Fly, Teleport, AND save $320,000!

That's me!
I thought that since this story was extremely interesting, and involves me if only tangentially, and hasn’t gotten much exposure except for two items on the obscure “official Second Life weblog”, I would mention it here. :)

You should read the case study for details, but in the last few months them wacky IBM folks have had a couple of significantly big meetings of wacky technical people in Second Life (once because it seemed like a cool thing to do, and the second time because the first one worked so well and there was travel money to be saved). I was involved just a little, since my day job was very busy; I made a couple of little builds (one multi-sim tour-floaty that I’m rather proud of) and gave general advice, and poked my nose in just to say Hi now and then. Certain other folks in my general social circle were considerably more active in the whole thing.

And as it turned out, it worked great! Now I’m a Virtual Worlds addict of course, and a Second Life addict in particular, but even I was impressed by how impressed the AoT folks were by the whole Having a Conference in Second Life experience. I mean sure I’ve been saying for a long time that there are all sorts of tangible and intangible reasons that SL meetings are ‘way better than teleconferences or phone calls or really anything I can think of except for (expensive and inconvenient) face-to-face meetings; but seeing someone who was initially either a blank slate or an active skeptic experience the thing and come, very quickly, to actively agree with me on that is quite a thing.

Turns out what we evangelist types have been saying for all this time is actually true! :) Even though we still haven’t found the Killer App for virtual world collaboration, just doing pretty much the Same Old Thing (sitting in a room, looking at mostly static mostly 2D visuals, and talking) in a virtual world really does work. And you can save a few hundred thousand dollars compared to the only thing that works any better…

(Oh yeah, and that’s me very very tiny in the picture on Page 6. At least I’m pretty sure it is.)

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hi! hru doin today?

At my RL office the other day some bit of my computer was working wrong, and I put in a Help Desk thingie about it, and a mere few days later I got an IM (well, the RL equivalent) from someone I didn’t recognize.

some guy: hi

I sort of sighed and replied

me: Hello!

Things did not get much better after that

some guy: hru doin today

Took me about ten seconds to figure out what that meant…

me: I’m fine, thanks

some guy: this is someguy from the help desk, about your ticket number 36645/J

me: okay

some guy: wd this be the right time to call u

I assured him it would be fine (this took another couple of interactions, whose details I will spare you), he called me, led me through a few obviously-futile attempts to figure out what was wrong, and eventually told me I should try reinstalling the thing that wasn’t working.

I was thinking, after that was all over and I was waiting for my computer to restart after having uninstalled the thing in preparation for reinstalling it, about IMs in general, and various approaches to them.  This particular one would have been vastly more efficient if he’d just doven right in:

some guy: Hi, this is someguy from the help desk, about your ticket number 36645/J; the first thing you should do if you haven’t already is to reinstall megawhozzis because that usually solves the problem and even if it doesn’t at least it means I can close your ticket fast and get my statistics up kthxbai.

I would have preferred that quite a bit, really.

There’s another person at work, who I know slightly better, who similarly always starts IMs by sending “hi”, or “Dale”, and waiting for me to reply before saying what it is that’s up.  I will sometimes come back from getting coffee or something to discover that she said “hi” like ten minutes ago, and now she is offline, and she hasn’t sent email, so I have no clue what it was she wanted.  Whereas if she’d asked her question right off there I could have like emailed her with the answer.

I suspect people like this are wanting to be friendly, and feeling that just launching into the topic at hand without saying hi, and hru doin, and like that, is somehow rude or impersonal.   But I, at least, don’t mind it at all.

I mean, if you’re my friend, and you just want to hang out in IM and chat about nothing, or start up some juicy gossip or whatever, starting slowly is just fine.  I like talking to my friends for its own sake.

Dales Friend: hi!

Me: Woot, hi!  Whatever is up?

Dales Friend: my motorcycle is on fire!  and jennifer is naked!

Me: huzzah!  Can I come watch?

