Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Magic in Manhattan goes There today

Yesterday, Makena Technologies (the company behind There.com), reported that Random House author Sarah Mlynowski will be reading from her latest book in the Magic in Manhattan series in There.com at 4 p.m. PT today.

Sarah Mlynowski was born in Montreal, Canada. She studied English Literature at McGill University, where she wrote a newspaper column. After graduation, she worked in the marketing department of various publishing companies in Toronto before moving to New York City (where she still lives) to become a full-time writer. Sarah has written five novels for adults, three for teenagers, co-written a guide to writing chick lit, and co-edited the two bestselling charity collections Girls’ Night In and Girls’ Night Out.

When Sarah is not writing, she's trying to kick-start her magical powers. If she succeeds, she promises to cast spells for world peace, 12 months of sunshine a year, and more Star Wars movies. [Sarah's Magic in Manhattan page @ Random House]

Makena CEO Michael Wilson was pleased to announce this event and said "Talking about books is a natural fit for virtual worlds. When readers can meet authors and ask them questions - especially an author of this caliber - books can come alive in whole new ways."

I'm not sure about that natural fit thing, but it's been done a few times before. We've seen a list of Pinguin authors appear in Second Life like William Gibson and Terry Pratchett. These events were usually to crowded to really have fun, let's see if the There.com architecture can give a better experience.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scienta est Potentia, Google est Scienta

Does Tessier Ashpool SA ring a bell? Well, it should. It is the name of one of the mega corporations in William Gibson's "Neuromancer" In a quite dystopian setting it is mega corporations that have real power on earth (and beyond).

In our present day we also see the rise of mega corporations, large industrial conglomerates spreading their tentacles into this world. For now, they are just companies, focussed on profits, but according to trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas who predicts the future will see global mega companies turning into sovereign states.

Google Flu Trends

With the above in mind, I just came across a report on a new Google service which kind of scares me.

GOOGLE will launch a new tool that will help federal officials "track sickness"."

Flu Trends" uses search terms that people put into the web giant to figure out where influenza is heating up, and will notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in real time!

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential: "GOOGLE FLU TRENDS can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week."

Engineers will capture keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and others.

Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at CDC: "One thing we found last year when we validated this model is it tended to predict surveillance data. The data are really, really timely. They were able to tell us on a day-to-day basis the relative direction of flu activity for a given area. They were about a week ahead of us. They could be used... as early warning signal for flu activity."

Eric Schmidt, GOOGLE's chief executive vows: "From a technological perspective, it is the beginning."

Thomas Malone, professor at M.I.T.: "I think we are just scratching the surface of what's possible with collective intelligence."

Read Full Report at Drudge Report.

Scientia est potentia

In plain English this means knowledge is power. The Google octopus is slowly speading its tentacles into every corner of digital data, creating access to unprecedented amounts of corporate and private knowledge. Creating access, not only opening up access to this knowledge to the public, but also acquiring this knowledge itself more or less, comprising it into a collective intelligence.

Does this mean that when Google holds the key to the knowledge of the world, Google holds the key to the seats of power in this world as well?

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential:

This specific sentence should turn on the alarmbells. We've fought so hard to tear down the walls of domination from Microsoft, sueing them in every way to prevent them from gaining market domination. Yet when Google is working closely with governments, will it make those governments blind to the level of domination Google already has?

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gibson Virtual Guitar Heroes

While browsing through the newsarchives in the business section of the Avastar, a popular magazine on Second Life, I came across an article on Gibson Guitars in Second Life. The article is dated July 19th 2008.

GIBSON guitars launched their new presence in Second Life with a party on Wednesday.

The famous corporation put on a spectacular music show at the event with Bob Welch of the band Fleetwood Mac appearing as Bobwelch Magic.

He was also joined Second Life artists in performing at the party. The land is in the shape of a guitar body and will be used to host a series of concerts in the months to come.

There are also plenty of freebies dotted around the land which includes a diner and various dance areas.



For those who have never heard of Gibson, here's some wiki-knowledge.

