An exploration of the process and pedagogy behind establishing a non-linear narrative inside Second Life with the view to create a learning space rich in cross-curricular opportunities.

...there's been a murder in the Red Barn

...there's been a murder in the Red Barn
The "Red Barn" was a thatched timber out-building with a section of it's roof clad in red tiles.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

...dancing with myself

A strange but true video of me and my Bot dancing around obeying commands IM'd to it by me. This whole process is further explained in an IWHO as I found this blogging tool too frustrating to publish a long post in and too confusing to actually embed the video in.
Say hi to your mum for me.
...tap tap tap .... is this thing on?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Receding Horizons

Rinse and Repeat - such a lovely mantra.
In-World, "Reba the Loon" is represented by her Crystal Ball, seen in loving SecondLife Machinima above.

Reba the Romany Elder [well, in truth Reba the Loon is a character name I borrowed from the Tom Waits song "Murder in the Red Barn" because I loved the imagery of an old chrone assumed mad only because of apprearance and manner of speech - how lovely SecondLife imitates FirstLife imitates Art doing an impression of something entirely different] now exists in MUD and MOO, she is a "thing" in SecondLife.
Now I move my attention to the new possibility of harnessing an out of world AIML bot to define the chat engine of a remote-controlled avatar.

Was asked if it is something that a "mere mortal" could attempt - I dunno. Best way to find out is to let this mere mortal [me] give it a whirl.

Interestingly, how often do we see label things as beyond what a "mere mortal" can do only because they are [at that time] outside their common experience. I can remember when I thought web page creation must be hard [before wysiwyg editors and all manner of smart tools] until I invested a little of my own time with someone who knew how to do it [shelly, you will _never_ appreciate the epiphany that that weekend workshop in 1992 caused], only to discover that it is manageably easy and for the most part understandable - I now merrily make web pages every bit as crap as professionals, but would not have, at the time i was about to acquire the skills, thought it possible. The "horizon" in webbing for me now is CSS [yes, I know you are prolly already proficient, but i am a complete n00b using them] and dynamic content and web2.0 and all that flashytwirly shizz.

Receding horizons I think it is called in the pooter industry ... that phenomenon that things are perceived as hard only until they are achieved and a new "vanishing point" emerges.

*tap tap tap* is this thing on? Is there anybody out there?

Friday, July 20, 2007

5 out of 12 voices in my head .....

Now it starts to get interesting...

pictured above is a pair of in-world SecondLife avatars ... right? Wrong!

Ignore the Dalek [bloody badly behaved thing it is - programmed to look for other in-world people, get close to them and offer to exterminate them ... locked in the Hay Loft until I can get it to behave more politely].

As it turns out, there are TWO INSTANCES of me [yes, dear reader, concrete virtual evidence of my duality] in the above picture - one being remotely controlled by a proggie OUT OF WORLD. The pale alien dude is my regular avatar [it was late, I was tired and if the glove fits, wear it I say] and the one I am signed in using, Wonko Whizenhunt. The fresh meat [beefcake in jeans and a tshirt, thongs and a twinkle in his eye] beside me is a clone [clearly not as ravaged by time, space nor chocolate] named Doppelganger Writer. For the uneducated reader, a doppleganger is supposed to exist for everyone [that is an exact lookalike] - so I thought go with the name Doppleganger but could not find a surname from the list of ones available that did not suck. Now what makes this a fairly significant EPIPHANY is that I am controlling Doppy from a local proggie on my pooter, not the SecondLife Client.

But wait, there's more.

Investigating the SecondLife account system, you are encouraged to have many accounts [by specifically not saying DO NOT DO IT, they are encouraging me, right?] - each their own avatar, but up until now I always thought you could only have one on at a time - silly me. Each avatar has their own customizable appearance [some can be boys, some girls, some ... blue things from planet spod], I can dress and feature them, attach them to pose-balls, give them animations, money, objects and other shizz ... and then I can control them externally. It's only bandwidth, right? Each being a splinter of my own persona maybe - there are so many voices in my head that are just not me.

But wait, there's more.

Investigating the remote control box, I discovered a tab mentioning a Pandora Bot. Due to the wonders of the World Wide Wait, I visited and signed up for a suite of free AIML [Artificial Intelligence Markup Language] bots [you want lots? for free? fully customizable? certainly sir] that I can customize the conversation engines for via a GUI that works, add keywords and responses, change the vocab, altar the grammar and speech patterns, is idiot proof [well, I did not bugger it up at least] and then connect, via a botId in the remote bot controller to that AIML Bot. And then I noticed that the SAME remote controller can be used to control MULTIPLE bots in-world simultaneously - this is seriously hoopy.

