Pathfinder Linden interviewed by AJ Kelton (SL: AJ Brooks), Director of Emerging Instructional Technology, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Montclair State University, at a roundtable
Aj & Pathfinder
My background is in online communities in Neuroscience & healthcare in education,you can find details at pathfinderlinden.com. My primary focus @ LL since I began 4 years ago is doing whatever I can to help the community of EDU & academics using SL for teaching, leraning & research grow & thrive. One thing I do is speak at a lot of conferences & conventions to people asking me to teach them more abt affordances of SL as edu platform. There is lot of interest among healthcare right now. Last week I was at Dartmouth Med school to talk about healthcare edu in SL. You could call it eveangelism. I also listen a lot, carefully, to what you are doing, saying you need to achieve more success in SL: requests for policies, procedures, and take them back to LL to developers to incorporate into prioritizing dev resources @ LL.
We're trying to figure out what we need to do yesterday & tomorrow, I represent your (edu) needs @ LL.I focus a lot on the best ways to support all of you & your success, and your endeavors in SL.that may mean setting you up w/better tailored resources. I'll be focusing on creating more focused KB articles to address edu FAQs. I try to facilitate the support you provide each other, since LL could not provide all you do for each other.
Last weeks' edu support faire helped connect you w/support resources LL provides, but also raised awareness of resources you provide each other.
AJ Brooks: How did things first get started with education in SL? Did you look at what was already out there, such as Active Worlds? How did this massive snowball initially get started.
Pathfinder says I had been using other platforms to create online communities to reach edu goals, before going to LL.
I had used things like Active Worlds, The Palace for creating online communities for patients & caregivers to connect med professionals & patients where they could share emotinoal support & edu. The way edu started in SL was that educators are always the pioneers for any new technology.
I started at LL, I joined the community team, we had a program called campus SL, Robin Harper had started this before I came, Robin said there is some activity among educators, asked me for my opinion about giving educators a temporary plot of land in SL
I thought there was a lot of potential and wanted to focus on building basic scaffolding to help educators succeed.
Second goal was to help educators find each other and I started the SLED list that now has approx 6000 subscribers, largest LL email list. I encouraged people to introduce selves to each other when they joined the list.
Tthis started a tsunami wave of educators in SL and this allowed educators to leverage each others' work.
We had a wiki in 2005, I was trying to put together edu materials on the wiki.
Jeremy Kemp had SimTeach online already, and I asked if I could just point to SimTeach b/c it was good. The edu community started to build its own support system this edu roundtable.
It is a great edu resource
There are a lot of campus programs in SL now and we're trying to figure out if we should still offer plots of land or just help newcomers to find educators in SL who offer plots.
The trick is to step back & let it grow. It was not me alone who did this. Claudia LInden has been focused on these goals. We also have George Linden now, so three of us are focused on how to help edu grow int he future.
AJ Brooks: So, clearly there have been changes since you first started, some BIG changes. What has been the biggest change, in your opinion, between when Philip was the one directed day-to-day activities and now with Mark directing them?
We've had an interesting evolution as a company, like the way SL has evolved over time.
I tend toward biology due to BG, and we need to realize that points in evolution can help or hold back. Phillip was mastermind of SL concept, developing initial creation, having amazing entrepreneurial approach, SL had a crazy growth time,we've reached a point where people started depending on all this, we needed to go to a new level of support.
If you've seen slurl.com, can see some of Phillip's work on improving the map.
We needed a CEO who had led companies through startup to service provider. If SL goes down, it's not just entertainment which is interrupted, it can now be a class or conference.
(LL has) been good to see focus on adding innovative features but also focus on stability of environment. Black Wednesday's used to happen. We don't have these any more we're focused on reducing downtime, increasing stability, increasing scalability in terms of Phillip & Mark, this is the natural progression for LL
AJ Brooks: How close are we to a mobile SL. Kids today are using mobile phones as their tool of choice? Are there any plans or discussions about this? If so, what can you tell us, if not - why not?
