Avatars United: desire or forced marriage?

Linden Lab, whether by design or by accident, appears to have pulled their usual stunt: Wallace Linden’s post caused panic and disarray, focussed in a misleading direction, and barely hinted at the truth of the matter. Once again, decisions had been finalised even before the post went live. This sort of behaviour does nothing to inspire confidence in the user population, but I suppose it is at least consistent. These days, many of us know to be very critical of any blog post offering, even from new folk on the team. This consistency means that we can predict with some confidence that changes have been made. What changes? That is a much trickier question.

Putting that aside for the moment, let’s look at the acquisition of Avatars United by Linden Lab.

Acquiring a team of people who have already demonstrated their abilities in a certain field makes a whole heap of sense – especially when you want your existing development team to continue on with what they are doing. It’s also great to bring in new people for a fresh look at old problems.

[…] we’re committed to keeping this ideal of a place where avatars from multiple worlds and games can come together.” ~ M Linden

The Avatars United (AU) idea is all about collating your online identities, and connecting to other people engaged in the same virtual environments (VEs) or games as yourself. I am forced to wonder, how many people have the time to be heavily engaged enough in several VEs to want to be connected this way? Perhaps AU will encourage cross-pollination of VEs, perhaps each person will remain firmly in their own VE’s social circle. Since you cannot easily share the details for each avatar name between VEs, the latter seems most likely.

“The first design principle in this social strategy is respect of your privacy.  We aren’t going to take away any privacy or anonymity for those that want it. We are not going to “out” people.  We are not going to force anyone to reveal any private or personal information. […] But for those who don’t want to opt in to an arrangement like that, nothing at all will change.” ~ M Linden

Thank you, M, that’s a fantastic idea – make all linkages opt-in! But wait, what’s this – linking all your avatar names together in AU is opt-out, not opt-in? I sincerely hope that this is changed in the near future, and that the place that this is accomplished is made more obvious, instead of having it tucked away under the Account Privacy settings. I’m also keen to know why there’s a section under the Account tab that allows you to fill in your personal information. It too is opt-in, except for birth-date, but I don’t see how having that section is useful, or who might require or desire access to that information.

“In coming months, we’ll be looking at the best way to create new services for Second Life around some of the sharing and networking tools that Avatars United has to offer.” ~ M Linden

AU is set to be changed in the next few months. Applications for SL users seem imminent, and it will be interesting to see how much work is funnelled into SL-related ideas, and how much is devoted to other VEs. Fortunately, “the AU team already has an active and growing developer program”, so we should start seeing useful, relevant, apps quite soon, regardless of what is happening internally at Linden Lab.

I would like to see AU become a way to be lightly engaged in VEs, whereas actually entering those environments would be a heavy engagement. In the future, AU could become a way to check in, in a central location, and see who is online, what they are doing currently, keep in touch with groups via forums. You could use it to form an “acquaintance list”, or perhaps use the group features to belong to extra groups, or to have a forum for existing group. AU is a good place, and hopefully in time will become an even better place, to keep your finger lightly on the pulse of what’s happening in your social circle online, while still being able to get in-world and experience all the wonders of high social engagement and creative past-times.

Identity: Linden Lab change of heart?

Your identity is defined in part by which pieces of identification you choose to share with a person or group. Every person you know does not have the same information about you as everyone else. What you share with your mother, your boss at work, your bank manager, is different to what you share with your lovers (unless there is some overlap there).

You are identified by the identifications you share with those people. You create an aspect of your identity (or one of multiple identities, depending on how you like to look at it) each time you use a subset of your identifications to identify yourself; all those aspects, or different identities, all point back to you, the unique mind or being behind it all.

After centuries of discussion and thought, the only thing we can say for sure about identity is that it points to something that is both unique and somewhat fluid.

“Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe an individual’s comprehension of him or herself as a discrete, separate entity.” ~ Wikipedia, Identity (social sciences)

“An online identity, internet identity, or internet persona is a social identity that an Internet user establishes in online communities and websites. Although some people prefer to use their real names online, some internet users prefer to be anonymous, identifying themselves by means of pseudonyms, which reveal varying amounts of personally identifiable information.”  ~ Wikipedia, Online Identity

“As other users interact with an established online identity, it acquires a reputation, which enables them to decide whether the identity is worthy of trust.”~ Wikipedia, Online Identity

