Hot Wheels Dobe

Our 14 year old doberman Jasper has been slowly losing mobility in his hind legs due to canine degenerative myelopathy.  He has no pain, is happy and alert and loves life.  He just stumbles a lot now because of his uncooperative hind legs.  Unfortunately, this means it has been getting harder for him to roam around outside.

Jasper and his best friend Samantha (our mini-dachshund)

Jasper and his best friend Samantha (our mini-dachshund)

This past weekend my wife and I set him up with some back wheels from the wonderful folks at HandicappedPets.com, and Jasper could not be happier. Now he gets all excited when he sees us preparing to put the harness on him, and once again he can roam all across our backyard with ease.

Jasper and me in the backyard

Jasper and me in the backyard

It’s amazing how quickly animals can adapt to new circumstances and then carry on with life like nothing has happened.  I think they can teach us a lot about how to focus on enjoying life to the fullest.

Roll on, Jasper.  We love you!

 

Brief Thoughts on Ebbe’s Keynote at VWBPE 2014 in Second Life

It was good to hear Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s new CEO, speak at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2014 Conference in Second Life today.

Ebbe addressed a number of pain points with the educator community in Second Life and brought some healthy visibility into how he sees things moving forward on a number of technical levels.  I really appreciated the time and effort he spent in addressing educators.

But I have some constructive criticism.

Cultivating any community requires a lot more than just understanding its technical requirements for a particular piece of software or to be “listening to needs.”  Communities are organic and constantly evolving entities with complex interdependencies that are often far from intuitive.  And when you give communities new technological tools, they typically use these tools in very unpredictable ways.

In other words, it’s not just about collecting technical requirements and reading submitted feedback when you have the time.  It’s about taking the time to actively investigate and participate in a community so you can cultivate its success and identify completely new market opportunities in the future.

There’s a reason people dedicated to sociology and cultural anthropology and community development exist.  This stuff is important and hard and requires focus.

It’s the same reason why companies that focus solely on engineering goals while ignoring complex sociological factors tend to find themselves perpetually running after a community rather than leading it into the brightest possible future.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Giving a Virtual Worlds Lecture – April 7 @ 6pm PDT in Second Life

blog post sjsu headerOn Monday April 7 at 6pm PDT I’ll be giving a Virtual Worlds Lecture in Second Life.

The title of my talk is “Finding the Balance between Pedagogy and Technology.”  Here’s a summary:

One must always seek a thoughtful match between pedagogy and technology. Different virtual world platforms are suited for different uses, ranging from collaborative work environments to immersive goal-oriented simulations. The speaker will discuss current virtual world technological trends involving specific gaming technologies like Unity3D and the growth of Open Source platforms such as OpenSimulator. A discussion will focus on helping educators choose the right tool for the right job, matching pedagogical goals with technological affordances.

My presentation is part of an ongoing series of talks hosted by the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University.  Here’s more information about the colloquia, and here’s a SLURL for where I’ll be speaking.

Part of what I’ll be doing in addition to showing slides and speaking will be a live demo of some of the content import/export tools in the Singularity Viewer.  You’ll get so see how you can easily backup content you’ve created in Second Life or Opensim to your hard drive and how to get that content into other 3D platforms like Unity3d and Blender.

Content import and export in Singularity Viewer

Hope to see you there!

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Quick Thoughts about a mobile version of Second Life: SL Go

CaptureI tried out SL Go today.

Wow, it’s beautiful and fast. Seriously impressive from a technical perspective. Could definitely make mobile a more viable access point for Second Life users.

And beyond simply viable, I can imagine new ideas for expanding Second Life’s functionality on mobile devices to make it even more engaging and innovative (e.g., tying in GPS data, augmented reality using mobile device camera, etc.).

As for the pricing…

The entire game industry has come to the conclusion that the future belongs to freemium, free-to-play, and pay-once-play-forever.

Metered usage?

The 1990’s are on the phone and they want their business model back.

SL Go is a great idea with a lot of potential that will die in the nest if it doesn’t move to a modern-day pricing model.

Upcoming Conferences on Experiential Learning and Virtual Worlds: Let’s Meet!

Howdy folks,

I’ll be attending these two upcoming conferences.  If you’re planning to attend either of them or if you just happen to be in town when they occur, please contact me via my about.me page if you’d like to meet up and chat about learning in virtual worlds!

The main aims of this conference are to increase our understanding of experiential learning in virtual worlds, both formal and informal, to share experiences and best practices, and to debate future possibilities for learning in virtual worlds.  For full details, please see the conference website.

My panel presentation will be “Finding the Balance between Pedagogy and Technology.”  Here’s my abstract:

Next Generation virtual worlds will be tightly coupled to many other emerging technologies, leveraging modern knowledge management processes and providing platforms for broad use among teachers and learners.  As the technological landscape grows, it is becoming increasingly difficult for educators to identify the right platform (or mix of platforms) for their specific immersive learning needs.

In my current position at ReactionGrid and my previous work at Linden Lab and Harvard Medical School, I have explored the use of a wide range of gaming and virtual world platforms to augment education.  Today there are a number of very interesting virtual world technological trends involving specific gaming technologies like Unity as well as the growth of Open Source platforms such as OpenSimulator.  My ongoing work involves finding the right match between educational goals and technological affordances as well as identifying key synergies when virtual world technologies are interwoven with existing social media and web-based educational content.

Above all else, there must be a thoughtful match between pedagogy and technology.  Different virtual world platforms are suited for different uses, ranging from collaborative work environments to immersive goal-oriented simulations.  One of the most important and challenging goals for any educator exploring virtual worlds is simply finding the right tool for the right job.  Likewise, it is critical for virtual world platform developers to keep a firm focus on well established knowledge management principles when designing new technologies intended to advance the field of immersive learning.

