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.

Continue reading “VWBPE 2015: Ebbe Altberg – Second Life; the Lab; education”

VWBPE 2015: Ebbe Altberg – LL’s Next Generation platform

On Wednesday, March 18th, Ebbe Altberg gave the keynote presentation at the 8th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference, which runs from March 18th through 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 core comments on the Lab’s next generation platform. These commence at the 31:20 mark into the official video of the event, although obviously, mention is made of both in reference to education earlier on in his presentation, as Ebbe discusses education, issues of accessibility, etc. I’ve included audio excerpts here as well, for further ease of listening to his comments whilst reading. Time stamps to both the audio tracks and the video are supplied.

The Summary

Click the links below to go the relevant section.

Ebbe Linden as he appeared in-world at the VWBPE 2015 conference
Ebbe Linden as he appeared in-world at the VWBPE 2015 conference

On the Name

[00:00 / 31:20] So, the future platform for virtual experiences. We’ve said that the next generation platform, we still don’t have a name for this thing; we have a code name internally, but we don’t want to leak that out or use that, because that could just be confusing and distracting, and it’s probably going to change soon anyway. So we just refer to it as “the next generation platform”.

[00:21 / 31:42] We do not refer to it as “SL 2.0”, because that might imply a little too much linearity, and we don’t want to necessarily constrain ourselves by the past; but we also want to obviously take advantage of, and leverage, our learnings from the past.

Progress to Date

[00:39 / 31:38] But the progress is going every well. I would say we’re about 8-9 months in on working on this; I would say the last six months have been absolute, full-on with a big crew. We’re talking close to 40 people or more; probably 30+ just engineers, and then obviously a bunch of product managers and designers working on this product.

New User Discovery and Experience

[01:12 / 33:33] And there’s a number of areas where we think about it quite differently from Second Life, and we did spend quite a lot of time thinking about why did Second Life hit the ceiling, if you will. You know, many years ago it peaked at 1.1 million monthly users and these days it’s around 900,000, so it’s not a huge difference from the highs and where we are today,

[01:38 / 32:59] But why didn’t it go to five million, ten million, 100 million?  And what can we do to  solve some of the things we thought caused it to sort-of max out there?

The Lab is hoping their next generation platform will bridge the gap between niche and mass adoption. This may prove easier said than done
The Lab is hoping their next generation platform will bridge the gap between niche and mass adoption. This may prove easier said than done

[01:52 / 33:11] One area where we want to think quite differently is discovery; how do I discover an experience? Today you pretty much have to be inside Second Life to discover an experience, and we want to make it a lot easier for people to be able to discover an experience from the outside. So that you can create an experience, and [people can] much more easily find your experience and enter your experience without having to necessarily at that point being aware of the notion of this platform or what other types of things are available to them. They can discover those as they go along. Make it easier for you to bring your audience directly into your experiences.

Platform Accessibility

[02:36 / 33:55] Accessibility. Today, when you leave your PC, you pretty much leave Second Life behind, [so] what can we do to make sure it’s available on more platforms? It’s obviously getting more complicated now with all these VR platforms, so what used to be PC, windows and Mac, which we support today; and then mobile, which you can get access to today if you use a third-party service like SL Go or some other clients that support mobile.

[03:10 / 34:29] But we want to think about mobile as something we can support form the beginning; but again, the number of platforms across mobile, PCs and VR … [there’s] more and more of them. so it’s tough to keep up.  So we are building a next generation platform from the ground up to make possible for us to take advantage of all these different platforms.

Scalability and Creativity

[03:37 / 34:57] Scalability. This is a really important one; an event like this highlights it.  There’s a tremendous amount of effort that goes into putting on  a meeting like this with just a couple of hundred people in-world. We have to put together four corners and you have to do a lot of work, and it’s still creaking at the seams as we speak, to put something like this on.

[04:06 / 35:25] We want [with the] next generation platform to make the size of an event like this to be a trivial exercise, and then figure out how, with various techniques, to make it possible to do events like this for tens of thousands of people.

