METANOMICS - NEW SEASON
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, and welcome to the premier of the second
season of Metanomics business and policy in the Virtual Worlds. Last year we had 47 live
sessions featuring a wide range of people on the forefront of business and policy in Virtual
Worlds. And today we kick off a year that I hope will be even more interesting. We started
our first season with an event that I called Metanomics 101. Today I’ll have a chance to
update that and, no doubt, eat my words in a few areas. While I’m normally the interviewer
on Metanomics, I’m going to be the interviewee, and Ben Duranske will be asking the
questions. Many of you already know Ben, who’s been on the show several times as our
legal correspondent and is the author of the book Virtual Law and founder of the popular
blog Virtually Blind.
I want to thank all of the organizations that have helped make Metanomics what it is today
and start by recognizing the excellent work that’s being done by SLCN, who has broadcast
all 47 episodes of Metanomics and does an absolutely outstanding job. Naturally, thanks to
our sponsors InterSection Unlimited, Kelly Services, Language Lab, and, of course, my own
institution, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. And, this year,
we are delighted to introduce a new sponsor, Learning Tree International. Learning Tree will
be conducting classes from their curriculum in Second Life. And next up is a free class in
Microsoft Access on Wednesday, September 24th at 1:00 P.M. Second Life time. What’s
more, they’re making a free T-shirt available through our Metanomics kiosks. So check it
out. As a nonprofit endeavor, Metanomics is always looking for financial support so if your
organization is interested in helping out, please let us know.
You’ll notice that we have a new venue today. After filming for much of the year at
JenzZa Misfit’s Muse Isle Arena, we’ve now set up shop on Metanomics right here inside a
virtual version of my Real Life office building, the Johnson School’s Sage Hall. I have to say
looking at this replica of Sage Hall’s atrium makes me feel more than a little homesick. I
myself am in Roskilde, Denmark, about 30 kilometers from Copenhagen, at the end of
whirlwind month of travels, starting with the Virtual Worlds Expo in Los Angeles where I saw
the many Worlds’ platforms and services that are expanding the technology of the
Metaverse. And then it was off to the Second Life Community Convention, to talk with
educators and representatives of the enterprises who are using this technology in new
ways. After a few days in France, strictly for fun, it was off to Antwerp and Brussels. And
finally, Denmark, to see what’s going on in the north of Europe. Now it’s not hard to see the
irony by allowing us to connect so easily with people all over the world. Virtual Worlds create
a need for travel almost as much as they eliminate it. Every once in a while, you simply have
to go meet with people face to face. Fortunately, we can then rely on Virtual Worlds to
sustain those relationships, without so much damage to the environment, our wallets and
our sleep schedules.
One advantage of all of this travel was that I finally had a chance to interview the one top
executive from Linden Lab that I haven’t been able to get onto Metanomics since we started
last September: Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab’s founder, former CEO and current Chairman
of the Board. Since we couldn’t actually interview Philip on the show, we’ll be doing
something a little bit different. First, I’ll be posting the transcript of the interview in a series of
blog posts on the Metanomics website, metanomics.net, immediately after the show.
Second, we have invited commentaries from a number of A-list Metaverse bloggers,
including Wagner James Au, Christian Renaud, Bettina Tizzy, Tish Shute, Ben Duranske,
Nick Mitham and Dusan Writer and Roland Legrand. And finally, next week, most of these
experts will be joining us on Metanomics Monday, the 29th, to discuss Philip’s remarks. So
right after today’s show, log into Metanomics to check out the interview and commentary,
and join us next week for what promises to be a fascinating discussion.
For those of you who are new to Metanomics, let me explain a couple aspects of our show.
First, many of our audience members are watching from our event partners across Second
Life, including Colonia Nova Amphitheater, Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe
University and the Outreach Amphitheater of the New Media Consortium Educational
Community Sims. Next week we’re going to be adding Muse Isle, the former location of
Metanomics, to our event partner venues. I want to give a special shout out to the folks at
Meta Partners and their compatriots in Belgium that I had a chance to meet with this past
week. There’s a lot of fascinating work going on there, including not just Meta Partners, but
also Roland Legrand from the business desk of the media company, Mediafin, and
Pierre François Ducquir and Benoit Frydman of--if I can get this right--Université Libre
de Bruxelles, who are preparing a seminar on the philosophy of virtual law.
Second, we use InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to our
website and website chat into our event partners. This great technology brings you in touch
with people around Second Life and on the web, wherever you are. So please do speak up
and let everyone know your thoughts. Finally, another way to speak up, please take our
Metanomics survey, with the help of GSD&M Idea City and the folks at Metaversality. We’re
surveying Metanomics viewers to understand who you are and what you’re hoping to get out
of Metanomics so we can make this a better show. So we’ll be contacting Metanomics
group members so, if you haven’t taken the survey yet, please do. You can get information
on our website and, no doubt, Bjorlyn Loon, Metanomics’ producer and director of
communications, will be pasting details into the chat channels during the show.
Okay. Now on to the show. We start out with one of my new friends and my host here in
Denmark, Sisse Siggaard Jensen, On The Spot. Sisse is associate professor in the
Department of Communications Business and Information Technologies at Roskilde
University. After conducting research in the Virtual World Active Worlds and in Everquest,
she’s now moved on to Second Life, where she’s conducting case studies and a variety of
other endeavors. She’s the author of two books, which translate, I believe, into Sense
Making in the Virtual World and Reality in Second Life. I won’t try to say them in Danish
because I have it on good authority that most Danish words are literally impossible to
pronounce. Sisse, welcome to Metanomics.
SISSE JENSEN: Thank you very much, Beyers. Or should I say Robert.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, that’s confusion number one.
