With a familiar welcome from Torley Linden, the first segment of the eagerly awaited The Drax Files Radio Hour is now available for all to “tune-in” to.
The inaugural “broadcast”, transmitted from “an attic deep within the Berlin 1920s project”, covers a lot of ground: the ToS debate, an Oculus Rift update, Lily Allen’s confusion over L$ and Bitcoins and her regret at not having undertaken a gig in SL, the NSA and virtual worlds / games, fitted mesh – and more.
Hosted by Draxtor Despres and Jo Yardley. The Drax Files is aimed at being a community show, driven by the community, for the community while looking at virtual environments from all sides, and input from SL users has been encouraged right from the start.
Given Jo’s enthusiasm for the Rift, it comes as no surprise that it features large in the broadcast – coupled with the news that the Oculus Team have been working on a new variant with head tracking capabilities and a low latency screen and which was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
I’ve followed the Rift development for SL from a distance, both through what has been revealed by the Lab concerning their work at integrating it, and via Dave Rowe (Strachan Ofarrel in SL), who has been developing a version of his CtrlAltStudio viewer for use with the Rift quite independently of the Lab (Dave will also be a guest on an upcoming segment of TDFRH).
If I’m honest, I’m not altogether convinced that the Rift will be quite the “game changer” within Second Life some have been predicting – which is not to say I don’t think there will be applications in-world where the Rift will be put to very exceptional use. I just don’t quite see Rift-driven experiences becoming “the norm” in terms of how people engage with Second Life on a daily basis. What comes after the Rift, however (and indeed, Second life), may well be an entirely different story.
In this, I also tend to agree with ex Battery Street staffer Babbage Linden, as expressed by Drax during the show: I’m somewhat dubious about the Rift achieving the levels of “everyday” mainstream use some picture for it. This doesn’t – just to be clear – mean I think people won’t find uses for it outside of games and the like; rather, it’s that I think the uses that are found for the Rift will themselves be somewhat niche and not as all-encompassing as is being imagined in some quarters. That said, I’m looking forward to hearing Dave talk some more about his work with the headset, and seeing what does emerge from the Lab even if I don’t have an Oculus Rift myself.
Having been entirely missed by all of us (myself included) when first released in August 2013, the last set of changes to the Lab’s Terms of Service have gone on to cause a considerable amount of upset and controversy – some of which was not helped by people getting hold of the wrong end of the stick.
This latter point perhaps most clearly demonstrated by Jo’s reference in the podcast to her situation with using third-party textures, and her conviction that it is down to the Lab to convince those third-party texture providers that they should allow their textures to be uploaded to SL once more. However, as attorney Agenda Faromet has commented, there is nothing changed in the updated ToS which drastically affects the texture suppliers concerned, or which should have caused them to react as they did – and so that actually isn’t, in fairness, the Lab’s problem to “fix”.
Offering a broader comment on the issue of Terms of Service in general as they relate to social media environments, Drax points to a trailer for the documentary “Terms and Conditions Apply”, which he encourages people to use as an eye-opener as to where issues do exist – particularly where apathy towards such moves are concerned.
The NSA and Second Life
There was considerable fuss over this when the news broke. For my part – and as I commented at the time – I’d have been more surprised to learn that the intelligence services hadn’t taken an interest in virtual worlds and on-line games as a possible means of fomenting radical ideals (of any flavour) and attracting possible followers. As such, Jo’s comments here are pretty much hitting the nail precisely on the head.
That said, the scale of the activities undertaken by the NSA – and in this instance, more particularly by the UK’s Government Communications HQ, which was far more of a driving force in matters – did come as something of an eyebrow-raiser.
The show includes an interesting interview with Ash Quin on the matter of the NSA and government agencies. Ash is perhaps best known in SL for his work on the Exodus viewer, and he has considerable insight into the furry community, which has a strong technical / computing aspect throughout. As such, his comments both level-headed and worth taking a listen to.
With three interviews on the subject of fitted mesh and touching upon deformations and the mesh deformer, this segment of TDFRH stands as an excellent primer for those wishing to get up-to-speed on the topic, or are seeking clarity when it comes to which is which and terminology. The ideal thing here is that the information is presented honestly and concisely, something which encourages a better understanding of the topic.
Let’s be clear on this from the outset: I admire Draxtor Depres and his work; I’ve had the privilege of assisting with several segments of The Drax Files (if only in a small way) and have collaborated with him in crafting our conversational pieces I try to publish alongside each new episode of The Drax Files. As such, I may well be biased. So what 🙂 .
That said, The Drax Files Radio Hour is a breath of fresh air when compared to other longer-running shows of this nature which have perhaps become mired in their own cynicism and an apparent unwillingness for the presenters to approach their topic with a reasonable degree of objectivity. The show is by no means perfect – but this is only the first broadcast, and something like this can only be refined as it develops and experience is gained.
The positives very evident from the get-go is the follow-through on the desire to have other SL users involved in the show. The interviews provided throughout this segment both offer a means for people to have their input on the topics being discussed and – more importantly – give the listener a more balanced, well-rounded insight into a topic than might be gained from listening to familiar voices with a potentially narrower view of things. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this is in the coverage of fitted mesh with its three interviews, as mentioned above.
Some of the rougher elements in the show, which are easy to fix, was something of a lack of structure; at times the narrative would take a sudden (and jarring) jump from one area of discussion to another. I’m not sure if this is because it was easy to slide away from the show’s intended topics due to the conversational tone to the show which then forced a sudden refocusing, or whether the initial recording overran and things got a little chopped in pre-posting editing. That said, this isn’t a heavy criticism, and it is something that will doubtless be addressed as the format settles down.
Definitely one to pencil into the diary and make a point of tuning-in to each week. And when you do – don’t forget to leave feedback on the show’s blog!