Apr 28, 2014

It’s the End of Google+

The Reports of it’s Death Are Exaggerated


Don’t you just love lazy journalism? So, it turns out that in a recent TechCrunch article, the author was essentially writing a total fabrication based out of thin air. What did you expect from a write-up citing unnamed anonymous sources, right?


Well, you’d think so.


Google Plus Header


Unfortunately, it looks like one too many people have jumped on the bandwagon. Places that you’d expect would check for sources and not just pile on with the rumors. Ars Technica, The New York Times, and more have picked up the ball and ran with it as if it’s a fact. The problem here is that the same places running with the ball are also the usual suspects who have been bemoaning the existence of Google+ from day one and wishing really, really, hard that it’ll just go away.


The New York Times, for instance, doesn’t even engage with the Google+ community even though they have an account there. TechCrunch is exactly the same way, and it’s no surprise that the usual bunch of whiners are writing up hit pieces declaring the demise of Google+


Not even the Chief Architect at Google itself is enough to put this to rest, considering he literally said the TechCrunch article was total bullshit, and that Google+ wasn’t going anywhere.







I’ll give you the link to that article here:





Yonatan Zunger But this guy... Yonatan Zunger... he could totally be some random guy on the Internet. It’s not like he’s in any position of authority to be quoted, right? Well, no... Yonatan is the Chief Architect at Google+. I don’t think you get any more credible than that, really...


Yet here we are spreading rumors on unnamed sources from people who absolutely suck at Google+ in every single way, and the people spreading it around as truth are conspicuously also the usual people who refused to use it, refused to engage at all, and expect the whole world to come fawn over them.


You would think that we wouldn’t been seeing all of this bandwagon jumping across the Internet, knowing full well that the article has unnamed sources, and is completely shot to hell as a rumor by employees of Google.


Just one Google employee is not enough of a source! Right?


Fine... let’s see what Moritz Tolxdorff has to say about it.


Screenshot_1 But wait! Who is this Moritz Tolxdorff person anyway? I mean, it could just be some random guy on the Internet with no relevance to the situation at all... Or he could be the Community Manager for Social & Chrome at Google. It’s one thing to write from “unnamed sources” and have the tech media run on complete bullshit, but it’s another when you start citing Google Employees. Even the Chief Architect at Google has flatly debunked the TechCrunch article as “bullshit” and total fabrication.


What started this rumor? Well, funny enough the genesis of this mass stupidity is that Google+ had actually become bigger than the building could contain and so the team was moving to a bigger building. Yes, Google+ as a team (and service) had become bigger than the building could contain and so they are giving them more room.


All of this simply because the guy who was in charge of the Google+ team decided to move on to something else, letting somebody else step into the position. Apparently that was enough to start the speculation mills again... which boils down to a bunch of high-profiles trying to save face.



What it boils down to is this:


The usual suspects going on about the imaginary demise of Google+ are doing so from the perspective of refusing to engage with it, the audience themselves, refusing to take the time to network and grow a following, have discussions with the absolutely huge audience there, and so on.


They come in from Facebook, and pretend like Google+ as an audience automatically owes them the attention from day one, and when they refuse to engage or bother, they throw a fit and walk away. Then they go on about how Google+ is a “ghost town” (I’ve got over 2 million views on posts, and thousands of followers), they write something about how Google+ was “forced” on everyone and nobody really wanted it...


Ok, I need to address that one head-on, because it’s old-hat.



Google's Eric Schmidt Says Plus Is An 'Identity Service' Not A Social Network


As early as 2011 when Google+ began, it was flatly stated that Google+ was first, and foremost, an Identity Service. It covers social network elements, but the truth of the matter is – the entire Google SaaS is the Social Network now, and Google+ is the unified login. You don’t get any clearer than the article on Forbes citing Eric Schmidt himself about what Google+ is about.


Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2011/08/29/googles-eric-schmidt-says-plus-is-an-identity-service-not-a-social-network/





Google+ is an identity service first and foremost. It connects the entire SaaS ecosystem of Google together and empowers each and every thing Google is now doing in the ecosystem by allowing a unified identity. It is the thing that allows Youtube to know what things you like from other services in the Google ecosystem, providing better recommendations. It is the thing that lets Google Now predict the things you want better by granting it the ability to pull from everything in the entire ecosystem for a better idea of you as a person. It’s a very, very powerful Social Graph based on the very thing that Google excels at:


Big Data


We can go on indefinitely about this, because it just ties everything together as a whole, instead of keeping everything separate and an island unto itself. From a Nexus 7 tablet to Google Play and everything in between... it’s tied together through Google+ to enrich and amplify the power of the whole. In the same manner as Google filed a patent to allow self driving cars to know your preferences and offer discounts or free rides to the places you might like if they are offering a promotion.


Why on god’s green Earth would Google get rid of the most powerful component of their ecosystem?


It would be like ripping out the keystone on a bridge. The lynchpin that holds everything together. If anything, Google would want to make it more robust than it is today – not kill it.


More importantly, I can’t fathom why it’s absolutely alright for Apple to have an Apple ID, Microsoft to have Live.com ID, Facebook to have Social Graph and the login for their social media site and the apps embedded within it, but the moment Google says:


You know, we have a ton of services we’re offering our users. It makes no sense to keep them all separate when they can all benefit from a unified login and identity service which allows them all to talk to each other for the benefit of the end-user.... let’s do that.


