Category Archives: Rants

Ouch! I’ve been tagged with the dreaded ‘8 Random Things About Me’ meme!

seangallery.jpg

Damn you, Alan Levine! (shakes fist angrily in the air)

I struggle to find the time to do serious blog posts as it is without feeling the pressure to engage in one of these stupid memes. And I do think they are stupid, but the peer pressure is strong, and hard to resist.

Anyway, I don’t blog much about my personal life, so maybe this is a good way for me to open up a bit.

The rules are:

1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

So here are 8 random facts about random ol’ me:

  1. My first car was a luminescent lime green Holden Monaro, a bit like this one (do check out the video – it’s hilarious!). Well, it wasn’t really my car – it was my Dad’s, but I had exclusive use of it through those all-important teen years, so it was as good as. Anyway, it rocked! It really stood out – I never had any trouble finding it in a car park!
  2. I have a gammy eye. When I look up one eye goes off to the side, and I get a sort of double vision. Don’t ask me which one, because when I look in the mirror to work it out, well… you get the picture!
  3. For a very brief period in the late Eighties I was part of the electronic music scene in Melbourne. I played in a band called ‘Dono Detti’ (don-a ask me what it means). And we were playing with Roland SH-101s, TB-303s, and TR-606s before you were even born, young techno whipper-snapper!
  4. In a time of financial woe I actually started my training as a taxi driver. I paid my $500 and attending a few of the training sessions before realising I wasn’t much of a people person, and that I wasn’t going to be able to cope well with drunks vomiting in the back seat.
  5. My second after-school-hours job was at McDonalds. Ah, McDonalds… I have fond memories of those years. But wait… that’s politically incorrect! I hate McDonalds! No, I love them… no… hate… no… love! My first job was on a ridiculously-early-in-the-morning milk run (that’s two facts… I cheated!)
  6. I later worked as a short order cook in a pancake restaurant in my home town of Newcastle called ‘The All American Tragedy’. Yes, you heard right. And it was.
  7. I attended Burning Man in 2004, and it changed my life. I also understand why after attending Burning Man that Phillip Rosedale was inspired to create Second Life.
  8. For many years I did volunteer work at Ernie’s Charity Recycling. Ernie started recycling fridges, but by the time I met him he had moved on to computers. Ernie was a mad ol’ coot, half blind and half deaf, but he did great work. People would drop old computers off at his Housing Commission premises (which was actually derelict and condemned) and we would pull them apart, rebuild them and give them away to the needy. He’d then reward us with a biscuit and a cup of tea. Ah! Those were the days.

There ya go!… that wasn’t so bad after all!

Now as for passing this on… I’m with Angela – I really don’t want to inflict this on anybody else. There aren’t many bloggers I know well enough to know if they aren’t going to get annoyed, or I don’t care if they do. 🙂

Here are a few:

Any volunteers?

Watch out! I might even add more to this list as time goes on.

(Original image by Jo Kay, tweaked in museumr)

Bligter – will it make my blogging easier?

bligter.jpgAs I’ve mentioned many times in the past I struggle with blogging. The irregularity of my posting attests to that.

Perhaps this new service can help solve my problem – Bligter.

I received the following invitation via email:

Dear Sean,

I am writing to you because we would like to have you among the bloggers that post in bligter, a new web 2.0 for bloggers. We think that our users would love your articles.

Bligter is, basically, a place where bloggers can get posts, written for other bloggers, to publish in their blogs. Otherwise, If you write a post it may get published in other users’ blogs. You will, obviously, get the credit for it as at the bottom of each post will appear your name linking to your blog.

Best Regards.
Rafael R.
http://www.bligter.com

Ooh! I’m flattered (perhaps a deliberate strategy?)

But “a new web 2.0”? I thought we still hadn’t come to terms with the old Web 2.0! Perhaps they meant to say “a new web 2.0 service”. Nothing says unprofessional to me like spelling and grammatical errors (and they are all over the website).

So will I be signing up for this service? No. This would no longer be my blog – it would become more of a group blog, with me having editorial control.

Maybe there is a need for this. Maybe it fills an as-yet unmet niche of “citizen publishing” where anyone can now take on the role of publisher and editor. Maybe this service will mature and something will come of it. Who knows. It just feels icky and weird to me at the moment. What do others think?

p.s. This feels somehow related to Leigh’s post about customised essay writing services. Although there’s no deceptiveness involved here, and there’s no plagiarism as full attribution is given, it’s similar in that it is about taking the easy path to getting a result.

