Writer: SisterButta Resident – Photographer: Johanna Frost
Bloggers & Creators:
Improving the relationships to better serve Second Life Residents
In some things, size truly doesn’t matter. Whether it is a 512 m2 Linden starter home or a nine-bedroom mansion on your very own full sim estate island, creating interior spaces for our Second Life is every bit as important as locating the latest mesh head or hot new “hang out” places to meet and make friends.
Nobody knows this better than Second Life’s designers, scripters and animators who create the “stuff” we haul into our inventory and rez wherever we are currently calling home. Every week they offer us new sofas, chairs, skyboxes, pets, gazebos, follies, urban lofts, city brownstones, barns, mid-century modern one-level ranch homes and 18th century French chateau.
You could go crazy trying to sort through it all looking for what you dream of having in your Second Life nest.
Enter the blogger. With their origins in the USENET-moderated discussion groups of the 1980s, Second Life bloggers are a crucial link between creator and consumer. They show us what’s out there, where to go to get it, and how we might use it in our own spaces.
Match Up at Home & Garden Expo
With 10 sims packed with new houses, furnishings, décor, landscape material, pets, and original art from more than 150 creators, this year’s Home & Garden Expo benefiting the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life featured 53 official bloggers to help residents find what they were looking for. Without the hard work of those bloggers—and others who covered the three-week event—many of us would still be wandering around slack-jawed in sheer amazement at the outpouring of creativity and passion for virtual living that Expo represents.
Throughout the Expo, Prim Perfect magazine hosted interviews and show-and-tell sessions with exhibitors and designers, as well as two open forums hosted by Saffia Widdershins that invited creators and bloggers to sit down and talk about common interests and issues. The final forum held Friday, March 4 with Saffia, Kess Crystal of MadPea Productions, and Caitlin Tobias of Second Life Blogger Support as moderators was standing-room only, necessitating the sim limit to be raised for the duration of the meeting.
Concerns were aired and discussed. Myths were laid to rest. The hoped for result? Better communication and stronger relationships to benefit every Second Life resident in search of high quality pieces to furnish his or her Second Life “nest(s).”
- Blogging is hard work demanding daily discipline, intellectual and artistic curiosity, and scrupulous honesty. It also calls on a solid understanding of the possibilities—and limitations—of the tools creators have at their disposal to create the “stuff” we use to create our avatars and to decorate our Second Life homes inside and out.
With publishing platforms like WordPress, blogs come in many formats. Some are overwhelmingly visual; some are freighted with text. But regardless of presentation format, the blogs that stick and become must reads express their creators’ passion for his or her subject matter. Neither the lure of “freebies” creators often pass along to bloggers to evaluate nor the dream of thousands of daily “hits” to a blog can long sustain the burden of work required to produce a quality blog, as well as develop, maintain and grow readership.
- Creating original home and garden products is hard work demanding daily discipline, intellectual and artistic curiosity and scrupulous honesty. Finding markets for these products—and inspiration for future products—calls on marketing skills to attract buyers and customer service skills to respond to customers.
Modeling skill, scripting ingenuity and creative vision come to naught without distribution channels to get products in front of potential buyers. The pressure to produce new products for the ever-growing number of events in Second Life threatens to swamp many creators. Designers and builders are searching for help in marketing in order to survive, as well as grow their markets.
- Creators face challenges in finding the “right” bloggers for their products and their market. Bloggers must continually create new content to meet the expectation of designers with whom they enter into working relationships. A poor fit between a blogger’s interests (and the blogger’s readers) and a designer’s products is doomed to fail. Both parties need to be realistic—and honest with each other—about expectations and markets they seek to serve.
Getting the Goods
The inventories of bloggers are stuffed, and both creators and bloggers talked about the ways bloggers obtain items. One exhibitor asked bloggers present, “There are in general three ways to obtain items for blogging. 1. Buy items for yourself. 2. Pick items from a group or mailing list. 3. Buy or pick blogger samples that are set out for you. How do you see those three alternatives in relation to commitment?”
The response was immediate and thoughtful. Referring to the potential hot button of accepting freebies from creators, one blogger gave voice to the dilemma that faces many: “As bloggers, some of us feel we are advertisers” and expressed the need for better definition of the differences between independent versus contract bloggers. Another blogger reinforced the sentiment, “. . . . First off we need to not say hiring, just because it implies money.”
Most bloggers consider themselves independent. They blog what they like and what they are doing within their own homes; they do not contract with designers to try to sell an item in a post. Both designer and blogger need to be clear about the boundaries of their relationship to avoid misunderstandings.
Rooms with a view
Several bloggers asked if it would be possible for creators—especially creators offering houses and other structures–to set up demo areas bloggers could access to set up shots featuring the creators’ products. Not every blogger has the available prims on their own parcels to accommodate houses and complex room sets that can effectively showcase both the blogger’s vision and the creator’s products.
Creators and designers picked up on the idea, leading to a discussion of setting up work in progress areas so bloggers could see a build as it develops. This kind of sharing and documenting of the creative process would offer readers a behind the scenes look at new products, as well as a way for creators to demonstrate how they create wholly original content “from the ground up” or how they use templates as a basis for their products.
The hour-long forum ran nearly two hours. Much ground was covered before people adjourned to attend the daily Lantern release that reminds us of Expo’s underlying purpose: to remember the victims, the survivors, and those on the front lines in the fight to rid our world of dreadful disease that is cancer.
The world of cancer research, cancer patients, families and all of us whose lives are touched by the disease is ever changing and dynamic. On a smaller scale, so too are the relationships between bloggers and creators. Just as blogging isn’t what it was in the days of USENET, creating and building isn’t what it was when the first prims were rezzed in Second Life “back in the day.” On both sides, the pressure to produce grows exponentially with the increase in events, in demand for products from a hungry audience eager to furnish their Second Life, and a platform that is both dynamic and sensitive to changes in both audience and technology. It will be interesting to see what gets put on the table in future forums.