20 things we can learn from the Constant Innovation interview with Ebbe Altberg

While we all were running from stage to stage at SL13B, Ebbe Altberg had given another interview – but this time, it was not at Second Life, it was at the Constant Innovation podcast, hosted by Donnie SC Lygonis. As soon as several days ago it had been released to the public, and we all have got an opportunity to learn some more about both Second Life and Project Sansar

Listen to the episode at Spreaker: Episode 7, Ebbe Altberg, Virtual Reality Snowball Champion

Also: Project Sansar website | Second Life website

This shortlist has been written to highlight the most interesting points of the interview. Time stamps are included so you can verify each claim. Those of you who follow the Project Sansar news very closely may spot the details you already know about, but those are for the people who have not heard of them yet – we all have to catch up at some point.

So, what have we learned from this interview?

ABOUT EBBE ALTBERG

1. Ebbe Altberg had quite a trip in between companies.

Microsoft, then Ingenio, then Yahoo, oh my! At the very beginning of the talk, Ebbe talks about his background, about all the companies and roles he had been involved in the past with. Mostly management, not a lot of technical duties.

2. Ebbe Altberg’s perception of the separation of powers.

15 minutes in, Ebbe gets asked a question about the level of control Linden Lab exercises over users, and we learn that Linden Lab is trying to “manage the community”, by being the “police force, community management”, and he compares Second Life with the city where policies have to be executed. As an example, he uses gambling in Second Life – it is not allowed and Linden Lab handpicks the games that can be considered “skill games” and that are not pure games of chance. I hope to come back to the hypocrisy of Linden Lab on the question later, and for now, I will just say every experienced user of Second Life will tell you that Linden Lab itself does little to nothing for actually policing and managing the community – all they do is set regulations in a form of Terms of Service and accept support and abuse report tickets (but there is no transparency in the fate of these tickets, so it is equivalent to praying to God). The community has to manage itself with little power it has got. So, Ebbe, kindly stop taking the credit for that.

3. Second Life educational communities are great at supporting Ebbe’s arguments.

They have been brought several times during the podcast as a positive example in answering the questions. At around the 10th minute, Ebbe remembered speaking at the “big conference […] at educational community” (which is, of course, VWBPE), brought them up again as an example of who are the residents of Second Life (“you have educators, and students” at approx. 12:20), brought the educational regions as an example of students making more success when they learn in the virtual world.

4. One can get a feel that Ebbe Linden has not been anywhere in Second Life other than at The 1920s Berlin Project and the different meetings with the communities.

Otherwise he would’ve had more examples of the Second Life possibilities. If there were examples other than The 1920s Berlin Project and Ebbe’s meetings with the communities, they were way too easy to miss. The 1920s Berlin Project and Ebbe’s meetings with the communities were brought up as examples all the time.

ABOUT SECOND LIFE

5. If Second Life is such a wonderful platform for meetings, how come companies do not have them in Second Life?

To this question Ebbe gave as honest of an answer as there could be. In Ebbe’s own words, Second Life has some issues that make it complicated to use – it takes effort to use it effectively, and there are people who are willing to put that effort and get the positive outcome of it, and there are people who give up too soon. There was another resident who voiced exactly the same reason for people not trying Second Life enough, and I myself completely agree with it.

6. Supposedly businesses are trying to use Second Life.

At approx. 23:00 Ebbe claims that “there is a lot of businesses trying to come in and use Second Life”, but interestingly enough, he mentioned it very briefly and hurried over to the next point of the conversation. Judging from him constantly bringing up educational communities as examples of a successful use, we can conclude that had some real life big business try to use Second Life that actively, Ebbe would not be shy about it – every answer to the question about Second Life would start with mentioning that real life big business, and The 1920s Berlin Project would have to move over. But he quickly skims over it. Make your own conclusions.

7. Ebbe compared Second Life to a city of almost a million people (at approx. 12:55)

This claim is not verifiable, but hardly believeable. Lately, concurrent logons struggle to reach 60,000 in the busiest hours of Second Life. Of course we could assume that there are people who are able to log on only on certain days of the week, or perhaps once or twice a month. (I would not consider a resident anybody who logs on less often than that, would you?) Also, people from different parts of the world can log on Second Life only at certin times. I am one of those people who logs on Second Life everyday, unless it is impossible due to real life circumstances – and everyday, I see the same people at in-world locations, in my friends life, in active group chats. They barely rotate. Therefore, it is NOT different people logged on concurrently on different days. It is the same people everyday. There are definitely more than 60,000 residents of Second Life – perhars around 120,000-130,000. This is no way close to the promised “almost a million”.

8. Ebbe acknowledges that Second Life had not been growing since ’07-’08.

No point in pretending it had – this is a very well known fact. He brings it up at around the 21st minute.

ABOUT PROJECT SANSAR

9. Project Sansar is planned to be 13+

Mentioned at approx. 16:30 while talking about the age limitations of Second Life.

10. Ebbe plans to go with Project Sansar way beyond what Second Life has achieved.

He talks about it at approx. 17:10 – Second Life is the most successful virtual world to date (agree!), and Linden Lab aims to outdo with Project Sansar even such a high bar.

