Fishace – in-world environmental education

On a modest plot in Epsilon Orionis, Fishace Pye has set up a backyard waste management system to demonstrate the real-life benefits. Fishace sums up the purpose of his plot:

“Fishace Ecological Engineering is an Australian consultancy specialising in the design of zero waste systems. With climate changes ahead we need to do things in different ways. This system shows how you can treat your waste and get value back from recycling nutrients. The microalgae photobioreactor has just hit the news as one way to soak up CO2 from smoke stacks and then recover biofuels from the algal feedstock. The educational exhibition outlines future nutrient mining technology.


Check it out in-world or go to

Interview: Gary Hazlitt (Gary Hayes) Part 2

We continue our interview with Gary Hazlitt. Part 1 is here.

Lowell: Could you talk a little about Australia’s presence in Second Life?

Gary: I think it is a very interesting time for web 3.0 and especially Australia which is one of the most remote communities in the physical world. I think there is both a strong camaraderie and inventiveness in the psyche of Australians and it bodes very well for their place in the global, virtual, metaversal grid. I created the first major Australian presence in SL with the AFTRS Island Esperance, and then a private island that I share with 3 other Aussies. It has always been a goal to try to create a larger community of connected islands. Originally the BigPond islands were close to ABC and the two above and other educational institutions were going to come into the mix. That will still happen – it is important to have virtual proximity with such a small population and market. A cluster of Australian islands is important as a foundation and seed to learn from each other and build an Australian community and have brand fights at this experimental stage.

Lowell: What are your aims with your company?

Gary: One thing that excites me most about SL (and this is with my LAMP hat on too I suppose) is to bring producers and corporates into the metaverse and develop a range of cutting edge services that cross-over between virtual and real world forms – in real-time so it is truly reality based. I think the potential for emergent and engaging virtuality cross forms is vast. But we also know that it is vital that the Second Life presence for any company adds that little bit extra to attract visitors which is different from anything that currently exists and give them an experience that they will enjoy. There’s nothing worse than spending time and effort to build a world online and then find no-one visits. So we are a company that spends time in-world to understand its sensibility and not a production agency that has just added Second Life to its roster. I liken SL to a foreign country and you need to be able to speak the language.

To be more corporate about our aims, the focus of The Project Factory is to bring established and trusted brands into this innovative world in a way which captures people’s attention and keeps them coming back. Companies in Australia are looking for ways to attract new customers, build loyalty with existing customers and build communities that bring them onto the world stage. With Second Life, we are able to produce brand experiences that attract international audiences and present an innovative message to customers. There are also companies that are keen to use 3D worlds like Second Life for employee training, internal communications, even basic meeting rooms. We are seeing an increase in interest in this sort of development from major companies. The Project Factory is uniquely positioned in the Australian marketplace as it is able to offer local development expertise, as well as relying on our technical and production network in the UK and South Africa. The Project Factory’s key areas of expertise are games builds, interactive storylines, in-world AI robots and events as part of its service to ensure that our visitors have the different experiences and challenges each time they visit.

Lowell: Can you talk about any future projects you have in the pipeline?

Gary: We are currently very busy with planning many new projects with three or four coming in each week. They range from highly corporate at one end to entertainment and game-like at the other. Of course we will be making sure all the projects we have initiated so far can grow and there will be announcements on that very soon.

Lowell: What are some of your favourite places in SL?

Gary: You can of course check my profile to see what are my favourite places – but these are usually a few months out of date. I have also done a sticky post on my JustVirtual blog called top twenty places in SL (admittedly based on a Channel 4 UK list). Oher areas that I go back to a lot:

Really immersive role playing areas:
City of Lost Angels
Midian City

Nice places to hang and dance
Lost Gardens of Apollo

Good recent brand entries
L Word Island
AOL Pointe

Place to play games
Pot Healer Adventure
Games island – footcake, danger zone

and of course recent Australian entrants
ABC Island
The Pond

Lowell: What developments in the SL architecture do you think will occur in coming months?

