Looking at the (award-winning) Second Life video ad

A still from Children of Creation, Linden Lab / Leverage Media

During the Lab Gab special on Monday, June 21st, that featured board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and the SL leadership team of Grumpity, Patch and Brett Linden, a “commercial break” was taken to show – I believe for the first time – a complete advertising cut of the video filmed for Second life as a collaborative project between Linden Lab and  Levitate Media.

I’ve extracted the video via timestamps and embedded it at the end of this article so it can be seen without the interviews that come on either side of it, and during the show, Brett linden revealed more about it:

  • The overall project for the video has the internal title at the Lab of The Children of Creation.
  • The version shown (and embedded below) is one of several cuts of the recorded film, and is specifically geared towards teasing out the ideas of freedom of expression and imagination taking flight, hence the emphasis on flying.
  • Other cuts of the video (I believe from Brett’s comments) emphasise Second life in other ways, some offering a “considerable amount” of Second Life footage, and a “directors cut” that does not really show the virtual world, but acts as a teaser.
  • The ad (as seen here) was entered into the 2021 Telly Awards for artistic achievement in video advertising, where it received the following adjudicated awards:
    • Gold Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Visual Effects.
    • Gold Telly winner – People’s Telly General-Online Commercials.
    • Silver Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Music/Jingle.
    • Silver telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Directing.
  • The video is regarded as a “concept  ad” and has not as yet been widely deployed as a part of any advertising or other campaign. However, there are plans to discretely test some of the edits (including the “director’s cut”).

You can list to Brett’s comment on the ad below:

Personal Viewpoint

From a purely personal perspective, I think the advert as shown works pretty well; the images are well-matched to the narration, and the overall impact is the idea of liberation and freedom of expression. The intercuts of changing avatar appearances particularly underscores this, as do more subtle elements (take the still used as the banner image for this article, for example – the person / avatar flying away from the bright “Hive” sign, alluding to escaping humdrum, unified thinking and moving to new horizons). There is also a good sense of mystery to the ad that present the encouragement to go find out more about what it means

However, I have to caveat this by saying the phrase “if you’re travelling beyond this life” perhaps doesn’t sit as well as it might, given that terms like “beyond this life” are often using in reference to people passing on. This and other phrasing in the video might push uninitiated ears towards thinking the add is about some kind of cult or similar, rather than promoting a digital world; perhaps “beyond this world” might have been a better choice of words.

I’d be curious to learn how well the ad (and variations thereof) sit with assorted audiences, and maybe we’ll find out in time. For now, however, here’s the ad as shown during Lab Gab.

Additional Links

Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life

Ebbe Altberg memorial

On Friday, June 4th, Linden Lab announced that the company’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg had passed away. Across the grid and blogsphere, tributes and obituaries have been offered in the wake of the news.

Ebbe Altberg memorial

Now, for those who wish to commemorate Ebbe’s time with the Lab and pay respects to his memory in-world, a memorial has been created on – appropriately – Altberg region in Bellisseria.

Designed by the Moles of the LDPW, the region features a single island that is home to the memorial. Surrounded by fir trees offering a hint of Scandinavia, with water falling into a pond that feeds flowers, the memorial stands  as a tall bronze figure of Ebbe, with a photo of him and the text of announcement of his passing located at the base of the plinth.

Candles are also to be found at the base of the statue, which will light on being touched, and benches are available for those who wish to sit and remember Ebbe and his time at the Lab.

The island is a gentle, quiet place; a place one cannot help but feel Ebbe himself would appreciate.  A place where contemplation and reflection can be embraced.

So, for all those who  do wish to pay their respects to Ebbe in-world, I can think of no better place in which to do so.

The base of the statue includes the test of the announcement of Ebbe’s passing (l), while the memorial has been drawing a steady stream of visitors (r)

With thanks to the Moles for creating the memorial.

Note: as Tish Coronet has pointed out via the SL Feeds, be sure to look down on the memorial from overhead – the ground before Ebbe’s has been set memorial has actually been set out to form the Second Life Hand logo, the statue replacing the eye. 

