Raph Koster finally reveils what Areae is all about: Metaplace.com

19 09 2007

There have been many rumours about what MMO pioneer Raph Koster‘s new company Areae is all about. He had very strong opinions back then in an interview with Reuters in Second Life about what Second Life eventually might do wrong. He was not reveiling anything about their product though.

So now it’s out. At TechCrunch 40 it was reveiled and it’s called Metaplace (the site is right now slashdotted and a bit slow). According to GigaOM it is not a new online world but instead it seems to be more of a framework of standards based components with which you can create your own world quickly. Raph calls it “A Web browser with virtual world capability”.

What is Metaplace?

So there are some parts of the system as I understand it:

  • A tool kit for building virtual worlds as well as a community/marketplace for selling your own components such as templates, scripts, objects. This marketplace is hosted on the Areae network (this is apparently for developers)
  • A way of creating your own instance of a virtual world. Thus it is not a contigous world such as Second Life. The Metaplace web site is then the place to collect all these virtual worlds and instead of e.g. having videos on the YouTube homepage you will have virtual worlds on the Metaplace homepage. According to the homepage you can make a world in 5 minutes.
  • Worlds can be interconnected via “doorways”. You can also stick your world as a widget into MySpace or Facebook.
  • Right now there are only clients for all sorts of 2D game graphics but 3D will come.
  • It is an open standard for interacting with servers. According to the website everybody can write a client (no word about a server though and it seems not to be open source).
  • Part of Metaplace is a scripting language called Metascript which is based on Lua


So how will Areae make money from that? Creating worlds seems to be free but they will be charging eventually for heavy traffic sites. Also it will allow for sponsored worlds, for some adsense-style network and more.

So it’s all a bit blurry at the moment what all that really means and there is not much to see right now. There is a signup for an alpha test on the homepage but such signups do not really look that open. But Raph Koster is of course an important figure in game development and has quite a bunch of contacts so there’s a huge chance for Metaplace to gain momentum if these people in the scene will start using it.


As for the openness I am also not that sure as it still seems to be very much centered around the Metaplace website. Also there is no word of open source nor seems the open standard yet to be published somewhere.

The big question is also what it means in relation to Linden Lab’s recent plans to create an open, standardized architecture for virtual worlds. And this is also where Raph Koster in the GigaOM article is maybe wrong when he states that Linden Lab just wants to make one world and cram everybody into it. With the new architecture discussion this point seems not so valid anymore.

But how this evolves needs to be seen. Fact seems to be that more and more people are now trying to create virtual world/metaverse standards and it looks like some sort of VW war is coming up. Hopefully they will talk to each other and try to cooperate. This will help us all in the end.

PS: More information can also be found at Virtual World News.

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What you can learn from Pilots (or: finally arrived in Chicago)

24 08 2007

So it should have been an 7hr flight from London to Chicago but it turned out to be an 11hr flight with a stop in Detroit to get new fuel. Thanks to some tornado warnings in the Chicago area. We then made some rounds around Chicago in the hope to finally get in but then the captain said that we will head back to Detroit because of the flight hours. 5 minutes later he then announced “Believe it or not, we are now allowed into Chicago”. Yay! And it was an interesting approach to the airport with the sun just going down, making everything red. Flashed everywhere in the clouds, very greay atmosphere, very hard to describe but very cool.

Hey, and there is even one thing you can learn form it as a company when things go wrong: Communicate. Our captain did a great job on that by keeping us up to date with all the issues with what he is doing in order to get us in (and actually to get us in front of the queue because we have been the first who diverted to another airport making us the first in the queue back to Chicago again and esp. as we were an interrupted international flight). He also explained how long we can wait before he is not allowed to fly the plane anymore and so on. All in all that was the good part.

Then there have been many queues though on the ground, immigration is the most annoying invention anyway, the next one at the luggage area (gladly our luggage was there), then at customs, then at the taxi point… country of queues πŸ˜‰

But here I am now in Chicago. I haven’t seen much yet as I had to put something online in SL but this afternoon the latest I will probably head over to the Hilton (we are in the Hyatt) to meet some fellow SLers πŸ™‚

Good times ahead! πŸ™‚

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Plone 3.0 has just been released!

