Predlet 1.0 came home today with a username and password from school for a site called Mathletics. She was very keen to get on and have a look. She also was very keen to login herself and said the password was secret and not for me to see. (That’s a good start).
What I was struck with was how straight away the first task was customization of the character to represent you. I should not have been surprised but I was. The site is global and has elements of competition and scoreboards for completing the flash based maths games. It was very slick and very well done and she enjoyed it too.
During the customization I got asked “dad what colour are my eyes?” and “does this hair look like mine?”. Entering work mode for a moment I said “why do you want it to look like you?”. The reply “It is me”. So we had certainly moved from the notion of the thing online being a toy to externalize. She was showing a need to control her own brand effectively.
I did point out that some of my characters online don’t look like me but are me, e.g. spikey green hair and that its ok to play with the look 🙂 However it is one of those stages we all have to go through. Start to be 100% accurate, then start tweaking. The difference here is that my daughter is starting this at age 5 going on 6. What will her self expression be like in the systems in 5 years time?. An interesting thought and great seeing a digital native evolve.
This week the BBC aired a programme on the science of Network Analysis. Since the programme I have talked to lots of people and we have all said the same thing. Yes we knew all about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. We all live and work in social media (a self selecting bunch of people I talk to of course), so we all understand the power of the connected hub and the ability to link people and ideas and spread the word. We all knew the obvious statements that disease spreads through contact hubs where people have more direct contact with others. We all knew that travel broadens the mind and also the dispersal of families and companies at a global level means the world is smaller.
Its all obvious. That does not mean that it is wrong of course.
The programme sought to show the science and maths involved in the description of the various types of network theory. It also did an experiment involving random people in far flung part of the world having to find a people to help get a package to someone they did not know. i.e. pass it on and see how many steps it really took.
That worked very well too.
The piece of the puzzle that is the most thought provoking is the places these clumped networks of relationships, hubs of influence and transmitters exists. Social Networks, The Web, Flu spreading are the classic obvious ones. However in studying this scientists have found the patterns and principles apply at all sorts of meta levels.
One that I thought they might have explicitly pointed out, but may have just been subtle and clever scripting was the fact that the hsitory of the network theory development was itself a network of hubs and connectors. Someone happened to see an article by someone else etc.
The striking one was that scientists mapped all diseases and their relationships to one another, each has a relationship to another, and some common hubs act as a link between many disparate ilnesses.
Just consider that, every illness we can suffer is just six degrees of separation or less from another via their structure and our genes.
If we look at networks of networks the same patterns will apply. The patterns continue in a repeating fractal nature at any level you care to consider, from brain cells to the eco system, financial systems to planetary systems.
Why is this relevant?
We have through various pieces of technology, from email and the telephone to virtual worlds provided a way to make these connections even faster to use the network effect to transmit ideas to one another. It surely makes sense to be aware of the nature of the structure of networks and hubs that helps adoption of an idea, a technology or a movement.
In trying to help people come to terms with a change you have to deal with the hubs, or reduce your path to the hubs. Convincing people on the periphery of a network has to be done, but the aim is to get to the fast connector, the fast influencer.
It would seem the fast influencer and meta network that many people look to is money. The conversations on technology adoption and its usage tends to be based on objections or otherwise of ROI. However, money is a network in its own right. There are hubs, people with more access to more money that need to be influenced. Money though is not the only network here. As we often say the virtual world and social media is not about the technology it is about people. People themselves are collections of networks, from those they belong to socially, to the collection of neurons that form the brain.
It struck me that the best way to get people to adopt something is not to appeal to just one of their networks. instead to appeal to the network of networks. Just as each disease is shown to be part of its own network of diseases and the cure for one major one might be found by focussing on the nearest apparently unrelated disease on the surface, then adoption curves and getting people to where we think they need to be may be best done via another route than their major network.
I then realized that in some ways I had been explaining this and doing this all along. I often help people who want to know how you convinces crowds of people to follow an idea. The key is to make is personal to each individual. To now dive straight at their primary concern (in business this is money/ROI etc). Instead you appeal to another part of their own network, rather than the network they are part of.
Finding a long lost friend of relative, discovering someone with the same passion for the same hobby, being inspired by an idea, being able to show off, even taking a moment to think of others. All these when applied to the person you are trying to help and convince will work so much better than the £ or $ signs in most cases. Once they have experienced even in the smallest amount a change to their internal biological personal network then they will be open to consider the influence they may have on the networks they are in.
