Virtual Worlds London – metarati and moving coffee – Day 1 Part 1

Monday and Tuesday this week were the virtual worlds london conference So the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre across the road from parliament in Westminster was a hot bed of metarati activity.
The main conference hall is a very impressive UN like stage and sets of tables. It was hard to gauge numbers in attendence but it seemed quite busy.
The opening keynote was Mark Kingdon the new Linden Lab CEO. I had heard Mark talk at the birthday celebrations but it was also good to see him and hear how he saw Second Life now.
The pitch had to try and balance the potential of people in the audience not knowing about virtual worlds and the more experienced industry people too.
He showed lots of numbers and spoke about the growing peak concurrency and improved stability.
Mark Kingdon @ vwlondon
He also indicated that whilst not a product announcement as such that 1st Quarter 2009 woudl see the beta of the behind the firewall enterprise Second Life. Of some interest to us in eightbar as IBM has been part of that drive and research as we have some servers behind the firewall so I guess we are alpha participants 🙂
The drive to a more corporate approach and the enterprise market whilst not losing the creative and eclectic set of public communities is an interesting balance for Linden Lab to take. Some people did comment that the many Linden’s in attendance and Linden stand was very suited and booted as we say.
There was also a joint strategic partnership that saw Justin Bovington from Rivers Run Red take to the stage showing the immersive workspaces video and explaining it for the audience.
Also in the keynote M Linden finished on a very good point that these virtual environments whilst very much about people and integrating with others can also be a place fo great solitude and personal reflection.
Ren Reynolds(Now a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA) many congrats!) twittered “@epredator virtual worlds as pause to think, now they are doing my pitch ! oh and behind F/W see Biz Case i did 3 years ago! ” and I was reminded of a post I made back in 2006 about remembering to relax in Second Life too.
After this the next session was “Trends and Numbers – Where is it all going?”. Each presenter gave a pitch. Harvey Cohen from Strategy Analytics showed some research results mainly around what ubiquity meant and needed to be and how we were not there yet. Nic Mitham of K Zero showed some of his excellent charts on worlds, demographics and those new middleware platforms coming of age very soon. Then Steve Prentice from Gartner aimed to remind people of my favourite opener “this is about people”
Steve Prentice @ VwLondon
Think purpose not volume, think value not numbers, think people not physics.
(Being very much on the receiving end of trying to justify what this is all about these are things I am very much tuned into. It is almost a description of what to do with your evangelists too).
We then all went for coffee and expo time. The expo was a little odd in layout, it was over two floors that we sort of corridoors, sort of mezzanine levels. The natural flow was not to go from one floor to the other as the electives were either in the large ground floor hall or the 4th floor in more of a long office. The moving coffee reference in the title was because each coffee break the coffee would rez on a different floor to induce a green dot effect and have people mingle around the stands with some sort of engineered distribution. Of course virtual worlds, whilst getting more serious and business like, tend to attract a more up and at ’em audience and I am not sure the coffee moving was very popular.
The expo had a few stands but was no where near as large as the US expos. IBM did not have a stand either though there were a few of us there speaking. The biggest and most populated and staffed stand though was the Second Life one.
The first elective I attended was Defining Your Strategy: what does ROI mean to you. Chaired by the ever present Corey Bridges of Multiverse. Phillipe Moitroux of TAATU, Divinia Knowles of Mind Candy and Peter Haik of Metaversatility were the panelists. Phillipe showed a presentation ot TAATU and explained some of how they used their 2.5d flash world to integrate with marketing and media campaigns.
Corey was challenging the panel to give numbers for ROI and taking the stance that there has to be ROI for investment to be proved. Mind Candy’s Moshi Monsters though is in early take up phase, to get buy in before any monetization so there were no figures, as you would expect. Peter indicated that some of this need to be looked at as presence and that the ROI is complicated to show in that case. This led to some discussion from the audience about the balance of how to measure PR vs how to measure marketing. It made for a prickly but good start and Peter was up for arguing with Corey over the need and intent for some of the virtual world projects. Of course multiverse is more about building virtual worlds and metaversatility is about doing things in them so that is comparing two different things really anyway.
