Archives for June 2010

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. BusinessWeek (USA) – Linden Lab’s Virtual Second Life Eyes Second Life. “Linden Lab’s virtual world called Second Life was seen as the Web’s next big thing following its 2003 debut. Investors including Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos and EBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar poured millions of dollars into the project, where 3-D avatars sunbathe on virtual islands and operate virtual companies. Businessweek featured Second Life on a 2006 cover, and Reuters opened a virtual bureau. Coca-Cola Co. held a virtual contest. Philip Rosedale, who founded San Francisco-based Linden Lab, said Second Life has yet to reach its potential. He was named interim CEO today, replacing Mark Kingdon, who stepped down. In 2008, Rosedale predicted that virtual worlds will become “bigger in total usage than the Web itself.”

2. Ars Technica (USA) –Saving “virtual worlds” from extinction. “Sometime this August, librarians at the University of Illinois will finish archiving over a dozen famous computer games, then step back to consider where to go next with their project. These programs go back over four decades, and include a 1993 version of Doom, various editions of Warcraft, and even MIT’s Spacewar! circa 1962. We wondered, given the gaming nature of most of the software being preserved, why the venture is calling itself the Preserving Virtual Worlds project. So we called up the project’s coordinator, Jerome McDonough, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, to ask him about the name.”

3. University World News (UK) – Save money switching to OpenSim. “Educators in post-secondary institutions, colleges and schools looking for lower costs, better controls and no age restrictions might consider switching from Second Life to its open source alternative, the OpenSim virtual world server platform. The OpenSim server software can be used to power an entire public grid or a small private, behind-the-firewall installation, and can be run on an institution’s own server or hosted with third-party providers. Educators say they find OpenSim offers significant cost savings over Second Life although there may be hidden costs. “OpenSim is far less expensive to us to run,” said Shenlei Winkler, President of the Fashion Research Institute, in an online comment to the International Society for Technology in Education. “We pay less a year for most of our regions than we do for a month of our Second Life region’s hosting bills,” Winkler said.”

4. Inside Higher Ed (USA) – ‘Rebundling’ Liberal Education. “In 2009 a group of 42 researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs met together at the invitation of Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm, to discuss how the Web could transform education. A major theme of the daylong discussion, which took place under the theme “Hacking Education,” was “unbundling,” the process through which online distribution of digital media and information breaks apart and erodes existing industries. At the center of “unbundling” are new technologically-enabled relationships that democratize access to the means of production and collectively create plenty where scarcity once existed. An often-cited example of “unbundling” is newspapers: with blogs and other online tools, one no longer needs a printing press or fleet of delivery vehicles to be heard. The newspaper editorial room competes with an army of bloggers and other online media outlets. Craigslist emerges as the marketplace for used household items, local job listings, and community announcements, replacing the advertising function of the traditional print newspaper. The combination is a perfect storm leading to a steady, nationwide stream of newspaper closures.”

5. VentureBeat (USA) – VenueGen lowers pricing to take virtual meetings to the masses. “VenueGen said today that it’s taking its 3D virtual meeting tools to a new audience, with a version aimed at freelancers, small businesses, bloggers, and do-good organizations. Company president Jeff Crown said that most of the existing virtual world products for businesses, such as those offered by Inxpo and Unisfair, are out of reach for smaller organizations, because they cost tens of thousands of dollars per year. And VenueGen’s initial service, which it launched at the DEMO conference coproduced by VentureBeat, was similarly priced for large enterprises.”

6. BusinessWeek (USA) – Second Life: Reality Intrudes on Virtual Reality. “While you were worrying about keeping your home, you may have missed the popping of the virtual-reality real estate bubble. In Second Life—Linden Lab’s immersive, 3D game that allows players to trade real dollars for virtual dollars—a nice stretch of mainland coastal property that would have fetched around $65 in 2007 today goes for $16. That’s partly because the financial crisis crimped spending for the 1.38 million users, known as residents who have logged into Second Life in the past 60 days. “The real real estate crisis had a direct effect on the real estate” in virtual worlds, says Guntram Graef, a business partner at Anshe Chung Studios, which sells “land” in Second Life. It’s also because the pell-mell growth of Second Life has slowed dramatically since four years ago, when BusinessWeek put Anshe Chung—the avatar for Ailin Graef, Guntram’s wife— on its cover.”

