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Friday, 31 July 2009

The UGC Went Where No Man Has Gone Before!

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it!! Well it was club life but not quite as we know it last Sunday. Yes, it was Star Wars meets Star Trek night with Captain Seany1235 Blinker at the helm!! His lookout for the night was Isabella Elcano as Queen Amidala doing a great job as host and making sure those Klingons kept out of the Star fleet chamber.

The Club looked absolutely fantastic with its giant spaceships from both shows scattered around the dance area, it was certainly an event that people were looking forward to.

I counted at least three Darth Vaders leaping around, light sabres in their hands, looking very menacing, but hilarious as they spotted each other!! We had a couple of Princess Leia’s, one toting guns as she danced, looking threateningly at one of the Darth Vaders. Both Princess Leias looked really good, their costumes just right. One of them, avatar Truthsprincess Baramm, had arrived with her partner in crime Truths Marder and what a good looking couple they made, Truths was a handsome Han Solo, sadly leaving Chewbacca at home on this occasion though.

Before Seany took over dj’ing, Genevieve Gagne had started the event rolling with Elizabetta Westland as host. Gen look beautiful in one of Princess Leia’s more feminine outfits and Elizabetta danced on the stage as one of Captain Kirk’s Star Trek crew. Hotstuff Gothly and Nils Tomorrow looked ready for action in their Starbucks outfits and Gerr Finesmith delighted us with his Rimmer avatar from the cult show Red Dwarf. Of course it wouldn't be right without Mr Spock and Trevor Rookstown had a great av, pointed ears and all! The club was rocking and the sim nearly full to capacity, a great success for the Knightsbridge team.

One last word though, I am assured by the SL London management that there is no split with the London team, although I would expect a little healthy rivalry with managers who want to make their sim the most popular. However, it seems that the two SL London clubs, the Underground Club and the Mayhem Club have absolutely no support for each other. Instead of coming over and joining in the fun at the UGC on the Star Trek night, the Mayhem club regulars stayed away and chatted openly in group chat so that people knew they were around. I have never seen the UGC staff in the Mayhem club either and I wonder what really is going on. I think for big events like the Star Trek night, it would be a nice gesture for the teams to get together and show the SL London residents and visitors a united front! Beam me up Scotty!!!

Janey Bracken

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Meeting Rob!

People are pouring into SL London all the time as newbies, some stay, some go and some come back to join the community. One avatar who caught my eye a few months ago was a smart red fox who joined us in the Underground Club each evening and he seemed to fit in straight away. His name is Rob Fenwitch, and I suppose you don’t get that many furries in SL London, so it was nice to see him there.

I ran into Rob again in the Mayfair sim, he was with the crowd in the Mayhem Club and joined me outside for a chat. Rob had a tag on that said he was a ‘London Guide’ and I asked him about the job. He told me that he was showing people around and he was also the odd job man in the Mayfair sim. Rob said helping people is usually fun. I asked him how he had heard about SL in the first place. ‘I saw it mentioned somewhere on the web’ he told me ‘and I was at a loose end on the Bank Holiday so here I am.’ He said he had found Hyde Park on the first day and had stuck around.

Rob has come into SL bringing some good ideas with him, as a guide he noticed the lack of street names in SL London and decided to make some. He has already put some of the signs in place and says he would ‘like to do all of London if that's possible.’ Rob also showed me a little plaque that he has put on his house, like the ones you see dotted around the real London telling you who lived there.

Rob is proving to be quite the inventor, he showed me a pair of glasses that he is adapting, he said that he was scripting them to include a ‘face light’ and ‘move-lock’ (for those who don’t know, a face light can be worn to enhance the look of your avatar when you are taking photos etc. and wearing move-lock stops your avatar being pushed and shoved by others, keeping you standing in one place.) Rob has also started making sculptie objects, so it will be interesting to see how his building skills develop in the future.
If you see Rob out and about stop and say ‘hi’ I hope Rob decides to stay in the virtual capital, as I’m sure he will have an awful lot to contribute as time goes by!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Griefing In The Chelsea Sim

