Saturday, January 19, 2008

A basic introduction to Clever Zebra

Hello! Veejay has been gracious enough to let me come on here and contribute (sparingly, due to my absent-mindedness) to Mindblizzard the last year or so. Today I'd like to give folks a bit of an introduction to Clever Zebra, the latest project I'm working on. Fair warning: I'm a creative guy, not a business guy, so my wording is most likely quite imprecise. I don't speak business very well. I'll answer any questions the best I can, but for more serious business inquiries you might want to hit up Nick or Caleb. :)

Clever Zebra is a virtual worlds company that's doing things a bit differently. Headed up by Nick Wilson (aka 57 Miles in SL), myself (Josh Eikenberry, Lordfly Digeridoo in SL) and Caleb Booker (Onder Skall in SL), we want to bring open source to an enterprise level in virtual worlds.

The basic idea goes like this: We provide a suite of an entire corporate sim to the community, free of charge and under the GPLv3. We allow the community to tinker, improve, modify, and even sell their works.

As people work with the content we've given out, eventually they might want to develop different set pieces, or different "themes", as we're calling it. Think of Wordpress themes as an example. Each Wordpress theme does the exact same thing, but presents the data in different ways. That's what we're aiming for.

With these Zebra Themes, freelancers and designers can then upload their assets (textures, scripts, geometry) into what we're calling the Zebra Index, which will be a website that lets people browse the different Zebra themes for each project.

From there, Clever Zebra will offer virtual worlds consulting; event management, customization, island support. Run of the mill stuff, right? The kicker is that we'll already have a "ready to go" island solution ready for clients with the Zebra Index; clients can look through the themes freelancers have developed and pick the visual representation that they believe best suits them. As we set up their island, freelancers would get a generous commission from the proceeds coming from our clients.

This is a win-win situation all around. Clever Zebra lowers the barriers of entry to corporations and organizations looking to get into virtual worlds quickly and easily. The increased flow of businesses coming into Second Life makes the prospect of working in virtual worlds seem more advantageous every day. Freelancers get a commission from every client that uses their stuff. Freelancers also get increased visibility by having their themes out and about on the grid and on the website.

Some people are concerned that we're just following the same model that the "big names" of metaverse development tried a few years ago: mainly, the idea that you can just drop in a few buildings, make them pretty, issue a press release, and open it to the public. The thing is, we're not really aiming for big brands wanting to make a splash into SL. Rather, we're aiming for companies and organizations that actually WORK in Second Life; educators, non-profits, telecommuters, and so on. For many of those organizations, they simply don't have a public sim, but still want something presentable to visitors and guests. They also want easy to use productivity tools (which we're working on) to show Powerpoint, give presentations, lectures, and so on. The future of business in SL isn't the flashy logo of an international brand on a pedestal. Instead, it rests in the companies, non-profits, and educators who benefit from distance collaboration, rapid prototyping, and telecommuted lectures that SL does so well.

We recently released version 0.1 of the Zebra Corporate theme. It's simply a fully-functioning, well-designed 60-seat amphitheater. We'll be releasing the 120-seat and 240-seat (multiple sim versions) over the next week, and we'd really love everyone's input. The easiest way to do that would be to join the conversations in our forums at . That keeps all communication honest and in the open.

Hopefully this post sheds some light on where we're coming from. I don't explain things well, but I get a bit frustrated when folks misunderstand what we're actually doing.

Comments welcome. Post on the forum or shoot me an email at :)

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The SLord moves in mysterious ways

2008 holds a promise...

That was about the last line of my previous blogpost. And it does. One of the most promising new startups is Clever Zebra, an initiative by master builder Lordfly Digeridoo and the guys from Metaversed and others (among which a bit of Sogeti).

But aside from this promise, there is something funny going on which makes me think the SLord moves in mysterious ways:

Clever Zebra, Stupid Metaversed?

Although the Clever Zebra project has my sincere sympathy, there's a thing nagging me, and that's Metaversed. Early 2007 57 Miles was blogging like crazy on the Metaverse, doing great stuff and turned it into a business. A sponsored blog with sponsored events. That's when trouble came to town. First there was a break-up with Prokofy Neva on the Second Rant, and now Metaversed is going down to provide space for Clever Zebra. I wonder how the Metaversed Sponsors will feel about this. What will happen to the MMI, the Metanomics and the Virtual Business Innovators. Projects like the Grid Safari and the Geek Meets weren't long lived either.

Onders Skall writes:

How can you close Metaversed?
We covered business in virtual worlds like nobody else. There wasn't a better place to go for coverage of this stuff. We just loved it.

