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

OpenSimulator Community Conference 2013 – My Presentation and My Thanks to Everyone Involved

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

Attending the Opening Keynote Presentation

This past weekend I attended and spoke at the very first OpenSimulator Community Conference (OSCC13).  It was an amazing event full of outstanding presentations, great networking opportunities, and spectacular venues with tons of attendees.  It was also truly remarkable to see how far OpenSim has evolved and matured as a virtual world platform.

I’ve seen my fair share of online conferences, and this was the most professionally managed and engaging online conference I have ever attended.  To everyone involved in making this event a reality, thank you! 

And thank you all who attended my presentation.  I apologize for not having time to answer all your questions, but if you leave a comment on this blog post I will be very happy to reply.

Lastly, for those of you interested in me possibly restarting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club tours (I got a lot of positive feedback at the conference), be sure to join the HGAC mailing list and post that you’d like to attend a future tour.  If I see enough interest, I’ll definitely start them up again.

Please read on for my own presentation summary, video and downloadable slides.  You can also watch recordings of all the other presentations in the Conference Archives.

“Exploring the Interconnected: How Past Dreams evolve into Future Reality”

Join us to hear more about how dreams from the past can dramatically change and evolve into something completely new. In this presentation you will hear all about John’s initial experiences in Opensim while still working at Linden Lab, the creation and mangement of “Pathlandia,” initial explorations of the Hypergrid, and how it all fits in with what he remembers as Linden Lab’s original vision of an expanding Metaverse of self-hosted and interconnected virtual worlds.

ADDENDUM 9/10/2013: Be sure to read this blog post: “The Future of Conferences.” It’s an outstanding summary of the conference by Crista Lopes, the inventor of the Hypergrid and one of the conference’s main organizers.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

Speaking at “Train for Success” Panel on the Future of Virtual Worlds – Nov 8 @ noon Eastern

The Gronstedt Group hosts a weekly “Train for Success” speaking series, and this week I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on the State and Future of Virtual Worlds.

The panel will be held in Second Life and starts on Thursday November 8 at noon Eastern. You can also watch and ask questions via the live stream on the web.

For more details, please see Facebook. Here’s a summary:

“The landscape of virtual worlds is changing. Social and game mechanics make virtual worlds more engaging. Browser-based virtual worlds make them more accessible to a wider audience. The panel will discuss the state and future of virtual worlds. Join this conversation about the emerging platforms and applications of virtual worlds in learning and business.”

Hope to see you there, and special thanks to Anders Gronstedt for inviting me to participate.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

“The effects of virtual space on learning: A literature review”

If you’re interested in the use of virtual worlds in education and immersive learning, it’s always a challenge finding good research papers on the subject.

Which is why I was so excited today when I discovered Olle Sköld’s paper “The effects of virtual space on learning: A literature review.”

It’s a fantastic resource full of great references and summaries, and it’s also very timely (was published in Jan 2012).  Best of all, the full paper is freely accessible online.

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I’m presenting at the “Midnight to Noon Conference for Second Life Educators and Researchers” on Oct 27

The folks at EduFinland are hosting a conference on October 27 called the “Midnight to Noon Conference for Second Life Educators and Researchers.”

Although the conference is being held in Second Life, the presentations will discuss a wide range of research across many different virtual world platforms.

I’ll be speaking on a panel at 8am EDT on “The Future of Learning in Virtual Worlds.”

At 10am EDT I’ll be giving a keynote presentation titled “The Significance of Contextual Flow – Exploring Jibe and Critical Affordances of Web-Based Virtual Worlds.”  And you can participate in my keynote by visiting my Jibe world on the web during the presentation.

For more details, check out the conference website.  Here’s a summary of the agenda:

A 12 hour conference in Second Life for educators and researchers on education and virtual worlds with invited speakers from Europe and the US. The conference features presentations, panels, workshops, excursion and many other types of activitities.

Mark the date Thursday October 27, 2011 in your calendar now and join us in EduFinland archipelago on the lecture theatre on EduFinland III from midnight to noon (PDT).

The researchers and educators at EduFinland have been doing outstanding work over the years, and I had the privilege of meeting many of them in my last trip to Finland.  So I’m really looking forward to this conference.

Hope to see you there!

My favorite coffee mug, courtesy of Finland.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

An Obscured Opportunity: Opensim and Content Creators

Opensim is a compelling platform for virtual world development.  And some new technologies have recently popped up that could potentially make Opensim even more compelling.

Tipodean has launched a preview of their web-based viewer.  And Kitely just opened its doors for people to create on-demand Opensim installations.

Opensim continues to grow, bringing both new opportunities and new challenges.

Content Creators and Opensim – Here There Be Dragons

Opensim poses a very real challenge for content creators who are used to selling and distributing their products in Second Life.  The permissions system in Second Life offers a reasonably decent DRM solution, allowing content creators to specify exactly how their products can or cannot be shared among other people within Second Life itself.  And Linden Lab responds to DMCA takedown notices to deal with illegally copied content that slips through the cracks.

But in Opensim?  Here there be dragons.  Permissions systems can be circumvented by less reputable Opensim grid owners.  Content can flow between grids in ways that strip the original creator’s name from an object’s metadata.  And content can sometimes be found that, while appearing to be freely copyable, is actually being distributed freely without the consent of the original creator.

This situation is not too bad for folks using Opensim as a way to distribute content licensed for creative commons or public domain use.  But for content creators looking for the same DRM safety net that they currently have in Second Life, the situation with Opensim is less than optimal.

