Eightbar @ Tweakfest

Tomorrow I am hopping on a plane and heading to Zurich for Tweakfest Its a multimedia extravaganza. I have no idea what to expect, but it looks very exciting. I do know that I am on stage doing a key note on this whole virtual worlds business, where it fits, why we got so interested, go evangelize.
I also get to SlMeet (as we it got called at virtual worlds 2007 when you physically meet someone oyu know well from Second Life) our very own Sifu Moraga, who was a very early joiner to the eightbar group.
So whats the plan, I am probably going to bounce around and do my usual pitch. Usual to me, but not to the people listening. With either some live internal metaverse running around, or Second Life, or videos depending on the vibe in the room.
Steve Wozniak is opening the event on Thursday, which sounds very cool, so I may get to say Hi. He also has a wikipedia page, I can but aspire to that, along with eightbar itself.
Hopefully I will be able to photo blog and twitter a bit, but I know I have a load of interviews to do, and I am not there for the whole weekend but have to fly back friday night.
As an arts festival, themed on metaverse the varieties of knowledge of what this is all about will make it truly confusing, anywhere from the entire SL twitter crew to the most cynical its just a game brigade. However, I love a challenge, and as people who have met me I know I do like to talk. 14 months of daily discoveries and anecdotes make for great material, as does the entire self organizing nature of eightbar and the impact we have all had on our business.
If I get any time, with me Second Life though I am sure I will be exploring what we can do with sculpties, good luck with the update everyone.

Crowdsourcing, reaching a larger audience and people willing to get involved?

Today has, and is going to be a day of lots of communicating with a large audience via all things metaversal.
We had an event in Second Life today that we pulled out all the stops amongst our own internal audience to get attendance in Second Life. Impact 2007 was simulcast into IBM 8,9 2 and 3. We had quite a crowd, many of them new to Second Life, which was the surprise. As this was planned as a get people along even it ended up needing a few of us to turn into organizers and help out with peoples problems with the video feeds. You end up forgetting being that new that it is not turned on by default.
Anyway we had good attendance as you can see from this quick youtube rush

So this was an event about Services Oriented Architecture SOA, so dear to many of my collegues hearts as its a very important design pattern and attitude to IT and Business.

Talking of attitudes and to varied and mixed life out here in the metaverse…
At 9pm (1pm SLT) tonight I have a meeting with some guys from a marketing partner, who want to do some ethanography of the virtual world, in this case Second Life. As with all this things I have no direct idea of how this may turn out but I want to gather a crowd, or a few people at least from all around the world, real and virtual to enable these ethanographers to get a feel for the vastness of range of people and countries we all represent. It will probably be on IBM 7 using the greater IBM building or the yacht 🙂 in case anyone wants to hang around and have a chat/introduction
Notably of cause is the variety of friends of friends that people could introduce them too. At the same time we have a balance of them not asking about anyones person behind the avatar as that has to be volunteered should people be willing to. All this seems like a minefield of etiquette, but the mere fact that minefield exists is worthy of study. So for me I am balancing spamming my collegues and friends against understanding how I help and guide people to reach who and what they need in a virtual environement.
The guys have produced a mini survey, open to all, around online/offline presence The eightbar group and internal bloggers have alreayd had a go at it, I also twittered it which got even more feedback. The questions may adjust a little and things about it will be fixed as we go along (which of course is the way to work now)

Virtual worlds in education – Eduserv Symposium 2007

I presented at the Eduserv Foundation Symposium yesterday. I wrote up my brief notes from the event, and there has already been an impressive amount of blogging about the conference.

If you missed the live stream on the day, I believe all the videos will be made available by Eduserv soon.

For now, here is my presentation.

It’s a brief introduction to the breadth and variety of virtual worlds (I cheekily included EVE Online in this list, even though it is of course an MMORPG rather than strictly a virtual world). I also cover what IBM and IBMers have been doing already, as well as a brief overview of what’s interesting in the world of education, both within IBM and in the wider world. Right at the end I included a teaser for what’s going on behind the firewall. The reasons for an internal metaverse are pretty obvious; while there will continue to be virtual world activities we’ll want to run in public, there are some situations in which IBMers would benefit from having a virtual world running on our own servers.

