Lab confirms dio, Creatorverse and Versu axed

LL logoUpdate: Peter Grey has confirmed with me that Versu and Creatorverse will be removed from the App Store (and the other places Creatorverse had been available) and their websites taken down in the immediate future. The dio website will remain until the end of February, with a message announcing its forthcoming closure.

Linden Lab has just confirmed that three of its products, Creatorverse. dio and Versu have been axed.

The announcement in full reads:

After careful consideration, Linden Lab has decided to cease development and support for dio, Versu, and Creatorverse. We’re grateful for those who took the time to experiment with these products in their early days, but ultimately we have determined that due to a number of factors, we and our customers will be best served by focusing our efforts on continuing to provide exceptional service and compelling new experiences for the users of our other products.

Where's dio and Creatorverse?
dio, Versu and Creatorverse gone from most LL web properties

The products have been removed from the footer area of the Lab’s webpages, and from the corporate home page banner and products page.

So Ciaran Laval called it right!

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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.

Feedback

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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Dipping back into dio

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.

dio, Linden Lab’s browser-based “social experience” reaches two months of age this week. Whether this will be accompanied by any updates remains to be seen. So far, there appears to have been only one significant update to the application, which appeared at the end of February, a month after the original launch. As I’ve not really commented on dio for a while, I thought I’d take time out and have a poke at some of the updated features.

The Updates

“Live Chat” / Comments

When browsing dio Places, perhaps the most obvious update is that Comments have now been expanded to include Places as well a rooms. I’ve previously been critical of the idea that dio presents “persistent live chat” when in fact the “chat” element is more of a basic message board service, limited by the fact it only applies to rooms – so any conversations which might occur in real-time can ge abruptly interrupted as one person shifts to another room without warning.

The dio product team have addressed this by adding a new tab to the Comments panel. Entitled “Place”, it does exactly what it says on the label – allows comments to be made about a Place, rather than a room, and to be accessible from any room visited within the Place.

The old dio Comments panel (main picture) and the new, tabbed approach for commenting on rooms and Places (inset)
The old dio Comments panel (main picture) and the new, tabbed approach for commenting on rooms and Places (inset)

New Editing Buttons

The updates also bring a set of new on-screen editing buttons what are immediately available at the top of a page on creating a room. These provide easy insertion / creation of:

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Inventory objects
  • Exits to other rooms

All of these work on the same principles as the initial release of dio, although the editing screens for the options have been revised somewhat (see below).

The new buttons options displayed at the top of each room when in edit mode, allowing object, etc., to be added directly to the room.
The new buttons options displayed at the top of each room when in edit mode, allowing object, etc., to be added directly to the room.

Additionally, a new option is provided – that of Text, which opens a simple text editor which can be used to generate simple blog-style entries for a room. Currently, there is no means of formatting text, so how useful this option might be remains to be seen. Once created, text objects appear in the In This Room panel along with all other types of object. Text objects can also been assigned Actions as well, which offers interesting options with their use; for example, in an adventure game Place, a text object could be set as a map with both explanatory text (or perhaps a riddle as to what it means), which can be taken by others. They then have the choice of both looking at the map and reading the associated explanation / riddle.

Continue reading “Dipping back into dio”

More dabbling in dio and some thoughts

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.

Last week, Linden Lab launched dio, and I provided something of an initial look and feel for using the product.

Since then, as time allows (and there hasn’t been a lot of it), I’ve been dabbling some more and building various bits. The first of these is an attempt to build an interactive tour. Unsurprisingly, the subject matter is Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s seminal build, and particularly my efforts to emulate this remarkable house in the virtual world of Kitely.

The start of the tour: An introductory page isn't a requirement for a dio place, however, I've included one to give people some background on things.
The start of the tour: An introductory page isn’t a requirement for a dio place, however, I’ve included one to give people some background on things.

The tour is intended to let people understand something of the build – what it is, where it resides, etc., before allowing them to set off to explore it on their own, moving through the various dio “rooms” (which I’ve roughly aligned to rooms and parts of the Fallingwater build) where they can see images and find out more about both the real and virtual Fallingwater as interpreted by myself.

To add a little fun, I’ve added one (so far) inventory item, which must be collected in order for the house to be fully explored (I may add more at some point), and also added some other interaction  using the “Appear / Disappear” actions.

Adding a little interactivity
Adding a little interactivity

There is a degree of logic to be followed with the tour – the introduction and the “media suite” can only be accessed at the start. This is to encourage people to do a complete circuit of the place (in whatever direction they choose), but I’m also aware it might be a tad irritating to some. So I’ll be curious as to feedback – if any …

The tour can be found on the dio Community page, or for those signed-up to dio, you can jump to it from here.

The "Explore" object is a means by which I've hidden objects until such time as Explore is opened - a useful means of controlling information flow in complex rooms
The “Explore” object is a means by which I’ve hidden objects until such time as Explore is opened – a useful means of controlling information flow in complex rooms

Continue reading “More dabbling in dio and some thoughts”

Inside dio

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.

On Tuesday 29th January, Linden Lab launched dio, the latest in their suite of new products. The Lab describes dio as a browser-based space in which:

You create places by adding text, photos, videos, and interactive objects into interconnected ‘rooms’ that give spatial context to the content you share. You can keep your places private, share them with friends and family, or allow everyone to explore and enjoy them. Live and persistent chat allows you to socialize with other users as you discover and explore dio places together and see what those who came before you had to say. In the future, dio users will be able to monetize the dio places they create, enabling them to profit from their own creativity.

Here’s a look inside dio written after spending a few hours paddling around and setting things up, tearing them down and generally poking around.

