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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Episode 169 -- The Latest Thing

Only a couple subjects to cover tonight.  Maybe a brief "get off my lawn" rant on this new Virtual Reality thing.

First let me give you some rather bad news. has been sold to a site called Scribl.  Podiobooks is still there.  Sort of.  The stuff I've already posted is still on that site.  So far.

Thing is, Scribl is all about _selling_ audio versions of books.  Podiobooks was about giving away audio versions of books, and accepting donations, if any.  There weren't many donations, or at least I didn't see many.  Lots of downloads and listeners, not so much with the money.

So, Scribl the sellers of audiobooks, don't accept anything using Creative Commons content.  Can't sell something licensed for only non-commercial use.  And even if I decided my recordings were not so licensed... I use Creative Commons licensed music and sound effects.  I'd have to pay for commercially usable music to support the Public Domain books I record.  And of course I can't afford to do that.

Higher bitrates, that I could manage.  A few minor technical changes, maybe.  Paying money I don't have for audio I don't want to use just doesn't make sense for me.

So while I've been preparing both the books I've been recording for posting to Podiobooks over the months I've been producing them... I can no longer put them on Podiobooks, because Scribl sets the rules there now, and I can't afford to fulfill their requirements.  The only place my recordings of these books will be available will be on my own website.  Which will be disappointing, because I don't have the audience Podiobooks has had.  And I won't be able to do that final stage of posting Mike Hampston's book on Podiobooks, either, because I don't have the right licensing on the music I used to back those recordings, and I don't have the right permissions from the author to put it there anyway.  Not on a commercial site like Scribl.

I suppose I might put the recordings on Librivox.  The old books like Everlasting Man would be fine there.  Don't think I can put Mike's book there.  So all in all, after years of work... that kinda sucks.  I can understand Evo selling the place.  He's not obligated to keep it up just for someone like me.  But that kinda breaks my plans.  And I don't know what to do next.

And that other thing...

I've seen a lot of coverage of all the swell new-ish tech they offer now for trying Virtual Reality.  Got yer basic wrap-around headsets, and special motion controllers and whatnot.  All very shiny, new and expensive.  Tend to require more powerful computers and more powerful graphic cards.  Also very shiny and new.

But once I thought that through, the tech is all that's new.  I've been playing around in a simulated three-dee environment for several years now, Second Life.  No wrap-around goggles, just a keyboard and mouse to control interactions.  But still, it's a three-D environment, albeit rendered in two-D.  To be fair, sure the three-D effect is clever and new.  The fancier controllers are new.  To make all that work you'll need pretty heavy-duty graphics capabilities.  So does Second Life, but I don't think the machine I use for SL could manage that.  I'm sure playing with the new hardware will be fun for a while.

And yet...

What'll happen in these new VR worlds, in a social sense, will not be new.  You'll start with the early adopters, and for a while the only people there will be those people.  Exclusivity has a profound impact on the feel of any social environment, on computers or otherwise.  If you were there, you know that about every previous social site, for as long as there have been computers.  But then, of course, the companies trying to make money off all that will expand, and try to expand their audience.  Crowds of new folks will come.  The builders will come.  And so will the griefers.  The nice folks who treat each other well will be there, for a while.  And the bad folks who treat others evilly will be there, too.

The new tech might allow new ways to interact and experience the environment.  That'll be swell.  But the people will still be people.

So I figure if you want to know how VR in virtual worlds, as compared to 3D video shows from real life, will turn out... you'll come to Second Life.  The anonymity will most likely be the same.  The interactions without apparent consequences will be the same.  The loves will be the same, the hates will be the same.  People will be the same.  Only the technology will be different.

VR will be, they say, immersive.  Second Life is immersive, too.  Takes some time to get used to.  So will VR.  It would be entirely possible to upgrade the existing SL to work somewhat with VR hardware.  It might not work well, but it's liable to be doable.  And for that matter, however hard, it'd likely be quicker and cheaper than building a whole new world from scratch.  Probably won't happen.  But it could.

Anyway, if folks want to know what a real Virtual World, a real Metaverse would be like in a social sense, well, we can show you.  Second Life started out as an experiment in exactly that Metaverse like experience.  Been there, done that, got the virtual teeshirt.

Some of it is wonderful.  Some of the people, in particular, are wonderful.  And some of it sucks.  The sucky parts suck disproportionally to the time and effort involved.  I suppose the same could be said for the wonderful parts.  

I don't think saying any of that will change anyone's opinion of SL.  People who haven't been in SL, or been long enough to actually settle in, have already set their expectations in stone between their ears, and me talking here will probably not make a damn bit of difference.  I don't think much of anyone more will come to SL to find out what VR will turn out to be.  

But it's the truth.  And if anyone is still interested in the truth anymore, this would be a good place to come find some of that particular truth.  We have more than a decade of experience in a laboratory for the beginnings of that same phenomenon.  Some of it will be new.  Most of it will not.

Enjoy the magical new technology and hardware.  But don't expect magical changes to human nature.  Given time, you'll be in a place very much like here.  And from my experience of previous technological advances and changes, it'll probably be much less than what we already have.  

Good night.  And good luck.


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