Monday, October 22, 2007

Coffeehouses in Second Life

I look down at the screen of my laptop, a blank word document is waiting for me, it’s time to write another Lane’s List, but before my fingers touch the keyboard, I lean back in my chair, lift a steaming cup of coffee and take a sip. I stare at the blank document and sip my coffee, thinking of how best to introduce this edition of Lane’s List. An idea pops into mind and I lean forward my fingers poised to strike the keys. I promptly spell out “Lane’s List of Coffeehouse’s In Second Life”. Feeling much better about not looking at empty document, I lean back and take another sip. My mind is churning now, the words forming and I set down the cup and am about to begin when my phone rings.

By the time my conversation is over, the thoughts I’d had about to note had disappeared and looking at my mug, so had the coffee. I need to get focused, so head downstairs to the kitchen for another cup. Trying to recapture my thoughts, “maybe I should start with what is a coffeehouse”, I say out loud to no one as I head back to the office. I open my browser favorites and click on Wikipedia and do a search on “coffeehouse”. As I read the article, I get a broad perspective of what is a coffeehouse and their history, but it’s not helping me to get started with my own article.

Now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, maybe I just need to chill for a bit and relax, so I switch to my desktop, find the SL icon and double-click it. While the app loads, I sip slowly from the cup, worried now that I may have taken on a topic I am ill prepared to write about. Having logged and my av now rezzed into the living room of his SL home, I do a search on “coffee” and scan the results. One hundred and fourteen places in SL have coffee as a keyword, hmmmmm, somehow I had thought perhaps there would have been more. I picked one based on high traffic volume and hit the TP button, the screen goes blank and… whoooooosh…. I arrive.

The destination slowly rezzes on the screen in front of me, and my avi takes in the scale of the virtual coffeehouse before moving the short distance the entrance. As he does so, I quickly check the mini-map, it shows the presence of several others, so he saunters past the front patio with its wrought iron bistro tables to either side, and finds a warmly decorated interior awaiting him. On the left are several light wood textured table and chairs in orderly rows with a coffee bar and a scripted coffee server on top of the counter. On his right is a nook where there are two large couches and matching chairs all with poses for a relaxing sit. There is a fireplace on the wall across from the one sofa and virtual fire lends warmth to the ambience. There is a picture above the fireplace of autumn leafs falling, the colors rich and adding to atmosphere of coziness and perhaps as a subject for patrons to discuss while they get acquainted.

“Good morning Nazz”, I’m greeted by a patron, a woman sitting on one of the stuffed chairs a virtual cup of what appears to be coffee in her hand. I choose view last chatter from the view menu and my perspective changes to see her more clearly. She is nicely attired in slacks and sweater, her red hair neatly coiffed, her avi sipping from a steaming cup of coffee. Her name is Lauranne Theas.

“I hope you’re having a great day so far” she asks and I reply in chat, “I am, thank you. I trust your day is going well….. May I join you?” “Please do…*smiles*” she replies. So I click on the other chair and sit. As I do, she offers me a cup of coffee, which I accept and promptly wear.

The chat is active, there are three ladies on the patio in back, I try not to eavesdrop, but is it hard not to do so, they are chatting about a new line of fall dresses at Simone! Design. While they chat away, I turn my attention back towards my new found companion and offer my thanks for the coffee while the animation plays and Nazz appears to be sipping from a steaming cup of coffee. She accepts my thanks, and then says, “I don't think I've seen you here before”, I reply that I had been here once or twice before and ask if she is a regular. “Yes, I meet here almost daily. I was just stopping in to see who was here today.” She asks, “So what brings you here today?” I type out my reply, telling her about Lane’s List and the topic I’d chosen to write my next article. She replies, “Ahhh...sounds interesting.” I told her of how I’d started the morning, and that I felt a little more research may be in order. The crowd in the back grew as two other ladies arrived and joined in the chat, adding their favorite stores and designers to a lively discussion.

“Perhaps I could interview you for the article”, I ask. There is a bit of a delay, beginning to feel awkward I start thinking of how to make a graceful exit when she says, “I’m sorry I was listening to the chat, I may need to do some shopping later. LOL….. Alright, what would you like to know?”

“Lauranne, perhaps we should switch to IM”, she agrees and as I am about to ask my first question. A new arrival interjects with, “Good morning Lauranne and Nazz.” We both exchange greeting with him and afterward he walks toward the back to greet a woman sitting alone. They exchange pleasantries and he invites himself to sit across from her at a table. She seems willing for the company and they go silent in chat so I assume they’re in an IM session.

