Virtual Worlds 2007, report #1

by Alphaville Herald on 28/03/07 at 5:00 pm

By Urizenus Sklar

All quotes guaranteed to possibly be accurate.

I climbed out my cab in Battery Park, eager to take in Virtual Worlds 2007 conference and hear the latest developments in virtual worlds. But what is this? The other taxis pulling up are not yielding scruffy game devs and virtual platform development geeks, but are disgorging middle aged men in dark suits. Is there something else going on? A conference on accounting strategies in the packaging industry? Perhaps a meeting on optimizing your real estate portfolio? Nope, these are Fortune 500 marketing guys, here to harness the technology of virtual worlds for their harvest of eyeballs.

I enter the venue auditorium and it is packed with at least 600 suits. Maybe more. You can feel the poplin-filtered sweat of middle-aged anxiety. You know, that anxiety you feel when you get the vague sense that the kidz are passing you by – that you won’t catch this wave and you’ll be left bobbing offshore while jellyfish sting the shit out of you and sharks circle you. And meanwhile the kidz that caught the wave are already on the beach doing the limbo by the bonfire and drinking sugary carbonated sodas with Annette Funicello? You know. *That* sort of anxiety.

But it’s worse than that, because they already missed that wave. The Web 2.0 wave came and passed them by and now Annette is like 80 years old or maybe even dead for all we know and jellyfish and sharks have had their fun and here comes another wave and oh shit what if they miss this one too. Oh Nooooooooo!

As I say, the room is packed to the gills so I climb to the back of the auditorium. Real nose bleed territory. I can barely see the freakin’ stage. Individuals in the audience slowly come into focus. There is Electric Sheep house futurist Jerry Paffendorf in the back of the room with me. You can tell he’s a futurist, because isn’t wearing a suit…just his Williamsburgh issue grey sweater. I can see that Prokofy Neva has cornered Philip (Linden) Rosedale in the aisle. This fills me with mirth. But Philip is saved; he is the first speaker.

Philip is wearing a light cream colored dress shirt and I’m too far away but is that the same tan cord jacket I’m wearing? If so, then damn am I plugged in.

Philip speaks. “Wow.”

Well, I guess you could say that, but I guess I might have begun with “holy fuck, what the fuck is the matter with you fucktards” but maybe that’s why Philip makes the big bucks and I don’t. But Philip is a man on a tight schedule and he quickly gets to the point. He poses a question for us:

“If you could be anybody other than yourself, who would you be? I’ve always thought the best answer to that is ‘me’.”

I clean the wax out of my ears after that one. I think he *meant* the right answer is that each person should chose to be his/her self. But then he did say “me.” I daydream a bit about what it’s like to be Philip. Hmmm, I think I would get laid a lot more, that’s for sure. But that hair would have to go; I have *some* principles.

But then Philip changes his mind.

“No, I would want to be Richard Feynman.”

Mmmm, yeah, nothing is better than dying of stomach cancer. Think I’ll have to take issue with Philip’s idea of the ideal life here.

But then we hear *why* Feynman. It seems Feynman gave a talk in the late 50s and said something about “there’s plenty room at the bottom.” Yes, lots of empty space in atoms. If I could harness that my home storage problems would be solved.

But my rich train of thought is derailed by another golden spike of wisdom from Philip.

“As a kid I was inspired by a similar notion – there is plenty of room inside. There is somehow a way of creating space in computers.”

He talks about how the Mandelbrot program on his computer blew his mind. He and a friend follow the replication of a starfish in a diagram as they zoom in on regions of it. Did I imagine this or did he say *chocolate* starfish. “The area of diagram was the same as the surface of the earth” – the earth tiled with chocolate starfish. Imagine.

OK, now I’m lost. I hope you are too.

Philip continues.

“Starting over. If we went into space we could start something new. We can start over in virtual worlds. That’s why this matters so much.”

Philip’s not wrong. I could be a chick or a furry or both or even a furry herm!

“When we started Second Life we focused on the physics – we didn’t think so much about people.”

