I apparently started a new blog about a year and a half ago, posted ten posts there, then didn’t touch it through all of 2010. Well, I’m back! I’ve just put up a post there about the game that I’m making, and immediately got a chill down my spine, just a little taste memory of the heyday of 3pointD, South by Southwest (which I skipped this year for the first time in five or more years), podcasting, meetups, the whole bit. I don’t plan to jump back into blogging, etc., in the same way I did in 2006 — “blogging, etc.” is not at all the same these days — but it was interesting to be reminded of what the blogging life was like. So… if anyone out there is still listening and interested in what I might be up to or have to say (and you’re finding my Twittering a bit too shorthand), do join me at The Last Weblog and say hello. I may occasionally post here as well, I think, but hey: it’s 2011, and this place is so, well… so 3pointD!
It’s South by Southwest season again, or at least the run-up to it. For the last two years I’ve headed to Austin for the excellent South by Southwest Interactive festival, a fun week of geeks and great conversations that takes place each spring in one of the greatest small cities in America. The process of choosing who gets to take the stage there, though, starts early. Hugh Forest, who runs the place, has just posted this year’s SXSW Panel-Picker, the mechanism by which a fair portion of the panels are chosen. I’ve proposed two, which I’m going to insist you all go vote on forthwith. Here are the titles, links and descriptions:
â€¢ Presence: Building the Social Web
“Despite social networking, the Web remains a lonely place: a billion people browse it, each one alone. This session examines efforts to make the Web a more social medium by bringing “presence” online. Help us imagine a Web that works less like a library and more like a multiplayer game.”
â€¢ Kicking Virtual Ass and Taking Avatar Names
“What is it like to run the virtual world’s most notorious tabloid? Where do you draw the line between good taste and bad, between information and sensation, between virtual and real — if such a line exists? Explore the role of a very free press in the evolution of online worlds. Dual presentation with [Second Life Herald founder] Peter Ludlow.” Continue reading
Second Life resident and Fo3 qDot Bunnyhug, one of the top teledildonics engineers in the world, has a new project: The Naughtyizing of Croquet. Yes, the humble roboticist from
Arkansas Oklahoma is going to spend the month of April hooking a variety of motorized sex toys to the open-source virtual world-building platform Croquet. qDot pioneered teledildonics in Second Life about a year and a half ago, and gave a great demo at SXSW06 of a vibrator that could be remotely controlled by an Xbox controller. Now he’s got his sights set on Croquet, which should provide fertile ground for the kind of remote sexuality of which qDot is a master. Plus which, if there’s anything that’s going to focus attention on a platform that’s not getting enough, it’s sex. What I loved about qDot’s rap at SXSW was that he sees teledildonics not so much as a tool for cheap Internet hookups as a way to bring couples who are separated for whatever reason closer together. For qDot, it’s more about the love than about the sex. Stay tuned at Slashdong, his blog, for continuing reports.
John Swords and I recorded a couple of new Metaverse Sessions while we were down at South by Southwest, one with Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online and one with Jamais Cascio of World Changing. Johnny has just posted Ethan’s session (incorrectly labeled #9, even though it’s #10), and there’s some really interesting stuff there. Ethan talks about how Google Maps was used to heighten political awareness in Bahrain, how LiveJournal has become the blogging tool of choice for politically active adults (not kids) in Russia, and the “cyber-utopian dominant narrative” in which everyone gets along in the same online place. We also explore some interesting question of how cultural backgrounds inform the use of technologies, questions that don’t get much discussed (or thought about) in most our metaversal questions. A really cool guest to have for the Sessions, and highly recommended listening.
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
Will Wright gave the keynote talk at the Hilton Grand Ballroom on Tuesday, the last day of 2007’s South by Southwest Interactive.
Justin Hall introduces: Will Wright is a famous successful computer game designer. He created SimCity, which mapped birdseye urban planning into millions of minds. Working on a dollhouse for boys he created the Sims, which allowed all of us to manipulate suburban households. Billions of dollars of revenue, putting him in the highest echelons of entertainment. What does a guy like him do for a hobby? He runs the Stupid Fun Club in the East Bay. I visited the club, and the night I was there, there was a video shown of a robot laying on its side in theh street asking for help, and someone had taped the responses of passers-by to what was basically a homeless helpless robot. Then someone handed me a plastic visor and body suit, I put it on in the spirit of the evening, and suddenly this robot was rapid firing ping pong balls at me. I could see in the back of the room Will Wright behind the controls steering and watching and I think wondering how long I would stand there. This idea of experimentation and testing with things, he’s made it possible for all of us to experiment with the systems around us. Now Will Wright is building a simulation of the universe. Wow.
