Tag Archives: Second Life

Second Life is [in] Good today

Nalates Urriah pointed me to an article in Good magazine in which freelance writer Mark Hay discusses Second Life.

Now, before you start groaning, the piece is actually pretty good. Unlike wannabe writers of the Marlon McDonald ilk (whom I rebutted last year), Mark Hay has actually – shock, horror! – researched his subject prior to putting fingers to keyboard.  Not only that, he’s actually taken the time to comb through Flickr and found images that both reflect how Second Life actually looks today – so double kudos to him from the outset.

Don't be fooled by the look: Mark E. Hay offers a perceptive take on Second Life (image: Mark E. Hay)

Don’t be fooled by the look: Mark E. Hay offers a perceptive take on Second Life (image: Mark E. Hay)

What’s more, while at a little under 1500 words in length, Second Life is Staying Alive may not be a in-depth piece of analysis, but it is a considered and balanced peace which offers a largely impartial and fairly accurate examination of the platform – and a thought-provoking one at that, and in a number of ways.

For my own part, what makes this article particularly interesting is the social bent it takes. That it does is not precisely the interesting point, after all, Mr. Hay has something of a background in sociology by education. Rather it is the views he offers up which may not only be eye-opening for those who have heard about, but not really looked at, but which also offer food for thought on a number of levels even for those of us already engaged in the platform.

Some of the latter may not be immediately obvious, and may require a second reading in order for them to fall into place. As such, they may not even have been intended at the time of writing, although I suspect some of the examples he cites are far from mere happenstance when one looks at the wider context in which SL is at times held within the media.

This really kicks-in after he gives a very short potted history of some of the platform’s highs and lows and the apparent loss of interest in it that occurred within the wider world. Here he points out that despite all the claims otherwise, the platform does continue to enjoy widespread use around the globe with average monthly log-ins not that far below those enjoyed during its “peak” popularity. from this, he offers his own explanation to why this is the case: the ability to socialise and create / join communities in which those who are otherwise globally dispersed to engage with one another and create environments for that interaction which go beyond anything achievable through other mediums.

Give Us a Kiss, Dear, by Serena Snowfield on Flickr Not only does Mr. Hay offer an interesting and thought-provoking take on SL, he also takes the time to search through Flickr and locate images for his article that offer a fairer indication as to how the platform can look, such as with this image called “Give Us a Kiss, Dear”, by Serena Snowfield on Flickr

OK, so for those of us within SL this may generate something of a “no s*** Sherlock,” reaction; we are, after all, seeing this on a daily basis, either directly through our own involvement in the platform, or as a result of our travels within the platform.  However, other than the “fnar, fnar” finger-pointing or feigned outrage  at “the porn”, the ability for SL to provide a means to generate such societal interactions and ties seems to be something that has gone right over the heads of most of those willing to comment on the platform. Thus, Mr. Hay’s view is a timely, and welcome counterpoint to the frequent negatively which accompanies public mention of Second Life.

But this isn’t the sole thrust of his thinking. as he points out, the ability for SL to generate such social and sub-cultural networks and groupings isn’t actually new; it’s actually pretty much the way in which the Internet as a whole has grown. What does make SL unique, however, again as he identifies, is in the manner of the depth of creation and tangible persistence it offers all these various groups and sub-cultures, something what hasn’t previously been found within digital mediums and which has thus become the reason why many of us keep coming back to SL.

In this – and while he doesn’t point to it directly, but rather references it obliquely in mentioning attempts to bring the likes of the Oculus Rift into SL – his piece also highlights another potential within Second Life. Because it it can and does present the means for the creation, growth and sustained use of sub-cultures and societal interactions and structure which might not otherwise exist, it stands as the precursor for things to come in the promised VR revolution over the course of the next decade. Hence, his reference to Tom Boellstorff‘s seminal Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, although offered in a broader context, is both unsurprising and entirely appropriate.

