Rod Humble discusses virtual goods and virtual worlds in a brief Bloomberg interview. What are most interesting to note are the comments towards the end of the piece, regarding Linden Lab’s current profitability:
Emily Chang: The Tech IPO bandwagon is filling up. Is that something that you guys would consider or [are] considering?
Rod Humble: We’re not looking for any further investment right now. We’re profitable, we’ve got [a] very good cash balance… So from our perspective, if we were to be able to deliver a large and measurable long-term return on new investment, then we’d certainly look at it. We’ve got a long runway of features that I want to put in place with our current very healthy cash and profitable business first, though.
Should this story be picked up, it is these words that are probably going to be the focus of attention – particularly among those who seem anxious to sink the Second Life boat, who will probably interpret Humble’s words as, “We’re not really attractive enough for IPO, and we’ve got to blow money to get there, ‘cos we have to make ourselves attractive somehow.”
Personally, I see his statement in a more positive light: LL are reasonably cash stable and are profitable, something I’ve commented on previously. Furthermore, there is a continuing upswing in sign-ups (still running at around 16K per day), which appears to be translating into a rise in user concurrency, which would indicate that new users are actually sticking around for longer and potentially getting more involved. Both of which are healthy signs.
What is key about Humble’s words, however, is the sheer pragmatism they carry, even in such a relatively lightweight interview. He recognises that while Second Life indeed “has legs”, and can, on current form, continue pretty much as is as a private company generating sufficient profits to demonstrate (presumably) a return reasonable enough to keep the original investors happy, it also has the potential to go much further in time. Thus, while IPO is definitely not on the cards right now, this may not be the case in the future, should things develop in that direction.
This is pragmatic on two counts. Firstly, it is allowing the company a degree of freedom in tackling the issues it currently faces – technical and otherwise – and solidifying its position without any ulterior needs or requirements overshadowing things. Given the company has undergone significant pain when ulterior motives have been the driving force behind matters in the past (e.g. the drive to convert SL into some form of “real world” business and applications platform), this is a wise move. Secondly, as Emily Chang states – the technology IPO bandwagon is fast filling up, but if we’re all absolutely honest, we’ve no idea where it is going. As such, not leaping onto it with everyone else is also something of a potentially wise move; especially if the wheels do come off the wagon, as LL get to avoid the resultant crash. However, if the bandwagon proves it can roll and roll, then LL could ideally be well-placed to pick-up on all those investors who might otherwise be kicking themselves from not being “in” on things from the start.
Taking this perspective and being willing to acknowledge both sides of the coin, so to speak, again demonstrates to me that Rod Humble is very much the right man in the right place at Linden Lab – and he’s hopefully carrying the board with him on this.
NY HealthScape describes itself as “a diverse collection of creative and enterprising individuals actively involved in the virtual world of Second Life.” The community is spread out over twenty sims capturing the old world charm of historic New York, and is sponsored by the Southern Tier HealthLink, New York, a non-profit organisation that is bringing electronic information from hospitals, doctors, etc., together into a comprehensive patient record, available to both health practitioners and the patient.
In operation since January 2008, the aim of NY HealthScape is not simply to provide a residential and business environment within Second Life, but to facilitate qualitative patient education using innovative media methods such as Second Life to reach out to those who might otherwise be unable or unwilling to access healthcare information and education due to mobility or other difficulties, allowing the Southern Tier HealthLink to further “connect the dots” in patient healthcare in the real world.
A key example of this has been the development of a series of Quest Homes. These are interactive tour or hunt inspired installations on the NY HealthScape sims which allows for themed health information to be delivered in a game format. Visitors can click on interactive aspects of a tour to get points which are then redeemable for prizes. During the Quest tour, information is provided by local prompts which make learning fun.