There are some pieces of identification that hold the promise of telling us all we need to know about a person’s identity. Their name, for example. Or, at least, a name that, when we communicate with them, that they respond to. That’s really as close as you can get – there’s no such thing as a person’s “one true name”. People may have names given at birth, names changed at the time of marriage, names changed by choice by deed poll, nicknames by which they are commonly known, stage names, a nom de plume, a nom de guerre, a gaming handle, a user name, or one of the other many types of pseudonym. All of which can be valid, legal, usable name types, and of which people will often have more than one – and each of which is an identifier for an aspect of identity.  Actors in particular commonly choose stage names; these names are often chosen to reflect a different ethnicity to the one they were born with and named for. It means they often get more work, less discrimination, less chance of being beaten (for example) for having the wrong background. Additionally, a stage name can be chosen to be more memorable than one’s given names, easier to pronounce, easier to spell.

A Second life (SL) account name is likewise a chosen name, albeit with some restrictions on what can be chosen. The behaviours associated with that account name are associated with an identity or identities, depending on how many people use the same account. No matter whether you inject your own personality, wrist, vocabulary, or what have you, or whether you imagine all the behaviours you create for that account, you are still the one creating those identifiers. There’s not some imaginary being making this up for you – this is part of you. As stated in the introductory paragraph, not every person knows everything about you – with an SL account, you may choose to share very few of the identifiers from your offline world with the people you meet there, and very few of your SL identifiers with people who are not a part of SL.

Every person limits how many identifiers other people and groups have about them – it’s what I would call “privacy”, being able to choose the amount and type of information you share. When you are forced to share things you do not wish to, privacy is broken. The bank manager does not need to know your shoe size, the passport office does not need to know your banking details, your mother does not want to know if you’re kinky in bed. We give each person or group only enough identifiers to specify us as an individual, so that they can eliminate all the other candidates. My gender (female) eliminates the 40% of physically male candidates present in the world, my address narrows the field to 2 potential people, my name eliminates the other person, if we were to carry out the testing in that order. Some people and groups do more testing to ensure the likelihood that they have arrived at the correct individual – Social Security, for example, is very keen to make sure that they get the right unique person, as are the police.

Why do we require privacy? Mostly, to prevent other from doing harm to us. Someone who knows your physical whereabouts has the chance to do physical harm to you or your property. Someone who knows how to access you online may be able to do mental harm, or even financial harm, depending on the identification they hold for us. People are judged by their identity – identity is comprised of names, locations, sexuality, ethnicity, preferences, what you choose to wear, what you have for breakfast, and many more such things – and people are quite willing to harm other people who they have decided deserve it.

When does privacy seem like less of a good thing? When it’s difficult to pin-point one person as the individual in question, therefore making it difficult to make them accountable for their actions. It’s where anonymity, or the semblance of it, encourages people to think that they can get away with harmful actions without consequences – because we cannot identify the correct individual to hold accountable.

Disclosure

Residents are entitled to a reasonable level of privacy with regard to their Second Life experience. Sharing personal information about a fellow Resident –including gender, religion, age, marital status, race, sexual preference, and real-world location beyond what is provided by the Resident in the First Life page of their Resident profile is a violation of that Resident’s privacy. Remotely monitoring conversations, posting conversation logs, or sharing conversation logs without consent are all prohibited in Second Life and on the Second Life Forums.” ~ direct from the Second Life Community Standards

There’s no way to know (bar leaks) whether Linden Lab plan to diverge from this standard and either provide “opt-in” ways for us to connect our SL and our other identities or to force us to do so if we wish to continue using their service. Certainly Wallace Linden’s blog post does not give me the impression that they are about to present it as a fait accompli. Unfortunately, we must remember that people who have not signed up to SL greatly outnumber those who have – Linden Lab can afford to throw away every user they have at the moment and, as long as they find a way to appeal to those who are not yet in SL, still come out ahead and profitable.

Second Life – game?

Second Life - not a game.

Using games in education is a thorny topic. Which games? Which goals? Which outcomes? Which games will warp and twist the minds of our youth, which will contribute to their ongoing development in a positive way?

Games created solely for educational purposes often have their content boiled dry as old bones, all the fun ripped from them in order to create “serious” games. “Fun” in education is often viewed as being suspicious – anything lighthearted or playful is seen as not “serious”. Unfortunately, “serious” has more shades of meaning, that do not involve the concept of fun: serious can mean worthwhile, useful, functional and important – while not excluding fun.

