Monday, 31 December 2007

Early Days

Here's a few photos of the company private sim, after (quite) a few hours' work. I daresay most of this stuff will be torn down, but it provides a start point - and cost nothing to produce, aside from a few L$ to upload some slides. I have also discovered the joys and frustrations of working with .RAW files, finding the free bailiwick software a really useful tool to use alongside my trusty Paintshop Pro. I may not have produced the most elegant file in the world, but it works well enough. I even managed to stick a company logo on it - in the form of a rather blocky mountain. However, you can't see it in this photoset.

The real effort will start in the New Year, when I can onboard the rest of the team. The construction to date does give us a couple of meeting areas, too. And so to the pictures:

People who know New New Alville might recognise some re-use here!

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Santa Linden Rezzes an Island

I was largely absent from the Yuletide/Solsticial proceedings in Second Life, choosing rather to make merry with friends and family in Non-Digital Life. OK, I admit I did pop in from time to time but not with any great plan in mind. However, while I was over-indulging in roast dinners, wine and prezzies, Santa Linden dropped by Second Life and left me a whole island to start working on. I say "me", I actually mean "my company."

I was first alerted by a friend and colleague, who informed via Twitter. I dialled in to my company mail system and sure enough, there was the confirmation email and a fair amount of technobabble. The island actually came into being on 26th December, still a public holiday here in the OK. So thanks, Santa Linden, I now have my work cut out to convert it into something habitable, on a budget that a church mouse would struggle with. But it's a great start, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Why am I telling you this? When originally mooted, longer ago than I care to think, I intended to keep all knowledge of the island out of the public domain. However, as time has passed, we have refined the purpose of the island and there is now no benefit in keeping its existence secret. Initially, we had thought in terms of a public island, offering company information , meeting facilities, virtual trade fairs and the like; the general thrust being in a marketing direction. Part of the plan would have been to maintain a cloak of secrecy over the island until it was ready to launch on an unsuspecting virtual (and real) world. This may yet come about, either at a corporate level or a more regional business unit level. But this island is going to be private - at least for the foreseeable future. Sorry.

Why private? Simple really... perhaps the most demonstrable ROI for corporate use of Second Life is in "collapsing geography" (to steal the title of Cory Ondrejka's post-Linden blog). I have long maintained that virtual worlds are ideal for global corporations as they allow you to... well.. collapse geography. In Second Life colleagues from a range of countries and, indeed, continents can gather round a virtual campfire to exchange information and ideas. Virtual SIGs can meet and share views and discussions using a common, shared medium. The experience may not be as good as face-to-face, but it is vastly better than teleconferencing and videoconferencing. More to the point, it saves a great deal of time (and time is money, ladies and gents) and other travel costs, and also let's not forget those pesky carbon miles. It therefore makes sense to have a private island where colleagues can meet both formally and informally, and cost-effectively.

Another use for a private island in Second Life is as an "innovation incubator" - sorry, I had to shoehorn "innovation" in there somewhere. The 3D immersive nature of virtual worlds offers us all an affordable palette for the development of new ways of envisioning and manipulating information. For example, IBM and Eolus have already shown what can be done with virtual operations centres. This, too, strikes me as an opportunity worth pursuing.

A final thought: as regular readers will know, I can be somewhat critical of poorly executed public commercial sites in Second Life. As part of the purpose of this island is to nurture skills, I am not looking to develop "the perfect sim" but instead allow people a great deal of latitude to develop their ideas individually or in teams. The net result is not to deliver a coherent build across the sim, but rather act as a hive for creative ideas and solutions.

So it looks like I, and the small group I have co-opted into this enterprise, are going to have a fun, if exhausting, 2008! If time and policy permits, I may post the occasional snap here.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Season's Greetings

Nothing to post - just wanting to wish you:


Monday, 24 December 2007

Al Goes Aladdin

In my country at least, there is a Christmas tradition that goes back hundreds of years. It involves exotic clothing, cheesy music, grotesques and a great deal of innuendo. It features men pretending to be women, and women pretending to be men. It is fun, occasionally funny and often very coarse. Sounds familiar? I know the congruency of features is uncanny - but this is not Second Life, it is pantomime, more usually shortened to panto.

At the heart of any panto is the story. As the primary aim is allegedely to amuse children, it is no surprise that panto relies on tried and trusted kids' tales, such as Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Dick Whittington and Aladdin.

Aladdin, as you will recall, started life in The Book of One Thousand And One Nights (or did it?), with its magical tales of medieval Arabia*. And it is this book that also serves as the inspiration for the Purgatorio sim. You could be forgiven for thinking this sim would be a 3D immersive version of Dante's Divine Comedy, of which Purgatory forms part. But instead it is a medieval Arabia role-playing sim. If you want something with rather less blood, guts and general killing than Assassin's Creed, then you might enjoy a trip here, though be prepared to don the rather so-so freebiewear before being allowed to stay (Ooh... but they're strict here). No flying either - unless, I assume, you have your accredited and officially sanctioned magic carpet. My companion, who tipped me off that this place was worth the hassle, is artist, traveller and katana-wielder, Xantherus Halberd.

While I am no great fan of role playing, in Second Life or indeed Real Life, I will acknowledge that many of the most imaginative and elegantly constructed islands in SL belong to RP groups. Purgatorio certainly meets this description. It is an amazing place - as I hope my photos will show; complex and beautifully rendered. A great deal of careful design has gone into its construction, from the hidden caverns and underground granaries all the way up to the tops of its many towers. The sense of immersion is excellent, though to be fair at no time did I feel particularly "arabic" or "medieval" - which is clearly a state of mind. As to what actually happens here - I will leave that to you to make your own enquiries.

Anyway... in this, the panto season, please enjoy my backdrops to Aladdin from The Tales of a 1,001 Nights.

* Yes, I know, many people would say that Arabia is still medieval - but let's not pursue that thought, eh?

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Vote Now To Increase The Group Limit

As pointed out by New World Notes, Second Life bloggers are being asked to do their bit in raising a "fix" with Linden Lab to raise or remove the somewhat arbitrary group membership limit of 25. If you are not familiar with this, as a Second Life resident you can belong to a number of groups. And that number is 25. Most long-term residents will tell you that this is simply not enough. Some get around it by creating alternative avatar accounts ("alts"), others muddle through by deleting less important ones.

