May 10, 2008

Congruence — Words and Actions

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:23 pm by zhaewry

Unlike some things I write about, this is purely personal, and purely about the social side of Virtual Worlds, not the technical side. Its mostly drawn from Second Life ™ (A registered Trademark of Linden Lab) but that’s because I spend more of my time there than most places, I think it is applicable in any immersive social space.

One of the odd things about Second Life, is the ease with which we can, in various ways shade the truth, or flat out lie. In a mostly text world, with avatars which type what we tell them to, and blush, smile, and frown, on cue, the listener, is at the mercy of the speaker for body language, which can be misleading, either due to self deception, or actual intent to deceive. Add the ability to create multiple avatars, the lack of any tie between an avatar’s appearance and real life, and the opportunity for confusion and deception increases.

Almost every resident in Second Life approaches the balance between being a perfect copy of themselves and a created persona differently. This is not surprising, we are all different, and we all have different goals. Some people exist as digital duplicates, with avatars which closely mimic real life. Some chose avatars which are wildly different from their real life appearance. Likewise, the role, and persona people project varies wildly. Some are basically themselves, in a digital body, others, take on personas which vary from their real life behavior. Some immerse in a role, to the point where they don’t exhibit any connection to their real life existence.

Interestingly, the various choices are fairly unrelated. People are complex and they behave in ways which reflect this. Some of the most honest, true to themselves people I know, live as avatars who are quite different than their Real Life appearance. Several of the people I know, who behave most differently from their RL personas actually have avatars which look very much like them. The choices are also fluid, sometimes from moment to moment, sometimes from avatar to avatar. Some people chose to separate roles, having work and play avatars. Some chose to role play with a separate identity, others roll them all together.

This affects us, in a virtual space, in some funny ways. As in real life, we interact with people, we form friendships, and we offer up bits of ourselves to other people. We share our thoughts, our energy, our attention. For many of us, our virtual selves and our virtual friendships are deep and important. This becomes problematic, if the friendships are based on confusion, misunderstanding, or even outright deception. Sometimes its simply a case of differing expectations. Someone who always represents themselves as a close copy of their real life self may be very confused by someone who is engaging in a degree of roleplay or re-interpretation of self.

This leads me to the title of this post. “Congruence — Words and Actions” This, for me, is the touchstone of a virtual persona. Over time, how do their actions compare to their words. Does the person who greets you with a warm emote, actually talk to you, interact and respond, or do they pop into the scene, wave warm greetings and go silent? Does the person who says, “Oh, invite me to your next event” ever show up. More importantly, when someone says they want to be your friend do they act like a friend, or do you feel like you’ve been added to some ever growing roster of casual acquittance’s. Do you feel like you’ve met someone new, or been part of someone’s calculation in how to level up to level 40 of Second Life Mastery, where they will get a Travel Steed, and the ability to turn on other people’s bling?

Friends, are people I interact with. When I enter a space, I greet them, and when I notice we haven’t chatted in a while, I try to track them down and IM them. Fiends are people who drop me a LM to a fun sim they’ve found, or offer me a TP when a good pair of freebie boots is on offer. Friends invite you to fun parties. Friends, in short, just like in real life, drop some energy into your life. Likewise, I try and drop some of my energy, and my thoughts at my friends.

Grace McDounnough touches on this in her thoughtful post on social norms. It’s entangled with how we want to experience our virtual lives. There’s another half to it as well, which Grace mentioned, and Chestnut Rau touches on very nicely in her post on the Second Life Terms of Service and Privacy. This is that we expect our friends to respect our personal space. When we tell them something, we have a reasonable expectation that they will act thoughtfully and not casually share it. When we say something in a private message, or a notecard, for them to know, we don’t expect that to be shared around the sims.

Now, I don’t know any perfect people. I’m not perfect, I don’t expect perfection of my friends. But.. I do expect, that they will try to be good friends, that they will act in ways which match their words. I try to hold myself to that standard. I’m sure I fail from time to time, and I regret that. So, look at yourself, as you float across the grid. Do you say one thing and do another? Do you emote by habit, or do your emotes actually reflect your mood? Do you add to the life of people you consider friends, or do you just share the grid with them. Food for thought

~ Zha

April 11, 2008

Behind firewall #2 …

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:18 pm by zhaewry

Disclaimer: I work for IBM, some of this material directly relates to my day job. I am not, however speaking in an official capacity. Your mileage may vary. Contents may have settled during shipping.