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, of Nashville, Tennessee, USA, is a manufacturer of acoustic and electric guitars. The company's most popular guitar, the Les Paul Standard, is a solid-body electric guitar. Gibson also owns and makes guitars under such brands as Epiphone, Kramer, Valley Arts, Tobias, Steinberger, and Kalamazoo. In addition to guitars, the company makes pianos through its Baldwin unit, Slingerland drums, as well as many accessory items. Company namesake Orville Gibson made mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the late 1890s. Gibson used the same type of carved, arched tops in archtop acoustic guitars, and by the 1930s was also making flattop acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Charlie Christian, one of the first well-known electric guitarists, helped to popularize Gibson's electric guitars with his use of the ES-150 and ES-200. After being bought by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson's quality and fortunes took a steep decline; by 1985 it was within three weeks of going out of business before it was bought by its present owners. Gibson Guitar is a privately held corporation (company stock is not publicly traded on a stock exchange), owned by chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and president David H. (Dave) Berryman. [Wikipedia]

The funny thing is, I'd never registered this as a new build, which is mainly due to Aleister Kronos who blogged the Gibson presence in Second Life as early as February 2008. In early february the island was open to the public, but not finished at that time, which makes it vulnerable to criticism. This also shows in Al's blog:

"It is in part of the grid that has many new sims, and many more in the early stages of construction. This sim is no different. The main feature is a combination of terraforming and object creation that forms the shape of the Les Paul guitar body, complete with strings, controls and pickups. However, it looks like a first cut at the moment - a "build it and see what it looks like" experiment that may be developed into a more fully-fledged version in due course. One side of island has more practical public spaces - an acoustic stage, a diner/dance hall and an electric stage. However, it is immediately obvious when you arrive that the island is quite a way off being ready. There are various odd bits of things dotted about the sim, seemingly is varying stages of test.

As I've commented before, opening the doors too early is not necessarily a good idea, since you end up with non-reports like this one. I can't really make any fair comment on the sim because it is so incomplete - but that's because I am of a generous disposition. A meaner "me" might treat any open sim as public and hence fair game, and review it accordingly. It is better to get the sim to a state you are happy to consider complete before letting in the hordes."

Well, that was back in February, the island finally opened up in July. We're now a couple of months onward, so I'm a little late to check it out, but I'm curious to see what's out there now. The good this is that upon arrival there were actually quite a number of avatars flying about exploring the sim as well.


One side of the sim has a nice nostalgic American feel to it, it's major roads shaped like guitar necks lined with classic cars and typical American bars. Also Gibson Trolley will transport you if you so desire. Hether and thether you will see giant guitars standing out making it a bit of a jumble, but one the whole I like what I'm seeing.



The main venue is the Gibson store, and the great part about is, it offers you dozens and dozens of virtual Gibson guitars for free! This is merchandising. Lots of companies out there charge you a couple of Linden dollars for a lame t-shirt, this one gives away actually usefull stuff for free. They've understood that you won't make money selling small things, but have invested in building their brand and reputation. You also have the opportunity to win a Real Life Gibson.

"Over two-dozen “high prim” virtual Gibson models will be available throughout the Gibson Island only, allowing Second Life residents to own their dream guitar in this virtual world. The models will include Gibson’s Hound Dog Dobro, Hummingbird, SJ-200, Deluxe Songwriter, J-45, F5G mandolin, ES335 Heritage, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Explorer, Flying V, Les Paul Classic, Slash Inspired By Les Paul, John Lennon Signature Les Paul, Les Paul Robot, Les Paul Supreme, Double Cut Longhorn, SG Diablo, SG Angus Young Signature, SG Standard, and Les Paul Classic models." (Official Gibson website)

In the center of the island you'll find a clutter of things underneath another giant guitar neck with giant strings. One of these areas is the Gibson theatre in which you can view a number of presentation, among which a video about the production process of guitars.


There's a lot more to do and see, but as it is, this post is getting long enough. For a complete overview of stuff to do and see, visit the official Gibson Lifestyle page on Second Life here.

The island is surrounded by other islands, some in the early stages of development. I checked out one, a sim called Epiphony, which is also Gibson owned. I think this points out that Gibson's presence in Second Life has been a success sofar and they are expanding and investing in building a community.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Gibson%20Island/14/229/34

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Why Virtual Worlds don't work....yet (part 1)

Two years ago I jumped enthusiastically into the Metaverse, with Second Life booming and media were eager to cover every company entering this particular Virtual World. The past year we've discovered -too the disappointment of many - that we were living the Gartner Hypecycle curve. At the close of 2007 I've pondered what was going on and what the challenges for 2008 would be. Due to family circumstances I've stepped back from the Metaverse for almost 6 months now and found some time to reflect on the industry. The title of this blogpost has been in my head for months, but only recently I was triggered to actually start writing it.

