Category Archives: Second Life Blogs

Virtual World Watch #10

John Kirriemuir is starting work (after a break) on Virtual World Watch snapshot #10.

This time round the snapshot will cover Ireland as well as the UK. The main body of the snapshot will be based on self-reported activity, so get working on your submissions and send them to John before the November 14th deadline.

More info here. Prize for the wittiest contribution, apparently.

Big Trouble in Linden Lab?

I’ve had my hands full the past few weeks – so when the earthquake happened (Linden Lab laid of 30% of their staff!) I didn’t get round to blogging it at all. It did give me a chance to see a number of other reactions on the blogosphere though. I think the most interesting analysis came from ex-Linden Rob Knop:

If Linden Lab had focused on helping make virtual worlds take off– make them more useful by providing functionality people wanted and needed, working on interoperability so that people could take their Second Life accounts to and from software that was developed not only by Linden engineers, but by everybody– I predict they would have done a whole lot better. Their already existing audience would have given them a leg up, and would have kept them a leader or at least a major player. Yes, they would have been helping “competitors”, but by raising the profile, utility, and popularity of virtual worlds in general, they would have helped themselves.

And now the other big news… Mark Kingdon, Linden Lab CEO, will himself be leaving the company – with co-founder Philip Rosedale returning to the fold to take over in his stead. Philip announced his return on the SL blog, here. The general perception is that Mark’s strategies for the Lab generally failed (for example, the cancelled SL Enterprise solution), and also managed to alienate many members of the community. Can Philip turn the ship around and regain some love for the lab? Time will tell… but his initial post is heavy on the technology and relatively weak on the community side:

Our thinking as a team is that my returning to the CEO job now can bring a product and technology focus that will help rapidly improve Second Life.  We need to simplify and focus our product priorities — concentrating all our capabilities on making Second Life easier to use and better for the core experiences that it is delivering today.  I think that I can be a great help and a strong leader in that process.

Looking ahead to 2010 and 2020

I’m a bit late with my ‘predictions for the new year/decade’ post… but on Tuesday night I took part in a Virtual Worlds in Education Roundtable panel discussion (a ‘first of the month’ panel is a regular departure from the normal roundtable format, before you ask!) on predicting the possible and preferable future of virtual worlds in education. As the meeting took place shortly after Second Life’s Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon posted his own predictions for the coming year and decade, his comments naturally became a point of reference for much of the discussion.

VWER 1/5/10Image: VWER Panel, taken by Olivia Hotshot

The panel featured Chris Collins/Fleep Tuque, Anthony Fontana, AJ Kelton/AJ Brooks (Chair), myself, Ken Hudson/Kenny Hubble and Jon Richter. Sarah Robbins was sadly unable to make it :-(

We all seemed to have high hopes for the potential of Augmented Reality and mobile technology to enhance and extend the capabilities of virtual worlds – though I felt there to be a lot of uncertainty about how exactly the very different worlds of mobile AR and desk-bound virtual worlds will best be meaningfully and usefully merged. Charles Stross’ “Halting State” presents one picture, but still a little way to go to get there.

From M Linden’s blog post a few things stood out:

  • Chris and myself were both excited by the prospects of an improved API for communications between SL and the web. Currently a large degree of hackery is required to connect web 2.0 applications to SL – the app might provide a simple API, but to connect that to SL almost always requires creating an intermediary service running on a server to act as a go-between.
  • M’s predictions for 2020 were a mixed bag. Some outlined systems that are perfectly feasible already, or have already been demonstrated (The VUE group at Edinburgh have demonstrated video/virtual conferencing already, along the lines M suggests might happen in 2020: ‘Walls in your office become portals to the metaverse’)
  • “Second Life is galactic.” Some discussion here, that is Linden Lab want this outcome then they will have to work hard to ensure that SL makes itself an essential hub world for the growing number of other virtual worlds out there. Second Life is currently a de-facto standard – with the largely compatible OpenSim being one of the main competitors. Can Linden Lab pull off this feat?
  • “Second Life becomes a standard in business, education and government.” Well, it already is largely a standard for virtual worlds – simply because it is the dominant virtual world. Again, the issue for 2020 is whether SL will stay that way…
  • “SLHD blurs the distinction between real and virtual.” This is possibly the only area where M actually makes some far-sighted predictions. And what he is looking to is virtual world technology that provides the physical sensations of the places, objects and avatars one interacts with. This IMHO is something that will remain in the research lab, demonstration systems and theme park – I don’t see this as being a regularly used technology to access virtual worlds by 2020. If nothing else, it goes against current trends towards more mobile uses of technology, and increasing access via mobile and low powered devices.
  • M also suggests that improvements to content management and protection are in the pipeline – this comes a little late for many inworld vendors whose hard work has been cracked and made freely available due to flaws in SL’s security and copy protection mechanisms. (I am talking here about scripted objects, where the scripts themselves should be secure – an inherent feature of digital technology such as SL is that it simply is not possible to prevent theft of textures and 3D data for models – as this data is required by the client to render content. Scripts are supposed to be secure – but have not been.)

In discussion I made one prediction for next year that I’d like to withdraw – I said that at the first VWER meeting of 2011 we’d almost certainly meet in SL, not some other virtual world. It’s still most likely place to hold the meeting – but an OpenSim grid now how to be a very strong second place contender.

It was a long and free flowing chat – apologies if I’ve missed out your personal highlights!

Festive reading: Two virtual world reports

Some festive reading for folks not suffering under the weight of recently released books on education in virtual worlds.

First up, Virtual World Watch released the 7th in the series of reports surveying use of virtual worlds in UK further and higher education – get it here. The other report is the SLOODLE project’s final report to Eduserv. No, SLOODLE isn’t ‘finished’, the project is continuing – although the pace of development may be slower until additional funding is secured.

More on the report here, on the SLOODLE blog.

The VirtualWorldWatch reports are also Eduserv funded – and will happily continue for a while yet. John Kirriemuir has done a good job reading through a large number of responses, seeking out commanalities and identifying current issues. From the summary on the VWW blog of the latest instalment:

Overall, the picture is one of more virtual world activity in UK academia than in previous years.

While cases of virtual world use in academia have steadily risen, evaluations and evidence of their effectiveness has been fragmented and low-key. Though the same observation could be leveled at many other technologies – take a bow, Virtual Learning Environments – used in education.Many academics – possibly a significant majority – are still wary, sceptical or openly hostile to virtual world use in education. More visible proof of where it works may swing the more open-minded of them. With the mass of teaching and research activity currently under way in higher education, it’s only reasonable to hope for more (and better) evaluations, and clarity concerning where virtual worlds can be put to good use and where not. For proof, evidence, data and convincing arguments, 2009 to 2010 feels like the year of virtual world expectation.