Jul 13, 2017

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We broke Firestorm, and that’s ok.



Indiana Jones




For those who read the prior post about the Adventures in Unicode, you may have come away thinking that Firestorm was the clear winner in extended character sets with everyone else falling short.


After all, it appeared that way from our end as well.


That is, until we ran one last test and brought over Tonya Souther, (one of the Firestorm devs who originally implemented the Noto font and Unicode for Firestorm), over to the workshop to click on the ONYX radio.


There may have been a very large explosion involved…



The following are screenshots provided courtesy of Tonya:




Firestorm Linux


ONYX menu Linux



Firestorm OSX


ONYX menu OS X



Firestorm Windows 7


ONYX menu Windows 7




Revenge of the Tofu


It would seem the Unicode implementation for Firestorm is not consistent across operating systems!


At first glance this looks bad – after all, this means using Unicode in the menus for content is an entirely hit or miss situation now. However, upon further inspection, there has to be a reason why the Unicode shows up sometimes while failing in other situations.


Overall, this is a shared experience issue. If you were to listen to Linden Lab over the past number of years, then shared experience is a number one priority. The user experience should be consistent for all in-world users, and now that the Unicode inconsistency has been identified, we know this is not the case.


While Windows 10 machines will show the full menu icons via Unicode, Windows 7 machines are missing two, while Linux and OSX Firestorm installs will get a bunch of Tofu altogether. According to Tonya, this shouldn’t be the case at all if Noto is packed into every Firestorm version. If anything, the Noto font bundle with Firestorm should make the Unicode display consistently across viewers and operating systems.


But this isn’t the current case, as demonstrated by the ONYX radio menu at the Andromeda Media Group workshop.


The entire purpose of Noto as a font is “No To(fu)”.




What Happens Now?


Under normal circumstances, this would be the end of the line. However, because it was Tonya Souther (one of the devs who implemented Noto for Unicode compatibility in Firestorm) who found the glaring issue, she insisted on fixing it as well.


This is, after all, a Major Bug in Firestorm that breaks the shared experience.


After I filed the JIRA for this, Tonya jumped in and personally assigned herself to the cause – taking up the crusade against Tofu for the benefit of everyone in Second Life.


JIRA FIRE-21404


This sort of dedication is what makes the Firestorm team so awesome. I could have filed the JIRA and then have the devs just say “Yeah, whatever…”, but in this case the Firestorm dev was right there in person, helped document the glaring flaw, and owned it like a boss.




Why This Matters


For years, one of my biggest gripes about Second Life is the inconsistency for supporting Unicode characters. You are probably just as keen on this issue as well, since there are plenty of times you’ve seen people with “fancy text” names or some sort of decoration characters in their profile or chat which showed up as a bunch of [] characters instead.


Because these characters show up for some but not all, I would call this a major break in “shared experience” protocol touted by Linden Lab. The “simple” solution to fix this would be something along the lines of -


1. Extend the Noto font for Firestorm to support a large number of common icons and glyphs, but not “everything” like all the foreign languages. By focusing on the icons/emoji/glyphs of Unicode as a fallback font, and then making sure all versions of Firestorm use it, we ensure a consistent display of characters in Second Life.


2. Unifying the Font.XML file for Windows, Linux and OSX to make sure they all point to and properly use the extended Noto font for the Unicode compatibility, regardless of your operating system.


Because this is a “shared experience” issue, fixing it should be a priority. Therefore, if/when Firestorm team makes the Unicode implementation consistent among their own viewers, the code and fix is open source and can/should be included in the Default Second Life Viewer (I’m looking at you Oz Linden), and also other 3rd Party Viewers.


However – in order for Linden Lab to include such a fix in the Default viewer, they would have to probably bring back the font.xml implementation that seems to have been taken away (for unknown reasons). This would likely be true for other 3rd party developers as well.


By making the Unicode implementation consistent and reasonably up to date, we can see better use in local chat, menus on products in-world (accessibility), and more. Fixing this would have sweeping changes in the entire Metaverse in how we see various menus, information text in chat, and more displayed – with glyphs and icons now being more universal we can all expect a consistent experience for the same characters being displayed.


I applaud the fact that Tonya Souther was so quick to assign herself to fixing the glaring issue, and look forward to seeing a unified Unicode implementation in the near future.






Jul 10, 2017

ɑժѵҽղԵմɾҽՏ íղ մղíϲօժҽ

The Not-So-Shared Experience in Second Life


Unicode Header




On June 20th, 2017 the Unicode foundation updated the international standard for universal character mapping to version 10. Unicode 10.0 adds 8,518 characters, for a total of 136,690 characters. These additions include 4 new scripts, for a total of 139 scripts, as well as 56 new emoji characters.


If you are a regular user of Second Life, then you’ve very likely seen these Unicode characters in use for things like announcements, custom names, and various decoration and fancy text for profiles.


But there is a bit of a problem.


While the Unicode standard is now up to version 10.0.0, a majority of Second Life viewers (including the default viewer) doesn’t really support a majority of the Unicode standard characters. So much for that “shared experience”, right?


The Unicode set comes in quite handy when you want to add a visual element to your displays. For instance, there are a number of Unicode characters for icons and emojis that, while useful in a frivolous manner for text decoration, are very useful as universal symbols to denote common tasks.


For instance, if you wanted to use the age-old icon for “Save”, you’d use the floppy disk icon, right?


What if you wanted an icon for “Favorite”? Well, the obvious symbol would be an icon of a heart, like this:


If all you saw with those two characters was [] for each, then you’re out of date for your font and/or Operating System. As far as I can tell, most modern operating systems and programs can see more recent Unicode characters by default.


The problem is that with Second Life, the Unicode support is all over the map at best. The default viewer (and most third party viewers) simply do not support a wide range of Unicode characters. That diskette icon from before would show up as a tofu – which is the name of the empty block symbol “[]” you see whenever the font you are using doesn’t have the symbol being used.


You’ve probably seen a lot of those “tofu” blocks in Second Life as you wander around and see people’s custom names, gestures and whatever. This is your viewer failing to support a wider range of Unicode characters which are standard internationally. More importantly, it’s your viewer not including fonts that support those Unicode characters.


The default viewer for Second Life comes with a few fonts installed, and they all fail the wider scope of Unicode support. Third party viewers like Singularity use Dejavu in a reduced format as the default font set, and doesn’t support a lot of Unicode characters up to version 7, which is actually from 2010 (7 years old!).


I won’t even get into the recently released Unicode 10 standard. That’s probably out of the question entirely, but it isn’t too much to ask for consistent support for a four year old Unicode character set.




Comparative Testing


While a majority of the Second Life viewers more or less fail a more comprehensive Unicode character test, the one viewer that actually fares better than all of them (including the default viewer) happens to be Firestorm.


As a test, the ONYX Stereo Receiver in Second Life uses Unicode icons on the menus in order to better differentiate. Keeping in mind that we didn’t use any Unicode past version 7 to be “safe” – we assumed characters that have been around for 4 years would be supported without a problem by now.


Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.


