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Two Australian virtual NYE parties

If you\’ve got an inkling to celebrate New Year\’s Eve online this year, you have two options from an Australian perspective, let alone all the other parties that will be going on.

The first involves Second Life: ABC Island will have a community party starting at 11pm AEST and running for 24 hours to cover worldwide timezones.

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The second is a party hosted on the Australian web-based platform, ExitReality by . This event actually kicked off at midday AEST but will again cover all the timezones. You\’ll need to download the ExitReality plugin (Windows only) to join the party.

Paris Hilton is in Australia to host the real-life party being held at the Trademark Hotel in Sydney, with the ExitReality version and a webcast also on offer.

Ten virtual worlds predictions for 2009

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Now that we\’ve reviewed our 2008 predictions, it\’s on to 2009. For the coming year, we\’re going to get a little bit more specific in our predictions. It may lower our chances of success but will be more fun. So here we go:

1. OpenSim grids will bleed Second Life users - this may seem a very obvious prediction given the growth of OpenSim grids, but what I mean here is that the exodus will be obvious. It won\’t be a migration that will affect Second Life\’s viability (other issues may achieve that), but there will be a solid, committed population of OpenSim users choosing those grids over Second Life\’s one. Put another way, new users will see OpenSim grids as an equal option to signing up to Second Life.

2. Virtual worlds will appear as normal daily life in TV / Movies – To date, most appearances of virtual worlds in TV and film are either documentaries or as a central part of an action / geek film. US comedy The Office and CSI have both featured Second Life but essentially in a sensationalistic way. 2009 will see more insertions of virtual worlds into daily life scenes in shows. A disclosure here: I\’m particularly confident on this one as I\’ve had the pleasure of helping out on a film project that features a virtual world in a day-to-day context. More on that in the first few months of next year.

3. There will be a net increase in Australian business in virtual worlds – Second Life won\’t see any significant growth in Australian businesses entering Second Life and there may actually be a decrease. The gains will come in worlds like Twinity, customised worlds created on platforms like VastPark and possibly even some entry into enterprise worlds offered by entities like IBM and Forterra. Any increase will be driven by the increasing awareness of virtual worlds as a cost-effective business collaboration tool.

4. Virtual worlds will remain a political no-go zone – Australian political parties have had zero presence to date and it\’s extremely unlikely to change in 2009. Any planning being done by the major parties for the 2010 Federal Election is unlikely to extend beyond services like YouTube and Twitter. Things may stretch to sites like Barack Obama\’s Change site, but forget anything 3D.

5. Metaplace will be a game-changer – Metaplace\’s simple, web-based interface combined with some impressive content creation tools will ensure a launch with impact and significant growth. There\’ll be some obvious poaching of users from services like Habbo Hotel but also from content-creation havens like Second Life.

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6. Virtual sex will lead to legislation – Linden Lab\’s gambling, ageplay and banking clamp-downs were an early start to the reality of increased regulation and governments worldwide are increasingly scrutinising virtual world activities. Sexual exploits (aside from ageplay) have remained unregulated. For better or worse, this won\’t remain.

7. Australian Universities will fall further behind in incorporating virtual world training tools – Australia has some leading lights as far as virtual world and education go, something highlighted by AVWW 2008. In the wider university sector, US and UK universities are integrating virtual world training simulations in a range of areas including health and engineering. Australian universities on the whole haven\’t begun thinking about this in a widespread way, even with the talented educators putting the case locally. 2009 will see the gap widen further as key universities overseas start to demonstrate significant education outcomes.

8. Second Life will remain a frustrating experience – the announcement of standalone servers may prove this prediction wrong, but 2009 is unlikely to show an enormous improvement in the Second Life user experience. The user interface will certainly improve and the stability of the platform may improve exponentially. The ongoing frustration will be the same issue that\’s plagued Second Life to date: regular, crushing lag. This is one prediction I\’d particularly like to be proven wrong on. A sub-prediction here too: the Teen grid will continue to decline and may even close altogether.

9. Growth, growth, growth – every metric and market research report points toward ongoing growth in the number of people spending time in virtual worlds. The new entrants will assist this growth but the incumbents will also grow. Habbo Hotel will most likely retain is dominance in raw numbers but children\’s worlds like Barbie Girls, Hello Kitty Online and Club Penguin will provide an enormous userbase as well. Add to that the promising growth of Sony\’s Home and you can see this is a safe prediction, but worthy of a mention.

