Return to Matoluta

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary and Bay (Flickr)

My first visit to Matoluta Sanctuary came in July 2014, so it might seem a rather brief period between visits; however there is a reason for my return: on Saturday September 20th at 10:00 SLT, the “new” Matoluta opened its gates to the public.

The Sanctuary is both a role-play environment and a place to promote the conservation of the Colonial Spanish Horse on the North American continent. At the time the Sanctuary originally opened, it comprised a single homestead region. With the re-opening, it will comprise two connected homesteads – but the changes don’t end there.

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary and Bay (Flickr)

Matoluta Sanctuary itself, still devoted to the conservation work, now occupies the region Hudhufushi, representing the autumn (fall) and winter seasons.  Here, as one explores, the leaves on the trees gradually turn from green to reds and golds, snow lies on the surrounding mesas, and eventually one comes to a wintry snow-covered landscape, where wolves and bears roam.

Matoluta Bay, located on the region of Satre, which formed the Sanctuary’s original home, is dressed in the colours of spring and summer, and retains much of the original Matoluta build: distant surrounding mesas, rocky outcrops, fast-flowing waters and lots of wildlife. Between the two, on the edge of Matoluta Bay, sits a sandy beach where visitors to the Bay arrive.

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary and Bay (Flickr)

Between them, the regions offer a range of activities and lots of opportunities for photography, with Matoluta Sanctuary remaining the focal-point for role-play. Visitors are asked to respect the rules for the regions and to remember that most of the horses on Matoluta are avatars, and suitable interaction with them is encouraged (they might even consent to carrying riders, if asked!).

Role-play isn’t a requirement, and visitors are free to roam as they please through until Monday 22nd September, when Matoluta Sanctuary reverts to group access for roleplay. Until then, people can wander freely, sit, enjoy the activities, and simply observe and role-play which might be underway. Those interested in joining the herd and engaging in equine RP can do so by contacting Ursus Broono (also known as Manatou, the herd leader).

New to the regions are a dance area, which also includes seating and yoga; ice skating and snowballing fighting, and boating. A range of sitting and cuddle spots can be found throughout.

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary and Bay (Flickr)

I enjoyed my explorations of the updated regions, and there’s sure to be a lot to attract visitors as the gates open.

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Celebrating one year, 3,000 members, 70,000 posts, 12,000 friendships

ASN-6On Saturday September 20th, Avatar Social Network (ASN) celebrates its first birthday and is holding a party in Second Life. It comes pretty close to marking my first month of involvement in ASN, so what better time to take another look, and also chat to Arkad Baxton, ASN’s founder about the past year and what may lie ahead?

As I noted in my first piece about it, ASN was established to provide a social hub where users of virtual worlds and games – not just SL – can interact with one another in a wide variety of ways: post comments and pictures to a common feed, write blog articles,  discuss topics on the forums, post videos and photos to their own walls and to albums, create their own pages and feeds, create groups to promote and share creativity, in-world activities and so on – and generally have fun.

ASN's founder, Arkad Baxton

ASN’s founder, Arkad Baxton

Since starting up in September 2013, ASN has enjoyed steady growth as people have discovered it, although over the past few months the growth in sign-ups has increased somewhat dramatically, passing quickly through both the 2,000 and the 3,000 mark and continuing to rise. But why set-up a social network in the first place? Second Life, World of Warcraft, many OpenSim virtual worlds, and so on, have forums where users can interact, and some have supporting social networks (SL for example has the SL feeds, Moolto, SL Friends…), so why start another?

“I get that question a lot actually,” Arkad says in reply. “People using virtual worlds and games like World of Warcraft and so on did not have a social network environment where they could freely interact with one another as their preferred avatar or character. Nor did they have a place where they could discuss their various interests in different worlds and games. The social networks and forums they did have were focused just on individual platforms. So I decided to try to make a place where people can freely make friends and share content no matter what their main interest in games or virtual worlds.”

Given the current rate of sign-up, ASN has certainly garnered a lot of interest among a widespread audience, which has in turn generated a core of active users who use the service daily, blogging, interacting through the feeds, groups and pages, and sharing their content. Indeed, such was the popularity of the site at the time of my joining (when membership was just touching 2,000), the service was actually showing signs of strain, and I wondered how it would handle future loads. I needn’t have worried.

When it was announced that ASN would be down for a couple of days during an server upgrade, rather than groan, members responded by helping to develop the site's maintenance banner

When it was announced that ASN would be down for a couple of days during a server upgrade, members responded by helping to develop the site’s maintenance banner

ASN has a development roadmap in place, which is constantly being refined, updated and acted upon. Proof of this came a few days after my original article, when ASN’s ISP moved the service to bigger, faster and more robust servers. At the same time additional back-end services were introduced, including the use of SSL / HTTPS for more secure connections between users’ computers and the ASN servers.

