Wednesday, 28 February 2007

A Few More Islands: Techies and The Far East

With all the hubbub about the new continent currently taking shape in what can best be described (for now) as the SL Far East, it is easy to miss some other sims that are perhaps less impressive in size, but may prove far more interesting in the long run.

I have to confess that in my last 2 or 3 delves into SL I have spent just about all of my time in deep conversation with French folk of a variety of backgrounds, interests and, indeed, species. In some neo-con eyes this alone might be suitable grounds for termination with extreme prejudice, perhaps after a touch of extraordinary rendition. But my confession is that these Gallic diversions have meant I have not been rambling as much as usual, and so my discoveries may be a little lame. However, in my pathetic bid to land the odd scoop I thought I should bring to your attention the following new islands. As with most of my finds, don't rush in there just yet, as there's little or nothing ready yet.

First out of the virtual hat is Xerox Innovation Island. As they describe themselves: "The Xerox Innovation Group (XIG) explores the unknown, invents next-generation technology, architects product platforms, manages intellectual property, and creates new business opportunities through its research centers and associated operations." And they've been doing that for more years than I care to think (and certainly more than I can remember). Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has been strutting its stuff since 1970, when even I was still at school. Unfortunately, for the time being this island is going to remain their private SL playground, though in the longer term they might open up a public space too. Oh... and following an email from Xerox (Hi, Poinky!) they've asked me to mention "that Xerox research (XIG) has a lot of research centers, not just PARC, for example, XRCC (Canada), XRCE (Europe in Grenoble), XRCW (Webster, NY), and now XRC2." Always happy to oblige!

Next up is another tech company, Veeco. Their strapline is "Solutions for a nanoscale world", which for those of you who know your Neal Stephenson, chimes in quite nicely with the theme of "The diamond Age". Their website also contains the rather more prosaic: "Veeco is a leading provider of Metrology and Process Equipment solutions used by manufacturers in the data storage, semiconductor and compound semiconductor/wireless industries." It should be interesting to see to what uses they plan to put SL. A bit of virtual modelling? Or just a bunch of meeting rooms and some website links?

Given my earlier mention of the new Eastern continent (I wish they'd give this thing a name) it seems appropriate to note 2 Asian companies setting up in SL.

Suruga Bank is a Japanese bank, named after Suruga Bay - and that's about as much as I know about them. Oh... I did pick up that they offer homeloans to foreigners in Japan, apparently something many Japanese banks are reluctant to do. I'd like to know if this one is for real, or whether the island name happens to coincide with the name of a bank. I mention this solely because the number of Japanese residents in SL is currently very low. Then again, if their target is foreigners based in Japan who are using SL as a means of staying in touch with friends and relatives, then it could be a clever piece of marketing.

Finally, I would like to introduce you to Acid Crebiz, Korea's first company to specialise in Second Life development. If you've read this blog before, you will know I have only a glancing knowledge of a tiny number of languages - and I am sorry to say, Korean isn't one of them. Therefore, I was not able to extract much from the website. I did find one English language reference to a press release, from a Korean IT news site. However, I wasn't prepared to stump up money to get the whole story, so all I ended up with is: "A business related to 3D virtual reality 'second life' appeared for the first time in Korea. It helps advance to the secondlife in the name of 'developer'." Short - but enjoyable. I'd just love to know what that company name is all about too!


Since it's not been worthwhile grabbing satellite views of the above, I thought you might like to see a couple of the more out-of-the-way places at IBM's cluster. OK, I admit I'm only doing this because I like the pictures - but hopefully you will too:

If you plan to visit, then for the first one you'll need some kind of booster pack to reach the required altitude; the other, though, is at ground level, in the far South-West of the cluster. I just love the rich contrasts on this one - it has a sort of "Myst" look to it.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Meeting at IBM about SL in RL

Normally I blog about the content of Second Life, but today I had the good fortune to attend a regrettably short meeting hosted by IBM at their Southbank offices in London (Englandland).
In the session IBM aimed to show what they were doing in Second Life, and more importantly, why. The attendees came from a number of Big Name IT consulting companies.

Star of the show was Irving Wladawsky-Berger. I don't intend to explain to you who he is - other than to say he is VP for Technical Innovation, and a prime force behind IBM's involvement in SL and the whole 3D internet thang. I would urge you to look him up on Google. There aren't many Irving Wladawsky-Bergers to the pound! He was ably assisted by Ian Hughes, from IBM Hursley- latterly star of stage, screen and TV... well, he's been on the telly at any rate. Note to my colleagues: he is not the jovial, scouse technical architect we all know.

I don't think I heard anything today that I did not already know or believe to be true. However, it was most encouraging to hear one's own beliefs replayed back... and IBM were able to back up their assertions with worked examples. If there is a clamour from the floor, I will trot out these beliefs for your scrutiny and/or ridicule. But if I were to start now, I'd probably still be typing in 6 hours time - and I'd never get this blog entry published.

Not everything in the presentation was exactly on the money, though, and I would offer the following observations to IBM - and anyone else hosting events showing real-time use of SL:

  1. Make sure you have machines capable of handling the graphics demands. The IBM laptops were struggling at a time of day when concurrency should have been low. A big old desktop with a decent graphics card might have been more suitable.
  2. Try to avoid the "flying about and changing appearance" examples. Everyone seems to fall for it (and I'm sure I'd be no exception) - but it does encourage the view that it is a game.
  3. Focus on showing the stuff that will be of interest to your attendees (and use a cache big enough to reduce the rezzing time, if this means flitting about a bit). Some of today's presentation got a bit "bitty" and confusing towards the end. I could recognise it all, but for a complete noob it would look like gobbledigook.
  4. If possible, think of a few "try this at home" examples that people can take away and... ummm... try at home.
Finally, IWB made it clear at the outset that he viewed SL as an interesting 3D environment, and an example of what 3D internet might look like - but that it was not 3D internet itself. I'm not sure, but following the subsequent discussions, some people may nevertheless have left thinking it was (and that it was clunky and a bit crap).