SISSE JENSEN: Yes, it is. But meeting you here in Second Life I think I better use your
avatar name, Beyers Sellers. I’m so pleased to be here today.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’re glad to have you, and thanks again for inviting me across
the Atlantic to see what’s going on here. I’d like to start by talking just a little about your
most recent research proposal, Sense Making in Virtual Worlds, which has been funded by
the Danish Council of Strategic Research, to the tune of 14 million Kroner or about three
million U.S. dollars. What’s so impressive to me on this is that you’ve brought together so
many different organizations to participate, not only your department at Roskilde, but also
Copenhagen Business School; a consultancy firm, Innovation Lab; Uni-C in Arhus, which I
know I’m mispronouncing. And you’ve gotten funding on other projects as well through the
EU. So I guess what my first question is: Am I right to think that the climate for getting
research funding on Virtual Worlds is pretty favorable in Europe and in Denmark in
SISSE JENSEN: Yeah, you might say so, but I think the climate is somewhat up and down,
and we have been so lucky that we were in the ups. But I think, unfortunately at the
moment, we might face some kind of down, as we have a lot of media discussion about
Virtual Worlds, and maybe it will influence the willingness of the research councils to support
the research. But I think, overall, there is really, really a substantial interest in getting to
know about what is going on, how come that people move into Virtual Worlds. In which way
does it make sense to them, why do they go there, and for how long do they stay and so
forth. And I know that you’re going to be on the Danish national television tomorrow and
what the journalists would be very interested in is how do financial crises work out in a
Virtual World and in a Real Life, if you may say so, world. So there is attention and interest
into the field of Virtual Worlds. Definitely.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, actually, I’ll be saying a few words on that at the end of
SISSE JENSEN: Oh, sorry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hopefully, our viewers will stick around. No, no, it’s great. Two
plugs in one answer. So, Sisse, that’s wonderful. Let’s talk a bit about your research
methods. So your research in the game world EverQuest involved videotaping people in
their real lives as they played the game. Can you elaborate on how you ran those studies
and why, as you told me over, was it schmerbrot a couple days ago, that you actually were
filming a family who were, what, on TeamSpeak, a voice technology, while they were having
breakfast and packing their kids off for school?
SISSE JENSEN: Yes. Well, let me start out with something a little bit boring, answering
your question and just a very, very brief introduction to research methodologies. I do
qualitative research, which means that I’m not counting that much. I’m asking people what
they do, how come they do it, and why they do it, where they do it, and that kind of stuff. So
the best way of doing it when you’re studying Virtual Worlds, the way I see it is that you
should go home to people, if that’s where they are usually located when they play or when
they work, or you should go to their workplace and see what goes on, if it’s for instance a
project or if it’s a business case. So I go to the people I study, where they are, when they do
the things I’m interested in.
And I bring along with me a camera, my video camera, one of my best friends, and I sit
down, ask them to go into the World that they like to be in and tell me about their avatar.
That’s always a very good way to start out in-depth video interview because people usually
love to tell you about their avatar, how come that it looks the way it does, and the way I did--
they buy this and that. So after starting out that way, then we’ll just proceed, and I’ll follow
along on what I call a voyage of discovery. So we’re discovering the World, and I’m
discovering their world, and we are doing it together so that I am filming, zooming in on what
goes on in the Virtual World, and, at the same time, I ask questions, and we are discussing
what goes on. And, if suddenly something happens which is surprising to my respondees,
then I get to know about how do they tackle situations, how do they discuss with the people
they meet and so forth. So I get, as I see it, a very good impression of what they are doing,
in researching it this way. Was that a very brief answer to your question, Beyers?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That was, well, certainly a very helpful one and actually took care
of my next question. Well, I believe it did. I wanted to ask about a specific term that you use
when you describe your research, which is “participatory observation.” Are there elements of
that? I mean I gather that means you’re not just observing from afar because then you can’t
really understand well enough what people are doing. You really need to be there with them.
So is there more to participatory observation than that?
SISSE JENSEN: Yes. No, you’ve got it right. That’s exactly what it’s all about, and you
might also say that that’s the reason why I’m On The Spot this evening. Because I’ll have
learned a lot about what it means to run a show like Metanomics, being here and taking part
in the many preparations that you need in order to go into the air with a program like this
one. So you might say that this is actually sort of showing the way in which I do my
participatory research. So I’m not just in here watching people, I’m also in Second Life or
There or whatever World, it doesn’t make a very big difference. At the moment, it’s Second
Life. Might be another one next year. So I’m just in here taking part in what goes on and
sometimes also constructing what goes on, giving lectures and giving workshops, working
together with my students and so forth. And I learn a lot about what it means to be in a
Virtual World and what it means to prepare for arrangements and events and so forth. So
that’s what I mean when I say participatory observation. Yes.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, being involved with the production of Metanomics today
really, I’m sure, gave you a sense of the truth of the expression, “If you want to enjoy the
food, don’t look in the kitchen.” It was an interesting day. I’ll leave it at that for our audience.
So we only have a minute before we go on to the main event. What new projects are on the
horizon for you?
SISSE JENSEN: Well, actually I’m working on a new application, and I would like to do
some research together with our computer scientists. I’m a communication researcher, and
we have computer scientists in our department. And I’m very much interested in working
with bots, in many of the massively multi-users online, role-playing games. They have bots
sort of being the driving force in social interaction and what goes on. We do not have that
kind of bots in the social world like Second Life. But I would love to develop intelligent bots,
bots that are capable of learning, which means that they will continuously broaden out their
base of experience so that they would know, for instance: I’ve been in a Metanomics show
once before. What do I know about Metanomics? If it was a bot coming in here, then the
intelligent bot would actually be able to say, “Wow! Let’s have a look at the audience. Who’s
here right now? Well, I know that guy over there, and I think I saw Pathfinder Linden
somewhere else.” So my bots would be capable of learning and knowing, and they’re not
just sort of input/output bots.
