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CONTACT UPDATE: My hamlet@secondlife.com E-mail Address is Defunct, Contact Me at wjamesau at well dot com

My e-mail address is wjamesau at well dot com. If you have an e-mail to send me (and I hope you do) please send it there. My previous e-mail address, hamlet@secondlife.com, has just been defunct-ified by Linden Lab. When I left the company in 2006, my friend the talented and lovely Charity Linden set up that address so it forwarded anything sent there to my civilian addresses. Now, however, citing security concerns, the Lindens closed that account. (Should I blame Lulzsec?) It's possible an unstated concern was that the address wrongly implied I still worked for the company (and in fairness, some have misinterpreted it to believe just that.) At any rate, they were nice enough to add an auto-reply to hamlet@secondlife.com, so anyone e-mailing that address will at least be told to re-send it.

So once again, please contact me at wjamesau at well dot com. Yes, that's from the WELL, another, earlier virtual community that like Second Life was also once the toast of the tech world. (Read this great 1997 Wired cover story on it.) The WELL is still around, albeit it in a much reduced state from the time Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson, and rocker Billy Idol were regular visitors, and I suspect it'll be around in perpetuity. So hit me up there!

Got a Question About the Etiquette and Ethics of Virtual Pets? Ask Miss Metaverse Manners!

Iris and Second Life virtual cat

This week for her Miss Metaverse Manners column, Iris Ophelia takes on the Do's and Don'ts of virtual pets. They've become so popular in Second Life that Linden Lab is practically promoting the world as a pet-raising sim, while breeds like the Meeros are so beloved, people are hiring pet sitters to take care of them. Which also means there's going to be many etiquette and ethics questions around those pets. What do you say if your SL BFF starts spending more time with her Meero than, well, you? What if your friends don't seem to care for your pet? Ask an etiquete and ethics of question of your own: Post anonymously post your thorny etiquette and ethics questions on Iris' Formspring account!

Pictured: Iris and her beautiful metaverse cat.

Supreme Court's Upholding Free Speech of Games Mentions Avatars, Virtual Worlds & Posner (Who Has an SL Avatar)

Richard Posner on videogames Supreme Court

Judge Richard Posner logging into Second Life in 2006

The US Supreme Court just struck down a California law that would restrict the sale of extremely violent videogames to minors, in an odd coalition which united 7 liberal and conservative Justices (with the most conservative, Antonin Scalia, writing the opinion) against two equally unlikely left/right dissenters, Steven Breyer and Clarence Thomas. What's very interesting to me is the opinion mentions avatars and virtual worlds, and cites Judge Richard Posner, a very influential legal theorist who as it happens, gave a lecture in Second Life in 2006. To my knowledge, this is the first time the country's highest court has acknowledged the existence (and importance) of avatars and virtual worlds -- let alone citing a jurist with direct experience with both.

Here's Judge Scalia in the ruling:

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Philip Rosedale's WorkClub a Great Space for Remote Workers (Suck It, Starbucks)

Ana at Philip Rosedale Workclub

I don't know if Philip Rosedale's new startup will work, but I do know his open office space is a great place in San Francisco for remote workers to work. As opposed to, say, fighting to get some projects done in your local Starbucks next to a woman in her 60s wearing a skintight body stocking and watching loudly blaring YouTube videos. (Been there, done that.)

Centrally located on 1825 Market Street between Octavia and Laguna (Google Maps link here), the "office" for Philip's LoveMachine Inc. and his latest project, Coffee and Power, which connects real world work to virtual currency, is also open to freelance coders, web developers, and other folks who often work remotely who want to stop by and spend a few hours in a place with a great view of Market, free coffee and wireless. Regular visitors are encouraged to bring a gift for everyone else there, with food to share being highly prized.

Ana with Andrew Linden at WorkClub

Anyway, after visiting Linden Lab with my friend Ana a couple Fridays ago, we took the BART down to Civic Center and walked a few blocks up to the WorkClub. Philip wasn't in the office at the time, but as it happened, Linden's first and longest-lasting employee, Andrew Meadows, was there, hanging out there during a day off. That's him with Ana beneath the big monitors on the wall which display all the outstanding Coffee and Power requests around the city.

One more pic of the view from upstairs, presumably where Philip surveys his new domain. After getting the tour, I'm seriously interested in dropping by every now and then. Working at home like I do has its advantages, but one goes a bit crazy when you're only co-worker is your cat.