Second Life is fundamentally a social networking environment, in which groups play an important role. They allow you to share and participate in information and activities with residents who share the same interests. They provide a communication channel for the dissemination of information to communities, and they act as part of the security and access control system of Second Life. Limiting your choice to a mere 25 of these - and believe me, you can reach that limit very quickly - is preventing effective community and is not in the interests of Second Life or indeed Linden Lab. Facebook users would find this limit laughable, and certainly a disincentive to using Second Life.

If you are a resident and support the premise that this limit should be increased (or better, removed) then please follow this link. You know it makes sense!

Colgate Smile Center - A Toothsome Reply

After posting about Colgate Smile Power earlier I received a mail from Joni West, President of This Second Marketing. I thought it only fair to publish this mail as a post, with Joni's agreement, as it sets out the company's reply/riposte:

I would like to address your review of the Colgate Smile Center. Colgate is doing a promotion, starting today, that is about sharing the Colgate Smile and is giving away the Colgate avatar smile through Buzz Agents who will be in-world for over 500 hours over the next 2 weeks. The Smile Center was only meant to serve as a place where people could pick up the freebies if they read about the Colgate Smile promotion but did not encounter a Colgate Buzz Agent on their own. This is not meant to be a place to hand out in. As you saw in the Coffee-mate café next door, we understand that there needs to be activity to attract and maintain visitors. While we do have several camping jobs, I can assure you that the VAST majority of our visitors are not campers. We track visitors to each venue on our sim and report that to our clients because we are confident in our numbers. We are not tracking the Colgate Smile Center because we are not trying to drive traffic there and we are giving away all the freebies out on the Grid. One of the things in the freebie folder is a list of 10 places in SL that will make you smile. We have run several successful Buzz Agent campaigns and realized that people were hungry for info on places to go that were fun. People thank us routinely for giving them fun freebies and being helpful in any way we can. Our Buzz Agents help people learn to teleport to a venue, for example.

The story for Colgate is about the Buzz Agents giving a virtual Colgate Smile to tens of thousands of avatars…not that they have a vending machine area where people can pick up the freebies. I hope this clears things up for you as to why Colgate did, and is doing this. It is not about the Smile Center, it is about The Colgate Smile and soon, a whole lot of avatars will be looking a whole lot friendlier.
As part of our subsequent email exchange (I wanted to get an OK on posting the above) Joni added:
No matter how much we say it is about a live promotion, people tend to focus on the build because to date, that has been what marketing efforts in SL have consisted of. When I saw all those beautiful yet empty sims, I knew I could do better and so far, This Second Marketing LLC has made ALL of our clients happy! When we want to drive traffic, we get it there. The Coffee-mate SwirL Café and AQUA Beach Party are #2 and #4 (by Linden Lab traffic stats) brand-related venues in SL. Colgate is doing a really awesome thing by handing out tens of thousands of Colgate Smiles to avatars who, let’s face it, don’t usually smile....

How about I get back to you at the end of the holidays and let you know how many Colgate Smiles were distributed during the campaign? We only consider a Buzz Agent conversation an “interaction” if the resident accepts the inventory offer. Sound like a plan?
Yep... that sounds like a plan to me! And thanks, Joni, for the replies.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Brush off for Colgate Smile Power

I have now done an extensive and thorough inspection of the Colgate Smile Power site in Second Life - it took about 30 seconds. It is difficult to know how to put this, but I shall start slowly and see how I get on. The first word that springs to mind is "underwhelmed" - but more of this anon. First, let me try and put this site in context.

I say "site" but it is closer in size to a garage or shed than to a parcel, let alone a full sim. It sits on the This Second sim, which belongs to This Second Marketing, "a marketing agency that specializes in helping brand marketers enter the vibrant, fast-growing world of Second Life. We are made up of marketing and digital media professionals who have been living 'Second Lives' since before the buzz-boom over Second Life in late 2006. We approach brand marketing in Second Life from a different, and dare we say smarter, perspective than most other companies in this specialized field." I may not be a marketing person, but I really don't see the "smarter" here... ummm... or the "different" for that matter.

The Colgate build, which appears to occupy just part of the ground floor of a larger, 3-storey building, is at best perfunctory. Aside from a couple of logos and photos the main features are a set of rotating cubes and 4 product dispensers. The purpose of the cubes? Simply to tell you to use the dispensers. Why? I can only assume that someone realised how lifeless (motionless) the build was and decided to whack in some movement. The result: 9 rotating cubes. Others have commented that these are not phantom (ie you cannot walk through them) but I at least did not have an issue with bumping into them. Perhaps they've been moved. The dispenser gives you a HUD that enables you to smile (or not), along with a decent list of nice places to visit in SL, and the obligatory free T-shirt. The HUD splatters itself across the centre of your screen (cute!) and offers you both a "smile" and a "dance" animation. On my ugly features, the smile looked more like a grimace.

I took a few snaps, which I have decided to load directly, rather than link to my Flickr page.

There are other commercial enterprises on the sim, perhaps the largest being SwirL. We are invited to "Come Join SwirL, the new hot spot cafe, sponsored by Coffee-mate. It's a fantastic place for residents to meet, socialize and relax with a good cup of coffee. Visit the swirl annex to see Top SL entertainment." Hmmmm....

One final point: the sim was quite busy when I arrived, but I quickly realised that everyone else on the sim (as far as I could tell) was a camper, paid to make it look busy. It was a very strange feeling, like being in a David Lynch movie.

So there you have it. I just have to ask: "Colgate! Why did you do it?" The cost may have looked overwhelmingly attractive on paper - but you've damaged your brand through a miserly and ill-considered first foray in virtual worlds. I would strongly suggest that you rethink why you want to be in Second Life, what it is you want to achieve and then how you propose to do it.

Brush up on Colgate Smile Power

Just received this... sounds interesting. I can't guarantee to make it - so I thought you might like to know:

Hi. Just wanted to give you a heads up that Colgate-Palmolive will be officially entering SL tomorrow (Friday, December 21, 2007). They’re going to offer residents several cool new ways to express themselves and enhance their experience in-world, including a sparkling Colgate Smile they can flash to others, a new dance move to bust out with, and a list of some of the SL destinations most likely to evoke a smile.

Colgate’s Smile Power Team will be handing out free virtual goody bags featuring these items and more, and residents who receive them can freely distribute them to others. They’ll also be available from vending machines in the Colgate Smile Center, hosted on This Second Island (keywords “Colgate,” “Smile Center” and “This Second Island” will get you there in-world, or you can use the SLURL
I shall look forward to having a good rummage.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Privateer Space

With Christmas not far away it seems like a good time to take a break from the pursuit of worthy business sims in Second Life and have a bit of fun instead. My huge thanks go to my chum, Lem Skall, for suggesting I have a look at Privateer Space. This has to be one of the most beautifully rendered and absorbing sites I've seen in SL - and I would say now that you should stop reading at this point and just go and explore it for yourself.