And at our departments, the computer scientists we have here, some of them are very
brilliant into artificial intelligence, so we’re hoping to combine what I know about
communication, what they know about artificial intelligence, and then again also could we
create sensor-based interfaces to the bots so that they would, and we also, the actors, be
able to sense what goes on and not just to look at it or hear it, but actually being able to
sense it. So that’s what we are intending to look into for the next couple of years.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, well, that sounds fascinating, and, again, I want to
conclude where I started. I’m always so happy to hear about research groups getting
funding for their Virtual World activities. So I guess I want to pass along a mix of
congratulations and thank you, and I do hope you’ll have some successes that will make it
easier for the rest of us. So thank you, Sisse Jensen, for joining us on On The Spot. And I
guess I just have to say very briefly, I guess you know this but our viewers don’t. I’m sitting
in some media lab at Roskilde University. I’ve got two cameras focused on me so I’m
watching myself do Metanomics, and I’ve got a sound video man here laughing at me while
I do it so this must be what it’s like to participate in one of your case studies. Okay, Sisse,
thank you so much.
SISSE JENSEN: Thank you, Beyers, for inviting me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, let’s move on to our main event, an interview with,
well, me. So doing the honors is my good friend and frequent Metanomics legal
correspondent Ben Duranske. Ben, thanks so much for helping out, and I’ll just hand the
reins right over to you.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Absolutely, Robert. It’s really an honor for me. When you asked
me to step into your shoes for an episode of Metanomics, I felt, well, at first I thought I
perhaps should refuse. I knew I had my work cut out for me. Metanomics has become a
full-blown Metaverse news and policy show. It’s consumed between your videos, the
in-world events, the audio, the web chat, ChatBridge and everything else, by thousands of
people every week, and the show has rapidly become a key source for some of the most
important interviews, announcements and analysis in the Metaverse. That’s not how it
Just over a year ago, Robert Bloomfield, as Beyers Sellers, stood up on a much less
impressive stage than this one and delivered a lecture entitled Metanomics 101. This is from
that lecture. The plan was to come into Second Life, bring some MBA students along, have
them hear a few interesting guest speakers and write some reports. I figured we’d have
about a dozen people. Robert, even for that first show, I think you had well more than a
dozen people in attendance. I believe you nearly filled a Sim, but did you have any idea
when you took the stage last September, literally just a few days more than a year ago, that
this would get as big as it has?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: No. No, I didn’t, and neither did my wife or my dean. So it’s been
nice that it’s been as successful as it has been, but it’s also been a huge amount of work,
and, at this point, I feel like it’s something I’m scrambling to keep up with more than anything
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I know earlier when you had the On The Spot segment running,
there were some questions from the audience. I should remind the audience that you can
send me questions via instant message, and I’ll get them to Robert or post them in open
chat, which I’ll try to monitor. Robert, I’m going to ask you about your experiences producing
the show in a little bit or your experiences putting the show together. You have a remarkably
competent producer. But first, let’s focus on the substance of Metanomics itself. What are
the things that you’ve learned about Virtual World economies over the last year?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I came in here to, in part, study the financial markets in
Second Life, and there are a couple things I realized pretty quickly. One is that there are, in
a sense, two economies in Second Life. There’s what I called a year ago, and I guess I’d
still call it this, the immersionist economy of people who are coming into Second Life, and
they’re interacting with the economy that is more or less independent of the Real World. And
so there are consumers in Second Life who want social, you know, they want entertainment.
They want music. They want social interactions. So they need clothing and shape and skins
and shoes and shoes and shoes and hair, if you’re a girl, but guys apparently don’t like hair
because no one sells it. But there’s that immersionist sort of in-world economy that is a lot
like a game world economy, a lot like what Ted Castronova studies in Norrath or World of
Warcraft or something like that.
What I didn’t realize was how big the augmentationist economy would grow over the course
of the year, with all of these enterprises coming in. We hear, in the news, and Sisse talked
about this--we hear in the news about the failures, that Second Life gets this negative press
when some big brand play doesn’t work out, but, in fact, literally every day there are new
organizations, new Real World enterprises coming in here, and they are trying to figure out
to use this technology. And then they become part of the economy because who are they
going to get to build their Sims and do their marketing and so on? People who know Second
Life. So I guess when you ask what I’ve learned, one of the things that I’ve learned is, I think
the augmentationist part, the Real World organizations coming in, is a big deal despite what
the press says.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I remember from an early show, you also used the term
“experimentalists,” and, if I remember correctly, you coined the term. You certainly are the
first to use it widely. But I haven’t heard much about experimentalists recently. I know that
you originally did talk about bringing students in and essentially experimenting, to some
degree using the Second Life economy. And other people have mentioned that as well in
various contexts, and I haven’t seen much of it. Have you seen much of an experimentalist
presence in Second Life over the last year? Or for that matter in other Virtual Worlds?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: There isn’t a huge amount of it, and I think there are--well, let me
say first we did do a show on experimental economists in Second Life, back in the spring,
looking at a few of the people who were doing it. They’re doing it in a small scale. They’re
doing what I now call embedded experiments, which is that they’re going into a Virtual
World, and they’re creating an experiment within the World, just like in the Real World, I
would create an experiment in a lab. There are two reasons I think people aren’t doing a
whole lot of this. One of them is that you lose a lot of control in the Virtual World. There’s a
reason experimentalists go into the laboratory, that they get to control everything, including,
and you know for psychologists often down to the color of the walls and the temperature of
the room and the lighting. And you can’t do that if you have people, wherever they are,
logging into a Virtual World.
