Shoetopia Palooza

I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty. ~ Imelda Marcos

Main Landing Point for SHOETOPIA 1
Main Landing Point for SHOETOPIA 2

If you read my site you know I have an established disdain for location events. So when Sax asked me to blog Shoetopia, I responded with a sound that was something between wet cat getting its tail pulled and lazy baboon burping after chugging a whole can of Sunkist (in my world, monkeys drink too much orange soda … possibly because I just now finished one). To be honest, I agreed because I figured he’d never be able to get me in.

Damn it.

The ever-tolerant Sophia Harlow allowed me in for the blogger preview for reasons known only to her. I’m not 100% sure who was all involved in the organization of Shoetopia (aside from Sophia, the names I see most associated with it are Anessa Stine and Katya Valeska) but I have to say they have made it very hard to find complaint with their efforts.

And it’s not like I don’t try to find things to complain about.

The Build

Shoetopia Build

Shoetopia Build

I am not wild about the build (possibly because it reminds me too much of the dreaded Vortex Pinnacle), but it’s quite photogenic, as can be seen in Joonie’s shot above. You can browse even more great shots in the Shoetopia Flickr Group.

However, at an event the build style is always less important to me than other factors, and in those, Shoetopia gets gold stars. Several of them. The layout is easy to navigate; unless you’re a moron it’s impossible to get turned around or lost for more than a moment. Direct-to-shop teleports are enabled. Fly is enabled. There isn’t a whore’s cabinet full of unnecessary scripts or textures to stroke someone’s build ego. The build simply provides a neutral backdrop to the shopping experience without trying to be too cute for its own good.

What a novel concept.

The Merch

Shoetopia Designer Map

Shoetopia Designer Map

Shoetopia’s organizers have decided that quality is better than quantity. Can I get a hallelujah? Not only are most, if not all, of the major shoe designers represented, but all the merchandise I saw was at (or above) general quality. There were no skunks at the garden party. None. Seriously. When is the last time you went to an event and there weren’t a gaggle of vendors that were selling recycled products from 2008?

Yes, there will always be some designers that are better than others, but there is nothing offered up at Shoetopia that isn’t on par with current design standards.

I didn’t even know that was possible.

There are guy shoes, cute shoes, novelty shoes (ugh), and, of course, the stripper shoes that now appear to be the choice of bloggers the grid over. No matter your style, you’re probably going to find something to make your toes happy.

Oh. And there are a few gachas. More on that in other entries.

The Charity

The charity associated with Shoetopia is Soles4Souls. The not-for-profit defines its mission as:

The organization advances its anti-poverty mission by collecting new and used shoes and clothes from individuals, schools, faith-based institutions, civic organizations and corporate partners, then distributing those shoes and clothes both via direct donations to people in need and by provisioning qualified micro-enterprise programs designed to create jobs in poor and disadvantaged communities.

It’s hard to argue with those objectives.

While I don’t generally participate in charity within Second Life, I don’t look at my purchases as donations, really. For me, I am just a shopper. If I purchase items linked to a charity, it is the creator that is making the donation. Their time and effort went into making the item; I’m simply getting cute shoes.

But if you’re someone who feels you are making the donation by getting cute shoes, every single vendor is required to have at least one 100% donation item at Shoetopia. Many I saw had more than one, or offered a few 50% or 25% donation items in addition to their 100% items.

I didn’t see a lot of the usual “here is the ugliest color in the batch as my donation item” yuckiness, either. Most of the vendors that were up in time for the blogger preview had great merch as their donations and many had gone above the event requirements to provide multiple offerings.

The Management

From what I can tell, the little elves behind Shoetopia have done everything right. They have made an easy to navigate build that is shopper friendly. They have taken a hard line against copyright infringement (instead of talking big and then wussing out like so many other event coordinators). They have set up a demo group. They have provided maps and direct URLs. They’ve kept quality high without limiting the designer list to just the recycled handful of people we see at all the monthlies.

If all events were like Shoetopia, I’d like them more.

Go forth, my children and find thee shoes!

Posted in Fashion Accessories SL, Fashion SL, iheartslFeed, Second Life, Shoes & Feet SL, SL - Shopping | 1 Comment

Milk Motion Mishmash

Milk Motion Mishmash Outfit

Milk Motion Mishmash Outfit

When I first saw the striped leather skirt from Milk Motion in the fashion feeds, I wanted it. Foolishly, I went to the Milk Motion Mainstore, where I was reminded that we don’t live in an SL anymore where you can always find the latest releases at creator stores. So I wasted an hour weeding out which event it was at, sighed at the obvious copyright violations, captured my plunder and left.

