Q: Have there been any changes in the geography of the estate?
A: Yes, we have a somewhat different configuration now after discontinuing our 2-sim dance floor several months ago and converting Junkyard Blues South to a homestead. We received an additional homestead from LL in exchange for downgrading JYB South from a full region. The new homestead is called “Manatee” and is our northernmost region.
Q: You had a 2-sim dance floor?
A: Yes, it worked pretty well too. That was back when server lag was just brutal and many venues would have to restart their sims 2 or 3 times a day just to stay alive. In those days Junkyard Blues South was also a full sim, so we moved the dance floor to overlap both sims with the border right down the middle. That gave half the avatar load to each of the server slots on a busy night. It saved us a lot of lag problems.
Q: And today?
A: Linden Lab pretty much fixed the server side lag problem, so we were able to slide the dance floor back to where it was and reduce Junkyard Blues South from a full region to a homestead, as mentioned earlier. This allowed us to eliminate all the residential rentals that had been helping to support it and to simply eliminate shops that became vacant instead of trying to fill them. We found other, similar rentals elsewhere on the estate for the people who lived there, and this resulted in a lot less management work overall.
Q: So there is no lag now?
A: There is very little lag. We keep a popular lag meter in plain sight by the bar so people can see that 99% of the time the region is running hot. If traffic is heavy there will be brief downspikes in time dilation and frames-per-second but then it bounces right back solidly into the green. When people complain of lag it is usually a PC issue, a wonky ISP, or an unrealistic graphics settings. Big draw distance is the most common culprit.
Q: What’s this I hear about a new dance floor replacing the blue tiles? That sounds controversial.
A: Well, it wasn’t the most fun we ever had because some oldtimers were pretty attached to the old floor. But as time passed and the venue grew, we received more and more queries and complaints about the old floor. Most people didn’t see it as iconic or invested with meaning. They saw it as dark, busy, distracting and weird. (It is, after all, 1950s' bathroom tile) The most common complaint was that the clutter of it was annoying and got in the way of people seeing each other in a pleasing way and made for ugly people pictures.
We spent a lot of hours pouring over alternatives and trying them out on a copy of the dance floor at Kiff’s workshop. We discovered that beautiful tiles don’t make good dance floors because the more interesting they are the more they compete visually with avatars. We finally decided upon on ordinary blue paving stones because they weren't ugly and didn’t compete with the patrons.
Q: And how did that go over?
A: Most people were okay with it. We put the old dance floor under the new dance floor, and we let people know that if they really, really missed the old blue tiles they could derender the new floor and dance on the old one. That probably saved Kiff from a lynching in some quarters. As time passes it becomes less of a topic. We totally understand the feelings about the old floor because we are fond of it too as a part of our history. but we had to listen to everybody, not just oldtimers, and make a decision about what was best for the venue in 2013.
Q: What is Junkyard Live?
A: junkyardlive.com is our live DJ show stream, direct from the dance floor, round the clock. You can listen to your favorite DJs on any device with audio that connects to the internet and bring the show wherever you like. We love hearing that people listen during work or while making dinner.
Q: Do you worry that people will start listening remotely instead of coming to the Junkyard?
A: We’re pretty sure it will work the other way by welcoming people into the venue to share in the fun. We remind DJs that they have two audiences now, the folks in radioland and the folks at the venue. We were tickled the other day when somebody in “first life” had sent in a request to the DJ. As far as we knew, that was a first.
Q: Does Junkyard Blues have a Facebook page?
A: Yes, and it happened just recently. Kiff got a lot of kidding about finally plunging into the 21st century when he started his own Facebook page, and then we launched "Kiff & Dina's Junkyard Blues." We had noticed that there were already several Junkyard-related groups in there, so it seemed about time to establish one of our own.
Q: Do you still feature only blues music at the Junkyard?
A: We feature mostly the blues, and we encourage the DJs to bring out their own areas of interest within the genre. I say “mostly” because we don’t have a problem with the occasional foray out of genre as long as it’s the exception and not the rule. We also like a bit of Cajun and Zydeco occasionally. We see no reason to get rigid about the venue with some kind of blues purity rule. We even had a well-attended R&B show recently with DJ Fiery Otaared.
Q: Is there live music at Junkyard Blues these days?
A: Our 24/7 DJ show schedule makes it awkward to find spots at the venue for concerts, but we do have the occasional live music special event. We love live music in Second Life and need to take a little time from being workaholics to go enjoy concerts and to support them by exploring ways to let others know where to find them.
