Monthly Archives: November 2009

Stop press! Kermit comments on Video Conferencing

Many of us grew up accepting the tv based avatars (sorry puppets) that are the muppets. Many of us over here in the UK also use the term “You Muppet!” as a sort of slang joking derogatory line for someone foolish but harmless. The wide world interweb and associated social media has been awash with this muppets video. It is brilliant, but it also has an up to date message at the end.
So next time someone says, ah but can’t we video conference instead, just point them at the end of this video 🙂

That BBC article – The demise of Second Life?

A few days ago this BBC article lit up on and bounced around the network, and because it said “What happened to Second Life?” and then went on to try and explain the current status of the virtual world industry I got sent the link a few times and asked what I thought.
I had commented on the piece on the site, but I guess they got a too many comments as there are only a few on there. The Linden Lab response was blogged here.
“Not long ago Second Life was everywhere, with businesses opening branches and bands playing gigs in this virtual world. Today you’d be forgiven for asking if it’s still going.”
Hursley Island is born
That was the line that opened the piece which sort of set the tone.
Clearly we had a lot of media hype, we also had a lot of us form corporate space sharing our journey and finding new uses for virtual worlds. The media hype happened because it was a vibrant and interesting time with lots of angles and ways to explore this way of humans interacting online. It also offered a leap from the label of Web2.0, and gave more fuel for ideas and stories. In addition, being visual, it provided/provides much better additional content than a simple picture of Facebook.
I am quite happy that we had this massive interest in Second Life and virtual worlds in general. I am also now quite happy that we can just get on with pushing things forward and building industries and movements on the top of all the platforms.
It is not all Second Life, that is the part that may have confused the article. Not everyone, and every interaction online happens in Second Life. In fact there have been some moves lately that have started to push some people away from the platform, though this is really aimed at making it more mainstream and controlled.
I think part of the problem for people is the frame of reference that they need to impose on any new interaction online. Dynamically created places like Second Life are a way of getting to interact, but obviously if you are with the wrong people in the wrong place you will have the wrong experience. Not all pages on wikipedia will meet the needs of every user. Not every tv programme meets every taste and mood. Not every person, place, event in Second Life will meet everyones requirements. Not every virtual world will meet every requirement of business, social, entertainment and education need.
So, yes, some user interfaces needs a bit of learning, some creative platforms need you to put some degree of effort in to build things, some groups of people need you to interact with them in order to become part of that group.
Will Second Life solve this for you? Will Opensim? Will IRC chat? Will a community news letter? Will a blog/twitter/facebook/myspace/linkedin profile? No of course not.
I wonder if the next article will be “What happened to the world wide web?” or “What happened to the printing press?”
We are also at a point where 3d content and immersion is still on the rise. We see lots about Augmented Reality, which again will be hyped with interesting marketing schemes. It is all part of the same evolution. Content, Immersion and People all connected online.
I view the future as bright, I also know that some will want to wait and let us all sort out all the answers before coming on board. Its part of the cycle of all change adoption. Again I do not mind this, as I am here, as I say , to take a bite out of technology so you don’t have to.
If you are too wary, or too risk averse to engage, bemused, curious or scared then let us evangelists dotted around all over the place help you. You know how to find me!
Flame on.

Talking Heads, Photospeak and easter eggs

I am always interested in ways we are able to talk one piece of content and do something with it. I recently started using Photospeak an iphone application you can find on the app store. It is somewhat like Crazy Talk that I have used over the years for things like my Second Life Wimbledon 2008 video and the Daz in foil (of pointawayfromface) and also these examples

Photospeak lets you take a 2d facial photo, it then sends it off to a server, does some magic and returns an instrumented and working interactive semi 3d version of you face. One that tracks movement and can also lip synch. It is always a little creepy, and very uncanny valley, in particular because of the eyes. However, when recording this video of the iphone app I happened to double tap the screen and discovered this add on to it. (it may be documented but who reads docs nowadays?) It also instantly made the face more convincing I found. Not least because I wear glasses normally.

Social media is NOT network marketing

I had an unusual business experience the other day. I am not going to trash the company involved, nor the person involved, however I had a meeting about a business opportunity based, apparently, on my significant social media experience and metaverse evangelism.

It turned out that this was not a consulting job, nor even some free advice, and certainly not startup sweat equity.

Instead it turned out to be a “network marketing” opportunity. I sat through the presentation, knowing from the first opening gambit where this was going, and used the experience to observe the selling technique, and to be a little more observant on the mix of actual facts and science blended with emotional pointers to personal greed and aspirational statements.
Walking away from pyramid
At the end I pointed out it looked and sounded like a pyramid scheme ( which I was assured it was not as that’s illegal). Of course the answers are there for anyone challenging such a business, at it may have indeed been the best opportunity that I have never taken, but calling it network marketing still feels like a pyramid scheme. The definition of that made me challenge my perception of what we all do across social media. Obviously some people use these channels for network marketing. However where does snake oil, spamming crossover with good moral codes?