Will Wright (one arm in a sling): All those pictures you just saw [projected on screens before the talk] are from the Hubble. I broke my arm skiing, before you ask. I had way too much coffee today, so I’ll go fast. They asked me to speak here, I decided I’d come and talk about story. Then a week ago I read that I would be demoing Spore, so I’m mashing the two together. 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
It’s Sunday at 5:00pm in Austin and I’m at the panel: On the Edge of Independent User-Creation in Gamespace
Paffendorf: Imagine being pumped up right now. Welcome. What I work on: My profession is being a futurist in the video gaming and virtual world space. I survey and think ahead about what’s happening with various simulations. I’m actually on staff, which is a nice position, with Electric Sheep Company, about a year old start-up that builds 3D content, experiences and software for virtual worlds that allow users to create content. We work primarily in Second Life. Invites audience to take stage to fill a fourth position on the panel.
In our business, I have a lot of freedom to lead and create public conversations. I define what’s happening in that space as the metaverse, which I do borrow from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Last year I helped to start a research project with the Acceleration Studies Foundation called the Metaverse Roadmap: What is happening between video games, virtual worlds, gemapping and the web? We kind of came up with a definition: 4 components: Virtual worlds. Mirror Worlds. Augmented reality technolgoies bringing virtual activity to physical locations. Lifelogging, having a persistent identity in various sites and things you do, turning yourself into an avatar.
What happens when video games and gamespaces become more like the Web, in that anyone can create their own spaces and games, then connect to those with avatar identity, then we have the real practical immersive virtual world of communities online. 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
Dan Catt’s mapping panel was a very cool session that was difficult to synthesize at the speed it went by, but I think I got most of what the panelists said. All very 3pointD.
Moderator: Rev. Dan Catt, from Geobloggers.com and Flickr
Tom Carden from Random Etc.
Aaron Straup Cope from Flickr
Jerry Paffendorf from the Electric Sheep Company
Ian White from Urban Mapping Inc.
Catt first asked everyone without laptops to stand up and shake their hands in front of them in order to wake up, then groan quietly like a zombie, then louder than the person next to you. Two questions before you sit down: Who objects to swearing, say boo. Those who don’t object to swearing, say Fuck Yeah. (You can imagine which was louder.)
Cope talked about how we tell where things are. Shows a quote from Douglas Coupland’s Shampoo Planet. “History and geography are being thrown away.” Cope: This is wrong.
Cope: Geography helps set the stage for an experience, history gives an experience context and nuance. We have theselocation devices that tell you where things are. I could care less where the nearest Starbucks is. I don’r eally care about driving directions either. But if I’m at a place, I would love to be able to see what came before and have a sense of its history. Continue reading
I looked in at the Games + Entertainment Brands panel for a few minutes before I started feeling too rumpled and had to duck out. Here’s what I heard while I was there (some of it was even interesting):
Moderator: Robert Nashak of Yahoo! Games
Charles Merrin, VP NA Games at RealNetworks
Brian Ring, GM Interactive Content at Scope Sevem
Chris Charla, director of business development at Foundation 9 Network
As I arrived, Nashak was mentioning the importance of user-created content in building a brand around a game. Merrin, on the other hand, warned that brands were often wary of user-created content out of fear that it would hurt the image of the brand, and that this would be true for some time.
Charla talked about procedural safeguards. Sony has apparently done a lot of work on their new PS3 home service toward preventing untoward uses of user-generated content. Their Little Big World platform [which introduces something Sony seems to be calling “user-definable gaming”] allows users to create and upload levels, and to vote on other people’s levels. “Butit’s difficult to get swear words in there,” Charla said.
Ring related an experience he’d had recently when moderating a panel with someone from Whyville, who have spent years creating sophisticated technology, including nine proprietary algorithms, to filter all the chat sessions that run through the service.
Nashak: “Whyville is one of my favorite things. It’s basically a tween site for girls pretty much, and for the first time they seeded a product into the world, a Toyota car. It was the first time you could have a car in Whyville. Whyville counted on the nag factor, that girls would talk about it so much that parents would want to buy one for themselves.” He didn’t know whether the initiative had been a success.
Ring also mentioned virtual worlds like Second Life. “What we’re seeing is a lot of these things calling themselves ‘social games.’ That’s where I see a big thing happening. That’s where user-generated content has a big role to play.”
Merrin also spoke about Second Life. “It’s incredible what this tapestry allows you to do. It’s almost the brand within the user-generated content, rather than the other way around.”
Nashak: “What you’re going to start seeing is brands taking very seriously that their passionate users want to co-create the brand with them.” He advised brands to “think about creating engines for people to express themselves around brands,” and mentioned Bix.com, a Yahoo! property where users do things like create content for each other. “It’s infinitely scalable because users are creating it, you don’t have to keep feeding in content.”
I came into the panel New Dogs, New Tricks: New Media Goes to the Movies just slightly late, but caught most of it. It looked largely at marketing and promoting films in the new media environment, but didn’t seem to go very far past current services like YouTube and several recent launches represented by the panelists. The MTV rep, however, did venture into the land of new modes of storytelling that new media might make possible.
When I came in, Kirsner was asking about who the new power players would be in the new media space, where long-form downloadable content was concerned.
Rick DeVos from Spout.com didn’t see any big new players in long-form downloadable content. Rick believes in the power of social recommendation and word of mouth to hook up niche filmmakres with niche audiences, which is what Spout is trying to do.
David Gale talked about what he looked at at MTV, which covers everything “from short films to a gaming mechanism. MTV launched the Daily Rage this week, wher the audience can win money in a gamelike mechanism.” They also bought a company recently that takes comic books and graphic novels and turns them into cool new media versions. “There’s a whole opportunity to take what’s been traditional media and turn it into new media. It really opens up another way of telling stories. Film is still its traditional media thing [in terms of MTV’s business]. My division is about taking anything that is not film- or televison-originated and looking at the platform and how you can create things in those mediums.” Continue reading
First Screenburn panel, first transcript: Terraforming the Internet, When 3D Models Meet Business Models kicked off at 10:00am Central Time here in Austin, and I got pretty much all of it for your reading pleasuere (thought I ducked out as the audience questions were starting in order to try to find some Internets that actually worked.
Moderator: IBM’s John Tolva
Jan D’Allesandro from Meez.com
Eric Rice, Slackstreet Studios
Bill Victor of Halcyon Worlds
Ben Batstone-Cunningham, of Alt-Zoom Studios, who formerly worked for Linden Lab, makers of Second Life
Tolva opened with a question about whether 3D virtual worlds were the next Internet (i.e., a replacement of it), or an appendage to the page-based Internet.
Rice: I don’t believe the page model is going to die. While [virtual worlds are] not by definition purely gaming, it’s certainly in a space where there’s this sense of presence [as in gaming]. It’s like watching a funny movie by yourself or watching it with someone else. The energy of people around you affects your experience. I think it’s another path, but I don’t think it’s a replacement.
Tolva responded that there are page-based communities that represent collaborative space, though that space is not physicalized. What differentiates There.com and Second Life from very social spaces like MySpace.
Rice: It’s that live presence, spatialized, where you can see reactions. Continue reading
Well, the Electric Sheep Company‘s Jerry Paffendorf starts off his South by Southwest with this years First Geeksleeper of the Year award, for having the presence of mind to snap the shot at left, which shows fellow Sheep Meg McGrath dozing off while the rest of the crew partied on around her. If you’re not familiar with the grand tradition of the geeksleep (as if anyone could have missed this cultural imperative that has swept the nation over the last 12 months), dial on back to geeksleep #1, which was taken by me at last year’s SXSW. What is geeksleeping, I hear you ask? According to the description I posted on Flickr back then, it’s the following:
Geeksleep: (noun) 1. the act of sleeping during a technology conference or while involved in any geek-like activity. 2. sleep performed by anyone who could be described as a geek. (verb) 1. to capture a geeksleeper on camera and post his/her picture to Flickr with the “geeksleep” tag.
Seems Jerry’s new geeksleep hasn’t had a chance to make it into the Geeksleep stream yet, but no matter. Congratulations are due, and you can give them personally if you wander over to the Electric Sheep booth in the Screenburn arcade. Meanwhile, get your geeksleep on. Shouldn’t be hard for the assembled to get at least one more of these a day up on Flickr for the rest of the week. If not, it means you’re not partying hard enough in the evenings.