See Copyright and Usage Notice

Taking the Grand Tour

Navigating around in the VP Web cosmos

In Virtual Places, every Web page becomes a kind of simple virtual world, a backdrop on top of which the drama of avatars can be played out. You can bring avatars to your own Web pages by running a guided tour which we describe in this section. If your page becomes a popular spot to hang out, it will start appearing toward the top of the Places Directory. The more people who are visiting your Web page, the more will want to get in. This sets up a kind of snowball effect. Some people have set up web pages just having interesting backdrops, such as romantic scenes for virtual weddings. I have made a list of some of these web pages in the section VP Spaces in Hot Sites in VP-Land later on in this chapter.

Figure 10.17 Vp9t.jpg
The toolbar in Virtual Places.

The VP Toolbar

The Virtual Places toolbar, sitting at the top of the window just under the menus, is your key to navigating Virtual Places spaces. As with the menus, I am describing the toolbar icons for VP version 2.0 running in the open communities. These icons may be slightly different (in different positions) on your version of VP.

Web touring; an important social activity in VP

The next section will describe how to tour the Web in style through Virtual Places. Setting up or joining a Web tour is easy, and it is one of the most unique and powerful features of VP.

Figure 10.18 Vp4u.jpg
Get set to host a tour in the Set Up a Tour dialogue.

Start a guided tour by selecting the Guided Tours menu and the Set Up a Tour option. You will be presented with a dialogue box like the one in the preceding figure. You can set the name of your tour, and the size of the tour. I always choose the 11-person ìPeace Busî (this is my name for it because I live in a definite old hippie zone in Northern California!).

Figure 10.19 Vp5a.jpg
Get ready with the tour bus.

After you set up your tour, select Guide a Tour from the Guided Tours menu, and your bus will appear in the chat room for all to see. As you can see from this figure, my bus is pretty obvious, but it remains a challenge to convince people to join my tour. I sometimes spend several minutes calling out, like a hawker in a market, ìjoin a great tour to avatar worlds…bus is departing in two minutes.î After awhile, depending on how adventurous the current crop of avatars feels, people will start appearing on your bus. To join a tour, all you have to do is simply drag and drop your avatar onto the tour vehicle. You can also right-click (or click and hold on the Macintosh) on the tour vehicle, and select Join from the menu that will appear.

Itís a miracle; no itís server push!

When you decide to pull your bus out of the Web station, a miraculous thing happens. As soon as you enter a new Web address, and your Web browser window in Virtual Places moves to that site, the other people on the tour will start seeing the same Web page. This is the miracle of server push, which means that your travels are pushing Web pages to your tour group through their Web browers.

Figure 10.20 Vp9l.jpg
Iím flying high in a VP bus over the AlphaWorld cityscapeóhello Sherwood Towne!

I always take groups of avatars to the Avatar Teleport (your book home page at because this is a gateway to all avatar worlds, and these people are probably interested in avatar worlds! On this particular tour I took the group to the overhead ìsatelliteî image of the AlphaWorld cityscape. This is located at the Web site at Nobody could believe that this was an image of a huge 3D avatar city. Some of my tour jumped ship and started exploring, and I was left with only tim28 and tinkerbell (as you can see from the People window on the previous figure.

You can end a tour by simple selecting the Guided Tours menu and selecting Stop Tour. Anyone can leave your tour by simple dragging their avatarís icon off your vehicle. They will then be free to explore the web page where they got off.

Figure 10.21 Vp3b.jpg
Where is everybody from? A common question on board a tour.

Tours are very popular activities in VP, and some are regularly scheduled by VP citizens (VeePsters, as they are known). Many tours have a theme, such as science and nature, where Web sites featuring great science pages are visited. If you are a kid, parent, or just an unsuspecting VeePster, ask the tour guide where they are going before you join. Unscrupulous VeePsters have been known to run porno tours. Hey, what is different in the real world?

Getting dumped

Figure 10.22 Vp3g.jpg
Being left behind by a tour, now I am really lost!

If you are a passenger on a tour and you somehow get dumped, (i.e. you got off the bus and then it pulled out of town) you can select Sychronize with Tour (on the Guided Tour menu), and this will usually get you back with the group.

The tour garage

On the Set Up a Tour dialogue, you can select the Change button and change the picture of the tour vehicle. This will take you to a tour garage, a directory of GIF files. You can copy any GIF file into this directory (which is set in the Tools menu Preferences dialogue box), and it can be used as the tour vehicle. The GIF files must measure 48 by 40 pixels for small tours; and 144 by 64 pixels for large tours. Graphics of up to 150 by 75 pixels in GIF format will be adjusted to these sizes.

Parental Controls and Community behavior in Virtual Places

Parental controls

Virtual Places, like any chat environment, can fall prey to the lowest common denominator. If people become bored, they are often likely to drift into more banal forms of conversation. In addition, some parts of VP come with their fair share of ìnaked pixî avatars. If you are a parent, you may want to set a password to restrict your childrenís access to VP. Do this by selecting the Tools menu and then Parental Control. You can block access to VP unless you are there to supervise. Think of it like those TV channel blockers that have become so popular, to screen out certain TV shows from kids or restrict their viewing hours.

Community behavior

Some VP communities have moderators or published community rules which tell people the behavior expected of them. As with parental controls, nobody can stop certain behaviors if someone really wants to be obnoxious. The best defense is a strong community. If you donít like what is happening, speak up! Recruit others to speak up too; you might be surprised to find out that they are sharing your feelings. What is the old saying: it only takes one bad apple to spoil the cider?

In the America Online versions of VP, you are expected to follow their terms of service (in AOL, go to keyword TOS). If you violate these, you could be kicked off your AOL account, so be careful. You can report offensive Web pages (to which someone may be leading tours) to AOL by sending an e-mail to: with the Web page URL address.

As is recommended by AOL, but true for every VP community, the best way to deal with offensive members (short of talking them out of it or recruiting help from the community) is to ignore them. To quote America Onlineís advice below:

ìIf you are offended by a memberís avatar, chat dialogue, or IMs (Instant Messages), you can choose to ignore a member. To do this in a Windows version, simply right-click on the offending memberís avatar and choose Ignore from the pop-up menu (that avatar will now appear to you as a generic face, their dialogue will be hidden from you, and their IMs blocked). The same can be achieved on the Macintosh version by command-clicking on the offending avatar to bring up the menu. If you receive unwanted IMs and prefer to block all IMs, you can choose to ignore all of them. Simply select the Tools menu and Preferences and turn off IMs on the General Preference dialogue box.î

© Copyright Bruce Damer, 1997, All rights reserved.