Monday, 30 April 2007

New Names for May Day

Nothing to show here - just wanting to put my marker down, so to speak :-)

While searching for somewhere worth visiting I spotted the following, that speak of things to come:

Intel 1 - 9: A cluster of identical new islands. This sort of approach usually indicates a product launch event of some sort. My guess would be a tie-in with something around mid-Summer. (Thanks to VeeJay at Mindblizzard for spotting this)

Lenovo: The PC company that used to be IBM once upon a time.

eBay: A vaguely familiar name, methinks!

More later?

Cool Koolhoven

Well it looks like I'm back on a Dutch riff again. While pottering about tonight I came across the island of webattach and assuming I'd happened upon some kind of new media company, flew in for a closer look. It transpires that the island actually belongs(?) to the Dutch town of Koolhoven - which took some finding on the internet. Given the oddities of a Babelfish translation, my assumption is that the town is intended to appeal to nature-lovers and those of a green persuasion. In any event, I was able to work out that it has 2000 houses, and boasts good communications and sensitively combines public parkland with the housing.

The build is still in progress, with most houses now constructed (though looking rather bare). Towering behind the houses is a skyscraper that seems to boast just 2 floors. The ground floor provides information in Dutch about Koolhoven, while the first floor is home to a sparse board room.

Anyway, apologies for the brief nature of this posting. I will need to rely on my Dutch chum at Mindblizzard to actually make more sense of it!

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Project Open Letter

The following is the text of "Project Open Letter", which (as the name implies) is an open letter to Linden Labs, signed by many of the leading lights in Second Life development (umm... and me). If you agree, why not add your name to the list?

In the past eighteen months, Second Life has expanded, growing from a small community of early adopters to a platform supporting millions of users. Linden Lab has created a world that inspires a deep level of passion in its users and provides unprecedented opportunities to share creatively, socially, and financially.

With explosive levels of growth often come unexpected problems. In keeping with your company's policy and rich history of resident involvement, we the undersigned would like to take this opportunity to address some concerns that we feel have gone unanswered for too long.

There are some consistent, ongoing problems that are getting worse under heavy load, not better, and are not simply irritants but problems that are causing financial loss in some cases, which is unacceptable. Here is a brief list of the main concerns:

* Inventory loss - this is a devastating problem that is worsening. We have no ability to protect our own inventories through backups, and are trusting you to protect that data. This is the highest priority. Sensible inventory limits (on non-verified accounts only), combined with better management tools and ways to protect our inventory ourselves would help to mitigate the problem as well. Regardless, this cannot continue - we will not accept financial loss as a feature of Second Life. It is your responsibility as service provider to ensure our data is not lost, and you are failing us.

* Problems with Find and Friends List - we continue to see search outages on a far too regular basis. It is bad enough trying to get anywhere without being able to use search, but many users are also paying money for classified ads. Our friends lists just do not work reliably any longer, after years without an issue with them. If America Online/MSN/Yahoo can provide presence information for hundreds of millions of users, surely there is a way to make our friends lists work again.

* Grid stability and performance - teleports fail quite regularly, especially under heavy load. Attachments end up in places they did not start out in, and sim performance varies wildly. None of this makes for a very pleasant experience for users. Long promised improvement to physics and scripting would help dramatically to reduce these problems, but there are a lot of other scalability issues as well. It often feels like the grid is coming apart at the seams. The promised use of limiting logins of non-verified accounts during peak load has been severely lacking. This would be an effective interim solution to load issues, but Linden Lab seems unwilling to use it.

* Build tool problems - the importance of build tools that actually work as promised cannot be overstated enough - we rely on them to create content.Prim drift, disappearing prims, imprecise placement, problems with linking and other issues with the tools need to be addressed. Too much time is being spent trying to work around the problems.

* Transaction problems - inventory deliveries are failing with an alarming (and annoying) frequency, leaving merchants with the burden of replacing missing content and having to try to confim the transaction in the first place. We trust that our L$ balances are accurate, but given recent problems, that is a cause for concern as well, and one we place our full trust in you to ensure its accuracy.

We remain fully supportive of Second Life and are more than willing to continue doing our part to help, but our confidence is steadily being eroded due to a general lack of communication and the apparent failure to successfully address the many issues detailed above. What we are asking for is that these problems are addressed immediately, ahead of new features, and that we are able to see tangible improvements. We accept that this will not happen overnight but it also cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely either.

Saturday, 28 April 2007


Perhaps you have already read about the Reperes giant head office, created by my friends at Virtuool.

Last night my wolf friend Joshua Culdesac contacted me to let me know that Virtuool, in effect a 2-person company, have now taken the plunge and acquired their own island in Second Life: Celestial Isle. I went along to see what my chum has been up to - as he's always got something interesting tucked up his sleeve, or in his inventory.