It became clear to me that when I am interested in something I will promote it, I will share it and I will help people understand why. However, and this is important to me personally, I do not do that to try and extract cash from my network. I view my network as a varied mix of people who are influenced and influence in equal measures. It is a support mechanism to lead to other business and other interesting avenues of investigation. That mutual support could be said to be what they do in an MLM but they really aren’t that are they?

In thinking that though there is clearly some difference, but also at a certain level of abstraction its the same as any Multi level marketing? I share things, get them passed on, and hope that they come back in a good way. In virtual worlds that was passing on the lessons and opportunities in Second Life initially and then on other platforms. It helped in some small part, make SL’s enterprise demand arise. That experience of growing that type of interest and business through social media and through being in all this together is what comes back to me as the sort of consulting, development and public speaking that I now do to generate further reputation and also money to pay the mortgage as a startup.

The Network Marketing approach seems geared to help others become passionate enough about the product that they persuade others in.

I am, though, still convinced that my personal intent and business ethics have less direct greed, or less apparent preying on others. That may be a naive attitude to some of the more hard nosed business people out there but I think that doing things for the right reason, not solely for the cash, not solely out of pride should be an aim in life, if at all possible. That starts to be a huge moral issue, when is it all right to make enough money that you can than be philanthropic?

For me though, I know that right at the moment I cant see me wanting to partake of any of this network markering gigs, no matter how good I may end up being about it. If was was great at it and lucked out I would be doing so at the expense of others. If I was not then I would just have been suckered in.

Xbox Live concurrency, how many? Are these numbers big enough yet?

It is interesting that in the world of long tail we are still very focussed on how many people are in one place online, or paying attention to one piece of content. Places like Second Life have a good few users, and lots of stats and arguments to be had about how popular it is. It is a container service though that has lots of sub places within it. Those also want to be popular to as many people as possible. All this ends up as the justification to either ignore something and tut, saying yes but its niche isn’t it, or pile into the place in a feeding frenzy of business and advertizing or finally ignore it because its just too popular.

The reality of the networked world is that it is very easy to move around from place to place, jump websites and applications, moving things you need with you. You connect with people that are interested in what you are interested in. We are of course limited on the time and attention we can place on things and those wishing to extract money from us would rather we were in one place to be harvested. I have to yet to work out the boundaries of when something should be worthwhile to look into and consider and be regarded by others as worthwhile.

This was brought into focus by the recent news that something we can consider very mainstream now, the games industry has hit another milestone on one particular platform. That is the number of concurrent users logged into Xbox Live. For those not familiar with it the Xbox 360 console has access to a centralized system so that when turned on or in a game you have access to friends and content. Its a walled garden extranet really, though it starting to reach the out to the wider web. Its concurrency can mean people playing games, or just having the machine switched on. The magic number quoted was 2 million concurrent users that’s a great number, but also a very small one in some respects.

Do we consider that 2 million people at once is not enough? bearing in mind that is not 2 million people all talking to 2 million people at once, not even sharing the same game. Some people might suggest it is not mainstream enough even though over half the population in lots of western countries play games of one sort of another . It is of course nonsense to suggest the games industry is not big, popular and mainstream.

So back to virtual worlds. How many is going to be enough. When we have 2 million concurrent people on one platform or another (and there are platforms that has already happened 🙂 ) do we then get to indicate that this branch of the web is mainstream and then just get on with it?

Get ready to push the button on 3d printing

I got sent another sample of 3d printing by the guys and girls at Objet I had not got around to photographing it and blogging it, but I have had it in my laptop bag and handed it to a number or people to say “look at that”. Physical interaction with an object causes humans to relate to things very quickly indeed.
This piece is a collection of rubberized buttons and a hollow case.

Objet 3d Printed buttons
What is interesting though is that the buttons have been printed and manufactured to in one go, but with different amounts of resistance. The lower button is almost solid, the top button is like pushing into your palm. The mid range buttons are more like the spring levels for degrees of cooking a steak.

The lid is removable too to show a two piece printed object. With no delicate parts to worry about it fits nicely in with all the business cards and cables, hence where it has lived for a few weeks.

