Thursday, 24 May 2007

A 10 minute summary of the Eduserv Foundation's activities in Second Life

I've prepared a short video summarising what we (the Eduserv Foundation) are doing on Eduserv Island. The main point of doing this was to have something suitable for streaming onto our stand at the Second Life Best Practices Conference. Note that I threw this together fairly hastily so don't expect anything too polished - but I think it gets the main points across.

With apologies to Jeremy Kemp, off of whom I nicked some ideas for the video!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Eduserv Foundation at SLBP2007

The Eduserv Foundation will have a presence at Friday's Second Life Best Practices in Education 2007 conference - stand 5 in the Non-profits area to be precise. I'm not sure how much of the time we'll actually be on the stand - but feel free to drop by and have a look.

Symposium presentations now available

As blogged here, all the streaming media and most of the Powerpoint presentations from the Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2007 are now available on the Web and in-world. Enjoy!

There were 6 presentations, so we have 6 files of mp4 streaming media. I wasn't sure how best to handle this in-world? A single screen with scripting to switch between the different presentations? 6 different screens, one per presentation?

In the end I opted for the latter, on the basis that there might be contention issues over a single screen. I've therefore created six small land parcels alongside the Virtual Congress Centre, attaching one of the streaming files to each.

It should work OK I think.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Competition over :-(

Luther Meriman sent an IM to my alt earlier today, using the required phrase "you are Art Fossett and I claim my L$2000".

I'm duly L$2000 poorer :-(

Serves me right for making a hash of it and not covering my tracks properly.

Eduserv Island update

I've been developing Eduserv Island over the weekend, working on various things including our SLashup Space, a game called the SLeakest Wink, a new exhibit in the Avon Gallery and an array of new offices that I don't know what to do with yet. Oh, and a secret (well, kind of secret) cave.

I'll post about each of these things separately in due course...

I note that Pete has posted recently about SLashing it up on our main eFoundations blog, and that he now appears to be writing to a blog called Peregrinations. Nice!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

On names...

Second Life tends to make you look at RL names (and other things for that matter!) somewhat differently, in the sense that every so often you come across a name in RL that makes you think it really ought to be an SL avatar name! Take Fenella Fudge for example, a BBC newsreader.

Similarly Artemis Cropper (known as Arte), who has one of the nicest names I've ever heard of, currently the Events and Marketing Manager at UKOLN.

Thursday, 17 May 2007


OK, so it is now fairly public knowledge that I'm a cobbler in SL. (Yes, I'm aware that some people think I've talked cobblers for years!). News about this seems to cause much merriment for the people who know me in the education community. I'm not totally clear why, but I can see the funny side.

For example, Lisa Gray from the JISC came up to me the other day and said she had been hearing strange rumours about my activities in SL. Blimey... I think I could be doing much worse things!

For the record, I started making shoes simply to see how easy (or not) it is to make money out of SL. Answer: yes, it is possible. I'm not making a fortune, but I am covering Art Fossett's subscription and land use costs pretty much - which can't be a bad thing.

As far as I know, I've so far managed to keep my Art Fossett identity completely separate from my other SL identity (my cobbler 'alt') but I could be wrong. No-one that I know of has worked out who or what my virtual shoe business is. And I'm happy to keep it that way. There is, I think, one public bit of information out there on the Internet that joins the two together. I'm not going to say what, but it shouldn't be too hard for some budding Morse to work out.

How about I give L$2000 (roughly a pint?) to the first person that IMs my other avatar with the statement "you are Art Fossett and I claim my L$2000".

Monday, 14 May 2007

Symposium piccies

Pretty tiring end to last week, what with the symposium and all that. Still, it seemed to go pretty well. Lots of very positive blog traffic as a result.

I've just uploaded our SL pictures from the event, taken by Pete as he was MCing the SL activities. I took my digital camera to the RL event but completely forgot to use it until right at the very end :-( There were too many other things going on. Oh well!

Other posts and pictures from the event can be found via Technorati.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Disappointed of Bath

I have to say I'm disappointed with the standards of behaviour in the digital library community these days. Honestly... no sooner have you built a Virtual Congress Centre to house your annual symposium than people start spraying graffiti and putting up fly-posters all over the place :-(
Oh well, I guess I'll just have to go and find a virtual bucket and mop and clean it off.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

I just discovered which offers a tagging facility for Second Life pretty much along the same lines as does for the Web.

Go to the Mosi Mosi Offices to install the Sloog HUD and get tagging. Very cool.

I blogged recently about a tagging convention for objects in Second Life, but I think this is a much better approach. It's a great example of how Second Life and Web 2.0 can be combined.

This is exactly the kind of thing I mean by a SLashup!

Saturday, 5 May 2007

My first YouTube video

I've just uploaded my first video to YouTube. Nothing very exciting I'm afraid, just an explanation of how to see and hear streaming media. The soundtrack is also rather bizarre, but I felt it needed something to cover up my voice(!) and this was the first public domain MP3 track I found.

You'll also note that YouTube uses the opening frame as the static shot of the video. In this case, the opening frame is blank... so in future I need to work on getting a sensible opening shot to make the video content more obvious to potential viewers. Also, my laptop tends to create videos in wide screen format by default, which then get squished in 4:3 aspect ratio at some point in the uploading to YouTube process.

Still, it was fun to put together. For those with a technical interest, I captured the video using FRAPS, the soundtrack using Audacity and edited it all together using Windows Movie Maker.

LindenWorld - historical movie

I just stumbled onto this historical retrospective on the roots of Second Life on YouTube, having just uploaded my first Second Life video. Worth watching, just to see where things have come from.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Second Life International Conference 2007

I note that the Second Life International Conference 2007 Best Practices in Teaching, Learning and Research conference has been announced and that registration and the call for presentations are both open. Looks interesting.

Opening up Second Life content to Web tools and services

I strongly suspect that there is some kind of universal truth that whenever two or more librarians are gathered together they will try and catalogue the world around them.

This was certainly the case with the early Web, leading most notably to developments like the Dublin Core and, in a UK-specific context, activities like the ROADS project, and more recently Intute (previously the Resource Discovery Network).

Whether these kinds of attempts to catalogue the digital world around us are of any lasting value is up for debate of course, particularly in the light of more, err…, mainstream activities like Google, and other social tagging services.

So it was with some trepidation that I read the report of the Second Life Cataloguers & Collection specialists meeting, sent recently to the AllianceSecond mailing list.

Here we go again! What happened in the early days of the Web is going to happen all over again in Second Life. Now, on many levels I hate comparisons being drawn between Second Life and he early Web. As I’ve argued in my recent presentations, there are some very, very fundamental differences between the two that make simplistic comparisons dangerous. But one has to accept there are also some similarities, and this in one of them.

I fully expect someone, somewhere to suggest that we need a SL-DC or an SL-MARC in the near future.

Now, I have to confess that part of me, probably the weaker part, also wants to do this kind of thing. Oh my god… somebody stop me. Puleeze. We don’t need this.

That said, we do need something if we are going to open up virtual worlds like Second Life to competing, alternative, and ultimately better approaches to resource discovery than the built-in search engine.

OK, so what kinds of things need to happen?

Well, firstly, we need to open up the virtual world to the Web much better than it is now.

I’ve argued previously that we need a way of persistently citing (linking to) things in Second Life, independently of their current location.

But we also need to go much further than this.

Recently the Electric Sheep Company announced their beta SL search engine. This uses an in-world robot to collect information about SL objects flagged as being for sale, offering the resulting information thru a Web-based search engine.

Impressive stuff, but I wonder if it's the right approach? Instead, how about if Linden Lab exposed on the Web every single SL object with a name other than 'Object', every avatar, every landmark, every sim, every classified ad, every event, every group - assigning each a persistent and unique ‘http’ URI and making available representations of those things in such a way that a robot traversable, indexable ‘web’ of SL objects would made available? Such a 'web' could be crawled and indexed by any of the existing Web search engines.

How would such a ‘web’ be made? What are the key relationships between the objects and other entities in SL that would allow us to build the links between things? Well, we have some very obvious relationships that we could build on. The relationships between the world as a whole and the sims it contains. The relationships between sims and other sims because of their geographic co-location. The relationships between sims and the objects within those sims. And between objects and other objects, in terms of containment. There are also the relationships between avatars and objects such as ownership and creation. And between avatars and landmarks. I’m sure I could go on.

Exposing all of this information to Google in the form of a robot traversable ‘web’ of HTML pages could be very powerful, though I guess the signal to noise ratio might be questionable? The Electric Sheep engine currently offers a search of about 2 million 'products' (objects marked for sale) - small by Web search engine standards. What would the HTML representations of each SL entity look like? I don’t know. We’d need to think about representing any text associated with the entity (the name and description for example) in the body of the page. But there may be other techniques… I’m not sure.

We could also think about developing a simple tagging mechanism for in-world objects. How about using a construct like:

tags: tag1, tag2, tag3, ...

in the Description field of any object. For the die-hard librarian-types like myself, that would allow us to use conventions like dctagged to add more than simple keywords if we wanted to, e.g.

tags: dctagged, dc:creator=powellandy, dcterms:educationlevel=ukel3

or whatever.

OK, I won’t push it because I'm getting onto dangerous ground in terms of complexity!

But you get the idea. This kind of general approach would expose SL content is a way that could be exploited by existing Web search engines and other tools (and by completely new, and as yet unimagined, tools and services) out there on the mainstream Web. It seems to me that this is a much more open approach than simply trying to improve the in-world search engine per se.

I’d welcome people’s thoughts on this. Particularly those of librarians!

Goldsmiths art show in SL

Art students at Goldsmiths will be showing their degree show in Second Life later this year according to this BBC coverage.