UPDATED WITH AUDIO LINKS! Philip Rosedale: Second Life Stories, and Designing the Metaverse—Some Notes from a Wide-Ranging Conversation Multicast on Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, Callin and Second Life

Today at 11:00 a.m. CST, Philip Rosedale (the founder and former CEO of Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, and the current CEO of High Fidelity) hosted a discussion titled Second Life Stories, and Designing the Metaverse, where people had an opportunity to ask him questions. Dr. Fran Babcock and Dr. Hayman Buwaneswaran Buwan from the MetaWhat? The Metaverse Show were key organizers. Philip is always an engaged, articulate, and informed speaker, and if you missed this event, I will update this blogpost with links to an archived version which you can listen to via Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, and Callin. UPDATE 7:14 p.m.: Links are at the end of this blogpost.

Philip was on Twitter Spaces, with well over 100 listeners in the room, but the conversation was also extended to the social audio apps Clubhouse and Callin, plus there was a virtual auditorium set up in Second Life, with almost 50 avatars present! Participants in all four spaces could both hear and ask questions. To my knowledge, this is the first time something like this set-up had been attempted.

Philip shared a couple of “first stories” from his experience with Second Life, real stories from the early years of the company, both pre- and post-launch in 2003, e.g. Steller Sunshine’s beanstalk. He talked about how it was a challenge to provide backwards-compatibility, and how this affected the design of SL over time (for example, changing the friction elements would affect how people could climb the beanstalk). He talked about how he was able to drop a virtual pebble into the virtual water to create ripples (something which was later taken out because it was so computationally expensive!).

When asked why Second Life did not create mobile apps, Philip says that SL, when launched in 2003, predated mobile devices like the iPhone (introduced in 2007) and apps like Facebook (launched in 2004). While Philip is an advisor to Linden Lab, he is not a member of the executive team running the company day-to-day. He says that running SL on a mobile app is a “hard problem” to solve (I agree).

I asked Philip about his opinions regarding Meta’s surveillance system to enforce good behaviour, which includes constantly recording what happens in Horizon Worlds in case someone wants to send an abuse report to the moderators to act upon. Philip talked about his misgivings about AI-based surveillance and targeting systems in the metaverse, and how they could be used to gather information about us in new and disturbing ways, such as using how we are feeling to decide what ads to show us.

Philip has grave concerns about a business model of metaverse designed around advertising and surveillance. Talking about moderation, Philip wants the metaverse to be designed largely driven by the actions of the (human) people who are there, rather than implementing an automated behavioural surveillance and reporting system.

In answering a follow-up question, Philip said he felt that it it is indeed possible to have a metaverse with consequences for trolls and griefers, while still building strong social connections between people, citing as an example banning a person from a public place such as a restaurant where they were misbehaving.

Philip mentioned, in an interview he gave to a media outlet earlier today, that Second Life still has a higher revenue per person per year than YouTube does, with most of that income coming from fees: fees on sales and fees for virtual land (tier). He feels that a business based on fees (as opposed to surveillance advertising) is most definitely scalable, citing the approximately one million users in Second Life.

Philip talked about how presence can change communication dynamics, such as how how walking up to another avatar, and being physically near another avatar, triggers a response where people tended to be more civil than they might be in a text-only environment like a chatroom, and how quickly such presence could help defuse potentially negative communications.

Among the speakers present were Avi Bar-Zeev, the person who created the primitive system, the digital atoms used for building anything and everything in the early days of Second Life! In fact, many content creators in the metaverse got their start by prim-building in SL. (One SL historian remarked that today was the 20th anniversary of the first-ever created prim in Second Life, made on January 25th, 2002!) Philip talked about how Second Life’s prim permission system could be seen as a forerunner of newer digital asset systems being considered for the metaverse.

later moving on to creating and texturing mesh models using tools like Blender. Avi talked about artificial scarcity of virtual worlds, and the necessity to design the metaverse to be human spaces, a place to rehumanize rather than dehumanize those who participate.

