Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Relay Weekend 2016 - The Pros Versus The Cons

Some of the Hearts & Souls team

Disclaimer: When I post about negative experiences it is rarely if ever out of any smug satisfaction.  There are no winners.  It is a "buyer beware" as I stumble through the metaverse.  This post definitely serves this purpose.  You have an opportunity to learn from any mistakes I've made and spot warning signs in advance.  Those who know these people and find me relating a story: take it for what it is; there's no glory in it for me. I am sure to lose several from my contact list.  I always blog with the expectation that someone is going to find out, whether there are tattlers or not. This is The Internet.  Just keep in mind that my opinions may not be that of the Hearts & Souls Relay For Life team, and that taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources or preventing them from representation or fundraising is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and American Cancer Society - who have nothing to do with this post.

Breaking down the purpose of a committee for any fundraising venture, they exist strictly to represent volunteers, provide the resources needed, and act in fundraisers' best interest.  They stand with us, not below us and most definitely not above us. Most veteran Relayers in Second Life have distanced themselves from Relay For Life of Second Life as the committee has distanced itself from those basic roles. As already mentioned, the committee had taken to treating volunteers like employees.

To review: Relay Weekend is when volunteers get together to celebrate the spirit of Relay and take time out to honor those fighting cancer, those sharing in the fight, and those who have triumphed.  It is a time of remembrance for those we've lost.  It is also a great opportunity to offer some stuff for donation at one's campsite.  Relay Weekend in Second Life has historically enjoyed a boost in revenue.  In recent years however the committee has given consideration for the Relayer a back seat while pushing the fundraising aspect in their mantra.

Relay For Life and Relay Weekend are about community and camaraderie.  There were many instances of this in SL but a majority of driving forces this year had special ways of showing that they did not give a crap about their fellow volunteers.

First, the track itself. 

As you may recall the big argument over initial campsite requirements - sims which were either sponsored or endorsed by The American Cancer Society, therefore covered - was a need to use less regions for campsites and leave out those who did not raise more than a pittance.

As per a prior blog entry, I initially requested a small campsite. However I was placed between two large spaces where our parcel would easily get lost (it was decided by the team to have an actual camping ground). Across the road was a modern tile walkway and vessels from Sail For Life.  A narrow forest between a village and an airstrip across from a pier the length of an entire sim.  We would become swallowed up.

Filler parcel
Upon wandering the track it became clear that a LOT of parcels went unassigned.  Apparently they still had an excessive number of regions with corners and empty sections throughout (there were only a couple of team no-shows).  It was easy to get reassigned a full size campsite surrounded by gardens and more forestry for neighbors.  It was perfect.

Throughout preparations the committee hawked spaces for volunteer builders to fill in; one of our former neighbors expanded to fill our former spot (or 1-1/2 of a large campsite).  Anything not claimed or assigned was turned into a simple lake area with a couple of trees or shrubs and a kiosk.

The other issue were redundant campsites for the same org.  It's no secret that the Relay Rockers is a closed team consisting of T1-Radio personnel, so why do they have an additional campsite for their station on "Media Row"?  T1 Radio is home to the Relay Rockers. End of story.

Another parcel redundancy was for Fantasy Faire. They had a sponsored sim and took up one half, then another parcel on Media Row.  At best why not just give credit where due and make it a Radio Riel campsite on Media Row for providing FF their stream?

More on Media Row later.

Last but not Least a Survivors designer sim. Since American Cancer Society region has become part of the track there already IS a dedication to Survivors.  This was an unnecessary presence, just like any staff or committee related campsite should have been replaced with more active attention drawn to the key region where this all converges and still offers the best information & spots to reflect or pay homage.  I still cringe at how they desecrated Pro Recreant's memorial to make way for the kickoff day build.

The Low Lag Pitch

As you know there was emphasis in keeping builds phantom and linked to a root prim way beneath the terrain. I visited some committee builds to view the depth of their foundations and followed suit, but the Pathfinding aspects were largely bullshit and not applicable to the track.  It was easy enough to humor them and ours was among the few campsites who complied.  Almost everyone used phantom and the water spaces helped as well.

Sue Peregrine and Grace Devin get major kudos for planning and helping teams prepare for the most stable Relay Weekend on record.  In fact Grace went out of her way to help our team get re-settled and was always on hand for questions or to check out track anomalies.

Grace also redesigned the archways and eliminated trackside infostations.  The assorted callouts and decor on the archways provided lap theme swag and information.

An archway under construction

The only problems in the design were that directional arrows appeared only once per sim and there was no center line to align automated walkers to.  These both fell under feedback in 2015 as being Relayer-unfriendly over prettiness.

Activity Sims Fail

Their idea of land conservation wasn't in the track with its zillion filler spaces (we could have had so many less but rather in having only three Activity sims instead of four.  Not only that an Activity sim turned out to be "Relay For Life", which traditionally served as the landing point for visitors.

So think about this: You have an opening ceremony which usually requires 4 heavily populated regions with the committee set in the center for everyone to follow.  This time it is three regions, one which has a forced landing point hundreds of meters up with displays and an introduction to Relay For Life for those who connected via viewer MOTD's or the Second Life Destination Guide.  The other sims were filled and this was your only means to get to the ground level ceremony.