And so, Google+ was born, and the Internet whined about it like a bunch of hypocrites, started writing bullshit about it, and pretending in some fantasy land that it’s a failure, a ghost town, etc... when really they are just as lazy as the journalism they are responsible for when they refuse to use Google+, won’t engage with anyone, and create a self fulfilling situation of social media failure to write about.



It’s the end of Google+ As We Know It... Or not





Follow the Leader


Yes, Google+ is leading the future. I know a lot of people don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. How can I possibly say that in the face of Facebook having billions of users? Well... funny you should ask.


If Google+ really was the “failed” experiment people would like it to be, and not the continuing success that it is, then Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, et al wouldn’t be copying Google+ shamelessly.


Take for instance, Hangouts. This is the most obvious of it all, when recently Microsoft announced that Skype would now offer free group video chat for up to 10 simultaneous people while nixing Skype Premium in the process. Something that users have been requesting for years, and Hangouts just did from day one.


So while Facebook integrated Skype for video chat, it pales in comparison to Hangouts (and still does) since to have a group video chat, somebody in the group needed to be paying for Skype premium.


Of course, the reason I say Hangouts is still far superior is obvious. Google simply has more services to tie together for communications than Facebook, and so through Google+ and Hangouts, it works together.





Gmail (email), Google Voice (it’s going to get integrated), VoIP, Video Calling, Text Chat, and likely SMS (see also merging Google Voice).


It’s kind of hard to pretend like Google+ is a failure when the President of the United States is using it to let people interview him live. I didn’t see that on Skype or Facebook. There was even a Hangout on the International Space Station.


So unless Facebook is about to give you the ability to make phone calls for free in the United States, give you a free phone number with SMS capability, give you an email service and integration of voicemails, and build their own line of Tablets, Phones, and Augmented Reality hardware... it doesn’t matter if Microsoft & Facebook is offering free group video the same as Hangouts and Google. They’re still about twenty steps behind Google right now.


How else are they shamelessly copying Google at this point?


Well, as recently pointed out – Twitter redid the profile page layout and it looks almost exactly like how Facebook recently redesigned things. Funnier still is that the changes that Facebook made were to follow Google+ in focusing on a more visual style and layout, giving focus to the pictures and such. Cover photos and tossing your profile picture on the top left, and so on... the announcement of Skype offering free group video chat was just another follow the leader moment copying Hangouts, which is integrated into Google+, Gmail, available on Tablets, Phones, etc ... And Facebook is worried about being the “go to” text messenger on our tablets and phones?


Holy crap, they are a light year behind the times.



So much are they freaking the hell out about this that Facebook dropped 2 billion dollars just to buy out Oculus VR. Why would you think Facebook wanted to get into the VR field? Well I suppose it helps to see that Google is making waves with Google GLASS, and they see a release as imminent. So Facebook doesn’t really know what the hell to do with Oculus or how it can integrate with Facebook, but it just knows that if Google is doing something in that space, then Facebook can’t sit on the fence.




And here’s the thing... Google actually knows what the hell it needs GLASS for and everything else. There is a total ecosystem involved here, and it’s all meant to work together seamlessly – thanks to Google+


Facebook, on the other hand has done the exact opposite. When people were screaming bloody murder about Oculus being overrun with Facebook integration, they were both right and wrong for the assessment.


Facebook leaving Oculus alone to do whatever they want is fine, but the very fact that Facebook isn’t a well integrated ecosystem that spans outside of the walled garden through a myriad of services is enough to put the brakes on following Google’s footsteps. more accurately, they are starting to realize what Google has been up to all of this time and now trying to build the same ecosystem of services that Google has had a head start for years building while everyone else was scoffing (and still is).


So even if they did try to follow the Google trail and integrate Facebook with Oculus in some manner, they’d likely royally screw it up. They simply do not have the complete SaaS ecosystem tied together in order to make that something worth doing (if at all). And that’s where Facebook is getting their asses handed to them.


Microsoft wouldn’t be giving you free 10 person group video chat if Hangouts wasn’t starting to kick their ass. Facebook wouldn’t be rearranging their site to offer the same things Google+ is if Google+ was a “failure”. Zuckerberg wouldn’t be throwing obscene money to buy all of these services and companies, if they weren’t trying to follow the footsteps of Google.


The only people in denial about all of this are the people who use Facebook, and the people who routinely refuse to use Google+ or went into it half-assed and went whimpering back to Facebook and their years of effort.




I’ll be using Google+


The only “dead man walking” right now are places like Facebook. When social media and tech companies start copying the competitor that they all swear to god is a total failure and going under any day now... that’s a sign of desperation and panic.


If you want to use Facebook, that’s fine... but I’m using Google+ going forward, and have been using it since Beta. If it was failing or going under, the competition wouldn’t be copying it while telling everyone it’s not a big deal. Facebook wouldn’t be spending billions to stay relevant versus Google if Google+ wasn’t doing anything good.


Microsoft wouldn’t be (3 Years Later) matching what Hangouts has done since day one, if they thought Google+ wasn’t going anywhere.


At the end of the day, I believe Google+ is far superior on every possible front. The entire cross-integrated SaaS ecosystem of Google itself is brilliant.


It’s no different than when you were “forced” to get an Apple ID to use all of those Apple products and software, and it’s no different than the Microsoft Live ID integration into pretty much everything as well (including Windows 8).


I’m not on Google+ because I’m interested in visiting your Facebook pages, so quit spamming them in hopes to keep your Facebook page afloat. I’m interested in the robust discussion, Hangouts, and overall higher quality of engagement that I find on Google+, which is why I use it predominantly.


