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  • subQuark 12:41 pm on March 22, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: corporate social responsibility, reaction grid   

    Why build a social presence? 

    Following and exemplifying “best green practices” is important in our new Reaction Grid project. Getting that word out is part of our mission and one reason we are so adamant with social networking.

    The iliveisl “brand”, as well as Ener Hax as the spokesperson, is the focus we have used. Ener never wanted to be in the spotlight, but has grown to love it (and be obsessed with it – 17,000 Twitter followers and daily blog posts).

    The term “brand” is so sterile but seems to be the best fit for discussing effective social awareness. The purpose of the iliveisl online voice has always been to share what we find wonderful about virtual worlds. It’s not sales oriented and is meant to show the “adventures” of a day-to-day avatar, Ener Hax, and perhaps help others see virtual worlds through the eyes of someone very passionate about them.

    Ener’s passion is easily 10 times greater than my own and certainly more involved. In the last week alone, Ener has built a marine patrol boat, a “megamall”, and a secret meeting space. Plus many small details like putting in a road, blogging daily (sometimes twice daily), meeting with new people in-world, and so on.

    As we define our focus for Enclave Harbour (even redefine the name on Ener’s request to be the proper spelling of harbour), we are using our social presence to spread the word on environmental issues. I am very proud of our Corporate Social Responsibilty consultant for following a similar online strategy and becoming recognized by Environmental Leader and become one of their bloggers (his first post with them). I work with Matt and we often talk about the best way to get your message out.

    Everyone with a Twitter account seems to call themselves a social ninja, but in reality, there are a few simple things you can do to become better known.

    Why is that important?

    Depends on your goals and in the case of Matt, it is to help promote environmental responsibility.

    The simple plan revolves around a key aspect that typically can not be faked or gamed. Passion and knowledge and Matt has both. He founded and chairs the Green Committee at our company (which was the first commercial LEED-certified building in New Hampshire). The next ingredients are straighforward, and like iliveisl, will lead to high online visibility.

    Effective blogging, tying into something like Flickr and YouTube, and connecting all the bits together with Twitter. Those three things will carry you a long way. There are additional items, such as a gravatar account, LinkedIn integration, and so on that may be specific to your needs. Facebook is big of course and a “fan” page may be applicable. Ning groups and a wiki may be good fit for you as well.

    When using third party social sites keep in mind that they can change their terms at any time and even charge for their services. As long as you keep control of your main content in something like a blog, then changes in social platforms will not be as big a deal. MySpace was “the” choice five years ago, Facebook is now that choice, and something else will come along and be the next new choice.

    It is vital to have one central place to point your viewers and a blog works well for many endeavors. Companies with multiple blogs often dilute their messaging and a better strategy may be to have multiple authors on one blog.  I am more likely to go to one place for information on one company than to chase down a handful of blogs. Allowing to sort by author, as on the iliveisl blog, let’s the viewer decide what they want to see.

    What’s your reason for social networking? Job hunting, online portfolio, a cause, hobbies? All valid reasons and likely to aid others.

    harbourPatrol (3)

    Marine Patrol - take note environmental policy violators!

    megaMall_001

    Enclave Harbour Megamall

    remote_015

    Off the beaten path indeed!

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  • subQuark 9:25 pm on March 18, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , , reaction grid   

    The right virtual world for us 

    Last year, I had eight opportunities to share the joy I have in creating eLearning images and video using Second Life as a 3D application.  There was no need to use Python to create physics like in Blender 3D. No need to create characters and articulate their joints. No need to make their wardrobes. There also was no need to wait for weeks to render out a few minutes of footage. Granted, Second Life video does not look like Blender output.

    But when compared to products like CodeBaby, it was hard for me to justify the pricing difference and flexibility. Codebaby costs about $10,000 and you get a talking head and very limited clothing and hair options. One thing CodeBaby does very well is in localisation. You can set up your person and feed any audio through it. I get around that by using inner monologues, a “God” voice, and just embracing that it’s okay to not have the characters speaking perfectly. Yes, you can do lip synching, but then you have timing issues and that adds complexity and time.

    My approach is to create video, and static images, for use in fairly rapid development. Here is proof that your 3D animation does not need to look photo-realistic to get almost any point across:

    =)

    ;)

    =(

    o_O

    :\

    Immediately, we tend to see these as “smileys” and attach emotion to them. So if that can come across as very happy, winking smile, sad, surprised, and indifferent or miffed, then a virtual world avatar certainly can get a lot across in an eLearning piece!  =)

    It always boils down to content. Good content and a drawing in the sand with a stick will also work (Plato).

    rgScreenDetail

    click to learn more

    I have a short 15 minute pre-recorded webinar on Friday at noon Eastern time that talks about what I will cover in a workshop at the end of May in Chicago. If you get a chance, please listen in. It’s very casual (read: I had my Snowball mic and Bose headphones connected to Adobe Connect but then learned I would be recorded via phone! So onto the Blackberry and a more-than-usual relaxed discussion!). Maybe that’s an example of mobile elearning? =D

    The major difference from what I have spoken on before is that I no longer use Second Life. Not at all.

    Reaction Grid works better for me with higher frame rates, more freedom, and a sound base of other educators. Not only is the platform itself better, but I have the full support of the Reaction Grid Team – Kyle, Robin, and Chris are there in a flash if I need them.  What a switch from Second Life!  I could not get a peep from them even though the iliveisl estate had 19 sims!

    Reaction Grid not only says they can help (and do help brilliantly), but they also come up with other ways to support their users. You can imagine my thrill at having a banner on the Reaction Grid login page promoting this webinar! Linden Lab now charges $6,000 a day for a 100 word text message but Reaction Grid placed a banner on their’s for me! And if it is up for two days that’s like a $12,000 sponsorship! Not too bad!

    Yes, they don’t have the number of page impressions, but I’ll take a few hundred hardcore educators over 10,000 pole dancers (not that I have anything against them – our lead scripter did that for a while from what a little pink birdie told me! And I count myself extremely fortunate to have the incredible scripting skills of that person combined with the imagination of Ener). =D

    rgScreen

    Truly supportive - thanks Kyle!

    The title said the right world for “us”. That’s a reference to our other half (far more than a half!), our very own Ener Hax. Ener loves to build and ran the iliveisl estate for two years always hoping to be able to afford an entire sim just for personal builds. Unfortunately, a combination of high costs and Linden policy changes (plus a big Ener heart) never allowed the estate to get to that point. So now, in Reaction Grid, Ener has total free reign over our 16 sims and gets to build anything at all. Thanks Ener. =’) (is that a happy teary-eyed smiley?)

    So fellow eLearners, now that the media hype is gone and a great alternative in Reaction Grid is here, maybe it’s time for you to take a second look at virtual worlds. Take 15 minutes to hear a light discussion and then come over to Reaction Grid and explore our Enclave Harbour and build in our sandboxes!

     
    • Audrey 7:18 pm on March 19, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hi David,

      I appreciate you reviewing various 3D applications, including ours, for an eLearning context. I would like to correct a few things that you said in this quote “Codebaby costs about $10,000 and you get a talking head and very limited clothing and hair options. ” True, CodeBaby for a single user retail price does cost that. However, that does not take into account volume purchasing or non-profit, government and education discounts. Second, CodeBaby is more than a talking head. The characters can walk on and off screen, sit down, turn around their complete bodies, and we offer features such as tweening and positioning on screen. Additionally, we have 26 standard characters that range in type from a casual character to those with shirts and ties and with more to come in future versions. We have a full library of props. And soon again, you’ll have the option to switch out hair and clothing for the standard characters. If you were trying to compare us to a complete sim environment, we’re certainly not that nor are attempting to be. However, we have easily exportable 3D characters that can be placed in those environments and some of our client base adds our characters to 3D environments, but most of them choose to insert the SWF into other formats such as in Articulate, Captivate or even Adobe Connect for an avatar enhanced webinars. As I have experienced and learned not every type of learning goal can be met in a 3D environment. I really thank you for your time and please reach out to me if you have any questions or would like to trial Studio again.

      Thank you,

      Audrey

      • subquark 11:51 pm on March 19, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        As a fellow Canadian, I appreciate your gracious response. CodeBaby is certainly an excellent tool and for most eLearning departments, a wonderful choice. A point also for CodeBaby is that the output if of a higher quality than OpenSim or Second Life, A higher poly count is noticeable. What I like the most is the ability to simply switch out audio, edit timeline length to match audio (in that a German audio may be longer than an English one).

        To be very fair, I am somewhat competent in Flash. Having 11 years experience, being a large contributor to ActionScript.org, and even running a small forum for three years. I have never used Articulate or Captivate because I find it easier to just work directly in Flash and ActionScript. So my use of virtual world “video” is augmented by what I can do with it in Flash. For example, creating the “video” scenarios, then pulling in external SWF questions in various languages and external audio files in different languages, dynamically adjusting movie clip lengths of the video give me a level of control not possible in other applications.

        Also, a significant factor to consider, which makes Codebaby more practical for many is passion for what you do. I love virtual worlds and spend 30-40 hours a week in them in addition to my day corporate eLearning job.

        And the use of “talking head” was in the light of the eLearning community and your product is beyond one such as SitePal or Sculptoris.

        It would be lovely if your product would support importing objects such as Google SketchUp, Blender 3D meshes, and so on (perhaps it does?).

        I agree that not everything can be taught in a virtual environment but many things can be taught in virtually any environment (real or virtual) when the proper teacher is involved. I think you could even use flip books effectively.

        I taught for three years in a high school that could not afford “proper” science equipment, but it’s amazing what you can teach with 35 MM film cannisters (boy am I dating myself!) and pennies. I then taught for seven years at the largest college in the US, had great science resources, but there was a certain disconnect because the lab equipment was so specialized it was too removed from the students to easily make the connection to their real lives.

        Your product works very well and for those with the means, it is worth the cost (my barometer for that may not be the norm – our Ed Dev department is actually a profit center to the tune of a couple of million, yet we won’t spend $500 for the full version of a particular software and it’s not uncommon that my personal still and video camera are used!).

        Thank you for the corrections and an example of the great use of Google alerts (I assume – but what a wonderful tool).

    • Audrey 6:14 pm on March 20, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your very kind reply. I appreciate your clarification. I can tell you seem to be very literate in technology, and much more so than me or the average eLearning developer. CodeBaby does support importing backgrounds of your choice and if you’re more expert, which it seems you are, one can change the textures and look of the clothing. We have some clients that use 3DS Max to change clothing, although we do have enhanced character clothing available for more choices. I think this is what you’re referring to.
      And I agree with you there, an eLearning program or sim environment can fall flat without the proper instructional design techniques. We’ve had clients experience that on both ends. A CodeBaby character is an effective tool, but clever and engaging design techniques performed by a human is what pulls it all together.
      Again, thanks for your reply. Sounds like you’re the one to watch and learn from regarding virtual eLearning. Yes, the ever omniscient Google Alerts is how I found out.

      Best regards,

      Audrey

  • subQuark 8:28 pm on March 16, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: reaction grid   

    Shameless Plug or Just Sharing Passion 

    It’s funny how we use blogs as a means of self-promotion but can also feel a bit guilty about that same activity. Maybe it’s a Catholic upbringing or any number of factors for me, but self-promotion always feels a bit shady to me.

    However, how else would we learn if people did not stand on their soapboxes and shout out to the world?

    Last night I read about Linden Lab’s trial advertising program. Linden is now offering 100 characters of ad space that will appear one time for 11 and a half hours on their login screen. Are you sitting down for this?

    That one ad will run you $4,500 USD if run during the day or $1,500 USD if run at night!  You have to sell a lot of $1.50 shoes to justify that ad budget!

    Suddenly, a self-promoting blog post seems like a pretty reasonable deal, especially since you are not forced to look at it. =)

    In May, I do my first workshop and conference presentation using Reaction Grid, rather than Second Life, as my animation platform of choice. The workshop will be an introduction to participants who are new to virtual worlds.

    It’s a 4 hour hands-on workshop and may even include “virtual worlds on a stick”.  The stick part depends on the Reaction Grid team and is a big undertaking. But it certainly would help portray Reaction Grid in a very good light and ensure “connectivity” regardless of conference resources. What a great tool as well for people wanting to work on their virtual world assets while not connected to the web. Simply using a viewer, such as Imprudence or Meerkat, would mean you would have your own personal, totally secure, sandbox in which you could experiment and save your creations.

    I am also doing a seperate conference session discussing virtual worlds. Basically, after all the media hype of three years ago, it’s time to take a second look at virtual worlds and see if they have a place for you in your eLearning and training toolbox.

    Virtual worlds are still, in my opinion, a highly niche “platform”.

    There is a learning curve, albeit I will argue that it is smaller than most people claim in the eLearning community. When you compare using Second Life or Reaction Grid’s hosted OpenSim to learning Blender 3D or Studio 3D Max, you simply can’t gripe about a learning curve.  As a former Second Life Mentor and owner of many sims (a total of 34 between SL and RG), I feel confident in having someone up to speed and able to build within an hour.

    I find the biggest factor is drive. If you are interested in learning it, then it will come faster and more easily (not a very profound statement on my part!).

    The people putting on this conference and the webinar discussing my workshop, put on 1,200 conferences per year internationally!

    It’s a wonderful opportunity to let more of the world know that Reaction Grid is a very good alternative to Second Life. In many ways, I find it a better alternative and certainly much more economical (our 16 Reaction Grid sims cost less than one sim in Second Life).

    Here’s the information for my Friday Adobe Connect session discussing my workshop.

    More to follow on this blog, such as the detailed workshop and presentation topics.

    Have fun and if you want to explore the educational and training side of virtual worlds, go get a free account on Reaction Grid and see you in-world!

    Just open the Reaction Grid map, go all the way to the northwest and you’ll see our sims. Everyone is welcome, just mind your step as seven of us build away.

    lighthouse_018edit

    our own Ener Hax later corrected Harbour's spelling to the Queen's English

    PS – keep up to date with the often times light hearted daily blog from iliveisl on the team’s adventures in setting up Enclave Harbour in Reaction Grid

     
  • subQuark 9:46 pm on March 3, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , , reaction grid   

    Teaching Environmental Science in Virtual Worlds 

    As Enclave Harbour comes closer to completion, it is time to start sharing some of its objectives. Enclave Harbour has several goals and part of its mission statement includes raising environmental awareness.

    This is done by including obvious “green” practices, such as a solar array farm and wind turbines, and subtle practices such as pitchered water and glasses versus bottled water for meetings. Ener is doing a wonderful job of building with a “green” attitude (and a thank you to DreamWalker for scripting those).

    Including such elements in a virtual world setting does help keep environmental awareness in the forefront. However, we also go beyond simply incorporating such things to developing formal programmes to explore environmental science.

    As a former middle and high school science teacher, then later a professor of college Geology and Environmental Science, coupled with a Bachelors in Physical Science (major Geology, minor Chemistry), I am enjoying developing virtual world facilitated educational activities.

    While early in it’s development, several learning “tracks” are in the works. One geared toward middle school Earth Science, another to high school as a possible mentor programme, and perhaps a corporate track.

    Let’s take a look at a quick example: a fantasy jet.

    For middle school use, you can illustrate that hot exhaust gases cool in the atmosphere and create “contrails”, or condensation trails. You can refer to these as artificial clouds and tie into the water cycle as an example of condensation.  You can also introduce the concept of carbon footprints, as well as aerodynamics, lift, and more. As a supplementary exercise, the sky is the limit (pardon the pun).  =)

    At the high school level, you can discuss adiabatic change, when a compressed gas expands and loses heat. This can lead to discussions on entropy, jet propulsion, environmental costs both in the air and on the ground (as in avian migratory patterns – interesting species such as the snowy owl of Boston’s Logan airport – and the real cost to airport administrators and travelers). Details such as adiabatic change, while not strictly tied to air pollution, are important in environmental science literacy. Apart from keeping air pollutants suspended, condensation trails have long been considered as climate factors.

    The thought being that additional and perpetual “cloud” coverage from daily jet traffic both holds in some of Earth’s emissivity (the release of infrared energy from Earth’s surface – that energy having been imparted by the sun shining on our planet) and increases the reflection of the sun’s solar energy (albedo). This was thought to have been proven when data was collected in the three days that air traffic was suspended in the US after the attacks of 9/11. A difference in daily temperature fluctuation of 1 degree Celsius during those three days was attributed to contrails.

    However, subsequent studies tend to point to natural factors affecting that change. This type of exploration is key to students learning to look at the world differently and understand that science is not separate from our lives, but rather a part of it.  And to question science. After all, part of the scientific method is to be open minded – something science is actually somewhat poor at doing. It often takes years for science to make changes (Alfred Wegener proposed continental drift in 1912 yet it was not regarded as possible until the 1970s – I have a National Geographic atlas from 1968 touting the expanding Earth theory for the continental and oceanic plates).

    You get the idea, this one “build” can be used in many ways and serves as a catalyst to expand beyond itself. From simple observations “why do planes leave white trails in the sky?” to term papers discussing any number of details.

    Stay tuned for more information about Enclave Harbour in Reaction Grid!

    L2Vrunway_009

    pretty fly, for an avatar =)

    this post also carried on the iliveisl blog

     
  • subQuark 1:42 am on March 2, 2010 Permalink
    Tags: , reaction grid   

    Connect the Social Networking Dots 

    Anyone with a Twitter account is a social networking ninja! Well, so it seems. Even Guy Kawasaki cringes at that! Of course, he is actually a social networking guru. However, simple practices can make big differences. I see many eLearning webinars on how to leverage your social efforts and drive more traffic.

    In reality, it comes down to content. Just like in eLearning material. Good content shines, regardless of it’s packaging. I use the example of Plato drawing in sand to teach profound things. These things became timeless because of their value and pertinence to others. The same with your eLearning. If it helps someone do their job better and/or have a better quality of life, then you have done well.

    Certainly, very poor execution of delivering your content can have a terrible affect. But I find that we often focus so heavily on the technology, that we sometimes place the content second. I see LinkedIn questions that make me shudder on this topic.

