Category Archives: IBM

open-sourcing Second Life

Yesterday, Linden Labs, the creators of Second Life, announced the release of the source code for their client application (the thing you fire-up on your machine to enter Second Life). This highly anticipated move raises all sorts of questions and possibilities about the way we use 3-D digital environments in our day to day life. From the announcement:

“Open sourcing is the most important decision we’ve made in seven years of Second Life development. While it is clearly a bold step for us to proactively decide to open source our code, it is entirely in keeping with the community-creation approach of Second Life,” said Cory Ondrejka, CTO of Linden Lab. ” Second Life has the most creative and talented group of users ever assembled and it is time to allow them to contribute to the Viewer’s development. We will still continue Viewer development ourselves, but now the community can add its contributions, insights, and experiences as well. We don’t know exactly which projects will emerge – but this is part of the vibrancy that makes Second Life so compelling”

2006 was undoubtedly a breakthrough year for Second Life, with high profile institutions like IBM and Harvard taking a leading role in developing new business models and forms of classroom interaction. It looks like Linden Labs got the message too, and is working hard to court new developers to create a more robust framework for future community and business interests. From the blog:

Releasing the source now is our next invitation to the world to help build this global space for communication, business, and entertainment. We are eager to work with the community and businesses to further our vision of our space.

This is something that has definitely caught our eye here at the Institute, and while we may not be currently ready to dive into the source code ourselves, we are firmly behind Bob’s resolution to find out what can be done in a three-dimensional environment.

the march of technology

Sept. 13, 1956

IBM’s 5MegaByte hard drive, is the size of two refrigerators and costs $50,000.


Feb. 13, 2006

Seagate’s 12GigaByte hard drive, will fit in your cell phone.


Sept. 13, 2006

50 years later: 200 times more storage than the IBM drive on something smaller than a postage stamp. (Size: 11mm widex 15mm long x 1mm tall).


(thanks to endgadget)

wealth of networks

won_image.jpg I was lucky enough to have a chance to be at The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom book launch at Eyebeam in NYC last week. After a short introduction by Jonah Peretti, Yochai Benkler got up and gave us his presentation. The talk was really interesting, covering the basic ideas in his book and delivered with the energy and clarity of a true believer. We are, he says, in a transitional period, during which we have the opportunity to shape our information culture and policies, and thereby the future of our society. From the introduction:

This book is offered, then, as a challenge to contemporary legal democracies. We are in the midst of a technological, economic and organizational transformation that allows us to renegotiate the terms of freedom, justice, and productivity in the information society. How we shall live in this new environment will in some significant measure depend on policy choices that we make over the next decade or so. To be able to understand these choices, to be able to make them well, we must recognize that they are part of what is fundamentally a social and political choice—a choice about how to be free, equal, productive human beings under a new set of technological and economic conditions.

During the talk Benkler claimed an optimism for the future, with full faith in the strength of individuals and loose networks to increasingly contribute to our culture and, in certain areas, replace the moneyed interests that exist now. This is the long-held promise of the Internet, open-source technology, and the infomation commons. But what I’m looking forward to, treated at length in his book, is the analysis of the struggle between the contemporary economic and political structure and the unstructured groups enabled by technology. In one corner there is the system of markets in which individuals, government, mass media, and corporations currently try to control various parts of our cultural galaxy. In the other corner there are individuals, non-profits, and social networks sharing with each other through non-market transactions, motivated by uniquely human emotions (community, self-gratification, etc.) rather than profit. Benkler’s claim is that current and future technologies enable richer non-market, public good oriented development of intellectual and cultural products. He also claims that this does not preclude the development of marketable products from these public ideas. In fact, he sees an economic incentive for corporations to support and contribute to the open-source/non-profit sphere. He points to IBM’s Global Services division: the largest part of IBM’s income is based off of consulting fees collected from services related to open-source software implementations. [I have not verified whether this is an accurate portrayal of IBM’s Global Services, but this article suggests that it is. Anecdotally, as a former IBM co-op, I can say that Benkler’s idea has been widely adopted within the organization.]
Further discussion of book will have to wait until I’ve read more of it. As an interesting addition, Benkler put up a wiki to accompany his book. Kathleen Fitzpatrick has just posted about this. She brings up a valid criticism of the wiki: why isn’t the text of the book included on the page? Yes, you can download the pdf, but the texts are in essentially the same environment—yet they are not together. This is one of the things we were trying to overcome with the Gamer Theory design. This separation highlights a larger issue, and one that we are preoccupied with at the institute: how can we shape technology to allow us handle text collaboratively and socially, yet still maintain an author’s unique voice?

the future is not here

“Don’t let anyone tell you different: the future is not here. Our cars? Not flying. Our food? Not in pill form. Our books? Not electronic.” An article by Joshua Fruhlinger in IBM’s developerWorks addresses the ebook problem. Nothing new here; but he does give an entertaining summary of the troubles with and the aspirations for future books.