That doesn’t mean it’s perfect... but it’s a hell of a lot better than Facebook in the bigger picture. But that’s just my opinion... from somebody who has actually been using Google+ since the beginning.





The best takeaway is probably from the GooglePlusDaily Article:

"Ultimately, it’s up to you as a reader to choose who to believe: Google employees or TechCrunch’s unnamed sources.

It may be worth noting that one of the authors, +Alexia Tsotsis, owns shares in Facebook, Yahoo!, and Twitter, while the other, +Matthew Panzarino, is described in his TechCrunch bio as “relentlessly covering Apple and Twitter.” This does not explain their information or sources, but it could be partly why they closed the article by comparing Google+ to an “unwelcome hairy spider” whose integration is a form of “grating party crashing.” Either way, it certainly draws their credibility into question."



Apr 23, 2014


Internet Oddities and Curiosities Abound


This is probably going to be a slower post than normal, so for those of you that are accustomed to the full length novels usually appearing here, you may be a bit disappointed.




Today’s post is about context and the interpretation of what gets said/written. In these posts, a lot of the time I talk about the cyclical nature of the virtual worlds industry, and the historical narrative – pointing out that it is quite apparent that it keeps repeating. When we revisit those old paradigms, it drastically increases the odds of following in the same footsteps and same results.


Now, that’s not really a doom and gloom prediction. It’s just a very obvious observation akin to “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it”. It comes with a caveat, and a context which regularly gets overlooked whenever I say it -


Yes, this is a true statement. Yes, if these circumstances persist it will garner similar results. No, that’s not the only option.


When I wrote on this topic recently, I had a lot of people get as far as the first two points and declare I was spelling doom and gloom for the VR industry. Unfortunately, I’ve also had the misfortune of having a lot of contention and misguided flaming my way as well – some people are inordinately angry and on a personal attack for my stating the blatantly obvious. Which I suppose was covered in the point of Cognitive Dissonance to begin with.



But it’s disheartening to read/hear nonetheless.


It is likely to follow in those footsteps until somebody does something entirely different and evolves the narrative into something new. So there is a way out of that cycle if we choose to explore it, but because of the situation at hand and knowing that current players in the industry have nothing to gain from doing so (it’ll hurt the bottom line – after all, they have a vested interest in what they are selling), it’s going to take a fresh pair of eyes and out of the box thinking to advance things.


At the end of the day, I find it curious how what I write versus what is read end up being very different things. It is an oddity to read in social media posts how other people find sub-text to what is being said or read into it meanings that aren’t implicitly stated.


I believe that says a lot more about the reader than me as the writer.



Eyephone-VPL-1989 The VPL Virtual Reality rig looks incredibly similar to Oculus VR today.


This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, either... it seems quite prevalent in pretty much anything that I write. Whether that is an email, a short story, social media post, or this blog. There was a time long ago that I refrained from writing at all, and rarely would converse with people simply because of this point.


Things that are statement of fact or direct observation get weighted with a personal bias from the reader, interpreting what they want to read out of it versus what is simply stated.


This blog (believe it or not) is even the result of my business partner years ago making it mandatory for me to document what was going on in the virtual world that the company was paying for. Over the years, it outgrew that context as I had left VR5 Online as the CTO, and went on to loosely collaborate in a team for Andromeda3D (Andromeda Media Universe) as a think tank for synthetic environment technology.


While Andromeda Media Universe still loosely exists as a think tank among friends in the industry, it has mainly become a centralized point of writing what’s going on in my head and my take on the industry as a whole.


In a way, this is therapeutic as a space where I can just let out the raw thoughts on the page – no filters or beating around the bush. Some people yell at the television when their team is screwing up, and I express that sentiment here in this blog when my team (synthetic environments) is making a dumb play.


Of course there are plenty of other lateral topics that I write about as well – Binaural audio and ASMR being one of them, mainly because that whole subtopic fascinates me in (and out of) context to virtual worlds.


Botgirl (Dave Elfanbaum) offers a wonderfully grounded perspective on the virtual reality industry in a recent article for ComputerWorld, entitled The Imminent Age of Virtual Reality is an Illusion. I think the take away from the VWBPE panel was simply the idea that if we want to make any headway for this industry, we need to get our head out of the clouds and our feet firmly back on solid ground again.


If anything, the article above offers a very sober insight; but is it a total doom and gloom scenario? Not at all... it’s just a reality check for virtual reality. I’d definitely recommend the read if you have a few minutes.


At the end of the day, what I’m getting at is simply this:


If you’re going to read into it, then take the notion that I’m still positive. I may point out the screw-ups or the things that probably aren’t going to work out the way people hope for, but the flip side is that I’m eliminating the things that haven’t worked before and hoping that people will start to have the discussion about what will work instead – not repeat the things or come in with a vested interest and bias for what they already have, or will have in their own involvements.


We all think that the things we use are the greatest things since sliced bread. We’re enamored by the technology hype, and buy into it when it suits us. We evangelize things we’ve become accustomed to, or depend on.


That’s just the nature of context when we look at it with a fresh perspective.


If you’re a machinima maker, you obviously have a vested interested in saying that virtual worlds television is the future. If you produce such a show evangelizing virtual worlds, you have a vested interest in continuing that. Those cases are numerous and the context is as varied as the many things you can do in a virtual world like Second Life.


Those contexts and personal biases exist for pretty much anything, really... if you’re dependent on being a Social Media consultant, the last thing you’ll ever really admit to is that the methodologies might be wrong, even if you’re staring at a mountain of evidence. If you’re the head of a virtual environment in OSgrid or whatnot, or you are known for being a business type authority about them, you’ve got a clear agenda out of self-preservation. If two billion dollars rests on your virtual reality headset being the future... you’ll never have anything but positive things to say about it, and even in the light of clearly disadvantageous things you’ll find a way to soften the blow and assure the public it’s not a big deal.