One of the reasons that Second Life gets knocked back as an educational tool is that it is viewed as a game. Second Life is not a game. Second Life contains games, but is not itself a game. Let us examine the reasoning behind these statements, commencing with this definition of “game” by Roger Caillois, via Wikipedia:

A game must be:

  • fun: the activity is chosen for its light-hearted character
  • separate: it is circumscribed in time and place
  • uncertain: the outcome of the activity is unforeseeable
  • non-productive: participation is not productive
  • governed by rules: the activity has rules that are different from everyday life
  • fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality

Fun

Second Life contains fun much as it contains games. In the atomic world, fun exists, as does seriousness (for all meanings of the word) – this is also true of digital environments. Digital environments are not fun all the time. However, playfulness and fun are well-supported by digital environments – they lend themselves to lighthearted interaction and creativity more easily than the atomic environment does.

Separate

A game of chess has a finite starting and ending point, It exists in a “game space”, whether that be the physical location, of the game board and pieces, or a mental space in which the player thinks about the game. Second Life does not have a definite beginning or ending, in which people can “play” it. Second Life is continuous – it exists regardless of whether any given user is in the space or not.

Uncertain

An activity that has a guaranteed outcome is not a game. However, an activity that has some degree of uncertainty is not automatically a game. For the most part, it’s about the degree of uncertainty – something that is more uncertain is more likely to be a game. For most non-game activities in Second Life, the degree of uncertainty is similar to that of non-game activities in the atomic world.

Non-productive

pro·duc·tive (pr-dktv, pr-)

adj.

4. Economics Of or involved in the creation of goods and services to produce wealth or value.

Caillois’ definition of productivity, or lack thereof, revolves around the economic definition of the word. Thus, non-productive carries connotations of not making goods or services, not being directly productive. Similarly, un-productive: adding nothing to exchangeable value. Games are more typically only indirectly productive, adding value through increased knowledge and learning. Second Life is productive, directly and indirectly, in the economic sense of the word.

Governed by rules

The rules in Second Life do not differ from the rules in the atomic world, though there are additional rules that cover circumstances that can occur in digital environments that cannot occur in the atomic world, just as any specialist venue in the atomic world might.

Fictitious

Feigned, rather than artificial. A contrivance, the rules of which only work within the system of the game being played. Second Life is an artificial space, or construct, in which real and meaningful interactions can and do occur. The consequences of actions within Second Life have an impact beyond the digital space.

“If you can tell me how real life isn’t a game, I’ll tell you how SL isn’t one.”

Is the game-like digital interface being used, or the use of avatars, or maybe even the hyperbole and misinformation generated by the press, that causes the confusion? Regardless of the cause, it’s long past time to set people’s minds at ease – Second Life is not a game.

Linden Lab blabs about the blog.

ABC Communication Tower

<sarcasm>Linden Lab display their aptitude with resources and their grasp of technologies once again with their plans to close down the current main blog and forums and replace the software behind them.</sarcasm&gt. It seems unfortunate that this company, which we rely on to produce the product we desire, keeps behaving like it had its head chopped off. Do they figure that having gotten this far, and getting this big, without any solid plan, that they can just continue on in the same vein as always and achieve the same or greater results?

The greatest surprise to me in all this is that Linden Lab has discontinued the use of the official blog at least a month, if not more, before the new product has been released; worse, they are committing to a system that has not even been fully worked out yet: “I don’t know yet what the new forum structure will be. We’re happy to hear your thoughts about ideas for different boards though.” – Robin Linden. In the meantime, we are expected to find information based on leads from the message of the day from the log-in screen; this information is to be dispersed in some manner amongst other blogs, side-bars and other unexpected places. It all sounds most unsatisfactory.

The benefits of the new system to residents seem pretty thin on the ground – this is not necessarily a problem. However, if the changes are being made to benefit Linden Lab, it would be a pleasant change to know what those benefits are, rather than being told that they are doing this for the good of the residents – transparency, transparency, transparency!  I’m sure Linden Lab are finding it useful to tuck away all those resident comments on the forums, especially the nasty ones, where the search engines cannot reach, and where folks who are not already residents cannot access them.

It also seems hard to believe that the software Linden Lab is currently using is completely outmoded and inadequate for the task. WordPress and VBulletin? Both configurable and flexible.  How much more integrated do they need to be? How much more nicely will the two new pieces of software play together?

