16 Dec 2008

With Apologies to Shakespeare

To log on or not to log on that is the question-
Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the asset server problems,
The n00bs and dramas of outrageous avas
Or to take your hands off the keyboard and by not typing end it.

To log out, to quit SecondLife
No more and by a break to say we end the heart ache and the thousand
virtual shocks that a second life day is heir to
Tis a crash devoutly to be reported.

To log off to sleep (finally!)
To sleep perchance to have Second Dreams- Ay there is the rub
For in that sleep of absence what is your girlfriend really doing
When you have shuffled off of this meta coil.

18 Nov 2008

No Place Like Dome, StudioDome

Lots of movement occurs over the summer, in lots of ways. For the break from school kids get that long period to unwind and in not having to do much but be themselves learn about who they are and how they want to spend their time in leisure. They grow because that unstructured moment lets them explore which they don’t with the more rigorous schedule of real life, school work & exams breathing down their necks. They stay up late and sometimes try what they can’t during times of have to get to sleep early.

And people move as well more in the summer, sure there are vacations and going places, but there is also the big move that happens when one changes a residence. It happened to me this summer. Moving house in real life is never fun, packing a chore, cleaning worse and trudging through boxes an obstacle course at best. Oh to just pack up everything as I could in SecondLife would have been a lifesaver. This would have been my dearest wish. And it would have been worse but something wonderful happened. And so I realized the nature of home.

The 2nd QuestioN! Has been housed at the SpinDome in the SciLands since its inception. The masses of people and activity that has occurred there made the place well, very busy, and Paradox Olbers, the Guru saw that it was time for the show to have a place of its own. He gifted me with the new venue from where the show is now seen. The StudioDome. My own place! I had tried to raise a site with the name StudioDome for some years hence, and though research, team and talent were there, the technology was not. I was at the time too far ahead of the curve, and then not far enough. I had done hundreds of shows and thousands of events on another virtual world. September of 2002 I did Romeo & Juliet in 6 acts. It took three hours, there were 2 Romeos, they fought in the balcony scene, one Romeo transformed himself into a lemon & lime and danced while Juliet wept. I learned a lot from that.

I had hosted a weekly poetry slam since March of 2003 where thousands of people came & presented their poems, songs and classics. Had a weekly talk show, wrote, produced and directed The ChrimboCarol every year for 5 years. launched the Wizard of Habboz, where people had to follow the yellow doormat road (we didn’t have bricks) to The Emerald City. Had A Brave New World book club, debates on policy, was Sandy in Grease and even hosted Improv and a Friday night Comedy Club. The Shakespeare festivals I produced would have made the Bard proud. And all in text, yes at that time, I was Home in a 2.5D world with no headset.

I guess Home is where you take it, what you make of it, give to it and you can travel the world real or virtual forever in search of beauty, or in search of home but you must carry it with you or you will find it not. Since March of 2008, I have found it here, finally and as so many of us have in a world where we can & do bring our dreams to bear, see the fruit of our many hours of devotion ripen in the unrestricted, summery days of SecondLife.

The StudioDome where my show is broadcast from represents a new beginning and truly the place from where I can make happen, the vision I have of viewer log in entertainment.

In getting my own place, as the song goes from where I shall never wander, I host a show which is the beginning of many a night of live productions. It is a place to grow from home is, and the safer we feel there the more we can grow. As if the soil can nourish a tree that spreads its boughs to become wings. Paradox has given this seed a chance to grow & establish myself in doing so I am unafraid I will have to move. And such is the nature of Dome. No place like it.

10 Nov 2008

Why Watch TV, when you can Star in your Own Cartoon Movie Every Night?

"Why Watch TV when you can Star in your own Cartoon Movie Every night?"

The shift from passive to engaged user created content of an entertainment variety.
Consumerism takes many forms, and encompasses many kinds of products. We tend to define consumption of a product when we purchase it or use it. For example we certainly consume electricity, and this is the basis for our links into the Virtual Worlds we inhabit. We also have been consumers of electricity for a long time in regards to our entertainment patterns. Indeed radio, television and movies are all imported to us with the use of electricity. We take this so for granted, that to state this truth seems rather simplistic. Perhaps it is, and we have been consumers of entertainments in an electrified form for so long, the adaptation to the computer was rather seamless.

Traditional or old media is now having to watch as its audience once held passive in front of so much current, now shifts its paradigm to a more active form for what is being sought for entertainment. Viewership is down across the board for traditional and so is the advertising support that has provided the monetary backbone for production.

People spent more on videogames last year than Hollywood Box office. CBS just announced a $14 Million loss in the last quarter, it's only bright spot was the recently acquired CNET, and in an effort to "not ignore its audience or current trends" has agreed to broadcast its shows on of all places, YouTube.

But the old media giants do not understand, or are reluctant to understand that this shift is not just away from one screen to another. People are not just moving from one dull old toy to a shiny new one, and this represents something of a more fundamental nature. We are moving from passive viewing habits to another much more engaging form of entertainment. To be sure we are defined somewhat by what we consume. Yes, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and indeed the media we consume. When the final drum plays, though we will be judged not by what we consume in this world, but by what we produce.

Part of the appeal of Virtual Worlds, is that the content we create reflects who and what we are and what are interested in. We do not have be dumbed down to accept what is being offered on the networks, or in the movie theaters. We are in many ways reaching up when we create what we do. Surely this activity is part of what makes Virtual Worlds so appealing, and so worthy of return. Perhaps even more so than watching reruns of "Seinfeld" 5 nights a week.
Perhaps because I started on HabboHotel where you are not allowed to create any kind of assets, or to script in any way I began using the text based form of interaction for traditional kinds of entertainment. I hosted weekly poetry slams, and wanted to do more, so I expanded quickly into doing plays. I produced Romeo & Juliet for the first time in September of 2003. I had to use my powers of creation, in a more traditional way. I put on shows, I did many more plays, and found willing participants, who wanted to experience the adrenaline rush of freezing cold fingers while awaiting a cue in what is “live” theater. And It represents a key into why, what I have been prototyping for the past 5 years with the now defunct tinyspaceplayers of Habbo, to that which I do on SecondLife in the StudioDome in the SciLands has so much appeal. It is exciting.

The term artificial reality, coined by Myron Krueger, has been in use since the 1970s but the origin of the term virtual reality can be traced back to the French playwright, poet, actor and director Antonin Artaud. In his seminal book The Theatre and Its Double (1938), Artaud described theatre as "la réalite virtuelle", a virtual reality "in which characters, objects, and images take on the phantasmagoric force of alchemy's visionary internal dramas"
Even though the medium of the tiny screen is electric, as we are acting live and in real time, the analogy is much closer to theater, or the beginning of the television age's live broadcast of shows. And of course with the production element of anything can happen, and this is live, we are in "The Golden Age of the Internet" as far as show production goes.

When we log onto a Virtual World, we are already taking part in a suspension of belief immediately which has been the hallmark of sitting in a dark movie theatre about to watch just about any film, except a documentary. We do not, in general log onto Virtual Worlds to create documentary. We do suspend our belief and take part in the fantastic. Accordingly, in SecondLife we can fly for example, walk underwater, be furry creatures and more. According to the SecondLife traffic report, October was a good month to lose oneself within the narratives of Second Life role play as hundreds of residents joined the ranks of Kingdoms of Sand and Remembrance. We are looking to create our own entertainment and if you will, role play is akin to theater. USG is also what we come here to do. As we already suspend our belief; inhabiting the element of the Virtual World is a prime place to construct theater, theater games and shows.
I am however a child of structured theater, not role play. And I do want others to play with me, learning as they do. Walt Disney famously said " I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained" and education when it encompasses entertainment remains more vivid and is retained longer. (Examples of this are the "conjunction junction" songs and all alphabet kind of songs which most of us utilized in learning and retaining the alphabet)In doing plays, in creating shows that have an element of learning something one did not know before, I engage additionally the participating audience. This happened with the Shakespeare plays, never was the Bard more vivid than when I was inhabiting one of his characters. That held true for all the actors, and when Shakespeare became the hottest ticket on Habbo, I knew I was onto something special.

Now I produce shows that people are thrilled to be a part of. The 2nd QuestioN! has a weekly audience which loves playing along as the show is taped, yes live. They watch it on the video on the site afterwards, and it has become a very popular show. It is the Quiz Show to The Stars! The audience interacts as if they are also the stars, and to be honest, they are. It is a fast paced hour with the audience voting along, and guessing the answers to the questions. Same is true with my new show The Dating Casino which encourages the audience to reveal their preferences to the questions asked as the contestants also answer in real time.

In thinking about how people view video, it pays to think about how people already view video. The experience of watching is certainly not new, and there are loads to understand and appreciate about viewing patterns inherent in the traditional TV audience. The screen has shifted yes, but the same eyes remain firmly in place the species “video on the Internet” is very different from “traditional TV programs” but the species Human has not changed so very much, for example:

The average number of TV channels that people actually watch has only gone from 10 channels in 2005 to almost 16 channels in 2006, despite the number of channels going up from an average of 41 to 104. And people spent an average of less time overall on each stop, mirroring a dwindling attention span. The relevance here is that people have “viewing habits” whether on the Internet or television. People will go back to the same thing again & again if they get something they like there. The Internet caters to people’s tastes and, according to PodTrac, a high percentage of Internet audience members tend to listen or watch the same podcast “station” (for lack of a better word, or “site” if you prefer.) Think of yourself, what number of different actual sites do you go to willingly? Do you tend to visit the same sites over and over again? I think we all do. That’s why we have cookies.

