The ABC in Second Life: one year on

The 19th March brings up the one-year anniversary of the ABC’s launch of ABC Island. Launch night coincided with the screening of You Only Live Twice on Four Corners. Since that time, there’s been a steady stream of events, including a great number organised by the Australian community of Second Life residents who frequent the island.

abcisland2008.jpg

ABC Island’s presence is a modest one when compared to the Telstra build, but it packs a lot of variety in the area it does inhabit. The Sandbox remains the most popular area, but themed areas like Melbourne Laneways provide a lot of ongoing interest as well.

There are also rumours of further expansion via another island. I caught up with Lisa Romano (SL: Lise Robbiani), the ABC’s Project Manager, Strategic Development for its Innovation unit, who wouldn’t confirm the rumours. We also asked her to confirm the original intent of the presence in Second Life. “The ABC created a presence in Second Life to learn more about virtual worlds so that it could understand how to create and present content and build a community in this rapidly growing three-dimensional environment. One of the ABC’s core principles is to reach audiences wherever they are and to pursue opportunities for innovation, so a new platform of this kind which shows strong audience growth and interest is worth exploring,” Romano said.

So after a year of effort in Second Life, has it been worth it for the ABC? Romano certainly thinks so. “We are thrilled with the response from audiences over the past year. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we feel like the Island really offers a sense of Australian community based around content, creativity and innovation for both Australian and international visitors, mainly due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the ABC Friends Group.”

That same ABC Friends Group (of which I’m a minimally contributing member) is organising some anniversary events this week. There’ll be plenty of information in-world or watch this space for details.

What are your thoughts on ABC Island’s first year? Has it been a success? How do you see it evolving in the coming year?

Comments

  1. Juanita Deharo says:

    Thank you for your timely article.
    There is no doubt ABC island, in particular the sandbox, has been a major benefit to Australians in S., nor that a small band of volunteers have out in a lot of effort to make it work. Thank you to them.
    However, with 12 months on the clock I wonder what sort of serious evaluation has been done of ABC’s presence in SL.
    I was part of the initial discussions about starting the island, and have attended almost every event – except the music quiz show and tiny soccer- neither of which interest me. In its 12 months existence ABC has offered some interesting content like the CSIRO talks or the Librarians discussion – but on the whole I think it has offered very little that has been engaging to me or to many others I have spoken with in SL. It is in no way representative or even indicative of ABC’s rich and diverse offerings to the Australian community, and it has not offered many opportunities for creative individuals to explore and push the boundaries between the real and the virtual.
    Before the ABC expands with more of the same ( or a bigger and less laggy version of the same) there needs to be some thought given to the whys and hows of its presence in SL and to the way it has operated in the last 12months.
    Unless there are ABC staff resources devoted to the project it is in danger of becoming the domain of possessive in-world volunteers and vested interests and will not offer the sort of environment that can truly test the possibilities of virtual worlds, or present the ABC in any good light to the world.
    I offer these thought not as criticism of those who have worked in world to maintain the ABC island – but as an observation from someone who sees unused potential and wasted resources. I think it would be a waste to have ABC island expand without a serious rethink of its role in SL and the addition of resouorces and management from within ABC.

  2. Juanita Deharo says:

    Thank you for your timely article.
    There is no doubt ABC island, in particular the sandbox, has been a major benefit to Australians in S., nor that a small band of volunteers have out in a lot of effort to make it work. Thank you to them.
    However, with 12 months on the clock I wonder what sort of serious evaluation has been done of ABC’s presence in SL.
    I was part of the initial discussions about starting the island, and have attended almost every event – except the music quiz show and tiny soccer- neither of which interest me. In its 12 months existence ABC has offered some interesting content like the CSIRO talks or the Librarians discussion – but on the whole I think it has offered very little that has been engaging to me or to many others I have spoken with in SL. It is in no way representative or even indicative of ABC’s rich and diverse offerings to the Australian community, and it has not offered many opportunities for creative individuals to explore and push the boundaries between the real and the virtual.
    Before the ABC expands with more of the same ( or a bigger and less laggy version of the same) there needs to be some thought given to the whys and hows of its presence in SL and to the way it has operated in the last 12months.
    Unless there are ABC staff resources devoted to the project it is in danger of becoming the domain of possessive in-world volunteers and vested interests and will not offer the sort of environment that can truly test the possibilities of virtual worlds, or present the ABC in any good light to the world.
    I offer these thought not as criticism of those who have worked in world to maintain the ABC island – but as an observation from someone who sees unused potential and wasted resources. I think it would be a waste to have ABC island expand without a serious rethink of its role in SL and the addition of resouorces and management from within ABC.

