Where I’m At In #SecondLife Literally and Figuratively

I was sorry to see a reference in a recent Second Life Newser to the closure of a part of the Szygy Community, via “Life Cycle of an Island” at the Newser.

Due to the way the Newser has to show categories as nested blogs, the actual entry by Grey Lupindo is at their SL Places blog.

So I was very happy when Celtic told me that she and Samantha had a plan to keep at least some of Syzygy alive.   They are working on the details now.   I’m not sure how much or who will remain there.   But as of today it appears that I will be able to move back to the original Syzygy.  My neighbors will be my very good friends– Grjandomore Greene, whom we call Gri, and Muse Nishi.  Gri and I were neighbors on Corvus, and he is a great person to share land with.   He never once complained about my wolves howling or disturbing him.   Muse Nishi was the first person I became friends with in SL, many years ago.   She’s very creative and fun, and I’m glad she will be a neighbor.

The island of Corvus was a wonderful place while it lasted.   I will always have happy memories of it.   Until my new place on Syzygy is finalized, I have rented a temporary apartment in a place that seems to be much more suited to me—a tree house in a forest.  I’ll let you know how the wolves adjust to live among the branches. — Places: Life Cycle of an Island

It’s wonderful that Grey has found an acceptable new home, with agreeable neightbors in a familiar community. So often one of the hardest things to find in Second Life, aside from the perfect skin/hair/clothing combo of course, is that perfect community of like-minded souls.

That’s not to say that there isn’t conflict – this will happen in any residential community and it’s just a given that must be dealt with as it comes up. But the hardest thing about community, once it’s found, is the possibility of losing it and losing the connections with everyone in it, if the community is in danger of collapsing. In Second Life, communities are at risk because the cost of maintaining residential or venue land is prohibitive. Even groups that share tier are struggling to maintain their lands, due to the ongoing cost of tier (groups can share tier and there’s a 10% discount for group land, which is why I and my “family” of alts and firends hold the amount we do).

I’m still a member, for sentimental reasons, of a group that Samantha Glume occasionally sends messages on. It was for the “Cha-no-chashitsu” Butterfly Tea Pavilion. It was a tiny little place just off the road, designed as a Japanese teahouse, but with a locking door. It was supposed to be a quiet little place where people could enjoy the floating butterflies and fountains while changing clothes. Across the way was the Neko Jinja Shrine, another place that I hung out at during my very earliest days in Second Life, before I ever found a place to rent that was truly “home” in a community sense.

Near the Neko shrine was the original Jocko Domo store, which had some connection to the owners of the shrine and tea house, and also nearby was the spot where Luneko had her wonderful “newbie kit” set out. I first learned to sort inventory in that little teahouse… for some reason, it was one of my favorite places then and even after it moved to a different spot after some group land combining, I still occasionally dropped by.

Samantha Glume’s group land was back behind the roadway, and for a long time, I dithered about joining their group formally rather than drifting around in the edges of the “associated” little groups for the shrine and tea house. It was a huge wrench for them all when they decided to leave the Mainland and commit to the syzygy community islands, and it was a huge undertaking when they expanded, and now recently it’s a huge sorrow now that they’ve had to draw down on their island lands.

All that disruption and hope and heartache was based on the necessity to deal with tier, whether there was enough donated tier to make the move to the islands possible, or whether there wasn’t enough to justify keeping all the lands after a year or so (very sorry, not really clear on the timeline).

They’re not the only group that’s had to draw in its horns; I’m thinking of the big controversy a while back when the Elven group went off to the wilds of Open Sim when they could no longer maintain their beautiful sims. I also wonder how my Anglican group is doing, since they originally started under the non-profit or educational angle. However, my friend Cady Enoch is a very capable person and I think she has their tier donation and fundraising pretty well organized. A few of my fountains benefit them with a small donation.

Anyway. Back to our story, the one about finding home and community.

I drifted around rootless for a while, and rented for a few weeks at a time in a series of anonymous condos and skyboxes. For more than a year, I was in a medieval-themed sim that was peaceful, yet had occasional fun social events. I was perfectly happy in my little monastic cell, sorting inventory from hunts. Yikes.

Yes, it was at least a year or more after my first rezzday that I first learned how to rezz a box, patiently taught by my friend Mistletoe, who had a couple of her early businesses based there. The sim eventually lost a beautiful second sim that was set up as parkland to the Homestead debacle, and I started to become a bit more aware (albeit dimly) of the costs of tier and what owning an entire sim or region actually meant in $$$.