Wikipedia – hypocritical?

wikipedia.jpgNow I’m a big defender of Wikipedia – I think it’s a wonderful resource and a wonderful phenomena… one of the best examples of user-generated content, citizen journalism and the wisdom of the masses out there on the Web – so it is with some reluctance and trepidation I criticise its policies which, by the main, seem to be reasonable.

There has been a debate over the recently-deleted entry to Zeitgeist the Movie (thanks to Leigh for the pointer) that has really fired me up and got my goat.

You can see some of that debate in the archived discussion page.

I won’t go into what I think about the movie here… my concern is with Wikipedia’s policies.

Now I agree that many of the supporters of keeping the entry were more concerned about keeping the content rather than whether or not the article conformed to Wikipedia guidelines. They saw the removal of the article as censorship of the movie’s content. But that wasn’t really the issue here – the real issue was whether or not it conformed to Wikipedia guidelines on notability.

In the end the editors decided that the entry failed to meet the criteria. To be fair to editors they did do the right thing by following the guidelines (albeit a strict interpretation – some have disputed that there is room for flexibility).

The problem is that the guidelines for notability state that the subject of an entry must be mentioned in the mainstream media before it is deemed notable. Despite being discussed vigorously on blogs, forums and in chat rooms, and despite getting millions of hits on Google (it’s also been Dugg several times) , apparently a movie has to be receive “full length reviews by two or more nationally known critics” to become notable!

Does anyone else see the contradiction here? The irony even? Wikipedia – the poster child of user-generated content, citizen journalism and the wisdom of the masses says that extensive reference to a topic on blogs, forums, chat rooms and wikis does not constitute notability.

If that is true… then what the policy is saying is that Wikipedia itself is not a reliable source!

Despite what you may think of the content of the movie itself, Zeitgeist the Movie has become a phenomenon. Surely this in itself means it warrants an entry in Wikipedia?

I’m no expert on Wikipedia policy, nor have I followed the debate too closely, but there is something deeply disturbing to me about this situation, and I think that the editors really need to take another look at that particular policy.

Rethinking the purpose of this blog


Readers (both of you 🙂 ) may have noticed that my blogging has stalled… again.

My linkblog is still chugging along (although I’m a bit behind), but my actual blog-writing has come to a bit of a standstill.

My ongoing battle with blogging

I struggle with blogging. There are many reasons for this.

For one I struggle with writing… it’s just not my medium. Despite being a confident and articulate speaker it takes me forever to write things down to my satisfaction. It always has.

Writing a decent-length blog post takes me so long I get overwhelmed at the thought of it and often give up before I even begin.

Secondly, I’ve painted myself into a corner as a result of some earlier decisions I made about the purpose and focus of this blog.

Thirdly, I’m in the process of having a rethink about what I want to do with my life and myself professionally, and this obviously has an impact on what I want to blog about.

Let me elaborate on the latter two points…

Professional or personal blog?

In a previous post I wondered whether this blog should be a one-stop-shop, combining both personal and professional interests, or whether I should focus on professional interests only.

I decided to go with making this my professional blog, and focus on producing content that would support my role as a consultant in emerging technologies (with a current focus on virtual worlds).

The reasoning was that by being focussed those interested in the area of virtual worlds would be more willing to subscribe to my RSS feed.

In turn I had hoped this would raise my profile as someone with knowledge and expertise in this area, hopefully leading to more work and ultimately providing me with more income.

There are a few problems with this:

  1. Because I struggle with blogging I don’t have the energy to sustain two blogs.
  2. I have a range of other interests I’d like to blog about.
  3. My professional interests are evolving anyway. While virtual worlds still remains an area of strong interest for me, I feel like I have mastered that area to my satisfaction and now seek to explore new horizons.

What are my interests? What do I really want to do?

Realising I want to blog about more than just emerging technologies has led me to realise that I don’t want to restrict myself to just being a consultant in this field.

My interests range far wider than emerging technology – they include personal growth, spirituality, cyberculture, cultural studies, media and communications, education, music and the arts.

And I realise I’ve been hiding behind a “professional front” for some time now, reluctant to express my more personal thoughts and opinions on a whole range of topics that interest me. This has to change.

The solution – reflected in the nature this blog

As I redefine what I want to do those changes will be reflected in this blog, so from now on this will just be “my blog”… making no distinction between the personal and the professional.

