Between dealing with the backlash I got from reporting on the Sansar layoffs, preparing and delivering my presentation for the Educators in VR conference, and that pesky coronavirus, I have not been writing as many sponsored blogposts about Sinespace as I wanted to this month. Please accept my apologies! I promise that I will be back at work on it in March!
This is my final weekend off before I head back to my paying job, so I decided to spend some quality time in Sinespace.
To find out what is going on in Sinespace, just open up your client software, click on the Community button in the blue row of buttons along the bottom, then click on the Events tab in the window that pops up:
Please note that all events are automatically listed in your local time, so there’s no need to convert between time zones!
Saturday February 29, 2020 21:00 UTC (3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. CST) Join DJ Rosa in Guitarahalla live for Latin and classic rock. Have fun dancing and maybe win some gold! To visit this event click on “Explore” and search for Catacombs.
2. Music at 381 Club
Saturday February 29, 2020 23:00 UTC (5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. CST) Join DJ Yer Playing awesome 80’s, 90’s and the best of the rest. Silver giveaways every 30 minutes during the event! To visit this event click on “Explore” and search for 381 Club.
3. Jay and (Nearly) Silent Les DJ Show
Sunday March 01, 2020 01:00 UTC (7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. CST) Jay & (Nearly Silent) Les Show at Ziggies’ Nightclub. Dance to a variety of music, from 60’s retro to modern vibes. To visit this event click on “Explore” and search for Ziggies.
So, if you’re looking for a little virtual company, perhaps you want to check out Sinespace for yourself, why not come join us? If you need a little help getting started, here are some step-by-step instructions.
This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my new role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).
True confession time: I no longer watch any broadcast television newscasts because every time I see Donald Trump on my TV screen, my blood pressure goes up and I have to physically restrain myself from throwing a slipper (or something heavier) at my TV set.
In my opinion, he is most definitely not the kind of President that Americans need in a time of crisis. All of his tactics for dealing with bad news/”fake news” definitely won’t help him in a potential SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Today, the Washington Post newspaper (original version, archived copy) published an interview with John M. Barry, author of The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, which is a history of the 1918/1919 Spanish flu pandemic I have read and can recommend highly:
Now, as fears about the coronavirus spread, at least one historian is worried the Trump administration is failing to heed the lesson of one of the world’s worst pandemics: Don’t hide the truth.
“They [the Trump administration] are clearly trying to put the best possible gloss on things, and are trying to control information,” said John M. Barry, author of “The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History,” in a phone interview with The Washington Post.
When the second wave of Spanish flu hit globally, “there was outright censorship” in Europe, Barry said. “In the United States, they didn’t quite do that, but there was intense pressure not to say anything negative.”
For the most part, the media followed the government’s lead and self-censored dire news. That made everything worse, Barry said.For example, in Philadelphia, local officials were planning the largest parade in the city’s history. Just before the scheduled event, about 300 returning soldiers started spreading the virus in the city.
“And basically every doctor, they were telling reporters the parade shouldn’t happen. The reporters were writing the stories; editors were killing them,” he said. “The Philadelphia papers wouldn’t print anything about it.
”The parade was held and, 48 hours later, Spanish flu slammed the city. Even once schools were closed and public gatherings were banned, city officials claimed it wasn’t a public health measure and there was no cause for alarm, Barry said.
Philadelphia became one of the hardest hit areas of the country. The dead lay in their beds and on the streets for days; eventually, they were buried in mass graves. More than 12,500 residents died, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Right now, people around the globe are relying on their governments and their news media to inform and guide them during a potential pandemic. It’s essential to be clear, honest, and up-front about risk communication to the general public. If governments are less than honest with the truth, history shows us that it will likely backfire, and lead to less prepared citizens, who may make ultimately fatal decisions for themselves and their families.
A virus doesn’t pay attention to a President’s tweets and speeches.
