dio gets an overhaul, but will it increase the appeal?

dio-logoUpdate, 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.

The new dio banner.
The new dio banner and “start” 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.

Creating hotspots for a dio place
Creating hotspots for a dio place

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)
  • videos
  • 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.

An example of a scene with lots of hotspots
An example of a scene with lots of hotspots

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.

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11 thoughts on “dio gets an overhaul, but will it increase the appeal?

  1. I can’t see a point to this as it exists now. Maybe it’d be best as a mobile app where a ‘place’ can be created entirely on phones and tablets.

    As the new Dio exists now, it’s like if Instagram was instead a website where we could upload photos we’ve applied filters to in Photoshop, or Vine if it was a website with a six second video length limit. Those two examples would be pointless and that’s kind of how Dio feels to me.

    I liked the original visual MUSH type deal. If nothing else it was creative.


    1. Yup. Like you, I can’t see the appeal, as easy as the UI is. To me, this is not so much an update as a complete change in direction / focus.


  2. I played with it earlier today and while its much easier to use and visually interesting, they seemed to remove the only aspect of DIO that made it unique, the inventory stuff. I asked on their community page wether the inventory system would return, the reply was ‘No’. I think they should move the DIO team back to SL to fix the Profile Feeds.


    1. I’m not sure the dio team was moved “away” from SL. Most of the hiring for the new products seems to have been independent of the SL properties (completely different “side” of LL with a different management structure). But yes, the loss of scripted objects & inventory is a major loss. Assuming those using dio were using it (I was, but not extensively so).


  3. (Time to insert pessimistic commentary) Yup, dio was another one of Rod’s “Grand Vision” creations for which he has robbed the SL Community of time, attention and resources … and produced yet another giant yawn. It’s a shame to see him stealing from the SL coffers to feed these grand ideas, robbing SL of the vitality and life it really could use to great benefit, only to invest it down the rabbit hole in time-wasters like dio. It doesn’t bode well for any of the Linden Lab (mis)adventures that the one product that really has demonstrated promise is being ignored while new, untested and apparently uninteresting products get all the “glory”.


    1. Can’t entirely agree, for several reasons. Firstly, there is no evidence that SL is “being ignored”. The Lab has spent the last 18 months expending time, effort and money in attempting to address core issues of stability and performance and deal with issues we, as users, complain most about. Secondly, there is no substantive proof that the new products are “stealing” from the “SL coffers”.

      For a start, and introducing a quibble, there aren’t any “SL coffers”; there are only “LL’s coffers”. More particularly, we simply don’t actually know where the money to finance the new products and acquisitions came from. Sure, the assumption is that it came entirely from income generated via SL. But equally, the seed money for the new ventures could have come via fresh investment in the company and / or from further investment by the board. We simply don’t know; but because we don’t know is no reason to dismiss it as not being possible, and thus determine the money “must” have come from SL.

      The same goes for “robbing the SL Community of time, attention and resources”. Yes, the Lab is less communicative and forthcoming that it used to be, and this isn’t for the better, BUT … as noted above, they have continued to work hard on SL, and we are starting to reap the benefits. What’s more, throughout this period, there has been little evidence of resources (manpower) being “taken” from SL: the Lab appears to have continued to recruit as much for its SL properties as it has for new products.

      Of course, none of this addresses whether or not the new products, in and of themselves and outside of concerns / assumptions about SL, are worth all the time and attention and actually will yield the company tangible benefits, but that’s perhaps the topic for another blog post :).


      1. Best evidence suggests Linden Lab’s other products and acquisitions are funded by profits from Second Life. Yeah, we don’t know if that’s entirely not the case, but again, best evidence vs. no evidence.

        You know, if Second Life improvements that were cancelled (e.g. C# scripting, Babbages firing amongst others), delayed (e.g. Experience Tools) or pending (e.g. Mesh Deformer) weren’t so quantifiable, it’d be less annoying to see Linden Lab toss money around all these projects and acquisitions that don’t seem to have reaped any successes yet. If everything Second Life needed was as huge as Sunshine, it’d be understandable how they divy up the eggs, but when the reasons for improvements being cancelled or delayed boil down to the absence of a few extra devs, such as Oz repeatedly stating the Deformer needs and is stalled until he gets them, I think it’s understandable customers of Linden Lab are wondering what the hell they’re doing.


