Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop 2007

On June 14, I was at the University of Twente in Enschede to attend the Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop. It was organized by the new inter-facultary Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), part of the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology.

The workshop was very well-attended and lively. The speakers gave a good overview of the main promises and problems surrounding Second Life. The workshop was preceded by an inspiring keynote address by Peter Ludlow, well-known as editor of High Noon on the Electronic Frontier and founder of the Second Life Herald newspaper.

The titles of the presentations give some idea of the kind of issues addressed:

  • Peter Ludlow (Uni Michigan): Emergent Gameplay, Deviant Ageplay, and the Elusive Payday of Business in Second Life
  • Dan Seamans (Open Uni, UK): The Vital SPark: Managing a Dynamic Learning Space in Teen Second Life
  • Patrick Ozer and Albert van Breemen (Philips Research, the Netherlands): Interreality Communication: iCat Meets Second Life
  • Robert Slagter and Wil Jansen (Telematica Instituut, the Netherlands): Real Business in Virtual Worlds
  • David Nieborg (Uni Amsterdam): ‘Don’t Sponsor a Game that is a Playground for Criminals!’ – The Many Media Frames of Second Life

From a research point of view, everything still is wide-open. Tools, but especially governance, workflows, and business processes still are only in their infancy. However, the general consensus seemed to be that Second Life, at least as a stepping stone on the way to a whole class of virtual worlds, holds great potential, waiting to be mined.

Efficient Task Management

Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.

Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.

As to the tools that best support this methodology, I have settled down on the following two, MonkeyGTD and Remember The Milk.

MonkeyGTD

MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.

Continue reading “Efficient Task Management”

Schomer Simpson’s Talk at the 1st Second Life (Inworld) Conference

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Below the gallery that contains the pictures taken by Al Mohr (Second Life) / Aldo de Moor (Real Life) of Schomer Simpson ‘s (Second Life) / Peter Twining’s (Real Life) presentation at the Second Life Best Practices in Education International Conference 2007. The topic was “Using Teen Second Life to Explore Visions of Schome (Not School-Not Home-Schome, the Education System for the Information Age)”. As you can see from the pictures, Schomer/Peter’s talk was very well attended. The issues raised were most interesting and he got lots of questions. The Era of Immersive Online Conferences has begun…

Picture gallery

Continue reading “Schomer Simpson’s Talk at the 1st Second Life (Inworld) Conference”

Community Lending

An interesting development where web technologies meet real societal needs is the rapidly growing phenomenon ofcommunity lendingMicrocredit has been around for longer as a concept to empower poor people and communities by letting them help themselves by creating social systems to provide small loans. These systems help create the trust, do the administration, etc. With the web, however, new socio-technical dimensions are added to the idea. For example, small loans can become global instead of just local in scope, much more background information on debtors can be provided, risks can be reduced by automatically distributing a loan over many lenders and so on.

Some links:

1st Second Life International Conference 2007

Everybody interested in Second Life should attend the 1st Second Life International Conference 2007: Best Practices in Teaching, Learning, and Research. Lack of money or travel time are no excuse, since the event will, of course, be held completely in-world. There will be all day events, keynote speakers, and even free bags of goodies from the best SL content creators. So, sign up, and see you on Friday!

Second Talk: Skype in Second Life

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Second Life is all about being immersed and feeling that you are inside that virtual world instead ofobserving it from the outside. One major drawback so far was that the only way of communication was to chat. Wouldn’t it be nice to combine Skype’s power of natural talking with Second Life’s strength of visualization? Well, that day seems to have come: Second Talk offers free virtual headsets that Second Lifers can pick up from various locations. Since yesterday, I am the proud owner of such a futuristic device. Now I need to wait for some friends to hook up in order to try it out. I am very curious…

Interestingly, Second Talk’s invention seems to directly challenge Linden Lab’s business model, as the latter version comes with many more constraints. From the Second Talk website:

1. Linden Labs’ integrated voice won’t work everywhere. Second Life landowners determine whether or not voice is enabled on their property, so it’ll be entirely possible to cross from one region where voice works to another where it does not.
2. Linden Labs’ system isn’t free. Second Life landowners must upgrade to the current $295/month land tier in order to use Linden Labs’ system on their regions. Although this is a small investment, we understand that a lot of landowners won’t want to make it.
3. We’ve been asked to continue support. Even in light of Linden Labs’ announcement, many Second Talk users have asked us to continue support for Second Talk. Many people want a system that simply facilitates connection to an impartial third-party voice system, rather than routing through a captive system.

Let’s see how this dynamic will play out!

My first visit to SchomeBase

070515_schomebase1_004I am currently visiting my colleague and good friend Mark Gaved, who works at the Knowledge Media Institute in Milton Keynes. He is involved in an absolutely fascinating Second Life project, Schome. Basically, it’s an exploration of new learning systems for the 21st century. SchomeBase is a pilot of trying out some of the Schome ideas in Second Life. There is also a closed teenage space called SchomePark. It’s been operating with 150 students for three months and is extremely active. It’s amazing what these kids have been able to build, script and how they are developing very complex social norms and practices to govern themselves. One of the best examples of a thriving virtual world I have come across so far! To get a feel, have a look at the beautiful Japanese garden, where the students studied philosophy guided by “Socratic Shepherd”, a researcher from the University of Warwick up to a few weeks ago.