I then left the main hall and tooke the lift to the 4th floor (again bypassing the expo) for the “future of virtual collaboration in the enterprise”. Bernard Horan of Sun, Rupert Key of Malden Labs, Chris Collins Linden Lab and Paul McDonagh-Smith Nortel talked about all the various projects and directions for enteprise virtual worlds. Chris obviously added and re-iterated the keynote mention of the 1Q beta, Paul talked about the various Nortel projects and products emerging, Bernard covered many of the aspects of using multiple platforms and Project Darkstar, and Rupert described how some of the more rigourous software engineering was coming into play. He used the SOA (services orientated architecture) word first and ESB (enterprise services bus) 🙂 Small cheer from me there.
For me this session was more about the “coming of age” as Tish said, of the enterprise virtual world. All these great companies, all active, bought in, selling solutions, building solutions. Its not going to go away and may be the biggest driver for VW take up. Not everyone will play a game who works in a office, their kids might be in the kids worlds, they may explore a social media platform. However, many more people use email at work, use computers as tools of the trade. Injecting virtual worlds into that points towards the ubiquity we are straving for. That also starts to make this a “platform”, onto which new innovations will occur. All very exciting for this metaverse evangelist.
The post lunch session began for me with the “Rise of Mirror Worlds and Mirror World Applications”. Now dont get me wrong I like mirror worlds, but I was more taken with the sort of augmented mashup approach that David Burden of Daden took in showing the mirror world potential than initially the approach of Alex Wrottesly of Near and Mirko Caspar of Metaversum (Twinity). Alex was basiclaly coming out of “pseudo stealth” and sharing the Near concept of a 100% accurate model of a city with managed shop fronts and interiors for all the parties involved in the real place. Twinity was showing virtual Berlin and the sort of activities and popularity of having a real place to socialize in.
David showed google maps mashups with aeroplane arrival data and layering of reality with augmentations from various places.
David Wortley from Serious games was moderating, but I was late getting into the room so only caught the end of of his intro.
Near was challenged on the need to be 100% accurate all the time. How does that get to happen. Self management by store owners in real life seemed to be part of it. An interesting focus. Also Kevin Aires asked if someone did not have a real presence surely they could not participate. (I was thinking that too as IBM does not have any shops, not does Amazon). The answer was that if they were not in real space they would not be in the model, though it raised the notion of people buying up real estate in order to occupy the virtual model which might have a wider reach that the real place. Complicated conundrums.
Personally I think that accurate models of real places do make sense, its what the Ordnance Survey spend a lot of time creating. A sort of managed wiki approach for store front owners may seem an overhead that they may choose to not enagage with. However, an accurate model, instrumentated with whats going on the real world, a paraverse as our Collegue Peter Finn refers to them makes alot of sense. Maybe populated with openspime data. That is accurate and valuable. Though virtual tourism and visiting places clearly has its attractions. I love driving at speed around the Project Gotham version of London on my Xbox 360.
The penultimate session was virtual worlds as interactive television. I missed some of this due to another gathering elsewhere. However the gist seemed to be that television needed to adopt a way to engage with the audience and that various projects try to do this in various ways. The problem often being that simply repackaging an experience based on a TV show of film doesnt work very well, but that creating an engaging all platform experience is veyr hard to do. I was reminded of the sort of conversations that Tim Kring of Heroes fame was having in LA. He suggested that hollywood was not very good at seeing the potential, but merely treated everything as being able to shrink wrap it in the next format. Film, to DVD. etc. He, as a story teller and creator wanted to layer across all the engagement points.
The final keynote was a call to arms for the Virtual Worlds Roadmap. This needs a post in its own write as we all need to get on board with this across the industry and help. Victoria Coleman (Samsung), Sibley Verbeck (electric sheep company), Jeffrey Pope 3Di, John Hengeveld (intel) and (at last I got to meet him for real and he is now busy helping NASA work out how to deflect extinction level event asteriods from Earth!) Bruce Damer were all on stage giving their view. The main aim is to gather together and cut through use cases to understand and help people come to terms with which applications need to be built for which case.
(In my own humble way I have been trying this with my reverse ICE model)
The gathering up to now have been physical ones as people got together to solve break the problems up, but we very much need to all get involved and spread this voluntary effort across the metaverse community. I certainly would like to see the 6000 IBMers all contributing from the virtual universe community in the near future.
It’s here the virtual worlds roadmap. lets do this!
Long post… Day 2 next post

6 thoughts on “Virtual Worlds London – metarati and moving coffee – Day 1 Part 1

  1. Thanks for that detailed report.

    Now here’s what I want to know, if you’ll talk.

