Archives for August 2010

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. VentureBeat (USA) – Intel and Nokia launch joint research on mobile 3D virtual worlds. “Smartphones have barely entered the 3D age, but Nokia and Intel are already racing ahead to do research on enabling 3D virtual worlds on mobile computing platforms. The two companies are announcing today a research center (pictured below) at the University of Oulu in Oulu, Finland, that will work on the technology required to make the mobile 3D virtual world possible.”

2. CNET (USA) – Virtual farm games absorb real money, real lives. “Last century’s cash crops included tobacco, cotton, and sugar cane. Now we have magic cauliflower and super berries, too–and even though they can’t be sold at market, some people still toil from dawn to dusk cultivating them. People spend not just real time but also real money growing these crops in virtual farming games that combine the allure of both games and social networking in what is usually a cute and deceptively simple package. They can be addictive: many users come back at least once a day to micromanage their farms and deal with other users’ requests. On average, the users of these types of games are spending anywhere from a few minutes a game to the greater part of an hour. Indeed, one individual who CNET spoke with said that it’s all she does between waking up and going to bed–and that’s every every day of the week.”

3. Huffington Post (USA) – Getting Physical in a Virtual World. “We’ve been talking about the ability to bring physical objects into the virtual (internet) world for quite a while now. Discussions have ranged from simply tagging physical objects and allowing humans to then attach metadata (something similar to what StickyBits does), to allowing objects the ability to be automatically tracked and to subconsciously attach and transmit metadata based on usage, location etc. There has been some speculation around Facebook’s dive (possibly called ‘Presence’) into this largely untamed world especially with reports of tests done during its F8 conference. As a marketer and a part-time anthropologist, I want to bring a cultural perspective into understanding what it might take for this marriage between the physical and virtual worlds to become a reality in our everyday lives.”

4. MediaPost (USA) – Virtual Goods Worth More than Real News: Curmudgeon. “I usually try to avoid making any statement involving the words “society,” “values,” or “priorities” — nouns which are all so vague as to be almost meaningless. I also usually don’t see any point in judging what other people do with their time or money, as long as they accord me the same indifference. But a recent realization has prompted me to (oh no, here it comes) question society’s values and priorities. Basically, it dawned on me that Americans will soon be spending more money on imaginary objects than the news. In fact, they already do. According to various estimates and forecasts, Americans spent $500 million on virtual goods in 2008, rising to $1 billion in 2009 and $1.6 billion this year. Fueled by the rise of social games like Farmville and Mafia Wars (and virtual worlds like Second Life, where sales continue to grow) U.S. spending on virtual goods may jump to $5 billion by 2014.”

5. American Medical News (USA) – Med students open to learning via new media. “Having been raised in an age of ubiquitous technology, medical students are game to using new media and virtual reality as part of their education, according to a new survey. However, students’ varied opinions about what games they would like to use, and the unresolved question of whether they would be effective, are barriers to overcome before medical schools add video games to the curriculum. Ninety percent of the 217 participants in the study — medical students at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the University of Michigan Medical School — said they would be inclined to use new media technologies if they helped to develop skills in patient interactions. Meanwhile, 98% said they think education should make better use of new media, according to the study, published online June 24 in BioMed Central.”

6. San Francisco Business Times (USA) – Fate Fickle In Second Life Too. “arely three years ago, the virtual world Second Life was all the rage, with exploding traffic numbers, eager investors, tons of news coverage and lots of interest from big corporations looking for ways to make money in the immersive online social world.
Today, the roughly 250-person San Francisco company that operates Second Life, Linden Lab, is getting a different kind of attention following a 30 percent layoff – some 90 people out of 300 – in June, the resignation of former CEO Mark Kingdon a few weeks later, and a current report from private shares trading company SharesPost showing that Linden Lab’s value plunged by 21.4 percent – or $100 million – in just the last five months. What went wrong, and how dire is the situation?”