Signing-up

dio is currently free to join, and users have a choice of doing so using either a Facebook account or e-mail address. As I avoid Facebook in much the same way as a cat avoids the Atlantic Ocean, I used the e-mail option, giving my name, e-mail and a password. Seconds later an e-mail arrived from the dio website asking me to confirm my details with a click. I did – and there I was, sitting on the log-in page, my credentials filled-out and a single remaining click needed to see me into the site. Simples!

Browsing

dio places
dio places

The homepage – or Community page, as LL call it – presents you with places people have already created. Some of these have obviously been created by closed beta testers, but there are already a number of places which appear to have been created by those who, like me, have just signed-up and are playing with things.

Places are listed in terms of Most Popular (most frequently visited) and Featured (criteria unclear). Additionally, users can create “albums” of their favourite places or those belonging to their friends, while also having an “album” of their places.

A place is accessed by clicking on it. If you’re logged-in to dio, a summary page for the place is displayed. If you’re not already logged-in, you’ll be prompted to do so or to create an account (if you are completely new to the site). Clicking ENTER from the summary page will take you into the place itself. This is effectively a web page comprising a number of elements.

A dio place screen elements
A dio place page elements
  • Objects (In This Room): this is a list of interactive objects contained in a room. Objects can currently be any combination of:
    • Photographs with descriptive text
    • Videos with descriptive text
    • Custom objects which can be coupled with a set of pre-defined actions to present a further element of interaction for visitors to a room. Custom objects can be examined, taken to inventory, drunk, eaten, used, locked, unlocked, opened, used to trigger other actions, and so on
  • Connected Rooms: a list of additional spaces within the current place visitors can move between, each containing objects of its own and/or leading to other rooms. As with objects, custom actions can also be defined for rooms (for example, a room can be “locked” and require a key object taken from another room in order to unlock it and enter)
  • Descriptive area: the main display area wherein images, videos and the results of a visitor’s interactions with objects in the room are displayed / reported here
  • Comments / Chat / People: this is where the “persistent and live chat” sits – although currently it is more of a Twitter / Plurk-like comments stream than a means for engaging in conversation, and there is no instant / direct messaging capability. It also displays the people currently in the room at the, moment and can be used to access their profiles. When not required, the panel can be collapsed (HIDE). The image below provides further information on this panel.
The comments  / people panel
The comments / people panel

There are three further areas to a place page:

  • The Related Places panel, wherein links to similar Dio places can be added by anyone (although the creator of the place can remove links which are seen as inappropriate)
  • The Google Adservice area, which is discussed later in this piece
  • The inventory panel (which is not shown in images here). This is displayed beneath the Connected Rooms panel, but only if / when you have collected inventory items, which are themselves interactive objects found within a room.

Continue reading “Inside dio”

Dio beta launched – and it might be more than it seems

LL 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.

Linden Lab has officially launched dio, the latest in its new product line, in a beta release on Tuesday 29th January.

dio has been subject to much speculation since the original website was accidentally left accessible to enquiring noses back in May 2012. More recently, the site has been extensively updated, giving some clues as to what it is about.

The new Dio website homepage - launched on 29th January (click to enlarge)
The dio website homepage – launched on 29th January

The press release announcing the launch reads in part:

In dio, you create places by adding text, photos, videos, and interactive objects into interconnected ‘rooms’ that give spatial context to the content you share. You can keep your places private, share them with friends and family, or allow everyone to explore and enjoy them. Live and persistent chat allows you to socialize with other users as you discover and explore dio places together and see what those who came before you had to say. In the future, dio users will be able to monetize the dio places they create, enabling them to profit from their own creativity.

The Learn More link on the site provides more information on the site, and there is an introuctory vdieo to accompany the launch.

Within dio, users can create places – such as their own homes – or recreate events in their lives, such as their wedding, or make picture-based games, and so on, and then select how to share them. All of these aspects cane be combined, as dio Producer Bo Barfield explained in an interview with Forbes Magazine to mark the launch:

You can combine these game-like experiences in places where they traditionally wouldn’t be. As an example, a hotel that’s trying to find a new way to advertise and make money can recreate their hotel in dio, and then make a short and easy game that takes a few minutes. Say Clare Danes lost her beloved emerald earrings. Find it somewhere in the hotel, and you get a free bottle of champagne with your stay. It’s using gamification in a richer way. It’s not just about getting badges or achievements: It gets customers imagining themselves in your hotel or whatever it is you’re trying to market.

Questions as to how dio will be monetised, both for the Lab and for users, are also answered – to a point – within the  Forbes article, where Barfield states:

We want to implement revenue sharing with the content creators of dio to give people an incentive to create interesting spaces. We’re going to give them a cut of the advertising revenue that they bring.

We’ve seen that work exceptionally well in Second Life, where users can monetize their own creation…. If I create a dio place that’s very compelling and is getting lots of traffic, then I’ll be able to monetize that as a share with Linden Lab.

So it would appear to be that dio is perhaps the Lab’s most ambitious product to date, aiming at a very broad cross-section of users, from individuals through to businesses.

Interestingly, the dio Terms of Service still make reference to the use of Linden Dollars. Given the website is still beta, this may be down to the fact that the ToS is still boilerplated from the Second Life ToS – a point I’ve previously made. While I’m still somewhat drawn to this being the case, it is nevertheless interesting to speculate where and how Linden Dollars might be linked to dio, and what form any cross-pollination between dio and Second Life (were there to be any) might take.

Also accompanying the launch is a set of video tutorials on You Tube.

The response from Frobes’ contributor Carol Pinchefsky is broadly positive towards the platform. Those wishing to sign-up can do so (it’s free), either by using their Facebook account or using their e-mail address.

I’ll be looking at dio in-depth in an upcoming article.

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