Feb 222014
 

One of the things about being a blogger is finding something to write. A lot of the time a blogger finds the material to base their post on elsewhere, … actually this happens a lot. This post will unashamedly use material from someone else. The reasons for this are because the material is cutting, funny and relevant. I’m heading off to Twitter for this.

There’s a lot of advice going around on what Ebbe Linden needs to do to make Second Life awesome. Both SLUniverse and the official Second Life forums have threads full of advice. However one brave soul has been collecting this advice from Twitter users, adding their own, putting their tongue firmly in their cheek and creating a Twitter account of @EbbeNeedsTo.

Now some of these are funny, some of them may not tickle your fancy, you may found the whole thing a bit silly. The first thing to say is that you should ensure that you have your sense of humour turned on if you read that Twitter feed because some of the posts may be about one of your important issues or pet favourites.

For example:

I mean come on, Versu is a brilliant project … that Linden Lab decided to ditch because they don’t think it’s so brilliant and they have a lot more information about it than me! Pah, but hey I can take it, healthy disagreement is good. I mean it could be worse, the account could be poking fun at SLUniverse, which is a site I think has a lot of good information on … oh wait …

Noooooo! However this poking fun at suggestions and ideas is actually quite brilliant in so much as it brings issues to light and also brings to light the fact that we don’t all agree. Healthy disagreement is good. There are many more issues raised, far too many for me to post about here, but I will cover some more.

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Feb 212014
 

Pirates? Ahoy?

Today is the last day to enjoy Cloud Party, the browser based virtual world. The Cloud Party team announced back in January that they would be closing down after the team moved to Yahoo!

We’re excited to announce that the time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure. We are joining Yahoo! The last two years have been an incredible experience for everyone here. We’ve been continually amazed by your creativity and the worlds you’ve built and shared with us.

Cloud Party will continue to run until February 21, 2014.

Since that announcement there hasn’t really been more to add from the Cloud Party team, there are no end of the world parties being ran, there are no goodbye posts as of yet, the platform is quietly disappearing.

Panic

This isn’t like when City Of Heroes closed, I was quite upset about that even though I hadn’t played it for years. Of course the big reason for that was that I didn’t embrace Cloud Party in the same manner that I embraced City Of Heroes. That was part of the problem for Cloud Party, not that I didn’t embrace it, but that enough people didn’t embrace it.

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Feb 122014
 

It seems very likely that the freedom people have to create local regions or islands within Second Life with different forms of governance will result in many different utopian ‘experiments’.  This is something that will be fascinating to watch, and may even inform decisions about the real world.

Philip Rosedale 13th April 2006 - INTERVIEW WITH PHILIP ROSEDALE, SECOND LIFE

In my opinion the solution is focusing a lot more on letting players make and be content for each other. Battlegrounds are an excellent example of an Evergreen style of content where it’s the players themselves that actually create the content. Auction houses are another example. So are things like storytelling tools in SWG.. or the brilliant music system in LOTRO. Building systems into the games that let the players interact with each other in new and unique ways gives us the ability to watch as the players do stuff we never anticipated. We’ll see a lot more creativity in action if the players are at the center of it. Imagine an MMORPG of a massive city.. and the Rogue’s guild is entirely run by players. Where the city has an entire political system that is populated by players who were elected by the playerbase.

John Smedley 11th February 2014 – The Sandbox MMO

I’ve opened with the above quotes to demonstrate firstly that eight years is not as long in technology circles as many think. Secondly it’s to emphasise that sandbox concepts are spreading and are going to create virtual worlds galore. John Smedley is the president of Sony Online Entertainment and in the blog post I’ve linked, makes excellent points about the power and potential of a sandbox MMO. Sony Online Entertainment are really starting to impress me lately, Everquest Next Landmark will allow user created content.

They are also dipping their toes into the water of allowing players to sell content. They are bringing together some of most wonderful concepts of Second Life in a more controlled environment, but they also recognise the beauty of such an environment.

So why is it that when we see talk of sandboxes and user generated content, the media shy away from talking of the ultimate sandbox that Second Life is? Why is it left to people such as Draxtor Despres to highlight the many wonderful use cases of Second Life via The Drax Files? Part of the problem of course is the mainstream media who don’t want to talk about the brilliant sandbox that Second Life is when they can create seedy headlines instead. This is why people don’t realise there are Orcs in Second Life!

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Feb 082014
 

On the 10th October 2007 the Reuters news agency in Second Life published a news story : IBM, Linden Lab seek open borders for virtual worlds.

IBM and Linden Lab said on Tuesday they will work on ways to let people use a single online persona in different online services.

Interoperability is emerging as a key goal of the nascent virtual world industry, which attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment on the hopes that video-game graphics and rich 3-D environments will supplant flat Web pages.