Ed Follet remarked in his comments on my last article about Soho, that there has been some griefing going on in SL Chelsea (thank you Ed!). It seems that the Gossip Girl building has been targeted particularly over the last few days. I happened to be there yesterday when it happened again, a large number of prims was dropped by the griefer, disrupting the area completely. I did an Abuse Report and I told everyone in range to do the same. Hopefully the culprit will either grow up or get banned, whichever comes first! Anyway, I thought you might like to see the pictures!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

It's Sex In the City As The Soho Sim Opens

Well it’s finally open, Soho is now part of SL London and we were given a chance to go in and have a look last weekend. As this is such a big event, a new sim for the virtual Capital! both fellow writer, Hibiscus Hastings and I will be telling you our own impressions of this very colourful area. Because I’m a Londoner I couldn’t wait to go in and see what the SL London Team had made of mimicking the original Soho. Hibiscus and I had a grand tour by Director Das Wade, and one of the builders, who has put so much into it, Menolly Riederer.

Soho today is an extremely popular area of the real London, with a unique tapestry of all sorts of lifestyles, but it is still most famous for it’s sex industry, which dates back to the 1800s. It has a strange history, being surrounded by the most influential neighbouring London Boroughs such as Bloomsbury, Marylebone and Mayfair, it was shunned by the aristocrats in the 1700s and never became a fashionable location for the rich. By the mid 1800s it had a high immigrant population and prostitutes and small theatres and music halls started to appear. By the 1900s cheap eating-houses were opened by foreign nationals and it started to become favoured by the artistic and intellectual set.

So what of SL London owner Debs Regent’s virtual Soho? well the in-world location is largely based on the more risqué side of the real district and I suspect will attract a great many avatars who seek cyber thrills in one form or another. In this, the Linden Labs, along with Debs are taking no chances of under age avatars being able to have access, as the sim will be classified as ‘Adult’ and avatars will have to be age verified, and prove they are over 18 years old, to get in (see Second for age verification procedures).

At the hub of the sim is the Phoenix club which is presently recruiting for escorts, dancers, and strippers, along with other staff. The Phoenix club, with it’s basement location decorated in plush red, somehow exudes the slightly tacky atmosphere that will appeal to clubbers who like nudity and sexual favours with their beer. There are the usual pole dance stages set up all around the club and one elegant feature, in spite of it being striptease, is the giant champagne Bottle and glass where the striptease artist bathes in a shower of champers as she rotates gracefully in the wineglass. One of the SL London Team, Cleo Charleville, gave us a demonstration. She tastefully had a binkini on for her peformance though, but we got the general idea.

Behind the main body of the club there is a room put aside for slightly more sinister stuff, BDSM (Bondage and Discipline Dominance and Submission Sadism and Masochism). There are various instruments of torture (or pleasure, depending on your perspective!) and I suspect this will get it’s share of the traffic, as BDSM sims are quite popular in SL, although I suspect many people will wander into them once or twice just out of curiosity. Hibiscus and I tried some of the pose balls, when no one was around, and found ourselves in fits of laughter, then we got worried that we may get stuck in the poses, so quickly decided to move on!! There are more rooms for private dances behind the main part of the club as well.

There is a cinema a little further along showing steamy films. You can watch real life soft porn movies in-world and there is a list of films you can pick from. It makes me wonder what sort of avatars will be frequenting such a place, I can’t imagine just going there to watch a movie, as I’d be a bit worried about who I sat next to, but then again you have to be prepared for the consequences if you choose to sit in on those sorts of films. Once in the mood, people can choose one of the many brothel rooms, which will be dotted all over the sim. The room that Menolly showed us was actually really nicely decorated with a luxurious bed (with it’s pose balls for various sexual play), a bath, and behind a little screen more BDSM furniture. I am told that these rooms will be private so no one can see what is going on. I would stress here that people will all be over 18 and they have the option of either teleporting out or switching off their computers if they are unhappy with the situation in which they find themselves in.

