Monday, December 1, 2008

What I'm wearing now...

I realised today that although I have blogged a lot about Second Life, I have hardly ever blogged about the clothes and avatar stuff that I like. Which is strange because I have spent a lot of time and money on the appearance of my avatar, and I enjoy shopping for things in SL.

In the following descriptions, I have put the location full out, but if you click it, it will be an SLURL for the place. I hope that gives you the best of both worlds; the chance to use an SLURL or to note the location if you prefer. In each case I have tried to give you the location closest to the actual sales dispenser for the object I am recommending - but for some sims it will automatically send you to the telehub for the sim.

At the moment I am wearing: a woolly jumper from LeeZu Baxter (To The Nines 104,77,23) $180 dollars per colour or $540 for the fatpack , which has attachments to make the oversize sleeves look rumpled, a belt from Maitreya (Maitreya Isle 213, 240, 24) $190 each or $850 for the fatpack , a pair of jeans from Pixeldolls (Port Seraphine 192,38,257) $125 each colour or $400 for the fatpack , and boots from the incomparable Fallingwater Cellardoor's Shiny Things shop (Shiny Falls 230,156,37). As the jeans come with prim attachments for the bottom of the legs, I don't wear the upper calf part of the boots. They're $350 per colour, and come in two sizes. The regular fits my avatar. She has lots of other boots and shoes and a great pair of victorian ankle boots and lots of jewellery there too. The comfy boot is my favourite boot or shoe of all time though. If someone made it in RL I would buy it, no question.

I love the hair I bought from Mirai... (Takaraduka 179,214,32) I had to stop myself going crazy there buying about 20 different styles. This one is Suri and costs $200 for a two-colour pack. The hair is a clever mixture of prims and flexi, and the most realistic I have seen yet. I'm also using an animation overrider from Torrid. I love her walk, and I love the fly up, fly down anims that come with her overrider too. It's available in the same place as the jeans, at Port Seraphine (Port Seraphine 49, 76,257).

I'm not sure that my normal readership will care that I have laboured over this blog to bring you the details... if anyone shows the slightest interest I will gladly move on to outfit two.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lively RIP

It's a coincidence that I was only talking about how dead Lively was the day before yesterday... the day before Google announced that they were planning to shut the lid on their diversion into Virtual Worlds at the end of this year.

Predictably, fans of Lively have set up protest rooms and are rallying some support for keeping the thing open, but frankly I think their efforts are doomed to failure. It almost seems as though Google had given up on this baby before it was born.

As I work in the field of virtual worlds, I got into Lively when it opened and made my share of rooms. The high levels of visitors which were seen in the first few days never developed into anything approaching a community, though. The Linden Lab room was seething with people trying to work out how to move, sit down, change their clothes for a few days, but the interest dropped and dropped to the point where nearly all the company and Second Lifer-made rooms should have had cartoon tumbleweed rolling around them.

I put the time into Lively, tried to give it a fair shot. Its advantage over Second Life, There and the other established virtual worlds was that it didn't require any artistic or creative skill in order to create an avatar and a room. As long as you weren't using a Mac, there was an easy entry into the world of virtual exploration, and indeed apart from the Second Lifers in the Linden Room, most of the people I met in Lively were in a virtual world for the first time, and struggling to understand how it was different from a chat room, which is where most of them had hung out online until then.

I made coffee bars and void landscapes, complete with music and appropriate furnishings. I experimented with the tools such as they were, to import audio and video and images. I did some extreme experimentation, seeking to find out how far I could extend the explorable area. Lively rooms are set up with a small area in the middle which can be walked around by your avatar, and with sometimes quite vast looking spaces all around. However, you can always move to an object placed in the room, and you could place objects quite a long way away, quite easily. Unlike most other virtual worlds I have explored, Lively often seemed to behave as though the world was flat, and therefore as though that fence over there, across the field, is actually on the same surface as the grassy bank in front of it and the horizon behind it - thus using the Lively placing tools, you could slide a rug over the grass, over the fence to the horizon beyond, very quickly.

In one of my rooms, the planned explorable area is a penthouse residence in a city of skyscrapers. I have a pathway made of rugs which leads to a stair case made of wardrobes... but I realised long after I had got about 300 rugs out of my inventory, that it is easier simply to use two rugs: one to stand on, and one to move to where you want to be. I probably wasted quite a lot of time in Lively, lol.

However, time is experience, and I learned a lot too, and will be able to put that to good use at some stage in the future, I am sure. I quicky started to wonder how committed Google was to the world... they were slow to respond to the problems and bugs which were identified by the community, (not least the ability to accidentally find yourself in six places at once!) and after an initial offering of shiny things in the catalogue it seemed very strange than new things were only offered in fits and starts. Being used to Second Life, where someone must be making new clothing, hair, shoes and jewellery all the time, it seemed strange to me that my Avatar Jane Doe had so little choice of clothing.

It is often said that in Second Life, people immerse to the point that they identify with their avatar, but I don't think that happened to many with the Lively avatars, which were very cartoony and not very customisable. I didn't find the experience in Lively at all the same as Second Life: it felt constrained, shut in, confined.

If there is one thing I have learned though, it is that one man's meat is most definitely another man's poison... there are bound to be people who found exactly what they wanted in Lively, and will be sad to see it pass. For me, not so much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Blog post on OSS now up.

M. Linden's blog post is up on the LL blog here.

I shall wait and digest the news before blogging about it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tiny animation film

I blogged, at least I *think* I blogged about Damien Fate's tiny avatars, Loco Pocos a few weeks ago. I'm indebted to Gwyn Llewellyn's blog for news of the first short animation film Tiny Nation produced in SL using these avatars. It's amazing... and when one considers the normal cost of making a short film by other means, must be amazingly cheap!

I thought the company was Lil Clan... but it is actually ill clan... which seems a weird name. No matter, it's an amusing film, and fills one with the feeling of the immense potential in the platform. Not to mention admiration for the avatars and the smooth running of them in world!

Even if cartoons aren't your thang, I'd recommend you see this... it is SFW but has adult themes and so may not be suitable for, or understandable by, children.

OpenSpace announcement due today

In between the excitement of the election, there was a post from Jack Linden on the official Linden blog, a teaser for a new announcement to be made by M. Linden tomorrow, on OpenSpace sims. As it happened, the SLDEV group, which is the group for people who develop professionally in Second Life, were due to have a meeting with Price Jack last night, to discuss the price rises and resultant fall out.

There were surprisingly few people there, but that might have been because some of the SLDEV group and others were misdirected to Jack's office hours on Linden Estate, rather than the SLDEV island. Oclee was originally sent a link for the Linden Estate meeting, where he saw about 60 people waiting to talk to Jack. So, the confusion about location may explain the fact that I didn't see any representatives from the bigger developers - not RiversRunRed, Electric Sheep, NMC etc.

The Linden contingent, Jack, Glenn, Robin and Madhavi, ran the meeting like a town hall despite the fact that there were only around 20 people there. We were asked to funnel our questions through Glenn Linden, but this proved to be rather a frustrating exercise... Jack started to respond to things said in world, and didn't respond to my first questions and so I began to talk in open chat. With so few people you'd think it would have ben possible to have a dialogue without the intervention of a funneller, but we were then exhorted to send questions to Glenn again - which led to a strange question lag, with Jack answering the last but one question, while other questions were being asked in chat, and the person whose question was being answered was responding to what was said.

There was crossover ago-go, and I felt that the intervention of the funneller (although totally NOT Glenn's faut) was actually an obstruction to good and clear debate. I always find it weird that the Lindens collectively are so bad at using their platform for the things it is very good for.

