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At risk of striping away the essential context around what makes Artichoke’s new post so inspiring, I’ll just link to it here.

“corruptio optimi pessima” – the corruption of the best is the worst

Hopefully reading Artichokes post as a stand alone speaks for itself, for me it is one in a long line of excellent articles that I will return to many years from now. This one is significant I think. I have this feeling in me that this thing we struggle against is going to become more clear.

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I was asked up to talk about Second Life at Webstock in Wellington this week. There are more qualified people than I to talk about Second Life – New Zealand’s Aaron Griffiths (Isa Goodman – SL user name) and Prof Clare Atkins from NMIT would probably be a good start, but I guess it was my turn, so I gave it my best shot – starting with this wiki page to organise it.

You can download the video recording of the talk here.

I typically talk about Web2.0 – or more precisely the social and educational implications of ICTs generally as they affect our cultural landscape. Second Life is one of those things that I have been slow to comprehend, lazy to understand, woefully unimaginative in thinking about, and perhaps tittering on the not-so-sure skeptical perspective. But there’s nothing like a 100 + crowd of savvy, critically aware Wellingtonian web developers and government workers to motivate me to do something and address this shortfall on my part, and that’s what I’ve been getting sweaty palms about over the past few days.

Thanks to Nick Noakes, Alan Levine, D’Arcy Norman, Brian Lamb , Malcolm Jolly and Glenda McPherson and of course the persistent and generous support of Jo Kay and Sean FitzGerald I was able to get through the affair reasonably unscathed. My plan was to meet all these people ‘in world’ and start by demonstrating to the conference what it’s actually like in SL with a small group of ‘virtual friends’. I was anticipating that most people at the conference would have had the less than satisfactory experience in Orientation Island. I hoped to demonstrate the shared experience, informal and somewhat fun aspect of SL while attempting to tour educational facilities in world. After that I was going to jump around my desktop and show a sample of SL movies from the copious quantity on Youtube and other video services. Then I’d make a few opinionated comments myself and face the music of question time from the crowd. Here’s how it went, with links out to the movies I showed and didn’t get to show, as well as a few postcards from the brief but valuable ‘in world’ demo that Nick and co helped me with.

 

While all the conference goers moved into the theatre after pre event drinks and eats out in the foyer, I was up on stage with a big projection of an in world view of Nick Noake’s sim (environment) and all the above characters sitting around a campfire in fancy dress 🙂

There was Alan with his foxy head on, D’Arcy in a storm trooper suite, Malcolm as Darth Vader (Not in picture) and Nick, Brian, Glenda and I looking rather under dressed. We just spent a few minutes chatting, cracking jokes and hanging out. I was trying to let Nick and the others know what was going on in the real world movie theatre I was in while explaining to the crowd what was going on and who were all these weird characters I was chatting to – it was a bit of a juggle.

 

It was all going quite well and thanks to some funny text messages the conference crowd was having a good laugh.. ice broken. I suggested all of us around the campfire have a go at flying Nick’s hang gliders over to the neighbouring New Media Consortium Campus’ and that’s when it all went a bit everywhere. I thought it might too, and wanted to show the conference what its like trying to orientate and remain connected in world. One by one we lined up on the launching pad grabbed a glidder and took off out to sea…

Alan and Nick saved me with a few offers to teleport back to where I should have been and I think everyone got a good idea of what it’s like in SL. Fun!

 

But man! Time flew, and before I knew it the clock had spun forward and I had to leave SL to show the vids and offer comments to get a bit of consideration about the wider implications of it all. I was sorry to leave actually, I don’t think the group who where there to support the demo had much of an opportunity to show their wears and such, but the main objective was achieved – to show the sense of connectivity and real time shared experience in a pretty impressive virtual world.

 

So I jumped out leaving the others to continue without me, and started to talk through a series video excerpts I had downloaded in the days prior. I started off with the lovely tour of Second Life through a movie called Ogilvy China Dragon Dance in Second Life, where:

A beautiful dragon created by Ogilvy China dances and flies through many worlds in Second Life. His journey takes him through Asian-inspired landscapes and even to outer space! Ogilvy China wishes the world a Happy Chinese New Year in this Year of the Pig with the first Second Life dragon dance ever.