The first thing he showed me was his kitchen planner. This is a logical extension of the graphics facilities offered by specialist RL kitchen planners. In short order, Virtuool can construct your dream kitchen for you, using supplied plans. You can then walk through and check out its suitability, with adjustments possible in real time to address any shortcomings or problems with the plan. The intention is to offer the facility for use by RL kitchen planners, but of course it can also be used to design your ideal SL kitchen.

Next on the tour was the low-prim house. The house clocks in a 70 prims - perhaps not ultra-low, but nonetheless useful for the many SLers with tiny plots of land. As with most Virtuool builds it is also heavily scripted. It offers secure door access, privacy and visitor logging, but the most interesting scripting is in the teleport that allows you to move from one floor to another. This has been designed to minimise the prim count and eliminate the need for the transport to be unlinked from the rest of the house. However, you need to Joshua to explain how it works! Virtuool have also been designing a basic shop structure, for sale to budding SL entrepreneurs.

Also on the island you will find the opposite end of the housing market - an ultra-high prim house. This is not as bizarre as it may seem. The house has been designed and built using architectural plans for a US East Coast property company and, like the kitchen, is intended to offer virtual walk-throughs for prospective buyers of the RL house. Therefore, it needs to be as good a simulation as possible (right down to the micro-detailing on the front-door keyhole!). Joshua is also planning to produce a low-prim version for sale to SL house buyers.

The last main feature at ground level is the showroom, showcasing a number of the objects that Virtuool have built in the last few months. A new line is the Surprise Luggage, a range of suit-cases and valises that, when opened, reveal something unusual and amusing. For reasons best known to them, Virtuool have also been working on a range of spoof doctor's equipment. I can particularly recommend the thermometer!

Virtuool's main development area is a gigantic hangar, floating high above the island., where even the high-prim house is dwarfed. It was here that Joshua showed me the last of his gizmos - and one which I think could have a lot of uses. It is a set of presentation tablets, with one master (used by the lecturer or presenter) and a number of slave tablets. As slides are loaded into the master tablet, they are automatically displayed on the slave tablets. Once the sequence has been loaded, the slides are in effect buffered, so performance is optimised. What I found intriguing was that the slave tablets could be up to 100 metres from the master - giving the option to replicate a presentation across a number of slave displays set within a circle of 100 metres radius. Very useful for large-scale presentations, as well as smaller lecture venues.

I know Joshua is taking a calculated gamble with his move into building in Second Life, and I wish him and his colleague, Piper, all success. I like their "take" on things - there's usually something fun and quirky in their builds that makes you (a) smile and (b) wonder how they did it. OK... and sometimes (c), why did they do it?!

For more information contact Joshua Culdesac via IM or use the contact details on the website.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Sun gets on the Virtual Worlds bus

Thanks to my friend Port7 Sodwind - hey, I didn't choose the name - for bringing this to my attention. Following IBM's announcement yesterday regarding their construction of big boxes for hosting bitverse 3D virtual worlds comes word that Sun Microsystems is working on 3-D virtual workplaces.

To quote snippets from Information Week:
Sun Microsystems put the spotlight on its next-generation technology and showed off research projects that ranged from faster switches and more efficient servers to 3-D virtual workplaces in an open house for analysts and reporters. Among the projects that would wow even a nontechnical person is Sun's MPK20 virtual workplace. Sun has built a client called Project Wonderland that handles the graphics rendering and provides the controls for moving an avatar through the make-believe world.

While MPK20 isn't a physical office, it contains many real-world collaboration features. A company employee could have their own office in MPK20 and hold meetings with other workers. Within the virtual office, presentations could be shown on a wall, along with documents and spreadsheets that could be modified by the group. Basically, just about any office application can be brought into the virtual world.

Another feature is voice communications, which is handled through headphones and a microphone. The voice capabilities are designed to simulate the real world, so a person, for example, leaving a meeting would hear the voices of the others slowly fade. Walk toward two people talking, and the volume of the voices increase.

MPK20 could be ready for deployment within Sun in six months, said engineer Nicole Yankelovich. Sun would use the application internally before releasing it outside the company. The odd name stands for Sun's Menlo Park (Calif.) Campus, which has 19 physical buildings, and now a 20th that's virtual.

MPK20 is built on top of the new version of Sun's open source
Darkstar gaming server. While Wonderland does the graphics rendering, Darkstar handles everything else, such as load balancing, managing game state, and voice communications. For storing avatars and other game objects, Darkstar uses the Berkeley DB database, another open source project.

The Darkstar upgrade is scheduled for release in the summer, project director Karl Haberl said. A major feature in the new version is the ability to tie the servers in a cluster for handling more users. Load-balancing tools in the servers make it possible to move workloads around to avoid overtaxing any one machine.