Of course it was a pretty pointless excercise anyway, because Jack wasn't allowed to reveal the contents of the blog post tomorrow - and even indicated that maybe it wasn't a done deal and some discussion might still be going on - and so we weren't able to know whether things will remain the same or change. I told Glenn I thought that it would have made more sense to schedule the event after the announcement to ensure that we were able to discuss the situation as it will be, and not have to guess at what changes may or may not be introduced to the original announcement.

The funnelling of questions allowed Jack to blank any questions he didn't want to answer, including mine asking whether the Lindens had realised what level of response they were going to get from their announcement. I did ask whether they had considered consulting a few devs or moles BEFORE going public with their plans, but he seemed to indicate that this might release sensitive pricing information into the public domain or give the people so informed an unfair advantage over the rest of SL. I wonder though - had he consulted me, for example, on the announcement of the OpenSpaces I would have accurately predicted the outcry, and I could have told him what people were likely to say. Hopefully, if he'd believed me, that would have changed the policy - so simply consulting with some members of the community need not give them any advantage - they would only know what the possible plans were, not what LL had actually decided.

Anyway, it seems possible that they may give on the educational sims, and possible that they are going to develop products which offer different levels of cost for different levels of services, so that those who use the OpenSpace sims as originally intended are not penalised along with those who have "abused" them. Who knows? We shall have to read the blog and find out.

I try to be coherent and have integrity and so I try hard not to say different things in blog posts and on forums from the things that I say to the Lindens directly. It amazes me however, how often it gets to the point of confrontation and other people, who have been just as vociferous, suddenly have nothing to say. In this case it was impossible to know whether that was because people were not telling them what they thought, or because there was a pile of unanswered questions filling up Glenn's IM tabs as the meeting progressed.

One has to wonder about the timing of this new announcement though. If I wanted to lessen the impact of what I had to say, I choose an historic day after an election too. The sad thing is that they will never be able to reverse the damage this has done to the company, in terms of trust and customer support, not even if they reverse the previous announcement and suspend the increases.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Intelligent, London-based technophiles wanted

A friend of a friend contacted me to ask if I knew any intelligent, tech-aware people who would be willing to be interviewed on film about what they wanted from technology. It's always difficult to know whether it is appropriate to hand over the names and contact details for people in these circumstances. It's so easy to get it wrong, and recommend someone who will not only die of embarrassment, but is too timid to say no to the nice film people... or not to recommend someone who would regard it as an honour to notch up five minutes towards their 15 minutes of fame.

This is what Daisy told me:
"I need to find some intelligent, articulate, leading edge, opinionated IT / technology-hungry people to be interviewed for a promotional film to launch a very exciting new cutting edge phone device with improved internet browsing as a key feature.

"The film is predominantly for the internal and trade press and will be shown on all mediums [Internal Live Events, Intranet, Internet and In-store] apart from TV and Cinema for a two year period.

"My remit is to find a small handful of 'tech leaders' (as the company brands these types of people) who can intelligently and competently talk about new technologies and what they want / expect / need from new technology and the internet, from a personal perspective, that will enhance and better their working, resting and playing lives.

"They should have some clout and standing within the new technologies world.

"We would need to meet you briefly to record a small excerpt of you on tape to present to client and then, if you fit the bill, we would need to have a morning or afternoon of your time sometime during next Mon/Tues/Weds or Thurs 10-13 November.

"Shooting is all in locations around the central London area and featured individuals would be required to give up a morning or afternoon of their precious time between the hours of 0800hrs and 2200hrs. You will be remunerated for this sacrifice!

"If you have any further questions or think you are interested and have availability, please contact me at:

"Check out our website:
Many thanks, DG"

I don't know if anyone other than my follower and my mother reads this blog... but if you do and you think you fit the bill, please drop Daisy a line.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And it just goes on and on and on

Another discussion on the Concierge List about the OpenSpace Sims (OSSs). It's always the same thing... one person berating the others for not reading the documentation on the website about the appropriate uses of OSSs, another group saying that it is perfectly obvious that Linden Lab had been relaxing the rules about what could be included on an OSS.

It seems to me that all this discussion is pointless... Linden Lab are really dreadful at keeping the documentation on their website up to date, and always have been. When I first joined in early 2004, there was still all the documentation about prim tax, which had been their first idea for controlling the use of prims in world. I was terrified to get things out of my inventory in case I was taxed on them. By then, they had changed to the current system that the size of the parcel of land that you owned dictated how many objects you could have out on the parcel, but all the documentation I was reading on the website and in world, talked about taxation.

So... they have been uniformly unreliable in keeping their documentation up to date, and they have clearly allowed people to use the OpenSpace sims for purposes far wider than their original intention of water spaces and parkland. People are spending an inrordinate time arguing about how many prims/scripts/people you can have on OSSs before it becomes overuse.

Oclee tells me that the overhead of having 16 simulators on one server is probably too much anyway - the stress is running that number of sims on the server, and although obviously things don't improve if you then stuff the sim full of scripts and prims and people, the problem is there *whatever* you have on your OSS, in all probability.

I don't know if that is the case, and whether the Lindens actually know this to be true. The fact is that their solution - to try to price as many people out of the market - is no solution at all.

It's a solution that ignores the human impact of what they are doing, and the impact upon community in SL. People felt affection for their homes, set up on the private islands. Arguing about whether it was/was not apparent that homes and shops on OSS were an inappropriate use has the community tearing itself to shreds.

Oclee is selling up two full sims and abandoning the OpenSpace sim we had... so the net result for our estate is that LL are losing from us both the $75 per month that we paid for the OSS AND the tier for the islands. Assuming those are bought, I suppose they will continue to receive the tier for them from someone, but it means that Oclee's stake in the world has reduced. I wonder if they really understand the impact of what they have done? Actually, I don't think they do. Yet.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The OSS debacle: turning loyal customers into detractors

I've often said that Linden Lab don't appreciate the vast reservoir of goodwill which they have in their residents of Second Life (TM copyright all that stuff). Maybe because they are at the sharp end of a lot of criticism from residents all the time: in a complex virtual world there's a lot to go wrong, and in a successful virtual world there are a lot of people to complain about anything and everything that may have gone wrong.

But sometimes I just want to knock heads together! Some days ago Linden Lab announced on their blog that OpenSpace Sims (OSS) were taking up too many resources and costing them more money than they expected as a result, and so they were raising the tier fee (the monthly maintenance fee which landowners must pay) from $75 US to $125 US with effect from January 1.

Now, no one likes to hear that their bills are going to go up, but in the case of these sims, many people had bought them because they couldn't afford to buy a full island ($1000 purchase and $295 a month tier fee). For many of them the OSS was the fulfilment of a dream to own an island in Second Life. There are 199 pages of replies on the thread started on the SL forums and many more responses on other threads.

OpenSpace Sims were originally offered to people who already had a full island, as a way to offer extra open space (hence the name) to beautify the areas around full sims. On full private island sims, there is water all around an island, but it isn't usable outside the border of the sim. If you add an openspace sim with water you can sail or swim in it. At that stage landowners had to buy four OSS and had to have a full island to attach them to.

Originally you got a small prim - or object - allowance with the sims of 1875, which was certainly more than enough to put out a few trees and rocks to fill in the open space. Of course, people being people, they started to put houses, shops and clubs on OSS. Now the Lindens claim that they didn't foresee this, and it wasn't allowed by the rules of OSSs, but it is clear that a number of landowners had checked whether it was allowed beore they bought... Garth Fairchang for example has posted in the forum that he checked with Jack Linden (now forever known as "Price" Jack in the SL Herald) that this was allowed and he OKd it.

In any case, it seemed likely that the Lindens were pragmatic about the uses that people were putting the OSSs to, as they raised the prim allowance to 3750 and the rule that you should buy 4 was dropped. The price went down at some stage. Of course there was an explosion of interest. Many people were able to just afford the OSS and made sacrifices to do so.