Ah... you're still here? OK then...

When you search the Second Life Map for Privateer Space you could be forgiven for giving it a miss. It appears on the map as a brand new type 2 island, from the outset hiding its many little gems. Just ignore this new island camouflage and teleport across anyway. You will find yourself not on the surface of a barren sim, but rather in the dining and shopping zone of a deep space mining vessel. If you are familiar with Red Dwarf you will have some idea of what I mean. Beyond that I will not reveal much more to you, other than to say that the sim has multiple levels, and in at least one case, multiple zones in a level - so do explore. You can figure out how to get about easily enough.

To whet your appetite I have an unfeasibly large slideshow for your perusal:

I love the textures, the objects, the ideas and the humour of this sim. It seems to exist purely as an exercise in what is possible in SL. As Aley Arai, the sim's owner describes it in her profile: "I just got the sim, what do you want me to say? ok it's going to be developed into a huge super emersion silly sci-fi playland for everyone. a non commercial venture."

Oh... a rather more comprehensive (and amusing) walkthru' can be found here.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

What's in Store in 2008?

Virtual Worlds News has just published the results of a questionnaire sent to some of the Great and the Good of virtual worlds, in which they were asked 5 questions about the prospects for 2008. By some oversight I'm sure, I didn't receive their questionnaire; perhaps the email is stuck in the Christmas post somewhere. Anyway, I thought I'd take a stab at answering these questions - just to see what emerges, and so I can look back in a year's time and laugh at my ineptitude and general lack of clairvoyance. You might like to play too...

1. What are your top 3 trend predictions for 2008?

  • There will be an explosion in the number of VWs of all types. Many of these will be destined to fail, after going through the Gartner hype cycle at various rates. By the end of the year there will be a core of survivors. China will have a huge impact as the China Recreation District rolls out, with HiPiHi, NovoKing and uWorld going live, along with the Chinese Entropia planet(s). And that is just the tip of it.
  • Social networks and virtual worlds will continue to converge, with more potent tools available to take advantage of the best features of each: the immersion and shared experience of VWs, coupled with the content of social networks.
  • IBM, Sun and others will launch "behind-the-firewall" virtual intranet worlds that can be bought off the shelf.
2. What business goals have you set for 2008?
  • To wheedle my way into that elite group of pundits that bang on about trends in Virtual Worlds.
  • Actually, there are some others - but those are between me and my employer.
3. What challenges do you expect 2008 to bring for the virtual worlds industry?
  • Defining and agreeing the interoperability standards and architecture to start delivering web3.D.
  • Security and authentication
  • Shaking off the negative press, and the "it's just for saddoes" world view.
  • Moving Terms of Service from a "game world" model to a "citizen world." For example, redefining the fiscal rules relating to virtual money. At the moment the L$ is, in effect, play money with zero value rather than a true currency.
  • Law'n'order, IPR and freedom of speech will continue to exercise the minds of the great and the good (and the not-so-good).
4. A number of new platforms are launching in 2008. What are the biggest impacts this will have on the industry?
  • A realisation that there is not one, true vision of virtual worlds. While some may strive for convergence and homogeneity, the new platforms will actually force more diversity. Such diversity will need to be embraced, and even celebrated - 'cos it ain't likely to go away. The real art will in be finding ways of navigating between these worlds - but that won't happen in 2008.
  • Again, as I have spouted forth on other occasions, it is the Far East that holds the key for me - large populations of educated, computer-literate users will fundamentally change the profile of VWs, and introduce new and striking visual interpretations, approaches and business models.
  • Personally, I'm not convinced that mobile will converge that rapidly with virtual social worlds. Development of "virtual globe" mapping and geo-mashups will continue apace - but these are not "virtual worlds" by my narrow, personal, biased (and unstated) definition.
5. How will the above changes affect your specific segment of the industry in 2008?
  • You mean blogging? I guess I will have to blog wider and farther. And who knows? Perhaps I might even get some remuneration for my ramblings :-)
  • Oh... and I might get to do my bit by encouraging myself and others to reduce their carbon hoofprints, by holding more meetings in virtual spaces.

Now it's your turn to play.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Alexander Mann Solutions

2007 has seen a number of memes in Second Life - I've certainly blogged a few - but perhaps the most pervasive from a business perspective has been the use of SL as a recruitment office. One company I've not seen here before is Alexander Mann Solutions - an expert in "RPO", which I find stands for Recruitment Process Outsourcing. Google tells me that they may have started their Second Life presence at the Depo Consulting Business Park, but it looks like at some point over the Summer/Autumn they decided to move on to their own premises in Second Life.

According to their website, AMS was first to market in Europe with RPO in 1996, working with clients to consolidate and transform their recruitment processes, delivering an increased level of service, whilst creating significant cost savings. They have offices around the globe and an impressive list of clients across a range of professions, including IT and Finance. I couldn't help but notice that my own company is a client of theirs, too.

The sim is a nice, rather abstract construction, resembling a fractured chessboard. Most of the island is open to the (distinctly clement) elements - with what I will characterise as a boardroom, a common room and a reception area. Down a gangway a splinter of the chessboard holds a small arboretum and some information panels. In fact, you will find information panels dotted around the place.

The textures and construction here are nicely done, and pleasing to the eye. They've made use of some of the best furniture-makers in SL, and in putting the place together they have avoided clutter, giving it a simple, minimalist look. So far, so good. On the downside, it is not abundantly clear how the island is supposed to function, or what its overall aim is. Is it intended as a walk-in advertisement? A place to meet clients? A place to meet prospective candidates? I'm not sure. The amount of information on the sim is somewhat slim, and I did not notice weblinks that might lead me to more information. And what about that islet at the end of the gangway? As it only holds relatively static information, it seems somewhat redundant. However, I've been pondering this a bit... and maybe the intention is to use the islet at some future point for interviews or private meetings, given that it would be possible to wrap a 20-metre exclusion zone around it.

So, in conclusion - nice place, but I'm not sure what it's for.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Sony Pictures HE

I've commented in the past about national groupings of islands in Second Life, but I have clearly not been paying attention recently - or indeed for many months - to the large area of the grid occupied by Italian sims. In a bid to put that right, I first pounced upon Renault Italia, but decided this was such a messy site that I would leave it for another day.

