METANOMICS: TAKING ON TV
MARCH 23, 2009
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hello, everyone. I’m your host, Robert Bloomfield, and, on behalf
of Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and Remedy
Communications, welcome to Metanomics.
Today we spend some time with Wiz Nordberg, the driving force behind virtual broadcaster
SLCN. With tens of thousands of virtual televisions throughout the grid, SLCN is a very real
presence in Second Life, and they’ve got big plans for the rest of the Metaverse and for
what Wiz calls “crossing the river” into mainstream media.
As always, Metanomics is filmed from the virtual Sage Hall right here in Second Life’s
Metanomics Region, home of Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of
Management. Hello to our live audiences at our event partner locations: Confederation of
Democratic Sims, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium, Orange Island and Muse
Isle. And, hello as well to our growing web audience. If you have trouble getting into Second
Life, due to a firewall or lack of bandwidth, go to metanomics.net/watchnow and not only see
the show live, but participate in backchat through Intersection Unlimited’s ChatBridge
On our first segment of today’s show, On The Spot, we’ll be discussing Linden Lab’s new
policy on adult content. On March 12th of this year, Linden Lab announced a new
system--and let me read from their blog posting: The system we build will have three main
features, which we will describe in great detail over the next few months. First, it will provide
a way to geographically separate adult content and activities to a part of the mainland
designed to accommodate those activities. Second, it will filter search results so that those
who do not wish to see adult results will not. And, third, it will require those who access or
see adult content, whether on land or in search, to have had their accounts verified, such as
by a payment or age verification method.
Well, today we get some perspective on Linden Lab’s new policy from Kevin Alderman, one
of the best known entrepreneurs in Second Life adult entertainment, where he goes by the
name Stroker Serpentine. Kevin, welcome to Metanomics.
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Thank you, Robert. Glad to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s glad to have you back on. I guess we had you as a little
over a year ago to talk about the industry and your business. Can you give us a quick
summary update on how your adult businesses in Second Life are going?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Business is brisk. I have definitely seen a tapering effect over the last
year, but I think that’s possibly due to a serious saturation in content, but those that are fleet
of foot and with a mind towards marketing tend to survive in a marketplace such as ours.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: The real question that I have for you is, I mean I know there will
be a bumpy transition with this new policy, and we’ll talk about that, but I’d like to start by
talking about the long-term goal and ask you: Do you see Linden Lab’s new policy as being
good news or bad news for the adult entertainment industry in Second Life?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Interestingly enough, we had a conversation with--it was a roundtable
conversation at SLCC in San Francisco several years back, that involved several of the
larger development organizations trying to discern what was the purpose of commingling the
Mature and PG Sims, and we really didn’t get a definitive answer at that time, other than the
fact that Linden Lab did not want to stifle creativity and wanted to have an all-encompassing
And it was suggested at that time, and I guess that’s been almost four years ago now,
maybe five, that the adult content be completely separated. I actually brought it up and
commented on the idea. And several of us agreed that the adult should be only accessible
by those that have an interest in it. And I think, long-term, it is obviously to the benefit of
Linden Labs, in terms of soliciting corporations and business enterprises and academics as
well, to make it more of an atmosphere conducive to conferencing and marketing. I think
that, in the long run, this is a great idea. I think the transition is going to be extremely difficult
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Aren’t you worried though that you will basically have less
access? Most of the people presumably that are coming in to Second Life will be of age that
makes adult content appropriate for them. So now though, unless they go through the
hassles of account verification, they won’t even know you exist.
KEVIN ALDERMAN: I have given up second-guessing Linden Lab’s policies. I really have. I
actually am probably a little apathetic because I’ve seen attempts in the past, as we all
have, at the age-verification and at filtering the classifieds and parceling, to verified only,
and it’s met with disastrous effect. There’ll always be people who try to circumvent the
system. There will be yard sales that are set up. There’ll be private Sims that don’t bother to
flag their parcel. So I wish I could be a little more optimistic about this transition. It needs to
be done, but I think that there were more beneficial, more common-sense approaches than
to basically just uproot those people that have already built a presence on the mainland.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I assume you have a significant mainland presence. How do you
see the transition, the actual movement affecting you and your properties?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Actually, I left the mainland as soon as private estates were offered. I
bought one of the first, I think, ten or twelve Sims, and I haven’t looked back since. I saw
then that it was becoming a content blight, and I applaud Linden Lab’s efforts to initiate
some type of zoning and cleaning up, but it’s still, in my opinion, still quite an eyesore. And I
foresaw this coming several years ago and have built my enterprise and my business on
private Sims specifically for that purpose because we liked the idea of having the adult
content separated, and we liked the idea of having the controls necessary to ensure that
only adults or people that at least present themselves as adults have access to that
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Often, in the Real World, when we see regulations come in that
say you can’t be in a certain spot, or you need to jump through these various hoops in order
to run a certain type of business, it hurts the little guy, it hurts the new entrant, but it actually
works to the benefit of the existing large organizations that already have the knowledge and
the connections and so forth. So I’m wondering do you think this is going to winnow down
the number of competitors that you have and actually put you in a stronger position relative
to the other people in the industry?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Well, I certainly hope so.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, that’s honest.
