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Q & A


Q & A with Kiff and Dina

September 2013



Q:  Has it been that long since our last interview?  Five years?

A:  It’s hard to believe, but yes it has!  We last did this in the fall of 2008 when Junkyard Blues was two years old.


Q:  Are there any stories to tell from recent years?

A:  Oh yes, especially about the past several months around our change to a “membership club.”


Q:  Let’s get right to that then.  How did it come about?

A:  In December of last year (2012) we became the target of organized griefing that went orders of magnitude beyond the usual thing that one expects at any venue.  After several weeks of misery, sometimes involving hourly graphics attacks and sim crashes, we closed the doors to “street traffic” and set up a welcome area for nonmembers where they can request one of our free, no-spam Junkyard group tags. 


Q:  Were you concerned about the impact it would have on your venue?

A:  Oh sure.  We were mostly worried it would have an adverse effect on DJ and host tips because of less traffic through the club, but we got huge support from them during the changeover, and they in turn were supported by the patrons.  We have been astonished to see our group grow from 3,000 to 12,000 in just a few months, almost entirely from requests for tags from the pager board at the welcome area.


Q:  So everybody is okay with needing a group tag?
A:  Most people are great.  They understand instantly why we did it, and they see the benefits.  We received a lot of notes saying things like “We're so glad you haven’t given up!”  But we do hear startling negative things from people every now and then. 


Q:  Like what?

A:  Let’s see . . .   We have become “elitist.”  Or we became a membership club in order to increase the size of our group, as though a long list of names somehow benefits us.  Or we should make an exception because the complainer is special (we have no idea how that could even be done).  Thankfully these have been rare exceptions. 


Q:  Can’t griefers just join the group and then grief you?

A:  Oh sure.  Our system doesn’t prevent griefers from getting in.  It just discourages them.  They have to go through the process of chatting with a staff member, requesting an invitation, adding us to their groups, and being noticed right away.  Why go through all that when you can just TP to the next place to do your griefing without all the hassle.  It also prevents the venue from being flooded by any group intent on causing problems.  Everybody has to stop and chat with a staff member and go through a process. 


Q:  And it works?

A:  Even we are amazed.  Venue griefing is a plague in Second Life, but now after 8 months as a membership club we rarely even encounter rude people. 


Q:  Any downside to being a membership venue?

A:  Honestly, we haven’t found one yet.  Staff and patrons tell us that it feels so much more like a community now.  We don’t foresee ever opening our doors again to casual traffic.  Actually we had already been considering making Junkyard Blues a membership venue at some future point anyway.  The griefing just got us there faster.   We are all hugely grateful to the gate crew volunteers and other staff who have responded day-by-day in a friendly, professional way to almost 10,000 requests.


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: 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.”



Junkyard Blues Q & A with

Kiff and Dina - September 2008

Q) How long have you two been running Junkyard Blues?
A) About two years. We declared it the "Junkyard Blues Club" on June 16th, 2006 after realizing it had already become a club all by itself.

Q) Do you own it 50/50 as partners?
A) Yes, all the way down the line with time, effort, and expenses.

Q) How many hours a week do Kiff and Dina spend working on Junkyard jobs?
A) How much time does any crazy person spend on his or her obsession?  Well 50 hours combined seems like a safe number. Probably more, but we're reluctant to admit it.

Q) Why do you do it?
A) You make a big bunch of friends, and you love how they love the place, and you love them, and you don't want to let them down.  Also it's usually a very interesting and satisfying job.  There is always some aspect of it to explore and learn more about, whether it be the venue or the community.

Q) Are your hosts paid?
A) They are all volunteers. The usual commitment is anywhere from one to three 2-hour session a week with one of the DJs.  We are grateful and truly couldn’t do this without them.

Q) Do you attend all your music events?
A) On any given week we have at least 50 hours of DJ time, so it’s impossible to attend everything and still be able to do anything else on the estate.  We try to rotate a little bit and drop in on all our DJ shows from time to time, but sometimes we’re just too tangled up in the work.

Q Is Junkyard Blues a money machine?
A) Well, actually it’s more like a money "shredder.”

Q) Does the Junkyard support itself?
A) Usually it does, but it would be nice to get a couple months ahead in tier some day so it doesn't feel quite so hand-to-mouth.

Q) How would you do that?
A) We had a good experience with the Nestea live music sponsorship, and now we'd like explore the concept of a "general" sponsorship that could be used for solvency as well as for live music.

