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This is not Rheta

Hello. As it says above, this is not Rheta writing. And this is not one of the mind games she was so fond of either. You don’t know me. I am the guy doing the tech work for this blog. I have been happy to count myself among the friends of its creator for quite some time, the woman you probably only know as Rheta Shan. For reasons I will not discuss, she chose to gift me with the trust of her second life; in the past two years I have heard more from her about the magic of that game than I ever cared for, and she has heard more taunts from me about it than anybody deserved.

It seems that makes me the only person who can share the following piece of news, as it reached me from her husband, to the people who lived that virtual life with her:

… on April 3rd, my wife was hit by a van as she crossed the street to get to the bakery. She was dead before SAMU could reach the hospital. She was 9 months pregnant; our unborn son died shortly after she did, despite doctors’ best efforts. […]

I know how much Valérie loved an cherished the people she friended as Rheta. Even if your world is not mine, and howewer much I mocked her for it, I know her feelings were genuine, and I am sure the feelings she got in return were too: she was simply too warm hearted and wonderful a person not to love. In a way, her second life friends were the extended family she had not, and I present my most heartfelt condolences to that family. We all lost somebody very special.

I also know that among all the special people she met, there was one who held a place in her heart no one could rival, her lover Thaddy. Thaddy, if you happen to read this, I know this must be devastating news, and I am deeply sorry to be the one to have to tell it. But please, by all means, get in touch with me – you are the heir, and executor, of the virtual estate left, and I do not want to take any further steps without talking to you.

Valérie, you made the world around you a brighter place. Rather than mourn you, I will try to keep a bit of that light in my heart, and bask in its warmth and glow whenever I think of you.

Adieu ma belle.

Eeep…

…it looks like I ended first in the SL Interface Contest finals. My heartfelt congratulations go to Jacek Antonelli and Rick van Wal, aka Digado, whom I undeservedly relegated to second and third rank, and to all other finalists. You did such a wonderful work — nobody should pretend I did better than you.

I’d also like to thank Dusan Writer for starting the contest, organising everything, and being a sweetheart all around, and also the judges, Keystone Bouchard, Vint Falken, Ordinal Malaprop and Eristic Strangelove. I’m still speechless and trying to get to grips with their decision.

Anyway.

Eric Reuters asked me yesterday what I was going to do with the prize money. In all honesty, I answered him I have no idea. Which is still true in a way, but I am thinking about it (or rather, thinking about what exactly to do besides blowing it on shoes, clothes, and hair). And one thing that has struck me since is that there is no need to sell my mainland plots any more. Until now, I have only had offers by land sharks, and have been loath to let go for the price offered. Now… I won’t either, but I will do this instead :

I will transfer the land, the total approximately 10.000 sqm located in Spinold’s Flats, as a whole or in parts, to any number of charities or artistic project(s) that can put it to good use.

This will take the form of a land sale for a symbolic price (I was thinking 1 L$ per plot). I can subdivide or merge plots if needed, too. Please contact me (in-world or through the contact form) if you think you’d like to take me up on the offer, and forgive me for announcing right away I’ll ask a lot of nosy questions when you do.

That’s all for now, I fear. See you on Plurk until RL relents.

And another kick…

…proving I’m still alive, albeit barely. Well, to the blogosphere, that is. Anyway, here goes :

Thanks to Dusan Writer’s and his judges’ incredible sweetness in accommodating my RL schedule constraints, I will have the opportunity to present my entry to his Second Life UI Design Contest this Sunday, June 27th, at 4 p.m. SLT on Dusan’s sim. Although this is not a publicized event, it is open to the public, and I for one would welcome anybody interested enough to watch.

As to the rest,well, all I can say is :

Our programme will resume as soon as RL allows.

[Update : well, I went, saw, and bored everybody out of their minds with an erratic, decidedly too long presentation. Still, everybody was very sweet, or I would probably have crumbled into a nervous wreck (or more of a nervous wreck than I was already, actually). Ta an awful lot for being so supportive and accommodating, all of you !

The results of the contest will be announced in the opening segment of the next Metanomics show, if I understood a recent communication by Dusan correctly. I’m having a little wager with myself on the results (don’t ask : I won’t be sharing what I bet on, beyond letting on that it is definitely not myself winning :-) ). I will be very interested to see how close my guess came to the actual decision by the judges.]

Alive, barely kicking

I will keep it short.

Maybe some among you have been wondering where I have been — after all, it has been over a month since I last gave a sign of life on this blog. Now, I’m not going to treat you to one of these «  why I did not post lately » posts — the only thing less interesting than a blog that is never updated is a blog that tries to simulate activity with posts on why there is no activity. So, unless you want to follow me on new social media darling Plurk, where the bite size posting and short bouts of inane chatter better accomodate both my current RL schedule and my frame of mind, all I have to offer is an apology.

Or rather, something as an apology.

Without further ado (drum roll on cue), I give you what has kept me away from nearly everything the last two weeks, and up and awake the last two nights straight : Rheta Shan’s entry to Dusan Writer’s Viewer Interface Contest — a contest that, as detailed here and here, is aimed at developing proposals for a newbie friendly revision of the Second Life client UI.

Yes, I thought I ’d better put my hand where my mouth is, seeing I’m on record as a know all on Second life’s interface deficiencies, and as an official Dazzle hater. So, fans of the current viewer — here is your chance to turn the tables and tell me how stupidly impractical, frighteningly ugly and altogether badly designed my proposal is. In fact, I point out many of its weak points on the first and last pages myself, first and foremost among them that I have no talent whatsoever as a graphics designer, and that the whole thing is a lost twin brother to a Swiss cheese, as it has as many holes as it has substance (time, and the lack thereof, being the issue here).