I am infuriated with Linden Lab once again for handling things so badly. It seems to me that as they have given two months notice of the price increases, they could instead have flagged up the fact that there were problems, and that they were looking at them. They could have explained the problems and asked for help and ideas from the residents in dealing with them.

The residents would have made a lot of noise, but the difference in this approach is that they would have had notice that there *was* a problem - which came out of the blue for them. It would not have devalued their asset or made them feel that they had to abandon their sims. The difference is that they would have asked for information, would have wanted to know how they could avoid causing problems, which would have required LL to know the answer to that question.

Maybe they do know, maybe they don't. If they don't, it would be sensible of them to say that they are looking at it, evaluating it, trying to work it out. Well maybe not now... because instead of putting the residents on warning that there were problems with OSS, they simply announced the price increase.

The effect of this anouncment was to devalue, instantly, the asset that so many people had bought. You can't give away OSSs now, and people are abandoning them to avoid having to pay any more tier fee on something that they are going to have to abandon on January 1 anyway, when the new tier price goes into effect.

In an instant LL turned all those OSS owners who had felt at home in SL, and were making financial sacrifices to pay for their precious OSS, into people with no stake in the world, and a big grudge. Instead of carrying the renters and owners of OSS with them, they kicked them out to a place where quite frankly my dear they don't give a damn about SL or LL. What a waste!

Instead of carrying the residents with them, explaining the problem, asking for solutions - and the SL community is vast and intelligent and full of creativity- they seem to have taken a cynical decision to drop those people. Either that or they simply didn't understand the impact that their announcement would have. Both seem ludicrously reckless to me.

I love SL. I build there, have friendships and relationships there, I love the people I know there, I love building and being there. I love the fact that people there are kinder and more generous than people in real life appear to be. I love the chance that SL gave me to experiment and try things I would never have done in real life - the people I have met that I would never have had a chance to meet in real life.

I love the well of affection that we all have for the world and for our second lives. I just wish Linden Lab would learn to harness that for their own good, and not lay waste to it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ajax arena for sale

My SL partner, Oclee Hornet, has put the Ajax Arena sim up for sale. Originally built for streaming the Dutch football league to fans, the sim is a detailed replica of the Ajax Arena in Amsterdam.

The build has attracted a lot of interest over the past few months, and I am sure it would make a striking backdrop to all kinds of events. There are screens above the pitch and in the sky box, and the sim is suitable for a wide range of events.

He has posted the sale to the SL forums with a few good pictures of the Arena, which you can find here. It's a full sim, which means $295 US tier fee.

There is no way that pictures can adequately convey how big and well made the Arena is, so go there, using this SLURL.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shopping: LeeZu Baxter

I'm feeling a bit guilty about posting this, because I fear for the linden balances of all who read it. I hate the current buzzword reporting about the financial chaos which is afflicting the markets around the world, not least because it gives the impression that some alien being is in charge of our economic destiny, instead of ourselves... but it is a hard fact that the number of islands for sale reflects the pressure that people are currently experiencing. Do not go to this shop if you need to conserve your lindens!

I went to the Wall performance and after-show party last night, and while there saw an avatar who had the most extraordinary clothes on - better than anything I have seen before. Being an experienced avatar I knew how to right click the person and choose more and then inspect, to find out who made the outfit (so much easier than real life lol!) and after I had taken a few dozen pictures of the party and the particle effects, I looked in search for the avatar named as creator of the clothes, and teleported away to To The Nines, LeeZu Baxter's island.

Reader, I am someone who enjoys creating things, but also buying things in SL. I have shopped in all the well-known shops, I have clicked on avatars all over SL to find out what they were wearing and gone to the shops to look at the items myself. I was bowled over by this shop, the detail, the beauty of the clothes, and the way that they made use of the things which SL does well.

Most of the outfits are a combination of clothing that is worn by the avatar and flexi attachments, so it is layered and possible to wear in a variety of ways. I combined items from a number of outfits to make what you see me wearing in the picture. I had SUCH fun, and found it difficult to choose what to buy and what to wear.

Much of the time, I find that what I wear in SL is a compromise between what I can imagine and what I can make or buy. This isn't like that. If it isn't overstating it, I feel that I have moved into haute couture, buying the things here. I must remember to go back to the shop and put it into my picks. It's that good.

The Wall

Elfod Nemeth, builder and scripter of the Wall which forms the focus of the performance of The Wall in Second Life, sent word that there was to be a special, last-ever performance, a... um... well, it's hard to know how to describe the event without inventing a new word... an experience put together by the Cybernetic Art Research Project (CARP).

I've been to a lot of art performances and events in four years of Second Life, but this was the first time that I felt I was watching something that literally couldn't have been made anywhere else. It was something which had been designed around the things that can be done in Second Life, and it was certainly an experience.

The performance mixed audio, music, voiceover and clips of sound, with visual, particle effects, building tools, slideshow, performing avatars and performing puppets, lighting effects and scripted objects, to shocking and moving effect. I crashed out a couple of times (until I stopped trying to take photographs and started taking screenshots instead) but fortunately managed to get straight back in again. I'm very glad to have seen the performance.

It was very professionally produced and directed, and although they apologized for a couple of SL glitches during the performance, I had actually noticed nothing except my own crashing, which is something I expect with a popular event anyway. The whole production was planned and executed extremely well, co-ordinating audio, visual, performance and effects brilliantly to make a whole.

At the end of the performance, the audience joined the players in a fantastic after-show party, with the incomparable DJ Doubledown Tandino. I can honestly say that it has been ages since I enjoyed a party so much.

The music choices were good, and someone made free with the particle effects, and people were still dancing enthusiastically when I teleported away to look at some clothes I had seen at the party... about which more anon.

The whole event was being streamed to a museum in Florence as part of a live art performance. I only hope the viewers there enjoyed it half as much as I did in Second Life, where I felt I was living the performance, not simply observing it. I look forward to future CARP productions eagerly.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Nautilus sims discovered

A new set of sims with Nautilus in the title has been discovered, and is now open for exploration. I have had a few problems getting there myself, so teleported to a nearby sim and flew across. It seems quite mysterious that other people have had no problems at all. The SLURL for the Nautilus - Baal sim is here.

Half the pleasure of new places is exploring, so I don't plan to put more pictures here for a while... but I hear tell that Magellan Linden had something to do with the sudden arrival, and that more is likely to be revealed about that story as the week goes by....

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Nameless Isle

I noticed that Sanctum Sanctorum had moved a few weeks ago, and saw that Relic had moved to a sim called the Nameless Isle, so I went to check it out. Relic Store is now laid out inside a dark place some seven hundred metres above the island.

In case you haven't seen the work of Baron Grayson, I recommend that you get there as soon as possible and explore the shop and the sim. You may well find things suitable for Halloween decorations, and there are always interesting places to explore on Baron's sims.

In his profile, I found a link to Templum ex Obscurum and explored there too. For atmospheric builds, Baron is simply in a class of his own.

I learned a lot from watching Baron build in my first year in SL, and he offers people the chance to watch the progress on the Nameless Isle. You'll also find some bargains in the shop... some of them at a fraction of the price they were originally, and some unique freebies too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Virtual Worlds Forum postponement

I couldn't afford the prices for the Virtual Worlds forum, and so it wasn't until this morning that I googled to see what had happened there yesterday.

What I found was an announcement that due to a shooting at the venue, the meeting had been postponed... rather more excitement than I expected. I can only feel for the organisers of the event: many of the speakers must have been booked many months ago and will be very difficult to gather again in the near future. While I expect they will all do their best to reconvene, it is likely that many of the people will be unavailable... there will people wanting their money back... they may have travelled from Europe to attend... it must be a bureaucratic nightmare.