UPDATE - 29th April:
For more on this here is the relevant webpage on the Sun site. This, in turn, contains a link to their "Collaborative Environments" home page. For their 3D environment they have turned to the Open Source Wonderland project which, in turn, builds on Darkstar (mentioned above).

Pass the Booz

Nothing too riveting in today's trawl across the islands and highlands of Second Life. But ever keen to keep a weather eye open for newcomers to SL I did bag this motley crew:

Booz Allen Center: Booz Allen is a(nother) global strategy and technology consulting firm, with more than 18,000 employees on six continents, generating annual sales of more than US$3.7 billion. It looks like they are now stepping into Second Life, with a brand new island.

Getronics is "the workspace ICT company" - in other words another technology consulting firm with offices around the World. They too have taken possession of a new island and construction is under way (see piccie below). Oh... if you do happen by, don't bother with the freebie dispenser - it's got a script bug at the moment. The build seems to be largely the work of GP Runo, a member of the OpenSL Group, assisted by Gene Replacement.

At present, all the basics of the build are in place, but it will presumably be a few weeks before the whole thing is finished.

JT World: Two islands (one built on - the other bare) belonging to JT Financial, whose website describes them thus: "JT Financial offers our customers a sound banking system. We strive to offer a very competitive if not the best interest rate available on SecondLife along with a very supportive and friendly customer service. We can offer a very competitive interest rate because customer's funds are invested in a Real-World high-yield investment strategy that can provide us returns of .5% to 3% daily with very limited risks." I have no idea how good/bad/indifferent this all is... but their island has a large office block, surrounded by a sizeable number of shops/offices for rent.

And finally, Our Virtual Holland has now expanded to 13 sims - and had been joined by the 4-sime Drop Zone.

Interesting news about Sculpted Prims coming to expand our build horizons. Something else for me to struggle to fathom the basics of! :-)
Here's a cool movie of sculpted prims in action.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Rezzable in Rezzable?

I will let you into a little secret. When I'm looking for new places I use a subtle blend of trial and error, scouring the MAP for likely points of interest and then making (usually vain) attempts to gain access. In tonight's little trip to this Well of Wonders I spotted an interesting cluster of fairly new, under-construction, islands - 29 of the blighters - all branded with the word "rezzable" somewhere in their names. Here's a snippet of the map view (click on it for a more detailed view):

The closest match I can find is a UK company called Rezzable Productions, but their webpage is just that - 1 page, a kind of matrix motif thing. So I don't know if this is the same "Rezzable". If you know, why not drop me a comment? It has all the appearance of a "walled garden", with islands for "ebuddies", sandboxes, battle zones, surfing (albeit that at least 2 of these islands are landlocked). Alternatively, it is the build/preparation zone for a company building sites for other people - "Stratos" for example could refer to the Lancia Stratos. AS you can see, I'm floundering here! I tried to access the islands - but whether it is the dodgy nature of SL at the moment or, more likely, access permissions - I was unable to effect a landing.

Oh... I mentioned Woodbury University recently. Well, while experimenting to see if teleports were actually working, I tried to TP here - and succeeded. The only problem was I was stuck underground - where some enterprising souls have mapped out a whole other side to the University! Above ground it is very conservative and staid - but below ground is a whole different ball game. It looks like a bunch of media students have been given free rein to do "something creative". In any event, it made for an amusing diversion (even though I got horribly stuck there!).

UPDATE 28/04: It looks like I've missed out on a right rollicking roller-coaster of a story about this - a tale of griefers, bouncers, unpleasantness and abuse - follow the link to Second Life Herald. It probably explains the bizarre experiences above. Also, with regard to Prokofy's article in the Herald, I don't always agree with her point of view, or the often intemperate way in which she expresses it. However, the bile and vilification heaped upon her in the associated comments is truly shameful to observe.

In Search of Gold

During my recent trip to Sprint Center I noticed a curious building, looking like a cross between a ziggurat and a favela, on a adjacent island. My curiosity got the better of me and so, having hoovered up the info at Sprint, I flew over for a closer look.

The island is called Eldorado, and is dedicated to Latin American culture. The "ziggurat/favela" is hollow, and floats above a plinth, at the heart of which lies a set of video screens, showing short movies from across Latin America. As the supplied notecard put it: "journey through the pyramid and enjoy all the treasures of the Hispanic culture. View some Latin American aspirations and realities in these awarded shorts, created by the emerging film talent from México, Perú and Argentina. Brought exclusively to you by Cinema Tropical and The Vidal Partnership."

