Friday Open Forum: Post Anything Virtual

Links, events, opinions, news, blogs, Flickrs, Tumblrs, Vines, .gifs, gfycats, etc... go!

OpenSim, Closed Window: The Virtual View from Diva's Desk

I recently told you that Crista "Diva Canto" Lopes, a longtime pioneer of OpenSimulatorwon this year's Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, so naturally, I should also share how she helps develops the open source virtual world:

Crista Diva Canto Videira Lopes OpenSim

"There's a special place I go to when I work," she recently wrote. "I login to my vLab, move the window to the right-most screen of my four-screen workstation, turn on the chill-out radio station there, zoom the camera out, and enjoy sun rises and sun sets over the shore every couple of hours. It's my work place, a happy, calm, beautiful place. I've been doing this for so many years, that it has become second nature: I find it hard to focus when I'm not there, and I miss it almost as much as I miss home when I travel with just a small laptop."

Have to love her setup (if not her electric bill). I used to do something like this with SL when I had a halfway decent desktop PC. Though for Crista, this is just an intermediary step:

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OpenSim Pioneer Wins Prestigious Open Source Award

Video via Joyce Bettencourt

Crista Videira Lopes, a longtime pioneer of OpenSimulator (the open source spinoff of Second Life), just won this year's Pizzigati Prize for Software in the Public Interest, awarded to developers of "open source software product of significant value to the nonprofit sector and movements for social change", and backed by the massive and prestigious Tides Foundation. Considering OpenSim's use by a small but dedicated group of educators and others, and Christa's talented contributions to it, it's a well-deserved.

"My department chair nominated me," Christa tells me. (She's a professor at UC Irvine, and "Diva Canto" in SL and on Twitter.) "He must have made a good case! OpenSim fits the spirit of that award."

Along with the award, she's winning a $10,000 prize, and for OpenSim users, there's good news there:

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Watch Live OpenSim Stream Celebrating OpenSim Pioneer

Live right now, here's Jessica Pixel's stream from an OpenSim grid, a good-bye party for OpenSimulator pioneer Justin Clark-Casey. "Justin CC is a big deal in the OpenSim world," as Jessica puts it, "he was one of the major contributors, but he has to move on to other things so we're having a 'good luck have fun' party for him." And as you might have noticed, this stream is happening through YouTube's live streaming feature, so you can also participate with the OpenSim party from Jessica's YouTube page right here.

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Why a Virtual World Educator Jumped to Minecraft

Minecraft for Education

The open forum on the success of Minecraft versus SL has attracted some really interesting reader comments, one of my favorites being this one from Jo Kay, an educator deeply involved with Second Life and OpenSim as a teaching tool:

One of the key factors IMHO is Minecraft's simplicity AND its complexity. A small child can quickly learn how to negotiate the space (without lengthy tutorials or clunky viewer software to learn) and get almost instant satisfaction from exploring and socializing, monster slaying and/or building a little house, castle, secret base etc.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, Minecraft allows for complex modding which has seen developers from around and world and across a huge age range creating their own versions and flavors of the game - from themed servers (Hunger Mines, Harry Potter etc) to Factions, Feed the Beast and PVP).

Additionally the extensive "metagame" that exists around the game is compelling - from YouTube stars to kids writing epic Minecraft theme stories and beyond, the eco-system of fan created media is endless and amazing and operates from beginner to elite. Kids are able to join that community easily via Twitch, Youtube, fan sites and Forums, and via coding communities like Bukkit.

... all of which leads to several advantages of Minecraft as a pedagogical platform:

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Open Forum: Why Has Minecraft Captured a Mass Market and the Education Space Where Second Life Has Not?

Desmond and Emilly Orr in Minecraft

Mimi Ito has a really interesting Boing Boing post on the rising popularity of Minecraft as an educational tool, which emerged very soon after Minecraft becoming extremely popular -- over 100 million players, in recent estimates. Then she makes this point:

Minecraft isn't the first virtual world to value player creativity. Remember Second Life? But, what makes the DNA of Minecraft fundamentally different from Second Life or WoW is that any player can set up and administer their own server. This makes the Minecraft scene a breeding ground not only for digital creativity, but social innovation. Players are building their own server-based communities in Minecraft governed by the values and rules that they develop and enforce. No corporate overlord dictating the rules of property and play here. The mod world in Minecraft is teeming with social engineering tools, ranging from chat moderation add-ons to systems that assign plots and different privileges to players to minimize griefing. Lessons in digital citizenship anyone?

OpenSim, the open source spinoff of Second Life, also enables player-owned servers, so that doesn't make Minecraft unique. Also, Minecraft player-owned servers did not exist for some time after the game launched - it was originally a single-player experience.

All that to one side, what remains true is that Minecraft has captured both the mass consumer market and the education space where Second Life and OpenSim tried and failed. So let me put the question to readers (especially virtual world educators and those who play both): Why?

Please discuss in Comments. I plan on featuring the best insights in a future post.

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Should MMOs & Virtual Worlds Use Amazon AppStream? A Pioneering Developer Weighs the Pros & Cons

AppStream Virtual World MMO

Can Amazon AppStream effectively replace OnLive's SL Go? There was a lot of talk around that question recently, and I put it to Cristina Videira Lopes (aka Diva Canto), a Xerox PARC alum who's now an ICS professor at UC Irvine and a longtime innovator in virtual worlds. She deferred on whether AppStream was right to stream Second Life in particular, preferring to talk about using AppStream for commercial applications of virtual environments. (Which she uses, as it happens, for her OpenSim-based world.)

Short version? The main obstacle is cost: At the moment, AppStream costs 83 cents an hour per user, so much more expensive than SL Go. So AppStream is probably not a good fit for extended use -- but appropriate for virtual world use for shorter, business/real world/educational based applications.

Anyway, here's Diva's full breakdown:

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OpenSim Usage See Relative Monthly User Growth

InWorldz OpenSim world

OpenSim, the open source spin-off of Second Life, passed 30,000 active users last month, according to HyperGrid Business, which represents a relative growth spurt from 2012, when it was floundering with around 15,000 active users. The largest OpenSim world is InWorldz with 8,212 active users, which is not surprising, as that one is probably the most consumer-facing. Notwithstanding HyperGrid's "record-breaking month for OpenSim" language, it's still worth keeping in mind this is relative growth for OpenSim, but compared to the larger market for 3D avatar-based worlds, not so much. With 30,000 monthly OpenSim users, for instance, more people still use Second Life at any given moment than use OpenSim for an entire month. (Median daily  concurrency for Second Life is around the 40,000 range, according to Grid Survey.)

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Radegast, Light Client for SL & OpenSim, Seeking Successor

Radegast Second Life viewer

Radegast, a lightweight viewer for Second Life and OpenSim, ceased development a few months ago, as lead developer Latif Khalifa withdrew due to reported RL health reasons. "Radegast is open source," Latif noted in the departure announcement, "so if there is interest people could continue improving it." So far it seems no one has taken up the reigns, which is a shame, as it could be a good alternative for running SL applications on a low-end machine (possibly on mobile?)

Hat tip on this to Snickers Snook, who gave me some more background via Twitter:

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DX Exchange Now Open for Selling OpenSim Grid Currency

DX Exchange Open Sim

DX Exchange (a proud NWN partner) has just opened its virtual currency trading service up to OpenSim grids, starting with the Sunlight Grid (based in France). So now OpenSim grid operators can sell their currency through DX Exchange. (And if you own an OpenSim, and you're interested in using this service on your grid, drop an e-mail to

For consumers, the purchase process is pretty simple:

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