Hm, I must have fallen out of favor with the folks at MTV, since I heard about this not from them but from one of the artists involved in the project. What is it? It’s nothing less than Virtual Lower East Side, or vLES, for short, which is basically the implementation of what was to be known as MTV’s Music World. Using Doppelganger‘s technology, MTV has built out a more or less street-for-street replica of New York’s Lower East Side, complete with virtual versions of the area’s real clubs and restaurants. This is like the seedy sister world to Virtual Hills and Laguna Beach. Essentially, it’s a 3D virtual world with a MySpace for bands attached. If things are still on course, your band can get promoted from the Web-based social network into the virtual world, if you’re popular enough, with the distant possibility of actually getting into rotation on one of MTV’s channels if you do well enough there. (The site doesn’t say that, but that’s what I was told wehn I was working on the article linked above.) It’s just now in alpha, so you probably can’t get in yet, but the site shows some promising features, including a cool map highlighting the few establishments that have already been built out. But the $64 million question is, Can this gain any traction with young hipsters here and with those who aspire to hipsterdom elsewhwere but who can’t get to the Lower East Side they’ve always wanted to see?
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?
I had the chance to spend some time at Virtual Worlds 2007 with Nicky Morris from 3B, an interesting virtual world service I’ve blogged about before, and Nicky described to me some of the features of the 3B relaunch that’s planned for somewhere around May. According to Nicky, 3B is moving toward deeper Web integration and a more YouTube-like feel in some aspects. If you’re not familiar with 3B, it’s a service that basically grabs the content on your MySpace or other Web page, and uses it to automatically create a 3D space you can navigate as an avatar and invite your friends to. The space that gets created is more or less a room in which the various walls are textured with the images and videos from your site. I like the idea of making it easy to get content into a 3D space where you can hang out with friends, much as Kaneva does, although it remains to be seen which of the many similar services that are now popping up wins this. 3B is hoping to advance its cause with a raft of new features and ease-of-use enhancements. Continue reading
The L Word build in the virtual world of Second Life (created by the Electric Sheep Company, sponsors of this blog) has apparently generated quite a following, and is reportedly one of the more successful corporate VW communities in Second Life. Now an interesting thing has happened: Fatty Cardiff, one of the earliest L Word in SL members, has put up a MySpace page for her avatar (including an amusing rap song about the place). According to Electric Sheep Chris Carella, Fatty has been in The L Word in SL from its first or second day, and was founder of the Lesbian Mafia group [UPDATE: see below for a correction], a very large and active user-created group in SL. Fatty is not the first avatar to have a Web-based social networking page, of course, but I love that the in-world L Word community (three times fast) is pushing itself onto the Web in this way. If nothing else, it speaks to the fact that Second Life users want more powerful tools of social networking and self-expression than SL can currently provide. Worlds like Kaneva, Metaversum and Sony’s PS3 home may go further, but based on how those have been described, I’d bet we won’t really be happy until there’s a really deep integration between 3D virtual worlds and some of the social networking services that already exist on the Web, like MySpace and Flickr, to name only two.
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
Marketing man and podcaster Greg Verdino reports that the virtual world of Kaneva, which 3pointD covered in detail recently, is about to go into open beta on Monday, March 19. Get your media ready, kids. Kaneva gives members an apartment where they can upload photos, videos and other content to share in a 3D social environment — as close to a 3D MySpace as I’ve seen. It’s a potentially powerful idea, the ability to be present in the same space with the people who are viewing your content, but it remains to be seen how it takes hold. Two pre-emptive feature requests: (1) At present, you need to upload your content to the Kaneva site, and then link it in the world. I’d love to see the interactive picture frames and televisions in Kaneva be able to pull content directly from Flickr or YouTube. (2) I’d also love to see that content become clickable, so that you could see a photo on an apartment wall and click through to the Web page where it’s taken from. Neither of those things is possible at the moment, but Kaneva hinted to me that something like this might be coming. We’ll see. It’s a very interesting place nonetheless. Feel free to send word of your impressions once you get in next week.