Here’s the visual comparison -




Default SL Viewer


ONYX - SL Viewer Default Font Menu UNICODE


One thing you’ll notice among the viewers that fail the Unicode test is that they all effectively crap out around Unicode 3 or 4 support in their included font(s). With Second Life Default viewer, you’d think Linden Lab would have the foresight to support a much wider set of characters in their included font.




Singularity Viewer


ONYX - Singularity Default Font Menu UNICODE


Next on the list for testing was Singularity Viewer, the third party viewer that I recall being the staple for Phoenix and older viewer style holdouts. Here, again, you see it fails the Unicode test on the ONYX menu.


Further research finds that Singularity uses Dejavu (much like Firestorm) but nothing else… or whatever else it has in the Fonts folder still doesn’t support a newer Unicode standard, so there are no fallbacks.




Black Dragon Viewer


So maybe I’m choosing “crappy” third party viewers, then? The low end of the spectrum, and that’s why they don’t handle Unicode so well? I wish that were the case, really… as below,  you’ll see that even Black Dragon viewer fails the Unicode test.


ONYX - Black Dragon Viewer Default Font Menu UNICODE




Firestorm Viewer


And then there is Firestorm.

ONYX - Firestorm Viewer Default Font Menu UNICODE


Notice anything different? Well, what do ya know… all the Unicode characters in the menu show up fine in Firestorm.




What’s Different?


When you look inside the Firestorm Fonts folder, you notice that there are more fonts in there than you’d find in Singularity or the Default Viewer, and while Singularity and the Default viewer also uses the Dejavu Sans font like Firestorm, all this tells us is that DejaVu isn’t the solution.


So what font is responsible for adding extensive Unicode support in the Firestorm viewer?


I’d like to say our secret sauce just might be thanks to Google.


See, I noticed in the Firestorm distribution that there includes the Noto family of fonts along with the other fonts in the folder. Noto (short for No Tofu) is a font family designed by Google to support extensive Unicode characters.


It is a free font and (from what I can see) doesn’t include any real restrictions for bundling it in your applications, and is actually encouraged. Which is probably why it shows up as part of Firestorm, in turn enabling all Firestorm users to see extended Unicode characters by default.


Specifically included in the Firestorm Fonts folder are:


  • NotoMono-Regular.ttf
  • NotoSans-Bold.ttf
  • NotoSans-BoldItalic.ttf
  • NotoSansCombined-Regular.ttf
  • NotoSans-Italic.ttf


The way that the viewers work in the XML files which declare the fonts in use is – you name a main font, and then you name off some “fallback” fonts when the main font doesn’t have a particular character to display (like with Unicode or foreign languages). So when the main font “fails” to find a character, it goes to the other fallback fonts listed to see if the character is in there. At least that’s how they used to work… and now (apparently) only Firestorm kept that ability.


As far as I can tell – Only Firestorm seems to have included Noto (and a few others) in their Font folder, and therefore can render much more Unicode than everyone else. Of course, they declared Noto in the XML file as a fallback font.


Which begs the question:


If it’s really this simple to update Unicode support for Second Life viewers, then why is Firestorm the only viewer that seems to have done so?


I’m actually quite surprised that I haven’t seen any of the other third party viewers do this, nor even Linden Lab with the “official” viewer. This has got to be (hands down) the quickest “shared experience” fix they can all do.


Just include Noto in your viewers.


Until then, we’re stuck answering a design question when creating items in Second Life:


Do I use Unicode icon characters in my text and menus, do I omit the Unicode characters, do I include a toggle button to show/hide them, or do I say “To hell with it…” and just build with Unicode characters knowing a majority of people use Firestorm?


This will be the question until everyone catches up and includes better Unicode font support in their next viewer releases, catching up to Firestorm.


Until then, I’m probably just going to use the Unicode characters in menus whether you can see them or not. It’s a simple fix, and you (the users) should get on your respective viewer developers to include better support for it ASAP.


Yes… even Linden Lab.




Addendum


After a bit of tinkering/testing, I had the idea that maybe one could simply copy/paste the Firestorm Fonts folder to the other viewer Fonts folder, XML files and all for the fallbacks… but it seems the other viewers just ignore it all.


This is curious to me as there was a time when the Default viewer used the XML setup to declare the fonts and fallbacks. As a result, I believe two things are going on:


  1. The Default viewer (and other 3rd party Viewers) no longer have the XML functionality built in, or it’s disabled hard coded.
  2. Firestorm kept the original XML functionality and put it to good use.


Which now begs the question:


If the third party viewers are open source, including Firestorm, then why is this functionality only in Firestorm? Even more, why would a function that was in the older Default viewers be taken out, if it allowed for such an obvious standards and compatibility fix with little effort?


This is quite possibly one of the easiest “Shared Experience” fixes to include, and (before Linden Lab thinks of it), no that doesn’t mean make Firestorm remove the functionality. That would be the most bone-headed thing Linden Lab could do.


As a result of the other viewers ignoring the XML files, this means that (unfortunately) you will have to petition your favorite viewer developer to put the functionality back in and include the same font set as Firestorm to fix the Unicode compatibility for your particular viewer of choice (including Linden Lab).


Because apparently, they’d all have to include the XML function back into their viewers and include the fonts in the folders of their own accord.


My recommendation, then, is the following:


If you’re not using Firestorm, go to your respective viewer JIRA and file it as a feature request. In the year 2017, there is little reason a modern application shouldn’t be up to date with Unicode compatibility. We should all be raising a little bit of hell over this one…


So go get’em, tiger!









Jul 1, 2017

Speed Demon 2

Browser Enhancement Tricks


speed demon header




Today’s Topic: Browser Enhancement for Speed


Difficulty: Easy




Introduction


In this blog post, I’d like to discuss some simple tricks you can apply to your web browser to speed up common tasks above and beyond the stock browser offerings. The following “hacks” will let you skip a lot of the clicks involved with doing everyday tasks and cut right to the chase. These are tweaks that I have done personally with my own web browsers (Chrome and Opera) but should also work with Firefox if you’re using that particular web browser. If you’re using Microsoft Edge, then there is a special place in hell just for you.


The main question we’re answering here is:


In the course of our everyday web browsing, we find ourselves doing a lot of repetitive tasks to get to what we want. For instance, searching your favorite sites for content, using the Speed Dial, and so forth. So let’s speed this up a little bit and make our lives easier.




Search Operators


There is nothing scary here, and this trick is quite simple once you get the hang of it. Essentially, all browsers allow you to add custom search operators aside from the built-in options like Google, DuckDuckGo, etc. But how can we “hack” this feature to our advantage?


Well, let’s say you routinely search Youtube for videos.


Normally, you have to type in youtube.com, wait for it to load, and then click in the search box to do your search. If you’re a speed demon like me, then you want to skip all those steps in between for your favorite sites and just cut right to the chase.


The first step to this is right-clicking the address bar.




Edit Search




On that resulting menu, you’ll see something like the picture above. “Edit search engines…”




Edit Search B




Very likely you’ll see a list under the main list that says “Other search engines”


By clicking on the “Add new search” you’ll be presented with another pop-up to define your new search keyword.