21 08 2007

Finally! πŸ™‚ A lot of work has gone into the new release but finally it’s out! Version 3.0 of the Open Source CMS Plone has just beedn released and it’s full of great features. And we even made it on the Digg homepage πŸ™‚

And that’s cool because it really was a lot of work and I am happy to be part of that community. It really rocks and I do not want to miss it.

So what’s new?

Here is a list of new features

  1. Inline editing
  2. Working Copy support
  3. Link and reference integrity checking
  4. Automatic locking and unlocking
  5. Easy collaboration and sharing
  6. Versioning, history and reverting content
  7. Upgraded visual HTML editor
  8. Powerful workflow capabilities
  9. Flexible authentication back-end
  10. Full-text indexing of Word and PDF documents
  11. Collections
  12. Presentation mode for content
  13. Support for the search engine Sitemap protocol
  14. Support for multiple mark-up formats
  15. Wiki support
  16. Automatic previous/next navigation
  17. Rules engine for content
  18. Auto-generated tables of contents
  19. Portlets engine
  20. Professional support, development, hosting & training

Of course there are also all the existing features which you can find here.

Digg it!

If you want to help a small Open Source project, please continue to digg this story. Blog posts etc. are of course also welcome πŸ™‚


Press Release: Plone Foundation announces Plone 3.0 Aug 21, 2007

Download Plone

What’s New in 3.0?

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some details about the age verification

9 05 2007

Daniel LindenSo yesterday there was the office hour meeting with Robin and Daniel Linden where the topic of course was age verification.
The pointed out again that this verification process is nothing they need to do for Linden Lab but the purpose is only for the residents who maybe need to be sure about the people they interact with (esp. of course in the adult content genre).

Some points from that discussion I simply want to list:

  • Aristotle and Integrity are different divisions of a single company, but they are seperate. Aristotle has no access to data managed by Integrity. No one has access to the data Linden Lab send to Integrity
  • The data is never saved (as I understand it also not by Integrity). It’s matched only. Nothing can be sold, shared, or even viewed. This is “enshrined” in their contract, as Daniel put it.
  • Linden Lab is interested in seeing graphic and explicit content flagged…not ‘nude’ skins and the like. Ultimately, the community will decided what should and should not be flagged
  • Linden Lab examined many vendors and would like to provide more over time but Integrity offers the most flexible, fast, and reliable system and the only real global solution
  • Integrity has been doing this kind of work for major comanies for a long time, and everyone who has worked with them has raved
  • Examples of clients are most major movie studios, the largest online sex toy retailer and Budweiser
  • For verification it is in the international area probably generally National ID, driver’s license, or passport in place of the last four SSN digits. US-wise it’s the last 4 digits of the social security number.
  • 157 countries are supported
  • flagging will be per parcel, not per sim
  • Gender verification might also be possible but of course only voluntarily where people really want to state it. This is possible but not planned yet.
  • all verification is opt-in and voluntary.
  • it will be a one-time fee to do verification, for premium accounts it will be less or equal L$10,-, for basic accounts there is no price point yet defined.
  • about how content is flagged: “The community will express what it feels to be adult content both by using the abuse reporter and by simply speaking with their neighbors” (Daniel Linden)

So that basically have been the points discussed. For me one question remains though: What is the legal impact if I’d flag a parcel as adult and some minor gamed the system (which of course still is possible) and buys some adult content from me. Then her mother sues me. How safe am I?

Another question which just comes to mind is this: If a parcel is flagged as adult people of course still can cam in. They might even be able to use some vendor from the outside. I wonder if this is made impossible then (camming would be difficult of course).

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Sculpted Prims for Blender

5 05 2007

The new beta is just out of the door, featuring both voice and sculpted prims, the first cool thing is around.

The problem with sculpted prims right now was of course that no conversion script for the open source 3d program Blender was given from the start. But Second Life resident Amanda Levitsky just did it and created a tutorial on how to make sculpted prims with Blender. You can find it here.

I certainly looks like something for which you need a bit of understanding of Blender and UV textures and the like but from what I see there I guess the first steps are merely setup and then you can go from there and form your object. Of course one needs to learn about Blender which is surely more complex than the Second Life Building tools, but a lot of tutorials are around.

Great news and I love it when I see things like this happen where a resident just jumps in and creates the missing pieces. Another reason to opening up whatever platform is out there.