Despite these criticisms/observations, it was a really useful session - especially for those who had not been exposed to the full potential of SL before.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

A few snippets to be going on with..

I've been struggling over this weekend to capture all the bits I want to blog about - and have not yet pulled it all together into a coherent view. So in the meantime, I thought I would do a bit of name-dropping for new islands spotted on the map. But first, the news that SL has now logged its 4 Millionth resident - although the less forgiving might say that the 25 or so people who actually use SL have jointly logged their 4 millionth "alt".

Anyway- enough of such nonsense...
Maybe the biggest newcomer to mention is Sony Ericsson, whose island has just appeared to the South-West of Channel4 Radio (which itself has yet to open its doors). I'm guessing that it will be another Rivers Run Red build, given its proximity to other islands they are constructing in the area.
Next up is Baustelle. I mention this one because the satellite view shows a very nice map of Western Europe, though not in sufficient detail to make out my house! :-) "Baustelle" is German for "building site" according to Babelfish - so this could be almost anything. It does have an interesting logo plastered across it - but it isn't one I recognise. Here it is:

Let me know if you recognise it.
Then there's Red Bull's new island. They already sponsor Drop Zone, an environment built by RRR for Talpa Digital, a Dutch digital media company. They opened on Feb 9th (though no-one thought to tell me about it!). Red Bull plan to use DropZone as an "opportunity to introduce their athletes in a live chat with their fans and to stream extreme sport events." However, it is clear that they also plan to have their own slice of this virtual world.
Finally, we have DNB Media - another Dutch company - who have set up their own island. Unfortunately my grasp of Dutch is marginal, bordering on the non-existent. So I can't tell you much about them. The island is fully built, but I can't access it without becoming a group member. I refer to my earlier statement - without a knowledge of Dutch, how do I do that?!

Babelfish gave me a tolerable translation of what DNB Media are about: "
DNBmedia support entrepreneurs and marketeers at developing and implementation of their Second life strategy." And here's a list of services they can offer:
* Consultancy
* Design
* 3D Modelling
* Motion Design
* Motion capturing
* LSL scripting

Saturday, 24 February 2007

A Miscellany of News

Coming Soon to SL:
There's no convenient, catch-all header for these, other than they're all new islands in SL. I've got some stuff under development - but that won't post until tomorrow at the earliest. So I thought I'd better get these out into the blogosphere before I forgot about them.

Fiat Adventure
While tootling around the map to the East of BMW New World I spotted a trio of new islands, inaccessible to passing pedestrians and clearly not yet under meaningful construction: Fiat Adventure 1 & 2, and Fiat Brasil SL. A bit of Googling threw up this article and this one that may put some context around this. It looks like it is another instance of a manufacturer bringing a concept car into SL for our delight and delectation. Unless they have a horde of high-speed builders, I can't see it being ready in time for the Geneva Motor Show - but then, maybe that's not their objective. Anyway, I thought you'd like to know. The car was first shown at the Sao Paolo Motor Show in October 2006.

Vulcan SLU (South Lake Union)
A couple of new islands have appeared on the map as: Vulcan SLU and SLU2. These evidently belong to Vulcan - South Lake Union, a RL real estate company, based in Seattle. I must plead ignorance of the geography of Seattle, so I will have to trust to the SLU website when it tells me that SLU is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Seattle, and is now occupied by all manner of hip people and organisations. And did you know? William E. Boeing flew the first plane he built over Lake Union. Yeah! Really!! Fact!!!

It will be interesting to see how this place develops. Clearly, it allows SLU to showcase their commercial and domestic properties - but whether that will get them sales is quite another matter.

I heard about this thru a Dutch colleague. Zoetermeer is a city in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland, with a population of around 120,000. It's name translates into English as "Sweet Lake". It has a history dating back to the 10th Century, and despite being a thoroughly modern city, it does retain some of the old village centre, including a clock tower dating back to the 1600's. Now Zoetermeer is claiming to be the first real city to set up a virtual counterpart in SL.

In their press release (in Dutch) the good burghers of Zoetermeer describe the intentions for their virtual city as including:
  • Providing a place for citizens to meet and discuss

  • The ability to offer city services after hours

  • Increasing the “social cohesion”
There is more (in English) here. Incidentally, the island is open right now - but there is nothing there yet- which can only mean that the picture on the press release must be one of those "artist's impressions" :-)

NEWSFLASH: I've just scanned the new Eastern Continent - and another 20 sims have appeared! A quick reckoning puts it at over 110 sims now. Here's the unspoilt pastoral view in a sim called "Oathkeeper":

Content Protection and Paranoia

Yesterday I had a conversation with a workmate about SL. Nothing unusual about that, of course, I'm always banging on about Second Life to someone or another. What marked out this conversation as worthy of note is my friend's paranoia about all-things-internet. He has a meticulous eye for detail (unlike me) so, for example, he reads and inwardly digests each phrase in a Terms of Service (unlike me). And having read through Linden's ToS he expressed a number of concerns.