(And my recent blogHUD post entitled “Jokay and I knocking back a few tequilas” would have put pay to any pretensions that this is a serious, professional blog anyway! 🙂 )

From now on you will see me post on a wider range of topics – not just virtual worlds and Second Life – and I will share more of my personal opinion, particularly on topics they may be a bit controversial and that I may have been reluctant to talk about in the past.

And I will bookmark websites covering other areas of interest and this will be reflected in my daily links/linkblog.

Oh… and I’ll be changing the description of who I am and what I do… that little bio under my sidebar pic – as soon as I sort of work it out and find a better way of expressing what that is!

The journey continues…

I don’t know where all this will lead me, but I’m discovering that blogging is a real process… one that’s both scary and exciting.

And this blog is turning out to be a bit of a personal journal, isn’t it? It’s becoming a tool to assist in my journey to discover who I really am and what I want to do.

But then again… this blog is called “Sean’s Emerging…” after all! 😉

(Image by edouard escougnou)

Cool Cat Teacher gets it – the future of the Web (and maybe online learning) will be 3D

In what Stephen Downes describes as “the best post of 2007 to date“, Cool Cat Teacher – Vicki Davis – does an excellent job of explaining why she thinks the future of the Web is 3D and how this 3D Web will offer great potential for online learning.

The article is being widely distributed amongst educational circles so I thought I would respond to a few of Vicki’s comments as well as correct what I think are a few minor inaccuracies. I thought I would also use it as sort of ‘launch pad’ to express a few of my own thoughts on the topic.

With “Web 2.0” barely taking a “bit” part in most of today’s classrooms, the next evolution of the web, I predict, is not Web 3.0. I think it will be Web 3D.

This is the central tenet of Vicki’s post, and of course I agree with her wholeheartedly!

On the name… many people are already describing Web3D as Web3.0. Some are mashing the two up and calling it Web3.D. It will be interesting to see what it ends up getting called. A lot of people hate Web2.0, many even refuse to agree that it exists, so it’s likely there will be no consensus anyway!

I notice on the Web3D 2007 Symposium website they include in Web3D technologies like “X3D, VRML, MPEG4, MPEG7, U3D, Collada, Acrobat3D and Java3D” which all seem to use the existing web architecture and browser. So maybe this is what Web3D is coming to mean. However, the future 3D Web may not use the existing architecture and browser.

Personally I like Web3.D as it gives a nod to the evolution of the 3D web beyond Web2.0. I don’t mean that Web3D will replace Web2.0 (or even Web1.0) it will just subsume earlier technologies, like the 2D web did before it.

However, things like Second Life, Xbox live, Google Earth and World of Warcraft, are just beginning to show the power of networks and engagement of the 3D web. Now things like Moove and Kaneva are cropping up.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are a gazillion new online 3D worlds and related services and technologies coming from a wide range of sectors – entertainment, gaming, media, social networking, business, education and training, mapping and geo-spatial data, just to name a few. And all these different online worlds may one day converge into one big metaverse (see Bryan Alexander’s excellent post on Third Life).

I will elaborate on the landscape of 3D developments in a later post, but for now you may want to subscribe to MyLinkBlog (RSS) – where I’ve been collecting projects, software, websites, services and news relevant to the evolution of the 3D web – to get a sense of what is going on in this arena.

But, lest you think web3d is only happening in the company atmosphere, scientists have been hard at work on standards to make web 3d available everywhere. In 1992, VRML (rhymes with thermal) was created, and after some discussion about the 3D web and work on standards by the W3C the X3D consortium has been created and X3d has officially replaced VRML.

As I mentioned before, the 3D web may not be Web3D, it may be built on a completely different architecture using a completely different client. The X3D standards will have an impact, but may not win out in the end. One of the biggest drawbacks of VRML/X3D is that it does not allow for multi-user interaction, and I believe this social, collaborative aspect of 3D worlds is what has been driving their adoption. I have heard that the Web3D Consortium are working on adding the multi-user element. I’m not sure where they are with that.

I think the next big browser will allow you to interact in 3D with any website.

Let’s hope so, but there are so many different clients being developed for all these different 3D worlds that it may take a long time to get there.

(Yes, Second Life is open source, but the environment is not!)

True for now, but Linden Labs do plan to open source the server software within 12 months. It will then be possible to host your own Second Life islands or worlds.

Second Life is OK, but its not ready for prime time in education.

I assume Vicki is talking about K-12 here, because there is something like 70 Universities already present on the main grid and many are already running courses, including those run by Sarah Robbins of Ball University, Ed Lamoureux of Bradley University, Bryan Carter of the University of Central Missouri and of course Charles Nesson from Harvard who is featured in the video on Vicki’s post.