Das and Menolly took us to a gym, not any gym, but a gym set up purely for the male gay community. There we met the man who built the gym, Aeneas Beaumont, and a fine job he has made of it too. He told me ‘I hope I have made it welcoming, that’s what I aimed for.’ Menolly grinned and said to Aeneas ‘well since it’s the last time us girls will be allowed in here, show us around hun.’ And show us around he did, there is the work-out area with equipment scripted to actually work, plus a massage bed. Teleport buttons that take you to a further two floors. There is a nice pool area where Aeneas says ‘people can relax and hang out.’ And also working showers! I had to have a go! fully clothed of course, and felt really clean afterwards!! Then there is the toilets, a nicely designed block, but with pose balls I’d rather not print about in this column! As the real Soho has a large gay community, I suspect the virtual gym will appeal to many gay avatars.

One thing I loved seeing was Carnaby Street, the focal point for the swinging sixties in real life London, it has been re-created in SL Soho and I am looking forward to the many little shops being filled with trendy SL clothes etc. I noticed that a lot of the shops have been reserved by some of our top designers, Nils Tomorrow has reserved a store right next to the Phoenix, a good business move on her part, well done Nils! I can only think SL trade will flourish in the area as people will come into the sim, either wanting to take part in the sexual side of things or just out of curiosity, so it is a good place to own an SL store.

Lastly one of the areas I really liked was a gathering place in one of the tower blocks. Looking like a converted warehouse inside, it has sprawling sofas and comfy chairs where people can just come and chat. Nothing sexual going on there, but I feel it will get it’s regulars who like nothing better than meeting up and chilling with their friends.

A big thank you to Das Wade and Cleo Charleville for showing us around and also to Menolly Riederer, who along with Rails Bailey, have turned the sim into a simply amazing build. Also thank you to Aeneas Beaumont for showing us his amazing gym. I think SL Soho will prove to be a very
interesting place in the future.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Update on SL Hyde Park

I had a meeting with Mayfair Manager Torric Rodas regarding the Hyde Park problem (see ‘London Residents Upset’). Torric wanted to put the record straight in respect of the SL London management, who appeared at the time, to try to force people from the Hyde Park meeting area over to the Garden Café in Mayfair.

Regarding the Garden Café, Torric told me ‘this was a piece of green grass that has never been used before. It's sandwiched by 4 buildings with this in the middle. There was no access’ he continued ‘so about a month ago I asked the builder Aeneas if he could knock a hole in it ‘cos I wanted access to this land. The idea was always for a hangout. We already have the pub and the club but I wanted another, a third community place in the sim. Previously this sim was commercial only, no residential.. and I wanted to change that and have a balance. ‘

Torric told me that he had seen the SL London management message that had been sent around to everyone regarding the Hyde Park regulars being asked to move to another sim, and he told me ‘I said to Aeneas, here is a chance that if people are going to be moving around the sims, to find a home, lets get the cafe done, and done fast, and that’s what we did.’ He added ‘but it had always been planned.. and it was never my intention either, then or now, for people to be forced there.’ Torric said ‘I thought they actually might enjoy being on a mature sim and being able to do their own thing.’

I reiterated, saying so this wasn’t an area being forced on people from Hyde Park, only an idea they might like it? Torric agreed, saying ‘absolutely .. and it still stands. I would be very unhappy if people were forced to come here. I want people to come here because they like it. All the people in Mayfair are here through choice, it rather spoils it if people were here against their will.’

So it seems that the Garden Café had been planned for a little while, and Torric had thought it was a good idea to finish it quickly in case the misplaced people from Hyde Park fancied moving over to there.

As far as I can tell it looks like people still like to gather by the Dell Café in Hyde Park, although I haven’t seen an excessive number of people there lately, people do like their familiar places, but people also move on quickly in the virtual world, so not everyone will stay there. In the meantime it looks like SL London Director Das Wade has come up with a solution that should keep everyone happy (see his comments in the original post) He says that ‘the Dell is still there for everyone, with some minor agreement between Old Residents. Should the sim reach 45 people, then they will be expected to move to another club just to give room for new residents to get their feet in a lag free environment (Well Laggish Free).’ Das also wants people to participate if they have any ideas about the running of SL London, and he will be pleased to accept notecards with suggestions and ideas which will be looked at by the SL London management at their weekly meetings. Way to go Das! I think it’s a great idea!!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Happy RezDay Hotstuff !!