In context to just this blog, or the things that I write in general, I am beginning to remember why I spent so much time avoiding that public discussion in general.


A lot of it gets taken far out of context, and people even take what they’ve read into it personally. That just leads to a mountain of headaches and animosity when none was implied to begin with. Then, of course, things just escalate because of that cognitive dissonance issue.


My personal agenda is just raw train of thought and analysis. Sometimes people do great things, and I applaud them... a lot of times people do boneheaded things and I point that out too. I’m an equal opportunity writer and analyst.


So I’ll end the post on that note... and add only that it’s probably better if I revisit my introversion going forward, until maybe the people that I interact with get a grip and see all of the context before jumping to conclusions about what I really mean :)


I’ll be around – you can bet your bottom dollar. Just may not be as talkative these days ;)






Apr 8, 2014

Cognitive Dissonance

Diagnosing Wonderland & The Future of Virtual Reality




The question was posed to me recently as part of the panel for Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education about what I feel the future of virtual worlds would be, and to define better what the next 18-24 months should focus on for companies like Linden Lab with Second Life. These are questions being bounced back and forth between the moderator and the panelists to sort things out prior to the panel this weekend.


My explanation for what I saw as the history and future of virtual worlds as a whole was a bit out of the ordinary in that I likened it to being a psychiatrist trying to diagnose Arkham Asylum. With the popular definition of insanity being “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” it is a perfect explanation and analogy.


What I’ve seen over the past twenty years is a textbook case of cognitive dissonance and quite possibly insanity, and so (even humorously) I relate to the Arkham Asylum analogy in that the only real explanation for the situation today and in the past has been a combination of cognitive dissonance and self-imposed insanity.


Nearly every case in virtual worlds up until today (not surprisingly) has a doppelganger in the past. There are a few very distinct phases that the industry goes through with each iteration, which makes it dead simple to predict where it will go and for what reasons.


But despite knowing this, it is much harder to convey this information appropriately in order to break that cycle. It isn’t because the information is wrong, nor is it because that information does not have enough evidence to support it. What it boils down to is flat rejection of new information due to strongly held belief to core ideals.


In this manner, the inmates are running the asylum.


If I were to define those phases, it would look something like this:


  • Phase One – Introduction of a new client based system.
  • Phase Two – Introduction of the VR in Browser system.
  • Phase Three – Introduction of HMD & Related Hardware.


Each distinct phase leads to the next upon the trial and error of the prior. For instance, in the early 1990s there was Worlds Inc and their methodology of client as virtual world. You would download the entire world up front before you could enter and each space was a predefined area. After that was ActiveWorlds which was actually a technology spawned by Worlds Inc but rejected in favor of their other in-house client. ActiveWorlds had a dynamically downloaded environment and user-generated space in-client with the tools built in as a sandbox.


This was about the time that VR in a Web Browser arose with standards such as VRML/X3D and plugins to view those worlds emerged. VR on the Web, had an offshoot as Blaxxun 3D (B3D Today) and Cybertown was one of the VRML multi-user environments on the web that utilized this.


Later in the 1990s, we saw the popularization of virtual reality really take off, and HMDs and hardware became more mainstream. Companies such as Vuzix (1997/98) and VFX had headsets back then, in combination with peripherals and devices which today are the genesis of modern peripherals and devices.


jaron Gaming companies during the Phase Three timeline also began introducing their own peripherals. You are most likely aware of Nintendo’s Power Glove, which was a stripped down version of a VR Data Glove from VPL. Jaron Lanier was actually the guy that was called in to consult Nintendo on making it. Sega and Atari also were slated to make VR Headsets for their consoles at the time, but obviously failed in more ways than one.


Jaron was actually pretty popular back then as he also consulted on stuff like Minority Report, Johnny Pneumonic and Lawnmower Man. However, this is really the tip of the iceberg for what his man is responsible for in the industry. For a more in-depth biography – check here.


The point of this observation being that when somebody says Jaron Lanier almost definitely knows more than you about the past, present and future of virtual reality, only a fool would challenge that. So in a recent WIRED magazine article when he stated it was like a weird time-warp listening to Zuckerberg explain what he thought the future of Oculus VR was going to be, we are really in no position to try to go in there and correct the man.


After all, Jaron is also one of the founding editors of WIRED magazine itself. This guy is like one of the godfathers of virtual reality, with an academic and accomplishments list that may as well be untouchable.


Interestingly enough, that doesn’t seem to stop virtual worlds enthusiasts from thinking they are going to do just that – once again showing the irrational decision making aspect of cognitive dissonance, and the blind adherence to the idealized future of virtual reality and Second Life. Cognitive dissonance makes you do really stupid things.


Seeing other analysts in that article also echo the same sentiments isn’t surprising, and it’s not because they’re just trying to be Debbie Downers or just suck up to Jaron Lanier... it’s because they have a long history in the industry and remember when it last repeated.



What you have to remember is that people have been making the same pitch as Zuckerberg for a good thirty years, and it has never come to fruition.


I didn’t hear anything that Zuckerberg said that hasn’t been talked about before in the VR community for a very long time,” says Brian Blau, an analyst with research firm Gartner was part of hard-core virtual reality community in the ’80s and ’90s. “It has always been billed as a next-gen communication technology — something that can provide a more immersive and deeper connection to somebody else.”


