Saturday, January 31, 2009

Animoto: Second Life Music Videos

Location: Animoto Web site

Though not intended for SLers in particular, Animoto provides a wonderful way to have some fun with one's avatars. It's free for videos of 30 seconds--longer ones are for premium members only.

Tenchi Morigi has already done a nice mashup of images and music at this site; she gets credit for telling me about it.

Given my love for the bluegrass clasic "Old Slewfoot." The uncertain fate of Pappy Enoch, I decided to mash up a tribute to the po' alien-abducted boy.

Enjoy...I'm not a great music editor, and the process is slow, so the images and sound do not synch as well as I'd like. Visit Animoto and give it a try today.

While I'm cranking some backwoods classics, Pappy's pick for a "classic" version of the tune, by Jim & Jesse in 1976, can be found on YouTube. As Pap says "If'n this hear vershun don't make yu run out tu git a pompy-door hairdoo n' a suede soot, yu mite as well bee dead."

Some more Info from Tenchi:

Animoto got my heart from the spot. The handling is quite easy and the professionalism comes with the encoding by itself.

Basically everything you have to do is add pictures, add text if you like and some music.
I have noticed some things you might want to take care of:
  • Rather choose electronic music then anything else. Animoto likes to look for a baseline to use as a metronome in my eyes. I got the best results using electronic music.
  • Take care on how many pictures you add. Adding more pictures then can be displayed during the running time of the soundtrack they will not be displayed. Try using normal speed or half speed for displaying the images. This makes the the presentation more relaxed. Higher speed will make it rather hectic sometimes.
  • Count at least 5 seconds for each picture or textslide
  • One click remixing can greatly change the video and give it a whole new look. So give it a try when you are not satisfied.
  • Once the encoding starts you can safely shut down the website. Animoto will inform you once your video is ready.
The free version of Animoto gives you 30 Seconds of Video. If you want a longer Video you will have to purchase a credit for a full video which costs you 3USD or an unlimited number of full videos subscription for 30USD.

For playing around with the tool I bought one credit for a full video for 3USD which is quite ok with me. For those slideshow maniacs you might rather want to try out the big package. If so entering the referral code "ytnxzuwo" (without "") will save 5USD on the purchase of the full pack.

This video is the result of about 30 minutes of arranging,uploading and adding text:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Same Old "Second Life is Sex" Story: Why We Should Worry

Location: About to get a drink

Last year, a BBC documentary covered the lives of two Second Life couples who came together in real life. It did not purport to give a balanced view of SL, instead focusing on infidelity, geek-love, and a few tame SL sex scenes--more comic than lurid, truth be told. Still, it was enjoyable and not likely to start an anti-SL firestorm.

Now the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has re-cut parts of the documentary and dropped the British accents. They re-packaged it in a manner that is as sleazy as a one-night stand in a cheap motel, after too many bad gin fizzes.

Shame on the CBC. Here we are, getting this body-blow at the end of the Educational Support Faire in SL, with its presentations, educational displays, and promise of interactivity for intellectual work.

I might as well piss into a hurricane, trying to convince people not in SL that it serves education, business, and the non-profit sector well. Each time a major media outlet reduces SL to copulating pixels, a lot of our work is undone.

At the same time, to be honest, shame on us.

Not for permitting sex in SL, but for not admitting a striking difference between our virtual world and many others. Sex has become, like it or not, a signature part of the Linden Lab "brand." Yes, IMVU's Bratz dolls are usually shown hanging about in hootchie-wear, but "Second Life," a term redolent of a "hidden life," may become the definitive term for avatar-based realities.

And in our particular little universe, there are many clever individuals selling kinky goods for various avatarian subcultures.

For these reasons, I've been stewing since I read Tenchi's remark about academics who leave sexually explicit groups in their avatar's profiles. I don't really care if my colleagues have cybersex, but by leaving evidence in their profiles they debase the hard work in education and business settings. And they feed the gaping maw of the "infotainment" industry, always hungry for sex or blood to grab the eyeballs of those who consume passive media. Worse still, such coverage fires up the would-be censors of the Internet, the moral crusaders who wish to have us all do things their way.

