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.
I received an e-mail on July 30th informing me that dio (remember that?) has received a major overhaul, with the upshot being, in the words of the e-mail, “dio is now focused on making it easy to turn your photos into interactive experiences to share. Just upload a picture, then tag it with interactive hotspots to add photos, text, and videos. You can even create an interactive album by linking to other images.”
The update means that some concepts previously found within the application have vanished – there are no scripted objects and no “rooms” for example. What there is instead is what might be sort-of described as “Flickr with hotspots”.
Essentially, under the new dio, you can still create places, which now comprise one of more “scenes”. Each scene is a photo (without or without a short description) into which you can embed text, other photos, videos and links to other scenes, all with considerable ease. Scenes can be stand-alone, or can be linked together to create things like photo albums or interactive tours, and so on. All this has, apparently, been done in response to requests from users.
A Quick Look
Getting started with the new dio – assuming you have an account – is easy enough. Just log-in and click on the Star Creating! button.
This leads you to a page where you create your new “scene”. Here you can enter a title, select a photo to upload to dio from your hard drive (or enter a suitable URL for an image) to form the background to the scene. Once you’re happy, save it.
The image is displayed as it will appear to others, and you can start adding elements to it. This is done by entering the Edit mode (button on the top right of the window), then clicking on the photo itself to display the hotspot options.
There are four types of hotspot at present:
- Text – for unformatted text (i.e. you can arrange the text into distinct paragraphs, but they’ll all be concatenated into a single block of text on saving, so best to keep things short)
- Other photos (with text captions if you want)
- links to other scenes.
To create a new hotspot, click on the required hotspot icon. This opens a window with easy-to-follow instructions. When you’re done, click Save in the window to save the hotspot on the photo. There is no limit to the number of each type of hotspot you can add to a given scene / photo, and the art of dio is, as with the previous version, having an idea of what you want to achieve and then working out how best to achieve it.
And that’s really it (for the present), as far as I can see.
Note that if you have previously created a place in dio, it may well have been made “Private” and viewable only to you. To enable it as “Public” again, go to any scene within the place and click the Edit button, then click the cog button which will be displayed next to it, and select Place Settings. You can then flick it back over to Public.
For those navigating your places / scenes, it is simply a matter of clicking the available hotspots in whichever photo comes up. As with the original version of dio, if someone who is logged-in to the application leaves your place at a particular scene, they’ll be returned to it the next time they access that particular place (users who are not logged-in will return to the first scene in the place.
The overhaul gives dio a much cleaner look and feel when trying to do something with it. The concepts are very easy to grasp if you’ve used the previous version, and rebuilding previous places isn’t as onerous as I thought it would be, while putting together a new scene / place is very quick and easy (I did this in – quite literally – 2 minutes).
A noticeable absence from the revised dio is Google Adsense. Originally, the Lab has intended to “profit share” on people’s dio creations using Adsense, which was visible at the bottom of the “old” dio pages, but which is absent the new. Have LL abandoned the idea?
The hotspots idea is interesting and certainly allows a good degree of creative use of pictures. I found it very easy to re-work my Fallingwater tour on the fly (although it will need more TLC before I’m happy with it again). However, one thing I would like to see changed in the icons used for finished hotspots. When creating new hotspots, each icon is clear: a camera for adding photos, text for adding text, a video camera for videos, and a double arrow for links to other scenes. However, only the latter icon is displayed in completed scenes; text, photos and video all have the same nondescript dot which is hardly attention-grabbing.
That said, the opportunities to create fun scenes using hotspots seems pretty broad and limited only by one’s imagination. Want to share you YouTube videos in a different way? Here’s how (and yes, videos now play on being selected, no more additional faffing around); want to be silly with videos and photos? You can; and people can leave you their thoughts! Oh wait, they can on Flickr as well.
And therein lies the rub. OK, so dio has entertaining little bells to it. You can embed pictures in pictures, text in pictures and video in pictures, you can link pictures with other pictures and so on and so forth. But, the question still remains – why? As easy as the new UI is, the fact remains that if you want to share a bunch of photos with friends, it’s still easier to slap them up on Flickr or a similar site, and all the pretties be damned. As it is, dio is increasingly looking like it is trying to be far too many things, and that like Jack, it’s going to remain master of none.
The new update is nice and neat (although LL have some catch-up work to do as far as the “about dio” page is concerned – it still references the “old” beta) and it’s easy grasp. Whether it increases dio’s appeal, however, remains to be seen. I’ll be honest here and say that, given the lack of visible activity with the application prior to the arrival of the Lab’s e-mail, I had actually thought dio was DOA.