KEVIN ALDERMAN: I do know that there are a considerable amount of non-verified
businesses, non adult-flagged parcels that are conducting adult businesses, and, if indeed
Linden Lab does put an emphasis on these zoning issues and making the population at
large aware that they’re going to be serious about these parcels being flagged and that the
access is indeed by adults, then, yes, it definitely should benefit those who have a
significant presence and/or a long-term presence.
And, again, it all comes down to branding as well, and marketing and having that notoriety.
So it is going to weed out a lot of the little guys, but I don’t know that segregating them into a
quote/unquote “adult ghetto” is the cure or solution. This is a panacea for Linden Lab that I
think is going to be ultimately unenforceable.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. What advice do you have for Linden Lab, both in managing
the transition and in trying to enforce the policies once they have gotten through that?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Well, similar to [AUDIO GLITCH] and the [AUDIO GLITCH] XStreet
content website, I think that a lot of the burden is going to be placed upon the shoulders of
the parcel owners, which is fine and well, except that, in the past, I personally have been the
victim of reverse AR’s inasmuch as your competitor will say, “Oh, well, Stroker is getting
away with this,” or, “Stroker is getting away with that or shouldn’t be doing this,” and I just
get the feeling that there’s going to be a definitive lack of resources to be able to police this
content. Because people are going to go after a quick buck. They’re going to find a way to
circumvent the system, as they always do. And I don’t know that I want Linden Lab’s
governance team chasing up and down this new red light center, trying to determine
whether everyone is in conformity or not.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: In just the couple minutes we have remaining, let me expand the
scope of the conversation a little bit. I’m wondering about the long-term future for profitable
adult entertainment industry in Second Life. And, in particular, I’m wondering how you
compete against the more traditional venues for adult entertainment. There’s web, video,
video chat rooms and the like, and here you’re working with largely a cartoon world. How do
you compete against the larger universes out there?
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Obviously, through grassroots and group evangelizing. We have
significant MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and _____ presences. We share content in limited
amounts to the general public, to give them an idea of what they can expect in terms of
content and interaction. Utilizing web presence as a marketing tool to encourage people to
come and participate in these communities, and the communities are expansive. I
personally have probably 70 to 80,000 people in the 25 groups that we’re allotted. So there
is definitely an appetite there; however, whether these people are going to be willing to go
through the verification process yet remains to be seen.
But, in terms of competing with traditional web media, we’re a niche market. We offer
something that isn’t available anywhere on the web, with the exception of possibly
Utherverse’s Red Light Center. But Second Life is constantly evolving. We trust that our
Linden masters will continue to develop and stabilize the grid and allow us the opportunity to
express ourselves as adults, and, to date, I think that they have been very generous along
those lines. They could basically just say, “We don’t want any adult content,” and boot
everyone to the street. So I wish them luck in this, and I will do my best to make it happen. If
there’s anything that I can do personally, I’m here to help because I think that adult is
always going to be a part of Second Life and that we need to find a median common ground
between us and the developers, to make sure that children and those that aren’t interested
cannot access it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’d like to close with a question from Valiant Westland, that I’m
picking up off ChatBridge: What’s your view on OpenSim as a future platform for your
KEVIN ALDERMAN: We’ve done some initial investigation into OpenSim, and it’s a growing
enterprise. There’s still a lot of interoperability issues. There’s still a lot of cross-content
issues, and I think that it’s going to take a concerted effort from Linden Labs to release the
keys to the asset server, so to speak, so that we can have the capability to determine
whether or not we want our content spread across these grids because there’s always the
question of who is running them and the access that they have to your content. So we’re a
little ways off yet, I think, before we’re looking at a comprehensive OpenSim presence.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, thank you very much for giving us an insight into your
businesses, the adult industry and, in particular, the long-term effects of Linden Lab’s new
policy on adult content. So, Kevin Alderman, Stroker Serpentine, thanks a lot for joining us
again on Metanomics, and I hope we’ll have you back.
KEVIN ALDERMAN: Thanks for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now we turn to our main event and have a chat with
Wiz Nordberg, CEO of SLCN.TV. SLCN currently broadcasts 14 shows every week, with
programming that is lot more traditional than you might think. Metanomics is, of course, a
standard public television-style talk show, while Tonight Live is more of a late-night style talk
show. And then we’ve got sports programs, fashion programs, home redecorating. It really
isn’t that different from any sort of broadcast network you’d see out there. So what we’re
going to do today is, we’re going to start with a little history and then get into plans for the
future. But, for starters, Wiz Nordberg, welcome to Metanomics.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Beyers. It’s great to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Well, it’s nice to have you on the other side of the controls
for once. I’ve actually wanted to do this show for a long time.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: It’s only the third time I’ve ever been on this side of the camera in
over 2,000 shows.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now you started out as a programmer. How do you end up
broadcasting virtual television?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, I like those cowboy days in any industry. I had a company in the
states back when the software industry was new and fresh, and the rules were changing.