Now had they planned the event in a virtual world, it would be easy to pick up and transfer to another venue at short notice. It's a pity that they didn't plan it in the metaverse instead. Apart from anything else, I could have afforded to attend!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Burning Life

Went to see Elfod Nemeth's fantastic Burning Life exhibit last night, a magical mystery lava clock with a tricksy striking of the hour which happens...well, on the hour of course.

Once it rezzes it's a striking build... as I discovered, it looks brilliant at midnight, too. It's a shame that Burning Life produces a lot of clutter in the background, but you can see what I mean in the shot above.

The lava effect is one of the best I have seen in SL, and it's well scripted, the idea being that the cylinders for the hour fill with lava over the course of the hour. Thus cylinders 1-4 fill to produce an effect at 4 o'clock, and cylinders 1-6 fill to produce an effect at 6 o'clock. Shan't say any more - you really need to go see it for yourself. SLURL: Burning Life (Babel) 15, 163, 24.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

3D uploads to Second Life and OpenSim

Apparently, Shack Dougall who is forever tagged in my mind as the person who thought the Starax wand wasn't anything special, has apparently managed to produce something that allows uploading of 3Dmax objects to Second Life and Open Sim. Read more about it here, while I weep in the corner.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Angelic Haven opens

The Angel Haven and Ascension Isle, which lives on Goa Island, recently opened to the public. Peacesoul Destiny, owner of the Isle and the Angel Haven and Asecension group, explained a little about the angelic things on offer there.

"Goa is about offering residents the opportunity to explore themselves," she explained. "Also hopefully to enrich both their SL and RL lives with the work of the Angels and ascended masters. I hope it is a place where peace, relaxation, comtemplation and meditition can be achieved."

I asked how she came to be offering angelic guidance, and Peacesoul told me: "The Angels I work with are the Angels of the Angelic Realm. There is an angel for everything that u can call upon, and of course at the birth of our soulw e are assigned a Guardian Angel or as what some people term as higher self. This is where our moments of inspiration and intuition often arise from."

The island includes undersea areas, a coral reef and water sports, a tower, a pyramid.

Peacesoul explained that she had started a psychology degree, intending to help other people, but had been do drawn to the spiritual therapy work that she is doing now, that she had taken up holistic work. She started out with friends and family and expanded the business from there, and has now been working for thirteen years. "I felt connected with Angels and was very intuitive working alongside them."

I noticed that Peacesoul was charging for access and asked why she had decided to organise things that way?

"At the outset Haven was free access and was simply a gift to SL. Unfortunately this was abused and the membership acts as a filter. It's one of the things about being in a virtual world, sometimes people will do here what they wouldn't dream of doing in real life, simply because at the click of a button they can be elsewhere and thus not have to accept responsibility. It's only 12 lindens for 24 hours of access or 250 lindens as a one off fee."

Peacesoul explained that she plans to run some classes on meditation and mantra evenings open to all. Yesterday evening there was a spiritual disco, with spiritual music, which was enjoyed by all, and every Saturday the island will be open to all at 2 pm PDT. Until Tuesday next week, Haven is open to all, so why don't you have a look at what's on offer over this weekend?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New linkability fog

Some idiot at the place which may not be named has put the techies in charge of the linkability rules, and consequently I can't understand them and have to call on the help of a fellow resident to explain them. If you would like to see them, read the wiki here.

I am by no means a Mathematics-phobe, I passed my "o" level and can calculate percentages, decimals and fractions considerably better than many of my compatriots, but I read this sort of formula and some part of my brain forces me into a coma. The harder I try to understand, the more unconscious the necessary parts become, until I read the words and figures and they no longer make sense to me. Is it even written in English?

The old rules were that if you tried to link a set of prims and they were more than 30 metres apart, they wouldn't link. Nice and simple. It often failed even if things were only 6 metres apart, for no apparent reason.

Alarmingly the wiki only seems to mention linking two prims, so I expect general mayhem if wanting to link more than two. If someone writes something in plain English I'd be glad to know.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Business Exchange on Facebook (and Metanomics too)

In one of those weirdnesses of synchronicity, I decided to set up a facebook group for the Business Exchange in Second Life yesterday morning, and then got a message about six hours later that a group had been set up for Metanomics too.

I'm not sure how useful a facebook group is going to be, but thought it couldn't hurt to try it. The problem I see is that Facebook has soo many groups, a bit like SL. And people are continually setting up new ones. I do try to check before making my own group, but it is clear that not everyone does.

The Metanomics event this evening is an interview with Richard Bartle, and someone on the Metanomics facebook group suggested that one should take the Bartle personality test for MMORPGs. Unfortunately, SL not being an MMORPG, it didn't make a lot of sense to me, and I lost interest once I had thought one too many time... actually, I don't much care whether I butcher a monster alone or with friends... monster butchering is just not my cup of tea....

Monday, March 3, 2008

No 7: go to the bottom of the class

I decided to check out the No 7 in SL shop which is currently on Avalon, having found the No 7 in SL blog the other day, as I reported then. Above you can see the No 7 Christmas skin (demo) face and back; No 7 Spring skin face and back; and my normal skin face and back, for comparison.

Finding the shop wasn't that easy. I looked up No 7 in the search menu and came up with a couple of groups. The No 7 in SL devotees, which amazingly (read on) has some members, lead me to two entries for locations, but refused to allow me to see the No 7 in SL shop location. I had to back up and click on the owner of the group, and look at her picks to find the shop.

On arrival, I realised there were apparently two skins available; they are in picture frames on the desk in front of the teleport point. The one from Christmas was available as a demo for $1 and in final form for $1000. The Spring one wasn't available at all. There was a texture on another picture frame which gave the price of the spring skin as $400 but the object was not set for sale, despite the fact that the blog said it had been released about a week ago. The demo for the Spring skin wasn't available either.

I contacted the avatar whose name was on the objects (who is also the owner of the group) and reported that the skin wasn't set for sale and the objects were wrongly named. I bought the $1 demo skin.

It's... horrible. Even at $1 for a demo I felt cheated. I don't know how many they sold for $1000L but all those people who bought it were ripped off. This is a REALLY bad skin. It isn't billed as a Goth skin, but is very pale and very patchy. The verdict I got from a few people who know was that it deserved 2 out of 10 for effort. None of them would willingly wear it. The patchiness and make up cause changes to the avatar face, and there are nasty brown marks on the body which would make wearing backless dresses or bikinis out of the question.

I waited a while and then went back to see if the fact that they weren't set for sale had been fixed. I can report that it had... but the names of the objects had not been fixed, there was no demo skin available. When I bought the skin in the interests of journalistic investigation for $400L, I discovered that the skin was full perms, which can't have been the intention. Fear not, not even the most desperate of rip-off artists would want to scam this skin. It's again horrible. I can offer a 2.5 out of 10 for it, and most of the increase is the fact that it is less than half the price, and the colour is slightly less corpse-like, although it's still very patchy. The verdict from my assistants? It's an old lady skin, with bad patchiness, including oddly light patches under the breasts.

I answered the questions about whether they had decided to go with nipples and genitals or no nipples and genitals: the skins have both. The pubic hair looks weird, and the breasts are so odd due to inappropriate light and dark patches, that I can't believe that either would be willingly exposed. The skins are poor and I can honestly say I have been given free skins which were better quality.

I think this is such a shame. No 7 is a perfect fit for skins, the idea of having a make up artist devise a make up in RL which could be translated to SL - all good. Did they actually look at the result in SL? What did the RL make up artist approve? And did they not get someone in SL to check the quality of the product?

The implementation is dreadful, and the quality of the work is so poor, that it is the opposite of good PR, it's destructive in SL of the RL good reputation of the company. They need replacing urgently with skins of good quality. I wondered out loud to a friend with long experience in SL who could have made the skin. She said "someone who ought to be doing something else". I can't help but agree.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Too much information

During a break in the Eduverse streaming last Thursday, I was ably introduced to the MetaLIFE hud. This is an attachment which you wear, which has a plethora of special features meant to enhance the existing Linden search, friends list, places to visit list etc. It includes a feature which is very like twitter, allowing you to follow other people or let them follow you, and offering reports upon what you are doing. It reports to you the tagging of places in Second Life, although it doesn't currently distinguish between a positive and negative tag, and it reports the "hot" places tagged by other metaLIFE users.

(For those who would like a chance to see the metaLIFE hud for themselves, there will be a demonstration at the Business Exchange on Tuesday, March 4, 12pm SLT at a special show and tell for gadgets.)

I was told that there is also a feature which allows you to buy through the hud rather than bumbling around the shops not finding what you are looking for. I can see that for people who dislike shopping in Second Life, or who have a clear idea of what they want, this is a boon, but for those of us (women, generally) who like wandering about and making serendipitous finds, well, it isn't so much of a treat.

I can see that a tremendous amount of work has gone into the hud, and that it has some passionate believers in its benefits, but I was a bit disappointed to see that the usual slingo-tringo-zyngo places were at the top of the hot picks. Places I am involved in were on there, the Business Exchange and Numbakulla, places which I think are a bit different and have some content, but they had one or two votes, instead of hundreds.

I hated the idea of allowing people to follow me around SL, with a hud reporting on my location. I generally switch off the function in the Linden UI which allows people to know where I am. There are times when it would be useful - when I am standing in front of a show and tell audience and have no show and tellers and no audience is one - but when I am building and want to be left alone, the last thing I need is something which highlights my location on the grid.

I had never used Twitter, and realised I wasn't really in a position to say what it was like and whether this was like it, and so I signed up to find out. Dear reader, I hate it. The system discovered I already had a couple of contacts using twitter, and so immediately signed me up to "follow" them, and thus I discovered with some envy in my heart that one of them was having dinner with Matt Groening and then attending TED, and another was feeling sick and had just taken some Tylenol.

I hope I have as much empathy as the next person, maybe I should hope I have more, but to be honest I do not think I can cope with daily reports on the minutiae of my vague acquaintances and friends. What I love about Second Life, and about its potential for education is that, despite the name, it gives you first hand experiences, and an opportunity to meet people that you might never have met otherwise. I don't want to know when they change their underwear, buy an attachment or go to bed.

It seems to me that many of the things which are mooted currently as possible improvements in the coming multiplicity of 3D worlds, are not improvements which are being demanded by the users of those 3D environments, they are either ideas from the world of commerce or from the world of academia and are based on ideas of what the residents might want and not, actually, what they want. When Michael Wilson from Theredotcom was asked by Robert Bloomfield about interoperability, which has become a buzz word in virtual worlds, he said last week "in all the times I have ever spoken to any of my customers they have never...asked why they can't use their Theredotcom avatar in Second Life, or in Wow...or in Everquest."

In many cases, people find a home and stick with it. I have a number of friends who play World of Warcraft as well as Second Life, but that's a game, and SL is not. I am sure that there are people who live on Theredotcom and also play on World of Warcraft too. I see no benefit in being able to transport my Second Life avatar to World of Warcraft so that I can become SL girly-gets-killed instead of a war troll or armoured dwarf. I like being my eternally-25 Cali avatar in Second Life, and plan on sticking with that. Even though she was based on my avatar in Uru originally, I now have a considerable investment of time and money in my avatar, and love, it has to be said. I wouldn't want to port her anywhere else because I don't want to be anywhere else.

The other side of the interoperability equation is the ability to take friends and move them between worlds, something which the beta test of Myrl is likely to allow, and the new Second Friends addition to Facebook already allows, through the medium of Facebook. I can see the advantages of being able to amalgamate friends lists from different places, maybe, but only real friends, most of the people I know in SL are friends only in SL and it isn't appropriate to take them out of there. They may not want me to know that the fairy queen elven woman I know in Second Life is actually a burly bricklayer in real life. Hell, I may not want to know that either, as the mental disconnect it may cause may affect my ability to relate to them in SL.

In my friends' list in Second Life I have people I see all the time, people I see occasionally, or talk to when I get the urge, people I befriended at an event and have never seen again, and people I helped as a mentor who befriended me in case they needed help. If I were to port my list from yahoo it would include people I corresponded with for a while because I commented on a blog or sent an email, but have never emailed again, people whose product I have bought, friends and family I have many other ways of contacting and a few people I am not close to who would be
appropriate to that sort of friends list.

The point is, what with friends on twitter (good name) telling me when they have a cup of coffee, and friends on MetaLIFE telling me they have found a cool slingo-tringo-zyngo-badingo place, and friends on Facebook showing me 20 year old photographs (it came as a shock Clint, I tell you), and the possibility for people from myspace, bebo, Kaneva and Uru telling me other things about themselves... I am on information overload, and want to run away from social networking now and forever.

What I do see a demand for, is filtering technology, and that's what missing here currently. It isn't that I need more information, I need less. I want to follow and listen to the twittering of people who don't go slingoing, because that's not my thing. I don't want to be able to buy stuff instantly from a hud because I enjoy wandering the shops of SL. I want to be able to match myself up - without prejudice - to people who have similar interests and pursuits as me and yes, if I am honest, people who might be useful to me, might pay me for blogging or writing, or making educational games, or building in SL.

While Theredotcom is not my thing at all, I thought Michael Wilson had some very wise words drawn out of him by Robert Bloomfield in the Metanomics interview. he said: "If you've got millions of members who will tell you what they want on the product, maybe you should listen to them to pick out what to do next week, rather than making things up on your own."

I think that the many clever people who are working on ways to provide more and more information, twittering around the worlds of the web and the virtual, who are working on interoperability, permeability, conductivity and all those other shiny new features, would do well to mark those words.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

No 7 in Second Life

Stumbled over the No 7 in Second Life blog in searching for something entirely different.

I don't know how highly I rate the blog, but I certainly like the idea that they have started making skins to represent the make up which the Boots celebrity make up artist recommends for each season. It sounds like a bargain... I am curious to know what they decided to do about the rest of the body, particularly the pubic hair/no public hair decision. And how the resident skin makers regard this encroachment.

I just wonder if the understated look which will suit people in RL translates to Second Life. Most people would hesitate to appear in public with the amount of make up that avatars wear... or the lack of clothes.

Second Friends on Facebook

Browsing around facebook this morning I came across the Second Friends application, which allows you to verify you avatar name and attach it to your profile.

The system is quite simple: you need to go to the Eduserv Island and click a sign, to generate a key, which can then be fed into the registration page on Facebook. The sign automatically offers to open a webpage and navigate you to the right place to register once you have clicked the sign.

Currently although I have a few friends on Facebook, and several of them are on Second Life too, none of my friends are registered with Second Friends. There is also a mysterious box to be bought for $0 which updates your status in Second Life.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Virtual Worlds Salon

Ventured out into real life last night to the Virtual Worlds Salon, at the Hospital, a private members' club in Covent Garden. I wasn't at all sure what to expect; it was billed as a chance to meet others interested in virtual worlds, but nowadays that may encompass companies, universities, individuals, and many different virtual worlds.

I didn't really take in the exterior of the building itself. Inside it gives the impression of a modern one, with some quirky design features...leather rails up the stairs, a big light, odd pieces of art, lighting. Looking at their website, I realised that probably I hadn't seen the more striking areas of the building.

The gathering was held upstairs on the first floor, in a smallish dark room. On entry we were asked to fill in one of those sticky "my name is..." badges. Of course it is always a dilemma to know how to fill them in, but I put Fee/Cali and the company I work with, then Michael and I walked into a room heaving with people who had only put "Tony" or "Andrew" on their badges.

