Out and about after an interesting day, helping with a guided tour for about a dozen newcomers, I stumbled upon the intriguingly-entitled My Alibaba sim and its immediately adjacent neighbour, the rather more prosaically named HongKong Island sim. Not too sure what to expect, I opted to teleport and found myself at a Hong Kong racetrack - which I assume is Happy Valley. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Hmmm... so what has this to do with Alibaba???
I'm glad you asked. In truth, I'm not 100% sure of the answer - but here's my shot at it. My Alibaba is a reference to Alibaba.com. Launched in 1999 and listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2007, Alibaba.com, according to their website, "is the world's leading B2B e-commerce company. We provide an efficient, trusted platform connecting small and medium-size buyers and suppliers from around the world...Our international marketplace (www.alibaba.com) focuses on global importers and exporters and our China marketplace (www.alibaba.com.cn) focuses on suppliers and buyers trading domestically in China. Together our marketplaces form a community of more than 27 million registered users from over 200 countries and regions." Gulp!! And muggins here had never heard of 'em until I found these sims. Given their global B2B reach, it strikes me as a sensible use of Second Life to explore how they might use virtual worlds as another B2B channel - at least, until the Cyber Recreation District comes onstream later in 2008.
The pair of sims are both under development, with the HongKong Island sim rather more advanced than its next door neighbour. The former has a number of large, modern buildings, typical of the Hong Kong skyline. I think these include versions of the Bank of China Tower and the International Finance Centre. Perhaps the most striking feature of the sim, though, is the Tian Tan Buddha and associated temple complex. The modern buildings offer shopping, and there is a small orientation area. The My Alibaba sim seems to be mid-development, with a lot of familiar-looking plywood boxes dotting the site. The dominant feature is the race track (you can race motorbikes right now, but horses are still being sorted out), around the edge of which you will (eventually) find a number of businesses.
Of course, I may be entirely wrong about the background to these sims - in which case, feel free to pass on the real story. But while we wait - here's a few pictures to contemplate:
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Out and about after an interesting day, helping with a guided tour for about a dozen newcomers, I stumbled upon the intriguingly-entitled My Alibaba sim and its immediately adjacent neighbour, the rather more prosaically named HongKong Island sim. Not too sure what to expect, I opted to teleport and found myself at a Hong Kong racetrack - which I assume is Happy Valley. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Monday, 28 April 2008
Depending on your age, and doubtless a few other factors, the word 'Vichy' is likely to conjure up a mixed bag of mental images. For some, it may be Marshal Petain and the shame of WWII collaboration; for others, it is more likely to be the natural spring waters, bottled and sold at great expense to gullible (or is that, 'discerning'?) punters. Let's go with the latter image, the healthy, rejevenating effects of the Vichy waters - and take a short trip to Vichy Healthy Skin.
This, despite the name, is actually an Italian sim, though the products being promoted here are available worldwide. The products in question are the Vichy Aqualia Thermal range of lotions and potions, which I assume take the health-giving properties of the Vichy spa water and incorporate them into a variety of skin products. Yeah... well.
The sim has been constructed by Italian builders Hikari Design, in collaboration with Web Science. It has been here for many months - but this is the first time it had impinged on my awareness. As a sim, it has the many of the features one would expect, such as a bar area, a dancefloor and plenty of informal seating. Water and (I assume) volcanic rock are the dominant features of the sim. In terms of freebies, there's a t-shirt (durrr) but of arguably more interest there are free skins (or at least faces), available in a range of hues. Before you chaps start getting too excited, I'm afraid it's "Ladies Only" - unless you are looking for 'something for the weekend' for yourself. There is also a group you can join. I didn't --- but I'm guessing it will keep you informed of exciting new happenings in the world of Vichy-themed spa products.
I have a few snaps:
I am not qualified to comment on the effectiveness of the island from a marketing perspective - but I'd be very surprised to find that it had contributed greatly to either increased sales or increased product awareness. This has little to do with the build itself, which is quite enjoyable in its own way, and everything to do with the fact that static sites - with freebies or nay - simply don't cut it.
Now back into hibernation... zzzzzzzzzzzzz.....
Well, it seems that hardly anyone noticed that this blog had gone into hibernate mode for a couple of weeks. In fact, despite appearances to the contrary, it still is. But you know how it is... once you get into the habit of writing this crap, it gets difficult to stop. So I thought I should keep my hand in, as it were, and push out a couple of posts about sims I've not seen covered elsewhere. This is usually a surefire way of provoking my chum, VeeJay, into pointing out how he'd covered these sims years ago on Mindblizzard - carrying the implication that I had not read and/or sufficiently digested the posts in question: actually a not-unreasonable assertion. However, I'm quietly confident that he hasn't covered this first sim: Samsung SDM.
SDM, in this case, refers to Samsung Design Membership. Note that if you plan on following the link to the website, you'd be best to use something other than Firefox, which seems to have trouble rendering the pages (at least, my copy did). Originally founded in 1993, SDM was an initiative to encourage design excellence in Korea, by discovering and nurturing new design talent. In 2006 the programme was expanded globally. It offers selected design student access to facilities almost equivalent to a design studio, and encourages them to work on their own projects and share their work with others. Offering them a space in Second Life seems a logical next step, providing both a creative medium and a common, shared locale, independent of geography.
The build is by Korean virtual world builders, Acid Crebiz, who have also developed a multi-sim presence for Samsung that is still closed to the general public. Indications on the island suggest that Samsung SDM has been open to members of the SDM group for quite some time. I don't believe it has been open to the public for that long - though I will doubtless be proved wrong on this! Parts of the sim are still closed to the public.