Virtual World Innovation

The trigger was the announcement of the Virtual World Newsforum and VW Conference Organisation announcing the introduction of the Virtual World Innovation Award. Although my good friend Christian Renaud (CEO TechIntelGroup) is on the jury, I have to be sceptical if I look deep down into my heart.

The thing is... There hasn't been any real innovation in this business for years.

Innovation in my book is a big thing. New breakthrough technology, new insights, exciting new products. When I look at the Virtual World Industry I see a whole lot going on. I see hundreds of new startups over the past year but truth is, I don't see real innovation there, despite the billions of dollars invested into the industry. If I were to nominate candidates for the Virtual World Innovation Award, there would be only three true Metarati: Neil Stephenson, Tad Williams and Ron Britvich , the guy from WebWorlds.

Stephenson, Gibson & Williams

Neil Stephenson is an obvious candidate. In the early 90's he wrote the novel 'Snowcrash' in which he pretty much invented the metaverse. I doubt there is anyone questioning the nomination of Neil Stephenson. A second name, often mentioned in the same breath, is William Gibson, author of the cyberpunk classic 'Neuromancer'. 'Neuromancer' was innovation, it was the start of cyberpunk, but it doesn't deal with the Metaverse, so despite popular believe, I wouldn't count Gibson in with the Metarati but rather fill that spot with the nomination of Tad Williams, author of the 'Otherland' series.

Both the novel 'Snowcrash' and the 'Otherland' series have created the image of the Metaverse and still hold some very interesting ideas, key elements that in my opinion could well open up a new window on Virtual Worlds. From these works we can learn what might work and what won't. Although both are quite dystopian in their full setting (a thing that happens a lot with novels dealing in the future), they do hold a promise, and in their dystopic setting a warning at the same time.

Dawn of the Virtual Worlds

Aside from the ideas presented by Stephenson and Williams, the first breakthrough in the field was in 1994 when Ron Brevitch created WebWorlds, predecessor of Active Worlds.

In the summer 1994, Ron Britvich created WebWorld, the first 2.5D world where tens of thousands could chat, build and travel. WebWorld operated on the Peregrine Systems Inc. servers as an 'after hours' project until Britvich left the company to join Knowledge Adventure Worlds (KAW) in the fall of that year.

In February 1995, KAW spun off their 3D Web division to form the company Worlds Inc. Britvich was eventually joined by several other developers, and the renamed "AlphaWorld" continued to develop as a skunk works project at Worlds Inc, internally competing with a similar project known internally as Gamma and publicly as Worlds Chat. While AlphaWorld was developing a strong cult following due in large part to Britvich's open philosophy of favoring user-built content, Worlds, Inc. favored Gamma for the company produced contract projects for Disney and others.

On June 28, 1995, AlphaWorld was renamed Active Worlds (from Active Worlds Explorer) and officially launched as version 1.0. Around this time, Circle of Fire (CoF) was formed to create content for the Active Worlds universe. This company played a pivotal role in the future of the product. [Wikipedia]

The creation of WebWorlds was innovation. Everything we've seen between 1995 and 2008 is merely spin off.

In this series of articles I'll try to explain why I haven't seen any real innovation and why I call everything since WebWorlds a mere spin-off, What the challenges of NVE's will be for the (near) future and why Virtual Worlds don't work yet.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bantam Dell: a little lack of creativity

It's been a while since I look in the area surrounding the Electric Sheep Island, but early this morning I scrolled by and noticed the Bantam Dell island.

Probably depending on which writer to promote and which audience to target the mothercompany Random House uses one of their many subsidiary imprints as a stand alone publisher or a combination. This time it's the Bantam-Dell combination, which are both respected publishing houses.

Probably best known of all the Random House imprints is Bantam which has published major science finction writers such as Isaac Asimov, Jean Michel Auel and the early metarati such as William Gibson and Neil Stephenson.

