Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wii in Second Life

I have a confession to make: I am actually not much of a gamer. I do not own a game console, and barely ever play a game on the PC - unless you consider SL to be a game. But wether you are a gamehead or not, chances are you have heard of Nintendo's Wii game console. The Wii has a unique feature: the Wii Remote. Game consoles used to be controlled by joysticks or a mouse, but the Wiimote is different. It is a wireless device, slightly similar to a television remote control, that allows you to make 3D motions, which are translated to the game. With the Wii, you can, for instance, play a game of bowling: when you make the actual bowling motions with the wiimote in hand, your motions are reproduced in the game.

A couple of days ago, Wired reported on a new initiative by MIT research Fellow David Stone, who is combining the Wiimote with Second Life: Wii + Second Life = New Training Simulator . Dr. Stone is combining the ease of use of the Wiimote, and it's 3D nature, with the 3D environment of Second Life, to facilitate training programs of all kinds. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense: a 3D remote control for a virtual 3D environment.

Customers are looking to virtual training environments to cut costs, and Stone is looking to SL for the same reason. It's quite easy to create basic stuff in SL, and what you can't create, can usually be bought for a couple of Lindens. According to Stone, "it's a world of abundance", as he is quoted in the Wired article.

Of course, technology is only part of the equation. The Wiimote, intuitive as it may be, is still 'only' an input device, and without a good training script or scenario, it's still not going to help much. Plus, for the foreseeable future, virtual training can not fully replace real world training. These, and other, issues are fully recognized, and taken into account according to the Wired story.

As with many other developments in SL, this may very well be only the beginning of an interesting new development in electronic learning and training. Says Stone:

Such explorations are likely just the beginning. More specialized virtual worlds and input devices are likely to crop up in the future, independent of Second Life or the Wiimote.

The point, says Stone, is that "the ability to easily integrate a wide range of psychomotor activities with simulations running on standard computer platforms will change the ways people interact with computers."

Link: full Wired story

Monday, July 30, 2007

insurance in SL

The Dutch insurance company Univé, recently opened an SL office. They sell actual SL insurance, against theft, damages and care cost, for a mere 200 L$ per six months. If your claim is accepted, Univé will pay a maximum amount of 10.000 lindens.

This got me thinking.. How do they control the veracitiy of your claim? How do they insure for 'care'? Is that healthcare? What constitutes healthcare in SL? Unive doesn't tell - yet. Usually, there's lots of documentation to go with insurance, but this time it is a bit lacking.

Univé programmed hostesses to help you around. Good idea, but how do I turn her off.. she keeps following me!

Added later:
As I was trying to get insurance from Univé, I was given a notecard with more information. It's actually a nice package. Healthcare is obviously not included, although the wording of the original message seemed to imply it did. But you can claim damages or loss of value due to other avatars misbehaving, copying your intellectual property, using landbots on your land, paying for items that in the end are not transferred to you, and other similar stuff. There's more Dutch language documentation (including terms and conditions) available here .

Getting the insurance is quite easy. You click on the computer, it asks you to enter your email address on channel 1, and then you pay your 200 bucks. A unique identification code that ties you to this payment and insurance is then emailed to you. That's the code you have to use when claiming damages.

One thing struck me as a bit odd: the final clause says that, for this virtual insurance, only virtual law is applicable. .Uh..what law would that be?

posted by Sered Woollahra on Unive using a blogHUD : [permalink]
edited by Sered Woollahra - corrected typos, added info.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

IBM establishes employee guidelines for SL

When blogging became mainstream, IBM established guidelines for IBM related blogging by their employees. And now they are doing it again for Second Life: IBM rules govern workers in virtual worlds. In the guidelines, IBM has outlined some rules for avatar appearance and behaviour. Nothing too restrictive, in my opinion, although I know some IBM avatars that are going to need a bit of work :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

all bets are off

Above this picture, it said "the bet is finished". It looks like this is true on multiple levels, after Linden Labs announced a complete ban on wagering, betting, casinos and the like, for Second Life as a whole. Apparently the move is triggered by an FBI investigation, which wants to apply the rather strict US law on betting on Second Life. By the way, the Netherlands has quite a strict law on casinos as well; only one, largely state owned, casino chain has a license. All other casinos are illegal.
posted by Sered Woollahra on Kouhun using a blogHUD : [permalink]

No more casinos in SL

Yikes, this is going to hurt. Yesterday, Linden Labs published a new policy, effectively banning al in-world gambling. SL is awash with casinos and slot machines; they also generate a lot of the in-world economic activity.

