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September 7th, 2009 by Marianne McCann

This post was a bit delayed, for when I really could take a moment to think about the event.

Before going to SLCC, a friend of mine challenged me. He was curious as to why one would go to a real-world meetup for a virtual world. What could First Life offer that is lacking in Second Life?

It’s a hard and compelling question, especially as Linden Lab works to market its flagship product as a place where people can meet and do business without needing that real-world connectivity. Is SLCC at odds with the goals of the world, and was Linden Lab itself hypocritical by supporting this event, even hosting a luau and having Philip Rosedale, Mark Kingdon, and Tom Hale as keynote speakers?

After attending the event, I’m not sure I have a clear answer, but I did come away with come clear impressions.

First off, Second Life is not going to replace First Life any time soon. As nice as it may well be when we see the promised graphical and technical improvements discussed at SLCC, it will not replace the real world. Likewise, our avatar selves will not replace our flesh-and-blood counterparts. There are so many nuances that — at least in the foreseeable future — will not translate well into the digital realm. A smile generated by an emote is not the same as a friendly grin in the real world, nor does a virtual hug convey the warmth and acceptance of its real-world counterpart.

Instead, don’t look at it as a medium that will replace, look at it as one that can augment. At the risk of tossing up the popular “augmented reality” buzzword, that’s essentially what virtual worlds can do. Events like SLCC take the virtual and bring it into real space, allowing for a different form of socializing and collaboration. Conversely, the virtual has its own benefits: for one, no plane tickets, no hotels, and no box lunches are required.

Many of the people I met I already knew in Second Life, but the event made each of those people a bit more real. With many of them, I will now think of our meet-ups in San Francisco alongside those virtual times spent together, making for a well-rounded view of these people.

At the event, I met Daphne Abernathy, Jaelle Akula, Hamlet Au, Treasure Ballinger, Malarthi Behemoth,Harper Beresford, Tezcatlipoca Bisiani, Ina Centaur, Loki Clifton, Asri Falcone, Gellan Gleneig, Twa Hinkle, Strawberry Holiday, Alexa Linden, Amanda Linden, Blue Linden, Catherine Linden, Colton Linden, Dee Linden, Dusty Linden, Jeremy Linden, Jon Linden, Kate Linden, M Linden, Mick Linden, Oskar Linden, Pathfinder Linden, Philip Linden, Pink Linden, Rand Linden, Rodney Linden, Roxie Linden, Teagan Linden, Teeple Linden, Whump Linden, Alexa Lioncourt, Areal Loonie, Crap Mariner, Cybin Monde, Isablan Neva, Tuna Oddfellow, Beth Odets, Cory Ondrejka, Eshi Otawara, Jopsy Pendragon, Persephone Phoenix, M2Danger Ranger, Misty Rhodes, Cylindrian Rutabaga, Hydra Shaftoe, Sloan Skjellerup, Feline Slade, Siefert Surface, Bettina Tizzy, Hulaboom Voom, Bevan Whitfield, and a few others who I’m afraid I forgot (met too many people, was hard to remember everybuggy’s names. Sorry!). I now have an “augmented” view of each.

When I think back on SLCC, it’s meeting Alexa Lioncourt and having her run over to give me a hug. It’s Eshi Otawara and Beth Odets impersonating each other, as well as Beth and Cylinrdrian Rutabaga jamming on guitar and violin. It’s the wry grin you always knew Crap Mariner would have, or even Asri Falcone slyly slipping under the table in a somewhat successful attempt to liberate one more brownie. These are the experiences I can then take into the virtual realm, and which will change the way I look at all the above — for the better in every instance.

If anything, that is what I’d recommend SLCC for. It is that chance to go behind the curtain a bit, and meet the rest of these people you’ve known only in a digital persona. Each I met was just as vibrant as their Second Life counterparts, even if there were far less neko ears, furry snouts, or other items more common amongst the usual Second Life meeting.

I do see one weak link, however. I did watch one of the keynotes from inworld, rather than the Grand Ballroom at the Westin St. Francis. As a result, it only had an audio stream, and we lacked even the slides that the presenters (as well as their avatars) used. In my opinion, SLCC could do better at this, truly augmenting their real life event with a well-presented virtual presentation. Imagine if the panels and keynotes had their own version of Linden Lab’s Isabel conference room? This could be the future of SLCC, both inworld and out.

(Under)Age of the robots?

September 4th, 2009 by Marianne McCann

So this week’s big drama is about Robot kids, huh?

F’r the last few days I’ve had random friends I’ve not heard form lately IMing me out of the blue to ask my opinion on the whole KidsBotz Controversy. For those who don’t know what this is, an avvie named Naughty Dreamscape set up some, well, kid bots. People can rent them and have them as their SL sons and daughters. Some have raised concerns about how they might get used.

Anyway here’s my feelings:

1. Yes, someone could presumably pay a lot of Lindens, take one of these home, and use it for some sick purpose. I think it’s more likely that someone would just make their own ‘bot to do that, or even just get an alt of their own, rather than bother to pay someone for the use of their ‘bots. It may not be much ado about nothing — but it’s pretty close.

2. I think that any potential SL parent who would rent a ‘bot for their SL kid is the sort of person I would not want to see in an RP scenario with any of the “real” (meaning “with a human behind the keyboard”) SL child avvies. These are the sorts who clearly don’t seem to get the whole “interacting with real people” thing.

3. Frankly, from the examples of chat with these ‘bots that I’ve seen, I think most would get bored with these ‘bots pretty quickly. I honestly don’t see this as any sort of long-term, viable business. That this is being discussed so much however, means the maker of ’em is getting some great free publicity.

4. There are far bigger issues and concerns in this world than someone who makes a business out of renting ‘bots.