Inventing the Future

летающий фаллос and the New Wild West

In December, 2006, flying phalli disrupted a Second Life press conference at a CNET event reflectively dedicated to making money in SL.

Two months later, US Presidential candidate John Edwards had his SL headquarters vandalized in a roughly similar way.

It took just over a year for the world to take the next step, when Russian chess champion cum opposition politician Garry Kasporov had a real world open meeting disrupted by a remote controlled dildo helicopter.

I find it interesting that it didn’t happen here in the US. Of course, five years earlier, cybersage William Gibson had published Pattern Recognition(1), in which Russia is depicted as a tech-hip wild west.

I don’t think the New Wild West is Russia or grassroots politics or astro-turf. It’s cyberspace. For better or worse, what happens there isn’t staying there. And, anyway, how real was the Buffalo West?


1. The netspeak prose didn’t really work for me, and I didn’t think Gibson’s rendering of a female protagonist felt authentic. But it’s easy to forgive these because they don’t really interfere with the spot-on, absolutely compelling ideas. Terrific, thought-provoking read.

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Inventing the Future

QRLs are not SLurls … but they play that role on the 'Net.

We’ve created ordinary http URLs that teleport you to places in-world in Qwaq Forums, Being programmers, we could not resist the pun of calling them QRLs. The most common uses today are:

  • meet me here – telling someone where to meet, in IM, email, or calendar invite
  • I was here – recording a history of where you were in a bookmark or some sort of audit trail
  • go there – even if working asynchronously, you can tell people where to go to explore more from a Web page, blog, or wiki

Most programs will recognize http://… and turn it into something clickable that starts your Web browser if it is not already started. Our QRLs produce a page that displays instructions, which is nice if you don’t yet have the Forums client installed. But if it is installed, the page can automatically launch the client and place you directly at the designated location.

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Inventing the Future

Are we there yet?

I love Google Alerts. Last night one came in that seems to mark a change. Instead of folks like me talking about what we’d like to make possible, this one appears to be non-specialists (with good technical skills) discussing what people can do now.

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Inventing the Future

If 100 people watch a PowerPoint together on the Internet, is it still boring?

My last post referenced a movie of a “talk show” in Second Life, prompting John to ask about the relationship of avatar richness to the experience. I think there’s a simple trick that’s worth making explicit.

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Inventing the Future

Inventing the Present

Here is some new-media content about Information Week’s Mitch Wagner and Gartner’s Steve Prentice vs SL’s CFO and even Prokofy Neva. It is mostly about Second Life’s power and problems and how that relates to others. Croquet’s Qwaq Forums comes up a lot.

You can probably get out of this whatever you’re predisposed to. (I took away that Geoffrey Moore is right.)

Do follow the link from there to the video. It’s long and not densely packed, but it is a good tour of the non-technical state of virtual worlds — i.e., the things that matter to most of the world. Ten years from now, this is going to be how archaeologists remember today.

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My Thoughts Exactly

“Online Free Expresson Day” from Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders has a nifty little consciousnes-raising “virtual demostration” going on today, sort of a SimCity Second-Life kind of deal.

“Today, the first time this day is being marked, we are giving all Internet users the opportunity to demonstrate in places were protests are not normally possible. We hope many will come and protest in virtual versions of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Cuba’s Revolution Square or on the streets of Rangoon, in Burma. At least 62 cyber-dissidents are currently imprisoned worldwide, while more than 2,600 websites, blogs or discussions forums were closed or made inaccessible in 2007.”

Today they’re also releasing a helpful, newly-revised Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Senator Durbin Consults With the People

Tonight, and for the next several days, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Il), the #2 man in the Senate, is conducting an experiment in direct democracy and taking a bit of a risk. He will spend the next week in real time blogging over potential legislation. No carefully crafted “town meeting” or managed event, and no showing up as a walrus a la Second Life. Just a chance for people to actually hash out issues with someone who will vote on these things in the Senate.

Here is a reprint of the announcement. I will add that I will be participating as a featured blogger as part of the debate on wireless policy and munibroadband on Thursday night.

Stay tuned . . . .

Starting this Tuesday evening, July 24 and each evening this week at 7pm EST on OpenLeft.com, Senator Durbin and his staff will blog nightly on a broad swath of broadband policy issues. Based on this discussion, the Senator wants to attempt to write legislation this session. Each evening kicks off with discussion from individuals who have worked a long time on the topic of the evening, but the intent is to spur broader comment from as many as is possible. This is no meaningless exercise: it is a genuine attempt to try to open up the legislative process. All input matters in a very real way.

I’ve attached below links to the letter announcing the initiative as well as the schedule for the week. Please feel free to share it with those you think might be interested in taking part. It is my hope that those who care deeply about these issues will blog about it, point folks to our discussion, and comment themselves. We’ll also be scouring the web for other places that related discussion happens this week, so if you blog about it, please let me know so we can follow where discussion goes on your site too.

I hope you’ll join us and help to get the word out. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Press release: http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=279504
Open Letter: http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=318

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Inventing the Future

Intel adapting to OLPC, and graphics accleration on mobiles

My read of this money.cnn.com article, and the linked presentations for investors, is that Intel’s fairly near-term strategy:

  • Includes major specific responses to the OLPC. (E.g., a focus on lower cost and marketing in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.) OLPC has changed the game.
  • Suggests that graphics acceleration must be included in Intel’s products for mobile computing. (E.g., noting that “the most important applications…including Second Life” won’t run on a mobile phone, and that the “uncrompromised” “full Internet” has to run on mobiles without delay from when it is available on desktops.)

Nothing to be surprised at, but this is the first time I’ve seen this officially from Intel.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

I was wrong, Second Life Does Teach People (Or, At Any Rate, the IP Mafia) Valuable Lessons for Reality

As regular readers may recall, I have had sharp words for those who can’t tell the difference between MMORGs such as “Second Life” and reality. Nor do I stand alone. Industry Reporter Clay Shirky over at Corante wrote this article a few weeks ago describing how the business press generally appears to have fallen into some sort of Second Life worshipping trance. So it may surprise some to see me lauding Linden Labs’ latest innovation as a fantastic contribution with the potential to make the real world a better place and teach those who need it a valuable lesson in life.

I refer to what the always clever folks at Good Morning Silicon Valley dubbed a “proceed and persevere” letter (the opposite of the “cease and desist” letter). What happened, and why I hope it catches on, below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Keep Azeroth Tax Free!

With massive budget deficits, an ever-increasing trade deficit, and fear that our aging population will be unable to support spiraling Social Security and Medicare costs, the Republicans have finally begun to consider softening their hardline stance against imposing new taxes.

Bad news, rather than try to raise revenue from companies locating off shore or megacorps enjoying windfall taxes from manipulating oil prices, the Republicans prefer to tax “virtual places” like Azeroth and Second Life’s user constructed “the World”.

I know the current crop of Republicans tend to live in a happy fantasy world where we we are treated like liberators in Iraq, all Americans are enjoying the benefits of our booming economy, and deregulation cures cancer and whitens your teeth, but GOOD GRIEF!

I swear to God, it’s like Terry Prachet working with Neal Stephenson instead of Neil Gaiman.

What’s next, real estate taxes on Boardwalk and Park Place? Capital gains taxes on Yahoo’s “virtual portfolio” tracker? Income tax every time I fantasize about winning the lottery?

Why Congress needs to stop playing with itself and get a life below . . .

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