explaining OpenSim to non-avatars


subQuark wants some way to show what’s been involved in making Enclave Harbour without getting technical. like an “elevator pitch”, when you have that time in an elevator to tell someone about your product or service

you and i know what is involved but

how do you tell a mainstream person who has never even heard of Second Life?

i bet some of you are like me and have had your share of glazed looks after you started sharing your virtual world passion =D

it’s pretty awesome what people build in Second Life and OpenSim and it’s easy to not think of that as hardcore 3D development. but it is 3D dev work, just like doing work in Blender or Maya (used for movies like Shrek)

for OpenSim users, it often moves beyond 3D development work and can involve some level of hardware work. this is far more technical, and artistic, than most people ever do in their professional lives

after some thought, here’s what i came up with – two images with three parts – land, prims, and a person

i’d love any ideas you have or experiences that have worked for you in providing a glimpse to non-avatar people at what OpenSim is


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written by Ener Hax

December 2nd, 2011 at 8:32 pm

posted in OpenSim

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20 comments to 'explaining OpenSim to non-avatars'

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  1. Hi Ener! Oh believe me, I’ve tried to tell people, show people but they just don’t get it. I sometimes think that virtual world knowledge is a “higher” thinking. Most people are like, so you are playing a game like World of Warcraft… I’m always NO, I mostly work when I’m in a virtual world, and the glazed look happens LOL!!

    We are special :-D


    2 Dec 11 at 10:08 pm

  2. Yes, people either “get” it, or they don’t.

    I’ll admit that I didn’t get hooked right away on virtual worlds. Two things changed all that: getting a better ‘puter… and meeting Ener Hax ♥

    I think most people just don’t have the attention span. Thank goodness a few of you do! I don’t know if it’s higher thinking (go Sunny!), or just “different” thinking.

    After 5 years of virtual worlds, I still can’t explain them very well. But I’ve managed to infect a few other people with my addiction.

    Maybe we need a contest…

    “Open Sim is _____” (in 50 words or less).

    DreamWalker McCallister

    3 Dec 11 at 7:10 am

  3. […] explaining OpenSim to non-avatars at i live in science land avatar ramblings from the virtual world… Source: […]

  4. the pictures will hook people that want to do buildings or landscaping. especially k12. but when i post to games world i alway say that opensim is like second life or they wont know the difference.

    but the subject has me thinking about an other idea — vworlds itself. with the dominance of second life and the openness of opensim lead to another entity with a garagegame-like company for profit. i have to think more about this but its possible.


    3 Dec 11 at 3:45 pm

  5. May be some people is not prepared to the next “big step” ?. I find that Metaverse or Virtualworlds give you more sociable experience than anything else. Social Networks like twitter or fb is just images, text and chat but not more. There is one thing with virtual worlds that is not in possible with other social networks and it is how you can share, walk or even do a little more. I think that one day more people will do the next “big step”.

    Xpontaneus Combustion

    3 Dec 11 at 3:56 pm

  6. maybe one day it will be.


    3 Dec 11 at 5:37 pm

  7. I have found that explaining it as “Like a garden” helps people understand virtual worlds easier.

    In a garden you can landscape (edit the terrain) and place plants and other things (building with prims). Not only that, but you can have people over and share your garden with you (hypergrids).


    4 Dec 11 at 11:31 am

  8. I don’t know but I was thinking may be people is not comming to metaverse or virtual world just becasue we are still thinking in 2 dimensions when using a chat system?. I mean just some people still beign conforted to be using letters and a pic than 3d avatar. It could be the posibility that people just would feel strange or weird.

    Xpontaneus Combustion

    4 Dec 11 at 3:15 pm

  9. A video is pretty good start to show someone, however, showing virtual world immersion with a video is like showing a person what video is by flipping through a bunch of still photos.

    casias falta

    4 Dec 11 at 10:48 pm

  10. A couple of years ago, I would ask people if they’d heard of Second Life and then explain what it was about. Now if SL is mentioned, people brighten up and ask if I’m “into it”. So I try to explain no, not now, we do Open Sim now. But that is where it falls flat. Perhaps people picked up on SL more easily because even subconsciously they must have seen a news item sometime.
    It struck me a while back that an elevator pitch is what I really need. No further forward though.