The idea was that you’d be able to create an avatar in one virtual world and take that avatar to other virtual worlds. This was an extremely interesting development. There’s a quote in that article from then Vice President of business at Linden Lab, Ginsu Yoon:

“When you talk about avatars going in and out of virtual worlds, we truly believe that expands the market …..It’s not a situation where there is a fixed pie and everyone is fighting for slices. It’s really key to making the market bigger.” 

So Linden Lab were interested and within a year, further exciting developments would be unveiled. On the 8th July 2008 … I think .. American dates are arse about face, yes I’m sure they mean 8th July 2008, anyway on this date, Hamilton Linden revealed that a major breakthrough had been achieved in Virtual Worlds :

This is a historic day for Second Life, and for virtual worlds in general. IBM and Linden Lab have announced that research teams from the two companies successfully teleported avatars from the Second Life Preview Grid into a virtual world running on an OpenSim server, marking the first time an avatar has moved from one virtual world to another. It’s an important first step toward enabling avatars to pass freely between virtual worlds, something we’ve been working toward publicly since the formation of the Architecture Working Group in September 2007. These are still early days, however, so amid all the excitement, we thought it would be helpful to clarify exactly what we’ve done — and what still lies ahead.

There was even a video, directed by Torley. The existence of the video of course led to accusations that the whole thing was faked, that the OpenSim grid landing never really happened and people pointed out that a flag was waving when it should not have been as there is no air in the OpenSim atmosphere. Others suggested that there should have been a crater or at least some imprints from the landing from one distant virtual world to another. However I disagree with the conspiracy theorists, this really happened and here’s the video to prove it:

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Jan 242014
 

Pirates? Ahoy?

In a not that surprising announcement, Sam Thompson has announced that Cloud Party will close on February 21st. I say not that surprisng because Cloud Party users had been commenting on the lack of updates during December, prompting Sam Thompson to say on the forums:

We see you’ve noticed how quiet we are. Things always seem to slow down around here this time of year, and this year is no exception. We’re going to pick it up a bit on the bug front over the next couple of weeks and make sure we are catching those. Be sure to use the in-world bug report feature, we try to follow the forums but sometimes bugs reported on the forums slip through the cracks.

Right now we are having another time of introspection while we figure out where we want to go next with Cloud Party. We will be talking with everyone more before the holiday break, so please be patient with us. Hope you are having a great holiday season so far!

Cloud Party had some wonderful concepts, some excellent building tools and being browser based meant that people didn’t have to fuddle around with a client. However they couldn’t quite gain enough traction to make an identity of their own for enough people to embrace the product in my view. Content creators were also shy of investing too much there as cashing out proved problematic due to new financial regulations.

The blog post says:

We’re excited to announce that the time has come for the Cloud Party team to start our next adventure. We are joining Yahoo! The last two years have been an incredible experience for everyone here. We’ve been continually amazed by your creativity and the worlds you’ve built and shared with us.

Cloud Party will continue to run until February 21, 2014. We want to support our community during this transition. In the interest of preserving your extraordinary Cloud Party creations, we’ve added export tools and written this guide to help you export your content. If you have any questions, please contact support.

We are privileged to have had so many wonderful users share ideas and creations. We are excited to bring our vision and experience to a team that is as passionate about games as we are. Thank you all for sharing in this journey with us, and we hope you stick around for what’s next!

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I’ll stick around to see what they do with Yahoo! considering the steaming mess they’ve made of Flickr since May 2013, Yahoo! are not a company I have great faith in, but I will give anyone a fair chance and it may be that Yahoo! with the Cloud Party team do come up with something useful.

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Jan 232014
 

I can remember being in The Holte End at Villa Park back in 1998 and watching Stan Collymore score an absolute screamer against Athletico Madrid in a European football match, it wasn’t enough to keep Villa in the competition but the atmosphere at the match was awesome. Years later Stan has became a pundit in print and radio. Today he reopened his Twitter account after closing it down for 12 hours. The reason Stan temporarily closed his account was due to what he reportedly perceives as a lack of action by Twitter to combat racist abuse and death threats. The radio station he works for, Talksport, have banned all references on air and in print to Twitter as they also don’t believe Twitter do enough to combat abuse.

I’m glad to see Stan’s account back on Twitter, not because he used to play for The Villa, but because deleting your account let’s the trolls win, although I fully understand why people who make such a decision feel it is the only option. The thing is, the vast majority of Twitter is a pleasant experience.

One of the criticisms of Twitter is the anonymous nature of the site, which many claim allows people to troll without worry. Although there have been cases whereby Twitter trolls have been arrested and charged for their actions. So people often aren’t as anonymous as they’d like to think they are. However the last thing we need in social networking circles is heavy handed and conversation stifling solutions.

