Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thank you for your interests to ProjectGoodLuck in 2007.

And thanks to our guests, contributors and visitors.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Second Life Cory Ondrejka adieu: virtual world design history

A tip of the hat to newly-former Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka, here is excerpts from my interview with Cory from March 2007. The interview does not explain the “irreconcilable” differences that CEO Philip Rosedale cited in his notice on Cory’s departure. It does though nod to design fracture points that appear to have escalated for the Second Life platform. ‘Nuff respect to someone who has been a really interesting originator and player in this virtual world field…I don’t think we’ve heard the last word from CO yet. File this one under virtual world design history.

Question for all: what are your thoughts on what the most important design issues are for VWs right now?

Transcript San Francisco, Linden Lab, March 13, 2007

This is an excerpt from my interview with Cory Ondrejka, the CTO of Linden Lab (LL) and the primary author of the Second Life world design and scripting language. We talk about two main things in this selection that are pressing issues for virtual world users and designers across platforms:

Build tools for user created content (UCC)

PGL: What does scalability mean for Second Life (SL)?

CO: Scalability for SL primarily means being able to increase the number of simultaneous users. We can increase the number of sign ups all day long and we can increase he number of simulators we connect to all day long. Simultaneous users, that’s the crux. Right now we are approaching 40,000 simultaneous users. Which is to my knowledge this is the largest single shard simultaneous user space that has been built. Eve Online is very close, but I think we have finally caught them.

PGL: How are they designed that they have been able to handle those kinds of numbers in advance?

CO: They do nothing like the transaction load that we do. They’re not doing rigid bio dymanics over the whole thing. They are ships flying through space, largely not in contact with each other. If you’re going to simulate something do that ;-). Also, they took a very specialized hardware solution to try to scale while we don’t. Eve Online may never have to get to 80,000 simultaneous users. We want to make sure that we can get to 40 million. It’s a different set of requirements and we’re willing to take some short-term pain to make sure we can get there. And so, scaling for us is figuring out how to manage database load. And we know how to do it so for now scaling has become how fast can we hire. How fast can we get high quality developers working on the problem, because a lot of it is not rocket science any more. Well, it’s rocket science but it’s not magic any more. We know what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it. Which is a great position to be in.…The benefits of doing long-term basic research could be enormous. Because nobody knows yet what the right long-term research is in this space. We don’t know anything yet.

PGL: A friend from the Media Lab asked me, why didn’t Linden Lab (LL) write it in Mono [open source software project to develop and run.nET client and server applications] originally? And we both came to the conclusion that it did not exist.

CO: It did not exist. [Laughs]

PGL: what did you start with in 2000?

CO: C++, Windows and Linux (for cross-platform use).

PGL: Was there precedent or did you have to write everything from scratch?

CO: Well, there were a lot of game engines out there. But to the best of our knowledge, nobody had done the terrain compression scheme using lossy compression to stream height fields. This was new. The cellular automata architecture, which is the simulator grid, did not exist, so we created that. Might there have been a graphics engines that could have drawn height fields––yes, probably, but that’s not hard to write. And as it turned out, because we switched to this primitive model, of building out of geometric primitives, it’s really good that we did not did grab an off-the-shelf engine, because no off-the-shelf engine is assigned to draw very high numbers of low-poly objects.

PGL: Can we talk about primitive modeling (prims) for a minute?

CO: Until the summer of 2001 we did not even have people in the world. We had spaceship flying around and floating eyeballs. Though we had rudimentary creation tools, we did not necessarily know that we wanted people in the world. Then we had the first creation tools and saw the first evidence of people building stuff and realized that people wanted to build human things. And as soon as that happened, we said, Oh, we need people. Oh crap. And so, fall 2001 the scripting language went in, avatars went in.

One of the biggest challenges was: how do we make avatars that are as flexible as the building system of the rest of the world? So we had a lot of competing ideas around that. Richard, one of our developers, and I came up with the idea of what if there was this really complex parameter space, a very large design space where we let you in real time move through it. We designed this with the idea that, well, there were going to be a lot of local maxima [points in the domain of a function at which the function takes largest value]. And local maxima will be viewer dependent. So “put all the sliders to the right” won’t be the solution that anyone comes up with. Or at the very least, “all the sliders to the right” is unattractive.