    1. Why didn’t IBM have a stand? That seems incredible to me. They’ve had them at the last few fairs run by Virtual Worlds.

    2. Did IBM know about the RRR/LL partnership with “Immersive Spaces” or did they find out about it when everyone else did? You seem to be declaring them an “alpha” tester “after the fact”.

    3. I find it interesting that RRR’s project stresses “firewall” and “protection of corporate data, privacy, experiment” and does NOT stress “interoperability. The word “interoperability” does not occur in any of their literature.

    4. And that’s a good thing. What I find destructive about the whole IBM/Architectural Working Group caper is that IBM triumphantly gets a firewalled sim arrangement *for itself* where *it* can protect its own data, IP, privacy, experience, and the rest of us chickens have to make do not only with the open wilds of SL, which has its advantages, but also have to watch as IBM (Zha Ewry/David Levine) busies itself undoing our IP protection and land/current/content value by trying to make interoperability with OpenSim, which is defiantly a project of copyleftism with no built-in implementation of IP protection inworld (except as a module add-on, but it’s not an integrated philosophy.

    5. We are treated to endless lectures about “the analogue hole” and the “impossibility” of protecting content except…obviously RRR *does* protect content and experience with a *firewall solution*. As does IBM! So I’d like to hear: why isn’t what’s good for the goose, good for the gander?

    6. Aside from all that, it doesn’t seem as if IBM is actually getting anywhere fast with the interop project, but I wonder how you square this circle of, shall we say, incompatibility: ordinary people get to have their content swiped; corporations get to hide theirs securely behind a firewall; those corporations also busily work at undermining such IP protections as the non-firewalled world has.

  2. Hi again Prokofy,
    1. I dont know why IBM did not have a stand, other than a budget choice and not doing too many at once. There was a stand planned at the very close but susequently cancelled VWFE a few weeks before. We also had more speakers at this Virtual Worlds London. As it was, it was not a great expo to have a stand at unlike the US venues.
    2. I am not sure what IBM as a whole knew about, but many of us know what is going on long before any announcements. So I guess I have to say I did (a little) . Does that count?
    3&4%5 and proabably 6. There is a difference between interop and stand alone and the evolution path this may take. There are many systems that are locked away in the world. Some that work together. You bank account is locked away in the IT systems of the bank, but gateways exist between banks to move money around. (maybe a bad example at the moment).
    As far as I can see IBM and Linden have entered into an experiment to try seeing what can be divided up where and how this might work. It is not designed to breach IP or any nefarious reasons.
    The aim is to determine what is technically possible at the moment in interop, we then need to layer policy onto that for what is socially and commercially acceptable. IP rights are complicated.
    This is not really about corporations vs single users. Each meta group across the internet will have things that they want to share, things they would like to keep theirs and things they would like to protect. Some individuals are willing to share a great deal, as are soem companies. Others are very secretive for various reasons. The same happens with private sims already, some are open some are locked, some groups you have to be invited into, others are wide open.
    I dont want to see content theft, or people not get credit for things, but it may not be that that is a technical solution (though DRM exists in many forms). Making things that people want to use, hear, talk about see etc and making people feel they value things to pay or credit or reference the creator of should be the goal.
    I know this gets mixed up in introvert technical discussions of protocols and bits and bytes, but this is as you know a social issue too.
    Stealing content is not the goal of most people I would say. If content(any sort VW or RL) is too locked down though you lose the creative freedom.
    A corporation is only made up of ordinary people though. Everyone shares the same concerns. If anything a corporation with its legal frameworks and business conduct guidelines is less likely to want to copy anything, but more pay its way and support the creators in a mass way. That mitigates the odd ordinary person copy the odd other ordinary persons stuff?
    It is my personal hope that being a self organizing mass as we are on the web that we band together to support one another. If I see someone using a photo I know belongs to someone else on flickr and has not attributed the creator in anyway I will call it out. Same goes for content in a VW. However, if a DRM system is in place that is so cumbersome it restricts my own use of the content I have purchased (only play itunes music on an ipod, only get to use spore on 3 computers, only get to watch a movie from Sky on a single machine in the house) then I think we are forcing people to bypass that DRM.
    I suspect Opensim is more likely to end up with someone creating the next clever but easy to use ownership system than anything. Its open source, so if you want one make it. I have no idea (for a change 😉 ) what the answer is though.