Now that I've warmed you all up, so you simply must see the documentary, I don't recommend reading the misinformed "commentary" at CBC's site unless you have taken your blood-pressure medicine. The venom goes beyond the usual "read a book, get a life" remarks, though it's amusing to be flamed by people who still have not figured out how to use a spell checker:
Shame, shame, shame on these dispicable people for "loosing reality" and losing their family over such a rediculous, childish "game". I think kids have more common sense than these "adults". ANYONE who particpates in this needs to have their head examined and get a grip on "LIFE".
We stake-holders in virtual worlds had best hope that the terminally indignant do not discover the Goreans, the BDSM crowd, or the "forced capture" fans in-world. I fear the day that one of those subcultures--and not merely "normal" sex between avatars--become the focus of a major documentary and gets aired in the US Congress. Our work to bring SL into education and business will be doomed because, unlike the broader Internet, Linden Lab is the site where all the content gets hosted. The lab may try to position itself as a mere ISP for 3D content, but to people like the moron quoted above, such nuances won't matter.

Some morons wear judges' robes. A lot more have been elected to office. Unless we take on the "all about sex" issue directly, Linden Lab--and everyone with an SL avatar--gets tarred by the same brush.

Okay--here's the damned CBC video.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

FREE Money...but wait.

Just received in e-mail: wouldn't be so bad except there was a week, long ago, when NONE of us got our stipends. That's me back then, dumpster-diving.

We'll count it as fair this time, but just don't short-change an Enoch, Linden Lab!

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

On 27 January our overnight L$ transaction settlement process was instructed to initiate twice. We quickly caught it and halted the activity, but for a limited number of Residents, we paid weekly stipends twice. In order to remedy this overpayment, we will regard your stipend of 3 February to be paid early. Stipend payments will resume as normal for you on 10 February. If you find things don't look right upon review of your account records, please contact us via support, and we'll take a look. On behalf of all of us at Linden Lab, we apologise for this error. The Linden Lab Billing Team

Second Life Education Support Faire: Through the eyes of a visitor

Location: Several Spots on the Faire

Since Iggy managed to drag me into SL supported education it is no wonder that I spent the last days wandering the SL education faire like Iggy. Since I am neither an academic nor a faculty member I think that I have a rather different perspective on the faire and especially its visitors.

To quote Iggy there were of course quite some "fashionally challenged" people around. This is surely not the nicest sight to see but generally not an unsolvable problem. The amazing fact behind academic clothing habits is rather that those academics that have been longer on the grid already tend to mix geeky habits with the stereotype "coolness" of the typical avatar. So seeing a bodybuilder surfer guy with wild hair and three day beard wearing a tux shirt not only made me smile but almost die laughing.

It is not really what you wear, its rather the way how you wear it. Combining the pieces of your avatar (I am not only talking clothing here) is essential because body language goes even a step further in SL then it does in RL. And this is important since the visual is still the most developed sense on the grid and so the visual will be the first thing students encounter when they first enter the grid. Keeping in mind that it is still a widespread prejudice that people using SL regularly must be some kind of social failure, how will the picture of such a teacher avatar remain in the students heads? There is nothing wrong with a pimped up or original avatar, but it always depends on how this avatar connects to the RL picture since the teacher is most likely the one that is constantly compared with his/her avatar.

While this fashionissue is surely worth a note and sometimes a good laugh, two things struck my eye while i nicely blended into the background and observed what was going on.