But this sounds like I’m apologising. I am not, even if the entry itself starts with two apologies. In fact, and although I am certain my proposal will at best fare moderately well against what the many brilliant minds of Second Life will contribute to the contest, I am still happy enough with it to want to show it around.

Here it is.

[Update : To my great surprise, I made it into the final selection, among such illustrious names as Jacek Antonelli, Damien Fate, McCabe Maxsted and Rick van der Wal (aka Digado / Roy Cassini). I presume the rather low number of entries Dusan mentioned in a short exchange we had accounts for this, but I still feel oddly proud. And I want to express my heartfelt congratulations to all my co-finalists !

Further update : It seems the finalists will have a chance to present their entries to the judges before they decide on the results of the contest — go to Dusan Writer’s blog for an announcement of the panel. I am very grateful to Dusan, who has been an absolute sweetheart trying to afford me the opportunity to do so, too, despite my stupid RL schedule restrictions. Ta, Dusan, and apologies to your judges I have had jumping through hoops. Don’t hate me too much, please.]

Dear passengers,

this is your captain speaking. We are scheduled for lift off in the next twenty minutes. Our flight will take us to Italy and back, with our return scheduled for Sunday, June 1st. The weather conditions are clear and we expect a quiet flight.

Please note this is a non smoking, non drama flight, and that our plane does not afford mobile internet facilities. Emails will not be answered and comments on posts might stay in the moderation queue until our return.

Unluckily, the on-board entertainment system has suffered from a slight technical setback we are diligently trying to repair. Until then, we kindly ask that you make you own entertainment ; in case you are stuck for ideas, we propose the following quiz :

  1. Read the instruction manual carefully from end to end.
  2. Answer the following question : it is widely considered bad style to escape from life. But if you consider escaping to instead, what is the place every escape leads to called ?
  3. If you wish to try for bonus points, answer the following question too : how do you call a place you are not meant to escape from, and the people who are making sure you don’t ?

Also, please take note the correct terminology for the crew of this plane is not escapists — it is escape artists.

Have a pleasant flight.

The great escape

There has been a spate of posts about the balance between First and Second Life lately, starting with my friend’s Dandellion’s thoughtful and entertaining blog post Going Schizo. At its core is the question how to handle the realisation that the personalities we evolve in the 3D metaverse of Second Life might seep back into our atomic life (a distant echo of some of Dusan Writer’s earlier thoughts). Besides a fair number of comments, it has also spurned Kit Meredith to ask the question if atomic her is jealous of her avatar, and Botgirl Questi to complete her schematic of the relationship of metaverse and meatverse. Independently of those, Zippora Zabelin has touched on the same topic in her beautiful Life is a game.

The funny thing about all these is that, much as I wanted to give feedback and tell the authors how much I enjoyed their posts, my own uneasy balance between First and Second Life has not let me do so until now. Consoling and supporting a friend much in the same situation as Dandellion’s unknown avatar, but also saying a chance good bye to another one who was leaving SL, as well as finally accepting some other friends and lovers will never come back, has made me painfully aware how ephemeral our second life can be — and how fragile whatever fleeting balance we find is.

It also made me think. Because while we often discuss how, and why we leave this world for good, we rarely dwell on the question that maybe should have been asked first : why bother with the effort of two lives at all ? Why come to Second Life, and stay ?

I have an answer to offer, Continue reading

PostRank goes bump

I removed something from my blog today. Well, from the sidebar, actually. All right, all right — that is hardly the Times relaunching, I am aware of that, but it is still noteworthy for two reasons : one, it was the most recent addition there. Two, I removed it as a matter of, well, exorcism will have to do.

The item I removed was a pretty inconspicuous link to the aideRSS ranking of my blog’s feed items. I you missed Kit Meredith’s post extolling its virtues, aideRSS is a free web service that will swallow your blog’s feed (any feed, really, it doesn’t need any kind of subscription) and, after some rumination, spit out a ranking of your posts, which it calls PostRank. The FAQ tersely states that « PostRank™ is a scoring system that we have developed to rank each article on relevance and reaction [my emphasis]. ». The idea is to define sub feeds of, say, the top 10 % posts, so people can subscribe to these instead of the whole feed. Which sounds rather neat.

So what’s wrong with it ?

Nothing at first sight, which is exactly why I included the link in the sidebar (the much more informative widget provided is unavailable for wordpress.com hosted blogs, as it requires JavaScript to work). After all, if it helps my readers, it’s a good thing.

What made me wonder if that was the thing to do was what I discovered when I had a look at what aideRSS considers my « top 20 » posts (click on the screenshot for a larger picture) :

PostRank de Rheta’s World le 12 Mai 2008

I mean, I can more or less agree on the inclusion of four posts among the top five. The reaction numbers (which aideRSS computes from the number of comments, Google blog search hits, Diggs and del.icio.us bookmarks linking to your post — although oddly enough, its count is slightly off from the ones the services themselves provide) are mostly corroborated by the reader statistics of wordpress.com. The fifth one, my interface rant, is the odd man out. Obviously, that is one case where aideRSS does its magic computing relevance. Independently from any feedback numbers.

So why remove the link ? Was I miffed by some patent pending, trademarked Google-ish algorithm showing me it knows more about my posts’ relevance than I, as the author, do ?

Wish it was that.

I removed the link because I was frightened — frightened to death by seeing what aideRSS considers the seventh most relevant post on my blog. Ever. See for yourself : Continue reading