“Where were we…. Oh yes, I was about to ask you Lauranne…. of all the places in SL where one could socialize, why a coffeehouse?” She replied, “It's a safe and social place to meet new people as well as bond with the others you have gotten to know with time.” I smiled and noted the arrival of a couple, formally attired he in tux and she in a red ball gown, they stroll over to a table and sit. “We have a steady group here of regular people who interact daily. We have created some genuine friendships here. We look after the people we have near us.” I ask, “Are you drinking coffee now in RL?” She replies with a chuckle, “As a matter of fact, I am. Our discussion topics are always amusing. And, we all have jobs in RL... so, we can pause, work and begin chatting again without issues.”

The group of ladies on the patio has increased once again, the topic has changed, it is now about men. I note that there are two new arrivals, both are Vampires and I wonder if they always force the sun to midnight when they arrive at a destination. I mention that to her, and she laughs in reply.

“Do you frequent coffeehouses in RL?” She replies, “I live in, yes! It's a social lifestyle.” She tells me of her favorite beverage when she does and I must admit a Grande Non-fat Latte extra hot sounds intriguing and make a note to try one the next opportunity I have in RL. “Are there events here that attract a crowd?” Lauranne replies, “We create our own events within our group. Pal around. I guess.” She then tells me RL is calling her attention, and she’ll be right back. While I wait, I move my camera around looking at the rest of the build, noting features such as the patio in the back with its bistro tables and wicker sofa and chairs in the corner. There are about ten people in here right now, the group of ladies on the patio has decreased, but the chat discussion is still lively and still about men. I try once again to not eavesdrop, but can’t and read the chat. “I’m back” she announces in the IM. Are there any more questions I can answer for you?” I smile and reply only two more questions.

“First, what do you think of this coffeehouse?” She pauses and then asks me to clarify what I meant. I tell her we talked of the social aspect, and I was curious about the physical attributes, whether or not it contributed to the ambiance. “Ahhh…. Yes, it's very comfortable. Plenty of room for lounging and crowds as they happen, also, some quiet places for private conversations if needed. We love to sit outside as well as in by the fire.”

I note her reply when I become distracted by the ladies chat, they’ve started talking about pick-up lines they’d heard in SL and so I start looking at my history for a nugget I can perhaps use in the future. I must have been away for what she thought to long, “Are you still here?” she asks. “Yes” I reply, sorry RL.” I lied not wanting her to know what I was really doing. “You had another question for me” she said. “I do yes… May I add you to my friends list?” I ask and she replies “Of course *smiles* thank you.” Afterward she stands and announces in chat her RL work is calling and she’s going to log off. We exchange goodbyes, I thank her for helping me with my article and she poofs.

Alone, I begin think of how best to incorporate her comments into my article. Summing up her comments into a short list of what a coffeehouse is may be a good approach I think. Standing up, I select home and in a few seconds my avi returns to his living room. I open up the communications window and scroll through her remarks attempting to summarize them in a few bullets I can use as I explore and evaluate other coffeehouses that will make this edition of Lane’s List.
  • A place to meet new people and bond with those you’ve gotten to know

  • Plenty of room for lounging and chat

  • Quiet places for private conversations or small group chat

  • A place for group events

I open my search window, type in “coffee” and I’m off to the first destination.

Here is Lane’s List of Coffeehouses in Second Life. I hope you enjoy visiting them as much as I did. Perhaps one day, our avi's will meet at one of them and we can have a nice chat and enjoy a virtual cup of coffee.

  1. Open Latte Coffee Shop - Mill Pond 240, 217, 22 Open Latte is at the top of my list for coffeehouses in SL. It is as it bills itself “a relaxing spot to enjoy intelligent conversation and make some great friends. “ There is outdoor seating in front and back as well as inside to accommodate about 30 avatars. The interior is nicely decorated, and there are nooks for either a private or small group chat. I found two coffee servers plus a tea server along with one that dispensed banana muffins. There is a group one may join, Open Latte Addict. It can found in group search. The owner of Open Latte and the group is Micala Lumiere.

  2. COFFEESHOP MOCCALICIOUS - Sterling Heights 193, 104,22 found Moccalicious to be a nice relaxing place. I was greeted by the owner, Yura Gazov upon my arrival as he was busily decorating for a Halloween Party that evening. He took some time to greet me and another guest, answered our questions and sent us both invitations to the party. I found dispensers for coffee and espresso along with servers for cake and pies. Also, one can join the COFFEESHOP MOCCALICIOUS group, both the shop and group are owned by Yura Gazov.

