VWBPE 2015: Ebbe Altberg – Second Life; the Lab; education

On Wednesday, March 18th, Ebbe Altberg gave the keynote presentation at the 8th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference, which runs through until Saturday, March 21st inclusive, in both Second Life and OpenSimulator.

Ebbe Altberg: opening keynote at the 2015 Virtual worlds Best Practice in Education conference, March 18th
Ebbe Altberg: opening keynote at the 2015 Virtual worlds Best Practice in Education conference, March 18th

His key address lasted a little over an hour, in which he outlined the Lab’s approach to education and non-profits, provided some insight into what Lab’s future plans, and discussed further information on the Next Generation platform. Following this, he entered into a Q&A session, which ran beyond the main session time, switching from voice to text chat in the process.

The following is a transcript of his initial comments and review of the Lab’s relationship with the education sector, his overview of Second Life as it is today, a look to the future, and his concluding comments. I have produced a separate transcript dealing with his comments on the next generation platform.

As well as including the official video, embedded below, I’ve included audio playback of each part of Ebbe’s talk for those who prefer to listen while reading. Timestamps to both the audio segments and the video are provided.

The Summary

Click the links below to go the relevant section.

Initial comments


[00:00 / 02:55] First off, I’m really, really happy to be back at the VWBPE. Last year, I was pretty much brand new at Linden Lab, and we’ve had a year since then, and a lot of good and interesting things have happened that we’ll talk about. Like you heard in the introduction, we’re going to leave plenty of time at the end for Q&A so that we can talk about all [the] things that are on your minds.

Changes at the Lab

[00:38 / 03:34] So, since last year there have been a lot of changes at the Lab, We have simplified the portfolio of products that we are working on. Since I was here last year, we’ve discontinued work on six products [actually five (that were known about): Creatorverse, dio, and versu, and  Patterns and Desura].

The little "Dorito man" headed off into the sunset in October, as Patterns followed Creatorverse, dio and Versu in being axed from the Lab's nascent product portfolio. It was followed in November by news that Desura had been sold.
The little “Dorito man” headed off into the sunset in October, as Patterns followed Creatorverse, dio and Versu in being axed from the Lab’s nascent product portfolio. It was followed in November by news that Desura had been sold.

[01:02 / 04:00] So we have a much more focused company now, and we’re focused on things that are all relevant to user generated content, either through Second Life, or blocksworld, or through this next generation platform you have yet to see but we’re working on very, very hard to bring to you all.

[01:21 / 04:30] So focus has greatly improved. The other thing I wanted to talk about is some of the improvements made in Second Life. Performance and quality has greatly improved over the course of the last year, with the CDN work and the HTTP pipelining work some of you may have heard of, which should make access to worlds snappier than it used to be. i still feel we still have a lot to do to make it even more performant, but we’ve made great strides in that area.

[02:04 / 05:01] We also brought you the ability to experience Second life with the Oculus, so you can get sort-of an introduction to virtual reality if you have a chance to get your hands on an Oculus device.

The Lab’s Relationship with Users

[02:19 / 05:18] And we’ve also, I think, made a lot of improvements in how we market ourselves, how we’re connecting with you and many other customers and different audiences. I would say that when I showed up here a year ago, the relationship between the Lab and customers and partner was not great; and I think that’s improved greatly. We’ve spent quite a bit of effort, particularly Pete and myself, but also many other Lindens, socialising with you all, talking to you about what we can do better, how we can do things differently, better understand what you’re trying to accomplish. and so I think today, the relationships between us and you are much improved.

The Media, SL and VR

[03:19 / 06:18] We’ve spent quite a bit [of time] talking to the press; Pete and I have spoken to many. I would say a year ago, that was a difficult thing to do; Second Life was seen as old and not particularly relevant. Since the, we’ve had a tremendous boom and boost in all things virtual reality. It sort-of kicked-off with the big acquisition Facebook did when they acquired Oculus for two billion, and when the world started to realise that virtual reality was something that could be achievable much sooner than people [who] had been working in this area had previously thought. So there has been a massive acceleration in people’s mind of what virtual reality can and will do.

[04:16 / 07:15] So now it’s pretty easy to find people who want to talk to us, whether partners or press, about what we’re doing, and people are realising that our experience running Second Life is actually extremely valuable now that virtual reality and virtual worlds are all a sort-of hot topic again. So it’s very exciting for all of us to have the rest of the world sort-of get re-introduced and re-energised by what’s possible in virtual reality.

The Lab and the Education Community

[04:50 / 07:50] We’ve also spent quite a bit of time focusing and understanding education specifically in the context of Second Life, and also understanding it so that we can do a better job with our next generation platform to meet your needs in even better ways. And it’s absolutely clear that the capabilities of 3D and virtual experiences such as visualisation and simulation, and the ability to interact within those environments is an extremely strong component of how we can improve learning and teaching.

[05:33 / 08:32] We see evidence over and over again of how it’s proven that people can more quickly understand subject matter, content and experiences much better and much faster with much better retention of information, if they can experience something in a virtual context where they can do things, not just read or watch.