An interesting article appeared on The Guardian last week: Why should I reveal my ‘real identity’ online? Anonymity isn’t so terrible. The article makes some very sensible points regarding identity and why posting with your real name everywhere using one account isn’t such a wonderful concept:

One of the beauties of the internet is the anonymity of your identity. Not the kind of disposable anonymity you get in comment pages that require no sign-in, but the kind that allows you to have separate identities that are independent of each other. Reading some of the more alarmed talk surrounding this subject, you’d get the impression that this is a terrible calamity, and civilisation can only be restored if every interaction you have on the internet comes attached with your name and address, like the tags your mother used to sew on your school clothes.

This is the point oft missed when it comes to debates about online identities, online identities are identities, ok they may not be your actual real name but many an author doesn’t use their actual real name either, indeed it was once fashionable for newspaper and magazine columnists to use, shock horror, a pseudonym or even have different authors use the same pseudonym. Robert X Cringely is one glaring example, that actually got quite complicated regarding who was allowed to use the name. Another, that some may remember was Lloyd Managram who was a columnist for the Sinclair Spectrum magazine Crash. Years later I discovered he never really existed. Does this matter? Absolutely not as it was the content I was interested in.

People often use different identities and engage in different activities, in different circles. I know some people down the pub by their nickname only, their family may not even know they have a nickname. Which brings us to TechCrunch. I pretty much stopped reading TechCrunch back in 2011 when they introduced Facebook comments. I have never commented much on TechCrunch but the Facebook push was just a huge turn off. Facebook comments reduce trolling, they also reduce commenting full stop. This was exemplified in January 2013 when TechCrunch made a plea for commenters to come back and announced their experiment with Facebook comments was over:

It was early 2011 and TechCrunch’s comment section was overrun with trolls. Bullies and asshats were drowning out our smart commenters. We hated our commenters because, well, they hated us. So we Facebook Comments in an attempt to silence the trolls — by removing their anonymity.

But we eventually discovered that our anti-troll tactic worked too well; The bullies and asshats left our comments sections, but so did everyone else. Now, several years later, after dozens of endless meetings and conference calls, we’ve decided we’re going to try out Livefyre instead of Facebook Comments.

Frankly, our trial with Facebook Comments lasted way too long at too steep of a cost. Sure, Facebook Comments drove extra traffic to the site, but the vast majority of our readers clearly do not feel the system is worthy of their interaction.

And we want our commenters back.

One would think that would be that? However no, in December 2013 TechCrunch embraced Facebook comments once more, managing to completely miss the point:

We know that the lack of anonymity is an issue with Facebook Comments, but we’re willing to accept that in return for a commenting system that is relatively stable. We also like the idea of comments sorted by Facebook Likes versus recency, and Facebook offers that as a default. Sometimes it’s that simple.

The issue isn’t anonymity, it’s more pseudonymity for many but what’s more amazing about TechCrunch’s decision is that having driven away commenters the first time around, they seem to be somehow oblivious to it happening again.

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Jan 102014
 

Draxtor Despres

I can’t quite remember where I first heard of Draxtor Despres, I think it may have been on Metareality Podcast. I know that I discovered, late in the day The Adventures Of Flufee, which was a joint venture with people such as Pooky Amsterdam. There were clues there though as to what may come later, although the site was largely about the avatar of Flufee, there were also highlights featuring destinations within Second Life.

When Flufee had to halt his adventures, we may have wondered where Draxtor would go next. I don’t know if The Drax Files were in the pipeline before Flufee closed but they certainly arrived with a bang in 2013 and continued to impress throughout 2013 with fifteen wonderful video interviews.

The feedback for this show has been wonderful :

His machinima are actually better ads than I’ve ever seen LL put together themselves“. – Nika Talaj.

This is the right narrative to describe #SecondLife. Excellent work” – Indigo Mertel

All this talk about Second Life and Relay for life.. this tells it perfectly! ” – Aine Flanagan

This story gave me goosebumps. Outstanding work as always Drax!” – Freeta Kayo

Draxtor Despres? Is he that German bloke?” – Ciaran Laval

Now Draxtor is moving on to the next stage, by launching The Drax Files Radio Hour. This show is a collaboration with Frau Yardley of 1920′s Berlin fame.

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Jan 092014
 

On January 1st Kitely finalised their new pricing structure. This provided new fixed price options, but worryingly took away the two free hours a month from free accounts. New accounts will get six hours of free time, which once used up, means they will need to buy Kitely Credits to visit their own metered world, those six hours don’t need to be used up in one month. However on the plus side free accounts no longer have to buy minutes to continue exploring. I have some concerns about how this will pan out and things didn’t start well when I tried to login.

Image of Kitely message

Not allowed to login

That was due to trying to login to the last world I visited. This world must have set their world to not allow free accounts anymore. So I decided to head home ….

Kitely image should be here

My Home Suspended!