Now that is the face of a lifelogger. One of the earliest lifeloggers, in fact. That’s Gordon Bell, lately of Microsoft but before that of DEC, with a couple of other mildly important stops along the way. A 3pointD reader reminded me of Bell the other day by linking to Microsoft’s MyLifeBits project, which I’d last thought about before lifelogging started taking up so much of my brainspace lately. A project of Microsoft’s research labs (not still known as BARC, I believe), MyLifeBits is essentially an experiment in logging Bell’s life in as much detail as possible, with Microsoft developing logging and storage tools along the way. For much more on this, read the long piece by Bell and colleague Jim Gemmell in the latest Scientific American. What I was particularly happy to be reminded of, though, was the fact that lifelogging — which we tend to think of as an outgrowth of MySpacing — in fact has its roots more than 60 years ago, at the dawn of the computing age, in or at least around the time of this July 1945 article in Atlantic Monthly by computing pioneer Vannevar Bush. Interestingly, the problems Bush was grappling with are not so different from those we ponder today: “The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present-day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record.” Continue reading
I’m not saying Kaneva is the future; I’m just saying it could well capture a lot of little clicking fingers. [Now with further details.] I met with Kaneva CEO Christopher Klaus, COO Rob Frasca and marketing director Michelle Norwood yesterday at a Starbucks on the Upper West Side to hear what they’re up to, and I was surprised to find a lot of it dovetailed with some of the things I like to blah on about here on 3pointD. They won’t let me into the beta until next week because they’re moving some servers around at the moment — as well as barnstorming various bloggers and media outlets — but the demo reel I saw showed a system that seemed to combine the expressive power of MySpace with the social power of There.com, and which was a nice way to bridge the 2D and 3D online worlds without worrying too much about things like “immersion.” If it turns out people are starting to push the limits of what they can do on MySpace, this could be the natural next step for a lot of them. What it allows you to do, which MySpace doesn’t, is to engage in the kind of “social media consumption” (I just made that term up — I think) that has been one of the more powerful features of existing 3D social worlds, and which will increasingly come to mark our media habits in the future, if you ask me. Continue reading
Well, it’s official: celebrity scents are over. As of tonight, you’re nobody if you don’t have your own 3D virtual world. Just ask supermodel-cum-talk show host Tyra Banks, who opened Tyra’s Virtual Studio this evening with a grammy party. “The studio is a free virtual world where you can listen to music, chat with your friends, get insider info about what’s happening at the Tyra Banks Show and just hang out,” according to the site. But you knew that already. In Tyra’s Virtual Studio, however (which is available for both Windows and Mac), “Your avatar can drop it like it’s hot.” Whew. We knew there was some added value here. Continue reading
As noted here, MTV is expanding its virtual world, Virtual Laguna Beach, to incorporate Laguna Beach spinoff show The Hills. (Read more about MTV’s virtual world initiative and how it came together in my piece in the February issue of Wired, which has just come out.) MTV’s vHills apparently launched last Monday, while I was away, but it’s now kicking off what could be a nice experiment in user-generated content: a fashion challenge (to be announced in vHills on Tuesday, 23 January, at 8pm EST) that looks like it will allow users to become either models or fashion designers. It’s also something that could help push adoption of virtual worlds as 3D social networking sites, if you ask me. 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.]
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.
Linda Zimmer over at Business Communicators of SL flags what sounds like a very cool application: a downloadable 3D browser called 3B that allows you take existing 2D Web content and make an avatarized 3D space out of it that others can visit. From the site: “3B allows you take any web sites or photos and place them in a personalized 3D space, your 3B village. You can use MySpace, Hi5 or Bebo pages or photos you’ve loaded onto Flickr, Photobucket or any other web service.” Cool. I’m really looking forward to checking this out, as a MySpace-to-Second Life importer is one of the things on my personal technology wish list. 3B sounds like not much more than a way to paste flat Web pages onto the walls of a 3D environment, but it raises some interesting possibilities. It also remains to be seen whether this kind of thing has the community-building and self-expressive power of a place like Second Life. But what interests me about it is that it could be an easier way to get Web users into 3D online spaces. And as we know, getting a critical mass of people into such environments often leads to truly fascinating things that the developers hadn’t envisioned. More reports to come.
