Friday, May 1, 2009

Depth of Information: V. Depth of Information

Written 30 April, 2009

Depth of Information

V: Depth of Information

Faithful Reader, you may wonder why I titled this series of blog posts Depth of Information and then wrote about everything but.

Mea Culpa, the winds of pontification were upon me.

But now, after four posts setting the stage, we are near the end.

/me waits for the applause to die down.

My point, and for the life of me I don’t know why I had to work my way around to it, is this: If you’ve acquired a sim for the purposes of education, advertising, or outreach, why build it in a way that disadvantages you? Why impart only limited information? Why not get the biggest bang for your buck? Why not take full advantage of your 15,000 prims and the Second Life scripting engine to provide a depth of information that will educate your visitors rather than merely inform them?

And if you DON’T have a full sim, but only a parcel, this applies double, for you have fewer prims.

I’ve been in libraries in Second Life that were visually impressive, with prim books on prim shelves. To buy a book (or get it for free), you just touch it and you are given a notecard. Often the notecards have embedded notecards that will let you read an entire novel. But I’ve seen one- or two- or three- or four- prim bookcases that when touched generate blue menus that allowed selection from 50 or so such books-on-notecard. Think of how much information that could be dispensed by only a dozen or two of these bookcases

Similarly, I’ve been to a mainland parcel that had a dozen or so tiny cubicles set up to view machinima—one film for tiny parcel. I’ve been to other parcels with screens that, when touched, will pop up a blue menu that allowed a choice from a field of several dozen films.

Heck, the cinema at our robot sanitorium will play at least a hundred short robot-related films—and we’re just playing around!

It’s not necessary to use clever scripting to provide a depth of information. It’s also important to use space effectively.

Nowadays—at least on private islands—it’s possible to build all the way up to 4096 meters—but most sim owners don’t take advantage of all that vertical space. For that matter, many don’t make good use of the actual land. I can’t tell you how many corporate builds I’ve been to with one big structure in the center of the sim. The rest of the land is bare, or sprinkled with a few trees so it doesn’t look like a total desert. Ten thousand prims and 50,000 square meters go unused—and more often than not, I have learned nothing of importance.

As clever as the 7Days Magic Bakery sim is, and as good a time as I had there, I left without knowing if 7Days was a real life brand, and, if it was, where to go to get one of their treats (Eastern Europe, as it turned out). Even if the sim was built primarily to make machinima and print advertisements, it seems silly not to impart information about the company behind the build. I wonder why one of the many buildings wasn’t an information center for the company behind the build—or was there one that I just missed?

Compared to real world advertising, the price of a private island in Second Life seems laughably small—just a thousand dollars to set up and $295 a month for tier. But many corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars to build out those sim. All this, yet when you visit them you leave with at best a vague impression of the real life company and what it does. Certainly you’ve learned nothing that will cause you to patronize that company in real life!

I will conclude (what’s that I hear? More applause because I’m winding this puppy up?) with a description of a build that made effective use of ground space. I read about it in Gwyneth Llewelyn’s most awesome blog:

The World Press Cartoon 2009 event — showing off 848 cartoons from 428 authors from 72 different nationalities, published in 399 newspapers and magazines from 69 countries — was held in Sintra, Portugal, and the winners were announced simultaneously in real life and Second Life. In SL, we were lucky, we got a live concert from TB Andel too.

 I visited Alma, which houses the exhibit. The sim was pleasant, a tropical beach with, among other things, a wonderful (if you like such things, and I do) broken-down VV microbus with a massage table in back—and of course the exhibit.

The exhibit was great, with hundreds of award-winning cartoons cleverly displayed. After walking through a passageway with cartoons displayed on either side, I entered the first of a dozen or so interconnected circular display areas about 30 meters in diameter. Photos lined the circles, with special displays in the middle.

The photos were of a sufficient resolution to be seen clearly, but not so dense I had to wait for them to load. I had a great time walking through. I was there for an hour and a half. The cartoons were too clever by half, hitting hard on the world economic meltdown, politicians. I even knew who most of the politicians were.

I would have liked to have been able to get notecards about the cartoons and the illustrators, but other than that I found the exhibit nearly perfect. I hereby give it the Cheyenne Palisades Excellence in Depth of Information award.

And now I’m off to buy that microbus.

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