To be honest I am not too sure what to make of this place. It has some nice detailing in parts, but I don't get much sense of its purpose. Various displays provide some background on the SDM programme, and there is a blimp tour of the sim. But aside from a closed auditorium (pictured below), I don't get much sense of communal facilities, nor have I seen areas set aside for SDM students to develop visualisations. All in all, much as I normally like Acid Crebiz builds, I am at a loss to pin down the purpose of this sim. Perhaps you'd care to enlighten me?
Here's a few snaps to give you a flavour of the place:
The second post will follow shortly...
Saturday, 19 April 2008
More news worth breaking purdah to announce: Thanks to the indefatigable SuezanneC Baskerville for bringing news that Hipihi is now in open beta.
Not got an account?
English signup page is at http://service.hipihi.com/
English info page is at http://www.hipihi.com/inde
An English language forum for Hipihi users is at www.ideashape.cn
There is also a new version of the HiPiHi client, downloadable here. It's a 68MB download, and on my connection it's coming down at around 120KB/s, with an estimated load time of around 10 minutes.
If you want English Language versions of the documentation, I think you might still need to go here. You probably need to set your computer's language settings too. As described by SuezanneC (for Windows XP):
- On the Windows Start menu, point to Control Panel, and then click Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options.
- Click the Regional and Language Options icon, and then click the Languages tab.
- In the Supplemental languages support box, check the box for Install East Asian Languages.
- Click Apply and OK.
And if someone knows how I can get my arrow keys to work (again) I would be grateful!
Friday, 18 April 2008
I'm taking a brief break from my self-imposed purdah to do a favour for a friend, and bring you news of an event this Sunday. Here is the official announcement:
Princeton University in Second Life announces “Diversity”on the Princeton Groups island
Scope Cleaver- Architect
Poid Mahovlich - Terraform Artist
Launch party: April 20, 2008, 5-7 pm SLT
Please join us for the opening of the Princeton Groups island with a concert by Grace McDunnough on Princeton Groups, 5 pm SLT, Sunday, April 20.
The “Diversity” building on Princeton Groups island is intended as a social gathering place for Princeton University student groups and organizations. The commission stipulated a warm and friendly location where students could meet, chat, and organize events in Second Life.
The resulting sim is a thoughtful contrast of Second Life resources with real world concerns. The stark, evocative landscape provides a foil for the elegance of the architectural composition. The central building’s rainbow colors exemplify the lively, multicultural community for whom it was built. The present generation of Princeton students will someday grapple with the environmental issues suggested in the desert terrain of the sim.
“Diversity” is architect Scope Cleaver’s fifth building on the Princeton University in Second Life islands. Like his other full-sim composition at Princeton in SL--Alexander Beach--it shows an expansive use of scale that unexpectedly creates intimate social spaces. Uncharacteristic of Scope are the warm, organic building textures, which underscore the building’s function as a community center. The organic theme is carried into the building’s massing, originally suggested to the architect by a photograph of a nautilus shell.
Poid Mahovlich, SL terraformer, designed and executed a landscape that would provide interest and focus to the building. More than that, the landscape itself is a series of destinations inviting exploration. A variety of walks and suggestive vignettes reveal artistic discoveries, environmental statements, and sweeping vistas from which to appreciate the greater composition of landscape and architecture.
Architecture and landscape merge in a delightful collaboration between Scope and Poid under the “Diversity” building. Don’t leave without discovering it!
location: SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Princeton%20Groups/130/47/22
Scope Cleaver says: "Science is about describing things, describing reality . . . describing what there is. Design is about what should be. It’s trying to bend the world, bend the environment, to your vision."
Poid Mahovlich says: "I build creatively using smoke and mirrors. I am a geek dreamer; driven by ethereal fuel some days, nerdtech and biscuits on others. I have a passion for terraforming, sculpting pixel earth is an evolutionary process of discovery where you enter a very different head space. I am a Real Life professional conceptual Artist: a self-proclaimed Wizard who has a severe allergy to Hawaiian shirts."
Monday, 14 April 2008
This blog is taking a short vacation.
Much as I'd like to claim this is a noble gesture of solidarity with Gwyneth Llewelyn , Rheta Shan and other Second Life bloggers, the truth is (as is so often the case) much more prosaic. Sure, the timing is good, and it's a cause I support, but fundamentally I'm bored, dispirited and disenchanted. I don't plan to abandon the blog, at least not just yet, but I do intend to take a bit of time to consider if and how I want to take it forward.
So, thanks for reading... I'll be back in a few...
Posted by Aleister Kronos at 22:44
Sunday, 13 April 2008
I've not been in Second Life much in recent days and have consequently not been posting much from the front line. Tonight I did finally get around to logging in, and after some aimless scanning of the map, alighted on the vl2rl sim. It appears to be owned by the French recruitment company, Tmpneo, who have a couple(?) of recruiting sims. Indeed, the French division of my own company used Tmpneo last year, when experimenting with virtual recruitment.
There is no real information to go on, so I will have to make some informed guesses. The vl2rl sim is currently occupied by 4 energy companies: Gaz de France; GE Energy; Converteam and Areva. Each company has its own building on what is otherwise a flooded sim. Despite appearances, it is not a low prim "water sim", as it is offering the full set of 15000 prims.