That helped to fill in any gaps the crowd may have had about what SL was on the larger scale. I explained that all the scenes and objects in the movie had been built and programmed by the users themselves. I forgot to point out though, the impressive artifacts being created using SL – known as machinima – movies created using scenes and characters in SL. I wanted to point it out as a significant aside.. but hopefully it spoke for itself through these movies…

 

I then showed Ohio University Second Life Campus promo as an example of the many evangelistic marketing campaigns of SL. Its a nice vid, but I wanted to point out that SL is crowded with evangelism and verbage that can make it a tad difficult to get a grasp of what its actually like.

A promotional video for the Ohio University Second Life Campus; a virtual campus featuring multiple learning and collaboration opportunities for students on the Ohio campus and all over the world. For more information contact: metaversity@ohio.edu

To help widen the perspective, I showed the first few seconds of Second Life: First Perversions to point out the existence of the more fringe elements in SL.

A cautionary tale of the evils parents need to be aware of in the wildly popular kid corrupter, Second Life.

Staying on this theme I then showed the opening sequence of GriefZilla – Second Life Machinima as a way to introduce the presence of griefing, hacking, general disruption and chat spam in SL.

A film I created for the Fox Atomic Second Life Machinima Contest, It shows GriefZilla the giant duck as he destroys the world of Second Life. Thanks to all the people who voted for me, I came second place (although they call it first!)

 

At that point I moved the focus away from SL and onto that old post about Early Film. I showed ye ol classic 1897 commercial Admiral Cigarettes and talked a little bit about the time line of movies, highlighting the amount of time it took for people as a whole to become accustomed to that new media and the decades it took to develop a unique vocabulary of cultural expression through movies.

I tried to use Admiral Cigarettes and the evolution of film to suggest that virtual worlds have some way to go still, and to reinforce and expand that message I brought up the demo movie for some incredible new software: Photo Tourism (Full)

Photo tourism is a system for browsing large collections of photographs in 3D, developed by the University of Washington: http://phototour.cs.washington.edu/

This new development is one of those things that seems to have crept up on us unexpectedly. It suggests a powerful function for social media and a very useful application in the construction of virtual worlds – along with Google Maps and their new Street View!

Street View is a new feature of Google Maps that allows you to quickly and easily view and navigate high-resolution, 360 degree street level images of various cities in the US

And Microsoft’s hefty investment with Virtual Earth

Microsoft’s Stephen Lawler gives a whirlwind tour of Virtual Earth, moving up, down and through its hyperreal cityscapes with dazzlingly fluidity, a remarkable feat that requires staggering amounts of data to bring into focus. Google might still be ahead of the game, but even in beta, Virtual Earth shows incredible promise. Microsoft’s visions for the product — as a provider of real-time weather and traffic data, or a realistic backdrop for game developers and IM conversations, or virtual ad space — all seem well within the limits of possibility.

 

I then explained how Second Life still does not offer an easy interface with the web – particularly web2. I wondered whether other developments will take over where SL has done the spade work and made us all reasonably ready and accepting of this freak out virtual world dimension… hmm

 

I probably should have left it at that, but I didn’t want to end on a seemingly discouraging and nihilistic note for SL. There’s no doubt in my mind that people – particularly web developers and the like should be getting active in SL and working out a variety of angles in there. Prompted by questions I finished with another evangelical video – this one by Apple showing off their shop in SL – Second Life Apple Store

Fifth Avenue Apple Store Second Life (Music Video) AppleStore SecondLife

I tried to find Text 100’s presentation about their developments in SL that I had previously downloaded, but ended up just verbally explaining their reasoning when a case of file blindness prevented me showing it. Their take is to develop an authentic presence in SL and work for a loyal support base within the community. Best off watching Text 100’s presentation, I think its a good one for finding the motivation to explore SL more and think about it as an extension to business and marketing. Branding building in Second Life.

Andrew McGregor, Regional Director, Text 100 EMEA discusses the founding of Text 100’s office in Second Life at the Amsterdam New Media event, Picnic 06, August 2006.

 

There was no time to show any samples from a recording of a presentation by Cory Ondrejka – lead developer of Second Life, but here’s a link out to the raw footage. Its quite an informative series of clips and well worth watching even if your just a curious user or developer looking for an angle on SL developments.

