Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Cloud Party Party

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

First Impressions

First heard about it from an IBM colleague when I was right in the middle of a deadline. Responded to his instant message, asking if we could look together later. The next day, I was asked by another colleague via instant message, "Have you heard of Cloud Party?"

"Just yesterday, actually." I don't recall what more my colleague wrote, if anything. That night, in front of the TV, I opened Facebook and searched for "Cloud Party". Clicked on it. Landed in-world and a stranger tried to chat with me. By default, my avatar sported a brunette, 2012 version of a bob and a body that's half my age in a tight T-shirt and faded jeans. I tested the arrow key to see if I could walk away from, presumably, him. Reminded me of the meaninglessness of Second Life before I had specific reasons to go in-world with groups of IBM managers for learning.

"Look at this, Pat," I said as I discovered that clicking my cursor anywhere in the distance would produce a red hump on the ground, to which my avatar then moved automatically. That was the cool part. Something that confused me: the mobile phone metaphor for navigation; I didn't want to click on it, as I thought Cloud Party was going to try to download itself as an app to my Android phone. The other cool part was getting there via Facebook. But then what? I didn't know, so I left.

Today was different. Almost like the old days in Second Life after my initial, individual visit, where I felt purposeful because I was with IBMers, trying to learn something -- in this case, about Cloud Party itself. One of my colleagues remarked that he liked how he could take photos that then were instantly postable to Facebook. Ooh. That sounded very cool. I went to the mobile phone icon and found the camera. Started taking photos, but discovered that it only saved like the four or five most recent photos -- after taking like 15. Oh, well.

Saved a few -- one, twice.

And then decided to start saving the chat because Cloud Party's CEO, Sam Thompson, kindly showed up and responded to questions rifled at him and his wife/sister(?) Lilli Thompson, who hosted us in Lilli's World. Decided to capture a bunch of it and post it here anonymously, other than Sam and Lilli, where names are, e.g., Yyyyy Yyyyy:

[say] Yyyyy Yyyyy: What are your current priorities?

[say] Sam Thompson: 1. Marketplace + asset transfers, 2. avatar improvements and finalization so content creators can start making clothes

Lilli Thompson cheers

[say] Sam Thompson: After that it is less clear.

[say] Lilli Thompson: As for differentiators for Cloud Party, I think the HTML5 thing is huge

[say] Sam Thompson: Xxxxx: I suppose the most obvious difference is the ease of entry... no client to download, login and account creation is basically instant (as long as you use facebook), and you can just send someone a URL to anywhere in Cloud Party and have them show up seconds later.

[say] Sam Thompson: Yyyyyy: no specific target demographic at this point. I'd say our target is 'the internet'

[say] Aaaaa Aaaa: Would HTML5 suggest that this would be a great place to run videos, integrating them into the 3D experience?

[say] Xxxxx: Full Mesh / Run in web page / No Client Download / No Firewall issues


[say] Sam Thompson: Aaaaaa: hopefully, eventually, yes. We actually got it working at one point a few months ago, but performance was terrible.

[say] Aaaaa Aaaa: (assuming sound, of course)

[say] Sam Thompson: I think it will just take more work on the browser side.

[say] Bbbbbb: @user#whatever - ease of access, better building, better 3D space (you get an island - a volume) not a surface, better integration with social media.

[say] Sam Thompson: Also there are lots of permissions issues with CORS and such.

[say] Ccccc Ccccc: I'd like to see more camera controls, like being able to change your viewpoint for the camera

[say] Sam Thompson: Aaaaaa: there is sound, it's just that most things aren't creating sound right now.

[say] Yyyyyy Yyyy: I just tried to login using my iPad, but no support yet.

[say] Xxxxx: thanks Sam

[say] Lilli Thompson: there's a video on YouTube of someone running Cloud Party on a jailbroken iPad

[say] Sam Thompson: Yyyyyy: that's on apple, unfortunately. They are being very cagey about WebGL support.

[say] Xxxxx: Yyyyyy you can use ipad if hacked and you install Cydia webgl support

[say] Sam Thompson: It'll be interesting to see how they play it.

[say] Aaaa Aaaaa: And of course we'll do nothing but flood Sam with feature requests --- interactive HTML to support in-world whiteboarding and such

[say] Sam Thompson: :)


[say] Ddddddd Ddddd: Having utterly failed to make a red shirt in a week :-) I'm finding the "world created by people like you" line a bit flat.

[say] Lilli Thompson: To some extent--the barrier to entry for content creation is higher. However the awesome thing is that the skills you learn building for cloud party transfer to the real world

[say] Lilli Thompson: it kind of hurts me to think of someone investing hundreds of hours into a proprietary non-transferrable set of skills for building

[say] Lilli Thompson: whereas any game artist can build here

[say] Sam Thompson: We are looking to bridge the gap to some extent between hard core builders and beginners. This is something we'll be looking into after the marketplace and avatar tech is in place.

[say] Lilli Thompson: or just show there stuff here

[say] Eeeeee Eeee: yeah like linden script LOL. What is the scripting language here? Javascript?

[say] Dddddd Ddddd: Ah, but right now they have to invest hundreds of dollars into 3D editing software.

[say] Sam Thompson: Andre: it's javascript with some limitations.

[say] Lilli Thompson: I also think Cloud Party is a really exciting way for 3d artists to share their work and portfolios

[say] User#133825: or go the Blender route

[say] Lilli Thompson: you don't have to--Blender and Sketchup work

[say] Mykael: You can build with tools like Carrera which is pretty cheap and Blender/Sketchup which are free.

[say] User#133825: Blender was my Best Friend in SL =)


At this point, I stopped saving the chat because it was far beyond what I could relate to personally. These colleagues were builders. And my experience in Virtual Worlds was in using what my colleagues built, so that I could include them in social learning experiences we designed for our leaders. Still, was happy to lurk and learn a bit about how the magic got built.

This evening, I spoke with one of the question-riflers, who has premier building experience, and told her, "I chatted privately with Yyyyy Yyyyy and told him that seeing you and him here were my favorite part of this virtual world so far....I imagine that this HTML 5 thing is very big for types like you, though."

"Well, yes, this is the first in Web GL, but only the first, so we'll have to wait and see."

In my Masters thesis, published late last year, I wrote that Virtual Worlds wouldn't catch on virally/universally until they were as simple as FarmVille and had much lower barriers to entry. I should mention that my Lenovo ThinkPad T61 -- which I use for work -- didn't enable me to access Cloud Party due to a video card that needed updating, but which turned out to be a hassle and undoable in the time I'd allotted for doing the update. I had to use the HP Entertainment PC I bought at Costco for home use. Also, during the dialogue with Sam and Lilli, my same colleague brought up the fact that China-based people would not necessarily be able to access Cloud Party, which was a pretty huge barrier to entry, so yes, we'll see. Still, I'm glad I went on the field trip. These in-world jaunts always expand my vista.


Andy Piper said...

Thanks for a really useful, interesting and thoughtful post, Sarah. I wasn't even aware of Cloud Party until I read this, and you've made me want to check it out. Very interesting to find that they are going with HTML5 and WebGL as the entry point, that certainly should make things more accessible. I'll take a look.

Sarah Siegel said...

Andy, thanks for your kind feedback. Yes, it's worth seeing, especially since it's also simple to access from your part of the world.