- Andy Fundinger: SL/RL Interfaces — An Overview – “There are three main interfaces that can bridge the gap between SecondLife and real life.“
- Alaska Airlines: Hawaii Here We Come – “Alaska Airlines will offer daily year-round nonstop flights between Seattle and Honolulu, and between Seattle and Lihu’e on the island of Kauai. Alaska will also launch seasonal service between Anchorage and Honolulu.“
- Second Life Insider: Tools of the Trade – Sculpties – “What the hell is a sculpt texture? It’s a three dimensional displacement map that is applied to a sphere. Basically the sphere is made of lots of little triangles. The point where those triangles touch at the corners is called a vertex. A sculpt texture has the X, Y and Z position of each vertex laid out in a flat sheet, relative to the center of the sphere. That tells it where every vertex goes and will form the final shape.“
- VeeJay Burns: A Closer Look at Amazon – “We toured the sim then and saw a very imaginative auditorium, probably one of the most original ones I’ve seen so far and we toured the Amazon again in the boats I blogged on in my previews posting on Amazon. This time, even the boats caused havoc as one actualla sank!“
- Betsy Weber: Amazon Web Services Chat.
- Paul Allen: Recruiting 2.0 – “World Vital Records is looking to hire two outstanding developers. We need a top PHP coder and a top Adobe Flex coder. Genealogy interest/experience is a plus. We are also hiring a sales manager to set up and manage our call center.“
- Rick Skrenta: Code Is Our Enemy – “I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to generally insert learning components at certain points into the code to adaptively respond to failure cases, scenarios, etc. Why am I manually tuning this perf variable or setting this backoff strategy? Why are we manually doing A/B testing and putting the results back into CVS to run another test, when the whole loop could be wired up to the live site to run by itself and just adapt and/or improve over time?“
- Adafruit Industries: All-original DIY Electronics Kits – “All the kits are redesigned specifically to make it easy for soldering beginners to build: nicely silkscreened circuit boards, through-hole parts whenever possible, extra large solder pads, etc. For some kits, you can purchase just the circuit board“
I’ve been listening to CC Chapman‘s Managing the Gray podcasts for quite a while. CC, who calls himself a “Grounded Futurist & New Media Maven,” is all that and more. He’s a blogger, a podcaster, a video blogger, and a Second Life regular. It is really interesting to see how he weaves these various mediums together as part of his day job, VP at Crayon.
Every Thursday, CC invites his listeners to log in to Second Life at 9 AM EST for a half hour or so of stimulating conversation at Crayonville, his corporate home in-world. I have this event on my Outlook calendar and make it a point to be there whenever I am in a time zone which so allows.
This past week there was a buzz in the virtual air. CC announced that Virtual Hot Wings, a new album produced by fans of “Piano Rocker” Matthew Ebel, was now available for in-world purchase. I had heard of Matthew but didn’t really know what all of the fuss was about, but bookmarked the site until I had more time to investigate. They mentioned that it was possible to buy the album inside of Second Life (in-world, as they say) which certainly sounded cool.
Saturday evening I was hanging around the house, passing some time before heading to the airport to retrieve my wife Carmen, who had spent a week in Maryland catching up with her family. I pulled up the Virtual Hot Wings bookmark, listened to a sample clip, and realized that I had been hearing bits and pieces of Matthew’s work on various podcasts. From there I headed into Second Life, intent on making the purchase. I could have bought the album from the web site, but I was interested in checking out the purchasing and delivery process. It also seemed only fair, since I had learned about the album in-world, to make the purchase that same way.
I headed over to the specified location on Crayonville but I couldn’t find the vending machine. I went back to the web site and found an email address for one Chel Pixie. I sent her an email and within minutes she logged in, realized that the vending machine had in fact mysteriously disappeared, and asked me to be patient while she created another one! She teleported me to another location, rezzed a fresh vending machine, and I paid my 5000 Lindens (about $19 at the current exchange rate). The vending machine issued a notecard to me, complete with a download URL to a password-protected ZIP file.
You can find that vending machine on the island of Los Arboles, which you can visit here.
