I’ve not done one of these interviews in quite some time, but for a treat I have a special interview with one of LFgrid’s admin team, well calling him an admin seems too light of a term, in fact this person is the wheels that drives LFgrid everyday, without him the grid comes to a screaming end. He, along with Walter Balazic work tirelessly every day to keep the grid running, he does this silently in the background so well that we never know what really is going on from to-day, which in turn is a good thing.
Today’s topic of this blog is Ashton Nobilis, or Ashy Pooh as I like to call him. I discovered a lot about Ash as I did this interview that I didn’t know and a lot I already knew, and this just proved more to me what a wonderful caring person he is. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Thank you Ash for taking the time to do this interview so we can learn more about you.
This is a typical picture of the Ash we all know and love 🙂
Toy McBride: how long have you been in Virtual Worlds?
Ashton Nobilis: I’ve been in virtual worlds for quite a while. Back in the mid 1980s, I was fortunate to have an account at a local university where I had access to multiuser systems. Some of the students were running a text-based MUD (Multi User Dimension) and I became involved in that, so that’s almost 30 years.
Toy McBride: Wow that’s a long time, so you were 5 when you started in virtual worlds?
Ashton Nobilis: LOL… well, probably more like 14 or so
Toy McBride: I know you were in Secondlife for a time, what activities did you get up to on the grid? and what brought you into Secondlife?
Ashton Nobilis: Largely, I was interested in making things… scripting particularly. So, I would see these amazing things in world and then try to recreate them and make them better. Then, I started selling stuff. I also would go around and explore, of course, and met some amazingly brilliant people.
Ashton Nobilis: I had heard about the Second Life beta in 2003, but didn’t really give it much thought. I had been looking for engines for game development at that time, and SL kept coming up. Then I read a Wired magazine article about an avatar named Wylde Cunningham, who was a shared avatar created by a group home for people with extreme disabilities.
Ashton Nobilis: Once I saw the promise of virtual worlds technologies coming true within SL, I knew I had to be there, so I signed up in 2004. As an engineer, I feel that technology should always be used to make people’s’ lives better, and to give people the ability to walk, run, or do other things that we take for granted is an amazing thing.
Toy McBride: Do you still visit Secondlife? And what takes you back to Secondlife?
Ashton Nobilis: Certainly, although I bounce around there are a homeless bum largely. I am in SL at least a few times a week, and on Saturdays I help teach English as a Second Language. Again, it’s a case of using virtual worlds to help people and in the process I’ve met some wonderful folks
Toy McBride: That is indeed a very kind act Ash, you seem to be slightly removed from what would be considered the normal SL user.
Toy McBride: How do you think SL has changed from your first years there?
Ashton Nobilis: *laughs* Sure, most folks just want to go and shop or whatever, but that’s the beauty of virtual worlds… you can do and be whatever you want
Ashton Nobilis: Ahh, SL has changed quite dramatically from the “good old days”. Not just from a technological standpoint with added features such as mesh, but really from a people perspective too. It seemed that before Linden Lab went after raw population numbers in late 2007, it wasn’t uncommon to meet people in world that were scientists, researchers, and other academics. Some of those people are still there of course, but they’re nearly lost in a sea of users that have a “game” mindset… folks that are just there for shopping and whatnot.
Toy McBride: Very true Ash, so this begs the question why did you move to Opensim based grids?
Ashton Nobilis: I’ve always been the type to take apart all my toys and see what makes them tick. I have been involved in programming and development for years, and of course I started dissecting the SL client shortly after joining. I thought to myself then, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to write your own client, or to run your own simulator?”
Then, in 2007 Cory Ondrejka pushed to open source the viewer code. For those that don’t know, Cory is the brilliant mind who cobbled SL together. Even before the code was open sourced, projects started springing up trying to find a way to talk to communicate with the SL servers, or to emulate their behavior. I’ve worked with server emulators before for MMORPGs, so it really appealed to me. Plus, the degree of freedom you get from running your own simulator is miles beyond what Linden could offer someone.
Toy McBride: So Opensim gave you more freedom to experiment with code, did you immediately go to OSgrid or did you try your own grid?
Ashton Nobilis: Initially, I did my own standalone regions. I was using them to debug items before bringing them in SL, although early builds of OpenSimulator were pretty rough. Not much later, it was discovered that these regions could be joined together with a hack. That’s what spawned OSgrid, and I joined it a short time later.
Toy McBride: Fabulous 🙂 Now I remember my first encounter with you on OSgrid, I recall reading your profile whilst you were visiting Littlefield Mall and I decided then to walk in the other direction lol which is kind of funny considering our relationship today. How exactly did you end up becoming apart of Littlefield in OSgrid and now LFgrid?