7. Scientific American (USA) – Grand Theft Auto Is Good for You? Not So Fast… “If your children are like 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls, they play video games. And, if they are like 50 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls, they prefer games with “mature” – read: violent — themes, such as Grand Theft Auto, an urban dystopia of gun fights, car chases, pole dancers and prostitutes, where blood splatters realistically on the “camera lens.” Should you worry whether such a game will warp your children’s minds? A new paper by Cheryl Olson, a public health specialist at Harvard, suggests the answer may be: au contraire. Olson surveyed children’s reported motivations for video game playing and found that their top rated choices were to have fun, compete well with others, and to be challenged. She then elaborates on the psychological benefits such play might afford, describing how video games facilitate self-expression, role play, creative problem-solving, cognitive mastery, positive social interactions and leadership. Sounds more utopian than dystopian, right?”

8. Wall Street Journal (USA) – Real Economist Learns From Virtual World. “In the first quarter of this year, while Chinese demand for copper, aluminum and nickel helped the London Metals Exchange’s index of prices rise to a 4% gain, the minerals price index for EVE went in the opposite direction, dropping by 1.8% over the same period. The deflationary trend in EVE was led by sharp declines in high-end metals Zydrine and Megacyte, mostly explained by a positive supply shock. A hitherto inaccessible asteroid belt was opened up in null security space, which created an important new source for the two metals and counteracted the upward effect of stronger demand from spaceship builders. These observations and more are laid out in the latest quarterly report on economic activity in EVE by Eyjolfur Gudmundsson, chief economist for Reykjavik, Iceland-based CCP Gaming, the company that designed, created and now manages EVE.”

9. TechCrunch (USA) – Amidst Turmoil, Linden Lab’s CEO Steps DownJune has not been a good month for Linden Lab, the creator of virtual world Second Life. A few weeks ago, the company announced that it was laying off 30 percent of its staff and taking Second Life into a new direction. Today, Linden Lab is announcing that current CEO Mark Kingdon (pictured here) is stepping down. Company founder Philip Rosedalehas been named interim CEO, and CFO Bob Komin has assumed the additional role of COO. The company did not give a reason for the reshuffling of the executive team but it’s safe to assume that it reflects Linden Lab’s new strategic direction. When announcing the layoffs in early June, Linden Lab also said that it aims to make SeconfdLife more browser based, eliminating the need to download any software. The company is also pushing for Second Life to extend to social networks.”

10. Escapist Magazine (USA) – Rumor: Star Wars: The Old Republic Closed Beta In Progress. “The Star Wars: The Old Republic community has been in a fervor over nearly confirmed rumors that the game has entered a public closed beta phase for this weekend only. The game isn’t expected until mid-2011 at the earliest, but those with the force in them may be playing as we speak… err… write… as I write… and you read. They’re playing it now is what I am saying. BioWare has not confirmed the beta, but rather than a denial, Star Wars: The Old Republic community manager Sean Dahlberg wrote in this forum thread: “Thanks for the information and it’s definitely interesting that people are posting about our Game Testing Program. We don’t have anything official to say at this moment.” He also said that members of the beta were only allowed to say that there is a beta, and that they are in it, if one were to be ongoing.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. YMCA Second Life

2. Happy Birthday Second Life!

3. Funky chicken dance

Linden Lab remove CEO: Rosedale returns

As mentioned briefly last night, the rumours were flying about a change in CEO at Linden Lab. The reality has eventuated with Mark Kingdon departing and Philip Rosedale returning as interim CEO.

Some obvious questions arise from this:

1. Was Kingdon aware he was soon to depart when overseeing the recent layoffs?

2. Was Kingdon even really in the loop when the restructuring was undertaken?

3. How does one claim things will improve when the now interim CEO stepped down to allow Mark Kingdon to bring a more commercial focus to the organisation? No-one is claiming such improvement at this stage, but it’s a fair assumption that the aim is for things to go up. Unless it’s part of a scale-down for buyout of course.