    The same holds true with social networking. There are some things you can do, like connect your blog to LinkedIn and Facebook, connect Twitter to those two as well. Use a Flickr image in every blog post (my preference because Flickr is growing faster than Photobucket and since Yahoo owns it, it helps with SEO as does Photobucket).

    None of these things are rocket science and blogs such as DoshDosh.com will help you select what is best for your particular goals.

    As you likely know, I set up the accounts and wired them together for the former iliveisl Second Life estate. Now that has changed focus from Second Life to OpenSim hosts Reaction Grid. Much trial and error went into finding the right places to help broaden the reach of iliveisl. From CafePress to t-shirt affiliates to Facebook to Ning and so on. In the end, what worked for us, was a blog, flickr, and Twitter.

    And the important thing? Content.

    In the two years of blogging for the iliveisl estate, very few posts ever pushed land sales. Topics are predominantly the ramblings of an everyday avatar (and there are also 3 other authors, including me, who added a different perspective on more technical topics). The same for the iliveisl Twitter – casual conversations.

    Many people think of Twitter as a sales tool and push their branding message like mad. Even Coca Cola has had poor Twitter results because of this. Granted, Dell has done very well, but they pass on very real savings via Twitter, not just hype about their product.

    If you have good content that your audience enjoys, you will grow your influence. So try out this and that, give it time – if you are starting a Facebook fan page, be attentive to it, deliver useful information, and wait. It takes longer than you think to see results. At least in our case it did.  Six solid months of blogging an average of 10 times a week yielded solid results for iliveisl.

    Here are the results of that effort. Keep in mind that iliveisl is predominantly one person and a shoestring budget versus a 300 person company with a million customers (Second Life) and I added Reaction Grid in there because we want to see it grow and will do our small part to aid that.

    bigThree

     
    • Ener Hax 1:54 am on March 2, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      we be kicking butts and taking avatar names! go subQuark go!

      *gets back to planting trees* =D

    • Peter Stindberg 2:50 am on March 2, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Having worked in Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization for many years (and right now looking for a new job in technology marketing) I am rather reluctant regarding those automatic ranking. I am always reminded to the infamous Alexa rankings, that have no practical relevance and are ridiculously easy to game so that they were the basis for a whole mushroom colony of shady SEO companies who made the client pay on Alexa rnaking success alone.

      For what it’s worth, my own blog ranks 87 on WebsiteGrader, and it is pretty low profile.

      The criticisim about those rankings aside, the only thing I really HATE about your blog is that I found it so late :-) Good job, good reads, keep up the good work!

      • subquark 11:19 am on March 2, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Thank you for the kind words. Indeed, you are completely correct on gaming the rankings. I use them as a benchmark to compare our own growth, hoping that a move from an 80 to an 85 may be reflective of something we did. Anything that involves money will be exploited as soon as possible and SEO rankings are no different. Your insight from your experience certainly speaks volumes to the truth about rankings and that they should be taken with a grain of salt.

        And shady is an excellent way to describe the 1,000’s of Twitter promises of 100s of followers per day for $12.95 a month! The biggest part of that equation is “what is a large follower number worth?”

        Our own Ener is obsessed with twitter numbers, but I believe it is more out of fun than anything else. I don’t think anyone selling acai berries or ground-floor opportunities in Trump Networks gains much value from being an iliveisl follower!

        Btw, I believe Ener is creating an office space for you in Enclave Harbour if you are so interested. No strings attached and you would offer value to us with your presence.

        As to your 87, I enjoy your blog much more than Linden Lab’s 98!

        Keep us all honest and keep edifying the community. Thanks!

        • Peter Stindberg 11:34 am on March 2, 2010 Permalink

          Funny you mention it – only this morning I tried to find Enclave Harbour, but could not. One of the biggest hinderances in Opensim is th elack of Search functionality :-( What is your sim called?

        • subquark 5:42 pm on March 2, 2010 Permalink

          Oh sorry about that. We are still a private grid but will connect to the main Reaction Grid world soon. It is comprised of 16 sims, but one is actually called Enclave Harbour. I am so new to OpenSim and Reaction Grid, I am not sure how you get out locations? Is it still a slurl?

    • Ener Hax 7:39 am on March 3, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      good points Peter! and yep subbie, making an office spot for Peter. no pressure and we have space – Peter does some neat stuff in virtual worlds =)

      • Peter Stindberg 8:35 am on March 3, 2010 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        Cool, I really appreciate that. I have a neat XML file with my stuff already and only need to port the scripts. Just let me know where and when.

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