Early this morning I downloaded the 387MB file and opened it up. There was quite a bit inside:
- 3 Ringtones.
- A 3-page PDF of press clippings about Matthew.
- A high-resolution promotional photo of Matthew.
- A 6-page collection of lyrics from his Beer and Coffee album.
- Cover art in PNG format, which I could print out and insert into a CD jewel case.
- Audio from 4 of Matthew’s concerts in Second Life.
- The 16 music tracks which comprise the actual album.
I dropped it all into a folder, imported it into iTunes, and then put it on my iPod’s playlist. A quick sync up and I was ready to go. These are all quality, DRM-free recordings – a total of 5 hours of music.
My family went out to do some shopping today, so I decided to give the album a listen while weeding some badly overgrown flower beds in my yard. Matthew’s snappy lyrics and crisp piano playing made the time pass quickly. I was so fired up that I even pulled out what looked like a weed, only to learn (when my wife returned) that it was actually one of her favorite plants (a Mexican Bleeding Heart, I think she said). Oh well!
It was really fun to listen to the music in concert form. Matthew was apparently streaming the sound live into Second Life, while watching the audience and even shouting out to them between numbers. He was very, very aware of what was going on in-world and I felt that I had missed out on some fun by not being there! He made sure to say hello to his regulars and he acknowledged contributions to his tip jar in real time.
Ok, so far so good, but the best is yet to come.
When I was talking to Chel Pixie yesterday (there she is on the right), she told me a little bit about the story behind the album. Other than giving his go-ahead and performing in Second Life, Matthew didn’t need to participate in the production of this amazing work! Instead, Chel and fellow fan Christopher Penn put the whole thing together, and they did it in two weeks! You can read the entire story here. As she notes, “This release has the power to change the way that the music industry works. The record labels and the RIAA have a whole lot of catching up to earn the love and loyalty of the fans the way that Matthew has.”
As CC notes on his Accident Hash podcast, Matthew’s take from each album is the entire 5000 Lindens or $20, instead of the 45 cents or so that he would get if he had signed up with a major label. Even better, the money flows to him immediately. No manager, no earn-out, no record companies in the way. If you don’t understand what happens when a musician signs with a label, read Steve Albini’s classic piece on this subject.
If you are a musician and you want to build up a fan base, you had better pay attention to this stuff. Matthew starts out in the real world, then creates Hali Heron as his Second Life persona. He performs and builds up a fan base by appearing in-world and in real life – here is his tour schedule. His real life, his virtual life, are strung together by blog posts, twitterings, mailing lists, and fans.
Musicians, this is the future, staring you right in the face. You need to appreciate, use, understand, and dominate this technology sooner rather than later if you want to succeed.
- Stephen Hawking: Public Lectures – “Below are some of the more recent public lectures. Included with these lectures is a Glossary of some of the terms used. “
- Hackszine: Detecting and reducing power consumption in Linux – “When your CPU isn’t executing intructions, it enters an idle mode and consumes far less energy. Any program that keeps the CPU from entering this idle state will cause your machine to consume more power, regardless of how processor intensive the process is. PowerTOP monitors your CPU to determine how many of these “wake up” events occur, and will display the top offenders for you.“
- Watching Paint Dry – “Live Webcam to … uhhhhh … watch paint dry (updates every 3 seconds or so)” – Be sure to turn on your sound, and also check out the time-lapse videos.
- Ben McConnell: On Thinking Big – “My bathroom has a tall ceiling, and ceiling height seems to affect thinking. The taller the ceiling, the greater the permission for abstract and free-form thought. The lower the ceiling, the more likely your brain confines concepts and ideas.“
Last year Google tried to convince me to join their ranks. I had a nice trip to Mountain View, a pleasant day of interviews, and a glimpse inside of their campus. All pretty cool. I ended up shutting down the process between the “we really want to hire you” and the “here’s the offer” phases, for any number of reasons that I won’t get in to tonight. Ok, just one of them. They were almost ready to make the “can’t refuse” offer but the process became bogged down when I couldn’t recall my college GPA. Given that I earned my degree in 1985 and have been earning a living by writing code since I was 15 or 16, this didn’t seem all that essential.
