After a few days of completely non-technical law school socializing (nothing too significant to report there; classmates seem pretty nice and easy-going, and are willing to drink ;) I got my geek on for a bit at the ‘Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Metaverse but Were Too Afraid To Ask‘ meetup. My notes, for posterity; taken mostly on the 770. (Nice to be computing and web-enabled but still be able to fit everything in a pair of cargo shorts.)
- The space the meetup was in (the Eyebeam Open Lab) was great old warehouse space. It looked like they have a lot of very interesting looking tech/art mashups going on. I think I’ll be dropping in on more eyebeam events in the future.
- This was the most diverse (age and gender-wise, sadly not ethnically) tech event I’ve ever been to. I think there is something to the idea I’ve heard thrown about that 3D worlds are more accessible to a broader segment of the population than traditional interfaces.
First speaker was Jerry Paffendorf, who is the Futurist in Residence at Electric Sheep. Hell of a job :)
- Says web 2.0 is defined by masively interoperability between sites. Ed.: this sounds like the most cracked out definition of web 2.0 i’ve ever heard, but I heard this idea a couple times tonight. So I have to figure out why it offends me so- I guess because sure, some websites now offer APIs, which was effectively unheard of 18 months ago, but the APIs feel so limited when compared to raw data access and true data-level interoperability. But I need to think on that more.
- He thinks that in next few years Second Life will recreate virtually all important web functionality inside sl via bridges out to web, like they are beginning to do for shopping, for example.
- Ed.: big question for the night to me: how useful/important will 3d be to things we now assume are 2d? For example, will we really want to use avatar-based chat to replace traditional text IM? Every speaker assumes the answer is ‘yes’, but I’m not sure that that is the case.
- Lots of metaverse overview, inc. some videos, some of which work, some which don’t. C’est la vie.
- ‘Many people now have photoshop skills. Well, in my world.’ Jerry points out that 2D is the next text, with 3D right behind. Ed.: the ‘in my world’ is very telling- the vast, vast majority of first-world people are capable of composing essays, but I’d guess less than 0.1% can manipulate photoshop with the same level of confidence/competence they would use to write an office memo. And the number must be smaller for video, and smaller again for 3d. So I think this is a ways off.
- In a previous job, he researched ‘why do certain technologies accelerate when others do not?’ He believes that the metaverse was understudied, but that that is coming around.
- Thinks the other big thing besides 3d is the ’embrace of games’, and uses flickr as example, since flickr was derived from a social game. Ed. This seems like textbook example of stretchibg concept of gaming too far to cover any non-work social interaction- I don’t see
- Great zefrank video on ugly in myspace as a collaborative view into millions of people learning good taste; thinks we’re all learning collectively how to do design. Isn’t said explicitly, but sort of like if every middle school student posted all of their essays online- they would be terrible but indicative of learning
Prokofy Neva and Mark Wallace were next. Mark is the author of the excellent 3pointD blog- if you’re going to follow any one metaverse news source, he’s the one. Prokofy is (generously) a gadfly in second life; (non-generously) the most verbose troll ever; (factually) loathed by many, many active second life participants. Prokofy turns me off, so I admit I didn’t take very good notes here.
- lots of people apparently want SL to be ‘pristine’ like early web, but it is getting like mid-life web- lots of commerce by big firms, PR, etc.
- everyone seems to agree that there are big complaints about stability/transparency of linden; sounds like not ready for prime-time as a business platform yet.
Sibley Verbeck of Electric Sheep was up next:
- thinks no 3d/metaverse platform is good enough yet; wants standardized, web-like platform but thinks it/is years away.
- Is very interested in the interaction between the metaverse and the real world: taxes, impacts on governance, etc. Ed.: he needs to read wu and goldsmith’s ‘Who Controls The Internet’, about which perhaps more tomorrow.
- His company (Electric Sheep) set up a virtual home run derby in second life as part of a partnership with MLB.
