Ciaran Laval

Jul 072015
 

Boulevard

In another “Second Life, yes it’s still around” post I’m taking a look at areas where Virtual Reality is likely to follow Second Life’s lead, in particular charities, nonprofits and social causes.

Earlier today I was reading an article by Erin Blakemore on Smithsonian.com, Virtual Reality Could Be the Next Big Thing in Charitable Giving :

Sometimes, all it takes to inspire more charitable giving is a visit to a place or person in need. But not every situation or location is accessible to the average donor. That could be changing, writes NPR’s Linda Poon, thanks to virtual reality experiences designed to increase empathy and charitable giving.

The linked article by NPR’s Linda Poon is well worth a read too. Virtual Reality may well be able to take people to places and scenes that will increase their empathy to charitable causes, but the concept of charitable causes being able to extend their reach via Virtual Worlds has long been a practice in Second Life and other similar virtual worlds.

Nonprofit Commons

Erin Blakemore’s article acknowledges this and points to the Nonprofit Commons, which has a presence in Second Life. The Nonprofit Commons explains a bit about itself on their website :

Nonprofit Commons was designed to lower the barriers of access to Second Life, to create a community of practice for nonprofits to explore and learn about the virtual world, and to investigate the many ways in which nonprofits might utilize this unique environment. Through this community, we provide free office space to qualifying groups, meet and network, create a cooperative learning environment and foster outreach, education, fund-raising, all in a virtual space. Our focus is on providing an accessible entry-point to Second Life and on creating a community of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) for effective collaboration and support. We believe that Second Life is a wonderful place not just to entertain, but also to educate, inspire, and work together to assist our fellow avatars (and the humans behind them). You do not have to be a resident of the Nonprofit Commons to get involved with our community. We welcome all who wish to join us as partners, collaborators or supporters.

The Nonprofit Commons are under the leadership of TechSoup and rely on the help of volunteers to aid their good causes.

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Jul 072015
 

The Wedding Of Alex & Mondy 6

The time has come for a couple of “Second Life, yes it’s still around” blog posts. The reason for this is that despite people sounding surprised that Second Life is still around, the platform still gets cited directly and indirectly in many articles.

The above picture by Alex Bristol appeared on my Twitter stream today. The image appeared because Chuck Baggett was pointing out that the image was being used in a post about human marriage. However there’s a bit of a twist regarding the article, it’s actually a transhumanist article. Transhumanism is a train of thought devoted to improving the human condition via technology. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it delves into areas that many find troubling.

Now ideas that many find troubling are not a bad thing. We need to discuss the way technology impacts upon our lives. I personally find it interesting, but at times it does appear to be way too sci-fi for my liking. However that’s the point of the discussion.

So back to Chuck Baggett’s tweet.

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Jul 042015
 

Back on June 16th Xiola Linden posted a blog entry, The “What Second Life Means to Me” Video Share Project :

We’ve been having a lot of fun with no end in sight to the good times – but you can’t turn 12 without a little pride and reflection. Second Life has been going strong for a dozen wonderful years and there’s a ton of things happening to celebrate. You’ll see more to come here in the Featured News Blog – but we wanted to stop and ask – “What is the meaning of Second Life?” To you – that is! This question may sound daunting – but the truth is, tapping into what makes “SL” so special to us as individuals and communities is a really amazing exercise in retrospection and self-discovery. This is your world – so what does it mean to you?

Whether you just got started, have been onboard for the full dozen years, or fall somewhere in between – we’d love to see a glimpse of your story in the “What Second Life Means to Me” video project.

Since then people have been creating short videos and I have noticed that the playlist on YouTube has now hit the 30 mark. There are a variety of styles applied, some people share more of their real self than others, some are shot entirely inworld, some have no voice. This mix is what makes this project so interesting.

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Jul 032015
 

Crestwick Petrol

Just a small town Dwarfin, living in a lonely world.

I decided to take a trip to a small working class region of Second Life by the name of Crestwick Island and I was totally blown away by its gritty beauty.

Crestwick Street

The actual parcel description states :

Crestwick Island is a small working class town situated on an Island in the middle of a beautiful bay. The streets are lined faux businesses and shops as well as parks, marsh land and other surprises including a giant hill that supports an observatory.

This is a location that works really well, although it’s a shame that the business on the streets are faux because the record store looks really funky!

 

Crestwick Out Of Town

The creators of this wonderful location are Ciphertazi Wandin and Isa Messioptra, who also doubles as The Mayor, although I don’t know if she was democratically elected.

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Jul 032015
 

r/SecondLife looks the same as it ever was over on Reddit, but a lot of other subreddits have gone dark in a protest over the management of the site. Reddit, which turned ten in June, have upset many of their numerous users after allegedly firing the very popular Victoria Taylor. According to The Guardian article I just linked to, Reddit users are revolting over this development :

The protest is focused on the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a former Reddit communications director who was abruptly let go on Thursday. Her role had been to co-ordinate the site’s popular Ask Me Anything series, also known as AMAs, where celebrities answer questions submitted by the Reddit community. The main AMA subforum, “IAmA”, was the first to close in protest.

Over the years, AMAs had brought in some of the site’s biggest successes, including the AMA with President Obama in 2012, and one with a man with two penises in 2014, and many had been specifically arranged and co-ordinated by Taylor. The contrast between those two events is also a nice way to sum up Reddit to someone who has not heard of the site.

Many mods are now annoyed that Reddit don’t seem to have grasped how important a role Victoria Taylor played in communications between mods and guests. They feel let down and it seems on the face of it, that the management of Reddit don’t quite grasp how much mods on subreddits appreciated Victoria Taylor, in short the mods feel they’ve been left high and dry with no forward thinking plans in place to replace Victoria Taylor.

Now there are some golden rules when your users are upset, somewhere very close to the top of the list is “Thou Shalt Not Piss Them Off Further,“, however this golden rule seems to have flown right over the head of some of the senior people at Reddit.

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder and executive chair at Reddit, responded to angry users by saying “Popcorn tastes good.” This tongue in cheek reference to internet drama backfired badly, indeed it pretty much became explosive Popcorn. He has since amended his post, it now reads :

Popcorn tastes good.
Edit: Honestly, I didn’t understand the depth of the frustration, and I really regret this comment. I’m leaving it here as a reminder not to do it again.

He deserves some credit for acknowledging that he misjudged the mood, but it’s really more of a refelction of how out of touch Reddit are with their community.

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Jul 022015
 

Hamlet Au recently blogged – Linden Lab Declines Comment on Continued Sale of Racist Confederate Flag Items in Official Second Life Store. In that post Hamlet said

I’ve e-mailed Linden Lab three times about the sale of Confederate flag items in its official Second Life Marketplace (which I blogged about last week), but have still not received any kind of reply. At this point I’m forced to conclude Linden Lab is declining to address the issue — either publicly, or in the Marketplace itself, where Confederate flag items are still quite easy to find and buy, both through searches of “Confederate” and “rebel flag”.

Whereas Linden Lab may have declined to comment, it does seem that they are taking action. In a post on SLUniverse, Second Life content creator Amigo Uriza writes :

Yesterday and today, I got all my outfits with the rebel or confederate flag delisted and deleted from the marketplace.

I always supposed that flags were never copyrighted or trademarked … that’s why I decided to used them. Actually It wasn’t me, but my deceased partner that created those “rebel” items a few years ago and I have been selling them since then. I haven’t created any other since then.

According to Linden my items have been removed for “Listings for harmful or disruptive content”. They are just outfits with a flag on the chest or the back. Nothing else. Some of them have been removed for “Post, display, or transmit Content that is obscene, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable”

First things first, Amigo admits that English is not his first language, so he may very well be unaware of the more sinister meanings behind the Confederate Battle Flag. I say this as someone who does have English as a first language and I didn’t understand how deep the negative symbolism of this banner went. I have put this down to the fact that it is widely seen on Film and TV where it’s not always in a context of racism. This is a different scenario to which people generally see the Nazi symbol, with some exceptions in Asia and even then, those of us in the west raise eyebrows when we see the symbol.

However the commentary and news stories surrounding the Confederate Battle Flag in recent days have pointed out loud and clear how much a symbol of hatred it can be. This therefore has definitely put Linden Lab in an uncomfortable position.

Amigo’s post is backed up by the fact that a search of the Second Life Marketplace no longer seems to return obvious items emblazoned with the Confederate Battle Flag.

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Jul 022015
 

Journalist Laurie Penny recently found herself on the wrong side of Facebook’s real name policy and she wasn’t very pleased about it. Laurie, who is a contributing editor at The New Statesman and sometimes writes for The Guardian had been using a pseudonym and as many of us in virtual world circles know, this is pretty much a no no when it comes to Facebook.

Pseudonyms are an angle of the real name policy that don’t get raised very often. Whereas OpenSim and Second Life users like to use pseudonyms and would like to have Facebook accounts in their avatar name, the issue has largely been ignored by the wider media.

I’m a fan of pseudonyms, especially when it’s a pseudonym by which someone is widely known. Facebook should not need people’s real names to make their data attractive, they should want interests and probably locations, but names should not be so valuable.

Last September Jo Yardley reported Facebook is deleting avatar profiles… again, this is a story that has been told time and again over the years. However when it comes to Laurie Penny, she wasn’t using a pseudonym just for the hell of it, she was using a pseudonym because she felt it would help to keep her safe. Facebook have long argued that real names help to encourage civil behaviour. There is another side to this though, real names can also make people a far larger target than is comfortable.

Laurie Penny explained her concerns in a number of Tweets.

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Jun 302015
 

Electrobit City

Yesterday I was highlighting how Loki Eliot has been making good use of Experience Tools in Second Life and today Linden Lab blog Experience Tools Available Now For Premium Members! Coincidence? Most definitely, but that’s not the point!

First things first, what are experience tools? There’s a good knowledge base article but basically it’s a means by which a lot of the interaction notifications for a location can be agreed to in one foul swoop. So for example if you’re on a sim where scripted objects want to teleport you, take control of your camera, animate your avatar, attach a hud to you etc. this can be done in one step. For example I visited Electrobit City this evening, as I hadn’t been there before and I was greeted with this :

Experiences1

So basically, if I say yes to this, I’m agreeing that whilst in ElectroBit City scripted objects can :

  • Act on my control inputs
  • Animate my avatar
  • Attach to my avatar
  • Track my camera
  • Control my camera
  • Teleport me

As you can hopefully see, I have a choice in this matter. Another thing to note, is that if I change my mind, I can revoke these permissions. Now to make sure I have full access to all these options, I’m using the latest version of the official Second Life viewer, which is available from the downloads page. The current version is 3.8.0.302622.

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Jun 302015
 

Tabard Inn

Literature Alive! have had a presence in Second Life going all the way back to 2006, their goal is :

The goals of Literature Alive! are to help faculty create ethical and immersive learning environments that provide “added value” to students in composition, professional writing, and literature courses: to help students use the resources of a 3D world to add to the depth and breadth of understanding literature; to foster a community of open access educators dedicated to the sharing of teaching content; and, finally, to promote a lifelong love of learning through a lifelong passion for reading.

Personally I’m a big fan of learning and a big fan of reading, so I like the cut of their jib. Literature Alive! currently have a couple of exhibits in Second Life. One is a virtual pilgrimage of The Canterbury Tales and the other is Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher.

We’ll start with The Canterbury Tales. The starting place is Tabard Inn and being a Dwarfin I can’t resist a good inn! There’s also a mini game here, which if you complete you will be able to claim a free meal … that definitely appeals to a Dwarfin too!

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Jun 292015
 

Loki Eliot's Exhibit

Whereas the performance schedule at SL12B is over, the exhibits are still open and one exhibit that is really worth a look at is Loki Eliot’s Childhood Dreams. The reason it’s worth a look is because this exhibit makes really good use of experience tools to tell a story and move you in the right direction.

Traditionally in Second Life, when you want to interact with an object, you click it. Whereas Loki’s build does still include some clicking, it’s largely related to the HUD that automatically attaches itself to you when you accept the experience tools.

Experience Keys

To put this simply, you click the hand to progress. This makes for a pretty seamless experience.

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