I am not sure of the purpose of this sim. Is it to accommodate "overflow" from the main Tmpneo sim? Or perhaps it is to provide breakout facilities for these companies, in addition to spaces on the main sim? Since the main sim is occupied by companies such as AXA, I will assume that the aim is to use this as an overflow, allowing the enegy companies to carry out recruitment without them pitching up on the tmp3 sim.
I don't have much to say about the builds, which are fine - though I could not get the elevator in the Gaz de France building to work. I just thought I'd mention their existence, though I don't see any signs of a current recruitment campaign.
I know it's a dull post - but then, it's not easy to inject must pizzazz into energy company recruitment.
As usual, I have a few piccies for you:
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Although I hadn't planned it this way, it looks like my blogging theme for the day seems to be Slovenia, and people and companies generally Slovene. To start, Iyan Writer, mentioned in my previous post, is Slovenian, although you'd be hard pressed to spot that he's not a native English speaker - or at least, writer. And now, while touring the Northern perimeter of the grid I stumbled across the Slovenia sim. In fact, there's a trio of sims, as we also have Slovenia Welcome and Corporate Island.
But first, a little about the country as it is in the atomic world. Slovenia is the Northernmost of the the republics to emerge from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. It is also the most European, being a member of: The European Union; NATO and the Eurozone, as well as being a signatory to the Schengen ("open borders") Agreement. So a damned sight more integrated into Europe than my own country, then (damn 'em). It has a population of about 2million, of whom around a quarter of million live in the capital, Llubljana. Much to some people's surprise, you will see that their internet country identifier is "si" and not "sl" - which in fact belongs to Sierra Leone. I wonder if there is going to be a rush of new Sierra Leonian blogs and websites? Hmmm....
But back to Slovenia, the sim this time. Despite the name, this is actually the site for Vodafone's Slovenian subsidiary (or perhaps that should be 'partner'), Si.mobile. From what I can glean, the sim may have been around for quite some time. If so, I still think it needs some finishing. The basic structure of the island hangs off some sort of transport system (which did not appear to be running when I was there). A track loops around and across the island, with a number of stops offering different functions. The two that I particularly noted were The Lab and The Arena. The former, I gather, should allow you test out various aspects of the company's services - while the latter is simply a large dance arena. While not much of a dancer myself, I did like the textures in The Arena, perhaps because they broke away from the corporate colour scheme imposed on the rest of the island. It looks like there will be a big dance event here on 17th April (mid-day PDT/SLT). I was interested to see that the build has been done by a bunch of avatars with ACS as their surname - indicating Anshe Chung Studios.
The Welcome sim seemed empty - though I may not have been looking in the right place. I assume that this is an orientation sim. Corporation Island appears to be the work of FM Virtual, and features a skyscraping office block. On the ground floor you will find a large tourism advertisment and a teleport guide to the companies (supposedly) housed here. I say "supposedly" because it is such an impressive list that it seems unlikely they would all sign up for what is, after all, a tiny office area. Each company has a small office space, sufficient to host a meeting for, say, 10 people (I didn't count). The Kongresni Center offers more public meeting spaces, such as a cafe. There are also some buildings for rent.
Overall, despite reading that the Slovenia sim was complete, I get the impression that it is being revamped and augmented by the new Slovene sims. Anyway... as usual, here's a few traveller's snaps:
Now here's the thing. I've been reading Iyan Writer's well-reasoned piece about Clever Zebra in which he makes a strong case that for the view that, basically, they've got their business model screwed. However, while I agree with a lot of what he says, I think he's missing some nuances.
Clever Zebra have been giving away free, Open Source starter packs for a ferw months now, aimed at businesses wanting to build a virtual presence. The latest pack - Zebra Corporate - has just launched, and includes auditoria, offices, presentation areas and various handy tools and landscaping bits and bobs.
Clearly, on its own, just giving stuff away is no way to make money. So CZ actually have 2 offers: free edition (just the pack) and enterprise edition. The latter charges 5000 USD, plus a further 400 USD a month for... ummm... some other stuff. The site says; "Zebra corporate is a simple solution to second life for companies looking to make their entry into the virtual world with confidence. Clever Zebra clients are encouraged to join an engaged, connected community and support network where there is always something happening, and always something to do." So apart from an optional community I might choose to join, it is not clear what I get for the money. An island? A bit of an island? A consultant (whose credentials I have not seen) telling me the time after asking to see my watch?? Perhaps CZ think it is obvious - indeed, I thought it would be, too - but if you read the website, it is not clear what 10K for the first year gets you.
Anyway... I digress. This was not actually what I wanted to say. Iyan's argument is, I think, that any corporation looking at Second Life is not put off by the cost of building, but by a range of other factors: getting their own people to engage; concerns over the stability of the environment and (he reckons) the difficulty of forging lasting and worthwhile relationships with the SL community. I don't think the latter 2 actually apply to companies looking at Second Life for the first time - these concerns come later, when they discover what they've let themselves in for(!). However, I do think lack of a clear business case, the complexity of the viewer interface and concerns over the seamy side of SL are further disincentives.
In any event, none of these are helped by the offer of free stuff - and it is hard to see how the 10K USD is going to solve these concerns either.
