Why Littlefield is forced to protect our content from Opensim

burglarTo 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.

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Shop Design Tips

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:

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Here the signs were hung from the ceiling:

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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.

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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.

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Who says that the floor has to be flat? Or the walls or ceiling, for that matter?

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Here they made the corners vanish into darkness.

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This shop got rid of the corners… and the walls and the ceiling and the floor… leaving nothing but product.

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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:

Parking Garage:

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Make the indoors outdoors – go to the beach:

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4. FRAME WITH ALCOVES

If you have to use the wall, consider creating alcoves to frame your product.

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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!

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Ragnar Lives

I am a big fan of the hit TV series “Vikings,” which chronicles the exploits of legendary 9th century Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok.

Ragnar Lothbrok, 9th century Norse hero

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.

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How to compliment a builder

I just learned that one of my projects, the Chinese Garden on Qoheleth, and its owner will be featured in a Second Life magazine. I call it a project, rather than a build, because although I designed the layout of the property and landscaping, I chinese gardendidn’t do the heavy lifting of actual building. The remarkable Chinese architecture on that project was the work of the fabulous Ryusho Ort. I just deployed it. Nonetheless people still think of me as the “creator” of the place, which is very flattering.

I am blessed that so many people take pleasure from things that I have built. It gives me pleasure to build them, so it’s good to know that I can share that good feeling with others.

From time to time, people will express their appreciation to me. Of course it always feels good to hear nice compliments. It’s also important to get feedback from the people who use the builds, so that I can continue to improve my skills and make even better and more enjoyable spaces. So I’m always grateful to hear from people.

But there is one compliment that gives me the most pleasure of all. It is Moon Gate frames the Tang Dynasty style mansion of the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second Lifenot “You are a wonderful builder, Camryn!” or any other compliment about me. As nice as it is for people to think so, that’s not what a builder like me longs to hear.

The best compliment may not even be expressed in words. It is shown in actions. The best compliment is when it’s clear that the build works, because people use it. People hang out there. People enjoy life there. They bring their friends, and tell people about the place. That’s when I know I did good.

When it is put into words, the best compliment is, “I love being there.”

The Chinese Garden gets many such compliments. People who do not know I created the place have said to me, “I love hanging out here,” and “it’s so peaceful.” A group of Chinese members did a photo shoot there. A magazine wants to write about it.

That’s what I like to hear.

New Horizons

It was late April of 2010 when Walter first led us to explore grids other than Second Life. At that time, visiting other grids was pretty grim for those of us who find our pleasure the virtual world more by art and design than by technology. It’s hard to believe just how far we have come in three short years. What was the barren frontier has become a perfectly reasonable alternative to Second Life.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything about what I have been up to on our grid. So I’m taking this opportunity just to share a few snapshots of what I’ve been building.

In April of 2013, almost exactly 3 years after we first tried Opensim, in a vast leap of faith, we opened our own independent virtual world: Littlefield Grid. Here is our Admin Team arriving at the Grand Opening gala.

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We just added our 500th member a couple of weeks ago, and are closing in on 600 already. Littlefield Grid consists of about 140 regions, centered around a central shopping district and five welcome and hangout regions. The welcome regions include Littlefield Hangout, a beautiful redwood grove.

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Littlefield Engineering is a hangout for those who like to talk tech. It was my experiment in Brutalist architecture.

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One of Littlefield’s distinctions is our enthusiastic band of content creators. I have built lots of stores for them, where they share their creations with members for free. For me, building a store is often an opportunity to explore a new architectural style. I created a few stores in Art Deco style for my beloved who especially likes that style.

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One of the biggest challenges, when we left SL for the Opensimulator world, was vegetation. The quality of available landscaping materials in Opensim worlds in 2010 was distressingly poor, especially compared to what was available in SL. But three years later, things are looking up; we now have one whole sim of good plants and decent trees (and they are all free to our residents).

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I enjoyed learning about Victorian style when building this Queen Anne and a Victorian shopping street.

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One of my most recent builds was a conference center in the style of a mountain lodge – my little homage to the luxury hotels in the National Parks of the Western U.S.

