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Sunday, 30 November 2008

Virtual Based Company Attend Real Life Meeting

The Ozone Conferencing company, who have a virtual presence in SL Knightsbridge, held a real life Anglo-Dutch gathering for two days (12-13 November 2008) in London. The aim was to share good business practices with a visiting company from the Netherlands. The meeting was initiated by English Services (Communications) BV, the Ozone Business Network and Felvum Forum Netwerk, an independent networking organization in the Netherlands. There were various presentations at the real Greyhound Public House in Kensington Square where Julius Sowu is the Landlord (Julius is our very own avatar Kwame Oh, who also runs the virtual Greyhound Pub in-world). Julius’s Greyhound Pub is a very popular venue and a focal point for people to meet from all over the world because of its great atmosphere and handy central London location.

There were presentations by Asian INK, ChinaOneCall, Click Profits, Debs Regent, English Services (Communications) BV, Flevum Forum Netwerk, Min Dynasty, Ozone Conferencing, People Touch and That’s Magic.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Helen and Clive's Party Tonight!!!

SL London legend, aligator Clive Hissop, is celebrating his birthday today (Sat 29th) and there will be a special party at the Underground Club in Knightsbridge. As a special treat for Clive, SL London Director Brie Janick will turn the club into a swamp so Clive and his friend Helen (who is also a gator) can celebrate in style. I met HelenH Starbrook, Clive's friend, for the first time last night at the club and I can tell you they certainly know how to boogy on down, their dancing was snappy!!! So be at the club tonight from 2-4pm (SLT) thats 10pm-12 midnight(GMT). Don't forget to put your wellies on for the swamp!!!

IMPORTANT ADDED NEWS - I just found out it is a joint Birthday celebration, we are celebrating both Clive and Helen's real life Birthdays and also Helen's Rezday as she has been in SL for two years, best wishes to both Clive and Helen!!! hope they have a great time tonight!!!

Friday, 28 November 2008

1970's Disco Night at the Underground Club

The Underground Club was caught in a time warp last Wednesday when visitors suddenly found themselves back in the 1970’s. The UGC was full of people dressed in bright colours, round eye glasses and polyester! Only John Travolta in his white suit was missing.
Debs Regent brought a touch of elegance to the disco, wearing a lovely flowing white gown. Seany1235 Blinker and Brie Janick could only be described as psychedelic. Clearly Seany had abandoned his punk look and gone over to the disco side for this occasion, but as usual Seany and Brie made a handsome and striking couple.
Also up on the stage was Karla Preiss, wearing a bright yellow jumpsuit. Karla has just been promoted to hostess after finishing her training period, well done Karla. And then there was Disco Das Wade. He made numerous costume changes, but when I arrived he was wearing a mini skirt and crop top along with a matching bag. His ensemble was completed with white knee high platform boots. Most surprising of all was the huge afro he was sporting, a big change from his usual look. He very kindly asked me to dance, and how could I say no, I don’t think I will ever dance with someone again wearing such an eye-popping outfit. Unfortunately I had not had the chance to get a 70’s outfit together, so I looked rather dull in comparison. Das then changed into what looked like a red hazardous materials suit, followed by a brief (and I do mean brief!) spell as Borat, and then into a favourite of mine, Mr. M & M. It was quite a show.
A number of newbies happened to pass through the club while all this was going on, it must have been an interesting experience for them. The Underground Club was the very first place I went dancing in SL, I hope their time in SL will be as happy as mine has been. All in all the UGC’s look back at disco was a lot of fun.

Hibiscus Hastings

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Metaverse Mod Squad in SL London

I greatly admire people who start their own businesses in real life, and to have the initiative to start a business that is unique, creating a service that will very soon become essential and greatly in demand, is truly inspirational.

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting avatar Twig Tomorrow (Amy Pritchard in real life) who is the Chief Executive Officer of a real life company called Metaverse Mod Squad (MMS).

