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?

SL13B. Fantastic Finds: Beguile

"10 Years of Sailing" exhibit at SL13B

Finally we are getting to the best part of SL13B – the discoveries made at the exhibits of places to visit and activities to partake in all year round. While many exhibitors have made their exhibits the standalone installations with a certain statement (usually dedicating their exhibit to Shared Adventure, the theme of this year’s community celebration), many exhibitors have allowed themselves to represent something existing on the big Grid – places, communities, activities. You have already seen the first article of the series, dedicated to performing arts of Second Life, and here, we are moving on to what SL13B exhibitors can offer us. Let us see what we have discovered!

We begin with the Beguile region, rich on various Second Life communities exhibits.

Visiting to get acquainted with the place or the community is the obvious option, but I have also added the “Involvement level” meter to give you an idea of how much time you may expect to invest in the community or activity to really experience it. The levels are going like this:

  • Seasonal – you’ve got a shot in it when the time comes, don’t miss it;
  • Short-term – come anytime for a visit, no obligations;
  • Long-term – stay for a while, there will be certain expectations;
  • Second lifetime – change your second life forever;
  • Voluntary – any of the above will work fine.

Note: I have not thoroughly explored and researched every one of them, but merely listed them as objects of interest in Second Life, therefore do not expect elaborate descriptions. If you are inclined, you are most encouraged to go to each of the listed locations and communities and explore them by yourself!

Note 2: This list will be short on arts, because there is a little less than 50% chance that you have encountered an art exhibit or an exhibit that represents an art gallery or some other art-related venue. Next most popular category, Second Life Communities, has clocked about 15% of total exhibits. With all my respect to all existing forms of art, I firmly believe that a virtual world is first and foremost about interactivity, and seeing it becoming a platform for passive observation breaks my heart. There are a number of bloggers who will promote art installations in Second Life. I will not be one of them. Not this time at least.

Note 3: Many of the “finds” are going to be well-known locations, activities and communities. May this series of listings serve as a reminder of their existence and awesomeness.

Note 4: Sorry folks, no pictures, at least this time. Take my word – all of the finds are either eye-pleasing or engaging.


SL13B Volunteers (Exhibit: SL13B Volunteers Welcome You!)

Website | In-world group

Our list for Beguile kicks off, of course, with something related to SL13B itself, and that will be the Community Celebration volunteers, those that ensure that everything runs smoothly at the Celebration while expecting nothing in return, and the least we can give them is our endless gratitude, respect and appreciation. The exhibit took a form of a friendly hippie shack for visitors to take a break at. Unfortunately, the exhibit did not happen to have any group joiner or any information stand, and therefore one can only guess that the visitor inclined to learn more would somehow discover the way to join the official SLB Community Celebration group.

Involvement level: Seasonal, about couple of months


Cystic Fibrosis University (Exhibit: CF University)

Website | In-world location

The place that aims to educate the public about the fatal generic disorder known as cystic fibrosis has made its appearance at SL13B. Provided by Boomer Esiason Foundation, the campus features the main area with info stands (primarily Web-based), the library with a variety of resources on the issue, the administration building with information about the Team Boomer, the art gallery, the student union, the gift shop and a memorial fountain.

Involvement level: Voluntary


Second Life sailing (Exhibit: 10 Years of Sailing)

Search in-world for “sailing” in Places and Groups

Maiti Yenni (maitiyenni)’s exhibit at SL13B one, in my opinion, was one of the most remarkable ones – her exhibit promoted the activity she is passionate about, Second Life sailing, by presenting the volume and richness of this activity. “10 Years of Sailing” took the resident on a journey through time, from the very first Second Life boat to the growth of multiple sailing communities, as well as honouring the memory of some significant figures who, unfortunately, happen to be no longer with us… Communities, events, races – Second Life sailing includes so much more than just riding a boat across Blake Sea over and over. But reading about it is one thing, and experiencing it is a completely another one.

Involvement level: Voluntary – from an occasional trip to a lifestyle


Aero Pines Park

In-world location

Very well-known recreational area on the grid, Aero Pines Park has rightfully earned a reputation of “a place where there is always something to do”. Horseback riding, log flume rides, hiking through forest areas of the three regions, frequent live events – whenever one feels like experiencing a day in the natural reservation, one is most welcome at Aero Pines. Both individuals and groups of friends will have a way to have fun there.

Involvement level: Short-term


Sanctuary CCS Dark Role Play Community

Website | In-world location

Here comes the first roleplay community find. Sanctuary is an adult oriental-themed (looks like it at least) roleplay which actively uses the Community Combat System (or CCS), providing starter weapons as well as areas dedicated for the in-world combat. Traditional text roleplay also takes place, evidently. When I grabbed the Welcome Pack and the CCS Info pack, I got about a dozen notecards with information, which tells me that this is a pretty complex combat system, therefore I am going to leave exploring it to those who are inclined.

Involvement level: Long-term


Second Life Kids (Exhibit: SL Goonies Dungeons & Knightmares)

Try kids-related search queries, for example “kids friendly” or “kids roleplay”

Residents choose to live their second lives as kids for a variety of reasons – to get a kid’s perspective of Second Life, to avoid unsolicited attention, to rediscover a child in themselves. Loki Eliot, who happens to be one of the pillars of Second Life Kids’ community, has brought our attention to their existence through an interactive installation which is dedicated to the real life kids’ show popular in the… 80s? Taking advantage of the Experiences, he has installed an entire quest similar to the one the participants of the actual Knightmare have to get through. Residents had to work in teams of at least two, which happened to be a disadvantage for me, for I like experiencing things in Second Life on my own. But that is my personal preference. All in all, Second Life Kids are a big community, and one can learn more about them by looking up the groups.

Involvement level: Long-term to second lifetime


Elf Circle (Exhibit: A Touch of Elf Circle)

In-world location

All evidence suggests that this 7-region territory is a home to the Second Life fantasy community – while bearing the word Elf in the name, it is comprised of all the imaginable fantasy creatures living together. One can rent oneself a nice spot at Elf Circle, engage in the fantasy community lifestyle, participate in events and Second Life residents’ favourite pastime – shopping at the local fantasy market, practice in archery and overall have a lovely time in a company of peers.

Involvement level: Short-term to long-term


Spanish with Eugenia

In-world location

Eugenia Calderon, the founder of Spanish with Eugenia, had been teaching Spanish in Second Life for quite a long time, and at SL13B, residents got an opportunity to get acquainted with her school not only at the SL13B Auditorium presentation, but also at her exhibit. She uses Second Life interactive options for helping the students better understand and appreciate Spanish both as a language and as a cultural bridge, bringing them to virtual authentic Mexican locations and studying the language at those through lots of live communication. The classes are not free, but considering that they are meant to be a complete alternative to real life classes, this fact should not repel those who take learning Spanish seriously.

Involvement level: Voluntary, long-term recommended


The Dirty Grind (Exhibit: Radio Grind presents…The Dirty Grind Independent Artist Comm.)

In-world location

Independent artists can be found all over the Grid, as well as some dedicated communities where they can show off and exchange their talent – which The Dirty Grind happens to be. Along with the venue where live music is heard on a regular basis, there is also the radio station, Radio Grind, running 24/7, which any resident can add to their own land – an artistic soul will have no problem finding its retreat on the murky streets of The Dirty Grind.

Involvement level: Voluntary


Weltenville (Exhibit: Weltenville Dream your Adventure Live your Adventure)

In-world location

Anybody who is having a hard time deciding on the roleplay theme they would like to get themselves involved in may look no further – at Weltenville one can participate in several of them at the same time. From medieval to mermaid to biker or pirate, there seems to be no limit in being who you want to be at Weltenville. The place also supports all the popular combat and roleplay systems, is open to all the most popular breedables, supports all the most popular forms of mainland traveling, provides the new user orientation, and overall seems to strive to be everything at once.

Involvement level: Voluntary


Willowdale (Exhibit: Willow Scouts of Second Life)

In-world location

Through the Willow Scouts exhibit we can learn about Willowdale, the home community to this Second Life scouts organization. Willowdale is a vibrant family roleplay community which finds its home at the 7 region area, where Second Life residents can enjoy the peaceful modern lifestyle roleplay all together, in case real life is not fulfilling enough. One can be a school student, school teacher, firefighter, policeman or garbage collector – whichever modern role is your dream role!

Involvement level: Long-term


SL Harbor La Luna Bay City

In-world location

No, this one is not associated with the Mainland Bay City community, but is located at the bay as well, hence the name. From what I have observed, this community is teenage avatars-oriented (but not limited to) and is about cutesy and having all the fun in the world while one is young! Visitors will find the traditional Second Life activities out there – the live events venue, the shopping district, as well as several activities venues, and even a street train line across the entire place.

Involvement level: Voluntary


Olde Lapara Town (Exhibit: Lapara’s “The Big City”)

In-world location

Thanks to Levi Clownski (israel.schnute)’s exhibit at SL13B, we have managed to discover his Olde Lapara Towne, a small town somewhere on Heterosera, connected to the Second Life Railroad, which has been built in the image of an arbitrary American city in the early 20th century. Evidently, the place has been built as a tourist attraction, where a resident or a group of residents can take a stroll across the city and take pictures, or take a tram ride. One can even stay for a week in the Grand Lapara Hotel – but just a warning, it is G-rated.

Involvement level: Short-term


HUNT SL

Website | In-world location

Hunts are an in-world activity one can learn more about at [insert URL here], and do residents love them – they are challenging, they give residents an opportunity to obtain quality and unique items at a bargain price (or even for free!), they introduce residents to stores and places, and they are just plain fun! HUNT SL is an organization which tracks hunts and promotes them for potential participants – both hunters and store owners can take a look at the website or the in-world location at any time and choose their next adventure.

Involvement level: Short-term


Stay digitized and have fun exploring! Wonderous region coming up next!

People of Second Life: Cyrus Hush (2006-2016) aka Matthew Poole (1960-2016)

It is never late to learn about the people who have been practically shaping particular communities in Second Life. Better late than never, but it is important to learn about them, to know what they have accomplished and discovered, to know where to take from, now that they are gone. Isn’t it curious that people can be gone even from the world where everybody is supposedly forever young and immortal?

20160621 Cyrus Hush 1

The memorial service for Cyrus Hush, known as Matthew Poole in the physical world, has gathered more than forty people at the VSTE island – from those who had a pleasure to know him personally, to those who remembers him taking a group of virtual explorers to their places, to those who had learned about him and his contribution too late, but wished to learn some more about what kind of individual he was. I belong to the latter group. I had not happened to meet him in person, real or digital. A good friend of mine and a great friend of Cyrus Hush, Dae Miami, another educator of Second Life, has presented Cyrus Hush to me as one extraordinary individual, inspiring me to come to the service and learn as much as I can about him. All I can operate with is the memories of those who had known him personally, memories that had been shared at the service. But that alone was enough for me to appreciate his input in exploring educational opportunities in digital worlds.

20160621 Cyrus Hush 2
And people kept on arriving

So I felt the need to share with you readers that little something I have managed to learn about Cyrus Hush.

Cyrus was an explorer at heart, and it appears that he had the power of turning people around him into explorers – curious, adventurous, standing strong before the ever-changing environment of the virtual worlds – like himself. Those presenting at the service were fondly remembering the ISTE Tours and Virtual Pioneer Tours to all kinds of fantastic locations, from historical environments to interstellar expeditions in Second Life. He could not stay at one place when there was a huge Grid, waiting to be explored by him and his group of fellow adventurers. He felt the potential of Second Life, the creative environment it fosters, and he kept exploring it and taking advantage of his discoveries to the fullest.

Virtual Education Journal (VEJ) had him as a columnist since the very first issue in 2011. Cyrus Hush had his own column, named, of course, “Explorations”, where he had been sharing the highlights of his explorations with the readers. Roxie Neiro, the editor of VEJ, remembered him for his fun-loving sense of humour, his great ideas, and the wonderful friendship they had been sharing.

The line between the digital and the physical worlds is extremely fine. So it should come as no surprise that there have been people who had communicated with him outside of Second Life. Unfortunately, true appreciation of his work comes from knowing first hand what virtual worlds are and how powerful they are – therefore, while Cyrus has connected people from all the remote locations of the United States, and even outside, there were only a handful of educators in Matthew Poole’s real life who took interest in what he had been doing. Dae Miami remembered that when he was giving a presentation at the VSTE day on the topic of Second Life (in the physical world), only 6 people attended his presentation in the physical world, but 29 showed up in Second Life. One of these six people was Matt Poole himself, that is when the two of them met for the first time in real life. After referring to each other out of habit by their Second Life names, Cyrus and Dae, Dr. Miami has realized that the two personalities, the physical and the digital ones, can merge together. The example is this memorial service. The job Cyrus has done for Second Life, while done in the digital world, has been impacting the residents in the very real way, and the service, while held in the digital world, is just as powerful as the one that took place in the physical world, if not more powerful – because people from all over the world have this opportunity to get together at one place to celebrate life of this truly remarkable man.

20160621 Cyrus Hush 3
The permanent memorial to Cyrus Hush being lit by the light of more than 40 candles

The power of the virtual worlds will probably never be appreciated enough, and best we can do is to reveal and put in use as much of it as we can. Cyrus had been doing exactly that, and the results of his discoveries will live on – in VEJ articles, in the destination hub he has put together at the VSTE island, and in the experience the fellow travelers had obtained during the field trips with him. Now it is up to us to take it from there, bring that adventurous explorer out, and continue on unraveling the mysteries of the virtual worlds and harnessing their power. We have had Cyrus Hush to show us how it is done.

I have intentionally left out a lot of details about his work in other digital worlds as well as the details about his real life to keep this article focused on Cyrus Hush’s contribution to the metaverses. Otherwise, this article would be twice longer. More about his real life can be found in this obituary, and one can learn more about his work overall by watching the videos at his YouTube channel.