    Keith Selmes

    5 Dec 11 at 7:28 am

  11. all very true – from Sunny’s experiences (and she really loves virtual worlds and is one of those people whose enthusiasm rubs off on others) to McDreamy’s “get it” or not

    bristle and Xpontaneus hit on what i find a lot – many people are unable to make the step from 2D to 3D for the “internet” – to be able to “step” into a web page and move around in it (i used to think of SL in that way – everyone’s parcel or sim is just like a website, just a 3D website

    Paul i really like the garden analogy and i bet many people still can’t make the mental leap but would understand it at a cursory level

    true casias, a video is powerful and we’ve had good feedback on our video at – parents and teachers “get it” but have absolutely no clue at how much work went into it (i guess the same is true for a movie like Shrek although if you watch the credits you see that it takes hundreds of people!)

    @Keith – i do the same thing and qualify OpenSim as being “like the open source version of Second Life used by a lot of educators”. this helps connect the dots and show why it is used without getting into talks about cost, etc

    thanks everyone – all really good (and valid) points and the conclusion i draw from you is what probably is the reality of all of this – it’s hard to explain and people don’t really care much about the details of anything except for what they like =)

    Ener Hax

    5 Dec 11 at 7:59 am

  12. This is perfect Ener!

    Thank you and I have already used it. The response was not much different than anyone else here has indicated, however I think it helps as much as anything can.

    I also like the garden example and that makes it feel more intimate and grounded (no pun intended).

    David Miller

    5 Dec 11 at 1:44 pm

  13. When I speak to technical audiences I explain that the same way that AOL and Compuserve eventually led us to the World Wide Web, running on Apache, so will existing 3D environments — like Second Life and Eve — eventually transition to a universe of interconnected worlds where avatars can travel between them.

    And, the same way that the Apache web server runs most of the websites out there, so there will be an open source virtual world server software to run these worlds. And the best bet for that is OpenSim.

    I tell them that OpenSim is already used to run thousands of worlds, many of them connected to each other via hypergrid teleports. But nobody knows about it yet — it’s like where the World Wide Web was before Netscape came out.

    So this is the time to get in, learn the technology. Because there’s a good chance that there’s going to be another Dot-Com boom, but around this new technology.

    But yeah, it’s a really hard sell! Pictures help. So do videos of hypergrid travels. I also do walkthroughs — I take my computer and go through a few hypergates, take them to some grids (pre-planned, with backup destinations in hand, just in case). And each time my avatar lands on a new grid I tell them again — this is a totally different world. Run by different people, on different servers, in a different country, completely unconnected to the one we were on previously. And it’s my same avatar — and I can even change outfits by pulling new clothes out of my inventory.

    Then I say: now imagine this with hyper-realistic graphics. In a true 3D viewer. That’s the future we’re going to be living in. And the start of it is right here. The hypergrid.

    — Maria

    Maria Korolov

    8 Dec 11 at 10:25 pm

  14. I am a part of a small grass-roots group of corporate trainers in a Fortune 100 company who have been trying to show the training benefits of using a 3D VW to our mid and executive-level management for years. We started by using SL, but ran into too many IT issues and to make matters worse after advocating that SL is not a Game for years, SL changes its strategy to market itself as a game. To work around the corporate firewall issues and distance ourselves from SL’s “we-could-care-less” about educational communities, we decided to pilot our own environment behind our corporate firewall using OpenSim. We are the process of working with IT to set up the server. We already planned for many of the issues, such as class administration, avatar behavior codes, new avatar creation/maintenance, new avatar orientation, instructional design, ramping up building/scripting skills and many others. The biggest hurdle was getting managerial sponsorship.

    So how did we explain OpenSim to non-avatars? We created a small OpenSim Wifi network and an OpenSim region specifically for demo purposes. We invited the potential sponsors to the demo and three of us worked with the sponsors so they could logon and experience the environment for themselves. I watched their reactions and heard many “awesomes”, “wows”, and “cools.” It felt like Christmas morning as the kids were unwrapping their presents. After the demo we asked the sponsors to brainstorm with us around how we could use OpenSim to solve many of the learning challenges faced by the company. The end result is that we are now working of a pilot of the first OpenSim class!

