Monday, November 12, 2007

Presidential Campaign Sites in Second Life

In Search of the Truth and Free T-Shirts :-D

Feeling a little restless this morning, my avatar is pacing in his home office, wracking his virtual brain. I’m certain that several of my ex-GFs can attest to the virtualessness nature of my brain. I’m looking for story ideas, my editors at the paper having been pleased with my contributions to date. I am about to sit him down at his desk, when an IM arrives, “pssssssssssssst…Nazz, I need to talk to you.” It is one of my sources, a Washington insider who hasn’t been ingame in quite some time. “Good morning X, it's good see you online again…what’s up?” A few minutes lapse before X replies, I begin to worry. “*X looks around to make sure Nazz is alone*. I have a scoop for you, if you’re interested…but we can’t talk here…meet me in our usual place…15 minutes.” My pulse quickens, X has been my source for several stories that have blown the lid off to reveal scandal and corruption and some of the seediest people I’ve ever met. This could be the story of the year, hell, maybe the decade, and a vision of receiving the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize comes into mind.

The 15 minutes drags on agonizingly, and I do my best to not look at the clock. Unable to control my anxiety, I glance nervously toward it and see it is time for the meeting. Left click on Inventory, Landmarks, Sources, I find the LM and click on it to TP. My virtual self arrives and, as the surroundings appear, I sense that I am not alone. “Ohhhhh my gawd, Nazz…don’t you have anything else to wear in that inventory of yours…you’ve been in that same Rolling Stones T-Shirt since we’d met…and, by the way, didn’t that shirt used to be white?” X asks. I move the camera to glance down, a little self-conscious now, see a fleck of virtual pepperoni, just out of reach of Mick’s tongue. “I thought you were good friends with some designer…does she know how you dress yourself?” X says and laughs. This last comment bothers me. My avatar's face turns red and I tell X sarcastically, “Damning criticism from someone who seems to wear the same outfit every time. I’m guessing you have a few hundred of those blue dresses and black berets in your wardrobe. By the way, how ever did you get that stain lifted?” I ask and then snicker.

She goes silent for a few minutes and I begin to regret my sarcasm; I’m thinking that she is about to TP away taking the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize with her. “Sorry, one of my clients was IMing. I took it to a virtual dry cleaner, my new business in SL.” she says laughing and then continues: “So, are you interested in hearing my story?” I reply: “Of course I am.” My pulse quickens as I open my notepad and, with a virtual pencil poised, I’m ready to take down her story. Before she can begin, however, a stranger wanders into our view. We both clam up as he approaches. Neither of us had seen his arrival. He comes over and we exchange pleasantries, he’s a noob out exploring. X begins to flirt, her coy replies to his questions begin to irritate me, so in an IM I tell her to get rid of him. She does and he wishes us both a good day and vanishes.

I open the mini-map, do a quick check and see that we’re alone before I speak, “There’s no one around. We appear to be alone X”. She begins her story in a hushed tone, “Are you aware that some of the presidential candidates have been thinking of setting up sites in SL and they’ve begun to recruit SLers to host them?” Before I can interject, she continues: “I’ve seen the plans from several of the campaigns to set up shop in SL. I’ve made copies for you, let me pass them over.”

I begin to groan before she has even finished. “Oh for God’s sake Mo****.” I barely catch myself in time from saying her name, “you need to get out from that cubbyhole more often.” I yell. “That story broke in February when the John Edwards Campaign opened its SL doors. It’s been talked to death in the both the SL papers and RL media of how its going to change the face of elections in America.” In my mind’s eye I see the SL version of the Pulitzer Prize rez a pair of big white angel wings and begin flapping as it flies away.

I could sense she was crestfallen, and I begin feeling badly for having yelled at her. “I’m so sorry Nazz, when I saw the plans…all I thought of…all I wanted to do, was get them to you.” she says. Her face is crimson with embarrassment. “Maybe you could do a story about them anyway? I’ve read your Lane’s List on coffeehouses. “Presidential Campaign Sites in Second Life”, how about doing something like that?” she asks. I could see she feels badly about things. “I suppose I could do a piece on it.” I offer. Then jokingly she suggests, “I know that the Hillary site is giving away free t-shirts. You could do a story and increase your wardrobe.” she says laughingly.

“Why don’t you give me your Stones shirt and let me run it through my SL cleaning process?” she asks. “I feel badly and want to make it up to you somehow.” Without thinking about it, I take off the shirt and pass it over to her. “I should go. That noob who was here just IMed me, he found a really great club and wants someone to show him how to use the dance balls. I’ll get the shirt back to you as quickly as I can Nazz. I know how much you like it.” she says. We exchange goodbyes and she TPs away.

Alone, I kick around the idea and, the more I do, the more I like it. There was much hoopla when the story broke, perhaps its time to revisit the topic. I open Search, type in “campaign” and am off to my first stop.

In all attempts to appear non-partisan, there is no implied order to this edition of Lane’s List, I am simply reporting on what I found at each site.