- Stresses that metaverse content can’t just be dumping old content into the new worlds- must be collaborative/creative in order to work.
Tony Parisi, who was a co-inventor of VMRL and is now founder of Media Machines.
- Despite having been through several hype cycles about virtual worlds (VRML, couple others) he is excited about the potential success of this round of hype because he thinks the public is more ready for it now.
- He thinks the metaverse, in the end, is just like web; the more like the web, the more successful.
- Big Question #2: Who owns the metaverse? All current options are silos, because of ownership. So in future it will be unowned because it must be like web to succeed.
- Q. #3: What is ‘between’ spaces? Says ‘just like web’- hyperlinks, bookmarks, etc.; ignore continuity and fake it via client. This pisses off some people (particularly Prokofy) who feel that continuity is key to the experience. Ed.: Prokofy is nuts.
- Someone asks about personal data ownership; he points out (correctly) that it is no different in the metaverse than in web 1.0- Second Life or his company owning/controlling your data isn’t really all that different from Yahoo/Google/Flickr/etc. owning/controlling your data. Ed.: man, we need to solve the personal data ownership/licensing problem ASAP.
Paul Hemp, Senior Editor, Harvard Business Review, author of Marketing To Avatars, speaks last. He has basically only one point, but I think a really interesting one- if I’m marketing to an avatar, should I market to the Real Person behind the avatar? To the avatar’s persona? (i.e., someone in the audience is a man in real life, but a woman in second life- does it make sense to sell him Man Stuff when he is in Second Life, or sell him feminine stuff, or what? The marketing bit itself is not all that interesting, but the questions it raises about identity, multiplicity of identity, and trends in identity (will early adopters be more creative in their identities than late adopters?) gets some good discussion and thinking.
There is one question about democracy online; Prokofy answers it (poorly, in my opinion); more constructively, Jerry says ‘talk to Beth Novec and go to State of Play’. The audience is clearly interested in the topic; I’m sure it will be a central issue in the future.
I went out afterwards and had good Thai at Nooch, and talked to the most excellent Ansible Berkman, Paul from HBS, and Grace from Turner Broadcasting. Great to meet new folks- hope to keep doing this.
And now to bed… :)
15 thoughts on “metaverse meetup”
The excellent Metaverse Roadmap Event that I attended earlier this week in NYC @ EYEBEAM has been briefly covered here, here & here. Due to a serious lack of time on my part (I’m waiting for a plane), I’m posting a couple of questions that I wanted to ask and that we didn’t get around to on Thursday evening. …continue reading
The excellent Metaverse Roadmap Event that I attended earlier this week in NYC @ EYEBEAM has been briefly covered here, here & here. Due to a serious lack of time on my part (I’m waiting for a plane), I’m posting a couple of questions that I wanted to ask and that we didn’t get around to on Thursday evening. Jerry Paffendorf
thanks for the recap for those stuck on the westside of the continent.
My pleasure. How did you find it? :)
Glad you could make it, Luis. Nice write-up.
> Says web 2.0 is defined by masively interoperability between sites. Ed.: this sounds like the most cracked out definition of web 2.0 i’ve ever heard, but I heard this idea a couple times tonight. So I have to figure out why it offends me so- I guess because sure, some websites now offer APIs, which was effectively unheard of 18 months ago, but the APIs feel so limited when compared to raw data access and true data-level interoperability. But I need to think on that more.
Hehe, I love “cracked out” :). I do think the sweep and spirit of people participating in site content and applications widgetizing to work together can be summed up as approaching interoperability. So for the short story I say “participation and interoperability” are the defining characteristics of what’s happening on the web. (For another view there’s this hysterical video. :)
In large part the conversation about the metaverse at this stage comes from applying these principles to virtual worlds and graphical game spaces. That’s the young revolution that I’ve been following most closely.
