Aldon Hynes's blog

Second Life Machinima, social change and other media links

An education mailing list pointed out the Favorite Poem Project. It looks like an interesting site. The Favorite Poem Project is “A partnership among Boston University, the Library of Congress and other organizations with major funding from the National Endowment from the Arts and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.”

For the more open source folks, I pointed out the Poetry section of Librivox. At Librivox, volunteers read books in the public domain and share the audio files online.

Steve Clift, a great edemocracy activist, announces the arrival A new e-citizen! Annika Jo Clift. Everyone looks very happy.

From a Second Life Educators mailing list, Anthony Fontana of the Polychronic Classroom notes a Reuters Second Life article about HBO buying a machinima film created in Second Life. He goes on to suggest SL Machinima will save YouTube.

This fits nicely with a visitor I had today via MyBlogLog. Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth stopped by. Her most recent blog post asks What The Heck IS Machinima, Anyway?. On MyBlogLog, she describes Shaping Youth as

Who is Shaping Youth? We all are. And that’s what this nonprofit, nonpartisan, non-religious based organization is about.

As media and marketing producers and consumers (that covers just about all of us!) we’re responsible for deconstructing the messages out there.

Children are being defined by media and marketing, before they've even had a chance to define themselves, as healthier behavioral cues get lost in the loud, brash noise.

I look forward to finding out more about Shaping Youth. It provided an interesting to contrast to two other recent visitors from MyBlogLog. One is focused on helping people make money from Google Adsense, and the other is promoting a site where. “You don’t have to ask someone to chat with you and risk possible rejection... you can type in your age and gender and select the age range and gender you wish to talk with and push the button.”

Amy’s efforts at shaping youth sounds much more compelling. To get the full effect of the contrast of how kids can be shaped, check out a video project done using Second Life Machinima by Global Kids' Digital Media Initiative. Their project is about the situation of child soldiers in Uganda. The children soldiers are being shaped in horrifying ways. Yet the youth leaders in Queens are being shaped in very powerful ways to use media for good.

Moving towards more traditional documentaries, the whole discussion about Miss South Carolina has brought up questions about the state of education in South Carolina and around our country. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I think the person asking the question exhibited problems of our educational system by presenting false information. That said, I was pointed to Corridor of Shame.

“CORRIDOR OF SHAME: the neglect of South Carolina's rural schools" is a 58 minute documentary that tells the story of the challenges faced in funding an adequate education in South Carolina's rural school districts.

The documentary, supported by many of South Carolina's leading foundations and community leaders, tracks the evidence presented on behalf of eight school districts in Abbeville County School District v. The State of South Carolina.

The final link for the day is to The Disaster Accountability Project. On Thursday, I received a press release from them saying “Congressional Time Would Be Better Spent Listening To Whistleblowers In Homeland Security and FEMA About Agencies’ Disaster Preparedness Deficiencies”.

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Second Life Market Recap Sept 7th

Today in the Second Life Stock Markets, Zhenya Zoning Real Estate Co. (ZEN) saw a wide volatility in trading, hitting a low of .53 late last night to come back to a high of .79. In a company announcement, CEO Zaldar Rhode announced that he was buying back 6119 shares due to the low price. A few days ago, they announced their new website. There isn’t a lot to look at there yet, but it is worth keeping an eye on.

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One in Five Americans

As I started to write a blog post on a different topic, I did a little research related to the now famous question about one in five Americans not being able to find the United States on a world map. Various people have pointed that this is incorrect. According to a National Geographic/Roper poll, "Nearly all (94%) young Americans can find the United States on the world map".

So, I started doing a little digging. A Google search on “one in five Americans” brings up quotes like these: “One Out of Five Americans Consider Themselves Holy”, “1 in 5 Americans believe Sun revolves around the Earth”, “One in five Americans believe in alien abductions”, “one in five Americans believe that they have been the victim of identity fraud” and “one in five of us will die of some form of cancer.”

As best as I can make sense of this, one in five Americans believe in alien abductions. This leads them to believe that the sun revolves around the sun and that they are holy. For some reason, people believing in Ptolemic astronomy and alien abductions are also highly likely to be victimized by identity fraud and ultimately die of cancer.

Either that, or less than one in five Americans think critically enough about the media they consume. You make the call.

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1994 all over again

This morning, I started up Second Life, connected to the Deep Grid and it felt like 1994 all over again. Let me explain.

I’ve always been a technology early adopter. Some technology I play with for a little while and leave it littering up my hard disk. Other technology I start using and find that I use it extensively in my regular life. Still other technology, I start using, don’t have an immediate need for, but keep in the back of my mind as some of the disruptive technology that is worth keeping an eye on.

