Well that made my week / month / year. Out of the blue, I was asked to appear on Treet.TV’s “Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe” this past Sunday, and it was both a fabulous experience and a tremendous amount of fun. Paisley blogged about it, and a recording of the show is available for viewing here:

It’s funny how my main worry was that I wouldn’t know what to say in terms of filling the full segment time, and yet when it was over we had barely touched on some of the things I had hoped to say.

So I’ve decided to take the original set of possible questions Paisley might be asking us and go into each of them in more detail, stealing from my show answers in those cases where they overlap:

Q: First, could talk a little about when and how you logged onto InWorldz and what inspired you to do so?

I had heard about other alternative virtual worlds before InWorldz… I did try firing up my own Open Sim server with a home region in a 5×5 block of 25 regions for sailing, flying, etc. The one big thing Open Sim has going for it is space… as much land as you want, in your own home, with a local connection. Of course, that’s also the reason I couldn’t bring myself to investing a lot of time in building things there for others; it was a local server, with a home Internet connection, and a relatively slow uplink to the Internet, which is what visitors would see. I saw a couple of mentions about InWorldz, then one day reading the SL forums, I saw another mention by Ann O’Toole, and whatever she said, it was enough to trigger me to register and log in. I think one of the main attractions for me, as a veteran server developer, was that this was a grid that was NOT running servers on people’s home machines, professionally hosted, with proper network management, backups, and a bigger Internet connection than they needed. That does sound a bit like SL, but that’s what I was looking for — at that time at least — something just like SL but without Lindens, and what I saw as their interference in residents’ business plans.

Q: Can you each also talk about what it was like when you first set up there?

Well, when I arrived at IDI (the InWorldz welcome region), it was an extremely familiar environment, the same viewers I was used to using, but I was a cloud that looked worse when I did finally rez as a very generic newb. But in spite of the first hour nightmares I could have had, I could see it was a different kind of place. I was greeted by other residents, in a friendly and helpful way. I later learned that there was an active program for Mentors, residents volunteering to help other new users settle in.

One of the grid owners, Elenia was there, and that impressed the hell out of me. That was like logging in to SL and finding Philip Linden waiting to say hello. I fixed myself up in the well-stocked freebie stores in the welcome area there, and in a few minutes I was no longer a newb. I chatted with Elenia a bit then, about the grid, and found her attitudes towards residents very refreshing. She did warn me though that a lot of work remained, it was still a beta, but that they were building something great, together with the residents. I asked about land prices, etc., and let her know that I had a lot of experience as a server software developer, perhaps I could contribute a fix or two. She said she would let Tranquillity Dexler know, he would get back to me, and I immediately felt welcome, and part of the community.

This was back in June, 10 months ago, and there were only about 3200 people registered then. I believe it was just under 100 regions. I bought a region, adding to that total. InWorldz was still very small, and I’d say new, although it was well over a year old at that point. But 3200 people, logging in sometimes, isn’t really enough to sustain everyone’s needs. So for example, more than 50 people logged in, grid-wide, was a busy night.

But content was still very thin. For example, I built my own house for my partner Gabi and I. I didn’t have to hold back, when you have a full region and 45,000 prims, so I built a mansion. 🙂 But then it came time to furnish it. And back then, it was nearly impossible to find anything to cuddle on. I found some animations and sculpties that were available for use in other worlds, and made one of the first slow dance balls in InWorldz. Then a simple cuddle bed, no menu. It was sometimes frustrating to not have some of the things I was used to, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being a pioneer, a settler, and setting our own course, in a place where I had learned to trust the founders (the grid owners).

Q: What did you miss most about Second Life?

Mostly the people. Both in terms of generic numbers of people at events, and in terms of my friends I had met in 4 years of SL. But as far as crowds go, I was finding that they were thinning in SL anyway, and it was a bit of a battle sometimes to get a crowd to an event, so in terms of the venues, I wasn’t really giving up too much there. So it was the specific people that I missed. My friends from WildRadio760, The Onyx, and Lost.

Q: What was the hardest thing to re-establish?

Strangely, I would have to say peace. Time alone with my partner, time to explore, to just enjoy this world. See, when I find something I truly believe in, I jump in with both feet. And with InWorldz, I was up to my eyeballs in just a week or two. Gabi and I were busy rebuilding everything I had in SL, busy coming up to speed on how to help Tranq with the grid software, busy rebuilding the city I had in SL (which I have more or less postponed, although I do have a small one at 3000m in my sim with many of the things I’ve brought into InWorldz available for free, and two art galleries).

Q: How did you go about making new friends, joining new communities? How easy or hard was that?

Well, that took seconds. 🙂 Everyone seems to want to help others, while InWorldz is an excellent and stable environment for business, there is a much smaller emphasis on financial aspects there, probably due to the lower costs of everything, and the desire for residents to help each other as much as possible. That fit well with my philosophies, so I wanted to help that community, and the community welcomed me warmly.