But, in a lot of countries, gambling is only legal if organized, or sanctioned by the state; this goes for the US, for Canada, but also for The Netherlands. Apparently, Linden Lab is forced (by an FBI investigation?) to apply these US laws to Second Life.

Adding to this: in recent months, there has been a lot of discussion about another new Linden Lab policy, one that prohibits "broadly offensive and potentially illegal content". This policy was created after news media reported on explicit activities in SL that seemed to involve minors and adults. It was roleplay of course, but one that generated quite a buzz in many countries. Roleplay or not, it didn't seem right to many people, and Linden Lab moved to prohibit these kinds of behaviour and imagery.

Apparently, the furries are under close scrutiny as well: animal shaped avatars, involved in explicit, adult roleplay with human looking avatars: this is bound to violate a lot of laws in a lot of countries as well.

At this moment, there's no telling what effect this will have on SL. It will become more respectable in some, corporate, eyes; it will become definitely more boring in th eyes of those in search of some in world excitement, edgy roleplay or a nice game of cards.

Undoubtedly, many avatars will leave. Some in-world entrepeneurs invested a lot of money in land and buildings, money which they earn back by providing gambling services. These people will have to quit their business, and they will not be refunded. This is going to cost some people a lot of money, real world dollars. In the end, the economy of SL *and* Linden Lab will suffer monetary losses.

This raises an interesting point: Linden Lab can, apparently, change their policies at will, destroying the value of anything you own or have built, just like that. That is worrying, if you plan to invest in SL.

On the other hand, SL will look more respectable to many other people. I know for a fact that certain companies stayed out of SL because they didn't want to be associated with all the gambling and sex that's going on in SL. Maybe these people will reconsider their earlier stance on the issue.

In six months, SL maybe very much over - a vast, digital desert. Or it may recover, and still be an interesting place for businesses and private people alike. We'll have to wait and see.

(edited, fixed some typos. No content was changed).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ajaxlife: update

Earlier I blogged about AjaxLife, Katharine Berry's browser based SL interface. In the mean time, the project has been open sourced at Google code. The AjaxLife code can be downloaded there, and you can install it on any Windows machine. The version has been updated to 1.3, with bugs being fixed and features being added.

So, I'm going to download and test this thing.. We'll see what happens :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

IBM as a Caribbean beach club?

As much as I like IBM, I never thought of their software in terms of reggae, sunny beaches, steeldrums and palm trees. But at the IBM SOA adventure island, apparently anything is possible ;-)

I should add that, in The Netherlands, 'SOA' is an abbreviation that, for most people, doesn't mean "Service Oriented Architecture' but the Dutch translation of "sexually transmitted diseases", giving this island a distinctive, quite peculiar name for anyone speaking Dutch..
posted by Sered Woollahra on SOA Adventure Island using a blogHUD : [permalink]

Second Life still growing

At least, in The Netherlands it is. The Dutch SL site secondlife.nl report a new milestone: 80.000 registered site users. That means 80.000 Dutch (and perhaps Belgian) people registered for this Dutch language community and site about SL. They reached this milestone in barely 6 months - 13.000 new users every month. That's quite a lot.

As a matter of fact, I can hardly believe these stats. Linden Labs puts the number of active Avatars from The Netherlands in may 2007 at 18180, or 3.37% of all active users. For earlier months only the percentages are available, and it usually hovers between 3 and 5 percent - under 20.000 active avatars per month. Add in Belgium, and it rises to some 26.000 users. Yet secondlife.nl reports 80.000 users..? Either they have an awful lot of users who've registered but are no longer active in SL or double registrations. But I can't imagine that a secondary community site like secondlife.nl could have more active users than the primary SL community.

Debunking 5 business myths about Second Life

Again via Jaymin Carthage: an insightful article on "Debunking 5 business myths in Second Life", by James Wagner Au. He debunks myths on the size of SL and the size of the community, the economy, anarchism and sex in Second Life. Good reading stuff.

James, by the way, is the writer of a well known Second Life blog: New World Notes - a blog you should read if you want to stay up to date with all things SL. He's been covering SL for years.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Need an invitation for a private beta? InviteShare!