Bantam has published the entire original run of the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of children's books, as well as the first original novels (aimed at adults) based upon the Star Trek franchise, publishing about a dozen such books
between 1970 and 1982 when the licence was taken over by Pocket Books. Bantam also published a dozen volumes of short story adaptations of scripts from Star Trek: The Original Series. Bantam is the American paperback publisher of The
Guinness Book of Records.
(wikipedia)

The other part of this imprint is Dell Publishing, most notable for publishing works by H.G. Wells and Alfred Hitchcock.

Dell Publishing was an American publisher of books, magazines, and comic books. It was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte Jr.. During the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, Dell was one of the largest publishers of magazines, including pulp
magazines. From 1929 to 1974, they published comics under the Dell Comics line, the bulk of which (1938-62) was done in partnership with Western Publishing. In 1943, Dell entered into paperback book publishing with "Dell Paperbacks". They also used the book imprint of "Dial Press", "Delacorte Books", "Yearling Books" and "Laurel Leaf Library".
(wikipedia)

The Bantam Dell island is an excellent build, as far as building goes. The island is set up for 6 builds, but only half of it is build: The Bantam Dell Bookshop & Cafe, the central plaza and the auditorium.

The main venue is the Bantam Dell Bookshop & Cafe which is an excellent build and breathes the atmosphere of a classic bookshop and lounge. The books on display aren't the ones I'd buy at Bantam though.



As for interactivity there isn't much beyond clicking the books and opening the corresponding webpage (old fashioned style with an external browser) and a HUD promoting the Bantam Dell podcasts.



There are event lawns which are currently empty and asking for ideas. This is pretty much a disappointment for me as the Bantam Dell combination has a wide range of authors that would fit in with this new media of virtual worlds. I'd suggest they combine elements and scenes from the aforementioned writers to create an immersive experience, a tour of the future rather than settle for an old fashioned bookshop.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Bantam%20Dell%20Island/133/124/25

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Autism in Second Life

Second Life can be a place to meet and greet, and because of the anonimity an NVE offers hope for many who have social disabilities. Here's a YouTube movie about Autism in Second Life:



Although I've been writing about Education in virtual worlds, I really wasn't looking for this one. I got pointed to this one while keeping up with my favorite authors. The one pointing out to this particular video was one of the metarati, William Gibson, who wrote:

THE COOLEST THING IN SECOND LIFE

Absolutely . [hat-tip to my wife]

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Gibson: Really bad hair and really cool shoes

I've blogged about William Gibson in Second Life before and the attempts to make a movie of hist bestselling cyberpunk cultnovel Neuromancer, but here's an interview with him commenting on Second Life



Produced by: Darren Alexander and Ian Daffern

"An interview with author William Gibson about his recent encounters with virtual worlds, following a publicity event in Second Life for his book Spook Country"


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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Neuromancer the Movie

Not so long ago I wrote a little something on Gibson's Neuromancer. Now I just discovered a nice little clip on YouTube:



Neuromancer... the movie. Would be cool to watch.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gibsons' Neuromancer





It's been a quiet week at the MindBlizzard blog. Partly because I've been really busy doing a very volatile project in Real Life, but also because I've spend some time rereading the excellent Neuromancer story by William Gibson.





Neuromancer is a must read, or as Daily Tech's Kristopher Kubicki said: "I should preface by saying anyone who hasn't read William Gibson's Neuromancer should run, not walk, to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy."




Gibson is often seen as the "godfather" of the cyberpunk genre as he started using terms like matrix and cyberspace in his first novel Neuromancer.







Neuromancer is about a hacker, or cyber cowboy named Henry Dorsett Case. Case screwed up a job and his employers got back at him, leaving him half dead and unable to gain access to the matrix again. After a life in the ghetto filled with all sorts of dealings and drugs he's recruited by enormously powerfull people to pull an almost impossible trick. The novel exlores Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Worlds, Genetic Engineering and the rise of the (Cyberpunk trademark) multinational mega corporatioins.

