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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Neogrid

This is Neo Cortex on his brand new grid. He makes really nice jewellery, by the way; his partner Aloe Cortex is one lucky lady. Well, Neogrid isn’t a grid, as such, just nine sims put together to make a base on the hypergrid ‘continent’ of HG 1.5. A base, a jumping off point to discover strange new worlds, and (even nicer) run into funny, interesting and kind new friends.

Neo Cortex

In previous posts we’ve talked about how there are two kinds of virtual worlds; in closed worlds like Second Life and InWorldz, you have to make an avatar specific for that grid. But there are the open sim worlds, where your avatar can go from one grid to another via portals called hypergates, often built to look like the Gate from, well, Star Gate. But – and this is a big but – not all these open sim grids run on the same system. They divide up roughly into 3 ‘continents’ or groups of grids operating on the same system, and you can’t travel from one continent to another, you need an avatar on each continent if you’re going to see the whole world. So for example, Pathfinder Lester can’t come over from his home grid Reaction Grid and break into my my kick-ass house in Craft and steal my rocking horse. Well, not without making a new avatar, anyway, because RG is on a different continent to Craft World. Also, I don’t think he is that into rocking horses. I could be wrong, though.

Vanish Seriath

I asked Vanish Seriath about the different continents and he said it works thusly: “Bellona is HG1.0, Veritas is HG 1.5 i6 and “other thingie (by which he meant Unxsia) is HG 1.5 i7”. The names were chosen by Hypergates.com’s Kidd Piko, but the whole hypergrid, they say, was developed by two people, Diva Canto and Melanie Millard, Melanie Thielker IRL, with help of course from… (catch-all phrase coming up) “lots of other people, you know who you are.” I’d always thought the whole thing grew like potatoes, in the dark and organically, but apparently not.

The freebie corner on Neogrid

Obviously, most of these little grids in Open Sim are private worlds,  they don’t have a website like SL, where just anyone can join and get an avie. So, to make it possible for Pathfinder’s Hypergridding Club to come to this continent, Neo Cortex set up a base. Much of it is built by Vanish Seriath, and Neo has set up a freebie corner. We all kind of lost out minds adding to it – everything is copyright free; I put two dresses in, as did Delenn Daines and Caledonia Heron. Pathfinder contributed a bunch of farmyard animals, a jade lion, a house, and a flying bicycle. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

Neo Cortex: The idea for this place was born as an idea at a HGAC meeting. I tried some VPS (virtual private servers) first, but those are unreliable and slow. This one is a real one, dualcore, 2GB, located at a German provider. I have been in SL for quite a while, been a jeweler there, besides some other professions,  but this here is more like being a pioneer this is really “our imagination, our world”. I have been following the development of opensim nearly from the start. SL and open sim – each has its advantages and disadvantages. I am glad Philip had that vision, it was my start into this wonderful world, but I don’t want to pay a fortune, nor do I need any drama and both are easy to find in SL.

Gentle reader, you can imagine my stunned surprise at that revelation. For Neo, it’s about concrete collaboration, and respect for other’s right,s especially creative rights.

Neo Cortex: I love the “stonesoup” idea, ask someone for a kettle, someone for a bit water,  some fire… then add some vegetables… you get the point? I provided the stone, Vanish gave me a wonderful kettle, you add some vegetables…

So, today’s meeting of the hypergridding club was a historic occasion, and the future was on everyone’s mind. Accoding to Jeff Kelley, it’s all about version 0.7.1 , but everyone had their own priorities. Many, like El Sliven, want good open sim content for the avatar about town – shoes, hair, dresses, hair, hats and HAIR and other feel-good items, others are focused on protection across the grids, and coherent policies. Pathfinder expressed a great satisfaction in having a new base for exploration, and many voiced an interest in getting a really reliable and bang up to date mapping system for all the grids out there. Great work has been done by the likes of Pam Broviak at govgrid, Maria Korolov of hyperica and Kidd Piko of thehypergates.com but they’d probably be the first ones to admit it’s a huge task, and a constant one. So talk turned to some kind of wandering bot, keeping up with all the twists and turns of emerging and migrating grids. I said they should get something like Sasun Steinbeck’s ArtGalleriesOfSL. thing, which could be both a HUD and a website.