[04:26 / 35:46] That’s one way to think of scalability: how do you get more people in a region, how do you get more people to be able to participate in an event at the same time. but [there’s] also the scalability for creators. How do you make it possible for creators to not only be able to reach a larger audience, but also make more money, too.

[04:44 / 36:14] Take the classroom that Texas A&M put together for teaching kids chemistry. The developers of that experience of teaching chemistry, they probably did as a one-off, for some fee, job for Texas A&M to create that classroom. When the classroom is used by students at Texas A&M, you know, 20 students, whatever, then that experience is fully in use.

[05:22 / 36:41] What if that developer could have an unlimited number of copies of that experience to rent out or sell, and every institution could use that virtual classroom all at the same time? That makes for a much more appealing prospect for a creator of an experience, and gives them a greater opportunity to monetise their experience. And then we’ll get more high-quality content creators introduced into  the economy, and then everything sort-of heads upwards. So that’s something we think about a lot.

Quality and Ease of Use: Physics, Avatar Design, Shopping

[05:56 / 37:16] We also think about quality. Quality is a range of things: ease of use, quality of physics, lighting, basic performance of how smooth are things, how easy is it to do things, how natural an avatar can we make.

[06:21 / 37:41] The skeleton system in the new avatars we’re working on are way, way, way, more complex than what we have in Second Life.

[06:29 / 37:48] How can we make it easier for people to shop and get dressed and do these types of activities with much higher visual fidelity at the same time. So we think a lot about that.

Revenue Generation for the Lab

[06:46 / 38:05] And then monetisation – the way  we [Linden Lab] monetise. I’d say our business model is a little be strange in Second Life today. We charge you a lot for land, and then we charge you almost nothing for all of the transactions that happen in-world. So, I’ve said this before, but generally we think about how do we lower our property taxes by a lot and at the same time, we’ll have to raise sales taxes to make some of the difference.

[07:15 / 38:35] And then also how can we build a platform that [is] technically less demanding, so that it costs us less to operate all of this content that we’re running all of the time, so that we can have a lower barrier to entry, and make it possible for people to come it and create some really interesting things at very low cost. And so that’s a big focus for us. How can we make less money per user, almost, but have a lot more users, is kind-of the core of the puzzle we’re trying to solve for.

Continue reading “VWBPE 2015: Ebbe Altberg – LL’s Next Generation platform”

Designing Worlds: Ebbe Altberg video and transcript

On Monday October 6th, Designing Worlds, hosted by Saffia Widdershins and Elrik Merlin, broadcast a special celebratory edition, marking the show’s 250th edition, both as Designing Worlds and its earlier incarnation, Meta Makeover. To mark the event, the show featured a very special guest: Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg.

The following is a transcript of the interview, produced for those who would prefer to read what was said, either independently of, or alongside, the video recording, which is embedded below. As with all such transcripts in this blog, when reading, please note that while every effort has been made to encompass the core discussion, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here. If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, or where a speaker started to make a comment and then re-phrased what they were saying, etc, these are indicated by the use of “…”

The transcript picks-up at the 02:25 minute mark, after the initial opening comments.

Ebbe Altberg, appearing on the 250th edition of Design Worlds via his alter-ego, Ebbe Linden
Ebbe Altberg, appearing on the 250th edition of Design Worlds via his alter-ego, Ebbe Linden

0:02:25 – Ebbe Altberg (EA): Hi, thank you. Thank you for having me on this very special occasion of yours, and ours. 250, that amazing! It’s incredible, incredible; I’m very honoured to be here.

Saffia Widdershins (SW): Well, we’re very honoured to have you here … Now, you’ve been in the job for around nine months now.

EA: Yes, since February, I think. Yeah.

0:02:59 SW: Is it what you were expecting, or how has it proved different?

EA: It’s fairly close to what I expected, because I’ve had a long history of knowing Second life, even from the beginning. So Second Life, the product, was not a mystery to me. Obviously, as you dig in and look under the hood, you see some things that you wouldn’t have expected; and some of the other products in Linden Lab’s portfolio were maybe a little bit surprising to me, but we’re getting that cleaned-up. But with regards to Second Life, it is not too much of a mystery, as I’ve been following it so closely since way back in the beginning … So it felt very natural and quite easy for me to come on-board and figure out where to take things.

