Friday, July 28, 2017

Any1's "Feed a Smile" Event, The "Pixel to Pixel" Fundraiser, And The Benefit Concert For Maxx Sabretooth

By Bixyl Shuftan

It was a case of "friends with benefits," or rather two benefits going on last Saturday July 22, along with a third that had taken place a couple days earlier.

The biggest one was organized by Any1 Gynoid, a friend of the Newser whom was once one of it's reporters, in addition to being a former CNN iReporter. Her tenth rezzday fell on Saturday July 22, and she decided to turn it into an 11 hour-long benefit for the "Feed a Smile" group in the sim of the same name, which raises funds for the Live and Learn in Kenya charity.

The event started at 8AM. I dropped in just after 10:30 AM and saw some stand-up comedy featuring with Catboy Qunhua, Wy Noyt, (Wyvern Blazewood), Thinkerer Melville. After that a performance of African drum music by DJ Ottowan (aka Pilot of the Airwaves).

By the end of the event at 7PM, over 145,000 Linden dollars had been raised. At 100L per meal, this was enough for 1450 meals. Any1 was pooped after all this, "I wants to curl up in fetal position for about 24 hours after 11 hour event madness (giggle)."

"RPBizzile" would film the 8:30AM performance by Whirli Placebo.

Also going on that day was the "Pixel to Pixel" anniversary party. The group, which has been in Second Life for eight years, helps the disables and others with limited or no incomes some financial assistance inworld in order to "do things that many enjoy in SL without giving it a second thought -- have a home, buy some clothing or furniture, or simply taking snapshots or uploading textures." The event, besides celebrating the occasion, was also to raise donations to provide such support.

Jadyn Firehawk, the founder of the group, was among those there. She had special thanks for the people at the Junkyard Blues club as "their donation kiosk ... single handedly brings in the most donations of anywhere else on the grid!" Later on, "I need to say too that Eme Capalini is here from Virtual Ability, which is the group that I came into SL through, on day 1, and inspired me to do the foundation in the first place"

There were cutouts of a Hawaiian man and woman, of which one could click to get a lei and hula hoop. There was also some AI device named Kyrie, which provided entertainment in the form of often random answers in response to requests, "Hey Kiri, tell us a joke!" "I would avoid the sushi if I was you. It’s a little fishy." "Hey Kiri, tell another joke." "Hmm. Thinking… 'Tell Another Joke at the Ol' Choppin' Block' is the second full-length album from New Jersey indie rock band Danielson Famile." When asked who made her, it answered, "I was created by Stephen Wolfram and his team." When someone invited Kyrie to greet me, it's response was, "Hi there Bixyl. Wow, you're certainly shorter than most dudes in Second Life."

Jadyn told me the event today alone had raised, 55,930 Linden dollars, "for the week, because of the publicity for the event included, it's L$77,571. That translates to 155 person-weeks of support!" As the party neared it's end, people wished her and Pixel to Pixel well, "Congratulations on your 8th anniversary, may there be many many more. SL has been and is a lifeline for me, so glad to be able to help this excellent cause."

A couple days earlier, there had been another benefit worth mentioning. Maxx Sabretooth, a live musician in Second Life, he has had health problems in recent years, and in need of a heart/and kidney transplants. He would write on his gofundme page, "This week I am heading to Houston, TX for evaluation for this lifesaving surgery which will be an expensive venture. Therefore, I am attempting raise approximately $2500 to help in this process." So Mrs. Elissiana Jahzara Caproni (Elissiana Caproni) announced a concert to raise funds for him.

Maxx Sabretooth is undergoing medical evaluations this week for a heart/kidney transplant! We're having 3 benefit concerts at Nat's Jazz Club's outdoor stage Today July 20, 2017: 3pm SLT - Keeba Tammas 4pm SLT - Max Keene 5pm SLT - Chandra Deed It's outside, so come as you are and support Maxx!!!

Heading over to Nat's Jazz Club, Keeba Tammas and her "Tiny Maniacs" had the stage, entertaining the crowd with their music and antics. "Soooo adorable!" one lady called them. Elissiana Caproni was there, calling out, "We're all here to help Maxx Sabretooth  out in his journey to  a better quality of life, so be sure to tip the jars on either side of the stage  to show your love and support! o directly donate to his go  fund me page  click the sign on the far  right side with Maxx's photo..Thanks  so much!" Following Keeba and her band was Max Kleene.

Talking later to Elissiana, she told me, "We raised over 51K but  there may be another benefit for him this weekend. ... Maxx is a good friend and we were glad to pitch in and help the funds be raised tonight. ... We had a great turn out tonight." There was another event, and they met the goal of the current gofundme. But this is most likely not the end of Max's expenses.