Edit Search C




For instance, let’s look at adding a custom Youtube keyword.


Obviously we name it in the first box – in this case “Youtube”. In the second field, we choose the keyword to use in the address bar as the shortcut. For this example, I’ve chosen “youtube”. The last is the address to use for this search keyword.


This is where it gets a bit tricky. In order to get the search string for this, simply do a normal search on the site you want to set up a keyword for. In the results address at the top, copy and paste it here in this field when setting up the keyword with one change:


Whatever the string was for the thing you searched for (Let’s say you searched for Rick and Morty"), you replace that with %S as a wildcard.


Then hit Save on this dialog and you’re done. Whenever you type Youtube into the address bar, you can follow it with the search criteria directly and hit enter to skip right to the youtube search results for what you just typed.


In your address bar, you can type Youtube [space] [Search String] and it’ll skip right to the search results.


What else is this useful for? Well, let’s say you want to keyword something like Wikiwand to search for articles. The same process applies, but the address is something like:


www.wikiwand.com/en/%S


And you can set the keyword to be “wiki”.


Pretty much, you can do this on most sites that have a search option. I’ve set it up for Youtube, Wikiwand, Torrent, Freesound.org, Porn (why not?), Discogs (album info search), and yes even Google Play Music, where typing “play” and the search criteria in the address bar will jump right to the search results in my Google Music Library.



Author’s Note: Wikiwand is a much cleaner and modernized version of Wikipedia. I highly recommend using it over the standard Wikipedia site.


This is such a useful trick that I feel gimped whenever I set up a new browser install and can’t use these custom search operators. Trust me, once you set yours up, you’ll feel the same after a short time and wonder how you managed without this for so long.


Suggested Keywords


  • Wallpaper
    • https://alpha.wallhaven.cc/search?q=%S&search_image=
  • Games
    • http://armorgames.com/search/games?type=games&q=%S
  • Music
    • https://www.emp3i.co/mp3/%S.html
  • Icons
    • https://www.iconfinder.com/search/?q=%S&price=free
  • Marketplace
    • https://marketplace.secondlife.com/products/search?utf8=✓&search%5Bcategory_id%5D=&search%5Bmaturity_level%5D=GMA&search%5Bkeywords%5D=%S


Obviously use these responsibly and legally.




Additional Uses


It goes without saying that this trick can be used for single word tweaks for your favorite sites. For instance, if you use Google Drive a lot, but don’t want to type in drive.google.com all the time, just set up a keyword named “drive” with the address normally, and from there simply typing “drive” in your address bar will take you there.




Log In and Synchronize


This one is optional, but can save you a ton of time when setting up a new browser install. In your browser settings there is the option to log in and synchronize all of your settings. I highly recommend setting this up. In Google Chrome and Opera (Chromium based browsers), it’ll backup all of your bookmarks, extensions, themes, keywords, etc. When you set up a new browser install, and log in, the browser will “magically” set itself up the way you had it before – installing all of your themes, extensions, bookmarks, keywords and other settings automatically.


No manual import needed here – just sit back and watch it all work automatically.


This is such an awesome time saver that we at Andromeda Media Group are incorporating it into the ONYX land radio system by default. Because who the hell has time to keep messing with notecards and settings every time you rez a radio in Second Life?




Extensions


This is where the suggestions begin to get subjective, but I’ve found the following extensions incredibly useful for management, themes, and ease of use in Chrome, Opera and Firefox.


For the remainder of this post, we’ll be using our respective extension stores for the corresponding web browser -


1498977252_Google_Chrome https://chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions

opera icon https://addons.opera.com/en/extensions/

firefox https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/extensions/




FVD Speed Dial


The first out of the gate is FVD Speed Dial. While the built-in speed dials for Chrome and Opera are pretty good, FVD Speed Dial takes it to a whole new level with customization, organizing your speed dial bookmarks via tabs, and more.



Once you set up FVD Speed Dial, and get your dials organized, it’ll be a quick and easy task to open your most used sites.




LastPass


LastPass




I don’t know about you, but I hate remembering and typing in passwords and repetitive information to fill out forms. With LastPass as an extension, it’s a one and done deal with a master password or auto-fill option.




Tampermonkey


Tampermonkey




When it comes to websites and how they look/feel/operate, sometimes the designers just don’t get it. Or maybe you just don’t like how things are laid out to your liking? With Tampermonkey as an extension, you can use scripts which will alter how those sites look, feel or operate (and sometimes adding new functionality altogether).


Installing Tampermonkey isn’t complicated, and it’s mostly a hands-off operation. What makes it powerful though is not just that it is the backbone of scripts to alter sites but when paired with script repositories, such as Greasy Fork, you can customize your favorite sites till the cows come home.


A side note – Tampermonkey is mainly for the OCD power user that wants new features or more control over things, and the mileage will vary for each script in use.


When the scripts work, however… it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your favorite sites and customization.




Stylish


Stylish




What is Stylish you might ask? Well, it’s an extension that works a lot like Tampermonkey but mostly for the purpose of applying themes to your favorite sites. Want Google with a dark theme? Facebook with greyscale? There’s thousands of custom themes for popular sites. With Stylish, it’s also pretty simple to find, apply and change them.




Download Chrome Extension for Opera


For this next one, if you’re using Opera, then installing this extension will let you install and use (most) Chrome extensions in Opera by default. With this, you’ll be able to go through the Chrome Store as well as the Opera Store to get your extensions.


Mileage may vary, as some extensions use API specific things not supported cross browser. In which case, you can usually find the browser specific version in the corresponding store.


URL: https://addons.opera.com/en/extensions/details/download-chrome-extension-9/ 


If you’re using Firefox and don’ see the corresponding extension in your web store, just pick the extension that is a close approximation.




Mercury Reader


Mercury Reader




The Mercury Reader extension for Chrome removes ads and distractions, leaving only text and images for a clean and consistent reading view on every site.


Features:


  • Disable surrounding webpage noise and clutter with one click
  • Send To Kindle functionality
  • Adjust typeface and text size, and toggle between light or dark themes
  • Quick keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Esc for Mac users, Alt + ` for Windows users) to switch to Reader on any article page
  • Printing optimization
  • Sharing through Facebook, Twitter and Email




Pure URL


Pure URL




This add-on automatically removes all garbage like "utm_source=*" from URLs. These fields are provided for the Google Analytics and they are not a necessity.


Example of URL with garbage fields:


http://bigpicture.ru/?p=431513&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+bigpictures+%28%D0%9D%D0%9E%D0%92%D0%9E%D0%A1%D0%A2%D0%98+%D0%92+%D0%A4%D0%9E%D0%A2%D0%9E%D0%93%D0%A0%D0%90%D0%A4%D0%98%D0%AF%D0%A5%29


Pure URL:
http://bigpicture.ru/?p=431513




Wrap Up


And there you have it – some simple extensions and tweaks to make using your internet browser much faster for common tasks. These are all tested and used by myself, and most I couldn’t really do without.


Have any tweaks or extensions of your own you’d like to add? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.