I first connected to the Internet in the early eighties at Bell Laboratories. Then around 1994, I got my first Internet account and home and started building web pages. I had little idea then what the web would look like today, but it seemed like one of those disruptive technologies worth keeping an eye on.

Another technology that I got involved with around the same time were text based programmable chat rooms. They were fun yet didn’t seem like they would have as much of an impact as websites.

Over the years, I looked at various systems for handling micropayments online. They seemed important but none of them really took off. I played with the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, (VRML), which seemed really cool, but also didn’t ever particularly take off.

Various three-dimensional virtual worlds came along, and I played with them, but it was Second Life that seemed to break through where the others failed. It had the immersive elements of VRML. It had the synchronicity and programmability of text based programmable chat rooms, and it even had a currency that enables micropayments.

It’s biggest problem was that it was a fairly closed system. You needed to use their clients and their servers. SecondLife has made its client open source and they have been talking about providing an open source version of their server software. However, yesterday Reuters ran a story about Rival grids that threaten Linden’s monopoly on SL technology.

The grid was Deep Grid. As I logged in, I found that it had all the feel of some of the 1994 websites that I visited way back then. It was barebones and incomplete. There was nothing really notable to see there. But there was that feeling of a disruptive technology. I set up a server in my office running OpenSim, the Open Source simulator which Deep Grid runs on. It isn’t fully functional yet, but its getting there.

Now, anyone can set up their own ‘Sim’ which they can add to some existing grid or create their own grid. This will bring up all kinds of different issues. How can I take my inventory with me from one grid to another? How about my currency? Will someone set up a currency exchange between Second Life, Deep Grid, and whatever other grids get set up? Will interworld IMing be added? How about teleporting between worlds?

These are all issues that the text based programmable chat rooms faced a decade ago and I imagine with some innovative programming, there may be some interesting solutions for the three dimensional virtual worlds.

Beyond that, there are all the other tools that have grown up around the web. Right now, using my Second Life client, I can find things in whichever grid I’m in. Yet who will be the Google and the Yahoo for cataloging and finding things across multiple grids? Who will make the grids more accessible to the less geeky? Who will come up with applications in the grids that will make them ubiquitous?

It may well be another decade before grids of programmable immersive synchronous sims with functioning micropayment systems become a standard way of accessing information. These grids may be very different from what people used to using Second Life are accustomed to today, but my brief exploration of the Deep Grid sure felt a lot like 1994 to me.

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Second Life Market Recap

On the WSE yesterday, XDT has delisted since there was no announcement posted over the past 30 days, and no one had responded why. Delicious Skins (DSE) hasn’t had an announcement since July 20th, however their VP of Public Relations has been selling small amount of stocks over the past few days, so one would hope there is some communication going on there.

Secure Hedge Fund (SHF), had negative news today on its investments. They list their NAV as .927 per share. They traded in a very wide range from .335 to .939 today alone. Volume was very light with only 650 shares changing hands today. Patient day traders might want to put in orders here.

Second Life Netherlands (SNL) announced a secondary offering. In their announcement, they spoke about disappointment that the stock is currently trading below the secondary offering price. They complain about daytraders and people selling stock at lower prices just to get rid of it. They say they are going to ask for a formal investigation and perhaps ask for a halt of trading in the stock. This does not inspire confidence in the company, and I would recommend getting out of the stock while you can. Of course this is likely to drive stock prices further down, which is not what they want to be doing, so perhaps they need to think more carefully about how markets work.

Full disclosure: On August 22nd, I bought 39 shares of SNL at L$ 2.10. I sold them five days later at $2.55. I don’t think that damaged the company. My trading style is generally that of a day trader, but trading SNL and some of the other stocks on WSE is closer to being a week trader. Today, 201 shares of SNL changed hands.

Over on the SLCapEx, Second Life Media Specialties (SLMS) was the hot stock to be watching. Yesterday, they announced a monthly profit of L$221,300. That works out to be about L$.20 per share. They climbed from trading in the L$ 2.70-2.80 range at the beginning of the day up to trades in the L$ 4-5 range. Current bidding is in the L$ 3.10- $3.20 range and is probably a good buy at that price.

Full disclosure: I have been actively trading SLMS which I continue to do.

Other stocks that some major swings were Tropical Temptations (XXX) and Second Life Electronics Company (SLTM) which had wide stock movements but no news. In volume of shares, SL CapEx (SLCX) was the most active, with a sell order for 140,000 shares outstanding.

In general news, as better reporting becomes available, as well as WSE delisting firms for not reporting, I will start paying closer attention earnings reports. Depending on RL considerations, I hope to write recaps like this with some regularity.

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