Friends are also welcome to launch right into the subject if any, of course, or to use any other opening that appeals to them (my friends can get away with just about anything).  So these are all just fine:

Another Friend pounces Dale from behind a tree!

AThird Friend: What was the name of that lute-maker, again?

YetAnother Friend: Heya!  Come help us build this carnivorous bunny!

With people I know less well, though, where we don’t (yet) enjoy just interaction for its own sake, I’d rather we always got right to the point.  “hi” isn’t very efficient.  I’d much prefer, say:

Some Stranger: hi!  you don’t know me, but I saw your name on the wiki as a scripting helper and i want to ask you about scripting.  mostly i want to know how to make an object turn colors.  i don’t have much money so I can’t pay yu but i can give you gift certificates from my store where i sell brightly colored spheres.  please im me back, thanks!

just ’cause, y’know, it gets it all out into the open all at once.  (And, as a pedant, I’ll probably be even nicer in my reply if you spell and punctuate and capitalize and stuff, although I do realize that many people apparently come to SL explicitly to get away from that set of rules.)  Also good is:

Admiring Stranger: Hi, you don’t know me, but I just wanted to mention that you’re the most admirable person ever!

Random pouncing and stuff, come to think of it, is also quite a bit better than “hi”, even from strangers.

Unusual Stranger pounces Dale although you have no idea who I am!

Me: How novel!  What’s your sign?

So that’s my recommendations for today: if you have something relatively boring to say, or are asking me for something, get it over with quick and don’t bother with pretend pleasanteries (and literacy gets you bonus points).  On the other hand, if you’re aiming to amuse me, knock yourself out.  :)

Virtual Identity

Dale and DaleSo there’s been this discussion going around about the social construction of virtual identity, and I’ve commented in both of those places at some length, and I thought to myself “hey here’s a deep an’ substantive topic that I can comment on instead of just posting pictures of WoW mounts and flaming desks and stuff”, and I started to write a weblog entry in my head, but when I got down to it everything that I had to say seemed so obvious that I stopped again.

But then I remembered how easy it is to post a weblog entry, so I started again. :)

To my thinking there are two interesting questions in this discussion:

First, to what extent is identity socially constructed? It’s pretty noncontroversial that essentially all normal healthy ordinary happy identities are formed to a significant extent through social interactions, that alot of how we think about ourselves has to do with how we think other people think of us, and so on. Whether social interaction is necessary for identity formation is a more open question. Some people have said in various places that identity (or consciousness, or some other word in basically the same drawer) is impossible without interaction. I tend to think that this is too strong, and that someone who managed to be born and survive without any interaction would still have some sort of identity, but we don’t really have much evidence one way or the other on that, and I’m not entirely wedded to the notion.

The second interesting question is whether RL and SL (atomic and virtual) identities are different with respect to that first question. Gwyneth’s original posting, linked to above, made the case that while atomic identities are influenced by social interaction, virtual identities depend entirely upon such interaction (“the digital self is only defined by the amount of interactions it has with other digital selves”; italics in the original). I disagreed with that at some length in the comments (basically just because I see no reason to think it’s true, and Gwyneth didn’t really present any), and disagreed with dandellion Kimban’s posting (also linked above) that said that the virtual self is different because there’s always the real self there looking at it. (My rather abstract but I think correct counter was that even in the case of my atomic self, there’s always the inner mental self looking at it, and that’s the same self that’s there looking at the virtual self.)

So basically my claim is that, however much socially-constructed we decide to say that identity is, I don’t see any convincing reason to think that the answer is any different for virtual selves than it is for atomic selves. This fits in with my cognitive drift in general, of course; when people point out something or other about how people are in SL, I’m forever chiming in to say “just like in RL!” (except for, you know, things like being able to fly and create zeppelins with our minds and stuff). But I think it’s also true!

