Thursday, 31 July 2008

Archidemo and Nippaku100

Last Sunday I got an email from Hidenori Watanave, Associate Professor of Tokyo Metropolitan University, letting me know that he and a student team from the University have developed a 3D image database in Second Life dedicated to Oscar Niemeyer and his work. The database is an "official art project" as part of the centenary of the first exchange between Japan and Brazil. Niemeyer, who reached his own personal centenary last year, is best known as the inspired architect behind muich of the construction of Brasilia.

According to the Archidemo blog, the current construction is just a first build, with much more to come. Nevertheless, I recommend you pop along to the Nippaku100 sim and have a look. Click on the cubes as they float past, and click on the pictures too - to bring up weblinks. It's a clever and imaginative piece of work - as hopefully my pictures below will show:

If you want more on Archidemo, take a look at my post from January this year.

Back on the Blue Pills

I first wrote about Belgian virtual world build company bluepill GROUP last October. Now, following one of those odd pieces of synchronicity, I am writing about them and their sim again. Synchronicity? Well... I re-discovered this sim some 4 or 5 days ago, while looking for somewhere to write about. I had a brief look around, but to be honest, couldn't see that I could do a quick post on something I found a tad baffling. So I consigned it to my "Maybe Later" pile, in the almost certain knowledge that I would never get around to it. And there it would have remained if it wasn't for an IM from one Paco Zagato, who suggested: "you might be interested to check out an Intercultural Learning Space. Curious to hear your opinion." Said space being on the Bluepill sim. Incidentall, a quick search told me that Paco is the owner (or co-owner) of 4 bluepill GROUP groups in Second Life, and would thus qualify, perhaps, for the title: "Mr bluepill."

So what's this Intercultural Learning Space all about then? To explain I will need to copy and paste liberally from the many informative notecards available at the site. The SIETAR Intercultural Learning Space is brought to you by the bluepill GROUP in collaboration with DIVERSOPHY.COM for SIETAR - The Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research.

The most immediate feature of the Space - apart from the fact that it sits inside a giant, transparent sphere on which are displayed the faces of young people from around the globe - is the set of 19 quizzes., that are there to help you "explore different cultures and learn how you can deal with the challenges of living and working with people different from yourself in ever more diverse and multicultural places." I took the British test, and while I am pleased that (at the time of writing) I lead the table, I am also a little disappointed at scraping only 80%, given this should be my specialty! I could not get the American one to ask me anything - but I have captured a couple of snaps of the tests anyway. The Space is actually intended to tie in with the SIETAR Global Congress 2008, to be held in the rather wonderful setting of Granada in Spain from 22nd - 25th October. As well as being interesting and entertaining, participation in the quiz qualifies you to win a pass to the Congress, or other (as yet unspecified) prizes.

In the St Gery Contemporary Art Museum on the sim you will find a related photographic exhibition, The Face of Tomorrow, by Istanbul based photographer Mike Mike.

Asking the question "What does a New Yorker, a Londoner, a Parisian look like?" he has photographed 100 people at random, and generated a set of composite images for a range of cities. As the photographer put it, as a result of the merging process: "You end up with a new person. Someone who didn't exist before. Someone who doesn't exist now. But someone who is nonetheless quite real."

And now for my take on the site. Well, as I intimated in my opening paragraph, I initially found the Space rather busy and confusing. While the giant, transparent globe looks striking in the publicity shots, I found it made the background too fussy for my tastes. I'm not usually one for minimalism, but with so much happening in the foreground I think a quieter background would have been good. The quizzes are fun and - for all I know - illuminating, though the English is a little quirky at times; I don't normally refer to people from the USA as "Usians" for example. As well as the quiz area, you will find a wealth of information about SIETAR and a small auditorium. The Face of Tomorrow expo is fascinating.

Here's my photoset - I have covered most of the sim, in fact!

Incidentally, I am also reminded that the bluepill GROUP logo is curiously similar to my blood pressure tablets.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

BMW are leaving Second Life

I was unfortunately unable to make the inworld announcement today by Munich Express, the Second Life avatar of Achim Muellers, the Head of Brand Relations for BMW. However, he kindly IM'ed me the gist of the announcement:

BMW have decided they will be leaving Second Life in the near future.