Good Sources of Information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
Here is my newly-updated list of good, credible, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (formerly called 2019-nCoV and now officially called SARS-CoV-2; the disease the virus causes is now called COVID-19):
Having completed my five stages of grief about High Fidelity’s change of direction, I’m now able to view last year’s events through an analytical eye, drawing my conclusions on what can be improved in getting a virtual world to thrive.
Using Mark Zuckerberg’s breakdown of virtual reality (hardware and systems; apps and experiences; and platform services), she lays out several well-reasoned criticisms of HiFi:
In the part most important to Mark Zuckerberg – apps and experiences – High Fidelity both excelled and fell short: While all of the experiences produced by the company…were stellar, apps that facilitate social communication or media consumption – like e.g. text chat or synced video – showed great need of improvement and were often only made possible by efforts of the open source community.
However, she gives high marks to High Fidelity’s platform services:
What always had been High Fidelity’s main enterprise is the second most important area on Mark Zuckerberg’s list: platform services. While quite some users had their doubts about Philip Rosedale’s approach of favoring bleeding edge technology when it came to new implementations, to me personally there couldn’t be any better social VR package than the one High Fidelity was offering:
The open source code enabled community members to implement desired features themselves and is now – that the company has gone offline – keeping its promise of an eternally functioning virtual world.
The peer-to-peer architecture enabled content creators to be the masters of their own domains – without having to follow any TOS, everybody was responsible for their own content – free to install whatever they imagined, ranging from super safe G-rated worlds to X-rated dungeons.
By splitting up the server load into different assignment clients, High Fidelity also managed to gather 500+ avatars in one non-instanced space. Whoever has gone through the hassle of trying to join their friends in an instanced experience or game just has to love this option. And who – like me – also loves the stirring feeling of being part of a large crowd will find nothing comparable in today’s VR environment.
the importance of social VR companies in defining, knowing and catering to their target audience (using ENGAGE as an example);
HiFi needed to focus on creating a satisfying, bug-free user experience (“Instead of investing into flashy one-time events it might have been advantageous to focus on creating a permanent and entertaining starter experience with a bullet proof tutorial and enticing things to do in order to motivate visitors to come back.”);
HiFi didn’t pay attention to competitors and was overly confident that it could replicate the success of Second Life in a different era from 2003 (as I have also written about);
High Fidelity’s long history of communication problems with its userbase, which led to a sense of alienation;
HiFi’s lack of a clear code of conduct, which left many users feeling insecure: “High Fidelity never stated what kind of offenses would be met with which kind of punishment… nobody could ever be sure how bad behavior would be met.”
But Xaos saved her strongest critiques to one area where she feels High Fidelity made some grievous tactical errors: the company’s impatience to grow. She writes:
Unfortunately High Fidelity applied its mantra “Build it and they will to come,” not only to content creation in VR but also to its real life assets. When there were still no more than 30 concurrent users around in 2018, High Fidelity went on a hiring spree, quadrupling its original headcount to a workforce of 80 while tripling its original office space to two subsidiaries in San Francisco and one in Seattle. I never managed to calculate the exact burn rate, but I believed Philip Rosedale when he argued last April’s pivoting with US$10,000 monthly expenses per user.
To this day this unrealistic growing attempt is inexplicable to me. If I had been an investor I surely would have put a full stop to this amount of spending too, but as one of its highly engaged high-cost users I just wish High Fidelity would have balanced its expenses in line with its slow but steady population growth.
The snowball effect of visitors becoming content creators and enticing new users themselves could have led to an avalanche of attractions for even more new users, if High Fidelity wouldn’t have been impatient.
Instead of giving its community members time to grow into their roles as content creators or event organizers, High Fidelity turned to setting up unsurpassable events by itself, and even paid users for attendance by handing out prizes or Amazon gift cards. This irritated the natural growing process, as these well-meant contests kept the content creators busy, while also being a big competition to individually organized community events.
And when High Fidelity then pulled the plug on all its company operated domains in April 2019, there weren’t enough skilled and motivated community event organizers around to attract new users, and without events there was no more appeal for new users to pay a visit.
As I see it, a more natural growing attempt, incentivizing community members to attract new visitors, could have been beneficial to the overall user numbers.