Region Access Changes – Who Gets In?

Image Source: http://www.darrickbynum.com

Earlier this week, I caught a blog post by Inara Pey about changes that Linden Lab will be rolling out for region access.

Basically, the number of avatars who can access a region has increased.  The amount of the increase depends on the type of region.  A full region will increase by 10%.  So if you have a full region (usually 100 avatar limit), that limit will now be 110 avatars.

There is a caveat, however. The extra 10% of avatars are limited to Premium members.  I happen to be a Premium member, so this is a nice perk.

It immediately made me wonder about access to events (shopping and dance events came to mind first).  If there is a full region dance event, for example, what does access then look like?  Normally, once the 100 avi limit is reached, everyone would get a ‘region full’ notice.

Now, however, it appears that if the limit is 100, it will work a bit differently.  100 avatars can still get in.  But the limit is actually now 110, with that extra reserved for Premium members.  So if you are not premium, once there are 100 avis on the sim, you’ll get the ‘region full’ notice.  But if you are a Premium member and there are only 100 people on the sim, you’ll be able to get in.

I can see how this would be frustrating to people who are not Premium members, but this is a nice perk for those of us who pay to be Premium members.

You can read more details about the changes in Inara Pey’s article linked below, as well as an article from Ciaran Laval here.

One other thing that I wondered about was regions where the limit has been lowered, as often happens with popular dance events.  According to Ciaran, if you have lowered the limit (say to 50 from 100 on a full region), then LL will automatically assign 10% of the limit to Premium members.  Which means that the limit for non-Premium members will be 45 avis, with the other 10% of the 50 avi limit (5 avis) assigned to Premium members only. Something to keep in mind if/when you are setting limits for your events.

Inara’s article link:  Lab announces improved region capacity and access in Second Life | Inara Pey: Living in a Modem World

Advertisements

Announcing The Kat & Mouse School of Performing Arts!

Kat&Mouse SOPA Logo WhiteThat’s right – I’ve finally taken the leap and started the Kat & Mouse School of Performing Arts (SOPA).  😀

I have long wanted to help other dancers acquire skills to allow them to advance in their performance dance careers.  Dance in SL can be extremely intimidating to new performers and often even experienced performers have difficulty finding the time or place to learn advanced skills.

Because I know that time is a precious commodity (in RL and SL), I have purposely designed my curriculum with that in mind.  Most of the courses are only one session and should last approximately one hour.  My intention is that students can come to a class, learn a skill, and then immediately apply that skill to their dancing.

I am starting out by offering some basic courses, but I will be adding intermediate and advanced courses, including some classes on using the Artiste Suite.  Initial course offerings include Basic Choreography, Basic Movers (requires the SpotOn Choreography Designer), Basic Set Building, Basic Costuming, and Basic Lighting/FX.

Classes begin on October 4, 2015.  Classes will be held at the Kat & Mouse Theater on Sundays at 2pm SLT.  You can join the Kat & Mouse group or hit up the subscriber at the theater to stay informed.  Click here to visit the Course Listings page and sign up for classes.

A little background on me:

I am an educator in RL, and I have been teaching since 2004.  I have taught at both the high school and university level, so I am familiar with learners of varying abilities.  I suppose my RL occupation has led to my interest in teaching in SL. 🙂

I have been dancing in SL since 2009 and have danced in many different troupes during that time.  I started out as a ball-warmer, then moved to chorus girl, and then solo performer.  I have done solo routines, routines with 20+ dancers, and everything in between. I am familiar with many different dance tools, including the SpotOn suite of products, the Barre, the HUDDLES, and the Artiste Suite.

I hope you join me on my new adventure!  I would love to help you learn the skills you need to take your performance dance to the next level.  😀

If you have any questions, just ask.  I look forward to seeing you in class!

MJ’s Burlesque Review

MJ’s Burlesque Review is a venue near and dear to my heart.

I danced there for a while, and I absolutely adore the 3 ladies who are the heart of it – MJ, Nancy, and Zed.