7. The Guardian (UK) – It’s dodgems on the streets with everyone gazing at mobile devices. “I don’t walk down the street any more: these days I swerve, bob and veer my way past most of the other people occupying it. Why don’t they look where they’re going? Or is it just me? A current TV ad imagines how funny it would be if car-driving behaviour were adopted by pedestrians. Sorry, bright adperson, but your fantasy is no fantasy: I already experience pavement rage, because traversing it has become a species of dodgems. The street has become an extension of the living-room, used for so much more than walking – lighting up, for example. Smokers, ejected from public buildings, labour under the delusion that outdoors is a giant extractor hood, discharging smells directly into the heavens. They niftily forget that minor natural element known as wind, which can blow with such precision that, without swift evasive action, we passersby can feel like those notorious beagles compelled to puff smoke not of our own producing.”

8. Financial Post (Canada) – Tweens & Technology: The tiny power shoppers. “Meet Andrew. At age nine, the sandy-haired boy from Markham, Ont., is already a savvy shopper of electronics. When his mother told him the Nintendo DSi game he wanted was too expensive, he pursued a new strategy. He told family and friends to forgo birthday and Christmas presents and buy him gift cards to put toward the new device. Now he saves for the accompanying games — most recently Super Mario Galaxy 2. Next on his wish list: the iPod Touch. “My aunt has one and let’s me play with it when she visits,” he says. Jackie Macdonald-Bartkiw, Andrew’s mom, figures that by Christmastime, he will be lobbying for more gift cards to buy his own touch technology. “I’m amazed at his patience … and persistence.”

9. Big Think (USA) – Can Hollywood Redesign Humanity. “Most people do not come to Hollywood for deep conversation, but as we explained with respect to “serious games,” the entertainment universe is producing an impressive array of products that can educate youth to think more constructively about real-world problems through experimenting with solutions in online environments. There is also a new breed of film-makers who are advancing the cause of techno-optimism in ways that contradict the dystopian visions of robots taking over the earth. When we convened a salon of film-makers, online game designers, branding executives, and media personalities to discuss this construction of ever more immersive realities, they provided not only deep conversation, but also a sophisticated and controversial view of how Hollywood has moved beyond vanity and celebrity worship towards “world-building” that can inspire progressive behavioral change.”

10. Computerworld (USA) – Rocker raises money for first album in Second Life. “Keiko Takamura, a San Francisco indie rocker, raised some of the money to record her album and built a following by playing concerts in Second Life. She uses a broad array of other social media to find listeners and sell her music. Keiko and other indie musicians are worth watching by businesspeople as well as music fans. The music business model has been turned upside down by the Internet, and indie musicians are leaders at using the net to build new ways of finding customers. Their techniques are often applicable to traditional business.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Ziffy Zarf at Good Vibe Acoustic Lounge

2. MICHAELjackson Follet & CLE group GHOSTS in Second Life

3. Second Life: Element the 8th

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Guardian (UK) – Virtual worlds: is this where real life is heading? “Recently a man bought a space station for $330,000, while last month Small Planet Foods, a subsidiary of General Foods, introduced a new brand of organic blueberries. What have these two products got in common? Neither actually exist. Well, not except as pixels in the virtual worlds where they are traded. Only the money is real. The space station was sold in the virtual world Entropia Universe, which has its own economy and currency. The buyer, who converted his $300,000 into 3.3m PED (Project Entropia dollars), is convinced that virtual shops on his virtual space station will produce virtual profits that can be converted back into real dollars. The blueberries represent a “brand extension” of a product that exists in the real world as US company General Foods aims to establish a presence in FarmVille, a game which exists as an application on Facebook and which at its peak has had nearly 80 million players. It is a classic example of a new genre.”

2. The Royal Gazette (Bermuda) – 3D concept adapted for the wider arena . “The use of 3D worlds on the Internet has been evolving from the gaming sector to a more expansive leveraging of the technique. Last week I wrote about how Citzalia, a site I am working on as editor, uses virtual 3D as an innovative means of navigating through information and for social networking. Companies, non-profits, government and other entities should also consider using the concept of creating 3D virtual worlds as a means of attracting and engaging visitors. Above all, they should keep in mind the idea of allowing users to have fun.”