Outside, in the luhs tropical gardens, you will find a number of sculptures. The inspiration comes from the “Ruta de la Amistad”, the world’s largest corridor of sculptures in a public space, where artists of the five continents created 19 imaginative art pieces for the “Mexico 68” Cultural Olympics. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down a website that gives much information about the original sculptures)

I was particularly taken with the pyramid textures, which were worth the trip on their own. Hopefully the proximity to Sprint Center will encourage the curious to make the short hop and find out more.


And just a quick "thank you" to Adri at Metaversality for the invite to last night's " KRTU Jazz for the Metaverse." KRTU , on 91.7 FM, provides jazz for San Antonio from Trinity University. Here's Adri grooving to Ella Fitzgerald:

It seemed to become a bloggers and twitterers convention - as often seems to happen to me these days! Unfortunately, I had to bow out early - the time difference between UK and Texas took its toll in the end - but not before I added some new SL friends and Twitter chumz.

Monday, 23 April 2007

UGS PLM in SL with ESC

UGS a "global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today announced the launch of its UGS Innovation Connection within Second Life." But it was a complete fluke that I happened upon the island. I was looking in the general vicinity of STA Travel, which I had opted not to blog because others have already just done that, when I spotted the interesting shape of UGS Innovation Connection island and thought I'd give it a go. It lies in a group of islands that have been built by Electric Sheep Company, and so it came as no surprise that this, too, is an ESC creation. albeit in partnership with UGS. It certainly has that unpredictability and flair I tend to associate with the Sheep.

The bulk of the build is given over to a display area that loops around an inlet. The area is split into zones relating to different type of customers: aerospace, automotive, hi-tech etc. Each of the zones has a video, some build samples and links to appropriate web pages. At one end of the display area is an auditorium, while at the other end is a meeting space.

I spoke with Solar Raymaker about the build. He gave me details of today's press release and told me: "UGS is about openness and interoperability. We are still learning about SL and how it fits with our vision and mission... We opened today. We are open to all and would like to involve all in different ways. Time will tell what works best. We see lots of opportunities and want to pursue many of them." When I looked this up in my I Spy Book of Marketing Terms, this translated as: "UGS see potential in SL and want to build something - but they don't really know what that 'something' is yet." Which is fair enough, most of the other companies here are in the same position - early adopters looking to see what works.

For the freebie-chaser there is a T-shirt, and there is a comments and suggestions clipboard, for visitor feedback.

For me I'm not sure they've quite latched on to the need for the "human touch" in SL - but then, it is only Day 1. I would suggest they start putting a schedule of events in place, and get some life injected into the place. Also, some inworld promotion would not be a bad idea.

Also, I know they are looking "to see what works" - but it is a good idea to have a plan before going too far into the build. At present, attractive as it is, it is largely a giant showroom. If that's the plan, then so be it. But if they find they have other requirements - employee ad hoc team creation, training, developer forums, recruitment - then they could find the current shape overly constricting.

ALSO: Can anyone enlighten me about the island of Falling Water? It is in the same island archipelago - and includes this little corker (though you need to get to c.500metres up to see it)

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam

First off... apologies... but here's yet another Dutch build. Thinks: I really must submit an expense claim to the Dutch Virtual Tourist Board.

While researching the new build for Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam (GLR) I came across the SL Toerisme site - a useful, and growing, pointer to a number of Dutch Second Life locations of all types. Mind you, it has not given me any further insight into the state of the build at GLR, most of which is not open to casual ramblers like me.

There is a building decked out with "Grand Opening" banners that is accessible - but I could not find any information as the whether the event was is the past, or is yet to be held. The general state of the build would suggest to me that there is more work to be done, but much of the island has already been constructed.

Presumably as a means of covering some of the costs, GLR are renting out small parcels of land. I will leave it to you to translate the notecard:

GLR Campus Woning - huurovereenkomst Iedere student van het GLR kan een GLR campuswoning huren die beschikbaar is voor verhuur. Gegevens woningen:
Wekelijkse huur: L$500,- Aantal prims: 351 Oppervlakte: 1536m2
Wekelijkse huur: L$300,- Aantal prims: 234 Oppervlakte: 1024m2
Wekelijkse huur: L$150,- Aantal prims: 117 Oppervlakte: 512m2

Studenten die een functie op het eiland hebben en één van de genoemde woningtypen huren krijgen bij hun wekelijkse uitkering een woonvergoeding van L$300,00, bovenop hun normale vergoeding (afhankelijk van functie)
De eilandbeheerder is ten alle tijden gerechtigd de huurovereenkomst niet te verlengen, dan wel te verbreken. Hiervoor moeten dringende redenen aanwezig zijn.

All of this leads me to conclude that the site is not yet officially open for business.

This was first blogged at Mindblizzard.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Education, Education, Education

With those words from our once-promising (in every sense) leader rattling in my skull, I thought it was about time I got back to the educators in Second Life.

First stop, the brand new island of Woodbury University, also called, by a lucky happenstance, "Woodbury University". The build is only in its infancy, but since I could TP in there I thought it worth a mention. I was particularly taken with the Millennium Falcon - but I don't suppose that will survive to the final stage of the build. "Woodbury University is committed to providing the highest level of professional and liberal arts education." It is in Burbank, California, and has just over 1500 students.

UPDATE 27/04: It looks like I've missed out on a right rollicking roller-coaster of a story since writing this - follow the link to Second Life Herald.

Just to the South is the island of the World Scout Jamboree, an event held in the last week of July and first week of August. This year's event is held at Hylands Park, Chelmsford in the UK - and also in SL apparently. Hmmm... thinks... shouldn't this be on the Teen Grid? Aside from a few tents (natch) nothing much to show as yet - but then they do have 3 months to finish the build. Oh.. and a small campfire for those needing a "Ging-Gang-Gooly".

Next stop: Brunel University, in the UK, has now opened the appropriately-named "Isembard Kingdom" island, in honour of the great engineer after whom the Uni was named. There are a couple of buildings and some landscaping, but the island is far from complete. Most - perhaps all - of it is being built by Robbi Jimenez. Once again, more of this site on a later visit, when there's cool stuff to talk about!

Ambling in

On entering SL tonight I was greeted by a number of announcements, but what really got my attention was an IM from Okilele Pinkenba.

"Hi Aleister, we are developing a Web site about SL places and people and created a card about the Ambling blog. Can you please check it in (just enter "Ambling" as keyword) and contact us in case a rectification is needed. A short note about slThere in your blog should certainly help us a lot. Thanks. Oki and the slThere team."

I immediately hot-footed it over to to have a look-see - followed the cunningly coded instructions, and was very flattered by what I read there. So big thanks for that Oki (there will be a "Please be my chum" request in your inbox when you log in). publicises events, people, groups and places across a wide range of categories - including blogs. Pop along if you've got a favourite you would like to mention.

Okilele asked for a pointer from here. Well, how could I refuse?

Monday, 16 April 2007

Getting Hispanic at Sprint

I mentioned some time ago that Sprint had a small cluster of islands in SL, but since then I've not tried to gain entry. However, while rummaging around I happened upon Sprint Center again, so I thought I'd give it a go. And sure enough, I found it was open. It's not what I'd call complete yet, but it looks like it is down to the finishing touches.

Interestingly the Sprint presence here is largely hispanic, and is seemingly themed around the staging of "Concierto Clandestino" in Second Life. To support this, there is an entrance way with bar/seating area, a gift shop (for the inevitable Tshirts) and a large auditorium - the "Sprint Center" - which is modelled on a RL equivalent currently under construction. In the entrance there is a countdown to the opening of the RL Sprint Center, in Kansas City - although it differs from that shown on the website by around 12 days.

As I said earlier, the build looks incomplete - there seem to be a number of rough edges - but the basics would appear to be in place. There are multiple Sprint Center islands (5 so far) and it would seem that the intention may be to clone the main island, so that it can accommodate a large crowd for launch. There is, as yet, no indication of when such a launch might be (or indeed, why the island has such a strong hispanic flavour).

The builders all belong to theSL group "NoDigital", which describes itself (using LSL scripting) as a design group, but this has revealed nothing to my (admittedly brief) Googling!

Oh... just for completeness: Sprint is a global (US-based) telecoms company, described in wikipedia as "one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. With 53.7 million subscribers, Sprint Nextel operates the third largest wireless telecommunications network in the United States (based on total wireless customers)."

Kronos in Cronos

I seem to have spent inordinate amounts of time lately telling you all about a string of Dutch and German sites in SL. So it seems only fair to stay in that region, and look to a new country for inspiration: Belgium. OK, some might be surprised to see "inspiration" and "Belgium" together in the same sentence (I know I was - and I wrote it). I have to admit that what led me to this site was not the Belgian connection but rather the name: cronos. Having spotted it, how could I not come and have a look?

The island appears to be the property of Cronos Yip, and seems well on the road to completion. The core of the island is a large office building, with outdoor movie theatre. There is a large list of movies available, though I found significant performance issues when I selected "play". The outdoor area also hosts a number of adverts for a number of different Belgian companies, ranging from radio and publishing, to IT development.

Around the edge of the island there is a marina and a couple of houses, though these look temporary to me. Quite what Mr Yip plans for the island I don't know and his profile is no help in trying to fathom out what the plan is. Anyway, like I say, with a name like that, I was duty-bound to pop by for a quick peruse.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Level 3 - but still a ways to go

I've been pottering about in SL this evening, in a rather random, aimless fashion. I read that Coca Cola launches officially in SL tomorrow, but I couldn't find any useful location, and I think I will have to wait a good while yet before anything starts happening on the cluster of Tokyo islands. So I just mooched about, until I came across Level 3. I have spotted this one before, but it's the first time I've tried to gain access for a while and, lo & behold, I got in.

Level 3 Communications (to give the full company name), based in Broomfield, Colorado, operates one of the largest communications and Internet backbones in the world. They "offer a comprehensive portfolio of network offerings that spans Internet Protocol (IP) services, broadband transport, colocation services, and patented Softswitch-based managed modem and voice services." And they are yet another comms company to set up shop is Second Life.

The island is only part-complete. There is a rudimentary "backbone" with a number of functioning slideshows that give you background on their products and services, and music is tuned to an internet African Music radio station (nice bit of soukous).

The far end of the backbone structure is given over to the "Broadband Theatre". I notice the English spelling here - hmmmm... curious. But aside from a few seating areas, and the start of an auditorium(?) there's not a great deal here as yet, although there are clear signs of work in progress.

The builders are coreaudiovisual, based in Santa Monica and Saint Louis, so I really don't get the spelling noted above - though as a Brit, it is nice to see. Given the relative immaturity of the island it is not really fair to critique it. It is simply not clear what ideas will be implemented here. At present, it is the basics one would expect (some meeting spaces and some weblinks) but I have no idea where it will go from here.

INSEAD - get a virtual MBA soon

I've just been to INSEAD for a quick look around.

INSEAD? What in tarnation is that? Well, once upon a time it was the 'Institut Européen d'Administration des Affaires' (European Institute for Business Administration) - hence the acronym. It describes itself as a "Business School for the World." (not exactly shrinking violets) with RL campuses in Fontainebleau and Singapore. Since the school extended its European roots to Asia, the acronym is no longer relevant, and is now simply known as INSEAD (pronounced IN-SEE-ADD)... and now they are now opening in SL. They specialise in MBA courses.

Anyway... let's look at the build. First off, the island is in a zone that is overflowing in new islands, so it is fair to assume that (at this time, at least) the
island probably has some way to go before it is complete.

Broadly speaking, it currently splits into 4 zones: library, auditorium, workshop and (always my favourite) bar. However, only a small part of the island is open, while construction goes ahead. The overall design calls for a propeller-shaped construction, with 3 principal "blades": the lab, the school and the public campus - all linked from a common arrival hub.

For freebie-lovers there is (or will be) a t-shirt (of course).

The build is at an interesting stage. INSEAD have provided a nicely worked area, sufficient to get them started while the bulk of the build proceeds. They can already host formal and informal meetings, in a public zone that is a fraction of the size of the main build. They already have a number of weblinks in place, and have Vivox set up for inworld speech. I'm not sure I like all of the design (a lot of stark white [again] - makes me think of German SL design companies). However, the overall shape planned for the final build looks great, with lots to entertain the eye. It would be interesting to know exactly how much course material they plan to deliver through SL. My initial thought was "oooh.. outreach" - but for such courses, SL outreach would need to be heavily augmented with CBT and (better) face-to-face course materials. That's wot I finks, anyway.

NEWSFLASH: Checkthis SLNN item regarding the (hopefully) thwarted griefer attack ("twatattack" has a better ring to it) due today.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

But is it Art?

I was at something of a loose end today, after playing with Adam Ramona's marvellous musical art installations at Marni I tried, in vain, to find somewhere new and previously unexplored. Once again, I spent an age listening to the "whoosh---*ping*" of failed teleports. But when I was about to give up I stumbled upon the island of View Ware Art.

The island is emblazoned with logos for, and being a naive explorer of this virtual world, unused to the fleshpots frequented by so many of its demented denizens, I was a little surprised at the... umm... "robust" nature of the website I found there. Definitely not recommended for those under-18, or looking for a work-safe link.

So what about the island? I suppose I should have known when asked to confirm that I was over 18 at the first door. There are currently 3 "towers" offering you insights into: "Sex Stars";"Making of" and "Lust Pur". Each contains a set of stills and screens with links to various movie pages on the website. To be fair, although the material is pretty strong by UK TV standards, and bordering on the outrageous for the USA, this seemed fairly typical Europorn TV fare. There is a strong branding of cherry red and white candystripes.

The "Beate Uhse" in question is Beate Uhse-Rotermund, an interesting lady, now sadly deceased. She was Germany's first female stunt pilot (no jokes about cunning stunts please) and she also opened the World's first sex shop (or so it says on Wikipedia). The company she started, Beate Uhse AG, claims to be the World leader in the sale of sex toys and - as I discovered above - has its own TV channel.

The island is clearly in a relatively early stage of development. It covers only a small proportion of the available land area and there are clear signs of further development in progress. It would therefore be unwise for me to speculate about the future shape and purpose of the island. Let's just say "it's another media company in SL", and leave it at that for the time being!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The Giant Head - or Making Reperes

If you follow, you may have spotted a brief mention of the Reperes HQ build in my recent article about the Jardin Des Halles competition. The Reperes HQ build is the result of another competition, won by Virtuool, under crazy French wolf-man, Joshua Culdesac. In their blog, Virtuool describe their entry as "an incredible 3000 prim assembly, [that] will permanently stand on Reperes island as a strongly attracting object with a highly positive influence on local traffic." 3000 prim?!! Yes, dear reader... an impressive total methinks.

Anyway, with these facts rattling around in my head I sent my virtual self off in search of Reperes Island, to verify the facts for myself. (Well... to be honest... just to have a nosey around.)

Reperes claim to be the first market research company in SL. I have no way of confirming or denying this, though I would point out that Square 1 have also been in Second Life for quite some time (before their recent move to their own island sim). In any event, on arrival you will find you can sign up to take part in surveys, and receive a modicum of payment in return.

Most of the island is currently taken up with a variety of thematically disconnected buildings, with little obvious structure to them. There is a "main reception" below, and a number of odd office and presentation blocks dotted about. I would assume, from this apparent randomness, that Reperes are still working on the overall look of the island.

However, I wasn't there to check out the island - I was there to check out the 3,000 prim Giant Head, in all its glory. And so... without further ado... here it is:

It contains office, meeting and presentation spaces, and is based on scans (what technology Joshua? You need to remind me!) of an actual human head. I like the semiotics of this building, the idea of "working inside the head" kind of works for me... and it is a highly imaginative response to the Reperes brief. An interesting addition to the architecture of Second Life, and one to get your head around.

Friday, 6 April 2007

YearlyKos Convention in RL and SL

While rambling around the islands of SL this evening I came across a little cluster of new islands labelled "YearlyKos". I rapidly concluded that this was probably not an annual lettuce convention, or a meet-up of exiles from a small Greek island. But the term still meant nothing to me. As ever, though, Google came to my assistance. For those of you as ignorant as me, it transpires that YearlyKos is an organisation " to encourage and facilitate the promotion of progressive values."

The organisation hosts annual conventions, "gathering people from all walks of life who belong to the Netroots community, the US-based (but globally focused and inclusive) non-partisan grassroots political action community that uses the Internet and blogs as primary tools for: expressing viewpoints, building consensus, acting to change the status quo, mobilizing huge numbers of people and informing each other and the world about current events, grassroots actions, networks, meetings, policy and more."

Recognising that not every interested party will be able to make it to their 2007 Convention, to be held in August in Chicago, YearlyKos have taken the step of twinning their Real Life event with a corresponding presence in Second Life. Full details, as they emerge, can be found by following this link. The aim is to support up to 600 virtual delegates, though I only saw 4 islands, so I am not sure how realistic this target will prove - unless more islands are planned to come on-stream later. Delegates will be able to watch live streamed video from Chicago, and participate in discussions both with the SL attendees and with the Chicago convention itself. Special "in-world only" events will also be held. They will also "have hospitality suites, an exhibit hall and meet-up areas for you to sit down, virtually, with the friends and allies you've made."

Registration for the SL event will set you back 25 USD, but that's a lot cheaper than attending the event in person.

No pictures I'm afraid - there simply isn't anything to see yet.

Groups in Second Life - My Dilemma

After a curious incident in the night time of Second Life, I have decided to seek your input on a matter of concern to me.

When asked to explain Second Life (as I frequently am) my explanation usually involves rambling references to social interaction, ad hoc networks and collaboration. In support of this, I cite the existence of groups in SL as a mechanism for building "communities of interest". However, now I come to think about it, most of the groups I know are somewhat moribund, with little communication taking place between the members, and thus little in the way of shared community.

This was brought home to me last night. I belong to a number of groups in SL, as most residents do, and being a helpful soul, I responded when someone in one of these groups raised a RFI. As a general rule, such responses lead to a brief flurry of exchanges before people leave the session - me included. However, last night the exchanges built up into a debate (of sorts). Personally, bearing in mind my statements above, I think this is a healthy use of groups. I was therefore disappointed when the owner of the group cordially invited those debating to take the conversation elsewhere.

This has left me thinking. If the sole purpose of a group is to provide a "push channel" for the owners then I feel it is an opportunity lost. Some will argue that group conversation constitutes "noise" that prevents the owner disseminating information on the channel. But this is nonsense. I receive plenty of group announcements that keep me informed of group news - and these do not require the use of the IM channel.

Groups, in my view, should be proactive and participatory - not reactive and passive. If you don't wish to participate (as is often the case with me) then it is easy to leave the session. I accept that large numbers of unfettered debates might prove troublesome to follow - but this leads to a natural limiter: if you can't follow the debate you can abandon it or take it elsewhere, into a new group.

