Friday, 25 April 2008

Microsoft makes history in SL

Hah! That's very funny...
Once again we are poised to make history for Microsoft by holding the first ever full-fledged Launch event in Second Life.
Like it!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Insert cock up

I'm embarrassed :-(. I announced my recent improvements to Second Friends on the SLED list yesterday only to find out today that new registrations haven't been working for a while. Doh :-(

Note to self: when you add fields to a table in a MySQL database, make sure that you also change any code that uses 'insert' to add rows to the table. Otherwise you just get errors about the wrong number of fields and nothing gets updated.

Oh well. As Aldon Hynes noted when I admitted my mistake to the SLED list:
We use Second Life, we're used to backend database problems!

Myself to myself - What not to Rez follow-up

I went to the Emerge event.

I turned up incognito - it was a party at a conference about online identity after all.

I kept myself to myself by and large.

Here's a picture of Josie Oh dancing. Nice dress mate!

It was fun ... but might have been more interesting if everyone had come as an alt?

'What not to Rez' fashion show

The JISC Emerge project are hosting an evening of entertainment, What not to Rez, on Emerge Island later this evening - 7pm UK time.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Second Friends profile images

One of the original design features of Second Friends was that it would re-use people's in-world profile image as the image displayed on their Facebook profile and in their friends' 'My friends' list. The idea was that as little as possible of the Second Life profile information should be replicated in Facebook.

Linden Lab serves your in-world profile image on the Web at a URL of the form:

and I currently display this in the Second Friends part of people's Facebook profile.

Unfortunately, the images are served in the wrong aspect ratio and in a form that is not cachable by the browser. To make things worse, there is often a significant delay in the way they are served. I don't know if LL do this to discourage their use in external applications such as Second Friends but whatever the reasoning or rationale, the bottom line is that using them is unreliable.

I've therefore added a feature that allows people to add a URL of an image of their avatar to their Second Friends preferences. Go to the My preferences tab to make use of this. It's up to people to find themselves a place to host the image, but Flickr is an obvious choice.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Second Friends news

I've added a couple of new features to my Second Friends Facebook application...

Firstly, it now offers a My friends' friends feature, allowing you to grow your Second Friends social network by looking for friends of your friends.

Secondly, some limited support for Twitter has been added. If you have a Twitter account, you can now add details about it to Second Friends. This will result in your most recent tweet appearing next to your entry in your friends' My friends list. Similarly, as your friends add this feature, you will start to see their most recent tweets in your My friends list.

In due course, I plan to create an in-world object that will display your friends' tweets to you while you are in Second Life.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Fan sites thru the ages

The earliest list of SL fan sites (as listed on that I can find in the Internet Archive is from Sept 2004 - about three and a half years ago.

It seems hard not to read this list as public endorsement by Linden Lab of a bunch of names and domains that would now fall foul of the new branding guidelines.

As far as I can tell, this list was maintained on the site until Dec 2005 with many of the sites concerned remaining on that list for the whole of that time.

I'm not sure what happened to the fan sites list after that date. No record of it remains in the Internet Archive (at least, not at that particular URL) as far as I can tell.

Clarification of branding guidelines - the mud is clearing but it's still mud

Linden Lab have issued some clarification around their new branding guidelines.

While the clarification is welcomed and provides some useful... err... clarification, it doesn't get round the fundamental problem that some of the new guidelines are plain stupid - especially given what has gone before.

The new guidelines might well have been perfectly reasonable if they had been in place from the outset. But to sit back for several years and allow (and possibly even implicitly encourage?) the widespread use of 'second life' and 'sl', particularly in domain names, and only now tell people that it is not allowed is completely unacceptable IMHO.

Of course, one could argue that LL would not be where they are today if they had enforced these kinds of policies from the outset and that attempts to restrict the use of these terms in product names, projects, domain names and elsewhere would probably have had a huge negative impact on the success of SL.

How many URLs to SL-related content are about to be broken? How many new domain names will have to be registered? What will happen to the old ones? How many SL-related domain names are about to fall into the hands of porn sites?

Ciaran Laval has a nice post that replays (part of?) the old branding guidelines - Change policy first, explain it later.

Eye in hand

Interesting resource about the use of 'eye in hand' imagery in various cultures:

Eye in hand - the study of a multi-cultural icon

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Congressional hearing on virtual worlds

I watched the bulk of the congressional hearing on virtual worlds earlier today but ultimately gave up before the end... frustrated at the direction things were taking.

Philip Rosedale's position statement included quite a long video presentation about Second Life - why on earth would congress be interested in sitting thru 5 minutes of unadulterated SL advertising? - but having used part of his allotted presentation time with the video, he then seemed somewhat bemused to be asked to summarise his position well before he had finished getting thru his written material. Shame. On the other hand, and to be fair, he did much better in what I saw of the questioning phase.

Of the initial position statements, it seemed to me that Larry Johnson of the NMC did best, abstracting away from the specifics of the current technology and focusing on the long term significance of what is happening.

But during questioning it rapidly became clear that congress wasn't really interested in the future anyway. Much more important to them was the potential threat of using Second Life to support terrorist activities, how age verification works or not, and how Linden Lab monitors unusual currency transactions. One got the feeling that the agenda was largely being driven by what we'd call the tabloid media in the UK. Or so it seemed anyway...
Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, called for a clear understanding of how virtual world activity might help the U.S. fight new trends in terrorism.

She stressed that she was not advocating censorship. "I want to make sure these glorious tools are not abused … or changed into tools that facilitate the use of terrorist attacks," she said.

(See story in PC Magzine). Good grief, if congress is worried about the use of technology to support terrorism I suggest that they shut down email, the Web and the mobile phone network for a start. Oh, and they'd better get rid of paper and pencils while they are at it :-(.

Fleep Turque has put together a partial summary of the hearing.

Larry Johnson's full written submission to congress is also available.

[Un]limited ?

Approximate quote from the Florida representative at the congressional hearing on virtual worlds today:
The possibilities offered by virtual worlds are unlimited ... limited only by the imagination of their users.
Hang on mate... are they unlimited or not!?

What LL did next...

There's a nice comment by Deltango Vale on Reuter's EXCLUSIVE - Rosedale to step down as Linden Lab CEO story from which I quote a fairly substantial part here:

How do we fix it?

Linden Lab is a private company, so they can do with Second Life what they wish. We ‘residents’ have the choice of being here or not. At the moment, there is no viable alternative to SL as a comprehensive virtual world. Therefore, Linden Lab still has time to prevent Second Life from becoming the ‘Lotus 123′ or ‘WordPerfect’ of the virtual universe.

1) Regain integrity of the system. Announce the closure of all anonymous accounts on 1 March 2008. ‘Anonymous’ accounts may now be described as accounts without payment information on file or have not been age verified through the ID scheme. Keep the ID scheme during the transition process, but consider phasing it out by the end of the year and returning to credit card verification.

2) Stabilize the financial system. Lift the ban on banks. Present the following message on the login screen: “Rate of return (interest or profit) on any investment is proportional to the amount invested, the length of time invested and the RISK OF NONPAYMENT.” Give residents information, not regulation, and the system will evolve in a healthy and productive way. Reputable businesses providing good customer service will always prevail against fly-by-night operations.

3) Reassert the founding principles of individual liberty and individual responsibility. Resist the temptation to sanitize Second Life. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; the desire to protect residents from themselves will only lead to a downward spiral of regulations to offset the harmful effects of other regulations. Also, Second Life is NOT real life. It is NOT a nation-state. Second Life is virtual, voluntary and adult. We are here by choice precisely to escape the restrictions of real life - and there is no Berlin Wall to prevent us from leaving. As for those who want SL to become more like Disneyland, well, Disneyland already exists. We don’t need another one.

This captures the spirit of my feelings about Second Life. LL seem to have lost their way. Not at a technical level - I mean there are problems at that level but by and large they are livable with - but in terms of becoming overly sensitive to political pressures. This is not overly surprising... but disappointing nonetheless.

That said, I don't expect any new CEO to be able to recapture the ground that SL/LL once held.