Hard News by Russell Brown


Too busy with First Life sorry

I have a bit too much work to do to spend time at the Digital Future Summit today, but I'm watching the webcast. I was interested to see that one of the questions asked of Michael Cullen this morning after his keynote speech suggested New Zealand should follow Sweden and establish an embassy in Second Life.

Yeah, right: and let's follow it up by establishing an embassy in McDonald's, shall we?

I honestly don't get the obsession with Second Life, and the belief that it is some important shared space for humanity. It's a money-making venture, in which currency and land are issued and rents levied at the pleasure of the owner. It's only a brave new world if feudalism (or a pyramid scheme) is your idea of a viable political economy.

I guess it may have a role as an experiment in virtual spaces -- but compared to the teeming, surprising world of the open internet, almost nothing interesting happens in Second Life. The corporate branding angle -- woo! Coca-Cola's there! -- is hype: you could reach all the active users of Second Life and still not get as many people as you'd reach with an ad during One News on a good night.

I did try. Leo and I spent a couple of hours going through it, but we just got bored. We could, of course, have paid money to get more stuff, but why bother?

Anyway, a Mr N. Torkington queried Maurice Williamson's claim at the summit yesterday that we shouldn't look to emulate South Krea because 64% of their traffic was porn (Maurice then accidentally made a joke about them having "great penetration"). Is this a soundly based claim? I don’t think so. It appears to come from a 2002 story quoting the luddite Australia senator Richard Alston. The 64% figure is actually the proportion of the South Korean population that had broadband internet at the time. It's more like 90% now.

On the other hand, South Koreans do seem to pay vastly more per head for porn than the citizens of any other nation. But almost all internet porn is American. Go figure.

If David Cunliffe's speech was the most interest part of yesterday's programme, the least edifying had to be the presentation by the man from AIM Proximity. I don't need a direct marketer to explain Wikipedia to me, thanks.

When I first read reports of the theory that humans may be shortening the life of the universe by observing it, my thought was wow: and you thought climate change was a hard sell to the public …

Turns out, of course, that you should be wary of what you read about these things in the popular press, and one of the authors has amended his preprint paper to emphasise they were not implying causality. But not before an amusing Slashdot thread unfolded.

Phew -- that was hard. I've finally selected the five posts that win a copy of Grant Smithies' Soundtrack: 118 Great New Zealand Albums. There were several efforts extremely unlikely to dip out, but the winners are:

Robyn Gallagher on Garageland's Come Back Special

Stuart Coats with the story of the Holy Family.

Andy Palmer on Bird Nest Roys.

Alec Morgan remembering Herbs' What's Be Happen?

And Rob Hosking on the Able Tasmans' Hey Spinner.

Congratulations (and thanks to everyone who chipped in -- it was a fun thread). If the winners could email me with your address details, I'll get the books in the post asap.

I did go to the Blackberry launch last night, which was quite fun, even if I didn't avail myself of the constant stream of blackberry-themed cocktails.

My next outing will be tomorrow evening, to see Bill Direen and Otis Mace at the Masonic in Devonport. In the meantime, here's a clip of Bill and the band playing 'Russian Rug' from the YouTube channel of TV5's Mike McCaleb. Nice.

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