An interesting aspect of ASN’s roadmap is that it is not being defined solely by the ASN team and their service provider. Feedback, ideas and input is openly sought from ASN members, both through the website’s feedback page, and through direct discussions with Arkad himself.

“Feedback has had a huge impact on the changes we make,” he notes during our chat. “Our feedback page lets people add their ideas and thoughts. Others can vote on them to show us how strong the demand is for specific ideas or suggestions, and our team is reviewing and evaluating them as we go. Obviously, we can’t please everyone, but we always listen to the members.”

Nor is the roadmap and listening to feedback confined to the core website; in my first article on ASN, I made an entirely personal aside about the level of access the Android app requests of a device. This was not a direct critique of the application or any suggestion that the app is doing anything untoward; merely that as a non-technical person, i felt the app exceeded the level of access to my device I was comfortable in giving.

On reading the article, Arkad contacted me to enquire what could be done to redress this, his view being that if I felt this way, others may as well, so it would be good to try to amend things if possible. As a result, and alongside the development of an iOS version of the app, a possible revisit to the Android app could be on the cards (the app is already undergoing an overhaul so it works more smoothly with the more secure servers).

Of course, the development of the service requires funding, so I asked Arkad how that is managed. “The primary revenue for the site is coming from advertising at the moment,” he replied. “That being said, there are various investors involved, so the finances are somewhat diversified, and we are hoping to add to the revenue stream by offering additional paid services down the road.”

Meeting with Arkad at the party venue in SL

Meeting with Arkad at the party venue in SL

One of the criticisms from outside of ASN is that there is so much anonymity involved – not so much where users are concerned, but in how the site is operated. ASN is owned by a virtual company, AP Holdings; while this may well be a Second Life company traded on SL Capital Exchange, it is still virtual and the only name associated with it is that of an avatar.

“ASN is a website structured to give people the freedom to be known purely as their preferred avatar or game character, and we promote the fact that no real-life information need be given or shared in order to use the service,” Arkad says in addressing this criticism. “We’ve simply tried to demonstrate this in a ‘show by doing’ approach. However, I do recognise that trust in a service is important, and we will soon be providing information on the actual company behind ASN and we will then continue to publish information related to it as the growth of the website demands.”

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September 20th: two special events in support of MJFF

The Lefevre Mansion, March 2014The LeFevre Mansion, will host the 2014 Team Fox SL Autumn Gala on Saturday September 20th

Saturday September 20th marks two special events in support of Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and they extend warm invitations for you to attend.

Team FoxSL Autumn Gala

The Team FoxSL Autumn Gala will be taking place throughout the day in the ballroom of the stunning LeFevre Mansion, the event’s sponsor. Starting at 10:00 on Saturday September 20th, it will feature fashion shows, live music and dancing, and more:

  • 10:00 SLT:  fashion show hosted by BLVD  featuring designs by Solde Rothmanay, Solas naGealai, Dainie Fraina and Kylie Sabra
  • 11:00 SLT: a live music performance by Quar
  • 15:00 SLT: a live music performance by Mankind Tracer (Seth Regan)
  • 18:00 SLT:  fashion show hosted by BLVD  featuring designs by Solde Rothmanay, Solas naGealai, Dainie Fraina and Kylie Sabra
  • Plus – throughout the day – a silent auction with amazing prizes and fashion designs.

So be sure to make time to pay the gala a visit, attend one of the shows, join with the dancing and bids for the things that take your fancy in the auction? In fact, given the location, why not spend the time between events exploring the magnificent mansion and its parklands? There is much to see, as I noted back in March 2014.

TeamFox SL was founded in 2008 by Solas NaGealai, and was the first official representation for Team Fox, the grassroots fundraising organisation for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), in Second Life. Team Fox SL is dedicated to raising funds for the MJFF, disseminating information about the disease, and providing support for those diagnosed with the illness and their families. 100% of all donations received by Team FoxSL goes directly to Team Fox and the MJFF.

As one in twenty of the 8 million Parkinson’s sufferers worldwide is below the age of 40 – as were both Michael J. Fox and Solas herself when they were both diagnosed with the disease – a particular focus of TeamFox SL’s activities is that of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD), and you can read more about their work through my recent article and chat with Solas.