And, I guess by the time it started maturing, we had a pretty successful product. We sold
that to Microsoft, and I just decided, “No, no. Done with that,” and took about a year off.
Ended up in Australia for various reasons. We started an internet company here because
that was the area where the rules were breaking, and everything was moving and shaking,
and it was interesting, and got into the music side of it here, which was even more strange
and uncertain. So I like those environments.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: When you say you got into the music side of it, you actually were
filming live concerts with real TV cameras for web broadcasting. Right?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, we started out doing websites for the majors, like BMG, which
we did for nine years and so forth, and some of that we were probably the number one of
those types of music industry sites here, and that led us naturally, as the dot-com boom
came around and people’s pockets just seemed to have almost unlimited depth, people got
more and more into starting to put concerts on the web, and we were in the perfect position
to do that. So that became a major part of our business, during 1997 through 2001.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I think we’ve got some photos of your work there. You want
to walk us through what some of those are?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Sure. The biggest music event here, at least until maybe a couple
years ago, was called the Big Day Out. We have a shot of the main stage. That was in
2000. There were a quarter-million people who came to the Big Day Out. And our job sort of
isn’t so glamorous. We’re backstage with a bunch of crew people and sometimes out in the
middle of sheep paddocks, walking around in the [AUDIO GLITCH] with very, very
traditional television-like production techniques. Some of our crews were as large as 50 or
60 people sometimes, with some of the bigger productions. So we did a lot of that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: There’s actually a question already in the backchat from
DavidBatty Hathaway: What are the technical systems and methods that bring us your
shows? I don’t know how much detail you want to get into that, but I’m curious, can you talk
a little bit about the similarities and the differences of Real World filming and machinima?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, there are more similarities than differences. In fact, if you were
to look in the Yellow Pages for a reputable video production company and said you have
three computers with content on them, and you need to have them vision-switched together
live and broadcast out onto the net, they would come back with a quote of approximately ten
to twenty thousand dollars for an hour or two of programming, would come set it up and do
something very similar to what we do, except they would scratch their heads, saying, “What
am I looking at here?” and that would be the biggest difference. They wouldn’t really
understand the environment on the screen enough to create the kind of content that we do.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. So let’s take a look at some of the earliest work you did.
Your first real show was Tonight Live, with Paisley Beebe. You mentioned to me there were
three rehearsals for that very first episode, and you spent two months in pre-production
before it was ready for broadcasting.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Right. Right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So first, let’s just take a quick look at one of those rehearsals.
You have the first rehearsal for Tonight Live.
VIDEO: TONIGHT LIVE-CLIP
MODERATOR: Please give a warm welcome to scientist and engineer,
Dr. Troy McConaughey, in Second Life as Troy McLuhan. Welcome, Troy.
MODERATOR: Troy, did you dream, as a child, of going to the moon? Dadadadadada.
Let’s give Troy McLuhan [INAUDIBLE/GLITCH]
MODERATOR: We’re going to intros and outros. Let’s give Troy McLuhan a round of
applause. Thank you for being our guest tonight. We’ll be right back after--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So presumably you had already gotten pretty comfortable with
Real World filming. What were the challenges in Virtual World filming and broadcasting that
you didn’t anticipate, that made this such a big undertaking right at the beginning?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, it’s funny. I don’t think there were technical challenges that we
didn’t anticipate. This is a very common activity, if you’re sort of doing a lot of streaming
media, and, for that clip that you saw of Tonight Live, we weren’t necessarily that
inexperienced even with this. We had actually done a show of our own called That’s Life,
that had been running for about two months before that, and that was mostly a proof of
concept because--but our real model and the reason why I said Tonight Live was the first
show, when we talked, is because that’s the first show that really followed our model, which
is to have a relationship, like we have with Metanomics, where it’s produced by a group
in-world, and we do the technical parts of that and distribute it. So Tonight Live was the first
show where there was truly an in-world group doing a production.
I mean a lot of the challenges are the challenges anyone would run in doing an event. And I
think maybe beyond that, the challenge is often for people who are used to doing in-world
events, to actually see beyond the event and imagine that they’re actually creating a show
and that the people will see only what appears within the viewfinder and that set design and
everything they do is designed for that show. So a lot of the challenges are psychological,
you know, people management. Most people in-world don’t know what a real life OB van
looks like inside or what goes on.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: OB van?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Ah, an OB van, yes, yes. That’s what those pictures I have, those big
trailers. Outside broadcasts. When the CNN truck shows up.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Shows what an amateur I am.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: And, in fact, we don’t even talk in that language, for the most part. I
think that we are doing something new. Even Real World--we have done a number of Real
World events, before this, that involve crosses to other cities. Okay? So there’s a crew in
Sydney and a crew in Melbourne and a crew in Canberra. And these events are extremely
complicated, the timing for real life companies, and they have Real World communication
systems called talkback systems to make it all a little bit easier.
