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.