Friday, April 18, 2008

Just a thought

Since the beginning of this year, I have tried to find interesting stories to write, news to cover, events to announce but apparently not with a lot of success due to several reasons. As you all know, my main thing is photography, so I will be focussing myself on that in the near future, and perhaps post from time to time some articles for those who are interested.
My blog will not dissappear, but I will not be blogging so often anymore.
I would like to thank all my visitors, who have supported me over the last year on this blog.
Just keep tuned, and who knows, that I will start again one day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Any complaints? Nooooo......can't be.

The Second Life® economy is doing well, and does not appear to be affected by the slowing economy in the US, thanks to us?!
If we have to believe the official site, the economy in SL® is still growing. It had a major crash after the gambling ban, but ever since, it has been growing.
So, if the Lindens have to analyse the figures they are posting, there is nothing the matter, everything is going just fine. The number of users is growing, the Lindex volume and money supply is growing, the owned land mass is growing, so why should they be bothered by us? By our questions, remarks, proposals etc....?
Of course they don't guarantee the accuracy of any information, but if this info on their site is not correct, which one is?
With a peak of 66.468 users online at the same time, we can only hope that grid will be more stabilized soon.
Yesterday, I lost all my messages, due to the fact that I was logging in, and got the message that I had to leave in 30 sec. for the restart of the sim. Saving all the messages is not possible yet, you can rapidly, without reading save the notecards, but you have to remember the names or subjects to find them back, as my "recent items" is not working properly already for a long time.
On Sunday, I was running over the water, without being able to stop, without pushing the buttons. I did manage to take some snapshots though, but the quality was poor, due to?(I don't know, it was a high resolution shot with very poor quality)
Okay, I know, it is Second Life®, we can aspect that.

So why bother Linden with this? Everything is going just fine.....;) according the latest data provided by Meta Linden.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Shoshana's exhibition opening at Avatrait gallery was a success!!

I went to the opening of Shoshana's exhibition last Saturday. With almost 50 people at the gallery, she can be proud of her show.
There was even a whole new fire work show previewed, for this exceptional artist. Exceptional, as her works are mostly not post processed, and still look magnificent.
The show is up till the end of the month, so, if you have only a little interest in SL photography, but want to know how SL pictures should look like, you have to visit this exhibition.
As I was present the whole event, I had the chance to take some snapshots. You can see them on my flickr stream, as usual, and are only meant to give an impression of the visitors that were there.

Frustrated virtual agencies are not that frustrated after all!

According a post of Reuters, virtual companies like the Electric Sheep company, are loosing interest in Second Life®, as "...new virtual world platforms coming online and Second Life® noticeably lacking in buzz for consumer-facing brands in the real world, some of the most well-known MDCs are publicly criticizing Linden Lab for shortcomings in technology and usability."

The Electric Sheep company has produced one of the most visible projects, as the CSI:NY-project.
According Reuters, the company encountered some difficulties due to a lack of native programming support, which made it difficult to bring new avatars into Second Life® already wearing themed clothes, nor was it possible to auto-enroll viewers in a CSI-themed group without special assistance from Linden Lab not generally available to developers.

“Second Life is just not at production level,” Giff Constable, the chief operating officer of Electric Sheep, would have said to Reuters. “You want to things to be bulletproof when you’re working with a global brand … I don’t know if we’d do it in Second Life the next time.”

On the contrary, Millions of Us, stated that they wouldn't hesitate to go into Second Life® again, despite its much publicized travails, but has his very loyal users, said Mat Small, who worked on Second Life® projects with Toyota, Intel and Cisco. But the growth right now is more youth-centric, like Habbo Hotel and Gaia.

In a reaction to this article in Reuters, Giff Constable said that they had indeed some difficulties with the CSI project, but that the numbers were good, and they still get 4,000 visitors a week coming to the experience even months after the October episode. Linden Lab® worked hard with the Electric Sheep company to make that launch as successful as it could be, and they appreciate that effort.

Although Constable did say that Second Life® still has a ways to go in terms of usability, accessibility, stability and performance, they have planned at least one project this year, but they are also focussing on Web-based technologies while Second Life® continues to make progress.