Gosh there’s a surprise.

“But the most important thing about virtual worlds is the people.”

And it took you how long to figure this out exactly?

Philip makes the case for expanding 3D worlds everywhere. Even to

“What a dumb thing to do. Take something that’s easy to do – buy a book on amazon in 2D and put it in a 3D world. But the thing that is amazing about SL is that there are other people there. On amazon you can’t talk to other people. We are there with each other, we can ask questions, etc. This wasn’t obvious to me in 2003, but this is the thing that tells us the most about where 3D worlds are going.”

On the other hand, as Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”

“This will change the nature of who we are. There is a strange way in which these virtual worlds lead us to make changes in the real world. How many people have changed the way they look or their house because they saw how easy it was to do online.”

I give up… two?

“Were still early in this. Nothing is working perfectly yet.”

Stop the presses! Things aren’t working perfectly yet? Think I’ll file this under epic understatements.

“Last point. Friend of mine told me this story about NY 1993. He was a lawyer. A friend showed him mosaic – and he said “God this is going to change everything”. And what my friend remembers saying to himself is “I get it” — but my friend continues “I didn’t understand, because if I had understood I would have quit my job as a lawyer.”

Apparently the moral is this: quit your high paying job as a lawyer and move into a cardboard box when your fails.

Oh wait, I guess it’s that none of us will fully understand. Or something.

Philip is done and lucky bastard that he is, out of the room, but I am trapped in the middle of the back room in nosebleed territory. A panel session forms down on the stage, and I should have brought my opera glasses because I can barely see.

I’m so far away the only people I recognize are Dan Terdiman (the moderator) and Electric Sheep founder Sibley Verbeck. Everyone is shmushed into a table that is way too small. Hey, it’s the dawn of the metaverse: Get a bigger table guys!

Everyone is dressed in black except for Sibley who is dressed like a pirate. Well, maybe he just looks like one from up here.

The panel also includes Joe Laszlo, (Jupiter Technologies), Chris Colins (new business analyst with SL) Justin Bovington RRR and Steve Prentis, from somewhere?

I *have* to get out of here. I’m stuck. When the hell can I get out of here. I can’t concentrate.

Sibley makes a point about Club Penguin and Webkinz. Amen to that. I’m gonna go home and fire up my Webkinz. (My polar bear has one fuckin’ tight crib.)

I climb over the people in my row, stepping on feet, banging kneecaps, grabbing people’s heads to right myself, and then, after what seems like an eternity to everyone in my row, I’m free. I break for the door, and escape the building, but outside MTVs Eric Gruber and Jerry Paffendorff are doing their Williamsburg chill d00d things. “yo Uri’s got the downtown shades.” Well, fuck yah I do.

Against my better judgment I follow the future back into the building but break off to check out the demo rooms. There is there, and so is Second Life. So is Philip, who is talking to someone important. He reaches out and gives me a 9 o’clock left-handed high-five (a medium five?) and then snaps his fingers off the end of mine at the end of the fiving. I must be one of the cool kidz too!

But then I notice that his jacket isn’t tan, but sort of a earthy light green hemp – the sort of thing he could chop up and smoke if the Linden Lab stash ever runs out. I check out another demo, and then Philip wanders over.

He informs me that he is off to North Carolina or South Carolina or some Carolina or other for a workshop with Bill Clinton and other bigwigs, but I’m not impressed. I’m not invited so it can’t be that important.

Oh well, at least Philip made it to his own talk, but as he leaves the venue it creates a nice metaphor. All the suits were fighting to catch the wave, but little did they know that as they were sitting in that auditorium of Brooks Brothers wrapped primal fear, the wave had left the building, and was going to hit the Carolina shore in a few hours.

I run into Jerry again, who has already figured out that the future is not taking place in the auditorium but in the back room deal cutting and gossip sessions. He clues me in to the coffee room. This saves my life. I can be here and not actually go to any talks. I grab a seat next to Clickable Culture’s Tony Walsh. He is busy blogging for the 10 Canadians that read his blog. Given the gravity of that responsibility he has no time to talk to me. But then I notice that Millions of Us Dear Leader Reuben (ex-Linden) Steiger is sitting next to me staring vacantly at the video feed of the conference.

