Michael Arrington is reporting that the AOL Games Group may be getting ready to launch a social network for World of Warcraft players, since the company owns wow.com. Could AOL’s reach make wow.com a category-killer? Sean Fanning’s Rupture, another WoW socnet, hasn’t particularly taken off, as I understand it. New entrants to virtual world social networking include Koinup as well. More on the subsector at GigaOm.
Virtual worlds researcher Aleks Krotoski, who’s been working on a Ph.D. about social networks in virtual worlds, has posted about some of her findings, which are available in the form of an excellent video presentation you can find at the Subject Centre for Information and Computer Sciences (scroll down). You can also download the accompanying PowerPoint presentation. Aleks is doing very interesting research measuring the ties among people in the virtual world of Second Life, and is farming results from an opt-in survey she made of 10,000 SL residents. What’s to be learned here? According to Aleks, you can discern several things: Continue reading
Blogger and Second Life resident Tao Takashi has posted a good review of a new Java-based virtual world from Germany called StageSpace, which is still in alpha. While there are some technical problems to overcome in this area, these kinds of worlds could become very popular in future. Why? Tao writes: “The main idea is to manage individual branded virtual worlds for their clients.” Consider the fact that no Hollywood movie gets released these days without a Web site — it’s not a far leap to imagine the day when no movie gets released without a browser-based virtual world. Tao also points out a related problem that will have to be solved: “If more and more seperated virtual worlds come up it will get very annoying to join them. Itâ€™s not like Second Life where the next community might be just a teleport away. And multiple accounts are already a problem with all those web2.0 apps these days. Editing your profile, finding and inviting all your friends again will be joined by customizing your avatar as nobody wants to look like a noob. This also might get costly I assume.” Indeed.
ComputerworldUK has a nice article up about the possibility that different virtual worlds will one day support a standard that would let users travel freely among them. This is an idea I’ve been hot on since even before starting this blog, so it’s nice to see other people supporting it — especially when they’re people like IBM vice president of standards and open source Bob Sutor, who’s quoted in the piece. Sutor has been putting up a nice series of posts on his blog since the beginning of June, detailing his basic requirements for virtual worlds, his desire for more VW artificial intelligence, some scenarios for moving assets, information and identity among virtual worlds, and the need for worlds to run on multiple platforms. (Sutor will be at a virtual worlds event at MIT’s Media Lab this Friday, apparently, though I can’t find a link.) A lot of what he’s talking about in those posts, if you ask me, points toward the broader future of virtual worlds. But feel free to poke holes in my arguments below. Even if it’s only to complain about the great length of this post. Continue reading
One of the great things about lifelogging is that it takes a bunch of data that formerly had been in the hands only of companies and the government, if anyone, and puts it back in the hands of the individual. At the moment, Amazon.com knows enough about me to recommend Infotopia, but unless I care to do some clumsy screen-scraping, what I buy on Amazon stays on Amazon; there’s no way for me to combine that Amazon data with a Netflix history and my Zappos purchases to build a more detailed profile of myself. That’s a shame, but we’re now approaching the point when something like that should soon be possible. Already, there are services and applications out there that can record my browsing history in more or less detail, including stuff like Google History, Justin Hall’s Passively Multiplayer Online Game, Slife, Me.dium and several others. Me.dium, in fact, has been able to leverage the attention data flowing through its Firefox plugin into a $15 million Series B round of funding. This very perceptive blog post (which is excellently titled — and from which I’ve stolen the image above) starts to get at why lifelogging services like Me.dium could become very valuable as the broader metaverse takes shape: “Me.diumâ€™s technology, by tracking peopleâ€™s behavior, could become valuable to advertisers looking for more ways to target ads.” Continue reading
Artur Bergman, writing on O’Reilly Radar, has a good wrap of the location-based services that were trotted out last night at Where 2.0. We posted yesterday about UpNext, about which there’s now more detail, and Artur has good insights into other services as well.
