Click here to visit Explorer Island in Second Life which is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's official site in SL, where there's a large installation for JPL's Martian efforts, including this pictured probe which resembles the Curiosity rover that just successfully touched down on Mars. Unless I missed an update, Explorer Island doesn't seem to have been updated in the last few years, but it still exists in-world, and has some pretty good (if pre-mesh) virtual artifacts of JPL's efforts in Mars... and on Second Life.
If you know of any current SL events and other content based around Curiosity's active investigation in Mars, please post in Comments. I'm also asking the scientists and engineers who've done previous aerospace projects in SL, so will add updates as they come in.
Whoever gains (or in Apple's case, maintains) dominance and establishes the standard matters less to me than the fact that SL and OpenSim do not run well, if at all, on tablets. Unity 3D does for iOS and Android... Concurrent to all this churn, we are moving to tablets on our campuses for consuming media. If Moore's Law holds true, these devices will become better and better at creating content. One does not wish to be on the wrong side of history, and I think SL evangelists are clearly on the wrong side, unless they are early in their careers and have a Plan B for research and teaching.
More good news for SL's International Spaceflight Museum, which was returned to the grid last meek after unpaid bills, community outcry, Linden intercession, etc. "The ISM has received a pledge of FULL ISLAND FUNDING for both Spaceport Alpha and Spaceport Bravo," longtime museum volunteer Katherine Prawl (Kat Lemieux in SL) tells me. The donor wishes to remain anonymous (for now at least), but "The funding doesn't have a termination date." So for now, it seems, the International Spaceflight Museum will again become a regular part of SL.
However, this doesn't mean the ISM will continue to look as it did in 2006-2007, when it was first created. Many have pointed out that the site, while a historical landmark in SL, is also showing its prim and script-heavy, pre-sculpty, pre-mesh age, But Kat tells me that it's starting to be revamped in the run-up to its official re-opening next month:
Dennis Shiao explains why his third grader loves to play Second Life. No, not Second Life online, but a non-online version of SL that Linden Lab developed years ago for the San Jose Tech museum, specifically for kids. Dennis argues this is a great age group to introduce SL to: "Third graders have reached an age where they’ve begun to assert some independence," he writes. "They pick out their own clothes in the morning, have clear opinions on what they like and dislike and have completely developed a sense of 'self.' Selecting an avatar and outfitting it with a tricked-up outfit feeds directly into this notion of 'self' and more importantly, self expression." Totally agreed. I think it'd be great if the Lindens marketed a somewhat upgraded version of the Tech Museum SL to schools -- since it was developed in 2004-2005 (I believe), the technical requirements are much less demanding than the current version, and I can see it becoming a great educational resource many elementary schools could use. Read more about it here.
Courtesy Louis Platini's Metaverse Business, a Second Life/OpenSim analytics company that gathers publicly accessible in-world data for its clients, here are the top 20 PG-rated Second Life sims for October 2011:
This lists the average number of visitors in each sim. If you compare this to the list of top 50 October sims overall, you'll see some overlap. Franks Place 2, a fancy dress jazz nightclub, is consistently at or near the top of the SL charts every month. VIRTUAL GAMES, I believe, is a relatively new art/game installation. (I'm not entirely sure, because ironically, it's not showing up easily in search.) The top 50 overall, as you'll see here, spans an average of 31 to 73 visitors, so most of the top PG-rated sims are significantly less popular than the top M-rated and Adult-rated sims. (Last month, only five of the top 50 were rated PG.)
HyperGrid Business has a good post on how to teach students to use Second Life for educational purposes in 30 minutes, as opposed to the 2 hours it may usually take. Definitely handy, but even 30 minutes seems way too time-consuming in today's technology environment. You can teach someone the basics of using an iPad in under 30 seconds, and since Internet time is like dog years, 30 minutes to a student will probably feel like 3 hours. Which might be worthwhile, if SL was a software tool the student would need in other educational and real world contexts, but that's far from certain.
That said, I'd look at Second Life's high learning curve for learning in another direction: It's only worth the training time if you're teaching them to take advantage of SL's unique affordances which they can apply to real world projects. Specifically, 3D content creation for architecture, filmmaking, game development, graphics art, fashion design prototyping, and so on. Then it's much more likely worth the 30 minutes learning curve, or even the 3 hours.
Since opening last year, The Virtual Mine has been played over 5000 times by 1200+ unique users, including "several hundred new users [who] came in-world the first night [the documentary] aired on PBS," Ms. Winnington tells me. To be sure, those are small user numbers in comparison to a web-based educational game, but quite impressive for a complex, downloadable 3D experience, particularly SL. Interestingly, many of these new users were actually from the Appalachias:
"Many shared amazing stories of how this project personally touched them," Winnington tells me. "Some shared how their lives had been ruined by mining (death of a child, forced into selling land, etc) Some came from many generations of coal miners and argued why mining was important. We even had international visitors who saw it while [the documentary] was streaming online and we're speaking in different languages trying to share their experiences and stories as well."
In addition to these players, there were many more who came for educational purposes:
I recently confirmed this news with the sim's creator, Aeneas Anthony, who told me that the cost of supporting the sim and its monthly tier payments are no longer sustainable. He actually preferred I not blog about the end of the Minoan Empire at all, but in this case, I believe the news value is crucial, because it again emphasizes the hard reality of virtual reality:
Second Life's current land-based revenue model is not sustainable, and without serious changes to it or the overall health of the in-world economy (including new user growth), more sims like this will continue going away. I've heard the argument that sim owners should simply figure out ways to better monetize their estates, but that only points to another problem: Second Life's internal user-to-user Linden Dollar economy is not growing, so even sims with a solid revenue model are in danger. (And the lack of economic growth means competition between sim owners will grow ever more fierce and socially fractious, as they knife fight each other over the same consumers.)
Much thanks to Melissa Yeuxdoux for the tip, however unfortunate it may be. Another fan of the sim, Tikaf Viper, created this pretty beautiful machinima tribute to the region that will soon go away. Watch above.
Have you ever thought about what your avatar created in Second Life symbolizes?
Do you want to learn why you created your “second self”?
What is the difference between you and your avatar?
Be sure to include your avatar name at the end of the survey, so he can send L$ to your account. And yes, he'll share the results with New World Notes. So click here to take the survey.
Update, 3pm SLT: If you took this survey before 12:30pm SLT today and want the L$250, please retake the new version here. I originally posted an old version of the survey which didn't have a section for listing your avatar name to get the Linden Dollar honorarium. The links have been fixed since then -- sorry for the hassle!