I’m particularly thrilled about this panel because I’ll be participating with Dr. Bryan Carter from the University of Arizona.  Bryan is a true pioneer in using virtual worlds for experiential learning, and he’s been working with virtual environments since his dissertation project in 1997 when he created a virtual simulation of Harlem, NY as it existed during the 1920s Jazz Age and Harlem Renaissance.  Virtual Harlem was one of the earliest full virtual reality environments created for use in the humanities and certainly one of the first for use in an African American literature course.  The project continues to grow and evolve as Bryan explores new virtual world platforms.

1st International Conference on e-Learning e-Education and Online Training (e-LEOT)
September 18–20, 2014
Bethesda, Maryland, United States

This new conference will assess a wide range of progressive ideas for the future of e-Learning, focusing on the idea of technology as a means to education rather than an end in itself.  The conference organizers are lining up a wonderful range of interdisciplinary speakers and are planning to attract a wide group of heterogeneous scholars and practitioners.  For full details, please see the conference website.

I’ll be giving a keynote at this conference.  And if you’re looking to interact with the organizers and other attendees and speakers, be sure to check out the e-LEOT LinkedIn Conference Group.

Be seeing you!

A new Automated Hypergrid Directory with Great Potential

Mike Leopard, creator of the iDreamsNet Hypergrid List

Mike Leopard, creator of the iDreamsNet Hypergrid List

Two of my biggest challenges when exploring Hypergrid-connected regions across the multitude of Opensim-based grids have always been: 1) finding places where people are currently visiting and 2) not wasting time trying to connect to places that are offline.

And over the years, there have been commendable efforts to manually create lists of Hypergrid-connected places (e.g., Hyperica) as well as strong work to create networked inworld devices (e.g., TheHypergates).  All this work has been wonderful and very helpful to the growth of the Hypergrid.

However, I’ve always felt an ideal tool to really tie together the Hypergrid would be an automatically updated (i.e., # of current visitors and online status) and simple searchable web-based directory that was very easy to join.

Which is why I’m very excited by the new iDreamsNet Hypergrid List created by Mike Leopard.  He’s nailed all of those features right out of the gate.

There aren’t many regions listed right now since the system is brand new and opt-in, but it’s incredibly easy to join and therefore could grow very quickly.  To get your own Hypergrid-connected region included in the list, you just rez an object on your region which phones home to the iDreamsNet website and immediately creates an entry for your region on the Hypergrid List.  You are given a special link where you can go edit your listing (add photo, descriptive text, tags, website) and, over time, this object communicates back to the iDreamsNet website to let it know if your region is currently online and how many people are currently on it.  More details can be found on the iDreamsNet website.

My entry for Pathlandia.  You can see I was logged in by myself when this was taken. ;)

My entry for Pathlandia. You can see I was logged in by myself when this was taken. ;)

With the recent elimination of the 4096 region distance bug, there’s no need anymore to complicate Hypergrid directories with grid coordinates or “upper, middle, lower” categories.  Now, anyone can jump from any Hypergrid location to any other Hypergrid location.  We just need a simple, automated and powerful directory.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how this new service evolves, and I love the clean Google-esque design of it.  Simple, automated and powerful.  Great work so far, Mike!

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Hypergrid Adventurers Club – Visiting the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

hgac  9 28 2013 04

Wandering warthogs in the East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation

Yesterday, the Hypergrid Adventurers Club (HGAC) visited the Center for Global Health’s East Africa Traveler Safety Simulation.   About 20 of us made the voyage, initially gathering at JokaydiaGrid and then travelling together as a group.  This was the first HGAC trip in a long time, and it was wonderful to see so many familiar friends as well as some brand new faces.

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Rebooting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club and Thanking Latif Khalifa

singularityIf you’re a fan of the Hypergrid, you should definitely check out the new 1.8.3 release of the Singularity viewer for OpenSim and Second Life.

In particular, take a look at this section in the update notes.  The fact that it is a very brief sentence seriously belies the magnitude of its significance.

  • Fixed a problem with long teleports in OpenSim (“4096 bug” SVC-2941 FIRE-11593) (Latif)

Latif Khalifa has fixed the bug that, since the beginning of time, prevented Hypergrid explorers from jumping to places more than 4096 regions away.  No more mandatory intermediate hops!  No more “cannot reach destination – too far away” messages!

I encourage all explorers of the Hypergrid to please take a moment and thank Latif on Twitter.  His hard work has resulted in a major improvement to the use of the Hypergrid and the evolution of OpenSim as a constellation of easily accessible interconnected grids.

Which brings me to the topic of the Hypergrid Adventurers Club.  Since my presentation at the OpenSimulator Community Conference, I’ve received a great deal of interest in possibly restarting our tours of the Hypergrid.  Many people reached out to me, and the outpouring of interest was very inspiring.

So I’m rebooting the tours!  Our next tour will be Saturday Sept 28 at 10pm EDT.  For all the details, please join and read our Google Group.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

There’s no Humor like Math Humor

Question: What does the middle initial “B.” stand for in Benoit B. Mandelbrot‘s name?

Mandelbrot_Animation0

Answer: Benoit B. Mandelbrot

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Getting Real World Terrains into OpenSim: A Tutorial by Brian A. White

This is recreation of a blog post by Brian A. White.  Brian’s blog went offline sometime in 2009, and recently it was suggested that someone republish this useful tutorial to make sure it can be found by search engines and does not someday completely vanish from the Internet.  So here it is.

Some of the links in this article are dead and not available in any existing archives.  I’ve left those in but crossed them out.  Fortunately these dead links are not critical to the tutorial, and I was able to update the other links that have changed since this article was written.  Brian, wherever you are, thank you again for writing this and I hope you are well.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

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