Jun 3, 2017

ONYX

It’s time to set your land stream to “Epic”

 

ONYX Promo [MP 725x500]

 


 

The sim was relatively quiet that day as the land stream carried on, oblivious to whomever happened to be in earshot. My only company in the empty showroom was a strategically placed bot behind a counter attempting to reaffirm its purpose in virtual life, however inconsequential, and my friend Brian.

 

I closed my eyes for a brief moment, and when I reopened them, I was reminded that what I was seeing wasn’t some sort of practical joke.

 

“So this is it, then?” , I asked. “I mean… I expected more.”

 

Brian stood quietly beside me, acknowledging only that he, too, was laying witness to what was before us.

 

We were standing at the XANcast showroom, looking at their “best” land radios and I use best very loosely in this context because, (and let’s be honest), it was little more than a badly textured prim with a script.

 

In the corner was no better; A badly designed jukebox with flat and misaligned textures on a few prims.

 

“Why doesn’t anybody do any better in here?”, Brian finally replied.

 

I paused for a few moments before answering, “I don’t know. But I think it’s time we found out.”

 


 

Down the Rabbit Hole

 

About a week prior to this, I had been staring at my own PIONEE receiver sitting in the workshop for Andromeda Media Group and the thought occurred to me that the quality wasn’t very good. It, too, was a badly textured single prim with a script in it.

 


 

PIONEE Receiver

 

PIONEE Receiver in White – 200L$

 


 

I went looking on Marketplace for a new radio system, and was immediately struck by how little options there were. Not that you couldn’t find all manner of radio designs on marketplace to manage your land streams, but they were all very similar across the board when it came to functionality.

 

All were driven by a notecard based script that let you put all of your stations in and they would open a simple menu to let you select among them.

 

This accounted for (I’d say) about 99% of the radios available. Most were made out of prims, or a single prim badly textured; To wit, we’re talking about a picture of a real stereo slapped on a box. However, there are well-done mesh land radios and jukeboxes available… and while I had gotten my hopes up, it turned out that they, too, were running on that notecard driven system as well.

 

What surprised me more was that they were selling between 10L$ and a few hundred. After all, my old PIONEE was still listed on marketplace for about 200L$.

 

During this time, I had decided to try my hand at building my own radio to at least improve the quality and functionality over the PIONEE. The notecard driven system wasn’t too big of a deal to implement, and within an evening I had the initial reference model for what would become the ONYX land radio.

 

Of course, I did make it in prims but kept it a respectable 6 land impact and added features I hadn’t seen before as a test. When all was said and done, I had a well organized land radio that actually had ambient audio feedback for changing stations, clicking the device, and a TTS voice during setup to guide you through it. Very user friendly.

 

 

ONYX Receiver_002

But something was still bothering me about it all… why didn’t anyone make a better land radio? What was with all of these notecard driven systems? As I was mulling this over, our main genius at Andromeda Media Group took a look over the reference receiver and asked if I would like him to do a custom mesh version.

 

The answer was “Knock yourself out, Amigo.”

 

While Jon was going about the mesh aspects of the ONYX, I dug a little deeper into marketplace and found exactly three land radios that weren’t notecard driven (ignoring the Always-On brand), and it was these three which really started me down the rabbit hole.

 

If you own a land radio in Second Life, you’re probably familiar with XANcast, Trigitec and SHX. All three of these brands offer something the other radios didn’t – namely they were all driven by the Shoutcast directory and dynamically updated.

 


 

XANcast Radio 6 AboutLand Classified

 

XANcast Promo – 2017

 


 

This gave them a definite advantage in that they had access to 300+ Genres, thousands of streams, and automatically updated listings. At the time, I wasn’t aware of how much of an advantage it actually gave them, and as it turned out… the answer was a total monopoly.

 

And yet, when I went to look at them in the showrooms… the quality was piss poor at best. Even the best model offered by Xancast – the 876, had a dynamic character display on it but was mostly just a single knob put on it in prim and a box that was badly textured (yet again). This alone put the receiver at 17 prim, and for some reason… XANcast thought it was reasonable to charge 695L$ for it.

 

It wasn’t much better at either SHX or Trigitec, either. 

 

 

TrigiTec One Prim Advertising with 14 Designs  final copy

Trigitec follows the same “bad prim build” example, and the models they offer aren’t anything to call home about. Oddly enough, SHX offers similar radio designs to Trigitec – as if they are in competition only with each other.

 

Is it really just a coincidence that both SHX and Trigitec have a land radio model that is just a skull?

 

I returned to the workshop shaking my head, when I finally asked “How hard is it to build a Shoutcast enabled land radio in here, and why hasn’t anyone else done it?”

 

Jon answered succinctly, “It’s actually not too hard, you just need the API key.”

 

And that’s where things got even more interesting.

 


 

shoutcast_logo

 

 

From there, I decided to look into what was involved with obtaining a Shoutcast Partnership and that magical API Key to query their database. Immediately I ran into what was very likely the reason nobody else had made better land radios and why XANcast, Trigitec, and SHX essentially had the monopoly.

 

Reading through the Shoutcast forums, I saw post after post of discouraged developers telling their story about trying to apply for a Shoutcast API key and partnership but getting a canned response saying they aren’t issuing them at this time. This had been going on now for what appeared to be a few years at the very least.

 

Knowing that Trigitec’s last known system update was around 2014, this made a whole lot of sense as the pieces started falling into place. XANcast is probably under that premise as well, and SHX. Suddenly I realized that these three brands had effectively gotten their API keys and partnerships before Shoutcast stopped issuing them, and when Shoutcast went on extended hiatus like they did, it made it impossible (or very expensive) to build a radio in Second Life with the same abilities as those three brands.

 

  1. Shoutcast wasn’t issuing API keys or partnerships
  2. The only other option was 3rd party APIs which charged a fortune

 

Now it all started making sense.

 

They got in early, and kept their access when everyone else got locked out. No new contenders in the land radio business meant that they were effectively the monopoly among Shoutcast enabled dynamic systems in Second Life.

 

It’s a smart business move, and it worked out great for them. Normally I wouldn’t have any issue with this except for a few nagging bullet points.

 

  • They were effectively abusing their position
  • They were offering shoddy products
  • They were charging far too much*

 

This is a perfect example of bad business practices and not doing right by the customers or the Shoutcast brand which you rely on.

 

While I thought this was all incredibly shady practice, I hadn’t really committed myself to going toe-to-toe with them. I was going to just build a decent mesh receiver with some nifty options and go from there.

 

Meanwhile, Jon had mulled it all over himself and decided to build a dynamic 32 character display into the ONYX unit, and then added a color dial to change the colors. Again, still adding options that were better than a majority out there, so we weren’t worried too much.

 

Better yet, the receiver was only 5 Land Impact. While close to the reference model in prims, it had a lot more detail and functionality.

 


 

ONYX Display ANimation

 


 

It’s On Like Donkey Kong

 

The ONYX itself was coming along nicely, and so I decided the best way to launch it was to arrange for some radio commercials in-world and maybe a couple of magazine ads. I got in touch with my friend Scorpinosis Nightfire and asked if they were still running the radio station and magazine (iMoogi Radio and NuVibez).