  3. Fiction and Lattes/Kelly Yap Artist Gallery and Studios and the arts, the two are often linked as one thinks of a Parisian Café or New York’s Coffeehouses. You will not be disappointed here. Kelly Yap, the owner was working in her garden when I arrived and was gracious enough to take me on a tour. It originally started out as a library but she decided to make it a coffeehouse. There were racks of books one could actually read, by rezzing and turning the pages as your camera focused in. She has since added a stage for poetry reading, utilizing the voice capabilities in SL, allowing for interaction to occur between poet and audience. Also on display in the gallery is her own and friends art for sale.

  4. Huggy's Coffee House, HUG*MART & Tiny Dance Club - Dammastock 120, 108, 59’s bills itself as a “place for Tiny’s to hang out”. There was no one present on my arrival or prior to my departure. I found the décor to be cheerful and brightly colorful, with seating for about 20 or so Big Av’s. How many Tiny’s could fit in Huggy’s would be in an interesting question, perhaps I’ll ask the owner Roy Blanchard for his guess. One can find Menu's behind the counter, scripted to deliver Tiny Food and Drinks or Big Food and Drinks. Brownies, cookies, cupcakes, slice of pizza, sandwich or apple. Drink selection included coffee, tea, milk shake, glass of milk, soda or fruit punch. There is a group one may join, Huggy's Coffee House, Roy Blanchard is the group owner

  5. dokimos cafe - Truth 122, 64, 0 Christian coffee house fellowship with Bible studies and friendly discussion including spiritual beliefs, religion, and faith. Coffee service is available from an espresso machine. There looked to be seating for about 20 on the lower floor. A second floor has two rooms, I am assuming for bible study. No one present when I arrived or prior to my departure. Found the walls decorate with posters referencing the religious aspects of the coffeehouse, groups’ ads, and flyers for study sessions and locations for services. There is a group, Club dokimos, California Condor is the group owner

  6. Mimosa Island Gay Beach - Lofts & Shop Rentals - Mimosa Island 204, 50, 0 coffeehouse appears to be part of a recreation building, I found seating for about twelve people with servers for coffee and Hot Cocoa Latte. There was no one present on my visit. It is tastefully decorated as a component of a larger recreation room. Wicker couches in white cloth with two small coffee tables, it is tucked away in the one corner of the building. Other amenities were present for socializing. The group, Mimosa Island Gay Coffee Shop, Zephalus Zapedzki owner has a regular event, the Infusion Gay Cafe. Breakfast Club Saturday 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM PST.

  7. BCH :: Beachwood Coffee House - Beachwood 96, 101, 38 A very nice build, modern decor chrome and lots of glass. Outdoor patio with table seating for six and a cozy corner niche with love seat and couches. Hardwood floor interior with three seating areas with couches and chairs. A coffee and tea server is available on a coffee table near the entrance. Potted plants dot the interior space, providing a few places where privacy can be maintained. A few modern art pieces are also on display. There was no one around when I arrived, nor prior to my departure.

  8. !MarillaAnne's Place Coffee Shop & Art Gallery ~Dream Island - Dream Island 155, 25, 28 to MarillaAnne's Place, Nazz Lane, the greeter entered into chat as I arrived, right click the green cone on the door to teleport up to The Upstairs Gallery. There is seating for about 20 or so, with notecard and drink dispensers on each table. There is a stage for live music performances and one may join the group, MarillaAnne's Place, owner MarillaAnne Slade. Art on display included RL photography from Texas, New York, New York City, and Oregon.

  9. The Overflowing Cup Coffee House - Westport 116,194,67 A Christian coffee shop, tastefully decorated with seating for 20 or so on the ground floor. You can get coffee, tea or espresso along with cookies and cakes. I found a rack full of literature (notecards), and chairs arranged in what I presumed to be a prayer circle on the second floor. I also saw small conference table in a nook on the upper level. There was one person there when I arrived, engrossed in an IM session. We exchanged pleasantries before I left to explore other venues.

  10. Bantam Dell Bookshop & Café nicely done build, however the traffic numbers here were very low. I found an espresso server tucked away in one corner on a counter with wine server along with servers for muffins and cookies. There were books on display, assuming them to be from the publisher, with seating on both a lower and upper floor and seating on the patio. By far the largest of the coffeehouses I visited. What one can do with corporate dollars! There is a group, The Bantam Dell Book Café, Beatrice Scintilla is the group owner.

  11. The Killing Moon Cafe - Coffee House and Chill Joint (Retrology) seating on patio in front of the cafe for six along with a small interior with seating for six more in a nook. I found both a coffee server and one for freeze drinks. One could also get cookies, bagels & cream cheese, donuts, and pies from servers.

  12. Nadima's Magic Bean Coffee House and Kulture Gallery - Happy Clam Island 132, 178, 26 trip back to the tie-dyed 60’s at this coffeehouse. There is seating for about twelve of so, with a dance floor and stage. A server offers you a choice of, Latte, Macciato, Mocha, Cappuccino, Espresso or Flat White. There was no one present when I arrived or prior to my departure.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Interviews with Second Life Gardners

In my exploration of Gardens in Second Life, a most enjoyable aspect was in meeting and chatting with the developers of these remarkable places. I thank each for having taken the time to meet and answer my questions as well as for their efforts and commitment to making these enchanting spots available to us all in SL.

Isablan Neva (IN) – SL Botanical Gardens
Zanza Marx (ZM) – Midsomer
Kelian Axon (KA) – Tranquility Garden
Dane Zander (DZ) – Lost Garden of Apollo

Nazz Lane: Do you garden in real life? How much influence did that have on your design here? What drew you to gardening in SL?

IN: Yes, I have been slowly landscaping my RL yard for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, gardening in RL is much more time consuming than gardening in SL :) I've even looked into getting the education required to become a professional landscape designer based on how much I find myself loving and doing it. My RL house is well known in the neighborhood for both being purple and having a beautiful yard. My RL garden didn't have much influence on The Botanical Gardens, but there was considerable influence from my visits to the Huntington Botanical Gardens (Los Angeles, CA), Villa D' Este (outside of Rome, Italy) and the Vizcaya Gardens (Miami, Florida.) At all of those places I found myself fantasizing about what it would be like to have a house surrounded by grounds like those. I was drawn into gardening in SL by early experiences at A Change of Fate (in Dore, still standing last I checked) and Lilones Retreat (no longer in SL). They were two of my early favorite spots. When I bought my first land, I couldn't see any sense in putting down a house and decided I was going to live in a garden in a gazebo. Eventually, 117 prims was just not enough and I needed a bigger garden, so I found a great piece of land in Federal and built the first SL Botanical Gardens, which eventually expanded to cover 1/4 of the sim.

ZM: I have loved gardens my entire life. My father was an avid gardener who also had to have ponds in our yards. When I was young and we would take camping trips, I would find a small area, lay moss as sod, design a meandering pine needle path, and line it with tiny drooping bluebell flowers as lamps along the pathway, believing I had made it for the forest faery folk. Today in rl I live on 3/4 acre in the country in the Rocky Mountains, under a canopy of dozens of stately Cottonwoods, among several varieties of berry bushes, some apple trees, and old fashion bearded and wild irises, wild roses springing up everywhere and a creek running through the back. Sound vaguely familiar? In SL, my 'First Land' I acquired my first week here became a garden. Not large enough, I bought the adjoining plot. Still not large enough, I sold it and bought a bigger plot surrounded by water and carved a river through it. That, of course, led to a sim. I guess I just can't help myself.

KA: I love to garden in my real life, my passion is herbs and I will spend hours sowing seeds, potting on and tending my thriving herb patch. I also very much enjoy ornamental ponds and have great fun in watching birds, insects and occasionally foxes and hedgehogs come to the water’s edge or in the birds cases (evil Heron) try to make off with my rather round goldfish and koi. I have to admit I have bought some of my real garden to my virtual one in the form of picking flowers that I know well from growing them in my real garden from a very young age and of course, the koi.

DZ: Unfortunately, no. I live in the city, but plan to buy a house and garden real soon. I built the Lost Gardens of Apollo because at the time, not many real gardens or parks existed in SL. Especially large places were missing - places to explore and get "lost" in.

Nazz Lane: Pretty much any outdoor space where one TP's into has a garden, why do you think gardens in SL have so much appeal?

IN: I think green space provides warmth and atmosphere. Nature is a beauty all of its own and it adds a sense of life where ever it appears. People tend to find nature calming and regenerative. Even Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs said "I want a window where I can see a tree." If you look at two streets; one with just concrete and glass and one with the same concrete and glass but lined with trees you will tend to be drawn more the street lined with the trees. It will seem a more pleasant place to be. Because this is true in RL, it becomes part of the way we build in SL since we generally tend to imitate RL here; we are most comfortable with that which we know as opposed to the unknown. I actually think there isn't near enough nature in SL. I TP into a lot of places that have been divested of even the Linden Trees as landowners look to maximize prims and space, which is really a shame.

ZM: I think it has to do primarily with the lack of natural open spaces in rl coupled with increasing daily stress. There is a harmony with our deepest, most primitive emotions when surrounded by nature that brings us that much needed ethereal peace and I think that is what people have found in SL year round. There is a place in SL for gardens to refresh that peaceful spirit in the midst of fantasy and beauty.

KA: Second life is just that, a Second life, people build friendships and relationships there and in turn want places to go where they can relax and talk to others without the adult scene which dominates many areas. Gardens offer a place to forget about clubs and shops and just take the time to take in the beautiful areas SL allows us to create… its much like living in a dream, there are enchanted forests, haunted graveyards and sunny beaches, there is something for everyone and if you can dream it, it can be created.

DZ: Because of the endless bombardment of various building styles on most of the land you see. As in real life, people long for a quiet spot, somewhere to relax. SL living is very compressed in time and very hectic. We all need to relax also from time to time, and everyone using SL daily knows what I mean.

Nazz Lane: What design challenges does the SL gardener face? What other design considerations were taken into account?

IN: Well, you mentioned flying and that is a perpetual bane of many a sim designers existence. Some even hide things where they can't be seen from the air in order to try and force people down to the ground where they will see the sim design as it was intended. If it weren't for the Mirage, which can only be reached by flying, I would probably seriously consider turning off the ability to fly at the Gardens. I can't speak for other gardeners, but some of the things that I planned in include at least a 20m distance between 'hang-out' areas so that chat range doesn't overlap. Also, the pathways are the guides to traveling the island. Without paths to follow people get lost and will miss so many things. Lag is a perpetual issue, especially with a garden on this scale. As you noted, I have a welcome notecard at the entry area and it has dual purposes of 1) imparting information about the sim 2) slowing people down so that things will rez before they start moving too far in. Another consideration is that you don't want people to be able to see too far ahead, you want to draw them forward to see what is around the next corner. I also designed the Gardens so that there are spots for someone who is exploring alone can hang out, there are a few romantic areas for couples and areas where groups of 3 - 6 can all hang out. I didn't want anyone to feel odd being alone here, I've read too many reviews of sims where the reviewer laments that they don't have someone with them to share it with. I wanted The Botanical Gardens to be a place where one could be comfortable alone or with others.

ZM: I can't say how others design their SL gardens or what challenges they may face aside from the ever mindful prim limits but Midsomer was more of an organic design. I started with a rough terrain, added the winding river, and worked with the land guided by my own sense of balance and color to fit my own comfort level. The lovely thing about any garden, in my opinion, is that there is no wrong or right way to do it - it is more an expression of a personal sense of these two components and an individual display of mood. My preference on Midsomer is exactly that - a leisurely walk - so I have tried to make it primarily all accessible by foot with pathways for people and those who enjoy it on horseback or on the backs of tigers or any other such creature they fancy to ride. I also wanted to make it interactive with the chess area, the dining pavilion, the swing, hammock and merry-go-round, and of course, the dance and music areas.

KA: Personally, I have seen very few gardens which can be seen to best advantage any other way than at ground level. The way many plants and trees are created it makes it very difficult to design gardens which can be viewed at all angles so I believe it is best to work from one and focus your creative energies there in order to make it the best you can with whatever prim limits you have. I think as a gardener you have to take into account the surrounding land, some builds in second life can be very imposing and in turn make an impact on the overall feel of joining plots. I’ve had to deal with finding ways of blocking ad boards and sky litter but I have also been very lucky in the fact that I have some wonderful neighbors who appreciate how beautiful Second life can be with a bit of landscaping and consideration of others.

DZ: Well, the main challenge for any designer in SL, gardener or not, is to realize and work with the lack of the USUAL challenges IRL. We don't have to work against gravity, we can fly, we can build at any altitude. We can build micro- or macro environments. A lot of designs in SL are very conventional. What many don't realize is.. We don't really need roofs... doors... walls..... as well as fences and I could go on and on. Many of these elements can be added for decorative purposes but that's about it. The Lost Gardens of Apollo was mainly built for exploring on foot - but since it contains hidden and very tall builds as well, flying is a widely used option.

Nazz Lane: Are the gardens a collaborative effort? Do the contributors create new things for you to add?

IN: They are completely a collaborative effort. I'm adding new stuff all the time, in fact I have two new plant creators to add in the next couple of weeks. Since I don't make plants myself, it works out very nicely for me to showcase other creators' work. With the exception of the greenhouse, all of the structures are my handiwork. All of the plants and trees are by others.

ZM: Actually, I built this based on what I wanted to enjoy...a place to call my home. I opened it to the public not knowing if people would like it or not and honestly, it didn't matter to me if they didn't but I soon learned that this was not the case and many have a very protective attitude toward what Midsomer has become. I do have an Estate Manager, Lara Lycia, my oldest and dearest SL friend, who helps with maintenance now and then when I am not available (ie. resetting dance balls, dealing with greifers, etc.) who does it purely as an act of love. But there are not often problems so I feel quite fortunate.

KA: Tranquility garden is a one man show. I often ask for friends and regular visitors to offer opinions on new features or changes in the hopes that I can continue improving and evolving the garden. I have to say when laying out the garden at the beginning back in early 2006 I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into and at times it’s been a struggle to keep the garden going especially after a few accidents involving auto return and a lovely ‘revert’ button on the landscaping tool. I’ve spent hours, probably days getting it to what it is now and I’m sure many more will be spent there keeping things as they should be.

DZ: The Lost Gardens of Apollo were built by me exclusively. I had moral support and a LOT of patience from my Sr. Estate Manager, Sean Hadlee while building them. He overlooks the Gardens, as well as my Estate Manager Assistants samlowry Hawks, and Flix Zabelin. samlowry is my self appointed "Guardian Angel" of the Gardens, and doing a huge job looking after them many hours a day.

Nazz Lane: How is the virtual garden different then the real garden?

IN: *smiles* well, the biggest differences are in maintenance (none in a virtual garden, as opposed to unending in RL gardens) and the ability to work with different climates within a small area. One thing that is unique about The Botanical Gardens is the variety of climates. Buddha's mountain is all pine and snow covered in the upper portion and then over on the other side you have the Rain Forest and the tropical lagoon. The bird sounds are different in those areas as well.

ZM: In my experiences, I have a hard time keeping deer, rabbits, and woodchucks from eating all of my plants in RL, there’s always weeding, and due to my altitude and climate I am quite limited to the types of plants I have to choose from. Then you have those plants requiring shade or sun, more or less water, etc. In SL there are none of these obstacles. You can clump them and nothing dies out. No need to water or weed. You can invent plants that only exist in the mind's eye. Gravity doesn't have to be taken into consideration should you choose. It's a creator's paradise and I think we will see more fantastical things as SL continues to evolve as well.

KA: Hmm, well with a virtual garden you have no fears of severe weather which is great so you don’t have to deal with flower snapping off, pots blowing all over the place or ground frosts killing off new shoots. The maintenance is minimal, no dead heading flowers, no cutting the grass and best of all you don’t have to worry about going away for a few days and coming back to a group of dried up brown plants. One thing I do miss in the virtual world of gardening is actually seeing things grow from seed up into the adult plant or tree, or even watching a bud open up and bloom over a few hours. Maybe one day all the plants in Second life will have that little spark of magic in them.

DZ: No maintenance! And the ability to build and design something not possible IRL. SOME maintenance is required though - but not of the gardens themselves. The main effort is to keep the gardens a safe, calm environment. So a few unruly visitors are the time robbers mainly. They are dealt with by strict rules and a ban, if not in compliance.

Nazz Lane: How many prims are used in your design?

IN: Right now the sim is using about 12,000 prims. I would guess that 3,000 of that is taken up by my retail operations up in the sky and the rest is the Gardens.

ZM: Aside from the residential plots, Midsomer's main body currently uses roughly 9950 prims. This changes as the Isle evolves.. I am very aware of prims and try to keep a decent amount open for events and to lessen lag so I may swap something for a new build here or there...always aware of those areas that appear to be most popular so that I do not take something that will be missed. No complaints yet.

KA: I believe I’m hitting around 2500 prims but have another 500 in each area giving me another 1000 to use, I’m not planning on using this many though as I do like for visitors to be able to set down their own picnic blankets where they please.

DZ: For the Lost Gardens of Apollo, an estimated 13000 prims, builds included

Nazz Lane: Do you have any future plans for the garden you'd like to share?

IN: I'm debating adding another sim. Beyond that I so much need to finish this one first. There are a lot of places where I really rushed through and never fully completed, such as The Mirage, The Embarcadero and the City of Gold. A visitor probably wouldn't notice that those areas aren't fully finished, but I know they aren't and it drives me crazy. I would like hold more events here at some point, poetry readings, music...etc.

ZM: The only real plan is to update this Class 3 server to a 5 soon and begin some concert events. No concrete plans for the actual garden areas... it is always changing a bit here and there as I learn something new, or create something I think people might enjoy or feel needs expanding, or a mood strikes me. I have dreams of an additional sim as well, so we'll see. What that will be, I can't say yet. An extension of Midsomer to an extent but again, it will most likely grow organically as I go.

KA: I’ve only recently bought a plot in Vine which backs onto the older area of the garden so I am still working on that area. I am always looking to tweak things or to add new items which I feel people may enjoy. Hopefully this extension will open up the garden a little more and attract a few more visitors.

DZ: If at all possible, financially, I would love to expand the Lost Gardens of Apollo with 4 OpenSpace sims. Make water for sailing and swimming, more land, and alleviating a bit of the traffic pressure on the main sim of Apollo. I keep access usually at 50 people max - both to keep the server running smoothly, but also to ensure privacy and to keep it from becoming overcrowded. The sim is almost always at max capacity.

Nazz Lane: Tell me about your favorite places in the Garden. Do you get feedback from your visitors telling you about theirs?

IN: Funny you should ask that. Several places in the sim were developed based on watching how visitors used the Gardens. Two great examples are the area at the top of The Lagoon waterfall and the Rain Forest. I never did anything to create a "hang out" spot up at the top of that waterfall, but over time I started noticing people up there on a regular basis. So, I ended up putting in some float pose balls and a bench to develop it into a destination. With the Rain Forest, I had no idea initially what I was going to do with the storm system made by MenuBar Memorial so I stuck it off in an undeveloped corner and forgot about it. Over time I started noticing people hanging out there enjoying the storm, so I developed that area into a destination as well. I learn a lot from just watching where people spend their time and where they don't. If people aren't hanging out in an area that I developed, then something isn't right there yet and I need to work on it more.

ZM: My favorite spots.. lol.. hmmmm. That is a mood question. I often enjoy the Garden of Sorrows as a restful, reflective spot. The swing has always been one of my favorite 'toys' to simply unwind after a long day. If I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed I sometimes retreat to the underwater ruins to just sit and hide, and sometimes when other areas are busier I will sit by the water with my fishing rod and relax (also a RL enjoyment). I receive many compliments on Midsomer. Many write to simply tell me that they have fallen in love with the Isle and that does my heart good. Aside from the ever popular dance areas, I am amazed at how many have told me that they feel the area on the southwest corner is the most romantic! And there always seems to be someone sitting in the Garden of Sorrows, for relaxing peace if nothing else.

KA: I don’t really have any spots which I could call my favourite, I do however get regular visitors telling me where they like to sit but more often than not I have already guessed due to them being there so often that they become a feature of the garden

DZ: I love the Terazza Romantica, in the SW corner of the sim, facing the sunset. It's semi-private, and has a separate romantic stream. It's a calming spot.. good for conversations, and romantic dates. My guests often write me about the sim. I receive IM's and email daily about their enjoyment of it, and that alone is a great reward and incentive to keep the Gardens running. Almost all have their favourite spots.

Nazz Lane: Do you make seasonal changes?

IN: God no. *laughs* I'm having a hard enough time just finishing the sim. Maybe if I get to a place in my second life when I'm done with the build out and I am down to puttering and tinkering.

DM: I have not done this to date. I have thought about it, as I do enjoy a beautiful white snowy landscape in the winter however, I think it is the appeal of the garden's greenery that people find relaxing. As far as changing flowers to fit the season, that is another wonderful thing about SL... You don't have to. If I change flowers it is usually because I have found something so beautiful and fitting I simply have to add it.

KA: I would love to be able to do things like this but to be honest; I really wouldn’t have the time to make all the changes each season. I live in hope that someday soon someone will create and script trees to change with the season’s, it would be wonderful to see second life moving from the greens of spring and summer to the wonderful orange and reds of autumn.

DZ: I don't. I sometimes change or add builds - and use various parts of the sim for special occasions such as weddings, book readings etc.

Nazz Lane: Are there any favorite garden places you like to visit in SL? What about RL?

IN: My favorite spots (well, other than my own garden) are Bliss Gardens, Cave Rua, A Change of Fate, and Fate Gardens. In RL I live close to the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

DM: I have always enjoyed Botanical gardens in RL... probably because they are so similar to SL - no seasonal changes and they mix everything from so many different climates. I just returned from a resort in India that is so amazing it was like stepping into a RL SL garden! I am hoping for a return visit there in a year. As far as SL goes, if I am not shopping, taking a class, or visiting friends, you will find me on Midsomer. It is my favorite... it is my home.

DZ: Unfortunately, I rarely get to explore these days. I design sims for private clients, so my days are full of that. In real life, an all time favourite of mine is The Tivoli Gardens in the centre of Copenhagen. It is one of the world's oldest amusement parks, and is always brimming with magnificent flowerbeds and arrangements any which where you turn. It's a classic, and a must see for visitors to our fair city :)

Garden Places in Second Life

They are one of the most ordinary of elements in second life, whenever we teleport into an outdoor spot we are most likely to encounter them. As the site begins to rezz, we see sets of palms, leafy oaks, flowering apple or cherry tree’s as they come into our view. As we approach a residence, or place of business, flowering or leafy shrubs appear along with roses, Black-eyed Susan’s, Marigolds or Chamomile, some of which even appear to be swaying in an imaginary wind. Their appearance and order are not random, someone has made a conscious decision to create a garden space. A special area for their home or business place in which flowers, trees or shrubbery have been prominently displayed, dedicated to their own enjoyment or to that of their guests and visitors.

Why gardens? Of all the things that could be done in SL to use the Prim’s available to us on a 512 Sq. Meter site or even the prim’s available on a full SIM, we still choose to have our gardens. One reason may simply be that the Linden’s have included them in our inventory of items; our libraries contain a Landscaping folder for use in our second life homes and businesses. It may be that they have perceived our need to create our environments in SL to be as familiar to us as it would be in our real lives. And it’s not just the Lindens who have done so, but there are a host of commercial sites within SL that cater to that need. Gardening centers in SL that provide all the elements that can be used to personalize our space and demonstrate that even in a simulated world, the need to have simple items of nature present as a means to comfort us and connect us with that place SL’ers call real life.

Gardens were among the first of many areas that I’ve explored in SL, and I have chosen to start off Lane’s List with my picks for SL’s Gardens. I must confess to a little bit of influence here, a mentor in my second life introduced me to gardens shortly after my arrival. Her influence affected my decision but it wasn’t the deciding factor. When not in SL, I am most likely to be found in my own garden.

I started my SL search easily enough; using the search function available in SL, by typing the word “Garden” and hitting enter. The results came back with slightly over 500 places listed. This would be a lot to explore even for an addicted sl’er like me. So my first impulse was to limit it to the sites with the most traffic, picking the top ten or fifteen. So off I went, visiting the first place listed only to be disappointed. Yes, there was a garden, but it was small with very little variety and it was really only the entry point to the rest of the SIM and its commercial locations. The same was true of the second and third sites visited. A bit disappointed, I determined that a set of criteria would need to be used to evaluate and select the garden places to visit and ultimately the one that would appear on Lane’s List. Here are the criteria I used to narrow my list and to choose the sites I would visit and write about.

· Garden plan, the site must be a truly be a garden and designed as such

· It must contain the elements of a garden. Plants, trees, shrubs and the outdoor structures that enhance or emphasize the garden space such as terraces, paths, ponds, and gazebos

· Uses of the garden. A place to relax, meet friends in a community space, where one can enjoy its simple beauty or provide the SL’er with an opportunity to learn

· The variety of plants used and space utilization for themes

· While some commercialization was acceptable, it wasn’t the prevalent theme of the site

With these criteria in mind, I went back to search and looked at the high traffic sites once again, and narrowed the list down to about a dozen places to explore. Over a period of about week, I managed to have visited each, made some notes and contacted listed owners to chat with them about their gardens. So without further fanfare here’s Lane’s List of Garden Spots in Second Life:

1. SL Botanical Gardens - Whether alone or with friends, there is much to see and do. It occupies its own island, and full exploration may require several trips or a several hour excursion. I’ve visited multiple times and have been delighted with each visit to find something new to see and study. As you arrive at the entry point, a notecard dispenser will provide you the necessary information to guide you through your visit, and includes the developer’s favorite spots. In a true Botanical Garden fashion, there are plants and trees from nearly every creator in SL. Location: The Botanical Gardens 194, 60, 38

2. Midsomer Isle- Step Into The Dream – “A Paradise of Hideaways, Mountain Pools, Garden, Dancing, Dinner, Chess, Shopping, Relax, Romance, Love, Cuddle, or Just Dream”, is what one finds when entering this enchanted space. While exploring one will find pools of water at each waterfall, terraces for reflecting alone or enjoying with someone else or simply viewing a sunset, a bell tower that tolls each hour or one may just relax and sit in the park feeding the birds. This garden is a continuing work in progress so each new visit may introduce something new. Location: Midsomer Isle 149, 124, 27

3. The Lost Gardens of Apollo – The heaviest trafficked garden site in my search list, is a beautiful spot for romantic private moments, or if alone for just plain relaxation. The outdoor features such as the terraces, gazebos, sculpture, waterfalls, and domed pavilion alone may take several trips or one extended visit to take it all in. The terrace facing south west provides the ultimate in SL sunsets and is a must for all who visit. Location: Apollo 194, 105, 58

4. Tranquility Garden – As the name bespeaks, was the most tranquil of the several places I visited while exploring and the first place in SL I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon fishing. It is also the smallest of the several visited, but in the small space, it managed to pack in a host of flowers, trees and secluded spots for quiet conversations or if alone for quiet reflection in tranquility. Location: Achemon 70, 122, 109

5. Fairytale Gardens of Shinano – Start your visit by walking through this garden space enjoying the vista of the river valley, the double arched lighted bridge, the English style cottage with its garden of pink and purple flowers or the autumn like setting with colorful leaves on oaks and maples. Location: shinano 128, 128, 24

More to follow on gardens, with interviews and pictures.