Archives for May 2008

Weekend Whimsy

1. Second life surfing (Extreme Style) by STARAKKOS

2. Kitty Loaf Ride

3. Singerman Marquette – Roadhouse Country

Virtual lips and law enforcement

Two interesting but totally unrelated pieces of information:

1. For the academically inclined, the Virtually Blind blog has an excellent piece on virtual law enforcement with a link to the paper written by a Dutch Assistant Professor at the University of Leiden, Bart Schermer. It’s a fascinating read best summed up in Schermer’s own words:

From this article we may conclude that in order to combat cheating and crime in virtual worlds, ‘artificial police agents’ may be employed. As of yet, these systems are not very advanced and can be used mainly to assist human beings in governing virtual worlds. However, as we move closer to the vision of strong artificial intelligence, more advanced software agents may be employed to combat crime in virtual worlds. When these intelligent systems arrive we must ensure that the legal basis for their use is codified within the law of criminal procedure.

To date media coverage of law enforcement has been about controlling the spread of real-life legal issues in the virtual sphere. There’s a much wider view that needs to be taken including virtual world-specific legal issues.

2. The ability for an avatar’s mouth / lips to sync with their speech has been something sought for years and there’s some light on the horizon on the Second Life front. Massively’s Tateru Nino has been trawling Second Life’s horrific development database cum bug-tracker to discover lip sync is on the way. I’d be doubtful it’ll deliver anything particularly realistic but it’s at least a start.

A year ago on The Metaverse Journal

We asked if there was more loneliness than community in Second Life.

Interview – Skribe Forti

Skribe Forti is an Australian Second Life resident who’s got an established track record in machinima that we’ve covered previously. Last week we finally caught up with Skribe to talk a little more about the power of machinima.

Lowell: Can you give a potted history of your involvement with Second Life and more broadly your historical online life?

Skribe: I’ve been in SL since Jun 2006 and technically I’ve had a net presence since 93, but I’ve been mucking around on MU*s and BBS since 82-83.

Lowell: Can you also give a brief overview of your involvement with film production?

Skribe: I’ve been making films since I was 8yo. Before that I used to star. Dad was a home-movie buff =). I then worked as kid on some of the local tv productions both in front and behind the camera. That was when we used to make stuff in Perth. I went to uni, did film and writing there, and soon after graduating started my own business.

Lowell: What led to your passion for machinima?

Skribe: The fact that it is the best of both worlds: live-action and animation. You can inspire the performances from your actors like in live-action, as well as tell the range of stories you can in animation. And it is comparatively cheap compared to both.

Lowell: Can you give a basic run through of your creative process when creating a piece?

Skribe: For live action I storyboard like crazy because it’s an easy way to demonstrate to cast and crew what you need. With machinima I rarely storyboard. I find it too limiting. I know what I need from a scene and I like to be able to experiment to find the best way to achieve that. It’s very easy to experiment in machinima. Much harder with live-action or even animation because of the numbers of people – and budgets – involved.

Lowell: Do you work in any other virtual worlds beside Second Life and if you do, which ones?

Skribe: I have, but unfortunately I’m unable to reveal which ones.

Lowell: How do you perceive the role virtual worlds play in your overall life – are they a dominant aspect, a ‘work role’ aspect or just a minor part?

Skribe: Almost purely work, but I occasionally socialise too. I have a great group of virtual friends and enjoy chatting when I’m able.

Lowell: Do you find you come into conflict with other people in-world? And if so, why and how do you deal with it?

Skribe: Not generally. We had a griefer on set once who started hassling the lead actress. I hear he’s still in orbit =).

Lowell: One of our regular questions: three locations in Second Life that you keep coming back to?

Skribe: Conference Island, Alt7 and Greenies.

Lowell: You’ve done quite a bit of work with business – have you met much resistance to the idea of business in virtual worlds from those you approach?

Skribe: Definitely, but there was resistance to the internet initially too. I remember being told back in 94 that nobody would make a cent off the internet. Business is always conservative. It is after all their money. The owners aren’t in it for charity. They want to see hard results ending in fat wads of cash – preferably in their own pockets. What we do in virtual worlds is new and more than a little weird to most so there is bound to be some reticence. But as more genuine success stories emerge, as hard data showing the real benefits are revealed, business will start to embrace VWs. It’s only a matter of time. It’s too valuable a tool.

Lowell: How much of the work you do is coming from Second Life?

Skribe: Most of it. We still do occasional work in other worlds, and we still have clients coming to us for real-world projects, but most of our focus is on Second Life because that is where our client base is.

Lowell: What current projects do you have underway?

Skribe: I have just finished a video tour for a development and media company based in NYC and we’re working on 2 sets of viral videos.

Lowell: What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Skribe: Get monumentally rich. Not die.

Lowell: Any chance of a feature-length machinima?

Skribe: Find someone that is willing to make that sort of investment and a feature-length piece is always a possibility. We have enough stories we want to tell. Finding the funding is always the hard part.

Lowell: Who inspires you in Second Life?

Skribe: My wife. She always finds the best and weirdest stuff.

Lowell: What frustrates you the most about Second Life?

Skribe: The instability. Both with the platform and the management. I can usually deal with the platform problems – it’s new and that is to be expected. It is also better than when I started. The management is a much more difficult problem. There are too many kneejerk reactions to be entirely secure that you aren’t going to wake up in the morning and discover that your business is now banned. While I agree with the Linden Lab decision on gambling, for instance, I found the process unsettling. It came out of nowhere and there’s a small part of my brain that says, ‘it could happen to you’.

Lowell: What are your thoughts on whether there’s an ‘Australian community’ in Second Life?

Skribe: There seems to be but I’m not overly knowledgeable about it.

Lowell: The Telstra presence in Second Life has had a lot of success – why do you think that is?

Skribe: They grok what SL is about. It’s a marketing tool and whoever is the brains behind their project really knows how to make the most of it. The only problem I have with it is the build itself. There’s too much crud and the overall look is hokey. It also has too many breast domes – but maybe that is just me.

Lowell: And ABC Island – what would your critique of it be?

Skribe: No plan. No action. No chance. For a more in-depth critique check out my comments here on The Metaverse Journal or my blog.

Linden Lab put the call out again for Aussie job hunters

A few weeks back Linden Lab asked for Australians interested in production operations positions they have vacant at present. Today they’ve asked again, so if you’re in the hunt for a job it may be worth having a closer look…

SBS: enter the machinima

The island touted for SBS may have been shelved, but they are still steaming ahead with their work within Second Life.

A blog has launched on the SBS site with the focus being on helping people to make their own machinima. Documentary-maker Shelley Matulick (SL: Mixin Pixel) is behind the blog and will provide weekly tips.

It’s certainly a hands-on approach for SBS and if the blog delivers on what it’s promising, it’ll be a useful Australian resource on machinima.

The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Chicago Tribune – Virtual dinner and a movie? Simulated dating ranks grow. “Paula Weisz’s favorite place to take her dates is the Millennium bar, where she can sip a glass of red wine and have a good conversation. She typically goes on one date per week with men she meets online at”

2. The Edmonton Journal (Canada) – Plug ‘n’ play. “Cyber sex isn’t just the late-night pastime of techno-tarts, sex addicts and pedophiles. Today, even the military thinks getting your virtual groove on is a matter of national security, says the creator of, a virtual world where your vibrator meets your USB cable. “We create the technology that allows you to control another person’s vibrator over the Internet,” says Amir Vatan, co-founder of HighJoy Products.”

3. Linux Insider – Not Much Life in China’s Virtual Worlds. “Last November, Procter & Gamble’s Vidal Sassoon launched with much fanfare its first hair salon in China’s virtual world. There was even a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony. However, today the VS salon in HiPiHi, China’s oldest and largest virtual world (a simulated online environment where users adopt identities known as avatars), sits mostly empty save for the occasional visitor.”

4. Los Angeles Times – A Second Life for corporate America. “To save money in these tough times, universities, conference planners and global firms have started holding gatherings for far-flung employees and students in the online world known as Second Life. Sun Microsystems Inc., a Silicon Valley tech company, has only one rule: Employees should show up looking like humans.”

5. Science News – Scientists get a 2nd Life. “To track down neuroscientist Corey Hart, you could stop by his laboratory, located on the second floor of Drexel University’s medical building in Philadelphia. Or, you could visit the lab of Luciftias Neurocam, located in the virtual world of Second Life. Luciftias is Hart’s digital alter ego, or avatar. Like his real-life counterpart, Luciftias tracks the twitches of frogs’ muscles to find clues to the spinal cord’s ability to control movement.”

6. Gamasutra – GFH: Neils Clark On Moving Beyond ‘Game Addiction’. “Following his Gamasutra feature on the subject, writer and researcher Neils Clark spoke at the ongoing Games for Health conference in Baltimore on game addiction. In his talk at the conference, he covered the perceived problems, a run-down on why people might get addicted, and some proactive measures that developers can use to combat addictive behavior in the future.”

7. Reuters / Second Life – EVE Online experiments with virtual democracy. “It can be difficult for the most well-meaning of virtual worlds companies to understand what their customers want. But CCP, the company behind the sci-fi world of EVE Online, thinks they’ve solved the riddle: have users elect their own representatives. Sixty-one candidates are vying for nine spots in open voting on EVE’s website. The top vote getters will become the official representatives of EVE’s player community, and flown to Reykjavik, Iceland to share their thoughts on the game at the company’s headquarters.”

8. World Changing – Gold Farmers. “Gold Farmers are young people who earn their living by playing MMORPG games. They acquire (“farm”) items of value within a game, usually by carrying out in-game actions repeatedly to maximize gains, sometimes by using a program such as a bot or automatic clicker.”

9. Reason Magazine – Virtually Free. “In February, subscribers to the virtual world of Second Life awoke to a surprise: The garish, skyscraper-sized billboards they had learned to tolerate as part of their three-dimensional landscape were about to be vaporized, the site’s creators announced.”

10. Accountancy Age – DO enters Second Life. “BDO Stoy Hayward has launched on internet virtual world Second Life in a bid to open up its services to a broader audience. Its launch of an ‘island’ on the world will enable the firm to holding meetings online, presentations and events for staff and enhance recruitment options by engaging with a broader, international audience.”

Nursing Education in Second Life

Nurses are one of the most active groups of health professionals in Second Life and I regularly get asked by health professionals what use a virtual world like Second Life is in regard to training. The video below answers that question beautifully:

If you’re a nurse in Second Life, tell us what the experience has brought to your practice. Has it improved your skills at all?

Weekend Whimsy

1. Iron Man in Second Life

2. Henry Jenkins in Second Life Talks about Potter Fandom

(this one runs for 51 minutes)

3. Tiny Anatine’s “A day in Second Life”

Virtual worlds: a real life leadership incubator?

The mainstream media cops fairly regular criticism for its sensationalistic coverage of virtual worlds and rightly so in some cases. A very impressive exception to this rule is an article published this week by the Harvard Business Review.

It’s a detailed look at the role gaming worlds like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online play in the development of leadership skills. It’s well worth a read and the authors have a good grasp of their subject.

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