Archive - Apr 3, 2009

OpenSim Takes a New Direction – April Fool’s Day in Perspective

I was stunned to read more of the reactions to the The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank. There have been people threatening legal action on the OpenSim Users mailing list. The most thought out reaction that I’ve found so far is OpenSim, You’re Losin’ Me, Punking is for Punks. I must say, I take a very different perspective.

I’ve already made my comments about being thankful for developers that give us something for free, even if they include a April Fool’s day pranks in the version of the software intended for developers. Yet the reaction seems to be so over the top, I thought I would try to put it into some context.

Back in 2007, I wrote 1994 all over again where I compared OpenSim with the dispersion of text based virtual worlds called MOOs back in the 1990s. People interested in understand online communities often read articles about LambdaMOO, the grand daddy of the MOOs, and, at least in my mind, the precursor to the three dimensional virtual worlds we now visit. Usually, they end up reading some variant of Julian Dibbell’s article A Rape in Cyberspace.

They move on to learn about how LambdaMOO dealt with community and governance issues. If they are diligent, they read LambdaMOO Takes a New Direction and the follow up LambdaMOO Takes Another Direction. One of my biggest criticisms of the folks at Linden Lab and also perhaps of many others going out and setting up their own OpenSim based virtual worlds is that they haven’t read what happened in the early text based days of virtual worlds and seem destined to repeat many of the mistakes.

Indeed, the uproar about The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank reminds me of so many discussions in LambdaMOO ages ago.

There is another aspect of history that people need to be aware of, and that is the history of April Fool’s pranks online. Perhaps Amy Bruckman said it best in the syllabus to a class she taught, The Design of Virtual Communities, back in 1998.

On the Internet, the most important holiday of the year is April Fools Day! Poke around the net today and gather your best April Fools' pranks. Bring them to our next class. On LambdaMOO, please note *ballot:AprilFools!

*ballot:AprilFools! starts off:

We used to have a lot of fun on April Fools Day, but now the wizards are afraid of being disputed, and wizardly pranks are minimal.

On April 1st each year, the LambdaMOO Wizards may freely make any temporary changes they like to the database and server for the amusement of the populace. These changes must be reversible, and will be undone on April 2nd. The changes also must not compromise the privacy of any individual in any way.

While @ballot:AprilFools! does not apply to OpenSim Developers, perhaps it should. I, for one, hope that every April 1st, there will be some developers prank, meeting the criteria described in the ballot.

So, with that, let’s go back to the earliest prank in a virtual world that I know of. In The Incredible Tale of LambdaMOO, Pavel Curtis, the archwizard of LambdaMOO wrote:

On the morning of April 1, 1992, when I first got to work, I checked out the transcript of my perpetual connection to LambdaMOO. Amid the usual paged questions and the like, there was a cryptic little message about how a major fire had just swept through the house. Curious, I began wandering around the core of LambdaHouse; it was marvelous. Clearly, some of my staff of wizards had been very busy preparing for this wonderful April Fool's Day hack.

At some point in my wanderings, a worried player paged me to say that it really, truly wasn't his fault, but he seemed suddenly to be a wizard! I didn't believe it, of course, but I checked it out just the same and discovered to my shock that it was true; when I inspected his player object, it clearly had the "wizard" bit on! He pointed to the latest article in the LambdaMOO newspaper; that article, written by my wizards, described the fire and said that, in order to hasten the repairs, all players had been made into wizards so that they could help out. I was utterly aghast.

There may well have been other great virtual world pranks prior to 1992 and I’m willing to bet my Google Chrome 3D Glasses and my Google TiSP spindle that there are going to be more great pranks in the virtual worlds to come.

I’m also willing to bet that the humor impaired will gripe as much about them as they have about The Great 2009 OpenSim April Fool’s Prank, and the many directions the wizards of LambdaMOO have led their community.

Meanwhile, I’ll sit back, observe, comment, and try to have as much fun myself, as I possibly can.

Traffic review

Each month, friends of mine on EntreCard post put up posts about who the ‘top droppers’ on their site have been for the previous month. It can be a way of rewarding frequent visitors for their loyalty with a little ‘link love’. However, these blog posts usually don’t have a lot of other compelling content, and I look at them briefly and then move on, which is kind of what happens with a lot of content on sites participating in EntreCard.

So, I thought I would look at the bigger picture of traffic coming to my site during the month of March. Mostly, I’m using information from Google Analytics to paint the picture. I’ve brought up two windows, one has my statistics for February, and one has my statistics for March. In both months, I had almost the same number of visits. Yet in March, the visits seemed to be a slightly higher quality. The average visitor looked at 1.49 pages, up from 1.10 pages in February. They stayed on the site 14% longer for their average time on site. My bounce rate decreased considerably, but so did my percentage of new visits. In a nutshell, March saw more regular visitors spending more time on the site.

