Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Ceremony That Launched a Thousand IMs (Long)

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 find me relating a story involving people you know: 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 my friends or team mates from ACTS, and that taking anything out on the team or creating difficulties getting the team resources, omitting them from services or preventing them from representation or fundraising, is an attack on innocent people - both from the team and The American Cancer Society.  They have nothing to do with this post.
ugust 2018.

We took a break from InWorldz relaying to meet back in Second Life for the RFLofSL Wrap Up ceremony.

As with Halfway There Fair they passed up a dedicated sim - or renting out the Rose Theatre (was that yet another lost contact?) for a modest spot on American Cancer Society island in front of the RFL building.

I thought about the previous year and their shoddy use of Info-Only Group to inform Relayers of Rap, applications, surveys... With a greatly diminished crowd it would be easy to track someone slipping off to bring an alt in to get past an avatar block and then return.  Certainly an overly emotional and uninformed instigator would be sloppy and conspicuous.  The contact who started it all (aka “With friends like them...”) had vacated the grid, barely a speck among the masses who discontinued their affiliation with RFLofSL. 

Having come under the wing of a large team it was a relief not to have to deal directly with the commitee.  My captain even arranged for my annual 4am Lap set on Relay Sunday.

By now we would have submitted recommendations for the following year’s theme and voted for it; Wrap Ceremony was where results were announced so teams could discuss and begin planning campsites in the interim.  There was no word, and this time I also had a team captain sharing relevant Volunteer Group notices with us.


There we stood, listening to platitudes and such, to committee people patting themselves on the back, when it came time for Sting.

Over the past year if he was on Skype for a ceremony Sting'a presence inworld amounted to a cardboard standup (aka flat alpha) so this was the first in a while where he actually logged in.

You know every time Sting speaks at a closing ceremony I think back on his epic piece from Relay Weekend 2011, the passage I posted last entry.  But there had been very little reason to “go there” anymore, no more pride for organizers as fellow volunteers among us, as we stood with our feet buried in phantom concrete.

What transpired must have launched a thousand IMs.  Well of course not; we were probably the smallest turnout for a Relay Wrap Up Ceremony this decade.
Sting’s 2017 speech with spontaneous thoughts in blockquote.

We’ve been doing Relay For Life in Second Life for 13 years now. Most Relay events that are as old as we are … are considered “mature” events.
What does that mean? “Mature” as in the concept of The Empty Table getting old? Is that why the audio for that was pre-recorded this year?  Are they sick of reciting an essential practise held in Relays worldwide?

It’s normal for mature events to experience many ups and downs with regard to participation, volunteerism, fundraising, community interest, event quality, event leadership...and when things like this happen - our first instinct is to look backward and cling to what is most familiar. It feels like an easier time, and we start to resist change because we feel like we should do what we used to do b/c it worked back then.
If what I quoted last entry was any indication, Sting could be suggesting taking the Volunteers into consideration when making decisions might be a thing of the past

And while a part of that is the right thing to do,

yup it is about that

it’s important to balance that with a bigger willingness to change...where it makes sense to change. Because we aren’t the same people we were years ago. We aren’t the same Relay we were years ago.

Yes but the biggest changes have not been for the better.

 Every year is different. I have always asked everyone, every year, to minimize your assumptions for the next year...and to embrace whatever changes each new season might bring. I always push our event leaders to commit to doing 1, 2, or 3 things different each season - if for no other reason that to send the message to everyone that change is good...change is growth...and to demonstrate that we should always be open to new ideas.

Maybe Sting is talking about those little tweaks like the shape of the track or mentoring/support structure of the committee.  Those are not on the table.  He clearly hasn’t been seeing what we’ve seen, and will ever be mystified over what went wrong...

Our Relay really is special...because of how dedicated you all are to it. You have always been so committed to making our ‘special’ Relay be “better than last year,” and the “best event in all of Second Life,” and “the best Relay in the Relay universe.”

Thanks for noticing

 And I wouldn’t have it any other way. We have to keep that passion because it’s the most important ingredient to our collective success as a mature event...or maybe we’re a teenage event...oh boy - those might be more difficult!

Wait a minute.  Didn’t he just suggest the “maturity“ was a stagnant factor?


Trader Whiplash-Ballinger (trader1.whiplash): But we need to be careful that we don’t let that passion turn into pressure. We need to be careful that our event’s self-worth is measured by more than just the amount of money we raise. It’s okay that we want to raise more money than the last year...and the year before that...and so on. After all - this is a fundraising event. If a fundraiser doesn’t raise money, it’s not a fundraiser!!