So, after all, not all the virtual agencies, are not that dissatisfied about Second Life® after all, but are not blind for the competition who makes their progress too.

It can only be a clear signal to Linden Lab®, that they know what their challenges are, if they were not already aware of that.

Friday, April 11, 2008

AVATRAIT GALLERY INTRODUCES AN EXCLUSIVE SHOWING BY SHOSHANA EPSILON

Press release

Evanston, IL “ 04/11/2008 “ AVATRAIT GALLERY,
Second Life™'s premier site for Digital
Impressionist art, has recently undergone a
major renovation as part of the on-going
upgrades to the Simuality sim. They are very
pleased to announce the resumption of monthly
features with an exclusive showing of images
by noted artist Shoshana Epsilon, starting
with a gallery re-opening celebration on
Saturday, April 12th, at 1pm SLT.

Shoshana noted on her blog:
"I've been working privately for months to
try to come up with a new set of pictures
that would be unique. I'm really excited about
this show. I've really stretched, as far as the
subject matter is concerned. There will be
topics on display that I've been too sensitive
to touch before."

She notes that many of her images have "a backstory"
and invites attendees to ask her about these, but
also adds that some are just pure whimsy.
Aside from the April 12th opening, Shoshana will be
available for additional "meet-the-artist" events
during the month:
Thursday, April 17th at 4pm;
Sunday, April 20th at 5am;
Tuesday, April 22nd at 4pm; and
Tuesday, April 29th at 4pm (all times SLT).

Shoshana Epsilon'™s images can be purchased both on
an exclusive basis in-world (only one copy of the
image exists), and as high-quality real-world prints.
As always, there is a "freebie" framed graphic by our
featured artist available across from the gallery
welcome desk.
Avatrait gallery,
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Simuality/38/211/38

SL® Book Fair 2008

Press release:

SL® Book Fair 2008
25th to 27th April 2008
Book Island and Publishing Island

Book Island Main TP point, Book Island 177/197/36
Publishing Island Main TP point, Publishing Island 18/159/3

It's here again and this time bigger and better than ever! The 2007 fair saw 1400 visitors in three days, over 40 exhibitors and nearly 20 events.

In 2008, we will be across two sims (eight times more land) with 50 exhibitors and 100 book related shops with around 50 events. SL® Book Fair isn't just about books - exhibitors include writers, publishers, editors, bloggers and anything word related!

TO GET UPDATES: If you'd like to be kept up to date about the book fair, please join the Book Island Events and Discussion Group and nearer the fair, we will group notice with more details.

TO EXHIBIT: If you'd like to exhibit, please send a notecard to Selina Greene that includes your avatar name, a brief description of your proposed exhibit and an indication of whether you'd like to hold an event (priority event scheduling given to exhibitors). Or, touch one of the red boxes located at the landmarks above for more information. Booths are available for rent for L250 a week for a two week period. We will be in touch after we receive your application.

TO HOLD AN EVENT: If you'd like to hold an event at the fair, please notecard Kitumscheid Writer or Angeline Blachere who will send you a notecard to fill out.

We hope to see you there!

The SLBF committee

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chouchou, a cinematic music island.

I have visited this week "Chouchou", an island created by Juliet Heberle and Arabesque Choche.
A wide horizon, a tree, a piano, a birdcage and and, what looks like a broken ladder. This makes the sim so unique. You get the feeling of emptiness, quietness but most of all peaceful environment, with, once you put on the cinematic HUD, a supplementary level of heavenly carefree existence.

Juliet is a singer from New York, and Arabesque, Japanese by birth, has lived in New York City for the last decade, is a composer and producer of Chouchou's music. It's jazzy and dreamy, spiked with synthetic nostalgia.
Arabesque is based in Tokyo, and the two have never met in real life. He transmits his music digitally, she records her vocals over them, and in Second Life®, they perform live together while several thousand miles away.

It is difficult to make a good shot from this sim, that has not been taken yet, as the sim is already very popular amongst the SL®-photographers, but that does not mean you can not give another expression to the experience on this cinematic music isle.

