Monday, May 30, 2016

Top Four New World Notes Posts from Last Week

Virtual Worlds VR Raph Koster GDC

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Valleywag May Have "Scared Everybody" in Tech, But Second Life Laughed Off Its Attacks

Second Life Valleywag Gawker Denton Thiel

A typical Valleywag hit piece on Second Life back in the day

"Been enjoying your pieces on Second Life," Nick Denton e-mailed me back in 2007. "Very balanced. Not that one can say the same of us." That's for damn sure. I was going through old e-mails today while reading about Denton's very public feud with VC Peter Thiel, the powerful Ayn Rand admirer and Donald Trump delegate who secretly hired a legal team to sue Denton's Gawker publication out of existence, partly for personal reasons, and also, apparently, for Valleywag, Gawker's now-defunct tech industry arm, which Thiel described as a terrible scourge of Silicon Valley:

Mr. Thiel [has called] Valleywag “the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”

“It scares everybody,” he said in a 2009 interview with Pe Hub, a private equity publication. “It’s terrible for the Valley, which is supposed to be about people who are willing to think out loud and be different. I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters.”

I had to smile at that description, because back when Denton himself edited Valleywag (2006-2008 or so), one of his prime targets in tech was Second Life:

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Linden Dollar Exchange Rate Trending Back to Normal -- But Massive Amounts Still Up for Sale

Linden Dollar Sales Second Life

The Linden Dollar sell rate seems to be trending downward from its record highs at the start of this week, when the top sell order was L$265. As of today (I took this screen capture from the LindeX about a half hour ago), the top rate is L$259, with other top sell orders approaching the more typical rate of around L$250 per US1.00.

"It seems like it wants to settle," observes Juliette Westerburg of Tres Blah, "but people are probably desperate to cash out simply because they need to, that it keeps going back up. But it's not continually going up every morning like it was for a few days ago."

However, there's still a lot of Linden Dollars being sold on the market, with nearly L$116,000,000 being offered for L$250/1. (That's over $450,000 in real cash.)  That's likely not from a single person but an aggregate rate now on sale from many SLers. "Probably all the people who refuse to sell at a higher rate. It just accumulates," as Juliette puts it.

And those sell orders are accumulating quite a lot:

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Posted at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday Flickr: Self-Portrait of Whiskey Monday as a Still Life

Whiskey Monday SL image

Here's a new-ish image from the Flickr stream Whiskey Monday, a departure from the flights of metaphorical fancy she's usually known for (such as this recent one), with "As Far as Nowhere" a relatively realistic self-portrait that nicely balances contrasts and shadows, giving her avatar's body vibrancy and texture rare in pics of avatars (SL or otherwise). Click here to embiggen.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Using Virtual Green Screens to Make Great Virtual Images

SL Greenscreen tutorial

I love that so many virtual fashion photographers use a virtual green screen backdrop to create an even more virtual (but paradoxically realistic) composite image. Here's one by Daeberethwen Arbenlow with little post-processing (besides the green screen layering). "Just combined some WindLights and added contours," she tells me.

Now here's the final results:

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

MMO Pioneer Raph Koster: Virtual Reality Developers Must Learn from Virtual World History Or Repeat Its Mistakes

Here's a great recent talk from MMO pioneer Raph Koster who gives a breezy history of virtual worlds, outlines their massive influence on tech culture and the mainstream*, then closes with an ominous warning to the new generation of virtual reality developers: "Heed the lessons of your forebears: From whence you came, so shall you be. The future is still MUD-dy." After watching, I got in touch with Raph, who explained more about that last point of advice:

"VR is just a rendering tool," Raph told me. "It's a window through which we see a virtual space. But virtual spaces, and especially virtual places, and especially the inhabitants and their behaviors, are OLD and well-studied and if you don't go look at that history, you're going to replicate some mistakes on a very large scale."

I'm biased, but I definitely agree. To take just one example, VR developers now are probably underestimating the problem of griefing and harassment, an ongoing challenge with MMOs for decades, which becomes even more problematic in immersive VR. However, most VR developers on the latest platforms seem to assume the key problems are technical, rather than cultural and social -- which only means they're setting themselves up for a rude awakening.

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Posted at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Where Should Polygon's "Monster Factory" Next Visit in SL?

Justin McElroy, co-host of Polygon's popular "Monster Factory" smartass tour of Second Life, reached out to me on Twitter in search of new locations. Their videos are good-natured, Obrien-eseque jabes through the metaverse, but it's clear that they're sort of randomly teleporting into noob areas or randomly browsed areas that don't show SL at its most interesting -- or wackiest!

So where should they go? Post SLurls at them on Twitter, or in Comments below. Key recommended components:

  • Lots of regular visitors
  • Seriously cool visually 
  • Gamer/sandbox creator friendly

Post in Comments are Tweet via the link above!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Insider Attributes Massive Linden Dollar Fluctuations to Some Large Second Life Businesses Rapidly Liquidating L$ Holdings (Land Barons, Say?)

SL Linden Dollar Sell Order May 2016

Since my Friday post, the Linden Dollar sell rate continues creeping up, with people selling large blocks of L$ at historically high rates. At right are the very top sell orders last night, with the largest listed quantity, L$11,186,781, worth around $4,200 now in real dollars at an exchange rate of L$265 to $1 dollar. Thing is, just last month, when the exchange rate was closer to L$250/$1, that same block would be worth hundreds of real dollars more.

What's going on? I asked Linden Lab for a response on Thursday but still haven't received a reply. I also talked with an anonymous Linden insider with knowledge of this subject, and this person discounts the popular conspiracy theories raging among SL content creators, suggesting that Linden Lab itself is somehow manipulating the exchange rate. 

"We were super-transparent about this years ago," my source told me, "and I doubt it's changed significantly in the time since I left. Linden Lab doesn't control the rates, the market does. If a number of larger businesses that have been holding significant L$ decide to liquidate and are willing to push the rate temporarily less financially favorably for sellers in exchange for more rapid exchange, then short-term small fluctuations like this happen. It's not a bug, it's a feature."

But why would those larger businesses want to sell so much Linden Dollars all of a sudden? I believe the most plausible theory -- and I stress theory -- is also the most benign: Private sim owners are cashing in L$ to take advantage of Linden Lab's recently announced offer of grandfathered maintenance rates (after paying a "buy-down" fee of $600):

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Why Augmented Reality Won't Scale, Explained in Six Nightmare Minutes

"Augmented reality is more likely to go mass market than virtual reality" is something many people in technology (including me) say, but then you watch something like this and think, "... or maybe not":

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Of course people who are willing to pay for premium augmented reality won't have to get a barrage of ads tossed at them 24/7, but for anyone who's not wealthy, something like this is more likely what awaits them. Which makes me think people will just stick to looking at their phones. (Which has about as much ads, but at least they can always look away.)

More from the video project's site:

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Posted at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

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