Q: Have any of you deleted your SL inventory?

Ha ha, no. Inventory organization is a major work item that I simply don’t have time for. I don’t log in to SL very much anymore, and it’s not like the Lindens charge per-item costs, so there isn’t any pressing need to try to clean it up any time soon. I still maintain a presence in SL, and have two small land parcels with my partner, but I don’t even have a premium account there anymore. I used to have a full region and two homesteads.

Q: Whats are some of the best things about InWorldz?

Well, we could do multiple whole shows on that. 🙂  Here are a few things off the top of my head:

  • Pioneer atmosphere, we get to start fresh, a world built and shaped by the users, for the users.
  • Friendly folks, willing to help, sometimes going well out of their way to help.
  • Sharing: As a newb, I asked about male hair, and I had InWorldz creators sending me hair that matched my styles, free!
  • Everyone, including the founders, want to enable other residents to live their dreams.

There are also some practical things:

  • Any name you want, first or last.
  • 35,000-45,000 prims per region, depending on how many you purchase. 35,000 minimum!
  • low ongoing costs: $75/month for a full region:
  • SL gives you about 50 prims per US dollar.
  • InWorldz gives you 466 to 600 prims per US dollar.
  • all uploads are free
  • group creation is free
  • in fact, just about everything is free, except region purchases and a service fee cashing out via PayPal (because PayPal imposes a service fee for that)
  • SL compatibility, many existing viewers are supported, and work mostly the same as they do in SL. Script compatibility, yet we can extended LSL if we find something is very useful and should be present (e.g. iwMakeNotecard).

Mostly, it’s the philosophies I find so appealing. The old SL tag line “your world, your imagination” applies perfectly to IW. IW founders see that world/grid as bigger than any of them, bigger than all of them combined, and instead see it as a world of residents. The residents are the “owners”, as I was corrected by a founder recently. The residents will define the future, and will guide it.

It really is “your world, your imagination” at InWorldz.

Q: Do you care if people come from SL to InWorldz? 

Yes, of course. In a good way. InWorldz has grown tremendously, but it still needs to grow.  It has grown from 3200 residents to over 36,000 in the 10 months I have been there. From 100 regions to almost 900 regions. And it is attracting many of the well-known residents and businesses from SL. There also are many others who got their start on InWorldz, and have developed into incredible content creators. To me it is the best of both worlds. Amazing new friends in InWorldz and fabulous new designs, as well as several of my old friends from SL, and well-known creator names.

Q: Are you happy with InWorldz as it is now? if not, what would you like to see?

Well like all grids based originally on Open Sim server code, InWorldz is still in beta. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done. There are a few things that the founders have taken care of during my 10 months there, and a couple more that I’d like to see finished soon. In addition to a long list of bug fixes, I personally spent a lot of time working on fixing serious problems with permissions, and quite a bit of time ensuring that content was secure on InWorldz. We actually hired a “white hat” hacker to help poke at grid security, and we did identify and fix several very serious problems. I’d have to say that InWorldz is now one of the most secure grids out there, even compared to SL, and perhaps the most secure. Tranquillity (“Tranq”) also spent a lot of time last year fixing up the entire assets storage chain, and making it scalable, as well as establishing a professionally managed network architecture and infrastructure at the hosting center. InWorldz is still getting a lot of work in the area of infrastructure, giving it that stable environment that will make it adaptable to unforeseen changes and residents’ needs in the future.

One of the biggest outstanding problems for InWorldz was the poor control over scripts that the Open Sim script engine had, so Tranq has spent the last couple of months completely rewriting it from scratch, with different design goals more appropriate for virtual worlds and InWorldz. The new “Phlox” script engine has not only achieved every design goal, but it’s outperforming our expectations so well that sometimes we think it didn’t actually work; it couldn’t possibly be that fast. And every aspect of every script operation is completely under the control of the script engine’s custom virtual machine. So, for example, go ahead and wear those nasty scripted objects at busy events with 50 avatars or more. Go ahead, there isn’t any such thing as scripts causing region lag anymore. You like that AO? No problem.

We recently did a test run of Phlox on our IDI welcome region, and with 67 people on the region, there was no walking lag, no problems with scripts or other issues that come from having a large number of people in the sim. And this is not 100 generic ruth avatars; these are real-world avatars with crazy scripted hair, every avatar different, tinies and furries and dragons as well, in a real-world region with over 11,000 different, textured prims, all on the ground there within sight.

There are three other areas that still need significant work, and then many smaller bug fixes: physics is one, presence management/messaging is the second, and the other is land/security issues (e.g. ban lists, etc). The existing ODE physics engine will be replaced with nVidia’s PhysX engine, which is a wonderful engine used to provide a reliable physics runtime engine for many games, from Batman to Mafia II to Dark Void and Mirror’s Edge. It will also provide a great path for future features growth. Presence/messaging is the online status, inter-region IMs, group IMs, notices, offline notifications, etc. Fixes there, and some fixes to land management, and PhysX support, will go a long way to making InWorldz ready for that 1.0 release. I’m hoping to see that this year.