Reuben: “Much more of this and I’m going to slit my throat.”

Uri: “Can I help?”

15 Responses to “Virtual Worlds 2007, report #1”

  1. Hamlet Au

    Mar 28th, 2007

    ROFLcopter, Uri pwned!

  2. Inigo Chamerberlin

    Mar 28th, 2007

    Not being nasty Uri, but was it worth it?
    IS it worth the screen space here?
    Phil goes to a conference and talks shit, while SL continues to fall apart…
    Hellooooo!? Anyone looked at the blob or been in world lately?

    HOURS for transactions to show up – when the trancactions page promises less than a minute’s delay?

    Someone sent over 2000 responses to a help request they didn’t make?

    Excuse me, is this asshole (Phil in case anyone was in doubt) on the same PLANET as the rest of us?

  3. Ordinal Malaprop

    Mar 28th, 2007

    When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Uri.

  4. Trevor F. Smith

    Mar 28th, 2007

    I think I just had Uri’s baby.

  5. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 28th, 2007

    I was there. Uri has captured it PERFECTLY. He didn’t get the few — but grimly determined — women there, too, with all the wrong shades of lipstick.

    Can I do mine now? I promise to provide more detail on Philip’s hair.

  6. Angel

    Mar 28th, 2007

    >> the sort of thing he could chop up and smoke if the Linden Lab stash ever runs out.

    I think it’s going to be a long time until the Lindens are off the weed. Chadrick’s reggae inspired closing statement in last nights global rolling-reboot warning proves he is one of the bigger tokers.

    >> Did I imagine this or did he say *chocolate* starfish.

    Munchies! QED

    >> I daydream a bit about what it’s like to be Philip. Hmmm, I think I would get laid a lot more, that’s for sure.

    Clicky-Clicky vanilla sex with xcites grown to 200% their normal 14″ size.

    >> Someone sent over 2000 responses to a help request they didn’t make?

    To be fair, I seem to recall he later admitted in the same blog he miscounted and many were spam.

  7. Cocoanut Koala

    Mar 28th, 2007

    I had Uri’s baby four years ago.

    Glad it wasn’t me suffering through that conference!


  8. Gideon Television

    Mar 28th, 2007

    This is why i gave up blogging, I just can’t compete. Great write-up.

  9. Frederic Prevost ... I think I want to be... ME...

    Mar 28th, 2007

    “If you could be anybody other than yourself, who would you be? I’ve always thought the best answer to that is ‘me’.”

    /me giggles

    Everyone is entitled to Philip’s opinion…?

    ctrl + F2 (/me ebil baby laughs)

  10. otakup0pe Neumann

    Mar 28th, 2007

    with all the wrong shades of lipstick.

    I saw several shades of “blood red” lipstick.

  11. qDot

    Mar 29th, 2007

    Word of wisdom to those planning Virtual Worlds West this Fall:

    Let me talk.


    I swear I won’t regret it. You might, but I won’t.

  12. Mudkips Acronym

    Mar 29th, 2007

    “I could be a chick or a furry or both or even a furry herm!”

    Oh god, Urizenus, you’re never going to hear the end of that.

  13. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 30th, 2007

    >I give up… two?

    This gets funnier every time I read it lol. Really an epic Herald Classic that should get pinned up on the left-hand side on our page here.

  14. Tenshi Vielle

    Mar 30th, 2007

    “…but I’m not impressed. I’m not invited so it can’t be that important.”


    Uri, I’m gonna call you Daddy from now on. You’re just too cool to NOT be related to me. Oh, and while you’re there – slap Philip on the back of the head for me, snapping your fingers after a high-five is SO 1996. Gah.

  15. Eric Rice

    Mar 31st, 2007

    Best blog post ever. EVER.

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