0:03:59 – Erik Merlin (EM): And keeping this next question as general as possible: is there anything that’s been a pleasant or unpleasant surprise?

EA: Not that many unpleasant surprises; well, it was a little unpleasant how far we had managed to disconnect ourselves from the community and our customers and residents. So that was a bit shocking to me, because I had missed that part of the history. I remember the beginning of the history, where there was a very close, collaborative relationship between the Lindens and the residents. so that was a bit shocking to me, that … some effort had to be put in to try to restore some of those relations and some of the processes that had introduced here that we had to reverse. You know, the fact that Lindens couldn’t be in-world [using their Linden account] and stuff like that. So that was a little strange to me and unfortunate.

Positives? There are many. There are so many talented people here, so that’s been a lot of fun to get to know people here. some people have been here for a very long time; some absolutely incredible people have been here for over ten years working for Linden, so just getting to recognise what incredible talent we have here has been a positive … it was a little bit low-energy when I first came here, which was a little bit unfortunate, but I think we’ve come quite a bit further, and so the energy today in the office and amongst people working here has gone up quite a bit, so I’m very pleased with that.

0:06:03 SW: That’s brilliant. Have there been any stand-out “wow!” moments when you’ve come in-world and seen something and gone “wow!”?

EA: The “wows” for me may be less visual – I think we could do better with that in the future – but just the communities, and the types of creations and how people collaborate to make these things happen. the variety of subject matter and the variety of things that Second Life helps people to accomplish, whether it is games or education or art – its just incredible, the variety. And also the interactions with people are wild moments, where I can just drop-in somewhere and just start chatting with people, and that’s always a lot of fun and creates “wow!” experiences for me.

So the fact that this is all user-generated, in some ways that just wows me every day. It’s incredible that we can enable all these things to happen. But I’m certainly hoping we can get to a point where it’s more of a visual “wow!” in the future.

0:07:32 SW: I’ve been at the Home and Garden Expo this week … and there’s certainly some things there that are stunning examples of what creators are working on at the moment.

EA: Yeah. It’s taking everybody a while. A lot of new technologies have been introduced, and we’re still trying to make adjustments and fixes and improvement s in some of those things. But as more and more creators figure-out how to take advantage of these things, whether it’s mesh or experience keys and all kinds of stuff that just creating a new wave of different types of content and experiences, it’s fun to watch happen. It’s a lot of fun to be able to enable and empower people that way.

0:08:33 SW: We wanted to talk a little bit about the new user experience.

EM: Ah yes, and talking to different people working with new users, both English and Japanese speakers, interestingly enough, both have talked about problems with the new mesh avatars … One of the first things that people enjoy when they first come to Second Life is [to] customise their appearance, but the mesh avatars don’t really allow this, or they don’t allow it easily. Is there something that can be done about that?

One of the things the Lab is trying to solve is the "dead face" - the fixed facial expression - on current mesh avatars, as demonstrated in the blank look his own avatar wears through the interview
One of the things the Lab is trying to solve is the “dead face” – the fixed facial expression – on current mesh avatars, coincidentally demonstrated in the video by Ebbe’s (non-mesh) avatar

EA: I don’t have a specific list of good things there; the team is working on making improvements to the avatars, from little things that we might see as bugs, and also trying to solve the “dead face” , get some eyes and mouths [to] start moving. But some of the clothing issues is probably also issues with the complexity of understanding what things can I shop for that are going to be compatible with what types of avatars and all that. Some of it is hard to tell with how much of it is complications with the transition… or the fact that you have two different ways of doing things happening simultaneously; we’re sort-of in this transitional period where you can obviously still go back to using any of the previous avatars, those are still all there. But we wanted to push ahead with what we figure is where the future is going to take us, and there’s probably some growing pains in doing that; but other time, this is where it is going to go.

