Categorysecond life

Second Life used to train terrorists?


In one of today’s more weird articles, The Australian claims that World of Warcraft and Second Life are used to train terrorists. As an example, they report a “terror campaign” which includes attacks on a Nissan building, a Reebok store and an American Apparel store (all of which are, mind you, within Second Life):

This terror campaign, which has been waged during the past six months, has left a trail of dead and injured, and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ damage. The terrorists belong to a militant group bent on overthrowing the government. But they will never be arrested or charged for their crimes because they have committed them away from the reach of the world’s law enforcement agencies, in the virtual world known as Second Life.

Alleged al-Qa’ida expert and author of the book Inside al-Qa’ida is quoted with this little gem:

“They are rehearsing their operations in Second Life because they don’t have the opportunity to rehearse in the real world,” Gunaratna says. “And unless governments improve their technical capabilities on a par with the terrorists’ access to globalisation tools like the internet and Second Life, they will not be able to monitor what is happening in the terrorist world.”

While I agree with his point that governments need to get up to speed with the internet (and I don’t mean by surveillance, but in terms of skills and basic understanding), Second Life is hardly particularly useful for the training of terrorists. Of course you can conduct classes and courses within Second Life – e-learning and the education sector is pretty active there (check out the Second Life Educators Mailing List for more info). But just what exactly should make Second Life more apt for terrorists than, I don’t know, email I can’t imagine.

Also, if terrorists have the hardware and internet connection to run Second Life, then Second Life is our least problem…

Our Second Life book going into print soon


UOCTogether with Thomas Praus (aka DJ Stylewalker) and Max Senges I’ve recently got the chance to write a summer university school for Barcelona-based university UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), as well as a book to go with it. Both the course and the book are all about virtual worlds, particularly Second Life.

Second Life LogoI’ve always had some issues with Second Life, but I do think there’s great potential there if these issues can be overcome. But for the time being, I’m thrilled to see that our publisher Editorial UOC has sent us the Spanish translation of our book for proof-reading – which means it’s about to go into print. Yay!

Our publisher has also agreed to let us publish the English draft under a non-commercial CC license, which is great. Thanks, UOC! You can find the draft on this page: Virtual Worlds (Book).

Eve Online makes users become real citizens


Eve Online

Who rules a virtual world? We’ve talked about this quite a few times lately (like here).

Well, in one case that question has been answered: Eve Online will be governed by the users, says a New York Times article:

The kingdom is in crisis. After pledging to treat its citizens equally, the government stands accused of unfairly favoring one powerful, well-connected political faction. Many citizens have taken to open dissent, even revolt, and some are threatening to emigrate permanently.

This specter of corruption has emerged most recently not in some post-colonial trouble spot but in the virtual nation of an Internet game called Eve Online (population 200,000) where aspiring star pilots fight over thousands of solar systems in a vast science-fiction universe every day.

So now, in a sociological twist, the company that makes Eve, CCP, based in Iceland (population 300,000), says it will tackle the problem the way a democracy would. In what appears to be a first, the company plans to hold elections so that players can select members of an oversight committee.

This is pretty amazing. LindenLabs, the company behind Second Life, for example simply says that they can’t police what’s going on within Second Life, and that users just need to stick to a basic set of rules. It’s all gonna be fine. Some users say that isn’t enough: The Second Life Liberation Army (SLLA) demand basic political rights for avatars.

Compared to this, the step CCP is taking for its virtual world Eve Online is radical. Particularly since they cross the boundaries between online and offline: Users (should we say voters? Citizens?) are physically flown to Iceland to really have a look around. Says CCP’s CEO:

“I envision this council being made up of nine members selected by the players themselves, where you announce your candidacy, and if you win the election, they come here to Iceland, and they can look at every nook and cranny and get to see that we are here to run this company on a professional basis,” said Mr. Petursson, CCP’s chief executive. “They can see that we did not make this game to win it.”


Our UOC Second Life textbook: released under CC license


UOC A few weeks ago, Max Senges, Thomas Praus and I got the chance to draft and write a summer university course about Second Life for the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, or Open University of Catalonia), a Barcelona-based university. Along with the course, of course, a textbook was needed.

Writing the book (“Virtual Worlds – A Beginner’s Guide to Second Life”) with Max and Thomas has been a blast (Thanks, guys!), and it’s been a first for me. Thanks also to the folks over at UOC who have been great: Creative Commons License They agreed to releasing the English version of the textbook under a Creative Commons license (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike). Feel free to remix & be creative! (Also note that it’s a version 1.0, so there might be minor changes if we find any errors. If you spot any, please drop me a line.)