I will be posting more pictures of the sim to flickr soon, as there is more to see than just a tree and a piano.;)

On the New World Notes blog, you will also be able to find related articles.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What would a company have to consider to invest in the virtual world?

“Pricing for new islands will drop from US$1675 to US$1000 before the month’s end, easing the entry into Second Life for some larger builds.
Linden’s primary source of income is a monthly charge to landowners called “tier,” and the increase in overall land volume can be expected to boost the company’s bottom line. Inflating the land supply comes at a price though, as new land both lowers the worth of existing customers’ assets and decreases Second Life’s population density…”(Reuters)

Oops, they did it again, as Winter also mentioned on her blog, the LoL (I will use the same acronym here) have once again spread a sudden announcement about the decreasing of the land prices, for being able to increase the land supply.

As the negative news, about this particular virtual world, is dropping in daily, I was thinking how it would be interesting for companies to invest in this world as this is what it is all about for LoL.

By giving you an avatar and a sense of place, users don't just interact with the published data, as they do on the web, they are actually driven by the nature of the human mind to first, interact with each other. It’s a well established fact that in virtual worlds people observe the same social conventions of personal space as they do in their own cultures. Discussion between avatars is much more civil and subtly negotiated than discussion on chat rooms or bulletin board systems. People are programmed to react to people first, and react to them in specific ways.

Most success stories in SL® are based of, either, providing land (a place to socialize), clothes (something to talk about / an essential part of defining your personality for socializing), animations (critical for expressing ones self in a social context), or social objects. Non social objects (building tools and vehicles) are popular, but are either used by a small group of creators, or pretty much used only for novelty until the limits of the technology smacks the users in the head.

So as far as I can see, the challenge for real world brands is to do and to be focused on one of those categories. But knowing the medium and offering differentiated value alone will not be sufficient and successful; they will also need to know who they are dealing with: the audience.

When I look at it from a RL perspective view, I would say that the majority of residents in SL® are socializers, who are satisfied and successful in a text only environment, although we have voice, which is not so often used to socialize. So, the residents are more interested in a text based chat than going to a RL class, or visiting a bar, or doing a hundred real life social activities. They are looking for a real other life, because the virtual world offers them the freedom to reinvent themselves. But if they are dissatisfied with reality and the entire brand in it, there's no guarantee someone can offer them anything in virtuality. That is where the challenge is. However, there are just as many (if not many more) for whom their SL® is a more whole hearted rejection of the values of real life, as Furries and Goreans, who are extreme non conformists. It seems that most of these people who play with different avatars or different avatar are really adopting a second personal identity. This is not a case of roleplaying as it is usually couched, but more of a singular adoption of presentation which is not possible (or acceptable) in the real world, but often also linking that identity with their RL identity. If you do have a brand that can be made relevant to the avatar of how a person wishes to be, then it should have tremendous stickiness. If the Goth or Vampire community were offered quality clothing under a brand they can also purchase in RL I think you would start to see the synergy that folks are looking for.
I think a perfect example of good marketing is “Evian”, who is giving free skins all over the grid, which reflects to the advertising they spread about the perfect skin you will have by drinking the water.

Knowing the medium, knowing the audience and offering something unique would then be the basics for starting or bringing a brand in the virtual world. The only problem is that the folks trying to use these principles have no real, organic, 'lived' experience of SL®. They are trying to orient themselves based on a PR machine that does not understand itself or is actively trying to deceive or SL® residents who have some very specific technical skills and are trying to market them regardless of how relevant they are. It may simply be that when you honestly look at those three dictates that it may not be worth getting your brand into SL.

As conclusion, I think you may well say that it is not so obvious to start or to bring your brand now a day in a virtual environment, and to be successful in it. We have already seen companies who started once through the front door, disappearing quietly through the backdoor.

Although I keep saying that the virtual world is the future, not only the technology would have to improve, but also the communication to the RL, to make the virtual world appealing to world companies, who are willing to invest their money, their time, their employees, their popularity in something that is today, and we have to be honest, not worth to take in consideration, with all the latest news, hick ups, crashes and miscommunications we see.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The end of the Nicholaz viewer.