I just noticed an interesting article at Daily Tech, dating march 9 2007 on Sony's virtual platform Home and Neuromancer's 25th birthday. It's called PlayStation Home: William Gibson's Vision Realized written by the aforementioned Kristopher Kubicki. Here's a quote from the article:



"Nearly 25 years in the making, is Sony building the foundations for ubiquitous virtual reality?"



and



"It's not to say Sony overnight duplicated what Gibson has been writing about for 25 years. Even many of Gibson's ideas are not unique, just evolutionary advances on older ideas. What makes me excited about Sony's announcement is that PlayStation Home will be the first ubiquitous virtual reality, if Sony can pull it off.

Now, I should give Second Life some credit here as well. If anything, Second Life is actually closer to Gibson's descriptions of the matrix -- yep, Gibson called it the matrix 15 years before The Matrix and a decade before Ghost in the Shell. The difference between Second Life and Playstation Home is that Sony wants the interaction between virtual and reality to be transparent, especially with media and the internet. Gibson anticipated this dozens of times over the last 25 years in his novels.


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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pinguin Gibson Stephenson and Metarati

Somehow I've written and deleted the first line of this article about 10 times in the last hour.


What I had in mind was a short blog on William Gibson, acknowledged metarati and author of (a.o.) Neuromancer.


No Maps for these terrirory


Alas, sometimes even visionairs are ruled by their publishers, and so it seemed on this feat. A few weeks ago there was a screener of a documentary called No Maps for These Territori, which is a 90 minute film about Gibson, and is praised as the Documentary of the Year by the LA Times. This was a good and glitchless performance so a 'reading' wouldn't be too hard.

So August 2nd would have been the day to meet one of the cyberpunk and metaverse metarati on a heavily piblicized official Pinguin public reading, but I missed out due to the spectacular (official) opening of the Greenies.

However, through several friends I heard I hadn't missed out on much, as the event was far from smooth. Metaverse Territories reports (and also kindly provides the image above on the No Map Screener):

"...but marketing ploys like Penguin’s organized, very publicized reading by William Gibson is another case altogether. Events like this must go smoothly in order for the world to become a credible place for business AND art, fun AND work. First of all, for SL users who came, it is as much an investment of their time and energy, which for me, was a wasted one (started late, the feed didn’t work until 10 minutes into his reading, didn’t know where to go, never actually saw the avatar etc. etc…). "

According to Gibson's blog he himself was left with a peculiar feeling as well. This should be amended!

Pinguin Presence

Being present in the metaverse these days requires a presence with a mission, or a message. It is going from pages to places in a quest for immersive and shared experience. Pinguin's line of thought isn't a bad one, when it comes to public readings. It just needs work and a fullscale programme (and maybe a few other things).

However, their speck of virtual land doesn't hold much that will draw crowds:

Second Life is an excellent platform to experiment. Even for publishers. A few months ago I wrote some thoughts on that in a post on the Amsterdam Public Library;

"In this new metaversality it would be a challenge for libraries (and publishers for that matter) to explore new formats that would draw back readers to good books.

Neil Stephenson, one of the metarati, is most famous for his novel "Snowcrash" in which the concept of the Metaverse is explored, but another excellent work is called "The Diamond Age" in which the future of reading and publishing is explored."

Here's another thought. Perhaps it would work for Pinguin to setup a giant ancient bookprinting press, have their books (f)lying about like old press letters and create an experience about books.

... just a thought, not a guaranteed success.

The Cyberpunk Metarati

Earlier this week I blogged on the Infocalypse project, a decorum for cyberpunk stories, of which Nexus Prime is one. I didn't check my numbers and linked it to the sim Nexus. Wrong! It should have been Gibson of course. Reading the firts part of the blog entry, it sounds pretty obvious why a cyberpunk-sim is named Gibson. When I first got there (sometime 2006) there ironically was placed a Neil Stephensons' Snowcrash promotion by Pinguin books. Now it's gone though, and replaced with a neat Gibson Spook City promo.

However, since the reading left Gibson with a peculiar feeling, there should be another change for the metarati to explore and experience the metaverse in all its richness and creativeness. I'm not sure who will take up the glove, but here's a proposal.

Geek Meet Challenge

What I'd like to see is Gibson and Stephenson to get a guided tour of the Cyberpunk cities, thrown in with some new Kowloon and steampunk Caledon to see the world they've envisaged and then settle down for a good panel discussion on the metaverse at the weekly Metaversed (and Dr. Dobbs and Information week) Geek Meets.

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