Remember when shopping in SL was a pleasant experience? I miss that. Anyway…

This nude/black stripe variety of the skirt is still not available on the Marketplace or the store as far as I can tell, but there are other varieties of the skirt at the main location and several of them are equally lovely. I love neutral tones, but I love them even more when they’re contrasted with bold or dark colors. So these bold horizontal stripes seduced me along with the sheen of suede and the subtle pleats. Mine. All mine. And none for you. Unless Milk Motion decides to sell the skirt somewhere again, in which case there may be some for you. Good luck with that.

The problem with neutrals (like reds) is that everyone uses color names willy nilly. “Eggshell” and “ecru” and “taupe” are very specific colors but they get mixed in with “sand” and “tan” and all the others until you’re playing mix and match with a never ending sea of neutrals that have too much yellow base ecru to match your pinkish taupe even though they’re both named “nude” or “linen.”

Baistice Halter

Baistice Halter

So it took me a while to find a top that wasn’t too cold-weathery. Enter the nummy Baiastice Lari halter. I love this top. It’s perfect for a Summer outfit. The multiple tie backs are sexy and show off a bit of skin in all the night places to tease without being trashy. The liquid silk texture is one of the better texture jobs I’ve seen from Baiastice and the shading is sublime. I really enjoy it when designers put an upscale twist on a casual style and the effect of expensive fabric on this little slip of a halter does just that.

The hair (with cap) is from Truth (pre-disaster). It’s still on the wall but with the new colors, obviously. Good luck with that, too.

GOS Espadrilles

GOS Espadrilles

The shoes are GOS Espadrilles in “Linen.” Happily, these actually are linen colored, if a bit on the darker side of the hue. I’m not a fan of the newer GOS price structuring but this style is very reasonable and there’s no question of the quality or detail work with GOS products.

Lastly, my necklace is the newest boho casual jewelry release from Sax Shepherd Designs called Cascade. It’s non-rigged mesh and opera length which I don’t see very often. I really like the larger beads that look like dappled watercolors. I also found the earrings to be very unique, even though they don’t show under the long hair. The guitar pick shapes were different from anything else I’d seen and utilize the same style of watercolor textures without being repetitive.

Sax Shepherd Designs - Cascade Jewelry

Sax Shepherd Designs – Cascade Jewelry

Although they’re hiding on the one I’m wearing, the necklace has three beaded cascades that hang at different intervals along the length of the piece. They can be made visible or transparent by manually selecting “edit linked parts.” I’m sure there are some people who would prefer that option be scripted, but I don’t mind manual editing, and the set comes with two versions of the necklace — one with all the cascades hidden and one with all of them visible.

Sax Shepherd Designs - Cascade Necklace Options

Sax Shepherd Designs – Cascade Necklace Options

Where Does She Get Those Wonderful Toys:

Striped Leather Skirt (Black / Nude)
Creator: Marie Lauridsen
Milk Motion

Lari Halter Neck Top (Linen) – L$235
Creator: Baiastice / Sissy Pessoa

Edith Hairstyle
Creator: Truth Hawks
Truth Hair

Lolita Espadrilles (Linen) – L$495
Creator: Gospel Voom

Cascade Jewelry Set (Autumn) – L$349
Creator: Sax Shepherd
Sax Shepherd Designs

Posted in Fashion Accessories SL, Fashion SL, Hair SL, iheartslFeed, Second Life, Shoes & Feet SL, SL - Shopping | 1 Comment

Berry’s Movie Poster Challenge – PAWS

“We’re gonna need a bigger mouse trap.” ~ Anon.

I am not much of a joiner. It’s not that I think I’m too cool for the crowd — I’m just bad at it. I’m either too sarcastic or too lazy or just not into the things others seem to be into. I’m also not a share type. And most challenges/memes that float around the SL blogs seem to center on the “share about yourself” variety…which…ewwws me out. So, when Strawberry Singh started her Memes / Challenges a while back, I thought the concept was clever, but never really felt the urge to participate in any of them.