UpNext sounds pretty cool, featuring “a 3D cityscape of New York” where you can zoom around, select different data sets and mash up things like your Upcoming.org events. Plus, “You can click on any building to find out what is in it, as well as tag buildings.” It’s not avatarized nor multi-user, but otherwise sounds quite nice. Of course, it sounds like you could build similar functions for Google Earth with a little bit of effort, and the new Google Maps Street View gives you a crude approximation of the scene at street level (it actually took me a minute to recognize the facade of the building I live in when I looked it up). But UpNext sounds like — sorry about all the “sounds like,” there’s still very littile information on just how it works and what it does — it sounds like it comes ready to load up with events and people and all the rest, which means it could catch on if people dig the interface. Continue reading
MySpace recently announced it would hold a mock presidential election on January 1st and 2nd of next year. (Results will be posted on MySpace’s impact channel.) While that’s obviously not very virtual-worldy, I do think it’s worth noting here, because it’s going to focus a huge amount of attention on one of the most compelling sites of digital identity-making on the Web today. Not that MySpace lacks for attention, but most of that attention perceives it as a novelty. It’s only in the last couple of months that sites like MySpace and other lifelogging-related spaces are starting to be taken more seriously, as important bellwethers of the culture. I’m looking forward to seeing what the coverage of this is like in the press. I’d also love to see “global” polls held in the virtual world of Second Life. Anyone want to set that up?
Pete Cashmore’s excellent Mashable has featured a couple of interesting sites in the last few days that are moving closer to the kind of identity-building tools I’ve been thinking about lately, including the identity-information aggregator I Twitter-predicted for epredator: OtherEgo and YouGetIt let you aggregate your social networking-style identities on a single page. MobileOX is looking to do the same thing. While this isn’t a revolutionary idea (all three services sound like a home-page builder with easy plugin tools), it’s significant that the process of collecting your disparate content and identity information in one place is becoming easier. A technology that’s been around for a while only begins to have a broad impact once it becomes broadly adopted, obviously, and these are just the kind of tools that could lead in that direction. Continue reading
No April Fool’s joke this: 3pointD turned one year old today! It was in the early hours (early minutes, actually) of April 1, 2006, that I posted my first Hello, World! here. Something like 1,400 posts later (can that be? WordPress must be over-counting) and our mission remains the same: “At its most fundamental level, itâ€™s about connecting people in new ways, and about giving them the tools to get more out of not just the Web but out of the real world around them.”
That’s still true, but in the year since then, the 3pointD space (aka the metaverse) has begun to resolve itself a bit — which is perhaps not surprising, since the word didn’t actually mean anything a year ago. What I’ve been trying to describe over the last year is the general direction of the future of connectivity. I still feel, as I wrote last March on my old blog, Walkerings, that “Web 2.0 is over like a hipster neighborhood when The Gap moves in,” and that there’s a new neighborhood to be colonized. That’s of course an overstatement for effect, but I don’t think it’s off the mark. Over the next several (many?) years, the most exciting developments in technology are going to be those that leverage our ever-increasing digital access to places both real and virtual to develop better connections between people in various ways.
The question is, What’s that going to look like? I hate making predictions, but as my birthday present to the blog and its readers, I’ve just spent the evening going out on a limb. You can read the details below or you can jump directly to a brief, fun scenario at the end of the post. Enjoy. Continue reading
I missed the beginning of the remarks by Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research, because the panels are stacked a bit back-to-back and I was on the one directly before he spoke, but the first half of his presentation consisted of laying out some of the potential benefits of integrating virtual worlds with current business processes. The second half of his remarks consisted of looking at what IBM is doing and planning in the space. I’ve transcribed them pretty well below. Continue reading
As Jerry notes, Negin and Kimmy’s latest Nerd of the Week has been posted, this one examining the Second Life Nerd in detail, based on interviews conducted at our latest metaverse meetup with all your favorite Second Lifers. (The interviews are actually interesting, FYI.) If you haven’t seen Nerd of the Week, check it out immediately. Negin and Kimmy turn out to be excellent filmmakers, and their short NOTW episodes are definitely worth your while. And if you’re interested in the metaverse meetups themselves, there’s one happening this Friday in Manhattan, open to all. Read more details here. [UPDATE: Added Revver link so Negin and Kimmy can make some coin from this.]