These are all technical challenges for the Opensim core developers. Over time I have no doubt we’ll see new types of DRM solutions evolving in Opensim that will put content creators more at ease.  There are also various commercial Opensim grids that have ways of implementing DRM for people selling content within their own grids (the downside being that only users of their grids can use this content).

But I think all this fear of dragons is obscuring a broad opportunity for content creators and Opensim as a whole.

How the Rest of the World deals with the Distribution of 3d Content

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring the world of 3d content development outside of Opensim.  I’ve been using Unity3d to develop virtual worlds using ReactionGrid’s web-based Jibe platform.  You can even check out my own Jibe world if you’d like to see what I’ve been building.

With Unity3d, as well as in any other professional 3d development platform, you build environments that use industry-standard mesh models.  There’s a huge amount of commercially available mesh models for folks to purchase on many different commercial websites.  If you need something, and you lack the skills to create it yourself, it’s probably out there for sale somewhere.

And almost none of it has any DRM.

All these mesh-based items for sale typically have very clear and explicit licensing agreements.  But that’s basically it.  Content creators generally rely on legal agreements to protect the use of these creations, not any kind of DRM.

Many professional and hobbyist 3d artists make a good living selling their 3d content on the web in this fashion.  It’s a business model that works.  If it wasn’t, you simply wouldn’t see so many commercial websites selling content like this.

And I personally think it’s a business model that holds a lot of potential for creators of content in Opensim.

If it’s easier and more enjoyable to buy it than to steal it, people will buy it.

The devil is in the details, of course.  You need to create systems that let people easily buy and use content.  Apple and Amazon have learned this, which is why they are very successful at selling DRM-free music.  So have very large and successful 3d content sites like Turbosquid.

The only thing worse than piracy is obscurity

Right now, I see very few people selling DRM-free content for use in Opensim.  Most content creators are probably afraid that any content they sell for use in Opensim might escape out into the wild, or even be copied illegally into Opensim from Second Life without their knowledge.  And that’s a valid concern, absolutely.

But I think the opportunity to sell content to people who want to legitimately buy it and use it in Opensim far outweighs the downside of illegal copies floating around.  Not just in terms of making money from sales that otherwise would never have happened, but also in the fact that you will be building awareness of your brand and content.

And if you discover someone has a pirated copy of your work, definitely file a DMCA takedown notice.  But consider reaching out to such people in more thoughtful and creative ways.  You might be surprised at the results.

Mind the Dragons, but don’t let them Rule you through Fear

At best, DRM helps to keep honest people honest.  If someone really wants to illegally copy 3d content, there’s no technical way to stop them.  That’s simply the technical nature of digital media.  The best way to deal with illegal copies of any kind of digital media is through effective laws and legal process.  DMCA is a step in the right direction, but the legal world still has a ways to go in catching up to the world of digital media.

If you are a content creator and are not comfortable selling any of your 3d content for Opensim use without effective DRM, then by all means don’t do it.  But don’t let your fears obscure your ability to see new opportunities.

Think about dipping your toes in the water and selling some things, or even just giving a few things away for free.  Put up a website that makes it easy for folks to buy and download your products for use in Opensim.  Publicize it.  See how much money you make and how many new customers you get.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

If you are a content developer and are selling DRM-free content for general use in Opensim, please let me know in the comments.  I’d be happy to add a link to your website in this blog post to help raise awareness of your business.

Virtual World Endgame: Collapsing the Metaphor

Mitch Wagner recently posted a piece on his blog titled “Why I hardly ever go on Second Life anymore.

I respect and value Mitch’s perspective a lot.  He’s been exploring virtual worlds for years, and it’s clear that he loves their potential.  But he’s frustrated by their lack of broad adoption and the multitude of barriers to entry for new users.

Those are sentiments shared by many.  But I have a slightly different perspective of the future.

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Communicating between Virtual Worlds – RADIONNE

Many people are exploring virtual worlds such as Second Life as well as the growing constellation of Opensim-based worlds.

Here’s a neat device that can help you communicate between them all.

It’s called RADIONNE.

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My interview with Paisley Beebe on “Tonight Live”

On January 23rd 2011, I was an invited guest on Paisley Beebe’s “Tonight Live” show in Second Life.  Thank you again to everyone on the Tonight Live and Treet.tv team for working so hard to put on such a professional show and the opportunity for me to participate.   I had a fun time, and thank you to everyone who attended as well.

I shared some of my thoughts about my time working at Linden Lab, some simple advice for Linden Lab’s new CEO, my new gig with Reaction Grid, the state of education in virtual worlds, and the future of interconnected virtual worlds in general.

I hope I was entertaining.  If anyone would like me to expand on anything I said in the interview, please leave a blog comment and I’ll happily reply.

Here’s a recording of my interview.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester

On Being “Part of the Product”

Dusan Writer thinks a lot about the business of virtual worlds and, specifically, Second Life.

He recently wrote a very thoughtful and interesting blog post titled “SECOND LIFE NEXT: 2011.

In my comment on his post, I said the following:

You also talked about how “user generated content is not a business model.” I’m not sure I fully agree with you on that. The bottom line is, if you’re using a service and not paying for it, you’re not a customer. You’re part of the product. At least that’s how all successful businesses see it.

I’d like to expand a bit on what I said in bold.  Because, if done right, I think it’s a very good thing both for businesses and customers.

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