What were they thinking? Not of the Relayer, the survivor, the caregiver, the ill participant on disability who donated some of their living expenses for their team total.  What a gesture of disrespect. Whomever planned the Activity area had a lot to answer for after that one.

Reasoning Away the Lack of Participation & Revenue

Random Darrow had decided why numbers were down:

"I picture Relay For Life in SL as a rose bush.  We were large with long tangled up branches.  We produced a lot of roses.  You could find us easily because of our size. Some roses died quite quickly others worked hard hanging on.  Yet ,we were strong and proud.

"But along came a pruning...

"...I think seasoned Relayers will agree with me that for the last couple of years we have seen a decrease in the number of teams and our totals have declined.  There are several reasons for that, but the largest I believe is the fluctuation in sl users. All of SL is feeling this."

Whatever you say Random.  Anything to turn away from the truth or for the committee to be held accountable.

The Rude & Disrespectful Lackey

Then, despite the archway and its streamline design it was decided that a BOX be placed on the track as well.  Some Committee lackey came by to place it not inside the archway but a ways and in front of our campsite.

[11:46] Holocluck Henly: hello what are you doing
[11:46] Holocluck Henly: not in front of our campsite thank you very much
[11:47] Committee Lackey: Okay listen up
[11:47] Committee Lackey: ]yes in front of your campsite
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I'll check with the committee
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I am [Committee Lackey] and Random wanted the volunteer shrts at all 33 Landing points
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I am on the comittee
[11:47] Committee Lackey: I made all the t-shirts this year
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I dont know you. and she didnt inform us of anything
[11:47] Holocluck Henly: I'll double check
[11:47] Committee Lackey: be my guest
[11:48] Committee Lackey: and thanks for the attitude instead of a little grattitude
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: for what
[11:48] Committee Lackey: go running to random
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: just coming here to plop a sale prim down I dont know you
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: yup
[11:48] Committee Lackey: I am doing what I was told
[11:48] Holocluck Henly: if you're right you have nothing to worry about
[11:49] Committee Lackey: I don't

According to Random, the lackey was asked to leave these boxes "at or near" Relay archways.  As usual someone was expected to use their better judgement and were incapable of exercising a minimum of empathy behind their actions on behalf of a Relay For Life committee or the American Cancer Society.  They only had one job...

...and were made to move the box into the archway rather than upstage one of my teammates' luminario memorials and its hovertext message.  Because callously dumping boxes in front of campsites not only spoils dozens of presentations after two weeks or more of hard work, it makes a mockery of cancer struggles recalled trackwide.  It was a shame there was no place for a link on the arches themselves, given their surfaces already contained clickable design elements for freebies and info.  The very purpose of the archways' design was to eliminate the need for boxes.  Her actions also disrespected those who painstakingly planned, designed and built this year's track. 

A fucking soulless jerk. Send them to this post's first paragraph following the disclaimer.  Tell her to "listen up" as to the committee's purpose.

Double Standards and Relay User Unfriendliness

Remember those restrictions to keep the track clear by limiting all events to the Activity Sims? And how T1 Radio was granted some sort of exception by virtue of committee affiliation and hosted several on the track while leading up to the big weekend?  They kept their dance machines out and touted guest DJs who in turn promoted their shifts.  Media Row became a problematic piece of lag all weekend.

One of T1 Radio's track events

The Fight Back Ceremony usually held in the Activity sims was on the track for the first time.  It monopolized a corner region, forcing Relayers to skip.  It was pointless to move this to the track other than to cause a disruption and thereby disrespect Relayers, the ACS brand, and the spirit of Relay itself. Very unfortunate.

The Fight Back Ceremony was held on the track in RFL Hope

Why did they keep extra sims for the track and pepper over 20 filler parcels throughout when they should have had 4 dedicated Activity regions with the RFL sim set apart as a landing point as it had been up until this year?

All events other than relaying belong OFF the track. Also being an exhibition sim - and no longer a vantage point for Prim Perfect or Treet TV no one live streams Relay Weekend on video any longer - Media Row should be OFF the track as well, perhaps situated beside the Activity sims and right over the border from the track at that point. 

Burma Shave style messaging along our campsite

More Bright Lights

Nevar (an oldschool organizer & co-founder of Fashion For Life) and Kammie were fantastic as Activity sim monitors.  They were kind, selfless, and seemingly tireless.  They were party to a veteran spirit all but extinct from the current order.

Our Campsite

This year I resolved to build the campsite solo and it turned out pretty well. For someone who lived in apartments all their lives it was quite a challenge to take on a forest preserve as recalled from my time in Chicago as a child.  It was a low LI backdrop for a quick journey with wellness advice and links plus cancer stories at a campfire based on actual occurrences. 

I made a machinima of it for posterity. Click the video title as it runs to open it larger in a YouTube window.

It was well received and a bit of a triumph considering. Thank you to those who stopped by, and a big thank you to those who never lost the spirit of Relay and what this weekend stand for.

Seven told me that campers gather with a myriad of chair types

NEXT: RFL of SL Wrap Up and the Curious Case of the Cancer-shaming Alt