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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
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
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 http://www.digitalspace.com/avatars)
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 athttp://kozmo.yakima.net/alphaworld/teleport.html.
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?
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
Parental Controls and Community behavior in Virtual Places
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
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
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: email@example.com
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