Another example was clearly how the use of Second Life at Wimbledon, via IBM made people consider the potential options of virtual worlds. To me the link made sense, the network and flow was clear. However looking back it is even more obvious in the context of peoples internal influence networks. Wimbledon is an emotive hub. Sport, whilst a business to some is an emotive experience, seldom about the prize money or company share price, but about competition. Attaching such an emotive hub to the personal experiences that we have in virtual worlds made sense. The second hub, that of a solid Blue Chip IT business clearly also appealed to a different network of business. Hence Second Life, Wimbledon and IBM became three super hubs joining multiple networks of people, ideas, emotions and motivators.
I often point out how we have to rely on serendipity. I think now that serendipity really is the collision of multiple types of network at a point in time. Seemingly unrelated things occur and form a pattern we cannot quite discern, but we feel that something is right.
The trick is to feel these networks at all their various levels, not just social and try and weave them and make them collide in a positive way.
So next time you are focussed on one goal, one target, one idea just for a second considered the multitude of networks that that may for part of. Look at those may just get you to that goal quicker, and open up a whole new set of others.
To quote Snowcrash (again) “Is it a virus, a drug or a religion…. what’s the difference?”
For a while a few of us have been pushing the odd button, making suggestions and plays to various people that London 2012 really should have a rich and ground breaking virtual component. It could, after all, be the cheapest, yet most far reaching impact on the games and the future of sport.
Sport works in 3d, is rich in statistics, has global interest. Virtual worlds and social media fit very nicely into that space. What do we have for 2012 as a strategy? No idea, cant find one.
Still at least 2012 can be shown the way by what the Singapore 2010 youth games are going to do. This article on Virtual Worlds News shows the bids and sums involved (including my old firm, who’d of think it 🙂 ) You can build a lot of virtual world experience using the available tools and $10 million. Look what we did with no funding and crowd sourcing for Wimbledon in Second Life !
My door/email/twitter/avatars are open to be approached, we are all happy to help. The country has the skills, in fact some people are world leaders in the field, we also have a thriving games industry.
I have been looking into Unity3d a little more recently. As a programmer since I was 14 (thats a long while ago) I tend to look at languages and toolkits with a sort of skim pattern approach. I look for tiny pieces of flexibility knowing that if they exist then a lot more can be combined with more effort and time to produce the required results.
Unity3d has this flexibility in so many ways, as well as providing a whole host of useful tools to help create things on a grand scale.
I had already explored being able to get image resources from the web from places like Flickr, once that inbound route is possible then the web can be used for all sorts of triggers to an application. However I wanted to explore the physics and character animation potential.
I am not a graphic designer, nor an expert in high end 3d packages but I do know a little of what I need to do. I started to use the excellent Cheetah3d on the Mac as it is low cost, suites my needs and works well with Unity natively.
Whilst at the airport I built a little person, and also rigged it with bones and joints. The only problem I had was having created the individual prims I could not see how to get them to become one mesh. It turns out you have to use “Import Children” in Cheetah3d. However having done that it leaves copies of the children in the heirarchy, which is helpful but confused me as I thought it was not working. Once that was done though we were all systems go.
Telling Unity3d about the figure was very simple, a drag and drop in fact.
Once in Unity3d it was easy to create a terrain, select some foliage, have it autiomatically populat the terrain with that foliage. I then used the ragdoll wizard to tell Unity3d about the joints and parts on the Cheetah3d figure.
The rest was a few clicks to see what worked. This example is not “interactive” as such, but just a little example for my own benefit, but I liked the result so I thought I would share it 🙂
****Update I just added little bounce button to throw the things back up in the air again (once they have landed). This is doing a publish of a message to a set of listeners. once again a nice implementation. Of course all the ragdoll physics may make it a little clunky for now real reason, but optimization is another subject:)
Another fellow ex-IBMer Tony O’Driscoll has put together a description of all the people and ideas that are going to be covered in the up and coming 3DTLC conference in Washington DC.
Clearly learning training and collaboration are key applications of virtual worlds and the surrounding technology. Not the only ones of course, but the sort of thing that will drive enterprise adoption.
I have recently been working with several education and training based clients that sit on top of all the technology we have available. It is very clear that this is a growth area.
With the release of applications to support some elements of education such as Daden’s new open source Pivote and applications such as Sloodle there is a clear trend forming.
The interesting subject I would like to see addressed is this separation of the learning content and structures and where the boundaries are of the virtual world platform. i.e. is the virtual world just another front end, or does it contain some of the essence of the learning experience.
I am not sure I will be at this conference, being a fledgling startup doesn’t sit well with buying plane tickets and hotels just yet 🙂 I will of course attend on whatever digital channels are made available.