Behavioral Targeting in Second Life

29 04 2007

As you might have heard on the Metaversed Podcast there is something going on in the Second Life advertising space. It’s called behavioral targeting and is all about presenting you the right ads in the right context.

It basically means that information of you is collected, such as where you have been last, where you have been shopping and so on. This information is then used to present you the right advertisment when you are next to a billboard. If the system is clever it can even predict what you might need next (like if you last bought a house you might need furniture).

Now the Berlin based Second Life ad agency “Inworld Advertising Network” (IAN) (english summary here) run by my friend Sebastian Kรผpers (Sebastian Otareed in SL) in Second Life now in collaboration with nugg.ad created such a solution. There is a demo installation setup on FutureAd-Park where you can visit six spots which stand for a certain topic like lifestyle, travelling and so on. If you enter one of these your interest-profile gets adjusted accordingly. After some calculations this interest profile defines which ads you get to see next on one of the billboards on the area. You can read the whole explanation on the IAN blog.

What about privacy?

Now the big question with such systems be it on the web or in Second Life is the one of privacy. Now every website using such systems have a privacy policy (somewhere hidden usually) and the proposal of IAN is to have such a policy also in Second Life, e.g. in the covenant of the sim.
Possibilities to also delete your profile and opt-out completely sound like to be added to the system soon.

What might be the issues?

So I personally must say that I in general dislike all billboard ideas and I guess I will not put any up on any sim I have control over (and I’d rather would like to opt-out in seeing them as I could do with an adblocker in my browser). But it seems that many (at least german) people do not think like I do, at least if you judge from the appearance of german sims such as Apfelland and so on. These are full of advertisement.

What I see in this approach as the problem is how to make sure that my privacy is secured. I don’t think that having some privacy policy just in the covenant would work for me. I rarely read any covenants and I assume only few people do. It’s somehow like those hidden privacy policies which are merely a legal defense in that you can say “ok, but we’ve written it there” when people complain.
And in general collecting data about residents has always been a big reason for disputes (Mark Barrett, you remember that? ;-), most recently probably about the new search engine. So we need to see how people react to it and if there’s maybe also a difference between german residents and the more international community (as we are mainly talking about german sims here).

The question is also in which areas billboards in general might work. There are basically two types, one for advertising something in-world (like the EnBW campaign from IAN) and one for advertising something outside (like the Gothaer campaign), referring to a webpage. I’d actually like to see how the “click-through” and “teleport-through” rates are for this (for the first type one probably could find out easily by checking the traffic on those sims).

The additional challenge with behavioral targeting might be the mix of those two types of ads and I wonder if there soon is a mechanism to track a “customer” more completely in that you know what he’s doing on the web as well as what he’s doing in virtual worlds or maybe even in Real Life.

Seeing over the years more of a traditional opposition to billboards in Second Life it’s interesting to see though that this might be changing. The question nevertheless is if this is the right way to approach virtual worlds inhabitants. I merely ignore ads and if a company wants something from me I’d rather like them to come to me and engange in a real conversation instead of just dropping images on me.
There might be a good way to earn money with such stuff in these early days we need to find out where this might lead.

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More information on Scultpured prims

27 04 2007

So what I forgot was that Qarl wanted to put some info up on the wiki and indeed he did by now, you can find it here (thanks to Second Life Insider and Lordfly Digeridoo for reminding me). So you should find most information on there.. Of course testing it out oneself would be even cooler. So Linden Lab, go and publish the new beta client! ๐Ÿ™‚

So what it turns out to be is a way to sculpt a prim by using a texture (so not really NURBS). These textures define in their RGB channels not color information but information about X,Y and Z position. They can be created by using a 3D program and using an export module. They provide one for Maya now and one for 3DS Max, Blender and ZBrush will follow.

So what does that mean?

For one it might mean that creating these sculptured prims is not for everybody. I guess the main way would be to use a 3D program and export it and this would mean also that more learning will go into making these things. At least you can do it with free tools aswell, such as Blender, so no money is involved. Additionally texturing such a prim might be more difficult than as it is now as there aren’t separate faces anymore but you’d need to do real 3D mapping as you do with 3D programs. So all in all it might raise the bar for some.

The advantage is of course that people using 3D programs already and having lots of existing models done with them might finally find a more or less easy way to import these models into Second Life. Of course there can only be a limited amount of detail as they recommend to use textures of the size of 64×64.

Now this all looks like the things (to me at least) about which Cory Linden talked about 2 years ago (thanks to Eggy for the link). And the PDF he mentions also looks sort of like this solution (but I only skimmed over it and of course I don’t even tried to understand any of that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Well, without having an exporter for Blender yet I am not sure of how much use this is for me as I guess it might not yield good results if I just paint something in a graphics program.

All of this is guessing anyway…

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and the secret revealed: Sculpties coming to Second Life

27 04 2007

Sorry for all those still wanting to solve the riddle but I just was checking out the nice sim Q and guess who was coming around? Qarl Linden!