10. Virtual Goods will boom – the interest from business in virtual goods as a money-maker has accelerated significantly in the past six months in particular, and 2009 will see that continue. Second Life has been a leader in that aspect, followed closely by children\’s worlds and gaming worlds. Goods will get more sophisticated, with much more real-world marketing efforts behind them. 2009 may also see some virtual goods out-rank popular real-life items in terms of sales and revenue.

2009 looks promising overall, even in the context of the current economic situation. At worst, seven of the above ten should ring true over the coming year. More importantly, I\’d love to hear your predictions for 2009. How clear is your crystal ball?

Linden Lab\’s CEO looks back on 2008

Everyone\’s retrospective at present, and Linden Lab\’s CEO is no different. Read his thoughts here.

A number of Second Life presences are listed as highlights by M Linden – what would you add to the list?

Protest in Second Life: the current Gaza conflict

Over on DIP\’s Dispatches from the Information Age, SL resident Eureka Dejavu has posted some pics of a protest held over recent days. The focus of the protest is the current flare up of hostilities between Hamas and Israeli defence forces. Specifically, the protest is against the current Israeli actions in the Gaza strip. This has caused some angst in some quarters, with accusations of one-sideness.

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Although I deplore in the extreme Hamas\’ actions to date, I\’d be surprised if the protesters were there primarily to support Hamas. Isn\’t the distress focused primarily on the loss of innocent human lives in the midst of it all?

Yes, Hamas use appalling tactics of placing themselves in civilian areas, but that doesn\’t negate the right of those concerned for those civilians to be outraged at their death? As Eureka summarises in her post, that\’s exactly the perspective encouraged at the protest.

For mine, this view expressed in the post says it all:

The gathering is an example of the rich, textured opportunity that 3D immersive spaces like Second Life offer for people to express their concerns about present day issues

Click here for the full photo set (from which the above picutre comes) and judge for yourself. As always, comments are welcome – was this a one-sided protest, a rightful platform to express sorrow at current events, or both?

Virtual Worlds and Australia 2008 Part 2

Look for Part 1 of our roundup here. Onto the second half of 2008:

July 2008

- The first issue of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research launched
- We started a two-part series looking at virtual world addiction
- The first successful teleport between the Second life grid and an OpenSim grid was announced
- Google Lively was announced

- New Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon gave a report on his first two months
- We discussed the concept of Second Life as a frontier product
- Sister site, Metaverse Health, launched.

August 2008

- Sex in Google\’s Lively got the Second Life Herald treatment
- Second Life on the iPhone and iPod Touch became a reality (sort of)
- A Saddle Club virtual world continued development
- A Second Life musician received a real-world recording deal
- We profiled AUGrid founder Nathan Organ

- An Australian honours student conducted research on journalism and Second Life
- Students vs Second Life generated some excellent discussion in the blogosphere
- The Melbourne Laneways presence on ABC Island in Second Life bit the dust
- Debate ensued on an article on the Sydney Morning Herald claiming Second Life is on the wane for Australians. The PhD student quoted in the article, Kim MacKenzie, rightly hit back on the coverage.

September 2008

- VastPark released its Immersion Player
- Health facilities continue to explore virtual world with gusto
- Twinity moved to public beta
- Openlife\’s momentum continued to build

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- Second Life is my wheelchair covered accessibility issues and virtual worlds
- The WA Police entered Second Life as a recruitment strategy, with some controversy ensuing
- We criticised Linden Lab\’s growing secrecy

October 2008

- Gender Freedom Day was celebrated in Second Life
- Cranial Tap\’s business services were given the once over
- We launched our new HQ in Second Life
- Australian accountants got into Second Life

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- Another quality Australian installation opened – Foul Whisperings, Strange Matters
- World of Warcraft demographics proved some stereotypes and disproved some others
- Linden Lab announced price rises, with some backlash ensuing
- We touted the Nintendo Wii as one of the most successful virtual world platforms

November 2008

- Metaplace\’s beta gets a detailed overview and comes up looking good
- Casual gaming world in development, Gatheryn, provided some information on its progress
- Furries were again the discussion point in the context of stereotypes

- Virtual sex and real-world divorce captured the attention of mainstream media worldwide, with increased Second Life usage the result
- Google Lively breathed its last after a mere five months of existence
- The Australian Virtual Worlds Workshop was held successfully in Melbourne and in Second Life, including a disclosure that Second Life standalone servers are on the way