Three fundraisers for three worthy causes.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The KT Autism Festival

By Bixyl Shuftan

At the Rosemist Isle sim, the KT Autism Festival is taking place. At the event, there is music, shopping, and things to see. Raising money for the World Autism Organization, the benefit will go on to July 31st. The fundraiser is unusual as that it takes place underwater, with sea grasses, starfish, coral, and other things from the sea around the place.

I dropped by the day before the event started, and had a few words with Amythe Moonlight, the head of Made By Moonlight Rosemoon Designs, who was part of the staff of the fundraiser. "It got so big this year we had to take a whole sim," she told me after I arrived, "and make a map of the stalls. We have four hunts goin gon, one in the stalls, one to find a fifty Linden box of textures every day, one where things that shouldn't be under the water will give you a word when you click then so you can make a sentence, and a last one where you will find song reference in the decor round the sim."

But not everything was underwater Amythe pointing out, "Up on the water's surface we have a party boat with a bar and restaurant,and more dancing of course," later pointing out there was a teleport point up to it. She pointed to some vendors, "The gacha machines are held in place by crabs down this side. And most of the stalls are set up now. On the other side of the dance area we have one of a kind auctions."

Amythe then invited me to go on a ride. We walked over to a sea turtle and both got on, recomending I change the sun setting in my viewer to Midnight, "makes a huge difference. You don't see the lights without Midnight (smile). She joked that this was the first time she had tested it. The ride was very detailed, going into a cavern, then down into a whirlpool vortex in the middle and into another cave. The turtle sailed out into a larger cavern where there was a forest of kelp and some luminous plants that glowed, some fish darting around between them. Eventually, the turtle circled around, and we went back up the vortex from whence we came and back out of the first cave, "So that's the underwater ride."

Amythe then continued about the festival, "We have around 100 stalls this time. People have been offering help and items. It seems Autism is something many like to support." She personally had been helping out that day for over nine hours and would probably be around for several more. I asked how much of the items was going to charity. She answered, "We have several ways of donating from sales as well as the auctions and the exclusives and festival bargains set for 25L. Some of our merchants are giving 100% of sales.  If you walk round you will see the special vendors in the stalls. And those who don't have them have provided exclusive one off auction items or  donated in some other form. Several have given items to be used for raffles or hunts and/ or made exclusives items just for the festival. The merchants have been a lovely crowd.The Kushitales store is mine (giggle) with the 'Lizard of Oz' book and collectibles. ... The donation boards give gifts- different in each one and changed at milestones. ... We hope to make a really good amount for Autism. " She pointed out that the land had also been donated for use by the festival by "one lovely lady," Hanta.

Amythe introduced me to one merchant, KitKatPerrin Resident. When I asked how she found out about the festival, she answered, "Firestorm had an announcement that they were looking for designers. I ran the idea across my business partners and we decided that since it went towards a charity that touches us, we'd try it." Of her business, "Shadow Creationz is a group of three people, me, Ronin Furyo, and Luna. The products I myself have up are the lyrical tease outfit, what I'm wearing now, which is for sale for the 25 Linden sale price with all profits going to the charity." I noticed she had the Relay's UAC Medieval Faire in her profile and asked her about it. Smiling, she told me she had products on sale for charity then, "I was working under my Feline Fine Fashions name there." Switching back to the festival, "The other outfit we have for sale is 100% to chirty - it's the fancy top and skirt that Luna is wearing for 65 Linden. We also have two hunt items for 10 Lindens apiece."

Amythe pointed out the three mascots of the festival, "The Elephant the Rhino and the Holy Goat. ... When Kushi Mitch and I do an event, we put them out. But I put snorkels on them this time so they didnt drown." KitKatPerrin joked, "Ehh it's SL, they'll respawn." that was followed by more laughter.

Amythe emphasized, "I want to flag up the enthusiasm  and helpfulness of all the merchants. Without them there would be no Festival, and no money for Autism. They have all been so patient and nice." KitKatPerrin went on to say, "If anything I'm doing here at the festival spares one person the struggles I've dealt with in my life, then it's worth it."

"It's going to be fun the next two weeks," Amythe told me, "I hope the merchants will come and spend time here too and mkeet some of the customers and do some networking and bring everyone they know."

