The double edged sword of analysis. #SecondLife
Truth is a double edged sword. It can pierce the demon of deceit and be the salvation of the blind. Or it can cut your inflated ego and have you bleed for all to see. It is cold, it is calculating, and it doesn’t give a damn what you think – only what actually is and will be.
It has to be said that I’ve spent the fair share of my career listening to people proclaim how I am somehow far more destructive than I am creative when it comes to the premise of the Metaverse. Usually this assertion comes at the end of some conversation wherein I’ve given the sort of analysis that people take offense to, or that their own personal projects just aren’t what they would hope they would be. Just as often, people prop themselves up on ego and bullshit, only to find that I have no remorse for applying cold and calculated truth.
Therein is the double edged sword of analysis. Everything is fine until you take a critical look at it, and when you can honestly state that it’s not going to turn out well, then suddenly people take offense. People just don’t like hearing that something they have an emotional attachment to is simply not going to pan out into something of importance in the grand scheme of things.
Yars Revenge – finally a franchise reboot worth bragging about
I had this issue when I was doing an analysis of Atari a number of years ago. A friend of mine who worked there asked me to participate in an anonymous forum for Atari employees which the sole point was to ascertain the climate of the employees and find out what was bothering them about the company as a whole. The premise of my involvement was simple – I was asked to participate lightly but more importantly figure out what was likely to happen given the circumstances, and then offer some insight. Overall, the purpose was to give the executives an idea what destructive repercussions their actions were likely to bring about, and offer a set of solutions that would circumvent that.
The overall issue with Atari at the time was that they were bent on constantly raising their IP from the dead and rebooting their franchises from the Atari 2600 days. They saw the future of Atari as reissuing classics on the iPod and iPad… which I can sort of understand. But there is really little leeway to be had from rebuilding a brand image by saying “Look how great we used to be”. It’s not that I had an issue with rebooting their franchises, it’s that I rightfully pointed out that they were rebooting them very poorly and spending far too little time in building the Atari brand back into a realm that was recognizable in a positive light again. Even today, you as gamers likely know more about the games they have published than the company – and for that, they suffer greatly because their games overshadow the company either negatively or positively.
At the time, Atari was looking to reboot the Alone in the Dark franchise (once again) and release something on XBox and PC. My thoughts in that forum were that the players would likely see through the cheap reboot and it would cost Atari far more money and good will in the process than they were likely prepared to handle losing. This was also at a time when Atari was on the verge of being de-listed on the stock exchange and bought out by their parent company Infogrames in France. In short, Atari was very close to no longer existing.
Well, I heard the same mantra from the executives and some of the staff there – that I was being far more of a cynical force than creative hope and that my assertions were laughable at best.
Clearly I was just being smug and destructive…
What actually happened was that Alone in the Dark managed to be leaked to a German game magazine who played the unreleased version and gave it 1 star out of 5, with the additional recommendation that nobody should bother playing it. This was before Atari even could launch the game, and it was a few months before they were going to do so. In short, they were destroyed before they ever got out of the gate.
So Atari ended up redoing much of the game on short notice.
Alone in the Dark 2: Available in your local Bargain Bin.
One of the other things I noted in the forum to the executives and staff was that what Atari seemed to be missing was the visionary at the helm, and I suggested they really should get Nolan Bushnell (the original founder) back at the top. Of course, I was scoffed at the time and poo-pooed like I was delusional. As a matter of fact, employees at Atari were suddenly disappearing because what was being said was so inconvenient that the executives were wholesale firing people as a result and trying to shut us up – or more importantly trying to shut me up. Brilliantly, I was the only “employee” that Atari could not fire – put in place by their then media manager (Thanks, Adam).
A few years later, Atari did just what I had laid out. Nolan Bushnell was back and part of the board of directors, and one of the chief investors. A move that likely stopped Atari from being swallowed up by Infogrames.
Since then, Atari managed to reboot at least one of its franchises (I’d say) successfully in that YARS Revenge was masterfully reimagined. I’d say that Nolan likely had a hand in this and many other things. After all, he wanted a return on investment. However, they’re slipping back into their lazy ways and propping themselves up on old IP as-is instead of reimagined.
