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.

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VWBPE 2014: Philip Rosedale keynote – but is technology really the key to mass adoption?

On Wednesday April 9th, the 2014 Virtual Worlds Best practices in Education conference opened with a keynote address by Philip Rosedale. In it, he covers a lot of the ground he laid-out at the SVVR meet-up at the end of March (which I’ve covered here) in terms of communications in virtual worlds, although things were at times couched in more general terms than being specifically framed by demonstrations of some of High Fidelity has been doing.

The following is the official video of the presentation, recorded by Mal Burns on behalf of VWBPE. Timestamps within the notes indicate the points at which Philip’s exactly comments can be heard.

After a brief introduction by Kevin Phelan (Phelan Corrimal in SL), Philip provides a short overview of Rosedale’s own attraction to virtual worlds – born out of a desire to “building crazy things” which extended into imagining what it would be like to build a virtual world able to mimic the richness of the real world. In this, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is mentioned, as is Second Life’s role as a pioneer and validation of what might be achieved if the right tools were in place that would enable a billion, rather than a million, people engage in virtual world spaces.

[12:30] He particularly sees the mouse and the keyboard as major barriers to entry, as they require complex manipulation (keystrokes and mouse movements) to achieve avatar movement, while limiting communications by disallowing facial expressions and / or natural gestures. In this he points to emerging hardware such as the Razer Hydra, Sixense Stem and 3D cameras as overcoming these limitations and opening the floodgates to virtual world adoption.

[23:55] Latency is also raised as a bugaboo issue as well. While I agree that reducing the level of latency is good for communications, I’m not convinced by all of the arguments put forward (for example, I doubt most people using a mobile ‘phone are even aware of the 500 millisecond delay, much less finding it a reason to loathe using their cellphone), which is not to say I think that latency isn’t an issue worthy of being addressed as far as might be possible.

[31:50] Identity disclosure, and our right to determine what is disclosed of our identity and how is very much a fundamental part of trusted use of any system, and as such, is key to the future of virtual worlds. This is something he has spoken about at SVVR and has blogged on the subject as well, indicating that the level of trust sought and identity given should, as with real life, be more fluid, depending upon what we’re doing and where we’re going. This spills over into areas of commerce and into the idea of having the freedom to move around between the kind of multiple worlds the metaverse is envisaged as being, and doing so with confidence and trust in the different environments and having control over what we are willing to reveal to those environments, rather than having them determine what they should take.

[35:07] For Virtual worlds to really grow, he believes they need to be more like the Internet, with people running their own servers and links between them operating much like the Web does today, allowing for complete continuous interconnectedness between servers and worlds, built upon open-source software (again: trust), and which can be properly scaled – such as through High Fidelity’s examination of distributed computing (again, as I point-out in covering the SVVR talk – think SETI@home).

[49:50] Q&A.

The presentation is interesting, and couched in general terms rather than being specific to High Fidelity – which is not inappropriate for the venue. Little of it comes over as hype or a sales pitch. I found the comments on identity, together with the statements made at SVVR and in the High Fidelity blog post, to be very much on-message and highly relevant. The distributed computing approach is an interesting idea as well, and possibly one with a lot of potential if the right value proposition is offered to people – such as rewarding them with crypto-currency credits they can spend on goods and services (or even cash-out over time?).

Where I do perhaps have an issue with things is in the view that the only barrier to the mass adoption of VWs is primarily that of technology. The latter can certainly enhance our experiences once we’re in a virtual world, no doubt about that. There is also no denying that with something like SL, more needs to be done to reduce that initial learning curve for someone entering the environment.

Are motion controllers and the like really the key to unlocking people’s ability to recognise virtual worlds as a value proposition for their time or is something else actually required? (image courtesy of Razer Hydra)

However, like it or not, springboarding VWs into mainstream adoption isn’t purely a technical issue, there is a social element as well. There needs to be compelling reasons to encourage people to turn to VWs instead of other possible options. Facial recognition software and motion controllers may well be wonderful for translating your expressions and gestures to an avatar when communicating with someone on the other side of the world, but frankly, so is a webcam and monitor screen. As such, for many, the technology will not be the value proposition that will encourage them to be more involved in VWs. There needs to be something more.

The need for a real value proposition is perhaps most clearly exemplified by Pamela in the 8th segment of The Drax Files Radio Hour. She dismisses any involvement in a virtual world because she sees no advantage in it compared to what she can do now. hers is unlikely to be a minority attitude.

That Philip Rosedale dismisses this social element so readily in the Q&A session isn’t entirely surprising – he is a technologist, after all – but given his experience in the field, it is disappointing. Technology can and will make immersive VW environments a lot easier to use, for sure. But I suspect the company or group that really cracks the nut of presenting VWs in terms of compelling, mainstream activities people believe should see as a daily part of their lives is actually going to be more responsible for unlocking the door to mass adoption than the company or group that provides a technologically superior means of accessing a VW.

VWBPE 2014: it’s time to make connections

2014 banner

Wednesday April 9th, 2014 marks the start of the 7th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference, which will be taking place in both Second Life and OS Grid.

The theme for this year’s event is Connections, and as I’ve previously covered, it will include a series of keynote speakers and a series of panel discussions across the four days of the conference, and more besides.

To help spread the word / remind people of the event, Mal Burns has published a promotional video on You Tube.