The traffic from EntreCard didn’t really change that much, other than a smaller amount of EntreCard visitors were new. I’ve been on EntreCard for quite a while, so I would have expected the number of new visitors to have decreased quite a while ago, but EntreCard is still driving a lot of new traffic to my site. However EntreCard traffic is significantly lower during both February and March than it was during January.

Another site that is driving a lot of traffic to me right now is Adgitize. Adgitize traffic grew considerably in March, but that may well be because of technical problems Adgitize had in February. Like EntreCard, the traffic from Adgitize is also down from January.

There are some new sources of traffic coming to my site these days as well. Facebook is now driving a lot of traffic to my site. This seems to be as a result changes in Facebook, particularly around Facebook Connect. Visitors from Facebook Connect spend much longer on the site and visit more pages than sites like EntreCard or Adgitize. Fitting into the same category is traffic coming from Twitter. I’m not getting quite as much traffic from Twitter as I get from Facebook, but the traffic that I do get stays even longer and visits even more pages.

Another new source of traffic is coming from CMF. I only started running ads on CMF ads in the middle of March, so there are still low. However, by extrapolation, it appears as if I will get less traffic from CMF ads than I do from EntreCard or Adgitize, but the traffic from CMF ads tends to be more engaged with the website than visitors from EntreCard or Adgitize, although not as much as from Facebook or Twitter.

Some of my most engaged readers come from CTNewsJunkie, The Journal Inquirer and the The Record Journal. These are news sources in Connecticut that point to blogs.

One other notable source of good traffic has been various shared bookmark sites and shared comment sites. StumbleUpon, Delicous, and Disqus have driven a fair amount of traffic to my site, with people coming from Disqus spending a lot of time on the site, perhaps to write comments.

So, which EntreCard users are notable? Well, Freebie Reporter has been a frequent visitor. In addition, the site has been one of the most effective in driving traffic on a ‘Credits per click’ basis. sound of a soft breath has been a frequent visitor. Also, a site that has repeatedly shown up on my list of frequent droppers is Random Ramblings.

That raps up a quick view of this months traffic.

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@acarvin @blogdiva @stevegarfield @jillmz @tishgrier @waynesutton @ chuckumentary @mlsif

Each Friday I try to highlight some of the interesting people that I follow on Twitter. Since Twitterfeed puts the beginning of my blog post on Twitter, I can just post my #FollowFriday post here, along with my thoughts about it and it will show up on Twitter.

This week, I highlighting some of the people I really like in the social political media complex. Some of the names are very well known, others less so. I’ve also not included some of the obvious big names because they don’t need highlighting, and also, in part, because I don’t feel like I’m in a conversation with them, the way I feel that I have been in conversations with some of the folks above. With that, let me talk about the people in this weeks #FollowFriday

Andy Carvin @acarvin is the social media swami at National Public Radio. He has highly informative tweets, nicely mixed with the personal experience. He’s gotten people like Scott Simon and Dan Schorr onto Twitter.

I don’t recall exactly when I first met Liza Sabater, @blogdiva. It was probably around 2003 or 2004 and had probably had to do with the nexus of politics and technology. Like Andy, Liza’s posts are informative and nicely mixed with personal experience.

Steve Garfield, @stevegarfield can be described as the father of videoblogging. I think I first met Steve at MediaGiraffe a couple years ago. You should follow not only Steve’s tweets, but especially his video work.

Tish Grier @tishgrier is perhaps not as well known in the Twittosphere as Andy, Liza or Steve. Yet she has been making her voice heard for many years and it is great to hear her voice on Twitter. I’ve met her at several news media related events.

Like Tish, Jill Miller-Zimon @jillmz is also not as well known as Andy, Liza or Steve. I’ve only met Jill once face to face, at election night coverage at NPR Studios last November. However, we’ve known each other online for a while and I now live in the town she grew up in. As with others, I first ran into Jill online some place other than Twitter. Again, I don’t recall the details, but it was probably when one of us commented on the others blog.

Wayne Sutton @waynesutton. Like Jill, I’ve only met Wayne once face to face, which was at a conference about news media in Lowell, MA. Like myself, Wayne seems to experiment with just about every online site that comes along, and I’ve enjoyed interacting with Wayne on many of these sites.

Chuck Olsen @chuckumentary I believe I only met Chuck once, which was at a media event when John Edwards was first entering the 2008 Presidential Primary. While his own blog and twitter stream are well worth the read, the real reason I mention Chuck is his work with @theuptake which provides an important and fascinating glimpse into Minnesota.

Let me end off this week with Micah Sifry @mlsif. I believe that the first time I met Micah was at the inaugural Personal Democracy Forum back in 2004. PDF has grown over the years and continues to be a focal point of the social political media complex.

So, that’s this week’s #FollowFriday. See you on Twitter.