One of the big challenges is, we have people in geographically disparate areas, who have
no eye contact, that none of the subtle interactions that would occur in a real studio can
occur. Like you can’t nod your head, like I’m done speaking, and it’s time for you. And
everyone is using the most unreliable technologies in the world compared to what the
broadcast industry would insist on. I mean you don’t turn on the Olympics, and at 8:00 they
say, “Well, we had a crash, and the Olympics are actually going to start about ten minutes
late.” It’s just unheard of. So those are some of the big things.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: As I mentioned at the top of the show, you’ve really got a pretty
traditional lineup of shows, starting with Tonight Live, which couldn’t be really a more
traditional late-night TV show. And, of course, you’ve got your basic business talk show right
here: Metanomics. So here’s my question. You’ve got this new technology in an online
environment known for breaking the rules, breaking the boundaries, doing things that are
new and different. And basically what you have done is replicate traditional Real World
television. Why is that?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, because I think the technology that delivers our stories is
completely independent of the stories themselves. And I think those stories have not
changed so much as people might think. Technology did not create The Lord of the Rings;
J.R.R. Tolkien did, in his head, decades ago. And he didn’t need special effects to imagine
Middle Earth. So when I look at our job as a television network, our sort of job is to make
sure that people that have those things in their head can bring them to life. And it’s early
days both for what we’re doing and for the contents of people’s heads.
So one of our chief things to do is to basically be--we like to plug in to the metaphors people
understand. People look at Tonight Live, and they don’t spend time thinking, “What am I
looking at?” They instantly begin listening, and those metaphors are useful. I mean people
have been doing this for decades. I think it’s a positive to reinforce what people understand,
rather than try to constantly reeducate people about what they’re seeing.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: As you mentioned, it is a challenge to do that, even to pull off
what is kind of a plain vanilla talk show that we do on Metanomics. You’re right. We’re
spread all over the globe. We can’t see our guests. It’s difficult. We have to have our
avateer, JenzZa Misfit, to make us look as lifelike and as engaging as we are, which is
certainly something you don’t--
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, JenzZa.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --need for--yeah, thank you. Really, I do appreciate. Definitely not
something that you see much or even an analog to that for real television. So if you had to
pick a show that seems to have the chance to use Virtual World technology to stretch our
notion of what television could be, do you have one on SLCN? Do you see one that seems
like a natural pathbreaker?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: I always use The Giant Snail Race as an example because that is
something totally fabricated out of RacerX Gullwing’s head. Not only the snail race concept,
but the way it’s done, and I guess that’s really pushing the envelope. First off, it’s pushing
the envelope to even come in to Second Life and create a completely immersive, totally
fictional thing. Now you do see a lot of it, okay, and there are some people that are very
good at it, in creating art in Second Life, but then to take the next step and say, “Okay. We
want to now tailor this experience to create a visual experience [AUDIO GLITCH].” I just
think that it’s something we’re just not going to see a lot of quite yet. But I do use that
because it is something completely--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We won’t see it because it’s just too familiar to people and--
GARY WISNIEWSKI: No. I think it’s because people were not in Second Life because they
are script writers, production designers and cast handlers. There’s a reason why you need
15 people to create a television program and then 200, 300 or 400 to create a movie.
People on our shows are just learning what a script is, what a story board is, what planning
can do for a show. Now I do expect that a lot of [AUDIO GLITCH] the fact we often do work
with some professions from the TV and film industry, but they live in a different world in a lot
And what we’re expecting to see happen is more people that come from the middle, or what
I would--I do not like the term “amateur,” but from the amateur world, [let them?] learn how
to use their skills to create better story lines and to do some of the things that are required to
create illusions rather than just immerse yourself in all [AUDIO GLITCH].
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s an interesting distinction. We have a question from
Olando7 Decosta, a business reporter from Belgium, Roland Legrand. He gets right to the
point: Is SLCN.TV a profitable venture? How many people work there? And what are the
main costs and revenues?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Ah. No, we’re not a profitable venture. There are three full time
people that work at SLCN. And I do want to clarify the SLCN thing also. Don’t let me forget,
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, I won’t.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: There are about 15 people that we work with in-world, who are either
volunteers or part-time paid people, along with each show that has a team of about 15 to 20
people, maybe 5 to 20 people, depending upon the show. We spend a lot of money. We’ve
probably close to three or four hundred thousand U.S. into this so far. We’re investing in
something we believe is an important future area of media, and we make a little bit of money
now and then by doing commercial work in Second Life. We’ve done a couple of relatively
expensive commercial projects in Second Life that are not visible to people because they
were done privately. And we also do some shows which have reasonably good sponsorship.