But even without all of this deeper ponderings, which as Mr. Hay correctly states, are all part of the future, his article neatly encapsulates why Second Life has endured and will likely continue to endure for the foreseeable future, as he points out in his closing statement:

For now all we can say is that Second Life is not as dead as many think. It just wasn’t the world we thought it was half a dozen years ago. Rather than a place that would reinvent everyday life for the masses, it became a place for the gathering, manifestation, and expression of societies and ideas that might not otherwise get to exist. And as long as it fulfils that purpose, it will most likely not fade away any time soon.

If you haven’t done so already, go read what Mr. Hay says about Second Life, and if you like what you’ve read, Tweet him. Better yet, get your SL-dubious friends to give him a read, they might just change some of their perceptions.

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“We are building a new product *in addition* to Second Life”

Just Another Tequilla Sunrise, Isle of Love; Inara Pey, October 2014, on FlickrJust Another Tequilla Sunrise, Isle of Love (Flickr)

It’s no secret that the Lab is working on a “next generation” virtual world(s) platform. Since the original announcement and follow-up confirmation, the matter has inevitably led to some controversy.  Since that time the Lab has sought to give reassurance to users that doing so is not the “end” of Second Life.

Hence why the Lab are continuing to develop Second Life and continuing to plan for its future, up to and including a planning meeting which took place at the Battery Street offices during February 2015. Hence why the Lab continues to circulate manpower and expertise between Second Life and the development of their new platform, so that both might equally benefit.

Indeed, after recently advertising a software engineering position specifically for Second Life work, Oz Linden, the Lab’s Technical Director for the platform, was able to Tweet:

And no, the Lab will not say who it is, or what their involvement in SL might be

And no, the Lab will not say who it is, or what their involvement in SL might be

In this, it’s also worth pointing out that Oz has very much been the cheerleader when it comes to SL’s prospective future. In 2014, when the Lab was starting a process of aligning its resources to support both Second Life and its new platform, he actively campaigned for the post of Technical Director for Second Life. In July of that year he was happy to go on record saying:

I went through kind-of a process with Linden Lab management to try to get the new position I’m in now. This is something I wanted. I wanted this. This was not some kind of booby prize that was handed me. I got a couple of IMs from residents, I’m sure they were mostly kidding and mostly all in fun, but saying, “Oh, poor Oz. He got left behind.”

Poor Oz did not get left behind. Lucky Oz got exactly the job he was looking for.

Oz Linden - Technical director of Second life offers some pragmatic and open thoughts about the platform and its future

Oz Linden – Technical director of Second life offers some pragmatic and open thoughts about the platform and its future

He also takes a very positive attitude to the debate over the new platform and how it might or might not impact Second Life, noting that for the Lab as a whole, that such a debate is going on within the community demonstrates that they still have a very passionate and supportive user base for the platform:

People wouldn’t bother to criticise us for what they see as our flaws, and we can all either agree or disagree with whether or not individual issues are a big deal, and that’s a conversation I’m looking forward to. But they wouldn’t be bothering to criticise us if they didn’t think Second Life was worth having and worth improving.

This was again demonstrated during the February 13th TPV Developer meeting, when the subject of the new platform was raised in passing, Oz again emphasised that the future of Second life is far from over. In doing so, he also demonstrates the kind of pragmatic attitude towards the new platform we should perhaps all consider adopting. He’s further  given me permission to reproduce his comments here in both audio recordings and as written transcriptions.

 

The folks that are working on the new platform would love to be able to say that they’re making something so amazing and so wonderful, and so much better that everybody will want to move over to it. And maybe that will happen; and if it does, then Second Life will be this vast, empty place, and there’ll be no activity happening here, and if we turn it off, nobody will notice.

I don’t expect that will happen, and realistically, none of them expect that will happen right out of the box, anyway. Because there’s an awful lot in Second life that will take time to to create equivalence for in whatever they end-up decided to call the new thing. So it’ll be time.

But if Second life continues to be a sound working environment for people, and they’re still enjoying it, and they’re still using it and it’s still economically advantageous to keep it alive – why would we turn it off? I mean, we won’t. It’s silly. And I think that’s going to be years and years. [That’s] just my personal opinion.

And in the meantime, my job is to continue to make it better. Not “keep it alive”; not, “keep it limping along” – to make it better.

 And in terms of future activities related to Second Life, he went on to say:

 

It’s no secret we had a big planning conference in San Francisco last week; it wasn’t meant to be a secret, we did. We got everybody involved in Second Life get together; we had developers, and QA people and support people, and operations people and product planning people and business people….

And everybody got together and talked about what was working, what wasn’t working, various ideas for how to improve things, and it was fantastic. It was really fun; everybody there learned something they didn’t know when they got there, and we came away with a lot of great ideas. And we’re going to go ahead with some of those ideas. So, we’re having fun!

So really, there’s no reason to fear for the future of Second Life at this point in time. It’s liable to be around for a good while yet. Hence why I use another quote from Oz as the title for this article, one which I’ll paraphrase in closing. The Lab aren’t building a new platform instead of working on Second Life, the Lab are building a new platform in addition to working on Second Life.

Lab invites residents to the Isle of View for Valentines

secondlifeThe Isle of View, the “official” destination for Valentine’s Day reappeared on the grid earlier in the month (my thanks to Bixyl for poking me about it when it appeared), and on Thursday, February 12th, the Lab invited people to consider spending a part of Friday, February 13th visiting the isle.

The blog post with the invitation reads in part:

Love is in the air and Valentine’s Day is just a few days away! Pink and red dominate, chocolate sales sky-rocket, and we’re reminded that the true hallmark of love is in the quality of time we spend with our loved ones.

Come to the Isle of View on February 13th for some Pre-Valentine’s Day fun. Meet up with other Residents and enjoy all the romance that Isle of View has to offer – boat rides, fireworks, kissing booths – a treasure trove of memorable moments just waiting to be made with someone special.

Why Friday, February the 13th? That’s a good question. Once upon a time, the Lab used to participate in Valentines Day through things like kissing booths (yes, you could get to kiss a Linden!). So, given the invite is for a week-day visit, does this mean those popping along might just find a Linden or two within the Isle’s kissing booth?

Will there be Lindens in in the Isle of View kissing booths?

Will there be Lindens in in the Isle of View kissing booths?

The Lab is keeping mum on that; instead, all they are saying is:

Why February 13th? Because we believe in love, and there is still time to find a special someone for the big day.

If you’ve got a Valentine – bring them to the Isle of View.
If you’re currently looking for a Valentine – come to the Isle of View.
If you have several Valentines – well lucky you – bring them all to the Isle of View!

But you never know, after all, they did recently re-launch another staple of Lab / resident fun, the snowball fight. So, if Valentine’s day is your thing, why not pop along to the Isle of View on February 13th and find out. You can always visit again on the 14th with your loved one, if you don’t want them to spy you loitering around the kissing booths…

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One year on: Ebbe’s Linden Lab

On Monday, February 10th, 2014, Ebbe Altberg officially took-over the reins as the CEO of Linden Research Inc. (aka Linden Lab).

The news of his appointment, which had been released not too long before his arrival, and after the Lab remained steadfastly silent after the departure of his predecessor had entered the public domain, tended to bring retorts of “who he?”, promoting me to pull together something of a profile on him from various sources, which tended to draw largely positive feedback. I also took the liberty of offering a couple of suggestions on the day he arrived at LL, which appeared to be appreciated:

So, now we are a year on, how have things been, overall?

For me, given I originally wrote that “open letter” to him on the subject of communications, the turn-around has been both noticeable and appreciated. At the first of his many public appearances with bodies of users and groups which marked his opening months at the Lab, Ebbe effectively announced at the 2014 VWBPE event that the door is once again open, and demonstrated as much by spending almost 90 minutes addressing questions from users.

Following that, we saw re-engagement through forums, further bridge building with educational and non-profit organisations, the re-opening of the JIRA, the lifting on the ban on Linden staff entering SL using their Linden accounts unless they were on official business, and fresh (and persistent) use of the blogs once more to present news, information and updates – such as Monty Linden’s superb range of posts on the HTTP work, or Landon Linden’s equally informative posts such as The Recent Unpleasantness. As the year progressed the Lab continued to open windows as well as doors, seeking to re-engage with the community through a variety of means, from pro-actively seeking input from users on potential improvements to SL through to something as simple as the return of the annual snowball fight.

Ebbe Altberg: one year in the Hot Seat

Ebbe Altberg: one year in the Hot Seat

All of this has been to the good, even if some approached this “new” openness (actually more of a return to how the Lab used to be) with suspicion. Some of it was perhaps understandable; at the start of his tenure at the Lab, Ebbe’s predecessor seemed to initially breathe life into matters of communication (even then a priority in many people’s eyes) – only for the door to been slammed shut again within a few months.

Some might even argue that such re-engagement is trivial “in the scheme of things”; I’d say not so. Engagement and communication lie as two of the foundations of trust between a company such as a Lab and its user community; therefore putting them both back in place does do much to stem the erosion of that trust.

Elsewhere, things may seem to have been a little slower. While there have been changes for the better for SL in technical terms, it’s fair to say that these have been more incremental and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. But then, SL is a decade-plus old platform; getting truly revolutionary with it isn’t that easy. Instead, what we’ve had is a continuation of approach started prior to Ebbe’s arrival at the Lab – and quite rightly, too.

Far better to allow projects of proven likely benefit to continue to their conclusion and then build on them, than to suddenly try to jump tracks and do something else entirely, even if it does promise lots of new shiny in the process. As it is, the improvements this work has brought to the vast majority of users are undeniable. What’s more the approach has meant the thorns long ignored, such as group chat issues (another pressing problem put to Ebbe when he arrived) are also getting attention.

The Engadget Expand NY panel for Back to Reality: VR Beyond Gaming. For left to right: Ebbe Altberg, Matt Bell, Marte Roel and host Ben Gilbert

Ebbe Altberg also worked to put Linden Lab and Second Life front-and-centre of the debate on the future of the metaverse through opportunities such as SVVR’s Creating the VR Metaverse panel, and in discussions about the future of VR outside of games through opportunities such as at Engadget Expand NY in November 2014  (above)  where he joined Matt Bell, Marte Roel and host Ben Gilbert.

Where things have perhaps been radical have been outside of Second Life, such as the dropping of almost all of the products that marked the company’s attempts to diversify its portfolio and potentially generate additional revenue. Again, this was actually something started before Ebbe’s arrival, but which he supported – hence the axing of Creatorverse, dio and Versu, to be followed later in the year by the closure of Patterns development and the sale of Desura.

In truth, when first announced, the idea of the Lab looking to diversify its revenue stream through a broader product base was a good one; the problem was the follow-through never really matched expectation and became too much of a grand experiment.

Of all the products the Lab developed or acquired, only Blocksworld has demonstrated it has real legs, while Creatorverse and dio, always appeared to be far too limited in appeal to ever gain deep and lasting traction, so trimming them was a sensible move. It was also hard to see how the acquisition of Desura could offer the Lab practical revenue growth outside of meeting its own needs, or without on-going investment and development which would in turn offset the value of revenue gained. Even so, Patterns and Versu, did appear to offer potential. Versu has certainly since gone on under its own steam (full kudos to the Lab for allowing it to do so), while Patterns, even though still under development, built up a small but loyal following on both Steam and Desura, and the announcement of its passing did give rise to upset.

The little "Dorito man" headed off into the sunset in October, as Patterns followed Creatorverse, dio and Versu in being axed from the Lab's nascent product portfolio. It was followed in November by news that Desura had been sold.

The little “Dorito man” headed off into the sunset in October, as Patterns followed Creatorverse, dio and Versu in being axed from the Lab’s nascent product portfolio. It was followed in November by news that Desura had been sold.

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