That said, I do see 2 primary markets for CZ's wares. First is the non-corporate SME (Small-to-Medium Enterprise) marketplace. SME's looking to get a taste of virtual worlds, and not having the dedicated resources to devote time to investigation, could make use of the CZ offer to get them up and running quickly. However, the number wishing to avail themselves of the Enterprise Edition may be limited. It is not an inconsiderable sum when all you want is to dip your toe in the water.[ I am not claiming this is the "right" way to enter virtual worlds - but it will be, I would contend, a common route. ]
The real corporates - those who may actually have a business case around savings on air travel - may also have a use for CZ's services. A serious involvement in Second Life requires a serious investment of both people and money. But that does not mean that you have to go all-out from day 1. Many companies of my acquaintance are rather more circumspect, and want to trial a low cost/low impact proof of concept in Second Life before getting further engaged. The CZ offering fits nicely with this requrement. Of itself it may not solve the internal engagement issue, but it does make it a great deal easier to get such engagement. I have observed that internal engagement and involvement comes about when there is something people can actually visit. While it remains an idea under discussion, engagement is difficult to achieve.
I think that, in using words like "Corporate" and "Enterprise", CZ may only be fooling themselves about their likely client base. However, there is mileage in the concept - and who knows? They may pull it off. There are many companies offering assistance in starting up in virtual worlds. If your only USP is "our stuff is free" then it could be a long and rocky road ahead. Meanwhile, although 10K USD is a figure not be sniffed at, I do wonder how many of these it takes before one has a viable company, capable of paying people's salaries and servicing its creditors.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
I dunno... I must be soft in the head or something. I seem to have taken to doing favours this week. Now, if I believed in a concept of the Hereafter (beyond "What's s/he here after?") then this might make sense. Alternatively, if I was one for leaping on a karmic cycle then I could see the point. But as it is, I'm more of a "when you're dead, you're dead" kind of chap. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, not believing in a Grand Scheme of Things means I have a Darwinian reason for doing favours. Who knows?
Whatever the reason, here I am again - doing a favour (and avoiding writing the MMC and Ruta Maya posts... which is bad of me). This one relates to books. I received a request in world to tell you about the SL Book Fair, 2008 - here is the press release, so you can note it in your diaries:
SL Book Fair 2008
25th to 27th April 2008
Book Island and Publishing Island
It's here again and this time bigger and better than ever! The 2007 fair saw 1400 visitors in three days, over 40 exhibitors and nearly 20 events.
In 2008, we will be across two sims (eight times more land) with 50 exhibitors and 100 book related shops with around 50 events. SL Book Fair isn't just about books - exhibitors include writers, publishers, editors, bloggers and anything word related!
TO GET UPDATES: If you'd like to be kept up to date about the book fair, please join the Book Island Events and Discussion Group and nearer the fair, we will group notice with more details.
TO EXHIBIT: If you'd like to exhibit, please send a notecard to Selina Greene that includes your avatar name, a brief description of your proposed exhibit and an indication of whether you'd like to hold an event (priority event scheduling given to exhibitors). Or, touch one of the red boxes located at the landmarks above for more information. Booths are available for rent for L250 a week for a two week period. We will be in touch after we receive your application.
TO HOLD AN EVENT: If you'd like to hold an event at the fair, please notecard Kitumscheid Writer or Angeline Blachere who will send you a notecard to fill out.
We hope to see you there!
By the way, if you are wondering why I still haven't done the 2 sites mentioned earlier, it's just that it will need a lot of time - and I never seem to have enough. Just to cut to the chase... visit them both, they're both marvellous builds.
Here's another short post while I ponder how to write up both the MMC and Ruta Maya (Mexico Tourism) sites. I don't make a habit of promoting blogs here, other than thru the blogroll on the right of the screen. However, I made an exception for Kanomi's highly amusing blog earlier this week, and I'm about to make another.
This one is a favour really.
It seems that the North America division of Capgemini, the company for which I work in the atomic world, has started to offer employee blogs. By way of supporting this sort of blogging initiative (and by extension supporting the company's efforts in innovation) it would be churlish not to give them a mention.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here for you edification - and maybe your job prospects - I give you the Capgemini North America Recruiting Blog.
I think it was my pal, Xantherus Halberd, who brought this to my attention the other day. Since then I've been mulling it over - though I hasten to point out, not obsessively. By way of an aside, I like to have an array of things to mull; it's healthier and less boring than a single mulling object.
Aaaaanyway... the object of this particular mull is the timezone in S~~~~d L~~~e. Rivetting, huh? Well it is often the little details that help illuminate the big picture. For as long as I have been in this virtual world it has used its own timezone, known as "SLT". It was merely a trick of Fate that this happened to coincide with the timezone in California, home of Linden Lab. The inworld timezone appears at the top of the viewer window, and has been used by meeting and events organisers since the earliest days of the environment (or so I assume).
OK, so what? Well if you look now, it doesn't say "SLT" - it says, "PDT" (Pacific Daylight Time). The change may be simply a calendrical consideration, perhaps introduced in early March, when the clock leapt forward into Summertime. Alternatively, you might see it as an another little detail in the repositioning of this virtual world - moving it away from being the plaything of a small clique of fans, freaks and the technosavvy (choose which categories apply to you).
As with the introduction of the S~~~~d L~~e Grid website, and maybe the much-despised (and misunderstood?) branding thing, this tiny detail moves Linden Lab towards a more generic virtual world metaverse, with themselves as the 3D version of an ISP.
Well, it's a thought. Maybe that's what comes of too much mulling.
By the way - curiously(?) "SLT" seemed to be one of those common terms that does not appear to have fallen into the path of the mighty trademark juggernaut.
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
... you need a good laugh. What with branding going haywire, the grid turning to jelly (or jello for our American cousins) and grown men and women salivating at the thought of taking money from children through assorted virtual worlds - we need a moment or two of levity. If that levity also includes some sideswipes at the Great and the Good, then so much the better.