The breast cancer Quest tour recently became the subject of a superb machinima written by Sylar Smythe, NYHS’s Communications and Marketing representative and produced by Panacea Luminos, the Executive Director of Southern Tier HealthLink NY. Entitled Between Worlds: A Journey of Hope, the Machinima both introduces the concept of the House Quest and itself serves as an innovative use of Second Life to educate people about the potential uses of Second Life. The film is available in four parts on You Tube, and you can see Part 1, below.
NY Healthscape are represented at SL8B by a fabulous roller coaster exhibit located in the SL8B Spellbound sim, and which represents one of the more fun element of SL8B – not only can you find out more about healthcare and the work of NY Healthscape, you can also have fun riding the roller coaster itself (I recommend you use ML on at least one trip around the ride, just for the full experience!).
I caught up with Panacea Luminos and Skylar in order to gain further insight into the exhibit itself and the work of NY Healthscape itself. I started out by asking them about why a roller coaster in particular.
“Skylar came up with the idea,” Panacea explains, “If NY HealthScape’s goal is to demonstrate the benefit of educating through ‘doing’ rather than being told then we felt our exhibit should express the same mentality. A fun roller coaster was purchased and modified to include messages about our core mission in an entertaining way.”
“We hope that it communicates the concept that healthcare management is a long term perspective,” Skylar adds. “One that requires consistent delivery of healthcare information and patient access is the key to long term quality health. By maintaining awareness and taking an active role in their own health management, patients can enjoy a ‘longer ride’.”
So how do NYHS quantify the benefits of an in-world experience when it comes to healthcare? “It’s a non-threatening environment,” Skylar replies immediately. Panacea nods in agreement, continuing, “We offer people the chance to get to know us and one another first. “There is no pressure. People can come and go, take part in events such at joining in with a blues night at our club, explore Second Life, and learn about health matters at their own pace.”
“It’s a gateway for those with mobility problems as well,” Skylar adds, “And the medium is more attractive – the interactive element encourages investigation and learning that traditional methods cannot emulate.”
So what do you hope people will gain from the ride at SL8B? “We hope it will pique their interest,” Panacea states after considering the question a moment, “That they’ll come visit [the NYHS sims] and engage with us and redefine their assumptions about delivery methods for health education and awareness. It is important information but it can be fun and intuitively communicated.”
So what else are NYHS planning?
“At the moment we’re planning to expand Quest Homes further,” Panacea states, “To cover subjects such as diabetes and obesity. Second Life also offers a unique environment where any healthcare situation, including procedures and emergencies, can be simulated as a hands-on, “learn-by-doing” experience, which we tap into.” She goes on to explain that as well as the interactive elements such as Quest Homes, NYHS also stages presentations on chronic illnesses, fitness events, and health assessments, as well as more entertainment-oriented activities, “To build a sense of community that will keep the region vibrant and evolving. These events may also have a secondary health education component, such as a Manhattan restaurant that offers low fat cuisine and recipes.”
Turning to the NYHS sims themselves, I asked about how else they are used beyond issues of health and welfare. “We have twenty sims in operation,” Panacea replies, “And we’re not currently planning on expanding that,” she pauses a moment and then grins, “Unless LL decide to lower sim tier! We offer a range of business and residential rentals across the sims. As an NPC, our goal is to generate income to make the sims self-sustaining, so rentals help with this. We also accept donations and sponsorship, and sell breedables. We encourage people to come and explore, and offer them several means of doing so.”
“Such as?” I prompt.
“Well, we have our own railway that connects ten sims,” Panacea continues, “It’s a replica of the famous Phoebe Snow, a steam engine that rolled along the Lackawanna Railroad through New York. We also have electric trams and taxis available, or people can take two balloon tours of the sims.”
“We also have some fabulous locales for photography and machinima,” Skylar adds, “Like the Athens-Hudson lighthouse.”
All-in-all New York HealthScape is possibly one of the most innovative uses Second Life has been put to; with its integrated approach to healthcare, community and virtual living, it more than ably demonstrates the very real magic of Second Life.
