To help protect our grid from content theft, Littlefield recently created a new venue for our premium content, that cannot be accessed by hypergrid visitors, but only by committed, active members of our own community. Unsurprisingly, in response to an article about it, this move was met by criticism from the very people who forced us to enact this change. They spouted self-righteous platitudes about how Opensimulator “must” remain open and interconnected. Pretty words… but completely empty.
We started out believing in that fanciful pipe dream of being all open and interconnected. But Opensim people took dreadful advantage of us. Too many hypergrid visitors took our content, not to use and enjoy for themselves, but to SELL, when we had given it away for free.
But to me, even worse than that are the people who assume that we created OUR content to support THEIR grid.
People often praise the quality of content on Littlefield grid. Our content is outstanding because we worked long, hard hours to create it, and because we spent, literally, THOUSANDS of dollars of our own money to purchase premium textures, animations and so on directly from the artists who created them. Those premium building materials are superior in quality, but, not surprisingly, they come with licensing agreements, including the agreement that those materials would be used only on our grid.
Why would we spend so much of our own money, and use it to create things that we give away for free? For one reason and one reason only: to build a COMMUNITY.
We give things to the members of our community because our community gives back. We have an awesome community of people who help and support each other. Most hypergrid visitors, on the other hand, rarely participate in our community. They come, they take stuff, and they leave. They don’t even talk to us. What good does that do our grid?
We aren’t here to show off our creations. We are here to build a community. We invest in content to support our community. That’s the only reason we do it. Letting our content off our grid (1) does not support our community, (2) violates licensing agreements, and (3) pads the wallets of copybot thieves at our expense.
Littlefield is not now, never has been and never will be a business. We have never charged a penny for our content and we never will. It will always be given away for free.
If people from other grids would like to own our content, I would be more than happy to show them where to take a class in building skills, and point them to the same artists who supplied our materials, so that you can buy from them also. But instead of putting in the time, money and effort to create things themselves, people want to take a short cut. Instead of creators, they just want to be consumers. They want to build their grid using our stuff. I’m sorry, but we aren’t here to supply your grid with stuff. I’m happy to show you how to create your own stuff, though.
What’s the best way to design and lay out a store in the virtual world? One of my responsibilities in our virtual world is building most of the shops, so this is a topic always on my mind. In search of some fresh ideas, I recently visited the Hair Fair in Second Life. Although the hair creations showcased at the event are interesting, I am always more fascinated by the venue–the design of the sims and the individual shops.
I complain that I struggle with creativity, that I am more of an engineer than an architect. But instead of just whining about my deficits, I do my best to try to learn what I can about design, style and composition, so that I can become a better builder. For my own education, I photographed all 60 shops at the Hair Fair, and made notes about what I liked and didn’t like about each design. I was struck by how each tiny shop was uniquely and meticulously designed, and how lovely they all were.
I decided to share some of my observations here, for the benefit of my friends on Littlefield Grid. We are blessed on Littlefield Grid to have a lot of creative people, who generously share their creations with other members, so we have lots of shops. While there is nothing wrong with pasting vendor signs on the walls of a rectangular room, it can be fun to challenge yourself to think creatively, and come up with new and different ways to arrange a store. Please allow me to support you, by sharing some of my observations.
1. GET OFF THE WALL!
There is no law that says you have to paste vendor signs onto a wall. Sometimes someone will complain to me that they have used up all their wall space. While making a bigger store for them is not a problem, there are lots of other ways to use the space. Use the middle of the room!
This shop sported hotel lobby luggage carts:
Here the signs were hung from the ceiling:
Products and vendors can sit on various types of tables, shelves and racks. This also allows you to use the wall for other things, like windows, to enhance the appearance of your shop.
2. BREAK THE BOX!
Frank Lloyd Wright famously waged war against the tyranny of the “box.” When every room is a rectangle with corners, it gets pretty boring and can feel confining. Although the space assigned for your shop may be rectangular (as all these examples were), you can take steps to make the shape more interesting. When the corners disappear, the room feels more spacious.
These shops varied the shape of one end of the room, making it round instead of square.
Who says that the floor has to be flat? Or the walls or ceiling, for that matter?
