Thursday, 31 July 2008

Barriers to innovation

Steven Warburton has a nice post on Liquid Learning discussing the barriers to innovation in virtual worlds in the context of teaching and learning.
He suggests 6 areas in which there are barriers - technical, identity, culture, collaboration, time and economic - which seems like a useful breakdown to me.

He closes with a discussion about the choice of technology for a remote presentation with colleagues from the UK to an audience in Kuala Lumpur. In short, Elluminate was chosen over Second Life:
Not only were we going to have to trust the technical robustness of the platform (gulp) but we were also forced to assess the question of added value from using Second Life? Fighting server lag, low bandwidth problems, variable audio quality and the sheer awkwardness of manipulating an in-world slide viewer were just too much to contemplate so we shifted to the Elluminate.
While this doesn't seem unreasonable given the nature of the presentation (RL presenters speaking to a RL audience) he ends with:
here is a vision for SL that would help make it more usable - a whiteboard, an integrated IRC type chat client and a status indicator panel.
I suppose so... though SL already has an "IRC type chat client" (in-world chat - which in my experience serves perfectly well as a back-channel while voice is being used to carry the main presentation) and status indicator (just ask people to '/clap' or chat something when you want explicit acknowledgement). I agree that the whiteboard is missing and as I've argued elsewhere, this highlights SL's fundamental problem with handling text-like documents in any collaborative sense.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Virtual Policy '08

Apologies for the cross-post, but I've written up my contribution to the education panel session at Virtual Policy '08 on eFoundations.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Submit your machinima to 4mations

4mations, an animation company based in Bristol, UK and backed by Channel 4, Aardman Animations and Lupus Films, will start offering cash prizes next month for animations uploaded to its Web site.

I've checked with them and machinima made in Second Life (or other MUVEs for that matter) are eligible for the prizes.

So, if you're feeling creative, why not give it a go?

Calling all environmental students or other interested parties...

I blogged about Carbon Goggles the other day.

Coincidentally, I bumped into Babbage Linden at the Virtual Policy '08 event in London on Tuesday and he wondered if I knew of anyone (individuals or groups) who might be able to help him tag in-world objects with enough information to enable his software to grab carbon emissions information dynamically from AMEE.

I presume that the tagging process itself is pretty simple. I wonder if someone could turn this activity into some kind of introductory learning exercise for students new to Second Life? "Find 10 in-world objects that represent real-world objects and tag them for Carbon Goggles", kind of thing? Or perhaps it's something that a group of students might get into for its own sake?

Whatever... if you are interested, get in touch with Babbage Linden in-world. I'm sure he'd be happy to talk to you about it.

Prim toes!

Some of you will know that I use a Second Life alt to run an in-world shoe business, BB Shoes. Note that I'm using the words 'run' and 'business' very loosely since as I put very little effort into it these days and consequently haven't actually sold (m)any shoes for some time.

Recently, I've been putting the downturn in my entrepreneurial success down to my lack of sculptie-shoes - something that every cobbler in Second Life should have in their arsenal. Unfortunately, I appear to have neither the right tools nor any skill in creating them and so am sculptie-less for the time being.

However, I just realised that there might be another reason why nobody is interested in my shoes - the women's styles at least - no prim toes!

Good grief - whatever next?

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Virtual Goggles and carbon emissions

I meant to blog this a while back but never got round to it. Carbon Goggles is a novel experiment by Jim Purbrick of Linden Lab that allows people to tag in-world representations of RL objects in such a way that their carbon emission data (pulled dynamically from AMEE) is displayed floating over each object.

The project, which was initially developed during a 24 hour period at the Mashed '08 event in London) uses a HUD (Heads Up Display) that computes where the object is in your field of view, then positions the text to make it look as though it is floating over the object.

The video probably makes things clearer:

Carbon Goggles from Jim Purbrick on Vimeo.

Very clever.

I've been wondering about taking the underlying HUD visualisation software and using it to display Second Friends information (e.g. a RL name) over any avatar in your field of view who happens to be one of your Second Friends.

Virtual Policy '08

I'm taking part in a panel session at the Virtual Policy '08 conference later today. The conference is being held in London over the next two days and has been organised by the Virtual Policy Network in conjunction with The Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform with New York Law School providing program support.
The key policy themes for this year's event are:
  • Intellectual property rights
  • Financial transaction
  • Child online & education
  • Innovation
Sounds like fun!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Where are the new approaches?

Stephen Downes (rightly) complains that we spend too much time in Second Life (SL) blandly re-creating what we would do in real life - particularly in the context of teaching and learning, meetings and so on. It's not clear to me whether he was complaining about the SL platform itself, or the people making use of the platform but he was good enough to publish a series of comments on his original post - essentially pointing out that blaming SL for the tendency of its users to re-create what they do in real life (RL) is like blaming PowerPoint for bad presentations.

I quite like this quote:
Bertrand Russell said that "people like to die by the latest method." He could have been talking about Second Life.
Speaking only for myself, I have as little imagination as the next bloke, probably less. I broadly agree with where Stephen is coming from - I am crap at thinking up different ways of presenting stuff to audiences in-world - but I also think that there are times when simply replicating a RL activity is perfectly OK. I recently spoke about Second Life at the UCISA User Support Conference (to a real audience of about 100 and a virtual audience of about 15). Roo Reynolds, who was on stage in the RL venue immediately before me suggested that I was about to show them something innovative and new, at which point I proceeded to use SL to show a series of PowerPoint slides on a very traditional-looking screen in something that looked very like a traditional lecture theater. Doh! :-(

In terms of what I was trying to do on the day, which was primarily about introducing the RL audience to SL, I think my chosen pedagogy worked reasonably well. Yes, I could have built a more innovative 'lecture space' - though I have no idea about what such a thing might look like. Yes, I could have used a non-lecture-based pedagogy - though I don't know what I'd have done instead, given the size of the audience and the fact that it was partly in the RL venue and partly in SL.

Suggestions on a postcard please...

Stephen refers to a panel session:
I was part of a panel in Second Life on Monday, and what struck me was how it took place in a virtual lecture hall, and one by one, we all went up to the podium, showed some slides, and lectured to an audience of avatars seated in virtual chairs. We know how to bore you in a classroom, and now we know how to bore you online.
So how could this have been made to work better? Sure, there are trivial things that could have been done... don't make the room look like a lecture hall for a start? Don't provide chairs? Don't provide a podium? Would any of these made the session any better?

Don't allow the use of slides? Seems kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Don't give panel members speaking slot at all? Erm...

I think there are interesting possibilities in terms of using your avatar's position in the meeting space and/or colors or other indicators to show how you feel about what is currently being said. That might work well in the context of a panel - where presumably some position (or positions) on a particular topic are being discussed.

On the other hand, discussions in SL tend to be relatively unstructured and chaotic (is that SL's most novel feature?) and my suspicion is that trying to indicate a coherent feeling around a range of disparate threads in a multi-way conversation might be very difficult.

Despite my general skepticism about voice in SL, I do think that it has a place in meeting-like scenarios, i.e. in situations in which there is a speaker who, temporarily at least, is given the floor. Using voice for the speaker is much more efficient and effective than carrying everything by chat. More importantly, it leaves chat open as the back-channel for discussion by the people listening.

I think there are some difficult issues in this area. It's easy to knock SL as a place where unimaginative people simply re-create what happens in the real world. But there are valid reasons why that is done, at least in some cases.

Over to you... how would you use SL to share and discuss 4 positions on a topic without it simply looking like a re-creation of a traditional RL panel session?

Friday, 4 July 2008

Uptown top banking

According to the AvaStar, the banks are back, though only those that have been accredited by Linden Lab.

Can anyone explain what the use-case is for using a Second Life bank? I can't really see why anyone would want to do so unless they are somehow able to offer better interest than I could reasonably get in RL. Am I being thick? Is it just to cater for residents that "do not have Paypal or a major U.S. credit card account in USD"?

Quick experiment... LeeX (a European SL-accredited bank) is offering a special deal right now, L$10,000 for 27.40 Euros - that's US$43.01. I'm assuming that this includes any transaction charges - I did try signing up to LeeX to confirm this but I couldn't make the Web site work properly.

Whatever... on LindenX (i.e. buying L$ thru the Second Life Web site) I can get L$11275 for $43.01. So, on the face of it, LeeX looks like a bad deal.

In both cases I will be charged some commission by Paypal because I bank in UK pounds sterling in RL and I'm buying L$ in either US dollars or Euros. I don't know if I am charged the same commission for US dollars and Euros.

OK, I'm confused... I still don't really understand why I should care that there are banks in SL.

Can someone enlighten me??


The Dorkbot session that has been arranged for 6 July 1:00 pm PDT / 22:00 CET at the Odyssey Simulator sounds good, particularly to people with an interest in machinima:
JJ Ventrella (a.k.a. Ventrella Linden) will present the avatar puppeteering project. A project motivated to bring more expression to the avatar, by enabling a more fluid and direct way to manipulate the ‘physical avatar’. This is a Linden Lab project that unfortunetely was ‘put to sleep’ as Linden Lab decided to focus on the stability of Second Life and internal opinions differed over how compelling the feature really is. Last month however, Linden Lab released the client source code of this project, to allow other people to build on it (and convince them otherwise).
Apart from anything else, the name is great!