The presentation I gave in Berlin on Thursday was ostensibly on “virtual worlds, media and identity,” but as I’ve been going over it I’m finding it’s extending itself into a small picture of what the next generation of virtual worlds might look like and how we might get there. A lot of it was stuff that’s probably pretty basic to 3pointD readers, but it might be worth going over anyway. And since it marked my first PowerPoint presentation (and hopefully my last), I can even paste in some slides below. (If you want the full set, send me an email.)
I started out by comparing what can be conveyed via traditional communications media, or rather, what tools are at our disposal when we work in various media. In SMS text messaging, of course, we’re very limited in how we communicate (despite the fact that a lot can be communicated via SMS). In instant messaging, we have a little more leeway, and in email yet more. Voice adds a great deal of breadth to the channel, video conferencing expands it further, and of course the broadest channel through we communicate is face to face, since we have access to facial expressions, gestures, proximity and other “messages” at a higher “resolution” than in any of the other media in the chart. I actually thought this would be pretty unremarkable to most people, but more than a few audience members were quite excited to see things arranged like this — which means I’m going to stick with my habit of pointing out the presumably obvious; sorry, guys. Continue reading
I’m in the Austin airport on the way back from South by Southwest (my flight of course delayed by snow in New York [and actually, I’m home now]), and I just snapped this vaguely Sesame Street-like picture of the number 18. Not just any 18, though: It’s a Helvetica 18, brought to my attention by a fantastic documentary I saw as part of the SXSW film festival, titled simply Helvetica. The typeface celebrates the 50th anniversary of its design this year, but the film does much more than simply celebrate the typeface — which, if you glance around, you’ll realize has become the ubiquitous choice for “clean” design in the period since the second world war. What’s great about Helvetica (besides the fact that it’s beautifully shot) is that it does a terrific job of illustrating how design shapes our lives and who we are as human beings. And in a remarkably 3pointD twist, the film even winds up talking about Helvetica and design in the context of Web apps like MySpace and how those things contribute to who we are, which is the only reason I even dare blog about it here. Continue reading
Venture capitalist and World of Warcraft addict Joi Ito and lifelogger Justin Hall sat down for a conversation together in Room 9C on Monday afternoon at South by Southwest. Ben Cerveny joined them midway. Title of the talk: Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy.
Ito: I know everyone says this, but we’re going to try to make this as interactive as possible. Justin and I are going to talk about online games and what we can learn from them and things like that. I play World of Warcraft and mess around in Second Life, I think it’s stupid to compare them, it’s like apples and oranges. If you played text MUDs you know MOOs and MUDs split at some point. People who were into furries tended to go toward one, people who went toward the other focused more on gamplay and quests and levels. But it is interesting to compare in terms of what you can learn from them.
I play my WoW videos inside of SL and plan WoW raids in SL. SL is more for simulation for me, I do lots of ritual there, talks and things like that. It’s really not where I build relationships, although different people do that.
Shows a slide of WoW UI. Think all the way back to LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis was saying the whole Internet will eventually be MUDs or MOOs. You can think of WoW as an evolutionary point in interface design. You can think of this as an interface to everything on the Web. You can make add-ons, there’s the Lua language for scripting that you can do. Shows his own more complex HUD with lots of add-ons. Most of the screen is in 2D. There’s all kinds of sophisticated stuff. Sometimes the 3D world is really important, but when I’m engaged in a boss fight it’s like a pilot looking at instruments rather than at terrain. A Lot of the innovation happens in the user community. Continue reading
Overheard at the panel on Avatar-based marketing: “It’s fun, you can sit down, make out with people.” I got most of this panel, including a couple of the audience questions.