Q: Any disappointments?
A: We wish Junkyard U had caught on, but we never found the time necessary to develop and manage it effectively. There is so much knowledge in Second Life and so many people seeking it, that we had hoped to bring about a sort of “free university” that would bring people together to teach and learn. That was our only goal, and it’s still a possibility at some future time. Currently Firestorm classes are being held there, and that helps keep the candle burning.
Q: Is Junkyard Blues profitable?
A: Well, not really. Over the years it has allowed us to pay ourselves back for expenses and to establish a buffer so we are not living hand-to-mouth when it comes to tier and other expenses. We’ve never commercialized our venue, so there isn’t much left over at the end of the month. When we do have some extra money it either goes into the tier buffer, or it goes into all the various other expenses related to the venue and the estate. We buy a lot of stuff to enhance the theme for the enjoyment of everybody.
Q: What kind of stuff?
A: Where to start! For instance just the seagulls, pelicans, ducks, and cranes that are sprinkled over 13 Junkyard Blues regions cost a few hundred US dollars. They sit on rooftops and pilings and boats or swim around docks, and that isn’t to mention the flying gulls and the swimming manta rays, sharks, turtles and other critters that travel the sims randomly and realistically. Then are trees and flowers and weeds and shrubs and all the things that contribute to our coastal river and bayou theme, not to mention dozens upon dozens of builds. Then of course there are all the typical venue related expenses. We manage to pay the bills but we wouldn't recommend our "business model" as a career choice.
Q: I understand that Kiff is the theme nut?
A: He has even been called the theme nazi which is perhaps an exaggeration (cough). He returns unrealistic critters, dayglo trees, fantasy builds, and other inappropriate items that residents sometimes put out. We get a lot of great feedback for the realism of our theme and for the care that goes into it. We try not to let that go to Kiff’s head.
Q: Do Kiff and Dina divide up duties and collaborate on everything?
A: We divide things up but anything that feels consequential gets a look from both of us. Dina’s main jobs are managing the Junkyard Blues DJ and host schedules and managing estate rentals. Kiff does the terraforming and building and landscaping and works with Dina to keep it all together. Both of us are always involved with anything that touches upon club activities and policies.
Q: How would you describe your working relationship after seven years?
A: We adore and respect each other tremendously.
Q: What’s the hardest part of being Kiff and Dina, managing Junkyard Blues?
A: When one of our group becomes seriously ill or passes away. It leaves us feeling stunned. One person we lost a little while back owned and lived on one of our homestead regions. Weeks passed before we could bear to return anything to her account. You find yourself looking at old IM conversations, hardly believing that there will never be another one. That's the hardest part, losing people .
Q: How big a staff at the Junkyard?
A: It varies, but we’d guess well over 100 people when you add up all the DJs, hosts, and members of the gate crew. They are an amazing bunch. If something kept us away from Second Life for weeks we are confident they would just soldier on without us, doing shows, hosting, and welcoming new members. We are so grateful for their professionalism.
Q: Are there any commercial ventures on the estate?
A: We have a handful of very small shops along the canal on the south sim that we maintain for variety so that the entire estate isn’t composed of residential areas. Most of the shops are run by longtime group members and most feature original content. We doubt that any of our shops are big money makers, but many retailers just enjoy having a place on the canal where they can show their creations and combine business with pleasure.
Q: What is the payback for Kiff and Dina in all this?
A: Community, community, community. The knowledge that we help bring people together from all walks of life and all parts of the world so they can make community for themselves. Also there are people who are housebound, some struggling with illness, who are able to come here to this virtual space where they meet and chat and make new friends and even dance again. We are so glad to be able to provide an environment for that. And finally, we sure learn a lot about the blues.
Q: How much longer do you see yourselves doing this?
A: We’ve asked ourselves that question, and we don’t yet know the answer. Managing Junkyard Blues is rewarding and fun, but it can be a lot of work too, and there may come a time when we would like to retire from the work while still wanting to provide a place for the community.
Q: Let’s pretend that day has come. How would it work?
A: Perhaps on some future day Junkyard Blues will just be a quiet little place on a bayou where old friends can still find each other without anybody needing to manage anything. But in the meantime we’re happy to keep this party going.
Q: What do you say when somebody asks what are the blues?
A: We can’t do better than to quote the bluesman Corey Harris, “There are happy blues, sad blues, lonesome blues, red-hot blues, mad blues, and loving blues. Blues is a testimony to the fullness of life.”