Does Linden Lab realize that even now, years later, people are still bitter about the Homestead issue? And are they even aware of the current “the tier is too damn high” meme that’s been going around? I’ve got to get me some of those dwarves, I’ve got roadway and railway parcels that need some new landscaping…

Being such a late bloomer, I eventually started looking for somewhere else to live (the sim is still there, but most of the people I knew are gone or interested in other things now). That was when I eventually bought a few cheap inland Mainland parcels in Tintafel and started to learn how to build. That kept me busy enough for a few years, but then eventually I got interested in the world of Steampunk, because it was like being a Victorian, but with all mod. cons.

I flirted with the idea of finding something in Caledon, but was always put off by the lack of choice in Caledon (it appears that there’s very little available at any one time) which is great for the Guvnah, but not so great for someone hoping to rent there. I looked around some of the other Steamlands, and was interested in New Babbage until I realized it was a bit dangerous (and also I stumbled into somebody’s roleplay or machinima shoot one day and got politely told off). Then one day, I happened to attend something (probably an Aether Salon event) where I found myself in Steelhead Shanghai. Next door was Steelhead St Helens, full of trees and mountains and water that reminded me of my old homes in the western US in RL.

Even so, after renting one or another shop or parcel there, it still took me a year or more to work up the nerve to attend a group event, after keeping an eye on group chat and working out who was who and what was what (as in, “What’s a Jaegermonster, and what’s that crazy lingo of theirs mean?” Although I or my alts are still not as active socially as we could be, we’re comfortable hanging out at events, dancing, chatting, and attending town halls (although I missed last night’s meeting).

Where I’m at, literally and figuratively, is in the Steelhead group as far as residential land and 1 shop is concerned, plus I’ve got some mainland parcels held as part of my “home and work” group with 1 home and one other shop. For community, it’s Steelhead – although my mainland home is in the same region as the Cafe Wellstone hangouts, I’m not in attendance at events there as often as I’d like. I think everybody is coping with tier for the most part, but that’s probably dependent on donated tier as well.

I’m coping with tier at the moment, owing to the group discount, and I’m relieved to say that my funding for it and for SL is on the good foot. I fund my activities not through sales of my products (which have been up lately, though, that’s a good sign) but through an incentive program from my RL work. There was a change to the program at the new year, and for a while I was concerned that it was going to go the way of the dodo and I’d have to start earning my keep a little more and being less of a lazy dilettante. But it has been continued, with some minor changes. I’m “good to go” for my (somewhat expensive) parcel rentals in Steelhead and won’t have to go to my landlord to ask for either a smaller second parcel or turn it in entirely.

Which is a good thing, as I like my landlords very much, and I know that keeping the Steelhead sims going is both a joy and a worry for them both. So I’m happy to be ahead on tier and I’m happy to give some $Love at events my neighbors and community members have, since not all of them are lucky to have this weird micro-finance funding that I have. Several people have mentioned the same thing in group chat – we’ve lost a few people to illness and/or embarassment at lack of $L to pay tier, and the feeling in the community is and always shall be “We are Steelhead.”

Meaning, we may be a disparate bunch of half-baked Victorian werewolves, Moon-elves, furries, Jaegermonsters, Sparks, clanks, scamps, robotic windup dollies, tinies, and chronologically unstuck humans, but we are family and we care. Those of us who can, pay tier ahead, because we know there may be a few who may be a little behind. We do the best we can for each other and stay out of each other’s bidness. As a part of my dopey Lenten madness, I’ve committed to paying tier at least 2 to 4 weeks ahead, and fortunately now my funding is set for the foreseeable future (although it’s nice that stuff is selling, anyway). I get similar vibes from the Cafe Wellstone folks, although I really do need to check in more often with all of them, too. It’s just that events and music and what not cut into my building and texturing time, now that my self-induced creative block has been mostly crumbled away.

So there it is. I’m part of a couple of communities, and now that the RFL season is about to start up, I’ll be more involved in them through the season. And maybe in the future, I or one of the alts will get more involved in the Raglan Shire (tinies!) community. Those l’il critters sure know how to have fun building and making stuffs – it’s part of what got me out of my blue funk, going to their events.

I wish the Szyzygy group lots of luck – they have an interesting and creative bunch of people. I wish my own communities luck, too – for now they’re willing to do what needs to be done to maintain group lands and group ties.

If only Linden Lab were as interested in supporting community – they fail to see that a small reduction in tier would likely result in a lot of people deciding to either increase land holdings, or in new owners and renters deciding to give it a whirl.

LL might find they have more customers. And then they might do something about the awful retention rate, where millions sign up over the years but only a tiny percentage stick around long enough to learn how to fly, dress, shop, walk, and socialize. They might see an improvement in the concurrency rates, where no more than 30.000-60,000 are logged in at any one time.

And then pigs could fly, but anything is possible in Second Life.

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