Second Life and breaking out of the mold

Second Life – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Second life is a MMORPG that’s not so much focused on killing and owning, but creating and interacting with others and the environment created by others.

One of the things that was surprising to me was that people seemingly easily scripted complex behaviors into the objects that existed in the second life world. I had often thought that it would be neat to incorporate that into an MMORPG so that people can be blacksmiths or at least spellcrafters.

However, I would wonder if it was possible for people to use the in-game programming language to invoke computation and behaviors on the machine that’s running the virtual world.

In every sense, it is very much like asking how secure is a virtual machine running virtual code on a machine? Is there a branch of computer science that studies this?

Designing Flash mobs

Joi Ito’s Web: Leadership in World of Warcraft

I had talked earlier about a new medium that intermixes reality and the internet.

What concerned me was the level of organization that was needed in order to ‘get stuff done’. Even if you did get a bunch of people somewhere, would they be able to accomplish tasks without an inherent hierarchical organization, like most of our governments and companies?

Sure, a bunch of people can point to a rug, or stage pillow fights, but would they be able to fix a house or clean up the neighborhood?

I understand that not all complex behavior of a bunch of people necessarily need a ‘leader’. Systems can be emergent in order to accomplish complex tasks. Ants and termites can build complex structures and societies with solely local interactions, rather than top-down hierarchical. But can these systems do everything a hierarchical system can do? And if so, how would you design them so that they evolve themselves?

Has any one done studies on how to design mob systems so that they can do things that companies can do? Are there ways to structure an organization so that people can be thrown together and something comes out of it?

It was that question that lead me to wonder how raids and groups work in the World of Warcraft. It was no coincidence that this article on leaderships in WoW got me thinking about it. According to the description, however, even the raids and groups there are hierarchical, and require quite a bit of planning and leadership.

Perhaps a little mix of both would be effective for flash mob organizations that want to be functional.

Before they can be designed or evolved, there needs to be a measure of how well a organization can accomplish a task, and a way to parameterize different characteristics of the organization. Then you can start exploring that parameter space to see which areas in this parameter space will be best at handling certain types of tasks at the system level.

A new medium for first adopters.

But back to the point: a long time ago I used to write online to a ton (like 30) of faceless, nameless people who used to laugh and possibly email me about how funny they thought it was. I was just goofing off, I wasn’t too concerned about offending anyone if I could make something funny.

I think a lot of first adopters really rallied around blogs. It was like a second home to people. Everyone likes to have communities and places where everyone is respectful, interesting, and “where everyone knows your name.” It was kinda like your own secret special place, and a twinge of ‘coolness’ because it was esoteric.

But inevitably, once a community gets so popular that there becomes an influx of newbies that have no respect for the painstaking community and culture for the medium that had built up over time. The general disrespectfulness of these newbies ends up chasing away the very people that made it special in the first place. Same thing happened on IRC and Usenet that happened in the blogosphere.

Vox is a return to that early time I don’t think most people had a chance to experience. The commercialization of blogs has, I think, skewed people’s perception of what they can be. To many, if you’re not doing 50,000 unique visitors a day you should just throw in the towel, you’re a failure. If your funny story about shopping at the Apple store can’t be Digg’d or Boingboing’d then what good is it?

I wonder where the next playground of the first adopters will be? Somewhere where they can coalesce, create connections, and encourage each other to dream and to make. Likely, it will be through the introduction of a new media, as demonstrated by historical patterns.

First BBSes, then Usenet, and IRC. Then forums, and then blogs.

What will the new medium be like? I can imagine a couple things (though by no means accurate).

One might be the lowered barrier of making things, something like open source design. People with shared passion of making and creating things will be able to make connections and communicate with each other through making things.

Second might mix the internet and reality, where strangers gather for some cause, whether this cause is deliberate or emergent from the groups’ decisions. These decisions might come from people that aren’t even there, whose names they don’t know.

I’m imagining something like people are able to view the positions of all those that are participating, on a map. Then they’re able to vote and come to agree to where to gather, and what the goal is. Then those that are by the site get notified, and can spontaneously partcipate if they wish. Much like flashmobbing, but less deliberate.

Then, the ability for strangers to discuss or exchange what they did might build a community.

However, I can see how something like this could be used for evil, like sending a mob to various sections of streets in guise, where it is meant to block off roads to help a bank robbery or heist.

And yet, it’s a neat idea. Emergent cooperation organized by the net that mixes with reality. It’s another way for people to interact outside of their defined roles and places in society.