As Iggy already pointed out a good deal of the people on the faire are actually newbies. Being new to a surrounding like the grid can be confusing, I am not going to argue that since it is true. Nevertheless I think that members of schools, universities and other educational bodies should be in an age where they know how to behave. This includes basic knowledge of proper behaviour and codes of conduct. Sadly I have noticed that a newbie in SL seems to be a newbie regardless of age and profession. Shouting avatars, no sense of politeness and a latent rudeness within some visitors of the faire were quite disturbing in my eyes. It became even more disturbing when I noticed a university professor (he was first rezzed about a year ago) who was actually talking to a newbie colleague simply walked away in the middle of the conversation leaving his colleague helpless in the middle of changing his appearance. I think that especially those teaching a class have to have a flawless behavior to transfer that onto their students.

The last thing I noticed is that also academics are human beings. Denying that SL has a sexual component which is frequented by quite a big part of the users doesn´t make any sense because it is not hidden and easy to find. Yet I think one should think what kind of groups they join with an avatar that also is used for teaching. I had quite a good laugh when I found sexual content usergroups within user profiles. In general I don´t think that this is a reason for an uproar and the proclamation of the end of the world as we know it (great song by REM by the way), I think that displaying the membership of a group that is centered around forced and non-consensual BDSM might not be the smartest choice. You could of course hide the group from public display, yet I think an alt would be the smarter choice since it might avoid the embarrassment of your student finding you while on some "research project" tied up in a bondage being whipped by some rubberdolls (sorry for the graphics here but I think everyone should get the point now).

I think the general reception of SL as a game is probably the reason why these people are having a hard time on the grid. Starting to see SL as what it is ... an extension of RL, will solve that situation. As in RL codes of conduct, proper behaviour and politeness are values that should be obeyed (even though in certain situations they might not apply fully).

Of course this is not true for every visitor of the faire (thank god) in fact the most people who dared talking to me were polite and eager to learn. Yet it cannot be denied that the cases I described above happened more then once in the last two days while I was there. This might seem like a misuse of rather striking examples, yet I think that events like these should be considered in preparation of own explorations on the grid and in preparation of classes that are going to make use of SL.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Welcome, Skye Wolf!

I want to welcome Skye to this blog as an author. She's a vampire-slayer in-world and will be writing in character at times; I've been looking for someone to talk about gaming in-world. It's something I wish I had time to do myself!

At other times she'll be penning whatever comes to mind.

With grace and style, like my other collaborator, Tenchi Morigi.

A big hillbilly welcome to Skye. Be sure to have a look at her blog here, "Skye Goes Wandering" as well.

Second Life Education Support Faire: Dispatch 2

SL Shakespeare
Location: Ummm...The Faire?

I need a roasted turkey leg for the Faire. I feel myself at a RenFaire in real life.

Highlights of my Second Visit:
  • Ann Enigma’s Autoscript tool as been around since 2007, but a nice way to simplify scripting. Torley Linden promoting it at the Faire.
I will be sure to use this tool myself for a few upcoming projects. It was nice to see an interactive display, given that many booths, including our SL Education Roundtable, had static displays with links to landmarks and Web-based materials.
Insight Virtual College, with information about their in-world classes, and the Master Jeweler Guild caught my eye. One of my students studied SL jewelry for a final project, and the Guild would have been a perfect fit for her research. I also grabbed landmarks to New Citizen Inc’s sites in SL. I have always found the orientation experience limiting, so I’ll check (and blog about) the NCI options for teachers who may be bringing classes in-world later this term or after.
One of the booths at the Faire
  • The Discovery Education Network’s audio-enhanced display. They go far beyond the Discovery Channel. I’m not sure how much content Discovery has in-world, but they have a center at this location in SL.
Much of what was on-offer is on the Web, so this may be of interest to colleagues who do not have SL avatars.
  • Bind fast his corky arms! SL Shakespeare.
Verily, I’d be a witless knave were I not to share an aside with thee about the SL Shakespeare Company. Methinks it would be a thing wondrous had these poor players, strutting and fretting their hour upon the stage, not been present at the Faire.

The Globe and the Company, to me, illustrate the potential of this type of learning more than nearly anything else I’ve seen in SL—but then I’m a fanatic for The Bard’s work.