So now I can’t visit my own free world anymore! This took me a little by surprise, I thought they may have allowed people a month with a little free time at least. However as there’s pretty much nothing on my own world, this is no great loss. So what next? I decided to explore and this is where the new pricing structure could well work well because now I can explore without worrying about being charged Kitely Credits for doing so.

Dragon's Teeth In Kitely

Dragon’s Teeth

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Dec 202013
 

The reasons for Andrew Linden’s move from Linden Lab to High Fidelity (which is now accepting Alpha signups) are unknown. Some speculate that Andrew had had enough of standing in the rain, drenched and soaked with pain, tired of short time benefits and being exposed to the elements.

Others have suggested that Andrew’s departure was due to feeling his spirit’s getting old, It’s time to recharge his soul, whereas others suggest it’s simply a matter of Andrew being homeward bound, Got his head turned around.

Whatever the reason, the move reunites Andrew with Philip Rosedale, with whom it all began back in 1999 when they were both at Linden Lab. The Second Life wiki tells us that Linden Lab originally started life as a hardware company involved in the research and development of haptics. Haptics are related to touch and are still very much in development, one of the latest examples being The Steam Controller. The controller is currently in beta but PC Gamer have been taking an early look at it, it’s not yet the finished article.

However Linden Lab abandoned the idea of being a hardware company after the software they created to bring their hardware to life turned out to be more fun. That software morphed into Second Life. The Hardware? Well that was something known as The Rig, and rumour has it that it sits in a box at Linden Lab HQ and makes the odd appearance, a bit like Magellan Linden but with less drunken debauchery and grumpiness. Whether Andrew has taken The Rig with him to High Fidelity is unknown.

Where am I going with all this? I mean High Fidelity isn’t a hardware company. This is true but on November 27th on The High Fidelity Blog, Grayson Stebbins blogged:

How to create virtual touch? Without haptic feedback rigs or direct stimulation to the brain, how can we get closer to that special, sometimes intimate, sometimes intricate, sometimes magical feeling that is touch?

The example they produced involved Ryan The Stylist and Emily The Client and the results look rather impressive.

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Dec 152013
 

In my previous post I mentioned Kitely’s forthcoming changes to their pricing structure. I had a few questions regarding this and other aspects of Kitely so I contacted co-founder and CEO Ilan Tochner who was more than happy to answer my questions.

Ilan also talked about the Kitely market, arts and education in Kitely and how users would like hypergrid access. For the purposes of this interview CL is me and IT is Ilan Tochner … I think you probably worked that out for yourselves, now on with the interview!

CL : “What is happening to the free time based plan that provides users with one free sim and two hours worth of time based access a month?”

IT : “The Free Plan will be discontinued. The Regular Account that will replace it will also include 1 free Metered region (what is now called time-based billing region) but will not include the free time quota that you have now. What will replace that will be announced on Jan 1.”

CL : “If someone signs up this month for a Gold or Silver plan, even if they are not currently a registered user, will they be grandfathered in too?”

IT : “Yes, you’ll be grandfathered in as long as you create an account before the end of the year and get on the Silver or Gold plan before Jan 1. Please note that our backend uses GMT so US-based people shouldn’t wait until the late afternoon of December 31 to order because our system will already consider that to be Jan 1.”

CL : “The bronze plan granted people two free sims a month, will people currently on the bronze plan still be able to keep their 2 free regions a month when they are downgraded to a regular account?”

IT : “The Bronze Plan is discontinued, as stated in our announcement people who were on that plan will be switched to the Regular Plan on Jan 1. They will not have 2 regions grandfathered in as they are no longer paying us for a subscription (we canceled all the Bronze Plan holders’ PayPal subscriptions for our service). People who had more than one Metered world can continue paying for it using our standard 10KC/day/region rate. The only price change for Metered worlds is that OAR-based operations will cost 150KC/operation instead of 10KC/region/operation. Alternatively, they can export that world to an OAR file now (while it still costs just 10KC/region) and delete the excess world.”

CL : “When will you be announcing the new fixed price options?”

IT : “Fixed-price options will be announced when we make them available on Jan 1.”

CL : “Under what circumstances is the time based billing option, the better option for someone?”

IT : “Time-based billing can be better for Premium Account holders as it can provide them with a lot more regions for a much lower cost than paying for each region using a fixed-price option. When all the visitors they expect are Premium Account holders neither they nor their visitors have to actually worry about time as none of them will be paying extra for it. Funding other people’s access to your Metered world can still be cheaper than paying for a fixed-price world if you don’t get a lot of visitors/hours in that world.”

CL : “Just to clarify, minutes only apply to visits to time based regions, minutes are not deducted when someone visits a fixed price region?”

IT : “The entire concept of Minutes is irrelevant for fixed-price worlds. They aren’t used there. Those worlds are like regions in Second Life, you pay a fixed price for the month and no one is charged for time inside them.”

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