I have been using the Nicholaz viewer in the past, and was very pleased with it until the Windlight viewer cam out and I switched. But I know there are many bugs etc. fixed thanks to this viewer.
Due to the lack of interest to open sources, Nicholaz has thrown the towel.
He had still the courage to start all over again with the latest official viewer, but got no support in the past from our dearest Californian friends, and therefore took the decision to stop the development of the Nicholaz viewer, and with that, an important bug fixer.

"In technical terms, with the current state of the 2nd world, like daily outages on the server, new leaks in the viewer, other problems, it would be like starting all over and probably even worse because now the binary crash reporter is removed from the viewer (this was the tool which I used to locate 90% of the crashes I found)."

It is sad to see that even people who found it interesting enough in the past to spend time in development, to make this virtual world a better world, now have to realize that Linden Lab® does not care for those "free helpers".
They don't care about their customers (residents), they don't care about their open sources, what do they care about? Maybe it is time to look out for something else?

Reading a recent article in a Belgian online magazine "Knack", it appears that the youth is more interested in "myspace" and 'facebook" than in "Second Life®" and other virtual worlds. The more Facebook and your hundreds of friends present a real and for free interactivity, in which everyone is easily identifiable, the more clear it becomes that Second Life® remain anonymously and virtual. On Second Life®, which is not so popular in Belgium, according the magazine, you play less and hang around longer, without real identity or aim. The profiles on Facebook on the other hand, are easier identifiable.

When our youth is not interested anymore in the virtual world, what will the future bring us?

Looking back to the recent changes in Second Life®, 2008 may become the most important year in the history of this virtual world. When they won't support the open sources, as they did in the past by accepting code submissions, the more difficult it will become to gain new users, new residents, who are interested in looking for answers to a better virtual world.
I hope they will finally realize what is important and what isn't.
Making new rules will have no effect, when there are no players to follow those rules.

Virtual Worlds Marketing

In a previous post I wrote about the "Virtual Worlds 2008", and the discussion about advertising where Anthony Van Zyl, was one of the speakers. I introduced Anthony Van Zyl as being the Managing Director of Simuality, the sim where Avatrait Gallery is part of, but also Managing Director of Slippcat.
Slippcat is a new company, which is in fact an exclusive 5-year license, with Simuality and Code4Software, creator of virtual worlds metrics app V-Tracker.
SlippCat is a market platform designed to take "the strengths of the Metaverse, immersive environments, in-depth user engagement, and virtual economies, to build Empowered Engagement(TM), a "pull" approach to message delivery where the user is in control of how much information they're exposed to, while still building relationships with participating brands." Code4 founder Jared Freeman will also join Simuality as its CTO.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Superfast internet coming soon

Today's Internet will eventually be obsolete thanks to the grid computing project from CERN, the same research center that bought us the current Internet. The Grid is 10,000 times faster than a typical high-speed broadband connection.
The Grid was developed out of the project of Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new particle accelerator built to probe the origin of the universe. CERN’s LHC requires massive computing power.
LHC will generate an annual data equivalent of 56 million CDs (enough to make a stack 40 miles high). So, they needed a new advanced system to save and analyze the data. Thus, the grid was born.
Professor Tony Doyle, technical director of the grid project, told Times Online, UK:
“We need so much processing power, there would even be an issue about getting enough electricity to run the computers if they were all at CERN. The only answer was a new network powerful enough to send the data instantly to research centers in other countries.”

The old Internet is linked together by a series of cables and routing equipment originally designed for telephone calls (hence lack the capacity for high speed data transmission required for high definition movies, online gaming, holographic images, data from astronomy and others).
The new grid, on the other hand, will have dedicated fiber optic cables and modern routing centers and will be able to transmit data in mere seconds compared to hours or days.
"Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so."