Funny thing is, I now have several more emails in my inbox from other Google recruiters. After reading these emails it appears that they don’t know that I interviewed there last year! Perhaps they don’t have this data in searchable form. Could that be?
The most recent email was actually kind of entertaining. I’m sure that its not proprietary, so I’ll share the best part with you:
So, before this amazingly comprehensive phone interview I am supposed to study the technical, competitive, and business aspects of their searching, mapping, blog searching, blogging, calendaring, document storage, finance, groups, social networking, and feed reading products.
Sure, and after I have done this and they invite me down, will they expect me to create dark matter from stuff found in the supply rooms, or to invent a unified field theory while standing at a whiteboard? Maybe I can do all of this while balancing on a Segway and sipping an Odwalla, just to make it challenging.
At Amazon.com, innovation is one of our core values. Read on to learn how I was able to do something innovative with regard to the seemingly mundane task of trip planning.
A few months ago, in a post titled Toward a Future Without Email, I talked about my desire to reduce the amount of back and forth email required to set up a worthwhile itinerary for one of my evangelism trips. Within the scope of my job as web services evangelist, I travel all over the world, speaking at conferences, user groups, and private corporate events.
As part of each trip I also like to have 1-on-1 meetings with software developers in each destination city. These meetings allow me to learn a lot more about trends, concerns, and activity within our community. As I often tell my audiences, “I came out here to talk to you, but I really want you to talk to me.” There’s a very subtle and very important difference there. Having these conversations, creating these relationships, and becoming familiar with what’s going on has paid numerous dividends over the years.
Unfortunately, finding the “right” developers in each city wasn’t easy for me. Until I created my new self-serve scheduling system, there was no good way for me to locate the developers in each city that I should be talking to, much less spend the time needed to negotiate locations and schedule slots for each one. My team and I were able to find developers to meet with by posting to the Amazon Web Services blog, but scheduling individual meetings was very, very tedious. Getting all of the time slots lined up for something as complex as my recent trip to Utah required dozens of emails and hours of time.
As an experiment, I decided to try out a self-serve scheduling model. I invited interested developers use an online tool to put themselves onto my calendar. Interestingly enough, they all chose to use the Wiki, the least structured of all of the tools.
I am happy to report that this experiment has been very successful!
For example, I spent last week in Munich and London and had a number of wonderful meetings. I made a single blog post, Keep Me Busy in London, and the rest just happened without a lot of work on my part. I pre-filled the Wiki page with the anchor meetings for the trip and then simply opened up my schedule to the world at large. Practically speaking, there’s no way that I would have known enough to initiate any of the meetings that ended up on my calendar. I met a lot of interesting people and learned about a lot of interesting and creative uses of Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and Amazon ECS.
I have found that people are very respectful of my time and always make sure that the meeting is worthwhile. They also know the local travel times and constraints and are going to be better than I am at figuring out just how much time I need between meetings. Also, having an open and visible schedule has led to several interesting and serendipitous situations where a meeting with one developer leads to suggestions of further meetings, joint efforts, and partnerships.
I also learned that it is important to do an email confirmation before each meeting. One promising meeting didn’t happen because I neglected to do this. I also found that the S3 Ajax Wiki had a bug which resulted in ever-increasing page load times as the page was edited and re-edited. One quick email to L.M. Orchard was all it took to get this fixed (Thanks, Les).
I am heading to Washington DC in early June and that trip is already looking good. I’ll be refining the details later this week. If you want to meet with me while I am there, feel free to get onto my schedule.
This self-serve model is now a standard aspect of my team’s planning process going forward. We will create a Wiki page with our anchor events, announce the trip on the AWS blog, and let the community do the rest. As a further step in this new direction (which will be announced on the other blog) we will soon allow developers to express desire for meetings in cities that are not yet in our travel plans.
Score one for innovation!