However, remember, that many experts believe that a lot of money laundering is now going through Linden Dollars. (I have this on good authority from an Internet safety expert

There are plenty of other “experts” – including Edward Castronova, who literally wrote the book on virtual word economies – who disagree with this analysis.

and it is beginning to crop up in some news sources and even the Second Life Herald (the newspaper of Second Life.)

Some of the reporters on the Second Life Herald are very critical to the point of being actively hostile towards Linden Lab and Second Life. I’d take everything they say with a grain of salt. And they are not only not the newspaper of Second Life, they are not even the only news source of Second Life. There is also Second Life Insider, New World Notes, the Second Life News Network (SLNN), the Metaverse Messenger and the Avastar. Even Reuters has a correspondent permanently embedded in Second Life.

Vicki then goes on to provide videos showing how educational institutions are using Second Life. There are many different educational uses and environments in Second Life and I will be talking more about those in a later post, but for now, here a few of my favourite Second Life videos:

Vicki follows this with some of the potential ways of using 3D environments in education, summarised here:

  • You can overcome stereotypes
  • Student Collaboration
  • Authentic Assessment / Project Based Learning Possibilities
  • Role Playing
  • Potential for group synergies
  • Storage, Legacy, and Global Audience
  • Scenario Simulation
  • Digital Storytelling

I think Vicki does a good job of outlining what is possible.

Bottom line is that we need a 3-D web for educational purposes.

Okay… so there has been an ongoing debate about the merit of this idea on the Second Life Educators’ mailing list (SLED).

Wouldn’t this significantly reduce the value of the experience by denying students access to the rest of the virtual world where much of the interesting (and educational) stuff is happening? Isn’t this just another case of separating education off from the rest of the world, be it the real world, the web or virtual worlds, and corralling students into artificial environments? Isn’t this about separating students from the rest of life and the community?

I understand there is an argument for the need to protect younger students, but we have to be sure we don’t end up preventing students from learning how to safely interact with the rest of the online world – whether it’s the Web or virtual worlds – which they will confront sooner or later.

However, your students can leave and go other places without you.

Apparently it is possible to restrict students to your island, so that they can’t even visit the rest of the PG Teen grid.

Only “PG” but still other places outside of your supervision. I’m not comfortable with that. Period.

This is a tricky one… and the Teen Grid is not my area, nor is working with K-12, but I have some niggling issue here with teachers insisting that their students can’t explore other parts of the grid. Is the concern that because the teacher has introduced their students to this environment they are then responsible if anything bad happens to them? Is it about duty of care? Isn’t this the same argument that keeps the Web itself out of the classroom?

Not having the responsibility of dealing with teens on a daily basis I know I am on shaky ground here, but I put these questions out for consideration. Sheesh, just using computers in the classroom can end up in the possibility of going to jail for 40 years!

I’m also not sure what happens when the avatar you’ve worked on turns 18 — does it move into the adult side and do you take your scripts with you?

You graduate to the main grid. And to the best of my knowledge you take your inventory with you.

I also have some seniors who are 18 and some who are 17, so I’m not sure how that would work!

That is an issue. I’m working in the vocational education sector which has students spanning the age divide, and it could present a problem.

Also, they cannot go to the adult areas (for good reason) but the adult areas is where the incredible simulated environments like the tour of Rome shown above are being built.

Isn’t this exactly the argument against having a separate educational grid?

Not yet ready for prime time

Once again, I’m not so sure about that, and neither is Ryan Bretag from Technologists in Training from the sounds of his response to Vicki’s post. I agree with Ryan that it behoves educators – even K-12 educators – to get involved in Second Life now, and not just wait for the ‘safe’ environment to emerge. Ryan’s post is well worth a read.

There is already one school using Teen Second Life for classes – Suffern Middle School – and I believe others are planned for this year.

There are other non-class projects with K-12 students. For example, Stan Trevena, the Director of Technology for Modesto City Schools, is building a learning environment consisting of several islands on the Teen Grid for a virtual exchange program between his students and those from Kyoto Gakuen High School, Japan.

However, I think it is a given that your students will end up experiencing Second Life in a college class

And the workplace… let’s not forget the workplace.