Here are those State of Play videos I mentioned (on the left-hand column). Didn’t mean to put the lid on that conversation, we were just hitting the end of the night.
Stay in touch!
Hey, Jerry! Glad to see you drop by. My last job was at Berkman (which co-hosted State of Play), so I was well aware of Beth, and hope to work with her some while I’m in the city. You were right to cut off the discussion; it wasn’t really going anywhere.
I definitely agree that participation is at the core of what I’d consider to be web 2.0; there is a lot of substantive work going on there. On the interoperability side, while I hear it a lot, and see the occasional interesting mashup, I don’t feel like there is much there there, I guess. I get the same reaction to people talking about ‘interoperability’ in web 2.0 silos that I do when I hear people talk about ‘innovation’ in general- much more empty talk and deliberate misrepresentation than there is actual substance. But it certainly would be nice if I were wrong. :)
> On the interoperability side, while I hear it a lot, and see the occasional interesting mashup, I don’t feel like there is much there there, I guess.
Yes it’s still aspirational to talk about true interoperability. I do think it’s important to see interoperability as having two levels that are complimentary and move at different speeds, though: a technical level and a social level. The level of technical interoperability is the sticking point you’re talking about, but it’s the people if not always yet the code that are flooding over top of and back and forth between the silos, grabbing from here, pointing to there, pulling this and that together, aggregating the spread, and that puts pressure back on the technologies to start working together.
Check out Justin Hall’s short video about the idea of “passively multi-player online games” for an example of the kind of social interoperability I mean. Finding a way to make everything online fit into one interoperable personal universe even if the individual technologies and applications don’t talk to each other yet. It’s also aspirational in that it isn’t a finished reality, but I believe it represents the sweep and spirit of some of the most profound changes that are happening.
> I get the same reaction to people talking about ‘interoperability’ in web 2.0 silos that I do when I hear people talk about ‘innovation’ in general- much more empty talk and deliberate misrepresentation than there is actual substance. But it certainly would be nice if I were wrong. :)
I may not always be right (oh to be human), but I think I’m on the right track, and may someone shoot me if I ever deliberately misrepresent something! lol
Look me up in the city sometime. I want to keep getting together with the people who are interested in continuing to explore all this and build more of that substance. And since I’m here now I’d love to see New York stand up straight and become more of a creative captial as far as this goes ;). And BTW on that note it looks like State of Play is leaving us to go globe and coast hopping! :O
[…] Rik Riel has some pics and a write-up of the event, as does Luis Villa. Check them out. I was surprised that when I asked how many people were either gamers or used virtual worlds less than 20% of the room raised their hands. Pretty cool. I assume that a lot of people who’d been hearing about virtual worlds came for their download. Some notes and links on my intro: […]
Since the organizers of the meeting had preferred to focus on technological developments and larger issues of the architecture of the Metaverse itself, I didn’t include in my remarks much about the issues of avatar rights or democracy, though I work very intensively with these issues in Second Life. So my answer was simply an indication of how important these issues are, and a rejection of the idea that we can let programmers who believe “code-is-law” run these worlds for us, or that game companies that believe only enlightened game gods and server-side information can run societies should be allowed to prevail. They should not. That’s not democracy, and not even demonstrable meritocracy, it’s just an elitist clan running the Metaverse as it does in Snowcrash.
I’d urge all readers to study my critiques of Beth Noveck on my blog, and not limit themselves to just “going to Beth Noveck and State of Play”. State of Play, first of all, is in Singapore this year, because Beth herself is teaching there, but it’s inconvenienced a lot of people, and made it far more expensive for them to come unless they are from wealthy universities and game companies. ‘
Second, though she has written the state-of-the-art paper on democracy and online groups, her work in SL was extremely limited — she barely logged on and only then to give a couple of her canned presentations. So I don’t feel she has the wealth of experience of this particular virtual world needed to really grapple with our issues in it.
