to every object would be great as well, especially for those objects that do get taken off the original grid. I am not looking forward to the day of a universal metaverse-wide currency, although there is no doubt that day is coming. The advantages of the current freebie economy which allows everyone to share freely works in everyone’s favor and builds a strong community. JokaydiaGrid right now is an excellent example of that.

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Jumping to Autumnus

“… it may be full of beautiful pictures and churches, but we cannot judge a country by anything but its men,” she remarked.

“That is quite true,” said Philip sadly.

Henry James, Where Angels Fear to Tread

I stumbled briefly into SL last night, to see what Ina Centaur’s Twelfth Night might be like. To see, really, if anything had changed since the last time I watched a production there. Crap Mariner was one of the first players to speak, so the show was at a disadvantage from the start – he has an unattractive voice at the best of times, but it’s especially unsuited to Shakespeare.  Skylar Smythe sparkled, but she sparkles in everything she puts her mind to; apart from that, and of course the lovely if predictable avies by Ina, things lagged in every sense – unremitting and appalling lag in all four sims. And before you say ‘oh it’s just your rubbish graphics card’, I asked three people near me if they were also suffering and they all eventually replied yes. If you can believe anything people tell you.

Interestingly, Ina chose to play Malvolio herself, she made a good job of it, using the voice morphing, I think it was the first time I heard someone morphed (unless Crap has been Beta testing all along, which would explain a lot) and if I never hear it again, it will be an easy fate to live with.

But I met a new friend, who explained to me that the company is made up of old-age pensioners (I’m sure Ina and Skylar would be interested to hear their Social Security has already kicked in) so it wasn’t an entirely wasted evening.

Ina’s theatre is lovely and she puts so much into her work, she really deserves less lag.

On the other hand, Craft is effortlessly beautiful. OK I lie, you do quite often have to relog when stuff happens. But who cares. It’s full of wonderful places already, like this fabulous Renaissance villa, on sim Hiems, complete with pineta and parterre and a lovely loggia. There are fountains, statues and – well, everything you’d expect to find in a Second Life sim, and why not, creator Nicola Reinerman got his start over there, and is now beautifying  a new world, one region at a time.

I ran into him, because Oberon Onmura was trying new terrains on his adjacent sim, Titania. I was standing on it – well, flying just above – when he first attempted the terrain file swap. I got chucked in the air to a height of 90,000 metres. Woohoo. It was a bumpy ride, and a lot of fun, but then I thought I’d better land somewhere and chose the sim next door, Autumnus, where you’ll find this pretty (if empty) house.

From here I could watch Oberon’s progress  in comfort. His sim looked like a big grey cake, just waiting to be sliced and iced.

Being able to see other sims from your own seems a great way to foster a spirit of community and cross pollination; privacy is great, but company is the lifeblood of virtual art.  Especially when you think that this is all part of a hypergrid. That really rocks.

Autumnus is another build by Nicola Reinerman (that’s a BOY’S name in Italian, thankyouverymuch). He was a regular both on OSGrid and in Cyberlandia, the Italian world created by Carlos Roundel, which faced significant structural changes last May as you probably remember. At the same time he was closely involved with the Museo del Metaverso in Second Life.

Nicola Reinerman: I’ve been making buildings, flowers and trees for years. More than once, I have come across items that I immediately recognized as my own, only to discover they had a different creator – they had been copybotted. It’s annoying, but I guess it’s a sort of a compliment in a way – someone thought they were good enough to steal.

Perhaps in part for that reason, he has been building and experimenting on his own server for some time now; and has found it a great place to test out architectural and textural ideas – in fact he first built the current MdM structure here, before importing it into Second Life. Wow virtual Euros. Insert your own exchange rate quip here.

Nicola Reinerman: There’s a certain amount of prejudice against Open sim worlds. But I think nowadays it’s misplaced, we’ve come ahead leaps and bounds over th epast two years.  Licu Rau has had both the courage and the knowhow to put together a new Grid – this one, Craft. Since September there’s been a huge migration of builders and artists. Our idea is to make it a creative grid, and the presence of the Museo del Metaverso is a really important element of that. It’s not the only project in hand on Craft.  Lyth Karu and his collaborators are putting together a virtual library of copyright-free books, and we hope to welcome many non-profit organizations, including educational organizations, who, as we all know have been having a tough time of it tier-wise – but we’re still in the early phase so we will see where that goes.

Dozens of metaverse-class artists like soror Nishi, shellina Winkler,La Baroque, and Artistide Despres are taking up residence on the grid. It’s pioneering stuff to be sure, but being a newbie here is not the same as when we were all noobs in Second Life – gosh even I can throw down a sculpty and make a new shirt on my first day. (OK still haven’t done the hair thing, I grant you, but bear in mind I’m not really here.) And a man on his knees on our first encounter, hey, that’s none too shabby.