The one I would like to highlight here is about Content, and the protection thereof. I have therefore taken the liberty of reproducing below a section from the Linden ToS. For information, the CAPITALISATION is there's - not mine:

5.3 All data on Linden Lab's servers are subject to deletion, alteration or transfer.

When using the Service, you may accumulate Content, Currency, objects, items, scripts, equipment, or other value or status indicators that reside as data on Linden Lab's servers. THESE DATA, AND ANY OTHER DATA, ACCOUNT HISTORY AND ACCOUNT NAMES RESIDING ON LINDEN LAB'S SERVERS, MAY BE DELETED, ALTERED, MOVED OR TRANSFERRED AT ANY TIME FOR ANY REASON IN LINDEN LAB'S SOLE DISCRETION.



I find this rather worrying. OK, as my friend acknowledged, this is probably fairly normal "CYA" legalese. However, if I was a major builder or manufacturer in SL I think I would find this statement worrying. It basically says that LL can blow away my stuff - and I have no means of redress. Perhaps the results of months of my and my colleagues' labour could be blown away, without advance warning or notification, and without any comeback or repercussions for LL. I'm not saying it will happen - but the ToS says it could. In RL I'm used to being at the delivery end of SLA's and QOS to corporate clients, so to find a complete absence of either from LL somewhat disconcerting. The message I pick up from this is: "It's all cheap, throwaway nonsense, ain't it?." Perhaps this could be argued when it was only a bit of harmless fun, but now SL is getting serious - and (IMHO) it is not unreasonable to demand a serious level of commitment from Linden Labs.

As a techie, what makes this particularly irksome is that there is no solid, reliable and consistent method for taking your Content "off-world", where you can maintain your own separate backups. You can implement a code management process for scripts and other text - but objects, together with items of all types acquired in-world would be a much more challenging proposition.

If someone has a ready answer for this, then I would like to hear it!

Phase 4, BMW and the Geneva Motor Show

Back on the 12 January I blogged an entry about BMW, and referenced the island next door, Phase 4, the SL home of the creative team behind the BMW SL presence. At that time their island was closed- not surprising really, as it was just a rough assembly of builder's bits and experiments. However, I went back there last night to (a) see if BMW had got anything new to show and (b) see if Phase 4 was open.

As regards (a) - the basic answer is "No". There's a new private meeting area - highlighted in the piccy below(taken from Phase 4). Despite the note, I've been back and can confirm it actually is outside chat range.

but apart from that, nothing. It was as cold and arid as when I first went there. I really fail to see what BMW are getting out of this. Also, it is only a little over a week to the start of the Geneva Motor Show. Other companies - well perhaps only Mazda - have aligned their SL strategy with their RL presentations planned for Geneva. However, I can't see anything on the BMW island that would suggest they are even aware of it. Actually, I'd level the same criticism at Mercedes Benz, who launched in SL earlier this week. They apparently plan to unveil their new 'C' Class in SL on 16th March, which is very near the end of the Geneva Show. It seems like a missed opportunity to me. Mazda have already launched their Hakaze virtual concept car in SL (and pumped some headlines as a result) and will be launching in RL in Geneva.

Anyway, if you've been attentive, you will already know the answer to question (b) above - "Yes", Phase 4 is now open for receiving visitors. Most of the site takes place over water - although there is only one small, and relatively undeveloped tropical island if you want to touch down on virtual terra firma... (thinks: "Terra Virtua" perhaps?). Work seems to be progressing to transform this, but it's not clear what it will be yet. The rest of the business of the site happens in the air. There are 2 floating platforms. The main platform offers a number of screens, displaying Phase 4's market proposition and showing off some of their work. It also houses a large meeting room, with seating for about a dozen people.

The other platform is there to provide the requisite "SL fun & frolics". As you can see, it features a truly monster-sized (OK, Wimbledon-sized) game of Pong. I didn't get a chance to try it out - but I think this is a nice, fun idea. They also have a giant Connect 4 game too.

Oddly, I think I rather like the Phase 4 build. It is quirky without being odd; it gives you direct, simple access to info about the company without actually pushing it down your throat and it has an engaging game element to it. Unfortunately for them, their branding is very stripped down green and white. They have brought the branding into SL (how could they do otherwise) and it does lead to an oddly flat, 2D feel, with little "grittiness" to the texture. Which, in turn, makes it feel a little too cartoony for my tastes. I would make the same observation of BMW - only there, the colours are mainly white and.. ummm... white.

Oh... before I forget, they also have a cluster of virtual wind turbines, on their border with BMW. I have no idea whether these do anything other than look pretty... decapitate virtual seagulls maybe? Just a thought... no... forget it... no... really... forget it.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

AMD Dev Central Update + Mercedes Benz (briefly)

Maybe they were too polite to mention it before, or maybe they've taken heed of my suggestion, but AMD Dev Central have now implemented a couple of breakout rooms, with enough space for around 12 people in each + electronic whiteboard. They might be construed as a tad gloomy - but they're cosy & comfortable - and interestingly, perched at very high altitude (at around 450 metres), so they're reasonably private too.

I took the opportunity on this trip to have a go at the Treasure Hunt - which successfully revealed my profound ignorance of both LSL and AMD 64-bit architectures! But it is designed as a learning tool as well... so hopefully I came away with a tad more knowledge than when I started + a free T-shirt. Chances of my winning that juicy PC are remote tho.
Oh... a note on the breakout rooms - the mug of coffee on the table? It gives a script error: "AMD Logo Mug w/ Steam: Unable to give inventory: No permission to transfer." It should take only a few moments to fix it.