It was impossible to know who was who... it is likely I was in a room with people I have known for years in SL, but because I could only see their first names, with no clue as to whether they were from SL, There, Active Worlds, The Evil Empire....

I had an additional difficulty currently, in that I can't stand for long before my leg falls off. OK, it doesn't fall off but it goes completely numb. So, I have to walk or sit. It's very difficult to circulate while sitting, and people seem to feel uncomfortable with someone who insists on talking while circumnavigating them, although Michael did a sterling job in getting people talking and then bringing them back to talk to me.

Kaoru Sato from the Guild was there, and I met Lizzie Jackson too, who was recruiting people for a conference on Children's Virtual Worlds. I met Fau Ferdinand, who has been in Second Life nearly as long as I have, having joined in June 2004. She is a performance artist in Second Life, and planning a film there too. She sent me a friend request first thing this morning, so I am sure we will get to know each other better in SL.

Michael met someone from Sky, checking out the Virtual Worlds Salon, and we both met Lewis Nerd, labelled only Andrew, and Phil Mochan from a company offering backend programming and Christian Ahlert who is developing social networking for virtual worlds.

Many people (including us) were using Moo cards... but shockingly some people (you know who you are!) had fake Moo cards. Because it isn't currently possible to have an illustration or logo on both side of the card, they'd had them printed elsewhere to the Moo dimensions. I became intensely aware that our website is still in development at present... I shall have to chase it up over the weekend.

Bizarrely, alcoholic drinks at the Salon were free, but anyone who wanted a soft drink had to pay. It seems an odd policy: alcoholics, teetotallers and drivers and those who can't drink for medical reasons paying for orange juice or water while the wine and beer least for a while.

It was enjoyable as an event, but not very useful for networking purposes really, unless you were very determined, or very gregarious, and managed to circulate wildly. It was oddly difficult to deal with an event where people don't have floating tags and names. Maybe hats with a name suspended on a wire over the top would help!

Sasha Frieze from the Virtual Economic Forum, who organised the event, took some photographs, and so I assume that before long they will appear on Flickr. With any luck, as I was sitting down, I shan't appear in any of them.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Eduverse in Second Life

Spent the day at the Business Exchange streaming the fascinating Virtual Web Symposium from the Balie in Amsterdam. The stream will be available on the web, and they will be producing a report on it.

I was sad to hear the contribution from the Educators Coop, a gated community in Second Life for elegible educators only. I think that the virtual world has the opportunity to be so much more than the real world, and that should include open access to education, and collaboration across professions and with people of no profession, many of whom have found their forte in the virtual world of Second Life. I think it will be a great shame if educators fence themselves off from the rest of SL.

I was interested in many of the segments, the virtual journey through the testes by Dr Danforth of Ohio State, the augmented reality of Georgia tech, and the learning technologies of NASA.

Two segments stood out above the others for me. One was the use of The Voice, a pair of glasses providing aural feedback to blind people, allowing them to navigate their environment and recognise objects. It was amazing, completely fascinating, and annoying that one of the questioners in the audience didn't seem to be paying attention to the information that had been provided.

The other, which preceded it, was the talk from Rhett Gayle from Colorado University.
Strangely enough we had been talking amongst ourselves earlier in the day and I introduced my fellows to the writing of John Taylor Gatto "What must an educated person know?" If you haven't read it I commend it to you. In short, the list, which comes from harvard Business School, is all about skills and hardly at all about knowledge.

Although it was briefly touched on in the course of the day, I think that the education industry has yet to recognise that education has to change. I think they could learn an enormous amount from home educators, although few of them would recognise that to be true. The difference between education and schooling was brought home by Rhett Gayle's anecdote about market a student's paper, where an A will make them feel good about themselves and an F very different, even when appended to the same piece of work.

I believe that the new media will very quickly change the nature of education and enable an individual education tailored to the child and their interests and abilities. I think that home educating parents have in many cses already made vast progress towards the aim of tailoring education to the child, and this is particularly true of unschooling parents like me.

My vision for the future of education is to have a virtual space with countless levels of information and training which can be freely accessed. I think people will quickly find their own level... you won't find people capable of degree level English pottering around the remedial English classes unless they are there to help others.

I think the virtual world could be so much richer, more interesting, more creative and imaginative, and more open than real world colleges and universities, and could gain as much from opening their doors as they ever can from closing them.

Professor Gayle talked of the way in which 70% of students admit to cheating in order to jump the hoops that are set in their way to decide whether they move onto the next stage. What I wonder is whether, if you removed all the tests, all the hoops, people would then be able to settle down to learning for learning's sake... attending lectures and studying subjects because they are interested in them and wanting to do them.

I thought the day was challenging and thought-provoking, enjoyable and inspiring, and I look forward to many more in the future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Metanomics in Another Place

Unfortunately my technology let me down and so although I watched the Metanomics stream from the world of Theredotcom yesterday, I was unable to hear most of the broadcast until it went online at SLCN this morning.

I visited There briefly before I came into Second Life, and I have to say I disliked it strongly. It might have been because two male avatars approached me and wanted to know if I was white in real life too, it might have been because I had to spend all my starter money on changing my hairstyle, it might have been because I didn't seem able to freely explore the world, or it could have been the disney-esque cartooniness of the world, but I just didn't feel at home there.

It has to be said, that in some respects Theredotcom beats Second Life (otherwise known to Michael Wilson, the CEO of Theredotcom and the subject of the interview, as "another place"). He seemed to object to the number of times Robert Bloomfield, AKA Beyers Sellers and host of the Metanomics interview, referred to Second Life. All depends on where you're standing Michael! Theredotcom is the other place to most of the people watching the stream last night.

As I say, in some respects it beats Second Life hands down, as Michael Wilson delineated: it can run on more or less any computer shipped since 2003, it can run on a 56k download,and is therefore accessible to many more people. The animation for two chatting avatars was much more realistic and integrated than you would find in Second Life, although the cartoon feel was unavoidable... and of course the cartoon flatness inherent in the design of the world is related: one makes the other possible, restricting the graphics is what makes it run on a far wider selection of machines than Second Life.

It's a case of what you see is what you get, because that Disney-like, unreal, blandness is reflective of the decisions they took to make the world as attractive as possible to people with brands to sell. They have made commercial decisions to make the world as populated as possible, thereby eliminating all non PG-13 content, on the basis that more people would be offended by non-PG-13 content than would be offended by their inability to access non PG-13 content in the world.

Secondly they took a decision to protect branding and to respect intellectual property rights. He talked about people wanting their product to be the real thing, although that is a distinction which is hard to justify in a virtual world. Sure in the real world you would want your canned beverage to be made by Coca Cola using safe water and cans which don't contain toxic metals... but in a virtual world where my pixellated can of Coca Cola tastes the same as their own Coco Cola, the distinction is rather less clear. If you look at the history of brand rip offs in Second Life, it is often the case that the products made by in world creators have actually been better than the product made by the company concerned, and so sometimes, while the ethical consideration of hijacking someone else's brand still remains, it is the brand themselves who are producing inferior product.

An example of this is the Adidas and Reebok campaign, widely reported to have cost the company around a million dollars, they had obviously put money into producing a shoe which respected the brand and looked like the real thing. Unfortunately they insisted on making it no modify to stop the residents from customizing and diluting the brand, I assume, which meant that it was bad luck if the size of shoes supplied in the boxes didn't fit. The shoes were over 200 prims each, which began to have a detrimental effect on sims where more than a couple of people were gathered, and soon it was one of a list of things that sim owners would ask people to remove before entering busy places. The shoes also came with an animation which was supposed to prevent your avatar from dropping into the falling down animation on impacting the ground, but instead many avatars got stuck in the animation, which was not exactly an improvement. There are hundreds of residents all over the grid working for no income who have made trainers of verious makes which work better as items to wear in world than those did.