So we just have to try to understand the bugs and the complexities and react to is as fast as we can. but I don’t, off the top of my head, have a list of known issues that we’re fixing with regards to the complexities around avatars, other than the stuff with getting the face to wake up. but I can look into that for a follow-up later on, but right now I don’t have anything right off the top of my head.

0:10:50 SW: As someone who directs dramas like The Blackened Mirror, we’ve long said that we would give anything for the ability to raise a single eyebrow …

EA: Yeah … ultimately over time, as [real world] cameras improve, if you’re willing to be in front of a camera, there are things you can obviously do to really transmit your real-world facial expressions onto your avatar, and we’re going to look at that further out. That’s not something we’re actively working on right now; but there’s certainly other companies, including HiFi that are looking at that, and we know companies that have already proprieted the technology behind it that we could license and do some of those things.

But there are very few of those types of camera around, so even if you would do that kind of functionality, very few people would be able to take advantage of it, so it’s a little bit early to jump on that. We need more 3D cameras in the world. Otherwise, there’s some other techniques – it wouldn’t necessarily be facial expression – but there’s a company working on technology to be able to have your mouth … make the right movements based on the audio. That’s an interesting technology, but they haven’t figured out how to make it real-time yet.

What they’ve found is that regardless of language, if you make a sound, your mouth makes a very specific movement and a very specific shape, and they’ve constructed all of the internals of the mouth and know exactly what your tongue and your cheek bones are doing in order to make that sound. Right now, not in real-time, but they’re working to get there. so then we could get the mouths to actually react to the sounds that you are making through the microphone.

So over time, more and more of this will come, but today it would be difficult to do something that would auto-magically make it work for everybody.

Continue reading “Designing Worlds: Ebbe Altberg video and transcript”

Education in SL: A Q&A session with Ebbe Altberg and Peter Gray

secondlifeOn Monday July 7th, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg and the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, Peter Gray, met with members of the education community to answer questions on the future of education in Second Life.

The meeting was organised by Lori Bell of the The San José State University School of Library and Information Science, moderated by Aldo Stern and recorded by Marie Vans.

The video is embedded below, and the transcript is time stamped against it for reference. When reading / listening, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the recording and the audio files, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, or where a speaker started to make a comment and then re-phrased what they were saying, etc, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • The transcript picks-up with the first question asked.

0:04:42 Aldo Stern (AS): Will the educational discount be stable over time, so that education organisations can take [it] into account for their budget cycles? So I think that reflects right off of the top one of the things that people will have a concern about.

0:05:00 Ebbe Altberg (EA). Yes. Well, it’s very unfortunate that back in the day … that the discount was taken away. I thought it was very fortunate that it was re-instituted before I showed-up here, and I can tell you we have absolutely no intent whatsoever to make the pricing worse for you guys. none whatsoever.

And over time, as some of you have heard about, we’re starting work on a next generation platform, I think that ultimately an extremely large and vibrant and successful virtual world, prices have to come down all the time.

Today, we’re constrained by a number of factors: technology, business models, what have you, and user experience, that sort-of limits the size of the market for a product like this. for example, if we were to cut prices in half, we would have to get at least twice the number of users – or more, actually – to end up with the same revenue. Right now, I’m not convinced we have a product that could attract two extra users at half the price.

But I’d be happy to lower prices to get more users and make it up in volume, once we know we have a product that can achieve that. I think it’ll be an interesting conversation at that time, especially with the educational sector. would an even lower price … let’s say we take the current discount that you have, which I think is about a hundred and fifty bucks for a region; if we cut that in half again and say it’s seventy-five bucks, would we have twice as many of you buying simulators? If that’s the case, then it might be worthwhile for us to do; but if it only increases by 5% the number, then it’s just hurting us and our ability to invest in the future.

But I feel very confident in stating that we’re not going to mess with the current pricing you have in a negative way for you.

0:07:55 AS: I think that’s very encouraging to us, and I wanted to ask if anybody had any further comment before the next question?

