Wind of change at Linden Lab – Keynote @ VWBPE Virtual World Best Practise in Education Conference 9-12 April 2014

What an amazing conference this was! I was glued to my PC for hours on end, even until early morning and I have some great news to share.

The biggest and most surprising keynote at VWBPE was the appearance of Ebbe Altberg, the new CEO of Linden Lab since Feb 5, 2014. Whether this is too late or not but he has announced a big shift in attitude towards the educational community in Second Life.

Some of you might remember that Linden Lab abolished the 50% educational discount beginning 2011, which an optional extension of 2 years (if you paid up front for 2 years) which ran out in Jan 2013. Since then all of the Universities and educational institutions had to pay the full fee which meant 295 USD per full region. Many Universities left and started development in OpenSim. Interestingly, the official announcement to reverse this move came in July last year during the VWBPE conference in July in 2013! Before that, from spring 2013 onwards, rumours went around that Linden Lab is offering the educational rate to those who had left. Then however, it became officially a Linden policy again and we on EduNation too could reapply and were granted again from Sept a 50% reduction in tier fees. A big relief.

This time, VWBPE conference organizers had again a big surprise in store. The newly appointed CEO Ebbe Altberg appeared with a remarkable announcement: “Reconnecting with the Education Market”. The keynote definitely more than fulfilled any hopes of a reconciliation between the strong educational community and Linden Lab, to heal a breach that started around 2010. Here is the recording and I highly recommend watching it. (you might need to refresh page to see the embed video)

One of the interesting things we heard was, that Ebbe Altberg knew the company at the beginning during Philip Rosedale times and he was inworld as an early adopter. We also learned, that he was well surprised at the direction the company took under Rod Humble who, during the 3 years of running Linden Lab aliented its users from head office, abolished the educational rate, made about a third of the employees redundant (amongst others Leicester Pathfinder, Torley and many others) and the rest was not even allowed to go inworld with their Linden accounts. He invested in creating homes and games (a move that cause lots of raised eyebrows stating that Linden Lab should focus on begin a platform and not a content provider) whilst fixing things in the User Interface that weren’t broken totally messing up the chat window interface.

Ebbe reversed the decision not allowing Linden Lab employees to join inworld with their Linden accounts and encourages them to mingle with the users. He himself opened a new channel of communication by appearing at VWBPE and stated clearly to take users concerns and wishes seriously. He mentioned that he is in contact with Philip Rosedale and his promising development work with High Fidelity and they are trying to collaborate and mutually benefiting each other’s companies. What High Fidelity is doing is best seen in this video at SVVR9 conf, a video that will blow your mind. (you might need to refresh page to see the embed video)

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Philip Rosedale also gave the opening keynote at VWBPE which is really worth watching. See youtube recording HERE. As Philip and others (Maria Korolov keynote) pointed out, the mouse with its two buttons and basically 2D behaviourism does not do virtual worlds justice.

Hence a lot of talk at VWBPE has been prompted by the acquisition of the Oculus VR, the Rift headset company by facebook for 2$ Bill USD. The Oculus Rift headset is a type of goggles which is said to create a complete immersive experience. It costs about 350 USD and can cause nausea, this is how intensive it is.

Source Wikipedia En Oculus Rift

The above two were my two highlights at VWBPE however, there were many more great presentations and panels.

One of the keynotes I enjoyed a lot because of the impressive commercial organisation Designing Digitally Inc. by Andrew Hughes because he explained nicely the difference between gamification and game based learning. Here are some of the screenshots of his talk. The full recording of this great keynote is HERE.

There was a great featured panel with Botgirl Questi SL, Will Burns RL/Aeonix Aeon SL, Terry Beaubois RL/Tab Scott SL and Kevin Feenan RL/Phelan Corrimal SL because as Tab pointed out that he had never met more interesting people than in Second Life. Considering the strong international project experience of Tab, this is a strong statement indeed. Well worth watching. (you might need to refresh page to see the embed video)

Also very very interesting is the Freedom project presentation with Jay Jay Jegathesan RL/ Jayjay Zifanwe SL

Alice Krueger RL/Gentle Heron SL, an initiative inviting users of SL with some disabilities to express in form of art, how SL has helped them to overcome the worst in their illnesses. Notably, Draxtor Despres’ machinima on how mirror neurons can ease Parkinson’s symptoms in this personal account. Draxtor btw, was widely praised for reversing the bad press that SL has been getting for a number of years. More can be read on this website about the pieces of art which will be compiled in a printed book.

We had the privilege to present CAMELOT and thrilled to conduct a 2h MachinEVO symposium where we could show a lot of machinima. Recordings are coming soon.

The full playlist provided by Mal Burns of MetaWorld is as follows….

Watch live streaming video from metaworld2 at livestream.com

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