I digress. Mr Wilson continued to outline the decisions which he thinks contribute to Theredotcom's success: PG-13 content, no brand theft, and thirdly, attracting as many people as possible to the world. I thought it was telling that he talked about members when he meant residents of the world, and customers when he talked about the brands who are in the world. He said that one of the aims for Theredotcom was to make the world as appealing as possible to other businesses.

Mr Wilson talked about the unfortunate rumour that someone had put about that if you put your brand into a virtual world you would need wheelbarrows to cart away the profits, and asserted that if a thing seems to good to be true it probably is, a philosophy I subscribe to myself. In a clear dig at Second Life he said that brands jumped into virtual worlds with little or no preparation and just went and built their islands, and then wondered where their wheelbarrows of money were.

"Our approach since we are very customer orientated is that we go out and we work with the brands that want to come into the world on a whole bunch of levels," Mr Wilson continued. "First of all we work on finding them an appropriate place to be in world and we work on integrating them with the community, so that our community doesn't reject them, and we work on putting them in highly trafficked areas in world that don't disrupt the community... so for example we are careful not to drop things in the middle of popular areas owned by our members... in all what we're trying to do is ensure that the brands that come in have a complete experience."

Theredotcom ensures that people respect other people's IP by making them go through an authorisation process before they can upload things to the world. Despite the talks of brand experiences, it seemed that in some respects Mr Wilson doesn't get it, since he questioned whether a Sony branded virtual world for children would encourage teenagers to be buying a Sony product in years to come. I'd have liked Beyers to have asked him what he thinks those people in Theredotcom are getting from their branded experiences in world, if he can see no point in manufacturers owning their own virtual worlds, as it seems to me that a branded experience in There is just a smaller version of a standalone Sony -- or Coca Cola -- or Adidas world.

He then went on to admit that Theredotcom likes to think of themselves as the Disneyland or family orientated theme park... I think that spoke volumes, and it made me itch to ask what the demographics of Theredotcom might be, how many of their members come from lands outside the pastelpink plasticated towers of this Stepford world where nothing that isn't PG13 exists? Do the Dutch, French and Germans show the same inclination to sign up for the sanitized world of Theredotcom as Brand U.S.A does?

It made me aware what I cherish about Second Life, and how different places which may be thought by outsiders to be very similar might be. I like the fact that I can be a grown up in Second Life, and can pursue adult activities if I choose to, or not, being a rounded and whole person in the virtual world is important to me. I don't trawl the bars of Second Life in a sleazy tramp avatar, indeed I usually wear long skirts and behave relatively demurely, but I like the option, and I like the grown up integrated whole of my personality to be there with me, not a sanitized cartoon of me.

What attracts me to Second Life, is the opportunity to leave behind the roles I play in first life, of daughter, wife, mother, friend, and take up the things and the people and the activities which interest me. I'd dislike being restricted to the same things I have in real life, in a virtual world, and there would be far fewer attractions to draw me into it.

The other aspect of Second Life that brings me back, keeps challenging and interesting me, is the opportunity to create, something which is severely curtailed in Theredotcom through both the authorisation procedure and the fact that you have to use 3D modelling software to be able to create things to upload. The tools in Second Life have enabled me in ways that I could only have dreamed of before I discovered SL.

Back to the interview, Robert asked Mr Wilson about the revenue model for There, which divided into four sections: subscriptions, in world currency sales, sponsorship and avertising and e-commerce. he gave away some very interesting information in the course of answering the questions, particularly when he was asked about a comment he made about throwing terabytes of data at commercial companies asking for information.

He shied away from agreeing that he had thrown terabytes of data, and then in the course of answering the question, agreed that the problem was really with knowing hoe to organise the amount of data they were able to provide to companies in world. Although he said that privacy was tremendously important to him and that There would never infringe their privacy, he did still say that it would be possible for There to monitor conversations for mentions of a brand...although they haven't done that.

It gave me a horrible feeling of being in a fishbowl, being subject to the demands of brands to deliver a tailored experience in a world where people do not swear, they don't have sex, where everyone is put through a cartoon making machine on their way in world to turn them into cartoon shadows of themselves and then watched to see what they do when faced with a Coca Cola logo or a pair of branded jeans.

Or as Michael Wilson says: "Making sure a brand can integrate with our community and the fact that we can help with that makes a strong statement."

Robert talked of Mr Wilson and his colleagues at There as benevolent dictators, but that rather poses the question about who they are being benevolent to... although as I wrote last week, the reality is that we have a choice about which virtual worlds we inhabit, and no one is having their arm twisted to make them visit there. I would have loved a few of the many terabytes of facts and figures though, the age breakdown, the nationality breakdown, the relative growth of the community and what it is that the brands who have gone into There find apart from a management that wants to hold their hand throughout?

I thought that some of the advice that Michael Wilson gave to brands was very useful, talking of getting to know the world you are entering and taking baby steps before giant ones... they're all things which brands in Second Life would do well to learn, and some have learned the hard way. He wasn't convinced about interoperability, and saw this as a red herring, preferring talk about the OpenID system to allow people to use the same authorization for many places.

I've written far too much and may write more when what was said sinks in, but I heartily recommend that you watch and listen to the interview in its entirety. It's interesting, has some useful information and it makes one think. What more could you ask? If Theredotcom is your place, good luck to you, but I shall log in with renewed fervour to Second Life, as the place that I call my virtual home.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Graphics programs

I was recently introduced to Paint.Net, which is a free program which can do many of the things that a casual user in SL might want to do. Best of all, if you make a texture with a transparent background, you simply have to save it as a tga file to keep the transparency.

The program allows you to edit photographs, make layered images, use transparency... many of the things you might want to do with images for Second Life.

For making textures, the two programs which are often recommended are Blender, which allows 3D creation and Gimp. As with all software choices, it's a question of how easy you find it is to use.

I'll add to this page from time to time if any other programs come to my attention

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Do we need gatekeepers in a virtual world?

I woke up this morning very clear on something that has been a vague feeling until now, and knew I had to write about it. I am passionate about the uses and applications of Second Life as a platform, and one of my sadnesses is that currently the teen grid and the adult grid are separate. I am slightly uneasy about the number of sims which are collected under the New Media Consortium umbrella, and I resent terribly the fact that one has to join a group in order to even visit them. Until now, I have only had a slight feeling that sims ought not to be closed off to the general public, especially if run by instutions which ought to want the widest possible dissemination of the knowledge and information that they contain, because they are educational establishments, dedicated to education.

I realised this morning that it is gatekeeping that I feel uneasy about, the way in which this extends the role of colleges and universities as educational gatekeepers into the virtual space of Second Life.

In real life, Universities and Colleges restrict access to the places on their courses, and there is a link between your ability to pay for tuition and your intellectual ability to cope with the demands of the course that you have applied to study. In real life people make terrible mistakes in choosing their subjects for study, or the course or college that they choose to study at, and changing from one subject to another or one course or another is difficult, may be costly, or may be impossible if the course you wish to take is oversubscribed or needs qualifications that you lack.

My vision for the virtual world is that people could have free and open access to anything that they might wish to learn, and that there would be no need for gatekeepers at all. To be honest this is my vision for the future of all education, this ability to pick up subjects and courses at a level to suit the individual, which puts the individual in charge of their own education and learning.

For well over a hundred years in the UK, the scientific theory of education has held sway, which puts experts in education in charge of the schools and colleges, and leads them to suppose that they can control what children learn. Here our children have been subjected to more and more testing, delivered at earlier and earlier ages, to the point that many children are now expert in ways in which to gain more marks in order to pass the tests.