The other reason that I think people aren’t doing this in a big way is because, to really take
advantage of what you can do getting outside the lab, you don’t want to just do some tiny
little thing that you could do in the lab. If you’re going to give up that much control, you want
to do something big. So as an example, a lot of us watched Ted Castronova with his Arden
experiment where he created a Virtual World with a huge amount of funding, six figures of
funding, nearly seven, I think, overall, to do some experiments. It took a long time. It was a
huge amount of work. He had a big staff. It’s great to have someone like that who’s the
icebreaker, who’s actually leading the pack with the giant machete, but I think he nearly cut
his foot off swinging that thing. So I’m working on it, and I’m hoping to do some things over
the next few years, but it’s going to be a huge challenge.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I’m seeing some notes in backchat that reminded me of
something from the early days of the show. The show originally started as a project that you
were working on, at least partially, with Nick Wilson and the folks who ended up forming
Clever Zebra-or Z bra, in the more cool pronunciation--and the Metanomics site was at that
time part of metaversed.com, which was a news site that I don’t believe still exists in that
format anymore. How has it changed Metanomics, to be independent?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, it’s been a heck of a lot more work. It’s one of these things
that, with anything, if you want more control, you have to pay for it with more time. And so
Nick and Onder Skall, Caleb Booker, were really helpful in just the most basic things. We
talked a little bit with Sisse in On The Spot about what goes on behind the scenes. But
pulling this hour together every week, there’s just so much stuff going on. And so sure, now
I get to make it a little more like I want it, but I pay the price, but really what it is, is now I
have a tremendous group of other people, tremendous both in large and also in doing such
a good job, if this is a good time for me to give some thanks to people.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Actually, I’d like to ask you about this in sort of a specific way
because I’ve been interested in this since I started watching the show. Your guests and you,
those of us that get to sit up on the stage and stand on the On The Spot podium, get a lot of
attention, and I’ve really learned this, this week, is a huge production, with a very big behind
the scenes cast. Could you walk people through what goes into a show, starting ten
seconds after wrap on Monday up until the beginning of the next show?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. We try, if we can, to look ahead more than just a week
because we have to line our guests up, and that’s always difficult because people, when
they agree to be on the show, they often want to time it, and we want to time it with their
own projects. So when we talk with Raph Koster, of Metaplace, and Corey Bridges, of
Multiverse, we’d all love to have a show in their World, but we want to do it not only timed
with when their World is up to all of our requirements. For us it’s a very visual thing. For
them, of course, they want to look good. They want to give a good impression
technologically. But it’s also they’ve got their PR group, so we’re planning ahead on the
content, on the guests and all that. But when we talk about a particular week, I mean I think,
really, right after this is done we’re going to--actually, let me just say, after this show is done,
we have a lot of work getting things onto the website. We have Hired Hand. I see
Transcriptionist Writer is out there. They do our transcripts, and so we send that to them,
and when we get it back, we put it on the web. We have, from InterSection Unlimited, we get
our chat transcript, and we have to put that on the web. Most of that stuff is done by
Lynn Cullens, Bjorlyn Loon in-world. Bjorlyn is sort of, I guess, a Jill of all trades. She is our
web manager. That’s the hat I just described.
But then, as we move toward the next show, she also puts on two other hats. One of them is
the director of communications, which is that we need to make sure everyone knows that
the show is coming up, when it is. We need to get the updates to the group and on the site.
And then she turns into the producer and graphic designer. All the visuals that you’ve seen
over the summer are Lynn’s work. Lynn is working full time on this, and I think it really, really
JenzZa Misfit is another one that deserves huge thanks, and I really feel it today because
she is off in Yellowstone Park or something selfish like that. I mean, boy, that really makes a
difference. She has been not only doing a lot of the communications with our audience and
with our event partners, but also she is--just all the little things. Anyone who has run a live
event in Second Life knows how much there is to manage, everything from making sure the
streams are set, things are in the right place, and nothing has been rezzed on the stage,
and permissions, figuring out how many people we can have on the island.
And then, I guess as long as I’m naming people, so we also have--Bevan Whitfield not only
does communications for us, getting the message out, but also has helped me with my
avatar, with my look. I saw a picture of me from before Metanomics started when I did a
Metaverse [AUDIO GLITCH]
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Oh, trust me, I have some questions about [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, god, yeah. But really, I look at that, and it’s kind of like I had
my hair like that in the ’70s, what was I thinking. And a couple other people I would like to
mention are the writers, iAlja Writer and Jan Isakovi from Artesia, who have--Artesia, that’s
not actually where they live; it’s their consulting company. And one of the things they did, I
think they saw pretty early on--and this is before Bjorlyn came on--they saw something that I
was doing quite badly, which was basically mobilizing the community of people who are
interested in this content. And so they basically said, “You got to do this. You got to do that.
You got to do the other thing,” -- engaging these people, getting them to help out. They’ve
also been doing some of the grunt work, the Twittering and Facebook and things like that,
but it was more really the plan and the vision that I appreciate.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Let me ask you about the outcome of that a little bit because the
show has definitely become more collaborative over time. This is the 48th episode of
Metanomics, which we’re talking about producing 48 episodes of these in around 53 weeks,
and that is an incredibly intense pace. The show has changed quite a bit over those 48
episodes, and you’ve touched on some of those changes. But I’d be interested in knowing
exactly how they’ve come about and how they impact the future of the show or how you
view the show going forward. So what have you learned over the last year producing the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, let me start, I guess, with the first lesson that I learned,
which is, interviews are a lot more interesting than lectures. You mentioned that the very
first thing I did is, I was your typical professor and newb at the same time because I simply
did not understand what Virtual Worlds could do for us, which is that it provides a way not
just to engage with the audience in richer ways than talking at them, but getting them to be
contributing to the discussion. You have a discussion between two people in voice rather
than one person getting up and doing PowerPoint, which is boring usually anywhere, and
especially, I think, in a Virtual World because it just is such a waste. So actually, I talked. I
don’t know if we have a graphic for this, but SLEDcc, the Second Life Educators Community
Convention. Oh, Hydra’s saying, “It’s okay, Beyers. I’m still a newb.” Thank you, Hydra.
