The SL11B Community Celebration announced

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SL11B, the Community Celebration marking Second Life’s eleventh anniversary, has been officially announced, with a blog post which reads in full:

The event will be held from Sunday June 22nd – Sunday June 29th—seven days of amazing exhibits, music, conversation, debate, firework displays, games, puzzles, sports and everything else the wonderfully inventive communities of Second Life™ can pack into seven days and 11 sims.

Actually, even that won’t be the end of it, as the sims will be open for a further seven days for everyone to explore.

A'stra Main Stage from SL10BCC, create by Toady Nakamura and Flea Bussy

My monochrome rendering of the A’stra Main Stage from SL10BCC, create by Toady Nakamura and Flea Bussy

The theme for this year is a line lifted from Winston Churchill’s 1943 address to the American people, while visiting Harvard University: the empires of the future are the empires of the mind. Why this quote? I’ll let one of the event organisers, Saffia Widdershins explain:

Last year’s theme was “Looking Forward, Looking Back,” but we focused mostly on looking back, and rightly so, as 10 years was an important milestone and a perfect opportunity to reflect back on where we came from.

This year it’s time to look forward; to imagine where we are headed.

When Winston Churchill said this in 1943, he could not have imagined a virtual world like Second Life, but now, more than seventy years later, his words have come true in this new world that we have created.

If there’s one thing that makes SL unique, it’s our community of users. Users from all corners of the globe come together under a single umbrella to build a community that comes from our minds and our imaginations. Everything we see, touch and use in Second Life is a product of our imaginations, our minds, and our community.

And this year, at the SL11B Community Celebration, we want to celebrate precisely that!

Details are understandably sparse at this point in time – this is, after all the initial announcement – but rest assured, more details will be appearing as the plans start to come together.

I’ll be doing my usual coverage of the lead-up to the celebrations and the week of festivities itself, as well as covering any other SL11B activities which may be going on across the grid that I get to hear about.

For those wishing to keep bang up to date with the news on SL11BCC, click the FOLLOW link on the blog!

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The art of surfing

Spanish Wells, April 2014 by Inara PeySpanish Wells, April 2014

Surfing is one of many sports related past times available to all of us in SLn and it is  something I’ve tried and enjoyed from time-to-time while bouncing around the grid. So when I read Ziki’s post about Spanish Wells, a surfing sim that has been landscaped by none other than Cica Ghost, I took the time to hop over to take a look; and I can honestly say that anyone who appreciates Chica’s work or who likes surfing is going to enjoy this whimsical creation.

Spanish Wells belongs to Shannon Cardalines, and she’s worked with Cica to create an environment that offers considerable space for surfers, complete with a crescent island where Cica’s creations sit.

Spanish Wells, April 2014 by Inara PeySpanish Wells, April 2014

The latter comprise a series of sand sculptures, including a slightly wobbly looking castle that  – aside from its size – would not look entirely out-of-place were it to be found at Cica’s Little Village. The scale of this castle and the other sand sculptures on the island suggest it has been the playground of a giant with a bucket, although I rather suspect the sand man standing almost in the centre of the island, spade in hand and bucket of sand near by, may actually be responsible!

Around and between the sand creations grows wild grass, beds of white flowers and tall, dark trees. The local wildlife comprises a number of  quirky birds which are instantly recognisable as Cica’s delightful handiwork, together with an oversized lizard that looks to be in more of a playful mood than being out after mischief.

Amidst all of this are places to sit and / or cuddle, either on your own or with a friend or close companion. For those wishing to enjoy a little music during their visit, Ziki informs us that Ingwë Weames has proved a dedicated music stream – and some of it is certainly apt for surfing!

Spanish Wells, April 2014 by Inara PeySpanish Wells, April 2014

With regards to the latter, should you wish to have a go riding the waves, wander down to the  edge of the beach towards the middle of the crescent and touch the flowerpot there. You’ll be offered a choice of boards. Select one, sit on it, then paddle out to the waves. When you catch one, you’ll start surfing and then it’s a case of riding it back into the shallows.