Trader Whiplash-Ballinger (trader1.whiplash): But when we put that kind of pressure on ourselves, we start to stress more and more about who was raising what. Who contributed what? We start asking each other - are you doing as much as I am? Fundraising begins to feel like a requirement, and not a goal. And that leads to competition between each other - not as an event vs other Relay events. I don’t want that to consume us!

Trader Whiplash-Ballinger (trader1.whiplash): Don’t get me wrong, I know that within Relay, friendly competition between teams is healthy...and we spend every offseason trying to figure out how best to balance that without it becoming an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ for anyone. We’ve tried many ways to incentivize fundraising success over the years. For example, we have the fundraising club, Convio prizes... We pushed fundraising as a priority by making a qualification for campsites and establishing specific fundraising rewards. We push Convio for out-of-SL fundraising. We changed the ‘coach/mentor’ position to focus on fundraising consulting.

Sting was back

I wanted people who raised money to earn tokens of appreciation. I thought these were the kind of things that we needed to do to motivate more people to raise money. I wanted to reduce the number of teams that showed up as $0 at the bottom of Totals page. I wanted to try to create ways that more teams would want to reach the higher fundraising levels. But even though my intentions were pure (I hope you’d agree), I recognize that there is a group of volunteers who felt that I made FUNDRAISING the only thing that mattered to us.

You mean like that time we were called on the carpet like employees and told we weren’t raising enough?
I want to acknowledge and personally apologize to anyone that felt this pressure and I commit to you that we will find the right balance in 2018!!

Jaws dropped.  Did Sting just acknowledge and take responsibility for 3 years of committee elitism, antipathy and corruption?

And I say ‘balance’ because we have to all agree that while fundraising is important - it’s not the only ingredient to why our Relay is special. There are people who commit so much of themselves to this event who never have...and perhaps never will appear on the top of the Fundraising Club. Some of you may not have the large group of contacts in Second Life that you can collect money from.Some of you don’t have the assets to put on large events.

or vitality after living with the effects of cancer and its treatments to keep up with an aggressive schedule

Some of you don’t have deep bank accounts to drop millions of lindens in kiosks. But - we NEED you just as much as we need to fundraisers. We need you because you make sure we are having fun.

As if raising thousands of US Dollars over the years didn’t figure into this spiel.  And somehow managed without stepping on underdogs to get it (Harmony From Hell demons please note - you still owe me and my alumni an apology for plagiarism, regardless of what you changed your team’s name to for 2017).

Your there for us when we need someone to talk to. You help connect us to various resources. You introduce us to one another.

One of my former Hearts & Souls teammates will have her own team in 2018.

You help the newbies learn how to walk and how to Relay. You create the spirit of unity. You spread the word. You build things. You script things. You design things. You share your inventory. You recognize that you DO have something to offer to our family...and we need to make sure that we appreciate YOUR contributions as much as the fundraisers.

And then you have those of us who love to represent their communities. I want to make sure that anyone who comes to us from a role-playing community...or who comes to Relay as any non-human avatar, or who wishes to Relay as their Second Life persona - WE LOVE THAT!!! That’s the kind of diversity that we should celebrate more than anything else! I remember the 2014 Parade of Teams (if you haven’t heard it or you don’t remember it, IM me and I’ll share the mp3 with you)...

There is a rumor that tinies furries kids and genderbenders were not seen that way during the Darrow Era, that some individuals were mocked for being different.  That’s what I was told anyway.  The most transformation I engage in is for lap themes but regardless of their appearance (unless it toasts my graphics card) a friend is a friend .

but I wrote that story the way I did because I wanted to make sure that everyone could visualize that ... Relay For Life of Second Life is the only event that brings together the amount of diverse communities from Second Life...and we do it because we all share a common goal. And we need to celebrate that. When I encounter someone in Second Life who chooses to talk to me in their own roleplay, as their own avatar - I try as best as I can to respect that...and communicate back to them in my best … whatever-it-needs-to-be.

Well YOU might...  anyway is this a good time to address people dragging women in chains or ropes by their bare knees around a paved track as not that form of expression for general events and mixed company?  At the very least it is traumatic to those of our fellow residents who may have been victims of abuse. Some people DON’T get hot from it and others could be experiencing PTSD.  Is that what The American Cancer Society want their participants to feel because some people and their libidos can’t comprehend the concept of tact?  Some RPG needs to be left at the door.