But, if we had this constructive cacophony slide, it took a long time--and I also like to thank
Lynn Cullens for helping me think about this. We have so much stuff going on now. It’s not
just the people in voice talking, it’s also all this chat. It’s really many threads of chat going on
right now through ChatBridge and across the Sims. It’s people talking with one another, also
I think privately. There are visuals. Lynn and JenzZa, when she’s here, and actually I think
the writers, most of the regular guests, Bevin, they have quotes and links and SLURLS and
information that they are pasting in. And so there’s all this stuff going on. It’s really a
cacophony, but because it’s structured, because voice doesn’t really interfere with text and
because you can ignore a link if you don’t want to follow it, it’s still possible to make it pretty
constructive. And so my goal is actually to try to do this better and better, which I think--
So this is scary. Last night I had a dream about Metanomics, and I had a dream about how I
could improve what we’re doing. This is truly probably a pipe dream, but my thought was
what if we had a HUD instead of relying entirely on the built-in chat channels. If we had a
HUD so that people could separate the different types of threads that are going on, then I
think we can make this cacophony even more constructed.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: [NO RESPONSE]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s see. I actually just got a--Ben Duranske, just talk
about creative cacophony, turns out I actually am experiencing even more cacophony than
the rest of you because not only am I in Second Life dealing with all this, I’m also on the
web, and I’m also in Skype, and I just got a Skype message from Ben Duranske saying he
lost video, and he’s crashing so he’s thinking he’s going to re-log. He suggested television
time out, but, as the folks at SLCN know, and most of our audience, I can talk and talk and
talk. So actually what I’m going to do, if I can, is go back and just take a look at some of this
backchat and see if there’s anything there. Oh, okay. I see lots of great kudos for folks that I
was mentioned: Lynn and JenzZa and the writers and Bevin. And I do want to thank them
all. Let’s see. TJ Asp is not a lawyer, but he sounds like one. He says, “Dreaming about
work? Is that billable?” So let’s see.
I’d like to go way back here because Prospero, I didn’t have a chance to respond to this.
Excuse me, this is Prospero Linden was, I think, saying I was a bit too narrow on my
immersionists. So okay, it says here: Prospero Linden, "I can already see that Beyers is
going to want to dispute this definition of immersionist versus augmentationist.” I’ve always
considered those two things to be about your sense of self, whether your avatar’s really an
avatar or whether you’re role-playing, not about where your money goes. Yeah, so it’s true,
I’m an economist, and that’s part of it. But the other thing I’d say is, when I think about
immersionist and augmentationist, I’m usually thinking about it from a research perspective,
that I am studying the immersionists or studying the augmentationists.
A doctoral student here actually pointed out that you could think of this in research terms as,
“Who’s the unit of analysis?” Which is, I think, pretty close to what Prospero is saying, “Is
the unit of analysis for the research study, the avatar or the person?” And I wish I had
thought of that a year ago, and maybe that would have been more useful for me. Now this is
Dusan Writer, who has been one of the more interesting bloggers, I think, and is helping out
with the Philip Rosedale commentary. He says he’s an augmenterssionist, which is almost
as hard to pronounce as Danish.
So let’s see. I guess, SLCN, if you have a slide on Presence in Place, I think I will just chat
for a minute on that. Now this was another idea that I talked about in the SLEDcc keynote
address that I have. And I just want to remind people we’re here in Muse Isle--excuse me.
Now I’m getting confused trying to look at the chat while I’m talking. We’re here in Sage
Hall. And let’s see. Oh, good. The slide’s up. So you can see on the slide this is really a lot
like the real Sage Hall, and one of the things we can do in Virtual Worlds, I mean there’s a
lot more communication that goes on in Virtual Worlds than just text and voice. A lot of it is
visual. We usually think about the visual interaction avatar to avatar, but you also have the
visual interaction between the person and the place they are in. I suspect that when I bring
Cornell alumni into Sage Hall, they’re going to look around, and they’re going to feel at
home. And they’re going to have memories, and it’s going to trigger conversations. And so
that’s something that, frankly, we could do a lot more of, but I think even more than
graphics, that type of thing is very time-consuming.
Okay. Let’s see. Arabella Ella has a question, do I have any research plans for publication
related to Second Life. Absolutely. I’ve got a few different projects that I’m working on right
now. One of them actually deals with financial reporting, so I’m sure lots of you have heard
about the credit crisis in the Real World, and actually what brought me in to Second Life in
the first place was an intent to do research on financial markets in a Virtual World. It took me
a while to figure out how I could use Second Life for this. I admit for a long time I thought I
would have to create a new World, do what Ted Castronova did so I could get all of the
control that I needed. I have figured something out. And actually later this week or early in
the next week, I think that--okay. Hold on. Ben is making me laugh with his question, which
I’ll ask in a minute. But so early next week I will be posting on the web a working paper that
talks about the challenges of doing experimental work in Virtual Worlds, with a specific focus
on financial market research.