Mercedes Benz - well what can I say? I missed the Grand Opening t'other day, so to make amends I went along yesterday. I got my nice big mp3 download freebie, but the place was quite busy - mainly people gassing on about... well... stuff. Not much evidence of a Merc person steering people towards the rivetting topic of hot German engineering, though there might have been one. The track looked like it should be fun to drive - but as there seemed to be no cars, no-one was out driving on it. A friend of mine did pick up his racing driver's kit - which is well made and looks cool - if you think that looking like an anorexic Michelin Man is a cool look.

New Lands a-coming (if only I could log on)

Earlier today I read - then largely forgot - this article in Second Life Herald. I had an excuse: I was at work, where such frippery is frowned on. However, when I finally had some "me time" I thought I'd take a squint at the map and see what I could find.

My first ramble took me to a whole cluster of new islands under construction, and clearly intended for human habitation. However, the first clue that this was not the fabled New Continent was this, emblazoned on the walls of a sleepy, hot Mexican pueblo:

There appears to be a large cluster of new SIMs being added to the already extensive holdings of Azure Islands. As far as I can make out, one part of the cluster is given over to hot, dusty desert conditions:

While a second seems rather more lush and temperate. And this one even has a bit of a Myst (Myst III: Exile) theme going on:

Not being one (yet) given to investing large sums of real money in virtual real estate, the existence of Azure Islands has largely passed me by. "Land is available without the need to pay Tier (ground rent, to us Brits) to Linden Labs. The Azure Islands is tiered per sqm (rather than at abitrary levels), and offers both US$ and L$ rates. "

So having drawn a blank, I tracked down the article again - and sallied forth once more. I opted for the poetically named "Loom Weaver" (it brought back memories of PC games of yesteryear) and, on TP'ing, found myself in a field now filled with For Sale signs. Then it all went pear-shaped. The ironic message on the line at the top of the screen assured me this would be a lag-free experience! Ha! After seeing my poor avatar seemingly catapulted from one end of the sim to the other, I finally found myself totally stuck and unable to move. I logged out. This was about an hour ago - when concurrency was claimed to be in excess of 30K residents.

I've just tried to login again - and was surprised to see the number of residents standing at only 10K. Odd, I thought... and hit "Connect".... nothing happened. A quick check of the LL blog says "[1:47PM PST] We’re experiencing problems with the network, which is in turn affecting log-ins and some regions on the Second Life Grid. Our operations team knows what the problem is and is working on fixing it as quickly as possible. If you’re unable to log-in, please try another location." I followed this piece of sage advice... nada... niente... nowt. On the plus side, I can see that people are getting in - concurrency now up to 12K.

More anon, but for now I'm stumped. I've tried to logon to "Home" and to a number of areas I know... without success. Grrrr!


Haha! Wouldn't you know it? As soon as I hit "Publish" on this entry, I finally got in to SL. For those desperate to know, the New Continent appears to consist of 51 sims. "Area 51?" - who knows! Anyway... here's the satellite views currently available:

You can see Hong Kong Island (which is on the East of the main grid) - so that should give you your bearings if you want to hop over for a look around... or do a map search for the sim of your choice. Happy rambling, ramblers!

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

IBM Codestation - Update

IBM Rational Codestation is now officially open in Second Life, so I thought I'd better nip back and see what's new. I posted an entry a couple of weeks back, when it was still under development. It now seems to be largely finished - with the upper meeting area now finished and 2 halls - the Object Library and the Script Library already kitted out with a number of freebies for the budding LSL developer. To be fair, most of the scripts are also to be found embedded in the objects - but it's a nice facility, of which I have availed myself fully!

After reading the 3PointD entry I also felt I had to stick to the job, and get that damned robot thru the labyrinth. The dialog box is a bit annoying, as each move of the robot requires the box to be re-displayed. However, as Jeremy points out in his comment on this entry: "each button points to some code, so if you are so inclined, you can dig in,... improve the usability, do whatever you want, it is completely open source and free for the hacking. " Maybe here's an opportunity to re-assert my geek credenda, or alternatively accept that my programming days are behind me and continue to bang on about "branding" and other non-techie concerns instead.

Incidentally, I made it through in a "must try harder" 11mins, 19secs.

One man and his robot:

The site is still in Beta, but visitors are welcome to come and play the labyrinth, grab some scripts and objects - and, if kindly disposed, donate a script or 3 too.

It transpires that this is another build by those eclectic Electric Sheep, who seem to have almost cornered the market in innovative sites. But, hey, they can do their own advertising!

Anyway... here's a few snaps for you:

I plan to post yet more about the burgeoning IBM empire in SL at some point - while doing a "Map Search" I found a whole bunch more IBM islands that didn't exist this time last week:

  • IBM Collaboration
  • IBM Event
  • IBM ES Research
  • IBM Boeblingen Lab
Most - probably all - are closed to visitors, so I will just have to show a bit of patience. Mind you, I at least got a squint over the wall at IBM PWIN - but it's not yet in a state to pique my interest.

NEWSFLASH: From the Linden blog: "Effective immediately, the supply of cheap First Land parcels by Linden Lab will cease. Premium accounts will still be able to own up to 512m of land as part of their Premium membership package as they do now, the only change is that we will not be supplying the discounted parcels as we have done in the past...You may ask what, without First Land, is the value of a Premium account? Well consider that the L$1200 stipend per month (around USD$4.50) plus 512m free tier per month (around USD$5.00) means that the monthly premium account essentially pays for itself." Remember - you heard it here second!