Then there’s the second-most intriguing idea: externally sourced moderators. Some residents are disappointed that resident moderators are not being selected, feeling that they would have a better grasp of “what goes” than outsiders with potentially no experience with Second Life, or, perhaps worse, new folk with a little training in the new rules and regulations pertaining directly to the forums and no knowledge or experience outside that. I think that we are better taking our chances with moderators who are not also residents – less chance for over-emotional involvement.  Also, it always seems that the very folk who want to take on these positions for the love of it are the ones who should not be encouraged to do so – people who want to be politicians should never be allowed to be politicians, either.

Moderation of forums is required. People are people – they make mistakes and  they disagree, sometimes violently. Penalties are required – where is your motivation for keeping within the rules if no penalties apply? However, when it comes to moderation and governance of forums, it’s necessary a) to know where the boundaries are and b) to have penalties that are appropriate and suitable. Linden Lab are not known for making firm boundaries, however, and the only penalties available are (figurative) exile or death. There is no evidence to suggest that these things will change substantively come October.

Maybe Linden Lab is trying to put on a more professional look for all those “mainstreamers” streaming in as the early adopters are pushed out. Maybe this new integrative approach heralds a new phase for both the blog and associated forums and for the whole of Second Life.

Maybe not. What do you think?

What has Second Life achieved in five years?

With the upcoming five year anniversary of Second Life’s public existence, there’ll be plenty of editorialising and we’re not about to miss out. Below are the key achievements and challenges arising from Second Life’s first five years.

The achievements:

1. Changing the landscape

There’s no doubt that Second Life broke some serious new ground over the past five years. It was the first virtual world that gave residents enormous freedom and ownership over their creations. This alone makes the past five years a worthwhile exercise. Until then, there were gaming worlds and more restrictive social worlds like The Sims Online. Most importantly, it’s started to change the mindset of the broader population – virtual worlds are no longer just some freaky hobby experienced by a few.

2. Growth

In June 2003 there were 623 registered users of Second Life. Now there’s around 14 million registered users. Using the traditional method of a 10% active user base, that’s 1.4 million active users worldwide. That’s certainly growth, albeit not growth that matches gaming world success stories like World of Warcraft. Given some of the challenges listed below, this growth is arguably surprising and a testament to the user-driven community in Second Life.

3. Marketing

There’s no doubt that Linden Lab have had some real marketing successes, although the biggest story wasn’t created by them – Anshe Chung’s first miilion dollars . There was a deluge of new residents in late 2006 came and Linden Lab ensured the momentum continued well into 2007. The gambling, banking and ageplay bans weren’t perhaps handled as well, but overall Second Life is still perceived as a viable and attractive option in spite of its shortcomings.

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4. Transparency

Linden Lab do try at times to maintain some transparency around their decisions and operations although I believe this has declined in some areas over the past year. They’re far from perfect in this regard but still a step ahead of a lot of tech companies.

The challenges:

1. Usability

This is by far and away the biggest issue facing Second Life, particularly if you live outside the USA. Linden Lab have actively touted 2008 as the year of improving the Second Life experience and there’s still a long way to go. It’s now well over a year since the word ‘soon’ was uttered in regard to SL servers based in Australia. Until this occurs there’s little likelihood of significant growth locally as the experience for most people is frustrating to say the least.

2. Relevance

With so many competitors on the horizon, SL will have a battle to maintain its market share, let alone increase it significantly. That said, the open source corse Linden Lab have taken ensures it remains the preeminent virtual worlds platform for now.

3. Interoperability

The works well underway in ensuring different worlds can directly interact but there’s an enormous amount of work still to be done. Projects like OpenSim are leading the way and the list of new grids continues to grow but OpenSim will continue to have an uphill battle against the large number of proprietary worlds underway.

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4. Governance

I don’t envy Linden Lab at all as far as its role in deciding what’s acceptable or not. The numerous legal jurisdictions are enough to turn any risk manager’s hair white overnight. Things aren’t going to get any easier either as real world governments finally start to grasp the impact of virtual worlds in a range of areas – intellectual property, taxation, and health and welfare are the three more obvious ones. Linden Lab’s banking ban, ageplay intervention and gambling crackdown have had varying degrees of success – expect more intervention in coming months and years.

The overall report card

It’s hard to imagine that any company could pull off a faultless virtual world creation and expansion, so at the very least some credit needs to be given to Linden Lab, faults and all. The continued expansion of the organisation in a coherent way will make the difference between a relevant and ever-improving virtual world platform and a declining pioneer that lost its way.

Here’s to another five years of innovation and inspiration – and maybe even a more usable virtual worlds for those of us down here.

Over to you – what do you consider have been the highlights and lowlights of Second Life’s first five years?

A personal comparison of Second Life and World of Warcraft

I’ve been a Second Life resident for well over a year now. In November I finally took the plunge and signed up for World of Warcraft and have been grinding through the early levels. I’ve reached Level 15 as both a Dwarf Warrior and Human Mage and have reached a little below that as a Night Elf. I feel I’ve spent enough time to grasp the basics of the game and to at least partially understand its appeal. I thought it might be worth doing a short critique of both platforms as they sit in a wider virtual world context.

A disclaimer – this is probably only going to interest someone who hasn’t used both platforms. Veteran users of both will find most of the points below fairly obvious. For brevity I’ll use WoW for World or Warcraft and SL for Second Life.

Onto the critique:

1. Second Life is by far the most ‘free’. WoW by its very nature requires rigidity as far as areas you can explore at particular stages of the game. If you’re a Level 1 human mage in WoW then you won’t be exploring the Westfall area as it’s inhabitated by critters of well over Level 10. You can go there but you’ll spend your time being killed time after time or constantly running to avoid each critter. This isn’t a criticism of WoW, just a gameplay reality. Second Life in comparison only has limitations set by users – if someone owns land in Second Life and doesn’t want you to be able to access it, then you won’t. Because there are no overarching game objectives in Second Life, you’re free to explore at will.

wowgraveyard.jpg
You’ll get used to being dead in the early stages of WoW – unless you have more experienced friends willing to help while you level up

2. Both are extremely social experiences. It’s a very obvious statement but when I signed up for WoW I was actually expecting that the gameplay would interfere with the great social interaction achieved in SL. What I didn’t realise was the social fun to be had in the main cities like Stormwind and Iron Forge. Plus, groups of avatars tend to congregate pretty much anywhere for a chat, some dueling or even some dancing.

slsocial.jpg
Aussies socialising in SL

3. Graphically, it’s no contest. WoW has stupendous graphics that make SL look pretty poor in comparison, even with Windlight on its way. Of course, it’s very easy for WoW to provide great graphics when the main grunt work is being done by your own computer. SL’s centralised server model makes that much more difficult – it remains one of SL’s biggest challenges but it’s also one of it’s strengths – see point 1.

wowwestfall.jpg
Even the barren areas are damn pretty

4. ‘Safety’ is an issue for both. The media attention on Second Life in regard to ageplay, gambling and addiction. WoW has similar challanges but they’re less overt than SL. Addiction is an issue that spans across all virtual worlds and it’s one that isn’t well understood, though that is changing. SL does have its Teen Grid but it’s under-utilised and arguably under-supported by Linden Lab.

5. Fun is provided differently. I’m going to make some broad statements here. Both WoW and SL are immense fun but in very different ways. For pure gaming / questing fun, WoW wins hands down. For more whimsical, sophisticated and free-ranging amusement, SL has the upper hand. No, that doesn’t mean WoW users are unsophisticated, nor that SL users are not interested in games / quests – the fact is they are very disparate beasts. There’s also no doubt there’s a significant cohort of people who participate in both worlds and my hunch is they do so because of the different experiences they offer.

healthinfoisland2008.jpg
It’s all about education in Second Life

So which is ‘best’? The answer of course is neither. I need to spend more time in WoW to fully grasp its possibiities but my gut feel at this stage is I prefer the less constrained environment of SL – it’s educational opportunities alone keep me coming back day after day. But if I want some fast paced gaming, then WoW is the place to be.

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts. Have I got it totally wrong or does your experiences match those I’ve outlined above?

Australia and Virtual Worlds – 2008 predictions

It wouldn’t be the end of a calendar year without making some predictions for the coming twelve months. Here’s a handful of predictions – some are fairly safe, others push the envelope a little:

1. Australia will see its first legal action in regards to a virtual world – Second Life is likely to be the battlefield and it’s likely to involve an intellectual property dispute or financial regulation issues.

2. Second Life viability will remain under question – there’s not likely to be a sudden improvement in the technical issues confronting the platform. The reality for Australian users of Second Life is at least another 6 months of laggy virtual world experience. There’s been rumours of a deal between Linden Lab and Telstra to locate Second Life servers locally – we can only hope. Expect lots of negative mainstream and Second Life blogosphere press if the status quo remains.