MJ’s is on an adult sim and the shows are geared toward adult audiences, which may keep some people from attending.

While understandable, it’s a shame, because they have some of the best shows I’ve ever seen on the grid.

If you missed the show on Friday, mark your calendars and be sure to attend the encore performance on Sunday – 2pm SLT at MJ’s Burlesque.

MJ’s has recently started having guest performers, and this week the guest is Shadow Tarber, director of Shadows Silhouettes.

MJs 1The show started out with a performance by MJ herself, a sort of ‘behind the scenes’ look at burlesque.

One of the things I like about MJ’s is that they emote during their routines.

While the acts are able to stand alone, I always appreciate emotes, especially when they add to the story of the performance.

I also appreciate the little touches they add to make their routines seem more realistic.

Using the Artiste system, for example, MJ made it appear as if the trap door in the floor lifted and she was raised to the stage from below.

And I love the fabulous over-the-top headpiece in this routine. 😀

MJs 2After MJ was Nancy, also known as Naughty Martini.

Nancy is my hands-down favorite performer and I make it a point to attend her shows if at all possible.

I would love to be able to pick her brain apart and understand how her creative spark works. 😛

This set was to Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin,’ but it was a slow, ballad-like rendition of the song (which I loved and will be buying as soon as I’m done writing this!).

As you can see, her sets are always visually stunning.

MJs 3The starry night, the smoke, the clouds – and nestled among them, a fragile angel.

The angel is blindfolded, and having been released from her cage, exploring the unknown and unseen world around her.

The set and costumes matched the tone of the song perfectly.

I also love how Nancy takes pieces – of costumes, of songs, of sets, whatever – that I have seen, and then uses them in different and creative ways.

The color palette of this routine is an example of how Nancy sees her routine as a whole, in addition to the all the little details.

A true performance artist.

After Nancy was this week’s guest artist, Shadow Tarber.

MJs 4Shadow did a cute routine dressed as Smurfette.

I love the little Smurf pasties she’s sporting in this pic.

Unfortunately for me, my computer was giving me fits and some of the pieces of her set didn’t rez for me. 😦

I’m told that there were cute little moving smurfs perched on top of the mushrooms.

After trying to kick my computer and SL into submission, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to continue taking photos at the performance.

Following Shadow, MJ was up again, with a smoking hot performance as a demoness from hell.

The set was amazing (though definitely adult), but due to my computer issues, I didn’t manage to catch a snap of it. 😦

MJs 5MJ’s hot performance must have melted whatever gremlins were plaguing me, because I was able to snap a few pics of the last routine, another fantastic set from Nancy.

This picture is yet another example of why Nancy is one of the best performers in SL.

This is the opening scene of her last routine, where she is a female bounty hunter searching for her prey.

I love all the details – the western font of the text, the saguaro cactus, the skeleton, the dust blowing as she enters.

MJs 6And, of course, her costume is fabulous – the epitome of a sexy bounty hunter.

I love the sign above the undertaker’s door – it’s the little details like this which make Nancy’s performances a must-see.

If you can go see the show on Sunday – do!

My pictures don’t do any of the performers justice – you need to see all this fabulousness for yourself. 😀

If you can’t make the show on Sunday, be sure to join their group or hit up their subscriber so you can stay updated on their latest performances.

You’ll thank me!! 😀

Second Life Render Cost and Limits

Kay has a REALLY good post about render weight. Image Source:  avataric.wordpress.com
Image Source: avataric.wordpress.com

This post was inspired by someone asking in a group how/if alphas, shine, and glow contributed to lag.

I had recently been researching some other topics and had come across a page in the wiki about mesh/rendering weight costs.

In fact, I had been doing some testing on my avatar with render weight, because I seem to be wearing more and more mesh lately.

With a mesh body, mesh head, mesh hands and feet, mesh hair, mesh clothes, mesh shoes, mesh jewelry – it’s endless.

Though I have a decent computer, I try to be mindful of others who might not.