Bilbo Baggins Birthday

The Branwen Arts hobbit hole will host Bilbo Baggin's Birthday on behalf of Creatiosn for Parkinson's

The Branwen Arts hobbit hole will host Bilbo Baggins Birthday on behalf of Creations for Parkinson’s

Bilbo Baggins Birthday, which is being held in support of Creations for Parkinson’s, will be held at the Hobbit Hole on Bran and hosted by Branwen Arts. Coinciding with Tolkien Week, the Birthday will celebrate a hobbit’s life in literature and offer a feast of storytelling kicking off at 11:30 SLT on Saturday September 20th:

  • 11:30: Caledonia Skytower – Introduction & Dinner with Dwarves (from “An Unexpected  Party”, The Hobbit)
  • 12:00 noon: Kayden Oconnell – Meet the Trolls (from “Roast Mutton”, The Hobbit)
  • 12:30: Corwyn Allen – Riddles in the Dark (from the chapter of the same name, The Hobbit)
  • 13:00: Kayden Oconnell – The House of Beorn (from “Queer Lodgings”, The Hobbit)
  • 13:30: Luna Branwen – Bilbo Meets Smaug (from “Inside Information”, The Hobbit)
  • 14:15: Caledonia Skytower – A 111th Birthday Party (from “A Long Expected Party”, The Fellowship of the Ring)
  • 15:00: Dubhna Rhiadra – Bilbo & Frodo in Rivendell (from “Many Meetings”, The Fellowship of the Ring)
  • 15:30: Aoife – Leaving Middle Earth (from “The Grey Havens”, The Fellowship of the Ring)

Creations for Parkinson’s grew out of the work of Barbie Alchemi and her brother, AlmostThere Inventor, in building a place in Second Life they could share with their mother, Fran Serenade, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s  – a disease which had also claimed the life of her husband. Today, Creations Park offers a range of locations above and below the waves which are open to visitors to enjoy and explore.

Creations for Parkinson’s holds events throughout the year, often in collaboration with Team Fox SL, and 100% of all donations received goes directly to Team Fox. You can read more about Fran and Barbie’s story through this blog, or witness it through the award-winning Drax Files World Makers video of their lives.

About the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Team Fox

The MJFF was founded by Michael J. Fox after he had been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) when just 29. He refers to it as a business in the business of going out of business – by finding the means to combat Parkinson’s more effectively and bring about a lasting cure.

In the fourteen years since it was established in 2000, the MJFF has raised over $400 million, money which has been put to use funding a broad-ranging and aggressive programme of research into a number of areas related to the disease: defining it, altering it, investigating untreated symptoms and developing new tools to assist in further research activities.

Founded in 2006, Team Fox is the grassroots fundraising arm of the MJFF, established in response to requests from Michael’s fans and other Parkinson’s sufferers to help support the Foundation’s work. To date, it has raised some $27 million which has gone directly to the Foundation’s research activities.

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SL project updates week 38/2: server, CDN, AR category changes

~Santaurio~, April 2014 ~Santaurio~, April 2014 (Flickr) – blog post

Server Deployments Week 38 – Recap

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest updates.

  • On Tuesday September 16th, the Main (SLS) channel received the server maintenance package previously deployed to the three RC channels, which includes crash fixes and a fix for a bug that prevented some people from leaving Skill Gaming regions – notably Linden staff who entered a region using their admin powers …
  • On Wednesday September 17th, the three RC channels each received a new server maintenance package, which includes some bug fixes, and tweaks some behaviours related to experience tools.

CDN News

CDN support has been deployed to a small number of regions on the main grid. Maestro Linden indicated these were four Linden-owned regions. These are Hippotropolis, Hippo Hollow and Denby (where the Simulator User Group meetings are held), and the Testylvania sandbox (which isn’t open to public access).

Further regions will be updated to use the CDN service going forward, and the Lab had created an e-mail address region owners can apply to have their region(s) added to the test channel for the CDN: cdn-test@lindenlab.com. Note that regions should be those with a relatively high texture / mesh count, and space is “very limited” at this time (the total for the initial testing appears to be set at around 30 regions).

In addition, the map tile fetching for the main grid is now entirely carried out via the CDN, so map tiles should load a lot faster for people now.

World Map tiles are now served via the CDN

World Map tiles are now served via the CDN

Abuse Report Category Changes

The categories used to define Abuse Reports were recently revised in the official viewer.

The old (l) and new (r) AR categories

The old (l) and new (r) AR categories

This has led to some discussion on the forums and not a little speculation elsewhere as what it means for the AR system, with some people speculating that because some categories are no longer explicitly listed, there are therefore now “allowed”.

While views such as this might be debated until such time as the Lab issues commentary on the changes, the one thing that is clear at the moment is that they do put the AR floater somewhat out-of-synch with its official Knowledge Base article given the “Other” category has been removed. This has been noted and the Knowledge Base article is liable to be updated.

The changes also put some TPVs out-of-sequence with the revised categories until such time as they update. However, this hopefully will not negatively impact ARs filed via viewers using the older category options.

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