Happy 1st Rezday Hots from Virtually London (lite). Hope you have a lovely time!!!

My Year of Living Dangerously

On Friday, July 25, 2008 my very first article for Virtually London (lite) appeared. I cannot express the amount of nervousness, anticipation and excitement I felt as I waited to see it come up on my computer screen. I was diving into an adventure; I had no idea where it was all going to lead. I was homeless, a newcomer to the London sims and to be honest I would sometimes (often) think to myself “What have I done?” And now, a year later, I get to be self indulgent and take a personal look back at my year with Virtually London (lite). I hope all of you will come along with me.

That initial article was on London transport, those famous buses that have created talk throughout the sim. I was very grateful for them at the time as they gave me a subject to write about, were very photogenic and looked like “London” to me. This choice also turned out to be a prescient one, I caught my first glimpse of what was to be my future home and I even made the first of many friends while riding around on the top of that bus.

I was finding my legs as a reporter. One of my strategies was to walk around the sim and just talk to whoever was unfortunate enough to be in my path, literally throwing myself at them. I met all sorts of people, some of them sim managers, others discovering London as I was, even a vampire! They weren’t forbidden in those days and I let her take a bite. But probably the person who stands out most in my mind was an avatar named Super Barbecue King. Let’s just say I will never look at shrimps in the same way.

A few occasions really stand out in my mind. The first was fashion week. That turned out to be a trial by fire for almost everyone involved. Something was scheduled every day so that meant articles had to be written at great speed. What was even more difficult was taking photographs, as the sim was very laggy and the models moved too quickly. Janey and I would both attend and poor Janey, every night she would receive tons of photographs from me, most not that good as I was still learning, and yet she would graciously thank me every time, allowing me to feel as if I had actually done something. Sometimes taking photos would cause one of us to crash and re-logging was a problem. However, it was all a great success and we are looking forward to the next fashion week. Janey has even begun special workouts, I understand.

Three other events made a big impact on me: Guy Fawkes Day, the lighting of the Christmas tree and New Year’s Eve. Being Canadian, I have never had the opportunity to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day before, and what impressed me that evening was the sense of community, wonderment and closeness that I felt while watching the bonfire and the fireworks. I was truly touched, it was a magical moment. The lighting of the Christmas tree was similar except that the unity this time was between the Norwegian visitors and the citizens of the London sim. Fish Palen spoke so movingly about the terrible war years and how the connection between London and Norway, symbolized by the tree, had been created and was now continuing on into Second Life. And New Year’s Eve brought together so many of my friends from across the world, all celebrating the beginning of 2009 together. These were happy, happy times.

Of course not all times have been happy. There was the saga of the apartment blocks in Chelsea. On my first voyages of discovery around the London sims I had found these beautiful, spacious apartments and after some encouragement from Janey I worked up the nerve to actually rent one! This was a huge step! I loved my apartment - the size, the brightness, the endless decorating opportunities. Even the stream of “visitors” did not put me off. Then came that dreadful day when we were told that the buildings were being remodelled and I was once again homeless. I had never minded being homeless before, but having set down roots changed my perspective on things. I ended up camping at a friend’s sim or hiding out in the Virtually London (lite) offices until our new places were finally ready. Now I am back in my beautiful apartment and happier than ever to be there.

It has been a life changing year for me. I would like to thank all the people who have befriended me during this time, submitted to my interviews, commented on my stories and made me feel so welcome. I truly appreciate your kindness and openness.

I have to single out Janey Bracken for all her help, her friendship and support through my ups and downs. She listens with patience to my endless moaning, and has even taught me certain “English” words, although I have yet to manage saying “blimey” with aplomb. Perhaps that will be my next year’s challenge. None of us knows what the future will bring, I could never have predicted any of this, and who knows where I will be this time next year, but I will always remember with gratitude and feeling my time here at Virtually London (lite) reporting on the London sims.