Many web 2.0 startups rely on private betas to initiate the avant garde to their new concept, site, product or community. Once those early adopters have generated enough buzz, more invitations will be available to newcomers. But often, these invites can only be distributed by those already included in the beta. If this strategy is executed well, and your product is interesting enough, invites will be scarce and sought after. For many, this makes an having invite, or being invited, even more desirable.

Perhaps the best known example of this marketing technique was Google's gmail; invites for gmail were, at one point, sold for lots of money on ebay.

So, these days, it's very common to use this method of invitations. But how to obtain such an invitation, if you have no access to early adopters who might have one for you? TechCrunch recently published an interesting article about a really nice initiative: InviteShare. Join the community, donate any invites you might have, and get that other invite you really, really wanted!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

blogger pirate party

Just noticed this blogger party at bloghud. Turns out it's a pirate theme party, and I am wearing my ordinary clothes. Oh well..
posted by Sered Woollahra on Chamcook using a blogHUD : [permalink]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

When the boss wants to be your online friend - in SL

Yesterday, I read an article on the WSJ Online: "My Boss wants to 'Friend' Me On My Online Profile".

The article discusses the negative side effects of social networking sites in relation to your professional life. For instance, if you're an active Hyves user, your profile may contain pictures or remarks from your friends, that you don't want your boss to see - you know, those pictures of that party last month? So what do you do when your boss requests to "friend" you? Flat out denying him or her may be a career limiting move. But accepting the friendship offer may have other, unwanted consequences, as the boss gets a new level of insight in your personal, private matters. Apparently, this is now enough of a problem to register in the media, and even warrant an article in the WSJ.

What the article doesn't talk about, is Second Life. But, I think that this problem also extends there, and maybe even more so. As more and more companies move to an active Second Life presence, employees with a private Second Life may also experience that friction between the personal and the professional spheres of life.

When my employer went in world with a company presence, I arranged much of the practical stuff in the first phase. I bought some land, and created a group where all empoyees could become a member of. Most of these colleagues were not very experienced in Second Life; as a matter of fact, only two or three had some level of experience. So, what do newbies do in SL? Looking for excitement, maybe a little adult content, maybe some gambling.. All the time with our companies' name as their active group, hovering over their heads? No thanks! That's not the kind of publicity we were looking for, so we requested that anyone who wanted to explore the darker sides of Second Life, make sure that our company group name is not immediately visible to other avatars.

Another example. A guy from IBM was on my friends list, and we had granted each other the right to see where the other one was. One day I noticed he was online, and as I wanted to talk to him, I teleported to his approximate location. Upon arriving, I noticed that this location had nothing to do with IBM - not at all. It turned out to be some kind of club or casino, with quite a few visitors and a lot of activity. Nothing too extreme, but still, he was clearly there on private matters. He hadn't noticed my presence by then, as I was standing outside while he was in, so I departed without disturbing him.

So, spare yourself and maybe your employer the embarassment: be aware of who you are, at what time and at what location. If you have a Second Life-style that's not entirely compatible with your employers' public imago, you may want to refrain from using your private, personal avatar for business purposes. Just have your boss pay for another premium account, with a completely separate identity, if you can pull that off :-)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Message liberation day, Ajaxlife: more access!

Today is message liberation day! Today's mandatory update, SL viewer (which I'm installing now!) will contain a different way of handling the exchange of information between the SL viewer and the SL grid. Until now, the grid speaks only one version of the SL language, and the viewer has to match that version. Meaning, that whenever the SL grid language changes (almost every update), you have to download and install a new viewer, one that's compatible with the grid language version.

But after today's upgrade, that should change. The grid language and viewer language versions are, as of 1.18.x, no longer supposed to be 100% equal, all the time. When the grid language version changes, there will probably be an SL viewer update, but, according to Linden Labs, those upgrades may in many cases no longer be mandatory.

As IBM's Jaymin points out, this may boost open source development for the SL viewer. Until today, you could never be sure that what you developed for the SL viewer today, would still work with next weeks' mandatory upgrade. That may explain why open source development for SL has not taken off as much as Linden Labs probably have hoped when they open sourced the client. But after todays upgrade, your SL viewer will be valid for a much longer timespan, meaning that any development you do to this version, will also be valid and usable much longer. This makes development for the SL viewer a more sustainable and rewarding effort.