 

He answered in affirmative and then asked, “Why, boss… what are you up to?”

 

Well, I decided to tell him what were were doing with the ONYX and that we were scouting stations to advertise on, collecting metrics and pricing so we’d know what kind of budget we would need to launch.

 

He kindly set up a meeting with Filipa over at iMoogi (she runs the place now) in which she and I sat down and started talking, and that is when the involuntary twitch kicked in.

 

It turns out that Trigitec charges for them (iMoogi) to be on their stream list (pinned to the top). It used to be 6,000L$ every 6 months, but they’ve recently decided to jack that up to 9,000L$ every 6 months arbitrarily.

 

Now, I can’t speak for any other station that may be paying Trigitec for those spots on the list, but I feel it is safe to assume they are all getting charged in the same ballpark.

 

When asked why she doesn’t just go somewhere else with that business to someplace more reasonable… her answer is what finally made me decide to flip to “total annihilation” mode with ONYX.

 

“Because there isn’t anywhere else to go. They have the monopoly.”

 


 

Unleash the Hounds!

 

Heading back to the workshop, Jon was merrily tapping away at the internal code of the new ONYX receiver on the workbench. When I explained to him the situation in detail, he went quiet.

 

I know that look he gets when he’s about to go “Beast Mode” on something, and it’s usually the same reason I go that route – because now it’s both personal and a matter of principle to stomp the competition.

 

It’s no longer a matter of “Let’s do this as a personal project for the hell of it.”

 

No, this (in the famous words of Bugs Bunny) means war.

 


 

It’s time to get serious

 


 

It didn’t take long for Jon and I to formulate a plan and set it into motion, but we both agreed that in order to do this we needed the proverbial key to the kingdom. Which is to say, somehow we needed to get a Shoutcast partnership and API key.

 

This seemed like the first impossibility standing in front of us. We both knew Shoutcast had been known to be giving canned responses and not issuing new partnerships for a few years, but while I worked out an alternative route to handle the dynamic system (3rd party API), I still thought it couldn’t hurt to at least try to convince Shoutcast to give us a fair shake.

 

So I went into it all with a full proposal, the background of Jon and I, why we felt it was necessary that we would have a Shoutcast Partnership and API key of our own, and yes… I even outlined the three brands abusing the monopoly that (ironically) Shoutcast had inadvertently created.

 

I hit send and kept my expectations low.

 

Meanwhile, Jon continued working on features for the ONYX – adding a functional front panel with buttons. There’s something you don’t normally see on any radio in Second Life… the buttons actually work and aren’t just there for show.

 

While not all of them work, a majority do what they say: 8 Preset buttons on the front, Forward and Back Tuning, Display Button, Power/Standby and at some point Volume – though to be frank, the Volume just controls the volume of the unit and not your land stream volume. Because the ONYX has sound built in for various things, the volume switch will control the volume of that.

 


 

Snapshot_016

 

ONYX Front Panel Buttons


 

Obviously the Bass, Treble and Balance knobs are for show. We’re good, but we aren’t miracle workers (usually).

 

After the weekend came and went, Jon asked if Shoutcast had gotten back to me yet, and the answer was (unfortunately) “No.”

 

We both sorta wondered what was taking so long with them, because if it was a canned response, it should have been simple. Of course, I got the response the next day (Tuesday) and instead of a canned response… what I received was actually an email from the Shoutcast team issuing us our API Key and partnership, and asking us to let them know when the product is ready to launch.

 

 


Armed and Dangerous

 

Forwarding off the information to Jon that Shoutcast had sent me, we were now officially in a position to be on par with the top three receivers in Second Life, but if you know nothing else about myself and Jon, know this:

 

Good enough isn’t good enough.

 

Why settle for only matching the competition? Might as well go for broke and add features that nobody else seems to have at all, right?

 

If you have a dynamic 32 character display on the unit, why not

 

  • Include a VU meter
  • Digital clock as a display option
  • Why not add a Sleep Timer or a Scheduled Timer
  • Why not have options that would be useful to venues in Second Life like Guest Stream Management
  • and much more…

 

There’s a host of options that can (and likely will) be added for launch, most of which aren’t on any other system (Universal Profiles).

 

But I think the most important take-away is simply a commitment to better design overall.

 

ONYX - Main Menu

In the bigger picture, that is the real focus. Why have a messy menu layout (XANcast, Trigitec, etc) when you clearly don’t need to? That’s just lazy design, if you ask me.

 

So obviously we are putting as much thought into the menu layout as with everything else. We want it to be clean and accessible without any clutter.

 

Attention to details like this are really what make a system like ONYX shine.

 


 

When Will Then Be Now?

 

In the famous scene from Spaceballs, Dark Helmet asks “When will then be now?” when looking at Mr. Rental. I suppose the same question could be asked of us concerning the release of ONYX.

 

When will then be now?

 

To which the pat answer is always -

 

Soon.

 


 

When will then be now!?

 


 

ONYX is in development and will be for a little while longer. We want to make absolutely certain it is rock solid (pun intended), has a bunch of features we know you’re going to love, and also that it sufficiently is able to trounce XANCast, Trigitec and SHX in the land radio department.

 

When the ONYX launches, trust us… you’ll know.

 

Because it’ll likely be the last land radio you’ll ever need.

 


Feb 14, 2017

Games People Play

A brief look into the world of BDSM

 

BDSM Girl Cuffed [Banner]

 

 


 

What is it about the allure of fantasy which piques our interest as adults? Whether we’re talking about cosplay or something a lot more complex, the underlying story is still the same every time.

 

And yet, when we look at the world of BDSM in the context of Second Life we more often find there are discrepancies involved with the understanding of the lifestyle in and of itself. That isn’t to say these stereotypes and misunderstandings do not exist from the real world, (and we’ll cover that shortly), in the virtual world it would seem that they are exaggerated even further while intentionally focusing on only the stereotypes.

 

For this wonderful Valentine’s Day, I would like to focus on a relationship centered post – but because I deal heavily in virtual worlds, it couldn’t be simple like a vanilla approach. After all, if you’ve read this blog long enough, you’d know by now that I absolutely love taking the side roads into the less traveled.

 

That being said, as the title implies, this post is about the Games People Play or; What a D/s and BDSM lifestyle actually look like versus the stereotypes. It goes without saying that we’ll be covering some basics as well as the difference between BDSM and Abuse. So if you’re a bit squeamish, or are easily “triggered”, now would be a good time to change the channel.

 

This is (after all) an adult oriented post.

 


 

Beginnings

 

On the surface, one may believe that the topic of D/s and BDSM is something of a mismatch for this blog (not to mention me personally). But that simply isn’t the case.

 

When I set out to transition from a Nidus focused blog into a virtual worlds inclusive space, part of that was with the intention to explore a wider swath of the virtual worlds community overall. As you and I both know, alternative lifestyles and virtual worlds may as well be synonymous, since there is little better opportunity to explore such things than through the interaction of avatars.

 

In the context of Second Life, let’s begin on the premise that D/s and BDSM within this context should be considered the “training wheels” of the lifestyle.

