Saturday, May 2, 2009

Short comment, lack of meta

Words. Most of the time my words are small ants piling across an endless page towards an uncertain end. Does anyone really care about the thing I have spent so much time studying? It seems like I am out of step, I met someone today who is studying something so small that it hardly seems worth looking at. Why study a lesser painting by an undistinguished painter. Then the explanation became clear: advisor's work is on the undistinguished painter, and the specific dissertation fills a hole in it. Some years ago I learned the phrase "meat puppet" to describe someone who is asked to do something on a web site, like say follow a twitter feed, even though they didn't decide to do it themselves. Academic meat puppetry. It tells me. The limits. Of the thing. I do.

The recent push to get LSL to be able to accept XML and JSON that I've been engaged in is the same thing. It tells me the limits of Second Life. Second Life is a walled garden. It is not the next internet, precisely because it does not connect to the internet. Consider the much discussed and praised studio wikitecture project. It is genuinely metaversial in nature, that is outside data is presented as inside data, and the two inform each other. However, we can't even do this with our inventories, that is to say, manage them outside to inside.

It isn't that this hasn't been discussed at length. I'm part of the AWGroupies group, and several people there are working on client side scripting. Enus Linden has contributed a great deal to a project to have a python based text client, which would allow for the kinds of manageability that would make dealing with a 33K item inventory reasonable. But it is a long, long, long way from being in people's hands.

And that's just the lack of meta on our avatars, let alone integration with our real lives.

I think the JIRA I am pushing will not be done, and it will represent a marker in how Second Life's competing pulls - to be a walled garden that lets people charge each other to avoid frustration, and an information integration platform - are going to be decided, each and every time, by keeping the walls high, and the rest of the world out.

This is sort of where I came in writing about Second Life, and it's time for a real essay.

If only I can find enough time to write the right words. Not academic words, because academics are merely building another walled garden the same way. I know in my real life I am taken seriously about a small thing that no one cares about, because I've done a great deal of small work looking at small things that no one else will. But what I have to say about it really is no more likely to be right than someone just walking in through the door. Wait. There is a story there. I need to tell it.

OK, I have the entry point. I'll be back later to start it.

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