Amythe would later tell me via a notecard it wasn't just a hundred stalls, but almost a hundred different merchants involved at the charity, with room for others should they wish to join during the event. "Many merchants have offered a percentage of their sales to the Charity. This varies from 25%-100%! Merchants have also donated one of a kind items for Auction which will be ongoing throughout the Festival and exclusives items with a minimum of 50% going to the Charity. Some have put out 25L Bargains or 10L hunt items others have simply offered a percentage of anything they sell during this time. We have so many different kinds of merchandise being sold. Clothes and Jewellry, art and photography, wedding items, furniture, things for home and garden, gifts, textures, full perm items even rollercoasters. Although the shopping is amazing and there are some wonderful bargains to be had we also have hunts going on, djs and live singers at set times in the day, a treasure chest with a different texture pack each day, a hunt with song title references to spot, an out of place hunt where you'll see things that wouldn't normally be on the sim, a restaurant and bar up on our party boat and a turtle ride that takes you down into underwater caves."

They were also keeping track of the money, "We have a banker alt to keep the donations seperate and are able to check all transactions to ensure we have  everything documented properly.two to three weeks after the event closes we'll be sending out a copy of the receipt for the donation to all merchants and anyone else is welcome to request a copy of it."

And when is the next festival? "Ah now we need a little time to  recover from this one first but I would not be at all surprised to find another festival sometime between October and December."

The KT Festival is at Rosemist Isle (126, 128, 21)

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, July 24, 2017

Reader Submitted: Burnstock 2017

By Klaus Bereznyak

Burnstock is a full 36 hours of music from DJs and live performers at the Burn2 Deep Hole Sim this weekend. It's a final, major fundraising event to raise lindens for the week-long Big Burn in the fall. Quite simply, the more money raised the more sims and prims can be available for anyone who wants to contribute builds to the festival in October.

I rezzed at the official landing spot and had to walk a little way to reach the Burnstock stage, heading for all the green dots on the minimap. Having recently hosted a communal installation of art and building celebrating the "conception" of Burn2. The dry, cracked desert surface of the 'playa' has been cleared in accordance with the Principles of Burning Man to "leave no trace," and a stage has been put up in the NW corner to host the event. There's an option to rez an Art Car and drive down there, but the warm desert felt good under my bare feet, recently liberated from the historical garb I prefer to wear around New Toulouse.

Dotted about the playa are kiosks where visitors can donate to "Fuel the Burn" in October. While the Deep Hole Sim itself is sponsored by Burning Man for community building and creative expression throughout the year, money must be raised for the extra sims required during the Big Burn or "Octoburn". Burn2 is an officially sanctioned Burning Man Regional festival. It promotes the Ten Principles of Burning Man, which include an aspiration to "Decommodification" and mean that the festival is intended to be free of commercial sponsorship and advertising.

Other principles of Burning Man include "Radical Inclusion", "Radical Self Reliance" and "Radical Self Expression". In the spirit of these, there was an open invitation for avatars to contribute their own-designed posters for the Burnstock Event, and these are displayed all over the sim en route to the stage.

I arrived to sound of mellow world-fusion vibes on the airwaves as DJ Gleanr rounded off a set. Avatars were dancing in front of the stage, and on the roof of a bus, amid bursts of flame. Burn staff Mia Wallace and iSkye Silverweb were on hand to greet avatars while another veteran burner, Pianoman, took to the stage with a huge, pink piano to play some of his original solo piano compositions.

I suspect he was getting help from the parrot on his shoulder, as some of the pieces had bass or string-section accompaniments.

A laid-back atmosphere settled over the listeners, and many of us sat down in the dust and let our minds cool to the transportive melodies. This was just what I needed after another busy day in this extraordinary world.

The performance program continued through Sunday the 23rd July:

08:00 -10:00am    DJ Rockridge Constantine
10:00 - 11:00am   Al Hofmann Live
11:00 - 12:00am   DJ Cuga Rajal
12:00 - 01:00pm   Yman Juran: the ChangHigh Sisters Fireshow Performance
01:00 - 02:00pm   DJ Retune
02:00 - 03:00pm   Guitarhero Dougall Live
03:00 - 04:00pm    DRUM (Divine Rhythms Universal Music) Live

I'm especially excited to see that Yman Juran's group was performing. They are always a treat.

For the Octoburn, the theme that artists and builders are being invited to interpret is "Radical Ritual". Plots can be bought at kiosks on the playa and there's a 10% extra prim allowance for the early birds who bag theirs before the 31st of July. You don't have to be amazing to participate; it's all about Radical Inclusion.

Visit burnstock here:

There is more information on the Burn2 Website:


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Relay "Flood Party"

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Wednesday July 19, it was the last day the Relay sims would be open to public before the day they were scheduled to be torn down. So people were going about the track to see the campsites and designer sims before that, either those that they hadn't seen in detail yet or those they wanted to get one more look at. The Chinese temple at RFL Journey and the Egyptian build at RFL Imagine were among those that received much praise for detail in the chat I observed. But the day would also be the occasion for what's become a Relay for Life in Second Life tradition: the "Flood Party."