CNet’s Michael Parsons reports that a new version of isometric virtual world Habbo Hotel, to be releaseed this week, will include Web-based social networking functions that will let users interact outside the world, as well as within in. “Habbo users will get their own homepage, which is fully customisable with its own backgrounds, colours, friends list and the ability to send and recieve messages. In other words, Habbo’s going all MySpace,” Parsons writes. Though it looks a bit flat, Habbo is of course hugely popular, with some 7 million people having logged in last month, according to the CNet story. 3pointD is a big believer in Web integration for virtual worlds, so we see this as a good thing, and another indication of a small but growing trend.
Hard to believe it was way back in May that we reported that Swedish social networking site PlayAhead was being brought into the virtual world of Second Life by VW services company Rivers Run Red. At long last, the project has launched, according to this Michael Parsons column in CNet UK. It’s a good read, describing the launch “as though the flat profiles of the community’s members have risen up off the page like a pop-up book and suddenly starting walking around with independent life.” Parsons also contemplates “what would happen if other larger social-networking sites made the leap into the third dimension,” and echoes one of our favorite sentiments here at 3pointD: “Current online social spaces like PlayAhead and MySpace are building a two-dimensional path that leads directly to the heart of the metaverse, and once people have started to invest a lot of time and energy into their social-networking accounts, they’re going to be a lot more open to the next step — taking that first, awkward walk as a newly born avatar, stumbling around in three-dimensional space and trying to find someone cute to have a virtual drink with.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
There’s a new SecondCast on the air: in Episode #33 we talk to Mike Prevost of Muse Isle, a Second Life venue for live music performance, and Cylindrian Rutabaga, who often plays there. An interesting look at what it’s like to gig in the virtual world. Plus, listen along as the SecondCasters pimp their MySpace pages in order to try and get a record deal. Exciting!
MTV’s Virtual Laguna Beach, the virtual world tied to its hit TV show, gets its official launch this Wednesday, according to an article in The New York Times. The article also reports that MTV plans two other virtual worlds to join VLB in coming months: “VMTV is a music destination where visitors can club-hop among hip neighborhoods, buy music, watch videos, sing karaoke or even start their own bands. The third virtual destination, LogoWorld, an offshoot of Logo, the gay and lesbian cable channel, will be designed entirely by its participants.” Could this be the beginning of the migration we’ve been pointing to here at 3pointD for some time? That is, the migration from flat online community spaces like MySpace and into their 3D counterparts like Second Life and There.com (which provided the underlying technology for VLB). We of course are betting it is, but it could also mark a shift in how such places get funded and built, from start-up companies that need to seek venture capital to stay afloat, to big media companies getting into the space. The 3pointD age is upon us.