Then i got thinking, and decided to test if my remote-controlled avatar could be in-world without me being there at all. Surprise, surprise, surprise [said with full Gomer Pyle accent ... sorry kids of you are too young to know wtf that means] my remote-control bot entered world, and I could have a remote control conversation with my talky cow [an object with my chatterscript, by the barn ... a cow ... oh, do keep up!].

So what? Well ...... a solution to my lack of bots problem is to embed actual AVATARS in the places where people-shaped things need to be, load them with my vocab, remote-control them and hey presto, an interactive space held together with strings [wow, that works on SO MANY LEVELS - strings are sent, strings are analysed and pre-determined response strings are delivered from an externally held AIML database to an in-world avatar-not-avatar being held up by immaginary http strings - yes, this remote thing works thru PORT 80, so I can be ANYWHERE and keep my bots alive] like a puppet show - very exciting prospect.

Downside? A SINGLE registered remote control avatar costs L$2000 [about $7 real dollars, Lindy says, thanks for the cash injection] and my scenario needs about 8 ... grant hunting I will go I guess. The remote control facility was problematic to set up [documentation was non-existent, in-world instructions were inadwequate and partially unavailable - I await gaining access to the command syntax notecard that, although I bought, registered and paid for *cha-ching, thank you come again* I am unable to open because I have insufficient permissions - wtf???] Out of world I can see the bot-controlled avatars inventory, can turn them certain directions, can send chat and receive same, but have yet to master much else - one hopes the degree of control evolves - I would love to be able to trigger gestures, animations and manage inventory remotely - that would be hoopy, to be able to automate and script same would be doubly hoopy.

Wait a dog-gone moment ... if i remotely log on Doppy, and get him an inworld job pole dancing or something that pays an HOURLY rate in linden dollars, he could make me independently wealthy ... is this a scam or a legit part time job [anyone know the avatar name of a good inworld lawyer] ? Lol - one of me can be panicking at the disco, another can be manning an information booth at a Computer Education Professional development booth, another can be chatting to that person who added themselves to me friends list but, you know, is not really my friend [ /smile /nod ] and another can be trolling the seedy districts for some avatar on avatar pose-ball action for a fee [eek, did I just type that out loud?].

The plot thickens ... and that is a good thing. *tap tap tap* ... is this thing on? Is there anybody out there?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reba the Loon

Enter mad crystal-ball-gazing Gypsy [well, technically they called themselves "Romany", the general populace termed them gypsies] named Reba:
I have begun brainstorming the peripheral characters first, mainly because they are one source of background information vital in discovering just what has happened, to whom and why.

Reba was fun to write - a little mad - no, not really, just old and a bit mysterious, but she is inside the wagon - a treasured [if slightly feared] Romany elder.

I wanted to avoid using an organisation chart [the M$ tool drove me to insanity and drink last time - agreed, for me not a very long journey] so I found something free on the web called FreeMind - a java-based XML-producing mind-mapping tool, and it seems to work hoopily. Discovered a raft of similar tools which got me thinking that I shoulda been using something like this a long time ago - I think back to the tortured mess I was when building quest monster talk files in MUD, and how inadequate a linear tool [like a wordprocessor] is at that task.

Reba is there for richness, and to connect some dots I am placing elsewhere in this space. Trying to include cultural identity to a second population group here, so the devil is in the details. Some nice cultural references here, including arranged marriages, fierce and loyal friends, human foibles and other niceties.

The process is as before - make the MUD char, give it this talk file; make a MOO bot, teach it these keywords [and prolly some randoms and question response fill-ins, because they are a little richer]; make a "thing" in secondLife and give it this talky script;

Next step: I must get around to investigating the markup to encapsulate this story tree in an AI file for my newly installed AliceBot [thanks for providing me with an extensible, multi-personality AI-driven conversation engine that I think I can mash-up to connect to something in-world]. New frontier - my first SecondLife in-out world mashup - Azwaldo will need to be my guide as noob is my flavour.

Will keep you posted ... tap, tap, tap ... is this thing on? Is there anybody out there?

... if you could see what I can imagine