Of course I head a question regarding all that buzz around the recent rumours about a new prim type or whatever it might be, started at Second Life Insider. Now it happens (as they found out) that qDot aka Cube Linden is in Georgia right now where he will give a talk at the Game Developer Exchange (GDX) and is going to talk about a new upcoming feature in Second Life.

So I asked what it actually would be which gets introduced there and Qarl was talking about something they call “sculpties”, something “about which the Lab has been very excited for a while now”. Asked what sculpties are he said that they are mostly something like NURBS. Further asked about it’s also about these better joints of prims which he showed in his Maya tutorial, he said that these won’t be possible right now but in rev. 2.

Unfortunetaly he had to head off quite quickly again but hinted that we might see this online on the preview grid either today or on monday.

Great news, indeed! Waiting for the next beta release! ๐Ÿ™‚

PS: The description of the session at the GDX btw. talks about money in Second Life, see here. Guess he will either change the topic then or explain how even better you can sculpture with the sculpties and thus make more money.

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The Usability Office Hours

10 04 2007

Benjamin Linden Now Benjamin Linden, the new usability expert at Linden Lab is now also holding office hours. They are held at his office every Tuesday and Thursday from 10-11am SLT (except April 13th and 17th).

Topics will be interface design, usability, new features and what else might come to his mind. So come and discuss!





A new Search Engine is out!

9 04 2007

As just found at John Swords Blog as well as on 3PointD, the Electric Sheep Company just published the beta version of a new search engine.

You can check it out at search.sheeplabs.com where it’s showing off in a nice web2.0ish Lookโ€™n’Feel.

So what’s new about this search engine you might ask? Simple, it automatically indexes objects within Second Life by using a libsecondlife based bot which teleports from sim to sim and indexes all the objects it can find. By default it indexes only objects which are set to be on sale but you can go to the SheepLabs Headquarters and change that to include all your objects or none (opt-in and opt-out). Thus there also is a virtual version of robots.txt which makes it very much web spider like.

Of course there are existing search engines for objects such as SLBoutique.com (also from ESC), SLExchange.com or Second411.com. But in all of these you have to insert your objects yourself (usually by putting them into a box and updating their information on the website). So this new search is different in that it already automatically indexed more than 422,000 objects on 4612 sims (according to the Statistics page).

Data it indexes are the owner and creator of the object as well as the amount of prims and the permissions. By clicking on an avatar name in the resultlist you get a list of all his/her objects and by clicking on the objectname you get teleported to that location.

There are of course also some disadvantages from what I see:

  • There is no sales function integrated as in SLB or SLX. But of course that way it’s also not that distinct from the Second Life experience as you still need to go in-world and shop there. OTOH a sales service could possibly be added later.
  • Objects in vendors are not found which definitely is a disadvantage. Thus shopkeepers might need to rethink if they want to be findable in this engine.
  • There is no metadata like an image or a longer description like in SLB or SLX but then again this could be added later as it’s done for those services (and that was also what I was discussing once with Hal9k Andalso, the original author of second411.com)
  • There is no ranking of objects (well there is but I don’t see how this could work except for naming conventions) as there are no links from objects to each other which could compute something like a Google pagerank. But the traffic on that plot might be used in some computation (although this is easy to fake as we all know).

Now of course this is an early beta version and I am sure there will lots be added. Especially I’d expect a HUD interface in order to further keep the search in-world and then there would be no need to leave the environment. Basically like second411 and SLB (they have HUDs).

And in general this is a great idea and I am looking forward in how it might be useful in everyday life and how big the acceptance of it will be. Definitely a cool idea and implementation!

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Millions of Us opens new Intel Island

3 04 2007

Assembling the bike with epredator
Millions of Us just opened up a new island for Intel, this time for their embedded components branch. As an example the’ve chosen a bike which gets assembled by you in Second Life piece by piece and thereby showing which Intel parts are used in such a motorbike.

So if you visit their sim you can buy a HUD for L$1, click on one of the assembling workbenches and get guided through all the parts needed for such a bike. Once you’ve added all parts you become the owner of the bike and the HUD changes it’s display from the assembling view to a normal vehicle HUD and you are able to ride your bike. A track for that is available aswell.

A nice idea for Intel although we’ll see if this is of sustainable attraction to the Second Life residents as after all there’s not much you can do there after you’ve built your bike. But things can change of course ๐Ÿ™‚

Update: Bill of MoU just told me that indeed parties and eventually races are planned and will be announced later.

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Video Blogging Week 2007

1 04 2007

Maybe unrelated to Second Life but nevertheless it’s Video Blogging Week 2007 and here is my video of day 1 of this. If you don’t know what it is: It’s happening from April 1-7 and you should do a little video on each day, edit and upload it the same day. Theme is quite open (which it is for my episode) but there is a suggested one:

       One vlogosphere, crossing borders, making new friends

But here’s finally my video from today (hope to be able to keep it up ;-):

Find more of this later at mrtopf.tv!

PS: I now also have a german blog, find it at mrtopf.de!

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