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.

Realising a virtual worlds industry in Australia

Christian Salles, Olivier Lamirault, Serge Soudoplatoff, Jean Michel Billaut and Franck Bellido are five impressive individuals. All from France, they have played various roles in France’s technology sector (their full bios follow at the end of this post) and they intrinisically understand virtual worlds. One (Franck Bellido) developed his company’s Second Life island presence.


Educational Consultant Lindy McKeown provides a tour for the visiting French group in Second Life

Over the past week these five have been on a mission to see how Australia utilises virtual worlds and it’s been quite a tour. They’ve spoken with key people at VastPark, NICTA, AFTRS, SLCN, ExitReality, Skoolaborate,CLI and Smart Services CRC to name a few.

In the few hours I spent with the team from France, I was struck by their passion for the subject and their obvious respect for the work being done in Australia with virtual worlds. It was also a stark reminder of Australia’s lack of broadband infrastructure when seeing their reaction to our broadband speeds, which makes achievements to date locally even more impressive in a lot of ways.

Sometimes it takes a collaborative occasion like this to really bring home the fact that Australia well and truly has a virtual worlds industry – one that attracts interest worldwide.

A big thanks to Mandy Salomon at Smart Services CRC for the invite to take part.

The bios:

Christian Salles career in applied research spans 35 years working in France, Norway, Taiwan and Frankfurt with the banking conglomerate BNP Paribas. Mr Salles pioneered intranet technologies in 1996, overseeing 200 installations including that of Reuters. More recently, Christian created his own consulting firm, Back End Office and is a professor at Paris’ Dauphine University.

Jean Michel Billaut consults on technology and innovation at the highest level of government and industry. His career with the Euro bank BNP Paribus has included Senior Economist and ‘VP in charge of Communication’. He is currently their advisor on the Internet. Jean Michel has chaired the ‘Centre d’information et d’etudes sur le credit’, a research organisation on credit, savings and financial problems and since its foundation in 1993, chairs ‘Club de l’Arche’, a multi-disciplinary thinktank to exchange information and thoughts on the introduction of new information technologies and the communication in society. In 1983, Mr Billaut launched Atelier, the first financial telematics service in France, and is chief editor of ‘Journal de l’Atelier, a review on technologies and marketing for professional organisations. Jean Michel was amongst the first to implement BBS systems and launched one of the first websites in France, ‘Web de l’Atelier’ (1994). In 1998, he created Canal Atelier, France’s first video streaming channel. As advisor to the provincial city of Pau, Jean Michel oversaw the introduction of innovative internet services underpinned by an optical/wifi network of 100 megabits for 30USD /month. Between 1998 and 2002, Jean Michel chaired the ‘Digital Towns Association’ and is currently lobbying for a ‘new deal’ in Europe: to build a fibre optic infrastructure end-to-end all over Europe. Jean Michel has written widely on the net economy and holds degrees in economic science (PHD) and informatics. He was awarded the distinction ‘Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur’, by President Chirac for the promotion of the Internet in France.

Serge Soudoplatoff is the president and co-founder of Almatropie, an association devoted to the promotion of innovative Internet usage. As such, he continues a distinguished career on the leading edge of high technology. He has recently founded Commonbox, a company devoted to simplify money pooling, and make it more cooperative. He is a co-founder of the multi-national provider of pricing, rating & charging solutions, Highdeal. Prior to that, he was Director of Innovation for France Telecom, driving the telco giant’s work group defining Internet policy and action plans. As such, he launched projects on mobility and the Internet, corporate IP telephony, and the services and new economic models needed in the Internet age. Before joining France Telecom, Serge managed the innovation research centre in Paris for Cap Gemini. He also did research on speech and pattern recognition at IBM research labs in Yorktown Heights, NY, and spent several years as a university professor. He began his career as a geographical engineer for the French national geographical institute, doing image recognition and satellite positioning. Mr. Soudoplatoff is a former secretary-general of the French professional group, CP2i, comprising research organizations with the joint aim of promoting high tech innovation. Serge teaches Internet and strategy at Hetic, the school of the Internet, and at ESCP-EAP. He has an engineering degree (PHD) from France’s equivalent to MIT, Ecole Polytechnique, and is the author of “Avec Internet, où allons-nous ?” Le Pommier, 2004. (‘Where are we going with the Internet’) The book is downloadable. In addition to speaking fluent English and French, Serge is conversant in Russian.

Olivier Lamirault
Oliver has been working on eLearning solutions since 1992. As director of Ingenium, he is devoted to the development of Ingenium and building the Ingenium team. The objective is to maintain Ingenium as a leader in the field of e‐learning. Olivier designs and realizes the pedagogical engineering of Ingenium partners. He manages projects and monitors the production to ensure the quality and the relevance of teaching resources produced. Technology and pedagogy play an important role in its activity. The remaining time is devoted to developing relations with external partners.

