Dec 202014

Frijolita Avalira has created a petition on : 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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Oct 072014

Episode 39 of The Drax Files Radio Hour is another packed affair with the star attraction being Argyle Alligator. However as usual there’s much more than that and they touch upon Facebook’s real name policy with Jo Yardley and Drax both seeming far from impressed about Facebook’s policy. However I really can’t see room for Second Life’s profile feed to fill much of a gap here. Jo does however make good points about the features of social networking sites to promote events which brings me back to an old point of mine, web pages for groups.

This is something that could be added to the Second Life profile feed and the advantage of a web based group page advertising events is that it means you don’t have to send landmarks, notecards, textures, etc. All you would need to do is send a link to the event on the group web page.

Moving on, they give a shoutout to the 250th edition of Designing Worlds which was broadcast on October 6th and has already been covered in her usual magnificent manner by Inara Pey.

However the main feature is an interview with in game reporter Argyle Alligator who talks about his interviews, which are at times amusing. Argyle Alligator isn’t only an in game reporter for Second Life, he also interviews people in Garry’s Mod and Rust but this interview is largely about his Second Life experiences.

Argyle also shares the new user experience of Second Life and highlights some issues he found, how he had to work out the teleport system for himself, how he had difficulties finding locations that supported voice. This is important for Argyle’s work as he conducts his interviews with voice.

Argyle also offers up some good suggestions about starter zones including having verified residents of Second Life easily identifiable to help new participants. Drax also asks him about the UI. Drax has commented often that the Second Life UI isn’t complicated. I disagree, not because I find it difficult myself but because when so many people keep raising this point then it does suggest there’s an issue. I’m ok with the Blender UI too but I’ve seem many complaints about that as well. There is an issue, but it’s difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is but Argyle Alligator offers some insight on this.

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Oct 022014

Hamlet Au over at New World Notes has an interesting blog post about Facebook’s real name policy : Facebook Apologizes & Tweaks Real Name Policy to Better Support LGBT Community — But Avatar Community Should Stick With Fan Pages.The issue revolves around drag queens who had been using names they had long been known as, such as Lady Roma or Lil Miss Hot Mess. The story will be familiar for many Second Life users because it has been played out many times before with regards to the Second Life community.

Hamlet’s post links to an official apology from Facebook by Facebook’s Chris Cox and the apology is quite a mixed mess of strange claims but it does explain what happened :

The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn’t notice the pattern. The process we follow has been to ask the flagged accounts to verify they are using real names by submitting some form of ID — gym membership, library card, or piece of mail. We’ve had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it’s done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.

I don’t really know where to start with this. How something that happens regularly took them off guard remains a mystery. This happens on a pretty regular basis to Second Life users who use Facebook against their terms of service. That’s important to remember by the way because whereas I have a certain amount of sympathy for people who want to use a pseudonym, it is against Facebook’s TOS. The part about bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams hate speech and more has actually been used by people on the other side of the Nym Wars argument as a position to argue against the enforced use of real names in social networking. There are risks associated with using a real name in social networking and those risks are very real.

However what’s odd here is that Facebook are almost implying that the person reporting the accounts was a bad actor, whereas they may have been spiteful in whom they reported, they were actually following Facebook’s rules of engagement when reporting them. Names such as Sister Roma do not comply with Facebook’s official policy … or do they? Chris Cox went on to make what I see as a very odd claim :

Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that’s Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that’s Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what’s been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.

This is an odd claim to say the least. Facebook’s policy has at times even went as far as asking someone to send in their ID when they suspected he wasn’t who he claimed to be. Upon seeing his ID Facebook changed his name to his official ID name, not the name he is commonly known as. The person in question was Salman Rushdie. However Salman is his middle name and as explained in a report in The Guardian back in 2011, Facebook changed his name initially :

Rushdie became embroiled in a battle with the social networking website after his account was deactivated for breaching its strict real name policy. Facebook claimed that Rushdie, who refers to himself by his middle name, Salman, was an imposter.

The author had to send a photograph of his passport to the security team to prove his identity, but when his account was reinstated he found his name had been changed to Ahmed – the first name on his passport.

Salman Rushdie won his battle with Facebook, largely thanks to using Twitter to ridicule the company but that experience does not tie in with the claims of Chris Cox regarding the nature of Facebook’s policy and nor does it tie in with Facebook’s terms which state :

Facebook users provide their real names and information, and we need your help to keep it that way.

Facebook appear to be making it up as they go along but let’s bear with them for a little bit longer. Chris Cox then defends the real name policy and claims it helps to avoid bullying etc. this remains open to debate but there does seem to be an inkling of progress being made on Facebook’s part.