So that’s me weighing in on an Important Issue of the Day for a change. I might at some point weigh in on this “augmentation vs immersion is really a false dichotomy” thing sometime, too (I don’t think it’s a false dichotomy at all), but not tonight. The most you’ll get tonight beyond this is some of the recently-uploaded Spennix pictures, and probably not even that. :)

The Fire Next Door

V good friend Michele and I were wandering around the Hughes Rise Park, and went over to the mall next door to see how it was doing. It’s a relatively new mall, and it’s been mostly empty, with a few gambling machines for awhile, and now a place selling pretty neat-looking hoverboards. As we approached, I got an unsolicited group invite from a stranger, which I ignored by reflex. The mall was empty, except for a rather generic woman named Emma sitting behind a desk. She was a bot.

How do I know she was a bot? Well, she’s the one that sent me the group invite, and her profile says “I am the group Manager Only DO NOT TALK TO ME OR IM ME i will not ancer”, and she didn’t say anything when I asked her if she was a bot, and she didn’t say anything when Michele and I perched attractively on the back of her chair:

The Friendly Neighborhood Bot

and she didn’t even say anything when her desk was suddenly engulfed in flames!

Fire, fire!

Fortunately Michele and I were wearing our protective goggles, and we went pfffff at the fire alot, and were able to extinguish it before any damage was done. Michele got a great shot of bot Emma sleeping through the whole thing.

Note that no actual AVs were griefed in the making of this weblog entry; don’t try this at home, kids!

More Art and the Park

It’s been suggested that I haven’t posted much in my weblog lately. Without admitting any wrongdoing, here I am posting to my weblog, in the form of some pictures with text describing them, about some stuff I’ve been doing.

Here I am, still in that hair (recolored to my favorite darkish red), at the opening of the Evolution Gallery.

Dale at the Evolution gallery

Congrats to Sabrinaa Nightfire and Alan801 Eclipse for a great opening event! This was like two and a half weeks ago :) but I expect the show is probably still going on if you want to stop by (and you should!).

I ran into Botgirl Questi at the opening, which was fun.

Evolution gallery (Dale and Botgirl)

She was/is on hiatus from her usual full-on content creation, and seemed to be enjoying being inworld to just wander around.

A wider shot of the Evolution Gallery, showing the big scrolling logo sign and some of the huge colorful pieces of art:

Evolution gallery (wide shot)

I liked this show very much; unlike some recent openings where the art has been small and detailed and complex (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) the works here were more huge and simple and exuberant. I like exuberance. :)

And speaking of art, here’s a snapshot of the new back garden of the Hughes Rise Park (I think I’ve moved some stuff around since then, but it’s still basically the same).

Park Progress

The pink tree with green waving tentacles at left is from the aforementioned Sabrinaa Nightfire; to the right of that is a lovely armillary sphere by Honour McMillan (which she gave me in return for some time-related scripting). The orange fireball to the right of that is elros Tuominen’s "A kind of fireball I am building", on loan from Honour’s own collection. Nearly invisible in the center, there’s me standing by a lovely meditation station that was a holiday gift from Chestnut Rau. (I never did do a posting about all the cool stuff that arrived over Solstice, did I?) And in the background looming over everything (including the junkshop next door) is an Aetheric Flux Storage Tower (v2) by CoyoteAngel Dimsum, which I vaguely recall having found sitting around free-to-copy in Caledon or somewhere once. It’s large!

More recently I went to the opening of Phinn Boffin‘s “Changing Hues” show at Second Arts; it was a great time. (That’s me on slide 24; I can’t figure out how to link right to it.) I bought a framed copy of the gorgeous Maria Maria (and one of the more, erm, scantily-clad ones).

I take most of the credit for Phinn’s having this show, because the other week she was showing me yet another lovely picture, and I said “You ought to do a show!” and here in the very same year she did one. Of course Morris Vig and Second Arts get some credit, too, for actually putting it on. :)

So that’s that! I also have a number of Spennix pictures queued up, so you may get those before too long. (She’s level 75, yay!) I continue not to have any opinions about Pressing Issues of the Day in Second Life that are just bursting to get out, so you may be spared any of those for awhile longer…