When I attend dance shows or crowded events, I try to be as low-cost (render weight-wise) as I can.

I’ve even started adding the render cost of items to my LOTD posts.

It’s interesting to see how much items ‘cost’ – some I would think were heavy turned out not to be, and vice versa.

Render Weight Basics
800 ARC
I seem to have misplaced my hair. 😦

Your basic avatar (wearing eyes, skin, shape, and hairbase – all required items) should be 1000 ARC.

I got mine to 800 (there’s a note on the Wiki about some baked textures having a -200 score, but I’m not entirely clear on what that means or how it works).

However, I was surprised to see how much some ‘additions’ to items can affect their render weight.

There is a base cost for an item, but then you have to add in ‘multipliers’ based on certain features.

If you make an item ‘shiny,’ for example, it will multiply the render weight of the item by 1.6.

Glow is 1.5 and flexi is x5!

This Can’t Be True, Can It?

The question about these render weight factors was asked in a rather large clothing template group, and I was surprised by some of the responses after the render weight wiki page was shared.

Someone said, ‘Don’t pay too much attention to those.  They’re just ‘guidelines,’ not rules.”

Really?

Another person commented that the page couldn’t be right, because it listed alphas as x4, and “alphas make things invisible, so there’s no work for the computer to do.”

If you want to check your avatar render weight, go to Advanced > Performance Tools > Show Render Weight for Avatars (if you use FS).

I try to stay in the green (around 20,000) if I am going someplace laggy.

I’ve found that most jewelry has a pretty high render weight, so I tend not to wear jewelry a lot anymore, except for photos.

(Don’t forget to remove all those pesky scripts from things like hair/jewelry/shoes – those can add to lag as well.)

Kay over at Avataric has some really good posts about render weights, including the one featuring the picture above.

Should You Care?

Why should you care about render weights?

You don’t have to, of course.

But if you spend time dressing up your avatar and want others to see you in all your glory, you may want to, especially since LL is working on new tools that will let people set a baseline for which avatars will render and which will appear as ‘jelly babies,’ as Nalates Urriah termed them.

So if your avatar has a 100K+ render weight, and I have my preferences set to less than that, I will only see you as a colored blob.

Probably NOT the look most of us are going for. 😛

Limits
avatarattachpoints
Image Source: virtualneko.com

There have also been a few changes regarding limits in SL that you may or may not have heard about.

Originally, you could only wear one item for each layer (shirt, pants, etc.).

Then the option to ‘add’ items was added, allowing you to wear up to 5 items on each layer, with a total limit of 60 layers.

Additionally, you could attach a number of items to your avatar, but could only attach so many to any one attachment point.

Currently, according to the wiki, you can now wear 60 layers total, but the 5 item limit per layer has been removed.

You can also wear up to 38 avatar attachments (including HUDs), but you can now wear all 38 on one attachment point (if you wish).

I’m not sure why you would need to wear 60 layers of anything or put 38 attachments all on one point, but there you go. 🙂

(Note – you must always wear a shape, skin, eyes, and hairbase; however, only one of each is allowed.)

Takeaways

As I said, I am trying to be more conscious of my render cost.

One of my ‘to-do’ items is to go back through my inventory and get rid of really high render cost items that I don’t really need/use.

Or at least box them up. 😀

(Sadly, some 40-50K+ shoes may be getting binned.  But then I have an excuse to go shoe shopping, right?!)

As I acquire new items (and/or use them in LOTD posts), I am trying to keep track of which designers have low render weight items.

I’ve even seen a few designers putting the render cost on their vendor ads, which I love.

That way I can know the render cost BEFORE I purchase the item rather than after.

And now that I’m wearing sooo much mesh, it’s nice to know that I no longer have to worry about where everything attaches.

I’ve run into issues with that before, since so many mesh items are/were made to attach to the right hand.

Making outfits could get complicated. 🙂

I didn’t like mesh much at first, but it has grown on me.