11. The main concept of Project Sansar (the short version).

Provided by Ebbe at approx. the 19th minute, with the preface starting a minute earlier. The main idea is that today, to build a VR multi-user experience, one has to have a team and the equipment close to the game development studio, and Project Sansar aims to be, in Ebbe’s own words, “an MMO platform”, on top of which people will be able to build multi-user experiences without needing a team of programmers for writing a game engine to make that experience come true. In short, you imagine it – they make it easy for you to build it.

12. The concept of instances in Project Sansar.

At approx. 23:20, Ebbe talks about the inconvenience of the technical limitations due to which regions of Second Life can host an experience to a very limited number of residents. The solution to this problem is going to be the concept of instances – when an experience is filled up with users, the platform spawns another instance of that experience, and the newly arriving users are filling up that new instance. This concept had been explained poorly in this interview, so to clarify what Ebbe means, let me bring the example from another interview with him. Imagine there is a popular live singer, and he or she gives a concert. An experience with the artist him/herself is singled out, but the experience where the audience is located gets recreated in a form of instances when the existing ones get filled up. Therefore, everybody watches the show taking place in the same instance of the artist’s experience, but they watch it from different instances of the audience’ experience. How’s that for optimization!

13. Second Life is a world, and Linden Lab are planning to move away from that concept with Sansar.

Ebbe brings up a wonderful point about Second Life at approx. 24:53 – Second Life from the very beginning had been designed to be a world one has to enter to begin discovering what it has to offer – and this world has little to no connections with the outside one. I loved the comparison with YouTube – indeed, going to youtube.com is not the only way to discover the YouTube video, we can come across it in our Google search, or find it embedded at some webpage. That is what Ebbe envisions for the Sansar, and if they figure out how to make it possible, this indeed will make the experience outreach much, much broader.

14. Whole experiences will be building blocks on themselves.

Donnie has asked a question around 26:45 about how easy it would be for creators to make experiences. The answer Ebbe gives to this question is so good I encourage you to listen to it yourselves, but long story short – in Second Life, there is a market for objects, scripts and other buildng blocks of one’s place, but Ebbe plans for the experiences to be products on themselves. That would be some kind of basic experiences one can obtain from the Marketplace and customize to one’s liking rather than making it from scratch.

15. Project Sansar will give us an ability to own experiences.

Ebbe elaborates it past the 29th minute mark. He imagines the future in which we may own separate experiences for business, for personal life, in which we visit public experiences, like pubs, and everything of that kind.

16. Virtual reality (VR) is still at its early stage.

At approx. 30:25, Donnie mentiones somebody at the recent VR conference making a statement that “we need to live through another year or two of crappy VR content”, with which Ebbe agrees (and so do I) – the field is relatively new and effort-demanding, and there is a lit of fiddling going on with it. Some time will have to pass before the right way to work with it is found. There are people who are sceptical about VR becoming widespread, but according to Donnie and Ebbe, the same attitude was with mobile phones and with smartphones – and look at the world now, mobile technology is everywhere. Same may very well apply to VR. Further into the podcast, they talk about the hardware issues – mainly its cost and physical inconveniences, about which Ebbe is confident that those are only temporary and the hardware will be improved with time.

17. Ebbe believes that in the future, we will be flipping between VR and AR (Augmented Reality)

As an answer to the question asked by Donnie at 32:15, Ebbe shared his vision for the future in which we will be immersed in the virtual location at one moment (VR), and in the next moment, be back to the real world having some scoreboard in front of us (AR). While VR will get ahead of AR at first, AR will make much more sense on various professional fields.

18. About the release of Project Sansar.

To many concerned Second Life residents, this information is barely new, but if you would like to brush up on thi, somewhere around 36:40 Donnie asks the question about the release date of Project Sansar. Linden Lab plans to have many test users for the creator preview by the end of August (they have got about 5 thousand applications from various content creators), and they plan to open Project Sansar for the public access sometime around January next year.

19. Ebbe expects Sansar to be around for decades.

He expresses it at around 38:20, along with mentioning that Second Life has entered its second decade, still alive and kicking, and Linden Lab builds Project Sansar to last.

20. Sansar to become the WordPress of VR.

At around the 42th minute mark, Ebbe shares his excitement over all the different communities, locations and separate people (of course The 1920s Berlin Project was mentioned!) that find the opportunity to realize their ideas in Second Life – and he imaines Project Sansar to be an easy way for creative and savvy people to create experiences while only being concerned about the design and the social side of the creation process and without worrying about the technical side. Ebbe draws the parallel with how the websites are created nowadays – we use WordPress and similar website engines! (Can confirm, am on WordPress too.) We can tweak the design, the website structure, and obviously we are the ones to fill it up with the content, but we do not worry about writing the website engine from scratch and getting it online. This is the technology Ebbe plans Sansar to be.

As you can see, there have been moments that got me upset, furious, happy and elated, but overall this has been a very interesting interview with the right questions asked and answered – speaking for myself, it definitely has got me more excited for Sansar. What about you?

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