Public relations agency Text 100 — who came number 9 among tech consultancies in PR Week’s top 50 last year — has opened an office in the virtual world of Second Life, a project built out by the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog). “Does this mean we could become the ‘preferred virtual supplier’ to anyone holding a launch or PR event in Second Life!?” muses Text 100’s Adrianne Kern. It would seem the opportune time to open a PR agency devoted to virtual campaigns. Text 100’s office is not exactly that, but it is more evidence of how much potential (too much?) people see in in-world promotions these days. Continue reading
Well, I guess the news broke while I was on jury duty, but the story I mentioned earlier today as well as last Thursday is now official: 80s new wavers Duran Duran are headed to the virtual world of Second Life in what sounds like a big way. According to a press release, the band is having its own “fantasy, luxury island” built out in SL, where they will give live concerts and media appearances “taking place alongside the bandâ€™s media, public and live engagements in the real world. . . . The band has appointed London virtual world designers Rivers Run Red to create the five Duran Duran avatars and the bandâ€™s bespoke universe. Creative Director Justin Bovington said: ‘This heralds a new era in how branded content is being developed. For the first time a major international band is using a virtual world as a branded, immersive experience. We’re working directly with the band members to ensure fans get the ultimate Duran Duran experience’.” [UPDATE: Read 3pointD’s interview with the band’s Nick Rhodes for more.] Continue reading
After I blogged the location-tracker hacked up for use in Second Life by Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka the other day, Cory sent along a link to a similar service, SLStats [Cory also blogged it, I now see], that was started recently by SL resident Mark Barrett. I’ve also been meaning to look into the new blogHUD built by SL resident Koz Farina, which is currently in alpha. The cool thing about that is that it can be used as a kind of location-tracking device as well. Continue reading
So far, this hasn’t been a very self-referential blog. That’s been a conscious choice and a natural decision, since it isn’t my first impulse to just bung the details of my personal life onto Teh IntarWeb. It’s been tempting, at times, but then I ask myself: How 3pointD is this really? And the answer is usually “Not very,” so I don’t see that changing much anytime soon. (Readers breathe collective sigh of relief.)
That said, this is a slightly self-referential post, but it has to do more with the content of the blog than with the content of my hours and days. Basically, I’m putting you all on notice that I plan to expand the scope of 3pointD.com slightly to occasionally take in a bit more of the cultural reportage on MMOs that used to appear on my now nearly defunct blog, Walkerings. Continue reading
As some readers of this blog know, I am also the editor of the Second Life Herald, an online newspaper covering events in the virtual world of Second Life. The paper was originally founded back in October 2003 as the Alphaville Herald (on the Alphaville server of The Sims Online) by University of Michigan philosophy professor Peter Ludlow, who soon found himself on the front page of The New York Times. (Peter and I recently co-wrote a book about his adventures in TSO and our continuing work on the Herald in Second Life, which should be out next spring.)
Peter always maintained (and I share this view) that though it was reporting an life in an online game, the Herald was covering issues that would be more and more important to everyone’s real lives as online and offline life became more and more integrated. A couple of recent stories have made this point quite eloquently, the latest being another case of bullying via MySpace. The Herald, it seems, was as spot on as we like to think it was. Continue reading
Is a Southern Takeover of Second Life on the way? Hot on the heels of Warner Bros. launching Regina Spektor’s latest album in the virtual world of Second Life comes a press release from the Universal Motown Records Group promising “two first-ever virtual artist meet and greets which fans from all over the world can experience in real time.” The artists are hip-hop bad boy Chamillionaire, who will appear in SL on June 25, and frat-rockers Hinder, who will make their in-world appearance the next day. Given that Chamillionaire is a platinum-selling recording artist, this could be Second Life’s most attention-grabbing event to date. It also seems to mark the first ongoing commitment to a Second Life presence by a big real-world media company. But it raises some critical questions about the capacity of Linden Lab‘s technology to handle the attention. Continue reading
Glitchy sends along a press release from Skype and IT/telecomms company Comverse Technology about Skype Klonies, the new avatar personalization feature available to Skype users. (Dial it up here.) Like Saul Klein, Skype’s VP of marketing, I’m sure this will be popular. “Recent surveys we conducted show that personalization capabilities are important to the Skype community,” Klein says in the release. What the release doesn’t say is that you have to pay for your Klonie (which didn’t stop me, of course; it was only about $1.25, but for some reason I got charged in euros).