Indeed, it’s getting harder to find non-mesh items these days.

Be an informed consumer, but as always – caveat emptor!

Tips To Help Grow Your Blog

GrowYourBlog
Image Source: http://www.skipprichard.com

When I started blogging, I just knew that I wanted to write.

With sites like WordPress and Blogspot, it’s easy.

Create an account, log in, and start blogging!

Then, like everything else, it turns out there’s actually work involved.  -.-

I don’t only have to worry about topics to write about and writing well, I have to worry about adding images, sizing images, page load times, increasing traffic, links, pingbacks, SEO, alt tags, descriptions, categories, tags, slugs – the list is endless.

It’s all a little overwhelming when you first start.

Thankfully, you don’t have to know everything. 😀

A few months ago, Becky over at SL Blogger Support started writing a series of articles aimed at helping bloggers to become better at blogging.

Many of the steps I already knew, but I had gotten lazy and wasn’t paying attention.

Niche

The first article was about finding a ‘niche’ for your blog.

There are literally millions of blogs, so finding that niche can help you find readers.

I’m still in the process of defining and refining my niche – just asking some very basic questions about my blog made me realize that I had wandered from my original purpose.

My blog is like me – it changes and grows.

As I learn about new things, I want to share what I learn.

So although my original audience was people interested in dance, I have expanded to include photography, art, and sometimes fashion.

(Maybe ‘style’ is a better word than fashion – I’m not always on top of the latest trends, but I know what I like. 😀 )

SEO

The next article was about SEO – what it is and how to use it for good. 😛

This one made me a bit angry with myself – some of these were very simple things that I knew and should have been doing, but wasn’t.

Grrr.

I made a few changes to my blog – I changed my tagline to reflect the added topics, and I changed my theme to one that offered better formatting/readability options than my previous one.

I am still debating whether it’s worth it to me to pay for a domain name or if I should just continue with the free WordPress option.

I know a fellow blogger had issues when changing over from the free WP site to a paid domain, and I don’t want to make extra headaches for myself.

While my dream is to someday get paid to write, I’m not there yet.

With only one income and lots of expenses (college tuition, anyone?), sometimes it’s hard to justify any extra spent on ‘frivolous’ purchases. 😦

As I was debating domains and upgrades, I came across a post from another blogger – Do I REALLY need to pay for that?

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decisions.

It’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who’s trying to figure it all out. 🙂

I did take Becky’s advice and I signed up for Google’s Webmaster Tools.

However, I don’t find using said tools to be intuitive in any way whatsoever, so I’ve decided to ignore them for now, and concentrate on things I do understand.

My SEO Changes

I have been paying attention to my post titles and changing the slugs to help with searches.

My LOTD posts are numbered, but since they are not my primary focus for the blog, I’m not too concerned with them.

When I started the LOTD posts, I was taking the photos in-world and saving them as .png files to preserve details.

However, .png files load more slowly.

Slow loading times can kill your traffic – because it needs to be instant on the internet. 😛

So I have begun resizing my images when I edit them and I save them as .jpegs rather than .pngs.

There is some loss in quality, but the faster load times are worth it.

What I wasn’t doing was giving my images (LOTD and others) meaningful titles.

Nor was I filling in the alt tags.

I make sure that I am doing both of those now.

Buffer has a great post on how to optimize images for blogs and social media.

I also have begun breaking up text-heavy posts (like this one!) with subheadings to help with readability.

Growing Your Blog

One of the things Becky mentioned is feeds and that if you are on feeds, search engines may see your blog as ‘duplicate content,’ which can hurt your search rankings.

For many SL fashion bloggers, being on feeds is a must.

You can, as Becky suggests, set it up so that your posts only show as excerpts so that readers have to click through to your blog to read the entire post.

However, some feeds specifically say that you must not show excerpts only – so what to do?

You would think that being on feeds would get you more traffic, but it turns out that isn’t always the case.

Becky’s latest post was one that really got me thinking.