Being dynamic in virtual worlds is a strength and a weakness

Second Life and Opensim alike share a particular attribute that is not quite as common to many of the other virtual worlds and games platforms. That attribute (well known to anyone who has been in and looked around) is a completely dynamic and potentially ever changing environment. Creating and moving things on the fly either as a user or through programs and scripts means that any space or event can change almost instantly. It is this attribute which means that sometimes you have to wait a little while for new things, like textures or new shapes to start to appear when the world changes around you.
There is a constant debate between this flexibility and the need to keep things locked down, how much dynamic streaming should something do versus highly detailed, preinstalled graphics.
Whilst that debate rages, and bandwidth improves, or we have hybrid video streaming and broadcast services to get around some of the problems we should not forget that whilst in games pop-up (a rendering engine not managing to raw things as fast as you want to see them) can be distracting, yet in a virtual world like second life watching something rezzed from scripts can be fascinating in its own right.
This is a video of one of the many building designers, rather than leave static buildings lying around the vendor boxes let you see dynamically created versions of the building you wish to purchase. In this case these buildings are not that expensive US$20 in some cases less. So you try before you buy, even show other people. Then pay the designer for their work and take a copy of the building with you to your own place.
This examples is on Creations Estate in Second Life one I just arrived at serendipitously.

I still like watching buildings rezz from boxes, it reminds me of the first clubhouse we had on Hursley back in 06.
Remember if you want to Rez you own houses and places you can always come and join Hursley and rent a plot or two.
There is a direct link here and IQ is next door if you are interested in a much larger half sim plot

Second Life Enterprise – A good addition to the mix

Yesterday the enterprise 2.0 conference saw the official release and announcements relating to Second Life Enterprise and of course featuring some preferred content in the form of Rivers Run Red’s Immersive Workspace and more to come via the Work Marketplace. It is interesting to see this happen both at something like an enterprise 2.0 conference and focussed as a packaged product in the way it is.
Back in April 2006 thru to Dec 2006 (which seems a very long while ago now) we said to one another as we (those early eightbars) realised that there was a huge scope for internal corporate communication…. wouldn’t this be great behind our firewall?
By September 2006 (after the first Wimbledon in Second Life) the US based CIO office had realised the potential and a few of us from places not just in the US ended up on that growing project to understand SL and all the other platforms and their implications to an internal corporate audience. This also started to lead to the more commercial based business unit forming, which interestingly is now part of the CIO office according the communications out of IBM.
This journey and the things that happened on the way (good and bad) all form part of the story I share with people in various ways including the in progress book on the subject.
Linden Lab focussing on enterprise and producing a product, however it is priced and packaged is an important further catalyst to this industry, one that those of us in IBM, Cisco, Sun etc. started to generate corporate and public interest in through our patronage. However this is now happening (unlike in 2006) in an era that has very many more potential direct competitors. many have been there for a while but will now be dropping into even more invitation to tender conversations, Proton Media, Forterra Olive, Teleplace, web.alive…. Equally there will be an increasing drive in take up of the hosted and self hosting services based on Opensim (SecondPlaces, ReactionGrid, Rezzable and SimHost ). Other platforms and standards such as Vastpark, or Wonderland for those who want to still explore and drive forward and develop things for themselves and get a step up on the packages. Services such as Venuegen, specialized in providing a particular quick access service also start to take a share of the market.
It is of course a huge market, business/enterprise communication relates to every employee in every company that has any form of electronic or remote communication. Like email, web and increasingly instant messaging and voip and social media in general it is essential business addresses the communication gaps we have generated. All these options may be confusing, but just pick one and get on with it!
I also still expect an actual games company to realize that their middleware and massive scaling and runtime abilities can be applied to a spin off market. So rather that enterprise business trying to figure out how to use games, games will figure out how to use enterprise business. With some of the developments this week too such as Unity3d becoming free to develop with and also Unreal 3 doing the same to some extent the future looks very rosy and very interesting.
However….. remember that the problems and challenges are not wholly technical. We are dealing here with social and cultural change. Something else I have experienced both the good and bad of and happy to share if you need to talk about the implications to your business, industry or life.

Avatar throwing – Bonfire night

I am not sure how I feel about this, but as I have been investigating how to turn my Evolver avatar into a Unity3d string puppet and then drop that on the iphone as part of an education in pipeline and development I have ended up with quick demo that works on the web.
In this demo you are able to click the spheres that that are above the avatar, each toggles between 3 modes on each click. Initially the state of each is off. When clicked once or twice the spheres then respond to the arrow keys or wasz game keys. The two active states merely change which direction in/out up/down the spheres will move which let you swing the avatar around. The middle sphere is connected to the spine, the rest to arms and legs.
I am experimenting with types of connection and the various weightings on the joints but I thought I would leave this lying around on the web.
So feel free to throw me around 🙂 Its a bit bonfire night themed, reminded me of penny for the guy as a kid.
Unity3d puppet