All that said – the change could be a good thing. At the very least it’s a temporary thing until the Lab or other future controlling influence determines what the next step is. What remains certain is uncertainty – which can’t help Linden Lab in the short-term but with luck it will assist in the all-important longer term.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. Fashion-centric world Frenzoo continues its evolution, announcing the ability to create furniture.

2. The veteran OLIVE platform continues development, this time announcing it will demonstrate the use of its platform to deliver clinical behavioral therapies, including “engaging clients and maintaining their active participation, efficiently overcoming individual emotional barriers to therapy and accelerating the therapeutic progress” to name three.

3. The rumours have started flying that Linden Lab CEO may be in for the chop, with former CEO Philip Rosedale to return to a more hands-on role. It seems a little strange that a CEO would oversee a significant reduction of staff and then be removed / replaced a matter of days later. Unless they weren’t calling the shots on the restructure in the first place…..

4. Want to win a premium Second Life avatar for yourself? Then contact ABC Island admin, Wolfie Rankin.

5. Paisley Beebe’s 3rd anniversary show is happening this weekend. That’s a lot of virtual worlds TV hours!

Susa Bubble: saving the art from censorship

You may have seen a story on New World Notes today about the removal of an installation from the 7th birthday celebrations for Second Life.

First, some context. The installation is titled Susa Bubble, and it looks like this:

(You can check it out for yourself in-world or you can view a higher-res pic here)

The creator, Rose Borchovski sums up the issue from her perspective:

The Kiss has been returned to me from the SL7B sims where Linden is celebrating Secondlife. I quote “The images on your build are in violation of our general rating, to be clear: Nudity is not allowed at art events with a general maturity rating.”
I would like to point out and educate Linden Lab that most of classic and contemporary art is based upon nudity. Not because of Sex, but because of the beauty and the vulnerability of the human body, the human body we all share and look at in the bathroom mirror in the early morning.

The story of Susa is a sweet but savage story, told in image and text, sound and installation. It is about our dark inside, but also shows how vulnerable and lonely we all can be. My art shows a naked body, but it is not about nudity or sex.

Art being shown at a public art event of Linden means pretty pictures that bring aesthetic pleasure void of all critical thinking. Culture must be “safe” / sterile, no matter how free of content that makes it. As implemented by LL, “Community Standards” means content so content less that no viewer has even a remote chance of being caused to think about anything, to question any of their values or assumptions. Safe in SL means safe from thought.

When I protested against it in the group chat I was shut out .I was told not to discuss it in SL7B Group Chat “because this isn’t the place” — because NO place is the place to discuss it — because we don’t even want to think or let others think about the ideas we don’t want to think about

The worst part of censorship is not that which is censored, but the climate of self-censorship it imposes on all artists. Art is about having a voice. Art is about thinking differently and about thinking from fresh perspectives. When artists are not allowed to have a voice, culture is not allowed to progress.
When I hide my susas nakedness, I have stopped telling her story.

Nothing is more resistant to authoritarian control than a naked body. Control & conformity require uniforms. Nudity is too wild and uncontrolled. When you know my Susa Bubble story you can see it isn’t really even about “nudity” but that just suggests how powerful the forces for thinking-avoidance-at-all-costs are. Better to censor the world than risk allowing in a question that could topple the status quo. Authority does not like questions. Authority does not like creativity. Authority does not like art. Authority does not like nudity.

I did not bring my installation to the celebration to publicize myself, I make in art in SL because I want to share my Susa story and touch people

Greetings Rose Borchovski

Take another look at the picture above and then explain to me how it really qualifies as nudity? And remember, Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon has had his own art exhibited in Second Life. Sure, there needs to be some boundaries around what is acceptable but is it just me that finds that boundary to be just a little tight?

If you clicked on the SLURL above you will have ended up on the University of Western Australia sim which is now hosting the installation. Jayjay Zifanwe from UWA loved the installation and offered to host it, not in protest but in admiration of the work.