With this in mind, I would like to commend to you TINYDANCING. the new blog by Kanomi Pikajuna. I think it is very funny - and about the only blog I can think of that had me chuckling outloud (it is a major achievement to raise much more than a chuckle from an ancient cynic like me). Also, don't forget to explore the TinyDancing Brand Center.
Kanomi, I realise I am in breach of brand guidelines here... but hey, I'm European - so sue me.
Enjoy the read.
Monday, 7 April 2008
Torley Linden... no matter what you think about the "growing pains" of the company for which he works, Torley somehow transcends it all. It is as if Torley were the walking embodiment of what S~~~~d L~~~e is all about. What's more, his tutorials are a marvellous blend of the chaotic and the educational - like being shown how to do something by an enthusiastic friend, rather than a distant teacher. But that is more than enough fluffing for one post.
Torley, nevertheless, is the start point for this post. I dip into his excellent SL Flickr stream from time to time, and today noticed a particularly interesting and arty set of pictures of the Rodel sim. This evening I had the chance to whizz in for a look. This appears to be a "water sim", with only a little over 3000 prims to its name - and an island that is little more than a blip on the surface of the Protected Ocean. So where's the fancy stuff? I will leave you to find that - but as a clue: if you ain't got flight assistance you won't find it. The sim seems to be Torley's - I have no idea how many he has - and this light show is best seen on midnight setting. It would be really nice to see a well-made machinima of it - but until then, you will need to make do with my pictures:
Sunday, 6 April 2008
A short one this: SoopsVirtualFactory.
This sim belong to Soops Group which is, their website informs me, "a dynamic software company founded in 1992 [who] offer software solutions varying from shrink-wrapped applications, tailor-made applications up to requirement analyses." It has offices in Amsterdam and Wurzburg, where they specialise in Object Oriented software development; indeed, the name is an acronym for 'Science Object Oriented Products & Systems'. The group is small, comprising Soops BV (Netherlands) and Component Studio GmbH (Germany), and employs around 30 staff overall.
The S~~~~d L~~e sim seems to be quite new - or perhaps, little used - and, unless I am very much mistaken, is a self-build, being assembled from a number of familiar basics. I say it appears to be new because there is not much here... a few buildings, including the attractive and familiar free beachhuts on stilts, a cafe, a tennis court and a dance area. But none of these seem to be particularly well developed, and they lack coherence; there is nothing pulling them together. It looks like the team (of one so far as I can tell - and I know how that is) is playing with ideas, with no particular endpoint in mind. I cannot see that it is intended as a place for the general rambling public to visit, and in its current guise is unlikely to make anyone's 'favourite sims list'. It looks like someone is having fun, with an entire sim at his/her disposal. The "soopies" group has 6 members, but it is Soops Carter who appears to have done the bulk - perhaps all - of the development to date.
As discussed on many other occasions, if you want a company sandbox - and that is a great idea, by the way - then you should consider making it private. It is easy to get things wrong - and damage your brand as a result. This is a small company, and this may not be a concern - but I would suggest it is something worth thinking about.
Not much in the way of pictures, since there's not much there:
In the light of the current kerfuffle about trademarks, registered or otherwise, you might want to get to the root of it all, rather than reading endless blather on blogs like this.
Fortunately, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a cracking good website, where you can rummage through trademark applications to your heart's content. Find out what's in and what's out; amaze your friends!
For example, you might want to check out Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS), accessible through this page - or even better, this page. Go for the "Freeform Search" option, and when prompted, enter "Linden Research" (using the double-quotes) and hit RETURN.
You will get a nice, longish list of what TMs have been applied for, and which of those are actually registered. Click on the Serial Numbers for more details, and within the detail page, click on "TARR Status" to get all the info you might want. As you do this, you will notice that the word "SECOND" is apparently up for TMing! According to serial number 77198336, the mark "SECOND" "consists of standard characters, without claim to any particular font, style, size, or color."
Other words that might grab your attention include: "HIPPOS"; "GRID" and "SL GRID". Oddly, although "LINDEN LAB" is there, "LL" isn't. I daresay a Patents and Trademarks lawyer can explain that one to me.
I'm not sure of the whys and wherefores, but it seems that the semi-mythical money sim is open for business. At random points in recent months I've noticed this apparently plain-speaking sim and given it a go, to no avail. However, following a tip-off (no names, no packdrill) I had another go this evening and was surprised to find nothing barring my access, even though the sim is clearly not quite finished.
But some history... or what I know of it. All of this comes from the NPIRL blog, a great place to get scoops on the latest arty or challenging sims. It seems NPIRL members (who have the ear, eye or other body part of many in the arty community) visited this sim around November,2007. The sim is the work of well-known virtual world artist/creators Light Waves (mainly), Pavig Lok and Littletoe Bartlett. It appears to have been built for languagelab.com, whose "approach combines the interactive and social potential of virtual environments with highly qualified, innovative teachers from around the world to provide a unique space for formal and informal learning." The virtual environment in question is S****d L**e - but not this sim (yet).
So what's the big idea? You'd be best off reading the interview at NPIRL with Edgeware Marker (David Kaskel in atomic life) . First, I got to understand the relevance of the sim name. languagelab.com actually owns many (closed/private) sims , with names like Art, Life, Jobs and Nightlife, so Money seems to fit quite well with these. As believers in experiential learning, the company use the virtual world environment to drive the learning process - and the deeply strange Money sim is a further extension on this apprach. The article goes on a lot further, but that's enough gleaning for my purposes.