 

Now, that isn’t meant to belittle whatever dynamic you may be a part of. Instead, what I am getting at is that due to the context of interactions within this virtual space, there is a lot lost in translation.

 

You get much of the mental aspects, but therein is the downfall. D/s and BDSM are predominantly tactile experiences.

 

When it comes to me personally, I’ve been in the lifestyle for roughly nine years and running – though I had the benefit of getting into the lifestyle as a real life tangible long before I bothered with the virtual world side of things.

 

Of course, one may be asking:

 

But if Second Life and alternative lifestyles are nearly synonymous, then why did you make it a point to avoid the lifestyle in virtual worlds?

 

The answer may surprise you.

 

See, it actually had nothing at all to do with professional involvement. As most people already know about me, I really couldn’t care less what the opinions of others for me actually are. I’m usually straightforward and matter of fact. An open book (so to speak).

 

So if not the professional or public stigma, what gives?

 

The problem all these years was simply that what I saw in the alternative lifestyle circles inherent in virtual worlds played more to the stereotypes than to an actual D/s or BDSM dynamic. Often times masking the dishonesty, manipulation and abusive behaviors of pretend “Dominants” and the insecure, co-dependent, damaged goods known as “submissives”.

 

This (I believe) is why D/s and BDSM have that negative stigma. When somebody is being genuine and real about the whole dynamic, willing to sit down and have an open and honest discussion from a standpoint of common sense and logic… well, you tend to get a very different viewpoint about these alternative lifestyles.

 


 

The Wrong Way…

 

There’s this ongoing saying in the D/s BDSM world inherent in Second Life that “There is no right or wrong way to do this”, but for somebody looking at this from the perspective of a real life Dominant, I have to raise an eyebrow and laugh outright for the absolute line of bullshit that is. Not only is it a line of bullshit but it is also potentially dangerous to people who aren’t informed otherwise.

 

Is there a right and wrong way to practice breath play? Yes, because if you fuck up, somebody is dead. Ask David Carradine.

 

Allow me to paraphrase:

 


 

 

Kill BillActor David Carradine was found dead in the closet of a Bangkok hotel room Thursday with a cord wrapped around his neck and genitals, leading Thai police to suspect his death was not a suicide but an accident resulting from dangerous sex practices.

 

Carradine, 72, best known for his role in the 1970s television drama "Kung Fu," was found by a chamber maid at Bangkok's Park Nai Lert Hotel naked and dead, slumped in a closet with cords bound and connecting his neck and his genitals, Bangkok police said.

 

Citing Porntip Rojanasunan, the director of the Central Institute of Forensic Science, told the Bangkok Post that the actor may have died from auto-erotic asphyxiation, the practice of cutting off one's air supply to heighten sexual pleasure. Carradine had been in Thailand since May 29 to shoot his latest film, "Stretch."

 


 

The running joke about “real” Doms and their Dom Hats and Belt Buckles… then the “there is no right or wrong way to be a Dominant or submissive” to justify what extensively would be abusive/victim behavior is appalling to me.

 

The one thing I would impart on those looking at the lifestyle for the first time is simply that while there are infinite variations, there actually is a right and wrong way to do anything… including everything inherent in the lifestyle.

 

When I speak about “true” Dominants, my differentiation is between Dominant and Domineering. Traits inherent in an honest, trustworthy, respectful, and consensual Dominant – in short: Somebody who exhibits leadership qualities.

 

A submissive isn’t a door mat. He/she has a choice in the matter and despite what any Dominant may tell them, they are equal in the lifestyle.

 

It is a lifestyle that is entered into out of mutual respect, consent and most importantly by choice.

 

In the bigger picture, there absolutely is a right and wrong way to do things in this lifestyle, and anyone who tells your different is going to get you permanently hurt or killed. The line of “no right or wrong way” is the sort of thing you would expect to hear out of one or two types of people:

 

  1. Somebody who was told this themselves when being taught
  2. Somebody who is manipulative and abusive looking for victims

 

While we can say such things as SSC and RACK exist as acronyms, they are only baselines as a reminder. Safe, Sane, Consensual and Risk Aware, Consensual Kink are pretty much predominant mantras but there are others. The reason for this is because people in the lifestyle can’t seem to agree on what is safe or sane when it’s time to play so many people just “wing it”.

 

My general definition of safe and sane may not be the same as yours, but it goes something like:

 

What is safe and sane relies merely on understanding the disincentive to cause permanent or debilitating damage (physical or mental) to your partner including death, but also to include personal life and family, jeopardize their wellbeing or the wellbeing of their friends and or family, or destroy or cause harm to their career.

 

With the exception of scarification or branding, which in itself falls on the more extreme end of the scale in this lifestyle, the rest holds true. You don’t want to break bones, scar or disfigure your partner, or cause permanent injury, compromise their health (physical or mental) or cause death in the process.

 

What actions which are taken during a scene may appear as though they are out of control or “going too far”, but (and this goes back to our right and wrong way), a well balanced Dominant will always be in control of themselves and the situation at hand – every stroke, every decision is well calculated and thought out beforehand. It is our responsibility to actually know when you (as a submissive) have had enough and act in your best interest.

 

That isn’t to say that a Dominant isn’t acting in their own best interest as well. Some things are purely for the satisfaction of the Dominant – though I fall back to the overarching definition of safe and sane.

 

In order to understand this differentiation better, let’s take a look at “true” Dominants versus the pretenders.

 


The One True Morty

 

The biggest misconception about the lifestyle is that it is a disempowerment of a submissive in totality or in part. A dominant will never be wrong, always call the shots, and nothing is too far. A submissive, therefore, comes into the lifestyle believing that in order to be a “good” submissive they have to do whatever they are told without question.

 

If anything, this line of thinking is the biggest load of bullshit ever perpetrated in the lifestyle and is responsible for causing some of the worst situations imaginable. We ultimately do a disservice to submissives by telling them this and reinforcing these horrible behaviors.

 

Even when entering into a TPE (Total Power Exchange), the rules of engagement are meticulously discussed and agreed upon before anything is committed to, and even then the submissive has the right to use a safeword when they’ve had enough. Which is to say, the parties involved always are in control of the situation.

 

So when you see a dynamic whereby the submissive is “always doing what she is told” like a “good girl”, it is with express understanding that the submissive and Dominant have agreed to these interactions ahead of time. Even then… if the Dominant is going too far, breaking those agreed upon boundaries, etc, the submissive always has the right to refuse service.

 

After all, if you don’t believe somebody is of sound mind or body to be leading you, then you obviously would revoke their right to do so. Even with the TPE “slave”, he or she has outlined boundaries well in advance and only gives that near total control out of trust and respect which has been well earned by the “Master”.

 

I believe this is a point to consider when you are encountering self-entitled “Masters” in the virtual world… they often believe that they have control over every submissive they meet and act as thought they do. Of course, we know this isn’t true because the submissive never did consent to their control or to be in their service. In short, “Dominants” like this are simply ego driven and delusional. 

 

More to the point, by perpetrating the lie of inequality, we empower predators covering as Dominants who are using the lifestyle as cover to justify their actions.

