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May 20, 2007

SLashing it up

I quite readily admit that I'm still something of a Second Life noob, certainly when it comes to building things - all the work on designing and building Eduserv Island and the various constructions on it has been done by Andy - and my exploration of LSL scripting is still firmly at the "Hello world!" stage.

But the area which does fascinate me is how SL integrates with the Web, how objects within SL can get  (GET, even) data in from, or post (POST?) data out to, the Web, and how agents on the Web can post data in to, or get data out from, SL. Over on his ArtsPlace weblog, Andy referred to these sort of applications as "SLashups". ;-) (Umm, actually, re-reading his post again, he seemed to be referring more specifically to applications which surface the results within SL, so I'm not sure all my examples here qualify after all, but I'm not thinking up a new title now!)

Anyway, here are a few things I've come across recently (probably all well known to any SL-ers with a mildly technical bent!) which piqued my interest:

  • BlogHUD (created by SL resident Koz Farina): This is an SL weblogging client i.e. a scripted object which you attach to your avatar in SL as a HUD (a "heads-up display" - an object which is visible to you at a fixed point in the SL client window but doesn't appear to other users seeing your avatar in SL) to enable you to post weblog entries from within SL, using the content of the chat input box. The free version posts only to the BlogHUD web site (i.e. your weblog appears on the Web as e.g. in my case http://my.bloghud.com/peregrinejuneau/), but the "Pro" version has support for WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal and Friendster, so my first entry is cross-posted to both BlogHUD and Peregrine Juneau's WordPress weblog.

  • Sloog (developed by the people at Mosi-Mosi) and Gridmarker (from resident Sebastian Pedro). Andy already mentioned Sloog, a social bookmarking (or location-marking, I suppose) service for SL: they provide an SL object that allows you to post an entry which associates your current SL location with a set of tags, and displays the aggregated entries on a Web site. I just came across Gridmarker last week, and it provides similar functionality - though a post on the Gridmarker weblog highlights a couple of differences in their approach. I'd noticed that Sloog operated at a "parcel-level" "resolution". On the one hand, it means that more posts are grouped as being "about" the same subject location (e.g. Andy/Art and I probably weren't both standing on exactly the same spot on Eduserv Island when we each posted an entry to Sloog, but on the Sloog Web site our two posts are displayed as being "about" the same "place"); on the other, there is some loss of "precision". Compare that with the way data is displayed by Gridmarker: my first two posts to Gridmarker were made from two different points on the same parcel, but Gridmarker maintains the separation of those two locations while also indicating the number of posts about locations in the vicinity (according to an adjustable range). Gridmarker also allows me to provide a title and a comment for each location. Hmmm. I haven't made enough use of the two approaches yet to decide which I prefer (or is more useful), but Gridmarker does look like it has some neat features, while retaining a simple, clean presentation on the Web site (one if the reasons I like del.icio.us). Oh, and GridMarker is also open source (I think that applies to both the SL client and the server, but I'm not sure.)

  • Snapshot_015TwitterBox (created by resident Ordinal Malaprop): This is an SL Twitter client i.e. an object which enables you to post (via a Web-based gateway) messages to Twitter and to review your last few Twitter entries. I've been signed up to Twitter for a while without ever really bothering to use it in any particularly purposeful way, but after the Symposium, and our post-event discussions about how to offer channels for dialogue between the SL and RL participants, I wondered whether using Twitter might have been one way of achieving that. At that point, I was imagining the SL participants posting to Twitter from their browser or from an IM client - something running on their desktop alongside the SL client - but my subsequent discovery that there are already tools for posting to Twitter from within SL puts a different perspective on it. (The image here shows the rather "cute" animation performed by the TwitterBox client when you issue a post in SL.)

  • Snapshot_097Last Sound System (Babbage Linden). I have to admit I've struggled to find SL music venues streaming anything to my taste ("Surprise, surprise", murmur the readers who are familiar with my musical tastes...). I've been an enthusiastic user of the Last.Fm Web service for a couple of years now. (Aside: Briefly, Last.Fm is a social recommender service for music: it gathers data on the music you play (via a plugin for your desktop mp3 player), assembles a profile based on your history, and makes recommendations for other users with similar profiles and/or for artists played by other users who listen to the tracks and artists in your profile. The really compelling thing about Last.Fm is that they not only provide the recommendations, but they have negotiated licences to stream a selection of tracks by a wide range of artists, so they can make available "user" ("stuff this user likes") and "artist" ("more stuff like Monolake") radio streams.) So I was delighted to come across this object which allows me to stream a Last.Fm radio station into Second Life (as the image here illustrates...).

Anyway, just to tie this back to the work of the Foundation (and to do something to dispel the impression that I spend my days tinkering around), I'm looking forward to seeing how these sort of techniques are used within the context of some of the (almost...) newly-funded projects mentioned by Andy the other day.


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Hi Pete
Your link to your Twitter account is incorrect. It should be:
and not:


D'oh. Fixed. Thanks.

http://manchizzle.blogspot.com/2007/06/social-networking-enough-already.html. Are you there yet?

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