We think a lot about mobile SL & wonder what it would look like. People have looked at how to provide a mini-SL experience on the phone but is that what you really want? I don't think of having a tiny screen that makes me think of laparoscopic surgery. I'd love to see a way of having different aspects of SL available on the phone. Things that might be good features would be to make a phone call into SL, have a different connection to SL that is meaningful from cell phone interface. Imagine if business owners could conduct transactions & monitor sales in SL.
AJ says or if students could listen to an event
Pathfinder: There are different interfaces available now. Have you seen the text-only viewer?
Chatbridge is a good example. I find fascinating the integration of things in a virtual space w/the rest of the physical world
AJ Brooks: There is a rumor going around that Premium Accounts will get 100 groups - what can you tell us about that?
Ha ha it's true we're trying to offer more groups but it's a big challenge.
Group limits is a dev issue which affects many aspects of SL. There is an ongoing internal discussion about how to address this. People are using groups in ways LL did not anticipate.
AJ mentions differentiating between comm & landowning groups
Pathfinder says: this is more indepth internal discussion, asking questions RE, how people are using groups, people have alts to have more groups, your feedback & ideas are vital.I actually I have a survey from Jimmy Linden RE premium accts which includes questions RE groups.
AJ Brooks: Can you explain why we're currently restricted to 25 groups?
I had a hard time understanding when the developers explained to me it relates to level of the packets. It's a difficult to modify parameter. Making a change would affect many aspects of SL. We're still figuring this out.
AJ Brooks: # I'm sure you've followed the recent animated conversation on the SLED list about ones group affiliations and the mix of professional versus personal persona in SL. What are you thoughts on that?
People need to decide on their own comfort level. Part of challenge of SL gives us the potential to create more malleable identies than we could formerly.
We can explore both professional & personal life facets, there's often a blend of professional & personal. When I'm talking to educators not familiar w/SL, that in this environment you see a blend of the real & the surreal, some educators are put off by this We need to think of different flexibilities RE how we express ourselves. It's often a dreamworld but it's a good thing, exploring new possibilities. We're all figuring this out as a species.
AJ Brooks: The Education sector is not really a profit sector for LL - given discounted sims and montlhy maintentance, plus all the free student accounts that are brought in the will probably never be turned to Premium and possible only used for a short time (putting a strain on the databases by having so many accounts), what is the incentive for LL to be involved with higher ed and what is the companies commitment to us?
It's b/c EDU folks rock. Edu people push boundaries in how you use SL to teach & help students. To
become successful what you do in SL has many ripple effects. It's about how many transformative ideas you release into the env allowing them to express selves in ways they never could before. Valuable is incalculable, it's a complex weave of network effects caused by edu. The fact that there are three LIndens focused on edu shows LL is committed to edu support. There's a lot of overlap btwn edu needs & enterprise needs. You'll see that we will include new features that edu has requested.
AJ Brooks: Where do you see virtual worlds going from here?
I read science fiction a lot, my favorite author is Vernor Vinge. I like's recent book Rainbow's End. It describes a world w/virtual representations of people, space & place that exist simultaneously. Where the physical people wear contact lenses which provide augmented reality. They display everywhere as an overlay. You have complete merging of physical & virtual.
We have a history of evolving toward that constantly. We bring our tools closer to sense of self. It is common to have people sitting near & talking to someone not present. We don't consider those as virtual conversations but they are phonecalls
There is interaction w/data stream, not a person (but) we don't say we had a virtual conversation, we say we talked to them. Same kinds of things will happen w/evolution of virtual worlds. I talked to AJ (now), it may have been physical, virtual, or a blend.
AJ Brooks: As we grow the SL Education Roundtable group, we come upon more benefits of membership. One of those benefits was that we gave group members the opportunity to send in questions. Before we open things up to the audience, here are a few I received.