Beth represents one school of thought, about elevating groups created online to the status of the main actors of society, and “leaving behind as outdated” individuals, corporations, governments, claiming that representative government is “oldfashioned” corrupt, non-accountable, etc. — as if nonce groups of anonymous avatars are going to be more accountable. I find this extremism. I’m concerned about individual rights, and the problems of how groups can become “group-think” and “lynch-mob” just as much as they can be collaborative and smart mob.
Um, actually, I’m not loathed by “many, many second life” residents, but just a small elitist group, of the kind of cadre of the sort you might fit into — arrogant young 20-something tekkie college kids : )
I find a real male/female breakdown on these issues. The males who become technologically proficient in these tools become hugely possessive and arrogant about the knowledge and trying to keep it a wizard-password-protected sort of domain — it’s part of a kind of insecurity/security thing they are going to establish themselves, I guess, a kind of tribal ritual. If you looked around the room, you saw way less women there, and of those there, a few tended to be accompanying girlfriends serving food, or else older women who are able to brave the arrogance and condescending nature of these tekkie young men who feel its their domain. Older women are often felt to be “verbose” when they say something in disagreement with young men : )
My notes are here if you would like to get beyond this biased take:
There are LOTS more kinds of people in the Metaverse than your kind — get used to it. The very notion of “troll” comes from the insular and closed culture of MMORPGs and their idiotic fanboyz forums. I think you’ll find significant differences between that culture and a broader culture of intellectuals who believe in freer discourse.
The (software) technology is simply not there yet. In my mind we’ll need the following before we get a real “metaverse”: distributed operation, or: true P2P operation.
That means many things:
* the world data should be distributed and replicated over the clients – it should either kept in sync (opencroquet teatime-style) or allowed to fork and merge together again (git/mercurial/… style).
* distributed trust metrics to figure out which people are following the “world rules” and whose changes can be trusted to conform to the “rules” (the set of rules you as a client want to track).
* having world objects+vm code (which can be what a “website” is now), and making it possible for these to live and run on different clients (at the same time) if needed.
As long as you have a world running on a server park somewhere, it won’t be truly open and scalable.
Was good running into you, Luis :) On a personal note, I wish I could have met more people there. As Jerry remarked, we were not able to right-click on people to see who they were…and, even though they are “uncool”, there were no name tags either. I didn’t even how Jerry looked like in rl (was expecting a care bear ;)) until someone referred to him as “Jerry”.
I would have liked to hear more on the 2D to 3D trend and the events that define this pattern. The new medium is more compelling on a visceral level, but it’s far from being mainstream for a whole host of reasons (some of which you have mentioned). From Jerry’s experience in the field of accelerating technology, what is the exact need (s?) these environments are filling?
Tony Parisi’s presentation was interesting…was kinda surprised he (and no one else) mentioned OpenCroquet.
As for the techie side of things, it would have been good to have a Linden Lab representative present to see if the company was heading at all in the open source direction. This could impact a few of the alternative models we have heard.
Ansible, Linden Lab representatives have already been at a million events, in the industry, in *your university* run by *you* recently, and at townhalls inworld. At each of these events, they are asked: “are you going opensource”. And they always duck and cover and talk blather about that, but the answer is basically “no, not as soon as YOU would like.” So, you know that. I’m not getting your point in saying this here. What good would it do to have a LL rep once again say, “Well….” and not say “Yes, here’s where you download it.”
I’m thinking no one mentioned Open Croquet because it’s not really a world that others can go to yet; only a small group of programmers “in the know” can understand how to use it, make things with it, etc. So it isn’t really a world yet. It’s not even a walled garden. It’s a vest pocket.
[…] Villa is involved in this program(see here for his nasty trollish comments about *me* being a troll http://tieguy.org/blog/2006/08/11/metaverse-meetup/) but more to the point, the reading list is terribly scant; writing requirements appear to be only […]
[…] The document has moved here. […]
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