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Archive for December, 2008

Suppose you have a business that is sucking. Then suppose a recession comes along and makes it suck more. What do you do? Well, one solution to sue as many people as you can based on some vague patent from ten years ago.

Welcome to Worlds.com‘s new strategy!

Anyone with access to the Internet (and that includes anyone they can sue) can find the financials for Worlds.com, which, not surprisingly, show a slow decline in stock prices since the middle of the year.

Currently, they are taking aim at a Korean company, NCsoft, owners and creators of the popular on-line games, City of Heroes. In an interesting take on why to choose these folks over any others – and in truth, anyone running a virtual world is a target – has been put forward by Valley Insider. Reporter Eric Krangel argues that first, the claim has been filed in East Texas, which is historically more biased toward the claimants, and second, suing foreigners from Korea is a lot easier than US-based companies, who are less – well – foreign!

Eric Cavalli, blogging for Wired, says that, ” if what Worlds.com claims is entirely true it would mean that the majority (if not all) of NCsoft’s MMO properties are built on (and inextricably linked to) technology that violates a patent.” So, all those people out there working with OpenSim technology are fair game.

In response to Krangel’s Valley Insider article, I offered the following:

“Mmmh, I’d like to offer a suggestion to the publishers, Bantam Spectra, to the effect that THEY should sue Worlds.com. In 1992 – a full three years before the patent listing of 1995, Bantam published a novel by a little-known writer called Neal Stephenson, the title of which was Snow Crash.

I suggest to Bantam that the patent holders of “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space” may have stolen the idea from Snow Crash and that the novel is clearly an example of “prior art” and has a copyright attached to it.

This may not help the folks at NCsoft but there would be a certain pleasure in knowing that the trolls at World.com were having to dig into their coffers to build up a defense.”

Primary Sources: Wired Blog Network, Virtual World News

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Banning words in a virtual world is so gay. Why, I wouldn’t even allowed to talk to my virtual friends about my lesbian daughter unless I referred to her as “my man-hating daughter” or “women-preferring little treasure.” As for mentioning that you can have a gay old time at a virtual dance, that would be verboten.

But according to a number of sources (e.g.  San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, g4tv.com, Silicon Ally Insider) the good people running Sony’s PlayStation Home virtual world have decided that certain words ought not to be used.

This may turn out to be a really tricky one considering the world audience. For example, our smoker friends in the UK may well talk about needing a “fag” to relax; they may also want to ask for one from a friend, which is called “bumming a fag!” and any talk of royalty will be just fine if it refers to the king, but what about the queen? And our Australian gardening enthusiasts may find themselves bleeped when talking about their newly planted pansies.

A quick Google search reveals that other words may have to be banned because they are used as slang for homosexuals. For example, at Easter there will be no talk of chocolate bunnies (black and gay); no mentioning of your restaurant order for a hot enchilada or hot tamale (Hispanic and gay); no ordering of water chestnuts (Asian and gay); and in summer, any mention of a trip to the US ice cream chain, Dairy Queen, is right out (someone looking for a gay encounter).

And with profanities, the list becomes almost endless. Holy shit! I mean, Jesus Christ, that’ll cut down on the fucking evangelicals trying to sell God to the virtual masses!

Primary Source: Pink News

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Disaffected Second Lifer, Eric Kranky Krangel reports that sales of virtual goods in Sony‘s new Home world are looking strong. Following an exclusive interview with Sony’s Senior Director of the Playstation Network, Susan Panico, Krangel said that, “virtual goods priced from 49 cents to $4.99 have generated more revenue for Sony than PS3 movies and video priced up to $14.99 generated in their first week.”

No actual figures were offered but the phrase “selling like hotcakes” was used, and for the first week, it’s critical that Sony begins generating some return on investment. Hottest item was the Santa suit and, in an indication of what may be to come, Panico said, “You can imagine the opportunity with costumes for partnering with other companies and their intellectual property.”

Primary Source: Silicon Alley Insider

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During 2008, over $500 million has been spent on investments in games and virtual worlds. This includes $11 million for Gaia Online who have just reduced staffing by 13%. There’s a good chance that the majority of these will run into difficulties considering the current state of the global economy, but it is an indicator that the concept of creating virtual worlds is far from dead.

The complete list can be seen at the VentureBeat website.

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For some people, spending time in a virtual world becomes a real problem. It can disrupt their real life and relationships. There are many stories about the perils of online gaming and online relationships.  But is it an addiction?

Smith & Jones Addiction Consultants is based in the Netherlands and was founded by Keith Bakker, who suffered from an alcohol addiction. Recently, Bakker has said that he believes gaming “addiction” to be more a social disorder than an psychological addiction.  In an interview with the BBC, Bakker said,

“These kids come in showing some kind of symptoms that are similar to other addictions and chemical dependencies.

“But the more we work with these kids the less I believe we can call this addiction. What many of these kids need is their parents and their school teachers – this is a social problem.”

Although he is talking specifically about children, he acknowledges that over 80% of online gamers are over 18 and that they need to seek help directly.

In a 2007 report on Compulsive Internet Use (CIU) entitled Pwned by the Internet and available at the Smith & Jones site, author Gert-Jan Meerkerk makes the following comment:

“The results of the study show that about 7% of the study population suffers from CIU. Assuming that the sample is representative for the Dutch heavy users of the Internet, the figure can be extrapolated to the general Dutch Internet-using population resulting in a prevalence of CIU of about 1%, which corresponds with about 67,500 compulsive Internet users in the Netherlands (in the year 2003).”

But whether it is labeled an Addiction or a Social Disorder, clearly a significant number of people are having difficulties and need some help. The S & J center offers such help.

Primary Source: BBC News

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In an article at ReadWriteWeb.com, Richard MacManus releases some details of a report shortly to be published by Forterra Systems, a consultancy firm who are “the leading provider of private virtual world environments that enable you to rapidly create your own secure, high fidelity 3D Internet solution,” according to their website.

According to MacManus, “one of the more interesting conclusions of the report is that virtual worlds are both more engaging and less expensive to operate than audio and web conference systems.”

Using their own proprietary open, distributed client-server platform for building private, realistic virtual worlds, OLIVE™ (On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment), Forterra worked with two companies, ACS and Accenture, to create training courses using three modes of interaction: Audio Conferencing, Web Conferencing, and Virtual Worlds (specifically a custom-built one based on the OLIVE technology).

They costed these out per participant annually as $500 to $1000s for Audio Conferencing, $30 to $100 for Web Conferencing, and $60 to $167 for Virtual Worlds. On a cost basis, Virtual Worlds score higher on average than Web Conferencing. However, in a report earlier in December, Forterra said that, “Audio and Web conferencing are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and generally easy to use. However for meetings involving complex or longer topics the participants can be challenged to grasp the discussion context and maintain focus due to multi-tasking.”

Until the final report is released, we have no information about the effect that giant flying penis’s might have on an in-world training session, but you have to believe that it will certainly make reporting the 2009 first quarter losses a little less painful.

Primary Source: ReadWriteWeb.com

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It’s one thing to post those hilarious pics of you and your drunken mates holding the generous breasts of a rented stripper at a bachelor party but it’s another when your potential employer checks out your MySpace before the interview. And peppering your FaceBook with profanities that would make a marine blush doesn’t help your chance of snagging a job.

Yet many people, especially the under-25 folks, have a total disconnect when it comes to the difference between a public a private post to a social network. By their very nature, social networks allow for a sharing of personal information, which can sometimes get down to incredible detail. However, they are, essentially, public forums. Unless you have an “invite only” site, your ideas, attitudes, desires and failings are there for the world to see.

And it’s not a bad thing to google yourself occasionally. Self-examination can reveal just what is being said about you on the net – and you get to see exactly what everyone else gets to see about you!

Barry Hurd of 123SocialMedia writes an excellent piece on the notion of online image management and how to avoid becoming a liability to yourself. Following a self-googling (yes, it does exist as an entry in the Urban Dictionary) you should analyse the data by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How did they do that?
  • Is it bad for you?
  • Is it correct?
  • Why is it there?
  • How can you change it?
  • How did you lose control of it?
  • What can you do about it?

He provides the following action steps:

Begin listening: learn how social media measurement can identify who, what, when, where, and why people are talking.

Step One: Understand how the web can damage or help your business.

Step Two: have professional social media profiles.

Step Three: explore more steps of reputation management. There are plenty of free options that can help protect your business (and you) from online crisis.

Step Four: continue to take action.

Another link to check is The Definitive Guide to Online Reputation Management from Scoreboard Media Group (SMG).

Primary Source: 123SocialMedia

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