This may not be a great surprise, but I have to say I am disappointed. I hope to find out more from Munich/Achim when I can, and will bring you more when I find out more.

On a personal note, I hope this does not mean the permanent disappearance of Herr Express from Second Life, as I have had many enjoyable debates and discussions with him in the past, and would welcome further such debates in the future.

UPDATE 31-07-2008:
I thought you might be interested to see some previous articles I posted on BMW. Perhaps the most illuminating is a chat with Munich/Achim from over a year ago. While This, this and this give you a bit more historical background.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Versailles Architecture

When I saw the name on the Second Life map, I would have sworn I'd been to this sim in the past. I know I've pottered around at least a fraction of a virtual Palace of Versailles. But on a whim - or may be that should be a hunch - I decided to take a look in any case. After all - it might have evolved since the rough and ready version I visited (but did not write about) last year. What I found was... well... a surprise.

I am not sure I can bring this sim to you in all its strange glory - but hopefully I can give you enough of a flavour that you will seek it out for yourself. First things first, though... the sim, Versailles Architecture, belongs to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles, or énsa-v. The website informs us that: "the énsa-v is one of twenty public schools that provides higher education in architecture. The pedagogical aim of the Architecture School of Versailles is to favor an intense experience in the architectural project while developing the questions of architecture in the fields of building, city and regional planning. The school prepares the students in methods of diverse professional exercises...Situated in the heart of Versailles, opposite the Palace, it is very close to the capital and its high cultural circles, but also close to the peripheral urban fabric, just between urbanization and the rural world." It has a little over 1000 students.

Second Life - with its strong emphasis on user generated content and object creation, free of many of the restrictions imposed by real world physics and materials - is a great place for budding (and practising) architects to explore their craft. They can unleash their creativity in ways which are currently not possible in the atomic world. I would cite, for example, Keystone Bouchard's wonderful experiments in 'Reflexive Architecture', which I discussed last year, or the Archidemo work by Hidenori Watanave, Associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Now énsa-v have discovered, and are exploiting, the creative environment offered by Second Life.

So what about the sim itself? As with many of these "architects at play" sites, it is very difficult to know where to begin, or indeed make any sense of what one has seen. At ground level the land is roughly divided into 9 parcels in a 3x3 grid. And all bar one of these parcels is... ummm... how do I put this? "Very busy". One parcel, for example, consists of a large "URL farm" - though at first sight you would be hard pushed to recognise it as such. Others parcels provide you with all manner of experiments using particles and scripted prims, including a Museum of sorts. The central parcel contains just a large shiny sphere. Touch this sphere and it will set you on a path that explores the rest of the build, which is constructed high above the ground. Again, links abound, and you will find student areas, dance areas, more information zones and links to other universities and colleges. And don't forget to take the rocket ride at the end of the exploration.

Actually, a large part of this sim is given over to information sharing - with various ideas being explored to bring new ways of accessing data and giving students links to web-based resources. In this respect, it differs from some of the other architecture builds, which are more focused on just exploring the medium.

I have no idea whether this description does the site any justice. I think it doesn't, since simply listing the features does not really impart the ambience of the place. But I also think you should go along and decide for yourself. Personally, I love its quirkiness, flair and imagination - though it is hard to translate all of that into a few short, stumbling paragraphs. Perhaps these photos make the case more strongly:

Friday, 11 July 2008

Innovatie Eiland

Even my tenuous grasp of other European languages is good enough to spot Dutch when I see it, and that is indeed the case with tonight's sim: Innovatie Eiland. Furthermore, I will push the boat out with a bold attempt at translation. I could be wrong, but I'm plumping for Innovation Island. It seems like an age since I last posted a piece about Dutch sims. In early 2007 it seemed hard to move without stumbling on a new Dutch build, but latterly I cannot claim to have seen many. I do realise that this sim itself may go back a long way - it's just that I have only just stumbled on it. However, I have some reason to believe it is not that old - as you will see - but if I am wrong, then this sends a worrying message about the state of non-residential, RL business use of Second Life.