Here they made the corners vanish into darkness.
This shop got rid of the corners… and the walls and the ceiling and the floor… leaving nothing but product.
3. USE A MOTIF
You can make your shop more interesting with a theme or motif that reflects your style and the style of your products. Here are a few interesting ones I saw:
Make the indoors outdoors – go to the beach:
4. FRAME WITH ALCOVES
If you have to use the wall, consider creating alcoves to frame your product.
Above all, make the experience of visiting your shop an interesting one for your guests. It’s a great way to make life more enjoyable in our virtual world. Your creations are and should be the center of attention. I hope this shows you some ways to make them stand out!
We speak of “real life” in contrast to the virtual world, as if the physical world is more legitimate, more authentic. The virtual world is relegated to the status of playful fantasy. A dream.
When I entered the virtual world, I dreamed the person I wanted to be. I thought I was fantasizing. Some would say I was creating a character. That it was “playing.” I thought so too.
I immersed myself into the dream. It was rich with color and feeling, alive with relationships and possibilities.
The woman I dreamed was me inhabited a boundless world. There were no constraints on her. She could be anyone she wanted to be. She didn’t become anyone. She became someone. She blossomed, becoming an authentic individual with a unique personality and style. She was not a character. She was not a fantasy.
One day, I realized that this dream person is the real me.
The physical world that my flesh and blood body inhabits is confining. I am trapped inside walls of limitation. Not only physically, but in terms of just being who I am. I have never been able to be myself in the so-called “real” world. But I didn’t even know it, until I had the opportunity to dream myself into existence in the virtual world.
There are still a few who choose to look through my virtual self, ignoring me as if I were not real, or just some kind of placeholder, or at best, dismissing me as a fantasy character. They consider my physical self to be the “real” me.
That makes me sad. Because those people have chosen to limit me. They have chosen not to see the real me.
Dream the real world with me.
There is a lot to like: complex characters, sweeping cinematography, gripping plot lines, and a fascinating—sometimes terrifying—glimpse into an ancient culture.
Vikings “lived large.” They did not shun violence and brutality, but they loved as fiercely as they fought, boasted of their battles, cherished their families, thirsted for adventure, honored their gods and embraced expansive joy over and above guilt. They raided and plundered from England to Rome, taking what they wanted to take, dealing violence to anyone who stood in their way. The haunting “Vikings” theme song says it all: “Give me more, give me more, give me more.”
How different from our own morality! Or… is it?
We espouse noble values of peace, respect for others, diplomacy and moderation. But sometimes I wonder how deep those convictions really go. If you scratch the veneer of our so-called “civilized” world, does our inner barbarian still lurk beneath?
Imagine if you travel to another town, and see something you really like, for example a shiny new car. You want it. You fantasize about owning it. Your civilized self would go home, earn the money, and buy one. But your inner Viking, if empowered by strength, would simply take the car that you see. You feel entitled. Because you want it. Because you can.
In the real world, most of us would not simply take someone’s car. Most of us choose to live within the law, and respect the mutual agreements that constitute civilization.
But the virtual world, for some reason, seems to be different. In the virtual world, the inner Viking is unleashed.
Grid raiders hop from grid to grid, like 21st century Vikings, and feel entitled to take whatever they see. Because they want it. Because they can. Buildings, landscaping, clothing, hair, furnishings, vehicles, whatever.
Sometimes they make a ridiculous attempt to disguise their hypergrid plunder by giving it away and calling it a “freebie.” As if that fools anyone.
If you are a virtual Viking, at least have the courage to admit it. Vikings valued truth and honesty, along with strength and courage.
Personally, I choose not to unleash my own inner Viking. I will never take any so-called “freebies” from other grids because I know how often those freebies are plunder—the hard work of an artist who did not consent for it to be stolen and given away. But that is my choice. I can’t control what morality others choose.
In the end, who wins? It’s hard to say. I like to think that the consequence of respecting creativity is to create an environment that encourages more creativity, which benefits all of us.