Which is the sort of collaborative attitiude Linden Lab could have adopted in their dealings with Rose Borchovski.

On top of everything else the Lab have been involved in over the past week – did this need to occur?

The final word belongs to Rose:

“It would be wonderful to take this oppertunity to have a fresh look at art and Second Life and what it means to Linden, to have so many artist creating”

Three reasons social gaming on Facebook is declining

Over the past couple of weeks there’s been some focus on the fact that Zynga, maker of social games such as Farmville, had a big decline in users during May. Back in January we predicted some fatigue with those games, albeit in the context of ongoing big growth. The decline for Zynga and its flagship Farmville tend to shine a light on a number of issues that need to be resolved, particularly within Facebook:

1. The Spam Driver

One of the key components of the Facebook-based games has been the promotion of achievements within the game on a user’s Wall. Anyone who’s used Facebook knows this only too well, and the backlash has been considerable, to the point that back in February support this was hobbled. Fast forward a couple of months and you have the widespread drop in numbers. A coincidence?

The old notification spam may have been as annoying as hell but it obviously drew in new players, like any spam-like activity will. It may not be missed, but it’s certainly one of the factors that’s hit social gaming fairly hard. The upside is it will force game creators to make games even more engaging – a better growth driver than spam. Of course, the spam isn’t totally gone either – it’s just simpler to suppress.

2. WoW Without The Wow

Usng Farmville as an example, I only needed to play it for a couple of hours to realise how closely it’s modelled on an MMO framework. Everything from the grinding ‘quests’ and achievements system, through to peer competitiveness and in-world currency. The trouble is, Farmville doesn’t quite have the thrill factor of a hard core MMO. It’s not a fair comparison, but the point is that it’s hard for Farmville to keep innovating so that the endless tasks don’t seem frustrating or even pointless.

I’ve spent many an hour doing pointless / frustrating things in World of Warcraft for example – but it didn’t seem that way as there was always an enticing goal at the end of it. Sure, Farmville offers bigger an better houses / sheds / farming equipment but it wears thin pretty quickly. The challenge for social virtual worlds, like gaming more broadly, is keeping it interesting, and it seems there’s still some work to do. There’s also the issue these social worlds aren’t truly socially interactive: when my avatar can chat and farm with my neighbour, then I’m starting to get interested again.

3. The Trade Embargo

Whether it’s Second Life, World of Warcraft or Entropia Universe, one of the keys to their success has been the ability to make money as well as spend it. In some cases that can translate to hard currency – in others its the ability to earn virtual currency from selling goods that are no longer useful or have been created by their original user (here’s a great post on the growing focus on content creation). Sure, in Farmville you can do some limited selling but it’s the finesse of the more mature platforms that provide a lot of the enjoyment. When I can make decent amounts of real or virtual money in a fair way in a social world, then I’ve got even more incentive to stay there. Money isn’t a driver for a lot of people, but it’s more the link between that money-making capability and a more intricate community that makes the difference.

A reversible decline

All the issues discussed above are evolutionary ones to some extent – as social gaming continues to improve then one can hope their interactivity, creativity and overall engagement will improve also. I’m pretty confident the decline is a short-term one and to some extent a desirable one. Sanity checks like that can lead to better platforms and applications and that’s the way things appear to be heading.

Over to you: what are the gaps in social gaming that need to be filled?

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – Log on for a dose of reality. “Fifteen years ago, or thereabouts, my then employer sent me to a conference on “business communications”. It was a largely forgettable and dreary two-day event, the high point of which, I seem to recall, was the muffins at morning and afternoon tea. Baked goods aside, the only thing I remember with any clarity was part of a presentation by a chap from, of all places, the NRMA. Mr NRMA recommended some rules we should adopt at work when using this newfangled email thing. Bear in mind that this was in the dim pre-history of the web. Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube were barely a gleam in the eyes of a few hardcore geeks.Most of us were still grappling with the ground rules of how we should behave towards each other online.”

2. (New Zealand) – Big brother watches in this virtual world. “RICK Earl is a virtual world sheriff. The 34-year-old Aucklander is executive producer and director of Customer Support for SmallWorlds, a Kiwi-created international virtual community with more than 350,000 active users every month. Earl is largely responsible for writing the rulebook on SmallWorlds’ crime and deciding the consequences for breaking it. He deals with everything from swearing to attempted grooming for under-age sex. In the R13 SmallWorlds, users can create up to five avatars [on-line alter egos] to interact with each other and trade virtual property. Virtual users’ representations are often idealised versions of themselves, and are free to engage in activities often beyond users’ abilities in real life. Earl said SmallWorlds, which has been designed with age 13+ players in mind, is cartoon-like with no nudity and it filters swearwords automatically.”

3. Inside Social Games (USA) – World Cup Goods Fill Facebook’s Virtual Stores. “The sale of virtual goods has always been a primary monetization method for social games, and with the world’s most popular sport, soccer, already in the heat of the 2010 World Cup, you can bet that a number of social developers are taking advantage. We’ve already tracked a number of recently-released soccer apps, so below we’re taking a closer look at what non-sports games are doing in recognition of what is, arguably, the world’s largest sporting event.”

4. VentureBeat (USA) – Which startups will bridge the physical and virtual worlds? “In our pockets sits unprecedented processing power, in the form of smartphones that are morphing into superphones. And they’re on the verge of having next-level software that can provide us with deeper immersion and more interactive experiences. As networks improve, we’ll roam the world virtually, seeking relevant information regardless of time and place. Still, there is a gap between the physical world and the digital experience of it. The question: How do we cross it?”

5. ZDNet Asia (Singapore) – S’pore tech shines at CommunicAsia 2010. “Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) showcases some of its market-ready technologies at the trade show. The exhibition is organized by two of its arms–Institute for Infocomm Research which focuses on research and development and commercialization wing Exploit Technologies. In what looks like a CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) setup, A*Star shows off its digital forensic evidence and file recovery technology. A spokersperson explained that the files are stored in fragmentation on the hard disk, and contrary to popular belief, files do not disappear when deleted but become shreds of unrelated memory. Contrasted with “state-of-the-art”, commercially-available technology seen on the right, which is only able to recover two-thirds of a deleted image, A*STAR’s technology is able to completely recover a deleted file. A*Star achieves this through its “patent-pending technology” using a novel algorithm with more complex scenarios, she said.”

6. BusinessLine (India) – World’s becoming more ‘playful’. “What do video games do? They amplify particular human tendencies — our innate hunger for learning, our delight in solving problems and challenges, our sociability and rivalries, our pleasure in escaping the uncertainties of the world for more predictable rewards — says Tom Chatfield in Fun Inc. ( He adds that, additionally, ‘games as interactive systems increasingly connect to the ways in which we work, communicate, plan and express ourselves in a digital age, a process that is making the world more playful, and where the business of play is becoming ever broader and more profitable.’ Over the next half-century, in the author’s view, video games are going to become as much a part of everyone’s daily experience as television, radio, automobiles, refrigerators, type and the written word. Another certainty that he sees in video games is money, lots of it!”

7. San Diego Business Journal (USA) – In a Galaxy Far, Far Away … “While console games such as those played on a Sony PlayStation or Microsoft’s X Box still dominate the video gaming industry, a shift is under way that will result in a much larger amount of revenue coming from online games such as a new one now in beta testing at San Diego’s Sony Online Entertainment. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars Adventures” hasn’t been released yet, but when it is sometime in the fall, the game is expected to garner a lot of attention, not only from a target group of young boys from ages 6 to 14, but from their parents, who grew up with characters such as Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. “We want to make this game a destination where kids can play with their parents,” says Taina Rodriguez, spokeswoman for SOE, which makes its headquarters in Sorrento Valley with some 500 employees locally. To ensure that the Star Wars game has the highest level of authenticity, the folks at SOE worked closely with LucasArts, the video game division of Lucasfilm, which created the blockbuster movie that is still generating revenue for the company.”

8. VentureBeat (USA) – Rixty, Coinstar turn spare change into virtual goods. “Rixty has a system that lets kids and other gamers turn in their coins at stores and then get credits that they can spend in online games. Today, the company says that more than 50 companies have signed up to integrate its alternative payment method into games. With Rixty, you can break that piggybank and take your coins or cash to 20,000 locations such as Coinstar coin-counting machines in grocery stores. The machines count your coins and give youcredit (via a 16-digit pin code) to spend on games. So far, Rixty’s users are spending an average of $30 a month on games. The users spend about $28 a month for games on Facebook.”

9. Tekrati (USA) – Immersive Tech Experts at ThinkBalm End Research Operations. “Erica Driver has announced that she will depart ThinkBalm next month, citing slower than expected enterprise adoption of immersive technologies. While partner Sam Driver will continue consulting with clients on immersive technologies, the firm will discontinue industry research operations and disband the ThinkBalm Innovation Community. Ms. Driver will join QlikView in July as senior director of Global Partner Marketing. ThinkBalm has been dedicated to enterprise adoption of immersive technologies — including virtual worlds, immersive learning environments, and virtual event platforms — since its founding. The small firm has racked up an impressive list of accomplishments during its two-year run: a blue ribbon client list, valuable research available free of charge, and a vibrant community of innovators. ”

10. The Ledger (USA) –Merely Human? That’s So Yesterday. “ON a Tuesday evening this spring, Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, became part man and part machine. About 40 people, all gathered here at a NASA campus for a nine-day, $15,000 course at Singularity University, saw it happen. While the flesh-and-blood version of Mr. Brin sat miles away at a computer capable of remotely steering a robot, the gizmo rolling around here consisted of a printer-size base with wheels attached to a boxy, head-height screen glowing with an image of Mr. Brin’s face. The BrinBot obeyed its human commander and sputtered around from group to group, talking to attendees about Google and other topics via a videoconferencing system. The BrinBot was hardly something out of “Star Trek.” It had a rudimentary, no-frills design and was a hodgepodge of loosely integrated technologies. Yet it also smacked of a future that the Singularity University founders hold dear and often discuss with a techno-utopian bravado: the arrival of the Singularity — a time, possibly just a couple decades from now, when a superior intelligence will dominate and life will take on an altered form that we can’t predict or comprehend in our current, limited state.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Second Life 10 – Role Playin Girl

2. SECOND LIFE | Candidates to Miss Virtual Poland

3. Horror’s Night in Second Life

Going mainstream means letting in the weirdos

Second Life’s generally considered to be a bit of a weird place. A lot of virtual environments are. They go through two phases of weirdness.

The first phase covers the first few waves of users. They’re considered weird because they’re doing something that isn’t usual: using a virtual environment at all, or using one that isn’t particularly well-known.

The second phase is when mainstream users start to trickle or flood in (and depending on the press that the environment has had, that can take place pretty close to launch). That’s when people start really doing weird things with it. Because landing the much-vaunted mainstream audience means nothing less than letting in all the weirdos.

Prior to that, you generally have people experimenting with the platform and the technology, seeing how it fits, where the money is, evaluating it for business, leisure, training, education, or just creating to suit themselves.

There’s typically no organized cadres involved, these are folks who are checking out the ground floor and determining if it is worth getting in on it for a long haul.

Generally, they’re smart, sane, sober, sensible, foresighted and farsighted people. You know, not really what’s considered normal.

Even so, playing the percentages, you’ll find a very small number of griefers, louts, firebrands and locos among them. It’s hardly a large number. Prior to maturity many virtual environments require a good deal of work, and that keeps a lot of the bad elements away.

Later, though. Well, let me tell you a story.

So, there’s an event on, and one of the attendees (appearing as Captain America) sexually harasses one of the venue staff. An abuse report takes place, and governance comes to take care of it. Unfortunately, they’re faced with so many Captain Americas at the venue that there is a little bit of difficulty identifying the culprit.

Only in Second Life, right?

Well, wrong.

A fellow by the name of Adamcik was at a bit of a shindig dressed as Captain America, but it’s okay, pretty much everyone was dressed up as something – though apparently Captain America figured very prominently. He had a burrito and a joint stuffed into his crotch.

He pestered women at the event to touch his burrito. Whether he made comedic humping motions with his hips at the time is a bit unclear. Apparently tiring of these japes, he allegedly groped a barmaid. While his behavior wasn’t exceptionally out of place at the event, he’d crossed a line.

The police were called in, but were faced with so many Captain Americas … well, the police report said “there were so many cartoon characters in the bar at the time, all Captain America’s[sic] were asked to go outside for a possible identification.” Adamcik apparently tried to evade identification by removing the burrito from his tights and concealing it in his boot. Nevertheless, he was hauled off to the lockup.

There, he attempted to flush the joint that had been concealed in his tights, but it was recovered by a police officer.

Adamcik was laid with charges of battery, disorderly conduct, drug possession and trying to destroy evidence.

Some college hijinx was it? No. Adamcik is a 54 year old family physician and the whole event was an American Medical Association shindig out in the physical world.

Yep, that’s right. Adamcik is one of those “normal mainstream people”.

Hey, mainstream dudes? You’ve lost any moral high-ground to call us virtual-environment users ‘weird’. Seriously.

This sort of thing isn’t an isolated incident. This sort of human behavior (and quite a bit that makes this look unexceptional) happens in virtually every human community on earth, every day.

That’s the mainstream. Get a few hours of XBox Live voice communications some time, but have a suicide hotline on your speed-dial first.

Even if the percentage of weirdos in phase one and phase two users remains constant, essentially opening your doors to the mainstream means opening your doors to the weirdos, the locos, the louts, the griefers, conspiracy theorists and every other kind of oddball our modern society spawns.

Come one, come all.

Also, as Linden Lab has noted on a number of occasions and most corporate IT staff will tell you, the average mainstream computer user finds the download and installation of software to be an obstacle, and sometimes an insurmountable one (unless, inexplicably, it’s some 3D screen-saver that installs malware onto computer networks).

Are those really the sort of people who are going to get a major benefit from a virtual environment and a digital economy? Maybe, but per-user they’re going to be incredibly costly to support, and that cost multiplies as their numbers increase.

If you really want to try to court the mainstream markets, you need to be prepared, and you need to give up caring whether people think your virtual environments are weird or sad or filled with folks living in their parents’ basements. That’s the mainstream, and if you want that, you go big or go home.

Linden Dollars: where’s the panic?

I have to say I was a little bemused at the announcement by Linden Lab of their faith in the strength of the Linden dollar, after a selling run over the past 24-48 hours. On checking the current rate, it shows a 10.4 million Linden exchange throughput with the exchange rate deteriorating to 307.9 Lindens per US dollar at its worst but now bouncing back to 288 at time of writing.

Based on a rough benchmark of 285 or so (which is around half-way between today’s low and average highs over recent months), that’s a less than 10% decline. Sure the volume is up, but did it require a full expression of confidence? Like any such expression, it can cause concern rather than provide reassurance. It also arguably shows a lack of confidence in the cohort of veteran Second Life residents who are on the whole likely to sit through any short-term fluctuations like this.

I had a brief chat to Tateru Nino this afternoon and she made the great point that supply of Linden Dollars on the exchange does tend to rise when there’s a decline of faith in Linden Lab – it’s not a lack of faith in the currency itself. This has been acknowledged to some extent in Linden Lab’s announcement, but perhaps a better tack might have been to provide some more transparency around its recent changes. There’s also another angle that could have been taken: that any fluctuation in the exchange rate can bring benefits as well as challenges. If any government expressed confidence in its currency every time it fluctuated 5-10%, there’d potentially be a lot more fluctuations.

Expressing faith in any currency can set alarm bells ringing, so here’s hoping for some more information in coming days to show that faith as justified. For mine, I did log in to look at buying some Linden Dollars if the decline had been significant. That’s the type of reaction that you’d expect from a Second Life resident with a longer-term view, who’s also happy to make a buck 😉

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