0:08:08 Comment: Well, it is encouraging to hear that; but I think there are a number of related issues that make the current platform problematical for educators, and a number of questions we’ve identified I think will get at that, if you want to move down the list.

Ebbe Linden (Ebbe altberg) and Pete Linden (Peter Gray) at the meeting with representatives from the education community
Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg) and Pete Linden (Peter Gray) at the meeting with representatives from the education and non-profits community

0:08:26 Comment: I did want to say something about the pricing real quick. If you did lower the price for educators you might not see the number of buyers go up right away, because I’m not sure if you understand how the education funding cycle works, and probably everyone in the room here can explain that much better than I can. But that is the issue: getting into the funding cycle ahead of time to make sure that you have funds available for your projects. So if you implemented that today, cutting it in half again, you have to give the education community time to get that in their budget and make that happen.

0:09:27 EA: Absolutely, and there’s way to solve that. I could say, it’s a hundred and fifty bucks now and it’s 75 bucks starting next quarter, so you can put it in your plans. how much advanced notice do you need to be able to get it into your budget cycle?

0:09:48: About a year.

0:09:49 EA: My lord! (Chuckles).

0:09:53: And that’s why, when the funding was cut, it was so devastating, when the discount was cut, because no-one had enough notice to get their funding back up to what they needed, and so it was very frustrating for a lot of educational folks.

0:10:14 EA: I understand. I can’t even begin to understanding the reasoning behind why that whole thing happened. I’m just very glad it was reversed before I came here, otherwise I would have done that myself. So you can at least be confident that we’re not going to make that mistake again.

Continue reading “Education in SL: A Q&A session with Ebbe Altberg and Peter Gray”

The Future of SL meeting with Oz and Pete Linden: video, audio and transcript

secondlifeOn Wednesday July 2nd, 2014, the Firestorm team hosted a special question and answers session to discuss the future of Second Life. The event was held to try to disperse some of the concerns and misinformation circulating about SL’s future in the light of the news that Linden Lab is developing an additional virtual worlds platform which is being planned to run alongside Second Life.

Attending the session from Linden Lab were Oz Linden, in his capacity as Technical Director for Second Life and Pete Linden, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications.

The session took the form of an initial discussion between host Jessica Lyon and Oz and Pete Linden, which sought to address some of the core concerns which have been raised and address some of the broader misconceptions which have resulted (such as Second Life no longer being developed and / or no longer having the staff needed to support it). This was then followed by a Q&A session led by Lette Ponnier, who posed questions which had been left on the Firestorm blog post announcing the meeting or directly to her via IM during the session or relayed to her from the live stream audience.

As always, Chakat Northspring recorded the entire event, and her video is embedded here – my thanks as always to North.

In addition, the audio from the meeting has been broken down into a number of individual topic areas, and placed throughout this transcript to allow people to listen to the audio whilst reading, if preferred, and to save on scrolling up and down between text and video.

When reading / listening, please remember:

  • This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the recording and the audio files, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
  • If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, or where a speaker started to make a comment and then re-phrased what they were saying, etc, these are indicated by the use of “…”
  • The audio files have been slightly edited to remove lengthy pauses in order to assist the flow of the conversations when also reading the text.

The following links can be used to quickly jump to individual sections of the transcript:

Continue reading “The Future of SL meeting with Oz and Pete Linden: video, audio and transcript”

VWBPE 2014: Ebbe Altberg keynote – “The Door is Open” (full transcript)

On Friday April 11th, Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s CEO, addressed a packed amphitheatre at the 2014 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference in Second Life. Some 200 people were in attendance in SL, with around 100-150 on the live stream channel for what was almost a 90-minute session, entitled Reconnecting with the Education Market, and which comprised an opening statement from Ebbe, followed by an extended Q&A / discussion session.

The following is a transcript of the session, which includes all questions asked via the moderator, Phelan Corrimal (given in italics). The video is the VWBPE official video, recorded by Mal Burns, and my thanks to him for making it available. Timestamps within the transcript notes indicate the points in the video at which Ebbe’s comments can be heard.