This turns out to be a far more familiar course of events in what I do, and it stems from the fact that I’m willing to see what a situation actually is versus how people emotionally cling to what they think it will be. People more often than not take offense to what I have to say, not because I’m wrong, but because they haven’t reached a point themselves where they are willing to accept it.
So the familiar course of discussion rears its ugly head time and again. Somebody gets defensive about something I’ve stated, I make a defense in as polite a manner as I can muster, and then they go on the offense and start slinging bullshit all over the conversation hoping to cover up for the fact they’ve made an ass out of themselves. Which never works… because I see right through the bullshit and cut to the chase. This goes on for whatever amount of time until the other person suddenly backs off and pretends like they’re too good for the conversation.
Of course, because nobody likes having their asses handed to them in public. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard the “You have no credibility” line or something alluding to it. It won’t be the first time I’ve been accused of not knowing what I’m talking about.
And it won’t be the last time I mercilessly dismantle somebody in plain sight, without remorse.
Similarly, I can say that the same course of conversation has occurred time and again in the virtual world industry. I’d like to say “Metaverse” industry, but that doesn’t exist yet – but I’ll get to that in a bit, because it bares some more detail.
When I was using ActiveWorlds, I had the same sort of critical thinking aspects as I have today, and I actually did lay out a course for ActiveWorlds to address if they wanted to rekindle what they had from the 1990s. During that conversation, I was told time and again that the things I was putting on that list were “impossible” and even worse, I constantly heard from others how I had somehow lost my credibility on the subject and that I had become destructive and not hopeful and creative. I was, for all intents and purposes, a blight on that community.
That’s a bit harsh, you’d think… or quite possibly you’re thinking that it’s not such a far off statement if you’ve been on the receiving end. I mean, while it comes across as harsh, what I say most times is grounded farther in reality than what most people try to debate me with. What really takes people by surprise and throws them into defense/offense mode is that I’m willing to just cut through the pile of bullshit and state things as they are. Which unsurprisingly just prompts people to pile that bullshit on thicker and hope it covers their ass.
So about 5 years ago, I left ActiveWorlds as a system, after being wholesale banned from their forums. At the time, the company thought they had the last laugh, and took it upon themselves to change my forum name to Ninja-Pwnd. The remaining community had a good laugh.
Funny thing is, I wasn’t bothered by that. I knew what I had said was both true and inevitable, no matter how much they wanted to pretend it wasn’t. Many times I had caught them in outright lies to the public and to their customers, and I refused to pretend that they weren’t lying just so they could save face. Every time they said something wasn’t possible – I made it a point to show them exactly how it was, which was a constant embarrassment to them. I managed to showcase their own browser and software capabilities far better than they could and do things that they, themselves didn’t even believe it could do.
Four years afterward, my words came back and bit them in the corporate ass. What I had written in 2007 was still on display in the forums, including the checklist of things they should be doing in order to gain ground again. Four years after the community said I was delusional, destructive, and made no contribution to the system or its progression… when they had asserted I had zero credibility on the subject…
It was four years later that ActiveWorlds actually did enact nearly all of the checklist I had left them into their system. They did so with a grandiose sort of reveal on each version, about how great that advancement was and how they had thought it up all by themselves. Until somebody resurrected the thread from 2007 that got me banned and pointed out that they had followed exactly what I had said.
So, I wasn’t wrong… it just took them four years to catch up and do it. Which was about how long it took Atari to come to grips with what I had said and start enacting what I left as a roadmap. In either case, this is proof that even companies are willing to be far more destructive, fire everybody, silence people, and systematically do the opposite of what they are told even knowing full well they will cause damages. In short, grown adults throwing temper tantrums and stomping their feet.
A similar conversation occurred between myself and Avatar Reality (BlueMars) when it was in Beta. Glenn (working for BlueMars) and I regularly had these sorts of conversations, and I was always quick to say that while BlueMars was magnificent in the engine – because I wasn’t about to say the Crytek Engine was crap, the actual service itself was likely to fall short and the company to collapse over time.
Essentially, what I had told him was that BlueMars was taking a business route that was already proven to have failed in implementation. Similarly the Worlds Inc browser followed the same premise – having to download a premade space in entirety before becoming accessible to the user. In the case of BlueMars, those spaces were incredibly large in size (500MB to Multiple GB up front).
