Chez Xay

The Chez Xay Tropical Island Resort covers all of Tamita Island, Irukandji (a type of jellyfish native to North Queensland). I stumbled across Chez Xay when doing a search of classifieds using the term ‘Australian’. In Xay Tomesen’s own words:

“The resort is gay owned, straight friendly, with a focus on harmony and nature. Beyond the main beach and shops, Tamita Island is a maze of deep ravines, untouched plains, walking tracks, and rainforests.

Our residents are few and enjoy a quiet lifestyle. Most of the island’s visitors come to see its attractions, including a large RL art gallery, house and land rentals, and one of the largest menswear stores in SL, featuring original Australian designs.

The resort also houses the SL corporate head office of Body Sync, a Brisbane based chain of beauty salons, who use our facilities for staff training and conferences.”

Check it out in-world.

Caged on Telstra’s Islands

In the ten days that Telstra’s islands have been in operation, I’ve dropped in for fifteen minutes or so each day. As mentioned last week, new users of SL appear to make up the bulk of the island’s explorers.

The issues haven’t changed over time – these users wander around not sure what to do next. When a more experienced user is around and provides advice, the response is appreciative. I’ve given dozens of clothing packs to users wanting something other than Linden’s default garb and provided advice on everything from changing appearance to using the search functionality. I remain suprised at the lack of basic guidance for BigPond SL users and also at the lack of motivation on behalf of some users to go beyond the Telstra Islands. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there’s a lack of understanding that there’s anything beyond the Telstra Islands for some users. Secondly, because BigPond users can frequent the Telstra Islands without incurring any bandwidth metering, a proportion of new users are unable to explore further due to being on lower bandwidth plans with BigPond.

BigPond can’t be criticised for making their presence unmetered, but some more guidance for new users wouldn’t go astray.

First in, best dressed – is SL worth it for Aussie Universities?

For some time now I have been following the developments of three particular universities that have established islands in SL. The RMIT island known as Ormond Island, the USQ island of Terra Incognita and the amazingly designed Esperance Island of the Australian Film TV and Radio School.

These three islands are relatively easy to locate by a simple use of the “Place” tab in the SL search window an using the term “University”. For the AFTRS presence searchers need to use “AFTRS”. I feel that AFTRS would benefit in using the term university in their descriptor, as the average person may find locating them difficult.

The resulting 49 hits from a “university” term search will give the sum total of serious contenders on the SL Education market. To date Ormond Island, Terra Incognita and Esperance are the only three Australian universities that have actively sought to allow non-student visitors to explore and consider the options of tertiary education experiences via the SL medium.

This is a vitally important aspect to consider in relation to the global marketing of education. Many Australian universities provide distant education courses yet currently we have only three exploring the provision, practising or marketing of their product via SL.

With the launch of the BigPond islands and the soon to be launched ABC Island, there will be an increased number of Australians exploring this strange, bizarre and somewhat perplexing world. All of these newbies will have one question on their minds: “What is there to do here?”

For USQ, RMIT and AFTRS their answer is simple – come and do a course with us! Without such provision of subsidiary offerings, SL becomes just another form of chat forums for people with ‘interesting proclivities’.

Looking for Telstra Bigpond’s Islands?

One of the criticisms that has been levelled at SL has been the way in which the search function works. This is frustratingly true for those of us trying to find Telstra’s Bigpond presence.

Most people will do the obvious thing and just type in Telstra or Bigpond in the search window. Note that the default tab is “All”. This is one of the main problems with the search function. If you choose the other tabs you need to type in your search all over again.

Most people would assume that the “All” tab means just that, all categories are searched and results posted, in some cases you find what you want in others, as above, you have a zero result.

In the BigPond Islands example, a search of “All” is not very successful at all:

However, if you select the “Places” tab and retype your query you will find that not only is BigPond easily located, but all the sub-sections and islands are listed:

So the moral of the story is to try and use a variety of queries and tabs when searching for a specific area. It may take a while but you may just find what you’re looking for.

Virtual Television hits SL – and it’s Australian

Today we received a press release touting the launch of SLCN – Second Life Cable Network. The founder and technical dorector of SLCN is Australian Gary Wisniewski.

“What is really exciting about the broadcast is that it will be streamed onto the web live at the same time as the event is taking place in-world. This means that for the very first time, people can view in-world events without needing to be there themselves”, says Wisniewski.

The first SLCN telecast will be this Wednesday, March 15th at 7pm (SL Time), when SLCN presents it’s first live telecast. The broadcast will be live from the Hoe Down Under – Texas’ Aussie Music BBQ where Australian bands and performers will stage a virtual concert, sponsored by AUSTRADE’s Australian Music Office in Los Angeles, as an adjunct to the real Australian Music BBQ in Austin Texas as part of the SXSW Music and Media Conference 2007.

The SLCN broadcast will be filming the performances, interviews and surrounding activities on the day and can be viewed on various screens around Second Life as well as onto the SLCN website (not live at time of writing).

Wisniewski claims the system also overcomes the issue of maximum avatars in one sim – once events get really popular there is the ability to spill over crowds into other sims where they can at least watch a multi-camera shoot of the live entertainment.

Telstra bringing a population boom?

Since Telstra’s launch on Friday, I’ve spent around 30 minutes on half a dozen occasions, at a central point on one of the Telstra Islands. The time spent has been well and truly worth it, as it has demonstrated the power of a corporate Australian presence in SL.

BigPond are promoting their Second Life presence on their front page. Any BigPond members who sign-up via that page start out at Telstra’s own Orientation Island ( a SL feature described by Logan Linden during our interview with him). All of these new SL users end up at the Telstra Islands. Over the weekend the influx of Australian SL users has been incredible – I don’t have numbers but each time I’ve been there, dozens of new people have arrived within minutes of each other.

This leads to a second point: all these new people are lost. They wander around like most of us did initially, wondering what to do next. The difference is, there’s a real sense that people aren’t quite aware that there’s a lot more to SL than the Telstra Islands. Each time I interacted with a new user I’d get questions like ‘so what’s good to look at around here?’. I’d give some suggestions and off they’d wander, coming back later on having wandered around the islands but not having teleported anywhere else. It’ll be interesting to see how many Telstra sign-ups remain longer term users.

Overall my perception of the first few days of operation is that older SL users see the Telstra Islands as an interesting new development mixed with a healthy scepticism around the reasons Telstra has launched in-world. And a corporate presence like this is a magnet for protest although nothing organised has occurred to date. I did however see one member of the Second Life Liberation Army taking a tour…..

Again. we’d love to hear your thoughts on Australia’s largest corporate presence – good, bad or indifferent.

Telstra Launch Second Life Presence

After months of development Telstra have launched their SL presence. And a significant presence it is – eleven islands called The Pond, Ponderosa, Billabong, Ponden, Ponderama, Pondessa, Pondex, Pondfield, Pondice, Pondillion and Pondshen (pictured above). Each offers a range of activities and sights which we’ll cover in-depth in future, but for now an overview of the sights:

The Opera House:

An impressive rendition though the claim that the true Opera House shape can’t be rendered in SL to me seems to stand – it’s damn close though.

The compulsory outback pub (The Billabong Bar):


The BigPond Dome:

A highlight, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, fireworks included:

Check it out for yourself

We’d love to hear your initial impressions – are you inspired or indifferent? Do you find the whole thing amazing or kitsch? Let us know.

Machinima – Oz Style

Machinima in SL can be a very hit and miss affair, but its appeal continues to grow. One reason for the growth is the use of machinima by companies to promote their in-world presences. Australia has its own specialist machinima creator in Skribe Forti.

A veteran of nearly twenty years working in the Australian film and television industries, Skribe now spends much of his time in Second Life making videos there.

“There’s so much potential for video in Second Life, both as a means of artistic expression, but also corporate promotion. We already get land owners piping movies into their sims. There’s no reason why that can’t be used to show whatever the owner wants – whether it’s the features of a new product, publicising an event or just providing a reason to hang around. There are a million active residents spending two million bucks a day. If you’re on the sell, you’ve gotta have a piece of that. And that’s where we come in.”

Forti’s initial impressions of Second Life were less than complimentary.

“It looked to me as though it was just IRC with funky graphics – a video game without a purpose. My initial impressions were wrong. It’s like life. You make your own purpose. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Interview – Wellman and Wellman Counselling

As covered previously on SLOz, counselling in-world is a growing area and one that involves some contention. Tranquil Wellman, a counsellor from Australia and her business partner Transcend Wellman, agreed to a frank interview on the nature of counselling in SL and the challenges it poses.

Lowell: Can you tell me a little about your background as counsellors?

Transcend: I’ve been involved as a counsellor and coach for about 20 years. I use the human givens (HG) approach and a Reichian model called bioenergetics. HG is based on Ericksonian stuff and borrows from what is good about many other approaches including CBT

Lowell: And you, Tranquil?

Tranquil: I did my counselling training in 1992, earning a Diploma of Applied Jungian Psychology. I am qualified to work , in RL, using Jungian Dreamwork, Sandplay, Voice Dialogue, Active Imagination and also Rebirthing. Most of all though, I offer myself as a very good and empathetic, listener 🙂

Lowell: What led to you both setting up business in SL?

Transcend: Well, we met in other avatars and discovered a shared passion for psychology and also a large unmet need here in SL so we decided to establish a professional approach to online counselling.

Lowell: You say there’s a large need – can you define what you mean by that?

Transcend: Well, there are so many folk here in SL who experience the negative aspects of SL’s anonymity in relationships and many are very hurt by that. Many folk also come to SL to seek a way through their own life problems.

Tranquil: Behind every avatar there is a person who has brought to SL all their RL issues in some ways.

Lowell: What sort of issues do you primarily deal with in-world?

Transcend: In-world it is mostly relationship issues

Tranquil: Yes

Transcend: but sometimes more dramatic things.

Lowell: Are the issues with in-world relationships or RL relationships?

Transcend: Both in fact, but predominantly relationships based on SL contacts. The most dramatic thing I had was a guy who was going to commit suicide

Tranquil: Yes, mostly in-world, but both at times

Lowell: What are your thoughts on potential conflicts between RL and SL relationships?

Transcend: It isn’t possible in my view to separate RL and SL emotionally and people who say they can are deluding themselves. SL relationships are as real as RL and often flood over into RL.

Lowell: Can you give a ‘day in the life’ summary of a counselling session?

Tranquil: A session will begin with some time for the client to talk about how they are, and to tell of anything in particular they may wish to work on during the session. Then we will work together for around 35 to 40 minutes, using whichever techniques are most helpful, before finishing with some discussion about what the client has learned or understood during the session. We may then suggest some “homework” to do, or help them to set a goal for themselves to work on in the time until their next session. Initial consultations are free and briefer and exist primarily for us and the client to find out if we want to go further together. This is a vital safeguard in this type of on-line counselling.

Lowell: What is your approach with life coaching?

Tranquil: Therapy and counselling usually address issues which are caused by events that happened in the past. With life coaching, we support clients to work on changing things in their life in the present and future, allowing them to achieve goals they will set for themselves (a vital point) in various areas of their life: work, health and relationships. Areas such as motivation to lose weight, exercise and change bad habits often surface in coaching. Dealing with apparently difficult colleagues or partners is also a big area of coaching work. Most people present with a feeling of being stuck in a rut, however, and the reasons for that need to be coaxed into the open to allow the client themselves to be assisted (never advised) to reach conclusions about the best way forward and to find the right motivational triggers to make that happen.

Lowell: The potential for addiction to SL seems self-evident – would you agree and do you think you’d have a role to play in addressing that?

Tranquil: SL provides people with an escape from pressures and problems in their RL, which could become addictive. We describe SL as a platform for self-expression and this platform can take over from similar RL outlets to the detriment of someone’s wellbeing. Counselling for the issues causing the need to “escape”, along with support for making changes in the way they use SL, to reduce or stop their dependence are helpful for people who see their way of using SL as causing a problem for them. It is about helping people to get their needs met in balance which is the basis for health in the body/mind/spirit continuum.

Lowell: What health outcomes do you think you can achieve through in-world counselling?

Tranquil: Counselling through this medium achieves the same outcomes as in face-to-face work once suitability is established and an empathetic rapport has been created. So a range of problems can be tackled and overcome in ideal circumstances – including depression, anxiety, addictions, phobias, relationship problems and even complex issues like PTSD, in the right cases. The outcome should be a healthy body/mind/spirit after a relatively short number of sessions – usually no more than six.

Lowell: Like RL, knowing whether any professional is appropriately qualified can be difficult – does the lack of accreditation options in SL put either professionals or clients at risk?

Tranquil: It is certainly a possibility that unqualified people may pose as being able to help people. Our advice to clients is to always have an introductory session to see if there is a genuine counsellor who can help in an empathetic manner. Leave at once if you are uncertain or if you are asked to do anything which makes you uncomfortable. A golden rule for our type of therapy and counselling is that you should always leave a session feeling better than when you arrived. We do not dredge up the past and absolutely discount the ‘no pain, no gain’ school of therapy. Accreditation would be very helpful but SL is an international world and national regulations vary so much (and in some cases do not exist). We are looking to partner with similar minded counsellors to define high standards of practice and perhaps create a self-regulatory framework of SL accreditation in this important area.

Lowell: What plans do you have for your business?

Tranquil: We are relatively new to SL although we have long experience in RL counselling, coaching and therapy. Our goal is to provide ongoing, reliable and professional counselling support for the residents of SL. As we see more and more clients we will be able to be judged on our results more and more. On-line counselling is in its infancy but in the future we have an interest to offer group discussion sessions at our premises in Thargor, for people who will find that type of service helpful.

Lowell: What can someone expect when they come to see you?

Tranquil: Clients can expect to receive professional, confidential and non-judgmental support from a counsellor who is an empathetic and good listener. They can expect to be seen over a brief period of time (not hooked into months and months of expensive treatment) and they can expect to feel better very quickly. If at any time we feel that someone else can better treat them, they can expect to be referred promptly. We will not begin to treat cases which we are uncomfortable dealing with because of the nature of on-line counselling or where we are concerned about establishing rapport. We use SL IM for initial contact but will almost always need to talk to clients using VOIP (Skype or Yahoo) with web cams.

Guitar Lessons Anyone?

Nickeax runs a small Australian music enterprise in SL called Guitars Australia.

A visit to the SL store will enable any young or young at heart rocker to outfit themselves with a variety of Marshall amps and Gibson Explorer Mark II style guitars. The Marshall pack includes a Marshall JCM800 100w head and 2 Marshall JCM 1960 cabinets.

Once kitted out you can wander over to the Guitar Australia website to start your education in the world of guitar playing. And, of course no guitar player can go without the obligatory Stairway to Heaven treatment, which is found in the “classic solos explored” section of the website.

Another plus is it should enable a less ear assaulting barrage compared to a real life garage session. If only Nickeax sold drum kits for those of us that can’t read music!

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