Moderator, Tony Walsh of the Clickable Culture blog
Paul Hemp, senior editor Harvard Business Review
Linda Zimmer, CEO of MarCom:Interactive
Eric Gruber of MTV, helped launch Virtual Laguna Beach and vHills
Lauren Wheeler of Three Rings
Hemp posed a question: How does a marketing message aimed at a consumer get refracted when it passes through the intermediary of that user’s avatar? Does the avatar act as a prism that changes in some way a real-world marketer’s messge. While a little conceptual, the question is pretty important. Some would say it’s really a meaningless question because the user behind the avatar has the real-world wallet. What’s the avatar have to do with it? My thought is that the avatar represents something about that consumer that is important. Advertising has always targetted consumers’ alter egos, the smiling happy terrifically popular person just waiting to emerge from the consumer’s psyhce with the help of the consoumnres’s product. Here the marketer doesn’t have to hunt for that, it’s on display in the form of the avatar, and can be segmented, terageted, and help understand the consumer behind it. Continue reading
Jerry Paffendorf, Rik Riel, my friend Micah and I dropped in Saturday night at the 13 Most Beautiful Avatars show at the Postmasters gallery in New York. The prints on display were beautiful 36″x 48″ prints of avatars taken from the virtual world of Second Life by a pair of artists named Eva and Franco Mattes, who together constitute 0100101110101101.ORG. I don’t know where that number came from, but it spells 19,373 in binary (unless my calculator is broken). I spoke to Franco at the show and he told me a little but about their work and the process of putting the show together, but what I didn’t realize at the time is that he and Eva and a pair of hacktivist pranksters (or “restless European con-artists,” as they describe themselves) who have engaged in some pretty formidable and in some ways very 3pointD works of art in years past. Continue reading
Let’s dispense with the news straight off: The metaverse meetup that’s slated for 23 February now has a location: Planet Thailand in Williamsburg, which is letting us take over their back room for the event, so you’ll be able to munch Pad Thai and eggplant and wander around and chat to whoever you want to. More importantly, though, a bunch of us checked out Uffie at the Hiro Ballroom last night, and she was awesome — at least, in her way. And in fact, the show was a really interesting look at how deeply the idea of lifelogging and recording one’s raw experience has infected the choices entertainers are making and how that’s affecting the kinds of media that are being created these days. (Pics at the end of it all as well.) Continue reading
Scott Carlson has written a really outstanding article about lifelogging in the February 9 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Not only does he go around wearing recording equipment around his neck like a lifelogging freak (3pointD’s favorite kind of freak, to be sure; see pic at left), but he also talks to people with a variety of different views on lifelogging, investigates its historical roots, and takes the time to illustrate the things that would be lost in the lifelogging age. This is possibly the best single take on lifelogging I’ve yet encountered. Highly recommended reading as we move into increasingly connected days.
For all the time people spend worrying about how to make their avatars look in virtual worlds, why not just get a real person to be your avatar, in the real world? That’s exactly what The Girlfriend Experience offers, though it’s hard to tell whether they’ve gotten many takers yet. The home page sums it up nicely: “The Girlfriend experience is a multiplayer game allowing you to enter into a real-life person and use this person as an avatar.” All this is done via Skype, which calls into question just how much fun you can have “playing” this person, but as a concept, it’s pretty interesting — at least, on some vague philosophical basis. Just what are the limits of avatarization? Or is this more of a performance, with the avatar/actor playing a role that’s written and transmitted in real time? The experience is being offered by Mediamatic, which bills itself as “a cultural institution in Amsterdam.” Unfortunately, the service is rarely available, and then only for short periods of time. We’d be interested to hear from anyone who’s actually had this strange out-of-body Girlfriend Experience. Log in and get your avatar to drop us a line. [Via VTOR.]
IBM’s Ian Hughes (aka Second Life‘s epredator Potato) flags a segment of the BBC Newsnight’s Geek Week 2.0 that examines the nature of the self in cyberspace. The 11-minute segment (click the virtual death link) is a really interesting examination of what it means to inhabit a metaversal presence, and well worth watching. (Second Life appears after about 7 minutes, for the fanbois out there who don’t want to watch the whole thing.) Continue reading
Four Eyed Monsters, the movie I’ve been blogging about periodically here, is finally getting its screening in the virtual world of Second Life, tomorrow at 5pm SL time (8pm Eastern). The screening will take place at the Sundance Channel‘s Second Life »screening room«, as part of Sundance’s entry into SL. (Sundance is a client of the Electric Sheep Company, sponsors of this blog.) The movie is a hugely interesting take on life and love both online and off, and addresses along the way questions of identity and how that’s changing in our increasingly virtual world. Check out the machinima invite that filmmakers Susan Buice and Arin Crumley have made for the film. They’ve really taken to SL since being introduced to it by me and Jerry Paffendorf a while back. Both filmmakers will be at the screening to chat with audience members. This is highly recommended viewing. [Oops: Forgot to mention that the film will simultanously be shown at a handful of other locations around SL, and you can even host your own. See the Sundance Channel’s Second Life page for more details.]
