Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. Leading Second Life broadcaster Treet TV (formerly SLCN) has expanded its web presence by creating Treet Business. Two new business shows are on the way to complement the current lineup.

The company has certainly come a long way since its 2007 launch. I’m looking forward to appearing on Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe next week to talk about internet filtering.

2. Kzero have some interesting data on the average age of Habbo users by country. Australia is middle of road with an average age of a little over 15 years old. They also have an interesting post on Miss Bimbo, another teen-focused virtual world.

3. A reminder for males aged 18 and over: a Deakin University researcher needs your input for a study on body image in both the real and virtual environment.

4. Linden Lab have employed a Conversation Manager. Wallace Linden has received quite a welcome in the comments on his introductory post, with plenty of discussion on his previous life writing for the Second Life Herald (now Alphaville Herald).

5. Second Life residents are organising a range if fundraising events for the Haiti disaster, with the most comprehensive list found at New World Notes. If any Australians are planning events in any of the platforms around, please let us know and we’ll do what we can to promote it.

Beautiful Kate – DVD and USA screening

Just a quick heads-up that Beautiful Kate as of today is available locally (PAL version) on DVD.

For those in the United States, the film is also showing this coming weekend at the Palm Spring International Film Festival. Hopefully that will lead to some wider screenings throughout the US.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. Forterra have fallen upon hard times, laying off around half their workforce, according to an email we’ve received and as reported here. It’s a shame to see any company lose so many employees – her’s hoping Forterra are able to continue their work ongoing.

2. The dynamos at Kzero have updated a couple of their forecast charts. Active virtual worlds users is one of the most interesting ones:

3. A prim has been rezzed at the highest ever altitude in Second Life – here’s the proof.

4. The first machinima to be presented to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been produced by Pooky Amsterdam. It was produced for Alissa Moreno, who performs her song ‘Every Day’. Have a look for yourself:

5. The University of Western Australia’s Second Life activities continue to expand, with a machinima competition announced:

WHAT: MachinimUWA : The UWA Machinima Challenge

WHEN: Submissions are open 18th December 2009 – 31st January 2010
All entries will be displayed on the University of Western Australia (UWA) Second Life Blog.

Winners will be announced during a ceremony in February

WHERE: In front of Winthrop Tower (Main SIM of the UWA presence) & starting point of all Machinima

THEME: Architecture, Teaching, Research & Arts on the UWA sims

Create a Machinima between 2 and 5 minutes in length that captures the 4 main elements thats make up the heart of the University of Western Australia SIMS. These elements are the RL architecture, the teaching, the research and the arts. The purpose would be to show that UWA’s presence in SL is comprehensive and covering all these areas, creating true bridges between SL & RL for prospective students, current students, staff, alumni & the community (this is the snapshot – more details below). Note that there are 3 SIMS making up the UWA presence, namely UWA, Uni of WA & WASP Land, and this challenge covers all 3.

Method of Entry:
* Load the Machinima anywhere, and provide the link to both Jayjay Zifanwe & White Lebed (co-hosts of MachinimUWA)

Closing Date:
* Midnight 31st January 2010 (winners annouced in Mid-Feb 2010)

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

virtualtreeline1. Aussie Second Life resident Juanita Deharo is part of a new art project called Virtual Treeline, with an associated blog.

2. The Chinese government are further expanding their control of virtual worlds, with social games the latest target according to TechCrunch.

3. Earlier this year we covered PIVOTE, which was being used to undertake paramedic training in Second Life. The platform has now won the Times Higher Education award for Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year.

4. Novicraft, a HR and training-focused virtual environment, now has a blog devoted to its further development.

5. Linden Lab have announced that the beta of Linden Homes is open. They’ve also started promoting SL Pro, an in-world conference for content creators coming up in February.

6. This paper on gender roles in MMOs is well worth a read. The abstract:

Several hypotheses regarding the importance of gender and relationships were tested by combining a large survey dataset with unobtrusive behavioral data from 1 year of play. Consistent with expectations, males played for achievement-oriented reasons and were more aggressive, especially within romantic relationships where both partners played. Female players in such relationships had higher general happiness than their male counterparts. Contrary to stereotypes and current hypotheses, it was the female players who played the most. Female players were also healthier than male players or females in the general population. The findings have implications for gender theory and communication-oriented methods in games and online research—most notably for the use of self-reported time spent, which was systematically incorrect and different by gender.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

copenhagen-sl-sml1. As we’ve covered previously, there’s an enormous amount of activity going on in Second Life. There’s regular presentations as well as streaming of parts of the real-world COP15 event. Here’s where to check it out for yourself.