For those who enjoy seeing things from above, there’s a hang glider rezzer up in the sand castle, offering visitors a chance to fly around the island and out over the water. While up in the castle, don’t forget to admire Shannon’s own surfing awards and cups, gathered from competitions around the grid.

Spanish Wells, April 2014 by Inara PeySpanish Wells, April 2014

All told, this is a great little find, and for those looking for something to do as well as having somewhere new to explore might want to add Spanish Wells to their list of places to visit.

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Patterns: of UIs and passwords

LL logoIn March I reported on plans to overhaul the Patterns user interface at some point in the future. These plans took a step closer to being revealed on April 5th, when Sandoval Curse (aka HappyHappyGaming on YouTube), keeper of the Patterns community on Curse, issued an initial sneak peek at the current updates to the UI. The changes are both extensive and appear to be exceptionally well thought through.

While the video comes with a warning that it shows elements of the UI from a Patterns nightly build, and are thus subject to possible change, what is presented suggests that the team are looking to make using Patterns a look easier and the ability to move between elements of the UI and modes of operation a lot more fluid, while at the same time offering a less cluttered build / play space.

The changes to the UI are evident right from start-up, with the log-in panel moved over to become  sidebar on the right, which also doubles as a game mode launcher once a player is logged-in.

The new log-in panel looks set to become a sidebar for both logging-in to Patterns and for launching game modes

The new log-in panel looks set to become a sidebar for both logging-in to Patterns and for launching game modes (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

Once logged-in, the panel allows the player to select from world building, continuing game play, accessing the Patterns tools (I assume these are the shape forge and the substance editor) and change their settings.

Selecting any of these options many display a further slide-out panel. For example, clicking on the world building option displays a list of available worlds in the Cosmos the player can use as a template, together with options to select either single (default) or multi-player modes.

Selecting existing worlds as templates when building worlds is a lot slicker

Selecting existing worlds as templates when building worlds is a lot slicker (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

Inventory and shape / substance management has been completely overhauled, with a new inventory bar at the bottom of the screen which allows for much easier toggle between shapes, materials and models, as well as offering a cleaner drag-and-drop panel when applying materials to shapes, etc.

The new inventory bar allows easier toggling between shapes and elements / substances. Where appropriate, it appears to open a panel for easier drag-and-drop of materials and substances onto shapes

The new inventory bar allows easier toggling between shapes and elements / substances. Where appropriate, it opens a panel for easier drag-and-drop of materials and substances onto shapes (click for full size without so much screen cap blurring)

In-world game controls have been revised somewhat, making shape and model manipulation easier as well as trying to make it easier to move, rotate or delete things. I might be wrong in saying this, as it is hard to tell from the video (and any settings Sandoval uses), but it looks as if the default third-person camera angle may also have been revised.

According to the video, not only may things change between now and the UI being released, but there is a lot more still to be demonstrated, and a further sneak peek video is promised. This being the case, and in lieu of being able to fiddle with things directly, I’ll leave you with Sandoval’s video.

Password Recovery

Nalates Urriah has a piece up on Patterns password recovery, drawing on a video posted to YouTube. The short version is: there isn’t a password recovery option. The support team’s advice, should you forget your password is to create a new account. However, this isn’t necessarily as bad as it sounds. Passwords are only required to access the Cosmos. You can still play offline without logging-in. What’s more, even if you do create a new account and password, you should still have access to all the worlds you have built yourself, whether playing offline or when logged-in to the Cosmos.