Philip talked about how VR headsets are still not affordable and accessible enough (i.e. you are able to wear them all day) yet, to be able to have the kind of social community that we experience in virtual worlds like Second Life. He said (and I was transcribing madly while he spoke, so this is a paraphrase!):

It’s difficult to get people to communicate normally in a virtual world. It’s easy to forget that this is an experience that most people would not be comfortable with, yet. We’re not there yet, and the way we get there is to make avatars more visually expressive, which is a tough problem to solve.

—Philip Rosedale

Philip talked about spatialized audio products such as High Fidelity’s 3D audio as an aid to community-building, but adds that we still need to work on nonverbal communications (the listener leaning in to the speaker to indicate engagement, etc.).

There was a lot more discussed, including Philip Rosedale’s thoughts about virtual economies and NFT real estate, which unfortunately I did not have a chance to transcribe. Philip is always an articulate and informative speaker, so you will want to listen to the recording if you missed this event.

I will, however, provide a link to an archive of this wide-ranging and fascinating discussion on Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and Callin, once Dr. Hayman posts it! He is to be thanked for juggling everything in order to make this multicast such as success.

UPDATE 7:14 p.m.: Here, as promised, are links to the recordings made:

Twitter Spaces recording 1:43:44 (Dr. Hayman tells me, “this recording has less of the interruptions from Second Life, as I muted the mic when feedback and keyboard noises were present in SL”)

Callin recording 1:40:08

Enjoy! I know I will be relistening to portions of this.

Second Life: Muddy’s Music Café Celebrates 12 Years of Operation!

As I said yesterday, Second Life tends to be my preferred means of escape from these despairing days of the Omicron wave of the coronavirus pandemic, and as I near the second anniversary of my first writing about what would eventually be called COVID-19, on January 25th, 2020, I am feeling distinctly weary of barricading myself in my apartment, while our inept provincial government has essentially decided to “let’er rip” and let the cards fall where they may.

Like oatmeal, Second Life is my comfortable place in an uncertain world. (The builders of the newer metaverse platforms might want to ask themselves this question: what are you doing to make your virtual world such a comfortable place, where people are compelled to come back, again and again? The key is community, something Second Life has in spades, if you know where to look to find it!)

Today, I decided that, instead of a quiet café in the snowy woods, I would visit a more popular place: Muddy’s (more formally known as Muddy’s Music Café).

Image source: the Muddy’s website

As it turns out, this coming weekend (January 21st to 23rd, 2022), Muddy’s is celebrating its 12th birthday! In a virtual world where music clubs come and go with astonishing regularity, this is indeed a remarkable achievement. Muddy’s offers a engaging mix of popular music: rock, pop, country, and a little bit of everything, as long as it’s PG! While they sometimes have a live performer, most of the time they have deejays spin tunes during a two-hour shift, who usually shares the stage with a host of hostess who welcomes customers, answers questions, and invites people to join the Muddy’s group for news and updates.

Tonight, the hostess was a friend I had made when she worked at another club I used to frequent, Bray’s Place Blues Club (which unfortunately closed down late last year). So we had a great catch-up chat while I stood like a wallflower at the side of the dancefloor, watching the people dance (that’s me, in the red beanie to the right):

In addition to their in-world location (always guaranteed to be busy, 24/7/365), Muddy’s runs a small shopping mall on the same sim as the club, and has a radio station which accepts advertising from Second Life businesses (you can pick up a free Muddy’s radio from the stand located at the centre front of the stage, which you can then set up anywhere to listen to the Muddy’s music stream in your virtual home!). They’ve even launched a series of events especially for singles, called Muddy’s Match.

For further information, please drop in and ask the host or hostess on duty, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook. To join the Muddy’s group, just cut and paste the following into the chat of your SL viewer, and click on the link it creates:

http://world.secondlife.com/group/6ffdf9ce-7581-3731-e601-81ee5f9b6842

You’ll always get a warm welcome at Muddy’s Music Café! I congratulate them on their twelve years of successful operation.

Second Life: The Rainy Café in Winter

I needed a break from the unrelenting coronavirus pandemic, so I did what I usually so when I have a bit of time to kill and need an escape from messy, painful reality: load up a Second Life avatar, and do a keyword search under Places in the Search menu, to see what I could find. I searched for ‘winter”, and in the first page of search results, I discovered the Rainy Café!

The Rainy Café is a snug, cosy, and welcoming coffee shop tucked away in a skybox located high above the Second Life mainland. For winter, the owner decided to change the rain to snow!