For example, ISTE does a show that Hewlett Packard sponsors, and I would have to say
that, if all shows were sponsored at that level, probably I would say we would be almost
profitable. But right now we’re sort of making a bet.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And as I understand it, part of that bet involves something you
call “crossing the river.” I don’t know if this is Christian theology. I don’t think it is. What is
“crossing the river”?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: One of the first real entrepreneurial companies I ever was a part
of--the CEO of that company drew these diagrams where there’d be a river, and there’s be
people on one side, and on the other side there would be all these dollar signs growing. So I
used that metaphor a lot because I look at us as creating something that’s of a great deal of
interest to people, but the money and the ability to sustain it and--I focus a lot more on
sustaining the business right now than I do on pure revenue. But pure revenue is ultimately
what’s going to make the whole thing worthwhile, and it’s over there across the river. And
the question always in our mind is, “What is the thing that makes us cross that bridge? And
what are the things that facilitate that?”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I can think of two possibilities right off the bat. One is that the
Second Life population grows by a factor of ten or more. And the other is that you’re filming
in Second Life, but you’re viewership actually is out on the web in general. Are you relying
on one model rather than the other?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Okay, I think I’m relying on a combination of both. First off, right now,
I mean one of the things you used in your show, which has now become part of my common
pitch vernacular is the creepiness factor, which I just loved, when you said your dean was
going to use the creepiness factor. Because I do think the time is going to come--and people
in Second Life believe it’s going to be sooner than it actually is, I think--the time will come
where the general public will understand what it is that’s going on here and will understand
that these are real people, that this is not a contrived animated environment that they see in
machinima. And that will make the content more palatable, more useful, along with things
that we’ll do--that will make the content more palatable to the larger general public, the
hundreds of billions of people that are out there.
I also think the Virtual Worlds phenomenon, especially the type of engaged creative
environments that we see with Second Life and maybe Entropia, not too many others, this
type of engaged creative-focused virtual experience will become more and more common. I
don’t think Linden Lab is going to dominate that market when it does become very common,
but I think that, instead of having 1.2 million people who are exposed to this environment
every two months, we’re going to have 10, 20 or 30 million people or 40 million people. And,
at that point, the combination of focusing outside and the growth inside will create many,
many more opportunities to monetize and entertain.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One way to build the viewership is to have celebrities, the big
names. We do this in a small way on Metanomics, by having various CEOs or people
leading companies or who are well-known in Second Life. You have had a couple shows
with real celebrities. You’ve broadcast shows with the cast of the movie Transformers.
You’ve had politicians, like U.S. presidential candidate Mike Gravel. And you even had
movie star Bruce Willis on. Let’s just get a quick look at a couple clips of Bruce Willis, and
then I’d like to talk about that.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Okay. I think maybe just letting these two roll because they’re sort of
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Perfect.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: So, go for it.
VIDEO - BRUCE WILLIS:
BRUCE WILLIS: I just want to say that this is actually a very cool way to interact not only
with my fans, but to talk about the film _____. Doing classic interviews and talking to
reporters and people that have done it over and over for years and talk about films and talk
about at least over 300 films every year, reporters tend to get jaded and lose interest fairly
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Cool. So I have Alaron Writer here.
BRUCE WILLIS: Mm-hmm.
ALARON WRITER: Hi, Bruce. You’ve done various kinds of movies over the years,
including voiceovers and animated films. Movie making in Second Life, machinima, is a
growing movement that is getting better and more sophisticated all the time. Would you ever
consider voicing a character in a film produced inside Second Life or a similar Virtual World
BRUCE WILLIS: Absolutely. I’ve been in a couple films that have been on the cutting edge
of new technology. Sin City was a really interesting acting experience. It turned out to be a
really interesting film and had a really fantastic look. As long as the quality and the content
were up to par, [AUDIO GLITCH] anything.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So getting Bruce Willis in to Second Life and being filmed is a
real coup. How did you pull that off?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, I’d like to take all kinds of credit for it, but I think a lot of it has to
do with being in the right place at the right time. The real person who managed to pull this
off was Dan Light from Picture Production Company in L.A. They’re a company that does
trailers and promotional videos and junkets for movies. And he took a lot of risk by
convincing executives to do something that I’m certain they were not that sure about. And
we had a way of doing it. I mean, at the time, we had worked with a lot of celebrities, like the
Big Day Out that I talked about, Nine Inch Nails and the Chili Peppers were there. And the
level of concern over, “Will it happen correctly? Do we have professionals at the audio
desk? What are our risks?” the level of concern by the production crews in this these things
is very, very, very high.