I learned a new word during the conference (always a sign of a good day). When discussing people being more ready to communicate online, often in the form of ranting and flaming in blogs and forums, I was introduced to the term ‘cyber-disinhibition‘. Daniel Goleman’s term describes how,

In order for this regulatory mechanism [of impulse inhibition] to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed.

It makes me wonder whether 3D virtual worlds, by bringing a palpable sense of presence, provide some of the real-world cues required to allow people to express themselves while helping prevent the negative effects of cyber-disinhibition. Certainly some of the research into interpersonal distance of avatars (see this study of nonverbal social norms in online virtual environments for a review) have been pretty interesting, and may suggest that the spatial cues in virtual worlds are already good enough to bring out our real-world social norms.

Update: video of my presentation is available from Eduserv’s site

The IBM Innovate Quick internal metaverse project

We often get the questions about what some of us are doing with development of an metaverse or collection of metaverses. Roo and I currently work for the CIO office in a team called Innovate Quick. All this excitement and potential business use for things like Second Life have led to a desire to have a more secure intranet environment where we can meet and explore the potential technology and social implications.
We have an internal metaverse project. It is filling a gap that we cannot easily fill in other ways. Second Life, arguably the most popular metaverse, is not yet able to run as a seperate instance of a grid inside our corporate firewall. We Ilike any organization) have lots employees who all need to communicate with one another securely and there is a real desire to explore how avatar based virtual worlds can be used in whatever form we can realistically achieve.
In this picture we are all clones as we had a mini meeting and all used the same Adam Avatar by Cubix Studio (and the avatar is (c)Cubix Studio), but we can dance 🙂
As may know we do meet as IBMers in Second Life, and other virtual worlds. We in the IQ team are certainly not trying to be Second Life. We are however using some of the elements of virtual presence, and examining the potential balance of content creation versus deployable content in a business context.
The technology that is being used to explore this is Garage Games Torque engine. Now before any purists jump in this and say , but thats a game engine not an MMO engine you can only host n people at a time let me explain.
Torque lets us run controlled game style servers, even run locally and host our own ‘meeting rooms’ but we are customizing elements to hook into or existing communication systems. e.g. we have a large corporate index of employees called bluepages, we have single sign on to the intranet (and hence know who we are) and we have a set of services being built to access any of the data we need. We also already have a corporate wide Sametime messaging service and products on the way such as Lotus connections for deeper connectvity across existing channels. What we need is the ability to gather some people together and use the human aspects of the avatar interaction to be more effective in our communications.
Part of the investigation is to treat this as another client for web based services. So the services we build can then be consumed by any metaverse. In order to prove this you of course need more than one type of metaverse to ensure you do not code to a specific platform and keep the design generic.
One of the interesting things is the balance of building skills required, and who needs to build and when. Corporate systems, with the exception of blogs and wikis, tend to have much more control than maybe a public metaverse. Which functions are people calling out for? How to mitigate the potential amount of practice trash or unused areas yet still keep a free and user created environment is a challenge.
We are also able to use the internal metaverse to help people see for themselves the problems of large enterprise scale interactions in these environments.
IBM has a lot of techies, and many of them are eager to get their hands on clients and servers and see what they come up with. Some licensing and intellectual property law causes problems, so the internal metaverse acts as a much less legally complicated sand pit to extend the concepts.
I am hoping this does not worry lots of people, merely indicate the keeness to explore this industry, and the fact we have lots of people inside IBM who have not yet ventured into some of the public metaversese but who really want to see what it is all about.
We have the client out internally on a hosted service call TAP (Technology Adoption Program) which is where all our internal blogs, wikis and lots of other beta ideas started.
I am sure we will be writing some more about this in the whole spectrum of work going on in and around the metaverse(s).

Being disruptive is a good thing

Today I was on a roll with the final virtual worlds pitch of the week in the company of two of Hursley’s Distinguished Engineers(DE), Mandy and Andy. Both of them are known for being great innovators and mentors a like and have a proper standing in our technical community based on doing things.
I did my new Virtual Worlds pitch to a very knowlegable audience of visitors. Evangelizing as I do it is good to have a positive discussion rather than having to always convince the odd doubter in the crowd.
On after me was Mandy talking about the problems of free thinkers and innovators within traditional management structures of any organization. Much talk of comfort zones, motivations and measurements.
I twittered a few times that many of the phrases and examples of an attempt to control a free thinker were almost identical to the ones I have heard more than once during my career. The gist of the presentation is that if you do not pay attention to people and their new ideas and merely seek to control and tell them what to do then the true innovators peronality types will either leave, give up or become subversive.
Part of the make up of some of the people that can be regarded as causing trouble/innovators is an apparent lack of attention, as new things come around and they get focus. Which in a traditional task based management structure is obviously hard for some people to manage or deal with.

The irony of that was that Andy and I were at the back of the room trying out something Andy was putting together. So it may have seemed we were not paying attention. In reality we were helping Mandy by demonstrating the very traits that she was discussing. This is very different from people just ignoring the presenter and doing their emails.
So what was Andy SC up to ? He too has got a Nokia n95 recently, though his came with his elevation to DE 🙂 As an inventor and leader in all things pervasive he was exploring the barcode/QR code reader software whilst creating a few messages with some QR code creator software.
He was showing it to me when I decided to flickr it live via the phone in a wheels within wheels type of way.
I should also point out that Andy was introduced to QR codes by Dave Conway-Jones our pervasive guru who has usually seen, implemented and moved on, with most of these things before we have even got to them.
I dont think Mandy was too upset as it was a quick burst of energy and as we broke for lunch everyone asked what it was. By that time it was a QR code clock, not unlike his TimeFrame in Second Life
Now, next comes a Second Life implementation, prims or textures?

Experiments with large hands and puppeteer

A little while ago I wrote about creating some very large hands and fingers in Second Life in order to investigate sign language.
I had some static hands and I was trying to find time to write a script to help animate them, so they could take positions for various signs.
At the ITE expo I came across the stand for the Pupeteer scripts by Todd Borst (his shop is landmarked on his profile in SL)
Picture from snapzilla

With this I was able to prove that the hands would at least work in some form.

So it needs a bit of work, but as Roo pointed out we could make the sign lexicon a user generated set of content. People creating their own signs and providing them to all the users of the “device”.

Yet more buzz on the whole Mainframe and virtual worlds announcements

My home email received its regular update from gamespy daily today. I normally only read the headlines as with all the magazines and other content I feel fairly well informed, and as a gamer I just get on and play things.
However, today I clicked through to the PlanetFargo blog to see what they were saying about it all.
They have taken a suitably quirky view on it, and even managed to dig up one of the IBM songs from way back. They also have the greaterIBM video posted on Youtube by Kevin, referenced as a contrast.

There is also some interesting discussion on the ways interactions may play out in a corporate environment. Which strangely enough I have a nice post/article in the works on the role of role play at work. Its the first one that I have sat and tried to write as a piece rather than a gut instinct blog post.

Gartner predictions on the metaverse

As Adam is reporting on his blog over at Reuters Gartner sees 80% virtual world penetration by 2011.
When doing talks to people and evangelizing about why this is all happening now I often use the Gartner Hype curve, but not just for the virtual world/VR mapping.
The hype curve applies to the use of the web as a platform post dot.com days with people willing to contribute and share, the uptake in home internet usage, broadband and wireless and the generational effect of gaming technology not being an early adopter/tech geekfest but much more mainstream and acceptable.
The coming together of these factors have generated this massive interest and sparked the industry. Clearly Second Life has many of the elements that made this attractive to people.
As the report by Gartner says, “Find enthusiasts within your enterprise and support them.”
The five laws layed out have had Roo and I nodding our real and virtual heads, as they form a major part of what we have been explaining to all and sundry. (As have many other people we are not taking total credit!)
It is important that a group such as Gartner have made these statements. It all adds to the future of the industry and, dare I say, shows that we are going in the right direction?
If nothing else it will act as a lead in for people to start looking more deeply into virtual worlds.

Are you Sheep Electric?

Are you sheep electric?, originally uploaded by epredator.

Epredator bumps into some sheep? But are they electric?
More real life/virtual life crossover

I did post this on my individual blog too, but it was a sudden idea with Rob and Roo in our office.