I hope the pictures tell the story - because I don't think I can. You arrive by a large, industrial lift. In front of you is a house, but the setting feels odd in a way that is hard to pin down. The first hint of paranoia might just start tickling at the back of your head at this point. The house itself (aside from the Greenies, who strike me as being interlopers) is empty. It appears to have been left in a hurry, perhaps after some kind of struggle or kerfuffle. There's a weird science lab in the cellar, and an even stranger bedroom-cum-workroom in the attic, which is covered in graffiti both scientific and scatological. There's a robot(?) gorilla's head on a bench, the top of the cranium removed. hmmmm....
Back at the lift there are 3 corridors leading to some sci-fi stuff. I've not an inkling what this is about, but in a downstairs chamber there is evidence that someone.... or something (dan--dan--darrrrr!) has broken IN. If you manage to work your way to ground level (the lift is not working yet) you will find further signs that all is not well.
What the heck is going on is anyone's guess. Some of the site (not much?) is still under construction, and it is not at all clear why the general public is able to gain access. But hopefully you will enjoy reviewing my slide show, and will agree that the site is well worth a visit - even in its current state - though how much lingo you will pick up is anyone's guess.
UPDATE 06-04-08: According to Lem (see comments), the doors have been closed again on this sim. I tried too, to no avail. I suppose that's the way with Money - it can easily slip thru your fingers.
Saturday, 5 April 2008
For a change, this has nothing to do with virtual worlds.
I learned of the death of Klaus Dinger a few days ago, after an announcement appeared on the website of his record label, Gronland. You may not know him, yet many would say (including me) that he was one of the most influential musicians of the last 40 years. He was a drummer whose repetitive driving beats (given the description: motorik) provided the archetypal krautrock sound, and was an inspiration for punk and, later, electronic dance musicians.
Although he started as a drummer in the earliest Kraftwerk lineup, he is perhaps best known for his work in Neu!, the band he formed in 1971 with guitarist Michael Rother. His motorik drumming (he actually used the term Apache Beat) is immediately apparent on the first track of their debut album. Indeed, the mesmerisingly cool 'Hallogallo' has been a favourite track of mine since I first heard it in 1972. There was always a tension in Neu! between Rother's pastoral, ambient guitar style and Dinger's crashing, pounding, proto-punk rhythms. This is particularly evident on their third album together, 'Neu! '75', in which the first side was largely Rother's and the second, Dinger's. The result is a wonderfully flawed gem - but after this, the two parted company, owing to their growing musical and personal differences.
Klaus went on, with Thomas Dinger and Hans Lampe, to form La Dusseldorf - probably his most commercially successful band.
Both Neu! and La Dusseldorf were great favourites of mine, and so it was sad to hear that Klaus died of heart failure, 3 days before his 62nd birthday, on March 21st 2008. Gone, but certainly not forgotten. Thanks, Klaus.
PS: Michael Rother is still going strong, and has recently been gigging with Harmonia, the re-formed "krautrock supergroup" that also comprises Roedelius and Moebius, better known as Cluster.
Here's a few links
from Neu! :
from Neu! '75:
Isi (from the pastoral Rother side of the album)
Hero (from the rockie Dinger side of the album)
photos are taken from http://www.gawl.de/Dingerland/ and http://www.groenland.com/
One of my predictions for 2008 was that we would see IBM, Sun and others launching "virtual world behind the firewall" products. I thought then, and think now, that this is inevitable - and I daresay you may feel the same way. While such worlds might do little or nothing to tickle the fancy of out-and-out Immersionists, they offer powerful tools for corporate use. So it was with more than a little interest that I learned, last week, that IBM would be partnering with Linden Lab to bring a chunk of the Second Life grid within the IBM firewalls - a 3D intranet.
Why would I want a 3D intranet?
At its most basic, the cost savings coming from the reduction in travel, made possible by 3D intranets, offer a simple, direct return on investment. The calculations are elementary, and rely on very few assumptions (all of which are easily verified). Incidentally, this is in contrast to the complexity of proving a ROI based on revenue generation in virtual environments, but that is not germane to the 3D intranet business case.
Although this can be achieved with an externally hosted service, such as Second Life, there are concerns over security and manageability. The fact that systems administration is outside one's control, and that chat logs and other commercial content are being hosted externally is not acceptable when you want a totally secure, wholly owned environment. Hence the 3D intranet.
But there are further benefits. As I learned from the IBMers a long time ago, 3D spaces provide places for informal groupings to develop - where new relationships form, extending one's own personal network. The external view of a large company is that it operates as a single unit, that it probably has all manner of clever systems to keep people in touch, and that it makes sure that it knows the skills and capabilities of its employees. In fact, this is (almost universally) far from the truth; rather than a single enterprise, most large companies comprise a number of fiefdoms, and each of these is subdivided into further, smaller fiefdoms. Knowledge is precious, and poorly maintained across this motley array of business units, skill centres, CoEs, "tiger teams" and so on. The 3D spaces don't drive knowledge or business cohesion - but they can help, by providing a social network that operates outside of the fiefdoms, allowing people from across the corporation to meet, socialise and share knowledge.
Finally, there is the formal collaborative working environment. The 3D intranet allows people from diverse locations around the country and, indeed, the world to work together in a common shared (virtual) location, reducing costs and improving team cohesion.
That's causes enough for a 3D intranet.
So what about this news?
In my view, Linden Lab have a habit of letting good news get away from them and generally fumbling their marketing. However, for once, I think this is a masterstroke - a real gem of a move that could end up, not only saving their asses, but propelling them into the heart of web 3D - which is where they want to be. Why do I say this?
Well, for one thing - IBM, while clearly the biggest corporate presence in Second Life, are known to have their fingers in many virtual pies. Indeed, Roo Reynolds (well-known luminary in the Eightbar crowd [and all-round good egg, so I'm told]) gave a neat synoposis of IBM's virtual state of play on Eightbar only last month. If IBM were to ditch Second Life - and that was by no means impossible - then the impact on Linden Lab could be catastrophic. On the other hand, to have their product at the heart of IBM's 3D intranet should allow Linden Lab to see off the opposition, such as multiverse or OpenSim.
It comes as no surprise, then, that no money is changing hands; both sides should win through this synergy. IBM get a relatively mature, content-flexible platform on which to build their 3D intranet. Linden get to develop a product that (with IBM?) they can sell to businesses and universities, while also putting some clear space between themselves and their competitors. Finally, the ability for an avatar to move between internal and external grids brings the prospect of web 3D much closer. This is, I am told, still a technically complex task - what system resources are located where? and how do they tie together? - but one that is now being tackled.
Near the cow sim of my last post I noticed another that looked vaguely intriguing on the map: the Popcha sim. On arrival, I found that half the sim is actually up for sale or rent or whatever the name is for handing over virtual cash and getting the use of virtual land in return. But it was not the plot that was for sale/rent/whatever that was of interest, rather it was "the neighbour." This was no ordinary residential sim!
It was an odd sensation to turn round and see the neighbour's side of the island. I saw this huge "thing" rising from the ground, and as my viewed panned upwards this thing just kept getting taller and taller. I buzzed over to that side of the island for a better look - and found that it was actually called "Brooklyn is Watching". Some serious Googling turned up the following, from the relevant flickr page: "Brooklyn Is Watching, sponsored by Popcha is an artwork by Jay Van Buren on view at Jack the Pelican Presents in Brooklyn, New York." The best I can tell you about Popcha is "Popcha! is a NYC based media technology company making virtual worlds work for you." Which is nice.
The bulk of this side of the sim, aside from a rather smart Popcha! building, is given over to a series of basically huge art works, one towering to 700 metres+ and consisting of enough tortured prims to bring my poor graphics card to its knees and my FPS to low single digits. I've not done the detailed homework on this - it's 2:00AM for heaven's sake. But I thought you might like the images - I did. I found a midnight setting worked best, most of the time, as you can see:
Friday, 4 April 2008
I think it was the lurid, glowing greens on the map that attracted me to try the Cow sim. I know I should be writing about the MMC and Maya sims - but I'm a contrary beggar, and felt the need to root out something I'd not seen before, and that is maybe not entirely ready. And for me tonight, the Cow sim meets that need. (I will do the others eventually!)
I don't think it's quite finished -there's a few things missing, including (slightly disturbingly) some cows' heads. And one of the things that is missing is content - in effect, the structure is ready, but the content, such as notecards, slideshows and weblinks is not there just yet. Which made it potentially tricky to track down. However, I had a hunch I'd seen the "Cow" and "Herd" before... and with a teensy bit of help from Google I was able to track 'em down like.... ummm.. lost cows, I suppose.
First off we have Cow PR, strapline "We're not Sheep". While the Herd is "the community networking arm of Cow PR... about helping brands talk to their audiences through 'citizen media.'" Maybe I've spent too long in virtual worlds. When I first read their strapline, I thought it was an oblique reference to Electric Sheep Company! I need to get out more (though even now, I suspect this is not altogether a coincidence). Another part of this bovine empire is Cowshed Productions, responsible for ads and things viral, like this:
From their YouTube site. As for what they've actually done - I will leave it to you to wrestle with the joys of their flash-based websites.
As for the sim, as I said it is not quite ready in terms of content. You arrive in an open sided barn (or something) in front of which is a small field containing a couple of cows, backed by a couple of towering waterfalls. The grass is a vivid green, while the rocks are eye-poppingly orange, and the water - a deeply implausible blue. In fact, it has the feel of a dream - one that follows the ingestion of too much cheese the night before. It looks like there will be a bunch of notecards to be picked up at this starting point - and a guided tour too. But none of these function at the moment.
You need to get up to the top of the waterfall for the main buildings - and there are 2 routes provided. One around the edge of the sim, that takes in the Cow Cafe, where you can milk your own cow(though the ones here had no heads! aaargh!!), before ascending to the top of the falls. The other route takes you through a huge cavern, up a winding path that eventually emerges to join the external path. At the top are several green spheres that will eventually house a cinema, a meetings area and a jobs hall (I've forgotten the last one). At the moment, aside from some seating - and some cows - these spheres are largely bare. One small point... there's a couple of places where the step height is too great, so walkers have to "hop" to progress. It will be easy to fix this.
I have to say, I think I like this place. It is quite memorable, and has a number of pleasing, faintly surreal aspects... And the cows look great, when they have heads on. That said, I don' t think it has the charm, ambience, complexity or humour of the Leo Burnett sim, a company in a not entirely dissimilar line of business. The Cow sim is the work of well-known virtual builder, Luna Bliss.
And finally - some snaps:
Oh... and there's some cool freebies already in place, including a fine sculptie cow, a set of overalls and an animated cow feed. Of these, the cow definitely has it!