Along the way Nick and I compiled a huge amount of information about business in virtual worlds. We studied the phenomenon like few have ever had the opportunity to, and our imaginations were constantly ignited. More and
more of our days were spent discussing what could and should be done in virtual worlds to help business. We began designing plans to change things and make them better.

We soon realized that we'd rather create products people want to talk about instead of talking about products others were creating. The thing is, you can't often make things happen by telling stories. You make things happen by...
well... going out and making them happen. So while we came across as much news and met as many incredible people as we had before, news reportage became an afterthought. We were chasing a dream: bringing change to the virtual world.

I can agree on this, but why tear down Metaversed? It isn't too smart to burn all your bridges before you've crossed to the other side. A whole lot of tantrum is created now about the Clever Zebra start up and the Metaversed blog has died a slow death over the past months. Fortunately, the guys over at Metaversed also see this:

Why part with a popular brand?
Yes, Metaversed became a beloved brand. That's why we had to close it. Without publishing regular news, it was becoming a shadow of its former self. There's nothing worse than a brand that was once great and has lost its shine. If it's a name to be remembered, it should be remembered as something great.

Some feel we could have kept the name and switched the business model. The problem with doing something like that, though, is that it's a bit disrespectful of the readers. Metaversed is a blog about business in virtual worlds. If it suddenly becomes an open-source virtual world company, well, it's no longer the same company. We'd by lying if we said it was, and we respect our readers far too much to do something like that.

Wello 3PointD Horld

Much of the same is going on at 3PointD, a former leader in virtual world news, where Mark Wallace is letting the blog beed to death posting Glitchy Links for months now without blogging anything usefull and working on a gigantic new start up, Wello Horld with metaverse guru Jerry Paffendorff. His sponsor, Electric Sheep Company probably can't be bothered at this time though as they seem to be focussing on a whole new industry according to the word on the street.

The naked sheep

The word on the street is that the Sheep are (co-) developing a new platform which will be a true adult world (i.e. Porn, XXX). I wonder what CBS and the producers of CSI:NY will think of this. Would they be willing to be associated with a company that's in the porn industry?

Now what is it with these companies in changing their objectives? Is it short term profits, or are they just Metaversal Cowboys that jump on every opportunity?

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

7-7-7 Birthdays

Today 7-7-7 a number of Second Life residents are celebrating their birthdays. Here's a few I know, Akela Talamasca (reporter for the Second Life Insider), Jeff Barr (Amazon Webservice Guru) and Lordfly Digerido (Freelance masterbuilder)

From this spot a very happy B-day to you all.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Master Lordfly advances

I just heard that master builder Lordfly Digeridoo has advanced to round 2 of the Meltemi contest I've blogged on early april. I've been hanging around to see the build advance and now I finally get the chance to post some pics.
First series is some rapid prototyping

Though I really liked this side of hovering platforms, it didn't survive the next stage of the build.

The Final version:

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sim in a Box

Building a proper sim takes time, a whole lot of time, unless you are a master builder like Lordlfy. But if you're just that average kind of bloke who barely scraped together the money to buy a complete sim and you want to make money from renting out property, you'll want it up and running smooth and (especially) fast.

So your sim is in and you want to rent out as soon as possible, since you don't have Anshe's wallet to be able to leave it unused for a year or so. Monthly tiers can be a killer to many starters. For those the Sim in a Box might be a very good solution that can jumpstart your sim.
The Things to Do group got a demo today of how to build a sim in 5 minutes. Well, it works.
Though I'm not really charmed. I like mine with a little more labour-of-love touch than what this instant-sim HUD does.
However, from a technical point of view, I think this is a big step forward. Predefine content and make it rapidly deployable, auto rezzing your inventory might be huge timesavers.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

3pointD hooks up

Normally I'm not very much into Second Life social events and weddings, but tonight's an exception as Mr 3pointD, Mark Wallace (who's nominated as a potential metarati) and the lovely bride going by the nick of "Destroy Television"

Special guest were Lordfly Digeridoo as best man and Mr. Jerry Pfaffendorf, Electric Sheep CEO as father of the bride. The vows came down to "do you, Destroy Television, take to Walker Spaight to be your virtual husband? In sickness, in health, through lags, crashes, ghosting, mis-bakes and missing textures?"

