Mar 172015
 

James Poulos of The Daily Beast has published an article : How Block Bot Could Save the Internet. The article pains me, deeply, on many levels. First of all it pains me to see a journalist advocating such a system :

Meet The Block Bot, an invention of the social-justice left that allows people to automatically screen out disliked content and disliked people from Twitter. The Block Bot comes complete with a helpful hierarchy of disapproval, ranging from mere irritation to bigotry in the first degree. Some people who have been added to The Block Bot’s rolls have been offended, of course. But in addition to muting offense, The Block Bot dissipates rancor.

When I was a lad and I used to buy newspapers I’d regularly buy The Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. The Mirror is a left wing newspaper, The Mail is a right wing newspaper. Some days if I felt in the mood for a really good read, I’d buy The Guardian and The Times. The Guardian generally leans left, The Times generally leans right. Politically I’m on the left, however sometimes the right will say something I agree with. The idea that I should shut out any and all other ideology is completely against my beliefs and I simply don’t see it as healthy.

My big objection to blockbots are, for want of a better word, McCartyhist style guilt by association and allowing others to think for me. I say for want of a better word because McCarthyism was a far more serious issue than this and I don’t like appearing to belittle it by comparing it to some silly nonsense on the internet. However guilt by association is not something I can buy into on any level.

How silly people can get with their dogma was exemplified in horrendous style recently by Ben Kuchera of Polygon. Ben objected to EA head of communications Chris Mancil linking to a post of Ben’s on Chris’ personal blog. Ben’s objection was due to Chris’ post being critical of blockbots, even though in his post he agreed with Ben :

I had heard about these Twitter Auto-Blockers before, and thought the use of these tools to be extremely sad.

  • One – because there are no proper harassment protection tools on Twitter, which Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has ingeniously identified the solutions for in this great piece. Which makes these tactics thinkable.

  • Two – because these auto-blocker tactics leave no hope for change or progress. It’s the cement walls of the West Bank and Gaza, forever dividing the two groups which probably have more in common than not.

Ben Kuchera took to Twitter, tagging Chris Mancil’s employer, to demand the links were removed. Let’s just rewind here, a journalist took to Twitter to demand someone removed links to his work because he didn’t like someone agreeing with him in a post. I lost a lot of respect for Ben Kuchera over this.

There were parts of Chris’ post that were objectionable, a glaring example being comparing these blockbots to the issues in the West Bank, which is quite frankly a ridiculous comparison, but for Ben Kuchera to object to the degree he did was also absurd. The end result is that Chris Mancil’s blog is now set to private. As a journalist Ben Kuchera should be embarrassed about this.

However, let’s not kid ourselves here, the reason people turn to these blockbots is more often than not because they are fed up with being dogpiled and abused for having the temerity to have an opinion.

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Feb 112015
 

When it comes to the computing gaming industry and communications, there’s a very sorry picture lying before us in 2015. The industry as a whole has an extremely immature reputation and this applies to gamers, gaming publications, gaming journalists and game developers. There’s a toxic pile of cack in front of them that far too many are happy to pour oil onto the fire of.

The industry as a whole could do far worse than to take a step back and look at how Linden Lab have approached community relationships over the years. Linden Lab have certainly not always got it right, indeed at times they have got it very wrong, the communication blackout being one glaring example. However at no point in the history of Second Life have I ever witnessed anything close to the sorry state that the computer gaming industry currently finds itself in.

There was a time when the official forums were far more vitriolic. Office hours inworld could get vitriolic.The Jira could get vitriolic and of course the blog post comments could get vitriolic. Linden Lab cut off some of those vitriolic sources by removing those communication channels. That wasn’t the smartest move and in some cases it appeared as if Linden Lab were burying their heads in the sand. Recently Linden Lab have vastly improved their communications, brought back some of those communication channels, engaged with their community and it’s working well.

Ok when Rod Humble was interviewed by Draxtor Despres he was quoted as saying :

I come from gaming communities, where I was running a gaming community, I received three death threats in a day! I’ve never received three death threats in a day from Second Life users, I’ve only received only one death threat here. And that was from a guy who got banned, you know, he was angry.

We shouldn’t make light of death threats but I think this puts into context some of the levels of vitriol that have been around. When Second Life did receive vitriolic comments they were more measured than what we see in the computer gaming industry. When I was more of a git in the forums, blog posts and office hours, the idea of threatening en employee would never have been on my or pretty much anyone else’s radar.

I used to point out in the Second Life forums that the levels of vitriol were tame compared to other forums. This tells me two things, one that I’d accepted that vitriolic behaviour was something of a norm and two, that I thought the level of vitriol aimed at Linden Lab was at an acceptable level. As I’ve aged, I’m puzzled as to why I accepted this behaviour as being part and parcel of online communities.

However Linden Lab largely continued to engage, to talk, to try and work around the noise. As I’ve said, sometimes they took extreme measures, but Linden Lab’s employees in public remained professional, courteous and engaging. That’s not something you could say about the computer gaming industry.

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Feb 062015
 

I was driving home from work the other week listening to BBC Radio 4 when I heard an excerpt from a forthcoming television documentary. The excerpt featured the agent of a woman who is infamous in the UK for being controversial, and that seems to be her main talent. The excerpt had a point that was rather sad, the agent admitted that his client deliberately targets Twitter trolls by spelling words incorrectly on purpose or making outrageous comments. He admitted that without the Twitter trolls, his client would not be so successful.

At this point it is worth noting that picking someone up on their spelling isn’t exactly trolling, but the concept that people deliberately court controversy and know that this will work on Twitter to generate revenue, is rather depressing.

Twitter continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons but those of us who have been in Second Life for a number of years know that those headlines can be very misleading. Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has an article about Twitter : Twitter CEO Basically Admits Pseudonym Policy a Disaster. That headline itself is a tad misleading as I can’t see anything from Twitter CEO Dick Costlolo that suggests that. However Hamlet’s article links to another article on The Verge : Twitter CEO: ‘We suck at dealing with abuse’. In that article Dick Costolo is quoted as saying :

“We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”

I use Twitter, I’ve seen the trolls in action, I’ve seen the heinous abuse but if Twitter was as bad as some folk make out, I would not be on Twitter. The problem with Twitter is not pseudonyms. Over time, even with a pseudonym, you build up a reputation of sorts, you own your words. The problem with Twitter isn’t accounts who don’t say much but use a pseudonym either. Whereas people can demonstrate horror stories from Twitter to try and claim pseudonyms are a problem, the same thing can be done on Facebook with people using their real names. Names aren’t the issue here, people are and more to the point, the way we interact online.

Online communications are largely faceless. We don’t see the person we’re talking to, we lose the tips that guide us in a face to face conversation. We lose sight of emotion, intent and humour and we focus on the words. On a platform such as Twitter where you’re restricted to 140 characters, this doesn’t make for a healthy meeting of minds when it comes to debate.

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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.

Continue reading »

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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