Second Life resident Tateru Nino has a very perceptive post on Second Life Insider yesterday. The post points out a new phenomenon in “camping chairs.” These are usually located at nightclubs, and allow users to earn a trickle of Linden dollars (usually something less than L$50 an hour, that last time I looked) simply for parking one’s avatar’s butt in a chair and remaining there for a period of time. (Most people simply walk away from their computers once they’ve sat down.) The users gets “free” money, and the club owners get high traffic ratings, which push their location up in the charts, making it easier to find, thus attracting more traffic and, hopefully, more revenue. But as Tateru writes, some club owners have recently started installing camping objects that put users’ avatars through the paces of erotic dance. “Is there a qualitative difference here between these and the regular dance-pad/camping chair vulturing?” Tateru asks. “Does this cross the line, or should we consider this more-of-the-same?” Interesting questions. Related: If you saw an avatar doing the erotic zombie dance, would that taint that avatar’s reputation for you? Consider the fact that there’s no one at the controls. It’s like the tree falling in the forest. If an avatar strokes its breasts in public while there’s no one behind the keyboard, does that make them naughty?
As noted, I did a panel last night on lifelogging with Jerry Paffendorf and Susan and Arin of the film Four Eyed Monsters, which is playing for another week at Cinema Village in New York. I don’t know if anyone had a good idea of what they were going to talk about ahead of time, but the panel turned out to be a lot of fun for us, and seemed to be an interesting experience for the audience, who were happy to share their thoughts with us in turn.
One of the things we touched on was how one expresses identity online, through means like MySpace, YouTube, blogs or your behavior in an online world. One of the things that’s most interesting to me about the film is how Susan and Arin expressed their identities to each other in an offline context. Before they even met, they decided that they’d communicate simply through written notes rather than speaking. Though they speak freely to each other now, the film chronicles some interesting moments in their relationship: not just the moments when one or the other of them found the notes too much to bear, but just the way they unfolded themselves to each other through writing, a much slower process than through speaking, as we normally would. The written word, of course, carries a lot less information than the voice. Not only are there vocal inflections and mannerisms to read, but there’s an element of spontaneity that writing can’t capture. Susan and Arin forgo that channel, though, in favor of getting to know each other through the much narrower band of text. As Jerry pointed out, it’s almost as if their relationship took place in text chat. Continue reading
If you’re free Thursday night and in New York, drop by the Four Eyed Monsters screenings at Cinema Village, where I’ll be on a panel about lifelogging, along with Susan and Arin, who made the movie, and Jerry Paffendorf of the Electric Sheep Company (who are, of course, kind sponsors of this blog). If you’re not in New York, you should be able to see it in Second Life soon enough, which is very cool. The film is ace, all about a young couple (Susan and Arin) who meet on MySpace and document their budding relationship in great detail. Read more about Four Eyed Monsters and lifelogging in this post of mine from back in September. Should be an interesting evening. The panel goes off between the 7:25pm and 9:35pm screenings.