In looking at the map, however, my eye was drawn a couple of sims South, to Sony Pictures HE. When you see it (below) it is obvious why I might be interested!

Some bright spark has griefed the sim - plastering "Sorry the PS3 sucks Go 360" across it. How could I resist a look?

Actually, after crossing a low mountain range to get in, I couldn't find any sign of the above sign. Perhaps, by the time you read this, the SL map will have been refreshed and the sign will have disappeared. I went up to over 2000 ft to see if I could see it (it is hard to miss, I'd think!) - but nothing.

The sim beneath the sign is Italian, despite the name, and is intended to promote Sony's Home Entertainment solutions - the "HE" in the sim name. At one end of the sim you will find a stage with a New York backdrop, intended to get your spidey senses atuned. Walking towards the centre of the sim you cross a number of overlapping circles, over the last of which rotates a big blue DVD disk... Blu Ray... geddit? No? Well, in the High Definition DVD market there is a battle of formats, reminiscent of the VHS vs (Sony) Betamax battle of yesteryear. Sony (surprise!) are prime movers, indeed inventers, of Blu Ray.

Back to the sim... The platform beneath the rotating Blu Ray disk sits over a pond or lake that occupies the centre of the sim. Around the edge of the lake is an intricate set of structures featuring various products in the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment portfolio - games and DVDs. You can click many of these to bring up relevant webpages.

As I have not been keeping close tabs on this part of the grid - or indeed any part, it has grown so large - I don't know if I missed a launch. However, as there still one or two "plywood" objects about and some of the automatic streaming is not working, I assume that the sim is not officially open. Indeed, they also need to sort out that griefer sign!

I can't say I'm overly enthused about the site. It seems straightforward, and no doubt meets the client brief, but from a media company I think I expect more. Next up? The Renault Italia sim.

Ebuddy Metro Rezzable

In rambling around Second Life I would far rather explore scuzzy, grimy, gritty places than the clean, bland and rather antiseptic places that seem so prevalent, while sweet-sickly sentimental sites make me feel positively nauseous. Rezzable sims, at least those given over to design showcases, can usually be relied upon to deliver up something interesting, and often with a great grime quotient. This one, Ebuddy Metro Rezzable, hits the spot nicely.

This sim, which lies just to the South of the controversial Cannery Art Gallery, is the work of Second Lifer, Paulo Cassell. As he describes it in his profile: "4 Weeks, 8k prims, two muddy hands and a pile of freebies = The Dump... probably the most complex build I've done so far it made my eyes want to bleed... now if only I could remember where I left my keys."

It is basically a wasteland. A Battersea-like power station, belching smoke into the putrid air, sits at the end of a derelict street. A hole in the street leads down into the sewer system which runs under the sim. Half-wrecked trucks and buses sit, decaying, on a fenced off patch of bare earth. The bulk of the sim is taken up with The Dump... great mounds of rubbish and rusting vehicles, including a cargo ship that will never see the sea again, and an airliner now broken up and going nowhere. I set my Windlight viewer for cold & foggy, and here's how the pictures turned out:

As with other Rezzable "showcase" sims, this seems to serve no particular function, other than "something to be seen". There are several ebuddy sims, and one might expect these to have been built on behalf of the web and mobile messaging company of the same name. However, there is no sign that this is the case. No freebies here... or links... just mounds of detritus & rubbish - and I love it.

One point: maybe this is a Windlight effect, but the smoke from the power station and the burning tyres rises unnaturally fast. I'd be inclined to tweak the particle script to throttle it back slightly.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Kaufhaus Des Westens

While exploring the area near the Osram sims, I came across the 4-sim island KaDeWe, which belongs to the German department store, Kaufhaus Des Westens (more usually abbreviated, so it seems, to KaDeWe).

The RL store, which is apparently celebrating 100 years of trading, is located in Berlin, and lays claim to being the large department store in continental Europe, serving up a range of over 380,000 items to a passing trade in excess of 40,000 people per day. Originally opening its doors in March, 1907, it was badly damaged by Allied bombing in WWII. In fact, it was also badly damaged by an Allied bomber - which crashed into the building in 1943. So extensive was the damage it did not reopen until 1950, standing as a symbol of the economic success of West Berlin during the Cold War years.

The Second Life store sits at the junction of the 4 sims that go to make up the island, and appears to be a reasonable recreation of the RL building. Around it are photo-rendered shops and offices, to give the place a sense of context. The building itself is currently decked out for Christmas, and covers 3 floors. The ground floor has a couple of bars or seating areas together with a catwalk, the first floor has departments selling SL avatar clothing, while the top floor has a coffee bar and a photo-rendered deli. Here's my snaps:

I've actually been back to KaDeWe on a number of occasions, at various times, and there is always a small group of people there. I have not the faintest idea why.

The site itself is well built, and there are weblinks to Liventura (?) and Your SL - 2 companies presumably involved in the design and delivery of the site. I am not clear as to the purpose of the site, other than as a promotional vehicle for their 100th anniversary year. However, I am intrigued about the small group of folks who seem to be in near-permanent residence! Perhaps some kind soul would like to provide some illumination on this.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Polskie Radio

Here's one I've been keeping an eye on for a couple of months, but that seems to have opened without my noticing: Polskie Radio. This may not be the first Polish island in Second Life, but it's certainly the first one I've seen in some time. My last visit to Poland in SL was Second Krakow, back in August.

Polskie Radio is Poland's public radio station, their equivalent of BBC Radio I suppose, and has been broadcasting since 1925. Actually I'm not sure, given Poland's troubled history, how continuous this has been - but it appears to be thriving today. It is odd to think that 10 years ago radio was all but dead, killed off by TV and home entertainment systems, yet the media enrichment of the internet has led to a great resurgence. Polskie Radio today has 4 main channels:

  • Jedynka - information and easy listening music
  • Dwójka - culture and classical music
  • Trójka - alternative, jazz, rock and all other music
  • Bis - youth oriented, educational
All of these are represented in the Second Life site, which is divided into a number of smaller islands, one for each channel. The theme is tropical, and certainly not typically Polish! Each of the smaller islands is easily identified by the station ident and has an arrival zone, a venue or large meeting area, together with a number of smaller seating areas where a few people can get together and chat. The Bis island also has a motocross track which you can attempt using the quadbikes provided. Each station's arrival zone provides free drinks along with extensive information about the channel - or at least I assume it does, as it is all written in Polish, yet another of the World's languages in which I have absolutely no proficiency. There seems to be a general lack of weblinks or other information here. If your Polish is good, there is an information blimp which will take you on a tour of the sim.