2008predictions.jpg

3. VastPark will flourish – we’ve covered the VastPark virtual world platform a few times and its evolution has been promising. If the platform delivers what it promises during 2008, much interest should be garnered. I wouldn’t be surprised to see VastPark acquired by one of the bigger players. Vastpark’s Australian operations make this one we’ll be watching closely.

4. Google will not launch a virtual world – they may have launched OpenSocial and continued to develop Google Earth but 2008 will not be the year of Google truly entering the virtual world domain.

5. There’ll be failures aplenty – World of Warcraft will remain the dominant gaming MMO and of the swathe of launches touted, some will obviously fail. Claims are being made about the Conan and Warhammer franchises making some serious inroads. I’m not convinced that either will be enormously successful although neither lack significant backing and associated marketing power. And it’s not as if Blizzard will be sitting on their hands – the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft is on its way.

6. Australian business will remain conservative – 2007 saw the entrance of corporations like Telstra, the ABC and the REA Group into Second Life. I doubt there’ll be as many large presences launched in 2008. There’s still major skepticism out there about virtual worlds as a business tool – it remains only a research and development option in the eyes of business and 2008 is unlikely to change that. One disclaimer – if Google do launch a virtual world product, then all bets are off. On a related note – I predict Telstra’s SydSim development in Second Life will not cut the mustard for larger businesses and for those that do set up in that location, there’ll be consternation of how little traffic is generated.

7. Mainstream media will continue to get it wrong – aside from some of the more savvy technology journalists, mainstream media reporting on virtual world developments will remain hit and miss. 2007 had some real clangers and you can expect that to continue.

Most importantly, what are your predictions for the coming year? Make a comment here and see how right or wring you are when we revisit the predictions in a year’s time.

Trends in Virtual Worlds – an interesting perspective

There’s an excellent thesis put forward on 20 trends in virtual worlds over the past year. The ones of particular relevance were:

1. “Shedloads of virtual worlds will be launched in 2008″ – I think that’s a fair bet though how many actually make launch is doubtful.

2. “Teen-focused virtual worlds are huge” – Not surprising really – they’re the consumers who have an intrinsic understanding of the whole virtual world concept. That said Teen Second Life is a pale imitation of the adult version and most other options cater to the pre-teen market. Are there actually many virtual worlds who’ve achieved a solid teen audience? Corporations like Sony are certainly trying.

3. “Brands still get it wrong” – Oh yes they certainly do – it tends to be the native virtual world brands that have the greater success at this stage.

4. “There’s a problem with communication” – The author means the issue of communicating what virtual worlds are to those who have no concept of them. I believe this is the pivotal issue that needs to be addressed for the forecasted exponential growth in virtual world use to actually occur.

5. “There will be big growth in corporate use of virtual worlds” – Yes, but until real value propositions can be put forward to business, their investment in virtual worlds will remain firmly planted in the research and development are.

6. “Virtual items will be a big moneyspinner” – Nothing new there – people are happy to pay for virtual possessions and the more striking they are the bigger the business to be had.

7. “Governments are waking up to virtual worlds” – They’d better be because governments are already lagging badly in this regard. It may take a significant corporate legal action to prompt some serious legislative scrutiny, with the real risk of the main benefits of virtual worlds being crushed in the stampede to regulate.

8. “Virtual worlds need to become easier to use” – Another obvious one here – I’m yet to use any complex computer application that doesn’t require a steep learning curve. The company or person that cracks that one will be one wealthy entity.

The full post is worth a read.

In a similar vein, Clickable Culture reports on the issue of ad-creep in kid-oriented virtual worlds. There’s a sure-fire trend that’s likely to continue.

Thanks to Massively for the heads-up on the trends piece.

Monash Uni: closed island?

In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, I was a little surprised at a quote attributed to Monash University’s Dr Melissa de Zwart: “our area won’t be open to the public; you will need to be on an authorised list to get in”.

I try to avoid real-world comparisons but it’s difficult in this case: this is the equivalent of putting a barbed-wire fence across the entrance of the local university. Doesn’t a total closed-door policy from a taxpayer-funded entity go against its purpose as a community facility? RMIT Island has blocked off most of its island from general access but it at least has a public welcome area. As Gary Hayes says in the same article, it’s not hard to prevent damage to a Second Life presence. So why the lockdown?

Perhaps someone attending this event can ask.

Is it a long-term slide?

I’ve had some interesting comments privately from people about the significant decline on active Australian Second Life users over the past two months.

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So, I’ve created a topic on the SLOz forums to delve a bit deeper – why the slump? Wold love to hear your thoughts.

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