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Sep 192014

Episode 37 Of The Drax Files Radio Hour has a main feature this week regarding virtual therapy with an interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. There’s also discussion of some hot topics such as Innsmouth,

However the episode opens with an excellent interview with Jeska Dzwigalski (AKA Jeska Linden), regarding the late Joe Miller with whom Jeska was a work colleague. Jeska talks of the introduction of voice in Second Life as well as talking about how passionate Joe was about Second Life. This is an excellent perspective of the contribution Joe made to Second Life and is well worth listening to. Jeska left Linden Lab quite a while ago now but she’s still a well known and liked name. She also runs a pretty cool site : Geeks With Drinks. Jeska earns extra kudos for knowing the difference between Whisky and Whiskey.

The episode also touch upon a subject close to my heart, Facebook’s absurd real names policy. This time they are mainly talking about drag Queens petitioning Facebook to change their real name policy and allow people to use stage names. Facebook’s real name policy is simply absurd, a name people known as is a far better policy. I’m tired of trying to encourage Linden Lab to embrace Google + now that they allow people to use any name they want to. Facebook has reach, Google + currently has far better ethics in this area.

They talk about many more issues including the High Fidelity Alpha users and a revelation that Draxtor Despres may well be entering High Fidelity for a special broadcast, with a special Draxtor Despres avatar. I hope they realise the perils Of Draxtor’s long hair! This may be more challenging than Rock, Paper, Scissors which they have been having fun with over at High Fidelity.

However the main feature is a fascinating interview with Dr Tammy Fletcher. Dr Fletcher talks about therapy within Second Life. This is a fascinating interview because a lot of people will think that any sort of therapy within Second Life will be artificial, ran by charlatans and not worthwhile.

Yet Dr Fletcher explains not only how therapy in Second Life can be useful and valid, she also explains why Second Life can highlight issues that are specific to spending too much time in Second Life, or using alts, or associated drama and how these are real and not virtual issues.

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Sep 022014

VHA Building

Episode 22 of The Drax Files World Makers – Virtual Health Adventures, has caught me somewhat by surprise as I thought the final edit was being published today, with the actual episode going live tomorrow. This is all my own fault as we can see from the blog post from Linden Lab, sponsors of the series and from the excellent review of the episode from Inara Pey, others understood that the final edit meant it would be published today! I’ll embed the video at the end of the post.

This episode deals with usage of virtual worlds, why their immersive nature can be far more productive than a traditional website and it even exemplifies people using The Oculus Rift for even greater immersion. Pay careful attention to that because you’ll see how that issue of where the keyboard is, is a very real issue when you’re using The Oculus Rift. However also pay attention to how important the immersive environment is to this episode and of course The Oculus Rift can help to make an environment even more immersive. The main theme however is one that people probably don’t associate with a virtual world such as Second Life, that theme is working with amputees to assist them to overcome emotional trauma.

Sandra L. Winkler, assistant professor at NOVA University in Florida, who teaches occupational therapy says :

“Second Life is the perfect place for amputees to overcome emotional trauma by sharing stories and realizing they are not alone!” 

Dr Winkler, who unlike her namesake Henry, hasn’t yet jumped the shark, is working on a three year study funded by the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. That study is roughly halfway through its three years and whereas Dr Winkler admits that at this stage it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions from their current work, she does feel that the virtual world environment combined with new technology is a significant next step in tele-healthcare.

Dr Winkler’s research is aided in Second Life by the development work in virtual worlds of Virtual Ability Inc. who have long had a presence in Second Life.

Admiring Scenery

In the episode we see amputees embracing the virtual world and going through exercises as well as putting a virtual wheelchair into a virtual car. There is scientific evidence that this sort of process does indeed help people to be able to transfer these skills to the real world and this was something we also saw in The Drax Files: World Makers Episode 13: Creations for Parkinson’s.

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Aug 282014

I’ve recently suggested that Second Life Should Cut The Facebook Cord due to the fact that Facebook is not Second Life avatar friendly. Back in July I suggested that Linden Lab Should Embrace Google+. This was based on the fact that Google + had changed their naming policy to one where people can now use any name they like. Prior to that Google + required you to use a name you were known as, which did allow Second Life avatars to have a presence of sorts, but was still a grey area. There’s no real grey area with Facebook, they want people to use their real name only for accounts.

A good way for Linden Lab to encourage people to embrace the better fit of Google + would be for them to include their Google + page in their connect with us or follow us sections on their website. The Google + page isn’t as popular as the official Facebook page but has had over 4 million views, which is none too shabby.

However like Second Life in virtual world terms, Facebook is where it’s at in terms of social networking. Personally I’m not a fan, I mean I’m really really not a fan. However I do have a Facebook Page. Why do I have a Facebook page? Well because it’s not a breach of Facebook’s terms of service to do so, whereas using my Second Life name as a Facebook account is a breach of the Facebook TOS.

Many Second Life users have tried to use Facebook under their Second Life name and many have found themselves having their accounts deleted, due to that TOS breach. So if you absolutely must use Facebook with your Second Life name, then create a Facebook page for your avatar.

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