Somewhat related: Ajaxlife. If the grid's back online, be sure to try this one out. It allows you to enter Second Life through a browser. Not everything works, but basic movement and presence are there. It sounds very impressive.. but I have to try it out myself too, I discovered this tool while I was at work, and when I got home the grid was down :-)
For more information on Ajaxlife, and why this is so important, see this interview with Katharine on New World Notes: From the world to web.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Revival of the R5 "I AM" theme?

At this IBM recruitment site @IBM2, IBM is using "I AM..." on their billboards. Reminds me of the ad campaign IBM used for the R5 launch - also "I AM...". Apparently, in Australia they haven't forgotten that yet!
posted by Sered Woollahra on IBM 2 using a blogHUD : [permalink]

A virtual classroom in Second Life?

Today, I got an email from a colleague, asking if it would be a good idea to provide hands on, enduser training for client software, in Second Life. A virtual classroom, where endusers are trained to work with new features in a given software package, e.g. Office 2007 or Lotus Notes 8.

Have you encountered such an event? I haven't. And I can see some issues with using Second Life for this kind of training, as well.

Not available in Second Life itself
A big problem would be, that you can't use the application that's being taught, in the virtual classroom: you can't fire up other client software (Office 2007, Lotus Notes 8) within Second Life.

This means that for showing features, how things work, what steps to take or what buttons to push, the trainer will probably have to work with an image based presentation, for instance a powerpoint presentation, but then converted to jpg images. I am afraid it would take a lot of jpg's for convering all steps you'd normally show if you could just use the application itself!

Streaming solution?
There is a solution, however: streaming media. That could be used to overcome some of these limitations. The trainer is presenting the training in the real world, and it is streamed into the virtual classroom - either prerecorded or live. If you record a training session, it can be reused later; other trainees could watch it on an individual basis, or a group can watch it together. Wether it's live or prerecorded: in both cases a trainer could be available in the SL classroom (at given times) to answer any questions the trainees may have.

Practice makes ..
In a live situation, this still means the trainees will have to practice outside of the Second Life environment. At that moment, all contact between trainer and trainee (and other trainees) is lost, which doesn't help. Imagine the trainer, in the virtual classroom, and all avatars are set to 'away' because they are practicing outside of SL- quite a motivating environment ;-) If a prerecorded session is used, that an enduser can wach at his or her own timing, then this may be less of a problem.

Native voice
On the plus side: voice is on it's way. With voice being natively available in the client, using the SL client would be enough, both for trainer and trainees, to get an audio connection. This goes a long way when presenting content in SL, and for the 'interactiveness' needed in a training situation, but may not be enough for an entire classroom setup.

Btw: as a recreational user, I'm not sure I want to use voice. As it is now, I can sit at the kitchen table, log on to Second Life, and
quietly type a conversation with someone - even if my kids run around in the kitchen, screaming and yelling, playing gotcha. With voice enabled, that's not possible, as you probably can imagine! Luckily, voice can be disabled in the SL client, and I guess many users will do that.

Back to using SL as a virtual classroom: I think it can be done, but I think it requires some extra technical steps to get it done properly, and then it's still not that straightforward. An online meeting, using (for instance) IBM Lotus Sametime 7.5's meeting center, may be more appropriate. But - if you want to use SL, you probably can.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

This really looks like certain parts of The Netherlands..

..it really does. Nice job.
posted by Sered Woollahra on 0031 ZO using a blogHUD : [permalink]

spaceport alpha

Spaceport Alpha is a nice place to go if you're into space flight.
posted by Sered Woollahra on Spaceport Alpha using a blogHUD : [permalink]

VWR-1591 needs your vote

A couple of minutes ago, I entered my first Jira issue for Second Life: VWR-1591. It's a new feature request concerning the snapshot feature in the SL viewer, which lacks some features imho.

I've been using the IBM Lotus Sametime 7.5.1 instant messaging client's screen capture tool, which is great. It allows you to capture a part of your screen, annotate it or draw a freehand line on it, and then paste it in your chat automatically. The SL snapshot feature is much less sophisticated, it only allows you to capture the entire screen, and you can't edit the result before sending it off as a postcard.

So, please, have a look at issue VWR-1591, and vote on it if you're so inclined. There's also a couple of screenshots attached there, that show how the Sametime 7.5.1 screen capture tool works.

Friday, July 6, 2007

BlogHUDding and integrating Sametime 7.5

As I was visiting an IBM event a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to blog about what I was seeing. But, blogging means you'll have to break out of the SL environment to do your writing. It's disruptive, and you may miss things in SL, while you are writing your blog entry in another screen.