One thing is for certain – there’s no shortage of bright minds, enthusiasm, and good company, we’re got something good cooking here.

Hyper and hamster

This is Jeff Kelley of Newworld Grid.

He is the rocking inventor of the first Multiple Avatar Hypergate, and that’s a big deal for reasons that should be obvious (*whistles and pretends she knows*).

OK, I kind of know – we all get to travel together! I call shotgun! The HGAC (yeah, try not to confuse it with HVAC, all these acronyms, I was in America for 5 years before I found out that a CPA is not some sort of first-aider)… anyway the Hypergrid Adventurer’s Club met today. There was the usual 30 minutes of mad chat in which all the educators and devs tell their latest news – a sort of technical/verbal version of PiRat’s Art Kahos, too much happening at once, I never know what the heck is going on. Pathfinder Lester puts a chatlog on his blog, so look for enlightenment there.

I did learn that, apparently, there’s a sort of ‘suitcase’ now. Content-paranoiacs everywhere fear that if they go into someone else’s sim-on-a-stick, that sim owner is going to steal all their goodies – it is technically possible, and the suitcase (it’s a crocodile-skin folder, I hope) is supposed to protect your stuff. Except it doesn’t work – well, not yet. Another work in progress. It’s a lot of fuss about nothing – feel free to steal my hair. Know my pain.

And then, as quick as you can say server-side integration, off we went to Jeff’s house on New World Grid, aka ‘regions.newworldgrid.com:12000’. That’s the address, or URI. Nice house, and very informative landing point, and then there’s this beast on beast action…

Apart from his taste in evil penguins, he is a brilliant guy, Jeff. Look at this – he has set up a 12 frame powerpoint spelling out the whole hypergrid jumping thing. Here are the highlights.

Apparently there are hippos at large in OSGrid also.

I hope those hippos don’t do unnatural things to the poor hamster.

There are several different ways to use a hypergate (or blamgate, as they’re sometimes called).  Some gates are set to a particular destination, and you just walk through to get there. Some offer a menu when you touch them, or a link to thehypergates.com. But you can also just stand near the gate and open your Map, and copy your destination into the Search feature of your Map, and when it finds it, hit TP… I like the club because Path holds all our hands, so we don’t get lost. Or not very lost, anyway. We did take a detour to TGIB, but it was nice in the woods.

The best bit is the lovely map showing the HGAC’s explorations so far.

They can’t get to Craft yet, it’s on a different system or something, but when they do, I plan to have the coffee and sherry ready on Arts Park. What do hamsters drink, anyway?

The great gate

Xon Emoto was there before me, testing the jump from Jokaydia to ReactionGrid; I landed on his head but I don’t think he minded. After all, we’re out on the frontier here. There’s something about the Hypergrid portal – they call it a Blamgate – that is quite thrilling, and if you have a region on an open world, you can come into Jokaydia and get one for free, to set up on your own land.

When you go gridjumping, your name in Chat gets very long, along the lines of Thirza.Ember @jokaydia.metaverseworlds.com:8002: So if you’re thinking of setting up a place from which to jump, call your grid Dave or something. You’ll thank me later.

I had been nosing around John ‘Pathfinder’ Lester’s Clubhouse, looking for treasures. Nothing doing. What proportion of the Omniverse, do you think, is given over to empty clubhouses, meeting halls, corporate offices, stadiums and theatres? There must be about 50 empty seats for every avatar ever created. Yet, there are sort of pirate hamsters and an octopus and other stuff on the sim, so it all balances out. Anyway there was no porridge and no comfy bed in the clubhouse so I wandered through the gate after Xon.