Now Ben, who crashed some time ago, rebooted twice and then tried to log in and got a
message saying he’s locked out of his account until 12:53, poses the following question:
What have you learned doing a show in an environment that some describe as “not ready
for enterprise use”? Well, with apologies to the Lindens in the audience, what do we call
this? A teachable moment. There are a lot of these in Virtual Worlds, and I guess the first
thing I’d like to say about this--let’s see. Ben is quoting Steve Prentice of Gartner, an analyst
who came on the show a while ago and was quite critical of Second Life. I have to say I’ve
dealt with a fair number of Virtual Worlds, and I don’t know that the other Worlds are really
all that much more stable. And let’s see. Ben, are you with us?
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I am back.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, wonderful! I have just proven my ability to filibuster.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Oh, I’m losing you again.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, you’re serious. Oh, my!
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Yeah. I’m having a terrible, terrible [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You sound great to me.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I’m going to try not to touch anything, and we’ll see what
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. One of the things to keep in mind is that, in Second
Life--and I thank Zero Linden for explaining this to me--Second Life looks like a single
program, but it’s actually a whole bunch of separate programs that are paper-clipped
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Well, at this moment, the audio portion isn’t working.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --voice is really a different one. Yeah. So I have you on.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Yeah. The upside is I had this voice--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ve done an entire show--
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: --kicked this time, whereas, I did not when I crashed earlier, so I
think I can stay with you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes. That’s a problem.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: This actually is a question I wanted to ask, and you may have
already addressed it. I know that this is the best that we have, I think, by a lot, and I have a
lot of respect for Linden Lab and Second Life. But I think you were saying this when I came
in, there has been criticism of it as not particularly being ready for enterprise deployment.
And you are really an enterprise at this point, doing this show. Have you learned anything
doing that? Would you caution anyone against it, or do you think that we’re able to work
through the bumps for the most part?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, the most important thing is to build in a lot of redundancy,
for voice, for example. We’re using in-world voice, and, if in-world voice fails, we’ll switch
over to Skype. And, if Skype fails, we are going to switch over to a program that I guess
SLCN actually created called Sound Reach, which means basically everyone’s talking on
the phone, and it’s still being piped into Second Life. Now there are cases where Second
Life totally dies, and then we’re out of luck. But the Real World is unreliable too. There are
weather problems. This summer SLCN was struck by lightning and totally lost power. That
has nothing to do with Second Life or really even the internet. If you’re trying to do
PowerPoint in a building that gets struck by lightning, you’re probably going to have to
regroup. And so I think, first, it’s redundancy, and, second, I think there’s this element of
managing expectations. But it’s an issue, and I do think that it is going to stand in the way of
mainstream adoption of Virtual Worlds.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: As long as we’re on the subject of criticism, I’d actually like to ask
you to turn your gaze inward for a moment. When we solicited questions--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: My wife says I’m not very good at that.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: There were several posts in chat, even during this show, where
people threw questions out that were critical of what you’re doing on Metanomics or of the
way it’s being done. I really hear three complaints. The first is that the show is too elitist, and
it gives voice to just a select few. The second is that sometimes you don’t ask the really
tough questions on this show. And the third is, is that the show focuses a fair bit of attention
on its sponsors. How do you balance these concerns while you’re trying to put the show
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. So on the first one, I think that’s more--so there are two
things. The first one is the elitism. I mean it’s true. You and I have voice. Actually now we’re
using the technology a little more efficiently. Their voice simply isn’t enabled because
they’re not sitting on the stage. My view is, that’s just the way to make this medium work.
You can call it elitism. I call it constructive cacophony. I call it a way to try to give everyone
the chance to communicate in a way that minimally distracts people from what’s going on.
The other part of elitism, and I see Dera Kit, Yesha Sivan, an Israeli researcher, is saying
we get good speakers. There is definitely an elitism there, which is, my number one goal, as
people who know me know I’m not that humble, frankly. But I know that people are not here
to hear me. People are here to hear my guests. And so I am trying to find the very best
people that I can find, and Dera is a brave man for saying that because he was a guest,
back in December, talking about interoperability. But you know there is definitely that type of
elitism. I think that’s a lot of what television is about and teaching is about, which is, focusing
on the people who know a lot.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: What about the perception that Metanomics is sort of a platform
for people to promote their own ideas or promote their own products and that you’re not
really asking tough questions on the show?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And there are two parts to that. The second question that you
asked before was really I don’t ask the tough questions. I think there are cases where I have
pressed, but my view is, this is not, to me, a news show. It’s not a political sort of talk show
where we’re trying to jazz people up and do the “gotcha” journalism type of questions. You
talked about, at the beginning, this started out as a classroom idea, guest lectures. I still
think of it that way. So I don’t think of my guests as people I need to grill. I think of my
guests as people who have interesting things to say, and they’re guest lecturers or guest
speakers to a classroom, and there are pretty standard ways of treating guest lecturers.
Number one, you treat them with respect. You try to understand their perspective because
we’re trying to learn. We’re not trying to destroy people.
I’ll ask many of the tough questions, but I think there are some that people want to ask that I
actually don’t believe are appropriate for the classroom, and I think instead they are
appropriate for the post-discussion. So I mean I know, in the Real World, I’ve had a number
of times where I have someone in, and they say some things I don’t agree with, I would
rather give them the rope to hang themselves so that we can come in next week when the
speaker’s gone and finish the job. We don’t need them there to say that their reasoning was
flawed or something like that.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I hope that this isn’t too tough a question, but I would ask one that
I’ve heard from other people and that’s: Why is the show so Second Life focused right now?
And do you think that will continue in the long term?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, given that Second Life is not one of our sponsors, I guess
I’m probably making a big mistake, in light of the third part of that last question. This show
takes place in Second Life because Second Life is where our audience is. There are other
Worlds out there that I think are great for studying Metanomics, for studying the business
and policy issues in Virtual Worlds. Closed Worlds like Forterra. Teaching Worlds like
ProtoSphere, from Proton Media. Those are closed Worlds. We simply can’t do it there.