The Summary

Click the timestamp to go the relevant section

  • 0:05:38: Terms of Service – “I am working with my Legal Counsel to try to try to figure out how we can make it more obvious – or very obvious – that the creators of the content own the content … we’re working on some simple tweaks to the language to make that more explicit.”
  • 0:07:26: Brand – “We have an incredible breadth of content creators for all kinds of purposes, and this is kind-of unique with Second Life, and I think it’s incredibly important to support everybody and what they want to do.”
  • 0:08:59: The Metaverse and LL – ” There might be some people who might be interested in my position on the metaverse and OpenSim and interoperability, and that whole category.”
  • 0:11:09: Integrating new capabilities – “Some of you might be interested in what kind of integration we can do to make it easier for you to use Second Life in the context that you want to use it.”
  • 0:12:04: Improving SL – “And then I think we still have a tremendous about of work still to be done – actually, a tremendous amount of work has already been done; Second Life today is so much better than it was two years ago.”
  • 0:16:16 Future technologies  – “A little talk about future tech. Many of you have hopefully seen that we are obviously actively developing for technologies that we believe will have substantial mass appeal; Oculus being one.”
  • Questions and Answers / Discussion:
    • 0:21:12 – Are the community liaisons with Linden Lab about to be re-introduced?
    • 0:23:39 – Tier Breaks for Support and Mentor Groups
    • 0:26:28 – Do you feel that communications between Linden Lab employees and content creators are important?
    • 0:31:09 – On users having a voice in the development process
    • 0:35:36 – On Marketing SL, Overcoming Perceptions and Getting People Engaged in SL
    • 0:41:24 – On Opening-up The L$ Beyond Second Life
    • 0:44:44 – Making the Viewer Easier to Use & the Relationship with TPVs
    • 0:48:19 – On a Distributable Version of Second Life
    • 0:50:08 – Is there any hope that shared media, MOAP [Media On A Prim] can be fixed for Mac users soon?
    • 0:50:42 – On Second Life and High Fidelity
    • 0:53:49 – On Network Issues affecting some APAC Countries, Latency & Geographic Distribution
    • 0:56:16 – On Exporting Content
    • 1:01:15 – On the Teen Grid, Student Security and Younger People Accessing SL
    • 1:04:12 – What are Linden Lab’s plans for mainland?
    • 1:05:42: – On Office Hours, Lindens In-world and Community Engagement
    • 1:13:54 – Is the Barrier to VW Mass Adoption Technical, Or Something More?
    • 1:17:26 – On Acquisitions in the Technology Market
    • 1:20:12 – On Encouraging Lindens to Join Groups and Communities
    • 1:22:03 – A Takeaway Message for Educators (and all of us)

0:01:59 Hello everybody. I can’t hear you, but I can sure see you! It’s an incredible sea of people here [approx. 180-200 across four regions]. I’m very excited to be here, very happy for all the work that people are doing to put this conference together. Not only this session but all the other sessions you’re doing through the week. I did pop-in just the other day and listened to Philip, which many of you here might have done as well, and I just wanted to say that I’m really excited to be here.

I’m not going to spend most of this hour just talking. I will be saying a few things up front … putting some topics on the table to discuss and then very much looking forward to it being an interactive conversation between us. I’m mostly here to learn, not necessarily to tell, although I will be speaking about some things that I think matter to you, and some of the things that are going on first.

0:03:06 First, I feel very strongly that the education sector, the education market, is a very important partner of Second Life, and that it’s important to us to make it a great product for all of you. I know many of you have tried and been successful and many of you have tried and maybe not been successful in doing the things you wish you could do, and I’m here to learn more about what we can do to make you successful in the future.

I think the education sector helps us a lot of ways, in that if we can provide a great service to you, you can become great evangelists for the platform, and also in many times I think you are pushing in research and thinking about how to use environments and technologies like this differently from your main consumers. So you’re a very important group of people for us to stay in touch with and learn from and collaborate with.

Continue reading “VWBPE 2014: Ebbe Altberg keynote – “The Door is Open” (full transcript)”