To be I really want that turkey-leg. Ho there, sirrah! Fetch me yon roasted joint!

Monday, January 26, 2009

First Dispatch: Second Life Education Support Faire

Location: The Faire!

Okay, I'm a jaded fellow in real life, but SL continues to impress me. The spirits of learning and play came together well at the Faire, which I've had the pleasure of visiting twice.

Getting oriented:
My First Day: A Virtual Ecosystem

On Sunday, a decent crowd hung out to hear the presenters at the stage in the center of the four regions that make up the Faire. Lag was present but not overwhelming, though my mic got stuck open and I had to leave the area to adjust it properly without lag.

When I came back I had to fix real-life dinner, just as Kitsune Kyomoon began to talk about the Undiscovered Florida build, " basically a inner tube ride through various ecosystems of my home state" done for the SL 5th anniversary event. This work led her to a real-life job. Now she leads the KittysTeam group, full-service architects and scripters. A pic from Undiscovered Florida follows:

Undiscovered Florida

Luckily, while I made some Spanish food, Iggy sat like a lump and logged Kitty's chat. Just visit her Team's Island (note--some adult content present) or the Undiscovered Florida build at U of South Florida to see what can be down talented builders. It also shows that good work can and should be preserved after the end of an event.

SL Education Roundtable Booth: Tote-Bags and Bald Pates

The Roundtable Booth

I spent some time greeting newcomers here. We will hold our weekly meeting on Tuesday the 27th at the Faire, at 2:30 SL time. We expect a large turn-out. Our booth is not far from the center of the four sims that make up the Faire.

As at a real-life conference, I gave out tote-bags. These contained landmarks from my student projects and freebies for men and women. You may IM me in-world or e-mail me with your avatar's name if you'd like one (iggyo -at- mac -dot- com).

AJ & Tenchi

Two good friends, class mentor Tenchi Morigi and Montclair State's AJ Brooks, were both on the scene this morning. AJ was having trouble not running his Segway into walls, and Tenchi, ever the fashionable one, having fun watching scores of fashioned-challenged academics.

Perhaps the funniest moment came when a bald woman walked into our booth, yelling that she had lost her hair. She's a faculty member at a Turkish university, and she was new to SL. We shared stories of Turkey, a nation I've traveled a few times for academic work.

I loaded her up with freebies, took her to a nice store with low-cost hair, and enrolled her in our Roundtable group. For 30 Linden dollars, I got her some great hair.

What are academic friends for? One can't walk about bald in SL. It's hard enough in the real world on cold days like today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Volkswagen Enters the Virtual Baby Business

Location: Volkswagen Web Page

Ah, Sunday morning. A time to drink cup after cup of coffee and crawl through the New York Times. Little did I know that I'd see yet another melding of the real and virtual worlds.

I usually start with the small automotive section at the back of the sports pages. Today I spotted a feature on the "new" VW minivan, the Routan, touting the company's humorous campaign to get consumers past the stigma of a "mommy wagon." I quote from the site:

With the RoutanBabymaker3000 now you can succumb to the urge to procreate, without adding to the epidemic. Just remember. Please. Have a baby for love, not for German engineering.

Prospective buyers or the merely perverse can mash up photos of a mom and a dad to create a Routan "virtual baby." This Routan Babymaker 3000 seems far less odd than making a virtual child in Second Life, the subject of occasional head-scratching by this writer. The Routan campaign does, however, move us a millimeter closer to a time when virtual creatures of all sorts will be part of our daily computing rituals.

For the sheer joy of it, in honor of Pappy Enoch's alien abduction I mashed up Jethro Bodine and Salma Hayek (Pappy's idol). I had to settle for Jethro, instead of Pap, because the VW program insists that the male cannot wear a hat nor have facial hair! That's perhaps the worst abomination of this entire farce...Pappy would as soon be caught beard-less as he'd be caught paying his taxes.

Oh yes, what about the new VW?