I tried a little light Googling to see if I could spot a press release for this sim, but drew a blank. This could be lack of patience on my part, or it could indicate a "soft launch" - a quiet opening to test the waters. Feeling in a generous mood, I will go with the latter interpretation. The sim is missing a schedule of events and, as I already mentioned, links to websites, podcasts or other sources of non-SL content. However, I rather like the build itself. They have crammed a lot into the sim, and yet it feels airy, relaxed and intimate. All of the meeting areas and auditoria are outdoors, and built to a human scale - no grand sweeping tower blocks full of almost useless office spaces. But it also feels like a place that is waiting for something to happen.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Centric Virtual - plus the Cory Story

It seems like ages since I last blogged about a Dutch site in Second Life, yet once upon a time I couldn't move without stumbling across a new one. Tonight, however, it is time to redress the balance, with a trip to Centric Virtual. Many folks will associate the word "Centric" with the American marketing agency that specialises in social media and virtual worlds. However, this particular Centric is a Dutch IT firm.

In fact, the company employs around 8,500 in a number of European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Norway and Switzerland. It offers a comprehensive range of services: consultancy; IT solutions; software engineering; e-business; systems integration; managed ICT services and training. The main feature of their Second Life presence, however, is their Centric Melodies offering. I will need to rely on my pal, VeeJay, to tell me what this is all about, but from what I can make of it, it seems to be a middleware solution, connecting web user and other clients with back-office systems. If you are a Dutch speaker you can find out more in this brochure (pdf).

The Centric Virtual island looks to be under construction. In fact it only has 2 major structures - a Centric Melodies stage and an R&D building, where there appears to be some building experimentation going on. A rudimentary network of paths connects the 2 structures. If your Dutch is up to it, there appears to be a Centric Melodies test system you can try out. A couple of loungers in the stage area will accept chat input and (I'm joining the dots furiously here, you understand!) convey this to a back-office help system.

I took a few snaps:

As you can see, the island is quite bare at the moment, but I assume Centric thought it had enough content to make it worthwhile making it available to the general public. If so, I'm not sure they are right. There is too little to really get much from the site, although I suppose it did introduce me to an IT company I did not know previously... and resulted in this blog post. Hmmm...


The Cory Story
Since every blogger and his/her dog seems to be blogging about the departure of Cory Ondrejka from his post as CTO for Linden Lab I thought I'd add my tuppence-worth. Cory was the 4th employee of Linden Lab, joining back in November, 2000. Prior to this, according to the Linden Lab website, he'd "served as Project Leader and Lead Programmer for Pacific Coast Power and Light. At PCP&L, he brought the 'Road Rash' franchise to the Nintendo for the first time with 'Road Rash 64' and built the core technology teams that completed multiple products for Nintendo and Sony console."

According to a leaked internal email from CEO Phil Rosedale: "As it grows, the needs of our company are changing, and the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved. Therefore, Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions. During Cory's tenure the engineering team has grown tremendously, and given the breadth and depth of our technical expertise, we do not foresee any impact on our development plans. Together, we've produced great things in the development of Second Life, and I know Cory will go on to achieve excellence in his chosen field."

While here's a snippet of an internal email that Moo Money posted: "Cory and I have differences in how we think Linden should be run, differences that in the past few months have become irreconcilable... as we change and grow as a company, I feel that we need a different set of strengths in engineering leadership." The full text is here.

As a friend of mine put it, small companies need uber-hackers - they ignite the process, build innovative solutions and get you up and running quickly. I may be doing Cory a disservice, but it seems to me he fits into this category. However, once you have a large (and largely successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery. The skills for this sort of role are quite different, and this may be where Rosedale has identified a key weakness. God knows, most of us are aware that this has been a key weakness!

Whether this is the role of a CTO is another matter, but if I were in Rosedale's shoes I would be looking to achieve a stable environment (after implementing Windlight and Havok 4!). Next year is going to be tough going for virtual world companies - mainly due to the sheer number that will be available. Second Life needs to get itself fit to fight its corner - and getting a consistent QoS level is a vital part of this. Sharing a common vision is, of course, another.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

A Random Selection of Sites I Like

At the recent Sophrosyne's Salon I showed a slide containing a hotch-potch of some of the SL sites I like. When asked, I rather rashly agreed to produce a notecard. With Second Life currently down for maintenance, I thought I'd do the next best thing(?) and list them here. But first - here's the slide (click for a link):

The sites are:

Row 1:
Dunder Mifflin Offices (The Office)
Repares - Virtuool's Giant Head
Art Center - Xantherus and Rhizome

Row 2:
Rezzables - Black Swan
Suruga Bank
Tokyo Mainland
Dresden Gallery

Row 3:
Amazon Web Services
A well-known vodka...
Chichen Itza
Koelner Dom

Row 4:
Reflexive Architecture demo
Blue Pill - Belgian build company
9/11 Memorial by Liam
Vietnam Memorial - The Wall - by Meme Sciences
SLtk Pro

Row 5:
Vranken Diamant
San Franceso d'Assisi
Leo Burnett

The other sites I listed as favourites are:
Spin Martin's assorted sites (though they have probably changed many times)
Dogfight Island
The Far Away (aka The Wheatfield)

If you are so inclined, you should be able to track down all of these sites by searching this blog. Can't be bothered? I don't blame you. But who knows? It might while away a few minutes while you wait for SL to come back after maintenance - or you may prefer to leave it for those dull days after Christmas when, torpid and full of wine and turkey, you need something mindless to do.

Monday, 10 December 2007

The View from New New Alville

While a couple of posts are brewing, I thought I'd share with you a few snaps from my own little plot of Second Life - New New Alville. The guy in the floating chair is my RL and SL chum, Hiram Taurog, all togged up for a business meeting. I hope he won't mind when I say that his avatar bears an uncanny resemblance to his RL self.

I also thought that most of these Windlight pics came out pretty well, I hope you like them - at least 1 or 2 them - too.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Extropia Salon - Aleister Kronos

A curious day yesterday.

I had the pleasure of being Sophrosyne Stenvaag's guest at Extropia Core, for a conversation/free-for-all loosely related to the subject of "Creativity and Corporate Builds." It was a fun 2 hours, with so much contribution from the floor that I reckon I only got through about 30% of the stuff I had thought to cover. But this is one of the enjoyable things about Sophrosyne's Salon... it is a rambling, open, anarchic exchange of thoughts, ideas and a few prejudices - and very refreshing it is too.

I have to say, it got progressively more difficult to get a word in edgeways, as there was so much to read and react to. A day later, and I still need to sift through the log to catch the many witticisms and insightful ideas I missed. Sadly, I was a tad too preoccupied to capture any snapshots, but you can find some in Soph's blog.

Owing to a personal issue suddenly arising in RL, I had to make my excuses and leave shortly before the 2 hours were up. This issue is now hopefully resolved, but thanks to the many people who expressed their concern and support.

Another Day at the SL Office

I got an IM from Draxtor Despres the other day, pointing me at his YouTube videos taken from Life4U, "The First TV Magazine in Second Life." In particular you might enjoy viewing their recent article on The Office, which you can find here, before rummaging for other goodies!

One Million Linden Dollars at Osram

Do you fancy yourself something of a conceptual designer, a truly innovative talent in the manipulation and use of light, able to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor, while maintaining a post-post-pre-modernist stance on post-modernism? Then you might just be interested in an opportunity to pocket 1 million Linden smackeroos.

Osram, the lighting company, have just kicked off a competition looking for ideas connected with the world of light. The best idea gets the prize and will be made into a real world solution. "We believe that Second Life holds a huge international potential for creativity," says Juliane Braun, Head of Corporate Communications, explaining the rationale behind the competition. "We would like to pick up on this and find out how ideas are developed in a virtual world." You can read the whole press release here.

Be warned though... this is not a quick win. The process will take several months to complete. Here is the relevant info from the press release:

Anyone can apply by submitting a preliminary sketch of the idea for the qualifying round. From the start of the competition on 6 December 2007, the Second Life residents will have four weeks' time to enter. A total of 250 of the entries will be selected - and then the next round will begin in five groups of fifty competitors. The ideas will be refined and elaborated with supervision and presentation by OSRAM specialists. The winner and runner-up in each group will progress into the next round. And: each group winner will receive 75,000 Linden dollars and each group runner-up 25,000 Linden dollars.

The ten finalists will then undergo more scrutiny and their ideas will be further developed with light professionals from OSRAM. The winner or the winning team of the One Million (Linden) Dollar Idea competition will be announced after five months. The most original ideas will be presented again and displayed to the community at a big final party.
So it will be quite an undertaking. I assume that in the Ts&Cs the team will surrender any IPR - but the prize is tempting, and having access to skilled professionals is an interesting (and positive) twist.

Osram itself is a global company, headquartered in Munich and employing around 40,000 worldwide, with 49 factories located in 18 different countries. Although the company is over 100 years old, and is based in the conservative state of Bavaria, it has a long tradition of research, with around 5% of sales spent in R&D. This competition fits very will with their approach to innovation.

Their presence in Second Life spans 4 sims - 2 full sims and 2 low-prim "water" sims. I am not sure when they came in, but I think it was in the Autumn. Their first main activity was a recreation of Munich's famous Oktoberfest, with a large fun fair and other attractions - and some suitably traditional garb as freebies, including the "serving wench" dirndl. The fest occupies most of 1 sim and will run for 20 weeks, according to this press release. The other full sim features the Million Dollar Idea competition along with a Christmas-y theme. There is a large advent calendar that delivers a new giftie every day (yesterday's was a 4-wheeled vehicle apparently). An auditorium and meeting rooms, together with extensive information about the company and the competition, occupy a large blue building. This is modelled on Osram's DOT-it, the "anywhere light", that features 3 LED bulbs in a colourful circular shell. There is also an outdoor dance area.

Although I had limited time, I did manage to take a few photos:

While I was there I saw 2 distinct groups of visitors, each group being around 10 strong. I plan to go back to explore a bit more, but I am encouraged that the site is getting traffic. I found it by accident, having not read of its existence before. I like the tone they are setting here, the approach seems sound too. I would question the duration of the competition, which does seem to go on for an eternity in SL terms. But if it works, then it could form the foundation for an interesting innovation community.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Evolutions Museum

Yet more from the prolific Second Life designer, architect and builder: Scope Cleaver. Out on the Arcana sim, which appears to be a regular private residential area - a tropical sim, carved into a number of smaller parcels - you will find the Evolutions Museum. The idea of the museum is quite neat. There are many great object creators in Second Life, people who specialise in anything from jewellery all the way up to mega-prim buildings. The skills of these folk seem nigh-on unreachable to us mere mortals, with our feeble sandbox dabblings. However, every one has to start somewhere, and this museum helps show how these great constructors have evolved. You get to see, and contrast, their early work against their more contemporary work. In almost all cases the evolution is spectacular - and offers more than a crumb of hope to aspiring constructors who feel they can't possibly compete.

The building housing the collection was created by Scope Cleaver. It is a much more traditional edifice (by his standards) than his recent mega-builds for Alexander Beach and Virtual Estonia. In essence, it's a 2-storey box, with glass walls supported by a delicate filigree of steel struts. This allows a lot of light in to the museum, making it a light, airy display space. I was surprised to find no notecards with the displays. Are there any? If I wasn't looking in the right place then they should be made easier to find! [see update below]

Here's my photos:

The site officially opens today, and I would suggest that you pop along - it really is rather fascinating.

Oh, the last photo... the one showing the invitation... is NOT part of the build. hehe.

UPDATE: My pal Lem points out - see comments - that there are notecards. I was just in too much of a rush to spot them. Click on the artist names... and Bob's yer uncle.

AOL Pointe RIP

AOL opened their AOL Pointe island in Second Life around the start of the year. I rather liked it, as I wrote back in February. However, I heard quite a lot of sniping about the site thereafter, and rarely saw much sign of an emerging SL community. By the end of the Summer I was hearing the damning "ghost sim" in relation to it. So perhaps it should come as no suprise to find that AOL have pulled out of Second Life.

According to this AOL blog:

AOL Pointe was built to provide a fun and engaging place for the Second Life community. We created this experience to learn more about virtual worlds and what people like and don't like.

It has been a fun and rewarding ten months, with streaming music (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Linkin Park, etc.), Sticky Wall contests, and Friday nights at Club AOL. We are grateful to the avatars who attended these events, as well as took advantage of places like the Centrifuge Skate Park and the Quiz Time Lounge.