Permutation! There was no way to get back! A loud sign announced “ReactionGrid is a PG Grid, so please, no nudity, no swearing, there are young kids on the grid every day – keep it safe for us all!” So I kept my kex on, muffled my b@#$% and begged help from Xon. A SLURL pasted into the Search part of your Map, and then hit Teleport, – that’s what most hypergrid jumping involves, but the gates make it look fancier.

The Hypergrid Adventurer’s Club is Pathfinder’s way of getting people to network and share stuff from different grids. I zoned out when they got to comparing acquaintances, and talking about technical innovation, but you can read the minutes on Pathfinder’s  blog.

Here are Vanish Seriath and El Silven – they’re having a Start Party at The Gray Inn Between on the 16th of January. More about that closer to the day. We heard about the map of Open Worlds made by Pam Broviak from govgrid. Her group, which began in SL, and does what it sounds like it would do, is interested in the Creative Commons approach to virtual communities: sharing content rather than selling it. Like the rest of us, they’ve had to face the whole export-from-SL challenge: if you made a large building in SL the chances are that, even though they’re your prims and your textures, those pesky megaprims aren’t ‘yours’ and you’re not going to be able to export it.
CC, TOS and license chat ensued. But another interesting thing popped up -a place called  Unity 3D where they’re making Participatory Chinatown. I could participate in some Moo Shoo pork right now.

And then off through the Blamgate! We went to  New World Grid, woot, La France! we dropped in on this beautiful villa by Kire and Marline. Italian francophile Giovanni Molko gave us a rather bemused but very courteous welcome. Then off to Aime Socrates’ region, Physics (There’s a Cern connection – Pathfinder can tell you more, if you’re into all that stuff.)
This is Aime’s first sim and she’s been working on it for a year, it’s a wonderful achievement, but it seemed clear that not nearly enough people come visit and her informative  real-time Planetarium, complete with Trou de ver

or her amazing giant size lab, which is reminiscent of the Greenies that Rezzable had in SL, back in the day, here complete with a little rat-run around the furniture – tres amusant! So many great places out there, and kind, welcoming people, beyond the edges of Second Life. Join the Adventurers’ Club and see them all!

jokaydia

Nobody reads this blog, but I should point out that Craft has a proper Welcome Centre, on sim Hydra. There is a bug in the system that makes some people land up in the dungeon, but they’re working on it – hey, it’s The Friendly Grid.  And I’m to say that ‘Craft offers more than just the Museo del Metaverso’.  Just to be clear. Yay! Like this classy freebie shop!

They have Italian shoes here, and lots of other goodies, including Josina Burgess‘ dresses. Art you can wear, she calls it. Lovely.

Maya Paris suggested I go to the Hypergrid Adventurer’s Club, over on Jokaydia, I said no, sigh, yet another Thirza avie, but then I threw together a sort of travel pack – importable hair, dress textures, a prim skirt, a transparent texture, because I can never make the default one work, and shape parameters. While it’s as easy as (INV-> CREATE NEW-> SHAPE) to make your own shape,  it’s unclear how to export it, unless you’ve got either Second Inventory or a copybot. A familiar-looking avie makes it easier to navigate a new place, it’s one less distraction. There are about 70 shape variables, and the window only lets you alter 3 at a time, that’s irritating but it’s quicker than the alternatives – experimenting with shape options (ages in Appearance and less time for exploring the new world), or freebie shopping/trying on, or settling for the default shape (yuck).

Skin and shoes are the hardest accessories to make, I have a kind of pigtaily thing going on made in Veesome, it’s a breeze to import it complete with textures, but DIY is such a time sink, and as much as I fuss over it, it’ll never be anywhere near as lovely as SL Thirza’s Damselfly hair. I miss it. Sometimes freebie is the best option, just to move on from the introspection of newbiedom.