Franck Bellido
Franck is the Flash and 3D developer of Ingenium. He is responsible for achieving the development of complex flash animations which required coding in the language action‐script. Franck also develops elements into 3D environments for Ingenium’s video production and illustrations. Franck develops VirtuaLearn, the Company’s learning and collaborative island in Second Life.

SLCN – trademark challenges

As this post by Benjamin Duranske alludes to, Linden lab have requested an extension of time to determine if they’ll oppose SLCN registering their name as a trademark.

The extension may lead to not much at all in that Linden Lab may decide not to challenge. We’ve discussed the trademark issue previously and the situation isn’t getting any less vexed. We contact SLCN for comment but understandably they’re not wanting to discuss the issue publicly.

What do you think? Are Linden Lab rightfully protecting their name or is it a move that’s only going to damage their standing in the virtual world community?

New TV show on business in Second Life launches

Australian-based SLCN TV have added a new show to their in-world offerings. Real Biz in SL will feature interviews and stories with personalities and real-world businesses involved with Second Life.


You can view each of the shows live in-world by checking the schedule or you can stream them via their website (QuickTime required).

Interview – Paisley Beebe

Paisley Beebe is an Australian Second Life resident who I’ve run into a number of times over the past year or so. I finally caught up with Paisley for an interview on her dual activities of musician and TV presenter in Second Life.

Lowell: Tell me your story in regard to discovering Second Life

Paisley: I read about SL in an Australian woman’s magazine it mentioned Frogg Marlow and Cylindrian Rutabaga, both wonderful real life musicians playing music on Second Life. I was curious about it. Downloaded the client and then spent about 6 hours a day discovering SL. Spent about 2 months just getting acquainted before appearing at French Musician Fabrice Crosby’s venue and going on from there getting gigs and a manager and moving into SL TV.


Lowell: You are a singer in real life – how hard has it been adjusting to the challenges of in-world performance?

Paisley: The hardest part is trying to financially support my gigs in SL. The actual gigs are fun and easy. I’m used to being very interactive on stage due to my theatre and show band background in RL, and the technicalities of streaming live music are not a problem once you figure it out.

But I pay my RL accompanists RL money to play on SL with me (my voice is my only instrument) and have brought in some real Aussie jazz headliners including guitar legend George Golla, pianist Ray Aldridge, and bassist Craig Scott. I was determined in the beginning not to use backing tapes or recordings to sing along with, as the fun for me being a jazz vocalist is the actual interaction and improvisation between us during the playing of the music and I wanted to present a high quality show. I have managed to stick to that so far, but have had to inject quite a bit of money in order to do that as the SL payments for my concerts are nowhere near covering my expenses. As a result I have cut my gigs down recently to once or twice week in SL (I have done up to 8 gigs a week in SL in the past). The SL music scene is financed mostly through small tips from the audience, which results in under $5 Australian dollars a gig for most musicians for an hours work and even less for the venue owners. Yes everything in SL costs less than RL, but by comparison to other SL businesses, SL musicians are paid very very low wages…for a product they can’t keep selling copies of in a store. And MP3 sales are very low on the whole due to the low music-going population in SL, and so do not compensate for the fact that most of the in-world audience will see a musician for free if they can and won’t even tip. This will change with population growth and more professional artists but right now you do not play SL for money, only for fun and a little more international exposure than you can otherwise get.

There are sometimes one-off events to promote or launch new sims or businesses, which can pay more, but they are rare. The majority of my SL music audience are American due to the time zone and population, and they are somewhat more used to tipping in RL but this means that using the American based tipping model for other cultures doesn’t really work. Europeans and Aussies don’t tip so much, and that then becomes a disincentive for musicians wanting to play in Australian and European time zones, and no one wants to be the first club to charge entry at this stage, so most musicians play for the Americans who will at least throw some virtual coins in the hat for a musician who wants to at least pay his tier, pay for stream rent and buy stuff. Some of the clubs are part of a mall or have a shop and the club owners benefit from the increased traffic to their rentals or shops, in which case they may be able to pay their artists a very small fee, often only about 5 Aussie dollars. But many of the best clubs are there just for the music patrons only, with no money making business attached, and they are really struggling now, getting artists to play only for tips. My average tips are about 2-3 K for an hour so it’s not much. You can’t live in SL off that, and own land…

Lowell: It’d be fair to say you’re very ambitious and keen to promote your talents – do you see Second Life as a competitive environment?

Paisley: No, I don’t see SL as an competitive environment first and foremost. I see it as a social network and another dimension to the Web as we know it. It is an avenue for me to work in the field of work I was trained to do, but had to give up throughout my 30’s when family responsibilities and difficulties took first priority, and it was impossible for me to continue with my career of choice in entertainment. I have a Theatre Arts Diploma from the Ensemble theatre, 5 years of singing training and some radio presenting training through the AFTRS extension courses they offer, and experience in film production, advertising, graphics, theatre and singing as a soloist and as part of a successful concept band. I have also worked as a volunteer presenter for community radio for 3 years. For me to work in RL as a TV host now, is really prohibitively competitive and some would say an impossible dream at my age being in my early 40’s. Having given up my entire career in my 30’s and into my 40’s to deal with some major personal family issues, now that things are getting a little easier for me personally I have a second chance to start again back where I was in my 20’s. And have a second chance, through Second life, where age, demographics, opportunity, experience and looks are no issue at all. You can have a go and make something successful as long as you have the right stuff.

Also the music climate here in Australia particularly in Jazz, is very very bad, worse than most non-musicians really understand. Lack of RL gigs due to closing venues (as a result of 20 years of draconian licensing laws and poker machines), makes it impossible to develop a fan base (we hope the new licensing laws will change things but it will be sloooow going). At least I can develop as a singer on Second Life through virtual gigs, and create an international fan base that would be otherwise impossible.

I find SL at the moment less competitive in the field of what I’m doing in TV and Jazz than RL of course, because its all so new, SL has not been saturated yet with competition in those areas. Like many people in SL who are in business, we hope that when the big guns figure out what SL’s advantages are, and how to utilise them, that we have enough experience and brand loyalty that we can survive the inevitable competition.

As far as ambitions go, Second Life business is such a risk right now, as its all so untried and new, you need ambition and a quite a bit of Chutzpah (and a little madness I think). It’s certainly not for the faint hearted. I don’t think ambition is a bad thing at all as long as you don’t sacrifice integrity and family to pursue it, and I would never do that. A lot of Australians in the past have viewed ambitious people, especially ambitious women as abhorrent. It’s not really been seen as part of our culture, but I think we really have to let all of that fear of being seen as ‘ambitious’, if we want to be successful on a global scale. Keep our individuality and our Australian unique culture sure… but I’m not going to sit back and wait for my ship to come in….

I’m keen to promote my talents in as much as it’s all I have to promote. Singing and hosting is my RL job, it’s what I do, what I was trained for. I don’t have a ‘full- time’ job in RL other than my music, and that can hardly be called full-time due to lack of opportunities for work. So far I haven’t been able to break even financially in Second Life but I believe in what I’m trying to do, and enjoying it so much that I think that one day I might be able to earn some money from it.


Lowell: Where do you see yourself in a year’s time in regard to your work in Second Life?

Paisley: If all goes to my plan, and plans are well, who knows. I would like to be playing music in Second Life with other Second Life musicians in real time with no latency and a better stable SL client, without having to worry about going into debt to pay my musicians. I have plans to release a Live in Second Life album, it’s all but finished…and I would like to see it selling well at shows.

I would like also like to see continued success of my production company and TV shows, the audience is growing but we are still chasing sponsors to finance it. I really hope in a years time to really still be enjoying my time working and playing in SL. And I would like to be able to earn at least a wage above the RL poverty line on SL, to help support my family in RL and perhaps cut my working day down to 9 hours instead of 16 🙂 Dream on 🙂

Lowell: Have you had any involvement with other virtual worlds?

Paisley: Nope I’m not a gamer at all, and I don’t consider SL a game. And the other virtual worlds I have read about appear to be less developed and inferior at the moment. I was fascinated with having a virtual self to start with, and sort of playing dress up dollies with my avatar, but I really just see it all as an extension of my self in RL that’s all, but lots of fun too.

Lowell: If there were three real life musicians you’d love to convince to perform in Second Life, who would they be?

Paisley: Well selfishly, I would want them to perform with me….and that would be Christian McBride on Bass, Harry Connick Jnr on Piano and harmonising with me on vocals, and John Clayton on Guitar. Basically Dianna Krall’s Band without her.. and with Harry in her place sigh. The other band I would love to have on SL would be a big band …and Duke Ellington’s Band would do 🙂 I’m afraid although I love to listen to music the most fun I have is performing it and interacting with other musicians, so that would be my dream.

Lowell: Who inspires you in Second Life?

Paisley: Circe Broom, the owner of the Laurel sim and the music venues she has built there, for her dedication to music and musicians, her desire to promote it at a great cost to herself financially and overcoming all the obstacles she has personally, to do so. Slim Warrior is also another great inspiration, in that regard. Also Wiz Norberg and the team at SLCN.TV in Melbourne, and my own team on Tonight live also inspire me greatly with their drive and ambition creativity, humor and honesty in business. I trust them with my business and my future.

I also admire Cylindrian Rutabaga for her dedication to her music and her unwavering stoicism and Frogg Marlow and Jaycat for their talent and humor.

There are many many more who inspire me, mostly people who see the potential in Second Life and are willing to stick their necks out to use it in an innovative and creative way to bring pleasure to others, or support, or to start their own art or business.

Lowell: Our staple question: three locations in SL that you love the most (with SLURLs if possible 😉 )

Paisley: 1. My home ….no SLURL 🙂 – it’s private.

2. Sailors Cove for its very pretty New England Theme and all my wonderful friends there.

3. Circe Broom’s Laurel sim for her Egyptian Themes buildings and of course Sunset Jazz Club.

Lowell: What new features would you like in Second Life?

Paisley: I would like a more stable client of course, crashes during my show and during my TV show are just awful..

No lag! At all, without having to have a computer with a graphics card that could run a Space Shuttle pleeeese…(I know that doesn’t make sense but you know what I mean).

The ability to stream my concerts without any delay. It varies from 3 seconds to a 30-second delay. Between what I say or sing and when the SL audience hears it..

The ability to play music together with other SL musicians without having to use Ninjam which is really hard…perhaps voice with really really great sound quality….

The ability to have mouths moving on my TV show without it looking like you are pulling faces and eating something like really sticky toffee that is flavored with pepper….

To have better mic animations and singing animations without….see above…

To have prim eyelashes that blink when your eyes blink…

To not have shoes and hair and jewelry go up your bum when you teleport…

To get rid of Ruth!!! Or give her a real make-over so she looks like Claudia Schiffer instead of Cro-Magnon woman (or George Clooney if you are a male ). Please can we get rid of the low brow Donald Trump hair that Ruth has….

To have better support for Macintosh on SL…so I don’t have to use Bootcamp for Windlight.

To have the ability to switch off group notices from time to time…when Im doing my show.

To go to busy mode without a busy sign above my head which looks so rude…

To increase the Group Limits to about 100.

To increase the sim limits to 200 and have no lag…yeah right.. bring on Havok!

To have better security against griefers..

To not have Capped IM’s…

To make the SL Client look more like a Mac design instead of DOS…..

To have Preview as in Mac OS Leopard on your inventory so you can see the jewelry, dresses etc without wearing it or rezzing it .

Hmmmm what else…

To be able to take multiple pictures in Second Life and be able to label them in SL each time I take it…

To have better privacy in SL so people can’t see into places that you don’t want them to see,…

I could probably think of a lot more but …..I think you have enough to go on there 🙂

Lowell: You host a show for SLCN TV – can you describe its focus?

Paisley: Yes…it is a Second Life live TV talk show which through interactivity with the live audience attempts to highlight and promote in a positive way the creativity of Second Life residents using Second life for fun, business or non-profit. It is then recorded and available for download and viewing on the web. It is not current affairs, but hopefully informative and fun.

Lowell: What are some of the more memorable moments on the show to date?

Paisley: Maxamillion Kleen writing and singing his first original song ever for Tonight Live and reducing some of the audience to RL tears, whilst packing out the sim with the biggest audience in downloads and watching live we ever had.

Torley Linden from Linden Labs also attracting a huge crowd and talking so fast and relentlessly that I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, whilst he was also fielding questions from the audience who were also trying to get in on the act (he was of course also taking pictures at the same time).

Having the Second Life Fire Brigade bring a SL fire engine inside the studio and setting fire to the audience whilst explaining techniques in firefighting in SL and RL, and then getting the brigade to put it out..

Having the Harry Potter Sim manager on stage and the Harry Potter sim role-players pack out the audience and the houses of Griffin and Slytherin start fighting amongst themselves across the audience….

Having the Midian sim role-players almost doing the same thing…with various factions all together in the same place……

Having Frogg Marlow and Jaycatt Nico on and having such a wonderful funny interview with them both.

Lots more for many different reasons but every show has a different funny thing happen within the audience and podcaster and blogger Crap Mariner is often responsible for it 🙂 Whether he sets himself on fire or comes as a cup cake or encases himself in ice and Razzap tries to “melt” him with a blow torch, it’s all I can do to stop laughing on set – “don’t read the chat, dont read the chat…”.


Lowell: If you had to describe virtual worlds in ten words or less to someone who’s never been near one, what would you say?

Paisley: The best Disney animation you’ve ever been in.

Lowell: I’ve seen a number of promotional items come from you emphasising your status as a Diva – what qualifies for Diva status in-world?

Paisley: That’s a joke…I get called that by my friends in RL and in SL if I get argumentative about anything 🙂 They use it to put me back in my box…and also it basically gives people a very basic idea of what I do, but is definitely tongue in cheek without using all the other stupid hackneyed words. Diva’s a bit hackneyed too probably, but so is Jazz Chanteuse and Torch Song Singer and all the other words that they use to describe jazz vocalists. When I’m in meetings my staff make sure I have no access to phones or anything else with which to hit anyone with (thats a joke too….). People think if you are a jazz singer who sings like I do, sort of a mixture of modern jazz and cabaret I guess, and a TV host , that you probably are a Diva in as much as you have tantrums. And ask for ridiculous things like only white flowers in your dressing room and not to be looked in the eye. I’d only ask someone not to look me in the eye if my prim eyelashes were not placed properly and I didn’t want them to laugh….on camera 🙂

Lowell: Anything else you wanted to add?

Paisley: I’ve just started a production company called “Perfect World Productions”. It will be producing several TV shows broadcast on SLCN.TV. The next production due for release is an arts show called “Dimensions In Art” which will be a 1/2 hour live weekly show with one guest per show. Featuring film, theatre, dance, sculpture, digital art, sound art, music and painting. I will be the host, and some of my wonderful existing team from Tonight Live will be working on it. It will be launched in April/May 2008. I think that the creative arts in SL are going to really boom as it’s such a wonderful platform for artists of all genres to get exposure for their virtual and real life art, on a real global scale. The quality of what I see in SL constantly astounds me.

We will add more shows to the production company as we build our expertise and our team. And will produce shows that are concepts from other sources not just our own, with other hosts.

My hopes for Second Life are also that more Australians discover and embrace it. The Australian community while very friendly and close is very small by comparison to many other countries using SL. Anything I can do to help promote Aussie culture on SL I will. But there are so very few of us on Second Life yet.

ABC and SLCN meet

I’ve had a heads-up that the ABC’s Lise Robbiani is making an appearance on SLCN’s Tonight Live with Paisley Beebe. It’s showing at 6pm SLT on the 26th August (11am Sunday 27th AEST).


Lise is heavily involved with ABC Island and both SLCN and Paisley Beebe are Australian.

Wiz Nordberg’s Smart Company Blog

SLCN’s Wiz Nordberg has a blog running on the business-oriented Smart Company website.


Our two-part interview with Wiz and the SLCN team can be found here and here.

Interview – the SLCN TV Team – Part 2

We finish up our Q&A with the effusive SLCN TV team with a discussion on SL competitors and what’s inspirational about SL. Part 1 of the interview can be found here


Lowell: So what do you see as the biggest challenges for the SL platform in the coming 12 months?

Starr: Living up to the inflated expectation of the broader population as they realise what cool fun they are missing out on… and leap in without true commitment to it.

Wiz: The biggest challenge for Linden Labs is to stay focused on their mission. I believe they have done a remarkable job doing that already. In fact, I am stunned at how focused they have been despite what must be an enormous industry distraction.

Starr: And all the other scandals and crisis’ happening… they have become masters of the universe, and hey, that’s a busy job.

Lowell: What are your thoughts on potential competitors like Project Outback?

Wiz: The “secret” that makes Second Life work is the economy and the intellectual property model. Many people, like Project Outback, have the mistaken impression that “it’s about technology”, but it’s not. It’s about people and their possessions and their world. That is the challenge for any competitor, and Linden Labs won’t have too much to worry about until somebody undertands how to quickly escalate the creation of a vibrant virtual society.

Starr: Peer to peer is an exciting thing and if virtual worlds can run as smoothly as the full screen video for Joost, then a p2p system sounds great…. but I agree with Wiz, the challenge will be filling it with interesting people and things, because that is going to win over a better resolution suntan.

Lowell: But you’d agree that if a competitor manages to create a vibrant community whilst offering much larger concurrency per area that they’re likely to cause some concern for SL?

Wiz: True, technology supports such a society, and makes it possible. But, when you look at SL, it’s amazing the “trivial” features related to ownership, IP, permissions, that, if missing, would cause the economy to collapse. There are fundamental problems with “larger concurrency per area” that are not easy for anyone to solve. For example, no matter how much money and technology you throw at it, there is a limit to how many people you can throw into a phone booth. There are limits, based upon graphic complexity and “activity on your screen” to how many people you can actually manage in one space. I think the “limits per area”, while too low now, are not a “make or break” feature for competing with Linden Labs.

Lowell: True – but whether it’s SL or a competitor, being able to have more than 100 people in an area is likely to be an attractive proposition.

Wiz: I think the biggest “competitor” will come from those who have the vision to embrace the LL open source viewer, and create stunning and usable alternative grids. It’s a lot like the web. Embracing HTTP as a standard was essential. For virtual worlds we need a standard. and the LL open source viewer is light years ahead of any other attempt.

Lowell: Do you think that SL’s dominance now makes it likely to remain that way?

Wiz: Standards-based virtual worlds are the “holy grail” that will cause adoption to spread like lightning.

Lowell: And open source is much more likely to deliver that. Is SLCN set up to service other virtual worlds?

Wiz: Well, a STANDARD will deliver that. There is nothing even remotely close to a standard. There is the second life open source viewer in first place. Second place? Nobody. SLCN can provide virtual coverage of any virtual world. In fact, we sort of joke about the “Second Life Cable Network” name and figure that some day people will say …. “SLCN, what does that stand for?” and have no idea

Lowell: Have you done any non-SL virtual work to date?

Wiz: We don’t see any other virtual worlds as even marginally important right now.

Lowell: Why is that?

Wiz: No other virtual world allows content creation even close to what SL offers. Content creation is what CREATES people’s virtual identity, otherwise they are just “going to a virtual movie” and have no participation. People’s stories are derived from their participation. We will wait and see whether other environments accomplish that and will not hesitate to cover such worlds when they do. Sure there are “niche worlds” like World of Warcraft and we are considering whether WoW “events and news” may be potentially interesting, but that is, in my opinion (you may think me crazy) a small market.

Lowell: I think you MAY be crazy on it being a small market.

Wiz: WoW isn’t a small market…. the WoW market who ALSO will watch a virtual TV show is a small market.

Lowell: But I’d imagine the huge cohort of heavy users would jump at a virtual TV show on WoW – nothing to back that up of course.

Starr: Well there was that WoW clip on Youtube that got squillions of hits about the funeral massacre. Not wanting to contradict you Wiz! hehe

Wiz: %population-who-gets-curious-when-they-hear-the-words-second-life > %population-who-gets-curious-when-they-hear-worlds-of-warcraft …. quickest summary I can give

Starr: I think that a lot of SL users where users of the Sims online and other virtual worlds and they are looking for the next level of sophistication, which SL offers. People love the making, the selling and the interactions

Lowell: So linking to that – what events / areas in SL have excited you the most?

Texas: I’m inspired by some of the people we have met in SL. The patience and time they have shown us from day one have just blown me away. These people are creative with their imaginations, their time and their hearts.

Wiz: You’ll laugh when i say this, but somehow, SLCN has a “mind expanding” effect on people. I am very excited when I see that effect. For example…people who have been working hard to build “something they find important” in Second Life, they work, they amass friends, they blog about it, they love it. Then, they participate in an event where their “loved thing” is brodcast on SLCN, in-world maybe, to other sims, or archived so tht experience is “captured” so they can tell their story better with pictures. It opens their minds to new possiibilities, the world seems bigger. Suddenly what seemed SO hard seems easier because they can share the experience with others not in-world. The Best Practices educators were the best example of that, and I am inspired by every one of them.

Starr: I get inspired by seeing people jump up and perform when the camera on them, just like in real life. People have such avvie-empathy, they want to be up on the big screen as much as the next avvie. I do think media plays an important role in-world like it does “out” here.

Wiz: Absolutely. One analogy I make alot is that Second Life is like a “new country” being born. It needs a cable network to document what happens, to tell the story, to share it. It seems obvious to me.

Interview – the SLCN TV Team – Part 1

SLCN TV are SL’s only native cable TV offering and they’re Australian to boot. Wiz Nordberg (Gary Wisniewski), Starr Sonic (Keren Flavell) and Texas Timtam (Grace Roberts) agreed to an in-depth chat and here’s part one:

Lowell: Could you give a potted history of how the three of you decided to put SLCN together.

Wiz: Well, it really started with us doing the Aussie Music Party back in March with Austrade. In our “prior lives”, Texas and I were responsible for some of the largest music webcasts ever in australia, did BDO four years in a row for Telstra, Tropfest, the Mushroom 25th concert…. all were very big budget things – over 30 crew on the M25 concert, so we were used to doing “webcasts like television”. The moment Texas decided to do the music party, the obvious thing to me was that it should be “televised on the web”.

Wiz Nordberg

Lowell: So SL-based events were an obvious complement given your RL experience?

Wiz: In April or so, we did some prototype work, and then I set up this screen in SL at a friends place and the three of them (SL friends from the USA) were almost transfixed by what they saw…. they were dancing and looking at themselves on the screen going “omg look, we’re on TV!”. That night, i registered

Lowell: That’s probably a good point to ask if you can easily summarise how you make SLCN work technically.

Wiz: Almost exactly like a RL television station does a RL O.B (Outside Broadcast). If you ever watch “on location news”, there’s a van, with vision mixers, scan converters, etc. We use the same kind of equipment and don’t use any of the SL machinima tools.

Lowell: Well, for SLOz readers who don’t have TV industry experience – roughly how are things set up? It’s all third party non-SL tools?

Wiz: We use camera machines, connected to scan converters (a high quality way to capture the motion), then hook it up to a vision mixer, which has super and chromakey capability, as well as title super capability, so one person sits at the “vision desk” switching from camera to camera, and we have camera operators…. also audio mixdown for various sources. It’s frighteningly conventional. In fact, if instead of SL cameras we just had two DV cameras, our results would look a lot like what you see on CNN or Channel 7 using the same kind of equipment.

Starr: The set up has a lot to do with the live production requirements and we have learned to apply traditional film making methology but also working within the constraints of being in a virtual world.

Wiz: Right, there are LOTS of little tweaks in production to deal with the fact that the people “in the show” aren’t in the same room most of the time

Texas: And of course we have to also manage getting voice into SL

Starr: Also the actors are in two places – the operator and the audio content, they have to mesh together and that is a challenge! You think downloading a new client is a challenge hehe.

Lowell: So how do you synch sound etc and what applications do you use?

Wiz: We built a system called Soundreach which is our own design. It’s what Bruce Willis used to speak into Second Life, as well as almost all the voice you hear on any of our shows.

Starr: It’s a bit matrix like when you think about it :0)

Starr Sonic

Lowell: Can you easily summarise what Soundreach does?

Wiz: It’s a telephone-to-mixing-desk-to-Second-Life bridge which allows us both to get a split of the sound to our mixing desk, as well as feed the sound into Second Life from regular telephones. People use it inworld now independently of SLCN.

Starr: It worked for Frank Miller to call in

Texas: It makes the production of talk shows and interview news vox pops really much more like RL TV.

Lowell: So for example in the Bruce Willis gig you had him via phone through your mixing desk then into SL

Wiz: Well, it’s more like this…

Starr: We barely thought he was going to cope with dialling a number on a telephone and were working out how we could call him with the system!

Wiz: Bruce (and others) use land lines -> servers in the USA -> part goes directly in-world as an audio stream -> part feeds remotely to our mixing desk. The mixing desk is actually optional. You can call a Soundreach number and “hook it up” to a land parcel independently of our mixing desk and SLCN studio.

Lowell: So hookup to the parcel occurs normally via the parcel options you enter the streaming address etc?

Wiz: Yep. At its simplest, Soundreach is a telephone -> shoutcast technology, except there is some audio processing and splitting in the middle to allow things like SLCN to get a feed directly

Lowell: The implementation of voice in SL will change the face of things – how’s it going to help and/or impede what you’re trying to achieve?

Wiz: Well, it will help A LOT if it is adopted widely by Second Lifers. We are VERY much looking forward to it

Lowell: What do you think will prevent widespread adoption – lag etc?

Wiz: Providing the technology “works” (which I believe it will), the two factors which will prevent adoption is psychology and the inability of people to actually get their computers to use a microphone and headphones properly (which is not to be underestimated). There is of course a lot of controversy about voice

Lowell: What do you believe is causing controversy?

Wiz: The nature of “having a virtual self” for many people includes changing the way they are perceived, or “remaking themselves” in a more idealised way. Voice is a very big giveaway about ones personality without even worrying about the cross-gender issues. I know myself that i am perceived VERY differently inworld without voice than I am when I speak to people.

Lowell: Very true – though I’m expecting pitch-shifting apps are already in development for SL use.

Starr: I think that socialisation into the land of voice is going to be a rocky one. There has been a certain peacefulness about being in-world that is going to change… I was in the voice beta yesterday and hung out with about 8 people.. and you are essentially talking over each other the whole time. A group needs to be well coordinated to communicate easily. So we all have a lot to learn before it becomes graceful.

Wiz: I hope that, for the most part, people overcome their hesitancy and voice enjoys widespread use. We would love to simply “walk up to somebody on the street” and do a great interview.

Lowell: That’s an obvious application for voice for sure – if you could do a vox pop tomorrow in SL, who would you choose?

Starr: The only trick is that you need to have lined up the interviewees, because it does take a bit of tweaking to get someone online with us as everyone has a different set-up. Thats not a technical issue, its more about the end person, have they got access to a phone sometimes

Lowell: True – so who would you choose for your spontaneous first vox pop?

Wiz: I heard that question the first time LOL. I don’t actually have an answer. I think the person with the most interesting story may not be famous, or anybody who I know now. You have to search for people who have something to say, and the best vox pops are from people who are in the middle of something important or have an intersting story to tell. So i can’t actually say who it would be, or where.

Texas Timtam

Lowell: A different tack now – how have you found the reaction of RL businesses and individuals to your work in SL?

Wiz: Frankly, we have been blown away by what people have been saying.

Starr: Well we fondly remember when we were at the 14 Cows exhibition and we got a shout out WELCOME SLCN

Wiz: In probably more than half of the comments on blogs and other places, the words SLCN are accompanied by adjectives like “amazing”. I’m not sure how much credit we can take for any “innovation”. I think a lot of people are simply not expecting it. One thing we do which is different is we are very dedicated to being a TV network FOR SECOND LIFERS. We are trying to seek out things which matter to virtual people, in their virtual spaces.

Starr: The organisers of the Best Practises in Education conference loved us

Wiz: If you look at 90% of our content, it had a big impact on the people who participated. That’s why so many people have made such positive comments.

Lowell: I’m also thinking of people who don’t have exposure to SL at all – how do you explain what you do? It also links to any plans you may have for growth – is it still difficult to convince potential investors on the role virtual worlds may play in the future?

Starr: The only way to explain is to show.

Lowell: Agree – but a lot of people when you first show them just see it as ‘The Sims’ – how do you overcome that initial scepticism?

Wiz: We don’t have to do much convincing. there are ten thousand intelligent people at least out there preaching, educating, showing the world. it will happen, and people will be convinced. It is inevitable

Starr: We showed the producers of Die Hard how a virtual press conference is staged, through a live stream directly from the event taking place inside Second Life where where most of them would not be a SL resident.

Wiz: I think there is an “ah-ha” experience that happens when people engage in Second Life. It doesn’t happen for everybody, but it happens for enough people that the skepticism will dissolve over the next year or two.

Starr: The same thing happened with the world wide web.

Wiz: Virual Bacon, at the “best practices”, he did an entire session on “how to convince people that second life is a good idea”. His conclusion, after a LONG time applying methodical approaches was that you CANNOT convince people. The only way they will be convinced is to experience it.

Lowell: So what is the plan for SLCN in coming months?

Starr: We have several shows lined up to roll out over the next month. These include talk shows, sports shows, a book show and a regular SLCN feature series called The Inside View

Lowell: In regard to Inside View can you explain its format?

Starr: It will be a show revealing issues relevant to the people in SL, a dig under the covers to find out what is going on. Around half hour length and airing on Sunday evenings.

Lowell: So almost a current affairs show?

Wiz: I suppose the model for “The Inside View” is shows like 60 Minutes, except with a bit more “leeway”.

Starr: Yes, with a bit more of a foreign correspondent feel.

Wiz: We want to not just report on someting as “here are the facts”, but rather get into a discussion with people about something very relevant in Second Life, things such as voice, how brands are affecting them. Always with a total 100% focus on the “virtual person” and their changing experiences

Starr: Wiz will do the introduction to each show…. then it will feature guest speakers and look into the many spaces of Second Life to show what is happening.

Wiz: We also have 1 show currently readying for production (tonight live with paisley beebe) as well as a news show about to be signed and are in final negotations with 2 other shows which will probably go into production. plus we are talking to at least 10 to 15 “interested parties” and working with them to get to the “final negotiation” stage.

Lowell: Are you getting many approaches from current or potential brands in SL hoping for some free promo? i.e. are you being treated like RL media by PR people yet?

Starr: Many people are submitting their events for inclusion in That S’Life, which is great.

Wiz: Hmmm, having never been RL media, it is hard to know how they are treated

Starr: Some businesses are starting to get machinima ads made and we are going to start playing some of those as part of our programming

Lowell: So there’s obviously a lot of interest etc – is SLCN a business model that’s making its existence independently viable in a financial sense?

Wiz: This is our job. It’s not a pasttime. Making it financially viable is essential, not optiona.l

Lowell: And are you achieving that goal?

Wiz: No way, not yet. we are at a very early stage and we are investing a lot of time and a lot of money. In fact, we have been hesitant to have “fake advertising” which we “give away” to people just to have advertisers

Lowell: Is SLCN the sort of business that may need external investment to get where it needs to go?

Wiz: We are going to be pitching to several investors over the next months. but we actually have put enough personal money (and money from our other businesses) into this to keep growing and producing show. When we pass the “8 regular shows per week” mark we will probably require some additional facilities, and we’re planning on that.

Lowell: So is it likely you’re going to need more people on your team? Should aussie SL’ers start polishing their CV’s?

Wiz: It is VERY likely

Lowell: If there were readers who wanted to let you know about their skills, how should they do it?

Wiz: info AT Seriously, I think it is amazing that we have been able to get to the TOP of even a niche US market, with good industry recognition, without really ever leaving South Melbourne.

Previous Posts