SLurl Details

In memoriam: Ebbe Altberg

via Linden Lab

On Friday, June 4th, Linden Lab broke the news that the company’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg had passed away.

The post, from Patch Linden, reads in part:

Second Life found new highs in 2020 between a worldwide pandemic taking grip, through the times of a tumultuous leadership change in the United States, and during movements of civil changes that will forever live in history books.  Second Life provides many with the comfort of a normal that continues to exist for all of us, where many use it to escape real life pressures, stressors and day to day challenges.  In Second Life we can be our ideal, our best, celebrate all that is good across the world together.  Sadly we have also seen some people go, and they will never be forgotten as they touched us, gave us their best from their hearts, minds and souls – this thing called real life sometimes knocks on our door and makes a call.   
As I am here before you today, it is with profound sadness that I share with you Ebbe passed away yesterday evening restfully and surrounded by the love of his family. 

This is deeply sad news for all of those who knew or had contact with Ebbe during his seven-year tenure at LL. His arrival at Linden Lab the start of February 2014 came at a time when user  / Lab relationships were at a particularly low state, and his arrival could not have been more timely.

From the outset, it was clear that he had more than a passing knowledge of the platform  – his son, Aleks, had been keenly involved on the Teen Grid, up to and including starting his own business, and Ebbe himself was a long-time friend of former Linden Lab board member Jed Smith (who had actually tried to get Ebbe to join the company once before).

Referring to himself as a “left-brain / right brain kind of person” – he graduated Middlebury College (Vermont USA) with a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Applications, it is fair to say he not merely was aware of the potential of Second Life – he was positively enthusiastic about it, technically and creatively.

Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg) as he appeared at one of his first official engagements with users after joining Linden Lab, February 19th, 2014.

From the outset, he was openly and warmly communicative with the platform’s user base, getting in-world as often as he could to meet people either casually or via small and large events – such as an early “fireside chat” a handful of us were invited to attend just a handful of days after his official arrival at the Lab, or via larger town hall style meetings, and appearances at events such as VWBPE, the SLB celebrations the Lab Chat sessions and their successor, Lab Gab, and more.

His openness and honesty did much to renew users’ faith in Second Life – but occasionally carried something of a price. When he popped-up at a Third-Party Viewer Developer meeting in June 2014 and mentioned in passing that the Lab were working on a new platform (which we would come to know as Sansar), the resultant conniptions among users was very palpable (and, being honest, partially fuelled by some hasty and somewhat inaccurate tweeting of his comments sans proper context) – which would require numerous repeats by both Ebbe and other at the Lab that the new platform did not mean “the end” for Second Life, but the company was committed to both.

In this latter regard, he fully supported the team that came together under Oz Linden to continue to build-out and improve SL and make it more accessible to people, whilst always stepping forward and facing the ire of users over perceived wrong-doings and working to further build / re-build confidence in company and product.

Nor was his enthusiasm constrained to platform and users – he faced the media head-on on numerous occasions in the US and international, proud to talk-up Second Life, Linden Lab, virtual worlds and the potential of VR, a technology to which he became an ardent convert. He also had the foresight to spin-out the lab’s expertise in virtual tokens into a subsidiary, Tilia Pay, presenting linden Lab with a further means of generating business for itself.

Ebbe Latberg (l) with entrepreneur Ken Bretschneider and Sophie Charara (Wired UK) discussing virtual environments at the December 2015 Web Summit, Dublin

Prior to joining Linden Lab, his career have been wide-ranging, encompassing both major global corporations such as Yahoo and Microsoft, much of which I covered in a brief profile I was able to put together on him just appear he officially joined LL, and I was pleased to note that he and I had shared interests in both Formula 1 racing and space exploration, which allow for some early conversations between us.

The precise cause of Ebbe’s passing has not been made public, but it was clear to many through various sources that he appeared to be affected by a long-term illness, and over the last 12 months in particular, his presence had been somewhat conspicuous by its absence (I believe that perhaps his last public appearance as CEO was the occasion of Oz Linden’s retirement earlier in 2021).