If you choose to be a child avatar in SL...I’m going to respect that. If you choose to be a knight, I will respect that. No matter who or what or how you choose to Second Life - - as long as you respect Relay..and you are in our family...I will respect you!

So - where am I going with all this?

arms folded

So - WE ARE A FAMILY. And our family already knows that this is a fundraiser...and you don’t need to be reminded of that every time you log in. What you to truly own this event. You need to KNOW...and I mean genuinely KNOW in your heart - that whatever you contribute, whether it’s money, events, people, support, scripts, objects, your voice, your talent, your words, your time….is ALL equally important as every other type of contribution...and that we need every type of contribution...from the $5 Linden donation to the 3-hour DJ set, to the 6-month planning of a fundraiser, to the group chat cheering, to the sponsor, the building, the creative ideas, organizing things, fulfilling tasks, lending an ear...or a shoulder, to the witty jokes, to the gift of expressing yourself and your creativity.

 Like I said:  Maybe YOU do.  I remember going thru what I did during my diagnosis with added stress out of spite from former teammates and going into 6 hour surgery weeks late so I could serve my teammates thru Relay Weekend, then needing Radiation following, most likely as a result of both the delay and stress, then a year later cancer shamed by IM from 99% chance a committee alt for speaking up that official notices were not being sent from the info-only group and those of us relying on them missed pertinent announcements.  Remember this timeline as I do with every word you craft to us, because if RFLofSL carried on with MamaP and Dwen’s 2011 spirit, you wouldn’t be making this speech in 2017.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to past years. We need to stop comparing ourselves to each other. We need to celebrate our diversity and the fact that we all bring a different approach to reaching our shared goal. We need to hug each other and be supportive of each other. We need to see our Relay event as one team.

Given that those essential qualities touted in Sting’s 2011 wrap speech posted last entry were largely lost, what does this mean?  It tells me that he is saying that empathy is a thing of the past and we’ll just have to put up with more elitism, more alt cancer shaming, and relying on people who will never again consider with each decision how it will affect volunteers, regardless if any of them could be survivors or caregivers who lost their lifestyles, perhaps live on a fixed income or disability benefits, and just want to give back as best they can on a platform that makes it possible.

And we need to see each team within the event as the many branches of our team - all doing their own thing … sometimes doing things together … for the good of the whole. We need to look at each other and say “you did a great job there!” - and mean it. We need to learn and re-learn what brought our family members here. Everyone has a different story...and everyone has a plan for how THEY will contribute to our shared goal.

And as event leaders (and by leaders, I don’t mean committee...I mean anyone who has the ear of someone else). Team Captains, Veterans, influencers, outgoing people...we need to make sure that we aren’t in the way - and that we create an environment where everyone can Relay-Their-Way.

“Their Way” should exclude spam directed at those who haven’t opted in, plagiarism, belittling, harassment... right?

To every Team Captain, I say that in 2018 - No one should tell you how you should Relay. No one should tell you if you’re doing enough. But, in my humble opinion, if anyone considers themselves a “leader,” I feel like you do have a moral obligation to let as many people know how much you appreciate whatever they’re doing, whether it’s adding to the experience for everyone...or fundraising...or sponsoring...or anything else.

What is Sting saying?  To hell with respect for the brand? No regard to the basics we’ve asked of volunteers from the start with regard to promoting general content, abuse of official logos by recoloring or selling items with them on it... Stealing other people’s ideas... illegally opting people into events announcements spam lists?  Which floodgates is Sting planning to unhinge?

To everyone: In 2018, when you have an idea for something - event leadership will not stand in your way. We won’t “decide if we want to do it.” Instead, event leadership will say, “that’s a great idea...and you should do it!”

Take on a Patronizing tone? Random did that to me all the time. What’s new about it?

As I listened to all of the awards presented today, I do feel bad for so many deserving people that probably feel appreciated. To you, I want to make absolutely clear...just because the trophy wasn’t handed to you doesn’t mean that you don’t matter. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t vitally important to the success of this event or to this family.

I know it feels great to think about receiving an award from your friends and family here. But...I ask all of you - WHY does it feel good? Why does it matter to you whether you are recognized or not on this stage? Is it the prize? Is it the honor? Is it the celebration of you? Is it the stature and the prestige?

Now it sounds like he's talking about TS Darrow.

Is it the title or the trophy?   I honestly don’t think that’s it. It’s not any of those things. Not when you get to the heart of it.

This so far is a bullshit notion Sting is building up.  Aside from milestone awards everyone participating receives a Community award.  Active teams have never been left out.  I don’t know why he feels an obligation towards listed teams that hadn’t raised anything.  I have ever called these listings the “me too’s,” who were caught up in the moment, then realized the level of commitment and did one of 4 things: 
1. Backed away and will never see this speech,
2. Join an established team,
3. Re-reigistered under another name, or
4. Decided to take it to RL. 
Don’t worry about hurting the metoo listees’ feelings; that’s not where you should be focusing your attention.

Think about how many years, how much stress, how much passion, and how much you committed yourself to this event...and how many times you worried about letting anyone down...and how many times you lost sleep worrying about if anyone really understood how much you care and how much pressure you put on yourself to make others happy...and how hard you’ve tried to support one another, and how all you want is to contribute to something epic. I don’t think it’s the award you want...or need. I think what’s more all of us… is to know that the people I care so much about...who are a part of this cause that I care so much about... value what I have done.

You just said this was old school and to not expect this essential factor to find its way back to RFLofSL.  I think the biggest problem is that Sting doesn’t really address us as adults that we cannot tackle even the most basic ethical concerns.  TBH in recent years you’ve had your attention elsewhere and you didn’t check in on committee’s doings as much as you should have.  You were noshows for much of 2016.

You all deserve to feel validated. You deserve to truly feel like what you do here is genuinely and sincerely appreciated. You are valuable. You matter. Every single one of you. Simple as that.

It is as though Sting is addressing a collection of institutionalized patients...

You HAVE  to know - how much of your positivity, passion, faith, commitment, enthusiasm, and support - is so important to what we are all doing here. Because it feels good! It feel[s] GREAT! Why wouldn’t we want each other to feel great?

I don’t know. Ask Harmony From Hell alumni.  In 2014 they stooped to great depths for those levels at the cost of others. 

I care about you all enough to say THANK YOU!  And this isn’t MY Relay...or the committee’s Relay...or the veteran Relayers’ Relay...or the mega events’ Relay - - this is EVERYONE’S RELAY!!

Actions speak louder than words as we stand IN the pavement in a sim where a forced landing takes you a long way from your click.  This is very patronizing...

And so - 2018 will be different. We’re going to make sure that every type of contribution to the event means that every person has a level of ownership in the event.

Teams each used to have a booth at kick-off and party as one and feeling like part of a whole.  I remember the MamaP and Nikki eras thank you.

Then 2016 just sponsors had a presence.  Including team participation is the old junk you wanted to get rid of?

We’re going to make sure that we aren’t an event full of individual teams doing their own thing to compete for a trophy. Instead, we’re going to be an event full of teams who are working together to make sure that we ALL have the best 2018 Relay the American Cancer Society has ever seen...and the best overall event that Second Life has ever seen. It’s about ALL of us!!

Okay. We can only see what happens.

We’re going to identify the things that we know we do well - and we’re going to make sure we keep doing them. We’re going to find out what we should keep doing...and figure out how to do them better. And we’re also going to find out what things we can stop doing - and we’re all going to just...stop doing it!!

Like stop clogging a region of active teams with an additional 8-10 microcampsites?  Or stop having phantom roads?  Stop elevating cheats and plagiarists? Your folks already stopped caring about how every move would affect volunteers as related in your 2011 wrap speech.  I don’t think you really know how to make it better because you and your buddies are so noseblind to the basics.  This is a people problem, not a thing problem.

For example - we don’t need to give you mission posters - we should provide you with the messaging and let YOU make your own posters...and you can share them with everyone else if you want.

Ah so the liaisons don’t want to liais any longer.  Because you know people did the custom thing already where applicable.  In 2016 YOUR goons required of us to put mission statement pillars & banners on our campsites like mandatory homework, so if you had your fill of them then don’t blame us.  My final campsite of that year was a wealth of info and advice without obligating me to put up those things.

We don’t need to plan a mega event if there’s no one truly willing to take it on. We don’t need event leadership to oversee every little aspect of the event. We don’t need to police your fundraising events, we don’t need so many damn guidelines - we should trust you all to be responsible adults in this virtual world. If you’re in compliance with Second Life TOS, why should we add more restriction to that?

Hey they’re YOUR bosses.  Are you saying the Relay For Life and American Cancer Society as brands or entities no longer warrant respect?
We need to evaluate if our season is too long…
if we are starting the season at the right time….
if our Relay event should stay in July or change weekends.
We need to evaluate as much about ourselves and our event as we can - and we will not be afraid of making real changes. And we need your trust that those changes will all be based on our shared desire to make the best Relay experience for everyone to do their thing and to have a good time and to enjoy being a part of our family.

That depends on how important the numbers are to you.  InWorldz has a 2 month Relay Season but a microfraction of participants.  If you’re using them for a model...

You will own the 2018 event! We’re just going to facilitate it.

We aren’t all going to agree on every change - and so I ask everyone to commit right now to compromising. We commit right now to trying new ideas because we are more interested in the good of the tribe than the good of the individual.

That’s part of your problem and why the “tribe” suffers.

  Plus, if the new ideas don’t work, we can always try something else next year.

Wondering whether you’re capable of determining when something needs to be fixed or replaced?  I’m not detecting any inclinations towards retention for the good of your tribecliqueclan.

So I hope that as you hear this, that it generates a renewed excitement for the future of Relay For Life of Second Life. This is our opportunity to change the way we’s up to each and every one of us to decide how we will embrace the next version of Relay For Life of Second Life.

We’re all looking at you like this...

Nuala: That was awesome! I'm so pumped and excited for 2018!
Nuala: Thank you everyone - thank you Sting!


Sting: There's a lot of people who may be confused to - usually every year we ask for the theme nominations, etc.

We cant do that, can we?

Nuala: We cant do that!

I smell your fear.

We don't know yet! But people will have a say in it.

Nuala: We will let you know everything about that!

Watching with great amusement.

We're not gonna hold  the secrets of change very long. They are coming out, so stay paying attention!

We will give you notice on off season dates and times. As of the moment there is no official date and time. We will keep you in the loop.

Nuala: That form is still open if they want to submit suggestions - we'll post that out in group again.

Sorry I took so long - i dont know how long that went!

Nuala: That was awesome - thank you!

Glad you liked it

everyone who is listening here - if you have thoughts on how to do this a completely different way - another thing i'd like to hear ideas on are team campsites!

should we go to one size, wha should that size be?

all options are on the table. What are we not thinking of?

give us your thoughts on the season start end times tioo!

as if they’d listen to the peons of their tribe

so again - when we talk about handing the relay to the teams - it'll come down to when we have the theme. Everyone will vote. The logo - sometimes we've designed it and said "Here it is" - we might do a logo contest !

only with a donation reward.  Don’t try to pass off getting work for nothing as some sort of privilege.

we want more people to be involved than it just being a committee job.

Nuala: Brand new chalkboard youve got and there's nothing on it. How would you make a relay?

Refer to 2011 closing ceremony speech in previous blog post.

So that we know - we know the approach and the goal - now its about the specific decisions.

Nuala: That's wrap up! Thanks guys for a fantastic year!
Nuala: Sting as always - good not to have a cut out!
Nuala: Thank you everyone for a great wrapup! Go relay!!!

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating

Was Sting mocking us? Was he on the level?  Was he genuinely admitting that ACS did not oversee the committee or makethem pass along unreasonable demands these past three years?  Or had he just been negligent in keeping an eye on whom he had in place to act on his behalf (because that should have been the lead’s role and not some appointed ACS babysitter)? You’d think with the sharp drop in donations in 2015 that he would have taken a closer look at abrupt departures of teams and intense shuffling of committee volunteers.  The feedback forms offered up plenty (I know I wasn’t alone).  There was no opportunity to be oblivious.

Hence we were suspicious.  None of this made sense.

Then, in an age of our beleaguered society here in America, we were slowly handed hackneyed feedback forms which conveniently could not address poignant issues.  We were given a choice of 3 themes (from whom?) two of which were just so bad and one simply coherent that clearly indicated that someone already had their mind made up, all the while saying this would become OUR Relay.

The committee - or whatever they were supposed to be now - were not going to offer up a logo or theme design.  They pandered to residents for free graphics and tried to make it seem like some sort of privilege. It’s an old trick to get something for nothing.  The decent thing to do was offer the winner L$10,000 to the team of their choice once the 2018 season kicked off.  Instead with pro’s backing off they landed a hot mess consisting of stolen cut and paste which resembled 3 logos smushed together.

It seemed more and more the message became clear:  If you don’t like the shit you’ve had to put up with, make your own.

Next: 2018 and how the year panned out.

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