Ashton Nobilis: *laughs* Absolutely, and that still is a joke today! Well, I knew about Littlefield of course, and when I made Ashton in OSgrid, I was amazed at how much stuff was there and the quality of the builds. Also, I was impressed that although Littlefield was technically a BDSM community, in the main public areas it was not “in your face”. If you know what a triskele is, then you would recognize it for what was, but it was also a place here vanillas could come and shop and dance, without feeling like they were being forced into something. Of course, not forcing people into things is a basic tenant of SSC BDSM.
Ashton Nobilis: One day, I saw Walter post on the OSgrid forums, announcing the Littlefield Homes region. I went there to see the houses and saw Walter there. I IMed him to tell him how much I appreciated his and everyone else’s efforts… and that led to a two-hour conversation! It was as if two brothers that had been once separated were reunited, and the rest, they say, is history.
Toy McBride: LOL yes I remember him telling me about meeting this great guy, and I said “what you don’t mean that profile guy” which as you said is still today a running joke. And I have learned to not judge a person by their profiles anymore 🙂
Ashton Nobilis: LOL
Toy McBride: So this now leads to LFgrid, I know this was a mamouth task that was set for you to create a grid for us to move to, what was your reaction when discussing this with Walter? Did you really believe it doable? And does it surprise you, like me, the success we are experiencing right now on our grid?
Ashton Nobilis: Even before I had started administrating the Littlefield regions in OSgrid, I knew that there had been an LFgrid. After resolving some issues on our OSgrid regions, Walter approached me with the idea of redoing LFgrid. Certainly, I was honored with Walter’s degree of confidence and trust in me, and I enjoy a challenge, so I was very excited about the whole deal.
Ashton Nobilis: I knew it was doable as others have done it, but I also knew it was no trivial task. Of course, some ignorant people think that running a grid is as simple as double clicking an executable, which while technically true shows an immense lack of understanding of what is going on. Running a standalone with a few regions is quite a different thing entirely than running something of the scale of LFgrid, not even to mention OSgrid.
Ashton Nobilis: I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised at the level of success on some level, but the cocky bastard inside of me knew it would happen the whole time. 🙂
Toy McBride: LOL ah very Ash of you 🙂
Toy McBride: But hey you did the hard yards and you should be a cocky bastard 🙂
Ashton Nobilis: 😀
Toy McBride: What do you find enjoyable about having your own grid? And what have been some of the highlights on LFgrid so far? For me I personally love having the security of our grid, I know it will always be here.
Ashton Nobilis: It’s hard to believe, but I am a bit of a control freak. Shocking, I know. So the degree of having absolute and complete control over the systems involved is appealing to me. Plus, I enjoy creating an environment where so many people are out doing things – building, making , creating, and socializing. When someone comes to me and says, “I love it here”, that means so much to me.
Toy McBride: What you Ash a control freak never *grins
Ashton Nobilis: LOL
Ashton Nobilis: As for highlights, there have been several. Opening day was definitely one, to see a grid come to life months before my original estimate that I had made to Walter was amazing. And really, every day is a highlight knowing that we have a stable home for all of us. I love to see new people come into LFgrid, and particularly enjoy seeing communities forming.
Toy McBride: Now what are the challenges of running your own grid? Because I know sometimes life is not always rosy running a grid.
Ashton Nobilis: There are many, many challenges. Every day there is something that needs attention, and I fully knew and expected that because of my experience setting up other grids. What we do here is important to me, and my first priority is to ensure the safety and stability of the grid systems. Also, it can be difficult being inworld as 98% of the time that I am inworld, I am working or testing something. Of course I’ll get IMs inworld ranging from a friendly “hello” to “HELP!”. I’m the type of guy who won’t ignore IMs so it can make administration a bit more difficult.
Toy McBride: Very understandable Ash, with all this going on when you come in world do you still get to just hang out and have fun? I know we’ve missed you being around hanging out with us.
Ashton Nobilis: Oh sure, I do get inworld occasionally to just hang out. I don’t have much time for building or scripting, which I do miss, and my RL has been very busy as well which of course eats into my inworld “fun” time. I do manage to pop in for the Speakeasy dances, but oftentimes even then I am fielding issues from residents.
Toy McBride: Well we hope in time you get to spend more time just hanging and less work Ash.
Ashton Nobilis: Absolutely, and I think as the grid matures that is a real possibility 🙂
Toy McBride: One final question Ash, how do you see LFgrid in 2 years time?
Ashton Nobilis: Honestly, I see us as being on of the top grids in the open metaverse with a large base of residents, with the best content, and lots of activities. We’re already the fastest growing grid in the open metaverse (to my knowledge), and I expect we will continue to surprise everyone. This is an off the cuff estimate, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see us with 5000 residents and concurrency of 200+ people at any given time. I’m very excited to see what the future holds
Toy McBride: Thank you so much Ash for taking the time out to give us more of an insight about you. And thank you for creating this world in which we live in.
Ashton Nobilis: Thank you Toy, it’s always a pleasure talking about my favorite subject… ME! LOL
Toy McBride: Indeed Ash LOL
Ashton Nobilis: It is both a wonderful challenge and an honor to help make all this possible. 🙂