My masculinity is not tied up in the wheels I use to roll. Minivans are good vehicles for what they do, moving a group of humans without the stupid waste of fuel that an SUV delivers. Too bad. VW missed the mark by many kilometers with this seems little different from my in-law's Chrysler Town and Country, its clone. VW changed the interior and a few exterior cues; the Routan lacks the hippie charm of the old Microbuses...perhaps its worst failing. Now if they'd have put the new TDI Diesel engine inside of a camper-van version, I'd be singing "Truckin' like the doodah man" all the way to the dealership.

Still, I must hand it to VW for making my Sunday morning ritual a little more surreal. That's not a bad thing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

MAMMY Enoch? Another Hillbilly Enters Second Life

Location: Hellbilly Paradise

Poor Pappy...stuck in an alien zoo. Poor TammiFay Digfoot...stuck there with Pappy.

Perhaps only one person in any universe could end this nightmare. Today, I got this curious missive:
"Mistopher Onomatopatetel, where am my sun pappy? you wrote in you blob that he am abdominated or sumfin. Will you em tell um that his mummy come from thar holler? excusemoar but them thar purty gurl Tenchi Morigi wrote me your adressum."

Along with the enclosed photo. Thank God. Mama's come to set things straight for Second Life's Hillbilly community.

I hear tell she's mighty handy with a shotgun. She's even better with high explosives, flame-throwers, naplam, and custard pies.

Look out, alien invaders..she might think you are revenuers out looking for moonshine stills...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another Second Life Hillbilly Abducted by Aliens!

Selecting Earth Creatures to A...

Location: Hellbilly Home Place

Iggy's note: I've asked our guests to wear a mic and a small camera when they enter the area. This dialogue and a few images were transmitted back to me, and I run it here in the interest of saving our world from a most nefarious plan...

Subcommander Zeno: Hmmmm...perhaps I'll find experimental subjects like these. I wonder where the other earth-creatures are hiding?

Oh my,  large specimen!

Subcommander Zeno: Oh my. That large specimen is promising…
Subcommander Zeno: Greetings, earth woman

TammiFay Digfoot: greetins there little fella. . .yu's a cute wun yu is

Subcommander Zeno: define "cute," female human

TammiFay Digfoot: um.....purty tu look at

Subcommander Zeno blushes

Subcommander Zeno (aside): heh heh. This impregnation may be rather simple...AHEM. Earth woman, you are needed for

TammiFay Digfoot: expearment---what kind of expriment

Subcommander Zeno: now hold still. This won't hurt...
Subcommander Zeno: I hope

Abduction Beam in Action

TammiFay Digfoot: OMG whut's that light
TammiFay Digfoot: i cain't see
TammiFay Digfoot: yu ain't so cute after all little man
TammiFay Digfoot: what on earf is that-thar green stuff?

Subcommander Zeno: I hope you enjoy the space-time portal ray
Subcommander Zeno: it will take you to my homeworld

Location: The Fortress of the Shining Overlord, Planet Blorg

Planet Blorg: Dont Ask!

Subcommander Zeno: now you are in the nerve center of our Leader's fortress!

TammiFay Digfoot: we's at Obama’s house?

Subcommander Zeno: ummm....yes. Sort of like that. Now follow me…
Subcommander Zeno: my, but you humans are big-boned, to judge from you and the other...specimen

TammiFay Digfoot: Whut “udder spacyman”?

Subcommander Zeno: To put it plainly in your earth-tongue, Yu'll git a gander rite soon-like. To get to our laboratory, you will, as one might say using a rather crude earth metaphor, "ride the rocket ship"

TammiFay Digfoot: well that’s mighty fine
TammiFay Digfoot: i ain’t never rode a rocket - 'cept at the county fair in Enoch Holler

Time to Ride the Rocket Ship, ...

Subcommander Zeno: well, this is the "Deee-lux" edishum. It will transport us to the Impregnation Pylon.