2. The Australia Council initiative, The Australian Centre of Virtual Art, has put a call-out for artists to participate in its 2010 virtual art lab. There will be a three-day intensive program in Melbourne for up to 10 Australian artists, with the remainder run virtually for the next 6-9 months. ACVA emphasise that: “SL artists are welcome, but we’re encouraging anyone working with networked art to apply”. Here’s where to do so.

3. Twinity has launched virtual London this week. If you have the Twinity application (still Windows only at this stage), you can check out London here.

4. Want some Christmas entertainment with a twist in Second Life?

Does your Christmas look less like Norman Rockwell and more like Norman Bates? Does your family put the “Diss” in “Dysfunctional”? Does your Uncle Fred use the Andy Williams’ Christmas Albums for target practice? Well, welcome home Buckaroo! The actors of the Avatar Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) invite you to “The Real Christmas Story”, starring Y.A.D.F. (your average dysfunctional family). These original Christmas stories will premiere on Friday, December 11, at 5 pm pst at the Dove Theater. Two other performances will be presented on Saturday, December 12 at 3 pm pst, and Sunday, December 13 at 2 pm pst.

Written by three members of the A.R.T., “The Real Christmas Story” presents three views of the pain and pleasure of the holiday season. Sodovan Torok, Kayden Oconnell and Rowan Shamroy have googled their internal computers and found stories that embrace the past, endure the present and anticipate the future. Scrooge may have survived the spirits, but Tiny Tim might need counseling after spending time with these ghosts.

5. Linden Lab have an interesting post on their blog outlining some of the emerging virtual worlds courses available at some universities and colleges.

‘Alter Ego’ finally hits the small screen

Alter Ego Poster SmallIt’s coming up to a year since Alter Ego was being completed, and finally SBS have committed to a screening date. It’s showing next Monday, 14th December at 11.25pm. More on the screening time later, but first:

The Mini-Review

I had the opportunity to watch Alter Ego a few months back. Directed by Shelley Matulick, this documentary takes a very close look at Second Life from the perspective of four people. Three of them are Australian, the other from the United States. All have very different stories but their commonality is the role Second Life has played in bringing them closer to other people. I think there’ll be some very different reactions to the portrayal of the subjects. It’s fair to say each have had significant challenges in their lives, with Second Life being a central activity for each.

There are a few aspects of the story that could easily be used by virtual worlds detractors who speak in terms of “get a real life” – that would totally miss the point as what this documentary shows in a stark way is the mixed bag of opportunities and challenges virtual environments present. Overall, Alter Ego is an engaging, well-made documentary that firmly illustrates the role virtual worlds are playing in modern life. Veteran Second Life residents will find areas to criticise – it’s far from a full picture painted, but like any powerful documentary it’s the power of individual stories that can make the difference and Alter Ego certainly achieves that.

Although SBS deserve some kudos for screening Alter Ego, I can’t for the life of me understand why it was relegated to late night just before Christmas. This is a quality Australian documentary that has appeal well beyond those who are involved with Second Life – surely a repeat of Inspector Rex could have made way for a documentary?

Wolfie’s perspective

Over the past three years I’ve gotten to know one of the documentary subjects, Wolfie Rankin. One of the first things I did after watching Alter Ego was to contact Wolfie and ask for his thoughts on the documentary experience, which you can read below:

I had no idea what I was in for, I thought a crew would come around and Shelley would interview me a bit and that’d be it, but it took a lot longer than I realised. Shelley would drop in now and then just to record me on voice, using a digital recorder… and then later she bought the crew. I think they were here about eight or more times, gathering bits and pieces.

The interesting thing for the technically minded was that no tapes were used, everything either went to hard drive or flash card, The High Definition camera which was used had two large flash cards in which it recorded about 20 minutes of footage which was then dumped to a laptop with a 1TB hard drive hanging off of it.

My house was an absolute mess, well I live alone, so if my house gets a bit messy, it doesn’t matter. So I cleaned up like mad and threw any excess stuff into the spare room and closed the door. What I didn’t realise was they’d bring a truck load of stuff, lighting and cables which had to go somewhere and ended up in the spare room too.

I hadn’t cleaned my bedroom or the bathroom either, so guess where they wanted to film, good grief. Oh yes, and the garden, which had been horribly neglected.

I used to be a keen gardener, but my parents were living with me then so we all had our own jobs to do, but now I live alone I find I have very little time for everything, and as everyone knows, I spend a long time each day on the computer. I’m thankful for Katie, my dog, who insists on about three daily walks or I wouldn’t get out quite as often.

My advice to anyone who might find themselves doing a doco, clean clean clean, inside and out. Although the funny thing was that all the scenes showing my house were mostly cut out. Marko, who was in the kitchen, cooking… in his rat suit, as you can see on Youtube. I watched the tape back and saw a kitchen which hadn’t been that clean for years. I have been trying to maintain that ever since.

Marko really wishes he could do a sort of kids cooking show, and I think it’d be great to see him do this, though how he manages to do anything much in that suit, I don’t know.

In another scene which didn’t make it (you can view it on YouTube here), Marko and I went to the local deli. I loved that, it was a really funny experience. Marko got into his rat suit “Rattus”, and then we all walked out into the street, Marko as Rattus, Shelley, Bart (The sound guy), Zach (our Cameraman) and myself… and got into Shelley’s not so roomy car, with Marko in the front passenger seat. If he’d been driving, that would have looked even funnier. Shelley drove, and us three guys were cramped up in the back with all the equipment. We got to the deli about five minutes later and all piled out, then Marko and I went to the deli and went through a routine where we’d buy cheese (of course) and other items which we’d take home and eat while talking about furries and so on later that night. Marko would point at various cheeses and I’d buy them, he asked me to get blue vein, and the strange thing was he didn’t actually like it, I asked him why he wanted it, and he said Rattus wanted it, not him. How do you respond to that logic?

Marko thought Bart looked cute, but he doesn’t want anyone to know so you’d better leave this bit out. 😉 There’s a nice scene in the deli of Rattus being stroked by Bart, but then Shelley hugged him and I was walking around the shops holding Rattus’ hand. I remember something about a woman gently telling Rattus to behave and be a good boy, and Rattus nodding. There was something really warm about that, a shame we didn’t get that on tape, it was beautiful.

Rattus also went into the Bakers Delight a few doors down from the deli, and hugged all the girls who were working there, it’s interesting to see the effect of a fursuit on people, many don’t look, they feel shy or embarrassed, but others love it, and I’m talking about grown people, kids are generally really keen on the idea, but the adults who have this wonderful positive response to it, it’s a lovely thing to see.

Last year I had no heater, and we were filming during winter. The house was frozen, and the doors were usually wide open because the crew kept coming in and going out a lot. So I was usually in a beanie and coat, and shelley whipped my beanie off before each scene which explains the wayward hair 🙂

Shelley picked Katie and I up to film a scene in the forest, she lives up near where Puffing Billy is and drove all the way to Footscray to pick us up. We got to her home, and what amazed me was her driveway is almost vertical, the steepest driveway I’ve ever seen… anyway, Katie and I went to this place in the forest which Shelley thought looked like a European pine forest. Well we were planning the shot when Katie stuck her nose into the dead pine needles and pulled out this hideous lump of meaty something. I know that baits are used up there so I feared the worst, even if it wasn’t a “proper” bait, it could have been left by one of those nuts who hate dogs and want to poison them, so we raced to the vet with Katie, and she was looked at and was fine, but she’d scared all of us. Jamie who composed the music for the doco was driving and we were almost hit by another car on the way, and Shelleys little boy was hot and upset. So we didn’t end up with any film at all that day which was a real shame.

The forest scene was difficult, I don’t have the fastest connection, and that sim lagged like mad. I couldn’t walk anywhere, and Shelley had to TP me to her most of the time. It’s a wonder she got the footage that she did. The video of me howling was added to the scene digitally later on.

It was suggested that we talk about sex, which I think was appropriate, but I suggested that if we must show genitalia that we show the furry stuff, because there have been other docos where human ones were mentioned, so perhaps we should try this to be different. But the funny thing was that because we had to compress things down and have one thing lead neatly into another, the film kind of gave the impression that I hang out at furry penis vendors, hoping to meet newbies and take them to strange parties in the forest, which was supposedly my Rezday.

It was a bit of a shame that I couldn’t show the kind of rezday I would normally have, a party with friends at the Kookaburra pub, with friends like Kath and Ryu, Simon, Gumby, Vermus, Quadrapop and Lowell, of course… and the performers we usually have, like Komuso and Jaggpro, but it was thought that the forest would be more visually pleasing, which it is.

We wanted a lot more people in the shots but those who we were after were usually offline when Shelley was filming, which we found really frustrating.

I didn’t like the last scene in the doco, I think what I said should have been edited better than that, and I told Shelley. I don’t know if the version which goes to air will still be the same, but I hope they can change it. While trying to explain how I felt, I found myself flip-flopping with ideas which sounded really weird and confusing, but the visuals on that final scene are really beautiful. so just absorb the music and visuals and mentally filter my voice out, please!

What I did was just kind of waffle on about ideas that popped into my head, knowing they’d be edited later, or hoping may have been a better word. I don’t think I do a good job explaining myself when there’s a mic or camera in front of me, I feel that if I can sit and write, then I am more likely to get the idea across much better… but I gave it a go.

I thought they did a really good job on the Second Life visuals, they were almost as good as what we saw in the CSI episode earlier in the year.

One of my favourite scenes in the doco is the one where Alf was laying down with his keyboard on his lap and his LCD screen hanging from an angle, He’d drilled a hole in it and tied a bit of string through it, unbelievable!

Marko is my very dear friend, who I met online around 1996 I think, and we’ve been the best of friends ever since. And he’s been here for me whenever anything bad happened, he’d come to see me, and I’m very very grateful for that, we’re soulmates, I’m sure. We met on a group he’d set up called Ozfurry, which is still around but Marko has gone onto other things.

Marko would like to do a serious doco on the furry culture, and I think he’d be the perfect one for it. He knows a lot about the scene, the people and has travelled to the US a number of times to see friends and visit furcons.

Shelley, our director, is this wonderful, very good looking, intelligent woman, who aims to produce more docos in future, under her own steam. She’s studying more about film production at Swinbourne uni at the moment. She told me that she doesn’t want to be in front of the camera, she mostly wants the people in her films to tell their own story, which I think is fine, but I’m trying to pursuade her to go out the front and be in the film too, I think she’d so a fine job of it.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

uwa-dustydiorama 1. The University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life continues its dynamism with the ongoing 3D Art & Design Challenge. The picture to the left is an amazing miniature diorama with 15 events going on. It’s something you need to see for yourself to appreciate, so take the time if you have it.

2. Singapore-based are offering those moving to Berlin the option of a pre-arrival tour in Twinity‘s replica:

“From a home or office computer, expats and their families can download a free guide, meet at a personal guided tour and get an idea of the layout of the city, the distances involved and the amenities in the new location before they arrive. With Twinity expats can become acquainted with local networking groups and community meet-ups prior to arrival.”

3. Applications for the 2010 Linden Prize are now open. The US $10000 prize will be awarded to the person who is judged to have done:

– Work in Second Life that also achieves tangible, compelling results outside of Second Life.
– Distinctive, original work using Second Life that clearly demonstrates high quality, execution, function, aesthetics and technical sophistication.
– Work that has the capacity for inspiring and influencing future development, knowledge, creativity, and collaboration both inside and outside of Second Life.

4. Mario Gerosa is putting together a book on virtual worlds memorabilia. If you have something you’d like to share a picture of, you can send it to

Action figures, invitations for exhibitions, books, brochures, press kits, works of art made in real life and inspired by virtual worlds, comics, conference pass, dvd, cd, posters, business cards, etc.

Here are some examples:

– The invitation by Dior for the jewels collections in SL
– The issue of Business Week with Anshe Chung on the cover
– The T shirt made for the anniversari of Parioli in SL
– The World of Warcraft action figures
– A famous avatar business card

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

warcraft_deadspider 1. The announcement of Second Life Enterprise has certainly sparked some discussion. There’s some interesting debate here and some barely amusing coverage here – surely the ‘flying penises’ anecdote has been flogged to death a few dozen times by now?

Finally, here’s a great example of how the standalone offering is already being used (although it could just as easily have been done on the main Second Life grid).

2. World of Warcraft continues its work on extracting as much money out of players as possible. fatfoogoo argues it’s the next step toward microtransactions in the MMO. I’ve already had one guild member fork out US $10 for Lil’ K.T.

3. UK-based Second Life resident Tyche Shepherd does some amazing work crunching data over at her Grid Survey site. On the SL Universe forums a few weeks back, she posted some interesting information about the level of private ownership of mainlaind sims in Second Life. 70% is privately owned, the rest by Linden Lab.

4. Lost amongst the clamour around Second Life Enterprise, Linden Lab have released Q3 economy statistics. More than a billion hours have now been clocked up in-world by Second Life residents and Australia continues to be a significant player in terms of user-to-user transactions and hours spent. All the details here.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds


1. Virtual London is coming soon to Twinity and they’re asking for people to apply to create some innovative spaces. There’s 200 Euros in prize money up for grabs plus your own space in Twinity. All the details here

2. Volume 2, No. 3 of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research is out. The theme of the issue is Technology, Economy and Standards.

3. If you want a comprehensive summary on accessibility and virtual worlds, then you can’t go past this post by’s KerryJ.

4. Another study has been published on the link between gaming and violence, and not surprisingly the results aren’t black and white.

5. The US Government is revising their National Educational Technology Plan. Anyone interested in having a say should head to ISTE Island in Second Life on the 5th November at 6pm SL time (Midday AEDT).

The full details:

The federal government of the United States of America has assembled an 18 person team to update and revise the National Education Technology Plan. Their report deadline is November 11, 2009. There will be a community meeting in Second Life for educational technology stakeholders to provide input into the planning process. Currently, we expect that a representative of the national team will be present as an observer at the SL event.

The event coordinator is Perplexity Peccable (RL: Patricia F. Anderson, Perplexity is the University of Michigan Emerging Technologies Librarian for the Health Sciences, and the community manager for Wolverine Island in SL. Contact Perplexity for more information or to volunteer support or services for this event.

Information on prior versions of the plan is available here.

Information on the current planning process is available here,

The team is seeking input from the public. You can join the conversation on their website here.

“If you had five minutes to talk with President Obama about educational technology, what would you say?”

The key topic discussion points are these.

* Learning: Providing unprecedented access to high-quality learning experiences.
* Assessment: Measuring what really matters and providing the information that enables continuous improvement at all levels of the education system.
* Teaching: New ways to support those who support learning.
* Productivity: Redesigning systems and processes to free up education system resources to support learning.”

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

habbo-oct2009 1. Teen virtual world Habbo Hotel have teamed up with MTV International to bring the European MTV Awards vibe to Habbo. Users can vote in-world for the awards as well as get involved in some competitions.

2. Caleb Booker has created a great wish list of features that would make a truly successful 3D platform. Lots of stuff I totally agree with, although I disagree that interoperability is a red herring – the walled environments are definitely keeping people from investing from discussions I have. That said, getting some of the more basic things right would certainly help.

3. Jezebel takes a baseball bat to marketers who don’t seem to get the fact that female gamers aren’t one definable demographic.

4. Linden Lab have announced an update to the Second Life viewer: 1.23.5. It’s essentially a security update:

Residents using the Official and Release Candidate versions of the 1.23.4 Viewer are required to update to version 1.23.5. Those of you still using version 1.22.11 will be offered version 1.23.5 as an optional update. If you choose to remain on 1.22.11, you may notice changes in the way notecard editing behaves. If you use a viewer not created by Linden Lab, you may also see changes in the way notecard editing behaves. To avoid any potential confusion caused by these behavioral changes, we strongly recommend that you immediately update to the new 1.23.5 Second Life Viewer.

Confused yet? If you like your Second Life viewer to be non-Linden Lab, then the Imprudence viewer has also had an update.

5. Who’d a thunk it: using virtual environments for meetings and/or other collaboration opportunities is effective from both a financial and productivity viewpoint.

6. Over at sister-site Metaverse Health, we discuss informed consent for medical procedures and the use of Second Life, which is the substantive topic of an interview on today’s Radio National Future Tense episode. There’s also a brief interview with yours truly on how Second Life has continued to be a success in spite of media coverage stating the contrary.

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