The Metaverse Mod Squad have crossed the real life/virtual world barrier and set up an office in SL London. I asked Twig to tell me exactly what the Mod Squad is all about. She told me ‘Well our catchy catch phrase is that we are an avatar staffing firm for virtual worlds.’ She continued ‘But essentially we provide content moderation and community management, specializing in 3D spaces.

By coincidence I had come across the Moderators (or Mods) a few months ago when I covered a story of a street parade in the Warner Bros Gossip Girl sim. The Mods were doing a great job looking after both the sim and the SL residents. I asked Twig if clients like Warner Bros hired her company solely to set the sims up for them. She said ‘We come in at various stages of projects. We do quite a bit of pre-launch consulting in the virtual world space so that it is developed from the get go with an eye towards engaging users.’ She told me ‘But projects such as Gossip Girl here in SL, we came in after launch and changed things quite a bit to stress the community aspects of a space like this. Brand management is also a very important part of what we do.’
Twig told me ‘We are in worlds 24/7 interacting with users and customers. We convey our client's story to their fans/users/customers and in turn report back on trends, issues, likes, dislikes, etc.’ she continued ‘It is valuable information for our clients and in turn we are positioned to best tell their story and convey their message. You know, we formed MMS as a company to specifically address these concerns in a 3D space. I am an attorney, and so is our COO (Chief Operating Officer), but the majority of our management team has their roots in online moderation.’ Twig said ‘But it is SO much different in chat rooms and message boards, as opposed to interacting with a virtual person. The people that work in this space have to be clever, fun, smart, level headed and tireless - All at once!’
I ask Twig how do they go about protecting and regulating their clients brands in the 3D worlds, she said ‘We have technical tools that make the first level of management pretty easy, for instance a word filter can edit out language that would have a negative affect on the site and others. From there it is a bit like a camp counselor. We facilitate activities that tell the brand's story, but don't entirely dictate how fans use the space. If somebody is acting up, they are talked to. If they need a short time out, then we are able to do that. The last possible resort is removing them from the experience entirely. People populate communities because they have a common interest and that feeling of being a part of a group really works well to enhance a brand image.’

I asked Twig how many people were involved in her company, she told me ‘We have 6 employees and around 60 to 75 contractors. My guess is that will more than double in 2009, so much is going on in virtual worlds! And populating them with people - companies are finally realizing that that is the key to success, not necessarily spending every last dime on a beautiful space. Just having a friendly greeter when you first sign up, makes a really big difference.’ The contractors are the Moderators and Twig explained that they are ‘The people that interact with users, educate, promote the community, protect the brand, facilitate fun, and keep everything safe.’ She said ‘We hire people that are passionate about specific projects. We hire people that already believe in and love virtual worlds. We hire people that love working with children. We hire people that are specifically suited to certain subjects.’
Twig told me ‘For example, Harry Potter is one of our projects and we have hired FANATICS of the book and movie series. They are perfect because they know every word written and can really dig into discussions and keep it safe and fun for our client. If *I* had to jump in there, I would be clueless!’ Twig invited one of her Moderators over to meet me, and an avatar named London MetaverseModSquad teleported into the office. Easily recognisable in her smart Mod outfit, London’s job includes being a greeter for newbies, giving them clothes, showing them how to run their avatars and making introductions to other residents, as well as inviting them to events. London said ‘it's important to make them feel welcome.’ We all agreed that we remembered being new and how difficult it all was. So someone on hand like Moderator London to greet you would have been such a luxury.

I asked Twig whose idea it had been to start the company in the first place and she told me ‘Mine - But, I couldn't have started it by myself. I have co-founders that really pulled it together and were willing to do so. Mike Pinkerton, our COO, who I actually met here in SL. Susie South, our Chief Moderator and Pam Taggart, our Operations Manager. All of them took a huge leap of faith and we did it together.
In fact, Twig told me that ‘at the time Gossip Girl was launched, and in fact still now, there was no company that specialized in 3D moderation. We were recommended by a site developer who knew of us, which started a dialogue. That was literally 3 weeks after company formation. We were scrambling!’