However, it is clear that illness did not in any way blunt his determination to ensure Linden Lab and Second Life in a much stronger and better position than when he joined the company – a determination that included the hard choice of letting go of Sansar, and guiding the company through the difficult waters of acquisition and bringing into the fold investors who have the vision and willingness to move both company and platform forward.

Given this, and despite the shadow cast by the announcement of his passing, I’ve little doubt that he could be justifiably proud of all that he achieved at Linden Research Inc., and because of his dedication and enthusiasm, both the platform and the company are much better and stronger today than perhaps they’ve ever been.

My deepest and sincerest condolences to Ebbe’s family and all at Linden Lab at this time. I can honestly say that for all of us who have been invested in Second Life, he was more than just a CEO, he was a fellow resident an adventurer on the virtual frontier. He shall be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Ebbe. And thank you.

Lab further updates SL splash screen with mixed media video

A still from the video now featured on the further revised secondlife.com splash screen

Watching the secondlife.com splash screen is becoming something of a past-time of late.  Last week I noted that the screen had been tweaked after an update in April, with an enlarged still from the broadcast advert by Levitate Media and a revised menu  (Secondlife.com splash screen gets a further tweak).

It  now appears the April update and the tweak last week might be part of a rotating set of splash screens being tried out – as I noted on May 17th in an update to that article, the version of the page I  referenced in that article had reverted to it’s April format.

This week, the page has been further revised – as those logging out and back in may have noticed. The latest change retains the old format of menu up in the top right corner of the screen, but the still image has been replaced by a video loop that mixes footage from the Levitate Media video with video footage shot within Second Life.

Running to 1 minute and 12 seconds, the video may well be the full Leverage Media advert, just sans music or other accompaniment – previously, we’ve only been teased with behind-the-scenes clips of the ad.

Certainly, the inter-cutting of live and Second Life footage comes together very well, although some might critique it for being somewhat vague on specifics about Second Life or that it misses some of the core aspects of the platform – such as the creative elements. However, I’d suggest that as far as enticing interest goes, such critiques are misplaced: the video offers a series of images designed to capture attention, pique curiosity, and entice people to sign-up, rather than reveal all there is to Second Life.

That said, as one scrolls down the page, it would perhaps be nice to see something a little more dynamic when it comes to expanding on what Second Life is – frankly the three selections are vague; and while things like remote meetings in the age of the pandemic have been important to the Lab and SL’s use, it would nevertheless be good to see a broad cassavas of the kind of interests that have tended to attract and retain the wider Second Life user base.

Anyway, click the Play button below and check the video for yourself. Again, note that as it is a hero screen version, it is without sound.

Secondlife.com splash screen gets a further tweak

The small but noticeable update to the secondlife.com splash screen menu that appears to have been recently rolled out

Update May 17th: It  appears LL may either have released a change to the splash screen and have rolled it back, or are experimenting with ideas. On Monday, May 17th, the splash screen had reverted back to the April update.

Back in April Linden Lab slipped out a revamp to the secondlife.com home page.

At the time, it came in for a very mixed response, featuring as it does an actress in elven-like make-up rather than the more usual avatar.

The  image used was actually a still from the broadcast quality advert Levitate Media produced on behalf of Linden Lab in August 2020, and which was previewed in December 2020, a point that seemed lost on at least some of  those who responded negatively to splash screen re-vamp.

The re-vamp also brought the secondlife.com property more into line with other Second Life properties such as the enterprise micro-site, in that scrolling down the page reveals further information on Second Life under a trio of headings.

The secondlife.com splash screen image as seen with the April re-vamp, inset, the scene of the Second Life advert from which the image was taken, being filmed by Levitate Media in August 2020. 

The latest update – seen at the top of this article – was quietly rolled-out during the week. It now features an enlarged version of the still from the Levitate Media video and a re-worked menu. Gone are the options found in the top right corner of the screen, to be replaced by the more “modern” three-bar menu icon favoured by website designers and which offers a mobile device friendly solution to accessing menus. The rest of the page remains unchanged from the April 2021 update.