 

When I first entered into the lifestyle years ago, I had a predominantly negative view of it all merely because there were so many negative examples of dysfunction that I saw in the lifestyle. But once I had things better explained to me by my own mentors, and that what I was seeing were toxic people masquerading as Dominants, preying on submissives, and that there is a more noble cause to being a Dominant… well, it suddenly made more sense.

 

Allow me to pass on a little bit of wisdom that I was bestowed years ago when I first got into this lifestyle, and hopefully you’ll understand better.

 


 

Leadership

 

It is said that a natural born leader embodies a set of characteristics which dictate how they act and react to their surroundings and circumstances. They are individuals which inspire others to follow their lead through practice, patience and confidence. What makes them different from other “Dominants” in Second Life is that they embody the leadership role realistically.

 

Effectively speaking, when I first got into the lifestyle, I was lucky enough to have been mentored by individuals who had their heads on straight – each giving me invaluable insight and advice not only about how to be a respectable Dominant but (not surprisingly) how to be a better leader in all things. They instilled in me the confidence and drive to strive to be somebody that others look up to as their milestone.

 

Others may look up to me, or use me as the litmus test for others to aspire to not because I am better than anyone else but because I strive to be better than I was yesterday. I’m not in competition with you or anyone else, but instead I am competing with myself. In the end, I am looking to lead by example.

 

Let’s go over some of the basic qualities inherent in leadership roles:

 

  • Focus
    • You aren’t easily distracted from your responsibilities and goals. You can set those goals, manage and maintain the course to achieve them.

 

  • Confidence
    • There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Being confident comes from a past understanding of your performance and ability to follow through, it is something which resonates with others as self-evident. A leader instills confidence and ‘followership’ by having a clear vision, showing empathy and being a strong coach.

 

  • Transparency
    • As a leader, the only way I know how to engender trust and buy-in from others is to be 100 percent authentically me — open, sometimes flawed, but always passionate about the tasks at hand. It has allowed me the freedom to be fully present and consistent. They know what they’re getting at all times. No surprises.

 

  • Integrity
    • The difference between needing to be right and doing what is right. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on others, and the rest takes care of itself.

 

  • Inspiration
    • Others gave me great inspiration and fantastic advice, and I was fueled by my beliefs and an internal drive and passion. That’s why I’m always willing to offer motivation — to friends or strangers. I know the power of inspiration, and if someone can stand on my shoulders to achieve greatness, I’m more than willing to help them up.

 

  • Innovation
    • Innovation is always seeking to better yourself and others. You are looking for better ways to accomplish things, how to better one self or another in the process.

 

  • Patience
    • Patience is really courage that’s meant to test your commitment to your cause. The path to great things is always tough, but the best leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course. Having patience is fundamental to being a leader in that one must have the innate ability to see the forest for the trees (big picture) and understand both short and long term goals.

 

  • Stoicism
    • It’s inevitable: We’re going to find ourselves in some real shit situations, whether they’re costly mistakes, unexpected failures or unscrupulous enemies. Stoicism is, at its core, accepting and anticipating this in advance, so that you don’t freak out, react emotionally and aggravate things further. Train our minds, consider the worst-case scenarios and regulate our unhelpful instinctual responses — that’s how we make sure shit situations don’t turn into fatal resolutions.

 

  • Authenticity
    • It’s true that imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, but not when it comes to leadership — and every great leader in my life has led from a place of authenticity. Learn from others, read autobiographies of your favorite leaders, pick up skills along the way... but never lose your authentic voice, opinions and, ultimately, how you make decisions. Being authentic is akin to: Be honest in your dealings. With others and yourself.

 

  • Open-Mindedness
    • One of the biggest myths is that good leaders act with dogged determination to stick to their goals no matter what. It’s nonsense. The truth is, leaders need to keep an open mind while being flexible, and adjust if necessary. Your commitment should be to invest, develop and maintain great relationships.

 

  • Decisiveness
    • ‘Make the call fast, make the call loud and don’t look back.’ In marginal situations, a decisively made wrong call will often lead to better long-term results and relationships than a wishy-washy decision that turns out to be right. The ability to make decisions clearly isn’t based on not knowing something, but instead comes from a place of expertise in a given field in which you can reliably make judgement calls on the fly. That being true, however, does not mean being close minded or refusing to defer decisions when you should instead be expanding your understanding further in order to make better decisions. In short: Know what you know, but most importantly, Know what you don’t know and make it a point to learn.

 

  • Personableness
      • We all provide something unique to this world, and we can all smell when someone isn’t being real. The more you focus on genuine connections with people, and look for ways to help them—rather than just focus on what they can do for you—the more likable and personable you become. This isn’t required to be a great leader, but it is to be a respected leader, which can make all the difference.

     

    • Empowerment
      • You seek to elevate others and delegate tasks which can and will allow them to achieve the best that they can be, applying their unique strengths to the given situation rather than their weaknesses. You seek to work on their weaknesses in private while allowing their strengths to shine in public.

     

    • Positivity
      • In order to achieve greatness, you must create a culture of optimism. There will be many ups and downs, but the prevalence of positivity will keep things going. But be warned: This requires fearlessness. You have to truly believe in making the impossible possible.

     

    • Generosity
      • My main goal has always been to offer the best of myself. We all grow—as a collective whole—when I’m able to build up others and help them grow as individuals.

     

    • Persistence
      • All great things take time, and you must persist no matter what. That’s what it takes to be a leader: willingness to go beyond where others will stop.

     

    • Insightfulness
      • It takes insight every day to be able to separate that which is really important from all the incoming fire. It’s like wisdom—it can be improved with time, if you’re paying attention, but it has to exist in your character. It’s inherent. When your insight is right, you look like a genius. And when your insight is wrong, you look like an idiot.

     

    • Communication
      • If people aren’t aware of your expectations, and they fall short, it’s really your fault for not expressing it to them. In a leadership role, whether it is in business or BDSM, my mantra has always been: I am only as good as you keep me informed, and you are only as good as I keep you informed. Otherwise, we make reasonable decisions based on bad information which in turn creates bad decisions and actions.

     

    • Accountability
      • It’s a lot easier to assign blame than to hold yourself accountable. But if you want to know how to do it right, take note: When you screw up, take responsibility and then go above and beyond to make it right. Own your own actions and strive to elevate yourself above the pitfalls of the blame game. This is accountability. It’s not only taking responsibility; it’s taking the next step to make it right.

     

    • Restlessness
      • It takes real leadership to find the strengths within each person and then be willing to look outside to plug the gaps. The “outside looking in” approach is a willingness to offer that constructive criticism and offer solutions to help inspire and guide others to a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. This mentality also requires that we be honest with ourselves first and foremost, lest we use self-delusion to stunt our personal growth and potential.

     

     


     

    BDSM versus Abuse

     

    Now that’s we’ve taken a look at some of the qualities inherent in a leader, it should become obvious now that many people you interact with (including those pretend Dominants) actually exhibit the opposite of those qualities. This is why they are often referred to as “Toxic” Doms. More importantly, however, they are toxic people in general.

     

    In the D/s and BDSM lifestyle, these are people who are “fake” Dominant or (more aptly) Domineering archetypes.