  3. epredator, you’re being terribly patronizing and terribly condescending here, but that’s helpful, because it exposes what you’re really about. You’re trying to talk corporate double-speak to me, and “reassure” me that IBM doesn’t steal content or “cares” about content theft. Of course IBM doesn’t steal some dress in Second Life, duh. But being busy making it possible for others to do so with interoperability with OpenSim *is* contributing to the problem.

    Your philosophy shines through loud and clear here, and again, that helps expose your extremism. You see the world of IP operating like a giant Creative Commons. If you “see somebody’s photo copied on Flickr” you’ll “tell on them” and you’ll “band together” with others to browbeat that person. Ugh. What a system! Ugh! What a tribe! But that’s not what IP is about. It isn’t merely freely copying and merely getting credit. It’s being able to SELL content and make a living by having that content not merely credited, but protected to prevent resale.

    There’s nothing “complicated” about this. In SL, we have a very primitive but effective operating mechanism that really does implement copyright and is not cumbersome nor does it cripple creativity. It’s the copy/mod/transfer — yes/no — regime. Simple and effective!

    Your claim that if you “lock down” content you are harming creativity is bogus. If you don’t protect content you are harming creativity! Not everybody can work as a highly-paid IBM programmer! Creating the simple but effective regime — and demanding that similar regimes be installed in all hook-ups to the LL servers, through TOS obligations — would do *enough* to deter theft. It’s not a perfect solution, duh, we get all that, no need to tell us that a million times. But schemes such as that devised by Gwyn Llewelyn recently on her blog to encrpyt and make digital signatures for browsers and such are workable, and we have no real evidence that they make a hit on performance. They need to be tried and retried.

    The hoary old chestnut that tekkies and copyleftists always thrust on us is this idea that DRM is evil because “it restricts my own use”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to paly itunes on ipod. That’s how it works. That’s how the overwhelming majority of people using ipod use it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having Spore only on three computers. The overwhelming majority of users have NO problem with this! It’s a total geek affectation to demand more.

    Oh you “suspect” do you? Please, epredator. Do not take us for fools. There has been a decided discouragement of such systems, and you know it. There was even the need to fight over a bug fix to implement one. It is nowhere near the philosophy there, and you are being intellectually dishonest to slough off any concerns for ownership systems to other OS developers who can put it in there “if they want”. Please. Then the ritualistic cop-out “I have no idea what the answer is”.

    Others do. And they are not the horrors of DRM cumbersome lockdown, as you always describe it, nor the ineffectuality of “call your lawyer,” which is what you do to “make it complicated”.

  4. Indeed this is a thorny and complex issue. The comments I make are merely my opinion. This is not a binary issue. Data will move from place to place whatever anyone decided to do. By gathering together as the technical experts the industry can help define some structure. It will then be down to the users and policy makers to help apply that.
    We seem to be discussin freedom versus control, though it seems that you dislike any technical community involvement in exploring any solution.
    If you have the answer, the complete, absolute, no other way will work answer for all these problems across every platform, and every system then please tell us.
    DRM gets in the way, provdes a means for restrictive practice and generally penalizes those that are the good users. They are the ones impacted when the DRM service fails in someway. The hackers, well they would have got around it and be happily doing things.
    When I used to buy music CD’s before itunes came along I would have been immensly suprised if I could only play the CD on the first 3 cd players I happened to listen to it on. If I go back to my CD collection in a few years I dont want to have to fight with a defunct DRM system to make the music work.
    DRM if anything is precisely the sort of technical application that you seem to hate so much. It does work in places, it can be made to work and I guess each content creator in the world should be a liberty to decide which sort of DRM or openness they choose.
    I do not like theft, but I dont want to be under martial law to prevent it.
    Please dont call me dishonest either, those sort of personal attacks just seem to make any of the conversation about a very important subject into a my dad is bigger than your dad schoolyard spat. Feel free to disagree of course with the points I make as that is how we will be able to reach the solution.
    Flame away.

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