Saturday, 24 May 2008

Second Friends tweeter now available

In general, I'm going to try and do better at making my in-world stuff available to other people. To that end, I've made my Second Friends Tweeter available.

This tool takes a modified RSS feed and turns it into a series of bubbles that get blown away in the SL wind.

Out of the box it works with the Second Friends Twitter stream (the latest tweets by people signed up to Second Friends and who have registered their Twitter account) - it could easily be made to work against any RSS feed. The server-side script that I use to process the RSS feed is available here.

Have fun!

Friday, 23 May 2008

MeetingPod now available

The MeetingPod was one of the first significant things I built in Second Life, so I feel a certain fondness for it. It's a small, floating, meeting room with 8 scripted seats and a hand-raising, automated chairing facility.

Corwin Carillon recently asked me for a copy so I've now packaged it up and made it for sale at L$0 on Eduserv Island (next to the place where you teleport up to the MeetingPod).

Feel free to grab a copy. I've done the packaging in a bit of a rush, so shout if you don't think I've got the permissions right.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Spring 2008 snapshot of UK educational activity in SL now available

The second in our series of three snapshots of UK higher and further education activities in Second Life is now available. This is significantly longer than the previous snapshot(s), reflecting a growth in the level of use and development around Second Life.

The snapshots have been funded by the Eduserv Foundation and undertaken by John Kirriemuir (Silversprite Helsinki). As John notes in the introduction:
The number of UK academics who are developing or operating teaching and learning resources in Second Life (SL) has grown rapidly in the last year. While an accurate figure is difficult to determine (partially due to the non-public nature of some developments), as a rough estimate some three-quarters of UK universities are actively developing or using SL, at the institutional, departmental and/or individual academic level. Of these, many institutions support several ongoing SL developments, often involving groups of people rather than individuals. However, the proportion of UK FE institutions actively using SL was much smaller.
75% of UK universities is a pretty significant proportion - though, of course, the range of activities and level of investment that represents is very variable:
Academics described a very wide range of SL activities spanning teaching, learning, research, performance, construction and demonstration. The key advantage of SL in teaching and learning is that there are many activities in which the student must be more than a passive learner in order to progress. The student has to develop “stuff”, collaborate and participate. Before these can occur, he or she has to master a new and transferable skill set, meaning that, in SL, learning is done more by participating and doing than by listening and absorbing.

Though use of SL in UK HE/FE is growing, many academics are not “welded” to it, being aware of its deficiencies and open to moving to alternative virtual environments, especially open source and more localised versions, in the future.

Overall, and perhaps not surprisingly, the three most mentioned requirements of UK academic
SL developers are:
  • more funding opportunities
  • more time to develop
  • better technical facilities within SL, or a viable alternative environment.

Learning to teach in Second Life

The Learning From Online Worlds; Teaching In Second Life project have a draft report available entitled Learning to Teach in Second Life. Looks interesting...

What follows is a summary of the things that we found out by teaching 4 sessions in Second Life between November 2007 and March 2008, as part of the ‘Learning from Social Worlds; Teaching in Second Life’ project (supported by the Eduserv Foundation, June 2007 to May 2008.). The various pieces of research that we undertook alongside our teaching (examining communities of practice, ‘gate-keeping’, the Second Life ‘pain barrier’, etc.) are not covered in this report. Please note that there are lengthy reflections on our teaching in SL at the project blog, as well as links on a page of SL Resources to information from many other educators working in Second Life.

We found that: Second Life can be useful, that Second Life can be ambiguous, and that participants may have very different perspectives on a session.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Identity crisis?

Wagner James Au has an interesting blog post, Web 2.0 Is The Bridge Between 1st And 2nd Life Identity, suggesting that:
a tremendous level of Second Life activity really takes place within Web 2.0 systems which weren't made with the metaverse in mind. In this mesh of various Internet identities, we reveal different aspects of ourselves on different mediums, depending on the social circles who follow us there. It's a phenomenon we're only beginning to understand, one that Gartner's Adam Sarner dubbed "Generation V" and Botgirl Questi evocatively illustrated on her blog
I left a comment saying that when I recently introduced a limited level of Twitter support into the Second Friends Facebook application I left myself with a small, but very real, identity crisis.
The problem is that I tweet separately as both Andy Powell and Art Fossett and I couldn't work out which one I should link to my Second Friends profile.

It seems to me that the picture is going to get increasingly "confused", especially with expected growth in alternative virtual worlds, alts, etc. There is very little that I do with my first life online identity (email, blog, twitter, etc.) that I don't now also do with my second life online identity and I suspect that this is fairly typical. Art Fossett has a blog, an email account, a Twitter account, and several other outlets. He doesn't have a Facebook page, but only because I chose to surface that particular aspect of his online identity thru the Second Friends Facebook application.

As I join other virtual worlds I anticipate doing so as Art Fossett - at least, that is what I have done to date. I have other virtual world personas - but none of them feel as much a part of me as Art Fossett does. All of which leads one to conclude that Art Fossett is not simply Andy Powell's Second Life avatar but a more general persona which happens to surface most obviously in Second Life currently.

So, back to my dilema about which Twitter account to link to my Second Friends profile... in the end I decided to link my Art Fossett Twitter account to my Second Friends application, figuring that the application is really about linking my Second Life persona(s) to my real life Facebook page - there are other tools for linking in my first life tweets.

Leeds voice session

I did an hour long talk to staff at the University of Leeds earlier today. Most of them were fairly new to SL. The talk was done in-world on Education UK island. The original plan was to use one of the teaching spaces on the island but I noticed there was a large sandbox area, so decided to use that and build my own presentation space, more or less on the fly in front of the attendees.

This is what I came up with. Basically we walked round the tree, looking at each display board in turn, with me dragging new slide textures onto display boards as and when necessary. I also used the 'full bright' option on the texture of the current slide, to highlight what I was talking about.

I think it worked reasonably well.

The session used in-world voice chat and I encouraged participants to ask questions via text chat - which some of them did. We had the usual teething troubles of echo and so on at the beginning, followed by some problems with sound as the talk progressed. Note to self - remind people to keep their camera position close to the speaker. I suspect this is the most common cause of people not hearing properly.

Overall, I remain mildly skeptical about the value of voice in Second Life. I still feel that it destroys much of the immersive quality of the experience. However, in the context of giving a presentation like this one, it is very useful and (just about) works well enough.

Friday, 16 May 2008

NOAA survey

Want to help NOAA decide what to build next in Second Life? Take this short survey...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Love is...

You wont be told a story, but you will get to live one. Its not what is given to you its what you do when you hold it. The more you give to more you get. Love your planet, and every one who is on it. We know you can, so just go for it. Its the right thing to do, and you know it.
No, I've got no idea what they are banging on about either.

Love is... a game apparently... with very cool screen shots.

Virtual learning, real prizes

The NMC have announced $100,000 worth of prizes (yes, that's US dollars, not L$!) intended to create a collection of innovative open-source learning experiences. Very impressive.

I've been wondering about suggesting that Eduserv offer some prizes at Alt-C this year for innovative and effective learning activities in Second Life but not on this kind of scale.

As the announcement says:
Projects funded under the program will be distinguished by the ways in which they make learning fresh or novel, or by the ways they illuminate topics or concepts that are normally very difficult to teach. Immersive learning experiences are especially encouraged, as are tools or devices intended to support the craft of teaching. The most competitive project proposals will not be limited to a single course or discipline, but will rather have broad applicability.
Note that awards, each of which amounts to $5000, are available for projects in either Second Life or Project Wonderland and come in the form of $500 cash and $4500 expert development assistance.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Seamless textures - part 2

My colleague, Peregrine Juneau, laughed at me the other day for producing a seamless cucumber texture. Quite right too! What was I thinking? Can't remember now... something about developing a cucumber avatar of some kind I think.

Anyway... here's a second attempt, using a Bath stone wall just outside the Eduserv offices (in Bath, UK). Bath stone is what almost all of the city of Bath is constructed out of... it's a soft, light-colored sandstone, local to the area.

It's not perfect, because I took the original image in bright sunshine so it feels a bit flat. Also the lack of mortar in parts of the wall rather stands out. I'll try again soon with a better starting image...

Here's how it looks used on my small patch of floating land on Gourdneck.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Making a seamless cucumber image

I've always wondered how to make a seamlesse texture - i.e. a texture that can be repeated/tiled with no obvious lines between the repeats.

Actually, it's pretty easy to do... at least in theory. I had a play with a cucumber-based image (don't ask!).

Here's what I did:

1) Firstly, I found an image of a single slice of cucumber on Flickr (original by Nick Atkins)- use a fruit or vegetable of your choice.

2) Then I used it to create a random pattern in a 512x512 square.

3) Then I moved the left hand side of the image to the right hand side, the right hand to the left hand, the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. Luckily most graphics programs have an easy way to do this. In Gimp (which is what I use) go to Layer, Transform, Offset... and then choose the Offset by x/2, y/2 option.


4) Finally, I used the original single image to disguise the resulting lines, being careful to avoid going off any of the edges of the image.

That's it...

You'll probably find that when you upload this and start using it that there'll be obvious repetition points that only become visible once it has been tiled. These will need to be ironed out manually by using the original single image to create a generally uniform appearance over the tiled image as a whole.

Have fun!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Land issues resolved

With reference to the last post and my collapsing 'For Sale' sign... my land issues have now been resolved.

I bought some land on Sinfro a while back thru the Linden Lab land auctions. When I came to try and sell it, I found I couldn't. Dunno why.

Having raised a ticket to get the problem resolved I then waited over 3 weeks for a response to the ticket. Finally I tweeted about my unhappiness with the speed of response and low and behold (though probably by total coincidence in reality) the problem was fixed the next day. Linden took ownership of the land and then sold it to me for L$0 - seems to have done the trick.

Anyway, I've now got the land up for sale at the very reasonable price of L$7000 if anyone is interested.

...or this

Friday, 2 May 2008

You ain't seen nothing like the mighty prim

I've been having fun with a very simple scripted prim idea. Take, one scripted Mighty Prim, copy it as many times as you like, position the resulting blocks where ever you want, then chat

/999 fix

Click on any of the blocks and they'll all collapse in a heap. Wait for 20 seconds and they re-build themselves into your original shape. Simple huh?

So, you can go from this:

to this:

and back again just by clicking and waiting.

Re-position everything and type

/999 fix

again and it'll remember the new set of positions as well, cycling round the saved positions after each collapse.

Repeat at will...