So, earlier this week I tried the free version of BlogHUD, a blogging system to be used from within Second Life. Once you are set up with BlogHUD, you can enter lines of text in the chat bar, and have those posted to your page on BlogHUD. For larger articles, you have to write the text on a notecard, and drag/drop that onto the BlogHUD. It will prompt you for a title; then, the contents of the notecard will be published. This works as advertised, and is in fact quite easy to use.

Nice detail: you can send your SL snapshots directly to BlogHUD using the existing SL client "send as postcard" function. The mailed snapshot will be resized automatically to (configurarable) default values.

If you want to publish your content to another blog site, you need to buy BlogHUD Pro. For a mere 900 Lindens, the Pro version allows you to publish content (text and emailed snapshots alike) to a couple of external blogging systems, such as this one - Blogger. Other options are: Livejournal, Friendster, Wordpress and Typepad. Or you can get all creative with your BlogHUD pages' RSS feed, of course, but that's less straightforward for many users.

Today, while visiting SL Wimbledon at IBM 7 I tried to use BlogHUD to post some real content. I had some problems, in the BlogHUD pro version 1.06 you can minimize the HUD; but maximizing didn't work. Some other actions also failed. IBM's epredator Potato told me he had the same problems with BlogHUD. According to him, BlogHUD relies on certain scripts to run, and not all parcels allow foreign scripts to be executed. That may cause the tool to fail on certain parcels.

Other than that, it's nice to be able to drop content straight from SL into a blogging environment. There's one improvement I'd like to see: the ability to drop successive lines of text into one blogpost, instead of having them all put up as separate blog entries. This would hugely help with liveblogging events from within SL.

Second Life integrating in IBM Lotus Sametime (and Notes 8)
In other, related news: IBM blogger Jaymin Carthage wrote a series of posts on integration of Second Life and Sametime 7.5x; he's also hinting at a possible plugin for Notes 8 as well. That doubles the score, as far as I am concerned! Read the two post here: part one and part two. Sme of his code may become available later, watch his blog for announcements!

IBM's wimbledon setup.

I'm looking at IBM's Wimbledon rendering in Second Life, and experimenting with BlogHud as well. This image is a snapshot from SL, and should appear on sered-sl.blogspot.com.
posted by Sered Woollahra on IBM 7 using a blogHUD : [permalink]

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

There - niet helemaal there..

Over Second Life gesproken: ik heb concurrent There ook eens getest. Er zijn immers meerdere virtuele werelden, en om nou alleen SL te bekijken, dat leek me wat te eenzijdig.

Het aanmaken van een user-ID was niet zo ingewikkeld; minpuntje is wel dat je voor het registratieproces persé Internet Explorer moet gebruiken. Het basic membership is gratis. De installatiefile is ruim 63 MB, en dat is toch ruim twee keer zo groot als de Second Life installer. En daar wordt al over gemopperd, als er weer eens een update gedownload moet worden! There heeftt ook nogal wat geheugen nodig: tijdens het opstarten en aanloggen gaat hij over 200 MB RAM heen, terwijl mijn Second Life client, ingelogd en in gebruik, momenteel 90 MB verbruikt..

Bij het opstarten gebeuren er allerlei funky dingen op mijn laptop: het scherm knippert zwart, komt weer terug, dan krijg ik de vraag of ik een scherm wil sluiten, en worden de schermresoluties ineens aangepast, naar 600x400 denk ik. Dat wordt gelukkig zonder verdere bij-effecten weer goedgezet als je There afsluit, maar 't oogt wel ongemakkelijk, zo'n start.

Eenmaal binnen, viel me op dat There er uitziet als een tekenfilm. Ik verwachtte ieder moment Fred en Barney Flintstone voorbij te zien rijden in hun prehistorische trapauto! Misschien heeft het te maken met de stijl, de layout.. geen idee, maar ik heb telkens weer die associatie.

Ook een beetje jammer: bij aanmelding in Second Life krijg je 500 lindens kado, ook als je een gratis account neemt. Dat is niet veel, maar voor mij was het genoeg om een bril te komen en nog wat kleding, waardoor ik mijn avatar redelijk snel kon verbouwen tot iets wat bij mij paste. Dat bleek in There veel lastiger. De aanpassingsmogelijkheden voor je avatar zijn, out of the box, in There veel kleiner dan in Second Life. Nou, dan maar een andere trui kopen, denk je.. en dat kost gelijk Therebucks (de plaatselijke munteenheid), en die krijg je niet kado. Geen zakcentje om je op weg te helpen, zoals in SL.