I actually printed it out and made notes on it as I read through it.  (Nerd? Me? Noooo!)

Again, much of what she writes are things I knew, but wasn’t using to my advantage.

Having taught journalism, I knew about headlines, subheads, pull quotes, etc.

(Side note: Pull quotes and other cool options are sometimes only available with WordPress.org.  Rather frustrating when you are using WordPress.com – another item to weigh when deciding whether to pay or use the free version of WP.)

When you teach literature, however, the writing style rules are different.

Some things are too ingrained for me to change (like double spacing after a period), but I certainly need to be more aware of my writing style if I want my blog to grow.

It also made me go back through my blog and look at what people were actually reading, not what I thought they were. 😀

Social Media

In addition to your blog itself, tying into social media is almost a must these days.

But with so many platforms available, which one(s) do you choose?

For me, it’s been trial and error.

I loathe Facebook, so even though I could probably benefit from using it, I won’t.

I have found a nice alternative on Avatar Social Network, and I am having a good time using it.

I joined Twitter and found that I really like it.

I have started using TweetDeck and following various topics of interest – I’ve found it extremely useful.

I also learned about Twitter Cards – if you don’t have one, get one!

I’m on Google+, but I don’t have a page as yet.

Plus (no pun intended), Google has been making some changes, so I’m waiting to see what happens there for a bit before I jump in.

I joined Reddit, but I haven’t found it particularly useful or busy.

I was told the SL Universe Forums were another popular place – I joined, and for now I’m lurking while I figure it out. 😛

I joined Plurk a few days ago, and I must say, I like it a lot.

I’ve always heard it was full of drama, but I haven’t found that to be true (yet).

There was a hilarious thread about someone squatting on someone else’s sim (I’m still laughing), so while I feel like a complete noob using it, I’m having a good time!

I’m also on Ello, but the last time I checked, it wasn’t very active, so I’m holding off on that one for a while as well.

Photography

Since I’ve fallen in love with taking photos in-world, I’ve joined KoinUp and Flickr.

The KoinUp interface is kind of ‘old-school,’ but there are a lot of great artists there, and I’m slowly learning my way around.

I’m still trying to figure out how to add a widget for my KoinUp photos, so if you know how – help a girl out!

KoinUp also lets you cross-post to Flickr and you can email snapshots directly to your KoinUp if you want.

I haven’t done either of those yet, but options are always nice. 🙂

Flickr, I’m finding, is an entirely different ball of wax.

I found some terrific artists and photographers to follow and I started uploading my own photos.

Then I had to learn about licensing, groups, tags, etc.

Just when I thought I had a handle on how folks use Flickr, I came across a post about Flickr advice.

I realized I wasn’t adding enough tags to my photos and that I should be adding my photos to more groups if I want more views (and hopefully more readers).

I’d been adding my photos to 5-10 groups and feeling slightly guilty for adding them to so many.

The guilt evaporated after learning that many people are adding their photos to 200+ groups – no wonder they were getting so many views!

In one of my in-world blogger groups, there was a discussion about people ‘reposting’ pictures on Flickr as a way to get more views.

(A certain number of views per photo on Flickr are required on some blogger applications for SL creators.)

I didn’t even know you could ‘repost’ a photo. 😛

Summary

There’s a wealth of information out there about how to grow your blog.

Use it!

  • Know who you’re writing for.
  • Learn to write better headlines.
  • Format your content for easier reading and optimize your images for faster loading.
  • Use social media to interact with others and gain followers/readers.

Above all, don’t forget to have fun!

Starlite Theater Show

Last night I attended Starlite Theater’s last summer show.

The theater will be dark for a few months while some remodeling takes place.

I arrived about 30 minutes early for the show and was surprised at how quickly it filled up.

Starlite Vaudeville 1

With just a few minutes to showtime, there were 99 people on sim.

Unfortunately, with that many people, lag is inevitable.

The first number started about 15 minutes late as we waited for the lag to subside.

I tried to take pictures, but was afraid to cam around too much for fear of crashing.