This goes back to a question you started to ask a while ago: why the focus on real time? If you are going to take people through complex design spaces, it’s got to be interactive. You can say to people, “Here are the 300 sliders to define a human,” which is an unimaginably complex design space. Then anybody can say, “Do I like my nose bigger or smaller?” Especially if other people can be there with you and say, “Hey, no on no, I like it smaller.” So that was a pretty big deal. That’s when the objects went from being just cubes and spheres to being profiles and paths, which is why you can cut them and twist them and do all those things to them.

PGL: So the primitive-based design system is made for greatest degree of real time collaboration?

CO: Yes, the advantage of primitive is that the editors are all built into the system, which means that when the Ferrari drives by you can say, “Hey how did you build that Ferrari?” And they can show you. From an education-theory standpoint, things like one-demand learning, peer-to-peer learning, situated learning, are reinforced by the fact that the tools are embedded. [It reinforces co-creation] in a way that “Step one, go buy Maya” doesn’t. Right? That said, we will eventually have to support polygonal models, because that is how the world works.

PGL: Which is not so much for the SL users as they exist, but for a burgeoning pro industry.

CO: Yes, that’s right. But the trick is going to be how do we do that without hurting the community? And I’m not smart enough to know the answer to that question yet.

PGL: It’s a tough one. Do you think it’s really necessary? Why does LL have to solve the problem for the minority use, the professionals?

CO: I don’t think it’s that we have to. It’s whether we want to or not. There are advantages to being able to render the scene faster. And right now there are a host of experiences that you cannot build in SL: anything really interactive, anything really action based. And so, why don’t we enable that. And polygons end up being a piece of that, probably, maybe.

Also, while we have this incredibly talented set of users, there is nothing wrong with having a minority of experts comes into a space. This is the heart of one of Wikipedia’s problems. On the plus side, Wikipedia would be better if you had the amateurs and the experts playing nice with each other. Now, of course this is always the problem. The experts have lingo, jargon, and certification–all the things that separates experts from amateurs. Experts actively encourage this. Anything you can do to break down those boundaries, there are advantages to that. So if there were poly-editing tools in SL or mesh editing tools, for example, well, that becomes a way to become a good poly-mesh builder. Well, that would be pretty cool. If you can learn to build well with primitives, you can probably build with polys. But I don’t think we know the answer to that yet.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why Ring Tong(Color Ring) is so popular

As an innovation of mobile phone entertainment culture, why has CR become so popular in big cities around China within a few days? I agree that China Mobile has played an important role. However, the demand of young consumers in the context of contemporary urban culture is even more important. First of all, the youths in China's big cities are an active group who wish to establish their own personalities. They are anxious to grasp every chance to show that they are different from others, they are unique and cool. And replacing the dull and routing traditional ring tone with a colorful CR meets their demand. This consumption impetus is more obvious among high-school students and junior college students. Secondly, the life in China's cities is becoming more stressful everyday, especially in the big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Although the economy gained rapid growth, competition in the job market heated up in the past few years due to the huge population. And it's obvious that the young group have to face more pressure because they have little work experience. The stressful, fast-paced and dull life requires something to relax, rest even abreact. The relaxing and humorous CR satisfies this need. The popularity of language CR is the result of this kind of demand. Language CRs often express things which we may have to avoid saying in our daily life.

Personally, I think the popularity of CR has strong connection with contemporary urban culture. With the further development of urbanization in China, the demand for CR may grow constantly.

What do you think about it? We are looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

China blogsphere report: Wangjianshuo's Blog & Sina

Here is Song’s summary of important blogposts in China this week, featuring star blogger wangchu and issues political (AIDS) and pop (lovers' blog contest) at Sina. Some of the links are in English some in Chinese. We’ll write more detailed responses when Song is done with his grad school applications ;-)

Here is a sample…

Wangjianshuo's blog
Events (in Shanghai) that affect my life (and others')

When I wrap up my Young Leaders Forum 2007, and the extension trip in Suzhou, Tongli, and Shanghai, I could not help thinking about an important question about the future of China: Are we, as a nation, afraid of grace and beauty?

1. The recent posts from featured blogger, Wangjianshuo's Blog
Atlantis Launch Delayed

Spend Money on Art or Poverty: a discussion on the Young Leaders Forum about how to spend money for the young generation.