If you are a virtual worlding conference junkie - and particularly if you are based in Europe (and, depending on your political sensitivities about such things, the UK) - you will be thrilled to the core by the news that, not one, but two Virtual Worlds conferences are on the way to London in 2008.
First up, State of Play VI will be held from 22-24, July. According to the website, it "will examine the social significance of virtual worlds within Europe. With the support of the UK Intellectual Property Office and the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, New York Law School’s State of Play conference series will come to Britain for the first time... With the increasing significance of the European market for MMOGs, with the scale of deals now being done by European developers, and with the importance of the European regulatory environment to all virtual worlds, we believe that it is the perfect time to convene a conference in London that takes virtual worlds seriously...The major themes of the conference will be the special challenges that regulation has in these environments; the way that virtual worlds are providing new models for innovation; and how physical locations are being integrated with these online environments to create new immersive experiences. The European experience with regulatory oversight in federated systems provides for a wonderful opportunity to explore the best ways to ensure vibrant spaces for innovative content, speech and life." I don't have any venue information.
If that clashes with your Summer holiday, then you might want to wait until October instead; the 20th and 21st to be precise.
Virtual World News reports that Virtual Worlds Management, who publish their blog, will be hosting "Virtual Worlds London, a conference and expo, to take place October 20-21, 2008 at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, a beautiful venue right across the street from Westminster Abbey. This will be our first conference and expo in London. Last year we hosted a party with the same name but did not host a full conference. After 18 months of operating the leading virtual worlds events in the US we're extremely excited to bring the same high-caliber speakers and content to the United Kingdom and Europe. Virtual Worlds London should not confused with the Virtual Worlds Forum event (operated by another company) that took place in London last year."
Who knows? I might actually get to one of these events this year. Or maybe not.
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Edo, as any Japanophile will know, is the old name for the city of Tokyo. Founded in the mid-15th century, when Edo Castle (now part of the Imperial Palace) was built, the original name lasted until 1868. And just to add a little more spice, it also gave its name to the Edo Period, which lasted from 1603 to 1868, and equated to the lifespan of the Edo or Tokugawa Shogunate.
To many this represents a great Golden Age of Japanese Art and Culture. Indeed, most of the Japanese artworks, bladed weaponry and literature we know in the West come from this period, including the work of one my favourite artists, Utagawa Hiroshige.
Edo (and environs) has now been recreated in Second Life, across 12 sims. The purpose is to provide a commercial and residential rental area for Japanese residents of Second Life, and there is certainly nothing unusual in that. What is unusual however, is the attention to detail and the sheer size of the site. With the exception of an anachronistic tower on the Shinagawa sim, everything seems to be in keeping with Edo Period. I also recognised a few of the temple buildings in the Asakusa sims from my own trip to Japan last year. At the heart of the sim cluster is the castle itself, spanning more than 4 sims.
But I don't plan to tell you any more. I have a HUGE number of pictures that I would urge you to flick thru - then I would urge you to go along for a look - and just sink yourself into the detail.
Ah... brand... it's such a delicate orchid. If some evil or misguided soul makes unfair, inappropriate or unprofessional use of your brand then it can apparently cause great damage. I can't recollect a good example of this, but I'm assured by various victims of brand police that this is, indeed, the case. It must be so, since otherwise how does one explain the draconian measures that the brand police invoke. And yet, much of such policing must, of necessity, happen behind closed doors. Why? Well... it's a curiously delicious irony that, to be seen to be invoking extreme or excessive brand management, actually reflects badly on your brand, potentially doing more harm than the damage your management sought to limit in the first place.
On the other hand, if you are trying to move from being a private West Coast geek academy to become the public powerhouse behind the next generation of the internet, then you might see a rather late-in-the-day conversion to extreme brand management as proving that you were now grown-up, wore long trousers and could be taken seriously by the big pension funds and other potential investors. Hmmmm... or maybe they might see such excessive zeal as evidence that you're West Coast geeks playing at being business people. Roll the dice.
Like I say... brand is a delicate thing.
The virtual worlds blogosphere has been having a field day with Linden Lab's decision to flip from something akin to a hippy-dippy love'n'peace commune to something resembling a Kafkaesque nightmare of anally-retentive branding thugs. Yet they have failed to heed that, if you try and carry big weapons without proper training, there is a real risk of shooting yourself in the foot.
To ramble off into reverie...
At the time of writing it seems that any mention of the company, its products or its logos must be accompanied by a swarm of ® and ™ symbols, rendering even the simplest text into a digital version of a well-used medieval palimpsest. I may be misreading this slightly, but it seems that any word beginning with, or containing, the letters "sl" are now the sole property of Linden Lab and can only be used if you have a correctly validated, signed certificate of authorisation. The same is true for the pair "ll". And as for using them in upper case - just don't even think about it.
As you might expect, any use of the word "second" or "life" must now be approved by a Star Chamber, whose decision is final. In fact, anything that could be interpreted as a synonym, antonym, exaggeration or diminution of any word ever written by the company, it would be wise to leave out. Sure, your vocabulary might suffer, but at least you can be happy in the knowledge that you are following the brand rules (as they stand at the moment).
And what about the eye in the hand logo? You know... the one that could be loosely based on Herbert Bayer's photomontage Lonely Metropolitan (1932)? That's right out, that is.
Now I will leave it to brainy people, who can write reams and reams of peerless prose, to make the proper case against this insanity.
I will conclude by saying: I admit this post is pointless, childish, a tad petulant and prone to misfire - which is rather like this new branding policy then.
Happy All Fools' Day.