I wanted to know if there were any other companies that give a similar service to the MMS. Twig said ‘No. There isn't anybody that does what we do, specifically. Mike is an attorney as well and we really are able to navigate community, social, design and regulations quite well. There are some moderation companies that I believe by accident work a bit in the space, but certainly not to the level of what we do.’ Twig continued ‘We attend all the virtual world conferences and we are the lonely staffing and service providers!’

I asked Twig how she had decided the London sim would be the best location for her virtual office, she told me ‘Well, when I was thinking about a name and look and theme for a standard MMS avatar, I really liked the "mod" theme, so I sort of went with it. Since London was the hub of the 60s mod culture, I looked for virtual offices here. Just did a search and landed on their doorstep. I have seen lots of changes here in the last year - it is a terrific sim.’

And we are really pleased to have Twig and her team working in virtual London, I have experienced first hand how the Moderators work at the Gossip Girl sim, and they make sure everyone is happy, looking after new avatars and generally making the sim a fun place to be. There are an awful lot of Gossip Girl fans who are loyal to the sim, and it’s all thanks to the brand Gossip Girl theme that Twig and her staff have created there.

Linden Labs have also taken an interest in Twig and her team, they have been invited to take part in ‘Second Life View’, with the Lindens flying them to real life San Francisco and joining a small panel of people to give their different perspectives of the virtual world.

I would like to thank Twig for giving me such an interesting insight into her company and the wonderful work they do.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Festive SL London

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about returning to my apartment in Chelsea and spending more time in SL London, observing the changes and activities taking place. At that time I found that only one person, Lucy1981 Landar, had begun to decorate for Christmas but since then decorations have begun to spring up everywhere, adding a very festive air to the sims.

I was very inspired to start decorating (and shopping) after seeing Lucy’s home as well as the lights outside the Underground Club in Knightsbridge, so I began making the rounds of the Christmas shops. Most of my decorations have gone inside my apartment, but I have some outside, too, although I think I need to work on it a little more. Fortunately two other residents of my building, Elizabetta Westland and Jaine Avro, have also decorated, so it looks quite cheerful. Janey Bracken, who lives in the building next to mine, has put a Christmas tree and some lights outside her front door.
Over at the houseboats, two of the residents there have gone to town, adding to the already very picturesque homes. Clive Hissop has created quite a winter scene, complete with snow flakes, penguins, icicles and poor Santa (Father Christmas?) trying to get down the chimney. I hope he makes it and leaves Clive some wonderful presents. Clive’s neighbour, LilyanaenNikos Destiny, can look forward to some gifts, too, as Santa can be seen making a delivery. He is accompanied by a very jolly looking snowman welcoming people at the front door.
Over in Knightsbridge, wreaths have been placed on the doors of some of the townhomes. I ran into Therese Xue, who invited me to see her back patio, where she had added a wreath to the door and a lovely little Christmas tree covered with gingerbread men. What a pleasant place to relax after all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
Some of the merchants have been decorating, too, so that garlands and trees are dotted all around the sims. And, at last count, we have three Christmas stores, two in Chelsea and one in Mayfair, as well as the outdoor market near the skating rink. There is certainly a very seasonal feeling right now in London.


Hibiscus Hastings

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Newbies Arrive in London Town

They are arriving, looking dazed, bumping into each, very confused, anxious and curious. Who are they, they are the newbies, the avatars who have suddenly been transported into SL London from Help Island. The Gateway is open and for the first time all those people who join Second Life from real life London will find their first proper SL location is our very own virtual capital.