Even so, it is worth looking at history. Ragnar Lothbrok and his raiders plundered England, taking as much treasure as they could, but 250 years after the events chronicled in “Vikings,” one of their descendants simply took the whole island. In 1066, William the Conqueror, the great-great-great-grandson of one of those same 9th century Viking raiders, invaded England and became its king. The present day British royal family, those figureheads of civilized values, are in fact direct descendants of the barbarian raiders who plundered Lindisfarne in 793 AD.
Is it possible that civilized values are not the opposite of barbarian values, but only a mask, a disguise? Is it deceptive, allowing us to deny the existence of our inner Viking? Or is it a way to protect ourselves, and others, from its power? How do we come to terms with the conflict between these aspects of our nature?
If grid raiders continue to be Vikings, taking what they want to take because they want it and because they can, without guilt or respect for law, will we be better off? Or worse? I don’t know. I can’t say what the ultimate outcome will be, or should be. For myself, for now, I choose to continue to let my watchword be respect.
And I’ll just watch Vikings on TV.
Back in the 1990’s, when it was still new to many people, my work involved conducting workshops about online communication. Twenty years later, most of what I taught then is common knowledge. But there are still a few points that might usefully be revisited.
One principle is that “silence cannot be interpreted.” When we are missing information, often our imaginations fill in the blanks with our fears and suspicions. Alternatively, our imaginations might fill in the blanks by creating a fantasy of that which we wish were true. Neither tendency is reliable. Without solid clues, you can’t know what is in those blanks.
Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and observing real-world actions, written communication leaves out a lot of information. People feel very deep emotions through the written word and very deep connections to other people. Thoughts put into writing can go very, very deep and be very expressive. But they are still only partial.
Imagine the phrase, “Thank you,” as said by the following:
- Growled by a surly clerk at Motor Vehicles after stamping your paperwork
- Squealed with glee by a child who just received a wished-for toy
- Sneered with sarcasm by someone calling an insult to your attention
- Whispered tearfully by your lover in an intimate moment
The words are the same, but the meaning behind them could not be more different in these situations. You discern the meaning—and the sincerity—not from the words, but from the non-verbal cues—cues we don’t always have available online. Without that information, our imaginations make assumptions that may or may not be correct.
Some of us compensate for this lack of information by trying to add expression to our words through emoticons, or just by writing more elaborately. That can be very helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be a trap. It’s helpful when you are communicating something genuine. It’s not so helpful when one is communicating something false.
From time to time, one will encounter a person, quite skilled in the use of language, who seems to be very friendly, courteous and kind. Sadly, based only on their words, we cannot know for sure if they are genuine. They might say to you:
- [Name] smiles softly. “Thank you, my friend.”
At first glance, this seems to communicate warmth, and friendship. It might inspire trust. Alas, you cannot really know whether this person really is smiling softly, or if they are blank-faced, or yawning, or laughing derisively behind the screen. I hate this, because words like those above appeal to my own fantasies about warmth and kindness. I really want them to be true.
For my own self-protection, over the years I have learned not to form opinions about people online based on what they say, or how they say it. Instead, I form opinions based on what people do—how they treat people, the choices they make, the actions they take. I love words. But actions mean more.
I admit I am disappointed when I meet someone whose words project an image of kindness and nobility, but whose actions reveal them to be manipulative, self-serving and deceitful. I really want them to be that kind, warm person, and it is a big disappointment to learn otherwise.
It is far better to place my trust in someone whose real-life actions repeatedly demonstrate generosity, honesty, kindness and real caring.
Being “nice” is only a façade if it goes no deeper than words and expressions. Buying into the appearance of niceness is a great way to get hurt.
The 9/11 Survivor Tree, at the 9/11 Memorial on Littlefield Grid.
A callery pear tree became known as the “Survivor Tree” after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. In October 2001, the tree was discovered at Ground Zero severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches. The tree was removed from the rubble and placed in the care of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. After its recovery and rehabilitation, the tree was returned to the Memorial in 2010. New, smooth limbs extended from the gnarled stumps, creating a visible demarcation between the tree’s past and present. Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth.
Our reproduction of the Survivor Tree was modeled on the original, by Ada Wong, who has beautifully captured the difference in the old and new growth, and even the saw marks where the damaged limbs were removed.