As previously noted, I spent much of Friday and Saturday at the joint State of Play / Terra Nova symposium at the New York Law School. I’m always happy to spend a couple of days talking virtual worlds with a lot of smart people, and the symposium was no disappointment in that regard. Great panels were held on governance, methodologies of study, diversity, taxation and learning, but what was hardly touched on were the putative topics of the meeting: “How did we get here?” and “Where now?” As revealed below, however, there was much to be learned about both those topics at the symposium. Continue reading
Rezzible is a Web site building and hosting service that lets you associate a Web site with your identity in the virtual world of Second Life. This is interesting for reasons described below, but more immediately interesting to me is an associated product that lets you put text on a Second Life message board via a Web interface. (It’s the orange sign in the image at left. Both were built by SL resident Barry Walcher.) Dynamic text in Second Life is still a crude affair, and must be accomplished using objects with letter textures already on them instead of any kind of actual text parser. But I like the idea of a message board with a Web-based input channel, so that you can update public, in-world information on the fly. I don’t think there are many other (any other?) apps that do this. Continue reading
As mentioned previously, 3pointD held its first Think Tank event last night in the new »Dirty sim« to discuss issues of sustainability as they relate to the broader metaverse. We had a gratifying turnout of 40+ people, with around half staying more than two hours until the proceedings were done. Thanks to everyone who showed up and contributed ideas, or just showed up to listen. A handful of really nice ideas came out of the meet. You can read a full chat log of the session, posted by SL resident, SignpostMarv Martin, but I’m going to sum up and extend a couple of the ideas that came up below. And look for our next Think Tank coming soon! Continue reading
We’ve blogged before about the possibility that Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life, might start letting users buy the rights to their own last names,effectively reserving a name for themselves and their friends. Now CNet’s Daniel Terdiman is reporting that there’s a plan in place to charge users $100 to set up their own last name, and a $50 annual maintenance fee. Corporate names will cost $1,000 to set up, with a $500 annual fee. While it seems that corporate customers can have unlimited accounts on the same last name, the story doesn’t make clear whether the $100 fee for personal last names covers only one instance of the name, or whether it covers exclusive use for any number of avatars. It seems to me this should get ugly fast, since it requires LL to make a great number of arbitrary decisions about what last names they will and won’t sell off. Who gets to own “Smith” and “Miller,” for instance? It’s also another case that could create a tiered service that works against metaverse neutrality. I’m not convinced that making naming conventions uniform across all users wouldn’t be a better way to go — but I’m open to argument.
3pointD has been making some appearances in print lately. While the travel guide to the virtual world of Second Life we contributed to in the October issue of Wired won’t be available until October 17, we (that is I, Mark Wallace) do have a long piece on “The Future of You” in PC World magazine, as well as on their Web site. “Think the Net has changed your life?” ask the editors, in the article’s subhed. “Wait until it becomes an immersive 3D environment–and it will.” Continue reading
After I blogged about my Second Life avatar getting 3D printed, someone asked for some comparison shots so we could all judge how accurately the process comes off. Presented above for your scrutiny, the many faces of Walker Spaight (aka Mark Wallace), including, clockwise from top left: Walker Spaight in Second Life, the physical Walker model printed from the SL av, Mark Wallace in real life, and Walker Spaight in the massively multiplayer online game EVE Online. Continue reading
Here he is, ladies and gentlemen, fresh from the 3D printer and ready for his close-up, it’s the Walker Spaight avatar we’ve all been waiting for! While I haven’t yet seen him in person, Walker was produced by the Fabjectory 3D printing service of Second Life resident Hal9k Andalso (aka Mike Buckbee). I’m eager to see what Walker is like in real life, having occupied him virtually for almost two years now. (Is this a 3D model of Walker, or of me?) I love the idea of a 3D printing service for avatars, especially in full color; seems a sure thing to take off among SL residents, who are already obsessed with their in-world appearance. You can see a full-length pic of Walker after the jump. Both images are stolen from the Fabjectory set on Flickr. Continue reading
A few of us from the Brooklyn metaverse crowd went to see Four-Eyed Monsters last night, a very interesting feature film about a young New York couple who end up documenting their every move via videotape and handwritten notes, only because they’ve decided not to actually speak to each other. While the film is not a documentary, it was made by the couple who it’s about, and their real lives and dramatized lives do begin to converge toward the end of the film. While it’s a movie about relationships (you know, the kind where two people “slowly start to meld into one beast that has 2 mouths, 4 eyes and 8 limbs and takes up 2 seats on the subway!!!”), it’s in greater measure a movie about the act of recording itself, and what it means at a moment in history when you can store, play back and share as much of your life as you like, with as many people as are willing to pay attention. In this case, Susan and Arin have created a virtual version of their real life together, and it’s interesting to ask what the differences between the two may be, if any — especially in light of similar trends in things like lifelogging, and in the fictionalization of a life like lonelygirl15‘s. And if you stay with this long-winded post all the way to the end, you get to think about how this kind of logging of our lives might help enhance them in some future 3pointD world. Continue reading