I did manage to snap a few of the first number, a trio of short vaudeville numbers.

Starlite Vaudeville 2

There were still a few issues, as some of the costumes and body parts weren’t rezzing for everyone.

I saw the first two dances with no problems, but one of the dancers in the last bit of the trio remained stubbornly bald. 😦

Sadly, I don’t remember which songs they danced to, but the number was cute and well-choreographed, as usual.

There was a showgirl dancing on stage between each piece of the trio.

However, by the time her corset rezzed for me, the number was over.

I really enjoyed the short little numbers.

Starlite Vaudeville 3The vintage vaudeville-type acts are one of Izzy’s strong suits. 🙂

The last number of the trio was my favorite, with the dancers dressed in plaid hobo suits.

The dancers were troopers through the whole number, despite the lag issues.

Unfortunately, there was apparently another lag spike and another delay after the opening number.

After waiting another 15 minutes for things to settle, the show continued.

Sadly, I didn’t get any pics of the second number.

Starlite DeynaThe third act was a number by Deyna Broek to a song by the Pussycat Girls.

I’d tell you which song, but I can’t remember, darn it!

The lighting in the pic doesn’t do the number justice, as I didn’t spend my usual time fussing with the photos for fear I would crash and not get any.

I only had an hour free to attend the show.

As the next number hit the stage, RL was calling and I had to leave.

The few numbers I did see were well done, as usual.

After the theater reopens (in August, I believe), make sure you try to catch one of their shows.

Mark your calendars for Mondays at 7pm SLT.

Be sure to arrive early to allow time for everything to cache and rez!!

Performance Art?

Performance Art
Image Source: malditoforo.com

Yummy wrote a post on the Dance Queens blog about Performance Art.

It’s good – so go here to read it.

Yummy and I talked a lot at the beginning of the year about how things seemed to be changing – for us and for others.

As the year has gone on, however, more and more changes seem to be happening.

I don’t know if the announcement of LL’s Next Gen Platform (not SL 2.0, but Project Sansar, for now) played a part or not.

I know that, with the announcement, I personally took a step back to re-evaluate my involvement in SL.

I’ve been involved in dance since I started in SL.

But it seems that there have been lots of changes this year – more than normal.

Dancers moving to new venues, venues closing, venues opening – all normal activities, but the number of them this year seems to be rising.

One of the shifts centers around the label ‘performance art.’

Yummy stated that “There seems to be a collective mind-shift away from traditional dance-as-entertainment towards dance-as-art in the SL dance-show world. I think it is because here exists the perception that dance-as-art will allow more freedom for creative personal expression.”

I’m not sure that I agree.

I think that part of the shift has been because the terms ‘burlesque,’ ‘neo-burlesque,’ and ‘cabaret’ (which have usually been used by dance troupes), don’t really capture what dance-as-entertainment shows are in SL today.

Most of the dance shows I go to these days are what I would term Vegas-like fare.

After some researching of definitions, perhaps ‘dance revue’ is the most accurate?

A typical dance show is a variety of performers dancing in various acts – usually the length of one song.

Most acts have a single dancer, though there are also couples and group dancing.

And some contain nudity (much like Vegas shows). 😛

As more tools have become available, we now see avatars moving in formations, objects moving, sets fading in and out, and light/particle/special effects.

I wouldn’t label these acts as ‘performance art,’ though I will likely be in the minority.

Yummy’s post contained a quote/definition that sums up my feelings on the subject:  “...Performance art is a term usually reserved to refer to a conceptual art which conveys a content-based meaning in a more drama-related sense, rather than being simple performance for its own sake for entertainment purposes.”

Of course, what is art?

It’s all in the eye of the beholder, so what you consider art might be something I consider junk, or vice versa.

I think the central concept for me is that ‘performance art is non-traditional.’

So simply changing the name of an act/venue/club/whatever from ‘burlesque’ to ‘performance art’ isn’t all there is to it.

It will be interesting to see how the shift progresses.