The beauty is there are so many ways to engage the viewer, consumer and Interactive audience. The Virtual World platform is unique. One is generally alone at the computer, doing something that has, needs or wants to get done. When someone is in a Virtual World it is usually because they asked for it and wanted to go there. Here is an opportunity to involve and entertain an audience. People log in and play along, this is viewer log in entertainment. Having a specific show and destination for them to be a part of means they also will return. And they do. Here I build audience or customer loyalty today and encourage them to return and deliver customer value tomorrow. This business model also provides opportunities for advertisers to have a branded form of entertainment on the net, beyond what is just on their site. It is happening live on SecondLife, and people willingly are a part of the show.

Watching videos on the net is rising, according to eMarketeer, in 2006 63% of US households streamed video whether it was content or advertising, by 2011 this is projected to grow to almost 87%. In June of 2007 figures released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers show that Internet advertising revenues continue to skyrocket. The 2007 first quarter revenues of US$4.9 billion represent a 26 percent increase over Q1 2006 at US$3.8 billion. “The continued growth of online ad revenues clearly illustrates marketers’ increased comfort with the extraordinary vitality and accountability of this medium,” commented IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg. “It reaches consumers with an unprecedented level of efficiency and measurability that provides marketers with actionable data. And the ever-changing landscape of new platforms and technologies that enrich interactive advertising guarantees that this growth trend will continue.”

The eyes are here, the money follows. And Virtual World participation is also very much on the rise. Recently, Philip Rosedale, former CEO of Linden Labs predicted at an Always On conference that within ten years the number of people in Virtual Worlds will overtake the number of web users.

Using this platform means creating more than precious moments, and full scale communities dedicated to learning, enrichment and having fun. The platform is perfect for launching all kinds of traditional and potentially profitable kinds of entertainment as well. According to a 2007 Morgan Stanley report, “longer term monetization should grow faster than usage, which should grow faster than users, recent very recent rapid growth of online video + voice + USG combined with a high probability of innovation bodes well for continued usage growth. Ongoing improvements in monetization are being driven by improved targetability / personalization / usability.” Not just microtransactions within a Virtual World, but also delivering the kind of game shows that have been around for over 20 years. And these will eventually be supported by advertisers as well, seeking to brand original productions with their names and product. I jokingly have said that I would, on the 2nd QuestioN! drink a martini of Bombay Gin and smoke a Camel cigarette. I might be put to the test one day with this.

Brand entertainment and Internet advertising has the ability to reach people fully focused and literally at the edge of their seats. With all eyes on the smaller screen, those in advertising must decide how to parlay active interest into time spent with the product. “Time is the new currency,” as it has been said, after which follows, “Content is King”.

Online shows will create opportunities for branding awareness, think of the old Kraft Mystery theatre but on the internet where you too can log in to participate in a performance, or watch someone you know. The new age also eclipses the old one in many unusual ways. We have idolized gorgeous film stars throughout the history of movies, but needing to look at Brad Pitt is certainly diminished when you can easily look like him, or better, in your avatars skin. And if your partner wants to look like Angelina Joile, well she can. If we worship beauty, and have been trained to want to look at better looking people, the ability to be that better looking person might be the best of all worlds.

Another factor for online production and return on investment is cost. Clearly the cost of putting on any kind of television or cable like programming is not only fraught with barriers to entry, (especially if your Dad is not Michael Eisner), but also that of cost. On a Virtual World platform, all the elements to create your own show, or machinima is there, and very often quite inexpensively. Consider it costs around $20,000 USD just to have a professional writer craft just a one hour episode of The Office, and this without any other costs such as hiring talent or production staff. The ability to create an online original program as I have done for very much less is a huge incentive for doability.

It does take commitment, comfort with being that much ahead of the curve, ability to withstand criticism and a very clear focus to produce, organize, motivate, write and direct. These luckily are my strengths. As far as scripting the voting board, or building the StudioDome, well I have to leave that to people who are far more talented in that regard. And with any great production for entertainment value, no one can write, film, direct, act and build sets. The difference is in a Virtual World there are people who want to do what their natural talents give them the ability to do.

There is opportunity to make this happen, it is low cost, it is immediate and it is available.
Machinima and video is more than a trend; it is a valuable way of connecting with an audience that in the case of the computer is literally and figuratively, at the edge of their seats. The intimate nature of the relationship between someone at the keyboard versus someone holding the power tool is quite different. The body no longer ends at the fingertips, but extends into the medium of the computer. If the fingers extend into the medium, then so does the mind in new ways. That is why entertainment on the web isn’t passive, it’s active. The brain itself is engaged in a completely new, active way. We are meaning seeking creatures, as Jane Goodall said, if we find meaning, we will return. We must keep this in mind in providing programming on the web worth watching.

We have an endless appetite for things to see and for things that will stimulate us; therefore engaging with meaningful video is essential. We have been trained now for over 50 years to respond to a moving image through the television. We are training ourselves as to what to look for with the InterVision we are presented with now on the net.

For those who don’t want to produce shows as I do, there is the opportunity to play within them as a contestant, or a member of the panel. For those who want to watch, there is the excitement of being at a live broadcast, and what is even more fun, the ability to really be a part of the audience interaction. This is why I create the game shows. On the 2nd QuestioN!, although the panel and myself and my co-host are on voice, the audience is not, but their constant chatlog comments is very rich, varied and entertaining. They are participating in the program as it is being filmed. We have left the passive to become active and star in the very real experience of our own cartoon movies every night.

This creates an added bonus for us in terms of entertainment. When you go to the movies, you are passively watching. On the 2nd QuestioN! you are actively engaged, and engaged in trying to guess the questions along with 60 other people all playing in the “room” at the same time.
Even Alec Trebek doesn’t have that with Jeopardy. I will take viewer log in entertainment on the web, for a million.

2 Nov 2008

The Master Builder - Felixx Sheperd

I meet Felixx Sheperd, the man behind the Garden of Da Vinci, at his build. If you haven’t seen it, then well you should for not many are as beautiful or complex as this incredible sim. From golden spires, to castles, to fireworks, an undersea complex, a desert tent and of course his space odyssey, it is unrivaled in beauty and design.

Pooky Amsterdam: I am amazed constantly at Kalepa’s depth & beauty.

Felixx Shepherd: I did it for people like you, so you can use it.

Pooky Amsterdam: Felixx you have created this masterpiece and retreat here on SecondLife- what made you initially want to do it?

Felixx Shepherd: I think there never was an initial point - it grew step by step.

Pooky Amsterdam: Where did you begin?

Felixx Shepherd: My job brought me here.

Pooky Amsterdam: In what way?

Felixx Shepherd: I’m a journalist, and I worked for a radio station and I tried to build up a presence for that station but unfortunately the station went bankrupt.

Pooky Amsterdam: You didn’t end that gig you began a new one then, were you going to do an inworld on air report for it?

Felixx Shepherd: I designed a few things for them here and I liked it and many people said that they liked my style.

Pooky Amsterdam: Funny how SecondLife can also bring out what one is most adept in, things you wouldn’t necessarily know unless you come here.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, right.

Pooky Amsterdam: So you were encouraged by that. What was it that you built?

Felixx Shepherd: The first big project was the castle with the domes.

Pooky Amsterdam: Here on Kalepa? The castle does look like a great hub - the center of your atom so to speak.

Felixx Shepherd: No this was still in Apfelland - that is a German hotspot in SecondLife but soon I needed more space.

Pooky Amsterdam: Very soon I would think.

Felixx Shepherd: At first only a little part of Kalepa was mine. But piece by piece I conquered the whole island ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: How did you come to Kalepa?

:Felixx Shepherd: I came here by destiny ;) mmmh: I came here searching for a new parcel for me.

Pooky Amsterdam: Why here?

Felixx Shepherd: mmmh I can’t say exactly but I think it was really the best for me: since I was able to grow here and the land owner also liked my style: so I made a deal with her: I designed a sim for her - and in return she gave me Kalepa for a good price.

I bought a part on the corner of Kalepa and there I started building the castle with the domes. But this was just the end of one year of my SecondLife career ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: Why those?

Felixx Shepherd: The pictures in my mind become reality, prim by prim - that is what fascinated me. When I was a child I made castles out of LEGO. Now I do the same with prims.

Pooky Amsterdam: And you let your imagination move forward then like so many rezzing prims. So when did you realize you had few if any limitations here in building?

Felixx Shepherd: Good question :) I have a picture in my mind: then I try to come close to that picture, I try and try.

Pooky Amsterdam: Do you sketch it out in any way other than your minds eye?

Felixx Shepherd: Just in my mind.

Pooky Amsterdam: You must have a clear mind.

Felixx Shepherd: Sometimes when I’m not satisfied I’m getting somehow angry ;) and tear everything down I made for hours or days.

Pooky Amsterdam: As if the prims have a life of their own?