It's a bit difficult to figure this place out - so bear with me. As far as I can tell, it belongs to Syntens, though the website is about as much use as a chocolate teapot to a non-Dutch speaker. Fortunately another site has all the info I need - and it's in English. Here are the salient points: "Syntens focuses on helping medium and small sized enterprises to innovate quicker, better and sooner, by being a full partner to the management and R&D directors... Syntens is a not-for-profit organisation, which operates in and with companies that want to innovate. Syntens’ advice stretches to the first crucial phases of innovation: finding the challenge and the best path for its solution."

It seems quite natural that a company with strong innovation credentials should gravitate to an innovative innovation environment like Second Life. *Phew* That's a lot the 'i' word!

Their presence in Second Life has been constructed by DNBmedia (cool website by the way), a digital media and virtual worlds build and consulting company, like Syntens based in Amsterdam.

As for the island itself, it is a clever construction, built in 2 layers. The lower layer seems to be a rural scene in present day Holland, with a farmstead set amid fields, with old churches, traditional towns and a modern wind farm on the horizon. Clever use of shadowed textures and photo-quality road tesxtures give a wonderful sense of being there. All of this is enclosed in a megaprim hemisphere, who inner surface provides the sky view, and serves to block out some the "machinery" of the sim.

The second layer is a couple of hundred metres above sea level, and comprises the same rural scene, but this time at some unspecified time in the future - presumably after all this innovation stuff has been done. The farm, roadways and canals are pimped in a sci-fiwards direction.

Use the teleport in the barn (also acting as a seminar room) to teleport between the 2.

But where's the innovation? hmmm... not sure. One thing I failed to point out is the group of open-sided spheres, floating over this pastoral landscape. The are labelled with various business areas, such as Logistics or Health. But only a few of them have any contents - hence my earlier observation about the state of RL business in SL. If this sim has been here for a long time, then it is remarkably underutilised - a worrying sign. On the other hand, if relatively new, then it is providing room for growth. Maybe someone will tell me which is true!

In any event, the spheres that are occupied seem only to carry links to traditional websites. While this is fine, it is hardly at the cutting edge of innovation. Nevertheless, the build itself is rather good, and the split "now/future" concept is very neat indeed. Here's my snaps, which I hope give you a fair view of the place:

Thursday, 10 July 2008


I found tonight's diversion while exploring the Southern Marches of Second Life, where you will find an archipelago of French islands. It is the sim belonging to the WIKTI Project - short for the Water International Knowledge Transfer Initiative. The sim and its associated web page seem to be at an odd point in their development. At first sight, they look complete - but on closer inspection both seem to be a little way off being ready.

So what is this WIKTI thing then? Well it appears to be a project or initiative of SUEZ, whose website informs me: "SUEZ, an international industrial and services Group, designs sustainable and innovative solutions for the management of public utilities as a partner of public authorities, businesses and individuals. The Group aims to answer essential needs in electricity, natural gas, energy services, water and waste management."

In the Commercial section of the website, we are told: "WIKTI, the Water International Knowledge Transfer Initiative, was developed by SUEZ Environment to standardise and implement knowledge transfer. This method, which is ISO 9001 certified, relies on the establishment of a matrix-based organisation: vertical operational tasks are cross-referenced against horizontal functional tasks, defined according to the WIKTI maps for the 36 task processes. For each process, a Business Area Expert is given the task of identifying the level of expertise and instigating the transfer with the help of a ‘business kit’ consisting of appropriate learning tools."

As part of the KT process they are building the WIKTI University sim in Second Life. This has a fairly basic structure, resembling a quincunx. The corners are occupied by the Orientation, Learning, Conference and Information Centres. The centre of the island is labelled "Discover Wikti" and has a large number of graphics panels, depicting various aspects of water management. I assume these will eventually hook into pages on a web site, but at the moment they are mute. The build appears to be the work of French virtual world construction company Stonfield Inworld (go here for the more complete French site), who have already done work for Credit Agricole. Completion cannot be far off for this sim and its associated website - but I don't think it's quite there yet.

