Virtual Policy 08 Conference – Car boot sales and micropayments

Ren’s BERR sponsored virtual policy ’08 event the past two days has been a very intense and informative time. Aside from catching up with some of the metarati there has been a meeting of minds from all sorts of places. Companies, government bodies, lawyers, regulators, standards bodies, games companies and educators.
Virtual Policy '08
The crux of the conference was to discuss how various govenrment and governence bodies could be brought up to speed on some of the issues around subjects related to all forms of virtual world (and related) environments.
There were numerous presentations around IP law, child protection, financial transactions and governance frameworks as well as general innovation (Jim’s panel that I spoke on)
I found alot of the content very interesting, more as a user and someone experienceing the diffuculties surrounding the global and esoteric nature of both games and virtual worlds, combined with the needs of business, consumer protection and morality.
Nothing was black and white in its description. The aim of the conference was to indicate that in multiple fields of interest to help form some sort of approach to take to all this.
I did particulalry enjoy hearing Richard Bartle speak. He is obviously the co-inventor of all things virtual worldy. Hearing his free ranging speech with his experience and perspective was very cool. I think I agreed with much of it in general, though as with all oppinions there were a few things that were there to provoke dicussion. Richard was right to point out the important of games. The business of games is something that is still regarded as a dirty word. However he did indicate that that was changing generationally. Anyone born after 1969 (or slightly earlier in my case) will pretty much have been exposed to games. They are not all mad axe murderers, and are now raising their own kids. So populist press and politicians who continue to rail against gaming as a valid form of activity will very soon be pushed into obscurity.
Richard Bartle at VP '08
Richard also made his points about some virtual worlds like Second Life are places not games. In particular I liked the quote “Second life is a place, its like Luton, you can play games in Luton but Luton is not a game”. This analogy got more comical in a later panel on the financial implications of virtual worlds. The current virtual economy relative to the enite economy is very small (though growing very fast). At the moment the virtual economy is “Like a car boot sale”. So Second Life is a car boot sale in Luton. (That takes some of the trendy sheen from it, but it made me laugh)
Also intresting was that many of the closed sessiosn I was in were under chatham house rules (which is why I am only really reporting on the more public conversations and sessions). An off the record, but on the record set of conversations.
These sessions forced me to consider a great many dilemmas, and also to formulate some sensible discussion. It felt very West Wing to discuss things that clearly can’t co-exist as ideas, yet the practicalities of life mean they do.
I did suggest an idea that needs to be expanded upon around micro payments. This relates not only to virtual worlds, but to the growing number of small web2.0 startups and cloud computing based startups.
Currently to set up anything to take any sort of payments and offer service has a whole host of excessive regulation and costs associated. This is for good reasons, but does not fit with the need to sell a digital service for fractions of a pence to millions of people. The Long Tail has not reached financial and business governance. One reason Second Life has been so interesting for people is precicely that, there is an evironment to do micro payments (but in the environment).
This allows innovation and experimentation without huge outlay or hassle.
If a government or country or organization was able to be a haven for the fledgling industries that wanted to deal in micropayments, without the immense hassle (whilst still maintaining elements of business and consumer protection) they could stimulate an entire economy and entreprenaurial spirit.
If I have a quick idea, and I want to host it, sell it and see how it grows I have only 2 real options today. 1) Set a large price (£5-£10), like a subscription for a service or 2) Use a freemium model until people want to pay the subscription and hit 1)
There is not a suitable technical and legal and supported framework in wide spread use to allow me to 3) Set up a service charging 0.001p for each access to it.
There are issues to be addressed here, but I think this is what the world might need. In a way this is interoperability for money.
It was also good to catch up with some people I only have met on twitter or in Second Life. Dizzy Banjo, Mal Burns to name but two. It was also great the event was streamed into SL for other people to enjoy and interact by asking question (atleast on our panel 🙂 )
Finally in my mini brain dump, I was interested to catch up with Chritsian Renaud on his latest endeavour, whilst discussing leaving the shackles of corporate life and of course Roo’s move too.
Xianrenaud is now the CEO of Technology Intelligence Group applying insight to very early emerging technologies by gathering industry heavy weights together.
It is always interesting for a Linden to be at these events too. In this case Babbage on the right below. They have to cope with both adoration, suspicion and competition from so many people.
As well as some gaming greats, like Eve-Online being represented I learned of an MMO that I had not come across, Roma Victor. The MMO games often touch on areas that maybe the more place like VW’s dont. e.g. in Eve you are supposed to rob and steal, basically be a space pirate (massive over simplification there). In Roma Victor you are in an accurate recreation of a time gone by, so some bad things happen that may offend, though have been represented in films and books and tales for years.
The make up of the conference was very diverse and all the better for it. Ren Reynolds (on the left below) contacts and interests and shoes made this all possible, so once again thanks Ren.
Ren and Jim