Felixx Shepherd: Haha yes maybe.

Pooky Amsterdam: Does that feeling of tearing it down also feel cathartic to you?

A release?

Felixx Shepherd: Sometimes lol, but there is something strange I build something and think it is ok then I go to sleep and wake up the next day and see it with other eyes: and find it ugly ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: Do you wait till after you have breakfast for your final decision?

Felixx Shepherd: Hahah :) no

Pooky Amsterdam: So you sketch by actually doing it?

Felixx Shepherd: I don’t think long: I’m very impulsive then but no fear ;) I’m not an aggressive type ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: Do you think in some ways we are like gods here in that we can manifest what we imagine in our minds & make it real? Because the level of creationism is both rich, detailed and varied?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, if you like to put it this way …yes, yes you are maybe right ;) For me an important point is: To have the possibility to share my creativity with people from all over the world. I can also be very enthused about things others have made.

Pooky Amsterdam: Your favorite SecondLife sights then?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes but I have to confess I’m not far traveled in SecondLife ;) since I build most of the time.

Pooky Amsterdam: Limitations, if any?

Felixx Shepherd: mmh limitations? Scripting was a thing that was the hardest part for me as what my dreams concern, so far I was able to convert all my childhood dreams into SecondLife 3d reality. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes easier.

Pooky Amsterdam: How early did rebuilding Da Vinci’s telescope enter your childhood dreams?

Felixx Shepherd: Hahah

Pooky Amsterdam: Well I have to ask, from a young age then- 8-11?

Felixx Shepherd: Astronomy is one dream ;) Ancient times another. Leonardo does combine so many things. Yes I think that was that age.

Pooky Amsterdam: What was your biggest scripting challenge? AND do you think that scripting takes up another part of the brain than the eye & the hand of the builder?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, I think I am more the creative, not as much the information scientist but I want to have these functions and so I had to learn by trial and error.

Pooky Amsterdam: But you took on the great challenges, I am amazed by this.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, the rocket was my biggest challenge.

Pooky Amsterdam: The rocket…. tell about this part you have created now paradise on “earth”

Felixx Shepherd: :)

Pooky Amsterdam: What made you decide to go to Mars?

Felixx Shepherd: If I would have been given the chance I would have been an astronaut who travels to Mars and builds up there a station. I can not do that, but I can do it here.

Pooky Amsterdam: You said astronomy was an early love.

Felixx Shepherd: I like secrets, I want to know WHY.

Pooky Amsterdam: What did you want to know the why of when you built Mars?

Felixx Shepherd: mmmh maybe this is only part of the dream.

Pooky Amsterdam: You built also life on Mars I finally discovered the cave. You know the Phoenix has discovered water on Mars now. Do you think we will find life there?

Felixx Shepherd: Surely not the life I have on my Mars ;) but maybe in the depth underneath. We know from Earth that on the surface, life has conquered all corners, why not on Mars?

Pooky Amsterdam: & even in miraculously harsh circumstances.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, I gave my Mars mushrooms ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: & why mushrooms Felixx?

Felixx Shepherd: They are one of the toughest beings on earth. They even live in the reactor of Chernobyl and are able to get their energy from the radiation.

Pooky Amsterdam: Mushrooms that grow on radiation? *eyes cross* what do you mean?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes there are black funguses that use the radiation like plants use the sunlight. It is really astonishing I have written an article about that.

Pooky Amsterdam: You have also created a Jules Verne experience. Are there any mushrooms in the sea?

Felixx Shepherd: No, that is not their habitat but they have conquered every part of the surface.

Pooky Amsterdam: I am also fascinated by the sea world you have created here.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes mystic things, and the sea is also mystic.

Pooky Amsterdam: Mushrooms are magical, yes?

Felixx Shepherd: Also yes.

Pooky Amsterdam: You looked to recreate the fantastic, the fantastic voyage so to speak

Felixx Shepherd: My undersea area is dedicated to Jules Verne.

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes why is this? Was he your 19th century hero then?

Felixx Shepherd: He also was a man with visions and many things he had in mind became true.

Pooky Amsterdam: If Leonardo was one of an earlier time

Felixx Shepherd: That is the case for both yes, and both artists too.

Pooky Amsterdam: You are also an artist most have to conquer one medium though- you have conquered many.

Felixx Shepherd: ;( Haha it would be somehow blasphemy to compare me with them, though I wonder what they would say to SecondLife. Sometimes the future is much more astonishing as you have thought of in your weirdest dreams.

Pooky Amsterdam: Who did Verne admire?

Felixx Shepherd: I don’t know but the one who built the first helicopter, he was a great fan of Verne. Imagination is the always the beginning of the future.

Pooky Amsterdam: Well you said it before, that you wanted to realize your childhood dreams too. Do you think actualizing them made them richer for you?

Felixx Shepherd: yes it gives me so much life quality, but I think I did not loose my real life. I also sell my creations, but the main thing about that is not that I’m so keen on money ;) It is rather like being a painter who can sell their creations. This is telling me someone finds my creations so beautiful they are willing to spend money on it.

Pooky Amsterdam: I was about to ask on the monetizing aspect of this for you.

Felixx Shepherd: It started with my first castle. Someone came to me one day and asked if he could buy it and so it all began that I created new things since people wanted to have them.

Pooky Amsterdam: I have every free thing you made here. I love every single one of them & often go on my feather for a ride. You are unbelievably generous & have given us all who come here incredible gifts: the submarine, the helicopter, the diving gear.

Felixx Shepherd: mmmh some say I’m expensive but I want my things to be a bit exclusive.

Pooky Amsterdam: Everyone on SecondLife is concerned with monetizing their content. Any challenge Felixx?

Felixx Shepherd: mmmh it turned out to be a real job ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: Hahha

Felixx Shepherd: I was on holiday for 10 days, and as I came back I had over hundred IM’s.

Pooky Amsterdam: for product?

Felixx Shepherd: Not all, but many of them are kind words about my work which I do appreciate much. Of course I answer all, but many are about products yes.

Pooky Amsterdam: Where do you find beauty & your sources of inspiration from here on so to speak?

Felixx Shepherd: This holiday… I was in Italy. Everyone who knows some of my builds knows what I mean. They are inspired by ancient architecture but as you know I have started building space environments, I already have seen beautiful space creations in SecondLife.

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes Inspire Park is wonderful.

Felixx Shepherd: It surely is, yes.

Pooky Amsterdam: What are you most excited about building now?

Felixx Shepherd: I would love to create a whole space themed region, unfortunately time is a constraint. On the other hand it is great for me as I start a new job, as a matter of fact next week.

Pooky Amsterdam: Well if you can get that mega time prim into your real life inventory, & expand the day to 26 hours, or 36 more like it.

Felixx Shepherd: A pill to replace sleep, but sleeping can be nice ;) And it gives fresh ideas

Pooky Amsterdam: Your new job?? Tell us please, I am sure people want to know what real life is like for Felixx.

Felixx Shepherd: I work for a scientific journal in Germany, it is an infotainment journal.

Pooky Amsterdam: You should mention the 2nd QuestioN! in it.

Felixx Shepherd: We convert the articles into radio format and these radio clips can then be used by radio stations for free with the branding of the journal of course - that is the concept.

Felixx Shepherd: I also plan something for children, I hope this concept will work, there is a radio station just for children. I would like to produce a science show for children. Infotainment for children

Pooky Amsterdam: The 2nd QuestioN! Is for adults who need to remember what it is like to be a child of wonder - Disney knew you needed to entertain to educate as well.

Felixx Shepherd: I definitely want one thing: That it should be interesting for adults too, a good crossover thing that parents will watch it with the kids.

Pooky Amsterdam: You have to have their eyes & hearts & the minds will follow

Felixx Shepherd: Yes that is the main idea

Pooky Amsterdam: You really must, if you have time, to come to the Naked Scientists tomorrow, the BBC radio show as it brodacasts also live in SecondLife at 10 AM SL time.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes I would love to.

Pooky Amsterdam: What is your favorite part of Kalepa? Is it a fair question? Or like asking a parent who is your favorite child?

Felixx Shepherd: mmmh hard to say, haha, it depends on my mood. You see I have taken you here since I think it is an atmosphere that fits.

Pooky Amsterdam: Object owned by Felixx Shepherd gave you ‘Tropical dream cocktail’Good answer.

Felixx Shepherd: but there is one thing.

Tropical dream cocktail whispers: MMm MMM good!

Felixx Shepherd: I love to be in my tree, lying on a branch and listening to the wind. It is 53 prims, I can show you my tree.

Pooky Amsterdam: Have you ever seen Botanicals?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, I like it.

Pooky Amsterdam: oh yes please do show me the tree.

Felixx Shepherd: Let’s go there by canoe.

Logboat: Ready to go! If you don’t board me, in about a minute I will disappear.

Felixx Shepherd: My flying fish, see?

Pooky Amsterdam: I love them, wonderful, this is just so rich.

Felixx Shepherd: Please right click the tree and sit. Can you see me?

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes I just took a picture and I am now also in the tree

Felixx Shepherd: Yes I see you, I was very happy as a child in trees

Pooky Amsterdam: Did you build this tree?