Back when the grid used to go down once a week for maintenance, those handful of us that blogged realized it was a perfect day to invite discussion and give readers something to do. These “Grid Down” days where when we asked readers to weigh in and rabble rabble rabble (although the rabble rabble rabble back then was gentle compared to the plurk wars of today). They were always the most popular entries because people, by and large, love to give their own opinions.

Any good blog or outlet will employ the use of this sparingly. Berry does it on a weekly basis in a fairly structured schedule so readers know what to expect. I think that’s clever for her response numbers as well as a good way of keeping her quality content away from the gimmick. I get weary of the way many lazy bloggers end entries with “tell me what you think” after a brief paragraph of introduced controversy while keeping their own opinions half-shielded.

All that said, I couldn’t resist participating in this week’s Berry blog challenge which involved taking inspiration from a movie poster. To me, the ultimate iconic movie poster is JAWS and, since I’ve been loving my Sugar Glider avatar from Wilds of Organica (Arcade Gatcha item, I know, I hate them, too) this was a no-brainer.

Berry’s Movie Poster Blog Challenge

Posted in Second Life, SL - Fun, Teh Funny, Virtual Living | 3 Comments

Free Advice For Event Coordinators

Dear Event Coordinators,

You and I do not like each other. It’s not personal. You are simply advocating and maintaining a practice that I find creatively lazy as well as unnecessary and damaging to the SL community and its commerce. That aside, some of my friends are event coordinators and I’ve even had one or two of them in my virtual house. My feelings on location based events aside, there is an issue that needs to be on the radar of your management agenda: content theft.

If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed that several high-profile cases have damaged the cause and reputations of many recent events. There is no way to police the grid. There is no 100% fair way to deal with any of this. But you can no longer pretend that “this is a case for Linden Lab” will cover it. Happily there is a two-part plan that you can put in place to both strengthen the integrity of your event and protect yourself against unnecessary drama.

Step One: Clause in Sign-Up Agreement

Your first step is to include a clause in your event sign-up agreement that is more than the standard useless “no copyright violation allowed.” You need something that conveys authority and provides insight into consequences. Something like:

[EVENT] will not tolerate incidents of copyright infringement. We understand that inspiration is drawn from many sources and that Second Life brings together individuals from different nationalities. As such, copyright can be confusing, even for those who pay close attention. Our best advice is to avoid any product that reproduces or is “inspired by” an item protected by copyright. Avoid use of any logos or reference to copyrighted materials in your event offerings. Should one of your items be brought to our attention for copyright concerns, we will err on the side of caution and remove the items. This is not done to punish or pass judgement, but to remove even the possibility of impropriety. In the case of returned materials no guilt is assumed and no insult intended. By agreeing to partake in this event you understand the handling of this issue is at the sole discretion of event management and that any potential removal is merely a precaution and not an accusation or judgement of guilt. You agree not to take any action against the event, event sponsors, or event management based on such removals. Following removals, reimbursement of donations and rental fees will be considered on an individual basis, but are not guaranteed.

I am not a lawyer. If you are worried about legal ramifications, I’d have a real lawyer glance at this, but odds are if they’re unethical enough to be stealing they’re not going to have the resources to do anything about being called on it, especially when there’s nothing to gain.

Step One Two: Established Protocols

Your next step is to have established event protocols for dealing with items reportedly dealing with copyright infringement.

1. Set minimum criteria for addressing copyright infringement. For example, if a person reports a possible infringement and provides links to supporting documentation, and/or five or more people report on a single store or item, action will be taken. Without links to supporting documentation or multiple reported incidents, merely keep the issue under review.

2. Respond to those reporting consistently. Have copy/paste response ready for event management to provide to avoid inciting frustrations.

Thank you for letting us know about this potential concern. We have a policy of reviewing each reported issue to discern validity that can take several hours to coordinate between event staff. This issue will not be ignored, but please be aware that many Second Life content creators use similar tools and may even purchase full-permissions items from the same vendors. Similarity in and of itself is not necessarily a sign that anything is out of place. Obviously, if something is questionable we will address it with the seller, but event staff and participants are often in different countries and time zones. Reviewing this will take time. Please be patient, enjoy the event and thank you for taking the time to help us maintain the integrity of [EVENT].