One of the frustrations I have as someone trying to introduce teachers to emerging technologies is that despite the fact that students already use online tools at home, and will be expected to use these tools in at college and the workplace, they are denied use of them in the school classroom. This doesn’t make sense. You may as well ban pens and books. The Internet and online tools give us access to an amazing wealth of information, resources, expertise and support, not to mention opportunities for students to participate in creating and sharing their own content (along a constructivist model of education). Shouldn’t we be guiding our students in the wise, appropriate, safe and critical use of these tools that they are already using, and will be expected to use in the workplace, rather than sticking our heads in the sand and banning them outright?

so it is worth teachers going in there and understanding the environment.

Indeed. And many of skills gained and lessons learned – working with the interface to negotiate a 3D environment, building, facilitating & teaching, designing 3D learning environments – will be transferable into whatever 3D environment comes next.

But teachers need to do more than just explore and research. You can’t really see what you can do with 3D environments until you do something real.

And remember, it is a video game

This is a common misconception. Second Life is not a game. It can be used to create games, but itself is not a game – it’s a Multi-user Virtual Environment (MUVE). There are no rules, goals or quests like in a game. It’s a free-form environment where you can create just about any thing or any experience you want. I’m not just being a pedant here – it’s important that Second Life is accurately reported as what it is. Calling it a game only makes it harder to get educators and educational institutions to take it seriously and accept it as a serious educational platform.

and Linden Labs is in there to make money.

This is always a funny (and somewhat irritating) criticism of Second Life, especially from someone who uses Blogger. Google aren’t in there to make money? All Web 2.0 companies which are often touted for online learning are out to make money.

Sure, buying a land to build on is pricey, but the cost of an island in Second Life is nothing to an institution. It’s just infrastructure cost, like web hosting or installing new multi-media software in a computer lab. I admit though, that at this stage, convincing them the value of spending that money is another matter!

From a student’s perspective it’s possible to experience the world for free. Basic accounts are free and their are enough freebie avatars, clothing, buildings, vehicles and other functional objects to serve most purposes.

Besides, wouldn’t we want to encourage students to start creating their own avatars, clothing, buildings, vehicles and other functional objects and participate in the world of user-generated content? They can even sell them and make a bit of money to buy those things which aren’t free.

many educators haven’t even come to grips with the social web, Web 2.0.

Although this is true, we can’t entirely blame the teachers. I work with many teachers who want to work with Web 2.0 tools, but their institutions are shutting down all access to these tools.

We need to encourage the development of easy to use, safe, classroom environments that can be controlled by the teacher but also allow students to enter 3D virtual environments.

Linden Lab plan to open source the server software sometime in the next year, so it should be possible to set up our own Second Life-based worlds with our own rules.

Ideally we need 3D virtual environments that are based on open standards and open formats, so that we can all host and have control over our own virtual worlds. I suspect this will happen eventually, but how long this takes may depend on who gets involved in virtual worlds now.

Likewise 3D learning is real learning.

Yes… it’s possible to create a type of experiential learning in Second Life, or ‘virtual experiential learning’, if you like. 🙂 That is, getting students to engage in ‘real world’ activities.

If second life is not there yet, we as educators need to join in the discussions, consortiums, and groups that are figuring out what needs to happen.

I agree… this is important. Otherwise the shape of Second Life and future virtual worlds will be determined by business and commercial interests.

If we do not develop alternatives to second life, we will have to use second life. If we do not advocate for effective classroom measures in second life, we will have to take it as it is. Linden Labs (the developers of second life) will quite literally control our future.

Whilst I’m encouraging educators to get involved in Second Life, and not just for individual research, I do acknowledge that Second Life is plagued with problems, including the fact that it is run by a private company and is essentially a walled garden.

But even with these problems, Second Life is currently the best that we have in online 3D virtual worlds. As long as projects are entered into with eyes wide open and full awareness of its limitations and risks, it’s still a worthwhile environment to explore.

When something better comes along, we will be ready, and will have learned the skills and gained knowledge necessary to operate in 3D environments.

I am not an expert on the 3D web, but I know enough to believe that this is indeed the next evolution of the Web.

Yet Vicki, you have done a remarkable job of summarising the issues and bringing this too educators attention.

How it will look and what it will be will largely be determined by the pioneers and visionaries who are moving into the new frontier: the 3D web.

Yes… exciting times. The metaverse is a-coming!

What do you think?

I believe the future of the web will be 3D. But the future of the web will likely not be Second Life. To be honest, I hope it’s not – I hope it’s something open standards and open source that the whole community has decided on. But the idea that Second Life represents – interacting via an avatar in immersive 3D environments that we can build ourselves and where we can express our creativity – will flourish. I believe it has already captured the public imagination.