Felixx Shepherd: Every prim on Kalepa, nearly ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: You just opened your mind to learning it all?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, I think I like this place most. A whispering tree is one of the most beautiful sounds in nature. I use a radio sound data base … ;)

Felixx Shepherd: Did you already use my new rocket tour? To Mars?

Pooky Amsterdam: I really enjoyed it.

Felixx Shepherd: And the trip to the station near the sun?

Pooky Amsterdam: No I didn’t do that yet. I have now 3 last questions, your hero today- someone you find heroic in the present day, what is a perfect day for you? & what would life have been like without Secondlife.

Felixx Shepherd: Three difficult questions :)

Pooky Amsterdam: Not so much so!

Felixx Shepherd: I will try

Pooky Amsterdam: Thank you

Felixx Shepherd: Maybe a strange answer…: some days ago I was in the underground train. A bit away from me there was a woman, elegant about 50. The door opened and a homeless came in and he started talking to that woman. He was ugly but somehow not unfriendly. She began talking to him, very friendly and polite with nothing that gave him the feeling he was someone of less worth. She made this man very happy I think

Pooky Amsterdam: I understand Felixx- her talking to him equally brought all of us up a little bit, the greater humanity she showed spoke well of all of us.

Felixx Shepherd: That’s it. For me there is something very important and that takes us back to SecondLife. To react to people without prejudice, the same respect to all people and in SecondLife you even are not able to have prejudices.

Pooky Amsterdam: I also think prejudice says more about the person who is prejudiced

than the object of their scorn.

Felixx Shepherd: Human beings are somehow only the avatars of their souls, I do not mean that religious.

Pooky Amsterdam: I actually saw that so clearly one night, this man transformed into like 20 avs, all beasts etc & I thought well the skin, the ava is just a soul wrapper isn’t it

Felixx Shepherd: :) I like that, anybody can be freed from the chains of his Real life, sex, appearance colour…. and that is great but on the other hand also a source of danger.

Pooky Amsterdam: mmmmmmmmmmm what do you mean?

Felixx Shepherd: Since some become addicted to that to escape from their Real life.

Pooky Amsterdam: This is indeed a selected life & that begs a great question of course, if your life on SecondLife is somehow more satisfying than your real life, do you- leave SecondLife & try to make your Real life better or do you enjoy & maximize your life here?

Felixx Shepherd: In my case it is a bit different I think

Pooky Amsterdam: Tell me how Felixx

Felixx Shepherd: I’m very much myself here, I feel Real life here, not someone else. I even tried to make my avatar look very much as I do. But I do not say that this is the right way.

Pooky Amsterdam: Does it mean SecondLife has fewer emotional pitfalls then? Possibly?

Felixx Shepherd: Yes I think so.

Pooky Amsterdam: Fewer conflicts, very interesting that point.

Felixx Shepherd: It seems to depend on the character, for some it could be great to be a fantasy person here.

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes I think so too, if someone really feels at home in their skin- even the skin of a dragon or wolf or panda.

Felixx Shepherd: I think I could be a furry too since this is then something totally different.

Pooky Amsterdam: What furry would you be? An experiment maybe? Haha okay what animal?

Felixx Shepherd: I think a tomcat, I like the feline way of being.

Pooky Amsterdam: I would be a kitten *waves tiny paw* *chases imaginary mouse* *gets stuck in tree*

Felixx Shepherd: Hehe yes and being so happy to lie in the sun

Pooky Amsterdam: I am very happy person, I love being alive and now for the last 2 questions

Felixx Shepherd: I sometimes would like to be happier, I’m sometimes melancholic

Pooky Amsterdam: What do you think about that makes you sad?

Felixx Shepherd: I can’t tell.

Pooky Amsterdam: You know no rain makes a desert

Felixx Shepherd: its character I think

Pooky Amsterdam: There is so much trouble in the world today- you have depth & soul, blue eyed soul.

Felixx Shepherd: right ;)

Pooky Amsterdam: You can’t solve the problems of mankind yet know what could be made better at times it is frustrating. Yes, is SecondLife an escape or a beautiful refreshment of spirit?

Felixx Shepherd: But there are such times and those times, haha, that sentence also fits on that hahah. If I create something I forget all that, it is a nice thing but I am happy that I can say that I’m not addicted to that.

Pooky Amsterdam: Happiness is an achievement and not a constant state; we all like to feel good. That is it, isn’t it- if this makes us feel good we want to do it.

Felixx Shepherd: The ten days of holiday…also from SecondLife…were really nice, Pooky Amsterdam: That brings us to the last question then what would life have been like without SecondLife?

Felixx Shepherd: Do you mean for me personally, or generally?

Pooky Amsterdam: Well both then….

Felixx Shepherd: For me personally it is a little wonder, I can be creative and I get much positive feedback.

Pooky Amsterdam: & from all over the world & you could not possibly know 800 people in Real life could you?

Felixx Shepherd: For some I seem to be able to brighten their time here.

Pooky Amsterdam: oh yes Felixx you have given so very much.

Felixx Shepherd: What more can there be? :) And generally I think it is comparable with other media developments such as the first books, radio, television and internet. In each case some people had fears that this would be harmful but all has two sides and mankind will be able to adapt.

Pooky Amsterdam: How do you see mankind evolving in the next 100 years? Bonus question, S;-D

Felixx Shepherd: Hehe, I do think that virtual relationships will be totally normal and enrich our communication I hope so.

Pooky Amsterdam: Well they already have- letters are also not exactly virtual as people for hundreds of years wrote letters.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes I’m really thrilled what will happen to SecondLife I hope SecondLife will develop to a sort of 3d internet, I hope that no other portal will replace it.

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes me too, it is funny but I call this home now & feel I must defend it.

Felixx Shepherd: Mmh it will never completely replace physical meetings.

Pooky Amsterdam: No, people still need to hug.

Felixx Shepherd: Haha sure.

Pooky Amsterdam: & for business they need also to meet in Real life at some point.

Felixx Shepherd: Yes, I hope people realize the potential since many people meet also in Real life.

Pooky Amsterdam: It is a great thing to be able to meet & talk here. I do value this opportunity to talk with you. I know that people will be enchanted with the man behind Kalepa.

13 Jul 2008

Sunday Supplement - The Soul of The New Machinima

The other night, after the show in the SpinDome, an avatar was there who went through his many wonderful and beautiful “selves”. As I looked at this person transforming himself from an alien to a griffen to magical dragons, I realized his form while changing was essentially the house of something that remained true. Yes the house we have our soul in whether in body form with fingers typing at the keyboards, or here as we speak, is still well, us. But what lies underneath, I guess it is our soul. It doesn’t really matter what the outside is, I realized as I looked at this avatar, we are who we are inside. Perhaps we love SecondLife because we can also breathe a different form to life, and in one that more closely resembles who we fell we really are. Our soul is our own though, our inner self always there - the one we carried with us into this life, second or othrwise. And what we do with our souls while we manifest them onto whichever plane we are on impacts how that soul devlops. How we touch other people also tells us what of our soul reaches forth beyond the confines we house.

We do not live just for ourselves alone in this world and we thankfully have the chance to reach out beyond the single self we do have. We can enchant eachother, teach each other and also transform one another. In so doing we grow and also transform ourselves. Not a bad package to have access to. Of course we can also at times hurt each other or over step the boundaries. In a respectful world, we try to pull back. Again it is the will of my soul to not want to cause yours pain.

For those who do hurt intentionally, do so with the horror of hurting themselves. Damage is never just impacted to the external, but to the internal as well.

While we change our form we essentially remain true to who we are. We can do what we can to enrich our own being, but I guess we also have the great and wonderful responsibility to help each other too. SecondLife lets us reach many people who we would normally, in the course of one human day never reach. And we come here because its beautiful and fun, impressive to see what others have done yes too. We can only imagine what we alone can fathom. But we can also learn from others, as no one knows everything. (I mean no one can really, where would you put it?) So you show me something and I show you too, together and separtely we grow and hopefully evolve into better people. We still carry tha soul inside us even if we are red or blue or green or pink or brown. However we are, we make an impact upon one another. It can’t be for naught, and we know this I think instinctively.

And we want to be here, for so very much. Time rushes when we are inworld, The minutes stretching vastly to hours in ways we could never have imagined we would devote to our virtual beings with our everlasting souls clinging gracefully to them. And because we do want to be here so very much, we set ourselves with things we “must” do. I have to come online to write or to get panelists, to check the set, etc. Others have to do what they must to get their virtual lives in order. And because we want to be here, I think we set the things we do as things for others because then we can justify all the time we spend here better to ourselves. It is and has become a world of mutual enrichment Because otherwise we couldn’t explain why we spend so much time here. For a greater service we can, and so we do. That reflects well on us, and consequentially on the souls which we will take undoubtedly with us when we shuffle off this virtual coil, whether by logging out for the day, of for eternity.

29 Jun 2008

The Titan - Troy McLuhan

Perhaps it’s his brilliance, wit and wisdom that makes us seek him out, but Troy McLuhan is one busy man. From his early work with the International SpaceFlight Museum to bringing the Naked Scientists into focus on Sunday Afternoons, he is endlessly busy creating a better life for us here. It is his restless search and great commitment to this outstanding Metaverse we inhabit that also makes it a better place. And we recognize this.