Gary: Well, regardless of all the anti-hype press and technical moaning I still think LL are still way ahead of many other companies in this space as they have an existing and loyal, persistent community which many others don’t. They still need to move very quickly to a distributed or peer-to-peer server model and begin to scale. I know they are working hard on reducing load on San Francisco and Texas, particularly as most traffic is from outside the US. I’m really looking forward to local Oz servers soon. All of this is being discussed on SL forums. I actually think the open source client will have far less impact than LL moving to a peer-to-peer model, so everyone has small parts of the grid and it becomes much more bit torrent. This actually makes most sense when typical SL users are permanently logged in, I can imagine half a million users all with a half a millionth of the grid becoming the norm combined with a series of distributed main servers that trickle out global updates.

Lowell: What improvements in SL would make your virtual work-life easier?

Gary: Most builders and developers feel limited by the in-world tools. I actually think they make the process much more rapid than it would be if everything was done in Maya or 3DSMax and imported – and I love the collaborative way of working which you don’t get in non-networked, more industry standard tools. But I think a combination of the two is important, particularly to use existing models to start from. When Warda and I were working out the best way to do the Opera House sails out of the scripted in-world building tools (thanks Cadroe Murphy), it would have helped to import many of the existing models – but no import available. From a dynamic perspective it is still tricky to get images from outside ticking into world. Important for events, RSS or up-to-date advertising, so a built in element to the client that uses LibSL to automate sound and image importing. I could go on with a list as long as your virtual arm but those two will do for now.

Lowell: Where can people find out more about your work?

Gary: The Project Factory have a great website and my main media blog has some interesting perspectives on the future.

Interview: Gary Hazlitt (Gary Hayes) Part 1

With the launch of the ABC and Telstra presences in Second Life, Gary Hazlitt (Gary Hayes) has become a well know figure for Australian SL users. He’s managed both projects and built the majority of the content as well. SLOz caught up with Gary to get some insight on the builds done and the ones coming up.

Lowell: Can you describe a little about your background in RL?

Gary: Sure. From an SL perspective I am the Head of MUVE Development at the Project Factory and also the Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Media Production since 2005. Prior to that I have always had positions at the bleeding edge of new service delivery including Senior Development and Producer at BBC New Media for eight years and Interactive Producer in LA during 2004. All the positions have given me a strong grounding in every digital tool there has been, so I won’t list them, and I have found having a range of ‘natural’ skills very useful in SL so my other ‘passion’ areas such as music composer/producer, sound design, professional photography and travel writer have been useful in metaverse development.

Lowell: When did you first get involved with SL and had you been involved with other virtual worlds prior?

Gary: I may be showing my age but I was one of the first to have a personal homepage on the web back in 1994 which had lots of experimental VRML elements and I also linked/joined this to pseudo-3D virtual worlds like Cybertown. In 1995, I joined the BBC as a new media producer as part of a team of 12 at the BBC Multimedia Centre, I did lots of cool projects and worked partly on one called ‘The Mirror’ – six themed VRML virtual worlds that had avatars wandering around talking about BBC videos amongst other things on large screens. A clunky time for virtual worlds but the potential was obvious even then for new cross-over formats. As well as producing many to-air services such as interactive and broadband TV, I worked on several BBC R&D projects (in departments such as Imagineering) looking at artificial life, TV-cross over games and artificial intelligence, many based in shared virtual social networks. I have closely followed the sims revolution, been in and out and back in various MMORPGs and indeed joined SL back in 04 when I was living in Santa Barbara. SL was a quiet place back then and was pretty limited community wise. I rejoined early last year just ahead of the swarm. The Laboratory for Advanced Media Production which I direct also has many projects that utitlise Second Life including Emergence, Inworld and City Games all detailed on the site.

Lowell: Can you give your thoughts about the Telstra and ABC builds – what were the biggest challenges and rewards?

Gary: I can’t talk directly about the thinking behind the Telstra project as you may expect, so will talk about my general approach to 3D immersive social network design and give more detail on the ABC project. The challenge with any build is to make sure the client has prioritised the experience for the user. To not talk about stuff that will be pushed at them (web 1.0) but about what the users should feel and be able to do. It is all about ‘doing’, and doing can take many forms – the most important being ‘creating our own stories’ by socialising in these spaces. So the spaces and specific builds must have character and allow play. Much of the philosophy of my approach for more corporate properties or brands entering into SL for the first time can be found in quite a few posts on my blog. A recent post talks about the L Word and AOL and 13 tips for new entrants.

In terms of what my role was on these projects, for ABC I am credited with direction and build. For the Pond project (as it states on the official press release), I produced and developed it. In fact, I built most of what you see in the Pond – having done an audit the other day I worked out I created 21 000 prims of the 22 800 on the islands, but if you had time you could find that out yourself! I did everything (including terraforming and layout) apart from the Opera House and Bridge because of time and also as they were add ons and partly to decorate the race track – which will be the real draw there, eventually. Both of the recent Oz projects are widely reported as being R&D so the investment and expectation are relatively low. The key for both companies is to get as much learning as possible from these islands, and use that to build on for the good of everyone in Australia.

Back to approach. I always begin by saying SL and any 3D MUVE is a social network so what can we bring that will be attractive to users (new and old) and that will develop a community and a sense of belonging. Once you have tha,t any advertising, product or media that you want them to watch will be part of the producer/audience agreement – much the same as ads are on TV – “you give me a good time, I will be happy with your ads”. It is great to see both spaces slowly becoming a ‘home’ type destination for users, but there is a long way to go yet. The old ‘build it and they will come’ needs a good dose of ‘and be around when they do, with lots of events and friendly chat’, so it has been interesting to see how each company has handled its ‘potential’ community.

I advise on the approaches but it does require a people resource to follow through and that is not easy for some companies – but this is not a website you create and leave, so new entrants need to think carefully about on-going community management. I think SLOz has reported a good deal on this issue too. Another issue that is often overlooked, and a challenge for incumbant media companies, is the rights issue. You often hear people say “this and this club are way more popular than here” and the real reason for that is that the clubs and various other big social areas are streaming internet radio or linking to full length ‘illegal’ movies in-world without any recourse to the rights holders. In some cases they are charging inworld for the privilege. Well known media companies cannot do this and have to negotiate rights out of respect for the creators of movies and music but also to not be sued by them. The creators are unlikely to sue the owner of Club X for example as they know it is not worth their while. But moving on.

To make the spaces feel like ‘home’ you need to build depth and an inherent organic, naturalistic feel to the place, which is the thing I get most satisfaction from – creating a space you can explore and always find something new. So it is great to see couples and groups wandering (flying) around areas that don’t necessarily have ‘stuff to see’ but have an atmosphere. It creates a loyalty to the brand that put it there. Also it is about creating personality, environments that have character. I am always surprised at many other corporate builds that are of cities, or whole town centres – they are great to visit once or twice, but you don’t really feel like you could hangout there or call home, I find them rather cold. With ABC particularly, the small team agreed on general ‘naturalistic’ principles and then layered on the other themes such as the alien thing, hidden clubs, odd Australiana structures, part outback, part sci-fi and so on. It was exciting watching this come together. With the ABC project we also wanted to leave breathing space for the community, so we made sure it wasn’t overbuilt – and that comes back to other brands who cover the land with concrete jungles. Many spaces require specific look and feel and function, big dance clubs, meeting areas with screens and so on – these are important too for the education and social aspect, but I have been lucky in both ABC and BigPond to be able to go beyond that in may ways. The real reward for me is watching users ‘be’ in these spaces, learning from what was intended to how they are being used. For instance, the Billabong Bar I knew would be a draw and I worked hard to make that ‘organic’ and it now has as much traffic (albeit early low numbers) as the bridge and opera house combined. To get numbers as high as some of the main dance or established sims (Lost Gardens of Apollo springs to mind) does require an iterative response to how the areas are being used. I hope this will happen.

    Part 2 – Australians in SL, recommended spots in SL for new users and future projects.

Chez Xay

The Chez Xay Tropical Island Resort covers all of Tamita Island, Irukandji (a type of jellyfish native to North Queensland). I stumbled across Chez Xay when doing a search of classifieds using the term ‘Australian’. In Xay Tomesen’s own words:

“The resort is gay owned, straight friendly, with a focus on harmony and nature. Beyond the main beach and shops, Tamita Island is a maze of deep ravines, untouched plains, walking tracks, and rainforests.

Our residents are few and enjoy a quiet lifestyle. Most of the island’s visitors come to see its attractions, including a large RL art gallery, house and land rentals, and one of the largest menswear stores in SL, featuring original Australian designs.

The resort also houses the SL corporate head office of Body Sync, a Brisbane based chain of beauty salons, who use our facilities for staff training and conferences.”

Check it out in-world.

Machinima – Oz Style

Machinima in SL can be a very hit and miss affair, but its appeal continues to grow. One reason for the growth is the use of machinima by companies to promote their in-world presences. Australia has its own specialist machinima creator in Skribe Forti.

A veteran of nearly twenty years working in the Australian film and television industries, Skribe now spends much of his time in Second Life making videos there.

“There’s so much potential for video in Second Life, both as a means of artistic expression, but also corporate promotion. We already get land owners piping movies into their sims. There’s no reason why that can’t be used to show whatever the owner wants – whether it’s the features of a new product, publicising an event or just providing a reason to hang around. There are a million active residents spending two million bucks a day. If you’re on the sell, you’ve gotta have a piece of that. And that’s where we come in.”

Forti’s initial impressions of Second Life were less than complimentary.

“It looked to me as though it was just IRC with funky graphics – a video game without a purpose. My initial impressions were wrong. It’s like life. You make your own purpose. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Guitar Lessons Anyone?

Nickeax runs a small Australian music enterprise in SL called Guitars Australia.

A visit to the SL store will enable any young or young at heart rocker to outfit themselves with a variety of Marshall amps and Gibson Explorer Mark II style guitars. The Marshall pack includes a Marshall JCM800 100w head and 2 Marshall JCM 1960 cabinets.

Once kitted out you can wander over to the Guitar Australia website to start your education in the world of guitar playing. And, of course no guitar player can go without the obligatory Stairway to Heaven treatment, which is found in the “classic solos explored” section of the website.

Another plus is it should enable a less ear assaulting barrage compared to a real life garage session. If only Nickeax sold drum kits for those of us that can’t read music!

Logan Linden Interview – Part 3

We continue our interview with Logan Linden. Part 1 is here. and Part 2 is here.

Lowell:If there were no technological barriers, what SL feature would you like to introduce tomorrow?

Chris: What I’d like to introduce the community will be finding out about in the not too distant future.. so I best not comment on it (laughs). (This is likely to have been the voice integration announcement made this week – Ed.)

Lowell: If you had to show a new user around SL, what would be three essential spots to see after Orientation Island?

Chris: That’s a good question. When I do show people around I show them to areas that I don’t go to when I’m not showing people around. I try to show them areas that give a quick overview of the possibilities. I really enjoy the Lost Gardens of Apollo, if you can get on that island during peak times because it’s always packed full of people. It’s beautiful and when you show people that it blows them away.

Then I usually take them to one of the educational areas because that’s an exciting area in Second Life. I usually go to the Space Flight Museum, I’ll fly around there and show people the globe that’s there, play the movie on there, that always excites people. Will I always get excited anyway (laughs). The reach that the education side of Second Life has is just incredible.

And then, I like to go and search for a live event and go through the whole ‘the performer there is a live performer’, they’re streaming the music up and we’re engaged with a performance with people from all over the world. There, we’ll see someone at the performance and if the person I’m showing likes something they’re wearing we’ll go up and speak to that person, ask them where they bought it then I’ll show them the shopping side. By that stage, if that haven’t seen Second Life before they’ll take some time to have a go themselves.

Lowell: Speaking of live events, I know there’s a large Australian one happening in March involving You Am I, Beasts of Bourbon, Youth Group and more.

Chris: That’s great! I’m all about Australia getting more heavily into Second Life. I’ve told a lot of people here that Australia’s going to be moving up the ranks.

Lowell: What excites you most about the next year or so with Second Life and Linden Lab?

Chris: The Open Source area was obviously a big announcement for us and I’m excited to see what comes out of that. Making predictions on what will come out of it – I wouldn’t have a clue. We’re at a point where we putting in a lot of capabilities for other people to be able to build up their own communities in Second Life. And not from the viewpoint of having to register through us and go through our Orientation Island, but being able to register people off their own websites, take people through their own Orientation Island. That, I’m really excited about. For someone to be able to build up their own community and have full control over how they educate their community.

Lowell: Is that on offer now?

Chris: It is on offer now but we’ll be enhancing that a lot in the near future.

Lowell: What are the biggest challenges in the next year for you and for Second Life?

Chris: We want to be able to keep all the community happy and we’re doing everything we can to do that. We’re going through a massive growth period and growing a company is a big challenge.

Lowell: One last question – what do you miss most about not living in Australia at present?

Chris: Probably the weather. I’m in California but the weather isn’t as good as Australia (laughs). As much as we’ve seen the movies and watched Baywatch, we’ve definitely got better beaches in Australia!

Logan Linden Interview – Part 2

We continue our interview with Logan Linden. Part 1 is here.

Lowell: I know the metrics you released were greeted with a lot of interest as they at least gave a rough indication of the number of active Australian users..

Chris: That’s good. The Australian population is there, it’s relatively healthy. Being the only Australian working in the office here in San Francisco, there’s a strong side of me that does anything to comment on the Australian numbers.

Lowell:The estimates I’ve come up with based on your data puts the active population of Australian users at around 3000

Chris:Yeah, it’s hard to say. With Second Life, the way it works, there’s several types of Second Life residents. There’s residents that spend a lot of time in Second Life, which could mean going in every day. Then there’s residents that may come in once a month, once every two months. They see something they want to check out, want to experience, they go in at that point. The resident populations as far as active down to individual countries…it’s based on the residents who are logging in every day or week.

We’re looking to release externally more information on that, to be able to break that out a lot more efficiently for everyone to be able to look at. We’ve got that information here, it just goes through the process of saying ‘ok, let’s get that information into a situation where we can publish it externally, do we have the manpower to continually publish it’, and then we’ll send it out there. Yeah, it’s a nice Australian population.

Lowell: I think some people and businesses in particular, are shocked at how low the population is.

Chris: The thing is about corporations going into Second Life – if you want to grow a presence in Second Life and if you want people to come back to something you’ve built in Second Life, you’ve got to think about building up a community. And to build up that community you need to have something there that’s interesting for people to come back to, the ability to be able to contact those individuals. Whether it’s setting up a group that allows you to contact people interested in things you are having on your space or it’s making people go out to your external website and find out about events you might be holding, and in doing that it helps to pick up the population.

Lowell:What do you enjoy most about your role?

Chris: It’s having anything to do with Second Life. It’s really exciting, it makes me feel that everything I’ve done before here is boring where at the time I thought I was doing some really exciting things. This virtual world I believe is in a very early stage. I think that everyone who’s getting involved in it is going to be contributing to where Second Life goes, whether you work for Linden Lab or your just in the Second Life community. It’s the community that drives Second Life, just being involved is exciting and seeing where it goes.

Lowell:What do you enjoy least about your role?

Chris: That’s a tough question (pause). I don’t really know. Previously where I’ve worked at other corporations there’s a huge list of things I could dislike about other roles that I’ve done. I don’t seem to have those problems, there’s nothing really (laughs). People reading that are going to think ‘that’s a pretty crap answer’.

Lowell:At least you didn’t say the only issue was you couldn’t work 24 hours a day.

Chris:Even though there’s some residents that’d like us to work 24 hours a day, unfortunately we can’t (laughs). You know, I enjoy it all. We do a lot of hard work, everyone here is working hard. I’ve worked in companies where working really hard can be a negative to their work, but everyone is working hard and seems to be enjoying it.

Lowell:That leads nicely to the next question. Second Life is obviously undergoing huge growth in tandem with a frantic
development schedule for Linden Labs – does your workplace have the atmosphere of a warship or is it a little more laid back than

Chris: It doesn’t feel like a warship and it’s not laid back. Our working environment is very different to other environments I’ve worked in – it’s a very open plan office. I know that term is used a lot in modern corporations but at Linden Lab we’re putting that into practice. What that means is that you are very responsible for everything that you work on. Everyone has the ability to see what you’re working on, to comment on what you’re working on and provide feedback. When people first join Linden Lab that’s something that they’ve never experienced before, and it can take awhile to get used to.

What that gives us is the ability to move very quickly as a company. As we’re going through this very large growth spurt, we can have everyone get involved. Because the Second Life platform, being such a complex platform, there’s so many areas that we can be working on, and we all are. We keep a clear head on what we need to do and we do it. There are companies in the past that have seen exciting growth like we’ve had and have lost track of what they’re doing. We know exactly what we are doing and what we need to do.

Lowell: So do you have a fairly standard organisational structure?

Chris: Yeah we do. The CEO, Philip Rosedale is the driver behind Second Life and he’s the driver behind how we work. He sits in a pod himself. We’re all in open plan pods and he sits in one on the main floor, he actually sits right behind me. Anyone can come up and talk to him, so yes he’s the CEO but he very much works how he preaches.

    Part 3 coming soon – challenges for SL, recommended spots in SL for new users and upcoming SL developments

Logan Linden Interview – Part 1

SLOz had the opportunity in the past few days to have a chat via Skype with Logan Linden aka Chris Collins, expatriate Aussie and Analyst for Linden Lab. Logan was very forthcoming on a range of topics so we’ll publish the interview in three parts in the coming week.

    Part 1

Lowell: Can you tell me a little about yourself Chris?

Chris: I was born in Sydney, had ten years there then moved to Perth – I call Perth home. I went to the University of Western Australia, started working in Perth then worked in Sydney for awhile. I worked there consulting for an accounting firm. I then moved to London for three and a half years, did the Australian thing.

I ran a CRM software consulting company then I started a job search engine in the UK. I launched that over in San Francisco. We got to a point where we weren’t progressing as quickly as we wanted to, so we decided to pull the pin on that. I then briefly set up operations for another technology company and started to look around for other work. I wanted to work at a company that had a really exciting product, that had smart people, had a smart management team and came across Linden Lab.

Lowell: When did you first start with Linden?

Chris: I started beginning of June 2006. It was just before everything got really crazy.

Lowell: What’s your role there?

Chris: I’m the analyst here, so with all the charts that I look at – in June / July when everything really started to pick up, it was obvious 2006 was a really big year for us. When we went to free basic accounts, the growth really started to happen. Being the analyst is a really exciting position. I don’t think I could be an analyst in any other company or industry compared to what we’re doing here – the data we analyse is very exciting and there’s so many different ways you can look at it. We’re in an interesting position in that everything the company does is in Second Life and for us to get any exposure to that we need to be able to look at the data, to be able to analyse and break it down into hundreds of different reports depending on the individual who’s looking at it. They need to be able to work out what needs to be done to enhance areas, from an economic standpoint through to a simulator standpoint. I’m the one they all come to to be able to get all that.

Lowell: And are you it as far as resources go?

Chris: I’m in the Data Warehouse team, there’s two of us. The other guy I work with does a lot of the Warehouse engineering. We’re expanding our team, another two analysts are joining in March. At Linden Lab we’re going through a phase where we need to find staff. We need to find a lot of senior staff in all areas. That should be of interest to any of your readers – we’re looking for people in all areas. It’s easy to be able to come and work in the US.

Lowell: So it’s sounds like you’re going to have a real Decision Support setup there in the near future?

Chris: Yeah, which’ll be great. A couple of weeks ago we released a whole lot more information out to the community. We’re going through a phase this year where we hope to put more and more data out for the community to look at and analyse for themselves. For business owners in Second Life to get more access to information. We’re going through a big phase with that and we need more people to help speed that process up.

    Part 2 in the coming week – Australian specific data, building a community and working at Linden Lab.

More Australian Clothing

Wolfie Rankin, owner of the Kookaburra pub on the Eragon island, has launched a range of t-shirts.

In Wolfie’s own words:

“I did some Rocky Horror ones, and may do more if people request the other characters.

‘Strewth Mate’ was one of my first, and most popular – a black shirt with text based on the 80s “Choose Life”
shirts was the inspiration there.

‘Dead Dingos…’ is a phrase that even the Americans understand and find funny, so I released that one on a shirt also.

There’s a few funny SL based ones also, such as ‘Object: Hello, Avatar’ which all the scripters would recognise.

I also have ‘The sit ball made me do it’ which is based on the old one about the devil.

Rather too often, Newbies would leave plain cubes around the sim, and that’s where I devised the term ‘Noob Cube’. The concept looked like a good idea for a shirt, and has a nice branded feel about it, currently there are three versions, but there will be more later.

While having something to eat, I had this idea about Linden Labs, and thought that changing the B to a D might work, it sounds like a gang, or some special
police division.

That’s about it.


Graham Sabre covered a footy jumper shop yesterday and it’s becoming apparent that the Australian identity is well and truly being established in a ‘fashion’ sense.

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