The reality is that the upcoming generation will be totally comfortable interacting in 3D immersive environments via avatars, and may even come to expect it. I think educators need to become aware where the online world is heading and start familiarising themselves with 3D environments or the already existing gap between teachers and the students they teach will widen.

Hopefully Vicki’s post will alert the educational community to the coming evolution of the web to 3D and the impact this will have on education in general, and online learning in particular, and as a result lead to more dialogue, exploration and input into this exciting area.

Update: Wow! Shortly after after posting this I was checking my links and came across an anonymous comment on Stephen Downes’ post about Vicki Davis’ post that points to this post from Sumedh Mungee that in turn points to this post by Joi Ito’s from October 2005 about how ‘3D was Web 3.0’.

I’ve been avidly reading blogs about the metaverse, virtual worlds and the 3D web for the last few months, and even with that I didn’t realise this discussion went back that far.

The anonymous commenter on Downes’ posts asks: “The more and more I see the workings of the web…I wonder how truly democratic it is…and then realize, ‘oh, wait, it isn’t democratic afterall.’ It seems like only certain voices are heard and recognized as being innovative….look this gentleman wrote about Web 3.0 and 3D two years ago…why isn’t his post considered?”

Indeed!

As I said before…Vicki’s post has done an important job of bringing the 3D web to the attention of educators, but what all of this tells me is that educators are behind… waaaaaay behind.

Update 2 – 06/03/07: In this post on the Second Life Educators mailing list Claudia Linden has cleared up a few questions raised as a result of this post and the one by Vicki Davis.

To summarise:

  1. Linden Lab offers an educational discount to qualified educational institutions and non-profits of US$980 for the island purchase (not several thousand dollars) with US$150 a month maintenance.
  2. Educators can choose from three models when setting up their islands:
    1. Totally private – students can’t access the rest of the Teen Grid.
    2. Partially open – students can’t leave their own island, but other teens can visit from the Teen Grid. The island can be closed for specific events.
    3. Completely open – students and other Teen Grids residents can come and go as they please.
  3. When a teen turns 18 they take all of their inventory – including scripts – with them to the Main Grid.

(Image by Leonard Low)

Voice integration in Second Life – why I think it’s important

There’s already been a lot of discussion lately about the news that Linden Lab will be introducing integrated voice into Second Life by June.

I’m excited. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this news. This is one of two features I’ve been hanging out to see included in Second Life (the other is HTML-on-a-prim).

To me this is one of the most important developments that has happened to Second Life for a while. It’s important for me personally, and I think it also important for Second Life.

However, a lot of residents aren’t happy about it, particularly those who like their anonymity for one reason or another, and those who see Second Life as an alternative to their first life – an escape from reality – rather than an adjunct to or extension of first life (as I do).

Those negatively affected by voice include the shy and the introverted, roleplayers (the 50 year old male truck driver who is pretending to be tinkerbell!), gender-swappers, furries, people speaking different languages, those with hearing difficulties and those with visual learning and communication styles who prefer writing and reading over talking and listening (more on that later).

Protecting diversity

What is important is that we have choice to use voice or not, and to turn it off on our land if we want to. It appears we will be provided with these options. (Hopefully we will be able to mute voice like we can mute text chat, both as individuals and as land owners.)

At the end of the day, no matter what the technological solutions are, many of the solutions on how to work with voice will be social, like the etiquette that has developed around when to use public chat and when to use private IM.

I know there are fears that there could develop a cultural split between texters and talkers, and that those who choose not to use voice will be ostracised, even treated with mistrust. Hopefully this won’t be the case. Everyone should be able to engage in SL using whichever medium they prefer, without prejudice or disadvantage.

So why is voice so important for me?

I’m not a text-chatter. I find text chat slow, laborious and frustrating. It’s not suited to the type of in-depth conversations I like. I use regular (not in Second Life) IM a lot, but only for quick exchanges. When I want to have a decent conversation, I talk.

In Second Life all that tippity, tappity of typing drives me crazy! And sometimes when I’m in Second Life I have to turn the radio on so I’ve got something to listen to.

I find text chatting so uncomfortable and alien to me that I’ve actually been spending less and less time in Second Life. I’m hoping that the addition of voice will make spending time in Second Life a more attractive experience.

Learning and communication style

I believe the reason I’m not really into chatting is that I’m auditory/verbal in my learning and communication style. This means that I prefer talking and listening to communicate, learn and process information. Just ask my friends who I’m constantly on the phone or Skype to!

Reading and writing are not my preferred style. I would much rather attend a discussion group, presentation or conference than read an article, paper or website. I even prefer to watch a video.