We've gained a lot of insight from our participation in Second Life and we're now refocusing our efforts in virtual worlds. While we have closed AOL Pointe, you will soon be seeing more of AOL products and content across the metaverse. So stay tuned to for more information about when and where.
AOL are not the first company to follow this route, and certainly won't be the last. I would be curious to know the real story here... or rather, the full story. And what of the future? Will we see AOL3D next year? Or more dabblings in other virtual worlds, such as There or (if you want to go global) HiPiHi?

I still liked the AOL build and am sorry to see them go.

Al Arrives Late at Alexander Beach

I seem to be having one of those weeks... or two... or maybe more. I got an invite to the opening of Princeton's newest, and most exhiliratingly strange build in Second Life, Alexander Beach. But I never actually seemed to get there. I will blame timezones, though I suspect that is as lame as a 3-legged camel, excuse-wise. OK... I just missed it, alright?

I first visited Alexander Beach in September. At that time it was still under construction, though the main features were starting to take shape. The sim is part of the extensive Princeton cluster, built under the excellent and sensitive stewardship of Persis Trilling. It is a fascinating mix of new and old/ RL and SL. Scope Cleaver has provided several buildings for the cluster, but none as large and ambitious as this, for Alexander Beach.

The structure spans the entire sim diagonally, with a large auditorium at one end and an exhibition area at the other. In form it is like a giant insect - at least, it is to me. The enclosed abdomen houses the auditorium, while the exhibition area occupies the head and thorax. Two stubby wings project at right-angles from the thorax, providing sandboxes for use by Princeton students. The intricacy of the design is something to behold and the attention to detail is spell-binding. I've taken rather a lot of snaps - which I hope you enjoy:

After my conversation with Sophrosyne at Extropia Core on Saturday, I'm hoping to scoot over to the opening of the Evolutions Museum, another new Scope build, which showcases "the humble beginnings and fascinating evolution of some of the most talented content creators in SL."

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Like The Song Says...

Thanks to Munich Express for passing me this. Be afraid - be very afraid:

Some Extropian Announcements

Here's a couple of announcements from (or on behalf of) Sophrosyne Stenvaag of Extropia Core. First up:

Sophrosyne's Saturday Salon: Creativity and Corporate Builds
When..... Saturday, December 8, 2007 at 1:00pm - 3:00pm SLT
Where... The Nexus at Extropia Core

Please join us as we discuss what makes an effective corporate build, and how to liberate our design imaginations!

Our Spotlight Guest will be Aleister Kronos, of the popular and insightful blog, Ambling In Second Life! Al is a veteran traveler, wildly creative designer, and incisive design critic. Join him for an amble through the best and worst of Second Life builds!

It's nice to be invited and I'm looking forward to it, albeit with a looming sense of dread. Do come along if you fancy it, and get a thrilling sense of schadenfreude while I demonstrate my mastery of the bleedin' obvious.

The second announcement from Sophrosyne concerns the excellent - and fun - site: She has set up a contest aimed at benefitting both freerice and Second Life Africa. The latter is an initiative by Uthango, a South African social investment company. As she explains in this blog post:

I've staked $USD 250 as prize money for a contest to run for three weeks, from December 1, 2007 to December 21, 2007. At the end of that time, on December 22, 2007, I'll award all the prize money that's been won at a party in Second Life.

For every person who posts a top score of 50 (one score per player - if you post 10 screencaps of 50, we'll still only pay out once!), we'll pay you $L250, and donate $L1000 to Second Life Africa. For every person who posts a score of 49, we'll pay you $L250 and donate $L750 to Second Life Africa. For every person who posts a score of 48, we'll pay you $L250 and donate $L500 to Second Life Africa. We will *not* pay out more than $USD250, unless we receive other sponsors. Once we have $USD250 in winners, the contest will be over.

Good causes, a fun and challenging game and prizes! What more could you want?

Hard To Find Records

OK, I know, this one has been around for months - well, since August as far as I can determine. But as part of my ongoing mopping up operations near some of the Rivers Run Red client islands I happened on this site and went for a look. I have mentioned before, if I see on the Map that a sim name consists solely of initials I will give it a go, since there is a strong chance that it will prove relevant to this blog. That is, it will be a company, education establishment or non-profit organisation. And this island illustrates my point: HTFR. The initials stand for Hard To Find Records, a UK-based online store [with an offline outlet in Birmingham] that specialises in... umm... hard-to-find records, and more broadly, DJ equipment in general.

These hepcats, with their zoot suits, winklepickers, moptop haircuts and spandex pants appear to have shown a 23 skidoo in the direction of your regular build firms, and have mashed up their own happy house/grindcore sim, ina metapunk styl-ee, innit.

Right, that's quite enough of that...

The sim is modelled on a turntable, with the HTFR shop in the centre. The initials have been cleverly worked into a range of mountains, and so are visible from the Map view. The main features of the online shop are on display in the virtual shop -vinyl, T-shirts, equipment, including lights, speakers and decks. The place is staffed by rather convincingly rendered "cutouts" - though it wouldn't hurt them to smile once in a while, would it? There's also a sound stage, sandbox and maze. A number of virtual items are available for a fee - though I didn't spot any freebies, apparently there is a shop T-shirt available. The T-shirts didn't appear to work for me, but I could buy speakers and other items if I so chose (I didn't). Most items have links to corresponding pages in the HTFR website. In a telling pointer to the gender split in DJ'ing - and much to my surprise - there are a number of places where you can get your photo taken with a young lady, though the latter is only a cut-out.

I rather like this place. A pro-builder would probably think it could do with a bit of polishing, but it's got some nice ideas, nicely executed. I also admire the fact that it appears to be entirely self-built. While it may not win many awards, perhaps it could scoop a small prize in the indie section ( I can almost sense my grave being spat on for using the word "indie" here!). I get the impression of a friendly, enthusiastic shop that is embracing Second Life to see if it works, and 'cos it's fun to do. Good luck to 'em.

Not many snaps - but here you go...

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Virtual Estonia

Estonia has just become the latest country to set up a presence in Second Life. I missed the launch, but popped along for a look anyway. Estonia seems to have been under the heel of one empire or another for much of its history. But it declared independence from the ailing Soviet Union in 1991, bidding farewell to the last Russian troops leaving its soil in 1994. The Estonians are most closely related to their neighbours across the Baltic, the Finns - and the Estonian language shares many similarities with the distinctly unusual Finnish language. This might go a long way to explaining why the conversations I overheard looked more like loosely-joined hands of Scrabble, with a few extra jots and tittles for good measure.

