Update, February 19th, 2014: dio was discontinued by Linden Lab on February 19th, 2014. Links to the dio website, etc., have therefore been removed from this article.
You create places by adding text, photos, videos, and interactive objects into interconnected ‘rooms’ that give spatial context to the content you share. You can keep your places private, share them with friends and family, or allow everyone to explore and enjoy them. Live and persistent chat allows you to socialize with other users as you discover and explore dio places together and see what those who came before you had to say. In the future, dio users will be able to monetize the dio places they create, enabling them to profit from their own creativity.
Here’s a look inside dio written after spending a few hours paddling around and setting things up, tearing them down and generally poking around.
dio is currently free to join, and users have a choice of doing so using either a Facebook account or e-mail address. As I avoid Facebook in much the same way as a cat avoids the Atlantic Ocean, I used the e-mail option, giving my name, e-mail and a password. Seconds later an e-mail arrived from the dio website asking me to confirm my details with a click. I did – and there I was, sitting on the log-in page, my credentials filled-out and a single remaining click needed to see me into the site. Simples!
The homepage – or Community page, as LL call it – presents you with places people have already created. Some of these have obviously been created by closed beta testers, but there are already a number of places which appear to have been created by those who, like me, have just signed-up and are playing with things.
Places are listed in terms of Most Popular (most frequently visited) and Featured (criteria unclear). Additionally, users can create “albums” of their favourite places or those belonging to their friends, while also having an “album” of their places.
A place is accessed by clicking on it. If you’re logged-in to dio, a summary page for the place is displayed. If you’re not already logged-in, you’ll be prompted to do so or to create an account (if you are completely new to the site). Clicking ENTER from the summary page will take you into the place itself. This is effectively a web page comprising a number of elements.
- Objects (In This Room): this is a list of interactive objects contained in a room. Objects can currently be any combination of:
- Photographs with descriptive text
- Videos with descriptive text
- Custom objects which can be coupled with a set of pre-defined actions to present a further element of interaction for visitors to a room. Custom objects can be examined, taken to inventory, drunk, eaten, used, locked, unlocked, opened, used to trigger other actions, and so on
- Connected Rooms: a list of additional spaces within the current place visitors can move between, each containing objects of its own and/or leading to other rooms. As with objects, custom actions can also be defined for rooms (for example, a room can be “locked” and require a key object taken from another room in order to unlock it and enter)
- Descriptive area: the main display area wherein images, videos and the results of a visitor’s interactions with objects in the room are displayed / reported here
- Comments / Chat / People: this is where the “persistent and live chat” sits – although currently it is more of a Twitter / Plurk-like comments stream than a means for engaging in conversation, and there is no instant / direct messaging capability. It also displays the people currently in the room at the, moment and can be used to access their profiles. When not required, the panel can be collapsed (HIDE). The image below provides further information on this panel.
There are three further areas to a place page:
- The Related Places panel, wherein links to similar Dio places can be added by anyone (although the creator of the place can remove links which are seen as inappropriate)
- The Google Adservice area, which is discussed later in this piece
- The inventory panel (which is not shown in images here). This is displayed beneath the Connected Rooms panel, but only if / when you have collected inventory items, which are themselves interactive objects found within a room.
Not all of the page elements are displayed for every room in a place. As noted above, the inventory panel is only displayed when you have collected one or more objects found within a room. Similarly, the Objects panel is only displayed if a room contains any objects, and the Connected Rooms panel is only displayed if there are rooms connected to the one you’re in.
Moving between rooms will cause the page to refresh, displaying new information in the objects, and Connected Rooms panels and in the descriptive area. This refresh includes the comments / chat panel – so if you are actually conversing with someone in a room and you or they move to another room, the conversation will be broken until such time as you’re both in the same room once more.
It is important to note that interaction with objects and rooms is through clicking on the relevant icons and not via trying to type commands into the Comments area for a room , as some people had been trying (/me waves to Mitch Kapor). Clicking on an object, for example, will list the actions which have been defined for that object – so you might be able to “look” at it and/or “take” it to your inventory and / or “open” it.
To exit a place, click on the dio logo at the top of the page ; this will take you back to the dio Community page. To return to the summary page for a place, click on its name displayed alongside the dio logo.
Two final points of note when browsing: when you leave a place, your position within it is bookmarked, and you’ll return to whatever room you were in should you later return. Also, while rooms may have multiple people in them, each person is effectively exploring their own iteration of the room, rather than “sharing” a single room. This means that if there is one key in the room, others in the room can still find and take it.
dio includes user profiles, something we’re all pretty familiar with. As mentioned above, these can be viewed freely, simply by clicking on icons / names in a room, or by clicking on the name of a place creator in the summary page for the place.
The profiles themselves are pretty basic at present – although it is entirely possible LL have plans in this direction. There are options to upload an image, list your location and provide a summary bio or other notes.
One interesting aspect of user profiles is that any places created by the user will also be displayed as clickable links to those places, such that Public places will be seen by everyone viewing the profile; any places restricted to friends will only be seen by friends, while private places are only listed when you view your own profile).
Profiles also include a Report / Ignore flag, should serious problems be encountered with another user.
Creating a Place and Rooms
Creating a place is simplicity itself. Rather than go through the process here, I’m going to refer you to the official tutorial video on the subject. This is one of several videos covering the core elements of content creation in dio, and which can be accessed through HELP > TUTORIALS at the top right of the dio window and via the dio YouTube channel. When watching these videos, it’ll quickly become apparent that they are based on a pre-beta version, and various elements of the dio UI have changed; nevertheless the functionality remains broadly the same and they make a very good starting point for working with dio. Note, however, that in difference to the video, newly-created places are PUBLIC by default.