AJ Brooks: What is the status report on allowing interage access to Main Grid secured locations (children accompanied by parents or teachers to see educational venues)
AJ Brooks: # Is it theoretically possible to have main grid islands set so certain avatars cannot get out or in, the same way as currently done on the Teen Grid?
AJ Brooks: What can be done to show support for a creative solution to sharing the assets off the main grid with the teen grid?
AJ Brooks: Those in Europe are experiencing terrible problems getting students signed up onto the Teen Grid. What is the status of this and how is it being addressed?
Pathfinder: I am not surprised at teen grid questions Phillip talked abt it on Metanomics. So the word is out. He was talking about it theoretically, people misinterpreted as an imminent change.
This is a process w/complex issues, some legal, some procedural, some technical. We are trying to figure the best way from edu perspective on how you can work w/teens & adults together safely. There are solutions to the Eur registration issues, there are ways around these issues, schoolaborate. We're working on a strategy to reduce or eliminate needs for workarounds. No timetable available but we are discussing it and are concerned w/those experiencing these problems. We have actual projects, not just discussions.When we figure out how to tactically execute, we'll go public w/details, we spent last quarter focusing on strategy & prioritization.Me & Claudia reviewed spreadsheets of features, categorizing & prioritizing.
AJ Brooks: how close are we to having a system for exchanging, even viewing, documents in-world?
AJ mentions competitors like OpenSim & Project Wonderland which have more of this functionality
I realize doc sharing is high priority. Now we are trying to determine resource allocation. Realize doc sharing is something in high demand & need, like Google docs are used more & more alongside of SL. There are interim solutions, we are still trying to figure how to provide solutions like document sharing to SL users.
Q4 2008 was completely focused on prioritizing. Mark has helped LL to come up w/good ideas & also implement them w/in a timeframe.
AJ Brooks: Is there any effort to use media stream format other than QuickTime?
I don't know, I will find out
J Brooks: I would like to know if they are looking at a way to create groups in your friends list.
This is the feature that everyone uses in other social networking apps. I don't know priority of this. They know internally this is needed. This is on the same level as being able to tell others are typing in (group) IM. They know this helps conversation flow.
There are many things we're trying to figure out, not to do something different but make the interface more intuitive, make the user experience more intuitive, more standardized to facilitate learning.
AJ Brooks: Is it possible to have faires dedicated too various areas of education such as health, behavior sciences, literature etc.
I hope so! I would love to do one on health. Recent edu support faire was just first step. We'll get there. VW Best practices in edu conference is coming up. At the faire, people were talking about other conferences. Claudia & I are looking forward to the BP conf again, a combination of what LL can provide and what educators can bring
AJ Brooks: Are there any plans to make it possible to edit and correct text for a short while after it is sent...you can do this for half an hour of so in Skype...it makes a REAL difference teaching languages.
I am not familiar w/this feature in Skype
AJ Brooks: Is knowing people in SL the same as RL? Can you tell someone I know Aj or Pathfinder?
That comes back to the phone example: it's possible to know someone in this environment. The tools only grow in terms of more emotional bandwidth. We have more technologies to increase emotional bandwith. They will try to improve guestures. There is a lot of potential to map RL body language to SL bodylanguage.
AJ Brooks: what kind of pland have LL to advertising to media the use of Second Life as a Learning Environment in Europe
They have an office in UK, presence in Europe. Jean Linden focuses on German market, she has done lots of work w/German edu. Stats around usage of SL in UK alone is over 90%. 90% of universities in UK use SL, per Eduserve.
AJ Brooks: Was the Faire viewed as a success by LL
The faire was a success based on feedback the faire was great will be pulling stats RE visitation by country, time interested in quantitative & qualitative data. I will post info RE visitor demographics (on wiki) and wiki will exist in perpetuity (!)
AJ says the Faire booths are still there, so you can go and visit what you missed.
Pathfinder says: we are also evaluating network effects, who met whom & now planning to collaborate.
The booths will be taken down on Wednesday