 

So that’s it. I think I managed to cover quite a few perspectives on it. I think I should have explained more about the economic aspect of SL and a few tips on how to actually do business in world, but time just flew by and tell you the truth I know very little about that – no experience. Giving the talk was fun though, and I’m glad for the pressure to actually sort my stuff out and get something of a presentation and personal understanding pinned down a bit. Thanks to all who helped.

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Here is a video that explains a little process we have in place here at Otago Polytechnic for supporting ideas for the development of flexible learning opportuinities in our courses.

George Siemens has been running an online conference over the recent days, and I joined in this morning before work. I got to listen to David Wiley’s talk about Openness and the Future of Education which was really great listening. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to listen to David talk (though I’ve been a fan of his work since 2001) – and it is totally worth listening to, especially if you’re involved in educational resource development.

One thing I really had to grab were these two slides where he looks at the disconnect between typical educational environments, and typical communication environments (yellow being where education is today):

But these slides here, out of context of David’s talk really don’t do justice to the range of issues that David talks about. Copyright, learning objects, resuability, social media.. You really have to watch the Elluminate recording if you can.

I’m pretty impressed with George’s running of the show. He has set it up centrally through Moodle in such a way so as to be as painlessly open and easy to join as possible. The lay out of this moodle is efficient and easy to navigate, the recordings of the presentations are available almost directly after the talks and are easy to find once archived, and George is keeping everyone up to date with what’s happening through his blog and through email as well as a few other tricky new tools. Each day has only a few hours of talks on reasonably regular time settings (afternoon in North America time/not ungodly morning time here in NZ) making it easy to see who, what, when and where the presentations are. The talks run through Elluminate which sadly excludes many linux buddies that haven’t worked out how to get Elluminate running – but George is making the audio recordings and the screen recordings available soon.

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Here’s a first attempt to show the beginnings of the wiki structure in action through 2 developments we have going here. Based on this diagram and sample pages from the Otago Polytechnic projects.

Louise von Randow made brief comment about the recent NZ Herald headline of Microsoft insisting that instances of MS Office be uninstalled from hundreds of New Zealand school computers because of outstanding license fees.

The spokesperson for the schools clearly has little motivation to see the bigger picture and more carefully consider free and open source software. Instead of being defiant towards Microsoft and announcing contingency plans for the staged uptake of open source software…

Mr Le Sueur said NeoOffice was littered with problems, and its website warned that users could expect lots of bugs.

And the Herald reporter didn’t see any need to go further into such an investigation and instead focused on the Ministry’s stance:

“The ministry could not justify the extra $2.7 million being given to Microsoft for software that would not be used,” said Mr Maharey.

So, how much does New Zealand education spend on license fees for software? Are there alternatives? Yes! how much would New Zealand education save if just 1/3 of the computers used free and open source? A quick look at the Openoffice website suggests that OpenOffice is available for the Macintosh Operating System.. but how much does that operating system cost us and who much does it limit us?

I’m no open source zealot, but I recognise the need for better awareness of free and open source software in Australia and New Zealand. I recognise the obscene amounts of money shipping out of Australia and New Zealand for software alone, and I’d like to see our local IT capabilities improved through participation in open source projects. But I use what’s available to me, and that is mostly determined by:

  1. Free
  2. Easy to use
  3. Web-based
  4. Open source

and in that order.

I haven’t needed to spend money on software since… well ever! Where I used to rely on pirate software, starting my own business raised my concerns of such legal liability, so I started looking for legally free, easy to use and if possible open source – not because I wanted to be able to code (but it is great to have that option should I want to some time), but because I’m inspired by the development model and would like to support it in some small way. I’m still on that path to full independence and it is very rewarding and empowering to be free of software license concerns, and the crippling legal restraints.

Here’s my list of software I use everyday:

Actually I use a whole bunch more. Sadly, video editing and flash animation continue to evade being made free and open source. There are options – Blender possibly being one, but I continue to rely of Microsoft’s free (for Windows users) Movie Maker for video and Macintosh’ iMovie. The point I want to make is that by my estimates I have saved myself at least $1000 per computer with my software preferences and have more capability than your average and basic Microsoft, Adobe and Macintosh user.. I can sit down at ANY computer and start work on just about anything without relying on pirate software, out of date software, or pricey software.

Here are more good reasons why New Zealand should tell the likes of Microsoft to stick it.

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How to embed youtube and slide share into blogger and wordpress blogs