Children are exhorted to work hard and get good marks in school, as though these were ends in themselves, instead of what they used to be, a reflection of the level of knowledge, interest and ability in a subject.

Meanwhile, the transformation of many jobs like nursing into all-graduate professions has diminished the importance of vocation and on-the-job training in favour of theoretical study.

My vision for the future of Second Life, is that it could be a virtual reality where there is universal access to learning. Where people do not act as gatekeepers to knowledge and there is no need to fill in forms, and to get people to assert that you are clever and dedicated enough to attend lectures, you simply have to attend.

I'd like that space to be a place where collaboration, and assisting those who are less able or struggling with ideas is not seen as the latter "cheating" but is a natural part of our humanity. A place where difference is celebrated and not condemned.

I suddenly realised that this would require sacrifice on the part of Universities and Colleges who have, until now, controlled who gets access to knowledge and training. Who have had a vested interest in restricting access, and in making obtaining a place in the hierarchy ever more difficult to obtain. I wonder if they are ready to meet that challenge, ready to throw open their doors to the public? Or whether they are currently devising ways in which to restrict access in the virtual world in the way that they do in the real world.

This then, is my uneasiness with the fact that one has to join a special group to visit the sims of the NMC, which are generally run by educational institutions: I wonder if it is the first step in shutting us out.

Peter Senge, from MIT, said that schools are generally not learning institutions. What he meant by that is that they do not change and adapt as the result of experience or current circumstances, the institution works hard to stay the same no matter what happens, or who the pupils are. I believe that if we are to have the best possible future in virtual spaces, it is very important that schools, colleges and universities should become learning institutions, and should begin to respond to the needs and requirements of the people who use them.

Perhaps that's the source of the fear that I sometimes sense around professional educators: the fear that by opening up their doors, academic study will be diminished, that the great unwashed do not value the things that they value, and the gatekeeping works to keep those who might change or attack the institution as institution outside the gates.

I think that maybe they need to look at the general effect of 130 years of compulsory education, compare the knowledge and interests of your average big brother housemate with the knowledge and erudition of the soldiers in the (English) civil war who gave evidence in court, and whose verbatim testimony still exists. I don't think that formal education can be said to have improved the personal development of the majority of people, despite the money that has been spent on it, and the fact that we live in an information age. Those soldiers were illiterate, but they were anything but ignorant, and had a far better grasp on the politics and history of their age than most people do now.

I think that we are at a pivotal point in human history, and that decisions made now may have resonances for thousands of years to come. I am hoping that we can open up access to learning and information in the virtual world of Second Life, in the way that it has been opened up on the internet. I want to see a world where the only limitation to learning is how much an individual wishes to know.

Event list spring cleaning

It is a mystery to me why some things which I consider quite straightforward and doable don't get done in Second Life, and one of the most infuriating is the poor state of the Events list.

When I first joined SL, every event was announced by a Linden in world. After a while, they only announced the upcoming events at the top of the hour, and then eventually the events were relegated to an events list which could be called up in the search window.

Gradually there was event creep, where people added poorly concealed advertisements for shops, yard sales, product announcements and other non-events.

Despite dire warnings of the consequences of posting non-events like yard sales and shop advertisements, the events list becomes ever more bloated by non-events which bury the real events in the dross.

Looking through the list, with the requisite God powers that are at the disposal of Linden Labs, I believe I could clear the dross for the day in about two hours. Given the power to wield my red pen, I would cancel and boot any yard sale announcement, any sale, new stock or obvious shop announcement, any gaming event (aren't they banned anyway?), and anything which is not a timed event at a set time with a host and an actual... event.

The terribly cluttered events list stops people from using the events list as a source of good events, and then leads to good and well organized events having only two or three attenders. People bemoan the lack of good events at the same time as good events founder without any attenders.

I cannot fathom why, if no one in Linden Lab has the time for this that they don't employ an event list organiser for two or three hours a day to boot the scammers and sort the list, to avoid duplications and to insist that people live by the rules they are forced to sign up to before they can post an event. Hell, for the right money I'd do the job myself.

I have to say that I would be pretty ruthless, expecting someone to prove to me that their event was a real events under the terms of the event list before I would be prepared to reinstate it. I'd also work on a three false events and you are prevented from posting events for three months premise.

Think of the advantages! We could rely on the events list for a list of events again. Yippee!

Goodbye to all that

It's been on my mind to leave the mentors for some time. I got into a fight with another mentor yesterday, and even made a post on this blog before I had cooled down, which I later deleted. I hadn't said anything too horrible, but I just knew that I'd broken the first law of blogging: if anything raises your blood pressure by more then twenty points, sleep on it before you put fingers to keyboard.

So apologies to my two readers: I know removing posts is verboten in most blogging circles but... oh well, this is my blog, and if you can't delete posts on your own blog, you might as well be being paid squillions to write what a company wants you to write, lol.

I once got told off for putting lol into a blog post. I can do that here, too. LOL. Ha!

Anyway, later in the day yet another notecard came from the powers that be in the VTeam for mentors, and suddenly I realised that I just couldn't go on fighting the rising tide of bureacracy and rules and regulations which they are constructing. I think it is completely different from the mentoring group I joined, they have brought in a hierarchy of some-mentors-are-better-than-others, rather than allowing experience to speak for itself, and I think they are turning it into something i don't want to be bothered with any more.

My criticism of what is happening stands: I think that there is no replacement for having questions and answers dealt with in chat before your eyes, and they can institute any number of hoops for new mentors to jump, but that induction still taught the mentors more than anything else. When there was a problem with group IMs that meant you couldn't cancel out of the chats, I could understand why people were so vociferous about stopping dialogue, but now that it IS possible to cancel out again, I think it is a mistake.

Making people IM answers to a question asked in open chat is the worst option - it means the person has to handle a lot of incoming mail, and may still not get the answer required, and meanwhile anyone else who might have benefitted from the answer has either to add to the mail the questioner received, or let it pass. in the old days, the people who couldn't help or didn't want to could cancel out of the chat, and leave those who had the answer or wanted the answer to continue.

Anyway, it has been on my mind that my only contributions recently have been to angrily close the chat when somebody has prevented any discussion about a legitimate question, and to post angry comments about that, so I left. I just left the mentor group and the Mentor Q and A group, and let it slip into the past. Frankly I think my life will be quieter and less stressful as a result.

The Eduverse Virtual Web Symposium

I'm excited to announce that there is an Eduverse Virtual Web Symposium sponsored by DutchX taking place on Wednesday, February 27, from 15.000 to 22.00.

The Symposium in the real world will be at De Balie (Leidseplein) in Amsterdam. The event will include Scientists, Educators, Web Specialists, 3D Designers and Technicians. There will be demonstrations, lectures and discussions (both live and virtual) about Education and the Future of the Virtual Web (for a list of participants and more detailed info see

The entrance is free but there is limited availability. To guarantee access please RSVP ASAP to: (as of Thurs. 21.2.08, there is still space available). Dinner is not included. Also please note that the Symposium will be in English only

If you have a specific question which you would like to have answered, please include it in your response.

The event will be streamed on the web at: (UK) (NL) and will be viewable afterwards from De Balie archives

The event will also be available to be seen live in Second Life at

Should you wish to stream it yourself, contact Caliandris Pendragon for details, or visit the website.

As you can see, we will be streaming it from the Business Exchange. I have been encouraging UK home educators to come in and listen there, and so hopefully we will get a good discussion going.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Headset to be controlled by the brain

The BBC website reports that a new headset is due out later this year, which will be controlled by the thoughts and emotions of the person wearing it. The manufacturers say that the technology is not new, but it is the first set which is made for consumers. It will be interesting to see if it catches on in SL, where you might accidentally delete your house or pelt your friends with prims if the lag gets between you and your thoughts....