It looks, for now, like my hoped-for "communities of interest" may not fit the SL model after all. So should I simply abandon all my groups (aside from those that grant special access), as being just marketing push channels? Or go the other way, and create a new "Talking Nonsense" group, where anyone can join and interact with anyone and everyone else?

All reasonable views gratefully received...

UPDATE: I agree with A.Nonymous that it'd be good to have more than 25 groups. Also, the option to suppress "noise" would be most welcome.

As part of the discussion in question was about identity in virtual environments, I thought I would share this piece of brilliance with you, a presentation on "Identity2.0":

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Chronovampirism and Social Collaboration

As regular readers will know, I may spend much of my time as a lone traveller in Secondlife, seeking out the as-yet undisclosed or undiscovered, but I also enjoy the social networking side of my second life. I've banged on about networks and collaboration on many occasions in this blog, but I've been thinking recently about the "dark side of collaboration", including the underworld of time vampires: "chronovampirism". [ I've checked Google - and it looks like I've coined myself a new term ]

The Daddy of social interaction, the “gold standard”, is face-to-face (f2f) contact. As this has always been part of the human experience, I have chosen not to look at the “time vampires” who can consume so much of one’s waking/working hours in f2f meandering chatter. Besides, most of us would probably confess to sucking other people’s time on occasion – I know I do.

I am more concerned about the plethora of new-fangled (ie: anything invented after about 1850!) mechanisms that now clamour for my time. I am far from being the most “connected” person in the World, yet here is a list of the electro-social tools I use during the course of an average day (some are professional, some personal):

  • company email
  • company IM
  • Skype IM (work address)
  • Skype IM (home address)
  • Client site email
  • Twitter
  • personal email x 2
  • Mobile/cellphone talk
  • Mobile/cellphone SMS text
  • Fixed line telephone
  • Teleconferences
  • Video-conferences (fortunately relatively rare)
  • Second Life chat
  • Second Life IM

To this I would add “push” social tools I contribute to:

  • My company personal blog
  • Slambling blog (that you are reading now)
  • 3pointd blog
  • plus comments on postings on many, many other blogs.

And just to add a little more spice to this heady mix, much of this is glued together by my Google Homepage, that keeps me informed when there’s something that might need my attention, or that might pique my interest.

Each of these tools on its own is innocuous enough. But taken en masse they represent a major onslaught on my time - the flipside of the upbeat, can-do message of “networks & collaboration”.

OK... much of this is self-inflicted, and to be fair I can (and do) take steps to remedy the situation when it looks like it is getting out of hand. I just find it interesting that I have slipped by small increments ("a blog here... an IM service there... I can handle it") to a position where such collaborative tools now consume a large part of my everyday activity. It makes for a longer but more satisfying "working day" - but I do wonder where my breaking point might be: "Go on... subscribe to just one more blog aggregator. And one more virtual world won't do any harm, will it?"

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Logically it's Logica

Logica CMG is a leading Europe-based IT and business services company, with around 40,000 people across 41 countries. I first noticed their brand new island about a month ago, when it was just a grey splodge on the SecondLife satellite map. Being at a bit of a loose end, I thought I'd see how it had progressed - and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could actually access the island. It made a nice change from the *ping* and "Bog off - not open to ramblers" message I have to put up with on a regular basis - and that I fully expected on this little sojourn.

I was deposited on a landing stage, whose yellow-painted walkway leads to the first of 3 main components. This large open square is largely devoid of objects at the moment, save for a small presentation area, tucked around the back. It was also "no access", but I could already see enough to be going on with. Assuming that the square is a permanent fixture, I'd assume it will be used for static promotional displays, links to website etc. It certainly looks like that kind of exhibition space. Further on, there is a brand new conference area. I say "brand new" as the builder (Edwin Recreant) told me he had built it only today. Edwin works for Logica CMG in the Netherlands (aarrghh!! I swore off blogging more Dutch sites), but aims to bring his UK colleagues up to speed with the build next week. Among other things, the conference area will host various broadcast sessions; next month, for example, they will be holding a session given by Ivar Jacobson, one of the demi-gods of UML and RUP.

The third major component of the site looks like it aims to provide a relaxing, fun social area - with water-slides, beach area and jet-skis.

Edwin claimed the build had taken him only 3 days so far. If true, then it is an impressive achievement. It isn't really possible to determine whether this is anything like the final configuration of the build, since he is still making substantial changes. But he is optimistic that they will open the site "really soon".

If asked, I think I'd suggest they consider a bit more carefully what they want to do with the island. It has all the basic features one would expect: promo area; conference area; social area. But it might be worthwhile involving a professional SL build company to see if they can inject a bit of pizzazz. It's OK - but a small investment might give them something dramatic.