Applications and Tools, Business in Virtual Worlds, Collaboration, Second Life

800,000L Viewer Interface Contest

Edit June 18th:Please see an update on this contest including announcement of judges here.

A Baby Viewer
M Linden has his work cut out for him. In addition to retaining the current user base and appealing to corporations and educators who are increasingly using Second Life not for branding and malls but for collaboration and learning, the Lab has identified the orientation experience as a priority for the future success of the Grid.

I recently talked about the Sacred Cows of Second Life and whether they needed some debunking. One of them was the client. I believe that it’s the tools that makes SL what it is – and that by solely focusing on simplifying the client, it ignores the deeper need to make the tools for scripting, building and communication more robust. But there’s a second argument – that the tools will only be useful if a new arrival to Second Life actually stays.

Friends on the grid have been thinking long and hard about orientation, and I’ve argued that at least an equal focus should be put on the avatar creation process as a part of developing ’stickiness’ as compared to “Orientation Island” (if you invest in your avatar, you’re more likely to stay, at least a LITTLE while longer, therefore orientation should include avatar development even before you get to the Grid, with more choices, more customization, and tutorials built into the process).

But the other barrier is the viewer itself. And while there are brilliant clients – the Nicholaz viewer, of course, bearing special mention…I’m not convinced that beyond OnRez that there’s been anything beyond discussion on blogs about what a “simple viewer” would actually look like. This isn’t to say that there aren’t designs out there – light, browser-based viewers, for example, or other initiatives.

Many are of the opinion that maybe we need two viewer streams, and while I’d argue that the ‘partitioning’ of the community into different viewer groups might cause issues, there’s a lot to be said for the idea of creating a viewer that could be used by newcomers or ‘tourists’ to the Grid, with the option of course to always upgrade to the ‘fully loaded’ version.

Let’s say someone wants to hold a seminar and attracts interest outside the usual SL community – those folks might plan to come once and never come back – it sure would be nice if you didn’t need to spend the first hour explaining how to ask a question.

So I bought in to the idea that, at the very least, we should talk about what a “simple client” would look like. Bought the idea so much, in fact, that I want to throw some Lindens at it just for the pure devil-may-care joy of it.


Rules and Criteria
I am inviting the creative, brilliant, thoughtful, insightful community of SL to submit designs for a new Second Life client. We can call it a “newbie viewer” or a “junior client” – whatever terms you want to give, the criteria for the contest is as follows:

- Design an interface for the Second Life client that would improve the experience of a new or inexperienced user.

- There are no rules for what should or should not be included in the viewer. However, nothing should be added that is not possible with the current viewer. For example, while it might be nice to be able to groups your friends together, this isn’t currently possible, so it would not be an acceptable feature and your submission would be disqualified. The objective is to present the current features of the viewer in a new way. This doesn’t mean you can’t remove features. It just means the design should be based on existing and supported features.

- Designs are just that – designs, not prototypes. You don’t need to know code to participate. Please submit screen designs in TGAs, PNGs or another SL-compatible image format. The winners will be required to submit their original digital files (Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, or other graphic program) to receive their prizes. Submissions should be no less than 1024 x 1024 resolution. Submissions MAY include a notecard if the entrant feels that an explanation is useful in providing context to their submission.

- There is no limit to how many screens you can submit in order to visually demonstrate the concept.

- Up to 10 entrants will have the opportunity to present their entries to the judges and explain the rationale. (See below).

A panel of judges will evaluate the entries. The criteria for judging is to select the viewer that would, in the opinion of the panel, do the best job of improving the experience for a new or inexperienced user of Second Life.

This is a subjective judgement – I guess that’s why they call them judges! And while it would be nice to test the actual viewers with focus groups – well, that’s beyond the scope of what this contest can accomplish (Lindens? Wanna help out with that later?)

However, in order to assist the panel in understanding how the submitted designs would improve the new user experience, up to 10 entrants will be invited to present their submissions to the panel. Each presentation will be limited to 10 minutes and the panel will have the option to ask questions.

First place: 500,000 L
Second place: 200,000 L
Third place: 100,000 L

In order for winners to receive their prizes, final high resolution digital files in editable format must be submitted to Dusan Writer. (E.g. GIMP, Photoshop, etc.)

All entrants will retain the rights to their work but grant a non-exclusive license for the purposes of display and promotion related to the contest.

Winners will grant a non-exclusive license to Remedy Communications Ltd. (Dusan Writer) for the purposes of future development.

- Submit no later than 11:59 PM (2359hrs) SL time June 29, 2008
- Announcement of finalists: July 6th
- Presentation by finalists to judging panel: July 12th
- Winners announced: July 14th

Disclaimer Stuff
In accepting the prize, the winner, acknowledges that Dusan Writer and Remedy Communications Ltd. may not be held liable for any loss or damages associated with accepting or using this prize(s).

In making a submission, the entrant acknowledges that they are are the creators, or have full and unencumbered ownership of the submission.

Dusan Writer and Remedy Communications Ltd. reserves the right to withdraw or terminate this contest at any time without prior notice.


I want to be transparent about this. Whenever I hear “contest” I always fear I’m going to end up with a 10 year subscription to some magazine or other.

I’m doing this for a bunch of reasons. First…I don’t believe we should just rely on the Lindens, we’ve talked about this a lot, and it’s time to see what the people who put the meaning behind “Your World, Your Imagination” can come up with. I’m sure the Lindens are looking at similar ideas, but would also appreciate a wider dialog in the community.

It would be NICE if the Lindens or someone picked up on some of the ideas and discussion that this might generate. If not them, maybe the OpenSim people – whoever, the important thing, I believe, is to bring a discussion about the viewer into the open, and sometimes the best way to do that is to put a few Lindens (um, the currency not the people, I have no intention of cooking the Lindens) into the pot to make it interesting.

I don’t really want to develop a viewer. I have no particular incentive to do so. It’s not to say I WON’T….I might be willing to, I think it could be both a headache and a blast. I DO have an interest in seeing more people come to SL, even for a one-off event…and stay. And I think offering a simple viewer – one say that students might use, or schools, or just some casual surfer who wants to try a “simple SL”. It’s good for all of us.

And finally, I think it’s a great way to hear from people who can do this kind of thing because I like to meet people with this kind of talent. Hey, I talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean I know how to DO much of anything. I like meeting people who know how to do stuff.

And sure, maybe someone out there, or the Lindens themselves, are coming up with the next “OnRez” – doesn’t matter, it all contributes to a wider discussion of how a creative community can think and create and share and learn.

As always, take note of the old IM cap thing – you might find it easier to reach me through Gmail if you have comments or questions: … dusan.writer @ , or post them here on the blog if you think others might benefit from the answers.


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