Time to put InWorldz Thirza in some sort of order while the mood strikes. What a delight to wake up in the shadow of soror Nishi‘s enormous tree-based confection. No lag on Soror Nishi Island. At the InWorldz welcome centre-cum-coffee shop, however, it was quite another story. Pure treacle.  The conversation turned to snow, and someone asked for a snowangel anim, and I imported one of mine, (I love the way Inworldz has free uploads!) but it kept going weird – arms and head twisting as if I’d been cursed by someone…

hmm I wonder who…

Back in Veesome, I ran into Tessa Harrington. She’s looking forward to the Virtual Worlds Conference in Washington DC in February, and very pleased with how her grids are growing – yes, grids, SpotOn is a sort of family of grids, and with one click you can tp from one to another – and the newest is Musicajam, and she’s got the people who make Hermes interested in working with the grid, here’s an interview with Philippe and Jim on Grid Wrap which is a TV show hosted on Metaverse TV. If you’re a musician, and want to sell your music securely, you probably already know all about the Hermes workbench – if not, you really should check it out.
Rumour has it, in a few weeks, we’ll be able to use the Phoenix viewer in Veesome – finally! Just in time for the arrival of Purdue University on the grid. I suppose I’d better start making academic earrings, then.

Jokaydia is an art/ed grid, up and running since March, hosted by ReactionGrid. They describe themselves as a Community of Practice, but it seemed pretty perfect to me. I crashed about five times at the very beginning while importing stuff on the Welcome sim, but after that, it was solid as a rock.

Search doesn’t work on Jokaydia, so finding friends is not easy, but a nice man called Johnny Cider provided a tp to Pathfinder’s sim. There were about 10 people present including grid creator Jokay Wollongong. Pathlandia is very pretty.

Pathfinder Lester is the one squatting on the log, if you’ll excuse the expression. The club is a fun group, Their conversation was over my head, but you can read everything that was said on Path’s blog, obviously. It’s been said that Hypergrid jumping could be dangerous for the security of your own computer. For example, naughty photos could be either accessed, or, if you don’t have any, added to your computer by passing visitors! There are malicious minds out there, we all know. What did the group think?

Vanish.Seriath @tgib.sytes.net:9000: Thirza, in theory it will allow others to run software on your computer, so there’s never to say what might happen, but if you’re not running a standalone on your computer that’s open for the public, the implications are very minimal.

Pathfinder Lester: The only potential security issue I’ve read about is the very remote possibility that a grid owner could possibly tweak things to be able to get into the inventory of someone visiting via hypergrid but nobody’s seen this happen. Ever. It’s just theory and the latest version of Hypergrid closes that potential hole completely, from what I’ve heard.

They discussed video games, something called hyperica, and the hypergrid stargate on Mal Burn’s Estate (doesn’t that sound very Beverly Hills??) And then it was time to step through the Gate –

woohoo! We first landed on this Hypergate platform on RG, and from here, gridhopping means you cut and paste an address into the Search part of your viewer Map. Took a few tries, but eventually…

there we all were on this fantastic French grid, ooh la la that’s some tower… no time to stop…

it’s upwards and onwards to Vanish Seriath and El Silven’s The Grey Inn Between.

This is an amazingly beautiful place, and the creations there – trees, houses, and furniture – are all free to copy and use in opensim.

Not all textures or attachments travel safely from one grid to another, but it doesn’t matter; the company was amusing and lively, and the locations take your breath away. I’m useless, I know, I have no clue how to get back to the Eiffel Tower or to the Grey Inn, but club members keep notecards of their favourites, and of course Pathfinder’s blog supplies the rest. The Hypergrid Adventurers Club is a must-do adventure experience. They meet on Sundays at 11.00pm GMT 5pm and 10pm GMT every Sunday, and 2pm GMT every Wednesday on sim Pathlandia in the Jokaydia grid. See you there.