And, one of the important things, for example, that Dan needed to know about us was,
“What’s your background?” and the fact that we had done what we did made it obvious that
we at least spoke that language. And this was pre-voice. And we had a system that we had
developed for production called Sound Reach that allowed people to use telephones to
actually broadcast in-world. And that was the only way that, really, people could be heard on
shows at the time. Otherwise, it was a lot of fiddling with streaming software and so forth. I’ll
tell you what, I looked in the Second Life search one day for consultants or something; I
don’t remember. I ran into Liam Kano from V3 Group, and two weeks later one of his clients,
Dan Light, had this problem they needed to see if there was a solution for. And one thing led
to another, and suddenly we were doing it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. So you mentioned to our producer, Lynn Cullens, before
the show that in one of those clips from Bruce Willis, you’re reading is that it makes it
obvious that stars are not averse to doing things new, doing things in Second Life, for
example, but they are very conscious about whether something is good enough. Do you see
that as being the biggest hurdle in getting the big names?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: I think that is the biggest hurdle. Yeah, I think that’s the biggest
hurdle. I think that it is actually very easy to convince people who have notoriety to do
something new and different. They like to get aboard just as much as the next person, but
the quality of the result is everything because one crazy, stupid thing that somebody does, if
the press talks about it that way, could be a significant, you know, could all kinds of damage
to their career. And Bruce said that. I loved what he said. He said, “Would you consider
doing voiceovers in Second Life?” And he says, “Absolutely.” He talks about Sin City, and
he ends by saying, “But it’s got to be up to par.” Whenever I look at that bridge that crosses
the river, I think about what he said there a lot.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Do you see bringing in celebrity names as being a key
component of crossing the river?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: I think it’s a nice extra, but I think the key component is not enabling
people that currently have access to a hundred million viewers to do something here. I think
that Bruce Willis already has plenty of avenues for creativity. And the challenge, really, is to
make it possible for people who don’t have access to that, to unleash their creativity and
ideas. Because I think, in general, the division between media producers and consumers, to
me, is an artificial one, and there’s not enough credit given to the fact that more people have
the ability to create than media would like you to believe. So I think that’s, for me, the
biggest opportunity is how we make this cheaper, more accessible and yet higher in quality
at the same time.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’d like to turn to the quote that I selected from our pre-interview
discussion and we used as our notice, which is that you said you’d rather have a thousand
shows with a hundred thousand viewers each than ten shows with ten million viewers each.
Why is that?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Absolutely. There are two reasons. First off, it’s easy to have ten
shows with ten million viewers each. It’s actually easy because it’s a manual process. You
don’t have to create technology. You don’t have to worry that much about cost. The
monetization spans both traditional and new media forums. It’s easy. Whether it’s easy, it’s
old. There’s a book you can buy, and, if you’re good at that book, you can do that. I think the
challenge of having a thousand shows of a hundred thousand, which is still monetizable, is
that you have to figure out how to do it a new way. You have to figure out how to scale it.
There’s no way we could do a thousand shows the way we do them now. We have to
innovate, and there’s a reward in having to do that, that I like. So that’s why my personal
preference is to figure out how to scale it, make it cheaper, make the results better and
serve modest audiences, but a lot of them.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I know that part of your goal in moving that way, or I should say
part of the process in moving that way is to roll out a new brand, Treet.TV. Can you talk a
little bit about what you see Treet doing for your ability to cross the river?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, I don’t think we could do it without a new brand. I have to say,
when we started SLCN, we were not taken seriously as a business. We had another
business. We were doing other things. This was fun. And the Second Life Cable Network, it
all just seemed like it fit into the game, and it did. People responded to it really, really, really
well. And no one wonders what SLCN is. There are a lot “SL” things, and it all fits.
But, in the Real World, and when I met you in L.A. last year, we were also there talking to a
lot of people in the television and broadcast industry about syndication. Asking the
questions, “What does it take to cross the river?” We spent a lot of time doing that. And one
thing is that the affiliation with a single Virtual World is never going to get us anywhere.
Despite the fact that Second Life is still the proving ground of this type of creativity, in order
to get syndicated on iTunes and be up there next to PBS, in order to do deals with Kaneva,
There.com, the others, we needed to be an independent, strong brand, not a part of the
Second Life phenomenon.
So for us, Treet represents a brand that we--and, in fact, we’re already getting leverage out
of the negotiations we’re having about it to brand, that we can begin to get syndicated, that
we could talk seriously to Apple about pushing it up above the podcast level into the
broadcast level and that we can freely begin to deploy in all kinds of other Worlds, without
aligning ourselves with any one company’s strategy.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so you are actively talking with other Virtual Worlds as, I
guess, are these as targets of broadcasting still done in Second Life or as locations?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Primarily as targets of broadcasting still done in Second Life. I mean
there’s the low-hanging fruit of making sure that every single OpenSim grid that is out there,
that has any chance whatsoever, is a viewing place for Treet content and that, as much as it
does not require a lot of investment, that every single other World can see our content.
There are a lot of cultural differences between different Worlds. I don’t know whether people
in Entropia would like watching Treet.TV, but the more we deploy in those environments, the
more sensitive we’ll be to having shows produced in those environments. I do think it’s a
road that we have to go down, but I’m not exactly sure where the exits are.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Someone asked earlier, and I’m afraid I lost track of who this
came from. Someone was asking, “What shows don’t you have that you would like to have
on the network?” And one of the things that I see is, you really don’t have much in the way
of drama or comedy, in the sense that you actually have scripted plots and character
development and so on and so forth. It’s much more sports, fashion and talk. Is that just
much harder to pull off?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Yes, it’s harder to pull off. And I think it’s--fiction is sort of the word
that is the holy grail for me. I am very interested in doing fiction, but not showpiece fiction.
There are some people out there doing great machinima, and there are some beautiful
examples of it, and they are showpieces. I’m not really interested in wowing the World with
the sort of the Star Wars of Second Life. I’m much more interested in having shows which
people say, “Gosh. I wonder what’s going to happen to Jack. Are you going to watch that
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So you want the Sopranos?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: That’s exactly what I want. Yeah. That’s exactly what I want. I want
people to get caught up in the continuing bit of fiction, and that takes a lot of work. People
have to conceptualize this stuff. People have to write it. They have to be there trying to
figure out how to pay their bills when we’re ramping up and trying to get to the point where
we can get it sponsored. And everybody needs to be paid for these things.
We have actually talked to some real life directors that have films in [your community?]
store, who have been interested in doing this. But the difficulty is, they’re interested in the
ten markets of ten million, and their entire lifestyle and their way of working is geared toward
those types of production budgets, and it’s hard for them to envision how to work in an
environment like this. So I believe the talent’s going to come from the people in places like
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, maybe there are some people in the audience who can help
out. I saw Sunshine Sigall ask, “How does one get involved in in-world broadcasting?” So
maybe she has the idea for the next great suspenseful drama that will keep people tuning
in, to see how the avatar turns.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: If you have a script, contact us at info@SLCN.TV or info@Treet.TV
because we’re very interested in this. So--enough said.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me ask a very self-interested question here, which is: What
advice would you have for me and for the Metanomics crew as we try to get our show a
much broader audience?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Walk down the hall at Cornell and grab 30 people who have never
seen Second Life in their lives. Show them the video. Ask them what they think, and start
taking notes. Because the notes you take will turn into a task list of things to do to make
them all happier. And I think, once you do that, if you can walk down the hall at Cornell and
expose people who have never seen this in their life to this, and they all raise their hands
and say, “Where can I get this?” the “crossing the river” part’s going to be easy. Do you
know what I mean?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, yeah. I don’t think that will be the response that I get the
first time around.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Right. Right. But that response is out there. I think we’re just
beginning to do--in fact, we started three months ago doing focus groups, talking to people
and hearing the surprises from both people in Second Life and people in the Real World,
when they tell us what they think, and it drives a lot of our thinking about the task list and
how to do these things.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s see. I see we’re closing in on the top of the hour, and
I’m wondering what are you able to talk about regarding Treet.TV that listeners can expect
to see coming up?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Well, some of the biggest things about Treet.TV is that a lot of
production things are changing. Everything is moving to 16.9. Everything is moving to
high def. We’re going to have a better media player for people on the web. We’ve never
been that concerned about people on the web before. We’re splitting Treet into
business-focused and entertainment-focused, separate but married, websites because right
now a lot of businesspeople go to our site, and they have to wade through; sometimes
people say, “This can’t be right. The thing on multiprocessor Cisco routers, it can’t possibly
be on this site.” And we need to make sure that we’re grabbing those markets better.
Also, all of our content on Treet will be available in high def format that you can watch in
your living room. I’ll tell you, once you see this stuff on your living room television, I do think
it changes a lot. The Treet stuff is going to look a lot smoother, a lot better, and a lot more
like real television. So those are some of the big differences.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Any big points we didn’t get to that you’d like to weigh in
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Aside from the fact that it’s really a shame that they keep us just to
an hour. I mean I could talk for another hour on this stuff, Robert. So, no, I think we hit it all.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great! Well, thank you so much, Wiz Nordberg, CEO
currently of SLCN.TV and, I presume, CEO of Treet as well. Is that right?
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Yes. I mean probably the only thing I should say is, SLCN really was
a very successful experiment, and all the shows on SLCN will stop within the next couple
months, and those shows, with the exception of one, like Mark Twain, Retired, Sail On, for
reasons that have nothing to do with the switch. And all the shows will be moving over to
Treet, moving to high def format. So Treet will be the new thing. Our launch is in July, and
we’d like to launch with a big splash so we’re sort of softly building up to it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, I hope that Metanomics will do one of the more
visible cannonballs into that river anyway. Maybe we won’t get to the other side, but we’ll try
to make whatever splash we can.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: I’m expecting it. Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. I appreciate the vote of confidence.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: One thing. If you don’t mind--no, no, I’m not going to take up your
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, no, no, no. You’re the one who always tells me I have to cut
GARY WISNIEWSKI: The thing I wanted to say, and I just wanted the make sure the
audience knows it. You were talking about Metanomics, and you said, “Well, Bruce Willis
was really big.” And I think, in fairness, more people watch Metanomics than watch that
Bruce Willis show. There was a huge spike for a moment, but Metanomics has a more loyal
audience and more reach, in true terms, than Bruce Willis in Virtual Worlds. And I think it’s
important not to assume that you’re small and Bruce Willis is big. Keep that in your mind.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, there’s only one thing to say to that, which is,
Yippee-Ki-Yah, Second Life!
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Okay. I think we hit it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thanks a lot, Wiz. It’s great to have you on, and I’m sure we’ll
have you on again.
GARY WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Robert. It’s been an honor.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So we close our show with Connecting The Dots, and the title of
my very brief remarks today: It Takes a Village. Talking with Wiz Nordberg makes me think
about how far Metanomics has come in the last year and a half. When we started out,
Metanomics required the efforts basically of three people, in addition to the folks at SLCN, of
course. We had Nick Wilson and Caleb Booker from metaverse.com, and the three of us did
pretty much everything we needed, given that we have live audiences that would fit into a
single venue. And we didn’t really try to do much more than what you might do for an audio
podcast. But, in the past year and a half, we really have worked to try to set the standard for
live events and a talk show in Second Life.
Our first innovation was to bring in event partners, and we mediated backchat through
Second Life group chat, which wasn’t all that reliable. We brought in the ChatBridge system,
to let people attend and chat through the website. Lynn Cullens has been instrumental in
allowing us to incorporate graphics throughout the show and using ChatBridge not just as a
way for audience members to chat with one another and the guests, but as a way for our
own staff to provide links and quotes and other information relevant to the conversation.
The advent of voice chat, along with JenzZa Misfit’s avateering system has made our talking
heads a lot more real and personable. But one of the big points I want to make is that these
changes really require a great deal of work each and every week to pull this thing off. So
today I’d like to take a minute to thank not just Lynn and JenzZa and all of the other people
who are behind the scenes at SLCN, notably Wiz, Starr and Texas, but all of the people who
have worked with us over recent months and, in particular to our many volunteers who put
in a lot more time than you might think.
Thanks to our volunteer coordinator, Jennette Forager; our live audience manager,
Jane2 McMahon; event traffic coordinator, Stephan Mrigesh; noticing and Q&A coordinator,
Nany Kayo; ChatBridge coordinator, Ozzy Wozniask; metrics gatherers Tammy Nowotny
and CallieDel Boa; island monitoring coordinator, Farqot Gustafson; photographer,
Crap Mariner; publicist, Bevan Whitfield; and then our event partner assistants
Hydra Shaftoe, EvansMom Goodspeed, Devon Alderton and Beryl Greenacre. And, it’s
embarrassing, but I’m sure there are people I did not mention. I apologize. Really, thanks to
all of you.
And thanks to our audience members as well. This isn’t just your typical broadcast show
where everyone just sits passively and lets the conversation wash over them. So many of
you are in there engaged in directing the conversation with your questions and comments,
and that’s really what makes this show work. So, thanks to you, and we look forward to
seeing you join us when Metanomics starts up again in May. That’s right; we’re taking a
short hiatus as we regroup, to come back with an even better event, a new website, and, if
everything works out as hoped with Treet, high-definition broadcasting and a big step up in
But, don’t worry, we’d never leave you with nothing to do during the next month or so. We’re
going to be having a number of informal events in Second Life, starting with this Friday,
Saturday and Sunday, the Virtual World Best Practices in Education Conference. There was
one way back in 2007, and there will be another one of these community-based
conferences that attracts faculty, instructors, trainers, administrators, instructional designers,
technical specialists and members of organizations from all over the world. So I’m sure we’ll
see information about that popping up in ChatBridge, and I believe that we will be providing
ChatBridge for parts of this event. We’re hoping we can pull that off.
We’ll also have another informal event during our hiatus. Next Monday, March 30th, at
11:00 A.M., on the Remedy Sim, I will be on a panel with Tom Boellstorff, Celia Pearce and
Thomas Malaby, and we’ll be talking about what ethnographic and experimental methods
can tell us about culture and Virtual Worlds. That will be moderated by Roland Legrand.
We’ll have a number of other events to be decided, and we’ll let you know about those as
we move forward. I do want to mention I will be on a panel at the 3D Training, Learning and
Communications panel. That panel will be using Virtual Worlds to connect with communities.
So if you have a chance to go to D.C. for the 3DTLC conference, please stop up, and let’s
connect. Come by, and say hi.
If not, see you in May, when we return for our seventieth show. Thanks, everyone. And,
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer