Thursday, October 25, 2007

OnRez Second Life viewer & CSI:NY in SL

Yesterday we were finally able to get our hands on the new OnRez viewer for Second Life that was made for a special episode of the hit show CSI New York (which was also aired last night). The viewer is available both for Windows and Mac OS X and it's got a simplified user interface and a built-it browser. If you're familiar with the existing Linden Lab's viewer you'll need some time to get adjusted to some changes. The most obvious one is the fact that you now have the Friends button in the lower right corner instead of the Inventory button - I suppose they think users will need their friends' list more often then their inventory, which can now be found under a button at the top of the screen and it's been renamed to "My Stuff" (I don't even want to comment on that). The good news is that most of the shortcuts still work, and you still have the client menu and all the advanced options (you need to manually enable the Build menu and the advanced options under the View menu).
OnRez user interface
Some of the new UI elements (the HUD is detachable)
And even better news is that we now finally have the back button (and teleport history) built-in. The home button in the upper menu bar is a bit confusing for me though - it takes me to Central park on the CIS sims, although the usual shortcut for home still takes me to my real home. But the best feature of all (at least for me) is the built-in browser. Sure, it's pretty basic (no Flash for example), but it works, it's fast, easily accessible and it seems like a better way for displaying text help files than through notecards, as web pages can of course be hyperlinked and enriched with various design elements.

My blog in the OnRez viewer
Viewing my blog in the OnRez viewer
Overall I think I prefer the OnRez viewer to the Linden Lab's one. Yesterday I had some problems with textures not rezzing, but now everything appears to be ok (they already had their first update yesterday). You do get CSI pop-ups each time you run the viewer and login, but they can easily be closed. I think I'll stick with this viewer for now - mostly because of the browser.

Now, moving on to the CSI part of the story (note: until now I've never seen an entire CSI episode - I usually switch after a few minutes). Yesterday I already picked up my CSI Toolbar (a HUD) on one of the many CSI Orientation sims, walked through the orientation process, and solved my first crime. I must say the whole experience was quite pleasant and engaging. I think they made a good job of introducing the basics and they also prepared an interesting crime game. They also have nice video tutorials on the special Virtual CSI:NY site. It makes one wonder how we could make some educational sims as interesting...

Investingating a crime scene with the CSI Toolbar
Working on a crime scene with the CSI Toolbar
Anyway, I was also curious to see the CSI TV episode to see how they presented Second Life. I got the chance to see it this morning, and... hm... let me just say I've laughed out loud a few times. I don't know which world they filmed this episode in, but it only looked like Second Life if you took screenshots of the scenes. There was absolutely no lag (!), everything (especially dressing up) was done through a keyboard, no pie menus etc. Not to mention the silly gladiator game effects (there was a large audience at the event - certainly over 40 avatars - and no lag or crashing!), everybody using tools to fly, the silly comments made by most of the CSI team, and some sort of Second Life virus? Somebody's been reading Snow Crash I presume or just playing another video game. Oh well, we've all seen how hacking is usually presented in movies. But anyhow, I'm not quite sure the picture of Second Life on the show would manage to get me interested enough in SL if I were a CSI viewer that's never heard of Second Life. I mean, why would I want to go into a virtual world in which there's a tech savvy professional killer or a world in which you can get a strange virus that keeps a whole team of IT experts busy for hours to fix? I certainly hope the commercials were better than that.

CSI orientation crime scene
Virtual crime and a game I like to call "Guess who's the sponsor of the project"
Anyhow, quite many viewer of the show were apparently intrigued by the whole thing, and at this moment we still have many CSI newbies wandering around (btw we've also got improved versions of Clint & Brandy - they come with skin, prim hair and decent clothing now ;) ). A few moments ago I re-visited some of the orientation spots and I saw a lot of confused users. Not many very talking. Maybe they just didn't realize they can use text chat - in the CSI episode they were using voice chat all the time; yeah I know, how realistic! Actually, just one newbie said hello and asked me "what are we suppose to do or where are we suppose to go?". Hm, maybe not such a good orientation after all. Maybe we should have more greeters at the starting points (I did meet one last night).

Meet the new Brandy - this defaults certainly look better than usually
I think it's still way too soon to make any final judgments on the successfulness of the whole CSI in SL thing. I'm personally glad I got a nice new viewer, but we still have to see if and how the CSI viewers will play along in this game. The Second Life grid survived last night (the load wasn't even that big), but let's wait for a few days to get more numbers and to see how many of the new users will stay in SL after they learn how the world really works.

Oh an by the way - today we have another big Second Life TV appearance on the series The Office. Oh dear. Not sure whether I should be excited or scared about that :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Giving your Facebook profile a Second Life

If you are like me, you probably have some of your Second Life friends among your Facebook friends. And until recently, we had no good way of connecting the two worlds. But now we can; and there isn't just one, but two Facebook applications that can help you with that.
Facebook and Second Life

Second Friends

The first app (by release order) is called Second Friends and was developed by Art Fossett (I'm using the developer's SL names in both cases). The app lets you display your avatar name and picture and a list of your Facebook friends that are using Second Friends on your Facebook profile. To use the app you need to do two things: you need to add the app on Facebook, and you need to pick up a personal key at an in-world kiosk on Eduserv island (you can reset the app and get a new key anytime).
You can then enter the key and your avatar name in the Second Friends form in Facebook. If you got that right, the app will import your Second Life profile picture into Facebook, and you are ready to display your SL name and avatar picture (if you wish so) on your profile.
Second Friends on my Facebook profile
To add and check for Facebook friends that are using Second Friends, you have to go to the My Friends tab under the app, and a list of friends (including their RL and SL names) will be added to your profile. If you wish, you can also choose to display their SL profile pictures instead. The functionality of this app is pretty simple right now, but future plans include adding an in-world tool for updating your Second Friends status while in Second Life and more.

Second Life Link
The second app, Second Life Link, was developed by Fire Centaur and another developer. It enables you to display your Facebook using SL friends in a similar way to the Facebook's defalt friends' list.

Second Life Link on my Facebook profile
The setting up process is similar to the one you have to go through with Second Friends, although it has a few extra functions. You can start the process by either adding the app on Facebook or by touching the in-world terminal in English Village.

In both cases you will get a personal key that you must enter either on Facebook or in-world (again, you can get another key anytime). A neat thing about Second Life Link is also the fact, that your Facebook friends get the option to register for a Second Life account on Facebook (in case they don't already have one) after adding the app. So you can also send invites for the app to Facebook friends that don't have a second life and trick them into getting one ;) After you've confirmed your identity, the app will automatically fill in your friends list with Facebook friends that are already using the app. Then you can also modify your Second Life Link profile by adding your avatar photo and one home and one favorite SL location you want to share with friends. Your SL friends will then be displayed on your profile with avatar photos and names, and if you click the See All link in the app on your profile or access the app from the left-hand menu, you can view whether your friends are online or offline in SL, and you can also teleport to their home or favorite location from Facebook.

Second Life Link friends detail
That's how my friends using Second Life Link can see me
Second Life Link also has advanced privacy settings, as you can see from the screenshot below, so you have full control of what your friends can see/do.

Second Life Link privacy settings

Both apps are still in beta, and I'm sure both developers will welcome our feedback. Currently, I have both apps installed and appearing on my Facebook profile, because they both help me connect my Second and Facebook life in a bit different way. I'm certainly looking forward to new features of both apps; and who knows, maybe we'll soon be able to "throw a sheep at" or "poke" our friends in SL from Facebook (throwing sheep should look spectacular in SL! ;) ). But for now, I'm really excited about the fact that my SL friends can get a special place on my Facebook profile. So, if you're a Facebook and Second Life user and want to connect the two, I recommend you give both apps a try, and let me (and of course the developers) know what you like/don't like, and what features would best for future versions :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Musings on the importance of speaking English

For me, one of the important questions I always have to answer before creating any kind of content is: in which language will it be? Will it be in Slovenian (my mother tongue) or in English (the international language of the web that I've learned as a second language)? This was, of course, also a major question when I started this blog. And sometimes I really hate this question, and I hate having to choose between languages.

On one hand, writing and speaking in Slovenian is always easier for me, but by choosing Slovenian as the language for my content, I automatically limit myself to an audience of probably no more than 2 million people (and the number is even smaller if you consider the number of Slovenian speaking people that are actually interested in what I'm writing about). The fact that a lot of the current tech terms (and buzzwords) don't yet have a good Slovenian translation, also make my decision more difficult because I sometimes feel like I'm writing half in English anyway.

On the other hand, I get a much bigger potential audience by writing in English, but it makes writing/speaking a bit more difficult, and it may also make my content more difficult to understand (or maybe even relate to?) for Slovenian people that don't speak English well or at all. And although I consider myself fluent in English, I often feel a bit insecure or self-conscious when I write or speak in English (especially for an audience of native speakers). The self-consciousness is even more apparent in synchronous communication situations - like IM or more recently with Second Life voice. When I blog or write emails I have the time to reflect, analyze, run a spellchecker, so I feel more confident (though I always worry about making typos that could be interpreted as insufficient knowledge).

But no matter which language I choose, there is always the question: should I translate this to the other language? And sometimes I do translate, but usually I don't because I don't have the time or motivation to do it - and let's not forget that some things are always lost in translation no matter how hard you try. There is just so much good content out there that's impossible to translate it all back and forth to one language and another.
So how can one deal with the language problem? I often choose English over Slovenian just because it helps me to get in touch with so many wonderful people around the globe, but I sometimes miss more discussions in my own language. And that is why on some levels I'm glad I can now also blog for my company's website in Slovenian, but then again: I often wish I could share some of my Slovenian content with my English speaking friends... I guess the language question can never have just one answer. For me, it's always a bit of a struggle, and in the end it's up to each individual to choose his/her "side". It isn't easy, but I guess it's one of the prices you have to pay to live in a flat world.

I'd like to finish this post by turning to you, dear reader, and asking for your answers to the language question. If you're not a native English speaker, how do you choose the language you write/speak in? And if you're a native English speaker, how do you deal with all the non-English content on the web? Do you ignore it or try to understand it by turning to native speakers of the foreign language or by trying to learn a foreign language? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject :)

(And by the way: one of my Slovenian friends answered the language question when he recently started his blog, so I guess I'm not alone in the language dilemma :) )

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Skitch: Fast 'n' Easy photo sharing (review)

Last night I finally got a invite for Skitch, an application (currently for Macs only) that lets you easily capture and annotate photos and share them with friends through web (on your myskitch page), by mail, Bluetooth or just by saving the image to your hard drive. Skitch offers different ways for getting images: you can take snapshots (it's easy to capture just part of your screen), take a photo through your camera or work on any photo on your hard drive or on the web by dragging it into Skitch. Once you've got a photo in, you can add text and various shapes, and do a few basic edits. When you're done, you can easily share it in any way you want. And what if you want to change the text or delete a shape later? No problem, you can always come back to the saved or uploaded images later and edit them again through Skitch (by the way - Skitch can also export images in the svg format; apart from the standard jpg, png, pdf and tif of course).
I saw the promo video of Skitch some time ago, but then I really didn't imagine how great it is to actually use it. It's super fast, very easy to use (I love the fact that you get subtle, not intrusive, and useful help tips just when you need them), and it works like magic (even though it's still a beta). The app was created by plasq, the makers of Comic Life (another application I love to use!), and I can only hope that we all get a copy of Skitch in the next releases of Mac OS X (just like we get the basic version of Comic Life).

I really see myself using this application a lot for different purposes. One obvious use is surely making images for blogs, and I think it will also be great for making annotated screenshots for user manuals (which can be really time consuming!), sharing ideas fast or just having fun by adding captures to photos :) Skitch is surely a great product that wisely uses simplicity and provides with all the tools you need to make photo sharing a bit more fun and fast. I think I'll keep the Skitch icon (it's a cute pink heart :) ) in my dock from now on, just in case I need to skitch something fast (it's surely much faster than Photoshop for simple tasks Skitch was built for). The only negative comment I can make about Skitch so far, is the fact that I didn't get a 100 invites, so unfortunately I can't yet invite you all to try it :(

If you want to know more about Skitch, take a look at plasq's site and watch the Skitch introductory video, which is in my opinion a great example of how to make an attractive video manual for first time users (I usually give up on video manuals after a few seconds, but this one kept me interested).

Edit: Just got 100 invites to give out! Leave you e-mail under the comments or e-mail me at ialja (at) mac (dot) com to get an invite and to try out the Skitch magic :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.