The truth, as Blau points out, is that most VR technology creates a very solitary experience. It’s something you do alone, not with others.


Recent history has shown that if you try to make it more than that, it struggles to find an audience. Second Life — the virtual world that received such hype at the turn of the millennium before falling into obscurity — is the big cautionary tale. And that’s what Zuckerberg and Facebook are eying: A new Second Life. They even talk of selling virtual goods in this world, painting this as a potentially significant source of revenue for the company.



If you think it’s just WIRED, Jaron Lanier, and an analyst from Gartner making these assertions, you’d also be wrong. Even UbiSoft and gaming companies are luke-warm to the virtual reality hype.



Might we one day see a new Assassin's Creed or Far Cry game that uses virtual reality technology? According to Ubisoft Vice President of Creative Lionel Raynaud, it's possible, but technology like Oculus Rift or Sony's just-announced Project Morpheus need to put up big numbers first.


"VR would need to sell at least 1 million units to be viable for development," Raynaud said tonight in San Francisco during a roundtable interview attended by GameSpot.



Of course, that was amended shortly afterward because making a statement like that in public would cause a shit-storm in PR to HMD makers who desperately need the big support. Having people not drinking the kool-aid and saying how great it is will hinder their adoption, and so everyone needs to get on board. But you get the real thinking in the first quote before they got that call from Sony ripping UbiSoft’s president a new one, who in turn had a pleasant talk with Lionel the next morning.


But it doesn’t stop there... even Business Insider is making similar calls about virtual reality, albeit a little less direct. Just saying that Facebook buying Oculus was just a throw-away at worst because it doesn’t matter if it fails.



99 Problems



Well, it matters to me and probably you if Oculus tanks because the wide reaching implication is that the industry falls back into obscurity and relegated as a fad once again, as we rinse and repeat back to Phase One. But that’s pretty much what is awaiting Oculus VR going forward...


This time it’s actually a little easier to see that coming, because Phase One is already tipping it’s hand prematurely in the form of hifidelity from Philip Rosedale. There’s your next Phase One “VR as Client” kickoff.


It’s starting to blur together at this point, as the industry is just throwing everything together in a pot and hoping something makes a recipe.


So the take-away here is that when Phase Three runs its course, it is usually about this time that we cycle to Phase One again, to repeat the history.


Looking at this logically, we can see the correlations quite clearly and unmistakably. It’s a matter of historical comprehension and not speculation, which is what analysts are citing when they are making their assertions about the current situation.


When we find historical doppelgangers to modern day industry, we can therefore trace the historical context and outcome to the modern attempts as well. Looking into the future involves looking into our past, so long as that present and future insists on borrowing from it heavily.


Take into consideration Avatar Reality/Blue Mars. An updated carbon copy of Worlds Inc as a model and software. It followed the same premise and operation, and therefore was subject to the same outcome. When this was explained to them, there was cognitive dissonance as described above – and so it was impossible to avoid that outcome.


Both models existed based on downloading pre-made worlds prior to entry, and as a matter of course, both existed on the premise of content creation fees for creating and storing those worlds.






But what of ActiveWorlds and Second Life as doppelgangers?


They both exist as dynamic user-generated virtual worlds, they both thrived on a simulator business model, both had a hard time justifying their Premium accounts, both offered personal houses/spaces as a benefit, both famously spent much of their time saying that updating their software was impossible or not feasible, and both suffered from not investing in that re-write to update their systems properly.


Both ActiveWorlds and SecondLife surround themselves with favorable opinions, pass the buck or make decisions not based on feasibility but on unwillingness to do so. Both are notorious for implementing things only after users find a way to hack the functionality into their viewer or repurpose existing methods for new methods, and both are notorious for dragging their feet or trying to bury dissenting opinions while rewarding only favorable opinions (cognitive dissonance).


I could go on all day about the similarities of practice and outcome between the two, and even the community itself shadowing the past, and how ActiveWorlds is the doppelganger of SecondLife, but the only thing that ultimately matters is that the outcome is the same if you are mimicking a past iteration.


So if we want to know what will happen to Second Life and ultimately Linden Lab, we merely have to ask what happened to ActiveWorlds as a result of this sequence of events.





When the Phase Three of the 1990s failed, it recycled back around to Phase One again, and so we saw another round of VR as Client initiatives which again borrowed heavily from the prior generation. There.com, Second Life, etc all found their roots historically and had no problem copying it with a little more polish this time. But each one of those iterations succumbed to the same outcomes as the generation they were mimicking.


Again, we’re talking about blatant examples of cognitive dissonance and popularized definition of insanity.


So, too, it wasn’t a surprise to see Phase Two arise again a few years ago with the re-popularization of VR in a Web Browser, since the introduction of WebGL standards. But again, if you’re going to follow the historical route, you are already doomed to conclude the same way. It was no different than the rise and irrelevance of VRML/X3D and the companies that had a vested interest in VR on the Web in the 1990s versus the rise of WebGL and VR on the Web again a few years back.


In this generation, the version of Worlds Inc methodologies were mimicked with BlueMars, and the methodologies of ActiveWorlds have been mimicked by Linden Lab with Second Life.


It is actually eerily uncanny how this is repeating itself. Even the discontent with Second Life leading to reverse engineering it to make independent versions under OpenSim mimics what happened in ActiveWorlds with third parties rushing to make their own virtual world system altogether or via purchasing a white label version of ActiveWorlds license and them differentiating themselves as their own independent universe/galaxy.