There are open Worlds where anyone can go in. You just have to log on and get an
account, but they tend to be kids’ Worlds or game Worlds. When you think about who our
audience is, it’s entrepreneurs, it’s policymakers, it’s Virtual World developers, and it’s
academics who are studying all of this. And they’re in Second Life now, and so that’s where
We focus on Second Life, in part because there’s so much of the type of activity that we’re
interested in covering, and it’s of great interest to our audience. I’m really hopeful that this
year we are going to have a regular live audience in Multiverse. That’ll probably take a
while. Maybe that’s going to be like December or early spring. Meta Place, I think, could be
similar. And, of course, we’ve done shows in other Worlds. We’ve filmed in There.com, in
Forterra, in RocketOn, and in Kaneva. Those are great shows. They’re also a lot of work,
and so that’s one reason we don’t do them that often. But it’s probably my number one goal,
in changing the show now, is to get beyond Second Life, in actually getting the show into
those Worlds, both producing it there from time to time and having a regular live audience
there because I think some of these Worlds there are going to be people. Though now, of
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Oh, yeah. Go on. I’m sorry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, no. I’m just saying looking at the backchat and, of course,
what I’m seeing are a bunch of--
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I’m not, of course.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --Second Life-ophiles. I’m seeing a bunch of Second Life-ophiles
talking about why Second Life is so fantastic, and all these other Worlds are not.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: I should know, for the audience, that, because of our technical
issues, I can’t see the backchat at this point or receive IMs and so I apologize for not being
able to incorporate more of the questions that have come in since I lost my connection.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: They’re saying you’re being way too tough on me, and you
should flatter me more.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Of course they are. All right. I’m sure the audience has noticed
going a bit over here. We’re going to continue doing that, and I want to thank the folks at
SLCN, your producer, for giving us permission to do that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me just say, because I know SLCN can’t always respond to
Skype. They don’t always notice it, but if you need to cut us off, let us know through Skype.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Yeah, otherwise we’ll keep going for a little while here. I’m really
enjoying hearing a little bit more about this show. I’ll ask you a softball now just because I’m
getting criticized for playing hardball on Metanomics. What were your favorite moments over
the last year from the show itself?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I think one of my favorite moments was actually in the--oh,
actually, let me just jump in. Someone asks: What was the most popular show? I believe
that was the show on OpenSim, Open Grid, and Lynn Cullens, if you can verify that in chat, I
think that would be helpful. But maybe the educators show would be the other one that was
hugely popular. My favorite moments, I’ve got two. Well, three. No, seven. No. But one of
them was the first show we did with a guest. It was with Sandra Kearny of IBM, and it was
actually not during the show. It was a moment before the show, where we were running
through this, and we had a camera in Sage Hall, in the Real World. We had Sandra Kearney
on a laptop that was logged into Active Worlds, and then I was logged into Second Life and
was in the Real World. And then we also had SLCN logged into both Active Worlds and
Second Life. It just got so confusing because you could look at a picture of someone. I was
able to see myself looking at my avatar in Second Life, that was looking at a screen that
showed me looking at Active Worlds, within Active Worlds, a screen of Second Life. And
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: [I’m surprised?] the whole thing didn’t just explode right then,
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, that’s right. So my favorite comment, and I actually don’t
remember who said it is, “We need two more technicians and a philosopher.” I mean that
was really an eye-opener for me.
A second favorite moment for was, we talked about the show with Steve Prentice from
Gartner, and we were joined on that one, as a scheduled guest, by Mitch Wagner of
Information Week. I might have been gentle, but they really hammered on Second Life. Both
of them did. And I thought this was going to happen, from the pre-interviews, so I gave
Zee Linden, CFO of Linden Lab, a heads-up on that and said, “If you want to come on after
the show to respond, feel free.” And he actually did. So SLCN, like they’re doing
today--thank you, thank you--let us go over a little bit. And we got to hear Zee talk
spontaneously, reacting to these critiques of Second Life, which I thought was great. I want
to say I’m going to put on my moderator hat so that’s probably going to have to be the last
question just because I do think we’re--
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Oh. Oh. I have--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Well, fine. Unless SLCN--they haven’t piped in yet so I
guess they don’t mind. But you asked who was the toughest guest--
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Who was the toughest guest to interview last year?
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That is easy. That is easy. Michael Wilson, CEO of There.com.
And he was tough for several reasons. One of them is that we are Second Life focused, and
I think that rankled him a bit. So he was maybe a little bit more aggressive at pointing that
out than I anticipated. It’s one of these things. I’ve been traveling all through Europe, really
makes me realize how U.S. centric I am in everything from whether you should be able to
get water for free at a restaurant to just what cultural references people are aware of. And I
think he called me on that. If you listen to that, you’ll see. I see Dusan Writer say, “Yeah,
he’s aggressive anywhere.” He’s a really bright guy, who has very interesting strongly held
views that, in many ways, are antithetical to Second Life. They’re very controlling in their
content, whereas Second Life encourages so much freedom among the users. That was an
And then lastly, that was the interview where I realized I didn’t know how to interview. I’m an
amateur at this. I’ve never done it before Metanomics. And it was after that show I realized
you never ask a yes or no question because I would ask him, “Do you think,” blahblahblah,
and he’d say, “No.” And there’d be this uncomfortable pause. And that was when I started
doing some research and came across that simple rule. So actually I see SLCN now; they’re
going to sic Starr Sonic on us.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Oh, no! All right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I really want to do this Connecting The Dots.
BENJAMIN DURANSKE: Well, I’ll have to postpone my other questions regarding your
avatar and your name, both of which I received from the audience. I know people are
interested in them. We’ll have to save them for the second anniversary. Okay. So before I
turn it back over to you, I want to take a moment to thank you for putting in what is just
obviously an extraordinary amount of effort, and I have to stress you’re a volunteer here,
and you bring all of us one of the most innovative, interesting, compelling experiences I’ve
personally seen emerge from the Metaverse. I’m very much looking forward to next season,
starting with next week’s show. So congratulations, Robert, on a fantastic first season, and
thanks for the opportunity to be a part of it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thanks a lot. And now I’m going to move to the segment we use
to close our shows, and I apologize Starr, it’s a little longer than usual because there’s
something really, really important going on in the world today, which is the credit crisis. So
for my editorial Connecting The Dots today, it’s entitled Everything I Needed to Know About
The Credit Crisis I Learned in Second Life. My guess is that you’ve all heard about the
global credit crisis, and many of you have probably also heard of the book Everything I
Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Let me be the first to draw the two together and
add in a dose of Second Life. Author Robert Fulghum makes the point that the most
fundamental rules that help us navigate life are taught to us when we’re very young. His list
includes, “Don’t be greedy. Play fair. Look both ways before crossing the street. Clean up
your own mess. And nap every afternoon.”
Kindergarten is a pretty simple place, and so when the kids start crying, it’s easy to trace
how violations of these basic lessons cause any problems you see in the classroom. Well,
grownups are crying in the Real World today because of the global credit crisis. But it’s hard
for most people to see why because, even though people may have violated simple rules,
they did it in a very complicated setting. So my hope is to shed a little light on the issue by
looking at a similar crisis in a much simpler world, the financial markets of Second Life.
Let’s start with a brief history of Second Life finance. By July of 2007, virtual firms that did
business entirely within Second Life had raised several million U.S. dollars worth of capital
from thousands of Second Life residents. How did they attract all that capital? One banker I
interviewed on Metanomics was paying over 350 percent interest per year, annual basis.
And he afforded that by charging his borrowers over twice that much. No surprisingly, it
couldn’t last. Over the course of the year, most of the banks had shut down, leaving
investors with nothing or with nearly worthless IOUs. Firm after firm that had issued stock,
dissolved, again leaving investors with nothing. And even the mainstream press took notice
of Ginko Bank, which is said to have single-handedly caused 750,000 U.S. dollars of losses.
My own analysis of Second Life capital exchange shows that during the time I have dated,
the only people who avoided large losses in the equity markets were the people who issued
the stock. So how could this happen? Well, many people were greedy. Investors were all
too willing to believe that they would earn their high interest rates, and bankers and
borrowers, no doubt, were too willing to believe that the borrows could pay the high interest
rates demanded of them. And, no doubt, some of them weren’t playing fair also.
Another major problem was that investors didn’t look both ways before crossing the street,
and, in part, that was because there just wasn’t a good enough system of financial reporting
to give them the clear vision they needed to see the bus coming at them, and there was no
crossing guard to warn them. When the bus came, it didn’t just run over the greedy. The
thing to understand about credit markets is that they’re self-reinforcing. When things are
going well, everyone’s rich enough to buy and lend and invest and grow. But if you knock a
few blocks out from underneath the market, everyone loses confidence, and the whole thing
collapses. So the architects of the Second Life financial markets violated another rule most
kids learn in kindergarten: When you’re building something, you put the biggest, strongest
blocks on the bottom.
Now implicit in all of Fulghum’s lessons is a more basic one, “Listen to the grownups.
They’re there to help you and keep you safe.” Linden Lab, the grownups in the room, really
just let the kids be kids and said, “You guys sort this out yourselves.” That made the Second
Life markets a fascinating experiment in libertarianism and self-regulation. Economists have
made some very compelling arguments that we don’t actually need regulations to guarantee
transparent and reliable financial reporting. The firms that are trying to raise capital will
impose those regulations themselves so that they can raise capital more cheaply. Well, that
theory played out pretty poorly in Second Life. One reason is that so many people are
greedy and willing to believe promises of easy profits. Why be transparent and reliable if you
can get people to give you money anyway.
But self-regulation in Second Life was plagued by another problem. There wasn’t enough
money in the market to make self-regulation worth the trouble, and, trust me, effective
auditing and financial reporting are a lot of trouble. But, at the same time, there was enough
money to motivate people who don’t play fair to corrupt any attempts to enforce even the
most basic elements of honest financial dealings. So Second Life’s markets collapsed, and
hardly anyone stuck around to clean up the mess. Okay?
Well, now that Real Life markets are near collapse, the U.S. government, in particular,
seems unwilling to just let kids be kids. They’re ready to swoop in, kiss and bandage a few
scraped knees and maybe make a few kids sit in the corner for a while. But most of us still
have a question, a few: First, will anyone make the kids who caused the mess clean it up?
Will they make sure we have the financial reporting system that will help us all look both
ways when we cross the street? And maybe a crossing guard for those who don’t seem to
know better. Then we can all go home and get a nice afternoon nap, which we will
desperately need when this thing is over.
So I am not going to draw specific analogies to the Real World markets, but beyond that, I
will let you Connect The Dots yourself.
Thanks for joining us today, and I hope to see you all back here throughout the second year
of Metanomics as we cover the business and policy of Virtual Worlds, with occasionally
some lessons for the Real World as well. And don’t forget to check out metanomics.net,
probably a couple hours after today’s show, to see the text of my interview with
Philip Rosedale and a lot of great expert commentary. And join us next week for a follow-up
discussion here on Metanomics, on Philip’s remarks. Thanks for coming, and bye bye.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer