Our family is totally digitally connected. To wit:
We have high-speed (N class) wifi throughout the house and a digital telephone line and all six of us can be streaming at the same time with very little slowdown. This is such an important feature of our home that after Hurricane Sandy blew through and we had endured 10 days without power and 12 days without heat, the first question from the kids was “is the wifi back on?”
In this house, we have the following functional technology: five Apple computers, one gaming PC, two iPads, one Kindle Fire, four iPhones and one iPod, an Airport Extreme and two Apple TVs. There are also two cheapie phones.
Every person in this household has at one time had a WordPress-themed blog on our own domains.
Every person in this household knows what cloud computing is and how to use Google Drive.
Every person in this household has been in Second life, a 3-D virtual world.
After saying this, it’s with a bit of shame that I admit to you that we STILL can’t keep track of each other’s schedules, what’s needed at the grocery store, and who fed the pets.
Jim and I are productivity tool hounds and we religiously use such apps as Evernote, Dropbox, Remember the Milk, OneNote, IFTTT (If This Then That) and dozens of others. We have long conversations about the things you can do with the various services. Cross-posting to social networks? Yep. Saving Google Reader articles to Instapaper? You bet.
How are families sharing information using shared apps, social sites and other tools?
What platforms would these tools need to be present on? IOS apps, PC and Mac app downloads, web access?
What are the tools that work? Family checklists and shared notebooks including Evernote and ….?
What’s for dinner and when
Plans to go out to eat
Individual calendars including work schedules for those with jobs
Pet care daily checklist
Shareable videos and photos
Links to great articles and essays
Shared music and art
Plug-ins, apps and tabs
Family game stats
Email and SMS reminders, event invites
Family-only online games
A very down to earth and open-minded Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble (Rodvik Linden) spoke August 13 at the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) in Oakland, Calif., and his message centered around focusing on making the user experience better and easier. Translation: bug fixes, not bright shiny new features.
However, there were plenty of hints at new features as well, although most were solidly in the usability category.
He seemed to be saying he wouldn’t replicate the Google+ stink about their insistence on people using actual names when he said that in our modern life, we have to wear a lot of hats – we have to be different people at work and when we come home from work, and that has to happen. “We want to be able to choose who we share those various identities with,” he said.
Many of my Second Life friends who are on Google+ have been complaining that they are not permitted to use the same avatar name in the new social network. Some have been banned or their accounts curtailed; others still have their SL names. All feel passionately that they have a right to segment their lives and have each with a different identity or style. I don’t worry about people knowing that Sylectra Darwin is Sylvie Dale, but I support the desire of any of my friends to keep those things separate as they choose.
Humble also said that Linden Lab is about more than just Second Life, although Second Life is by far their more important creation. In anything they create, they want to bring forth the principles of shared creative spaces, privacy first, customer-created content, and shared and social environments. “It’s important for us to be as free as we can when it comes to content.”
The first half of the year was spent on creating the new Viewer 2 (with mixed levels of acclaim), making it easier to sign up as a new user, and making it easier for new users to get in-world and start interacting with others. The second half of the year and beyond will remain focused on bug fixes, improving usability, and improving the quality of customer service.
Among planned improvements Humble mentioned:
Usability:new viewer(?), search improved. Goal: Be able to give our family members a SL account and have them send that to any average intelligence computer user and have them be able to enjoy it and use it easily. Being able to move around the world, sign up, find things. Halfway through that project and ahead of schedule on some things (new viewer a big role?).
Lag: cache larger, region crossings improved
Service: Polish, bug fixes, ticket times bumped up, improve quality of customer service, make life unpleasant for griefers
Big initiatives coming out this year: gaming – no HUDS, hit one button for permission and have everything enabled. Premium members – more value coming, marketing and PR campaigns should bring in more users/customers for merchants. Engineers are looking at voice recognition and facial recognition at some point in the future.
Tablet and mobile devices: Massive threat to virtual world is the rise of tablet and mobile devices. We don’t now address mobile devices and you will see us participating in mobile devices with SL and with a new product coming out (!).
Pricing structure: he would not talk about or answer questions about pricing, though he said they have plans to further enrich the experience of premium members.
He acknowledged that Viewer 2 still has a lot of improvement to do. They don’t want to completely redo it because it took so long to get the new codebase; they really need to continue fixing the one they have instead. He’d like to get rid of the sidebar or at least change the way it works, but it’s unlikely to happen until maybe 2012.
Advertising: They might consider channel ads for in-world merchants, but they won’t be spamming us with Colgate banner ads in the viewers.
They’ve been removing barriers to signing up as new users, using the viewer in basic mode, and using the Destination Guide to meet people and socialize, but the next big step is helping people to buy and wear objects, build objects, and do some of those more advanced activities.
Monthly uniques – nice growth in new users in-world – 16,000 new signups per day on average; no other stats forthcoming (big decrease in tier payments??)
There are some learning experiences that are inspired by interactions within Second Life groups. I belong to a group called Play as Being, which gets together in Bieup to discuss things like meditation, mindfulness, the self, and play. Over time, we have evolved an inclusive method for discussion that helps all participants to be understood and appreciated.
It’s a gentle way to communicate, and especially well-suited to a virtual environment where we cannot see on anothers’ real life faces and so we must make an effort to show positive sentiment in our written chats.
In a Yahoo Group email list, we began to discuss an article written by one of our members, who is known as Bleu.
To this, our group founder and leader, who goes by Pema Pera in Second Life, related Play as Being’s way of gently exploring issues. He said:
“Once we realize that reasoning is mostly arguing,
a way to consolidate your already existing opinions,
we can discern different ways of doing so.
“The simplest way to reason/argue, is to confront
someone else saying ‘I disagree.’ Here is an example:
“A: I think X.
“B: I disagree. I think Y.
“Clearly, that’s neither very helpful, nor very pleasant.
Chances are than immediately both sides harden their
position, drawing battle lines, and defending X and Y.
“The PaB way of reasoning, as it developed very quickly
and is still developing, is more along the lines of:
“A: I think X.
“[ B thinking: X??? How odd, I’m pretty sure it is Y !!!
how interesting that a nice person like A can have such
a strange idea — I want to know more about that ]
“B: can you say more?
“A: … (saying more) …
“[ B thinking: aha, now I have more of an idea where A is
coming from and the context for thinking X. But let me
make sure I understand, before comparing with my ideas ]
“B: ah, how interesting. So you think X, because of …
(this and that) …
“A: yes, but not quite like that, more like … (such and
“[ B thinking: okay, that is very helpful, now I have a
more clear picture — though I still think that Y may
be more correct. Let’s see whether we can figure out
our differences. ]
“B: I see. That helps me to understand why you think X.
I myself had thought Y, but I may have to reconsider.
My main argument for Y, rather than X was … (gives
argument) … How does that fit in with your picture?
“At this point, A happily can extend the picture already
sketched and shared, in order to point out how A sees
things differently from B, and they both can walk around
the issue, looking from different angles, while together
finding new vistas.
“Initially, I had not clearly realized that this had become
the PaB way of reasoning by playfully ‘comparing notes’.
It only became clear when we had a few visitors joining us
for a while who were not operating in that mode. Their
much more jarring way of reasoning (like in many academic
forums, or political forums) was very helpful to bring out,
in contrast, what it is that we are all sharing here.”
There is a lot of discussion going on about Linden Lab’s recent policy changes. Recently, XStreet SL has decided to charge content providers L99 per month to list a freebie item. Many of these content providers are altruistic and just want to share their work. Most content providers love creating stuff and have no hopes of making any money at it. So charging them for listing their freebie items is making them very angry.
They are often the ones who are paying a lot of tier on some sizeable land in SL. Yet SL is truly the biggest and most used 3D virtual world that’s not a game. We come back to it because of the richness of detail – the builds, the scenery, the people, and the content.
Aha – I’ve been here before – it remembers my email address and avatar name. I am reborn in the world with a basic “Ruth” shape but I quickly find a freebie avatar kit that contains jeans, hair and a hoodie. Yay.
Wanting to quickly wipe the newbie avatar stink off me, I head out to find more freebies that will at least help differentiate me from other avatars. In the process I hope to find content to buy.
In Cascabel Emporium on Quirm, I find a PrimBlender Importer for bringing my work in-world (once I know how to use PrimBlender, which I don’t). I take a free copy just in case.
Teleporting is an issue – can’t do a search in world and click the teleport. However, if you pull up a map you can teleport that way, or using SLURLs from regular web sites. Hmm. I am having trouble finding any recommendations of places to visit that also include SLURLs. Anyone have any recommendations?
You too can make one of these Facebook badges. It’s easy and a great way to reach out to others who haven’t met up with you on Facebook yet. Here’s how:
1. Log into your Facebook account (hint: if you’re trying to get the word out about your business, it’s a great idea to create a Facebook account that’s just for your business. That way if someone “friends” you from your Web site, they don’t accidentally get to see your summer beach photos.)
2. View your profile by clicking “Profile” from the top bar.
3. Scroll down and look for the link on the bottom of the left side of the page – Create a Profile Badge” – or just go to http://www.facebook.com/badges.php.
4. Click on the gray “create a new badge” button from the top right.
5. Choose whether you’d like this to show as a horizontal badge or a vertical badge. I recommend horizontal if you want to place this in the center portion of your Web page.
6. Choose which items you’d like to include. By default, you get your profile picture, your name, your email address, and your status update. You can “remove” each of these by clicking the link to the right of each item. You can add to these by clicking “add item”.
7. When you are happy with it, click “save”
8. You’ll see a view of your updated badge, which Facebook will save for you. To put this badge on your Web site or blog, just copy the HTML from this page, start a new blog entry, and click over the the HTML editing view, and paste the HTML into your blog entry, then click “save” and/or “publish”. If someone is helping you make Web site updates, just send them this copied HTML in an email.
Metanomics, a group that gathers in Second Life with a good “2D” Web showing as well, had a discussion March 2 on avatar culture.
The session preview stated that Anthropologists Tom Boellstorff and Celia Pearce are developing new methods and theories about human relationships in virtual worlds and would be discussing how traditional ethnography is being adapted to the study of online immersive environments and how virtual worlds shape identities, economies, communities and societies.
One of Metanomics’ many strengths is its ability to have a regular Web component at the same time that in-world meetings are held.
If you have a signon with Metanomics, you can participate in the chat even if you are not in-world, using ChatBridge.
The Metanomics group makes full use of its Web and its SL presences by delivering rich information in a variety of formats.
The first guest was Robin Gomboy of ReactionGrid, an alternative to Second Life which appeals more to some businesses and educational groups because it doesn’t have an in-world economy (although residents can buy and sell using shopping carts like people do on the “2D” Web) and the rules dictate PG content only. A single sim costs a “hosting fee” of only $25 a month, and a 6-sim private grid is only $75 a month. You can host your own server as well. In the near future they will be adding hypergridding to it (allows avatars to move between privately owned areas without getting a new signon, avatar, etc.).
For immersive education, Gomboy noted that the prerequisite seemed to be that there is not an in-world economy already in place. Educators typically don’t want an in-world economy.
Metanomics’ Beyers Sellers said he didn’t tend to agree but then he comes from a college economics environment and that may be coloring his perception.
ReactionGrid’s terms of service stipulate that residents have PG-rated content only. There are some software tools which are being built just for ReactionGrid. Experience and leadership are playing an important role to help shape the culture and create trust among the other members, she added.
Advice for “Gridizens”? Remember how hard it was for you to learn the basics of getting around – help others out with teaching the technology, respect others’ meeting spaces, and respect others’ privacy.
ThinkBalm innovation community is a ReactionGrid participant. They decided to ask members to use their real names to increase the trust factor. Instead of using virtual chair and a copy of RL lecture setups, they experiment with 3D best practices in online learning.
First major cross-grid event last weekend. She is the speaker for the TechNet group in SL and in ReactionGrid. She was using HippoViewer and in both worlds at once. She used LiveMeeting to help in her presentations.
Tom Bellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the University of California Irvine, has done research on sexuality, globalization, etc., and cybersociality.
The session presentation screen shared these links:
Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in SL) – what would have to change in virtual worlds and what doesn’t have to change?
Boellstorff has been doing this research for a little over 5 years. He deliberately set it up to fail by using the classic methods he used in Indonesia and applying it to SL without consideration for the differences between the environments. Surprisingly he didn’t have to change a lot.
Would he use alts or not? He decided not to.
Questions about money and anonymity – have parallels in the real world.
He likes to refer to the non-cyber world as the physical world rather than as the Real World or RL, because he maintains that what you do in SL has real consequences and is real to its participants; just differently so.
IRB – institutional review board. When a researcher does research with people, they have to get approval from this board because you are working with human subjects. It’s about protecting people’s privacy and confidentiality.
He used a research design that was entirely inside of Second Life and didn’t try to get physical world information about the people. He only asked about the person’s SL life and used their SL names.
Pearce said in her research she kept encountering people who were in some way disabled and was surprised by the commonness of that scenario.
Demographics of Baby Boomer Computer Gamers – Players of the game Uru, which was closed in 2004. The majority of these players were baby boomers, she found.
Forums just for baby boomers – like Game Boomers. There is a myth that baby boomers want to play only casual games, but that turned out not to be true. Many of them were replacing their TV watching time with their gaming. They liked adventure games but don’t like to hang around with certain types of groups associated with online games. They want to play with people their own age for a more refined method of relating.
They all were really active in communities. Fav activity – exploring. 2nd fav – helping others learn the ropes.
Baby boomers with young people at home tended not to play with their kids. Most of the players used a PC rather than a console, which they tended to think were for the kids.
The Wii came out about the time her study was finishing up and they actually targeted the baby boomer generation.
Let’s talk about Uru – based on the game Myst – if anyone has a version of the Scarab of Ra on the PC, let him know (Beyers Sellers) because he misses it!
Crap Mariner noted that there was a hack of Myst called Pyst, in which you could see the ecological effects of 10 million users walking through the Myst landscapes. He called it crude, deranged and brilliant, which made everyone laugh.
Those who played in Uru became “Uru refugees” or “diaspora” when Uru shut down. They tried to recreate some of their favorite elements from the world later, which she calls a trans-culturization process.
Like refugees in the physical world, the Uru refugees were kind of moved around and given a hard time for the lag they caused everywhere they went.
Fleep Tuque said: “I’ve written about the total fail of trying to move the BBS community to here, I think you lose a lot when you try to switch platforms if new platforms don’t facilitate the kinds of ineraction that the community formed around in the first place.”
“We aren’t spending enough time in the question space. Sometimes it’s the question that matters more than the answers. There’s often a real interest in design or implementation research but we need to also stay in the question space so that we come up with some good questions to ask before we rush to those solutions.”
— Tom Boellstorff
His book – “Coming of Age in Second Life” – he tries to write for multiple audiences, some of which know a lot more than others about the basics of virtual worlds/online games.
This wonderful new mode of interaction has its problems but shouldn’t be dismissed outright. In The Matrix, the virtual world is used to enslave the humans, so there is a fear factor here towards virtual worlds.
For Pearce as a game designer, when you design games you are also designing cultures, and you may not know what kind of culture will emerge with your game.
I asked one participant, whose background is in anthropology, to tell me what he got out of the discussions:
AbaBrukh Aabye: well, the concept of culture in virtual worlds has interested me since I first was an early beta tester on what became AOL
AbaBrukh Aabye: and it’s clearly becoming a larger part of human culture in general
AbaBrukh Aabye: I discovered SL from a feature on NPR
AbaBrukh Aabye: but when I’ve talked about it to some of my RL friends, they just laugh
The way people think about virtual worlds is varied depending upon their experience and what they want out of life. Having a little imagination is helpful for enjoying the concept of spending time in a virtual world. The fact that real life (RL) is called the physical life by one of the speakers is very telling: real things are said here in Second Life and in other virtual worlds, real relationships are forged (my own present relationship included), and real struggles are fought. Anytime you have a mix of people interacting, that is real.
But it will be some time before a significant part of the Internet-visiting population will feel that way, too.
upgrading my life with good intention and positive action