The SL London residents have been very helpful, especially Clive the gator who has spent a great deal of time talking to the newbies and giving them a helping paw where he can.
Hibiscus and I went over last night to see what was happening. Hibiscus had met a couple of newbies who had got as far as Chelsea and I had met one who had found Kensington and was exploring our very own DM&GT offices. Hib and I headed over to Knightsbridge where the brand new avatars were arriving.
A lot of them seem to have pre-conceived ideas and are quite amazed that there is actually a structured society in SL. All the usual questions are asked, ‘what do I do now?’ ‘how do I play this game?’ ‘how do I make money?’ We answered as best we could and gave them some sites to get free items and clothes.

There has been some bad publicity in the press about SL for the last week or so in respect of a couple who are getting divorced because of the husband’s infidelity in SL. Some newspapers have painted SL as a bit of a vice den and this has only boosted the number of people joining who are curious to find out what is going on. So you do get quite a few newbies who introduce themselves to you with what they consider to be a chat up line, hoping to experience some sort of romance or shady virtual pleasure. No doubt they will settle down, most of them are amazed at how near real life the experience is (with all the everyday things, not the red light district stuff!).

The London team welcome all the new avatars and give them all the help and advice possible. It’s not easy being new and it takes a few days to get used to things, but SL London is a great place to come into, it's home from home. Lets hope all the novice avatars feel happy with their new Second Lives.

Monday, 24 November 2008

London Team's Night Out

One of the really nice things about being in the London sim is feeling part of a close community. The London Team all work so well together, supporting each other and also having a lot of fun as a group. Although fellow reporter Hibiscus Hastings and I are not actually on the London Team Staff (because we work for our favourite boss, multi talented Mr Nikk Huet), Debs Regent has always included us in everything, which is lovely, and we feel part of Debs’ whole wonderful venture.

So it was as part of the London group that Hib and I took a trip over to London Designer Cher Demonge’s Grand Opening for his new Fashion House and Department store at Seraphim. About half an hour before the event was due to start, Cher sent me a message and sounded a little worried saying no one had arrived yet. I told him that usually people leave teleporting nearer to the time of the start, and not to worry. So much effort and planning had gone into this big occasion that anyone would have been a little bit apprehensive.

I arrived with 15 minutes to spare and Hib would be joining me later. The first person I saw was London Team member Cleo Charlesville, who looked stunning in her outfit, but got me all in a panic. Both of us doing our bit and supporting Cher, had turned up in the same dress (one of Cher’s great designs). I decided to teleport out again and change, so I nipped off home. I quickly returned after a manic sort through of my ‘out of control’ inventory and finding another outfit to wear. On returning I spotted that Cleo had also changed, so she must have spotted me in the same dress as well!
Cher need not have worried, the sim filled quickly as people arrived and was soon full to capacity. I stood near the stage and got a message from Cher saying that because the sim was full he could not get in!! I stood with good friend Captive Latte, one of Cher’s best mates and we had to smile at the irony of it all. It wasn’t too bad though, as the sim Cher was stuck on was the next area and still in his shop, so he could still hear what was going on. Debs asked me to teleport her over and I tried, but as the sim was full the teleport would not work. So I went over to where Cher was standing, in the other sim, and managed to let Debs in.

We were joined by Prim Perfect Magazine Owner and Editor Saffia Widdershins, and it was really nice to see her. We all stood at the edge of the sim and suddenly Saffia declared she was going to try to cross the sim to the stage area and she finally succeeded. As people had spread out, looking all round Cher’s great new store, we were all able to move into the main part.

Singer Maximillion Kleene knows the London Team well now and he said hello to everyone individually from the stage, as he started his wonderful performance with his cover version of Kirsty McCall’s ‘New England.’ You can always be sure that an event will be a success with Max, I’ve seen him a few times now, and with his fantastic voice and friendly warm chats to his audiences, he puts on a great show.
I spotted London Team members Das, Cleo, Seany, Brie and Feebe in the crowd having a great time. (I loved Feebe’s dress and think she looked so elegant (that’s her in the picture in pink!)). Congratulations Cher on such a wonderful opening night and thanks to Debs Regent and her Team for joining in the fun.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Debs Regent Opens Ice Rink and Christmas Market

Debs Regent, the London sims owner, attended SL Mayfair last night to officially open the Ice Rink and Christmas Market. Debs told the crowd ‘I know you're all as excited as I am about this event and can't wait to try your free skates on.’ she continued ‘Please browse the stalls and find freebies too that our lovely creators have made for you.’ She said ‘They have superb things on offer for you here too, so wrap up warm and get your skates on quick because I declare this Winter Wonderland OFFICIALLY OPEN!!!!

