Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Mitsubishi Corporation

How odd? When I visited this sim last night, it was part of a cluster that was surrounded by ocean. Skipping back today, to pick up a landmark and check a couple of things, I find it has moved - and is now nestled up in one large conglomerate of sims built by Japanese builders, MeltingDots. I'm guessing this is a temporary measure while they reposition on the grid - or something - since otherwise they are making one large, indigestible land mass, mashing together the islands of their various clients. I hope, by the time you read this, that these Mitsubishi Corporation sims will be back in splendid isolation.

As their website informs us: "Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) is Japan's largest general trading company (sogo shosha) with over 200 bases of operations in approximately 80 countries worldwide. Together with its over 500 group companies, MC employs a multinational workforce of approximately 54,000 people. " Its origins are in shipping, when the first Mitsubishi company was founded in 1873. It added coal-mining some 8 years later, using the coal to power its ships. From there it further diversified into logistics, shipbuilding, finance, and vehicle manufacture. In fact, it seemed to have interests in just about every commercial marketplace. Continued diversification led to the founding of the Mitsubishi Corporation in 1950.

As a large and successful corporation, it is good to see it taking "corporate citizenship" seriously. One of its main contributions is support for the Global Coral Reef Conservation Project, with research bases in Seychelles, Okinawa and Midway. It is this Project that forms the foundation for a 6-sim presence in Second Life. Most of these are 'low prim' ocean sims, but a couple of them provide the substance of the build - a couple of tropical islands and a coral reef.

Newcomers should start on the MitsubishiCorporation sim, which has a nicely executed orientation zone, constructed as a series of interconnected huts, built on stilts out over the sea bed. After completing this you are led, via a park area, to a faintly Polynesian beach house, where you can discover some facts about coral. Emerging from the beach house you then arrive at the beach itself. Here you can help yourself to free scuba diving gear before heading out into the sea. Just offshore will reach the coral reef, replete with clown fish and other piscine inhabitants.

Beyond the reef you come to the second island, which also features a beach house, where you will find links and a gallery of information about the Conservation Project. While the 2 islands seem to be largely complete, the remainder of the site is still somewhat bare. I assume the intention is to extend the coral reef into the empty sims, as it is still quite small at the moment.

This is an attractive and diverting site - though I hope it will grow in coming months, as it is a little spartan at the moment.

It also shows off another possible meme in Second Life - the use of the virtual world to promote your 'corporate citizenship' credentials. I mentioned another such site a few weeks ago, and I'm sure there are others that I have simply missed or mis-filed.

Anyway, more of that another day - time for some piccies, I think:

Monday, 16 June 2008

Airship Caravan

I know... I've not been posting much of late. I have a couple of things on the back burner, but I rather fancied telling you about this sim: Airship Caravan. It's been around a while, I gather, and is one of a mini-continent of sims built by Japanese virtual world build company, Metabirds. If you've not toured them before, you will find many of the sims here will reward the curious traveller, but this one has to be my favourite (so far).

It is actually a rental sim, intended for virtual commercial lettings - and at ground level has relatively little going on. A damn big bell seemed to be about it. The fun starts, as you have no doubt already realised, high in the air - on the airship caravan of the title. This is an assemblage of old, rusty, steampunk-y airships, tethered together with walkways. Most of the airships are available for rent - or maybe it's just the space they occupy - provided you follow the sim's zoning rules. I found the best way to view the place was with a "foggy" setting in Windlight. I think it gives a nice, brooding atmosphere to the place. I love the textures here - that's really why I opted to feature the sim. Beyond that, I don't have anything else to say - other than I hope you enjoy my snaps:

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Message in a Bottle

On logging into Second Life I received this from Dizzy Banjo, one of the virtual world's virtuoso musicians, and in the spirit of sharing I am passing it along for your attention:


As part of the SL5B celebrations, Dizzy Banjo and Lillie Yifu are creating "A Message to Second Life". We have created a giant bottle, which we want to fill with all your messages to Second Life. What would you like to say to the entire SL community on its 5th birthday ?
  • What does Second Life mean to you ?
  • How has your Second Life affected you ?
  • What hopes do you have for the future of Second Life ?
You can submit your message in two forms :
- An uploaded audio recording of you speaking your message ( PREFERRED OPTION ! ! )
- A text based message in a notecard

Once we have received your messages they will all go into the bottle and spill out intermittently as part of a fun interactive sound and music installation celebrating the Second Life spirit !

At the end of the 2 weeks of birthday events the bottle will be sealed and cast off into the SL ocean, perhaps it will be found again at SL10B ...


Audio Messages :
Watch this easy video tutorial which will explain how you can record your voice and upload your message and give it to us.

Text Messages :
1. Please write your message within 140 characters in a notecard.
2. Make the notecard FULL PERMISSIONS by right clicking on it in your inventory and checking the "copy" and "modify" boxes
3. Goto SEARCH (open the 'all' tab) and type in DIZZY BANJO and click my resident profile ( the top link )
4. Drag the notecard onto my profile.

Note : All messages need to adhere to the Second Life Terms of Service, and be PG in nature.


Thanks for your interest and we look forward to hearing your submissions soon and putting them into the bottle !

/End of Message

Friday, 6 June 2008

Michelin and Enterprise Architecture

My 'About Me' tells you that I am "a virtual, electronic traveller on behalf of my real, atomic self." Unlike those who, for a variety of reasons, maintain a clear separation between their electronic and atomic selves, I have been happy for the two to overlap. I don't go to great lengths to conceal my atomic identity and regular readers may therefore be aware that, in the atomic world, I work for a large global IT consulting and services company. Furthermore, I work within the Enterprise Architecture group of that company - a role I largely enjoy and that requires much beard-stroking and drawing of boxes. [ I would strongly refute the assertion that architecture is merely "testiculating" - that is: waving the hands about while talking boll*cks ]

Anyway...I digress. Where was I? Oh yeah...

Today I had the opportunity to read a new report from Forrester Research entitled "Case Study: Michelin Uses Second Life For Enterprise Architecture Training." You can now hopefully see the relevance of my preamble and understand why this would pique my interest. I don't intend to go into the report in great detail - but I hope Forrester will not mind me lifting the following quotes, which give a brief summary:

  • Michelin’s EA group has launched a private two-island Second Life region designed for training IT pros on architecture concepts. Michelin doesn’t intend to replace — rather, to augment — its traditional classroom training on EA concepts.
  • Starting in April 2008, the EA group at Michelin began training IT professionals in Second Life. As of this writing, about 30 IT pros had completed the training, with 170 more expected to finish during the next couple of months.
  • Michelin hired French virtual world development company Community Chest to build the Second Life region. It took about two months to build and cost €50,000 to €60,000.
Although only recently launched, the early feedback has been very positive. Reading (and badly translating) the builders' blog, it would seem that attendees enjoyed the "gameplay" style of the training - and the use of such an unusual training environment made the sessions held in Second Life particularly memorable. And that can't be a Bad Thing in the context of training!

I don't have any more information about the site - but I would love to look around (*hint* *hint*) as the Forrester report contains some tantalising glimpses.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Rambling in ExitReality

After my recent post about the name of this new virtual world, I thought I should go for a longer ramble in ExitReality to check it out. It is currently inviting people to join its beta test programme, and so I signed up last week. However, after some initial frustrations I did not return to it until today.

My initial frustrations have been around getting the software to work reliably. I found that on IE7 it was not well behaved. The display was incomplete, performance seemed poor, the HUD ceased to function after I opened a website and I never got a sight of my avatar. On the other hand, the software was much better on Firefox 2: everything displayed (as far as I know), performance seemed OK, the HUD worked and I could toggle my avatar on or off. Nevertheless, the software was flakier than I had expected, and it crashed FF2 on several occasions.

Having had limited success, I went back to it again today, to have another go. This time I went to... well... this blog, Slambling, to see what I would get, since we are encouraged to travel freely on the internet using the virtual world interface. This was very slow, but eventually it presented me with a large hall, containing images and links gleaned from the website. Here's a couple of snaps...

While it was novel seeing Slambling set out like this, I am not sure it really helped much. Apart from the images and links I found it hard to make much sense of what I was seeing, or the layout I was seeing it in --- which seemed to be a mirror-image of the actual site.

I then checked out some of the pre-built places in ExitReality. These look like tests to illustrate what can be built - and quite good fun they are too:

I was unable to access the Online Help - though I don't know if that's because I cocked up my password, or because (as I suspect) I don't actually have access rights to the help server. Therefore, there's a lot I don't understand about the environment. Such as:

  • What are these things I can pick up?
  • What is a skybox? (I'm assuming it's like a private sandbox - is that right??)
  • How do I add places to my favourites?
  • How do I find friends inworld?
The avatar movements are a little awkward. Use the arrow keys - or the right mouse button - to move your avatar. You can tilt the view using the scroll wheel. No flying, no zoom in/out and no animations in your avatar, aside from a lolloping run. You select your avatar from a list of pre-built, pre-dressed characters.

I like the idea of ExitReality (thought not the name) and I think it is full of ideas - though I have no idea what many of these might be since I cannot access the User Guide in Online Help! However, it strikes me that it is too flakey to be out for beta testing. It really needs a good spell of alpha testing behind closed doors. Still... we are where we are, and it is open for public beta. Their blog makes for a reasonable read - though I am struggling to square my own experience with that described.

Anyhow, don't take my word... if you're intrigued, give it a go and let me know what you think.

Monday, 2 June 2008


As we move into June and start hurtling towards the Summer solstice, it seems appropriate (OK, it feels like stretching a point) that my rambles should take me Northwards, to the Land of The Midnight Sun. Well, to one of them, at any rate. Tonight we are off to a Norwegian sim, belonging to the banking and finance group, DnB NOR.

DnB NOR is Norway's largest financial services group, formed in December 2003 through the merger of the financial services groups DnB and Gjensidige NOR (Union Bank of Norway). It has more than 2.3 million retail and 198,000 corporate customers, and is behind Norway’s largest Internet banks, dnbnor.no and postbanken.no, which have more than 1.4 million users. It also has one of Norway's largest private art collections, with over 12,000 works of art dating back from the end of the 1800s up till today. A tiny fraction of this is available for viewing in Second Life. According to the notecard I picked up: "these are works which normally decorate the many DnB NOR offices and meeting rooms at home and abroad, and are a source of pleasure to both the Group’s staff and customers."

This is another sim where I appear to be about a year late (D'OH!). Mindblizzard, and many others, covered it at the time. Still, I am here now - so I shall plough on, undaunted.

The sim is terraformed as a number of small islands. From your arrival point you can elect to use a large teleport map to move around, or take the more leisurely option of waiting for one of the small ferry boats to stop and pick you up. I opted for the latter and sat back as we chugged between the islands. I disembarked at the presentation auditorium, with its ultra-polished floor that - as with all other such "shiny" surfaces - reflects the furnishings and surroundings, but never the people. Are we all vampires?**

A glass walkway takes you to the next island, which plays host to a large floating sphere. Here you will find formal meeting areas, links to the company website and, if you fancy it, a free coffee. The next island houses the art gallery, which I found a little confusing. It seemed to feature no more than a dozen fairy mundane art works - from an even smaller range of artists. Am I missing something? Outside the gallery there a casual meeting area, though not quite as casual as the camping ground, where you can sit around a campfire to warm up, after taking a quick windsurf among the islands. The final feature is the Nobel Peace Centre, reflecting the real life centre that exists in Oslo, where you can experience and learn about the various Peace Prize Laureates and their activities. AS you will gather, itis supported by DnB NOR, among others.

The implementation is by Norwegian agency, Design Container, using contractors for much of the build. And I have to say, I think they've done a pretty decent job to get so much in, and provide a pleasant sunny, Summer's ambiance to the place. I have no idea if the island is actually used though. I'm guessing not - because it has a number of minor glitches that would normally get sorted if there was much feedback. Simple things like overlapping textures that lead to a jittery, "migraine-y" look; too much repetition of the same texture, when it only needs sliding slightly between prims to make them look different and a more up-to-the-mark teleport system where you don't arrive rotated thru 90 degrees. Anyway, here's my slideshow. The fact that there are 9 pictures suggests I do like the place!

** BTW, I do know how it's done really. That's why the island on which the auditorium sits is also, by no coincidence, the highest land on the sim. ;-)