Second Life Safaris - Booking Now!

Generally I don't mix that much with marketing types - at least not in Real Life. However, for reasons I have yet to fathom - at least, without the aid of a therapist - I seem to be rubbing virtual shoulders with marketeers and other creatives in SL and related blogs with astonishing regularity. This is doing my geek credenda no end of harm, but it does mean I pick up some interesting bits & pieces that occasionally I feel worth sharing with you, dear reader.

Are you a marketeer who has no idea what SL is all about? Or maybe you've been frightened off the SL experience by an unfortunate encounter with a giant (and I mean "giant") furry penis? Well, fear not, those awfully nice folk at K-Zero have got a solution for you - Marketing Safaris in Second Life. The safari season does not actually start until March, but you can book now to avoid disappointment and tantrums later. The safari will seemingly consist of a guided tour of some interesting and relevant sites, where you can pick up handy hints and tips on marketing in SL. The safaris (apparently there's more than 1, to suit different levels of experience) are aimed at UK-based marketeers. However, if you can manage an accent more convincing than Dick Van Dyke's in "Mary Poppins" ("bloy-me, Me-air-ee Poor-pins") then maybe they will let you in.

Any road, toddle along here to register, chuck.

Oh... and if it's not your lucky day, you might find me helping out.

I've had a number of conversations with SLers in recent weeks about what works and what doesn't in SL. There has been general agreement that AOL Pointe is a great example of "what works", while most people who expressed a preference reckoned that Cisco had missed by a country mile. I've already discussed AOL in an earlier entry, and I would certainly agree that they've put together a compelling blend of branding and interactivity, and have crafted a good "sticky" site as a result (or rather Electric Sheep have on their behalf).

I finally got round to visiting the Cisco islands for the first time the other evening, and I have to confess I didn't think it was bad - certainly no worse than most RL company sites, and better than many. It has freebies (if you are really desperate for a corporate T-shirt) and a newbie orientation zone, together with a new tropical bar area for a bit of chilling. There's also plenty of links to their website if you are so inclined to discover more about Cisco's products and other paraphenalia. However, it does seem to be another Ghost Sim, so there is clearly something missing. My guess is (a) lack of someone to meet & greet, (b) lack of events and (c) little to prolong one's stay after an initial look-see. They've got 2 more islands, so let's hope they take the opportunity to make these a bit more engaging.

NEWSFLASH: The grid will be down for its fortnightly maintenance slot on 21st Feb from 7:00-9:00 AM SLT. Should be a doddle :-)

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Hello Hyro!

While wandering aimlessly from island to island I was struck by the appearance of Snow Dome, which appeared to be sporting some kind of corporate logo - see the satellite view below:

On inspection it turns out the logo belongs to Hyro, a "creative business solutions" company "helping you define how Online Services can create value for your business" and based in the Antipodes. They provide a full range of online services for customers in Oz and SE Asia.

I gleaned the following from another website:
Hyro’s Chief Operating Officer, Richard Lord says that Hyro looked to Second Life to assist in finding high quality web, mobile, and virtual, design and development staff to keep up with its rapid growth and client demand in the real world.

“Second Life offers the potential to communicate with prospective employees in a way that offers an interactive and fun experience. And given that we are targeting people with skills in creativity, innovation and applying digital channels technology, Second Life is a good fit,” said Richard Lord. “The sorts of people we are looking for are likely to be engaging in these virtual worlds, so it is important for us to market the opportunity in these places.” Hyro is also working on a number of projects for its clients that wish to establish a presence in Second Life.

So what about the island? Well the first thing I noticed was the "recruitment blimp", which offers you a TP to their recruitment hub. Follow the instructions to post your CV. Its conference centre offers 3 themed rooms (beach, forest and space station) and there are showrooms showcasing their work in mobile and web/interactive, plus a news and awards gallery.

And that's about it, as far as I can see. It's all very nicely branded, and as a means of targeting recruitment, it seems like a reasonable idea. The place itself is professionally executed, but appears to lack soul. There is certainly nothing I could see that would engage with the average rambler... but then it is quite new, so perhaps that will come in time. There was no evidence that they use greeters, and no schedule of events. Just a bunch of empty rooms, really.

I read, however, that they plan to use the space for promotions and information sessions and as a resource for engaging with the ‘Hyro community’. I suppose time will tell...

Saturday, 17 February 2007

NMC - Research 4 - what's all this then?

Following the recent fun and arty jollities of NMConnect, I've just been back and there seems to be a whole lot of new construction being done on "Research 4", one of the (many) new NMC islands. I thought I'd take some piccies for you to peruse...

As you can see, it appears to be a large medical facility under construction - though the beds look distinctly odd - looking more like some strange, alien evolution of an office desk. As there seems to be London Underground signs, and spaces for Tesco's and Boot's - this has a decidedly British flavour to it - notwithstanding that British hospital beds have more of a strong resemblance to an accident in a metal pipe factory. Any info gratefully received!

Epic Conditions in Second Life

The title sounds like something huge & heroic must be happening in SL - perhaps the Burning Crusade has leaked over from World of Warcraft! Woo-hoo!

Sorry to say, the answer is a bit more prosaic. "Epic Conditions" is a new programme coming on The Weather Channel in March (the 4th I am told), and is described thus: "
The Weather Channel will follow thrill seekers such as sailboarders and mountain bikers." Presumably to promote the prog, a bunch of islands have been commissioned in Second Life. As you can see, they're just cloudy murk at the moment - but will presumably start to take shape over the next few weeks and months.

I found the following, more fulsome description: "A blend of sport and weather science wherein athletes capitalize on weather technology to hit the best conditions at the perfect times. This series is extreme entertainment and a powerful connection to active viewers who know there is much to be learned from watching the masters at the peak of their performance. It’s produced by the legendary Warren Miller Entertainment, whose films combine innovative action cinematography, exotic locales, and risk-taking athletes and have kept loyal audiences here and abroad on the edge of their seats for more than 50 years."

Oh... and while we are on the subject of Yoof Culcha, you might like this tidbit I picked up via the mighty If you can't be bothered reading the article, it refers to a new virtual drug called
Seclimine - here's a snippet: "While your avatar is staggering and lurching under an animation replicating the outer effects of necking a handful of foul pills that some nerve-damage case mixed up in a bathtub and probably cut with talcum powder and rat poison, motion graphics and audio launch to commence a hypnotic induction. The inductive system is intended to, from what I can gather, get you good and dopey, disoriented, and wondering why the walls are melting and the floor is made of meat." Be warned! It allegedly lasts for half an hour! Snow Crash, anyone?!

UPMC Objectives in Second Life

I'm always interested to know people's plans for SL, and have recently been talking about this with Caduceus Kyomoon, who is building the island for UPMC (c'mon, it's the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center... look lively there!). He has now sent me a positioning document regarding UPMC and Second Life and, with his agreement, I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing some of the content.

UPMC have broken down their intentions under 6 headings.

Information Outlet, offering:

  • Broadcast messaging system
  • A new venue for Ebsco content
  • Interactive Health Library
  • Promote breakthroughs in medical field
  • Latest surgery options / offerings
  • Link out to UPMC websites

World-wide Outreach, aimed at:

  • Raising global brand awareness and recognition
  • Creating a buzz in the media as an early adopter in SL

Providing services for patients:

  • Possible rehabilitation usage
  • Exploration of latest I/O devices for impaired Group sessions to enhance interactive experience
  • Global input for support groups
  • Provide an environment for patients with few visitors to interact on-line

Recruiting with global reach:

  • Innovative approach of using SL may attract more forward-thinking individual
    Possible cross-marketing opportunities with Pittsburgh attractions such as zoo, museums and science centre.

Research & Development

  • Realtime interaction with co-workers spanning the globe
  • Online collaboration with partners locally and globally

AMD Dev Central in Second Life

AMD Dev Central has just opened and I have to say I have mixed feelings about it, in its current form. The build is certainly very professional, the work of Metaversality (among whose numbers I count some friends) but it is intended as an outreach site for AMD developers, yet it mainly comprises a couple of large assembly rooms. These are ideal, perhaps, for pushing a message to attendees, but are not well suited to a collaborative environment.

In short, it feels like a marketing person's idea of what they need - not a developer's. And in this case, it is the latter's needs that should be addressed. I should know, I used to be one - and still dabble when I can!

I have been having conversations with a couple of my Metaversality chums about this. I reckon they need to add some smaller rooms, for team use, kitted out with the sort of stuff that a techie needs - whiteboards and the like. In other words, the site needs to make sure it has attractions for its "community of interest." The work being done by many universities and college would provide a good basis.

Without taking these sort of steps, AMD risk creating (yet another) empty shell - pretty to look at, but without staying power. I know Metaversality has the know-how to produce this, but AMD need to recognise it too. After all, they're the client - and the builders can only do what is asked of them.

Hmmmm... this all sounds a bit negative for a site that has a lot of potential - and could be a great "honey pot" for the AMD developer community worldwide.

One potential attention-grabber for you freebie-groupies... Win a Dell Dimension with 4 (count then, 4!)GB of RAM.

Anyhoo - here's the piccies - you decide. IMHO, all the white is a bit stark...

PS: Peter - if you get to read this - y'see? The fish are out of the water! LOL

Here's some sundry gubbins from the press release:

AMD Opens Developer Pavilion to Promote Collaboration and Innovation in Second Life and Beyond- Contestants face off to win an AMD powered Dell Dimension System

Dev Central Pavilion on AMD Dev Central Island located within the Second Life (SL) metaverse, to extend its Developer Outreach program into a virtual space for meetings, lectures, training courses and networking opportunities for developers. To celebrate the launch of the pavilion, AMD will host a three-month treasure hunt contest with interactive Linden scripting language (LSL) and open source programming challenges. Developers who successfully complete the challenges in the Pavilion will be entered into a prize drawing for a Dell Dimension E521 system, powered by an AMD dual-core Athlon(tm) 64 X2 processor, 4GB DDR2 SDRAM, 320GB Serial ATA Hard Drive, 20 inch widescreen digital flat panel
monitor, and more.

There's more - but that's enough I think! You can track down the whole text elsewhere, I'm sure. But to fill the gap here's an article on SL from the AMD Dev Central website.

UPDATE: The first event at the AMD Dev Central Pavilion will take place Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007, at 1 p.m (PST) [= Second Life Time (SLT)]. Prominent members ofthe SL Open Source movement will speak about the challenges and opportunities presented by an Open Second Life.

Friday, 16 February 2007

All the M's - Myst and Mazda

After blogging about the newly launched Myst Online: Uru Live MMOG (and I'm beggared if I'm going to keep typing that out all the bloody time) I thought I'd check out the island in Second Life, which is also open for business. I am still Mystified (arf!) why Gametap did not open this sooner, as it is full of the many videos that have been available on their website for some time, and whets the appetite nicely (if this is the kind of thing you'd go for). Having taken a fairly rigorous and vigorous stroll through the island, I can hazard a guess - it would have been a nightmare to build and debug.

This is a highly complex and enjoyable build, that attempts to convey the Myst look & feel as best it can, given the constraints of the SL world - and a very decent job the builders have done of it. I would have liked more interactivity, and maybe a puzzle to solve would have been a good idea (thinks: maybe there was one and I missed it), but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And when I like something, I tend to take heaps of pictures... :-)

The other "M" is Mazda, who launched their Hakaze concept car, ahead of its debut in RL at the Geneva show, on their Second Life island (Nagare) yesterday. I visited the island today and confess to being somewhat underwhelmed. My "whelm quotient" would have been improved if there had been more to the island - but it seems to consist of a movie, a freebie car and a track - and not much else. I guess the track could be fun to drive, but it all felt a bit sparse. Maybe I've been jaundiced by the report in Second Life News Network, which suggests that the actual launch itself was not exactly the slickest piece of PR seen in SL in recent months (or days... or hours... come to that).

If you still hunger for info on the Hakaze - then here is a review of the real thing. If you have problems with that link, try this one. All in all, gets a great review.

A final thought? Why "Nagare"? After a bit of hunting I found this reference to another Mazda concept car, called "Nagare". Come on, guys - it's a bit obscure isn't it? If I was trying to attract people to your island in SL, I think I might be bold and call it "Mazda Island"... or be really experimental and avant garde, and call it "Mazda Concept Island". But "Nagare"? It's not exactly going to bring in the passing trade.

Tip of the Day (and some free[?] consulting) - it's a good idea to call it "Nagare" while in development and under wraps, but you should rename it just prior to launch. That'll be 5000L$ please... I lied when I said it was free.

UPDATE - Later that day
OUCH! I didn't know that humble pie would be so prickly, 'cos that's what I'm eating (only a tiny slice tho')! I went back to Nagare and have to conclude that I was over-influenced by the SLNN article. The place has a real human being [Alice] you can talk to - a distinct plus in my book, and still too rare in SL at the moment. That meant for a good chat about life, the Universe and Mazda concept cars. Suddenly, the experience is transformed from visiting a bare, sandy island (which it is) into visiting a place where you get a proper sense of communication. I employ the formula: SL=people=communication=a good thing.

Mind you, I think the car looks like a chrome-toothed yellow pig, but that's just my opinion. They are working on making the island searchable under "Mazda" - but as I do most of my island rambling using "Map" and "Search", I don't think this will help me much. So I stick by my 5000L$ comment above. And no, I didn't get my 5K bucks! But I got a free car, so that's OK!

PS: Tomorrow I hope to do another piece on UPMC. I talked about Pittsburgh some days ago, but I now have the info, courtesy of my chum, Caduceus. I will post rivetingly fascinating vignettes anon.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Wanna Job?

This just in from the Linden Blog:

I am looking for a Technical Operations Jedi! Linden Lab is going through enormous growth and rapidly getting into operations challenges that most companies have never seen. We are managing thousands of Linux-based servers in 2 locations, use over 6Gbps at peak, do 100M MySQL transactions daily, will soon need to have datacenters in multiple locations around the world, and are watching all these numbers grow at 10-20% monthly.

We need someone to lead us who has a passion for Second Life, has been deeply involved in technical and network operations at the largest scale, and loves to hire people. In terms of titles, this is probably someone currently at a VP or Director level. You will also need to have a strong technical background/degree.

You must be able provide high-level strategy and technical leadership, and your most important role will be expanding our elite operations staff with the best possible people. You should be passionate about hiring and hiring strategy, and have great ideas already about how to quickly get great people onboard. At the same time you will have to manage our global server infrastructure, which will require a sophisticated network architecture and a diverse set of facilities, NOC staff, transit providers, peers, and equipment vendors, in a variety of logistic and regulatory environments.

To handle all of this you should have hands-on experience with the very large-scale routing, peering, and partnering strategies we’re going to need to keep up with our tremendous growth. Planning, finding, negotiating for and then operating remote data centers should be something you can do in your sleep.

If you are interested or know someone who might be a fit, please contact me directly: my email is philip_at_lindenlab_dot_com. If you aren’t experienced enough to take on this role but still can help with Technical Operations, please take a look at our website and apply for one of the jobs there:

DraftFCB - More Ad Men come to SL

I've been too busy chatting with folks to get much new info for the ever-so-small clique of news-hungry SL watchers who check out this blog. But I did pick up a couple of snippets... or snippetlets... snippetoids? snippetoidlets??!

Where was I? Oh yeah... First off, we have draftFCB coming into SL. Who are they? Well, they're creative media-types- yet more to join the jostle in SL. Here's some stuff I found elsewhere: "DraftFCB was created in 2006 from the merger by Interpublic of two of its subsidiaries: direct marketing specialist Draft Worldwide and famed creative advertising network FCB. The resulting business is a fully integrated worldwide marketing services giant offering a broad range of disciplines from traditional creative to direct, digital and sales promotion. Draft has for several years been one of Interpublic's most consistently successful brands, and the merger is designed to provide added strength to FCB, which while a strong performer in the US has remained weak outside its home market. However, the combined business got off to a disappointing start when it was fired from the Wal-Mart account at the end of 2006 after just three months." Be that as it may, their SL island is closed to ramblers and looking very new - but I can recommend their website, which has some neat Flash graphics.

The other piece of news is about Mercedes Benz. Not so long ago I blogged that Merc had an island, but nothing had sprouted forth as yet. A squint at the map today reveals not 1 but 9 clustered islands - all joined to form a single continuous landmass and a few outlying islets. Cunningly, they've concealed the central island so satellites cannot spy on them. Damn you, Mercedes - you've blinded me (and nicked my idea as well). However, it looks from the other islands that they are building a track on at least part of the real estate. All this in just 2 weeks or so! This seems to be developing fast.

Note to self: Be more watchful in future!

This just in - Mercedes Press Release sourced from here:
Stuttgart, Feb 15, 2007
The inhabitants of the virtual world “Second Life” are in for a new highlight next week. On 20 February 2007 Mercedes-Benz sets up its own representation in the online world at On the Mercedes-Benz “island” in the upmarket South West district (coordinates: 128.128.11) the Second Life inhabitants can visit the new showroom, and in the future will be able to experience cars on the Mercedes-Benz virtual test track*. To mark the opening of its virtual showroom, Mercedes-Benz will host an exclusive live concert featuring artists from the successful Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape compilation for all its visitors on 20 February 2007 at 10 p.m. (CET).

* hehe - I was right.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Myst Online Uru - Update

In case you missed it - or simply aren't bothered - GameTap has announced Thursday, February 15th, as the official release date for the highly anticipated debut of “Myst Online: Uru Live.” This new adventure-driven take on the massively multiplayer online game genre will feature the ongoing release of new content and will become simultaneously available in fourteen countries around the world. You can get a PDF version of the manual here.

The website also has a cool intro movie and other videos can be found here. It has the familiar Myst look-and-feel (if the screenshots are anything to go by) - but only time will tell if it has sufficient interest to drive it anywhere near the astronomical numbers of World of Warcraft. Somehow I doubt it - but I look forward to being proved wrong!

Right now they claim you can still play the Beta for 99 cents... no idea if that is still true, given the impending Go Live.

Incidentally, when I last checked (a couple of days ago), the Myst Online Uru island is Second Life was still not open to ramblers, so they appear to have blown an opportunity for some appetite-whetting marketing.

UPDATE 15-02-07: It's now officially launched - and you can try before you buy for free - go here for details.

FRAPS - And Another Clutch of New Islands...

I can't really comment on the following - as they are either too new or closed for construction, with the exception of UTD ArtTech, which is open, though it, too, is under heavy construction.

Anyway - first we have some commercial sites:

NOTE 21/02/07: Mark at anyMOTION has pointed that I got the wrong URL - now fixed (above). Thanks Mark - and thanks for checking out the blog. The German anyMOTION is: "a classical Multimedia agency and production company."

And now some Academic:

That's yer lot for today... I can't get megaloads of glossy pictures every fishing trip, you know! But now I come to think about it... I do have one I have been meaning to post.
This is the IBM island that is part of the New Media Consortium cluster. I assume, once the construction is finished, it will be opened up - it certainly looks quite tempting! Having flown a bit closer to it than this, I can see that the saucer-like pods on top of each tower have "IBM Innovation Center" on a rolling display around the top.

But like I said, no pictures from today's virtual expedition.

Besides, I needed some time to experiment with FRAPS, the Windows-based inworld machinima software. From the website: "Fraps is a universal Windows application that can be used with games using DirectX or OpenGL graphic technology...Fraps can capture audio and video up to 2560x1600 on dual-core CPUs (1152x864 single-core) at up to 100 frames per second."

I know it's been around for ages but I've only had a first dabble. It records in .avi, but that's easy enough to convert to a more compact format. After my first attempts with it, I would conclude that it does a perfectly decent job (if a tad limited) and I would recommend it to anyone wishing to try out a bit of machinima. It has a relatively tiny "footprint" and is many times better in both quality and performance than the movie function (CTL-SHIFT-A) built in to Second Life. Using the inbuilt function I found SL juddering to a standstill - and of course this was reflected in the resultant movie! It has other useful features - like snapshots (presumably without the tell-tale click/whirr of the camera!).

What is more, you can use Fraps in a wide range of online games - not just SL. In fact, I'm so impressed, I've already upgraded from the freebie suck-it-and-see version to the full monty registered version, for slightly less than 40 USD.

Monday, 12 February 2007

Rachelville - A Fine Memorial

Imagination Island has just opened its doors to visitors - and there you will find Rachelville; but Rachel sadly will not see what has been built in her memory. She was only 7 when she died, in 2000, after a nine month battle against acute myeloid Leukaemia. Throughout her long illness she constructed a magical place in her imagination, Rachelville, peopling it with interesting characters and working out complex stories about their goings on.

Her parents, assisted by many friends, have now built this fitting memorial to her in Second Life - an area devoted to Children's literature. For me, the most striking feature is a recreation of the Secret Garden, complete with box hedge maze and a fully functioning swing. It's a beautifully realised, quiet spot in which to sit, chill and listen to the birds, while IM'ing friends in more hectic parts of SL. Another feature is a large, glass-roofed maze, themed around a library, with what seems to be a dragon at the centre. I've not tried it, but it looks pretty tricky to me. Dotted throughout the area are reading posts, where you can pick up information on a variety of Rachel's favourite books.

The site is serene and peaceful, without being saccharine, mawkish or maudlin - an impressive achievement and a delight to visit. More information can also be found here.

PS: I admit I went a bit over the top with the pictures - and they don't really do it justice.