Here's a few snaps for you - they should give you the idea:

It's not an Earth-shattering build, but that should not prevent it from doing what it is setting out to achieve - namely vLearning; providing an always-on resource centre, teaching facility and meeting space.

What's in a Job Title?

I have recently been pondering the question: "What's in a job title?"

I've been prompted into this line of pondering by the role of Chris Collins. I am not referring to the well-known virtual worlds educationalist, whose avatar name reminds me of Nip/Tuck. I am actually thinking of the one who works for Linden Lab.

If you do some choice Googling you will most likely encounter Chris being described as "the Technical Assistant to the CEO at Linden Lab". While this may conjure up images of a geek whose role in life is to switch on the CEO's PC and make sure he knows when Outlook has a message for him, I suspect the role may be larger than that. For example, most techie button-pushers are unlikely to be interviewed by Tech Crunch. The article, dating from November last year, gives us more insight: "recently he took up the Technical Assistant to the CEO role, an interesting position in that it’s essentially an executive in training position. Collins shadows Linden Lab CEO Phillip Rosedale at all meetings and functions, and is also directly responsible for Lindex Exchange, the Linden Dollar to US Dollar currency service for Second Life. At the end of the position (6-9mths) he will then take up an executive role with Linden Lab."

In more recent articles (such as this from Reuters) it is clear that he has now taken up that executive role, as Director of Enterprise Business Systems. To residents of Second Life who have no interest whatsoever in the enterprise use of the environment, this job title might sound as vacuous as Homer Simpson's classic 'Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence'. However, for me, given that the thrust of this blog - and indeed much of what I do in Second Life - is directed to the business use of virtual worlds, this job role resonates strongly.

I would therefore be very interested to know what the heck this role entails. I can see that there is a recurring piece of blurb that appears in recent articles: "For more information about the Second Life Grid visit, or contact Chris Collins, Director of Enterprise Business Systems at" But frankly, that tells me sweet F.A.

Is this job title as meaningless and confusing as his earlier "Technical Assistant" role? Or does it mean that Linden Lab are really going to provide some proper focus on enterprises wanting to use the environment. While some residents whinge and moan about the arrival of enterprises, there is no reason to believe that this needs to be to their detriment. Indeed, the size and strength of enterprises should be better at applying pressure to obtain the necessary improvements in grid performance, stability and capacity.

Right now I am not getting a strong sense of "Enterprise Business Systems" forming part of the Second Life ecosystem. I would therefore be interested to know how the new CEO (with or without someone to switch on his PC) and the Director of Enterprise Business Systems are going to address the shortcomings of their company's engagement with the business world.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sigma Aldrich

Occasionally I like to see what new islands are appearing at the very edges of the great Second Life grid. These far-flung islands will, soon enough, be gobbled up as the region starts to fill - but for now they lie out in the deep blue ocean as vanguards of the advancing grid. Today I happened upon a small group of 4 such sims belonging to Sigma Aldrich, and thought I would take the opportunity to give them a post.

Sigma Aldrich is a global company, headquartered in the US, who specialise in research chemistry and the supply of "fine chemicals", together with the manufacturer of products for use by research chemists. Their website has some engagingly whimsical pages, such as the Scientific Origamists Gallery and their Design A Lab Coat competition - while the more seriously minded might want to wander into the Stable Isotopes Centre (just one of many product pages) to checkout what's available in the world of NMR solvents (I have no idea what they might be, I hasten to add).

The four Second Life sims are glued to form a single land mass. Two of the sims are at a reasonably advanced state of construction, while the other two are at a very early stage in the build process. In part, the rapid build may be due to the employment of various Clever Zebra prefabs, all the work of Lordfly Digeridoo. However, since a lot of additional items, such as lampposts and fountains, are also the work of Lordfly, it is possible that he is providing rather more hands-on assistance to the build. I am tempted to touch on his recent departure from CZ, but instead I will point you in the direction of Prokofy for the full story. It is an interesting tale*.

As regards the Sigma Aldrich sims, there is little to say, to be honest. The "corporate buildings" look suitably corporate, and the overall build seems to be progressing well. But it is really too early to tell what the site will eventually offer. In the meantime, a few pictures, methinks:

* Thinks: Dunno why I'm driving footfall to Prok's blog, as Prok seems to think I'm a total d*ckhead. Oh well.

Does Lively Look Lively?

Yesterday Google joined the virtual world party with the launch of Lively. There have been dark mutterings and rumours for a long time that Google would shortly turn their gaze on this part of the Future Web and hose it down with a mega-product of their own. Well this prediction remains in force, since Lively does not - at least on first acquaintance - fit the bill.

I have to say that my stance is somewhat jaundiced owing to the number of issues I have had trying to get the damned thing running on my PC. It still doesn't work properly, despite several re-installs, careful checking of my security settings and even an unnecessary re-install of Adobe Flash. Did I mention it is Flash-based? It is.

To access Lively you will need to run a client-side installer and create yourself a Google account (if you don't have one already). Once you have done this you are ready to visit the virtual rooms. In Lively, the "world" is reduced to a number of 'rooms' - tiny handkerchief-sized pieces of virtual real estate. Some are pre-built, but you can create your own. In creating a room you can select from one of a variety of templates. I rather like the classic "tropical island".

I've explored a few rooms as best I could - and noted that it does integrate smoothly with, say, YouTube - allowing the owner to stream videos into the room. There is a small but growing catalog of avatars, clothing, furniture and fixtures for users to grab and employ. It is also very easy to embed links to your room(s) in web pages, including (I understand) MySpace and other social sites.

And that is basically where my experience with Lively runs out. When I run the software I should see a toolbar on the screen that would allow me to select and configure an avatar, add friends, view my inventory and so forth. Or at least, that is what I have read. On my machine there's no toolbar - so no avatar, no inventory, nothing. I also lack the "chat" feature. Instead I simply see the display "Joining room..." My Lively is not so lively, then. I've checked the related discussion forum and can confirm that I am not alone in experiencing this - but also, at the time of writing, as far as I can tell, no-one from Google has actually posted any replies to the many, many queries that are building up there.

So my views are somewhat soured by these frustrations. That said, Lively is far from being Google's virtual world "killer app" and I am mystified why the computerworld blog thinks this inflexible, buggy, room-based world represents a great leap forward for teleworking. Perhaps, as Chris Carella puts it on Twitter, Google's involvement provides validation (or even, benediction) of virtual worlds, and therefore stuff we've been discussing for years now becomes mainstream "news". But this is not really a virtual world in the style of, say, Second Life, Entropia or Active Worlds. Rather it is positioned to be used alongside existing social networking to add... well... what exactly? An increased sense of connectedness maybe? You tell me.

To sum up, Lively may prove popular because (a) it is coming out of Google and (b) it can be embedded in just about any web page to "extend" the page's reach and capability. But it isn't the virtual world we still suspect lurks somewhere behind Google's closed doors.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Asahi Broadcasting Corporation

This blog is largely given over to looking at non-residential builds in Second Life - they could be corporate, education, not-for-profit or whatever. But how do I find them? Well, in truth, I find as the number of islands grows, the more time-consuming and tedious the job of finding suitable sims becomes. Now, even regular readers may be forgiven for forgetting one of the tricks of the Ambling Rambler's trade: if you see initials on the Map, then check out the sim. So many organisations use acronyms and initialisms that it is worth investigating if you see them. And so it proved with today's site. In fact, it is a cluster of 4 sims - but the one that caught my eye was the enticingly entitled: ABC.

The list of possibilites was extensive, even after noting the neighbouring sim is called TV. In fact, the 4 sims belong to Asahi Broadcasting Corporation. This was easily ascertained, since it is plastered on the underside of the blimp that circles the TV sim. Originally founded as a radio station in Osaka, Japan, in 1951, ABC now broadcasts both radio and TV to around 20 million people. And that about taps out my knowledge of the company.

The 2 principal sims (ABC and TV) are rather splendid - at least to someone who likes both rich immersive textures and well-made Japanese sims. To be fair, not a great deal happens on the sims, given the amount of real estate available. ABC features a nicely made office block (though there is limited access to the interior) and a set of teleports to locations around the block where you can acquire a variety of free branded vehicles. Though the ads have the number "100" emblazoned on them, I did not seem to be charged for the pleasure. I can recommed the wheeled vehicle, but I found the aeroplane a nightmare! Most striking about this sim though, is the near photo quality of the textures.

The TV sim is rather more exotic. A large ... what?... (hmmm... words... what words to describe it?...) blue, fluroescent sci-fi ziggurat dominates the sim. Within this, somewhere, is a splendidly realised theatre. You reach this via a nifty teleport, which bears a small amount of explanation. To use it - simply walk on to the square plate of the device. You will be instantly boxed in by blue walls. Now use Right-Click and select "Sit" to operate the teleport. All this is explained in Japanese, with pictures, but there's no harm in explaining it. Also around the sim are 3 blue "studios" - I won't explain these, mainly because I can't - plus it might spoil your own discovery. Finally there's a sandbox and freebie station, where you can acquire a cartoony avatar. At least, I think that's what it is - I've not unpacked it yet.

The other 2 sims are still basically empty, so I won't bother describing them yet. Using my yardstick that the more pictures I take, the more I like a place, I can safely assert that I like this place (14 pictures). Oh, I'm not saying it's cutting edge - or that it engages with the virtual world community - or that it does a great job for ABC. But I really like the build. Kind of reminds me of Electric Sheep builds of yore. Oh, and if you can tell me about the builders responsible, then I'd like to hear that. In the meantime why not have a look?

Monday, 7 July 2008

The Triptych at Princeton North

I have a largely visual treat for you today, courtesy of Poid Mahovlich, who has produced yet another interesting piece of work on one of the growing cluster of Princeton sims. I've talked about Poid's stuff on these sims before, but I think this takes things to a new level.

Poid commenced work on Triptych around 6 months ago, and launched it at the end of June (or thereabouts). As the name would suggest, this is an immersive installation in 3 parts, accessed through a common portal. The parts are labelled 1) Gossip Death of an Avatar, 2) Binary and 3) elit-sim. At first I had a problem picking up the thread connecting them, and to be totally honest I'm not sure that there is one. But more of this anon. Let's consider each of the parts first. If you've not yet visited the sim, do be aware that it is not a mirthtastic, laugh-a-minute, rollicking roller-coaster of rumbustious fun. I do suggest you follow the advice to set your daylight settings to "midnight".

Gossip is dedicated to a friend of Poid's who was hounded out of Second Life by gossip, lies and insinuation, and whose live (both atomic and digital) was made a misery. A steady drizzle of gossip (the word actually pours down and through you) forms the backdrop to a couple of remarkable constructions. One resembles an orrery, and seems quite benign; the other is a disconcerting circle of whispers, some consuming you with incandescent fire, and all the while you are poked and probbed (and even impaled) by rods emanating from the centre of the circle.

Elit-sim is a commentary on elitism. As the accompanying notecard puts it: "Elitism - The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources. There is NO room for elitism in art in any world." Both this and Gossip I suppose represent aspects of the dark side of existence, and in particular the oddly enhanced and speeded up existence to be found in virtual worlds like Second Life.

This not-so-neatly segues us into Binary, the final part of the Triptych. This is inspired by Snow Crash, which is often referenced as a key influence on the development of Second Life, and particularly "Chapter 8 - Black Sun Passport - Stepping Through the Stargate." A black room ripples and dances with noughts and ones. Aside from acting as a metaphor (and nod in the direction of The Matrix) that everything you see in virtual worlds is digital, I am not clear what this is about. But Poid does say that (if pushed at any rate) this does provide a common thread linking the other parts.

It's a great build. Sombre, certainly, but also full of texture and detail. It should be on anyone's "must see" list - though perhaps not on Day 1 of their new Second Life. Give it a few days, eh?

It is also worth mentioning 2 other people: Talia Tokugawa, who provided additional scripting for the build and Persis Trilling, responsible for Princeton's Second Life and more importantly, curator and mentor to the group of artists who have produced such fascinating works on these sims. Here's my pictures - which I hope whet your appetite:

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Rezzable Introduces a Pay-to-Use Service

Gosh, this is the longest I've gone without posting to this blog - and on this occasion, you don't even get any pictures. Instead you get a long rambling prose piece - so good luck getting through it. Here we go....

Thanks to my chum Xantherus Halberd for letting me know via Twitter of this interesting blog post, concerning those inscrutable souls at Rezzable. Who? Oh come on... where have you been for the last year? Rezzable is a UK-based virtual world design and build company, who have brought us - or perhaps "have curated" would be more accurate - some of the most interesting sims on the Second Life grid. Their best-known sim remains Greenies, with its brilliant concept of a truly immense room infested by aliens. In fact, the company owns a large number of imaginative sims, many of which I have featured in this blog.

Anyway, it seems that they have grown tired of providing us ramblers, tourists and other freeloaders with free access to another of their great sims: Black Swan. Henceforth, visitors will need to stump up nearly 200L$ (about 40p or 80 cents) to acquire a HUD that will grant them entry. Anyone refusing to buy and wear the HUD will be ejected forthwith.

So why are they doing this? Their blog offers the following explanation:

"We are still exploring the right revenue model for virtual world content. We have merchandise that contributes some revenues. However,we have seen the interest in corporate sponsors (like L'Oreal Paris) evaporate. We think the best way to go forward is to charge for an object that can then be used many times for admissions. We realize that this may limit the number of visitors to the sim, but hope that high-quality areas are considered worth paying a little to see, explore and hang-out with friends."
(Thinks: But doesn't Kzero usually reference L'Oreal Paris as a success?)

When Rezzable first appeared there was a lot of conjecture about their business plan. There were making a significant investment in virtual real estate - and undertaking a lot of high quality (read: expensive) construction. Yet they didn't seem to be promoting or selling anything. My thought at the time - and I still think it valid now - is that they were looking to make A Big Splash and establish themselves, almost overnight, as a viable alternative to the established Big Boys of Second Life like, say, Electric Sheep and Millions of Us. But the L'Oreal Paris campaign aside (and that was never intended as a long term commitment, or so I understood), they have not exactly grabbed the corporate world by the lapels, spun it upside-down, and shaken the change from its collective pockets.

I am curious to know why not. At one time, say around 6 to 9 months ago, it looked like they might be getting into some commercial building work. But latterly Rezzable has resembled more of a "vanity project" than anything else. A harsh view perhaps, given that there are people whose livelihoods depend on it. But it seems Rezzable has not capitalised on that first eruption into Second Life, and has instead continued to spawn many interesting and arty sims that do nothing apart from (hopefully) putting the word "Rezzable" in people's minds.

So what about this new "money-maker"? If the sole reason for doing this was to try and get some money back to cover the outlay then I'd be inclined to question the sanity of the decision. But then, I'm a rambler and general freeloader, so I am bound to think that. There are so many amazing sims in SL that I'd sooner not pay for Rezzable ones, thanks, when I can enter the others Free Of Charge. I can get the gist of their exclusive, deluxe sims from Flickr and other bloggers, so I am struggling to see why I might then want to part with hard currency just to walk around them. This is not like RL, where I might spend half a day or more, wandering around a museum, gallery or historic site. In SL I am looking to be there for perhaps 15 minutes... and probably less.

But I don't think this is the sole reason why the HUD has been rolled out. I wonder if it is also a way of introducing a new pay-to-use solution that other SL entrepreneurs can buy off the virtual shelf. It's not a marketplace I've looked at, so I don't know if there is already a welter of such tools out there. But while the Rezzable HUD is currently set to be pay-to-use, based on a one-off payment, it would not take much further development to convert it to a one-off pay-per-use device instead. And there are many opportunities for such pay-per-use services.

Forgive my grubby mind, but for example a concept like this could work admirably for the... ahem... "Adult" market - a sizeable market in Second Life, let's face it. You can figure out how that might work, I'm sure. Similarly, you could use it as the basis for any ticketed event in Second Life - where the HUD = the ticket. Then you might have something...

But no doubt I've got it all wrong, and it's something totally different again. Let's see, eh?