Strangely, my new Skype Klonie has got me thinking about whether VoIP has much of a future as a standalone service. Read on. Continue reading
Those who experienced The Sims Online know how appealing it was for TSO residents to post their real-life details and photos on the Real Sims Online site. Now there’s a similar service for Second Life, in the form of a site called SLProfiles.com, where residents can match their photos of their avatars to photos of themselves in the real world. I’m not sure how long it’s been around, but it’s only got a couple of dozen members at the moment, so it can’t have launched all that long ago. Looks like May 27 was the launch date, actually, according to this forum posting from SL resident Yo Brewster, who put the site together. The site is similar to SLme, although that site is part of the larger Me.com network, and not specifically dedicated to Second Life. Still, despite its noisy interface, SLme, which has been around longer, seems to have more members. Continue reading
The Register reports that the new television network planned by Rupert Murdoch, MyNetworkTV, will leverage Murdoch’s ownership of MySpace to form a similar social network around its shows. Clips will be freely shareable among members of an upcoming MyNetworkTV.com site, and the network will of course be cross-promoted on MySpace. (I missed this story when it broke last week, but I haven’t seen or heard of it in any of the regular metaverse channels, so it seemed worthy of a post here.) Another feature of MyNet, as the Hollywood Reporter is calling the network, will be Casting Call, in which aspiring actors will be able to post their videos, and have them voted on as to who should get parts in MyNet shows. Could MyNet do for those people what MySpace has done for aspiring rockers? (Note that some people don’t think it’s done all that much.) And why not just wrap this into MySpace itself? Is it wise and/or useful to try to make a second such social network work?
Glitchy links to “a sweet X-Men promo” called X-Planet that layers a fan-based social network on top of a browser-based Google Earth-powered app (or Google Earthsat data, at least). Click around the map and you can find your fellow mutants, see their profiles and links, zoom in on their GPS locations, add them to your buddy list, join fan squads and assign yourself mutant powers. Around 4,500 members have joined so far.There doesn’t seem to be a way for members to communicate with each other, but it’s an interesting use of geospatial data and a cool way to represent a social network. Imagine all of MySpace plotted as dots in your Google Earth. (Sites like Platial and Community Walk are doing similar things with Google Maps, of course.)
Way to go, metaverse meme! VerySpatial’s latest podcast covers lots of 3pointD issues, including the land lawsuit against Linden Lab blogged here May 9, 3D desktops, MySpace and the Metaverse Roadmap. There’s a bit of catch-up going on here (they can’t figure out whether of not Second Life is a game, for instance), but it’s recommended listening nonetheless.
The future of 3pointD is getting an important test in PCD Music Lounge, the new 3D social space being launched by San Francisco startup company Doppelganger in a deal with Interscope records. Much has been written about this already (I was on a plane back from California at the time), so I’ll just add the 3pointD perspective: I call PCD Music Lounge and Doppelganger an important test because it’s one of the first things that will begin to move the MySpace crowd into 3D online spaces. There are still a lot of dots missing on the line between MySpace and 3D platform-like worlds like Second Life, but Doppelganger could start filling in some of them. Continue reading
In the wake of the Metaverse Roadmap (are you tired of hearing about this event yet?) a really interesting distributed conversation has developed that has as its main interlocutors massively multiplayer game designer Raph Koster, chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka of Linden Lab (makers of Second Life), and SL resident Prokofy Neva, one of the most outspoken activists in the metaverse for the cause of avatar rights. The main issues here seem to come down to how the metaverse will emerge and whether 3D is the right thing to emphasize. Raph presents a skeptical argument on the value of “social” virtual worlds, while Prok waxes eloquent on the “momentous occasion” that is the emergence of places like Second Life. As usual, I come down somewhere in the middle, though I do think both Raph and Prok are missing the point somewhat, while Cory is probably closer to the mark: Second Life is less a social virtual world than it is a tool or development platform. As such, its adoption curve will have less to do with games or traditional VWs and more to do with things like the Internet and World Wide Web. My vision of the metaverse horizon has SL — or something like it — moving out of the VW space altogether and becoming something we’ll think of more as an interface that will be useful for some things and not for others. Raph does get it right when he says “some of the best indicators of coming metaverses are Habbo Hotel, Cyworld, MySpace, Amazon, and eBay.” But I’d argue that some of these apps will naturally evolve at least partially toward 3D spaces, and will come to include geospatial hooks from flat Web pages to real places. Continue reading