One Laptop Per Child

I’ve not paid much attention to the development of the One Laptop Per Child project recently. But looking at it again, it’s truly one of the most inspiring projects around right now. Their aims are really interesting:

The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research initiative to develop a
$100 laptop—a technology that could revolutionize how we educate the
world’s children. To achieve this goal, a new, non-profit association,
One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created, which is independent of
MIT.

And the machine itself is shaping up to be really interesting. I’m pretty fond of the design too. It may look a bit like a toy, but when you read the specs it’s far from it.

I Love Second Life

Someone mentioned to me that they were surprised by how much I hate Second Life, so I probably need to put the record straight. I don’t hate Second Life. In fact I love Second Life – above you can see my alter ego Taito Dahlstrom wearing his favourite grey leggings whilst having a great time in his favourite club Kittens.

I think Linden Labs have created an amazing piece of real Science Fiction. The fact that it’s got as big as it has, supporting an incredible virtual currency and giving such a huge amount of freedom to inhabitants is utterly astounding. From an academic and technological point of view it’s simply stunning.

The issues that I have with it are all around the way that it’s being used and abused by outsiders. And they’re the same issues I’d have with First Life stuff. If a big brand wandered into a small rural village and set up a mega-office without understanding the local way of life and the cultural implications of their actions, I’d be pretty pissed off too. But I gues if I was really bothered I’d do something about it in Second Life, just like the vocal activists are. Maybe as a voyeur and occasional dipper-in, I’m no better than a brand who isn’t properly involved either.

A brand going into Second Life feels different to setting up a website. A website has a kind of semi-physical presence, but it feels slightly different. Easier to avoid perhaps. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that a website doesn’t take up any space, I’m not sure how many atoms there are in a website, but I don’t think it’s many. A megamall in Second Life on the other hand feels like it has real volume. It’s been created with bricks and mortar, albeit virtual bricks and mortar. And therefore it feels like it’s made up of stacks of virtual atoms.

I think without realising it, I’ve just demonstrated why Second Life is so interesting. It raises all kinds of questions about the nature and value of virtual stuff. When I’ve talked to people about virtual services in Second Life (for example a virtual lapdance at Kittens) at first they’ve been really dismissive, then when they get their heads around it, they’re totally blown away by the idea.

And I think that’s the crux of it right now. The idea and the concept is so damn infectious and inspiring that creative people get really excited by it. But until you’ve hung around in there for a bit and realised how cumbersome it can be to do ordinary things in there, you don’t really get a feel for it.

Take for example listening to a presentation in Second Life (e.g. this interview with Chris Anderson (YouTube)). If you could take a seat in the hall (I’m very poor at even managing the basics like sitting down). Then manage to face in the right direction. You’d be subjected to reading a text based interview -v-e-r-y- -s-l-o-w-l-y-. And perhaps there is a feeling of presence, but for me, no more so than a live online chat. Currently the experience of this kind of thing is poor, and can be done better elsewhere in the digital space.

Which goes back to a point that I’ve made before, it seems odd to try to slavishly replicate real world ways of doing things, when you’re not constrained by the same set of rules. For example, in real life gravity is sometimes useful, but other times it can be such a chore. In Second Life, it’s up to you!

I’ve no doubt that online worlds like Second Life have got a massive future, I guess the question for me is whether it’s future is as an entertainment environment or an environment for communication and getting things done. Or once the technology’s good enough maybe my issues become null and void.

I love Second Life. And I love that it makes people think about digital and virtual worlds in new and interesting ways.

Yoda’s Freaky Eye

Meet my Yoda Furby. As you can see it’s a quality piece of Star Wars merchandise. If a little bit repetative. I’ve had him for a few years now and he’s been hibernating in a box for the last couple.

I found him the other day and resurrected him using the force (and 4AA batteries).

Only thing is, one of his eyelids has perished and when he’s ‘sleeping’ he has this freaky eye thing going on. I think he might have to go back in the box, he’s scaring me.

Yahoo! Mail Championships

Here’s a little Poke project. To promote the new Yahoo! Mail we’ve set up the Yahoo! Mail World Championships.

Starting with the theory that everyday challenges became competitive sport over time (e.g. hunting became Javelin throwing, running away from things became competitive running) we thought it might be funny to treat email in the same way. So we’ve turned email into a competitive sport and are trying to find the best emaillers in the world.

We are actually going to have a live final early next year which I’m looking forward to, a lot. I’d love to see a top secretary battling it out against a teen-computer-game-champ.
There’s also some nice little games which show off the product features in a really sweet way AND you can get some awesome finger-sweatbands on the site ;-)

I still think the idea is pretty strong, and there’s some great bits in there. But I’ve been so close to it for so long I’m not sure whether it’s lost some of it’s focus during the process. I hope not, but I fear it might have done.

When Things are Broken it’s Bad

I was sitting upstairs on a bus last week and the CCTV screen was broken.

A blue screen with ‘no signal’ on it. As well as a couple of tags and a sticker with another tag on it.

It made me feel really unsafe. More unsafe than if the screens weren’t there at all.

I guess it’s a bit like when one is in a house full of the evil dead and one goes to pick up the phone and it’s been cut off.

Or perhaps it’s particularly unsettling that something that’s supposed to protect us from vandalism and petty crime has so blatantly been vandalised.

Tea for 2.0

Grazia Teabuddy

Teabuddy.com (our social web app for managing tea-making and preferences) has come to the boil again. It’s one of those odd sleeper projects. We did it ages ago and at first it got picked up by Wired, then a bit later by The Guardian. Now it’s really entered the mainstream with a mention in Grazia magazine (it was the second item in their ‘cool chart’ last week).

That’s one of the things I love about online. Things can just live on forever, getting discovered by new audiences up to years after they originally launched. It’s something that clients are often uncomfortable with, they’re used to campaigns having a launch date and a finite lifespan. Those rules just don’t apply any more. I guess that’s the long tail of advertising.

Our other big sleeper project Globalrichlist.com still has massive peaks and was mentioned in Daily Candy this weekend too.

I don’t know if there’s a sudden upsurge in female publications getting more into online stuff, but its interesting that two of our old projects have been picked up by big Womens’ publications in recent weeks…