3. His trip for the Young Leaders Forum and an introduction on
the traditional idea about beauty and grace.

The hot topics in
Sina this week:

4. Whether
fee of broad band Internet high or not.

5. The special blogs and topics on
AIDS in China

The ADIS research center in Qinghua University

The lovers' blog contest, a business strategy for Sina to attract more visitors

Ring tone: innovation of mobile phone culture and consumption

Ring tone, named as Color Ring (CR) in Chinese, is an innovation of mobile phone culture and consumption in youth in China. It means that you can set a special ring tone for each number stored in your phone. Generally, the popular CRs in China can be divided into two kinds. One is music CR, another is language CR. Music CR is similar to mp3. It's made up of music, song or any remix of music and song. Language CR is made up of language, almost without music and rhythm. It can be a greeting, a joke, a short story or a simple sentence without any meaning. When a friend calls you, the ring tone he hears is the CR you set for him. A customer can download any CR he likes from the website of the SP(service provider), generally with a certain fee. CR provides customers a new way to entertain, to relax, to be cool and unique. At the same time it makes great profit for SP. Chinese customers, especially the young people, show great zeal for the new kind of entertainment.

What do you think about Ring Tong?
Do you have interest to it?

Join our discussion if you have interests to Ring Tong.

To be continued.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bloggers in China Start Testing Limits

The Wall Street Journal ran a good story today on the Chinese “mental firewall”––the idea that many Chinese bloggers participate in a kind of self-censorship (at least from the perspective of Western blogging standards).

Keso, an O.G. Chinese hacker, was prominently featured as the guy who lobbed the provocation out into the blogsphere: he is reported to have asked would it be so bad if Taiwan went independent. This question is super political and it was a fellow blogger who gave the smack down: "No discussion of politics here!"

WSJ concludes: Inside China, however, some of the smartest thinkers about the Internet believe the biggest hurdle to free speech in China isn't technical, it's social.

The article supports the findings about the Chinese blogsphere that PGJ, this research group, presented over the summer in Japan.
Link here for an excerpt from the paper, “Unique Identity & National Discourse in Chinese Participatory-Network Spheres.”

Isaac Mao’s
Social Brain Foundation looks fascinating.

Shanghai Blogger Roundtable: blogging for personal network

This is a section excerpted from the research paper “Unique Identity & National Discourse in Chinese Participatory-Network Spheres,” presented by Dr. Beth Coleman, MIT July 2007 Ubiquitous Media Asian Transformations conference Tokyo University, Japan

The Nanjing Hopkins Center is the source of many of the participants of the roundtable discussion. This sample group of bloggers address culturally specific use. They represent the first group of early adopters: white collar professionals.


-Blogs are largely used as extended social systems—to chat about their lives and work. In a sense, they use blogging like a big telephone

-The group talked about the gender gap in media use, trusted channels of information, self-expression on blogs, and celebrity blogging.

-Issues of nationalism and self-representation emerge indirectly.

As opposed to the US conventions of blogging, which are to “get naked” either by confession or expose, The Chinese blogger group, to the person, but particularly the women, made clear that mediated communication is representational. They acknowledged formality to one’s presentation that is explicitly understood as a cultural value around media communications practices.

Question: Why blog?

A: Female, university student, 18 years old and the youngest in the blogger roundtable discusses her use of multiple layers of media representation: the most public is [of course] the most congenial.

I have several blogs. They all have different friends [groups]. The first one I created in 2003 because I was writing an essay on blogs, so I created it for the experience. But my real blog is created last year and it was for some private things. Five friends know this blog and I do not plan to open it to others. This is only one of my blogs. The second one is a room-diary or dormitory diary. It is a university diary. These are my friends but they are not too close. In my real blog I write my private feelings, my feelings after reading a book or seeing a film or some philosophical ideas. Just recently I opened a third blog on MSN Spaces. The first and second are very private. The first is my friends and myself; the second is myself and dormitory; And I feel I would like to be known by others, so I opened MSN Spaces. On the public blog I only write pleasurable things, jokes, etc. I write things that do no harm to anyone.

A: Female, young professional. Mid-twenties

I don’t think people will express their true, deep feelings on the Web. What you expose on web is what you want people to know. You will keep the things you don’t want people to know in your heart or go outside and run for an hour.

Link to the whole thing when the
MIT site is fully up.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gadget love: Zelda Wii bling

Crystal encrusted Wii Zelda. 7,500 Swarovski crystals on this one. Wait ‘til I get pictures of my new gold DS up.

Thanks Mark Wison at Kotaku