Thursday, June 29, 2006

Three Hunderd Thousand Users

SL just passed the 300k active users on the main page.

That is a growth of more then 50k in just the last 17 days. Even a bit more, because after we passed the 250k the algorithm got changed and it dropped below 250 again. With this speed we will reach 400k by the end of next month.

Tateru just blogged this a bit faster then me here. She has some more number of the last couple of days. She also blogged tuesday that sl hit over 8k concurrent users for the first time.

Sl is booming, ride the wave or be swallowed. Or just enjoy the waves from afar. ;)

Edit: I made a math mistake.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happy Third Birthday Second Life

Ok it is a bit late, but the festivities are still going to the end up the day. And at the very least if you haven't look at the anniversary sims yet, then do so now. There is a lot of interesting work done on the sims and all by your fellow residents. The whole 3 year Anniversary was planned and executed by Taturo Nino, Mera Pixel and their group of builders.

And we should thank them, because without them their might not have been so much effort to make it a whole 5 day party that tried to include the whole community. LL was not planning anything themselves, and was actually expecting the community to do it. It was Taturo who discovered this and she stepped up on the plate and made it happen. Go Taturo.

The SL 3rd birthday didn't really get all the attention it deserved, with all the CC-less sign up drama happening the last weeks. And you could see it weighing on the organizers, who must have spend all their free time on this. Philip's speech was completely sidetracked by these issues and the obnoxious griever. And I personally would have liked to hear Philip talk about other things besides these. Everything has a time and place, but sadly this was not the time or place. And it ended the speech in a bit of a downer. Luckily Jeska came by afterwards to lift the spirits, with her joyous giggles. :)

So visit the anniversary sims, and party till you drop.
And one round of applause for these people.
Ps, some of us have tagged the birthday pics on slpics.
Easy list of a lot of nice pics can be found here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

6 Months After P2P

Rating Bonuses, Event Support, P2P... the longer you stay in SL the more times the sky falls. Some friends of mine commented last night that it's been 6 months since P2P teleportation was re-introduced, and hey! the world did not actually turn into a morass of gray, interior-focused boxes, red ban lines, and flash-mob griefing as some predicted. If you interpret "gray boxes" as non-contiguous spaces, then yes we do have more private islands. I do still hear some complaints that telehubs' zoning effect is gone, but I never considered hubs an adequate or functional zoning tool personally. We've seen the consolidation of many stores into central locations. In the hub days, we probably saw much more of SL than we do now popping from specific place to specific place, but then again, when I want to explore, there is nothing stopping me from doing that.

This may get some people rather annoyed at me, but personally I am not up in arms about the new registration changes. The platform needs to open up, and we need to continue forging towards the point of critical mass. I like Philip's comment about it becoming more international. I'm not going to get into the issue of whether you can really stop a teenager from getting anywhere on the Internet they really want to go, but I do agree with Frans that protections need to be built either into or on top of the client. I do think that if SL is going to be on a computer accessible by a child, a frank discussion of what is out there and how to be careful is in order.

Linden Lab does care about limiting griefing. They do care about liability. They do care about child safety. They've made a decision to open up the platform with these issues in mind, and I for one am willing to roll with it and see where it takes us.

(and Frans, if you can figure out how to turn the word verification back on so we can have comments, god bless ya. Have at it!).

The Day After

After Philip's often interrupted speech and following blog post, it is clear that LL is not going to change back to CC verification. They listened, acknowledged and promised to fix what is wrong but not in the way the people where asking for. And i have to admit i was one of the people who added his 10 votes on the feature proposal page to get the CC verification back. But it's time to face reality, look ahead and prepare for what is coming. Life is adaptation.

It is no secret that LL envisions SL evolving into a space where million of people log on in the same way people now browse the web. There is no age verification when you start your browser and no sign up to get onto the web other then your ISP. Mature websites have their own ways to keep minors out, and concerned parents can install software to prevent their children from even visiting those sites.

Now you will say, "yea but those tools aren't there yet". And you are right, they aren't. They weren't there yet for the first websites either. And I think that is mostly the case because we aren't even sure what those tools will look like, and how they should function. Now I'm not only talking about age verifications, but also all kinds of other tools we would need to keep a communal space enjoyable. Tools and features like better privacy restrictions, global mutes, more control on what can and can't happen on your space, etc.

Many of these tools have been talked about, and until now they where more a nice to have feature. By opening up the floodgates so to speak, some of these tools/features will float up immediately as Must Haves. And priority should be shifted towards them accordingly. And i believe they will, else SL will fail. The sudden growth might actually be necessary to get focus away from the shiny toys to the less exciting features.

People ask why the Main Grid and the Teen Grid are still separate, and i think they only are until the basic tools become available to better control your own experience. And it is not like LL hasn't been working on some of the tools already. Gwyneth Llewelyn recently blogged about how the client-server communications is being ported to a web services based system. This opens up the opportunity for different clients. How about a client that only requests PG Sims, with this and even more refined options the whole Teen Grid could become unnecessary. This would even make it possible for heavily modded children's websites to come in world and make a 3d space, where parents and children could be together. Maybe even verified adults could be granted access with the right monitoring tools.

All in all i think this is a necessary step for LL to create their vision. Let's hope we all can adapt and survive and aren't eaten alive before it comes true.

Ps, it annoys me as well that people can't comment on this blog and I will see if i can get it fixed later this week. For now respond on sl forum here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Second Life, Mozilla and You!

I've recently been contacted by some friends in world who aren't the tech geek type. They wanted to know more details on why I was soon keen on the upcoming integration of a browser into Second Life, and eventually, HTML-on-a-prim. It reminded me that while some things are obvious to hard core tech geeks, that not everyone in SL is a hard core tech geek any more! I've decided to share some of the reasons I'm so excited about this feature; more so than any feature I can remember being integrated into Second Life.
  • A single-prim unified web based vendor by putting your SLBoutique store on a prim; for sellers, one central spot to update, put images, descriptions, prices, and so forth. ( on a prim, if you need a visual aid)
  • Every graphic on a web server is a potential texture to use.
  • Shared browsing of web sites instead of having to pay L$10 per slide to upload and integrate using textures
  • HTML based, customizable replacement of the Second Life "Find" system, which is grossly outdated and hasn't scaled well in many areas (IE: events list, popular places, etc.)
  • Ability to use SL's amazing collaboritive environment to work on web sites as a team.
  • Easy ability to see your detailed transaction history on the web without having to fidget with a separate browser.
  • Building in-world tutorials with rich media will be incredibly easy.
  • Instant access to the BadGeometry LSL scripting wiki.
  • Updating Second Life's help section with rich media instead of just text that is tied to a client version; help section can be updated constantly without a new build or client download. This will be a huge help for Mentors, Live Helpers, and other volunteers as the help section will actually be usable and user-friendly.
  • And of course... zOMG pr0n!

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and my personal list of exciting prospects; I'm sure there are thousands of more that others are prepping for as well. What are some of yours? The possibilities around this feature are truly as endless as the web itself!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Understanding SL: Two Takes

Trying to explain Second Life to folks who have not spent much time in-world can be an interesting challenge. Some folks know that I have taken on the role of VP of Bizdev over at Electric Sheep Company, so I’m spending more and more time explaining and introducing SL.

I wanted to present two takes on explaining SL, the first of which is a video we did for the New Media Consortium (a not-for-profit consortium of nearly 200 leading colleges, universities, museums, corporations, and other learning-focused organizations). The NMC’s Campus Observer just blogged it here.

The next piece is some words I jotted down while prepping for a presentation at the NMC’s summer conference. Don’t expect groundbreaking insights here… that’s not what I am attempting. Rather, I hope through repeated and different takes like this, together we can all come up with better ways to describe this world that has captivated our attentions.

Understanding Second Life

Second Life, shortened by most to “SL”, is an online virtual world where anybody with a broadband connection and a reasonably powerful computer can interact, create, educate, play, and work in a graphically-rich 3D environment. It is an immersive space where you interact with your surroundings and other people through an avatar (a representation of a human, or non-human, being) that walks, flies or drives around.

SL is a persistent space, meaning that it is “always on” and time runs linear to the world not to the participant (just like the real world). Linden Lab, a technology company in San Francisco, created the underlying technology behind Second Life, but it is essential to note that almost the entire world -- from the buildings you see to the clothes and hair you wear to the animations that let your avatar move –are created by residents of Second Life.