Die eerdergenoemde fascinatie met Internet Explorer zie je ook in There zelf terug, want de Microsoft browser wordt ingezet voor meerdere functies in de client. Opvallend is bijvoorbeeld, dat alle schermen in There weergegeven worden middels IE. Klik je op "shop", dan wordt een IE-scherm geopend, waarin de artikelen getoond worden die There je verkopen wil. Dat is een heel contrast, vergeleken met Second Life; daar krijg je in een transparant scherm een lijst winkels te zien waar je iets naar je zin kunt gaan uitzoeken. De IE-schermen in There zijn vanzelfsprekend niet, transparant, waardoor ze het zicht op There zelf blokkeren. Dat is echt een nadeel, want je mist in world gebeurtenissen, avatars die contact met je zoeken, omdat jij een scherm in There geopend hebt.

Misschien een gekke vraag hoor, maar je ziet in There overal Internet Explorer terug; daar wordt intensief gebruik van gemaakt. En toch gebruikt There, vergeleken met Second Life, twee keer zo veel RAM geheugen, en is de installer ook ruim twee keer zo groot. Hoe komt dat toch? Terwijl SL alles zelf doet - en nog eleganter ook, met de transparante schermen en betere vormgeving.

Over die winkel in There: dat is toch echt niet te vergelijken met Second Life. Druk je in There op 'shop', dan krijg je zoals gezegd de There winkel te zien in IE, waar ze je de dertig modellen kapsels laten zien - of de twintig truien. Uitkiezen, klaar. Zoek je in SL op 'shopping', dan krijg je een heel lange lijst van creatieve winkeltjes terug, waar je zelf iets leuks kunt gaan uitzoeken.
Winkelen in There voelt aan alsof je, tegen betaling, iets uit een voormalig oostblok-staatsmagazijn uitgereikt krijgt, terwijl winkelen in Second Life meer lijkt een expeditie naar een groot winkelcentrum met vrijwel onbeperkte keus - voor een relatief lage prijs.

Na zo een uurtje rondgetobt te hebben, heb ik There uitgezet, en ik kan me er maar moeizaam toe zetten om nog eens verder te kijken. Om iets te doen moet je zo te zien gelijk van die Therebucks kopen; anders ben je onvermijdelijk één van de vele vrijwel identieke avatars. In Second Life zie je weliswaar ook steeds meer nauwelijks aangepaste avatars, maar daar heeft het te maken met nieuwe bewoners die te lui zijn om hun avatar te personaliseren. In There kon het wel eens liggen aan het gebrek aan out-of-the-box mogelijkheden tot personalisatie.

There heeft overigens wel voice chat; iets wat Second Life nog niet heeft. Echter: je krijgt alleen de mogelijkheid om voice te gebruiken, als je een betaald account neemt. Dat heb ik dus niet getest :-)

Samenvattend: voor mij is There geen serieus alternatief voor Second Life. Misschien dat anderen in There activiteiten vinden die ze in SL missen; dan wens ik zel veel plezier, maar je zult mij er niet zo snel meer tegenkomen denk ik.

(crosspost van domino-weblog.nl)

Speaking on Second Life

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being a speaker on a conference. For the first time, I was asked to speak on an event that was not organized by my employer. e-office does events every now and then; when new IBM Lotus software is released, after LotuSphere (with IBM, a LotuSphere comes to you) et cetera. I have spoken at these events, about Notes 6, 6.5, 7, 8 and other things, but always at events we organized ourselves.

But recently, the Dutch Notes user group (SNUG, www.snug.nl) contacted me. Marnix, currently the driving force behind SNUG, asked if I was willing to speak at one of their events, about Second Life. We have been experimenting with SL, and I have blogged about that, which in turn resulted in this invitation. I've heard that before from English speaking bloggers: several people started out as bloggers, and ended up as regular conference speakers because of it. I suspect this will not happen in my case, though, as the Dutch conference agenda isn't quite that large :-) Of course, I was invited (more or less) to speak on behalf of my employer, but it was nice to see this personal invitation, as a response to things I blogged about.

The session went OK, I think. The audience was at times active, asking questions, smiling or nodding in agreement and stuff like that. The feedback I received immediately after the session was positive, as well.

In a couple of weeks, I will will receive the conference evaluation data as far as it pertains to us. I can't help but wonder what it will say :-)

An IBM briefing in Second Life

Recently, I attended an IBM Developerworks session on Second Life, last thursday. I blogged about it in Dutch on our company Domino Weblog, but a short translation here seems appropriate. So here goes.

The session was held two times; the first session in IBM DevWorld, which was repeated Second Life, all avatars have a label, a name tag, hovering over their head, telling other avatars what your name is and to what active group you belong. In the most recent version of the SL client, that's also where your chat text appears: in the name tag. With dozens of avatars in attendance, no one was able to really follow conversations or see the slides, unless you blocked out the name tags. In the SL user preferences, you can set "show names" to "temporarily", which helps a lot in cases like this. Only when a new avatar appears in view, the tag is shown, or when that avatar is typing text.

One IBM host didn't entirely get that concept. He stood in front of the slides, and started talking with other participants during the presentation. His name and chat balloon was constantly blocking the view for many participants. He was called on to move to the side, or to the entrance of IBM Kearny, but he didn't get that message or didn't understand it.

Fuzzy slides
There's a downside to working with slides, as well. In 2006, if you viewed a jpg picture (any picture) in SL, the picture was loaded entirely, instantaneously. With the hectic growth of late 2006, this proved to be too big a performance hit for the SL grid. Linden Labs decided to initially do only a partial load, which gives you a blurry picture, and to load the rest of the pic only if you keep focused on it for a while.
Thursday evening, the presenter would change to the next slide, and start talking about the content of the slide immediately. But I couldn't tell what was on the slide, because I only had the partial load at that time. So, the presenter was talking about content I couldn't see. If you're presenting in SL, and you're using slides, be aware that your audience may not immediately see what's on the slide!

Fuzzy slide:

Sharp slide, after a minute or so (notice the guy I talked about, blocking the slide with his chat):

Afterwards, I had an interesting talk with Jaymin Carthage, an IBM guy I first met when I accidentally discovered the then soon to be unveiled LotuSphere 2007 buildings in Second Life. IBM had not yet made any announcements on those, and I discovered them while wandering about IBM Land. Jaymin was, at that time, constructing the Dolphin lobby in SL, and we talked about it for some time. Here, we met again, and I noticed he had a Sametime HUD on; apparently some sort of integration between Sametime and Second Life. Of course, there already was an article about that on IBM Developerworks, but this was different. As it turns out, Jaymin and his colleague Nicholas, author of the article I just mentioned, are cooking up all sorts of creative bridges between Sametime and Second Life. Jaymin hopes to publish this stuff on the Sametime code exchange someday- stay tuned! He's also blogging for IBM: Seeking business value from investment in virtual worlds on the 3D internet. Interesting stuff!

Some more screenshots of the meeting, illustrating the points above, can be found on my website.

IBM en Wimbledon in Second Life

Momenteel wordt het Wimbledon tennis-toernooi gespeeld; helaas gehinderd door veel regen. De automatisering van Wimbledon wordt grotendeels door IBM geregeld. Zij maken van de gelegenheid gebruik om wat "reality mining" te doen: de op het center court geslagen ballen en de scores worden in "near real time" door IBM daar opgepikt en in het Second Life Wimbledon court geprojecteerd. Voor degenen die Second Life hebben: Wimbledon is
hier te vinden.

Het leuke is, dat de IBM SL-architecten er zelf regelmatig te vinden zijn; ze zijn erg bij het project betrokken, want dit is nog steeds erg nieuwe techniek, bijna experimenteel. Daarom wordt er ook niet zoveel publiciteit aan gegeven. Maar wie eens een IBM architect wil spreken: breng vooral een bezoekje aan Wimbledon in Second Life. Ik heb gemerkt dat ze het erg leuk vinden om met bezoekers te praten over wat ze aan het doen zijn; ook zijn ze erg in feedback geïnteresseerd.

In gesprek met IBM Architect epredator Potato, bekend van het IBM eightbar blog:


(cross posted with http://www.domino-weblog.nl)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Second Life - BlogHud

For quite some time, I have been active in Second Life. Now I'm trying BlogHud to see if I can manage to blog easily from within Second Life. I'm not quite sure I like the free version; I can only type oneliners, or I'll have to use a notecard. We'll see. Check back here some time!