To be honest, I liked the April update, and the upset over the use of a live model seemed a little overblown to me; as I’ve said elsewhere, Second Life is supposedly “your world, your imagination”, so why not someone dreaming about being Galadriel or somesuch? That said, the image in this latest version is – to me – a little too large and in-you-face and as a result looses a lot of the mystery  / enticement it presented in the April version of the page; better, perhaps to have left it untouched and simply re-work the menu access.

As it is, the latest update is a small tweak, and presumably part of the Lab’s preparations for the deployment of revamped new user on-boarding process and new user experience. It  also makes the secondlife.com splash screen  a little more mobile device friendly (although the rest of the web pages have a long way to in that respect).

Note: you need need to be logged-out of secondlife.com in order to see these changes.

Linden Lab: L$ buy fee change + 2FA/TPV and Map tile updates – UPDATED

via Linden Lab

There have been a series of announcements from the the Lab – formal and informal – that I’m catching up on.

Linden Dollar “Buy” Fee Change

The biggest – and the one formal announcement – is the notice that Linden Dollar “buy” fees are changing as from Thursday, April 22nd, 2021.

Currently, a flat fee of US $.149 is applied to all Linden Dollar purchases. From April 22nd this will be changing. As of that date:

  • A new 7.5% buy fee will be applied, based on the total value of the transaction purchase amount, up to a maximum of US $9.99 per purchase transaction.
  • The US $1.49 will become the minimum fee charged per purchase transaction.

Examples:

  • You purchase US $15 of Linden Dollars – 7.5% of 15 is  $1.10 and less than US $1.49 – so the fee charged is US $1.49.
  • You purchase US $30 of Linden Dollars – 7.5% of 30 is $2.25 and greater than US $1.49, so the fee charged is US $2.25.
  • You purchase US $150 of Linden Dollars – 7.5 of 150 is US $11.25 and greater than US $9.99, so the fee charged is US $9.99.

Note that this new fee structure only applies to the purchase of Linden Dollars. Fees applied on the sale of L$ when cashing-out remain unchanged.

The reason for this changes has been given as helping to off-set costs involved in assorted service improvements. However, rather than repeat the entire official blog post here, please follow the link to read it in full, and should you be so minded, the lively forum discussion on the change can be found here.

Two-Factor Authentication and TPVs

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a  project the Lab is in the process of developing in order to improve access security across Second Life systems and services (and which gets a mention from Reed Linden in the above forum thread on increased Linden Dollar “buy” fees).

The future introduction of 2FA – and please note, there is currently no time frame for when this will happen – has prompted some to voice fears that it could “put an end” to third-party viewers.

However such fears / concerns are not justified.

Speaking at the Third-Party Viewer Development meeting on Friday, April 16th, both Vir Linden and Grumpity Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product commented on the matter:

  • Vir Linden:
We don’t know all the details about how 2FA is going to work, but we’re certainly not going to be disabling third-party viewers. That would be a large change.
  • Grumpity Linden:
That would be crazy and stupid. And while we may make mistakes here and there, on the whole they’re not crazy or stupid…
In general I would like to think that we have shown over many recent years that we’re committed to working closely with the TPV community to make sure that our changes are actually beneficial and incorporated and roll out in a predictable manner, and I intend for this to continue. 

World Map Update

Also at the TPV Developer meeting, Grumpity supplied an update on the world Map tile generation situation:

I’m also going to do a thing that is an absolute taboo and I totally shouldn’t be doing; but we’re in the process of putting out updates to Map generation. So fingers crossed, [things will] get back to normal. It has turned out to be a much bigger effort than anyone had wanted it to be … we wouldn’t have chosen for this to be so hard.

For those wishing to hear the comments via the video recording of the meeting, they can be found at 6:05 through 8:01 in the video, with Grumpity’s Map tile generation comments coming first.

UPDATE 17th April

Alexa and April linden both confirmed the deployment of the new map tile generation software has been successful and is now working better than ever.