Integration of Second Life with other applications, notably the web, is justifiably a hot topic these days. Much of the work we do in education (including use of Blackboard or other VLE, Google searches, web mail … and, of course, this blog) is web-based and therefore there’s a lot of interest and effort being invested in communication between Second Life and the web. More especially, if virtual worlds such as Second Life are to evolve into mature integrated working environments, they will have to support routine activities such as web browsing, word-processing and other office apps, email, OPAC access, … switching clumsily between the Second Life viewer and other applications such as web browser and word-processor is not only an inefficient way to work, it also gobbles up system resources and slows down the machine.
Audio and video can already be streamed through Second Life. I’ve already mentioned Veodia (here) for real-time streaming of live video; and Sloodle (here and here), VLE integration of Second Life with Moodle. Below I list a few other useful innovations and initiatives I’ve discovered.
I’m encouraging students to report (blog) their SL activities and discoveries in real-time. BlogHUD is an excellent (if not yet quite perfect) tool for this. The basic free version allows the owner to post a blog entry to his/her space at bloghud.com, while the Pro version, at L$900, supports posting to external personal blogs such as WordPress, LiveJournal, Typepad, Blogger, and Friendster. Posts usefully come with a map location of where the user posted from in Second Life, along with RSS feeds to subscribe to for one’s favourite people or places.
Facebook is probably my favourite Web 2.0 application. Far more than just a social networking site, it is a customisable framework within which one can assemble the productivity tools and services one uses to support work. In my own Facebook account I’ve brought together Zoho Online Office, Files (i.e., my virtual hard drive at Box.net), JSTOR Search, MyIcourse, SchoolTube and YouTube, Meeting Room, SlideShare, Fmail (i.e., Gmail), Open Learning Search, and other apps to create a seamlessly integrated work environment for supporting teaching and learning. A search on “second life” in Facebook yields 3 ‘applications’, 5 ‘pages’ (incl. ‘Second Life Link Community Updates’ and ‘Second Life Virtual Travel Guide’), 34 ‘events’, and 76 ‘groups’ (incl. ‘Second Life for Educators’, ‘Sloodle’, ‘Secondlife Research’, ‘Second Life Librarians’, ‘Gaming and Learning in Second Life’, ‘Second Life Teachers’, and ‘Beginners to SecondLife’).
Two recent Facebook additions are Second Life Link and Second Friends, the former allowing one’s online status to be displayed in Facebook, and enabling SL Messaging, as well as displaying fairly a complete Second Life profile.
Shopping with OnRez and SLX
I’ve been doing a fair bit of shopping in SL over the months. When one knows what one wants but doesn’t know where to find it in-world, it’s obviously more useful to be able to search / browse web-based catalogues and buy from there rather than to roam aimlessly in search of things in SL itself; and this is where the OnRez shop and SL Exchange come in: the SL equivalent of the Argos catalogue. One can transfer L$ between SL and the shops (SL Exchange has dozens of ATMs across the grid; and OnRez even offers an in-world wallet–see image, left); items bought in the shops are sent immediately to one’s inventory. It’s still a pain to have to be switching between web and SL viewer, of course, and that’s where the in-world browser in one’s profile proves useful … read on.
RightPointInternet and .SL domains
This is, conceptually if not quite yet in maturity of implementation, one of my favourite web extensions of Second Life. The Web tab in an avatar’s profile already allows the display of a web ‘home’ page, with basic browsing; setting the URL to Google or Wikipedia, for example, allows normal search within the SL viewer. But the Profile window is small and the consequent need to scroll vertically and horizontally is frustrating.
RightPointInternet is, first of all, simply a web portal (linking to Google, Amazon, YouTube, BBC News, MSN messenger, SL Exchange, MySpace, and other major sites) designed such that linked WAP-ready pages fit neatly into the Profile window without need for scrolling. Beyond that, subscribers are offered their own subdomain (www.<your_avatar_name>.sl), file storage, and a WYSIWYG text editor / HTML editor.
A further posting will review the Free E-mail Sender HUD, as well as initiatives (e.g. by BT, and by IBM) to built a SMS interface. But that’s going to have to be for another day.
Robbie Clutton, ‘BT Web21C SDK Integration with the Second Life Virtual World‘, BT Web21C. Accessed 19th January 2008.
Mark Wallace, ‘Next-Gen: Web Integration in Virtual Worlds‘, 3pointD.com. Accessed 19th January 2008.
Dusan Writer, ‘IBM on the Importance of Second Life Integration‘, Dusan Writer’s Metaverse. Accessed 19th January 2008.