I suspect a lot of those who are complaining about the introduction of voice have a learning style which gives them a preference for reading and writing.

In fact, you could argue that not only does text chat favour those with a reading/writing style, but it actively discriminates against those with the other learning and communication styles.

Broader implications of voice

In general, voice will be a huge advantage for business, non-profits and education.

One of the issues that has been stopping many in the business world from entering Second Life is the issue of trust. How do you know if who you are talking to is who they say they are? Integrated voice will go – some way at least – to solving this problem.

And the more businesses that enter Second Life, the more money will flow in and the number of users will grow. In the same way that this turned out to be a boon for the Web – since it boosted underlying web architecture (e.g. bandwidth) – it will also be a boon for Second Life that will benefit all. (Although those who prefer Second Life the way it was before it started going mainstream and more commercial may not agree!)

A lot of residents are saying they are not going to use voice and are claiming that only a small proportion of the population is going to use voice. This may be so amongst the existing residents, but what this doesn’t recognise is that voice will be a huge selling point for many in the business and education worlds, and that we could see an influx of new residents (whole businesses like IBM and whole classes of students from the education sector) that could tip the balance towards people using voice as their preferred medium.

A viable alternative for online education and distance education

I think the real benefactors of integrated voice will be educators. Voice will make teaching and training in Second Life so much easier. It will make running tours and helping newbies out a lot easier too!

Second Life will begin to offer a viable alternative to existing web conferencing tools such as Elluminate and Breeze. The lack of voice has been one of the main things holding Second Life back as a viable online learning and distance learning platform. Of course it was possible to use third party voice solutions such as Teamspeak, Ventrilo, Skypecasts and audio streaming, but the extra effort required was not really a seller.

The other thing holding Second Life back as a platform for online learning is the limited tools for sharing information. Notecards and photoshopped text on a prim are very limited. Yes, we can do video and audio streaming, give slideshows and presentations and there is even a whiteboard, but these are all a bit clunky to set up and use.

I’m hoping this will all change when we get the other feature I am eagerly anticipating – HTML-on-a-prim. Then we will be able to import all of our favourite Web 2.0 tools – YouTube videos, flickr slideshows, Slideshare presentations, gliffy diagrams, online calendars etc. – into Second Life and create easy-to-use, media rich 3D learning environments.

Once we have these two issues sorted out I think we will have an Elluminate/Breeze killer, because we will have Elluminate and Breeze’s functionality plus the unique qualities that make 3D virtual worlds so compelling as social and learning environments – shared presence and shared experience.

But is it open?

One question/concern that I do have is – as Glyn Moody notes at open… – whether the integrated voice will be open source or not, as it is being provided by third party developers Vivox and DiamondWare. It seems unlikely. Linden Lab did great job of open-sourcing the client, and plan to do the same with the server software. It would be a shame to see what will probably become an integral part of the Second Life experience not be open source.

Disruption and transformation

I think this will work itself out in the long run, but there will be a lot of cultural adjustment, even upheaval, in the meantime. The ability of integrated voice to completely disrupt and transform the culture of Second Life cannot be underestimated.

(Image by Very Good with Computers)

Should my blog be a one-stop shop?

Busted!

Well, it didn’t take long for Alex Hayes (and others) to cotton-on to the fact that I’d started a new blog.

I’d hoped to have a bit of time to find my blogging feet before I entered into the fray of the blogosphere, but it was obviously not to be!

I was keen to keep up my blogging momentum, hoping to blog at least every couple of days and I was getting anxious wondering what I would blog about next. It now appears the blogosphere has already handed the topic to me!

My blogging endeavours have been mentioned on not one, but two posts by Alex.

These posts raise some issues about how I’ve set up my blog. These are issues I’ve been thinking about myself. So it looks like, for a while at least, I’ll be blogging about blogging, which is not unusual for someone new to blogging, although a bit ironic for someone who has taught others about blogging in the past!

Hopefully I’ll get to blogging about the work I’m doing with virtual worlds and Second Life soon too.

Linkblog and Google Reader issues

In Alex’s first post – Blogging Paradigms or e-Ciphering in LagtimeGraham Wegner asks: “So is Sean’s linkblog a collection of everything he contributes to on the web?”

Just to clarify… I set up the linkblog at a time when I was still looking for a blogging solution. I come across a lot of links that are relevant to the research I am doing into virtual worlds that I’d like to share with others, and instead of trying to blog about each of them I would just add some brief commentary in the item’s notes field, tag them with ‘mylinkblog’ and make the RSS feed for that tag available.