If you forget your Patterns password (or user name), you should be able to create a new account and still access your existing world builds (tested usin Patterns build 0.06a via Desura and Steam)

If you forget your Patterns password (or user name), you should be able to create a new account and still access your existing world builds (tested using Patterns build 0.06a via Desura and Steam)

The only pain I can see with this – and admittedly, I’m no longer a regular Patterns player – is that if a player is well-known as a Patterns world builder, any worlds you upload to the Cosmos after an account change will obviously be linked to the new account name, and so may not be instantly recognisable to other players. Also, those who regularly play in the multi-player mode will have to advise other players of any change in order to ensure they receive invitations into games.

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The Drax Files Radio Hour 15: of Ebbe and education

radio-hourThe fifteenth installment of The Drax Files Radio Hour takes a look at Ebbe Altberg’s comments and Q&A session at this years Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference which took place in both Second Life and OS Grid between April 9th and 12th.

The VWBPE session, which lasted a little under 90 minutes, featured some initial comments from Ebbe, followed by a wide-ranging Q&A session which many found both positive and perhaps a little revelatory (particularly given concerns ahead of his arrival at LL about him coming from “outside” LL / virtual worlds). Mal Burns videoed the session on behalf of VWBPE, and I have a full transcript for those who prefer to read rather than listen.

For those wishing to cut to the chase and jump to the clips from Ebbe’s presentation in the podcast and the discussion which follows, it starts around a quarter of the way into the show (14:19).

Ebbe Linden (LL CEO Ebbe Altberg) addresses the VWBPE conference on Friday April 11th, 2014

Ebbe Linden (LL CEO Ebbe Altberg) addresses the VWBPE conference on Friday April 11th, 2014

Some 15 minutes of Ebbe’s opening comments and the Q&A session are presented. These include his remarks on revisiting the Linden Lab Terms of Service (“we’re working on some simple tweaks to the language to make that more explicit”); his views on LL / SL and its position in the metaverse as a whole (“I think for starters, I’m mostly focused to get the ‘verse’ part right, and then we can think about ‘meta’ later on”); Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift and more.

The excerpts are followed by a joint interview with Liz Falconer, Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the West of England (UWE), and Stylianos Mystakidis, E-learning Manager for the Library and Information Centre at the University of Patras, Greece.

Intended to be a discussion of Ebbe’s VWBPE session, this actually covers much broader ground, from why issues such at the Lab’s bikini banner ads, can reinforce negative views of Second Life within the education sector, even though real life can be a lot more risky (and risqué) for students, through to the advantages of experiential learning and the potential of virtual worlds where such narrative styles of teaching are concerned.

Liz Falconer (t) and

Liz Falconer (t) and Stylianos Mystakidis

At close to 24 minutes in length, the interview has to be listened to in order to be fully appreciated; Stylianos and Liz offer a considerable amount of food for thought – so much, in fact, that it is hard distill everything down into an article like this without either failing to do the various elements of the discussion justice or presenting you with a wall of text to read. This being the case, I’m going to focus on those aspects of the discussion which particularly struck one or more chords in me, while urging you to listen to the interview in full, if you haven’t already done so,

The first thing that particularly caught my attention came when Stylianos asked what is the one question that seems to be most easily avoided or ignored when people talk about virtual worlds achieving mass adoption – and that’s the question of why should people turn to  VWs rather than continuing to use all of the familiar tools and options they have at their disposal and which offer convenience and ease-of-use: Minecraft, Facebook, Skype and so on?

While it is true that access to a complex virtual world like SL does need to be addressed and simplified in order to make it easier for people to access such environments, and it is equally true that things like VR headsets will offer additional means of appreciating and enjoying VWs for those using them, I am far from convinced that technology and technical solutions alone hold the key to VWs achieving mass adoption. This is something I touched upon in reference to Philip Rosedale’s  keynote at the VWBPE; as Botgirl Questi eloquently and succinctly put it following that particular keynote:

Mainstream use of virtual worlds requires compelling mainstream use cases that clearly trump other options. Better technology doesn’t matter to people who don’t know why they’d want to use a virtual world at all. That’s the challenge that no one has successfully addressed.

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