Trademark enforcement by Linden Lab®

The issue is not yet cleared. Many bloggers are still looking how to comply to the new rules.
Confusing all around.
New suggestions are being made to react to their, having us signed, or agreed the TOS, and therefore simply can ban any user that Linden considers to be in violation of their trademark claims. By virtue of the same principle, Linden can simply ban any user that exerts his or her rights to free speech, nominative use of trademarked terms as laid down by US law, or equivalent rights under local legislation.
Gwyneth Llewelyn wrote a new petition on her blog. to ask Linden to adjust and rewrite their trademark policy. It is certainly not a statement from residents to claim their rights, but a constructive way to ask Linden to reconsider what they have announced previously.
"
It is our belief that the extreme switch to the complete opposite of what has been actively promoted in the past four years is not a good marketing strategy — effectively, fighting off, one by one, all the most energetic promoters of Linden and their products, shutting down their right to talk and co-promote Linden’s technology and environment, ban their accounts, and remove their content. A four-year policy grants (at least under estoppel) the large community of enthusiastic supporters the moral right to request from Linden a better model of co-promotion, one that is fair and balanced, protective of Linden’s legal rights as valid owners of their registered trademarks, but also that allows “fansites” to continue to spread and promote Linden’s products without fear of litigation."

What is frightened, is that the virtual world is being used by the whole world, with its different nationalities and languages. So first of all, who does understand all the words in the Tos?
I know a lot of compatriots who do speak some words English, but do not understand the whole vocabulary that is used in such a lawyers text. And to believe that they would ban a resident, without being notifying, would be not fair, and against their original idea of "your imagination, your world". Of course, they will say that you should not take the text so literally, but when it comes to the point, we will always stay empty handed, not possible to react.

Please read the petition on Gwyn's blog, it is made with a lot of consideration.

The future: Will the virtual world be indispensable as e-mail?

I was trying to find some info about the virtual world conference, and came across some interesting sites.
I was more looking for some reports about the two discussions I was referring to in my previous post.
First I started to check Cory Ondrejka's blog about "Virtual Worlds 2008". He was surprised to see how constrained the virtual world has become.
"Technology is just enabling us to take incredibly bold steps, to connect people in entirely new ways. From 3D camera technology to spatialized voice to novel interfaces to mobile to augmented reality, we should be ready to embark on the next exponential curve, building on everything learned from Second Life over the last 8 years."he said on his blog.
"...I know Linden is going to continue to be bold. I am shocked that none of the competition is."

Dusan Writer, who visited the "Virtual Worlds 2008" too, wrote a post about the discussion of how to make the brands work in the virtual world. Well, it is certainly all about advertising. Anthony Van Zyl, managing director of Simuality and Slippcat, a company with a "different view" on advertising, was one of the speakers.
"With the Slippcat system - all control is put in the hands of the user. The user (consumer) has no obligation to click on an object. They are not being forced to stare at ugly billboards, noisy television sets or any other form of push advertising. With Slippcat the user can choose to pull information from an object - and even then they can choose what degree of information they want from an object."wrote Anthony in a comment after reading Dusan's article.

Just as Cory, Anthony sees a lot of potential in the virtual world, and is even comparing it with the current use of e-mail. This means the virtual world would become a part of our RL. And that is exactly what I have always thought, and that is exactly why I am interested in the virtual world.

Not everyone seems to be on the same level, not everyone believes all the stories told on the conference.
Of course you will always have the pro's and contras, but nevertheless, these conferences will bring new thoughts to all important players in this market, and will eventually lead to a increasing popularity, better technology, and more stable virtual world. It is not about advertising alone, but it will all have it's impact in the development of the virtual world, on how it will be part of our lives in the future.
And the thought alone, that I was already there from the beginning, is really amazing.
I am glad to be there, as, looking back to my school days , when the pc was still not integrated, I did not had a clue, that the pc would be that important in our life.
Recently I heard from Winter about a parent, who's son was on the grid, and saying his dad would love to hear a Virtual Floyd concert, but did not even know how to put on the pc. Can you imagine that?
I surely can not imagine a world without pc, and within a couple of years, without a virtual world....