Even then, he politely told me that he begged to differ and that BlueMars would be the next great thing.
After the collapse of BlueMars, the firing of most of the staff and the CEO, and subsequent restructuring into the “lite” client it is now (essentially a shadow of its former self) I asked him again if he thought I was delusional or being cynical? He had no comment.
Avatar Reality | BlueMars – About as good as a $750,000 engine can buy you.
To wit, a similar conversation happened between myself and Phillip Rosedale around 2005, where I asked some very important questions about the underlying architecture of Second Life and the inability to upwardly scale past a certain point. Not just in the sense of the virtual environments and regions, but in the overall architecture of things attached to it. At the time, even Phillip begged to differ (which actually are his exact words) and I politely said to him that time will tell, but he was forewarned.
Fast forward and after a few posts about how to utilize a Seamicro server system in order to treat the entire data center as a processor for regions that are in use and idling regions not in use, we find that Region Idling is indeed now part of the system. This conversation stemmed from a discussion I had with Dr. Gilbert at Loyola Marymount University about how Second Life could reduce the operating costs through this methodology, and he asked me if anyone had told Linden Lab about it. The answer was that, no I hadn’t made it a point to toss them a bone. Well, I’m sure Dr. Gilbert did toss Linden Lab a bone after that conversation, and maybe in some leisurely route it became so. It’s not the full implementation of what I wrote, but it’s still a step forward. With research from IBM looking into how they can get up to 500 avatars in one region without killing the system, the glass ceiling was hit and my point was proven.
You’d have to strip the individuals to a shell of their former selves if you wanted to handle that level of concurrency on a centralized system like Second Life. Indeed, the underlying architecture of centralization was its Achilles heel. It still is the greatest weakness of Second Life to date, and so when I asked Phillip Rosedale once again at a recent appearance in Second Life if he’d have done it different – this time he finally answered “Yes, definitely”. For those in the audience, they didn’t quite get the back-story of importance for the question and answer, but Phillip and I did.
The interesting part is that Linden Lab put Region Idling into place, but that is only half of what the solution would have enabled had they went full tilt with it. Essentially, you’ve been cheated out of the equivalent of each region in Second Life having the cumulative power of a super computing fabric at its disposal instead of the meager quad-core processor it has now for regions. The structure would have actually lowered the overall costs of regions while massively improving the compute power per region, and lowering the server rack space at the data center as well as the cost of operation.
I find it hard to swallow the notion that I’ve done nothing of importance for the greater Metaverse. If anything, whenever somebody has the audacity to make that claim, it is an insult to both what I have actually contributed and an insult to their own understanding of what they actually have today. On the whole, it is possibly one of the most illegitimate assertions that could be made.
And yet I hear that assertion time and again.
You’d think people would have learned by now…
Despite provably demonstrating over and again that I’m not just pulling stuff out of my rear, or being cynical and destructive, and despite time and again finding that the things I have said do in fact come true, I seem to always be met with this disdain and ego which only serves to outline how far behind we really are in the understanding of the whole.
The greatest impediment to creating a Metaverse isn’t the lack of technology to do so, it’ the lack of understanding and an outright willful ignorance in the population that otherwise is quite rational.
For instance, I do state quite clearly that a Metaverse does not yet exist, but what I mean by that is not as a single functional system. All the pieces of the puzzle are right there in front of us, and have been for many years now. Nobody seems interested in putting the puzzle together. I know advocates of the Metaverse often proclaim they are hell-bent on the vision for building the Metaverse, but in the end, it doesn’t seem to transpire.
It isn’t for lack of technology to enable it. After all, Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse as a framework has been around for a number of years. So whatever notion we assert that concurrency and regions just aren’t up to snuff is out the window. The answer is plain as day and staring us in the face. We could say that the asset server system isn’t universal yet and nobody has made the proper innovations to enable a widespread asset storage that is secure… but that’s bunk as well. We have open source technologies which enable a Brightnet available to us, so I’m constantly struggling to wrap my head around the truth of the matter.
Even better, I‘ve outlined what forward looking technology to pay attention to in order to get the sort of graphics we saw with BlueMars but without the computational overhead. That engine being Euclideon, and their point-cloud data system. Which, not surprisingly, people weren’t ready to believe actually existed and was merely a hoax. Even when I outlined in detail how it essentially works and why – people just aren’t ready to accept this paradigm shift.
Not only was it “impossible” but the lack of hands on demonstration means they’ll likely just fall off the face of the Earth as a has-been. So when I said that I actually expected Euclideon to release a tangible product around the end of 2012, and likely by early to mid-2013 they’d have a game-type SDK ready, people immediately scoffed and said I was delusional.
Well, as if right on cue, Euclideon has just popped up again with their first application of the Unlimited Detail Engine in a commercial manner – Geoverse. A real-time spatial visualization platform which can handle LIDAR data in real-time while reducing the data size down to 5-20% of the original size, and accessible in seconds. Feel free to download the brochure here, or give them a call to arrange a hands on demonstration.
It’s not a lack of technology, it’s a lack of empathy and understanding for the whole.
If anything, it’s apathy disguised as enthusiasm.
Everyone says they want it, and nobody seems truly interested in actually making it.
Instead we get what amounts to either MetaWorlds or MetaGalaxies, which aren’t a Metaverse. Metaworlds being the singular context of a virtual world and MetaGalaxies being many virtual spaces under the same singular methodology but not an agnostic one coming together. So we have Second Life which is a MetaWorld, and OpenSim and related systems which are a MetaGalaxy. But that’s about where the buck stops.
We get this emotional bias in the systems we use which increasingly become a detriment to the whole and not a benefit. Technology lock-in, we can assume is a great impediment, but emotional lock-in is far worse. When I talk about The Metaverse, and a method to enable it, it’s that thinking which brings me comments from Maria at Hypergrid Business about how she totally agrees that OpenSim needs an HTML5 embedded version, or how a virtual world project is somehow greater than it actually ever will be.
As I’ve said, it’s a metaphor shear and does a disservice to the Metaverse as an initiative to relegate it to an underpowered and feature deficient embedded instance on a web page. You assume that the Web is greater than the Metaverse when it is not, much in the same manner as trying to cram a Ferrari into a Tricycle. As for homebrew projects by third parties, the moment they say it’s a virtual world (MetaWorld) they became irrelevant to the conversation at hand. It doesn’t rightly matter what they are building or for what purpose… it’s totally irrelevant to the discussion.
So clearly there shouldn’t be a contention with saying if we want a standard for an interoperable Metaverse that is ubiquitous, it’s not a far fetch to suggest translating an already widely used and standards operable media system (The Web) in a Metaverse context natively. It’s the lowest hanging fruit to grasp, and to date it hasn’t been done, nor is shared media in Second Life addressing that.
In much the same way as I assert that the Metaverse is a system that on the base is meant to spatially visualize data, I hear the reply that the Metaverse is actually an “experiential” media. It’s the people that give the data meaning and context, and in the end “experiential” context. But to the system itself, you’re just looking at Table.dae and sitting on Couch.dae which is running Sitter.LSL
We’re not going to really have a standard Metaverse until such time as the existing virtual worlds systems are willing to address existing standards in place natively. It’s that simple, and that is why the web browser today still does far more than the virtual world context. HMTL5 alone and the browser rendering engine handles far more contexts of data than our best virtual world context, which is a shame because it doesn’t have to be this way.
You have an inventory system in virtual worlds that, at best, handles 0.00001% of existing file standards natively. So while it’s great for teaching and collaboration, the bottleneck of ability becomes quite apparent early on in those contexts. The moment you need to show a PDF, Doc, PowerPoint, or use an animated image. The moment you want to play a video or audio, it gets out of control. Instead of just playing it natively, we either set the parcel media to a texture on a prim or try to stream it through Shared Media (which is slower than just giving the youtube link and letting people just open it in an external web browser).
That doesn’t mean, however, that embedding a virtual world into a webpage is the answer. HTML5 isn’t your savior. While it can utilize WebGL, it’s a far cry from a native graphics engine that can do far more. Sure you’ll get Cloud Party, but are we really going to assert that Cloud Party is anywhere near as capable as a modern graphics engine? I wouldn’t even give avaya.alive (web.alive) that credit.
Then there is the idea of Xulu Universe. To be honest, I actually had my interest peaked for all of ten minutes upon hearing about this new system. Touting a peer to peer connectivity among users to create local computing clusters. This is actually a great move and one of the solutions for building a Metaverse system. Unfortunately, that was short lived in that upon installation of the 1.3mb client, it decided it needed to download more components up front, and then after installation, it needed to “Copy” files which in turn was no more than “I need to download a few gigabytes of data up front before you can enter here”.
Brilliant advancement immediately undermined by monster downloads up front. Will people ever learn? Again, it’s not that we don’t have the technology – it’s just that we don’t seem to have enough sense to put it all in one spot, or see past the parts and look at the whole of the system in a bigger picture. However, to this end, I’m actually in a discussion with Xulu Universe as to how they can improve their system while it’s in early alpha form. I can only make suggestions; It’s up to people to follow them.
And for all the people who proclaim they are interested in doing so, the truth of the matter remains that nobody actually has. Instead, we have a bunch of homebrew virtual worlds happy with being an island unto themselves. Some far more than others.
Drawing Rocket Ships to the Moon
Metaverse EX – a rebuilt, reimagined and far more functional ActiveWorlds Viewer
I spend a lot of time talking about how to get there, and even outlining designs and methodologies. So I can see how somebody who is woefully misinformed could mistake that as just drawing rocket ships to the moon but never actually doing something about it. I’ve actually spent a number of years hands-on in this and have had a hand in functional prototypes that could very well be considered closer to a real Metaverse than anything we have today. So maybe the analogy there doesn’t hold up quite as well as some people would like?
If anything, it’s more accurate to say that I’ve stepped foot on the moon, planted a flag, and came back to Earth, and now my goal is to see about getting the rest of you up there. I don’t actually have any reason why I should be compelled to do that, but I feel it’s something worth pursuing for the benefit of all.
After all, in the late 1990’s I was working with Damon Miles on what was called CyberNET. It was the closest prototype to a Shadowrun style Metaverse that I’ve ever participated in. Access to files, nodes, FTP, and more in a hierarchy context of spatial representation. I went on from there to contribute the working definition of hierarchy for MetaWorld, MetaGalaxy, and Metaverse in context of a decentralized manifestation for Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse, a research project from INRIA and presented to IEEE in 2008 with a working prototype. So significant were those set of definitions that the presentation devotes two full slides to me – one in the definitions and one as a direct quote while Phillip Rosedale managed to get his own quote slide. That same set of definitions now are part of the Metaverse Roadmap and IEEE Virtual World Standard Workgroup P1828 – both of which I am a contributor to, and now Vice Chair of the latter with Kevin Simkins.
I spent some time reworking the ActiveWorlds browser (Metaverse EX) to create what can be said to be the first virtual environment that was usable as your desktop but was also an online space simultaneously, bridging the gap between stand-alone virtual world and local context with online context with a social virtual environment. The virtual world online became your spatial interface, and your local desktop was a social space as well. This being around the same time that CyberNET was being built to address the other file aspects of a Metaverse.
In short, I’m responsible for a hell of a lot more than people seem to realize.
As luck would have it, those same findings and methodologies are being applied to an OpenSim context by none other than Damon Miles. Right now he’s merely looking at the feasibility of translation and parsing in OpenSim of contexts he envisioned years ago with me – but if he manages to accomplish what he’s setting out to do, you can expect the prototype Metaverse to look about 6 billion spaces larger than it is today - overnight.
Tell me how important the Wikipedia article is again.
Destroyer of Virtual Worlds
Builder of the Metaverse
Is it unfair that I have no remorse in demolishing virtual worlds? I could be a demon of sorts, unleashing a verbal assault on those who come to me in an ignorant context unprepared to hear what amounts to the cold truth of the matter. It’s true that I really have no idea what people’s individual pet projects for virtual worlds are, or whatever potential they believe it holds in the long run. What is not true, however, is that those side-shows have any relevance in the whole.
I see it for what it is up front. I make no apology for stating that inevitability in advance. What we need is not more of the same, more virtual worlds that are self-serving and have no interest in a greater whole. What we need is to focus on actually devoting that effort into making a full blown Metaverse.
Not a MetaGalaxy. Not a Metaworld.
An actual, honest to goodness, standards capable, data visualizing, agnostic space which connects the many into a whole. Where we can meet half way instead of assuming an OpenSim methodology is the future – because we need to fess up and admit that there are far more ways to build a virtual world and exactly none of them will benefit from connecting to OpenSim or adhering to those methodologies. It may start with an OpenSim basis, but what evolves from there likely will only marginally resemble OpenSim if it becomes the Metaverse.
For that to happen, the underlying structure needs to be addressed. It needs to be as simple as a single convergence viewer that bridges the gaps and makes a modular experience possible.
I’ve spent a lot of time outlining what needs to be done, and I’ve spent a number of years actually doing it, or enabling things to move forward. This is a far cry from somebody who merely draws rocket ships to the moon.
I’ve dealt with companies on the verge of collapse, and I’ve answered mission critical questions about these technologies in contexts that assume the safety of lives is at stake. I’ve wrestled with ignorant and self-interested has-beens dropping millions of dollars into projects and telling me how little I know about how this all works, only to watch them fall flat on their face shortly thereafter. I’ve listened to people who know very little about this industry point and laugh at how “destructive” I’ve been and how I have no credibility. It’s a time honored tradition that at least one peon a year feels themselves capable of pretending like they matter so much that they are in a position to insult me by threatening to stop following my Twitter, Facebook, or reading this blog.
Get over yourself.
You just did me a favor, not a disservice.
The fact of the matter is – corporations bigger than your typical homebrew garage project have done the same and had it bite them in the ass ten fold. Clearly I’m not worried about some random jackass. I was there when Tessa at SpotOn3D showed me their “alpha” for the web embed, and when I said it was likely not to work the way they wanted, that I’ve seen the approach before, and that what they were doing was going to cause a negative backlash -
Even she told me that she had tons of business experience and knew better. That I didn’t know what I was talking about.
And you know what? Stupid is as stupid does.
We all know how that ended… in tears and massive backlash. Hysterics and such a deep PR hole for SpotOn3D that it is a blight to anyone who knows better today. They could manage to get out of that PR hole, but it’ll still take a lot to undo the damage. But I took the time to warn her in advance of every single thing that was going to transpire and why.
Yeah, I get told constantly how detrimental I am, and how destructive I have been… I constantly hear about how little I supposedly know. And yet, I have to watch time and again as people pull the grenade and throw the pin.
No, I spend far too much time trying to save people from themselves. Just because I draw a map doesn’t make me responsible for people willing to ignore it and run off the cliff like a lemming. I tell people what they don’t want to hear – and that’s simply the unfiltered truth.
What I am is a destroyer of bullshit, self-delusion, and excuses. I have no sympathy for the ignorant, ego-driven, or outright delusional. What I am is somebody who always looks for the shortest path to the truth, and I have no remorse in calling it like it is. I know plenty of people think it’s inconvenient to be called out or made an ass publicly – so I offer a short fable to help you understand where I’m coming from.
Aesop’s Modern Fable
There once was a little bird that abruptly got caught up in a violent snowstorm. So cold were the gale force winds that the poor little bird began to freeze, falling from the sky. As the bird lay there immobile and freezing to death, it thought to itself – “Surely I shall die today”
Then, as the little bird lay there dying, a cow wandered by and crapped on the little bird. At first the little bird thought “As if freezing to death wasn’t bad enough, now I’ve been shit on!”, but then the little bird noticed something else… the manure pile it was now covered by was warming him, so much so that he was no longer freezing to death.
Overjoyed, the little bird began to tweet happily at its new found luck, singing merrily within the manure.
Nearby, a cat overheard the tweeting and went over to investigate. At first the cat didn’t know where to look, but the constant singing of the bird led him right to the spot. Reaching in to the pile of manure, the cat pulled the little bird out – to which the little bird replied “Oh thank you for saving me, cat! Can my luck get any better?”
To which the cat promptly ate the bird.
Moral of the story:
1. Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy.
2. Not everyone who pulls you out of shit is your friend.
3. When you’re truly in deep shit, keep your mouth shut.