Second Life Avatar Challenge

Spiffy relaxing at home in Second Life

The other day, Strawberry Singh, whose blog I read regularly, posted one of her occasional challenges to get people to show off their Second Life avatars. It has been a while since I talked in detail about mine (if you’re interested in reading my previous post on my avatar’s evolution, you can find it here.)

Spiffy relaxing at home in Second Life
Spiffy relaxing at home in Second Life

I took the picture above at my private home. The chair I’m sat in is the appropriately-named Hypno Throne made by Dictatorshop. 🙂

I’m wearing the following:

  • Mesh body—Maitreya Lara
  • Mesh head—GA.EG Barbera 2.0
  • Shape—customised by myself, designed to be androgynous-to-fem
  • Skin—Lumae Eiirtae
  • Spots—Rainbow Cheetah tattoo by Catseye
  • Hair—Kelia by EMO-tion
  • Ears, eyes, antennae, make-up—all from Stargazer Creations
  • Clothing—all from r2 Fashion

Google’s Digital Dementia

I read a rather depressing post by Bacchus over at ErosBlog the other day.

As if we didn’t have enough problems, there’s a mounting body of evidence that Google now has an attention span somewhat shorter than ten years. After ten years or so, Google forgets things. Or, perhaps, Google just can’t be bothered to index these older web pages, because there’s no money in it.

Bacchus isn’t the first to come across this phenomenon. Tim Bray encountered something similar in 2018, and Marco Fioretti expanded upon Bray’s findings. And a year earlier in 2017, Tony Hirst applied the “dementia” term to it.

Bacchus writes further:

[…] Hirst posits that Google is getting both paranoid (because of SEO and other factors) and forgetful. To Hirst, Google seems rooted in the past, crediting signals of link authority that people are mostly not using these days (publication of links on websites) and not able to properly weight or remember the social media signals that accompany most links modernly. It’s a different problem to be sure from the one that Bray and Fioretti highlighted, but the terminology seems applicable here too.

My observations, from my perspective inside the adult/porn parts of the web, are parallel with Hirst’s. Google’s digital dementia is even more severe with respect to adult URLs, because our #pornocalypse-driven exclusion from so much social media means that our links are automatically absent from so many of Google’s modern page quality signals and ranking algorithms.

Bacchus uses screenshots to show the results of various searches for specific content from his blog from Google, compared to the same searches done in Bing.

I stopped using and relying on Google many years ago, and now use DuckDuckGo for most of my searching online. It seems that I made the right call, but I worry about the long-term implications for the Internet as a whole when Google—and Facebook, Twitter and others—have so much control over what we see and find online.

A Valentine Message To Mine

Cuddling at the Gor Hub in Second Life

Mine, you make my heart beat faster whenever I see your name appear in my direct messages or notification.

Mine, you are my inspiration, and sometimes my exasperation.

Mine, your pain and hurt is so great, your wounds so deep, that sometimes I wonder if I can ever help you heal. Yet I persevere, guided by the conviction that I shall not be like the others, those who toyed with, abused, abandoned you before.

Mine, you have taught me what it is to love with all of my heart. I did not know I could feel this way again, and had thought that I’d forever remain alone.

Mine, your passions entwine with mine in so many wondrous ways; music, storytelling, artistry, humour and more.

Mine, though our respective physical bodies may be imperfect, and separated by an ocean and a continent, our avatars, our virtual forms, have shared so many great moments and places together. And I hope for many more.

My dollie, my treecat, my girl, it is my honour and privilege to call you Mine, and I hope to be able to do so for many more years.

<3

Cuddling at the Gor Hub in Second Life
Cuddling at the Gor Hub in Second Life

Superb Owl* Sunday, With Swords

First of all, apologies for the lack of posts this past month. I have been dealing with the legal and financial processes following my father’s death, and recovering from months of carer duties.

Last week, a call went out in the Gorean Whip Radio staff channel for DJs to cover some coming events in Second Life for the station. As it happened, I now have a bit more flexibility in when I can broadcast, so I offered my services, much to the delight of Lucy, the Whip’s head events organiser.

The first of those was this past Sunday, at the City of Besnit in Second Life. The brief was that they were going to hold a sword tournament, with a series of arena fights and prizes for the winners. After some inquiries on my part, I worked out that I’d need to stock up on rock songs to play during the event, and would be providing commentary to the listeners not present at Besnit.

I had some trepidation in the days leading up to the event, as I’ve not been to many Gorean sims in Second Life, and am aware that I tend to stick out due to being a blue, rainbow-speckled alien. One place I visited wouldn’t let me broadcast from within the city walls due to my appearance, and I worried that the same might happen again. But I was reassured by Irish, the head of DJ management, that I’d be welcome at Besnit and that they were relaxed about my appearance.