The latter isn’t surprising to me in the least because a certain Adam Frisby (SineWave), who you might recall is one of the people responsible for OpenSim was also known as Gwala in ActiveWorlds at the same time as that independent universe/3rd party offering rush came to pass. So when the same discontent happened in Second Life, or maybe that virtual worlds frustration carried over from ActiveWorlds, it’s no surprise that Adam was on the forefront of OpenSim in the beginnings.


This is why knowing your virtual world history means so much.



A-Famous-Historian “I really can’t believe nobody else sees this happening.”


The take-away from all of this is the answer to the original question posed at the beginning. What do I think the future of virtual worlds will be, and what can be done in the next 18-24 months to put a company like Linden Lab on the right course?


Well, the answer to that question is a quantum answer. It exists as a failure and success simultaneously depending on what choices are made going forward. It’s not something that can be reduced to a sound bite or explained in a few minutes, because the answer to that question is a monumental amount of reorganization, education, and execution across the board – not to mention it is entirely at the mercy of people who experience insanity and cognitive dissonance to enact, which is a nice way of saying it more than likely will be ignored or completely half-assed if considered.


But here’s some initial thoughts on what to focus on in the next 18-24 months, and by no means is it all-inclusive. That’s what having an advisory board is supposed to do for you over the course of long-term engagement versus trying to sum it up in a power point in ten minutes.


Because let’s be honest... if anyone could have fixed the virtual world industry in ten minutes, they would have by now. And if anyone could have fixed Linden Lab in ten minutes the CEO roster wouldn’t look like a revolving door, nor the company a graveyard of half-assed ideas, unfinished work and mid-life crisis.


So let’s start simply:


If the industry continues mimicking the past, it is doomed to repeat it. That means if we’re unable to truly re-imagine and evolve virtual reality into something new and exciting, something relevant to the real world on a broader scale, it is going to be relegated to repeating the same mistakes and we’ll have the same outcomes.


So the first order of business is to actually learn the history of virtual worlds/pop culture, and much of those outcomes, in order to avoid the same mistakes.


I’ve provided a link to a comprehensive paper on this exact subject that covers the entirety in detail. Subsequently, it’s my own paper from Association for Computing Machinery published last summer. I’m just nice enough not to make you pay for it. That being said, I can’t read and understand it for you on your behalf...


The second order of business is to get your own business in order. Figure out what actually is a Premium benefit and what you were bullshitting about (read: poaching the community). If you’re ripping off the community with it, you need to stop that and learn what the term “Added value” actually means.


The third order of business would be to resolve the company identity crisis. Realize that Second Life is a virtual environment platform in which all manner of things can be created for countless use-cases. Then realize that you’re not a video game company. Also learn the difference between virtual environment and video game.


If the platform itself were made more robust to cater to that content creation, Linden Lab wouldn’t need to make games independently as stand-alone products or purchase a content distribution platform. They already had both in Second Life if they chose to support it.


Instead of chasing their tails and playing “me too”, had they understood that Second Life is a universal platform that empowers creation in countless use case scenarios – they would have realized a few years ago that it would also be an excellent platform to empower an Augmented Reality future where Virtual Reality merges with Reality.


Some kid in Japan got bored and made this in his spare time. It makes what Linden Lab and the rest of the industry has been up to and trumping as the next big thing look like a monumental joke.


As an aside... I know how this is actually done in real time, and I also know how to build a better version of it that makes this one look like a toy. But it’s a sound concept nonetheless considering that there really is nothing else like it – unless you want to count Meta Spaceglasses... which are like... half as capable as this video demonstration.






The most obvious evolution of virtual reality in the future looks nothing like the past but redefines the future.


When you no longer can find a doppelganger in the past for what you’re doing today, you are now making your own future instead of reliving history.


That’s my answer for the future of virtual worlds.


Repeat History or Make History.


Apr 5, 2014

Orwellian Nature

It’s come down to this.



To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.






Time for some good old-fashioned thought crime...


Over the past twenty or so years, I’ve usually been the one pointing out what is blatantly obvious. Things that an average fifth grader would point out when it comes to virtual worlds as an industry. I’ve always believed that with a little common sense, things could be made right again and no longer succumb to the same mistakes of the past.


It’s no secret that the industry is repeating itself. Anyone with ten minutes and a Google search could find this out if they looked. Ask any industry analyst that’s been there from the 90s and earlier, and they’ll tell you.


Ask Jaron Lanier and he’ll tell you this is like some weird time warp. A sense of deja-vu that unsettles him.


It took me twenty years to figure out what killed virtual reality, and what will kill it again this time around. The end-result is that you killed it and will kill it again, and again.


There’s a difference between supporting something and blind fanaticism. The former assumes a willingness to actually make things better and acknowledge when things are bad. The latter is blind and unreasonable support despite the things that are bad, in which case the industry slowly eats itself and crumbles.


Case in point – I could tell you Oculus VR is headed for a brick wall. You’d grab a pitch fork and demand an apology. But the fact of the matter is – it wasn’t the technology on its own that killed VR in the 90s, it was the simple fact that it was a fad and not something that ever should have been applied as a universal peripheral for mass media consumption. That’s why the first headsets failed, and collected dust.


They’re like a trampoline – fun for a little bit, exciting, but something you’ll use sparingly at best in isolated situations. Just like 3D TV.


It’s that right angle to reality fanaticism that kills it, because you inflate the expectations far beyond anything that is deemed normal, setting a bar so high that it cannot possibly reach it. And when the rest of the world gets burned by that astronomical hype, they’re going to turn their back on VR once again and say it was just a fad all along.