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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 KΓΌpers (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! πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰

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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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 Look’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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The new Linden Lab communication practice

22 03 2007

So over the last past months Linden Lab seems to have been changing a little bit in their communication efforts. To the better. As I don’t just want to post the bad things I might I do a little praise here πŸ™‚
So there have been many things going on in order to fill the gap between Linden Lab and the residents again (I just assume that in the early days it was naturally somewhat closer). And it makes sense because sometime ago it really felt as Linden Lab was very much disconnected in deciding stuff which resulted in many surprises for residents and in turn in many demonstrations which eventually surprised Linden Lab (remember opening up the registration).

So what has changed? For one thing the Second Life blog was initiated which IMHO serves a better purpose of communicating one-to-many than a forum (while still incorporating the discussion in form of comments). Also more and more Lindens have been posting to the blog and not only announcements but also technical details for those interested or just asking for discussion.

The other thing is the creation of the Linden Village around sims like Ambleside or Grasmere. Along with that office hours have been established which is another great way of participating in the conversation with the Linden folks. And it’s not only about policy but also about the hard technical details (with Zero Linden) or discussions about how to bring the open source project forward.

And another great thing is that Linden Lab is also more open regarding the underlying technology. This seems to be one of the consequences of being open source now. Not that many secrets are left then and in general it does not make that much sense to hide them anyway.

So all in all LL feels more connected (to me at least) to their SL inhabitants and the discussions are more about how to do things together instead of Linden Lab dictating what has to happen. Of course there are some business decisions which are unlikely to be decided by the residents (such as voice) or which are still secret. But in general it is a big step forward.

So what does get discussed at those office hours? Let me give some examples in some brainstormed way πŸ˜‰

  • Zero Linden was telling us that they put up a testgrid which just is based on LLSD messages. This is the new protocol Linden Lab wants to do client-server communication with and is part of the longtime plan to make SL more stable and extensible.
  • Robin Linden was telling us that there are 3 projects underway for getting Second Life more stable:
  1. led by Xylor Linden, is to fix the immediate bug problems, such as the group IM problem. this is to try to minimize the worst pain points (going on every day)
  2. led by Doug Linden, is to improve the scalability of the existing system, by refactoring some of the code and improving efficiency (takes place over the year)
  3. led by Zero Linden is to redesign the entire thing and to address in particular the orthogonal scaling problems of land and agents (takes place over 2 years)
  • Rob Linden was discussing how to best open up the subversion repository to make development of LL devs and open source devs a lot easier (right now the process is a bit cumbersome, I might explain this someday in another post)

So these just as an example. There are office hours by other Lindens (such as Torley, Jeska, Pathfinder and others), too and if you are interested make sure to visit them.

(ok, I know that I now will receive some comments on being an LL fanboy πŸ˜‰ But let me tell you that there are still things that could be better πŸ˜‰ (otoh they all usually need time).

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News from the voice

19 03 2007

At the last voice beta test meeting a lot of stuff was discussed and I am trying to quickly summarize it here:

  • Most of the mainland will be voice activated. Channels, on which communication is taking place will then span multiple sims (like all the 4 sims of the welcome areas). This is important as you can also hear people who are in the same channel as you.
  • Parcels will get the ability to block voice (if I did understand it right). So you don’t hear your annoying neighbour all the time πŸ˜‰
  • Private islands with the old price ($195) might need to pay an extra fee to enable voice. Newer islands do not need that (those at $295). Voice consumer never have to pay anything.
  • The IM window will be enhanced so that you can invite a person in a one-2-one conversation to use voice chat instead. Same should be true for group chat. This audio will not be spatialized apparently
  • A new speaking indicator is in the works which shows also if somebody has voice enabled or not (which means if she is listening or not)
  • LSL functions will not come with version 1 but eventually later. Reason for this is that these functions eventually create lag on the sims.
  • the preferences will become a section which lets you define the in- and output devices (right now the OS default will be used)
  • Vivox might eventually offer the ability to place outside telephone calls from within Second Life, also incoming calls might be possible one day.
  • There will be changes in the way you login to the voice server so that it gets very unlikely that it will be hacked. So lots of encryption and stuff like that will go on server side.
  • The distance you are able to listen to around your avatar (by panning with the camera) will be restricted so that you cannot eavesdrop into other people’s conversations anymore.

There was probably something I missed but many of this stuff is under internal discussion anyway so we will see what the end result will be. But Lindens were listening and taking notes and that’s a good thing πŸ™‚
(and even Philip appeared as a little robot for 2 mins πŸ˜‰

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