The Flood Party didn't start out as a planned event, but an impromptu one. In 2010 on the last day before the sims on the Relay track were cleaned up, there were various parties and gatherings in the sim, and one sim manager on a whimsy rose the water level ten feet, flooding the place. The response was people flocking over and partying, often with inner tubes and inflatables. Since then, the "flood party" has become something of a Relay tradition, taking place on the day before the takedown. And this year was no exception, the announcement given the day before, for 5PM SL time.

Location TBA on Wednesday
Join us one last time for a Farewell party to the Relay Sim.
Dance, party and share your relay memories!

Bring your inner tube to put on and wear your water proof clothes....just sayin.

And while we explored the Relay track and things, we heard the announcement for where.

***** Weather Alert *****

T1Radio Meteorologist Hughes Lee Wronge has predicted heavy rain and flooding in the Grid Area around the RFL Regions..  To Begin about 5pm...

Is that going to Stop Us? NOOOOOOOOOOOO

Flood the Sims Party on RFL Regions   5-7pm tonight with T1radios Trader

So at 5PM, I headed to RFL Victory, and already a large crowd had gathered. Some were already in swimsuits. It was already overcast and raining. "think I got the umbrella out just tad late," one resident commented, "soaked to the bone (laughter)."The sim already had a good amount of water in it, enough for a riverboat to be floating in it. And it wasn't long before the water level began to rise, "Here comes the water." "Water rises fast in these parts." "Water is rising, soon the rubber duckies will be put into use." It was becoming obvious unlike some years, the water wouldn't just be ankle deep.

People were having a good time, greeting people as they arrived and enjoying the water. But there was one issue: "Rowena!!!" "Can't see Ro....go under already?" Rowena Dubrovna, the Relay's tiny otter, was a height smaller than the water level. "Someone save the Otter!" Prettykitty Gumbo shouted. "Otter can sit on my shoulder," Sienna Thor offered, then wondered, "on second thought ..." "Can't otters swim?" one girl reminded. Another tossed a life jacket to the tiny otter.

The Strange Wolf (Henning Lionheart), noted more for his slobbering, offered to do another doggy action to "help," "I can help the flood along." "Put yur leg down!!!" one girl giggled. The canine continued, "But.. It wouldn't be a bother to me.. Not even a wee bit.  I would be very relieved to know I'd helped." After his usual shaking and sending bits of slobber around, he looked for someone to stand on to avoid getting wet paws. Then Trader began running through the water and splashing those nearby, "Ack! Trader!" "Watch out Trader!!  Got me wet!!!"

Annika Eve Braveheart started passing around inflatable duck floaties, "I have ducks, who needs one?" "AFLAC!" "And we floot on down the river," mused someone.

I then began noticing large splashes in the water, then things being thrown. Then Annika called out, "Who is throwing water balloons? ... Missed me! *GIGGLES*" The Strange Wolf called out, "I'm not sure that was all water.. I saw the cat play with the balloons." Someone chuckled, "In years past we had the coast guard out here." Another tried to get away from the water balloons, "Ack, my bikini is going to get wet!" She was told, "Been pouring all day hun."

More continued to show up. And eventually the floaties and inner tunes were joined by something significantly larger. A WW2 US Army DUKW had sailed up to the group. Inside, Rita Mariner, the captain of the Sunbeamer team, was at the controls. Someone mused, "If it drives like a DUKW, and it sounds like a DUKW, it's a DUKW." Annika joked, "I should have brought my paddle board. *GIGGLES*" Some other Sunnies were aboard and got out, joining the song and dance in the water.

Eventually, the water began receding. There were a few "awwwws," people not wanting the party to end. But eventually people would go their separate ways. Some would go back to exploring the track. It was just hours away to "Takedown Day," and wanted to see the builds while they could.

As always, the "flood party" was a bit of last minute fun before the lights went out for the Relay sims. Unlike a few times, it really was a flood. It was light-hearted fun in deep water.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reader Submitted: "The Very Best of Broadway"

By Ciska Riverstone

Logging into Second life last night I didn't know, I was up for a precious treat. My friend Bergie IMed me shortly before 1 pm asking if I would like to go to "The Very b=Best of Broadway."  I admit, I made it a last minute appearance on my side and was just able to grab the empty red velvet chairs beside her, when the curtain opened up at the Oval Theater to reveal a perfect gym and a full cast, dancing Footloose.

My first surprise was a pure technical one: everything rezzed fast and effortlessly - something I am not used to on my laptop in second life shows.  So I looked around for a moment expecting a small audience only to see that most of the chairs of this very cozy but still spacious theater were taken. Realizing that I just missed the performance, my attention returned quickly to the vivid choreography.  "Footloose" is of course an easy opener to groove to - the perfect number to get into the mood. It did set the tone for what's to come in a charming way!

The curtain went down and somehow I expected a longer pause for reconstruction - maybe because I saw that often in the past in theaters in Second Life. But here came surprise number two. We just had time to talk a bit and teleport in another friend before the stage was set with an admittedly more simplistic but still very fitting stage building for the cheeky "Dance 10, Looks 3" from "A Chorus Line."  Champagne was served by an attentive staff member, while we enjoyed the atmosphere slowly building up and it did! I won't give away more details to not spoil your fun!

The song list, although taken from the classic Broadway Musicals you would expect, did not always go to the most obvious song choice and so managed to hold the balance of the whole spectrum of emotions you can walk through in such an evening. The special effects carefully orchestrated towards a stunning finale come and go in a wave like form and together with all kinds of choreography - from freestyle " just singing and acting" to ballet - like arrangements u will see all of it.  The stage builds totally serve each musical number in style, simplicity and low lag. while still having eye catching details....not to forget the perfect costume choice. All in all the whole performance felt like a labour of love for me. We left the theatre after more than an hour in heightened spirits and enthusiastic.

The show is still on at the 17th 19th and 23d at 1 pm slt and will be followed in August by a program called "Make 'em laugh".  I can only recommend to grab your loved one, friends or even a new acquaintances you like to get to know better and watch it. The whole atmosphere together with those tunes will not cease to spark up fun conversations, entertain you and put a smile on your face.

While you are there be sure to grab one of the monthly theater magazines from the free vendor. It will tell you what's in the pipeline of this amazingly creative and vivid venue!

The Oval Theatre Company, Devils Cave (144, 79, 21)
Ciska Riverstone

Monday, July 17, 2017

“Bacon of Hope” Hunt at New Toulouse

by Gemma Cleanslate

If you have the right kind of flower, Eichhornia crassipes, the water hyacinth, you can indeed exchange it for bacon, of a certain type. While supplies last.

"The Bayou Safety Initiative is kicking off its flagship campaign with help from Perrineau and Co., a local provider of innovative meat solutions. Foreign flowers threaten our domestic waterways—nay, our very way of life. Buying liberty bonds won’t stop flowers. Only hippopotamuses, and you, can help.” 

How hippos ever got into the Bayou at New Toulouse is beyond me. However, it is always a treat to visit this sultry sim, ”the city in the swamp on the bank of the Missedabracket Estuary. Loosely themed after New Orleans and the bayou, 1900–1925. “ Henri Godenot is the owner and he has assistants.Niki (Nikita Weymann) is the Estate Manager and Yvonne Follet is his Executive Assistant. You will see all the help he has when you see the credits for the hunt.

I love the Mardi Gras time here but I also love the story based hunts . This makes it much more interesting than just a normal hunt , at which I am not very good. This time I was able to do it all at one time in one day, forcing myself to forge ahead. That is much better than the three days worth of visits it took me when I did “Death Picks a Winner“ last year. This hunt, called “Bacon of Hope” takes you over the whole region searching for the pink hyacinth that is overtaking the bayou as an invasive species. At the entrance you can get your supply of bacon which seems to satisfy those who give up the hyacinth (some are not interested in the bacon at all). As usual, this invasive species is very pretty and becomes a decoration in many places.  

At the entrance room, New Toulouse (96/178/1501) , check out what you will be searching for , and be sure to look at all the warnings of hippo cows and what to do if you meet one. You can pick up your hud to wear that registers your finds. Read the note card . Then go off to your first stop in the card on your quest to get the hyacinth.At each stop you when you locate your flower a further part of the ongoing story is given to you along with your next stop on the quest. Each stop is interesting and distracting so you almost forget why you are there. There is a whole group that puts this story hunt together. 

At the end you will go to a gazebo and there are boxes of gifts from all the participants on the table there. I picked up some more boxes to open!  

I always spend extra time looking at all the interesting homes, businesses and gardens, and of course the bayou. I always go back to walk along the streets and look for new areas. 

I ran into the owner of the Tarot Tea Room, Belle (BELINA Corvale), who had just opened a new Cafe down the street. I stopped at the Le Reve de Jaques Cafe and checked it out. I also stopped into the cemetery and the Synagogue. There is so much to explore here in New Toulouse so make it part of your plan that after your hunt is done you will walk the streets and byways and discover the charms . 

The hunt will be ongoing until the end of July.

Gemma Cleanslate

Friday, July 14, 2017

Relay Media Day

By Gemma Cleanslate

The entrance way to the Relay for Life big weekend is a lesson in what is going on those days of the Relay for Life, Passport to Hope, and  how to make the most of your visit. Read the posters as you walk along the hallway and collect some information about events , locations, and more. 

 I met Grace Loudan and asked her how many entertainment stages there were . she told me, ”One Live Music, one DJ/Dancing and one Variety stage with dance troupes, theater, tribute band and a mermaid show. “

I stopped off at the Museum of past years. This is maintained by Bryan Rickena.

 I took a lap around most of the sims on my segway and then rested at my Team Shadow Victory Cove Roadway Park. It is right here that I will rest on lap day. I took the time to set up a few luminaria in memory of friends in Second Life and real life who have died of cancer. That way I won’t forget when I do the Honor lap for survivors. There seem to be more twists and turns in the roadway this year and I will have to pay attention. 

It s a jam packed weekend and I hope you will all get a chance to stop over and wander through. Check the website for information. The opening ceremony is at 10am slt Saturday July 13 and closing ceremony at 10am on Sunday morning however the sims will be open for after parties and visiting. Check here for more information and directions how to get where you want to go.

Gemma Cleanslate

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Yosemite's Anniversary Party

By Gemma Cleanslate

I cannot believe it is a year already that Yosemite has been open for visitors. 

On Sunday the first anniversary ball took place in Keao’s Crystal Ballroom. Dj Ajay Xagilia, was introduced as resident DJ. What a lovely setting for the ball. The ballroom was decorated beautifully.  

The dancers glided about the floor trying not to step on the baubles on the floor. I missed seeing the creator of the ballroom who was there and left before I arrived... late .  

Jadyn looked absolutely lovely in a deep blue gown with silver decor . I must say it has been a long time since I have seen her without her Yosemite backpack.  

Gentle Heron was present in a lovely green gown.It was a masquerade ball and I almost forgot my mask. there was a gift of masks available .. whew! 

Others wore elegant costumes . It was a fun party with good dance music. Jadyn informed us that P2P will be celebrating its 8th anniversary on July 22 and there will be another party for that event. I will look forward to that. 

Gemma Cleanslate  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Gentle Heron at the Safe Water Foundation's "Let's Mertalk"

By Bixyl Shuftan

About twice a month, the Safe Waters Foundation hosts a discussion called "Let's Mertalk." Grace Wrigglesworth described the event as, "We mingle every other week ... Sometimes Open Topic, and other times there will be other topics announced in advance. So ask your questions and see amongst all of us to see if we can provide some answers.  Special topic speakers will sometimes answered.  Product demonstrations are welcome - so builders and designers - consider participating." So far, the talks have occurred at the bottom of the Union Passage sim, and take place every other Saturday at 1PM

The Mertalk on Saturday June 10 was a special one as its speaker was Gentle Heron. In the community calendar, Grace described the event as, "This week Gentle Heron will speak about her experiences with helping with SL gateways.  How do new people in SL get introduced to the new environment.  Gentle led the opening of an award winning SL Gateway - come hear more - she will suggest some discussion questions for the mer - and of course we hope you come brimming with questions for discussion as well." Just a few days before, Linden Lab had announced their Community Gateway program was officially back.. So the topic was still fresh in the minds of those concerned about the matter.

I arrived a bit late for the discussion, so missed the first ten minutes. There were a number of people present, most were in merfolk avatars, though there was one other fur and one human. Among those in mermaid tails was Barbie Alchemi of Creations for Parkinsons. So was Any1 Gynoid, whom had written for the Newser in the past and was the one who told me about the talk. Gentle Heron was present in a white Beluga whale avatar. "Try to sit close to the white beluga," Grace told us.

Gentle explained that the "newcomer self-instructional orientation path" was done with the help of some librarians, "specifically designed to help people with disabilities learn to use the virtual world. We call it our NROC, New Resident Orientation Course. It takes up about almost half of the Virtual Ability island, and teaches SL skills such as walking, sitting and flying, text chatting, friending, and joining groups; 'buying' things (for free), finding things in inventory, and unboxing purchases; using maps, landmarks, and teleports to get around; and customizing your avatar appearance and outfits."

Gentle went on, "Virtual Ability specializes in assisting people with disabilities to learn how to function in SL, no matter their capabilities, needs, and use of assistive devices to access their computer." She then asked us what we thought was "the most commonly used assistive technology device." Most of us thought a cane. Any1 guessed eyeglasses, which Gentle stated was the case, "Physical disabilities include paralysis, limb loss, arthritis, neuromuscular diseases… anything affecting the ability to move. This is going to impact typing and mouse use, of course. Many people in our community use some form of assistive technology to use their computer. Some of our members type with a wand attached to a headband. Others type with their toes. Some control the cursor with movements of their tongue, or by sipping and puffing into a tube.  And some folks who are totally paralyzed use their eye motion to control their computer."

Gentle went further, "People with mental and emotional disabilities often need mentors to provide social support. It may take them longer to learn how to function within the social norms of a community. Acceptance of diversity is wonderful. But so is acceptance of community standards. There has to be a balance, and that is aided by patient mentors who guide behaviors. People with developmental disabilities must be protected from some of the more 'adult' activities in SL. Again, patient mentors and guides are an important resource for these folks."

"And finally people with sensory disabilities sometimes need very specialized assistance," Gentle stated, "Deaf people need to have transcribers who type the gist of spoken presentations or classes or discussions so they can participate in text in real time. Of course these text transcripts also benefit people whose first language is not English and people with distractibility problems. They can scroll up in text and review… you can’t do that with audio alone. Blind people can’t access SL through either the Linden or the Firestorm viewer. The Radegast viewer provides text-only access that works with their screen reader software. This allows blind people to participate fully in Second Life despite not seeing their surroundings. ...  In fact, we’ve found that many of the adaptations our community makes for people with specific disabilities often benefit others who do not consider themselves disabled." Barbie commented, "That is why the work that Gentle does is so important and valuable! She helps make SL accessible to everyone no matter what their disability!" "Even if they have fins not legs," Grace, in her merfolk avater, mused. It was brought up that Creations for Parkinsons had a blind DJ (news article). Barbie told the group, "Keao is our friend who has been blind since birth and Gentle has taught her and others how to use the Redegast Viewer so they can enjoy SL!"

Gentle then moved on to Community Gateways, "Our community was invited by Linden Lab to be part of their first Community Gateway program along with several other communities, I think that was back in 2009 or thereabouts, and later to be part of their Resident Help Network program, with other mentoring organizations. That was around 2012. Recently, we’ve become part of the new Community Gateway program. Linden Lab announced that program here:   Now please remember, I’m not an employee of Linden Lab so I’m not an internal expert on the Community Gateways program. I can tell you of our community’s experience. Linden Lab’s emphasis this time around seems to be on newcomer retention. They still are not doing well at keeping a majority of those who enter SL past the first week or month. Too many folks try SL once or twice, then never return."

Raks (rakshowes Resident) commented of most new residents leaving, "That is because the controls are hard at first. Many people I not know helped me in first weeks." Grace commented, "(I) would love to figure out how to make the merfolk community more accessible to those new folk. Not to plan her/now, but just a dream of mine. ...  I wanted to see if others shared my dream- as I can't do all the work myself."

Gentle went on, "Those who stay tend to be those who get involved right away with a community. That realization was the 'AHA' for Linden Lab to re-institute Community Gateways. This program took about a year and a half of planning on the Lab’s part to come to fruition. They did a ton of research. Some of the requirements for becoming a Community Gateway are: • an active community in SL for at least a year and a half, with identified leaders, in good financial and disciplinary standing with LL, • a Full region, with a welcome/orientation area including tutorials and other helpful content for newcomers, and without commercial activity,  • separate land access and resident groups, with the newcomers becoming part of the resident group, • a website with a page that allows account registration through a Linden Lab RegAPI."

Grace stated, "We have this region, (it) is is not an official linden gateway for newcomers. It is a resource center for people interested in being part of the merfolk community, and in good standing with the Lindens I believe - so might be a prospect. But if you go see Gentle's gateway, (it) really has some intensive build requirements." Any1 commented, "I recommend everyone go through Gentle's Gateway... it's an SL ground zero training course... the best that's ever been made." Grace agreed, "Absolutely, it is terrific." Barbie added, "Gentle is my hero! I have the deepest respect for her and the valuable work she does in SL."

Gentle responded, "Thanks for the compliments, friends. I think you will want to hear the rest of this. What does LL offer the Gateways? • They put information about the Gateway communities at their intake areas, both their Orientation and their Social Island areas. • They make the island holding the orientation area free, no tier payments. What you particularly want to remember about the Community Gateways is that they are not a place. They are a process. Not a place! A newcomer welcome and orientation process, beginning at the community’s website and continuing on through an inworld learning experience. For more technical details about the new Community Gateway program, you really should speak with Patch Linden. He's very accessible. The RegAPI on the website was really difficult. It took us many months and much sweat and tears to get it working."

When Any1 wondered why the merfolk community wasn't already doing this, Gentle answered, "You'd need a programmer, not an SL programmer but a website one." Grace then spoke, "Do list, a good team to have. What would be the roles you suggest?" Gentle responded, "It helps to have an educator on the team to write the curriculum. And experienced mentors, as well as sim designers. And those who can make whatever materials your community considers necessary for newcomers, along with website folks, who don't even have to work in SL at all. Then you want to think of ways to advertise. Now, more generally about helping newcomers to a virtual world, I will say that our New Resident Orientation Course planners based their work on the theory of andragogy. You may be more familiar with the term pedagogy, the science of teaching children. Andragogy is the science of adult learning. It’s widely recognized in education that adults learn differently than children. And we are all adults here. I’ll summarize the points of andragogy quickly: • Adults are self-directed as learners. They want to decide for themselves what to learn and when and how to learn it. • Adults have life experiences to draw on. That background provides context for new learning. They can learn from mistakes. • Adults learn as part of their social roles: for work, as students, or for entertainment and relaxation. They learn what they believe is relevant. • Adults learn best by solving problems. You can learn more about andragogy here: . Please bookmark."

Gentle went on, "We also laid out our orientation using a spiral curriculum, to use another education term. This means the learner uses what they just learned previously in the next lesson. So for example, the first thing people learn on our orientation is how to walk. Then they practice walking to get to the next lesson, on camera skills (looking around). They walk to the third lesson, where they use camera skills to find items to click on. Then they walk to the fourth lesson and look around for items to click on that are pose balls." "Baby steps" someone commented. "Exactly," Gentle responded, "and repeated repetition! See how this is a spiral, and how previous learning is reinforced in each subsequent lesson?" Barbie commented, "It really is an amazing orientation and it is so helpful that VAI offers mentors!"

Gentle then decided to answer questions, saying if anyone wanted to schedule a look at the orientation pathway behind the scene with explanations of the design to contact her after she was done. Grace asked, How did you keep the motivation going? Get people to help?" Gentle answered, "I think you mean motivation of the designer build team. That was not a problem! We all knew how much we got out of being here, and wanted a way for more folks like us to experience the virtual world and its benefits." Grace commented, "Really people involved in getting the effort moving forward. You didn't do all by yourself obviously." Gentle told, "Oh no, it was a whole team. After the community leaders determined this need, we sought out people with the skills needed to make it happen. One of our team members was The Sojourner. Soj was the founder of the first disability group in SL. We also included people as testers. We had low vision folks look at various designs of our signage to see what worked best for them. So no, the team was intentionally planned and recruited. Eme Capalini led that team, and she remains estate manager on that island and several of our other properties."

Raks (rakshowes Resident) brought up, "One of the problems for newbies is that they not know where to go. And if they go to places, often no one is there. This can be a turn off in first days." Gentle answered, "If you mean to get orientation, that's why LL advertises the gateways at their own orientation, and also why the gateway communities have to have an outreach website to do their own advertisement. If you mean that newcomers don't have any idea what they can do in SL, yes, that's often true. It's one of the things our mentors assist with. 'What would you like to do?' 'What would you explore if you had a chance?' " Grace told Gentle, "Raks often meets new merfolk in SL, and a common complaint is they visit the sites and don't find people." Gentle told stated,  "We suggest that people go to *events* not *places,* because people cluster at events." Raks added, "As a newcomer you do not know where to go, how to search, who to ask, it is a totally alien world to you." Gentle nodded, "Yes Raks, so true. But it is like visiting a different country. Guides help!" Grace stated, "We are trying to reform our SWF Concierge team. So welcome and help people when they are here - for events or for when the concierges can be in world." Gentle remarked, "We request that if someone KNOWS they will need assistance (E.g., if they are blind) they write to , and we assign someone to contact them, and set up a meeting. We help people even before they are in SL, if they need assistance getting through the sign up process. We work by phone and Skype and in some instances even go to their home if there is a mentor near enough." Grace felt, "We can do similar or adapt some of her approaches. The sea is the limit. I wish we could get a mer avatar into the selections, and Lindens want to start up many more of these gateways, so they get a better start." Barbie thought the idea of a mer as a starter avatar was a good idea.

After that, the chatter went into several other questions and issues. Someone brought up the theory of Climate Change, and felt the community should be involved with the issue, Grace told her this wasn't a political activist group. Barbie commented of mer avatars, "As my 90 Years Young Mom said in the video... she can actually feel her muscles relax and strengthen when she watches her avi swimming as a mer!"

Eventually, the conversation wound down, and people went about their different ways. Later that day was Grace's rezzday party, so there was some preparing for that after the discussion.

The "Let's Mertalk" taking place tomorrow, Saturday July 8 at 1PM, will have Barbie Alchemi as the featured speaker.

Union Passage (96/229/1)

Note: Corrected after someone pointed out a question attributed to her had actually been made by Grace. 

Bixyl Shuftan