Q: What does InWorldz need most of now as far as content? Entertainment?

I’d have to say that content and entertainment are already reaching the point where they are two of InWorldz’ strengths.  So in terms of what is needed, I’d say more people. There are some great content creators, and InWorldz is starting to get a reputation as a great place for performers as well. For example, I will have the pleasure of being the opening DJ at the Equinox Spring Ball on May 27th, warming the crowd up for a live performance by The Follow, a world-class modern band:

Every day I see yet another wonderful performer take the stage in InWorldz. Phlox will help tremendously with those large-scale events, and in a few months we might even see situations where performers of other grids hold their events on InWorldz because it may be the only place to handle those kinds of crowds.

Q: What are you glad you left behind in Second Life?

Oh my.  Well, some of the Linden policies, and economic uncertainty caused by it. Some of the drama, and a very small number of SL users I consider to be almost possessed by evil. 🙂  But mostly, I’d have to say high costs.  Second Life land is priced considerably higher than it should be.  There are some very good alternatives out there, and of course my favorite is InWorldz.

Q: Do you think that InWorldz could end up with some of the bad things about Second Life?

Sure.  Some of the personality conflicts and drama present in SL have followed us to InWorldz, so it’s not a complete escape from that. However we do have founders who care about that and will try to step in to end public conflicts that show no sign of compromising entrenched positions.  I think that there is a different attitude in InWorldz, promoted by the founders, and that is one of tolerance, understanding and negotiation.  Even in the commercial operations, it’s often competitive in a friendly, sporting way.  I feel that in the long run, the founders’ promotion of these attitudes of tolerance, acceptance and friendliness will help to avoid some of the very bad things we’ve seen in SL.  The InWorldz founders are also more hands-on than Linden Lab, in terms of trying to avoid issues and keep on top of things.

Q: Do you spend more time in InWorldz than you did in Second Life?

I think, all things being equal, I would spend more time in InWorldz than I did in SL. However, there are a couple of things holding me back there. First, as one of the InWorldz grid monkeys, I have my own development server, and when I’m working on the server I tend to be logged in locally on my own. There’s also the beta grid where further testing is done. So I’m not “in-world” as much, while I am logged on with a viewer.

Second, I was one of those people who lacked balance when I was in SL. I had no balance between my SL time and my RL time. Since I was able to mentally and emotionally accept my huge decrease in SL time, it’s given me a chance to break free from that, at least a bit, and adopt a bit of discipline in my online time. I’m also actually working on InWorldz itself, so it’s a bit different for me now, and somehow I do manage find a bit more balance now.

That said, like the others who work on InWorldz, it’s a family there, and we consider the grid to be “The Baby”. As a result, there aren’t really any limits; we can rarely go “off clock” and just enjoy, because there is almost always someone with questions, an issue, or something we notice that we want to follow up on. But that’s exactly what I like about it too. It’s more than just a new world to set as my home, it’s bigger than all of us, it’s something to believe in. And so it means much more to me than SL ever did.

Q: Anything more to add?

Just that InWorldz is still in beta, and while it’s already giving SL a run for it’s money in several areas, there’s still a lot of work to be done. I have seen some criticism over InWorldz missing this, or that, or not prioritizing things the way some folks would like to see. I’d just say that it’s a very tough balancing act for the founders, but unlike the management of SL and other grids, I have complete faith in the priorities the InWorldz founders have set. We can all be disappointed when our favorite feature, service or bug fix is not at the top of the priority list, but at InWorldz it’s not the position on the list, but rather the fact that it is on the list, and the intention is to address it. InWorldz is still understaffed, and will be until the number of regions increases to the point where more staff can be hired to work full-time. It’s not a matter of if something will get fixed or completed or not, but rather a matter of when. A lot has changed in the 10 months I’ve been there. Some of the changes are considerably more dramatic than I have seen in four years of SL. It’s evolving, and will continue to do so; we all just need to have a bit of patience, and it will get there. I’m really looking forward to seeing where InWorldz is by the end of the year.  I can’t even imagine where it will be after four years.

After four months in InWorldz, I wrote a blog article about how so many things come along to change the course of events, and how we sometimes lament change, such as switching your home grid. But I have found a certain peace in all this.  Here is a key quote from that:

Regardless of the technology being used, or the features being offered, there is one thing they have in common: it’s the people. The users, or as we like to call them, the residents. The platforms are really just the preferred tool-du-jour, used by those residents. I see that maybe the best approach isn’t to try to block that change,or to try to redirect it, but maybe the best approach is to go with the flow — to build a boat and ride the wave, where ever it might take us. And to smile and enjoy the ride.

Thanks to Paisley Beebe, Bliss Windlow and the staff of Tonight Live and Tweet.TV for the opportunity to share my thoughts with others.  It was a wonderful experience.