- TDavid: 7 Guidelines For a Better Present and Future Life – “The eighth rule (bonus) – Because I like bonuses I’ve added one here for readers who made it this far in the list: serendipity. Remember me writing above that by doing several things you could increase the odds of having a happier present and future. I believe fate plays a role and that some amount of luck is involved. Even if we do everything right, we can still fail.“
- Steve Rubel: The Most Essential Career Skill You Need to Succeed – “So as I thought about it, the most important “tool” you can have today in business is insatiable curiosity. The minute you lose it, you’re dead.“
- GigaOM: Virtual World Population 50 Million by 2011 – “Considering the largest existing worlds, including South Korea’s Cyworld, and its 20 million uniques, World of Warcraft with its 8 million subscribers, and Europe’s Habbo Hotel with its own 7 million regular users, that guess is actually on the conservative side.“
- Mike Elgan: Three Laptop Tricks for Better Presentations – “Some guy in a generic suit with a fake smile and a clicker stands uneasily in front of a room full of people who would rather be somewhere else. The clicker controls PowerPoint on a laptop, which sits on a nearby podium or conference table, and is connected to a projector. He slogs laboriously through slide after boring slide, glancing at them to remind himself what he’s talking about. He goes through whatever’s on the screen — charts, graphs, bullet-points — and makes comments about each item. The audience fights narcolepsy as they’re gently lolled into a passive PowerPoint stupor.“
- Garr Reynolds: Presentation Tips – “For professionals today, presentation and public-speaking skills are more important than ever.“
- Steve Rubel: The Participation Ladder and Its Impact on Marketing and PR – “This got me thinking: what can the Participation Ladder teach us about PR and marketing? The answer is a lot. If you work in either of these professions, cut the above chart out and stick it on your wall. For each program, assess where your audience sits on this continuum. Are they inactives, creators or somewhere in between? The key is to then devise the right kind of communication strategy depending on what you discover. Let’s put this into action.“
- Gizmodo: Dreamliner: Boeing 787 LEGO-like Building Begins, Kicks Airbus Nuts – “Boeing has started building their new flagship: the 787 Dreamliner. The cool thing about the 787 is that it only requires them to put together six big composite parts to build the final airframe and operators don’t have to use huge tools and overhead cranes: all the parts can be slid along on the construction floor and put together like giant LEGO pieces.” – Via Scoble’s Link Blog, with very cool picture.
According to Ansel Gasparini (also known as Brian White in the real world) the book cover for his new book, Second Life: A Guide to Your Virtual World, has been finalized. This one looks a lot better than the one I posted last week:
Like I said before, I did a little bit of tech review and also wrote one chapter. Brian had the vision and did the heavy lifting, grinding out a bunch of chapters while working at a startup, going through an acquisition, running the Seattle Second Life Meetup and with a very young family.
- Renee Blodgett: A Business Card Is A Gift – “I vote for a little more respect. Show the person some dignity by paying attention to their card and look them in the eye when you receive it. Handing out a card isn’t a given – it’s a gift. They are giving you their personal details, often data that includes a cell phone number, an IM address and perhaps a personal website or blog address.“
- Second Life Developers: Registration API – “The Registration API allows you to programatically register users into Second Life from your web site. In addition, it allows you to have control over certain options, such as a a registrant’s start location and estate limits.“
- Zen Habits:How to Become a Patient Parent – “This is something that helps me a lot. I remember that my kids are just kids — they are not perfect, they do not know how to do things, and they have a lot to learn. I am their teacher. I must be patient, and teach them how to do things — even if I’ve tried to teach them 10 times before, it might be the 11th time when things click. And remember, none of us learn things on the first try either. Find new ways to teach something, and you’re more likely to be successful.“
- WikiMedia: Fermilab Main Control Room Panorama.
- AbsIdea: Helix — A 1D Skyscraper With a Single Corridor – “We can build a tall office building where everyone is on the same floor, where you can go from any office to any other office without using stairs or elevators.“
- Admin Maven: Expert Administrative Help at Your Fingertips! – “There are nearly as many definitions of the term Virtual Assistant, or VA, as there are individuals who use it to describe themselves. In general, VAs are professionals who share a few common characteristics: the ability to offer services from locations other than the client’s worksite; experience in the traditional working world; and the desire to own and operate their own home-based businesses. “