The event took place in one of the many Celedon sims, hotspots to the streampunk community

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Microsoft defies challenges

Thursday May 10 (yes, that is tomorrow) Microsoft will officially open shop in Second Life. The sim's build has been completed about 5 months ago, but had restricted access up till now. We went in for a little preview. With many companies staging their opening this month it is a challenge to be on the good half of the charts, but Microsoft is up to the challenge. I'm a notorius *NIX fan, but have to admit the

On the sign you'll see about what Microsoft Island has to offer. Aside from their kick-off event and the sim experience there is also a supportive website here. What it basically comes down to is that Microsoft uses Second Life as one of their staging areas for a Visual Studio campaign themed "Defy all Challenges"

A nice feature is the Auditorium, placed inside a big ball that's hanging from solid beams and some craftly sculpted prims. There's no question on who's responsible for the build, since it is practically leaning against the MoU island, but upon entering the auditorium I immediately recognised the hand of this site's co0blogger Lordfly Digeridoo.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lordfly ignites Intel and Orange County Choppers

"Wow do I feel obsolete" Well, Lordfly, let me reassure you, you're not.

I just visited the sim called "Intel Ignites OCC", build by our own Didge. The build is excellent and recognisable. In the Netherlands I occasionally watch the OCC programme on Discovery channel and some things look very familiar. The sim itself is a promotion for an OCC bike driven by Intel tech.
Everything in this sim is very detailed, the workbenches, the wheels and the engines at the assembly table.

As for fun and games, there's a racetrack on the sim, an assebly area and some promotion areas with streaming media.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Real Life Cities 1: Amsterdam

When in Holland and you want to start a conversation on Second Life, or any other immersive world for that matter, the discussion is bound to touch virtual Amsterdam very soon. Amsterdam is probably the best known sim in Holland, mentioned in almost every SL story.

It usually is referred to as one of the largest sims (forgetting that all sims are created equal), or largest builds. The sim itself encompasses Amsterdam Central Station, the Damrak and the Dam itself with the monument, the New Church and the Royal Palace. Then there are some canals lined with shops. It's hardly a surprise to see half the shops are sex related. When making that conclusion, it's no surprise to see Amsterdam always is one of the favorite places in the Metaverse.

Since I don't dig virtual sex, I judged slamsterdam by it's architectural values. It's true that it is heavily built, and there's an enormous amount of textures used, making the sim very slow to render, which for me is a show-stopper.

The sim was originally built by Strokerz Toy, but was recently purchased by Nedstede, an Amsterdam based real estate firm. The sim was actioned at E-bay and the deal closed at 50,000 euro. I'm not sure the clientele is what they would like to see in Real Life.


If Nedstede is willing to spend that amount of money, they should call Lordlfy who did an extremely good impression of Amsterdam for SL's 2nd Relay for Live event in 2006. Though the sim is no longer live, its contents can be found somewhere in the deeps of Lordfly's inventory. Here are some impressions:

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rapid Architectural Prototyping in Second Life

was the title of an article on the 3PointD blog. The contents of the article were no news to me, but since they say nice things about our Guestwriter Lordfly, here's the full score:

"Second Life architect Lordfly Digeridoo has posted a great video of the process of designing a site plan in Second Life for a real-world site in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Because of “massive procrastination,” LF says, he had only a week to do it. His video compresses that week into less than 10 minutes of high-speed SL work, and it’s pretty compelling to watch. There’s even a great sense of suspense in wondering what the finished product will be like. An excellent look at the methods of a master builder."

Read the article and view the video at:

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Toyota does Motown

Toyota was an early arrival in Second Life. In 2006 they launched the Scion City sim to promote their Scion model. As was the case with the old internet, the automotive industrie is among the early adapters in SL as well. Visitors can customize their Scion and make a testdrive in a blockbusting urban sim. The skilled hand of Lordfly Digeridoo is easily recognised when one looks at the detail and style of the big innercity brick buildings which would fit any Motown company, but look a bit odd for the Asian carmanufacturer.

Perhaps Lordfly could elaborate on the idea behind this sim.


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A warm welcome to two friends of mine, Aleister Kronos, a notorious bloggernaut from the UK. Aleister spends his inworld time as a traveller and is usually one of the first people to spot new company sims. To avoid copy pasting from his blog in this dog-eat-dog world of exposure, it is nice to have him on board to share his views with us.

And secondly a warm welcome Lordfly Digeridoo, a long time resident of Second Life.

Aside from being a student (Majoring in Sim City and Minoring in Google Earth) he is a very prolific contractor for Millions of Us, having done over 70 large projects such as Nova Albion, Toyota Scion City and many many more. Because of his widespread presence in SL it's best to have him on board as well and receive first hand insights on some builds.

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