I’ve not covered recent Drax Files Radio hour shows, primarily due to time constraints. However, show #49 features a special guest whose work has brought fun to a lot of people’s lives in SL (including my own), Steve “Cubey Terra” Cavers. Given his work has had such an influence in various aspects of my SL life, I couldn’t pass-up writing about this show.
The interview kicks-off after the usual preamble, at the 21:35 minute mark. Cubey Terra may be a name unfamiliar to those who have come to SL in recent years, particularly as he decided to take a break from the platform for a couple of years. But to many in the SL aviation community and who have been around for a while, his name is instantly familiar, and often linked to the nickname “the grandfather of SL aviation”, a term he’s personally uncomfortable with, for reasons which are explored as his conversation with Drax unfolds.
As well as being active in SL from the earliest days (that is, from just after it opens its doors to the public in June 2013), Cubey also spent time working for the Lab as a part-time support volunteer. As such, he is ideally placed to discuss Second Life from several perspectives: content creation, the very early days of the platform and the users it attracted, and that of providing user-focused support and assistance back when the platform was just starting to grow.
However, before all of that is reached, the conversation kicks-off with an interesting exchange on the subject of alt accounts and our level of comfort with them, but from the perspective of using them ourselves, and the reactions from friends and those around on on discovering we have alt accounts.
What is interesting here is the somewhat divergent views Cubey and Drax, as individuals who don’t use their avatars as characters, but rather fully invest their personality into their avatar, have about their alt accounts. On the one hand, Drax finds it constraining, and consciously feels more of a puppeteer with his alts, while Cubey perhaps find his alts somewhat more liberating when used. These reactions aren’t uncommon; I’ve particularly identified more with Drax’s perspective in the past, although my view has perhaps started to lean towards Cubey’s more recently and in certain situations.
While he worked for the Lab “only” for a year, Cubey provides some fascinating insights into what it is like to be involved in user support back when Second Life was a lot smaller than it is today, and matters could more easily be handled in more of an on-going, hands-on and proactive manner:
Right from the beginning of Second Life, Linden Lab decided that it would be a good idea to have staff in-world, standing around in welcome areas or going around from sim to sim, making sure that things are running correctly, problem-solving, putting out fires – literally, because people would rez fires and worse. And so it was more a personalised experience than what you get now … so that’s basically what I would do.
As a personalised experience, it was, inevitably, something that couldn’t easily scale given the sudden and missive influx of users Second Life gained during the 2005-2007 period. This is something Cubey notes in the interview, explaining how the influx resulted in the support staff logging-in to the support service outside of their assigned hours in order to to try to ensure problems could be dealt with. Such was the situation, that even as early as 2005, those working in support were openly voicing opinions that the approach simply wouldn’t scale to meet the constantly rising demands for assistance – something which helps put the pivoting of support and assistance towards other means and channels into better perspective.
This part of the conversation also touches on broader aspects of governance and on the needs for some structure and rules, and Cubey offers-up so sage observations on matters of finding a a balance between creative freedom and a balance, open social environment.
One of the reasons Cubey may be averse to his title of “the father of SL aviation” is that he took his inspiration from those at the Kazenojin aviation group and Andrew Linden
Around half-way through the interview, matters turn more to Cubey’s involvement in the Second Life aviation community. In particular, Cubey touches upon how he got started in aviation via the Kazenojin aviation group, and Andrew Linden’s first aeroplane script. It is because his work was pre-dated by Kazenojin and Andrew Linden that he feels uncomfortable with titles such as “grandfather” of SL aviation.
Even so, for many of us who came into SL around 2006/7, his name is pretty synonymous with flying and aeronautical matters in Second Life. To use myself as an example; long before I started flying aeroplanes in SL, I was deeply into SL skydiving as a direct result of discovering the Terra range of parachutes, which in turn led my to joining a skydiving club / group in SL (and I still use the TerraSport III Pro ‘chute in-world to this day). And when I did start flying in earnest, it was the Terra Stingray I turned to to get started (and I still fly that today as well!).
The Cubey Terra Stingray was one of my first real forays into flying in SL – a great aircraft (which also doubles as a speed boat and submarine!)
The end of the interview turns its attention to what draw Cubey back to SL after his break, and start creating once more. The answer is given pretty much in one word: mesh. Through it, Cubey now has the opportunity to learn new content creation techniques and develop the kinds of aircraft he’s always wanted to create, but has been unable to do so due to previous constraints within the platform.
All told, another fascinating interview (and one deserving of a full hour, frankly), providing a lot of insight into times past in SL, and not a few thoughts on times present and times yet to be.
Cubey marked his return to SL with the release of the Terra Xplorer “hover disk”, a fun way to travel around