Also, I added the RSS feed from mylinkblog to a folder in my Google Reader called ‘seansthoughts’ along with RSS feeds for posts on other people’s blogs I had left significant comments on, links to things I had written and posted to my wiki and my blogHUD (blogging from within Second Life).

I then used the Google Reader’s sharing feature to create a reblog of all my publishing output at that time called ‘SeansThoughts‘.

But it turns out that entries in Google Reader aren’t shared until I’ve marked them as read, which means I have to regularly go in and do this manually before they will publish – obviously not a sustainable position!

Now that I have this new blog, I’ve been using del.icio.us’ daily blog posting tool to post daily links anyway, so the value of maintaining a separate linkblog is in doubt.

The other issue is that there are things that I post to my del.icio.us purely for my own interest, and aren’t relevant for other people or suitable for sharing, but the problem is that the del.icio.us tools publish everything, which means I have to either add notes for everything or even not post those links which I think may not be of interest to others.

I believe with a self-hosted WordPress blog it’s possible to have plugins that post daily del.icio.us blog posts that can be restricted to individual tags, in which case I just post items tagged with ‘mylinkblog’ to my blog. But that’s not an option at the moment, so I’m not sure what I will do.

[Update – 27/02/07: I’ve sort of ‘re-discovered’ that the standard del.icio.us linkroll tool lets you include notes and select individual categories, which means it it possible to add a linkroll to the sidebar which only displays posts with the ‘mylinkblog’ tag . That would be a good alternative to the daily link posting, however I can’t use that here as WordPress.com doesn’t allow javascript (boo! hiss!), so I will have to wait until I set up a blog on my own host if I want to choose that option.]

Will I continue to blend my Bloghudding?

In Alex’s post he also mentions that he likes the way I’m drawing all of my output into this one blog: “I’m liking his new blog mainly for it’s ‘core’ value – one-stop.” To be honest though, I’m already wondering if this is such a great idea.

I’ve been blogging from within Second Life with blogHUD for some time now. I get my avatar to wear the blogHUD (a ‘HUD’ is a heads up display) and this allows me to post text and pictures out to the web.

I can also cross-post from blogHUD to my flickr account, and to one external blog. In this case… here.

I’ve had a lot of fun bloghudding. In fact my blogHUD was the first time I’ve been motivated to blog consistently. It’s also the first time I’ve really used my flickr account. I’m not much of a photographer and prior to bloghudding I only used my flickr account for demo purposes and for the occasional moblogged snap (cue sound of chirping crickets!)

Some of my blogHUD posts like – Checking out Ohio Uni’s Learning Kiosk – are ‘serious’ and relevant to the work I’m doing, whereas others like – Waiting for a burger at Big A’s – are just a bit of fun.

There is a strange disjoint between my more confident, established bloghudding and my confident del.icio.us posts with comments on one hand, and the occasional nervous new blogger posts like this one on the other.

An even greater concern is that between my daily del.icio.us links posting, my bloghudding, and my regular blogging I could be pumping out several posts a day and I’m wondering if people will choose not to subscribe to such a busy blog, or whether they will subscribe but not be able to tell which are the longer, more ‘considered’ blog posts – the ones that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into – as they browse headings in their RSS readers.

So there is another argument for not cross-posting my bloghudding here and instead let people choose to subscribe to only that feed if they want, leaving only my daily links and ‘serious’ posts. After all, I do include the RSS feed to my blogHUD in the sidebar of the blog, and the images are also coming in through the flickr widget.

What do you think?

One blog or two? What should I do?

This brings me to Alex’s other post – Blogging : For The Greater Good – in which the issue is raised whether it’s a good idea to combine professional and personal blogging into one space, or whether we should have separate professional and personal blogs.

I am still divided on this one. There is much to be said for a blog that is focused on professional material only. Do people interested in my work in emerging technologies want to hear about my more personal musings (or indeed my lengthy ruminations about blogging)? Are people more likely to subscribe if the blog is focused?

Or should I chuck it all in the one blog and rely on people to filter, either by skimming my RSS feed (if they are subscribed), or by subscribing to only those categories they are interested in?

This is a vexed question, and raises all sorts of issues about the breakdown of the walls between the professional and the personal as a result of online personal publishing (but that’s for another blog post).

I just want to be sure my ‘one-stop shop’ doesn’t become a ‘one-stop flop’! 🙂

Thoughts?

(Image by Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches)