Category Archives: Technology

The Future of Money: How millions of currencies are about to change the world

via English :: “El futuro del dinero” which has the text version.

Amazing demo of the future of augmented reality using mobile devices

YouTube – SekaiCameraDemoVideo of TechCrunch50

via Learning Matters

Laconica and identi.ca – the open source alternatives to Twitter

(Image by camera obscuraCC-by-nc)

I’m a big believer in open source philosophies, free software and decentralised systems, so I want to do my bit to give a plug for Laconica – a microblogging system that offers an open source, distributed alternative to Twitter.

So, what is Laconica?

According to the article, Twitter for the enterprise:

Laconica is an open source microblogging platform—a network service software that allows participants to post short messages on a Web page, which then can be read by peers and other interested parties. The messages can also be sent out to instant messaging clients, to cell-phones as a short message service (SMS)-based dispatch, and to other conduits.

Laconica is different from Twitter for several reasons. One is that it is available as a stand-alone software platform available without cost under an open source license.

So anyone can setup a Laconica server. There is a growing list of Laconica servers here – http://laconi.ca/Main/ListOfServers. Currently the most popular service is identi.ca. My account there is http://identi.ca/seanfitz.

Twitter is often down due to scaling problems, and they have reduced the number of features to reduce the load. For example, they removed the useful “With Others” tab that allowed you to view someone else’s conversation with their friends. With anyone being able set up their own Laconica server many of these load-related problems should be avoided.

Laconica also can offer federated messaging: Two different installations of Laconica can be linked so that a message on one service can be relayed to users of the other service.

It’s this federated messaging that really excites me. It means I can follow someone on any Laconica service, not just the one I’m registered with. This is pretty cool. Laconica is a truly distributed microblogging service.

Laconica also supports OpenID, the single log-on identity service, which is another plus.

See a full list of current and upcoming features here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laconica

Content on Laconica is Creative Commons licensed

This is the only thing about Laconica I don’t feel 100% comfortable about – when you sign up for identi.ca you agree to license your contributions under the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license.

Don’t get me wrong, I support the idea of producing work under Creative Commons licenses, it’s just that I would rather have choice over which license I apply to my content, like I do at flickr.

Besides, even though my microblogging may not produce any great works of art, I prefer to put a by-nc-sa license on my content because I don’t want to see it being restricted for commercial use and potentially sold back to me.

Private microblogging networks

Being able to host your own Laconica server means that you can create your own private microblogging network. As the Twitter for the enterprise article points out, this could have some important uses in business:

Deploying Laconica within an enterprise can help employees from different parts of the organization share information, Prodromou said. The software can partition off different user groups for collaboration, or have users communicate with the world—or organization—at large. Organizations can also set up conduits to personnel at other organizations running their own microblogging services.

Laconica in an educational setting

Being able to set up your own server also means it may have some uses in an educational setting. As a general rule I support web services being on the open web, but there are some instances in educational settings where private services are appropriate, such as with younger students, or vulnerable students, or other areas where Duty of Care is an issue. I’m a realist, so I also accept that sometimes private networks can provide a stepping stone for institutions that are just too nervous to let their students use tools on the open web.

A Laconica network could be a great way to provide a peer learning support network. As SMS support is improved (it only works with some networks at the moment) a Laconica network could also potentially be used to broadcast information to students.

Supporting the distributed microbloggerverse

I hope more people jump on board with Laconica and identi.ca and help create a distributed microbloggerverse. As an open source project the more people who get involved the faster it will improve.

If nothing else, even if Laconica doesn’t replace Twitter, or become anywhere as big as Twitter, it should at least keep them their toes knowing that they have an open source competitor.

So I think it’s worth checking out at least. And besides, if this really is Lawrence Lessig on identi.ca (thanks gnuchris), then all the really cool people will be there. 🙂

By the way – if you use FriendFeed it’s now possible to follow identi.ca updates over there.

Second Life as a Platform for Augmented Reality

I’m not in the habit of posting videos to my blog that are posted elsewhere on the Net. I usually just bookmark them in del.icio.us and let them post automatically to my daily link blog.

But this one demonstrating the use of Second Life as a platform for augmented reality is extraordinary:

(via reBang)

More examples of Georgia Institute of Technology’s work are available on their AR Second Life Website.

I was particulary taken by the interaction with avatars, which suggests a whole host of uses for mixed reality events, from teleconferencing to education.

I’ve seen this type of thing before. Take a look these videos of from Demo2007 and Demo2004 showcasing Total Immersion’s D’Fusion software which enables the real-time integration of interactive 3D graphics into live video flows.

For more information and videos check out Total Immersion’s website.

If you poke around on YouTube at videos related to the Demo2007 one you will come across many other interesting examples of how this technology is being used. For example: YouTube – Augmented Reality by Hitlab.

What strikes me about Georgia Institute of Technology’s Second Life version is it’s accessibility. When I saw Total Immersion’s version I thought it was cool, but assumed it would be a while before it was accessible to the public. But the Second Life version brings this type of technology into the world of the attainable. They are using a modified Second Life client (another win for open-sourcing the client!) on a regular PC. I couldn’t find any information on their website about it’s availability, but let’s hope it’s open source too.

Virtual worlds as virtual workplaces

A related idea is that of using virtual worlds as virtual workplaces.

mpk20.jpg

If anyone has any doubts that 3D virtual workplaces are going to be big in the future, then they should take a look at this video – MPK20: Sun’s Virtual Workplace (28.6Mb .mov file), and read this article – Computerworld – Sun building collaborative, virtual world for teleworkers.

You can also view an in-depth video interview and demonstration (23.6MB .mp4 file) of the project from Nicole Yankelovich or get more information from the MPK20: Sun’s Virtual Workplace website.

And this is just one of many projects by companies exploring using 3D virtual world platforms as virtual workplaces.

Kids don’t have to ‘be good’ online, just careful

A good article from Thomas Friedman, author of ‘The World is Flat’, on the importance of imagination, creativity and passion in the digital age – In a flat world imagination is the key – Opinion – smh.com.au

I can’t agree with him on his point about kids needing to “be good” online though:

Our kids will not have the luxury we have of being wild and crazy when they were young because it’s on somebody’s cell phone camera forever. It’s in somebody’s MySpace. Everyone who has a cell phone is a paparazzo. Everyone who has a blog is a journalist and when everyone is a paparazzo and a journalist, everyone else is a public figure – so be good.

Just because everything we do can become public as a result of citizen journalism and publishing doesn’t mean young people have to stop having fun, they just have to be careful.

And adults have a role in teaching young people how to use the internet wisely and safely.

The reason employers and and others with ‘authority’ can get away with punishing people for what they post online is because they come from a generation that haven’t yet done it themselves.

When everyone has posted their crazy drunken teenage party pics online no-one will be able to act superior and wield power over anyone else – everyone will be in the same boat.

(Thanks to Wendy Zammit for the heads-up.)

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)