3. Set minimum criteria for establishing removal. Overwhelming community uproar, obvious cases of similarity with real-world copyright, etc should be enough to qualify. In the case of SL creators vs other SL creators you can defer to Linden Lab protocol since both parties are aware and have recourse, or you can made a judgement call on removal. Remember removal is not an implication of guilt, merely a decision that even the threat of scandal on this topic is enough to damage the event and therefore will not be tolerated. If one or more of the offending parties are event sponsors, further action may be needed.

4. Have a review and removal protocol in place.

A. Upon receiving a credible complaint, vendors and items can be set to 100% transparent. This will remove them from view without doing any damage so owners can be notified and event coordinators can review the situation. Address owners, even those blatantly offending, with polite calm and always keep focus on doing what is best for the event. Avoid language or behavior that implicates guilt; this is not just to cover your ass, but to also demonstrate humility. There is little chance of proving anyone 100% in the wrong, being aware of that and maintaining the narrative that you are working together for a greater cause will avoid fanning persecution complexes. “I understand this imposes a hardship upon you and it may be disappointing not to be able to share this work with the event community, but we’d like to ask that you remove these items and replace them with other merchandise at this time. Thank you for helping us to keep focus on the positive aspects of what we’re accomplishing at [EVENT].”

B. After a fair review period, if the issue raises enough concern, the items should be returned. It’s only fair that owners should be offered the opportunity to replace items with something else, but repeated violations under a single store name should be met with asking the owners to remove themselves voluntarily for the good of the event.

5. Have your event staff keep their opinions to themselves. If you’re going to have a “no discussion of copyright infringement” policy then keep it. Highlight the fact that there are protocols in place and things are being addressed in as fair a way as possible. Avoid supporting or accusing anyone. Be as respectful of dissent as possible and change the topic with authority and purpose. Be aware that maintaining a double standard on this can turn community support against you. It’s also unethical. You’re never going to be able to please everyone, but playing the martyr card also isn’t going to help.

I understand it’s a hassle and not fun to deal with copyright infringement, but as community and blogger awareness of this issue grows, it’s not going to be something that is quietly ignored anymore. Having protocols in place assures that you and your staff will not be ambushed by this topic and that your event will not be overshadowed by negative publicity. It may even have the positive effect of inspiring designers toward more creative and less derivative works as well as discouraging lazy copycats from participating when they see there’s no profit in it.


Salome Strangelove

Posted in Second Life, SL - Building, SL - Social Dysfunction | 3 Comments

Rhapsody in Straylight

“It will never rain roses; when we want to have more roses we must plant more trees.” ~ Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot)

Kriss Lehmann is one of those original creators in Second Life that is easy to take for granted simply because his creations surround us constantly. You would be hard pressed to find any landscaped SIM that doesn’t include at least some Botanical creations. I know they are a staple of every build I undertake. Low land impact, amazing low-lag scripted items, the best quality on the grid. What’s not to like?

Botanical Trees - Sugar Maples, Linden Trees, Mediterranean Cypress

Botanical Trees – Sugar Maples, Linden Trees, Mediterranean Cypress

Grace and I have an ongoing bickerfest about which one of us found Botanical first, we’ve both been customers from pretty much the start. I own nearly (if not everything) that Botanical has ever produced. Several times over in many cases.

It’s safe to say I had a creator-crush on Kriss for years in that ooey-gooey yummy way only a shopping addict / landscaping junkie can understand. For those of us that love to landscape, Kriss has been supplying the best heroin for literally years now. One of my earliest SL “treasures” was his original Sad Little Tree that I put out, without fail, every Christmas in whatever SL digs I was calling home.

Original Botanical Sad Little Tree & Its Mesh Brother

Original Botanical Sad Little Tree & Its Mesh Brother

This abruptly changed a few years ago when suddenly all Botanical creations seemed to be in a mode of hostility. Everything went from Mod/Copy to No Mod (which in landscaping is a nightmare). It was during this phase that Kriss released his amazing Sugar Maples and Linden Trees (the ones you see all over SL everywhere). These trees being no mod was a major annoyance for me as a builder. To complicate matters, SL ate my Sad Little Tree and when I asked for another one I was given a curt “no” by the customer service agent in charge at the time. Additional requests were ignored. In a matter of months, a brand I felt fiercely loyal to suddenly became one I bought from only because I had to. They had the best products, but I was no longer excited to see what came out next. I no longer visited the SIM just to skip around and see if I missed anything. I no longer suggested to newbs I met that they go explore the SIM.

Those feelings continued for quite some time. While I always appreciated the work that went into Botanical creations, I felt no kinship to them any longer. Then, while I was working on The Garden build, Botanical sent out an odd group message. Kriss had discovered that someone was copybotting his creations and that a previous customer (one that was in his previous sales records and therefore knew they were buying fakes) had opted to purchase from the cheaper fake creator than his own shop. He asked in a manner that felt sincere why anyone would do so.

Mesh Waterlilies and Cattails from Botanical

Mesh Waterlilies and Cattails from Botanical

In SL we see a lot of the “poor me,” mentality from designers out for a quick fix of pity and sympathy and ego boosting. We rarely, if ever, see a designer say “help me understand this and tell me if I’m doing something to enable this situation.” On the at-the-time blog post, all the comments were the predictable type of fluff. “Oh, poor Kriss” and “that evil customer” were all over. I initially resolved not to get involved. I was in the middle of a creative project and I didn’t want to waste energy on someone else’s problems. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided to write. Because, while I hadn’t ever ripped any of Kriss’ content (and never would), I had thought about it. And, frankly, I understood the customer who had opted to buy from a cheaper black market source, even if I didn’t condone it. I was exactly the type of person the question should have been addressing and if I didn’t bother to respond, then I’d have no one to blame but myself if the situation didn’t improve.

Not wanting to get in the middle of the blog cheerfest, I dropped Kriss a private note. In it, I explained my own history and relationship to his brand and how it had been chipped away at over the years due to his business decisions. I explained how, to me, No-Mod is basically a designer’s way of saying that they don’t trust customers or care about consumer enjoyment or experience. I explained about how I was flatly denied and ignored in my request attempts to replace a treasured item. I explained that I had gone from an ardent supporter to an indifferent, even begrudging customer.

I expected to get back some passive-aggressive laundry list of excuses if I got back anything at all. Instead, when I next logged in, I had received a thorough, thoughtful note, detailing the reasoning behind the business choices that had affected my feelings as a customer. I got back my Sad Little Tree. And, most shockingly, I was thanked for my honesty and critical feedback.

Botanical Tuscany Cart

Botanical Tuscany Cart

On an evening not long after, I invited Kriss to take a peak at the build for The Garden and to see how I was using his creations (and so many of them) in the build. We had a delightful “only in SL” meeting where we discussed many topics, about his products and the creations of my friends — about general SL practices and many things between.

In the early days of SL, meetings like this were far more common to me. Running into a designer in a store or meeting a random individual while shopping, spending a night or two of furiously symbiotic conversation; parting on friendly terms and encountering rarely, but fondly afterward. At some point, I stopped wanting this from my SL. Too many tedious hours of listening to egomaniacs blather on about themselves, and, in the days when I was “SL famous” too many hours of being creeped out by people trying to ingratiate themselves into my time. It was odd, like reliving a bit of a nostalgia, but odd in all the best ways. In an SL that is ever more about skank clubs and drama wars, it was nice to be reminded that random encounters of friendliness and intellectual exchange are still on the menu — even if you have to remember to ask the chef for the specials to get them.

Prior to my back and forth conversation with Kriss, he had already begun to revert his products to Mod permissions when possible, and he has since continued that trend and updated his Sugar Maples and Linden trees accordingly. Moreover, nearly every product he’s released since continues to include modify perms. He’s re-assumed oversight of his own customer service.

I do not for a moment assume I had a significant place in those decisions, but being able to voice my concerns as a consumer and not be met with adolescent hysterics was a nice change that allowed me to feel as if my consumer voice was considered in the mix. I am back to feeling a kinship with a brand that had once been and now continues to be a significant part of my SL. It was a nice reminder that not everyone is ego first. As I told Kriss that night, “Damn you for renewing my faith in humanity.”

Botanical Wooden Arbor With Ivy

Botanical Wooden Arbor With Ivy

The original, quality creators of SL are too few and too far between. But, even more rare, are the quality individuals behind the brands that make our virtual playground worth frolicking in. I like to remind myself about Botanical and Kriss when I find myself frustrated by the constant influx of stolen content on the grid and the drama-driven combination of outrage and apathy that does nothing to legitimately address it.

And whenever I get too annoyed, I simply rez my Sad Little Tree and its new mesh brother and I can pretend for a short time that all hope is not lost.


Posted in Second Life, SL - Home & Landscaping | 4 Comments