Another day another Virtual Worlds speaking gig

I should have blogged this earlier, but I now realize that Ren Reynold’s Virtual Policy ’08 conference is next Tuesday/Wednesday in London. There are a whole host of speakers and panelists including yours truly.
Ren is the founder of the virtual policy network amongst other things and as such is advisor to BERR(The Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform)
When Ren calls we all generally say yes in support. So expect to see a host of UK and worldwide metarati take the stage. I am on the innovation panel with Jim/Babbage
15:30 – 17:00 Innovation & Virtual Worlds
– Dr Jim Purbrick – Linden Lab
– Ian Hughes – IBM
– Oliver Goh – Business Development Executive
Implenia Global Solutions
– Dick Davis – Ambient Performance
– Gia Rossini – Sloodle
I notice also a certain name involved in recent changes in the metaverse world a certan Christian Renaud (ex Cisco) is also coming to do the closing address so it will be good to catch up.
There is also a Facebook event page if you like that sort of thing. (I am still a bit annoyed at them after the Wimbledon incident)
BTW there is still time to vote for eightbar (or Roo 🙂 )

Losing a Metaverse Evangelist from IBM

I have had to write a lot of posts recently wishing people good luck, but this one is the hardest. As some of you may have already seen on twitter or elsewhere Roo is leaving IBM and heading for the BBC
He is off to do a fantasticly exciting role and I really do wish him the best of luck. The ironic thing is that we are likely to end up working together more as we can be in the same place at the same time as opposed to being two IBMers who seldom need to do a gig together as we are interchangeable.
Personally I will miss Roo a great deal. The past 2 1/2 years of upward struggle getting support for virtual worlds and building this eightbar mini-brand have been both rewarding and incredibly frustrating at the same time. Turning a few hours in Second Life into a massive movement and business opportunity for one of the worlds largest technology companies is no mean feat. I think we have achieved something that would not have been possible individually. IBM has a great position in virtual worlds like Second Life, Opensim et al, and hopefully we have maintained the spirit and credibility that we lay down as founders of eightbar out there in metaverse land.
What does this mean for Eightbar? Well we have always been diverse and there is more to Eightbar that metaverses (look at the author list). Eightbar has also always been a very different attitude to things and Roo may be leaving IBM but is forever Eightbar.
What does this mean for Roo? New challenges, freedom to explore, changing company brings a fresh view of one’s worth.
What does this mean for me? I guess the jury is out on that one. There is still a long way to go on the metaverse journey wherever that happens to take place. I am not really the only evangelist in the village now though. Lots of people are up and running on this and taking it places it needs to be taken.
I think a more fitting tribute to Roo will be forthcoming, this is just a placeholder to let the world know if you dont already.
Take care there Roo, its been a blast.

Even more crossover virtual and real

As I say so many times in Second Life I wear a mask but I dont hide behind it. I managed to teleport myself into Second Life from Real Life with a little help from Roo holding the teleportation device for me.
Here I am/(we are) on the court at Wimbledon
epredator and me (same thing)
In the Sl version of the RL office at Wimbledon
epredator and me (same thing) 2
In the SL version of the RL roof garden at Wimbledon
epredator and me (same thing)
So who would you rather interact with, the predator with the jacket and the mask, and a certain presence or a video version of me? Personally they are the same thing to me, but different situations suit different AV’s Googles Virtual World ?

After months and months of rumour about Google creating a virtual world has sprung up seemingly from nowhere, I caught wind of it via Al Kronos’ twitterings and went off to investigate.

It’s a cutesy looking ‘create your own room, invite your friends’ and embed on your website type world with a default set of content that can be expanded by splashing out more cash in the shop.

Of course step one is to create somewhere to congregate and it would be wrong not to stick the Eightbar flag straight in to claim a spot. So here’s the Eightbar desert island, see if you can get in.

I have to say its not quite what I was expecting from Google as the social room on a web page is quite a common concept already.

Teleporting across virtual worlds

You may have heard talk of this on his blog, our very own Zha Ewry appears in this video on the Linden Blog. (thanks John Sisk for tweeting this to me as I had quite a post Wimbledon backlog to wade through and twitter gets first look most of the time).
The video and article is about teleporting from Second Life to Open Sim. This is a sort of openid/unified login approach. It is a form of interoperation between similar yet different platforms.
Take a look at Linden Labs perspective on all of this (you hear enough from IBM on interoperability) 🙂

What did I/We learn this year at Wimbledon 08 in Second Life

Wimbledon is like a very very long plane journey. We all tune into the event and our various roles and focus completely on them. Having added the extra extreme sport of standing in Second Life at the same place for 15 hours a day for 14 days (except middle sunday), and having spent many of those hours talking to people in world and in real life about what we do I thought I would share a perspective on it.

  1. I can explain why I have been saying “People stopped asking why? and started asking if?”” Our real life clients and visitors were fascinated this year more than the previous two year. In 2006 it was “ha thats funny”, in 2007 it was “why are you doing this?” in 2008 it has been “Oh! I didnt realize there was so much to it, so can I do x?”
  2. We had less visitors in Second Life this year, but the ones that came stayed longer and asked more detailed questions about the various modes of working. We also still had more visitors than the physical hospitality tours. Business opportunities arose too in virtual discussions. The depth of conversation and the quality of interaction proved to be way more important that the volume. This is a change that many marketeers would not yet understand, but clearly need too. I realized that in many ways I had turned into a Social Media Strategy Consultant. We segued from the official RL wimbledon tour showing the website and how it was reaching out to social media sites allowing people to take feeds and widgets wherever they happened to be. Metaverses are on that continuum. The 3d wiki, mixed with social network, mixed with being a fan, mixed with behind the scenes blogging all merge in a virtual world event.
  3. Identity versus expression through avatars came up alot. Many people see my predator AV and assume I am hiding. “I wear a mask but I dont hide behind it”. It was very useful to have Judge Hocho there too in SL and in RL. Judge’s choice is a more real world expression of his physical form. Though interestingly he refuses to have photos of himself in RL. Those two ends of the spectrum allowed for me to explain that visual representation is not the same as knowing who someone actually is. Persona’s are difficult and many people are not confronted by that balance. Proving who someone is from a trust and security perspective is not based on what their username is or their avatar appearence.
  4. Shared web browsing worked really well. The embedded web browser, albeit read only worked very well. It is a pity it did not do flash as much of the widget content was flash based as it the realtime scoring feed for the pub-sub elements. However, showing people the site either in world or on a RL tour worked very well. Demonstrating in the RL room the SL version of the website at the build allowed me to show how I would say the same things to people in world as Andy and Elizabeth would have just said to the visiting customers on our tech tour. The power of the familiar worked. Also in world we drove a few extra people to the site, more traffic. The official numbers will be published soon.
  5. The complexity of shared web browsing becomes more apparent when actually trying to do it. I spent a good few conversations in RL and SL showing people why shared web browsing is complicated. It is not obvious to many people until they see this or do it. The web is a single user experience. There may be 8.5 million people hitting the same site, but your view is your view. Content gets personalized, you login etc. The LL implementation has an embedded client render a URL provided to it. After that it is your client creating the session. If the pages are not personalized in any way then thing will remain in synch. We will all see the same page. If you were able to just click and navigate following links etc, soon the web would start to personalize to you. Each view may start to diverge, cookie trails of browsing, preferences etc. Also being able to see any page on the web would mean peoples browser may be taken places they dont want to be. NSFW sites etc. Judge built the monitor for browsing so that it had a menu of defined Wimbledon pages. So people got to know they had shared control. We then had the odd occasion when two people asked for different pages at the same time. They would then feel the shared problem of losing the page they wanted to see. The facebook page also highlights this. Its asking the user to logon. If the SL user used the break out object judge provided they would be able to view the URL in their personal embedded browser not on a prim. They could then logon to facebook. The prim object would then show them they were logged on and show their page. This woudl cause concern as they would ask if everyone could see thier details. The answer in this case is no. Each user’s embedded browser forms its own session with the website, just like any browser. So very quickly content gets out of synch. The alternative though, a server based proxy to show the same content to all would mean that people details once logged on would then be shared. All these problems are solvable, but we need some new metaphors in web browsing to make it obvious what is happening. The same as when https started to be shown as a padlock on the browser. We will need standard iconography for shared pages, individual pages but similar view, divergent pages etc.
  6. Why have we not modelled all the players? Another common question. There are several answers. The whole Wimbledon SL build is still done effectively for free. A lot of volunteer effort. Building hundreds of player AV’s is complex and time consuming. Down the line when the virtual worlds can represent things even more accurately we would be able to completely reconstruct the match in intricate detail. We know where the ball is, where the player is, what stroke has been played. All this information is mashed together with video in a DVD we (IBM – the atlanta sports events team) provide to the players and coaches after a match. So we know we can take crowd noise to indicate an exciting rally and index video based on that. To take a virtual event to the next level it needs this detail. However we then run into player image rights. Even the top video games do not feature all the player models in tennis. Wimbledon does not feature as a brand in any of the tennis gams either. The blur of copyright, players image rights, broadcast rights and sheer politeness (do you like you AV) gets complicated. Who knows where we could be for things like the 2012 olympics with a virtual presentation of the event live? For now though we keep it simple. Though if we do it again I still want to have more data and more atmosphere.
  7. Any event or build needs people. The single biggest draw had to be being able to talk to people at the RL event, behind the scenes. Everyone was always amazed and interested. Are you really there? Wow that must be great! It is of course great, but never for the reasons people assume. For me it is the amazing sense of doing something so well known and immediate. Having the whole of IBM behind us helping and people interested in our work. Pride does not pay the mortgage, being away from home and family for so long is awful, but its worth it. I could have done SL Wimbledon from anywhere, but the truth of being there came through the build and the avatar. Nothing beats Real Life, and reporting on that in a virtual world at a human level is the important thing to remember

Maybe see you all next year. Thankyou for all the support and conversations. Hi to Sean Krams our most regular visitor, always good to see you there Sean. It meant a great deal to Judge and I.

Explaining why some old approaches wont work

I decided to look at some other webpages in the shared browser we have at Wimbledon. Of particular interest is the F1 british grand prix. Now having had some issues (still not resolved with over zealous copyright take downs of a youtube of the grounds that I posted thanks to IMG for trying to police the wrong thing and youtube not putting things back up as quickly as they take them down.***update resolved as of 8th July 2008 retraction accepted and video re-instated) elements of copyright and how brands choose to try and stomp over the customers that actually own the brand interest me greatly.
So, I have the f1 web page up on a shared browser in a virtual world where all can see the same content. Its not a screen scrape so its legitimate web browser. However, it is set in a world that we can view it from any angle, changing the intended design. Here it is on screen on an IBM and eightbar build, at a Wimbledon build. All that and am in a predator avatar as per usual.
This view I snapped and sent to flickr. It represents me, my interests and what I doing at the time. However, if you right click on any of the pictures on in a regular browser you get a horredous copyright notice. Which is fair enough, but. Aside form the screen shot, does the browser in SL count as a reproduction? An interesting question and one that shows the web routes around arcane ideas and is truly disruptive.
web mashup

Fred Perry, Second Life, Wimbledon video fun

I had an idea for a video presentation with something a bit different this year for the Second Life Wimbledon build in IBM 7. This is more of a rush of it, but features crazy talk and voices from Cepstral. Edited up with my newly purchased Premiere elements. I like to get the ideas out there.
Its a bit of an example of life immitating art cross over augmentation. You will see what I mean. Also I have been typing the same things all day to explain what we do, text to voice seemed to make sense.
The Wimbledon website has gone very well this year too, cant say the numbers they are embargoed until post event, but we like them 🙂