The man I call The Titan was gracious enough to give me a few hours of his time (Yes he is busy, and we had to do the interview in 2 parts.)

It was fitting that the interview took place on Mars, above Kalepa.
Pooky Amsterdam: You mentioned that a few years ago you presented a talk to the International SpaceFlight Museum, what year was that?
Troy McLuhan: Well, I guess the first presentation would have been in June 2006.
Pooky Amsterdam: Tell me about it please.
Troy McLuhan: We’d invited someone from NASA Johnson to talk at the grand opening of the International Spaceflight Museum.
Troy McLuhan: He’s a volunteer fireman and there was a fire….so I jumped in to give a talk in his place at the opening of ISM Spaceport Alpha sim.
Pooky Amsterdam: You were last minute to present?
Troy McLuhan: Yes, I talked about the International Space University.
Pooky Amsterdam: Where is that?
Troy McLuhan: (I’m alumni) I went to the ISU Summer Session Program (SSP). The ISU SSP is in a different city every year. Next year it’s at NASA Ames.
Pooky Amsterdam: Always NASA then?
Troy McLuhan: No, it’s been in Thailand, Chile, Canada, you name it.
Pooky Amsterdam: What are some of the goals?
Troy McLuhan: It’s multidisciplinary, covering the science, the economics, the policy issues, the engineering, and more. It’s also multinational, with about 100 students coming from all over the world.
Pooky Amsterdam: What was the most important thing you got out of it?
Troy McLuhan: I got a good sense of the space community out of going to the ISU.
Pooky Amsterdam: How did this reflect in your talk you gave?
Troy McLuhan: My talk in June 2006 was about 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes of questions. After that I gave a talk almost every week up till around Christmas.
Pooky Amsterdam: Great so you were a hit. Did you feel any destiny in this?
Troy McLuhan: I like giving presentations.
Pooky Amsterdam: After the first talk, did you prepare a great deal, or speak more off the cuff?
Troy McLuhan: It was all pre-written I copied and pasted from a text file. (This was before voice chat.)
Pooky Amsterdam: When you initially started giving the talks you must have had some limitations in terms of presentation materials, how did you overcome this?
Troy McLuhan: Space topics have the nice property that there is a ton of public domain images etc.
Pooky Amsterdam: I was fascinated by your description of your building 3d models yourself, why did you take this upon yourself?
Troy McLuhan: My first big exhibit project in SL was a 3D model of the solar system. You can say a date on open text chat, and then the planets move to their positions on that date. I made that in November 2005.
Pooky Amsterdam: I’m in awe.
Troy McLuhan: I’ll show it to you sometime.
Pooky Amsterdam: How much time do we have now?
Troy McLuhan: 13 minutes
Pooky Amsterdam: 2 more questions for now
Pooky Amsterdam: 1) Why do you do this?
Pooky Amsterdam: I think it is important to know where this incredible motivation comes from.
Troy McLuhan: It’s about trying to understand the world, trying to figure it out.
Pooky Amsterdam: & that must be what makes you so effective as you are also on the journey of discovery.
Troy McLuhan: Aren’t we all.
Pooky Amsterdam: Indeed! Troy I hope so, but some can take others with them more easily. It’s that x factor, you have it.
Pooky Amsterdam: What was the first presentation you gave in school that made you feel really great, feel really the beginnings of this kind of journey for you?
Troy McLuhan: We used to do public speaking competitions in 4H.
Pooky Amsterdam: I had always wanted to be in 4H but I was a city girl, I used to read about it.
Troy McLuhan: There’s 4H in cities too, but not as common.
Pooky Amsterdam: Not in Greenwich Village….
Troy McLuhan: Most 4H clubs are farm related.
Pooky Amsterdam: How old were you?
Troy McLuhan: I don’t know.
Pooky Amsterdam: & what was the presentation you did?
Troy McLuhan: I don’t even remember the topics anymore.
Pooky Amsterdam: Was it that people were really listening & learning something? Is that what made you happy?
Troy McLuhan: I didn’t win. I think the best I ever did was come in 2nd place.
Pooky Amsterdam: I guess it wasn’t about winning for you, but you will compete as you aren’t afraid to throw your hat into the ring.
Troy McLuhan: I was in 4H mostly because my Dad wanted me to be in 4H.
Pooky Amsterdam: You got more out if it though, you created something more out of it for yourself and I can think of a few metaphors for this.
Troy McLuhan: We also had public speaking in school.
Pooky Amsterdam: Did you like that?
Troy McLuhan: I’ve always enjoyed public speaking I think.
Pooky Amsterdam: That makes sense.
Troy McLuhan: It’s 18:00 now
Pooky Amsterdam: I will hold the rest till a more convenient time
End of Part 1

Beginning of Part 2
Pooky Amsterdam: When we last left off- the Martian landscape was beneath us in a glow of its’ red aura, now we sit in a quiet place after the flight….
Pooky Amsterdam: When you were young, did you ever imagine yourself older as now doing what you are on space exploration?
Troy McLuhan: Well, when I was younger I read a lot of science essays and books, the “popular” accounts, if you will.
Pooky Amsterdam: Did you ever not take what was told you on face value? Or, how did this lead to your wanting to investigate on your own?
Troy McLuhan: Well, I’m not sure anything led to me wanting to investigate things on my own. I did little experiments and things since I was quite young.
Troy McLuhan: A parallel thing that’s important to understand is that my parents got us a computer for Christmas in the early 1980s. A TRS-80, you hooked it up to the TV as the screen.
Pooky Amsterdam: They encouraged you then in this as well.
Troy McLuhan: One of my brothers also got into programming, and it’s also a big part of what he does today.
Pooky Amsterdam: & what did you find yourself doing with it in its nascent form?
Troy McLuhan: We made some simple games, a wordprocessor, a map program.
Pooky Amsterdam: It didn’t come with its own load of stuff or you had more interest in making your own?
Troy McLuhan: No, the TRS-80 didn’t come with anything except a BASIC interpreter. You could buy games or software as cartridges to stick in the side.
Pooky Amsterdam: Sure, but it must have been limited.
Troy McLuhan: Yeah but it was fun.
Pooky Amsterdam: It was the future- did you get any sense of that then?
Troy McLuhan: Well, we knew it was new, but it must have given my dad quite a scare, because he never used one since.
Pooky Amsterdam: He left that to his sons.
Troy McLuhan: He was actually very suspicious of it, giving us very specific schedule when we could use it, as if it were a toy.
Pooky Amsterdam: He knew more about 4 H, so in a way it is really a tribute to him that he wanted more for you.
Troy McLuhan: I hated 4H. Maybe I didn’t make that clear.
Pooky Amsterdam: Did you find those limits useful? And yes you did-but in that you pushed your 4H experience it to where it made sense to you.
Troy McLuhan: And we weren’t allowed to use it during seeding or harvest, even for school work. Well, the schedule was also in place so my brothers and I could have our own times with it.
Pooky Amsterdam: Did you fight over it ever, as kids will?
Troy McLuhan: No we never fought over anything.
Pooky Amsterdam: That is great.
Troy McLuhan: Or if we did it must have been minor since I forget.
Troy McLuhan: We also had school work to do, and chores, and hockey, and so on.
Pooky Amsterdam: I guess your dad put that kind of thing into a schedule- a time for every purpose then. You played Hockey??
Troy McLuhan: Yeah, I hated hockey even more than 4H. At least I got *some* useful things out of 4H.
Pooky Amsterdam: It has an innate elegance, the skating, I think. But you don’t seem to like anything forced upon you.
Troy McLuhan: Should I?
Pooky Amsterdam: No, of course not, but I’m sure you have observed that some people are not leaders who know their own minds so very well. You do & seem always have.
What was an early thing you determined for yourself? That was really yours alone?
Troy McLuhan: I don’t have any good answer. Maybe nothing.
Pooky Amsterdam: Okay interesting & re hockey- at least you know how to skate.
Troy McLuhan: It’s of no use to me to know how to skate. Since I’ve been able to decide for myself what to do with my spare time, I’ve not put on a skate.
Pooky Amsterdam: You have a very strong interest in space- when did that kick in? From the early science essays you read? Or more technical real things?
Troy McLuhan: My interest in space is just part of my larger interest in the natural world and how things work.
Pooky Amsterdam: so you have an equal interest in the microscopic?
Troy McLuhan: Sure, of course.
Pooky Amsterdam: You seem to have one foot so firmly planted in the future & yet are also drawn to the Victorian era. Do you think we need the past to find the future?
Troy McLuhan: Well, I think it’s important to grasp that our human understanding of the world comes from people who lived and worked on it - on history.
Pooky Amsterdam: On the shoulders of giants?
Troy McLuhan: Yes, something like that.
Pooky Amsterdam: Yes, time is a river, & for those who can plumb its depths a remarkable one. In that vein what of the great ancient engineering accomplishments are you most taken with?
Troy McLuhan: I think the great pyramids at Giza are impressive.
Pooky Amsterdam: What was the first thing you built that you felt really proud?
Troy McLuhan: Most of the big things I’ve made have been software. For my PhD, I basically rebuilt an entire program twice.
Pooky Amsterdam: A program for…?
Troy McLuhan: For optimizing preliminary designs of spacecraft trajectories, where the spacecraft could use gravity-assist maneuvers and low-thrust engines.
Pooky Amsterdam: Great accomplishment!
Troy McLuhan: That work was funded by JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory).
Pooky Amsterdam: The ability to maximize thrust in outer space is very important, what do you think they should do with it?
Troy McLuhan: Low-thrust engines are good because the key thing is to get the most bang for your buck (propellant mass). The “bang” is the speed of the propellant coming out of the spacecraft - and with ion engines, it comes out 10 times faster than with chemical engines.
Pooky Amsterdam: & less cost & residual?
Troy McLuhan: I haven’t done any work on that since I finished my PhD in 2004.
Pooky Amsterdam: They have it now- you have moved on then?
Troy McLuhan: JPL was going to hire me, but they didn’t get around to it, yet. There were budget cuts back in 2004-5 and also there are hurdles because I’m Canadian.
Pooky Amsterdam: Their loss- talent is hard to come by. Would you like them to get back to you?
Troy McLuhan: If they had an interesting project or problem for me to work on, then yeah, I’d be interested.
Pooky Amsterdam: Do you think Canada will become more involved in space exploration?
Troy McLuhan: No.
Pooky Amsterdam: 3 more questions then
Pooky Amsterdam: 1) What would you like to build?
Pooky Amsterdam: 2) I wish I built that……..
Pooky Amsterdam: 3) What intrigues you?
Pooky Amsterdam: So those are my last 3 questions.
Troy McLuhan: The things that intrigue me are how things work, especially “natural” things - like why do some butterfly wings change colour depending on the angle you look at them?
Pooky Amsterdam: Oh Troy, some things should be a mystery!
Troy McLuhan: Why?
Pooky Amsterdam: To make us wonder, but then I could say well its camouflage or the layers of color changes on each ‘hair” on the wing producing a natural hologram effect..
Troy McLuhan: Well, one thing you quickly learn in this business of understanding things is that as you learn more, you realize you understand less than ever.
Troy McLuhan: For question 2, I really admire some of the work of Aimee Weber, like her Tsunami build on the NOAA sim.
Pooky Amsterdam: I guess the thing you would like to build, you are building. Anything you want say about the Lord Rosse project?
Troy McLuhan: Well, it’s just one in a series of projects - all of which exist to help explain ideas in science, for reference, like an adjunct to Wikipedia, but also for education and entertainment.
Pooky Amsterdam: Fantastic & that will spark much more science & thinkopedia.
Troy McLuhan: No it’s *in addition to* things like Wikipedia, which is text, pictures, video and audio files. I’m adding 3D models, animations, narrations.
Pooky Amsterdam: People will be drawn to that- I do believe people are tired of the dumbing down. That will really expand it then.
Troy McLuhan: Yes.
Pooky Amsterdam: Wikipedia is very flat.
Troy McLuhan: Wikipedia is already multimedia, but doesn’t yet incorporate all kinds of digital media.
Pooky Amsterdam: Pretty mighty Troy and that really could expand a base of curiosity in so many important fields. Do you think there is any kind of fight for the mind of humanity now?
Troy McLuhan: Is that a bonus question? :D
Pooky Amsterdam: With you it’s all a bonus, maybe we should think on that one.
Troy McLuhan: I’d rather not get into that - it seems a bit off topic.
Pooky Amsterdam: I agree, another time then?
Troy McLuhan: Ok, Cheers!