Continue reading "Philip Rosedale's WorkClub a Great Space for Remote Workers (Suck It, Starbucks)" »

Top 7 Essential NWN Posts from Last Week

Requiem Machinima for the Lost Gardens of Apollo, a Gem-Like Island Lost from Second Life Tomorrow

Tomorrow, June 26, as I reported last week, the Lost Gardens of Apollo region is scheduled to end its five year existence in Second Life, a victim of owner weariness and Linden Lab's high tier fees. Created by Dane Zander, the sim's manager, SamLowry Hawks, shot this final tribute video to the place and the many who love it:

"When I knew the official date of closure," Mr. Hawks tells me from France, "[I] quickly filmed last images of the sim... I made it with hurry but with all my heart." The beginning of the video samples Gary Jules' "Mad World", appropriately enough. "The scrolling credits song," adds SamLowry, "is a very well known French song about the missing." The tribute machinima will last after its gone; until tomorrow, then, click this link to visit the Lost Gardens of Apollo in Second Life first hand.

Will We Love Virtual Pop Stars as Much as We Love Real Ones? Outside Japan, Probably Not

In recent news from Japan, a pop singer with a well-known girl group was revealed to be entirely virtual -- which means another chance for US commentators to get over-excited and hyperbolic about the implications. First, watch how "Eguchi Aimi" was created, from a composite of bits and pieces from other (real) members of the group:

Read more about it here on the Singularity Hub, which unsurprisingly, makes this broad, over-the-top prediction that virtual stars like this will become commonplace:

Are we on the verge of creating CG performers that appeal to fans just as much as their flesh-and-blood competition? Oh wait, we’re already doing that. Japan’s 3D hologram rock star Hatsune Miku already has a following that would make Brittany Spears take notice.

Gizmodo has similarly overwrought speculations:

As we walk into this new world, I can't help but to ask myself: Would I be able to fall in love with a synthetic being? Would you? And what will happen then, when humans and digitals collide and merge in our world and their world?

Now here's my problem with forecasts like that: I've been reading news stories about Japanese falling in love with virtual celebrities for over 10 years, roughly when William Gibson used them as the basis for his novel Idoru, and mysteriously, the phenomena never seems to happen much outside of Japan.

Maybe I'm missing some obvious examples, but if we're heading toward a future where virtual celebrities are commonplace, why haven't they showed up in the West? To be sure, there are arguable edge cases: The UK-based Gorillaz is a popular virtual band, for example. But then again, none of its fans (including me) are really in love with the virtual characters in Gorillaz. We enjoy the music, we dig the videos; we don't, however, send flowers to the guitarist known as "Noodle".

So what's really going with characters like "Eguchi Aimi"? Two possible explanations:

Continue reading "Will We Love Virtual Pop Stars as Much as We Love Real Ones? Outside Japan, Probably Not" »

In Second Life Art Installation, Great Paintings Deconstruct & Reconstruct When Clicked

Second Life Deconstructing Art

Kara Trapdoor blogs about a very cool-looking art installation: : "D. Construct", by Douglas Story and Desdemona Enfield, which displays famous paintings that "basically fall apart in color disc pieces to a pile on the ground, and subsequent clicks cause the discs to fly back up creating a moving colorful light show experience prior to the original picture being reconstructed." Ms. Trapdoor says the exhibit only runs until the end of this month, so better see it soon: Click here to teleport to see "D. Construct".

Second Life Mesh Tutorial for Sculpted Prim Makers

Second Life Mesh Tutorial

Gaia Clary of Machinimatrix has a very detailed, step-by-step tutorial for Second Life sculptie makers who want to transition (as well they must) to making meshes. She demonstrates it by creating that mesh-based kettle above, only two prims large but bursting with detail. Click to read, click to read. Hat tip: Indigo Mertel's Metalibrary (also good for clicking.)

What to See at SL8B: 3D Literature & a Monochrome Scene

Windyy Lane SL8B site

Prim Perfect's Beq Janus has a nice guide to worthwhile installations to see at SL8B, Second Life's official 8th anniversary celebration. Among them: "The Owl and the Pussycat" [click here to teleport], which takes you through interactive, 3D renditions of classic works of literature, like Edward Lear's poem of the same name, and Windyy Lane’s Soaring with Magic [click here to teleport], which transports you into an enclosed black and white scene (pictured here.) See more Beq recommendations here.

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