300+ Organisations and Success Stories

[06:00 / 08:58] We have well over 300 organisations that are taking advantage of our discount programme for educators and non-profits. I think there used to be more than that in the past, and we’re looking forward to making that grow back as we do a better job of meeting your needs.

[06:26 / 09:24] And we continue to hear over and over again just great stories from the community of educators about what they’re doing in Second Life, the success they’re having in Second Life to teach and learn all kinds of subjects from languages to chemistry to economics to health. The stories just keep going and going, and that’s really motivating for us to hear these success stories.

[06:56 / 09:54] And we started a thread on our forum, and I know there’s quite a few stories elsewhere out there, especially on [the] VWBPE.org site. so please continue to share these stories and successes with us; it helps motivate people, it energises us, and also helps us learn what we can do to help you be even more successful.

Collaborating with the Community and Prioritising Needs

[07:25 / 10:24] Like I said, we’ve spent quite a bit of time collaborating and communicating with various groups in the educational community in Second Life, and that’s absolutely great. It’s a great group of people to interact with, and often times I’ve asked these groups to work together  to come up with the things that they find [as] the most important things for us to work on.

[07:54 / 10:53] Sometimes it can be difficult for us to filter all of the ideas and wishes and needs from a community as large as yours, and when you take the time to collaborate among yourselves to further refine priorities and needs for us, it helps a lot. We have to do less guesswork to understand what really matters to you all.

[08:19 / 11:17] I’d particularly like to thank Serenek Timeless, Aldo Stern, JJ Drinkwater Lorelei Juno who, at the end of last year took that request to heart and talked to … more than 60 educators to come up with a sort-of prioritised list of issues and concerns and opportunities for us to think about and focus on to help you all.  so I’ll speak to some of these, and what I don’t speak to, obviously feel free to ask questions about afterwards in the Q&A session.

Platform Pricing and Discounts

[08:57 / 11:56] One thing that comes up quite frequently, and probably because we’ve made mistakes in the past, is the question about pricing. I just want to make it very clear that we have absolutely no intention of repeating the mistake we did in the past of removing the discount or increasing the pricing.

[09:17 / 12:15] So we have absolutely no intention whatsoever to make it more costly for you.

[09:22 / 12:21] We spend no time thinking how to make it more costly for you. We spend actually quite a bit of time thinking about how we can make it less costly for you; and it might be difficult to do in the context of Second Life, but we will try. But as we think about the next generation platform, this is something that’s thought about from the beginning, about how we can make it more economically feasible for more people to participate.

Content Creation and Creators

[09:51 / 12:49] Another thing that comes up is the ability to easily create content. you know, simplified building and scripting capabilities so that all users can create something.

[10:07 /13:06] We do think of creators in sort-of three categories of users that we believe we have to meet the needs of. You have the sort-of artisan or professional people that can create some really high-end experiences. We have the hobbyist, which I would say is where there’s a lot of them in Second life, who don’t necessarily have a formal background in 3D or animation or CGI, but are able to use Second life to create incredible things.

[10:43 / 13:41] And then we have the vast majority of people, who we call “customisers”; they don’t necessarily create original content, but they take bits and pieces by shopping or finding or being given items that they can then place, whether it’s to get dressed or to make their space laid-out just as they like it. So they don’t necessarily make the chair, but they put the chair where they want it. It’s sort-of like real life; most of us don’t build the clothes and cars and homes that we live in and use every day. We’re customisers, most of us; we get dressed in clothes that others make, and that’s probably how it’s going to be in the virtual space as well.

[11:30 / 14:28] We do want to make it as easy as possible for people to create content and contribute content. and I don’t expect there to be huge changes in Second life in this area, although we are working to improve the ability to import content from the outside world.

[11:50 / 14:48] As we think about the next generation platform, which I will talk about more later on, we’ll make a number of difference I’ll speak about then. But the scripting language will change, support for third-party will be very important to us; but I’ll talk about that in a bit.

New User Experience (1)

[12:08 / 15:06] Another thing [is] an improved and customisable new user experience, including entry points. This is something I’ve spoken about before. We feel it’s important to make it very easy for the creators of an experience to be able to attract an audience to come directly to that experience without the need of having to go through some generic front door to get going.

The Lab wishes to move away from the idea of a centralised, generic new user experience within the next gen platform, to something over which experience creators have more control - this might filter into Second Life
The Lab wishes to move away from the idea of a centralised, generic new user experience within the next gen platform, to something over which experience creators have more control – this might filter into Second Life

[12:39 / 15:37] And so we will continue to think about that in the context of Second Life, of how can we bring back notions we’ve had in the past of community portals or some such, and also how SL URLs, or SLurls, can be optimised to be [a] more efficient way of bringing users directly into a particular place. I would say the SLurl today is kind-of a crooked path to come on-board from from the outside world.

[13:10 / 16:09] So we want to improve all these things, so it is easier for all of you to bring users into the experiences you want them to come into.

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