TammiFay Digfoot: and it won’t a real rocket anyways..Impreg whut?

Subcommander Zeno: Oh, yu will luv that-thar mersheen. It duz funny stuff n' makes yu a wide-skreen tellyvishun. I are a-studyin' up on how y'all earth-critturs talks

TammiFay Digfoot: well i declare

Subcommander Zeno: learning your tongue will enable us to take ove...I mean befriend your race proper-like :) Now hop up an' we'uns will take us a ride.

TammiFay Digfoot: you is doin a mite respektable job sir, speakin' English good.

TammiFay Digfoot: can i fit up thar too?

Subcommander Zeno: yes I do declare yu kin

My my! Dont injure me!

Subcommander Zeno: (blushing green) oh my

TammiFay Digfoot: this looks comfy

Subcommander Zeno sweats a bit

TammiFay Digfoot: haha
TammiFay Digfoot: i think you like it

Subcommander Zeno: don't injure me

Location: Pylon of the Impregnation Engine

Impregnation Pylon

Subcommander Zeno: Curses. The Modulator is still not back from the shop?

TammiFay Digfoot: Huh?

Subcommander Zeno: Oh, just a technical issue. I ran this dad-gum mersheen wif'out it on the furst hillbilly. (aside) Yet without it anything might happen. I need to run this experiment...the deadline for the world-conquest grant proposals is tomorrow!

TammiFay Digfoot: fidgety little fella yu is

Subcommander Zeno: observe. . .get a bit closer :)

TammiFay Digfoot: what are we lukin at? Look s like a big warshin’ macheen

Subcommander Zeno: Impregnerashum mersheen

TammiFay Digfoot: lord he’s drunk & speakin seen em in town once

Subcommander Zeno: yu did? Well, not like this. Have a seat :)
Subcommander Zeno: straddle it like yu’s a-ridin a mule tu town…WHEE HOO

Subcommander Zeno turns on the Impregnation Engine

Subcommander Zeno: do you feel...odd?

TammiFay Digfoot: i feel a mite tingly inside

Subcommander Zeno: oh's it did on the other one
Subcommander Zeno: say...on earth...
Subcommander Zeno: which gender produces the young?

TammiFay Digfoot: whut?

Subcommander Zeno: I forgot to ask the male

TammiFay Digfoot: you needs to speak english mistopher… i dont know no furen languages

Subcommander Zeno: du babies kum frum gals o' frum fellers?

TammiFay Digfoot: oh - from gals - why didn't you say so

Subcommander Zeno: uh oh

TammiFay Digfoot: i'm feeling hongry

Subcommander Zeno: oh...never mind

TammiFay Digfoot: you gots a sammitch in there?

Subcommander Zeno: Sammitch? No, but…I took this earth beverage from the other subject…he said it eases the process by which earth female can…um..complete our experiment.

Subcommander Zeno takes a pull on the jug

TammiFay Digfoot: mistopher i don't understand yo fancy langumage

Shine jug wif drunk (v.2) whispers: watch that third sip

Subcommander Zeno: Have sum Shine! Hic…

TammiFay Digfoot: oohhh....shine I understand that wun

Subcommander Zeno: it powered my...hic…spacecraft
Subcommander Zeno stumbles
Subcommander Zeno: sho....
Subcommander Zeno: lesh GO! Burp!

TammiFay Digfoot: aww little feller caint hold his likker

Subcommander Zeno: HOOO WHEE

TammiFay Digfoot: watch now little feller
TammiFay Digfoot: take it easy
TammiFay Digfoot: yo's a wobblin like a newborned calf

Subcommander Zeno: hic

TammiFay Digfoot takes the jug...whar am we goin' tu NOW?

Subcommander Zeno: we am a goin' tu...tu...a whachamacall it...
Subcommander Zeno: ZOO!

TammiFay Digfoot: Yee Haw! I luvs the zoo...can i git me sum peanuts & a co-cola?

Subcommander Zeno: Sho nuff kin! But....yu gits mor'n that…yu gits impregnated.

TammiFay Digfoot: What am "Impregnerated"?

Subcommander Zeno: well, this-hear mersheen gits you--burb--wif a chile, missy

TammiFay Digfoot: chile is too spicy fo me hon…makes me powerful gassy

Subcommander Zeno: no…I means yu now am expectin' a bun in the oven

TammiFay Digfoot: ooh a sticky bun – they am good too…I'll take wun of those

Subcommander Zeno: an rite soon yu gits tu meet your love-mate in our ALIEN ZOO

TammiFay Digfoot: Yu dun menshuned that-thar zoo alreddy. Whar’s mah peanuts & co-cola?

Subcommander Zeno: in our zoo...hic…there is an earthman yu knows…Pappy Enoch.

TammiFay Digfoot: Dang his hide. Well,it will be fun anysohow. I loves the zoo! They got ellyfants thar?

Subcommander Zeno: no—burp--ellyphunts
Subcommander Zeno: just Pappy
Subcommander Zeno: does he count?

TammiFay Digfoot: well close enuff. Let's go.

Subcommander Zeno (aside): Muahaha. Little does she know what lies ahead...

Alien Zoo!

To be continued…

Education Support Faire in Second Life

Faculty & Student: Office Hour...
Location: Supporte Island

This event will be a first, and it shows a direction that Linden Lab clearly intends to move, and forcefully. It runs on 4 dedicated sims from Jan. 25-30, and I plan to volunteer for at least an hour or two.

Next week's Education Roundtable will, in fact, be held at the Faire. Here's a direct teleport link to the Faire's starting point (not valid until Jan. 25). Faculty and administrators from many institutions will gather to discuss best practices, show off projects, and network.

The official announcement runs at this blog post. The news of the Faire has been swallowed up by Linden Lab's purchase of two online marketplaces that sell goods for SL: Xstreetsl (formerly SLexchange) and the OnRez marketplace. Yet the two events are not unrelated.

Linden Lab seems to be positioning itself to acquire more revenue streams going into and out of their virtual world. The markets are primarily for social users, whereas educational support aims to shore up steady sources of income and a more wholesome profile for SL.

2009 will be an eventful year for Linden Lab. And educational institutions are looking at ways to cut costs while integrating new technologies into teaching and research. That could mean more SL for meetings and conferences and low-cost simulations. Linden Lab certainly appears to think so. Whether they can assist faculty with some of the technical--let alone pedagogical--challenges facing SL users remains to be seen.

If you can´t do it yourself ... go buy something that does

It seems like we didn´t have much time to get used to the new Xstreet logo since they have just been bought by Linden Labs. As you can read in their official statement they not only bought SL Exchange (I will stick with the old name since I liked it more) but also Onrez Shop.

While I am an SLX user not much will change for me in the near future (as long as LL sticks to their promise) while Onrez users will see their favorite market place shut down on February the 11th. This move is very sudden and no rumours reached the outside (at least I didn´t hear them) though it is not unlogical. One of the major problems that SL has is, that there is no well working in-world search for items on sale. This helped plattforms like Onrez and SLX a lot since they offered a quick overview through the chaos and some powerful searches that directly guided you to your goal (well sometimes not to be honest).

Such an approach is not new really. Companies like Symantec and Microsoft regularly buy other companies to save developing time and costs and simply sell well known products under their brand. A second reason why they follow such policies is to acquire direct rivals to add the user-base to the own product and that might also be (at least in my eyes) the true reason for the acquisition of the two platforms. Both Onrez and SLX move quite large sums of L$ every month and at least in the case of SLX their own estate trade platform and currency trade platform posed to be an independent competitor that has noteworthy volume. Linden Labs now controls the major part of the virtual trade outside its platform and the probably biggest L$ Exchange platform outside their own Lindex which always offered better conditions then Lindex. While they say that they do not plan any changes to the current procedure of the exchange on SLX I think that it is only a matter of time that they will bring it back to their own Lindex platform. A small passage in the FAQ already hints in that direction and call me paranoid but how would some emphasize something like that when one not intends to use it?