Hibiscus Hastings

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Spotlight on........David Vane of

The SL London Community has welcomed a new company joining them as partners. The real life company is called and they provide online services for businesses. Their website states ‘Whether it is web development, web promotion, managing online marketing, social media marketing, virtual services or training, we offer practical ‘hands on’ support on all aspects of outsourced services.’

I contacted company founder and director David Vane and ask him if he would answer some questions for Virtually London (lite), and David kindly agreed.

Firstly I wanted to know what set David’s company apart from other companies offering similar services. David told me ‘There aren’t many ‘virtual services’ out there at the moment, although there are a lot (of) Virtual Assistants working on their own. I would love to see a team of VAs in every city providing support and secretarial services for small businesses under the 247virtual banner.

As his company has joined Debs Butler’s (Debs Regent) team as partners, I asked David about his opinions regarding 3D environments and business. He said ‘I think it will be difficult to get people to understand how to use it for business. Many businesses have web sites that they don’t understand, so I think this will (take) a little time before we see it adopted properly.’ I wanted to know how he would convince ‘anti’ virtual world businesses that programs like SL can be used as a tool, David said ‘It is part of the reason why I am joining Debs now is to try to show that there is a place for business in this environment. I just hope we can hang in there while everyone wakes up.’

I asked David when and where he had first heard of SL and how he had become aware of SL London. He told me ‘Yes I saw Second Life over 2 years ago at a network meeting in Portsmouth. A chap from IBM was showing us how it worked and I homed and logged on but did not do much more with it. Then I started conferencing on Ozone (Ozone conferencing) this year and met Debs Butler online and we started talking and I thought it would be good idea to get involved again as we offer Virtual services and it looked like it might fit well with my ideas.’

David told me about his background, I was curious to know how he had started his career in technology and if he had any other interests. He said ‘I have a really strange cv – I started off at a teacher training college, finished and went back on the staff teaching guitar and music for 7 years, ran a dance band at top rank in Plymouth and then Pontins in Dorset for 8 years. In 1988 I joined a financial services company and left in1995 to set up and internet cafe in Southampton (first on the South coast) That closed in 1996 (no one understood what the internet was) and I have spent the rest of my time producing, promoting and developing web sites, intranets and helping small businesses to work online as well providing training on MS Office products. In 2003 we started to offer Virtual Services and I am currently offering to help businesses and people to work more effectively using time, technology and training! (see I have always been amazed at what technology can do and the fact that so few people use it properly. So I am on a sort of mission to drag my customers into the 21st century. Besides playing guitar and keyboards and running a trio called Serendipity that sing music from 60’s - 80s I also enjoy sailing (dinghies and big ones) and I am a Buddhist and do a lot of work with the Southampton Council of Faiths. It just wears me out writing it all! :o)’. I wonder if we can talk David into giving us a live performance with his band Serendipity later on in SL!!

Asking David how he sees his company running alongside SL London and how it would work, was he going to open an Office/shop in the London sims? He said ‘We are opening a workzmarter centre at the moment where you can drop off work for typing, meet other businesses ( I do a lot of real networking) and we’ve even talked about an internet cafe ! He added ‘I am hoping that we can establish a work place where businesses can come to get their dictations and work done and other services. I have Virtual Assistants (working form home) who would be able to work in SL London so I hope it could build into something good in the future. I asked him if he thought SL was a stable enough environment at the moment for such a project and he told me ‘I haven’t had enough experience of it yet. I am anxious to see how it works.’

On a lighter note, I wanted to know what David’s avatar would look like and if he would wear his business suit ‘in-world’. He told me ‘I am not sure about a suit and tie, but I think it needs to be business like. My current one looks like a personal trainer!’ I further asked if we would meet him socialising in SL London, in places like the Underground Club in SL Knightsbridge, he said ‘I have never been a gamer or leisure user and I don’t think I shall be clubbing yet.’ I’m hoping David may change his mind as time goes on, as I would be interested to know what his impressions of the social side of SL London would be!

I would like to thank David for this interview and I wish his company every success for the future, both in real life and in Second Life!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

SL London Residents Upset

There are some pretty unhappy people in SL London today and I hope they find a solution soon to their problem. I wrote a few weeks ago about people becoming attached to the place where they first arrive in SL, places they call home and meet their friends for a chat (see A Nice Home For Newbies). Anyway as luck would have it, it looks like the meeting place in Hyde Park near the Dell Café is causing problems because of the regulars who meet there making it difficult for new people to join SL smoothly at the Hyde Park Gateway.