As I missed the speechifying, and could find little information on the island itself, I have no idea what the purpose of Virtual Estonia may be. So I will go with the stock answer for such places: "it is there to promote awareness of the country, its art and culture, commerce and tourism." That may not be right - but it'll do for now.

The island is completely dominated by what I can only assume is the virtual Estonian embassy. There are meeting spaces and art galleries inside, and wide outdoor terraces offering views across the island. This immense building is the work of Second Life's very own Mr Scope Cleaver. It is complex in its construction and must have taken an age to do. In fact, having a clue as to Scope's work rate and some inkling as to how long he's been working on this, I would hazard a guess that this is his most complicated construction to date. It is pretty amazing and I am sure many will be surprised and will disagree with me when I say I don't really like it that much. Sorry - but because of its location it is virtually impossible to get a good view of the place. Instead I see snippets, elements, but I don't get a feel for the whole thing and the snippets therefore seem disjointed in some way. There is much to admire, but I just wish it had been... well... smaller. If the plan is to extend the presence to multiple connected sims then maybe it will work better (for me).

Here's my photos:

Prim Hearts Amusement Park

My thanks for spotting this one go to my friend, TerryAnn Antonelli. She has a knack for finding cool sites. As the title of this post suggests, tonight's site is not a corporate, university or not-for-profit island. Given my past record, you may also be surprised to hear it's not even Japanese. Rather, if you have a piece of land in Second Life, and are looking for a fairground or amusement park ride to perk it up, then this is the place to come.

As the notecard on the island tells me: "Prim Hearts Metaverse Development is a virtual company owned by Sarg Bjornson, a resident in the virtual world Second Life. Sarg creates the best amusement park rides available in SL, offering a wide range of ride shapes and variations for his customers." Despite the name, Sarg is, in fact, Spanish and according to his profile this makes him "hot by default." Yes... well... :-)

I spent only a short time here - or rather, it felt like I'd only spent a short time here, as there is so much to do. The Prim Hearts Amusement Park is chock full of rides and other diversions, including an aquarium. And most - if not all - of these rides are for sale. Don't worry, though. You don't have to buy - and riding them appears to be free. There's a giant waterslide, a haunted house, rockin' pirate ship, log ride and various other rides that, in RL at least, would help you lose your lunch. If you want to recover from "jelly legs" you can take a pew to race radio-controlled boats.... and well much, much more.

Aside from the cleverness and intricacy of some of the ride animations, I was particularly struck by the quality of the textures. Most of the rides had just the right amount of grime, rust and general seediness that I like - very reminiscent of certain UK coastal resorts or (I would hazard) Coney Island, perhaps.

Rather a lot of photos - but at least you now get them in this fancy slideshow. Enjoy!

If you get the opportunity, and you fancy a break from the drudgery, then why not scoot along? It may not have the lunch-losing excitements of The Big One at Blackpool, but it is a fun island - and I'd have to agree with Sarg's assertion that he does, indeed, create the best amusement park rides available in SL

Monday, 3 December 2007

Banque Cantonale Vaudoise

While pottering about today I noticed a coupled of islands with the initials "BCV". I last tried to access these (unsuccessfully) some months ago - but they are open now**. In my RL world BCV is an acronym for Business Continuity Volumes, something techie in the world of data centre storage. So I was half-expecting to find another IT company - perhaps with a walk-in SAN, where you could surf on a disk drive, fly down some fibre optic cable... or somesuch nonsense. In the event, BCV turned out to be Banque Cantonale Vaudoise, a Swiss bank. "Founded in 1845, BCV is a banking group offering a full range of retail,private and corporate banking services -concentrating most of its general banking business in the Canton of Vaud."

The primary BCV island is solely for the bank itself, while BCV island 2 seems to be given over to various Swiss companies. The whole place is rather intensely green, with the occasional pale blue - part of the bank's branding. The main building is rather nicely made, and contains a gallery along with the usual information displays one might expect. Next door is a rather odd auditorium that took some getting into and aside from a funny little, black office, that is about it for the main island. A causeway links the two islands (so I guess that makes it only 1 island really), in the middle of which is curvy, shiny, faintly-mushroomy sculpture. The second island is split into a variety of plots, none of which particularly grabbed my attention. There are a few fun items here: you can fly a UFO (hitting Page-Up to make it hop upwards); be fired from a cannon or be catapulted off a water slide. There may be other hidden pleasures, but I didn't spot them.

While Blogger sorts out the issues with images, I will post up another Flickr set - only 3 pictures tho.

** VeeJay points out in comments that he was here back in July. My, how time flies! I coulda sworn it was more recently than that when I tried to get in. Oh well.

Sunday, 2 December 2007


Second Life sims exist for a multitude of purposes. Some are there to promote companies or specific products; some are private meeting areas; some are for educators; some are the playgrounds of role-players; some are shopping malls and some are simply residents' second homes. A very few are there "just because" - and one that might fit this category is Syncretia. The sim belongs to Elif Ayiter (Alpha Auer in Second Life) who, according to her website, is "an artist, designer and educator, specialising in the development of hybrid educational methodologies between art&design and computer science. Elif speaks fluent English and German along with her native tongue, Turkish."

As she explains on Flickr: "Syncretia is my island. It is the third island of an archipelago comprised of die Angewandte on the far west, the Synthetic University in the middle and Syncretia on the east. Both die Angewandte and Synth Uni are domains of my colleague Mosmax Hax, who actually teaches at both these institutions in RL. I intend to use Syncretia for research, education and personal creativity; as well as a building ground for friends to share with me..."

At the moment the island of Syncretia appears to be at an early stage of development - and very much focused on personal creativity (in my view). I stumbled upon it while poring over the Second Life map, and am pleased I did. Even though it is not much further forward than initial terraforming and a small number of objects, I thought it was a lovely place and I like Elif's take on Second Life. Why put plants on the ground when they can float in the air? After all... they don't need nutrients to thrive in SL. Why not have a meeting place at the bottom of the sea? You are hardly likely to drown in SL. I hope to make many return visits to see how the island evolves, since its sensibilities are fairly in tune with my own.

To get a flavour of the place, here are my photos. Since blogger seems to have taken to enforcing downloads when clicking on pictures I thought I'd try something else - so here goes:

Well I like it :-) (Thanks to Xantherus for the viewer tip)