Friday, April 4, 2008

PORTUCALIS

I was invited at The Galleria LX last month for my exhibition, and it was a success, I can assure you. So many nice comments, and even some sales. Let's say it was a great experience, and we might do that again somewhere.;)
In the meanwhile I have some of my pictures also in Syl Darcy's gallery. Syl Darcy is a RL artist and has a gallery and jazz club in Second Life. I have wrote a post about her here.
You will also find my pictures at the Small World Gallery from this week on. This gallery has RL and SL works together, and not only photographs. In fact the gallery began with other art than photographs, and started only this month with pictures.To show my gratitude to my Portuguese friends, I will donate these pictures to them, so they will always have something of me left...somewhere on their beautiful island. Thank you Winter, thank you all!!;)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The moment of truth...Virtual Worlds 2008

"The biggest conference about the virtual worlds will start today in New York City. 1150 experts of 624 companies will be present. We can expect some news and announcements about technological developments, media, marketing, business and not at the least jurisdiction in virtual environment." (free translation of secondlifecrew.be)

I was trying to read more about this conference, but at the time that I was writing this post, hilariously, I was not able to enter the website of the www.virtualworld2008.com. Apparently the whole virtual community has the same diseases as the people at Linden Lab.
Probably the website is lindened! ;) ( something made worse than it was before) (Montana Corleone's idea in a comment on the official blog)
I hope this is not what we have to expect of the virtual world in the future. But certainly something to watch out for...

Update...(finally reached the site)
some interesting points to be discussed:
Thursday , April 3rd
Intellectual Property Enforcement

Trademark and copyright issues abound in virtual worlds. Join us for a discussion on enforcement of IP rights in the virtual world. What does the Digital Millennium Copyright Act mean for virtual world users and providers? When is litigation necessary? Can infringers become a brand's allies? These questions are arising in boardrooms of companies with virtual world presences every day. This focused discussion will prepare you to address them.

Moderator: Benjamin Duranski, Intellectual Property Attorney, Author Virtual Law

Friday, April 4th
Advertising Strategies In Virtual Worlds
As in any successful advertising and sponsorship campaign, brands need to associate themselves with high quality virtual worlds content that allows them to engage with consumers effectively and on their own terms. In 2007's rush to participate in virtual worlds, many brands forgot that principle and hurried to build their own virtual world identities only to remember that they weren't in the content business. This session provides detailed insight on how to create successful advertising and sponsorship strategies within virtual worlds and achieve your objectives.

In the panel: Antony van Zyl, Managing Director Simuality (the sim where the Avatrait gallery is located)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Photoshop......it is a continuous process of learning.


I started in January 2007 on the grid, and was looking for some challenges. As I was already, from my younger days, an amateur photographer, it was obvious that I would be a photographer in the virtual world too.
Only this kind of photographing was totally different. The compositions stay the same, but the possibilities to move your camera are enormous. The only thing, at the beginning is, to figure out how all these tricks work.
Slowly I managed to learn the tricks on the grid, but saw that colleagues photographers could make their pictures so much more beautiful, with a little touch of post processing.
Although I must admit, that taking pictures without post processing can also be amazing, as you, as a photographer, have the eye to compose your picture in such a way, that it won't need any additional work.
Now I was interested in that post processing. I worked at the time with Paint Shop pro 7 and knew that program pretty well, but saw that there were limits. By surfing on the web I discovered that many people were talking about Photoshop, which was totally new to me. I did not know it before, only that it could not be that different from PSP.
That was my next step and challenge, to start learning to work with Photoshop, as the most tutorials I found were about Photoshop. Little by little, after buying the product, I learned many tricks and tips in PS. Growing each day a little more, I tried it over and over again, on a new picture, but still not realizing, those days, what PS really could do.
Today I may say that I will never know everything about PS. There are just no limits. For me there are still so many tools unknown, that I realize that I will never be able to learn them all. But I am still trying, and succeeding, to learn, every day again, that new trick, new tool, new tutorial that brings me one step ahead, and makes my picture just that little bit more, what the picture needs.
So, I can say, that through the virtual world, I was able to achieve some progress in my skills of making the pictures a little bit more looking like an artwork, which makes my being in this unreal world worthy.