To find out more about this remarkable project, I urge you to pay a visit to both the NYHS SL8B exhibit and the unique New York sims (Surls below) and that you to tune-in to Designing Worlds on Treet TV, Monday June 27th at 2:00pm SLT, when Skylar will be talking about the project.
I’ve not had time to flick around SL8B today – real life has kept me occupied. However, Massively did get a superb interview with Rodvik Linden, and posted it to You Tube. So, to make up for my own lack of effort, here’s the piece for your enjoyment:
The Magic of Perception. Albert Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” Experience the various levels of reality and expand your own consciousness by visiting this experimental build.
Inside Art is an interactive art gallery, where you’ll find layered 3D layered pictures. Each one has a pose or animation that when sat in immerses you magically into the image.
The Printers of the Mind celebrates the 450-year history of the art of printing and its rebirth in Second Life through the recreation of the printing presses and printing technology of the past. Learn about the history and art of printing, and to view the presses that brought literacy, information, literature and, perhaps, even freedom to the world.
The Magic of Storytelling. An epic and magical book — Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”— is used to celebrate live storytelling in SL. This book rests on a massive maritime stand, from which protrudes the podium from the story (made from the bow of a whaling ship). Readers can conduct a marathon “tag-team” style reading of Moby Dick to entertain book lovers at SL8B.
The evening was rounded-out by a set from FedoraJones Popstar. I have to admit, I’ve never heard him before – but I’m sold. He delivered a range of songs with skill, verve and oodles of fun.
I also envy him his hats. Not that I can wear any in SL. I look seriously silly in them.
Of course, a lot of people were there as Rodvik Linden was due to put in an appearance, but that gave me time to mingle with friends and to spot others as they enjoyed the show.
People like the ever-courteous Lord of Dee, Mr. Ciaran Laval; if you don’t already read his blog, you really should. The same goes for Daniel Voyager, who has a unique perspective on SL, having originally joined via the teen grid, and has an excellent blog full of all the goings-on in SL.
I also managed to pick out Anne O’Toole as well, looking somewhat anime-ated, and literally bumped into the delightful Ahuva Heliosense.
Sadly, I had to curtail my time at FedoraJones’ set, as Firestorm would appear to have a problem with crowds, and unceremoniously dumped me out of Second Life and then refused to play nicely until I’d teleported home.
So, I was a little disappointed that Rodvik wouldn’t be speaking at SL8B. Then I figured that as he’s appearing when FedoraJones is on the main stage, maybe we’d get a duet, or I’d at least get to see the fabled toga for myself.
But in the end, we were treated to none of the above – no talk, no toga, no songs. Instead we got and ultra-cool Rodvik “Rocket Man” Linden.
Yes, Rodvik arrived wearing a spiffy spaceship avatar, which I managed to catch as he headed towards the Main Stage as FedoraJones was starting on his set. Arriving stage-side, Rodvik commented wryly, “Heh, I should probably ghave changed av’s,” to me as he proceeded to fly around the stage auditorium, mingling with the crowd.
For the next half-hour, Rodvik mingled with those celebrating SL’s eighth birthday, chatting here and there, avoiding walls, boogie-ing around – or as he put it, “Dancing with my afterburner!” and describing his little ship as having, “Power seats and nanorobots ready to run amok and take over the galaxy. usual stuff :0”!
Of course, with the CEO of LL making good on the dance floor, it was hard not to resist doing a Hamlet…
I also couldn’t resist passing a comment on duets,
Inara Pey: There was I, hoping you’d be on stage singing with FedoraJones!
Rodvik Linden: Dream on :O
Well – what is Second Life if not for dreaming? And that is really what the magic is all about – given wings to our imaginations and desires and creativity and giving them flight in incredible ways. Even in cute little spaceship-style avatars.
Kudos, Rodvik, again, for joining in and demonstrating how much you do grok Second Life!