Monday, June 5, 2017

Seven Years Later

It was seven years ago on June 5, 2010 in which the old leading newsletter of Second Life closed down, and what would become today's was born. For two and a half years, I had been a part of JamesT Juno's and Dana Vanmoer's Second Life Newspaper which had reported the goings on of the virtual world from it's glory days when it was the darling of the tech media, touted as "Internet 2.0," to when the attention of outside media was fading as it turned to other things such as Facebook and Linden Lab was seen less as the technical wizards whom were happy to serve the residents and more like a Dilbertesque corporation making clumsy decisions. But real life events would catch up to James and Dana, and they announced they would be leaving the virtual world and closing the Second Life Newspaper. Four of us, Gemma Cleanslate, Grey Lupindo, Shellie Sands, and myself, Bixyl Shuftan, made the decision to keep writing under a new newsletter, the Second Life Newser.

I wasn't sure what lay ahead for us. Although we were experienced news reporters of the virtual world, as a publication we were brand new and without sponsors. As I feared, most of the thousands of readers per day James and Dana had been getting did not follow over to us, and in our first days we had only a handful people reading our stories. But the sponsors came. Ranchan Weidman generously provided us with land and an office for free and has continued to do so. Book Island also gave us a small shop area. Cash sponsors would eventually come, starting with Jacek Shuftan (who called himself my "Polish cousin") and his Podex Exchange who loyaly continued his support for years until changes in Linden Labs' terms of service forced him to close. And it didn't take long for serious news stories to show up. Just a week after our opening, Linden Lab announced they were laying off a third of their staff, including some popular Lindens. Soon after came other stories such as the resignation of Linden Lab's CEO, the "Emeraldgate" controversy that would be the end of the first popular third party viewer, the end of the Teen Grid, and more. And so the readers began coming back. While we never did get the numbers James and Dana once had, once again we were Second Life's leading news publication.

Over the years, we have reported much about the virtual world of Second Life, it's sims, it's events, it's owners at Linden Lab, and of course it's people. Many sims have vanished from the Grid, such as the Vietnam Wall, the dAliez September 11 Memorial, Greenies Home, and numerous others. But others have appeared, such as Townies which redecorates itself for every holiday, the 23 sims ot the Wild West Roleplay lands, Yosemite, Calas Galadhon Park, Creations Park, and others. Some experiences we found would last just a few years, such as the Aria-Class combat roleplay. We would say goodbye to shows such as "Tonight Live" and "The 1st Question." Many people would depart Second Life for other pastures over time. Sadly, some such as Ladyslipper Constantine, Shady Fox, Selene Spellhunter, Ever Dreamscape, Delinda Dyrssen would pass away, their deaths mourned by fellow residents.

Other changes included the introduction of mesh building, and more recently Bento for avatars. Mesh was somewhat slow to catch on as there were problems with clothing and older viewers had problems seeing it. But eventually it would get more and more use. Linden Lab would also release a tablet viewer, SL Go, that was developed  by another company. But later on the company would be acquired and the service would shut down. But others would step in and offer a similar tablet and browser viewer called "Bright Canopy." "Text viewers" for simple messaging but offering no visual scenery have also been developed. Some other resident-made developments included various inworld games, a new type of avatar: the MLP pony,

CEO Rod Humble would come and go, and CEO Ebbe Altberg would step in. Linden Lab would also make changes in what avatars were available for newcomers, as well as changes in the starting area for newcomers. Linden Lab would increase the number of groups residents could join, especially for Premium accounts. It would also lower the startup fee for getting a sim, and made a limited time offer to reduce tier, for a fee. But Linden Lab would make some controversial moves over time, such as ordering third-party currency exchangers to shut down, ending the discount for educational and nonprofit sims for a time, the Content Creator Terms of Service controversy, and others. The Lab would distance itself from the residents for a few years, ending events in which they interacted with them, and withdrawing support for the Second Life Birthday celebrations and ending the real-world Second Life Community Convention. In the case of "The Birthday," a group of volunteers would take over and sponsors would pay for the sims involved for the annual event. But more recently, the Lindens have been bringing back the events in which some of them interact with the residents. Linden Lab would also offer a few games to residents, such as "The Cornfield," "Horizons," and "Paleoquest."

For a time, Linden Lab would try a strategy of "diversification" by developing or buying other products, such as "Blocksworld" and "Patterns." But aside from Blocksworld, they didn't make much money, so the Lab gave them up. Soon after, Linden Lab announced it was developing a "next generation virtual world." Eventually given the name "Sansar," there has been much speculation about what the new world will be like and how successful it will be.

Although the mainstream media had largely left Second Life behind, there were a few occasions in which they took a look, two examples being Oprah Winfrey's "Life 2.0," and when it was featured on the Dr. Phil Show. There have been other examples of real life and Second Life interacting, such as educational lectures in the scilands, the "Arab Spring" in Egyptian sims, space shuttle launches watched at the International Space Museum and other places, the US Presidential Election, memorials for terrorist incidents in the Paris 1900 sims, and of course charities such as Homes For Our Troops, Feed a Smile, Team Fox, Diabetes UK, and of course the Relay for Life in Second Life.

The Newser has covered all this, and more. We've also taken on more writers in our team. Sadly, we've had to say goodbye to most over time, including Shellie Sands and Grey Lupindo as real lives needed more of their attention. We've also had to say goodbye to old friends such as Podex and for a time Steelhead, whom sponsored the paper for a time. But we are happy to have the support of Lorena Chung Estates and Cynthia Farshore's Farshore Radio whom have stepped in to sponsor the paper, and of course Ranchan Weidman whom has provided us with our office since almost the beginning.

So what does the future hold? Some more people have been talking to us about possible sponsorships. And we hope to have additional writers soon. While we hear the occasional "Second Life is doomed" comment, unless there's some economic calamity or major earthquake that takes out Linden Lab's servers, Second Life should be around for years to come. And we'll be around to cover it.

Many thanks to our sponsors, the Sunweaver Estates where we've made our home for the past seven years, and of course you the readers.

Bixyl Shuftan
Second Life Newser


  1. So glad you carried on and still your friend. Hard to think its been 7 years as it feels like yesterday.
    Love to you as always. Dana