    Johnathan2007 Whitfield

    9 Dec 11 at 7:21 am

  15. nice Maria and pointing to this as being inevitable and a part of the future attracts early adopters and creates a good general vibe – whci OpenSim needs! =)

    Nice Jonathan! and a perfect opportunity to even use sim-on-a-stick as a fully self-contained, no install needed way to show someone on their own machine your demos! that only works in person though and i have used our server to have a visitor try it out after talking them through the viewer download and grid manager set-up

    nice about the “wows” and that speaks volumes to your demo and your passion

    i’d love to learn more about your class and if you ever need an extra set of eyes to look at it, i offer myself up as both an educator and OpenSim nut =)

    Ener Hax

    9 Dec 11 at 9:55 am

  16. I think a lot of how you describe it depends on who you’re describing it to. An SL vet – “it’s like SL but free” usually works wonders if they’re paying tier.

    I’ve also encountered the glaze face but I still recognize that those people have “real lives” (or so they believe) and I’m the big g33k chick without one…so virtual worlds to them is the equivalent of me saying “yes, I’m a loser without a life who visits fake worlds to keep from making real world friends”…none of which is true, but when you approach someone whose hobbies are all outdoors, real time stuff with real interaction, the hardest obstacle for them is the part that virtual = friendless or antisocial.

    Instead, I’ve embraced the g33kiness and gone around it with, “I build interactive 3D content for virtual worlds” and then, where feasible, show some screen caps of the stuff I’ve built…and then they’re all focused on how awesomely cool a g33k I am…and hit me up when they can’t figure out why their browser crashes or they get the BSOD. I’ve managed to get a few seriously non techhie sorts to check out SL in the past, but it was to satisfy their curiosity. What is sorely needed is an easy, headache free way to get them INTO the worlds, SL or otherwise, so they can focus on experience and now the 2 hour viewer download or the n00b tutorials – hence my bleeding determination to figure out how to access a web based option to get them in it messing around.

    Unfortunately, my VW enthusiasm has been shelved recently due to a much sought after divorce, and also being recruited to rebuild a website for a client, but the “SL” bug is strong. Even last night I had the most incredibly rejuvenating dream of having built my entire colony on my desktop, flying over it in night mode with the twinkling stars and woke up ready to get building…which I can’t due to RL issues on my plate.

    I would love an easy browser based option so I can build it, then use a dedicated website to explain it, show imagery, videos and such and they can access it directly through the page. This is my dream…

    It boils down to, as was mentioned above, passion and enthusiasm, even if they aren’t VW savvy it’s infectious once they see it for themselves.

    Virtual Clover

    19 Dec 11 at 11:25 am

  17. PS (you didn’t think I’d do this without a PS, right…)

    There is another visually stunning option for show & tell. The few people out there who have managed to incorporate AR (augmented reality) and have life sized virtual avis and builds appear right in the room…of course, visible through a camera only, but the day they come up with cool VWAR enabled contact lenses or non hideous glasses where you can build in your living room and it’s like being IN SL/OS in your living room and not via a computer, I will probably never leave the house again ;-p

    Then geeky chick without a life may end up becoming dead on.

    Virtual Clover

    19 Dec 11 at 11:35 am

  18. PS 2 hah sorry, show & tell needs video! – this one gives me chills. There are a few others you can watch on the page

    And this one was just jaw dropping – regarding a high profile missing child case that sent people off the deep end, but it managed to find its way into SL…but as a build and tool to share the value of VWs, this one is 100% awesome…

    Why not consider adding a little AR to OS? That would rule.

    K, end PS mode

    Virtual Clover

    19 Dec 11 at 11:44 am

  19. sorry to hear about your divorce Virtual – regardless of the circumstances, it’s still an emotionally draining ordeal. i wish you the best through it all

    i appreciate your explanation of your experiences, it helps me not feel as alone about it (many a glazed look my way once i start!)

    funny how people equate being able to make stuff inSL with a general expertise on computers. i am stilll total crap at connecting up a printer – no lie!

    the easy browser-based viewer would be a game changer – even if just lightweight for viewing only (no building)

    and thanks for bringing augmented reality into the discussion, it is very cool and i have seen some neat uses of it with toy packaging and thanks on the YouTube, i’m heading there now! =)

    Ener Hax

    19 Dec 11 at 9:55 pm

  20. holy cow on the avatar in a room!!!! wow!!!!!!

    Ener Hax

    19 Dec 11 at 9:57 pm

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