14 Jun 2008

The Guru - Interview with Paradox Olbers -

I meet Paradox Olbers today in his Spindrift – the zen bayou, a perfect place to meet the man known as My Guru. The fish are jumping, and the surface of the water gleams in a richness that underscores this sim. Paradox has given us a great gift in his creation of The SpinDome…
The following is an interview we did over this past weekend.
P: Am I supposed to be in a hushed state? Cause this is referentially gorgeous.
Paradox Olbers: Offers snapshot
P: my gosh the refection on the water is so rich
Paradox Olbers: yeah - jacked my graphics to max :) I usually drop my cam down on water and see reflections up close to relax
P: mmm lovely
Paradox Olbers: the gators aren’t dangerous :)
P:P: you must have just fed them then, I have an important question for you- what do you think of my hair?
Paradox Olbers: your hair look good!
P: speechless isnt a good sign when you say things like do i look fat in those jeans
Paradox Olbers: lol - no male will ever answer the jeans q :)
P: no male in his right mind or born of woman that is
P: I think the hair is cool I like it enough for both of us. So You’re off the hook-okay we can start since you arent going to talk about my hair
Paradox Olbers: hah! got the fish in this one
Paradox Olbers gave you Spindrift - zen bayou 3, Spindrift.
Paradox Olbers: scripted flying fish
Paradox Olbers: see, they should be underwater
Paradox Olbers: but it’s too shallow here - but i love them actually flying lol
P: it has the just below the surface element in this picture that is thrilling & enthralling both
P: only flies in in shllow water?
Paradox Olbers: exactly re subsurface
P: ha sounds like the title of a story
P: great fire
P: perfect place to talk to the Guru
Paradox Olbers: aha!
P: in the zen garden by the sea
Paradox Olbers: a perfect segue
P: our small drift of tranquility
P: Tell me the story of your sciland then your spindrift-
Paradox Olbers: I’ve beenma lifelong reader and astronomy/sf fan all my life. So all i ever did was have fun by looking for sci/tech info
and fell into Second Life
P: why what did that give you ?
P: why the outer regions of space?
Paradox Olbers: A lifelong love of looking for new sci/tech info
P: how long did it take you to find the science community here?
& what were in your first searches?
Paradox Olbers: my mother was a science fiction and fantasy fan, as well a lover of astronomy: Interesting story there re how i found stuff in sl I paid for my avs in July 2006, but didn’t have broadband til Nov - a: long stretch so I read up on sl in M2, sl forums, and New World Notes. I made a list of interesting sounding places
P: New World Notes is a terrific site, I would love to get Au on the show, think his element might be Gold. Great so you did the background research before the actual entry?
Paradox Olbers: yep, a hundred days to prepare for sl
P: like a flight prep
Paradox Olbers:I came in by way of gamasutra.com and http://seriousgamessource.com they kept mentioning secondlife.com
P: Yes its getting pretty ubiquitous
Paradox Olbers: and after i heard about ISM, it became my first spot
P: International Space Museum
Paradox Olbers: I skipped orientation, left there for Spaceport Alpha
P: That was that your first touchdown & history begins
P: did anything scare you about this new world?
Paradox Olbers: no fear, since i’m still in rl :)
P: some people get somewhat offended by referencing Sl as a game. Yet its funny people never got offended by the game of Life by parker brothers
Paradox Olbers: users divide between casual users and gamers, and
a smaller “user” group, centering around education and other special interests like sci/techn/egineering
P: its not a traditional game no- & there is no win per se- okay so you would define Sl as a user group?:
Paradox Olbers: offended? Because they don’t take it seriously, I suppose

Paradox Olbers: let them enjoy sl how they want, but no need to dismiss [aha! diff between calling sl a game OR *dismissing* it as one]
P: the more seriously you take it & the more you give to it the more you get out of it
Paradox Olbers: there is no “winning” as in a numerical score, but the scoring system
P: but the rewards are really the same as in real life in some ways
the friends, the relationships, what one can produce, even feelings- the quality of life as opposed to quantity
Paradox Olbers: includes: teamwork, respect from colleagues, sense of accomplishment at doing projects, etc
P: its a quality of life game & not quantity of score
Paradox Olbers: exactly re quality of life
P: people play real life for quantity too & I ask is it a better one IDK?
Paradox Olbers: and I agree re rewards same as rl: sl is a non zero-sum game & more gets created: so no one has to “lose” energy or objects/resources or die
P: & in that there is the infinity of all what we as humans can offer
We don’t really have a leaderboard
Yet I say that & laugh as the best of SL awards is tonight I think ppl still love their awards
Paradox Olbers: Yes, but our “scoring system”can be quite varied from av to av
P: Still we do seek whatever glory we need in diff ways yes
Paradox Olbers: but this “Best Of” is a choice, not required, so it’s av-driven, not environment-driven
P: irl there are celebrity magazines & the entertainment oriented newsw-
Paradox Olbers nods
P: we play here for ourselves mainly I really couldn’t imagine a full gossip mag here. Like Pictures of Mitch Kapoor & his new squeeze in the Bali sim -
P: we are too much a part of the life we pursue here, too intensely involved with our own very real second lives.
Paradox Olbers: like everywhere else in rl and VWs [Virtual Worlds], there is a fragmented set of audiences, not a few mass categories anymore so less room for big mags to survuve
P: & irl they do
Paradox Olbers: since narrowcasting/niche zines/websites/blogs/etc fill our needs more efficiently
P: I couldn’t imagine what kind of celebrity worship could go on in here - so the human here is more interested in what we actually do
Paradox Olbers: oh, I’ve heard that people call others “gurus?: and such
P: Not in any kind of celebrity whom we don’t know, who our second lives do not involve. Sometimes I will look at someones profile I don’t know out of curiosity about my new species
& well YOU are of great interest to Miss Pooky indeed
Paradox Olbers: oh I see your point
P: it goes with what you said about narrow casting
Paradox Olbers: yes, we form reputations more often on personal interactions
P: but irl we dont have that as much
Paradox Olbers: and friends’ recommendations
P: You did take a chance to offer me the dome, in that you took your own counsel & I am forever grateful you did - it is something I consider an honor to live up to
Paradox Olbers: and you see, since the SpinDome is in SL, I ran no risk
P: you did take a chance with me as you didn’t know me except that i was moved by the passing of Arthur c Clarkes death
Paradox Olbers: well, I’m delighted so far - you’ve introduced the SpinDome to a whole new audience!
P: Which his tribute we also have to discuss at some point
What are your hopes for the sSpindrift isle?
Paradox Olbers: For Spindrift? That i can expand its presentation of space, astronomical art, and data visualization models and methods
P: do you think that because we alreday suspend some belief in here that we are more opne to learning?
Paradox Olbers: …and have huge fun and learning from it for myself and all of us here. :)
P: in other words- irl we say oh that’s too hard I cant do or learn at hat
Paradox Olbers: For some of us, absolutely,
P: remarkable how we do accept this is the 3d world
its really just flat. For example irl I know I have thought I have those limits & of course if you say to yourself I cant do it you cant
Paradox Olbers: but on this flatworld, we have 3D
P: we accept we suspend our belief in that limitation
Paradox Olbers: nod, self-imposed limits are hardest to beat
P: & as we suspend our belief in that limitation we also suspend our belief that we are limited.
Paradox Olbers: A story bout that -Someone went looking for me online decade ago, couldn’t find me. I said “didn’t you try looking for {my bookstore]/”
Paradox Olbers: “But that was *years* ago and I knew you didnt do that anymore!”: …But i knew old friends/customers had no other keywords for me, so I’d included those metatags in the html,
P: ah hA! so you left always in your blogs the trail for them
Paradox Olbers: and he could have found me! But he voluntarily limited himself without cause [ a free search, after all!]
P: how did he find you?
Paradox Olbers: he ran into me in rl in Boston! :) but years later
Ever since, i leave the internet breadcrumbs out. :) And i try not to box myself in with unnecessary cages.
P: especially of your own devices
P: Are there any real life person you have tried to get into Sl
Paradox Olbers: a few friends, yes, but they don/t have good enough vid cards [laptops have this prob] or think they’d spend too much time here. :)
P: can one spend too much time here? As a persons life is choice
Paradox Olbers: oh look the flying fish again! Yes, more than 24 hours a day here is harmful.
P: I would have to agree with that
Paradox Olbers: they flickered away [the fish]
P: I am looking for a few more hours in the day, know anywhere I
Paradox Olbers: not legally, and the time patrol arrests u.
P: Amagad The time patrol - of course what happens is the time patrol comes to arrest you but then falls in love with this place gets a secret avatar & winds up having to arrest themselves
Paradox Olbers: yes, my first Time Patrol story was one of Poul Anderson’s famed series - back in 1950s
P: Which is a comment on how one has to “police” oneself
Paradox Olbers: nod re policing -.- PKDick did that hilariously in “A Scanner Darkly.” Scanner Darkly is a 1970s classic about the agent assigned to himself. Be warned, [missing part-insert] this novel is a gloomy and moving look at what drugs did to PKD and his friends.
P: There are certainly elements of that here, but leave that for another conversation. Thank you.
Paradox Olbers: My pleasure

8 Jun 2008

Sunday Supplement

There are a lot of Second Thought given to a day inworld. And many references which resound in the real world, as that is where I am originally from. I looked at my small exquisite writing desk yesterday, where I do a lot of writing for the show. I was reminded of Virgina Wolf’s famous book title, “A Room of One’s Own” referring to the need a writer has to have that place, that privacy to let the words be released in the freedom which it deserves. You cant really write with someone looking over your shoulder, and the more personal ones comments, the more a need for that privacy. It could translate to any work in progress, it is much more profound and easier to accomplish when you are free to work on it as you like. Freedom, privacy and time it seems are the foundations of creation.

It occurred to me that this small house I cherish so much on SL, is my bastion of all the above, is the “room” I call my own, and I have transfered that which I love to look at and love to do into it. Because I can access it anytime I want as well, I carry it with me through out the day, and happily return “home” to work on what I have left behind in outworld travels.

I realize in this above paragraph there is a lot of belief suspended, and those of you who do not know SL might actually be shaking your heads in disbelief. However, we as a species of human have our limitations, many are self imposed (I can’t do that), some are gravity imposed (can’t fly) and some are molecule imposed (can’t time travel or become invisible) I never thought of myself as Three Dimensionally restricted until yesterday when I was having my Second Thought.

We actively suspend our belief in SL I realized. The screen is (Psst) flat, yet the world exists as a full 3D environment. Even though it looks completely “round” it is still a flat screen we are looking at, yes with depth of field, but not with any thing like a real third dimension. As if we are watching a screen, in the movie theater and accept this is “happening”, we also believe we are traveling, moving and walking through a dimensional environment. This is what I mean by we completely suspend our belief. We suspend our spatial belief initially, afterwards we suspend the belief in talking animals.

Yet because we suspend or belief we also make other things happen for ourselves. In reality, we tell our minds what we can or can not do. When faced with a problem, we do not as readily suspend our belief, we hold fast to them. ” This is solid, this is real,” and we also tell ourselves at times, “this is something I can’t do.” We are in the real world, where we do not suspend our beliefs. When we are in Second Life though, we have already suspended a lot of our belief structure, eg. I can fly.

And it occurs to me because we have already suspended our beliefs in many ways of just accepting we ARE in this world, our minds are so very much more open to what we CAN do here. This of course includes learning. We have set far less limitations upon ourselves spatially, so we also set less limitations upon ourselves mentally. This makes it much easier to learn or master skills inworld and I have come to think that is why Second Life is such a great laboratory for education.

25 May 2008

Sunday Supplement -The World Inside

We do not ask to be born into our first lives, by no stretch of the imagination is this truth. Some say we must return to Earth to fill a karmic destiny. Some just say it is fate or “god’s will” It could be biology, but we do not ask for this our First Life, we just don’t.

However we do choose our Second Lives and we do ask to be here to be a part of this sometimes brash, always colorful landscape of hopes & dreams, of plans & schemes of the novella written daily and the companionship offered and sought.

So this is not so much a Second Life as a Selected Life.

And why would we choose it? Perhaps because we are too much for our real lives. Too profoundly moved, too intelligent, too lonely, too shy, too intense. too talented & just TOO much for real life. I think that we are drawn to this world as we just have too much to offer in so many ways to the outside one. So we find both comfort and glory here. We log off, and deal with another set of priorities and agendas we aren’t setting ourselves all the time.

Maybe we can express ourselves more easily here, with greater meaning and even more rapidly too. You can know a lot of people in your life, but can you have 500 friends on your inworld console? Not likely. So the ability to touch others is also meaningful. And we do of course, in ways we wouldn’t have thought of before, That which we leave behind counts for so much, us humans leave tracks behind us. We leave carbon footprints, but we also leave each other images, words, music and hope. We leave all sorts- it is all about what we leave behind and how we also build, the nature of man to both build & destroy
We cant help it, we leave waste & dirty laundry- just not here. that could also be part of our inside worlds great charm.

Sometimes we see with our minds eye that which lightens our very journey, what we recall can impact us so. Haven’t you ever taken a dream with you all day? I saw a friend today and took a snapshot of him with my mind’s eye, it is no less a treasure for being of the mind. No less a treasure for making me smile, even to myself.

Sometimes what we take from 2ndLife is like a dream, And so this is an inside world, a laboratory that the outside world can not be due to its physical limitations among other things. When does the dream become reality, can it? Perhaps not, but what the dream leaves behind can also transform all life. And the dream is the ultimate inside world.

We must call the life we are born into a first life, it is the one we know for our beginning. Where we discover gravity of all kinds, magnetism too and of course each other. What if we feel more alive, more fulfilled on a site which allows us to build what we could only dream about before? What if we can use our mental energy to profoundly affect other people sitting at their seats all across the globe, here and more effectively here

We return to where we feel good, where we feel satisfied and we, as Father Richard Bartle says, “Play for the glory.” We choose this our Second or Selected Life as i like to call it. Be sure to make yours glorious.

11 May 2008

Sunday Supplement

When I was a young girl, many years ago, I sat in the kitchen of my Aunt & Uncle and spent hours discussing various topics of interest. Here the mind begins to see that the greatest high is really how we can think and connect on a mental and emotional plane.
One evening my Uncle pointed out that “People need rewards for positive social behavior”
I think of this many a day now as I have become a full fledged resident of a community where my input and existence in it gives me tremendous personal rewards. As Richard Bartle said, “You play for the glory” & as Jane Goodall said, “Humans are meaning seeking creatures.” So what is meaningful and what gives us the intangible satisfactions of emotional accomplishment, ie glory and a sense of belonging?

I would have to say community. A friend of mine in SL, someone I admire to the highest degree, said they recently purchased some land because they wished to join the community it was situated in. Community, that great fabric of invisible hands that holds us and feeds us in a nurturing way we cannot always describe, but often must have. Humans we are, and the basic human model has not changed so very much in 50,000 years. Great success in life might be measured in some ways in monetary form, as in dollars, or things or better yet I think, in some Quantifiable way.
It is my great belief that success which is available to all of is can be found in the Quality of of human relationships. To have someone whose eyes you can look into and feel “Yes this person knows me, really knows & appreciates & understands me!” This is a great human success, the reward for positive human behavior is to have this in your personal life. Perhaps today we have the electronic form of communication. Still an instant message with a friend is a communication nonetheless- we might not be able to see their eyes, all right if they have an avatar we have a better chance of imagining this, of connecting to them. Maybe this is why the form avatar and virtual worlds are so important- the connection is personalized so very much, and we can project onto that other that which we feel so very much inside.

Community in other people, and what they give to us, makes us feel whole and more in touch with a greater sense of purpose- Is this “reward?” Yes of course it is. The efforts of individuals on this site has been heroic at best, and it is to the greatness of their accomplishments, that SecondLife will be known more and more. It is a community based on heart because no one would labor that hard unless it was for love, and the rewards of accomplishing what we do here is for more than oneself- something greater than ourself alone. A kind of altruism steeped in benefit for the self, but also one that benefits the many, and the many more to come.

I am reminded of that old saw- “They who can do, do - they who can’t, teach” I have heard “those who don’t have a Life get a second life.” Both of these statements, perhaps easy to make are totally wrong because-
Those who can do it better, teach those who want a Better Life, come to SecondLife to actualize this.

MetaMetric observations - March

Meta Metrics -

No data exists in a vacuum in fact all data is relative-

SecondLife continues to dominate in the older demographic age group. SL provides a platform in which so many more adult VW residents participate and the oldest age groups indeed show the greatest activity on the site. According to March statistics, when there were over half a million people in Second Life. 59% were 18-34 years olds and they spent 50% of their time here. However, in the 35 plus age demographic, which represented only 40% of the March population, this group spent 49% of their time in SL.

Index Of Interest - What is the IOI
The IOI of Second Life

Lets create an index estimation: % of time spent here divided by % users. This is a great way to quickly judge participation and interest by segment or group. For the age demographics, the index for the over 35 year old population is1.22 and the index for 18 - 34 at .85. Using the IOI we see clearly older people are using the site more relative to their numbers.

Gender breakdown over time is also revealing. When SL opened in Sept., 2003, women represented 35% of the population spending 22 % of the time in SL, versus men, who represented 65% of the population spending 78% of their time here. For women the IOI was .63 versus an index of 1.2 for men. In March of 2008, this figure hasn’t changed for men, it is still at 1.2 while the IOI for women has grown to .76. Women, most likely older women if also pay attention to the age IOI are playing Sl more and more. Older women and online games, yes studies from the internationa game developers association, MSN, AOL and Nielsen Net ratings all confirm this. Women’s IOI is growing and will continue to grow on SL.

The IOI of Nations
Of the top 10 countries who participate in SL, the United States has an almost 36% participation in population, the largest of any country, followed by Germany, the UK, Japan, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Brazil & Spain. However if we look at time spent and the IOI we see that the Japanese have th highest IOI at 1.38 , the Dutch 1.29 and the Germans1.22 spending more of their time here relative to their population than the US or Canada (both slightly over 1.05) , with the Brazilians having the lowest of the 10 at .70. What this would mean for the marketing team at SL could be profound. We will try to get some metametrics on amount each country spends inworld for enxt weeks show. What is the ROI of the IOI?

Growth & Slagnation
In terms of premium accounts we have seen the slowest growth recently, with a less than 1% of the population having premium accounts as of in March of 2008. This is relative to 1.5% of residents a year ago, and almost 28% of SL-lifers in January of 2005. However, while percentage change may sound like a disaster, the sheer numbers be-lie that figure.

At $9.95 per month, (I use this figure as a monthly charge, because users are added though-out the year. The base number of users in March is less than base number in subsequent months, so even though a yearly rate is 72$, we can reasonable estimate using $9.95 / mo for revenue) This premium membership means annual revenue of almost $11 million dollars, up $1.7m from a year ago and up from $630,000 in 2005. Having a smaller percentage of the population buying premium accounts is not as significant if the population is growing as fast as this one is.
The Pop U Nation
Sl increased its population by over 150% from last year. From March of 05 to March of 06, the population increased 615% . In absolute numbers, though, we are looking at over 13 million registered users, not 164 thousand, as was the case in March of 2006. Although the rate of growth is slower, the numbers in dollars spent is huge. Spending this quarter, in Lindens alone, was up 4% from last year .

What about land?
Resident owned islands and mainland are up 115% over last years figures, with the ownership of islands leading the way. There are 143% more resident-owned islands right now than a year ago and mainland ownership went up only 42%. As we know, islands cost more to both buy and pay tier upon. Individuals are deciding still to buy their own places, but the trend seems to be towards larger parcels, owned by companies or groups, or for investment with the longer term goal of renting.

This brings us to our top story on recent land price drops.

More land: Good or Bad for Second Life, and for whom?

More land at cheaper prices means there is more available for newcomers who wish to settle down, or buy for investment purposes. The lower price makes the land more affordable and therefore more attractive to new and old buyers of land.

Tier price has, however, not gone down, and this is indeed a very good economic move for Linden Labs. They can only gain from more land. More land is available and therefore more opportunity for them to collect more tier money each month. It is a win / win situation for them. They do not lose in this arrangement. Land being bought from them for less money might mean a smaller initial fee for them, but in the longer run it means greater monthly tier revenue, which more than makes up for lower initial purchase price. For example if the price of an island drops from $1675 to $1000, LL is out that $675, initially, but if the drop in price means that even one more person buys the land t is made up and quickly too. The monthly tier cost of $295 makes up for it within 2 months.

The reason *why* LL is releasing more land can only be explained in 3 words *more tier revenue* Any kind of subscription base, which is what tier represents, a monthly payment. adds to the bottom line of the companies predictable revenue stream. This potentially increases the subscription base of the business model for LL, a very solid financial move. Land sales represent a much greater percentage growth over the past year than amount of outright linden purchases, or even growth in premium accounts.

I spoke with 2 large land owners, Elliot Eldrich and Melody Regent.

Elliot has been grandfathered in tier price since he bought before November of 2006, . Although neither of them are completely happy with the new influx of land and drop in prices, overall, they had more to say on various land related and service issues.We also spoke about how the decline in the RL economy has potentially hurt SL. I will quote directly from my interview with Melody Regent now - Melody owns 15 sims, and is a RL real estate agent.
I asked her about the fact that tier pricing has not changed, though land prices have fallen. She said in the slexchange foum that land prices will, ” …fall so low it is worthless. There will be so much available that tier pricing will be crazy. No way to make tier. Many were struggling already. This will make it worse. “ I asked her what she meant by this statement. Her resonse was , “land owners will do whatever is takes to get people to rent on the sim they own. This means undercutting values drastically. I have already heard of someone PAYING people to take land.”

Elliot Eldrich points out that the asset server problems, the problems with transactions being cancelled on a recurring basis, have also contributed to a decrease in sales on his sims. As land owners they are directly responsible for the tier fees on their property. At what point do the monthly fees begin to eliminate the profits that are generated by the rentals of their rland to tenants, and the cost of the services provided outweigh again monies realized for either further investment or profit. Both parties do state that the high level of service they provide for their tenants keeps them liquid, which is a testament to the market correcting failure in things like a good landlord. And of course as more people come to Second Life, as they have been, the potential for more customers also continues to grow.

Elliot Eldrich said the greatest improvement he would wish to see is greater stability on the site. He said he would like to see a couple of weeks go by without a single announcement saying “don’t do any transaction.”

Time is in essence real money here. Elliot also stated that the service LL provides is an issue, just as the service he provides is, but he hasn’t heard of any landowners abandoning their holdings.

He stated that while the RL economy is bad at present, especially in the USA, a few points are to be made here - although this means of people do not have the extra money to spend on creating SL, it also means that only in SL, where one doesn’t have to pay what might be $4.00 a gallon of gas soon, you will still be able to go somewhere special this summer.

And while tier prices aren’t inconsequential, relative to what you can get in the inflationary environment RL is proving to be in the US, it does provide a great form of entertainment, community and fun.

I asked Melody what effect the decline in the RL economy would have on SL land. Her response was brilliant - she said, ” None, people will still do what it takes to lead the life here (SL) they cannot have there (RL). You may also want to note, however, that the RL economy’s slump isn’t hitting all countries yet, so with SL being an international platform it can skip any woes one particular country can have.”

Another point made is that the USA is certainly not the only player.

Melody Regent is heavily invested in SL. She owns 15 sims, and maintains a very high level of service. I asked her if the recent drop in land values affected her in particular.
Her response was this, ” I have lowered the prices slightly on the sims. I am also taking two full sims, and converting them into Open Spaces. Those are the future…for now.”

She also mentioned that the OpenSim will force at some point LL to revaluate the tier pricing structure, but that she thought they will hold the price on tier for as long as possible.

Heavily invested landowners do not seem to be leaving anytime soon, the increase in land available will only be a bonus for LL and future residents who pay less per sim.

and that is our MetaNews