Full details on conference events can be found on the VWBPE conference calendar. However, for ease-of-reference, here’s a quick rundown of the keynote speakers and the discussion panels:

Wednesday April 9th

Thursday April 10th

The VWBPE Central Auditorium, Second Life
The VWBPE Central Auditorium, Second Life, April 2014

Friday April 11th

Saturday April 12th

Notes on Attending

The VWBPE conference is free to attend, and those wishing to do so in-world should register via the conference registration page on Eventbrite. Attendees will also need accounts for both Second Life and OSgrid in order to attend all events on both grids.

Useful Links


VWBPE 2014: panels announced

2014 banner

The seventh Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference, taking place in both Second Life and OSgrid, will commence at 11:00 SLT on Wednesday April 9th, 2014 with an informal meet and greet between 12:00 and 13:00, and will close on Saturday April 12th with a special ceremony at 18:00 SLT, followed by a party at 19:00 SLT.

On March 9th, I provided coverage of the keynote speakers announcement. At that time, Ebbe Atlberg’s keynote address hasn’t been defined, however, this has now changed. The keynote is titled Reconnecting with the Education Market, and is described as sharing his initial thoughts on “the importance of supporting educational use of Second Life, the company’s interest in rebuilding and strengthening the connection between Linden Lab and the community of educators using the platform”, and will primarily comprise a brief opening statement so that the majority of his time can be devoted to a Q&A / discussion.

As well as the keynote speakers, VWBPE have also released details on the key panel discussions taking place over the course of the conference. These are:

Thursday April 10th

08:05-09:05 SLT: OpenSimulator’s Role in the Future of Virtual Worlds Research and Education

A discussion of OpenSim’s education community and AvaCon’s contributions to education and research, especially in regards to how the OpenSimulator Community Conference has been a powerful tool for this advancement.

Panelists: Joyce Bettencourt RL/Rhiannon Chatnoir SL, Chris Collins RL/Fleep Tuque SL, Crista Lopes RL/Diva Canto SL, Melanie Thielker RL/Melanie Milland SL, Michael Cerquoni RL/Nebadon Izumi SL.

Location: Second Life VWBPE Main Auditorium.

14::00-15:50 SLT: Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable: A Best Practices Influence

A discussion on the kinds of trends that the VWER has seen over the course of its existence, and to what extent it may have influenced and advanced best practices in the use of virtual worlds for education. The connections established by the group have bonded a band of educators that share ideas weekly, and it is the persistent popularity of these meetings that make it such a noteworthy group in Second Life.

Panelists: Evelyn McElhinney RL/Kali Pizzaro SL, AJ Kelton RL/AJ Brooks SL, Shailey Minocha RL/Shailey Garfield SL.

Location: Second Life VWBPE Main Auditorium.

Friday April 11th

09:00–10:50 SLT: The Science Circle: Connecting Different Disciplines, and Inspiring Creativity and Inventiveness

The Science Circle consists of over 200 scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, and students on four continents. The VWBPE Panel will share the story of its development and the challenges faced and overcome in establishing a functional and lasting community with members of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

Panelist: Chantal Snoek RL / Nymf Hathaway (Chantal) SL, Jesse Stannard RL / Jes Cobalt SL, Phil Youngblood RL / Vic Michalak SL, Hajime Nishimura RL / Yan Lauria SL, Steven Van Hook RL / Kip Roffo SL, Deepthinker Oh RL/SL.

Location: Second Life VWBPE Main Auditorium.

Saturday April 12th

09:00-10:50 SLT: Connecting the Past, Present, and Future of Second Life

“It is the essence of good management that an effective advisory board, properly composed and structured, provide informed guidance in the quest for superior corporate governance. That includes opportunities to seek out dissenting viewpoints that challenge the status quo and forces executives, and board members, to re-evaluate long-held beliefs which may be holding back growth and profitability. Third party expert opinion provides a safe harbour which new executives can realise new opportunities without being prejudiced by internal politics.”

The objective of this panel is to develop a position paper which can help guide and inform Linden Lab’s new CEO on the opportunities, risks, cost benefits, and potential returns on investment based on a thoughtful analysis of the issues facing our communities of practice.

Panelists: Botgirl Questi SL, Will Burns RL/Aeonix Aeon SL, Terry Beaubois RL/Tab Scott SL, Kevin Feenan RL/Phelan Corrimal SL.

Location: Second Life VWBPE Main Auditorium.

16:00-15:50 SLT: The Freedom Project: How Artistic Expression Transcends Real Life Challenges

The purpose of this panel is to discuss how The Freedom Project helped spotlight artistic expression for people with invisible illnesses or other disabilities. Through this effort, people who have real life challenges can develop a connection to a community and be able to transcend real life challenges.

Panelists: Jay Jay Jegathesan RL/Jayjay Zifanwe SL, Alice Krueger RL/Gentle Heron SL, FreeWee Ling SL, Dianne Elton SL.

Location: Second Life VWBPE Main Auditorium.

Notes on Attending

The VWBPE conference is free to attend, and those wishing to do so should register via the conference registration page on Eventbrite. Attendees will also need accounts for both Second Life and OSgrid in order to attend all events on both grids.

Follow-up Course

The main conference will be followed by a 3-week Massively Open Online Course (MOOC). This is intended to highlight examples of educational design from many immersive environments. In the past, presentations have included environments such as Club Penguin, Eve Online, World of Warcraft, Spot on 3D, inWorldz, Sococo, and a host of other virtual platforms. Details on the MOOC are generally posted to the VWBPE MOOC website, although information on the activities for 2014 have yet to be posted – check the main VWBPE website for updates.

Related Links

With thanks to Bevan Whitfield