The textbook offers a glimpse into virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular (some more details in this post). Titled “Mundos virtuales. Un paseo por Second Life” (“Virtual worlds. A stroll in Second Life”), the course (and book) covers a range of topics ranging from basic movement and building techniques to some theories on virtual identities.

(It also ranges from quite basic stuff to more advanced theories. Special thanks to Greg Niemeyer, whose Berkeley course “Foundations of American Cyberculture” and personal input during an interview a while back were great inspiration for the chapters on virtual identities and trust!)

It’s written for a compact summer school course, so I hope it proves to be a good read for newbies and advanced users. (If you’re a Second Life veteran, this isn’t really for you.) To give you an idea, the chapters are as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. First steps in Second Life
  3. Building your own world – 3D model creation in Second Life
  4. Who are you? Identities, trust and interaction in virtual environments.
  5. Code is Law – Rules, laws and boundaries of the game
  6. Economy: Business, micro-entrepreneurship, advertising
  7. Second Life as teaching and learning space
  8. Risks and opportunities of in-world engagements
  9. Politics & campaigning
  10. Media in Second Life: In-world media, Reporting about Second Life
  11. Building your own world II
  12. Literature
  13. Shortcuts

You can download it here: Virtual Worlds – A Second Life Beginner’s Guide (PDF, 913KB) Virtual Worlds – A Second Life Beginner’s Guide (DOC, 1.7MB) You can download the current updated version here: Virtual Worlds – A Second Life Beginner’s Guide

Update: I’ll try to collect all things relevant to the book on this page: Virtual Worlds (Book).

We’re big in Japan!


UOC Well, kind of. We are in Spain/Catalonia, though, that’s for sure: Between Max Senges, Thomas Praus and myself we’ve written a summer university course for Barcelona-based Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Open University of Catalonia), or UOC for short. The summer school course is about Second Life, and how it can be applied for all kinds of different means. It’s partly quite basic, partly somewhat more advanced (like e-learning strategies etc.). It goes by the title “Mundos virtuales. Un paseo por Second Life” (“Virtual worlds. A stroll in Second Life”, Google-translated version here).

I’m thrilled, really – this is definitively a first for me. Never written a course – or a text book – before, and it was great fun with both Thomas and Max. (Thanks, guys!) We haven’t cleared the rights as of yet, but I hope we can publish at least parts of the text here. Until then, I’m curious what tutor Álvaro Rodriguez is going to make out of our material. And, of course, I’m very curious to see the text book once it’s been printed: Since UOC is based in Barcelona and has a strong focus on Catalan identity, both the course and the text book will probably be translated into Catalan and Spanish. (How awesome is that?!)

The course is on between 2 July and 30 July 2007.


Interview: LindenLab founder Philip Rosedale about the state of Second Life


Linden Lab’s Philip Rosedale, the inventor of Second Life, spoke with alarm:clock and gave a little snapshot of what’s the status of Second Life right now. Also, there’s a bit of background on where Rosedale is coming from, which is always nice to see:

Ages ago, maybe 1994, we were making a living at the Red Herring while getting a startup going at the same time in a dingy SOMA, SF tech ghetto. One of our neighbors there was Philip Rosedale whom we recall when we first met him was out of place writing software for used car shops while playing early networked video games much of the time. One day Rosedale excitedly showed us a video on the Internet program that he had written together with a Stanford buddy.

This being pre-Adsense days, Rosedale didn’t know how to make a living off his program so he pioneered the first Net video business model by hiring a couple of exotic dancers to sit in our office basement and he charged lurkers to watch live video and chat with them. The rabble in our complex of ISP nerds, Swedish death metal goths and even a female private eye who went by the name of Rat Dog Dick PI knew we had a pioneer in our midst with Rosedale and his big idea, which he called FreeVue.

But he also comments on the questions of who’s going to pwn the space of virtual worlds, or in other words: Which company is going to define the relevant standards?

At this point in the development of virtual worlds, competition amongst different companies with different strategies is healthy. The big question, I think, is not whether one company will emerge as the industry leader as much as, will one platform or protocol emerge as the defining tool for virtual development? Second Life need not be the official destination of all virtual travelers, though it’d be nice if we were primary drivers towards the adoption of official virtual standards.

(more posts about Second Life)