  • Democrat John Edwards -
    This is the first stop on my itinerary, the site is empty when I arrive. Looking at the traffic numbers, it doesn’t look as if many others have visited of late as well. At the arrival point, I find the freebie t-shirt box and click on it, receiving not only two freebie t-shirts but campaign buttons as well. I immediately wear one of the shirts and then wander around. Campaign literature is available through notecard dispensers and links to web sites. A second John Edwards site is said to be located at Inexplicably, this leads to an empty piece of property; the description of the land is "Home of the 2008 presidential campaign of celebri-psychic, John Edward".
  • Democrat Dennis Kucinich -
    Another empty site greets me upon my arrival. It is, however, a better build and the information displays, snapshots of his web site, are informative. I find an office and wander in, a picture of the candidate is nestled between pictures of Lincoln and FDR, I assume the candidate is attempting to look presidential. However the picture is noticeably smaller then the others and adds nothing to an assumed presidential appearance. After a search of this site, the best I could find are lawn signs. I go back to Search and find another Kucinich site I TP over and see t-shirts, long and short sleeved in red, white and blue are available, but not free and I pass on buying one. A visitor could also find candidate coffee mugs for sale.
  • Democrat Hillary Clinton -
    By far, the best build of the campaign sites. Nicely done with information on the candidate and areas for events and gatherings. I click on and receive two free t-shirts and wander around to look at information. The RL front runner with slightly less than a year until the election. Still much ground to cover, I think, and we have 11 more months to find out whether America will elect a woman president.
  • Democrat Barack Obama –
    This is the first and only of the campaign sites that has others there when I arrive. I try to chat up them both, but other than an exchange of greetings, neither is inclined to discuss the site, the candidate or politics. There are, of course, the obligatory campaign materials on display. I also pick up two freebie t-shirts and a baseball cap which, if you've ever seen anyone in SL wear one, looks quite ridiculous on an av.
  • Democrat Mike Gravel -
    A nicely done site, walkways take you through information displays and campaign materials. I pick up a free flight feather, t-shirt and campaign button. I wander into the office and look around for a bit before going over to the information displays. To be truthful, until I did the search, I’d never heard of Mike Gravel nor was aware he is a candidate. But I do get a free flight feather, so I leave happy.
  • Democrat Al Gore – I may have been the only visitor to the site, the traffic count is zero when I TP in. It is a small building and the freebie t-shirt dispenser is out front. Nothing in the building and there is no one around. I try to locate the site a second time to get the SLURL but am unable to find it in Search. I do try a search using “Gore” and have a few hits, but none are related to the campaign, but may be useful for later research so I save them in a note.
  • Other Democrats – I can find no sites for Joe Biden, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson.
  • Republican Ron Paul –
    Ron’s is the only actual candidate site I find on the Republican side. It is a decent site, nice build, candidate information is available and I am able to pick up a freebie t-shirt. One can also find a Ron Paul Beach Party site So much for the idea that Republicans don’t party!
  • Republican Party HQ -
    It is here I am able to find more information on the rest of the Republican candidates, along with freebie t-shirts for Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownbeck, Tom Tancredo, and Alan Keyes.
  • Presidential Candidate Flags, Yard Signs and T-Shirts -
    This is an interesting site, obviously commercial in nature, with Presidential Campaign paraphernalia on sale. Yard signs and flags along with Democrat and Republican Candidate T-Shirts are on sale. The owner has a tally board on display at the entry point, charting the ongoing sales of paraphernalia by candidate as a percentage of sales. A notecard reads “Buy a flag, t-shirt or yard sign to show support for your favorite candidate for US President. At least a couple of times a week (and more often if I get around to it), I'll update the leader board showing what percentage of sales were for each candidate. Come back often to see how your favorite person is doing among the residents of SL.“

    As of November 7th, here’s the tally:

o Biden - .38%

o Clinton - 16.25%

o Dodd - .48%

o Edwards - 14.21%

o Giuliani - 4.42%

o Gravel - 1.41%

o Huckabee - 8.5%

o Hunter - 1.62%

o Kucinich - 4.86%

o McCain - 2.49%

o Obama - 15.9%

o Paul - 21.41%

o Richardson - 2.29%

o Romney - 3.2%

o Tancredo - 0%

o Thompson, F - 1.53%

o Nobody / None of the Above - 1.04%

With my travels complete, I TP over to see my friend, the designer, to look for some fashion advice. When I arrive and rez, I see she is busy but walk over to see that she is setting up her new fall line releases. As she sees me approach, she snickers and says, “What the hell happened to your Stones t-shirt?” I tell her my tale and ask for her advice. "Do I need to tell you about that silly earring you're wearing again?" She asks and then begins telling me how she thinks I should be attired. While she talks, I listen and take a few notes. Halfway through, an inventory offer and IM arrive from X, I click on both.

"I managed to get it cleaned," X explains. I thank her for the cleaning and for the idea. I open my inventory and find the shirt clicking it to wear. Happy to have Mick back where he belongs, I turn my attention to hear the rest of the fashion advice.