The Rainy Café

Inside, it was clear that somebody had gone to a great deal of time and effort to decorate the interior, with many delightful touches (see the teddy bear, the string of photographs, and the space heater next to the window?). A number of different machines dispense coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider for your avatar to hold.

I decided to take a seat and stay a little while, holding a somewhat lazy, meandering conversation with the other avatars whom I encountered there, while the snow gently fell outside the café windows in the surrounding woods.

The Rainy Café is a cosy spot to have a rambling conversation

(Although Second Life supports voice chat, most people still use text chat out of habit. At one point, I was having a side conversation with one of the café patrons in a second window, while simultaneously carrying on a conversation in the main room!)

If you want to visit yourself, here’s the SLURL: the Rainy Café in Winter. Bring a friend, or perhaps you’ll meet one there!

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Outfits, Accessories, Weapons, and Vehicles from ECHELON!

Second Life is home to many combat roleplay communities, as well as science fiction roleplay. ECHELON is a store which caters to these players with outfits, accessories, weapons, and even vehicles, and they are generously giving away a HUGE collection of such items for absolutely FREE! Just teleport to the store, join the – E C H E L O N – group for free, and click on the rotating white sign in the middle of the store:

There are no less than sixty-five separate gifts in the box you receive, a wide variety of outfits, weapons, and other objects (there’s even a cup of tea with a Bento hold pose!). Let’s start with the outfits first.

Please note that all these outfits (except where noted) include system clothing layers, which are intended for classic, system avatars and Bakes on Mesh-compatible mesh bodies, like version 3.0 of the Belleza Jake body this male avatar is wearing. (By the way, Belleza is still running their 50% off sale on the Jake, Isis, Venus, and Freya mesh bodies! It’s a real bargain, but I honestly don’t know how long this sale will last, so if you are shopping for a high-quality male or female mesh body, don’t delay!)

If you’re a fan of Star Wars roleplay—or if you just feel like strolling around Second Life dressed as a kick-ass Mandalorian!—feast your eyes on this complete set of Alorian armour, courtesy of ECHELON! The package even includes a special animation override (AO) with three sets of animations you can easily switch between during your roleplay: stand-by, sneaking, and combat. (There’s also a separate Alorian jet pack in the ECHELON gift box; it’s not shown in this picture.)

There are four different versions of this Imperial Soldier outfit (white, red, blue, and special forces), and the helmet comes in versions with and without the glow, as well as a chestplate variation for female stormtroopers!

Imperial Solder

IF you’d rather be a samurai, there’s a complete samurai outfit with armour:

This seven-piece medieval armour set is suitable for historical roleplay purposes (please note that the system/Bakes on Mesh clothing and the boots pictured below are NOT included in this package; I just rummaged around in my existing inventory for something suitable to wear with the armour):

Now let’s turn to accessories. Below are pictured two gifts, the aptly-named Crown of Light and the floating, rotating Heroic Heirloom (both are fully modifiable, so you can adjust the colour and the glow of each as you wish to match your outfit):

The Duality Mask domes in seven different versions, and is also completely modifiable:

And, as expected, there are weapons galore in the ECHELON gift box! All weapons include both stashed and deployed versions, as well as gestures which you can load and activate for your avatar to draw and sling them during battle.

First up is the AKG Assault Rifle, which comes in versions with or without the silencer:

The Slayer Sword is just the ticket to get you out of a tight spot in any fantasy battle!

The Big Heckin’ Gun is well named, as you can see!

Here my avatar is armed with a sci-fi laser rifle (there’s also a pistol, as well as all the gestures to swap between the two as needed):

And if you’re old school, how about this Dungeon Raider Halberd? There’s truly something for everyone in the ECHELON gift box.

But wait, there’s more! There are also a number of science fiction vehicles in the gift box. Here are just two, the Corvus Jetbike and the Land Cruiser hover vehicle:

The Corvus Jetbike
The Land Cruiser

So, if you are into fantasy, historical, or combat roleplay and gaming in Second Life, you owe it to yourself to drop by ECHELON and pick up this truly generous gift before it’s gone! Here is your taxi. Happy freebie shopping!