Q) So the Nestea sponsorship worked out very well for the Junkyard?
A) Yes it was wonderful to be able to bring in all these great performers without having to think about fees. We were staging 4 or 5 concerts a week for almost 3 months until the money got spent. It was a wonderful experience, although we found that maybe concerts on Friday and Saturday evenings will be enough for our venue as a regular thing.

Q) How much in tier are you responsible for to Linden Lab?
A) We pay $590 USD a month for both Junkyard Blues and Junkyard Blues South, most of which comes from club donations and residential rentals. The 10 ocean sims surrounding us are independently owned “homestead” sims operating under our covenant with each owner paying $95 a month to LL through us.

Q) How much of a surcharge profit do you make from the homestead sims on a monthly basis?
A) After we pay currency exchange fees we seem to have about 67 cents per-sim per-month in profits. We invest it in gum.

Q) Why do you go through the bother of it if you don’t make any profit?
A) The island owners get a fun place to live, and the Junkyard gets surrounded by usable ocean instead of invisible walls.

Q) Are all the sims open to boating?
A) Oh yes, that’s the point of it. All 12 sims in the estate are open to sailing and exploration. We ask only that people observe the privacy of the residential islands. 

Q) Do you expect the rising tier costs for homestead sims to be a problem for your ocean sim owners?
A) The homestead Islands almost never come on the market, so things are pretty stable.  I think our total turnover since we acquired them for the estate a couple years ago has been only 3 islands. Linden tier has gone from $75 a month to $95 and will go to $125 in 2011.

Q) Do you ever burn out?
A) Sure. But we manage it pretty well. You go, "whoops, time for little break" and then go do something else for a while.

Q) Can you take time off from the Junkyard and still be in SL?
A) Yes but the only way to stop the SL "phone" from ringing is to us an alternative avatar or "alt." This allows us to go to live music events, shop, explore, or just hang out. It's fun to go hide out and explore a bit, like when you were a newbie with nothing else to think about.  Alts get a bad name from people use them with no sense of ethics or respect.

Q) Do your alts ever visit your club?
A) Never. Our personal rule for using alts is you never say a word to anybody who knows only your primary persona. If such a person even arrives at the same store where you're shopping, you turn and leave. Period. No exceptions (unless you tell the person who you are). This avoids even the appearance of head games which is doubly important when you manage a club. We might also add that
our alts spend a lot of time watching TV and eating junk food while waiting for us to break them out. We're just too busy.

Q) Are you both the gender you claim to be?
A) Yes, in voice Kiff sounds like Harrison Ford and Dina sounds like Meryl Streep.

Q) Have you had to ban many people from the Junkyard?
A) We don’t run into much griefing so we might go a week or two or three in between banning incidents. Sometimes it’s just really about rude and disrespectful behavior toward the DJ or host or a patron and almost always involves somebody new to the club who doesn’t realize yet that we're not just a bunch of random people with no connection.

Q) Do you ever let them back in again?
A) We sometimes let them back in right away with an apology when we've made a mistake. And we’ll always accept a sincere apology if the offender is wrong.

Q) Why don't you have open enrollment for the Junkyard Blues group?
A) We like it that everybody in our group has personally requested membership.  If all it takes is a mouse click the group adds hundreds of extra members who joined on impulse and now just take up space on the list which makes it more likely that people who want to receive notices from us are not getting them (Notices never go out to 100% of any large group).

Q) What is the average donation to your club?
A) 100L is average, sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more. Recently somebody donated 14 lindens and said it was all they had. That’s kind of touching. Occasionally somebody will donate a thousand or even more. It is how we manage to pay the bills, and we appreciate every bit of it.

Q) Are you less favorably inclined toward people who don't donate to your club?
A) No, never.  Of course we notice and appreciate donations, but we also know that some people are in situations that make it very difficult for them to bring money into SL. We hope nobody ever stays away because they can’t afford to tip a DJ or donate to the venue.  On the other hand when people can afford it and spend a lot of time enjoying the Junkyard we hope they'll step up and help support it.

Q) How would you describe your working relationship?
A) We are both so grateful that we share this big commitment to the Junkyard and, at the same time, bring so many complementary skills and talents to it. We adore and respect each other tremendously.

Q) What does the future look like for Junkyard Blues?
A) It’s an ongoing surprise. Sometimes we feel like we’re steering the boat, and other times we’re just along for the ride, but it seems to just get better.

Q) Any final thoughts here?
A) Only to say that it’s all about community. The blues bring us together, and being together is the best part of the trip.