With that Debs donned a pair of skates and was the first to try the rink. She looked like a professional as she skated along. Other people quickly took to the ice, and at one stage Brie Janick and Debs were racing each other, I stepped well out of the way!!

Kwame Oh arrived, and for some reason he got out his ski poles, but his skis failed to materialize, not sure why he would want skis on an ice rink, but I thought I'd better not ask! Feebe Fearne, SL London Events Manager, looked really cosy in her winter knits and furry black boots, she had done a fantastic job arranging the whole thing.

Seany said there was a free animation in the freebie box, which also included the skates and a Christmas hat. So I thought I would try it. It was a 'spin animation' and I looked like I knew what I was doing as I spun round on my skates!! That’s the beauty of SL we can all look like ice dancers at the click of a mouse!!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

New Outfits for the Underground Club

A new staff uniform has been designed by nils Tomorrow for the Underground Clubs at SL Knightsbridge and SL Mayfair.

London Director Brie Janick modelled one of the dresses, which was a bright red silk mini dress and had the Underground Club logo, (designed by Cher Demonge), worked into the design at the front.

I later met up with London Manager Seany1235 Blinker who showed me a tee shirt, also bearing the Underground Club logo, which is also part of the new uniform. The new outfit is ideal for the image of the Underground Club and nils has done an excellent job with the design, well done nils. (Picture on left courtesy of Brie Janick).

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

New London Virtual Community Logo

There is to be a new SL London logo and it suits the virtual Capital to a ‘t’. I was invited over for a preview on Monday and joined Debs Regent, Das Wade, Brie Janick and Seany1235 Blinker, who were discussing the final arrangements for using the logo. The logo has nice clean lines and is a powerful enough image to make an impression on residents and business people alike. The emphasis is on the SL London community, and this is exactly how the logo presents itself.

The new logo was designed by SL London Director Das Wade. Das, an IT expert, looks after all the technical side of things in SL London, and is a very busy person, making sure everything is running smoothly. Das told us that the logo, once installed in various locations within the London sims, will be a direct link to sites such as Debs Regent’s ‘SL London Virtual Commerce’ web site and our very own ‘Virtually London (Lite)’. Well done Das! on such a futuristic eye-catching design.

SL London Fun

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New Flagship Store

The London team will be taking a few hours out to support one of their colleagues Cher Demonge, when he opens his flagship Bonjour Fashion House/Department Store in Seraphim on Friday 21 November at 1pm (SLT). Cher has invited singer Maximillion Kleene to sing live and it promises to be a great event. Everyone is welcome and you will get a chance to see Cher’s latest brands, which include his new collection of men’s wear, ‘Hello’, plus a brand new furniture department with everything you could wish for in a modern home in SL London.

Ice Rink in SL Mayfair

Winter wonderland has arrived in SL Mayfair, thanks to new Events Manager Feebe Fearne. Feebe has installed an Ice Rink in the London sim, complete with free skates and a Christmas hat. The Ice Rink will be officially opened by Debs Regent at 12pm (SLT) on Thursday, 20th November. However, you are welcome to use the rink now to get some early practice in. Don’t worry you won’t fall over, just like dancing, everyone can ice skate in SL, so go along to Mayfair and show Torville and Dean how to do it!!
(P.S. Don't forget to switch off any 'walk' animation overrides you are wearing or you will find you are walking instead of skating!!)