That’s what happened to Second Life.


It got built up so astronomically high by you, that when it couldn’t possibly meet that expectation, it turned into a has-been fad.


This is true to literally every single person on earth except the community who use Second Life or OpenSim/whatever Grid. You’re in a perpetual feedback loop preaching to the choir and refusing to listen to the voice of sanity.


So sure are you that Second Life never took a dive that you’re willing to make an ass out of yourself thinking you’ll give WIRED magazine a piece of your mind when they refer to Second Life as a “cautionary tale”, and when an analyst from Gartner who has seen the rise and fall for the past 30 years, and when Jaron “Guy who absolutely knows more than you ever will about VR” Lanier say it’s repeating history, it’s the cult of SL that are quick to think they’re going to set them straight.


This is an intervention.


You’ve reached a tipping point where reality seems to no longer have any baring on the situation any longer. Where the made-up fantasy world of SL is bleeding over and people honestly think they can make up reality (and ignore it), too.


Here’s a more recent example...


SL Go from OnLive.


It’s an ill-conceived product that benefits from shoddy, biased, market research. Put out by a company that first attempted to price gouge you at $2.50 per hour, and then after widespread backlash, insulted your intelligence further by lowering that to $120.00 per year.


Not only is that absolutely a show of contempt for you, they added insult to injury by insisting that the majority of your feedback was positive. In blatant opposition in broad daylight to the actual feedback on their own listing. The feedback a majority of you wrote.


As if this wasn’t bad enough, in the face of that overwhelming negative feedback, the typical SL mouthpieces came in and had the audacity to rate it with 5 stars and write glowing review.


And when a discussion pops up elsewhere about all of this, and including in the negative feedback to begin with, aside from the pricing issue – the reasoning for the pricing issue was also given: Why are they expected to pay that much for a viewer when they already pay for a Premium account, and already pay for L$, and likely already pay for a tier, and when a working alternative that (while not as pretty) exists on the exact same app store for a measly $2.50 flat fee?


People flatly saying they feel betrayed by Linden Lab for this.


After all of that, the fanatics still will say “It’s amazing! Totally worth it!”


I know, because I’ve had to listen to you.


There isn’t a single straw that broke the camel about all of this. It’s a culmination of things and finally the realization that too many people are in absolute denial because they have a vested interest in virtual reality or Second Life.


I won’t even get into Ebbe Altberg with this because that level of doublethink has even reached him, passing the buck and regurgitating the by-line from OnLive about how they made it better. – “Ask them, we didn’t make it.”


So that’s the bottom line.


Your enthusiasm has reached a blind denial of reality, and as a result Rome will burn to the ground while you play a fiddle. In that unending, speak no evil, say only good things about SL attitude... you forgot that it’s not the good things that kill it but the bad things when they’re ignored.


As for those who have been trying to point all of this out and have their heads out of the clouds, you gave it your best shot and I thank you. It’s just falling on deaf ears. And for the folks that just wanna enjoy the ride – go for it.


I now return you to your simulated reality, already in progress.


Apr 3, 2014

Ebbe Shrugged

No witty by-line can do this justice


Apparently Second Life denial has reached a level rivaling Fox News pundits and distinctly at a right angle to reality itself.


In a recent announcement, “OnLive reports they’ve seen a very positive response”, and they will be offering the SL Go app for a mere $9.95 a month.


Meanwhile, in the land we like to call reality, this is what constitutes “very positive response”. A snapshot taken of the SL Go actual rating and comments, notwithstanding the conflict of interest, bought out phony 5 star ratings.



Onlive Bullshit Mountain


Ok, so... right angle to reality.


Bring this up to Ebbe on Twitter and he passes the buck.


Well, they had positive responses and people were mostly just mad about the pricing, which Onlive adjusted today! Also... go talk to them, they made it, not us.


What. the. fuck.


Obviously paraphrased because if they can’t be bothered to be genuine at all, then I think I can get away with a satirical paraphrase that’s at least more accurate than literally everything out of the OnLive camp so far.


Ok, yeah... so pointing out just how screwed up this is on all levels isn’t going to win me any brownie points. But c’mon, this is so far over the top and in the land of make-believe that King Friday and Lady Elaine Fairchilde are now part of Welcome Island.





It’s not the price. At least not oversimplified to that extent. It’s the lack of being able to justify that price in the face of pre-existing options that are far cheaper ($2.50 flat fee) and in the face of already paying monthly for Premium, on top of buying L$ to buy stuff in-world.


The problem is charging to access something they are already paying for, so they can pay some more after that, and probably pay more after that. The problem is that Linden Lab authorized a third party to use their intellectual property and logo in relation to a product that is far overpriced and seen as price gouging – which in turn makes Linden Lab and Second Life look bad. And in an effort to seem like they aren’t price gouging, they (OnLive) rearrange the pricing to remain price gouging.


Passing the buck like it’s not your problem... when it really is... while repeating the whitewashing of OnLive... is just mind numbing. It’s your logo, it’s your company image, and it is being laughably and negatively misrepresented in public by a third party. This doesn’t look bad on just OnLive... it makes Linden Lab look bad because their logo is on it.


Let’s look at some actual comments:


Pay to play I already pay a premium for Second Life, not going to pay again per hour. This is a joke.