Rooms and Objects
As noted earlier, “rooms” are the means by which people explore a place. How many rooms are in a place and how people navigate between them is entirely up to you. Room creation very similar to that of creating a place, except that within rooms you can add objects – images, videos, or custom items you define.
When building rooms, it’s better to have some idea of what you area trying to achieve, bearing in mind there is minimal hierarchial structure here. Complex places need careful consideration in terms of rooms, navigation and so on in order to present a consistent and enjoyable experience.
Objects are also created in a similar manner to places and rooms, and have their own tutorial video. Objects can have a variety of actions associated with them, allowing them to be used in a variety of ways – as tools, as items a visitor can “collect” and add to their inventory, and so on.
As mentioned above, “actions” add an additional layer of interaction for users. dio supplies a range of pre-defined actions which can be applied directly to objects – and in some cases, to rooms (so you can, for example “lock” a room to prevent access until such time as the visitor has found the required key in order to unlock it and enter it).
The range of actions which can be applied to objects is extensive, allowing them to be examined, taken to inventory, interact with other objects, appear, disappear, and so on. Actions can be used either individually with and items or in combination with one another to provide a visitor with even more choice as to what to do with an object (should they examine it, take it, drink it, drop it, and so on). Basic non-player characters can be introduced into rooms through the use of actions which allow them to wander between room, “talk” to visitors, and so on.
Taken together, rooms, objects and actions provide a reasonably powerful toolset for the creation of 2D interactive environments in dio, be they tours of historic sites, puzzles, games, photoablums video blogs and so on.
Show Me the Money
Linden lab launched dio with the promise that users will be able to monetise their creations, as stated by dio’s producer Bo Barfield, when speaking to Forbes Magazine:
We want to implement revenue sharing with the content creators of dio to give people an incentive to create interesting spaces. We’re going to give them a cut of the advertising revenue that they bring.
This will be done (initially at least, although LL may have additional plans) through Google AdService. All rooms in dio include a small advertising panel directly under the descriptive section of the webpage. The idea is that the more compelling a place within dio is, the more it will attract visitors and thus generate revenue through the ads. Eventually LL plan to share a percentage of this revenue with the creator(s) of the room(s) generating it. When this will happen, and what percentage of the revenue will be shared, is unclear. No doubt LL will be using the beta to test the waters and see how much traction dio receives and adjusting their thinking accordingly.
Whether there are plans to monetise dio in other ways is also unclear. As reported in my coverage of the launch, the dio Terms of Service make mention of Linden Dollars; whether this indicates some form of cross-over or wider use of L$ is unclear. The dio ToS is largely boilerplated directly from the SL ToS, so the reference to L$ might simply be awaiting update – or it may not. Time will tell on that one.
There is something of a sting in the tail here, however. dio may well be free at the moment. Speaking to VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi as dio was launched, Rod Humble revealed the Lab will at some point be charging people to use dio. How well this is likely to go down at a time when many are finding it hard to effectively leverage their social media platforms as revenue generators remains to be seen. A careful balance needs to be struck here: charge users more than they see as coming out of the service, and they’re not likely to stick around for long once that happens. Even if charges were somehow deducted from the user’s cut of generated ad revenue, and thus avoiding them being visibly charged for using the platform might prove a difficult cake to slice.
dio is a curious affair, bringing together a sprinkling of capabilities and ideas from a number of websites and social media platforms, making it very much a jack-of-all-trades which could be put to use is a variety of ways, serving a variety of audience, built from a rich diveristy of content. This makes it both extremely exciting and full of potential while also leaving it somewhat exposed. In spreading itself so wide there is a risk that dio may not address all these options and capabilities as well as those services which opt to focus on just one capability, which they deliver exceedingly well.
Nevertheless, as a concept, dio is incredibly easy to grasp and put into practice. It took me less than 15 minutes to get my first place with rooms set-up and media uploaded to it and annotated. And like any captivating activity, it’s fair to say it has the potential to “take minutes to learn and a lifetime to master” as an old advertising tag line once stated.
Being a beta, there are some issues and limitations which will (I hope) be sorted sooner rather than later. It’s a little galling that (for the moment?) it appears friendships within dio can only be made using a Facebook account. The upload process for images and photos also doesn’t seem terribly robust when using the batch upload option or when uploading videos (although this could admittedly be my connection with dio).
But – this is beta, so some issues are to be expected.
The use of advertising for revenue generation is certainly interesting, and I think it’s the first time LL have moved in this direction, although it is something Ciaran Laval has pointed out as worthy of consideration when it comes to generating revenue through elements of Second Life, and I’m largely in agreement with his ideas. While Rod Humble has previously said no to advertising through the viewer – and rightly so – there is no reason why the likes of the Marketplace and my.secondlife.com couldn’t be better leveraged through advertising.
Right now, dio’s potential is hard to gauge. It might seem easy to dismiss after a few minutes of juggling around, but it does actually offer a very unique and different approach to shared social spaces and on-line creativity. If it does find a voice and an audience, it could be pretty big. What will be interesting to see is how quickly the interest is piqued, peaks, and whether it then plummets or hold its own – particularly once the Lab starts charging for it.
For my part, I am having fun and am already considering what I hope will be a more ambitious place offering than a photo gallery …