Through your avatar, you can BE in a space, and let your imagination carry you from a computer screen into a new world. Naturally, the more sophisticated the design of the 3D space, the easier it is to make this mental leap. People spend hours, even months, honing and customizing their avatars: how they look, what they wear, how they move, etc. Some people try to make their avatar reflect their real-world body, while others experiment with more imaginary forms.

As part of Second Life, Linden Lab created custom design tools to help residents build 3D objects. Most of the graphics, which are mapped onto the 3D objects, are made offline in applications such as Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or GIMP, and uploaded to the virtual world. SL also offers a rich programming language to bring objects and environments to life. This ranges from simple programmed behaviors (a driveable car or a turning windmill) to incredibly complex interactivity (dynamic buildings which change on the fly, scripted productivity tools, or games built on top of the underlying platform).

In a virtual world, there is no weather, no hunger, no sickness. The physical rules of reality are optional; for example, a bridge can be held up by a ray of light rather than cables and concrete. You can fly! The inefficiencies of distance are relatively meaningless because you can teleport instantly from place to place. The one thing that remains the same in a virtual world, however, is human nature. Behind every avatar is a person sitting at a computer, most of whom are anonymous behind an avatar name, and so you see the full range of human activity from the most noble to the most base.

There are a few hundred thousand users registered with Second Life and at any point in time, there are thousands of people logged in from around the world. About 25% of Second Life residents are international, the average age is in the early 30’s, and just over 40% of the member base is female.

So what do people do there? SL has remarkably few rules, which causes early confusion for some folks more used to the structured environments of online games. While many people use it for entertainment, and while you can build games on top of the technology, Second Life is not in-and-of-itself a game. Most consumers use it as a place to socialize, play, experiment, doodle creatively, and shop. Some people have created towns and local governments. Some have created historical or fantastical environments, like a Victorian village, where they role-play characters within their constructed context.

A growing army of entrepreneurs and designers are building online businesses to sell virtual goods and services to other members of Second Life, to the tune of over US$5 million in economic transactions a month. The range of goods being sold is immense, and covers such categories as clothing, accessories, vehicles, interactive tools, buildings, furniture and land. Services include custom creative services, promotion and marketing, games, role-playing environments, and much more. Economic transactions are handled through a local currency, the Linden dollar, which is bought and sold on an open currency exchange called the Lindex.

An increasing number of real-world organizations are using Second Life for a wide variety of tasks. Virtual worlds remove the problems of geography and distance, making Second Life a perfect place for online conferences, events, and live concerts. For example, it is relatively easy to stream live video of a real-world event into a virtual counterpart, and some events even operate as a “simulcast” where the virtual event is streamed into the real-world venue.

The 3D, immersive nature of SL makes it a great place for simulation, training and education. Imagine teaching medical applications by being able to walk through a giant version of the human body, watching the virtual biological elements around you change and react based on your actions. Imagine training a new customer service hire within a virtual version of your store, learning their way around and dealing with difficult customers in live scenarios. Virtual worlds also provide companies a fascinating way to build new bridges to their customers, whether for marketing purposes, customer support, or customer feedback.

Whether you are looking at Second Life as a consumer or for business purposes, at the end of the day, the best way to understand SL is to try it. It may take some perseverance as you adjust to the interface and how to move around, but hang in there. You will start to discover how an immersive environment truly spurs relationship building between people. You will start to understand what people mean when they say you feel like you are actually with somebody, sharing a space and an experience. That is the true power behind the magic.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Video goodness

Nand Nerd made some cool short clips of his Geometric Flexy models. They remind me of a opening heart or sea & plant life that open up to catch some sunrays or food. I could see this used to enchance the plants/flowers in SL, have them respond to the day and night cycle by opening and closing.


And you can see them inworld at Lasiocampa,160,200,27

This weekend in San Francisco VloggerCon will be held, and at the same time in SL.
Tao Takashi our resident Vlogger has been writing about it on his Blog, where he has a promo for the SL event.

The Inworld event is Organized by Spin Martin and will be at the HipCast Conference Center in the Shalida sim.