Sansar Upcoming Events Page

Linden Lab has just launched a new Upcoming Events page, in an effort to highlight the many regular and one-time events that are happening in the virtual world.

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Torley, who has been named Sansar’s Event Manager at Linden Lab, says:

If you have an event you’d like listed in the Atlas “Upcoming events” for the interest of other Sansarians, please email “events@sansar.com” with the following essential info in this format:

  • TITLE
  • URL of experience
  • TIME(s) in Pacific Time
  • DESCRIPTION

See http://atlas.sansar.com/ and scroll down for how current ones look. This is your friendly event manager speaking and lemme know if you have questions and stuff.

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What Friendster (Yes, Friendster) Teaches Us About Social VR and Virtual Worlds

God, there are days when I miss Friendster. Anybody remember Friendster?

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Friendster was founded by Canadian computer programmer Jonathan Abrams in 2002, before the wider adoption of MySpace (2003), Facebook (2004) and other social networking sites. It was my first introduction to social media. Hell, it was most people’s introduction to social media. This was a brand new world! The hype about social networks then was similar to the hype over virtual reality now.

FriendsterJonathan Abrams originally meant for Friendster to be a dating site, but the people using it had other ideas. People began to game the system by connecting to each other to form ever-larger social networks. Friendster would give you statistics on the number of your connections, out to three degrees of separation (that is, friends of friends of friends). And people began to compete with each other to see who could amass the largest social network. We called ourselves “Friendster whores”.

Actually, danah boyd, then of the School of Information Management & Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, was (as far as I am aware) the first person to define the term “Friendster whore”. She was, at the time, researching Friendster and other online social networks, trying to understand how people present their digital identity, negotiate social contexts and articulate their relationships. (I actually did submit some stats of my huge, eventually-3-million-plus Friendster network to her.) Her definition, which I adopted, was taken from her blog Connected Selves, September 1, 2003: “Friendster whores — people who simply collect as many people as possible”

On top of that, people begin creating fake Friendster accounts called Fakesters (“Hi, I’m Jupiter, a huge swirling ball of gas!”). The Fakesters became a way for Friendster pranksters to connect with each other, and expand their merry mayhem even further.

Of course, the people running Friendster were not too terribly keen on people creating fake accounts, and they would delete them as fast as they could. (These agents were termed the “Friendstapo”.) That only made some people redouble their efforts to create fake accounts, and some of them were truly hilarious and inspired.

My favourite Fakester was someone who channeled the late-night-infomercial fake-Jamaican tarot-card-reading shaman Miss Cleo, who declared a run for President…

Dat’s right babies! Da will a’da spirits be dat
I should lead dis wonderful nation trew da comin
times! Due ta m’overwhelmin popularity and trust
wit’in da Friendster community, Miss Cleo be
runnin fer president! So call me now ta cast yer
vote!

Friendster turned into a very different beast from what Jonathan Abrams had intended. Now, who would have predicted that?

My main point is this: the people who create the software platforms think they have control, but it’s really the end users who shape the service and build the community that they want to see. Past a certain point, it’s completely out of the founders’ hands. Linden Lab understands this and, for the most part, they get out of the way of the insanely creative people who have built Second Life into what it is today. Nobody could have predicted all the fantastic directions that SL went into. And I can see the same thing happening already in Sansar, High Fidelity, and other virtual worlds.

Surprisingly, it’s the often-anarchic world of VRChat which is currently following the rigidly-controlled Friendster corporate playbook that’s doomed to failure. For example, from their Community Guidelines page, there’s this gem:

Petitions & Protests

All questions and concerns should be emailed to moderation@vrchat.com. Any effort to organize a petition or protest on official VRChat channels is forbidden. These include but are not limited to VRChat, the VRChat subreddit, and the VRChat Community Discord.

Hmmm…let’s see how long this little edict lasts, shall we?

I do remember reading somewhere that Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden Lab and the creator of Second Life, was truly surprised when people took his platform and basically recreated the real world (big mansions, fancy cars, etc.), as opposed to creating things that were impossible to have in real space and time. Of course, that came about too, over time. But it turned out many people simply wanted to live out their fantasies of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. I just came across this ad from the March 2018 issue of the SL magazine, Attention:

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Which goes to prove my point. You can’t predict what’s going to happen. People may take social VR spaces and virtual worlds into as-yet-undreamed-of and unanticipated areas. Nobody can predict what the metaverse is going to look like.

Except for Miss Cleo 😉

Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education Conference March 15-17

This year’s theme of the annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference is VRevolutions. The VWBPE conference is free to attend and all events are held in Second Life.

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Now in its 11th year, the conference brings together participants from a variety of social VR spaces and virtual worlds to discuss educational applications of the technology. The keynote speakers this year are the Technology-Enhanced Learning designer for U.K.’s Open University, Dr. Mark Childs, and education futurist Bryan Alexander.

Of note in the conference calendar is a conversation with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, to be held March 15th at 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time/SL Time.

Adam Frisby: Why Blockchain Isn’t Ready for Primetime

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Picture by Tumisu on Pixabay

Adam Frisby, the CEO and lead developer of Sinespace, just wrote an article on VentureBeat as to why he believes that blockchain technology isn’t quite ready for consumer applications yet:

While much of the tech industry has grown bearish on the volatility of cryptocurrencies, enthusiasm for its underlying technology remains at an all-time high. Nowadays we see “blockchain” cropping up with impressive frequency in even the most unlikely startup pitches. And while blockchain technology does have genuinely interesting and potentially powerful use cases, it has enormous drawbacks for consumer applications that get little mention in media coverage.

My background is developing virtual worlds similar to Second Life — MMOs where users create, build, and usually sell their virtual wares to other users. In principle, blockchain should be my holy grail, enabling user-to-user micropayments without a middleman. But it’s not that now, and it probably won’t be for a long time.

Well, I would certainly agree with Adam about the hype surrounding the blockchain!

Adam says current blockchain technology has three drawbacks:

  1. Blockchain cannot be everything it aspires to be at the same time, being caught between three competing objectives: fast, low-cost, and decentralized.
  2. Blockchain can become a customer support nightmare: no recovery mechanism if you lose your wallet, handling refunds, etc.
  3. Blockchain adds friction to an already seamless process: a need for (re)training consumers, the speed of transactions and transaction fees, etc.

Adam sums up:

As I said at the start, none of this is meant to suggest blockchain isn’t a worthwhile technology. And there are some early attempts underway to address the problems I’ve raised. But to become truly viable, blockchain tech is going to need fundamental improvements that require thousands of minor changes — or, perhaps, a radical rethink of the key ideas.

It’s a good read, so I encourage you to go over to the full article on VentureBeat and read it in full.