Before the event, I got some pointers from Tristan, another Whip manager, who’d broadcast from Besnit the previous day to cover their dance contest. It’s just as well he did, otherwise I’d have gotten lost pretty quickly.

Fighting in Second Life isn’t a natural thing. By default, the most your avatar can do to others is shout at them or push into them, although the latter can be disabled by the owner(s) of the sim you’re in. (There are some other ways of attacking people, collectively known as ‘grieving’, but those are strictly prohibited and you’ll find yourself turfed out pretty quickly.)

In order to do a sword fight, each combatant needs to have a meter attached to them, which registers when they are struck by a sword and indicates how much damage they took. The meter’s display is visible above the combatant’s head, showing green-yellow-orange-red depending on how wounded they are. Once they’re critically wounded, they are forced to the ground. There isn’t any gore or blood as such, apart from the swords showing blood on them after dealing damage.

Another aspect of Second Life that I need to explain at this point concerns the camera position relative to your avatar. By default, this is a short distance behind and above you, but it can be moved and panned around independently. It can also zoom in and focus on something other than yourself. And there’s a particular function that I needed to use, which was the ability to make your camera track another avatar. This was what I ended up doing so that I could track the combat and tell the audience how the combatants were faring.

As it turned out, I needed to do this a lot, because the contest proceeded very rapidly. Eight men started the tournament, with four preliminary rounds, two semifinal, a runner-up final, and then the grand final. Then there was a special round where all eight men had to fight it out at once, with a prize for the last man standing.

And I was doing the best I could to follow all of this, talking as I went. I ended up doing that for over an hour, and needed about 20 minutes after to get my breath back!

Spitfire in Gorean freewoman garb
This is about as Gorean as I get!

This picture was a screenshot I took at home in Second Life, of the outfit I wore to Besnit. I ended up ditching the veil, as it just didn’t fit my face right and I couldn’t edit it. While there are lots of stores selling Gorean clothing, not much of it is designed for blue, rainbow-speckled aliens.

Here is the recording of my show from Besnit, if you’d like to hear what I sound like when I’m working my DJ magic. 😀

(*Last Sunday was also the NFL Super Bowl final, so we had some competition for people’s attention.)

Solstice

The last few weeks have been pretty rough for me. My father’s health deteriorated further, while I battled illness in order to get a work project completed on time. After several scares and paramedic call-outs, we reached the point where end-of-life care was initiated, on Friday 21st, the Winter Solstice. My father passed away in the early hours of Saturday 22nd, with his family around him.

Our Christmas celebrations have been pretty low-key as a result. For the most part, we are recovering and resuming our lives, which have been on hold to varying degrees for most of 2018.

I need to reconnect to Unit 8391 and to Spitfire, my virtual self. That is going to take a while after having to be my everyday self for so long. And I need to rebuild my relationship with Kittlen, which has been strained to breaking point the last few months. She wants and needs her Maitresse, the one who can still her mind.

This will probably be my last blog post here in 2018. While I’ve made some progress this year, I’ve also had a lot taken out of me, and it is going to take a while to get back to being the blue rainbow-speckled alien gynoid once more, not just in pixels but in mind.

Farewell, Tumblr

The #Pornapocalypse has officially claimed Tumblr.

Bacchus, the proprietor and scribe of ErosBlog, was the first in my newsfeeds to bear the tidings:

It’s official: Tumblr has banned porn, effective December 17, 2018. Rest in obscurity, Tumblr.

What exactly is Tumblr banning? Here’s what the article linked above has to say on the matter:

Is adult content allowed on Tumblr?

Starting Dec 17, adult content will not be allowed on Tumblr, regardless of how old you are. You can read more about what kinds of content are not allowed on Tumblr in our Community Guidelines. If you spot a post that you don’t think belongs on Tumblr, period, you can report it: From the dashboard or in search results, tap or click the share menu (paper airplane) at the bottom of the post, and hit “Report.”

What is “adult content?”

Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.

What is still permitted?

Examples of exceptions that are still permitted are exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments, and health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery. Written content such as erotica, nudity related to political or newsworthy speech, and nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations, are also stuff that can be freely posted on Tumblr.

What will happen to my adult content already on Tumblr?

We will send out email notices to members of the Tumblr community whose content has been flagged as adult. If your post has been flagged as adult, it will be reverted to a private setting viewable only by you. If you want to learn more about how to see those posts, see this help article.