  3. First let me say that I found this article to be good background, and hopefully it will bring a few more SL residents to the ABC Island. Good to see the SLURL in the article, link love is always good. I’m a relatively new SL resident (six months) who’s still there, i.e. directly in the target demographic for most SL ventures. That is, I have some experience in SL, no preconceived notions, and still log on regularly after six months so am likely to be a long term audient.

    Sorry to hear that the things that made ABC Island such a touchstone for me since my arrival in SL are considered to be “possessive in-world volunteers and vested interests.” Without the help I received on ABC Island I would not have remained in SL, and I now send every new person (not just Australians) I come across to the Island because it *IS* so well patrolled and managed.

    In six months that I’ve been there, I’ve met paid ABC employees maybe twice. I’ve met the “in-world volunteers” each, every, and any time I’ve gone there. So let’s stop that right there. If the ABC is too cheap to employ those people who are their main presence in SL then at least stop slagging them off. They do a commendable job of making the island hospitable and a credit to Australia in general.

    Then I’d like to make it clear that I’m a taxpayer in Australia, and the ABC operates because I and people like me want it to be so. To me, I’m sure there is much more that can be done with the island and any proposed new areas that ABC may be wanting to expand into, but they have to be relevant to many people, not just me.

    For me (and the thousands of other people who’ve rezzed up for the first time in SL) it’s important to have a place with a sense of community. If I dont have that then I will find another space to meet and live. And the same, I hazard, will be true for other people who use SL. And that means that ABC will end up without an audience for this new medium, if they can’t keep fostering and engendering that sense of community.

    To me, the very fact that Ms DeHare has *seen* that sense of community and chosen to see it as “possessiveness” (which I interpret as her little foot stamp at things like tinies soccer and other “things that don’t interest me”) shows that as it stands, ABC Island has that spirit and that kind of following right now.

    Next – it’s important to stop thinking of Second Life as a kind of glorified TV channel or chat room. Sorry but you just won’t find a comfortable place for thinking like a programme director or journalist or pretty much anything you were used to, in here. That’s not what SL is about. It’s a collection of communities first – and communities that have definite tastes and demographics, at that.

    There are things that ABC has done which are commendable – the competitions were such a case – and there are things ABC has done which are abysmal – the competitions were such a case. (There was apparently no direction from the ABC staff who are supposedly “managing” the island to change the competition materials. But the competitions themselves were a very Second Life idea and make sense in the new medium, the lack of follow-up and dedication unfortunately don’t…)

    Sandboxes and building are big drawcards in SL. People like to make things, modify things, customise. Here are some things that ABC *could do* to make an impact: Find (and employ) in-world people who can teach various aspects of building. Make a few Australiana items and teach people how to make them. Make an in-world ABC Shop and sell Australian textures, avatars, and other items.

    Old ABC Island has many many theatres for conferencing and teaching, but really needs only one. Absent has been any place to stage machinima films, which are another thing which SL is rapidly becoming a hotbed for. Some kind of “Studio ABC” area would be a good step. Provide tuition in using camera controls and controllers, direction, production, and editing. Give machinima acting classes.

    Old ABC Island also had a Laneways area. While I don’t hold with commercial interests intruding into ABC property I suggest that since the precedent has been set, perhaps create an area where Australian companies can place a poster/landmark giver to their commercial premises in world, on the proviso that they place a reciprocal poster/link in their premises. Increase traffic to ABC’s holdings using SL’s own mechanisms.

    So I suggest that instead of trying to make ABC in SL a pale and largely irrelevant reflection of radio and TV, that they ask those self same “possessive in-world volunteers and vested interests” what should be in ABC’s future – because lump it or like it they *are* your target audience in-world.

  4. Wolfie Rankin says:

    We are far from Possesive Admin Juanita, we actively encourage people to join in with us, if you ask around, you’ll see this is indeed the case. If members want to join Admin they only have to ask…. but they must be dedicated to helping and at the same time we all have to get along, as any in-fighting will be quite damaging.

    Fortunately we have a great team of enthusiatic people on our side, and I should say at this point that I am one of a team, this isn’t just all about me, it’s an awesome team and I’m proud to be in with them.

    Nearly all the suggestions hastily given on the chat were mostly things we’ve also suggested and tried to get going, in many cases there have been stoppers in the form of legal issues at ABC… Such as the inability to stream music, that is not ABCs fault, they were willing to pay extra to have this feature, but the people put in place to help musicians recieve fees, got in their way and said NO. If I were a musician I would prefer my music was heard, rather than locked away tight with DRM and nutty laws, but that’s just me.

    ABC have loosened up a lot, and allowed us to produce more content.
    Rockit was created for the ABC to show them that regular programs, which can be a bit of fun or serious interviews, panel shows, comedy and more could be
    done live in the space… and we should produce our own content too, as there’s no crossover from Radio and TV in RL, why then should there be a crossover to this new media? which is how I see SL.

    Rockit is my thing, and it takes a few days to collect questions which like a nice box of fireworks all go off at once, I cannot host other shows, and don’t really want to… I have a plan to get people to create new programs which I may discuss further at the forum.

    I realise it would be very easy to obtain presenters, however I am equally certain that many, once realising the amount of work which needs to be put in will give up after a few weeks, as I saw when I worked in RL Radio years ago…. Yes, my background is media, it’s what I did.

    It’s no good advertising programs and then not having the host turn up simply because they’re tired of the whole thing and just want to watch TV tonight.

    Lastly, I saw most of your comments as mere criticism, if you wanted to be involved, you could have been, but you haven’t.

    You’ve merely sat on the sideline and spat like an angry cat when anything displeased you.

    All you needed to do was grab one of us at any time and sit down and have a heart to heart, that’s all any of the readers need to do, we like talking to new people and hearing their ideas, and yes, we really do try to get things happening.

    We would love there to be more classes in the sandbox if anyone would volunteer there.

    And yes, I will be attending the meeting on Thursday and am prepared to listen, but do keep in mind that most of the things asked about in chat have already been considered months ago, and changes are on the way which should please most people.

    Wolfie!

  5. Sakkano Imako says:

    ABC has been somewhat of an anchor for me, as it was where I was really introduced to SL. Without the help of the volunteers there, I think I’d not enjoy SL as much as I do.

    With that said, I believe that ABC. though a bit laggy at times, is a constantly evolving experiment. It’s just a matter of finding what works and what doesn’t. And while some stuff might not be well-received, the people who volunteer there and world there are what make ABC great for people outside Australia.

    While some may debate the existance of the Laneways at ABC, I would like to point out that many people will probably never get to experience such a place first-hand. So I must admit, that for the atmosphere, I really do like the Laneways. It’s not something an American is likely to experience while in the middle of his (or her) own country.

    But I hope that the rumors of expansion are true. It would be of great benefit for ABC to do that. However, I must wonder, what is in it for ABC in the real world? Without a real answer to that question, I don’t think I can buy into the rumors about an expansion.

    Here’s to a great 1st year, and I hope that there are many more to come.

  6. Wolfie Rankin says:

    We are far from Possesive Admin Juanita, we actively encourage people to join in with us, if you ask around, you’ll see this is indeed the case. If members want to join Admin they only have to ask…. but they must be dedicated to helping and at the same time we all have to get along, as any in-fighting will be quite damaging.

    Fortunately we have a great team of enthusiatic people on our side, and I should say at this point that I am one of a team, this isn’t just all about me, it’s an awesome team and I’m proud to be in with them.

    Nearly all the suggestions hastily given on the chat were mostly things we’ve also suggested and tried to get going, in many cases there have been stoppers in the form of legal issues at ABC… Such as the inability to stream music, that is not ABCs fault, they were willing to pay extra to have this feature, but the people put in place to help musicians recieve fees, got in their way and said NO. If I were a musician I would prefer my music was heard, rather than locked away tight with DRM and nutty laws, but that’s just me.

    ABC have loosened up a lot, and allowed us to produce more content.
    Rockit was created for the ABC to show them that regular programs, which can be a bit of fun or serious interviews, panel shows, comedy and more could be
    done live in the space… and we should produce our own content too, as there’s no crossover from Radio and TV in RL, why then should there be a crossover to this new media? which is how I see SL.

    Rockit is my thing, and it takes a few days to collect questions which like a nice box of fireworks all go off at once, I cannot host other shows, and don’t really want to… I have a plan to get people to create new programs which I may discuss further at the forum.

    I realise it would be very easy to obtain presenters, however I am equally certain that many, once realising the amount of work which needs to be put in will give up after a few weeks, as I saw when I worked in RL Radio years ago…. Yes, my background is media, it’s what I did.

    It’s no good advertising programs and then not having the host turn up simply because they’re tired of the whole thing and just want to watch TV tonight.

    Lastly, I saw most of your comments as mere criticism, if you wanted to be involved, you could have been, but you haven’t.

    You’ve merely sat on the sideline and spat like an angry cat when anything displeased you.

    All you needed to do was grab one of us at any time and sit down and have a heart to heart, that’s all any of the readers need to do, we like talking to new people and hearing their ideas, and yes, we really do try to get things happening.

    We would love there to be more classes in the sandbox if anyone would volunteer there.

    And yes, I will be attending the meeting on Thursday and am prepared to listen, but do keep in mind that most of the things asked about in chat have already been considered months ago, and changes are on the way which should please most people.

    Wolfie!

  7. Sakkano Imako says:

    ABC has been somewhat of an anchor for me, as it was where I was really introduced to SL. Without the help of the volunteers there, I think I’d not enjoy SL as much as I do.

    With that said, I believe that ABC. though a bit laggy at times, is a constantly evolving experiment. It’s just a matter of finding what works and what doesn’t. And while some stuff might not be well-received, the people who volunteer there and world there are what make ABC great for people outside Australia.

    While some may debate the existance of the Laneways at ABC, I would like to point out that many people will probably never get to experience such a place first-hand. So I must admit, that for the atmosphere, I really do like the Laneways. It’s not something an American is likely to experience while in the middle of his (or her) own country.

    But I hope that the rumors of expansion are true. It would be of great benefit for ABC to do that. However, I must wonder, what is in it for ABC in the real world? Without a real answer to that question, I don’t think I can buy into the rumors about an expansion.

    Here’s to a great 1st year, and I hope that there are many more to come.

  8. Thanks Teddleruss you are spot on and your comment echoes many articles and talks I have been sending out over the past two years. If readers get time these two posts provide more depth:
    Corporations in Social Virtual Worlds and a Linden Lab cited article

    The Brand Owners Guide to Joining the Metaverse

    Both talk about a key critical component being the iterative listen, respond, listen cycle that needs to happen for brands or any independent wanting to connect with the inhabitants. This is a very reactive, immersive synchronous medium which raises expectations and passions, not a pushed website/TVshow. I would recommend reading and listening to Lord Puttnam at Virtual Worlds 2007 a few months ago here, half way down page who talks about agency and how to engage in virtual worlds also.

    To finish let me leave you with this simple analog – “what would be your approach to setting up a branded area to connect with and learn about the needs of the local tribes in the jungles of Borneo?” I am not being flippant or superficial, really think about the steps you would go through.

  9. Dustin Varun says:

    Got anything to back up what your saying here? or actual comments from the people listed here?

  10. I present two quotes from a notecard just passed through ABC’s in-world chat and discussion group, and my responses:

    ====================================
    ======notecard quote and response 1=====
    ====================================
    There has been a lot of discussion recently about the ABC sim.
    . . . deleted text . . .
    It came to light that ABC was also in the process of assessing it’s position with the online presence in SL – one way or another.
    . . . deleted text . . .
    suggestions as to what can be done on and with the island to more faithfully reflect 1) the ABC, 2) Australian culture in all it’s diversity 3) the associated needs of the Australian SL community in direct relation to points 1 & 2.
    It is understood that the ABC has legislative and ethical constraints placed on it, and that working within those may sometimes be frustrating to everyone concerned – especially where the expanded possibilities and potential of the digital environment is concerned.
    . . . deleted text . . .
    There is to be no constraint on what projects are presented – but expansion of ideas will necessarily need to be viable within current ABC legal and ethical guidelines. In this way, all projects will be presented to ABC management for their assessment. This having been said, ideas which are clearly in contravention of the LL Terms and Conditions or other legal and ethical structures will not be part of discussion, although they may be included in a list of potential ideas where the concept may have merit, but the subject matter questionable.

    = RESPONSE=
    Firstly – there is no point in saying “legal paramters” unless you can present an authoritative list of those legal parameters. If ABC wishes to have a discussion invoking legalities then they need to have a representative present at the meeting who can provide authoritative advice as to what is considered legal. Otherwise, people will get bogged down in useless conjectures as to what constitutes “legal.”

    ====================================
    ======notecard quote and response 2=====
    ====================================
    Should the ABC management/admin staff wish to participate, we would ask that they be available to answer the forum on operational, policy and legal issues. This includes where as part of a discussion, a policy formulation is required of ABC.
    In this way, the discussion can concentrate on what CAN be done, and not just what people would like to SEE done. Final projects presented to ABC would therefore already have built in applicability.

    = RESPONSE=
    Secondly – there had better be some ABC management/admin staff with executive power present at that meeting. If there are not, there’s no point having the meeting at all, because it would show clearly how little the ABC management care about exporing a new medium, and how little they thinmk of their investment in Second Life. Either ABC is interested in pioneering or it is not. If they are – show it. If not – shut up shop, stop presenting a half-assed face to the world. I indirectly pay for this, and I don’t want to pay for being embarassed in front of my peers and colleagues in the rest of the world.

    ====================================
    ========Last item for consideration=======
    ====================================
    Lastly – bring an open mind to the meeting. This *IS* a new frontier, a new way of dealing, and as such it will stretch everyone’s capacity for new concepts. That’s what it’s meant to do.

  11. Ryu Darragh says:

    Thank you, Teddlesruss.

    I would also point out that just as volunteer staff are nto renumerated in any way by ABC, the folks who *are* on the ABC payroll frequently help maintain ABC Island during off hours at no pay as well ! They may be paid by ABC, but the ABC Island is only a part time endevoure for them.

    The second thing I would point out is that game shows, like Wolfies Rockit!, are not supported by any monies from ABC at all. None of them are, really. The ABC simply gives permission to host the game on the Island.

    There are even night shift Admin who are not paid and help out because they like the folks at ABC Island and have many friends there.

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