3. IEEE Spectrum (USA) – Reducing World of Warcraft’s Power Consumption. “Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) such as World of Warcraft consume a lot of their players’ time. They also consume a lot of energy, as more than a thousand servers can be required to create one game’s virtual worlds. Last year, Yeng-Ting Lee, a 26-year-old online game fanatic, began to wonder if there was an easy way to reduce their energy consumption. Lee, who is a research assistant at the Institute of Information Science, Academia Sinica, in Taipei, Taiwan, says he has found a way to cut MMORPG power consumption in half. Last month he revealed the solution at the IEEE Cloud 2010 conference.”

4. Inforum (USA) – Video game industry tailoring more offerings to female players. “or years, video games have been marketed toward male players with ads that showcase unreal action sequences or alluring female figures guiding players through virtual worlds. But as the video game industry expands its consumer base, some female gamers are feeling a little less ignored by an industry that has realized not only men play their games. In fact, women make up 42 percent of the 215 million Americans who play video games, according to the Entertainment Software Association.”

5. RTH Life (Switzerland) – Virtual reality you can touch. “Researchers at the Computer Vision Lab at ETH Zurich have developed a method with which they can produce virtual copies of real objects. The copies can be touched and even sent via the Internet. By incorporating the sense of touch, the user can delve deeper into virtual reality. Sending a friend a virtual birthday present, or quickly beaming a new product over to a customer in America to try out – it sounds like science fiction, but this is what researchers at the Computer Vision Lab want to make possible, with the aid of new technology. Their first step was to successfully transmit a virtual object to a spatially remote person, who could not only see the object, but also feel it and move it.”

6. Red Deer Advocate (Canada) – A virtual world to see, hear — and smell. “Virtual reality may seem all the more real in the future, with not only people’s sense of sight and hearing engaged, but also their sense of smell. A high school student from Elnora is part of the cutting edge research, having just worked on a project at the University of Alberta known as Smell-O-Vision. Ashley Brown, a Grade 12 student at Delburne Centralized School and the cyber school North-Star Christian Academy, was one of 60 high school students accepted into the Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology (WISEST) summer research program at the U of A.”

7.Computerworld (USA) – The (better) future of tech support. “Right now, getting help when something unusual goes wrong is a frustrating experience for customers. They’ve come to stereotype the experience as waiting endlessly on hold, deciphering strangely cheerful foreign accents, humoring technicians who are incapable of understanding — let alone answering — their questions, and taking time off to wait for a tech who doesn’t show. Tech support pros are just as frustrated, experiencing the same issues from their vendors’ tech support and dealing with users who start the interaction expecting nothing, despite their own cluelessness. But even with these drags on their morale, many sally forward and poke around cryptic forums, hunting for answers among the rants to find an answer for their frustrated users and reaching out to fellow support pros through social networks and the like.”

8. Chicago Tribune (USA) – Despite some blips, most see technology as boon for family life. “At first, Andrea Pryor admitted, she was a little nervous about installing a computer in her Chicago home. What exactly was this thing? What would it do to her family. Years later, she has her answer: It brought them closer. “It has kept us connected, with family scattered across the U.S.,” said Pryor, 57, a retired teacher. “I’m getting to watch my nephews, nieces and grandchildren grow up.”

9. The Guardian (UK) – How the internet is altering your mind. “Like nearly all the Guardian’s content, what you are about to read was – and this will hardly be a revelation – written using a computer connected to the internet. Obviously, this had no end of benefits, mostly pertaining to the relative ease of my research and the simplicity of contacting the people whose thoughts and opinions you are about to read. Modern communications technology is now so familiar as to seem utterly banal, but set against my clear memories of a time before it arrived, there is still something magical about, say, optimistically sending an email to a scientist in southern California, and then talking to him within an hour.”

10. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Linden Lab’s Value Down 21%, Teen Second Life To Close. “The value of Second Life publisher Linden Lab has plunged by 21.4% in the past five months on the private market, according to SharesPost. This drop in price has effectively sent the company’s value down by $100 million, with SharesPost now estimating Linden Lab’s value at only $271 million. The decline follows Linden’s announcement that it would cut 30% of its staff in June, shortly followed by the replacement of CEO Mark Kingdon with founder Philip Rosedale. Earlier today, the company also announced that it would shut down its Teen Second Life grid on December 31, 2010. Linden Lab was founded in 1999, while Second Life launched in 2003. Teen Second Life launched in 2005 as a solution for younger users who wanted to enjoy the virtual world but weren’t old enough to explore Second Life’s sometimes-adult grid freely. To compensate for Teen Second Life’s closure, Linden Lab will drop the minimum user age in Second Life to 16 on or before December 31, 2010. Accounts for 16 and 17-year-old Teen Second Life users will be transferred to Second Life’s Main Grid.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Doctor Who – The 11th Hour Second Life Remake

2. She Last Exile Filmed in Second Life

3. Phemie Alcott at Rosewood LMV

One click can make all the difference

Linden Lab is cutting the Second Life Community Gateways programme from August 19 (giving Community Gateway operators just 18 hours notice of the pending termination). If you haven’t been through the Second Life orientation lately, you might not even be clearly aware of what the programme is.

The idea was simple enough. Since the Lab didn’t care to have a full-time employee doing the necessary work on new user orientation, a variety of groups who thought they could outdo the Lab were presented as optional starting areas for new users.

Not everyone was right. Even compared to the standard orientation experience’s very low bar, some of the Community Gateway experiences apparently “stank on ice”.

Some did okay though. There used to be a Google spreadsheet circulating around with various specifics of the CG programme, though I lost the link some time ago. What struck me is how small a number of the total pool of new signups took the Community Gateway option.

Indeed, according to the Lab, many gave up on the Web-site when presented with the choice of going to a Community Gateway or taking the standard orientation experience.

Think about that for a moment.

Presented with the choice, many users chicken out and we may never see them again.

Weekly Second Life signups for week 32, 2010 It’s certainly popular wisdom that 30% of new users don’t actually ever log in. I don’t know if that’s still true now, five years later, or not. I’m not sure if that’s a figure that the Lab would really be all that keen to share lately. There’s between ten and twelve thousand new Second Life signups every day, but it doesn’t seem like more than a couple of hundred actually make it through the proverbial first-hour.

In what seems like a startling digression, there’s an interesting balancing act I can tell you about in writing for the Web. It isn’t really all that startling a digression, as you’ll notice in a moment.

Articles with more than one part are obviously preferable from a page-view perspective. More page-views means more advertising dollars, so if you want more advertising dollars then you want more page-views.

Simple, you think, I will break my article up into parts! Each time the user clicks through, that will be another page-view!

But it isn’t so easy. A lot depends on who you are, who your audience is and what your article is about, but a good rule of thumb is that 25-30% of your readers won’t click through to the second page. 25-30% of those that do won’t click through to the third page. And so on.

It’s easy to watch that process from the Web-traffic logs, and get solid numbers, and they’re numbers that remain surprisingly consistent. It isn’t even as if you’re asking the user to make much of a choice. It’s just “click the link for the next part.”

So, yes, the Lab – while criticized at the time for it – was definitely right to shorten the number of steps in registration. Every click (and every choice) between the start of registration and actually turning up in Second Life with a prefab avatar you’re losing attention, and thus bleeding out audience.

That’s why the whole Second Life viewer in a browser keeps coming up over and over again, hiding software downloads, updates and installs from the user and all of that. For now, the Lab is going to just use its own orientation system, presumably until they follow-through on announced plans to eliminate that as well.

Eliminating even one step could cause a massive jump in retention, if it is done right. Just reducing the number of clicks and choices willy-nilly and without planning isn’t necessarily going to improve matters. You might get more people actually logging in, but who are simply unprepared for the welter of possibilities that the virtual environment then presents to them.

Election 2010: virtual worlds make their debut

As Australia draws to the end of its five-week election campaign, I’d pretty much given up on the political parties doing anything beyond the odd YouTube or Facebook campaign strategy. As I wrote in 2007, Australia has lagged some other countries in the use of virtual environments for politics, and this campaign hasn’t changed that, with the debate over competing broadband policies about as substantive as it has gotten.

You know for certain that our politicians are truly lagging in this area when the mainstream media beat them to the punch. Channel 9 have announced that their election coverage on Saturday will be centred on a bunch of ‘virtual sets’. As the video below shows, it’s fairly standard green-screen technology, but its an evolution all the same.

Although the interactivity will be limited to manipulating election data, and the communication will be one-way (presenter to audience), it’s a step forward for a couple of reasons. First, it’s provides an in-your-face example of virtual environments as a collaborative and/or information-sharing tool. Second, its use will be a major eye-opener for the strategists in each of the parties, who still appear to be wedded to 2D technologies for campaigning at the expense of everything else. The reaction of the public to Channel 9’s coverage is likely to be mixed, with some pointed criticism likely at gimmickery over substance. That doesn’t matter to a large extent: the cat is out of the bag over at the Fourth Estate. Two of the other Estates (‘the Church’ and the public) already have a good sense of this technology. There’s only one left looking backwards – the one that should be leading the debate or at least actively contributing to it.

Watch the Channel 9 spiel for yourself:

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. Computing (UK) – Can virtual worlds make a real impact? “The explosion of social media has been one of the striking trends in internet use over recent years. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Myspace are used by private business and government bodies as a way of reaching out to their audience, especially the sometimes hard-to-engage younger demographic. But there is a new trend, one with a greater potential for interactivity than conventional web sites, and one that offers a fusion between networking and, well, fun. The new kid on the block is 3D multiplayer gaming. Massively multiplayer online gaming (MMOG) has been around for decades. One of the earliest examples was 1974’s Mazewar, which involved moving around a wireframe maze and shooting other players. Technology and user expectation have moved on since then, and today’s best-known multiplayer online game is arguably Blizzard’s flagship product World of Warcraft, with more than 11 million subscribers globally. Last year, the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Communication released a tender asking “for the development and launch of an innovative web site which uses creative methods to generate interest and raise awareness about the role of the European Parliament”.

2. Gamasutra (USA) – Report: Google Buying Jambool/Social Gold. “In a move likely related to its rumored games-friendly social network, Google has reportedly purchased Jambool and its virtual currency payments product Social Gold for as much as $75 million. Jambool is based in San Francisco and was founded in 2006 by veterans Vikas Gupta and Reza Hussein. Last October, it launched Social Gold as an online payments and virtual currency platform that players could integrate into their free-to-play MMOs, virtual worlds, casual online games, and social games/applications. Though neither Google or Jambool have commented on the acquisition, TechCrunch cites multiple sources that suggest a purchase price of around $55 million for Jambool, with another $15 million to $20 million promised if the company reaches certain goals.”

3. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Crisp NetModerator To Use Scotland Yard Pedophile Data. “Crisp Thinking is going to use Scotland Yard pedophile data to enhance the performance of its Crisp NetModerator software. NetModerator will use real conversations between convicted pedophiles and undercover officers to help identify and shield children from predatory behavior in virtual worlds and child-oriented MMOs. Crisp Thinking says it is the first company in the space to use real Metropolitan Police data to test and enhance its product’s performance.”

4. Minneapolis Star Tribune (USA) – Mayo Clinic lands its own fantasy island. “Dr. Paul Friedman insists he wasn’t distracted by the woman in the second row wearing a pair of wings and a rainbow bodysuit. And he didn’t even seem to notice when a visitor teleported into the audience, scanned the crowd and vanished into thin air. Friedman, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, has given medical lectures worldwide. But last week he entered a new dimension, when he gave a presentation on the online fantasy world known as Second Life. To most people, virtual reality and avatars are the stuff of games. But the Mayo Clinic is one of a growing number of real medical centers that have established outposts in this fictional universe to explore new ways to teach and practice medicine.”

5. Gamasutra (USA) – Virtual Goods Monetization Firm SupersonicAds Raises $2 Million. “London-based start-up SupersonicAds, which runs a virtual goods monetization platform, has raised $2 million in a new round of funding led by former Skype chief executive Michael van Swaaij. Founded in 2007, the company is headed by Gil Shoham and has 32 employees. SupersonicAds’ monetization tool allows developers and publishers to reward players with free virtual currency for online titles, social games, and virtual worlds after they participate in targeted offers, watch commercials, or engage with brands in other ways. The firm, which also has offices in the U.S. and Israel, provides coverage in more than 100 countries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, and it plans to offer the platform in 20 languages. It currently works with more than 450 advertisers and counts a number of publishers as its clients, such as Live Gamer, PlaySpan, NHN Usa, Bigpoint, Playdom/Disney, IMVU, and more.”

6. Hypergrid Business (Hong Kong) – The business of virtual sex. “Would be sim-commerce millionaires gathered at the Hypergrid Entrepreneurs Group meeting Thursday night on the Trombly Grid to discuss recent innovations in OpenSim hosting, currency systems, and selling real homes and real furniture in virtual environments. Towards the end of the meeting, the conversation somehow turned to virtual sex (okay, I turned it) and why there didn’t seem to be any grids in OpenSim dedicated to this pursuit. For example, I hypothesized, someone could rent, say 16 regions for around $10 a region from one of the providers at the meeting, create a central business area with clubs, shops, and other commercial destinations — and give away all the surrounding land for free to virtual escorts. The area would need a currency, with the G$ an obvious choice. (OMC from Virwox might also work, but only if its owners were okay with using the currency for adult purposes.)”

7. Virtual Worlds News (USA) – Second Life Relationships More Satisfying Than Real Ones. “Participants in the 3D virtual world Second Life are more satisfied with the romantic relationships they form in the virtual world than the ones in their real life, according to two studies conducted by Loyola Marymount University researchers. Even more remarkably, Second Life users who participated in the study reported that their level of sexual satisfaction with virtual world relationships was roughly equal to what they experienced in their real world relationships. Users surveyed as part of the studies rated their virtual world relationships better in the five categories of marital satisfaction than their real-world relationships. Half of respondents felt they could communicate better with their Second Life partner than their real-life partner. One-third of respondents said they felt a “stronger connection” to their Second Life partner.”

8. Smart Company (Australia) – Is IT a high enough priority in the upcoming election? “Australia has abandoned all but the most high tech of manufacturing, meaning that manufacturing is now a minor component of our GDP. We’ve also seen agriculture take a back seat in the economy. Due to this, our services industries are emerging as major players in the future of our nation’s GDP figures. And this means that IT and telecommunications are a very important part of the business infrastructure of the future. America has just suffered a serious downturn in employment and the financial reports are showing that the nation has learned to be more productive and more efficient as a result. Australia has not yet had this brute force applied, and is still complacent about productivity tools and building scalability and efficiency.”

9. Open Media Boston (USA) – Second Life Community Convention Brings the Metaverse to Boston. “his weekend, over 300 people from all over the nation and world will be descending on the Park Plaza Hotel “to network, build friendships and to discuss Second Life in a common forum” according to the leaders of AvaCon, Inc. – the non-profit behind the Second Life Community Convention 2010. This year’s SLCC is the sixth since 2005 and like its predecessors is entirely organized by active residents of the Second Life virtual world. The event is open to the public, and day passes are available for those who’d like to dip their toe in the digital waters of a sometimes exotic online universe.”

10. Wall Street Journal (USA) – China Approves ‘Warcraft’ Add-on. “Chinese Web portal operator Inc. said Monday it received regulatory approval to offer the latest expansion pack for the popular “World of Warcraft” online game in China and plans to start letting players download the software next week. Regulatory uncertainty delayed the China release of the expansion pack, which launched in the U.S. in late 2008. The new version of the game could boost the company’s revenue by attracting more people to try the game and luring players into spending more time online. Netease, which operates the game under a license from Activision Blizzard Inc., said in a statement posted on the “World of Warcraft” website in China that it received approval to offer the “World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King” expansion pack from China’s culture ministry on Monday and from the country’s publishing regulator last month.”

Weekend Whimsy

1. Second Life Machinima: Contemplation

2. SecondLife – Porn & Gambling?

3. Second Life goes to the movies: “My Name Is Holger!”

The Mom Test

I was out walking with my 4-year-old daughter. She picked up something off of the ground and started to put it in her mouth.

I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that.

‘Why?’ my daughter asked.

‘Because it’s been on the ground; you don’t know where it’s been, it’s dirty, and probably has germs,’ I replied.

At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked,’ Mom, how do you know all this stuff? You are so smart.’

I was thinking quickly and replied, ‘All moms know this stuff. It’s on the Mom Test. You have to know it, or they don’t let you be a Mom.’

We walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information.

‘Oh…..I get it!’ she beamed, ‘So if you don’t pass the test you have to be the dad.’

‘Exactly,’ I replied with a big smile on my face.

Linden Lab CEO starts to turn the ship

For Second Life residents, this time of year usually generates a lot of interest due to the Second Life Community Convention. There’s no shortage of that interest this year given the tumultuous year to date and the return of Philip Rosedale to the CEO role. In a fairly relaxed presentation, Rosedale laid out Linden Lab’s plans for the remainder of this year and into 2011. Some of it he’d covered previously in communications on the official Lab blog and in-world, but there was also plenty of new information. Highlights included:

  • A rebuttal of press and resident perceptions that Linden Lab are financially challenged, emphasising that the Lab have been profitable “for years” and that they remain on a “stable footing”
  • An outline of the strategy-setting process undertaken on Rosedale’s return to the CEO role (not surprisingly there was no substantive comment on the previous CEO or layoffs) – the aim is now to make Second Life “Fast, Easy and Fun”. There was an admission that currently the platform isn’t meeting those aims on a regular basis
  • The tactical plan for delivering the faster, easier and more fun Second Life involves:
    • a “back to basics”  approach to identify fundamental flaws in user experience and to fix them – lag being the biggest target.
    • a focus on “winning back the lead” that involves further innovation in-world around content creation, with the promise of software updates as often as weekly, to deliver a much-improved Viewer in addition to background improvements
    • working on “the economy” in a way that ensures growth and makes digital content delivery easier – removing the ‘box on the head’ syndrome that new residents can experience
  • Specific improvements promised by end of 2010:
    • Fixing latency of group chat and problems with region crossings / teleports
    • The time from logging in to being able to effectively use Second Life will be improved by a factor of two
    • Reducing crash rates further
    • “Markedly change” the number of avatars per region – the actual increase isn’t being committed to at this stage, but the intention for 2011 is to deliver “big, big jumps”
    • Controls on avatar complexity in order to help deliver the previous four points
  • A second list of longer-term commitments:
    • Second Life mesh-based content now that bandwidth and highly complex prim constructions make it an option performance-wise (a beta-version will be available for testing by year’s end)
    • A more sophisticated naming system including elimination of the surname restriction and further name customisation options
    • Background downloading of Viewer update
    • Teen Second Life is officially on schedule for termination, with 16 and 17 year-olds allowed to access the main grid given the clearer boundaries around adult content
    • A nod to the iPad as a potential Second Life delivery platform

You can watch the full 45-minute presentation plus all the follow-up questions below – it’s worth listening to the Q&A session as it covers key areas like Search problems, interoperability :

The take-home message from the presentation? Philip Rosedale is certainly back in the company with a vengeance, and the announcement of the roadmap and proposed changes is encouraging. That said, the Teen Grid closure and avatar complexity controls are likely to generate significant debate.

Rosedale said himself in the presentation that delivering the promises is what counts – there’s been no shortage of promise previously, with some of it delivered. The ratio between the two needs to get to 1:1 for Second Life to have a fighting chance of long-term survival. The most encouraging aspect is that Linden Lab’s CEO seems to understand that this is likely the last big strategic route change they can make before concerns on Second Life’s viability become an urgent issue for the company.

Over to you: what stands out for you as the positive and negative aspects of the Lab’s proposed direction?

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