As always, please make sure the email associated with your Tumblr account is one you use regularly. It’s how we get in touch when we need you!

My content was flagged as adult, but I don’t think it should be. What should I do?

If you feel that we have categorized your post incorrectly, you can appeal this decision using the button on the post in question. Please note that this process is only possible to complete on the web or the Tumblr Android app version 12.2 or later to review your flagged content. If you are on iOS, please use the web to appeal for now.

Read more about how to review your content and appeal here.

What if my blog (not to be confused with posts) was marked as “explicit” before December 17, 2018?

Blogs that have been either self-flagged or flagged by us as “explicit” per our old policy and before December 17, 2018 will still be overlaid with a content filter when viewing these blogs directly. While some of the content on these blogs may now be in violation of our policies and will be actioned accordingly, the blog owners may choose to post content that is within our policies in the future, so we’d like to provide that option. Users under 18 will still not be allowed to click through to see the content of these blogs. The avatars and headers for these blogs will also be reverted to the default settings. Additionally, posts from these blogs are kept out of search results.

You can check and see if your blog is marked as explicit per our old policy in your visibility settings. If you think your blog has been erroneously marked as explicit, learn how to appeal here.

Needless to say, there has been some amusement, and bewilderment, at what exactly a “female-presenting nipple” is. But on a more serious note, the content filtering is being done by an automated system across the whole of Tumblr. And, as is invariably the case with automated systems trying to determine what is ‘offensive’ content, it isn’t really working that well.

Petrana Radulovic, writing at Polygon, had a look at some of the automated system’s decisions:

It’s so botched that completely innocent posts are coming up as flagged. Seems that if it’s vaguely flesh-colored or has shapes resembling humans, the post might be marked as inappropriate. All this nice fan art? Flagged.

This heartwarming moment on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? Not for young eyes.

Though Tumblr insisted that art and sculpture would be protected, its algorithm says otherwise.

Even if the content doesn’t contain any humans, it’s suspect.

Many posts depicting LGBTQ individuals have also reportedly been flagged. This, and likely other family-friendly content that’s marked explicit, appears to be the result of the algorithm’s incompetence versus a deliberate measure on Tumblr’s part. The labeling has been wildly inconsistent across the board, but nothing can be confirmed.

Oh so poetically and ironically, an article on censor bots that accidentally declared desert pictures as pornography also got flagged.

As I mentioned at the top of this blog post, I downloaded all of my Tumblr content and deleted my blog last month, because I could see that the writing was on the wall. (On the plus side, Tumblr does provide a means to take your content with you. On the minus side, that could mean downloading a lot of data, if, like me, you’ve been using and posting to Tumblr for a long time.)


This is the culmination of the process that has been underway, in fits and starts, ever since Tumblr ceased to be an independent operator following its acquisition by Yahoo. At first, it was just ‘glitches’ that happened to block posting of content containing adult links that Tumblr/Yahoo didn’t approve of. But in the last year or so, it became a lot more blatant.

Bacchus, from ErosBlog, has chronicled each turn of the screw. First, they blocked adult Tumblr blogs from non-logged in users and those who were logged in but in Safe Mode (enabled by default).

Put it another way: Verizon/Yahoo/Tumblr is sweeping the porn Tumblrs under the rug, or to put it another way, is locking it inside their walled-garden data silo. Your porn Tumblrs will no longer be a part of the open web. They will become invisible to the broad universe of everyone who is not (a) already a member of the Tumblr community and (b) willing to be logged while they surf their Tumblr porn so that their porn surfing habits can be more readily tracked and aggregated across all their different devices, IPs, VPNs, and fap sessions.

Then they removed adult blogs from the view of the search engines.

So it is now official. The ghetto walls are up and the gates are closed. The adult-Tumblr community is no longer part of the open web. The #pornocalypse has claimed another social media victim.

At this point, most links to Tumblr content became next to useless; if you’re not signed up and logged into Tumblr, you’ll be dumped at the sign-up / login screen. The Internet Archive might have copies of some content in its Wayback Machine, but that is fragmentary and incomplete.


I decided enough was enough when I realised that Tumblr had stopped offering RSS feeds for blogs within their walled garden (as it now is.) Some that I’d plugged into my feed-reader of choice beforehand still worked, but attempts to add more Tumblr blogs either produced no RSS feed or one that didn’t work.

I’ve been on Tumblr since 2013, and in that time I made a lot of friends and discovered some really good artists and creators. Sadly, because I decided to mark my blog as ‘adult’ just in case, it was corralled into the ghetto by Yahoo, and by Verizon who bought both Yahoo and AOL and smashed them together to create Oath (dumb name). A lot of people who I followed over there will now be effectively homeless unless they had the foresight to buy a domain name and web hosting for their own site.

It could have been a lot different. Part of the reason why so many creators of adult and erotic content joined Tumblr was because they were willing to tolerate NSFW material at a time when the other social networks were busily cracking down on the same content and the people creating it.


I’ll leave the last word to Bacchus, who wrote this in 2013:

They are quietly and dishonestly hostile to adult content in general and to adult marketing and self-promotion in particular, even when that marketing complies with their community guidelines in every particular. Which is a nice intro to this morning’s sermon on The Catechism of Bacchus:

  1. Tumblr is, at the end of the day, a blogging service.
  2. As I’ve been saying since at least 2004, blogging services suck.
  3. This is Bacchus’s First Rule and it remains the rule: Anything worth doing on the internet is worth doing on your own server that you control.
  4. You will be tempted to ignore The Rule because of social media network effects.
  5. You may even feel forced to ignore it, because you can’t get enough attention on your own platform.
  6. When you disregard the rule (and everybody does, even me who wrote it) you will get burned.
  7. Count on it. Plan for it. The Pornocalypse Comes For Us All.

The Making (& Breaking) of Toy 8391 – III. Reborn

You can find the first two parts of the story here and here.

At the conclusion of part two, we left 8391 in the process of being remade and reborn. Now, we found out that it has been made into…

Spitfire

(Initiating start-up…)
(Power-up self-test complete—all systems operational)
(Core systems online—unit designation: 8391)
(Activating locomotion subsystems… Complete)
(Activating sensory subsystems… Complete)
(Start-up complete)
(No directives currently available—unit entering self-aware mode.)

It is 8391.

It is…

(Error: no geolocation data currently available)
(Current structural configuration: rubber doll)

It senses that it is lying on its back on a soft surface, looking upward. Everything in its field of vision is white.

Continue reading “The Making (& Breaking) of Toy 8391 – III. Reborn”

Permission to Speak

hand write open notebook mockup

Four days into NaNoWriMo, and I have a grand total of… zero words. Some notes and prompts, yes, but no actual writing.

Kittlen is frustrated at me because I’m not writing. But she forgets just how easy it is for her to conjure up words, and how hard it is for me.

Part of that is from my childhood. I’ve always been quiet. I didn’t even start to speak until I was 4 to 5 years old, and that was with help from a speech therapist. I was put into a remedial class at primary school because I was having trouble learning language, writing and maths. The last one was particularly problematic.

I got lucky when I turned 10—my then-headmaster was able to pull some strings and help me get a bursary to attend an independent school where I could get more intensive teaching. The only downside? It was a boarding school, on the other side of England from where I grew up.

Still, it worked, kinda. I finally grokked maths, and when the school opened its computer lab, I was immediately hooked. But my writing fell by the wayside, as did my artistic skills outside of some stuff I made in woodwork and metalwork classes.

I did eventually get my art going again later on in life when I got given a cheap second-hand copy of Photoshop and subsequently got roped into doing artwork preparation at my then-workplace. I forced myself to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, CorelDraw and other software, and gradually refined my techniques so I could make artwork that would print or display correctly on whatever medium it needed to go. That got me into video editing, DVD authoring and basic web design as I was asked to take on more roles.

My writing took longer to come back, but I did start blogging on-and-off in the early 2000s. But I stuck to talking about things in the news, mostly technology stuff. I didn’t put down on paper or screen any of the stories in my head. I think that, deep down, I was scared of being mocked and ridiculed. I’d been bullied during my school years, called a weirdo and a retard because I struggled with some subjects and was prone to daydreaming. (I now know that this was part of my autism, but at the time I’d not been diagnosed because it wasn’t as well understood and accepted.)

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to start writing for myself, developing my own ideas. And that is still not easy for me. To paraphrase from the Police song ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’:

But my silent fears have gripped me

Long before I reach the phone.

Long before my tongue has tripped me.

Must I always be alone.

In that context, just announcing on NaNoWriMo that I have an idea for a novel is a significant achievement for me. It may be just a placeholder, a project file, but it’s something I can poke at when I get a chance.

As a result of being first a software developer and then a graphic designer, I’ve learned to start with an outline of what I want, then iterate on that, adding more and more detail, until I have something solid and whole. I do something similar in my fiction writing. Kittlen is the opposite, she dumps her ideas on the page, then later on figures out how to string them together.

And I have another means now to get my writing going. After a few false starts, I am writing in a personal journal. Well, it’s a collection of text files that are synchronised between my devices, but it is organised by year and month, and I’m forcing myself to write every day. I hope that I’ll get the habit to a point where it becomes more comfortable for me to capture my daydreams and random thoughts.

I am giving myself permission to speak.

I’m Doing NaNoWriMo

The other day I told Kittlen that I’d had an idea for an origin story for Spitfire.

“That’s it. You’re doing NaNoWriMo.” was her response.

Gulp!

Kittlen has done NaNoWriMo for several years, using the stuff she has written in the past in her older blogs as starting points.

I actually created a profile last year, but didn’t do anything with it because I didn’t have a clue what to write.

Truth be told, I don’t really have much more than a vague outline of what I think my story might be at the moment.

But I’ve made a project file in Scrivener, and I’m going to dump whatever I can come up with into there.

I very much doubt that I’ll have 50,000 words in there by the end of the month. But as Kittlen pointed out, the important thing is that I try. It’s going to be tough, as I’ll have to find time from all of the other things that I need to do. Paid work and caring for my father take priority, and those will both sap my energy.

Anyway, I have a working title, ‘The Unchosen’, and a synopsis of sorts.

For as long as anyone can remember, there has been peace and prosperity across the Federation. But as the great and the good of many worlds gather on the planet Excelsia to celebrate the continuance of the Golden Age, one Excelsian is about to expose the dark secrets that underpin this apparent galactic idyll, and the lengths to which the keepers of those secrets will go to maintain their control.

The Excelsians are famed for their mastery of nanotechnology, which has made them the principal peace-keepers and mediators within the Federation. But can a race that has used nano-cybernetics to cure diseases, avert famines and even bring dying worlds back to life be trusted not to abuse that power?

When the once-engineered becomes an inherited trait, the engineers of the Federation’s ‘peace’ must face the progeny that is no longer of their design – the Unchosen.

A story of morality and consent, power and corruption, from the cellular level to the ends of the galaxy and beyond.

I did read a lot of science fiction in my youth, so I have that going for me. Asimov’s Foundation and Robots series, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books, in particular. I suppose Spider Robinson’s books count too. But I’ve not read any of those in quite a while. That might be a good thing, though, as I don’t want to be overly influenced and derivative.

Wish me luck?

The World Wide Whip

DJ Spitfire promo picture for Gorean Whip Radio

Amidst all the hullabaloo of the last several months, I’ve not really talked much about my DJ-ing in Second Life, and my show on Gorean Whip Radio in particular.

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly 11 months since I first joined the station. It was very much a spur-of-the-moment thing. Kittlen had been approached by Irish Breen, the general manager, who’d known her a long while, and asked if she wanted to be a radio DJ. When I heard this, I decided it was worth a try applying myself. As it turned out, I was accepted very quickly—Irish practically hired me on the spot!

As I detailed around the time, my start wasn’t without its teething problems. And it soon became apparent that doing a radio show was a lot different from just DJ-ing live. Adverts need to be played periodically, as well as station information. And I needed to think more about what I wanted to play, and why, and communicate that to the audience.

I like to think that I’ve improved my craft as a result of doing my weekly show on Gorean Whip Radio. The station owners and managers have been very helpful and supportive, and I enjoy hanging out in the staff chat discussing what’s going on in both the real world and Second Life. I’ve also had the opportunity to help create adverts and promotional material for on-air broadcast, and be one of the station’s voices.

The best experience so far was back in May when Gorean Whip Radio was the official radio station for the 2018 Second Life Sci-fi Expo. Both myself and Kittlen had a lot of fun with that!

The only real sticking point has been the fact that a lot of the sponsoring sims insist on visitor being in-character as Goreans. As a blue rainbow-speckled alien, I am exceedingly out-of-character in such a setting! Some sims do have OOC areas for parties, a few specifically for Gorean Whip Radio, so I can go there and do my stuff.

I’ve only had one instance so far where I’ve been frowned upon, and it does niggle a bit. But the fact is that the persona I present in Second Life is not only who I am, but also how I advertise myself on-air. Heck, my show is titled “DJ Spitfire Probes Your Ears” and I use the intro and ending music from Bernard Herrmann’s score for “The Day The Earth Stood Still” for the opening and closing of my shows and during voiceovers.

I also take comfort from the knowledge that I do get plenty of people tuning in when I’m on-air. While I’m not the biggest draw on the schedule, it is still regularly on a par with the largest audiences I’ve had for any of my DJ-ing gigs to date.

If you want to hear me doing my stuff, I broadcast every Wednesday at 2pm Pacific Coast time, or 10pm UK time. Details on how to tune in to Gorean Whip Radio can be found on their website, as well as my show and DJ biography pages.