        1. Sure, the mesh deformer is caught in no-mans’s land. But is that because the Lab doesn’t have the resources to put into it as they’ve spent the money on new products – or is it because management actually doesn’t want to put the resources into it, because from their weird and wonderful perspective, it is still not a priority item. These are two very different reasons, and neither you nor I can definitively and objectively point to one or the other as being the case. As such, it isn’t “best evidence”; it’s supposition.

          The same goes for cancelled projects. That they have been cancelled doesn’t mean it’s because the Lab doesn’t have the money or the resources for them – it could simply mean that time has moved on, the emphasis and direction for SL has changed and management don’t see the projects as worthwhile. It could equally mean that while a project would be neice to do, other things are seen as more of a priority / more likely to yield benefits quicker and are thus considered as being more worth the effort.

          Similarly, just because the Lab isn’t hiring people like mad (assuming they need to) doesn’t actually point to them being unable to afford to do so. It could simply be a result of the 2008-2010 era, when staffing increased by some 50% in an 18-month period, with around 125 people being hired – many of whome were subsequently laid off in June 2010. As such, it could simply be that regardless of whether or not the pennies are there, when it comes to headcount, the board isn’t willing to seem more is spent than they believe needs to be spent.

          The point is, you and I – and anyone else standing on the outside – simply do not know. We can analyse, we can point fingers, we can theorise. But at the end of the day, we’re not a part of the inner workings of the Lab and we’re not privy as to the weird and wonderful processes which go on there and contribute to the decision-making process. As a result, we are prone to be more subjective in how we see things than we are to be objective.

          That’s why I tend to play Devil’s Advocate in these things. Not because I’m an LL fangirl (or even that I necessarily believe or agree with all the points I’m making) – it’s because I’m trying to step back and look at things more objectively than might otherwise be the case. For the record, I actually do think the funding for the new products is more likely to have come from income generated from SL rather than from additional investment. However, I cannot prove that this is the case and as such, I point out that funding via additional investment is a possibility.


        2. By ‘best evidence’ I mean we know for a fact Linden Lab is extremely profitable off of Second Life, as Rod reminds us of most of the time he does an interview. We know for a fact Oz needs resources, we know for a fact C# scripting was cancelled because of ‘restructuring’ in the scripting team, we a lot of the time due to user group meetings and so on gain a lot of clarity into why this and that isn’t happening or isn’t happening fast enough.

          No, we don’t have a statement from Linden Lab that they use profits from Second Life to fund their other projects, or move manpower, but we also don’t have statements that they didn’t rob banks to fund those other projects. Call it supposition, but certainly a company using profits from a successful product to fund new ones is a lot more valid a guess than say, new rounds of funding with no press releases or a million other things that can be supposed.

          I think people are justified in believing the resources pumped into these other side projects and acquisitions would be better spent in Second Life; for the longevity of Second Life itself, for the enjoyment of its users, and for Linden Lab’s bottom line as well. It’s especially aggravating when, like the examples above, Lindens have told us at times during the past in near exact quantities exactly what they’re missing in people to help. Then there’s the time the community funded a feature themselves that must’ve been a paltry amount compared to what something like Dio cost to make.

          But I get your point. Quickly sentiments like these can snowball into accusations of actual Linden Lab engineers coding for Desura or Dio or whatever else and there’s no evidence of that. But in general there’s a lot Second Life needs, and some seem a matter of a half dozen extra people, and yet there’s things like Dio.


  4. Loki and others beat me to the punch with this point: while the clean ad-less interface will appeal to a certain type of internet user, the objects, inventory, “interactive” dialogue thingies made dio interesting to me! Yes, it was ridiculed by some saying “hey the 70ties called and they want their choose-your-own-adventure platforms back” but it seemed to me a good way to bring back that still very fun concept and make it easy for folks to – well yes: choose their own adventure. Now: not sure what to do with it myself to be frank….perhaps mobile? Ahhhh well….I am just an arm-chair product manager, so why don’t I shut up!!!!!


  5. I dunno what I expected. When I first saw dio, I knew it simply couldn’t last. Now I see the overhaul, and now I’m just confused as to the point of all of it. Flickr has recently downgraded itself with its new “update”, so there is some room to move in, but this is far and away from something that’d improve upon the photo-sharing experience.

    I dunno why photo-based websites find it so damn hard to stay steady.


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