In my eyes Linden Lab showed a quite ugly face here which is only comparable to once underground star Google that bullied its way into almost every field of webtechnology and is now seen as a possible threat to data privacy. Don´t get me wrong I can understand the owners of SLX and onrez shop selling their platforms for such a sum and I cannot blame them for it but Linden Labs constantly advocates the openness of their service and buying possible competitors (I use possible since I don´t know the current metrics to judge whether they are a real competitor or not) isn´t really what I define as openness, its rather the will to execute a far tighter control of it. As Iggy advocates that the success of a platform like SL very much depends on creators that fill the world with their ideas, I think that another important requirement is that the provider of such a platform has to be a reliable partner for the users and once again LL didn´t really show that reliability once more.

Iggy's Take:

I agree with Tenchi, for the most part. I found Onrez, in particular, easy to search. I don't tend to buy much from either service, since I prefer in-world shopping with all of its awkward searching. But I also like brick-and-mortar stores in real life, too.

Essentially, Onrez is being shuttered, but I think LL is being a typical corporation...devouring what they can to capture a competitor's revenue stream. Some possibilities here:
  • The time was ripe and the price good: I can only imagine that smaller companies associated with virtual worlds are suffering more than the "big boys" like Blizzard or Linden Lab. They might weather this storm. Start-ups will have a harder time; dorm-room efforts like HippiePay (which closed some time ago) already have folded.
  • I think LL was not after OnRez's market as much as the technology that went into their SL client, which I often found works better than Linden Lab's standard client. Electric Sheep Co. has been scaling back its SL presence for a while, so it's not surprising that Onrez went. They don't make any money from the market or the client.
  • Linden Lab needs new revenue streams. The Lindens who attend our weekly SL Education Roundtable have said as much when speaking of "sinks" and "sources" for the company. Perhaps they'll charge a nominal listing or "sales tax" fee for the marketplace online that emerges from these acquisitions.
  • A new Web-based vendor will emerge to challenge LL's Xstreet. Pehaps Hippo or another company that makes in-world vendors will ramp up a Web interface. The creative chaos that has characterized this virtual world all along will continue.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Aliens in Hillbilly Land! Pappy Abducted!

Saucer over Hellbilly Home Pla...

Location: Pappy Enoch's "Hellbilly Paradise"

The following security-camera photos show, without a doubt, that things NOT OF THIS EARTH walk among us.

The fearsome invader

After considering carrying off Jezzabel, the creature seemed instead to be looking for Pappy.

Primitive land-vehicle

It paused for a moment atop "the Rip Snorter," Pappy's old F-150.

There may have been one hope...

What IS this earth beverage?

Or maybe not...the alien apparently found Pappy in his trailer. He was conducting Web-based research on his favorite topic: Salma Hayek.


I did not arrive in time...this was my last sight of the poor moonshiner...


To be continued...

Monday, January 19, 2009

GMU Class to Try the Race/Gender Switch in Second Life

Student Building Project
I'm pleased to hear that a class at George Mason will ask students in Second Life to change their race or gender.

Kristin Scott's course, Cyberculture, has both a wiki and class blog that I plan to follow this semester. Our own Terran Timeless will mentor her students as well as they explore SL.

My only suggestion to the class, so far, based on our experience with Eng. 103's project last fall, would be to choose gender-neutral names when creating the avatars or be prepared to use an alt. So many students felt awkward with names that clearly did not match their gender: to steal a line from Johnny Cash, it's the Boy Named Sue phenomenon.

I'm hoping that Professor Scott's class locates some decent dark skins for males. We had a tough time with this in my Fall 2008 class and a recent post by Wagner James Au supports the notion that dark skins for men are hard to locate.

I'll post updates about the GMU class from time to time here. Good luck, students!