Have to create an OnLive account. OK this was dumb. You have to create their account to use it I guess. I'll stick with my Lumiya and from other reviews sounds like it's a better deal anyway.


are you kidding me ? I spend enough in SL in one login let alone pay by the hour ...this should be free. ive waited for a viewer and they give us this crap. not only am i ticked but this just shows what Linden lab thinks of us faithful users. im sticking with Lumiya Viewer its priced right and I wouldnt mind spending $20 for Lumiya when they hammer out all the bugs! [paying for SL Go?...] I would rather develop a crack habit.



But it’s the price... and OnLive fixed that with a mere $9.95 per month subscription... right? Only if they’re betting that nobody is able to do basic math.


That’s the problem... they didn’t fix anything. They selectively interpreted the situation (and apparently Ebbe likes that interpretation as well), just like they did in creating SL Go to begin with. If anything they made it worse. Let me give an actual idea of what the problem is:


1. Charging $9.95 a month is only marginally better than $2.95 an hour.

2. Monthly fee ignores that people are paying the same for Premium already.

3. Monthly fee ignores that Lumiya viewer exists for a flat $2.95

4. Monthly fee ignores that SL has a freemium model where people spend money for L$ on top of Premium accounts.

5. Monthly fee ignores that the demographic target is also likely paying sim tier


This is what a “very positive response” actually looks like in the real world. I present the ratings and comments for Lumiya viewer on Play Store. Notice how the big graph is on the top with 5 stars and not at the bottom for 1 star?


Lumiya Rating


Almost a full on viewer. For a flat fee of $2.95.


And the “alternative” is $9.95 per month. Because.... it has... a little extra polish?


Flat... fee. One time. Versus monthly subscription of $9.95 for something a little shinier. After they attempted to charge $2.95 per hour (price gouging).


They’re still keeping the $1.00 per hour option... which means they’re seriously holding onto the hourly fee.


Let’s work this out... a little math.


I pay for Lumiya... $2.50 for a nearly complete viewer. At the end of the year, I’ve spent $2.50 for a near full functional viewer. I might not have... uh... particles or something.


I install SL Go... I pay $9.95. At the end of the year, I have now spent $119.40 for a viewer that is a little prettier. And you really think that’s better? $120.00 a year to use a viewer... versus $2.50 flat fee.


Right angle to reality... people had a problem with the price, but OnLive fixed that today... by making it $120.00 per year.


God help me if I’ve opted for the $1.00 per hour option... given the average number of hours an SL user would be logged in. You’d spent that monthly fee per day.


So... uh... yeah, in a roundabout way this is about price.


Pretending to solve it by going from $2.50 per hour down to $9.95 per month just becomes insulting.


$2.50/flat versus $119.40/year


But then the whole part about the CEO of Linden Lab just passing the buck about it and regurgitating the whitewash...


Dude... it’s your problem. Your logo is plastered on it. Somebody authorized it. It is missing the point at every possible turn and attempting to bullshit their way into being successful by simply ignoring reality and the actual situation, hoping if they just keep pretending like everything is fine, and they get a couple of “SL Celebrities” to sell the line of bullshit, that people will blindly jump on board.


This looks bad on Linden Lab because it is authorized and associated with it.


This is what Linden Lab is now associated with. And you’re ok with that, and even making it a point to justify it by reading the prepared statement from OnLive.


So why am I brow beating Ebbe?


As poignantly asked by Adeon Writer on Twitter.


Because literally any other CEO in a similar situation would be listening to the customers and not regurgitating the line of bullshit when they should know better. Linden Lab authorized the use and representation of their intellectual property by a third party – that third party is beholden to Linden Lab in the event of negative or poor representation of that brand – Not the other way around.


Any negative representation is a direct correlation to the brand/company that authorized it, and so when SL Go charges $2.50 per hour for something that their customers can get for $2.50 flat, and then are told OnLive made it “better” by lowering that fee to a meager $120 per year for what they ostensibly could get for $2.50 one time, it makes the company (Linden Lab) look very, very bad. And so, by direct correlation, that makes Ebbe Atlberg look very, very bad... and only makes it a thousand times worse when he passes the buck and justifies it by spitting out the prepared statement from Onlive.


Some of us apparently can do math. I’m pretty sure $2.50 is lower than $120.


And also the realization that the sort of person who would actually be the demographic for SL Go are the same people already paying for Premium accounts in SL on a monthly basis, paying for sim tiers, paying for L$ to buy things in-world, and -


If you think they’re going to shell out another $120 per year for a fsking viewer when it’s sitting side by side with a $2.50 Lumiya viewer, you’re...


Delusional... doesn’t even... begin.


Arrogance doesn’t even begin to cover this. Flatly saying they’ve received a very positive response when they clear as day have not, and attempting to push it off on just being $2.50 per hour price issue, and then saying they fixed it by charging $120 per year, roughly the same as what people are already flipping paying for the Premium account in-world, not including additional L$ purchases, and not including the likelihood of monthly tier payments...


Hey, we heard you’re pissed off about us having the balls to charge you $2.50 per hour to use a viewer on your tablet, so we’ve decided to cut you a break and charge only $120 per year. Oh, and we lowered the hourly fee to $1.00 per hour just in case you change your mind. On top of your pre-existing Premium Account fee. And all the money you spend in-world on L$. And the monthly tier payments... but remember, Particles!


Go ask Onlive why they’re making Second Life look like a bullshitting, out-of-touch, price-gouging, delusional joke in public. Because Ebbe sure as hell isn’t going to answer you with anything but a prepared statement written by OnLive.


Yeah, I’m being rough on Onlive and Ebbe about all of this.


Because at this point, the bullshit has reached epic proportions and is inexcusable.


Ok... I’m done. There is so much stupid at this point that I concede.


It’s unsalvageable.