Jan 122015
 

This is an odd one. Skrill, an online payment company, released a press release last week :  Skrill Connects with Linden Lab to Expand Payment Options for Second Life:

New York, NY – 8 January 2015: Leading digital payments company, Skrill, today announces a collaboration with Linden Lab to integrate the Skrill Digital Wallet as a payment option for users of Second Life, the Internet’s largest user-created virtual world.

I’m not going to copy the whole of the press release, follow the link for the full information, but it does contain a quote from Linden Lab’s CFO, Malcolm Dunne :

At Linden Lab we are constantly looking for new ways to provide exceptional service to our customers. By integrating with Skrill, we’ve expanded the options for Second Life users to process their online payments, which is a critical piece of our product. We’re excited to offer this new functionality, giving our customers anothersecure, quick, and convenient way to participate in the Second Life economy.

The reason this is all a bit odd is that there is no announcement from Linden Lab about this. There may well be many reasons for this, such as Linden Lab haven’t decided on how to intergrate this or that they are waiting for technical solutions to deliver the service.

At this point, some of you may well be wondering what the bloody hell Skrill is? Skrill is an Online payment system and from their about page they tell us :

Our worldwide payment network lets businesses extend their reach globally with over 100 local payment options. We already meet the needs of over 156,000 businesses with everything from a simple one-step integration to a fully-tailored payment solution.

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Jan 062015
 

As we enter 2015 an awful lot of people seem to be getting very excited about the forthcoming VR boom. I do anticipate a VR boom, I just don’t see it really happening this year. Virtual worlds such as Second Life, OpenSim, Kitely, Inworldz are more likely to keep hold of their communities in the short term because, that’s where the communities currently are and the brave new worlds aren’t ready yet.

However some people feel that 2015 will be the year where VR goes big, I’m more in the camp of 2015 being a year of tease and talk rather than mass adoption. However there are new and interesting things on the horizon that will get people interested in VR and they’re not just in games and virtual worlds. Storytelling is a big potential market here as is live music and theatre performances.

Peter Diamindis over at the singularity hub is, not surprisingly, excited about the future of VR : These 11 Technologies Will Go Big in 2015 :

Expect a lot more action on the virtual and augmented reality front. 2014 saw the $2B acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook. In 2015, we’ll see action from companies like Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity (the successor to Second Life), immersive 3D 360-degree cameras from companies like Immersive Media (the company behind Google’s Streetview), Jaunt, and Giroptic. Then there are game changers like Magic Leap (in which Google just led a $542 million investment round) that are developing technology to “generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world.” Oculus, the darling of CES for the past few years, will be showing its latest Crescent Bay prototype and hopefully providing a taste of how its headset will interact with Nimble VR’s hand- and finger-tracking inputs. Nine new VR experiences will be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year, spanning from artistic, powerful journalistic experiences like Project Syria to full “flying” simulations where you get to “feel” what it would be like for a human to fly.

I’m certainly a big fan of the direction High Fidelity are heading in and with the platform being so open, there’s a lot of potential for people to grasp hold of it, but I think High Fidelity is also a good example of how much ground work has to be done before people adopt. I’m excited about the future of High Fidelity and I certainly expect to see a lot more people experiencing and talking about High Fidelity in 2015 but I don’t see many thousands of people leaving Second Life for High Fidelity just yet.

Over at AD Week Christopher Heing is talking about marketing creativity with VR : How Oculus Rift Is About to Reshape Marketing Creativity Brands are enamored with the potential of 360-degree storytelling. The storytelling angle sold this to me, but the article also talks about Second Life :

Nancy Bennett is a virtual-reality marketing veteran. (Yes, such people actually exist and are about to become hot commodities among talent recruiters.) In the mid-2000s, Bennett had her avatar boots on the Internet-code-built ground of Second Life, constructing cyber experiences for her employer at the time, MTV Networks.

Of course, Second Life never really took off. So with her been there, done that perspective several years later as chief content officer at Two Bit Circus, she does not deal in hyperbole when it comes to the impact the much-hyped virtual reality headset Oculus Rift will have on marketing. Rather, Bennett leans on data. One-third of her agency’s new business in 2014 was powered by the Oculus Rift developer’s kit, helping grow her 2-year-old Los Angeles digital shop from 15 to 35 employees.

When people talk about Second Life never really taking off they’re really talking in terms of mass adoption by the mainstream and that’s something that can’t really be argued with. However the point people miss so often when they talk about brave new worlds is that they recognise that there’s something in virtual communities and communications but they can’t quite figure out what that is. The Oculus Rift may well answer some of the questions, or it may be that the answer is that virtual worlds are simply a niche product. Time will tell.

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Dec 312014
 

If you’re read my other two posts reviewing then there’s nothing new here in this one, it’s just a merging of the two posts to make it easier for future reference. This means it will be a long post, with pictures, videos and probably some errors.

January

January started with a look back to 2013 and the number of private region losses. The scores on the door from Tyche Shepherd displayed a slow down on the number of regions leaving the Second Life grid, something that would continue during 2014.

  • 2012 Net Private Region Losess – 2865 (12.0%)
  • 2013 Net Private Region Losses – 1719 (8.2%)

The virtual world of Kitely moved to a different pricing model which largely did away with the pay by the minute options as these had not been popular.

Blackened Mirror poster should be here

The Blackened Mirror Poster

Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror was taking a mid-season break but would return by the end of January. The show was recorded in Second Life.

Linden Lab were Raising The Roof : The HTTP Project. This project, which had started in 2012 was aimed at improving HTTP communications to improve the end user experience. Linden Lab would continue working on improvements during the year.

Second Life users were getting frustrated by tax and account information requests from Linden Lab. They would continue to be frustrated by these requests throughout the year despite Linden Lab improving their communications and information on these issues.

Second Life got a mention in the comedy show, 2 Broke Girls.

Then came the storm to warm up many a chilly January evening, Cloud Party announced that they would be closing their virtual doors on February 21st.

Pirates? Ahoy?

This was quickly followed by even more news to warm up January, Aston Villa fan and Linden Lab CEO, Rod Humble, was leaving Linden Lab. This created a Twitter storm.

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Dec 292014
 

In this post I will review 2014 from a largely virtual world perspective for the months January to June. This is part 1 of 2 as part 2 is still a work in progress but will hopefully appear tomorrow. I’ll combine both posts into another post for easier future reference once they are both completed. These posts will miss lots of big and interesting stories because the nature of the beast demands some brevity. These post may well look longer than they actually are at first glance because of images and pictures. The aim of posts such as these are to give a brief overview of the year, rather than an in depth review. An in depth review is too long for a blog post, it may make for an interesting book.

Anyway, on with the show, as they say.

January

January started with a look back to 2013 and the number of private region losses. The scores on the door from Tyche Shepherd displayed a slow down on the number of regions leaving the Second Life grid, something that would continue during 2014.

  • 2012 Net Private Region Losess – 2865 (12.0%)
  • 2013 Net Private Region Losses – 1719 (8.2%)

The virtual world of Kitely moved to a different pricing model which largely did away with the pay by the minute options as these had not been popular.

Blackened Mirror poster should be here

The Blackened Mirror Poster

Season 2 of The Blackened Mirror was taking a mid-season break but would return by the end of January. The show was recorded in Second Life.

Linden Lab were Raising The Roof : The HTTP Project. This project, which had started in 2012 was aimed at improving HTTP communications to improve the end user experience. Linden Lab would continue working on improvements during the year.

Second Life users were getting frustrated by tax and account information requests from Linden Lab. They would continue to be frustrated by these requests throughout the year despite Linden Lab improving their communications and information on these issues.

Second Life got a mention in the comedy show, 2 Broke Girls.

Then came the storm to warm up many a chilly January evening, Cloud Party announced that they would be closing their virtual doors on February 21st.

Pirates? Ahoy?

This was quickly followed by even more news to warm up January, Aston Villa fan and Linden Lab CEO, Rod Humble, was leaving Linden Lab. This created a Twitter storm.

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Dec 242014
 

Linden Lab have announced a new snapshot contest for the holiday season as well as news of a Christmas Gift : Celebrate the New Year & Pick Up Your Holiday Gift!

We want to know how you celebrate the coming of the New Year in our New Year Snapshot Contest. If it’s a whole new look for your avatar, or an inworld party to celebrate — share your snapshots for a chance to win L$10,000, L$5,000, L$3,000 or L$1,000.

To enter the contest you will need to go to the official Second Life forum post : 2014 New Year Contest. The rules seem to be on the Wiki and are worth reading, especially if you live in Canada because there’s a requirement for Canadian based Second Life residents to also perform a maths test.

The breakdown of prizes is :

  • Grand Prize – 10,000 Linden Dollars (estimated value at US$40.00).
  • First Prize – 5,000 Linden Dollars (estimated value at US$20.00).
  • Second Prize – 3,000 Linden Dollars (estimated value at $12.00).
  • Third Prize- 1,000 Linden Dollars (estimated value at $4.00).

As for the gift, that will entail making a visit to Portal Park.

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Dec 202014
 

Frijolita Avalira has created a petition on Change.org : Allow Second life avatars to have a Facebook page. ow first things first, pedantry. Facebook do allow Second Life avatars to have a Facebook page. However the petition is really about allowing Second Life avatars to have full Facebook accounts, as the petition explains :

So we ask this of you to keep our Second Life names, as our names and STOP deleting our accounts. It’s a real life business, complete with real life tax payments. Yes. It may seem to some like a game, but as far as our government is concerned–be it the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the Canada Revenue Agency or any other–money you make as an entrepreneur in Second Life or any other virtual world or online game is fully taxable. If the US Government can recognize this as a legitimate business, then you can recognize our avatars and let us advertise using Facebook. With our Avatar names. It’s a huge community, of many walks of life. It isnt by any means a “game.”

We are clothing designers & we ask for rights to conduct our advertising in Facebook.

I advise reading the petition in full. This is of course an old complaint and one that I’ve discussed many times before. Facebook’s arguments are that real names lead to more civility. The flip side of this is that real names also lead to bullying and people being reluctant to share their opinion because of the sheer amount of information linked to a Facebook account.

Then there’s the issue of advertising. I’ve never quite understood Facebook’s reluctance to allow people to use pseudonyms from an advertising perspective because people’s locations, ages and interests are what advertisers really want.

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Dec 182014
 

Some former Lindens are making the news or quietly making moves in certain areas. Hamlet Au over at New World Notes reported : Cory Ondrejka Leaving Facebook to Launch New Company: Second Life Co-Creator Helped Drive Oculus Acquisition. Cory, who was once Linden Lab CTO and played an extremely important role in the evolution of Second Life. Cory, whilst praising Mark Zuckerberg as his best ever boss is also quoted as saying :

December 22nd will be my last day at Facebook. From high-performance javascript through mobile to virtual reality, I could never have predicted a journey quite like this one. I will miss working with everyone, but I am excited about building my next company from scratch.

We’ll come back to that quote later because it’s not an easy step to make. Meanwhile, VentureBeat reports : Metric Insights’ $2M funding reflects the feisty nature of the business analytics market. Metric Insights are, as the title of the linked article suggests, in the business of business analytics. The founder of Metric Insights is not a name I’m familiar with, his name is Marius Moscovici. However the article provides the link to Linden Lab :

Moscovici originally got the startup going in 2010 after he had been frustrated by the lack of extensive and consistent usage of analytics tools at Second Life developer Linden Lab, where he was head of the company’s data warehousing and real-time-analytics group. Previously he had run a business-intelligence consulting company.

I’m not sure if Marius was ever a Linden we’d know from inworld. Maybe someone else knows. However rather interestingly the article also suggests that Philip Rosedale participated in the funding.

Meanwhile, the Fort Mills Times Informs us : Tom Hale and Larry Kutscher Join ReachLocal Board of Directors. ReachLocal are a company who specialise in online marketing for local business. Tom Hale is currently the chief product of officer of HomeAway, a company who specialise in vacation rentals such as Beach Houses and cabins. Tom Hale was Linden Lab’s Chief Product officer between September 2008 and some time in 2010.

Then, a more quiet development that involves a certain Rod Humble, former CEO of Linden Lab.

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Dec 152014
 

I’ve mentioned this before but here we go again. Second Life could do with more ways for people to share information about events, places and sims by allowing people to easily embed that information into blog posts.

Flickr allows you to embed or copy the code of a picture easily so that you can included it in a blog post :

Cracked Mirror

YouTube makes it easy for you to share or embed videos :

These quick and easy ways of sharing content from social media sites help to not only promote your own content, they help to promote the brand of the platform you publish on. Second Life is a little lacking in this area when it comes to sharing content from Second Life on blogs. Let’s look at some more social media examples.

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Dec 122014
 

Linden Lab’s invite for people to send suggestions to them via a new feedback process is gaining some interesting commentary outside the suggestion box. Indigo Mertel has gone for greater web functionality for Groups and communications whereas Hamlet Au over at New World Notes goes for achievements. Neither of these are new territory but they are good discussion territory.

I’m very much onboard with Indigo’s suggestions as they are largely suggestions I’ve made myself in the past. The benefits of web based groups are many but some key areas would mean that you wouldn’t have to receive a notecard, landmark and texture advertising events. The idea would be you’d get a notification pointing to the group web page. This allows communication channels to do what they do best and web pages to do what they do best.

Indigo has added some depth to the broad based group web page idea suggesting that they could have a forum, a wiki, an option for people to subscribe to notifications and the ability to make the group page viewable on the world wide web or not.

In short Indigo is thinking along the lines of the functionality that Facebook and Google + offer. Now you may think that if Facebook and Google + already offer this added functionality then why not go with them for Groups? Many people do, I get event invites sent to me on Google +. However not everyone has or wants an account on Facebook or Google + whereas people who are members of Second Life groups are already happy to be members of Second Life …. one would hope!

Now obviously this isn’t easy to achieve but going forward, I think there might be a pointer or two on how to try and manage groups in the future. Groups are a social experience and they require greater resources than the inworld Second Life experience can provide. Groups are essentially a social media tool and they really need a social media solution but one that can link into the inworld experience.

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Nov 112014
 

The Endgadget Expand NY event this weekend saw Ebbe Altberg going coast to coast as he participated in a panel discussion : Back To Reality VR Beyond Gaming. This panel discussion saw Ebbe joined by Matterport’s Matt Bell and BeAnotherLab’s Marte Roel and has been summarised on Endgadet itself in an article entitled : Virtual reality has a future beyond video games, and it’s already started.

The discussion has also been discussed, eloquently, in detail and with great analysis by Inara Pey in an article entitled : Beyond gaming: looking at VR with Ebbe Altberg and others.

The panel was hosted by Ben Gilbert of Endgadget who introduced Ebbe Altberg as “The CEO Of Linden Lab, who you might have heard of from Second Life and other fun products.” This sort of introduction is exactly why I thought Rod Humble was on the right track in terms of expanding Linden Lab’s portfolio. Second Life should really be a tag line of Linden Lab, not the other way round. However it does emphasise yet again the sway that Second Life has in terms of its name.

Host Ben Gilbert then earns cheers from the virtual world fanbase when he says that the people on the panel are not making video games. You see, some people do understand the difference between virtual worlds and games! Ben also earns some bonus points for realising it’s Linden Lab, not Linden Labs. However he only found that out on the same day of the discussion.

Ebbe indicates that beta testing of Linden Lab’s new virtual world may start around the middle of next year, so watch that space. Ebbe also talks up Second Life well discussing use cases such as education, art and entertainment as well as talking of the economic model and how Linden Lab allow users to create the content.

Ebbe makes a good point about lines between the virtual and real worlds when host Ben Gilbert brings up the issue of the lack of the sense of smell in virtual reality. Ebbe feels there are pro’s and cons and that it’s not about reaching equality between the two spaces. That’s a very important point because I feel some people feel virtual reality will lead to some people being lost in the machine but I really can’t see the feared level of immersion some have being an issue for eons, certainly not in this generation of VR.

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