December 2008

- Twinity\’s momentum continued, even though it remains in beta
- The open-mindedness of individuals in virtual worlds was questioned
- The Australian government\’s internet filtering proposals were discussed for their potential significant impact on virtual worlds
- The opportunities presented by teaching health-care virtually continue to grow

- Lee Hopkins, Australian business communicator and PhD student, is profiled
- Guest poster, Seshat Czeret, talks of her experiences with disability and Second Life
- Habbo Hotel\’s Australian operation talked about the launch of an in-world currency

Virtual Worlds and Australia 2008 Part 1

It\’s that retrospective time of the year again – last year\’s look back was a popular feature so here we go again:

January 2008

- Linden Lab issued a warning on currency trading scams
- community-driven politics related to the US presidential election was observed in World of Warcraft
- we made a personal comparison between Second Life and World of Warcraft

- Linden Lab made a significant intervention in regard to virtual banking
- Ten months out from the US presidential election, the satire was heating up in Second Life
- Second Life\’s World Stock Exchange, run by Australian Luke Connell, was impacted by the banking ban
- The Australian Open made a return to Second Life
- The momentum towards beta built for Metaplace
- new Second Life resident and sometimes writer, Bix Ashbourne, wrote about the loss of his virtual world skepticism
- Australia Day was celebrated in style in Second Life
- A guest post from Wolfie Rankin on Furries, griefing and sexuality led to some of the years biggest traffic for a story.

February 2008

- We interviewed Australian singer and TV host in Second Life, Paisley Beebe
- The Linden Department of Public Works launched
- We hoped (in vain) for virtual worlds to feature in Kevin Rudd\’s 2020 Summit
- We profiled the founder of Openlife, Steve Sima (Sakai Openlife)

- We discussed text-to-speech with Cepstral CEO Craig Campbell
- Hello Kitty Online started to take shape
- The Enterprise 2.0 forum held at Luna Park, Sydney, showed that business was starting to get the virtual worlds picture
- Cisco opened a virtual hospital in Second Life

March 2008

- VastPark drew close to its open beta phase
- The Telstra Experience Centre launched in Second Life
- Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale stood aside
- We looked at ABC Island one year on in Second Life

- A look at Telstra after a year in Second Life
- Episode 1 of The Metaverse Journal Podcast went live
- Linden Lab\’s CEO testified before the US Congress

April 2008

- Linden Lab started their trademark clampdown
- Linden Lab struggled to deal with periods of high user concurrency
- An Australia Council funded art project, Babelswarm, launched in Second Life

- We profiled Twinity\’s co-founder, Dr Mirko Caspar
- Linden Lab gained a new CEO, Mark Kingdon
- A new Australian documentary on Second Life continued production for a 2009 release

May 2008

- The Sims Online ended its existence
- Personality conflicts caused some issues with the community driven ABC Island in Second Life
- We profiled Australian machinima producer, Skribe Forti

- Melbourne was the venue for a seminar on law and regulation of virtual worlds
- Some wondered whether a virtual recession would follow the real-world one in the United States.

June 2008

- More than 300 million people had registered to use virtual worlds
- David Rolston, CEO of virtual world provider Forterra, talks virtual worlds as training tool
- Barbie Girls virtual world adds a premium subscription option

- An Australian study finds that the stereotype of gamers as social rejects is false
- Second Life had its five-year anniversary and we summarised its achievements in that time
- New writer for The Metaverse Journal, Feldspar Epstein, had a further look at Australian educational institutions in Second Life
- Twinity went under the microscope to look at its usefulness in a growing virtual world market

Part 2 of our retrospective can be found here

Metaverse Aid – join the team

Back in October 2007, this site started generating a positive cash flow. After covering all costs, the decision was made to put excess funds to good use. Kiva was chosen primarily for its brilliant model of helping people help themselves, but there was also the tie-in of Kiva having a Second Life presence.

Since then, more than a dozen entrepreneurs in developing countries have been funded from our advertising revenue, but we\’d love to see an even bigger impact from the virtual worlds community. In October this year we set up a Kiva team called Metaverse Aid and we\’re now starting a campaign to build the team.

If you\’d like to join the Metaverse Aid team on Kiva, sign up as a member, then join our team. When you make your first loan you\’ll be able to select Metaverse Aid as the team you\’re a part of. That\’s it!

If you\’re already a Kiva member, just click on the \’Community\’ button and search for Metaverse Aid.

Without some assistance, the people requesting micro-finance on Kiva will not likely have access to the opportunities that virtual worlds offer – here\’s a chance to influence that.