Sunday night I had been asked by SL London Director Das Wade to go over and see a new venue in Mayfair called the Garden Café, where a bit of a party was going on, and to he honest it was a nice place, a courtyard at the back of one of the big houses and ideal for events. Apparently this is the location that the London team have picked for the people from the Dell Café to use as their meeting area, rather than still gather in Hyde Park. I went over to chat to the people outside the Dell Café today, and I can tell you they are not happy, either with the fact that they have been asked to vacate the park, or with the new location, which is so very different from what they are used to.

I spoke to Gandy Gearhead, who had been and looked at the new meeting place, and he explained why he was unhappy about it, he said ‘the new place is like a club and there is no chatting, which is what I kept getting told last nite.’ When I explained to him about the problems the new people were experiencing, Gandy said ‘I get that, could have asked as opposed to throwing everyone out’ I wanted to know what sort of place he would prefer, he told me ‘A quiet one I guess, but I can’t speak for everyone, similar to this.’ (Hyde Park). He added ‘the new place is laggy as hell as well. I’m surprisingly angry about this.’

The new location did not go down very well with Fran Jonstone, she said ‘it’s like slum alley.’ Fran added ‘the noobs stay here to make friends and the London greeters can’t see it. They fenced the landing area off now the noobs come and stand here so we get moved again.’

Alex85 Ghost, who seemed to be pondering, said ‘hmm a park, to walk free, but not soo free.’ Gandy, who could see the problem, said ‘there needs to be a compromise, but we need consulting.’ He added ‘Not just brushed out of the way.’

I suggested that I thought they should consider a solution in looking for another nice area. Mark Barnside told me ‘I am new and I think of this place as my base.’ I knew just how Mark felt and I do feel sorry for these people who have found the place they want to keep as their meeting place, only to be told they have to move on. These avatars have lots of energy and put their case strongly, but the problem still remains with the new people needing to enjoy their entry into the virtual capital, as their first impressions are vitally important because it determines if they stay in SL or not.

Das Wade is totally aware of the feelings of the Dell Café people and he put round a notice yesterday asking them to participate in solving the problem. I would like to see this nice group of people get together and work out what they need in a meeting place that meets all the criteria of the Hyde Park location. I’m sure if they negotiate properly with the London team something can be sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction.
(Editors Note: Since publishing, remarks made by an avatar at the location have been removed at her request)

Monday, 20 July 2009

Meeting Barack In Mr Todd's

Looking around the shops the other day, yes I still love shopping!!! I noticed a couple of stores worth looking at if you are on a tight budget (and who isn't!!). Pixel dolls, owned by Rhapsody Mubble has some great designs in SL Knightsbridge and lots of stuff for around LS100 and I mean nice clothes, so take a look, day wear and smart casual. Next door to Pixel dolls you can get a real posh evening frock from Hopeless Designs, owned by Spinmaster Voo, for as little as LS25. Not to forget Seany1235 Blinker’s shop, House of Blinker, in the same area where you can get some real bargains.

Mr Todds shop is a little bit different in the Mayfair sim, he advertises that he can supply designed items to suit your needs. Mr Todd's Designs is a great service for people starting out in their own business, he can supply individual signs, logos, adverts for events, and even does scripted stuff for people to click on. This is not an expensive service either, he quotes prices from LS50 to LS100 for scripted items. I went into his shop for a look around and was lucky enough to bump into Barack Obama in there, he said hi and let me take his picture, see even Presidents need help with their canvassing!! Also Mr Todd has a full sized Ferrari in his store for all those Formula 1 fans who want to take a look at the winning car (well not this year maybe!). By the Way Mr Todd states that all profits go to charity, what a nice idea!

Changing the subject completely, the photo competition run by Manager Seany1235 Blinker was won by Georgianna Genesis with her profile picture of the sunlight shining on her. Well done Georgianna it was a great shot!!