     

    • Selfish vs Selfless
    • Opaque vs Transparent (Dishonest vs Honest)
    • Disrespectful vs Respectful
    • Govern through fear instead of Respect
    • Arrogant vs Confident

     

    I could go on for an entire article just on this, but to be perfectly clear, we’re talking about somebody who is truly in a leadership role versus a dictator.

     

    The latter will more often than not be self destructive and toxic to others. Manipulative, isolating, antagonistic, threatening, controlling and so on.

     

    Of course, the obvious comes up when making these lists out:

     

    Isn’t the point of being in a BDSM or D/s dynamic as a Dominant to be controlling?

     

    Well, not entirely. Context here is king (or queen).

     

    What a Dominant in the lifestyle really does is follow the consensual lead of the submissive. As a Dominant, you are fulfilling a role of responsibility to a submissive to help them attain certain things out of the dynamic – whether it is self-fulfillment, betterment or just to get their ass whacked while tied up.

     

    Ultimately, and I believe this is sorely overlooked, a Dominant is listening to their submissive’s wants and needs in that negotiation, and then accepting  the responsibility of helping that submissive achieve those needs. It just so happens that such wants and needs have a positive effect for the Dominant in reciprocal fashion.

     

    A Domineering individual achieves those ends through physical and emotional manipulation, fear based repercussion, isolation, antagonistic and intimidating behaviors. In short, they are abusive individuals. Either physically or mentally (maybe both).

     

    Now, the end-all to this is a simple declaration:

     

    The difference between BDSM and Abuse is Consent.

     

    If you didn’t agree to it, it’s abusive.

     

    The reason I say this is because there are plenty of circumstances in D/s and BDSM where those Domineering behaviors are explicitly sought out and consented to by submissives of sound mind and body. Therefore, what looks like abuse from the outside looking in could simply be an agreed upon dynamic to the untrained eye. It all stems on that one lynchpin of consent.

     

    In the grand scheme of things, the bigger issue among the lifestyle in Second Life (and sometimes real life) is that the context of consent isn’t there, and then we have submissives who are finding themselves in abuse situations thinking it is healthy BDSM… not that something is wrong with their partner but instead that something is wrong with them and their inability to “serve”.

     

    The goal of a “true” Dominant versus a Domineer is to elevate a submissive and help them achieve their goals. A Domineer will intentionally try to break a submissive mentally and physically to deter and prohibit their happiness and fulfillment.

     

    Key Elements of BDSM

     

    • Communication
    • Consent
    • Trust
    • Respect

     

    Key Elements of Abuse

     

    • Physical/Emotional Damage
    • Fear of Partner*
    • No Communication or Consent
    • No Trust or Respect

     

    * Keep in mind the distinction between fearing your partner and fearing pain. For example, you may flinch when being spanked despite having asked to be spanked, and you may enjoy being spanked. However, you trust your partner to respect your boundaries and do not fear them – rather the opposite: You trust them enough to take the responsibility you have given and not break that trust.

     

     

     


     

    Dominant as Life Coach

     

    A lot of what people believe concerning BDSM as a lifestyle revolves predominantly around kinky sex as the generalization. Unfortunately, this is a very misguided belief and more often than not fails to characterize what BDSM and D/s is all about.

     

    When I first got into this lifestyle, my mentors also explained to me a simple analogy as the baseline of being a Dominant:

     

    In effect, you are a life coach. Your responsibility to a submissive is to help identify needs, wants and together reach those goals. You lead through guidance and the submissive will follow through. A submissive should naturally wish to please and follow through, because they respect your judgement – and not because they fear you. They have taken the role and handed you the reigns because they believe you have what it takes to guide them on that journey.

     

    With this premise, both should be able to find genuine happiness with themselves and each other.

     

     

    Tony Robbins is an excellent Leader

     

    From a baseline perspective, BDSM may encompass no sex at all and be entirely non-sexual in service and direction. Take the “service” submissive for example:

     

    If you’re simply into the lifestyle as service only, there isn’t always a sexual aspect to this. You could merely find fulfillment as a glorified personal assistant. Maybe a homemaker archetype? These are types of submission just the same and often cited in religious circles (Christianity also).

     

    At the core of it all is something I believe many forget or simply ignore, which is the need for discipline.

     

     

    Discipline

     

     

    When we speak of discipline (for the sake of this writing), we are speaking of The controlled behavior  aspect and not the act of disciplining another person for correction. In this context, think of the etiquette and presentation of an individual.

     

    There are many ways to instill discipline in another person, through corporal actions or more intellectual means. Personally, I avoid corporal punishment tactics because I am more of a life coach mentality as a Dominant. The punishment or correction (repercussion) is aligned in such a manner whereby it becomes self-evident and does not require reinforcement.

     

    This might vary from dynamic to dynamic depending on what was agreed upon and personal styles, so keep that in mind.

     

    That being said, a service submissive may look no different than a vanilla relationship, and more to the point a BDSM relationship may look quite similar to a well balanced vanilla relationship outside of the bedroom/dungeon.

     

    After all, BDSM isn’t always about sex. So you can kindly ignore the glorified porn videos capitalizing on BDSM… those situations are about as common as normal porn video plotlines. It is (after all) about playing out a fantasy or ideal.

     

    The big picture is that two (or more) consenting adults have found a dynamic which makes them happy together.

     

    But what is happiness?

     

    Well, in the words of the famous Anthony Robbins:

     

    If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

     

    When we are making progress and improving, we’re happy.

    When we aren’t, we tend to be miserable.

     

    Interestingly enough, we can then say that (in spite of the kinks and taboos), BDSM and D/s are the practice of adults in a relationship dynamic (sexual or non-sexual) which is meant to bring happiness and fulfillment to the parties involved.

     

    Of course, that is where we can say – and how you go about getting there is varied and there is no right or wrong way.

     

    So long as we understand the happy, healthy, safe and sane methods to reach those goals – what you will find is that in the bigger picture, BDSM and D/s are far more practical and disciplined than you might have thought.

     

    In the bigger picture, we are exploring amazing things about each other with dynamics and at an elevated level of trust and honesty that becomes required in order to partake in this lifestyle without causing lasting emotional and physical damage to another human being.

     

    Overall, what BDSM is about is realizing a better self with the help of another.

     

    You can take out the kinks and leave out the sex… and you’d still have a lot of parallels with BDSM mentality. Even if you know that those four letters stand for… now (hopefully) you know what a monumental amount of good it can be applied to.

     

    And of course, there’s some kinky sex involved depending on who you’re with.

     


     

    Epilogue

     

    For the past few years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to lead discussions regularly in this lifestyle at a myriad of locations in Second Life. As of the new year, I had made the conscious decision to take a step back from those circles and not lead discussions for awhile. The biggest reason to this decision revolved mostly around the alarming drama and abusive situations I’ve noticed in various groups in-world.

     

    There is a lot of misinformation and (unfortunately) a lot of predatory individuals leaving a trail of abused people in their wake. I may in the future decide to return to that discussion circuit but for now I am enjoying a semi-retirement from all of that with my girl.