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For more snapshots of Littlefield Grid, with many more photos of my builds, visit Camryn’s Flickr stream.

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Never stop learning

“No one is good to start with;

It takes practice for your work to match your vision.”

This wisdom comes from the amazing Robin Sojourner, one of the most respected creative forces in the virtual world. Robin’s quietly generous creativity permeates the virtual world through her free scripts and templates, the beautiful things she makes, and her teaching of building and texturing skills. “One of the things that excites me,” she says, “is that people who have no idea that they are creative come into Second Life and find out that they can make things. We are taught, at some point early in life, that creativity is reserved for the ‘creative types’ and they are special and there are only a few of them… and it’s just not true. All of us can do it.”

I was like that. If you’d told me in early 2006 that within a few years I would be so engaged in creating, I would have laughed. But now look. I’ve built whole towns and countless sims, and everything from jewelry to palaces. It turns out I have an eye for fashion and for architecture, something I would never have known about myself, had it not been for the virtual world.

But I think I am not done learning yet.

We have a similar creative force on Littlefield Grid, the marvelous Aaack Aardvark, who is generously giving his time to teach us how to make things in mesh. Our classes are fun and enlightening, and Aaack is a wonderful teacher who keeps us laughing. I am having a great time. The learning curve will not be easy, but with help, who knows. Maybe I can finally make a tree that satisfies me. Maybe more.

The day that you stop learning is the day that you start dying. Keep opening yourself to new things.

 

Ten Years

I spend more time than ever in the virtual world these days, mostly in Littlefield Grid. But today I took some time in good old Second Life, to observe the 10th anniversary of the official launch on June 23, 2003. After all, Second Life is where I was born.

It is easy to be critical of Second Life. Those of us who inhabit the OpenSimulator world, especially, often are. But I have to admit that I was moved by my experience today. Let me explain why.

Statue of Man 2002When speaking of Second Life, it is important to draw a distinction between Linden Lab—the commercial entity that created the Second Life software—and the residents, the community of people who created essentially everything that is IN Second Life.

I am no fan of Linden Lab. In my opinion, Second Life is one of the most spectacularly mismanaged businesses in the history of business. Their chronically poor judgment has alienated countless thousands of contributors to the virtual world, and kept the company on the edge of disaster for years.

But somehow, after ten years, the place is still standing, at least for now. Despite inept management, over a million people still log in to Second Life at least once a month. Why? Those one million people are not visiting Second Life because of technology. What keeps them coming back? They come because of people: the residents, the community, the world that has been created, not by Linden Lab, but by people like you and me.

Linden Lab is not Second Life. We are.

Second Life’s 10th Birthday was, for me, a celebration of the mind-bending creativity of the residents of the virtual world (every virtual world, not only Second Life). Seeing it showcased all in one place made it clear just how deep the talent pool is. I was awed by resident creativity expressed in immersive 3-D art… streaming media, machinima, radio and television stations… vehicles, from cars to sailboats to rocket ships… relationships: communities, friendships, romance and sex… battle weapons from swords to It all started with a cube.tanks… animations for every conceivable activity… a massive virtual fashion industry fueling $32 billion USD in virtual goods transactions… deep and complex roleplay communities… education, and charitable fundraising… scripts that enable intriguing things to happen… exquisite textures and building materials… cities and landscapes in astonishing variety… every conceivable environment from castles to post-apocalyptic ruins, bayou shacks to gleaming palaces, and everything in between… and ideas, omg, incredibly creative and innovative ideas.

These are the components of the virtual world, and they were not created by Linden Lab. They were created by us—the users, the residents, the virtual world community. This is what inspired me today. Not Linden Lab, but imagination and the human spirit.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the official launch of Second Life, I celebrate the creativity of 30 million human beings who have lived in this and every other virtual world. I toast their thought, their craft, their innovation, their art and their science. I praise the generosity of spirit that inspires me every day, when people pull amazingly wonderful and original ideas out of their minds, and share them with the rest of us in Second Life, in Littlefield, and in every virtual world.

Let us raise a glass to creativity! Hear, hear!

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