As many people have noticed, IBM and Linden Lab have announced a project where we are hosting a small number of regions inside the IBM firewalls, as part of exploring secure Second Life regions and future interoperability issues. (Press Release:)

I’ve had a couple of chats with people inside SecondLife, and at VW2008, about how this is happening, and what it might mean in terms of the grid, content creation, the interoperability work that is being done at the Architecture Working Group, and the OpenSim project. This entry is an attempt to summarize those thoughts

Let’s start with the very basics of what we’re doing. IBM and Linden Lab are setting up a small set of regions to run on a single IBM BladeCenter, behind the IBM firewall, with a small local asset server. The asset server, just like the beta grid, is a write-local asset server. What that means is that assets created on these regions end up in the local asset server. Things put into inventory on these regions end up on the local asset server. When the regions, or avatars on the regions fetch an asset, they go to the local asset server. If it has the asset, it serves it up. If it doesn’t, it fetches it from the main grid asset server. We plan to setup a local Vivox voice cluster. The rest of the region services come from the main linden grid. (Beta at the moment, main grid, as we validate the environment.) Note that the behind the firewall asset server won’t be visible from the main grid. Assets created on that asset server won’t be visible on the main grid.

Effectively, these regions form a set of island which are more secure than a regular island because chat, local rezzed assets, and stored assets can live in a region IBM controls. They are otherwise on the grid. They share the Linden asset cloud, they share Linden’s central services, and utilities. Users will log on with their main grid identity. Users logged into the regions will appear online to the main grid, able to receive IMs. Finally, these regions will fully honor the Linden mod/copy/transfer rules. (With an odd twist, playing with non-copy objects on these regions will end up with the asset trapped behind the firewall.)

This is a separate work item from any of our interoperability work. Its a chance for IBM and Linden to explore some of the things which happen when we can run islands which meet corporate needs for secure assets and chat. I am sure that we will learn some things about managing sub-grids, and about how the space gets used, which will inform some of the interoperability efforts, but. other than things of that nature, it is an unrelated project. IBM and Linden Lab have an ongoing collaboration, this is one of the efforts which had emerged from that work.

Several people have wondered if this would allow IBM to snag copies of assets from the main grid. Since this all happens inside the Linden Grid, the answer is no. An object on one of the private regions is as much on the grid as an object on any other private estate.

Someone suggested an Asset server would define a grid. In fact, I think that’s not the right way to think about what makes up a grid. An asset server is in the business of storing, and allowing grid components to fetch digital assets. An asset server can enforce some properties, such as only allowing one copy, of a non-copy asset to be on the grid or meta-gried, An asset server may chose which grid components it wishes to talk to. In a larger mesh of grids, asset servers are likely to be willing to talk to any region which they share a trust relationship. If this is the case, then that doesn’t help us define a grid at all.

I’d argue, tho, fairly softly, that a grid is going to be defined by the boundaries of its trust. Grids will most likely share core policies, and have a common trust policy. and.. we will probably see people define a broad range of grids, with different policies on assets, property rights and how they share objects.

Again, softly, I would argue that we are going to see many regions and grids which talk to multiple sets of asset servers. In the future, I might well have my clothing and shape fetched from a Linden Lab asset server, while rezzing objects from my personal virtual world hosting server’s asset server, on a landscape filled with trees from another “grid’s” asset server. Just like web pages today, some regions will be very homogeneous, filled with locally created and hosted content. Other regions will be filled with content linked in from across the greater set of grids

Finally, I’d observe that, while kicking off some thought about what we mean by “grid” didn’t fall isn’t part of why we are doing work like hosting a secured region, the fact that such questions come up, and get some attention, is desirable. Doing projects like this give the community concrete examples of some of the ways people will build out the virtual worlds space over the next few years.

~ Zha

October 10, 2007

Starting off…

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:02 am by zhaewry

A little place to blog thoughts about SecondLife, web technology, and the like. Expect both techno gearhead posts and social/cool things posts.