Using bots for Second Life Marketing

Yes much like in the movie Blade Runner the replicants already walk among us, virtually at least. In Second Life bots are nothing new, however what is new is their heavy usage in marketing to boost traffic numbers and increase virtual sales. You can find some good coverage on Grid Expectations and New World Notes for the back story. Once you’ve read up why don’t we take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of bots in Second Life. I’ll even tell you how its done….

The Good

While not a popular opinion I support the use of bots in Second Life. I deal with plenty of dead, automated systems that mimic humans (ie telephone directories, web sites etc) every day, why not in the virtual space as well? One thing companies have failed to invest in for their virtual properties is a proper staff. Avatars arrive at virtual ghost towns when they should be greeted and shown the right direction to get started. A combination of paid live staff and bots with crude AI (already possible thanks to Pandora Chat Bots) can greatly increase the visitors experience at your destination.


Bots used as virtual models at B&B Skins

In a virtual world where clothes, skins, and body shapes are by far the most prized commodity using bots for display purposes is another example of the good. Here a customer can see the truest representation of what they are about to buy. Images are flat and take forever to load, avatars load quickly and offer the best preview.

 

Adding a layer of Artificial Intelligence to these bots open the doors to a lot opportunities beyond staff, above we see an example of a their use in machinima. In this scene we see several bots playing sports together, some players are bots, others live actors. Sine Wave has a great web based interface for setting up and controlling your bots, you program the triggers and define the actions.

The Bad


Cafe of the Dead!

In the first image of this blog post and above we see another image from B&B Skins. High in the sky (well above the standard flight limit) we find the virtual worlds most quiet cafe. Here I found over 75 bots sitting among themselves, enjoying whatever a bot enjoys (one can only assume that’s CPU cycles). So what’s bad about this? They aren’t hurting any one up there other than perhaps causing some extra lag. Right?

Well as some know Second Life traffic is based not only how many avatars visit a location but how much time they spend there as well. So if you camp bots for 24 hour periods your location will get a significant boast in ranking and in some cases a spot on the much beloved "Popular Places" list. In the case of B&B they do make the popular places list and as a result get a steady flow of new (and live) traffic through their shops. Gamed? Tricked? Scamming? Sure maybe a little, but B&B offers something different, a very high quality product. Other places who artificially inflate their ranking typically offer shit products or scammy pyramid schemes for Linden dollars. Vendors in Second Life continue to get more competive, it’s hard to blame some for using this tatic to get noticed amoung the 1000s of other retailers.

The Ugly


Say hello to our new masters

So what’s next? An army of millions of undead and unrezed avatars plaguing the metaverse, stealing your very soul and of course lindens? The eventual enslavement and overtaking of the entire grid, turning us into pawns for a heartless, tax dodging super race of corrupt replicant powers? Well not exactly, out of hacks and gamed systems will come a new way to calculate traffic. Much like how we record traffic for web sites Linden Labs (or TNBT) is going to have to give us a few upgrades. There has already been plenty of talk about this but I imagine as with many much needed upgrades they are low of the "to-do" list right now. Until the loop hole is fixed (lets hope it eventually is) you might as well enjoy and experiment with bots for your own business.

How Its Done

Creating bots in Second Life is done several different ways but all are based around the libsl frameset. If you have prior programming experience (or just an ungodly amount of free time) you can create your own scripts and start logging in bots. For those that want a little more user friendly experience try one of the following:

Thoys SL Bot


Thoys SL Bots by Thoys Pan

For a one time fee of $2000L (about $8USD) you can turn any existing avatar into a bot. Thoys is one of the better ones available because with your purchase you get a nice light Windows client to control your bot. With this client you can set a "Owner" (yourself), chat, make payments and execute several other commands. One of the more interesting tabs lets you setup your bot for use with Pandora Chat Bots where you can easily install some very crude but effective AI. I’ve used this on my land for staff and preloaded the bots responces with marketing messages and helpful directions. Specific keywords trigger the values I program through the Pandora web site.

Lastly Thoys SL Bot has one very nice feature, avatars logged through it do not appear "ruthed". This is where the avatar remains gray and custom skins/clothes do not properly render. You’ll find many SL bots face this fate making them much easier to spot and less engaging.

Sine Wave Robots


Sine Wave Robots

With a web interface as sexy as their branding Sine Wave has one of the best services on the market. Setup is quick and easy and allows you a dizzying amount of customization to your bot’s behavior. Bots are appropriately called actorbots and will cost you around $1USD per day, per robot to run. Since there is no client to run connectivity is reliable, they will even auto re log your bot at a time you designate.

SLeek


SLeek Light Windows Client

SLeek is a very light Windows based Second Life client for logging in avatars. Here you can perform most of the basic actions of the full client minus the CPU intensive graphics. The program works well but from my experience can only run about 3 instances (logged in bots) before they all crash. Additionally your bots appear "ruthed" to other residents but hey its free so as they say, you get what you pay for. I’ve found this client helpful when on a laptop or public terminal and need a quick way to login for chat.

Please feel to share comments on ethics of bots in Second Life or any additionally questions in the comments. Just please…no comment spam bots. ;)

 

Posted in Second Life | 4 Comments

Facebook Beacon

If Facebook Beacon somehow survives the recent onslaught it will likely become a powerful advertising platform. They are doing everything right, you just aren’t ready for it. Yes you, the same person who fills their various social nooks with all types of juicy personal information yet throws up the privacy flag when its convenient. I understand the concerns, and I would even say they are more than valid. It just seems to me in this new web landscape there is very little middle ground to stand on. You are either a social media whore, sharing your thoughts/friends/relationship status/actions freely for all to see, or opting out completely.

Data Sharing Is Not Something New

Information is power as they say, and marketing companies thrive on it. When you signup for a credit card or simply enter your information online this data is almost always shared in one way or another. Companies like Choicepoint have built huge businesses out of it and they want more. Social networks already contain some of this information and they want it. Your credit score and address are one thing, but your personality and social actions are the real "holy grail" here.

Keeping Up With the Jones

Referral based marketing is sexy, if you run in tight circles of friends on social networks your connections are watching you. Facebook Beacon taps into something formally out of reach to most companies, your friends. Where "word of mouth" marketing is simply a whisper in your ear referral based marketing is something more tangible. Something you can click and run with, a passive but effective call to action.

So for now I’m going against the grain and as an "Internet Marketer" supporting Beacon. For those wishing to block it without having to delete your account I recommend visiting here. For best results you’ll probably want to make a tin foil hat as well.

Coming Soon: Twitter Beacon! Now when you thrill me with your updates on recent sandwiches eaten I get a advertisement from Subway. :)

 

Posted in Facebook | 4 Comments

Mahalo Daily Launches Monday November 5th

Check out the trailer above and tune in November 5th for the first episode of the Mahalo Daily staring Veronica Belmont.

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Poor Man’s Tech Conference Guide

"Your invited to the Web 2.0 Summit"

When I received this email from the prestigious Oreily web conference I naturally assumed there was some type of clerical error. Perhaps they just sent these out to any one who requested one, in any case I was excited. Call me crazy but I love these things, such a great opportunity to meet fellow geeks and draw inspiration from speakers. Gleefully I clicked through to register and there it was like a 404 to my heart, "Register Today! Only $3500". Now to most of the attendees of this conference three large is not a big deal, or their company picks up the tab. In my case (independent with quasi cash) and many others who would enjoy this conference a price tag like that is just not within reach. So how can we enjoy the same events, or at least get some free drinks? For this I present to you the Poor Man’s Tech Conference Guide:

I didn’t know they made a rolle for you cheap ass, got into the club on a free pass

The exhibit only pass is your best friend. Companies pay big bucks to be in the hall, anywhere from 5-100 grand depending on the show size. A good conference knows the more faces exhibitors see the better and sometimes give out free passes to the exhibit hall. Check the conference web site and make sure to register ahead of time for one.

 

Fake it till you make it

A few years ago conference badges were pretty simple paper printouts. These could easily be reproduced with a little Photoshop and color printer. Now however many are moving to the "credit card" type badge which are more difficult to reproduce. A few options on how to handle this:

  1. If you have a friend with a paid ticket have him bring it over to see if you can create your own.
  2. Use web sites like this one to stock up on supplies. Many conference still use the same badge holder with a color strip to indicate the type of registration. Conference staff is typically looking at this and only this as you pass by.
  3. Look up the conference on Flickr to get badge examples. Thanks to the crack like addiction of geeks and Flickr, images usually show up within minutes of the conference starting.

Hack the staff

I used to do technical logistics for large conferences so I have a lot of experience with conference staff. They break down into three groups:

  1. Hired Goons: These folk work for large conference companies like Freeman or are sent from staffing agencies. As exciting as it must be to register business men while they talk on their cell phone, they usually don’t care too much for their job. They get startled easy so tread lightly, you best plan of attack is to walk up frustrated and say you lost your badge. Make a mental note of an attendees name and give them this. If they ask for ID tell them your badge was in your wallet and them grumble about having to call all those credit card companies.
  2. Suckers!: These are employees of the company behind the conference who got suckered into working it. While most of the execs have fun attending or running the show they get to stand behind an sign labeled "A-G Registration". These people are usually bad to try anything with, not only do they know the systems they might even know the attendee you are trying to clone.
  3. "Security Guards": Similar to what you find at your local bank these guys are actually you best choice for a hack. They hover around doorways and check badges like a hawk but they are easily distracted. During lunch time especially they seem eat at their "station" many times and are well involved with a tasty sandwich. Additionally many conferences host a lunch so almost all staff is enjoying the free food like our friend here. Sneak by into the promise land during this time. You may have to wait in a session room for awhile but once your in, your in.

!!!!WARNING!!!!
Beware of Grandma Staff
!!!!WARNING!!!

Don’t even think about trying to pull a fast one on the many grannies you find at registration. What they lack in speed they make up for in detail and will maliciously check or ask about any issue. You little whipper snapper!

Lurk

The lobby at these events can sometimes be more valuable than the conference itself. Better yet the bar next to the lobby if available. You’ll find many fellow geek’s and business folk will open up greatly after a few drinks.

Look on web sites like upcoming.org for events and parties related to the conference. Sometimes companies will book a place nearby filling up it with attendees (and open bar). Track down a way to get on the list or simply show up and try to get in. If you don’t have an attendee badge bring a business card for entry.

Unconference

Want to go to a free geek conference and in your area? Attend a local BarCamp, these things are great and free as can be. I’ve been to a few and must say they have been some of my favorite conferences. Connect with other passionate and mostly independent geeks like yourself. Hell you can contribute by presenting your own session on just about anything. All you have to do is fill out a post it and stick it the wall. They also have powerpoint karaoke which is something amazing within itself.

So there you have, for those tech heads on their way up how you too can rub elbows with the a-listers and fellow digital friends. Naturally some of the above is a form of fraud so if you get caught don’t expect to be welcomed to next years event. Of course if you ever do make it big they will probably let you attend for free anyway.

also see: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/14/MNKJSL3GM.DTL

Posted in Events, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

Second Life Travel Guide by Sean Percival

It’s done, finished, complete…

After months of exhaustive and strange research my Second Life Travel Guide is on it’s way to you. Whether you are an avid user or just slightly interested in Second Life this is the book for you. I curate the best the Metaverse has to offer in the following areas:

  • Shopping
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • Adults Only
  • Real Life in Second Life
  • Where to Live

From Que Publishing this full color guide is heavy with beautiful in-world photographs and destination info. I like to say that the images in this book are so nice that it’ll make the geek’s coffee table.

There is also an in-world piece called Landmark Island. This private island will serve as a virtual travel hub of sorts. Here you find Landmarks (the SL version of a bookmark) for many of the locations in the book. It will also help me to keep the book up to date as locations change they can be reflected here. There is also Ning social network for this project here.

If you haven’t already signed up for account you can for FREE here.

 
Click To Pre-Order

Posted in Second Life | 3 Comments

Your Blog Comments Brought to Life

Posted in Videos | 8 Comments

Gnomes, Trolls, Jasons and Winers

When you hear about something called Gnomedex personally I can’t help but think about that adorable Travelocity Gnome. Turns out it’s actually a conference about trolls. Yes those endearing people like myself who stand outside the echo chamber and yell shit in. Ok really it’s a conference for bloggers but lets face it, trolls are a big component of the blog-o-ecosphere. In fact we were even treated to 3 new species of troll. How exciting! Lets exam the specimens:

  • The Chat Troll: I attended the conference virtually thanks to the feed from ustream.com and saw there was a chat room available. While I’ve watched tons of conference video I’ve never had the chance to join a live chat, sounded good to me. Quickly I was treated to all the keyboard diarrhea that is the Internet with most of the chatters commenting on the female speakers breasts. I found Eric Rice in the chat room who gave me fair warning of what to expect. After having some fun there we were able to get the crowd to yell out things including Eric’s name (and I think mine as well). As far as I know this is the first trolling to make it from cyberspace to meatspace in real time.
  • The Live Troll: Yes that’s right, a troll seen doing his trolling in the wild! RSS pioneer and "more disruptive than your drunk uncle" Dave Winer just couldn’t contain his Twits and no doubt future blog posts to himself. He heckled with taunts of "Spam!" from the back row, apparently upset by Jason Calacanis promoting Mahalo. This carried over into future presentations which I’m sure the already nervous presenters enjoyed.
  • The Linked Troll: Jason and Dave went at it a bit virtually and caused even more bloggers to write about it. Jason has even begun to catalog them here. Since both don’t allow comments on their blog posts at the moment what other way can we the trolls respond?

Naturally by making us create more blogs post which I started to do, worked on for about an hour and just now completely erased the rest of this post. I’ve decided that I like to read about the Internet drama but not necessary join in sometimes. I defended Mahalo in the chat room and would do it here or to anyone else I talk to. I’m sorry but Dave only seems to have dollar signs in his eyes when it comes to a new platform or concept. Odd from someone who helped invent something as great and FREE as RSS. You guys are all just bouncing off each other as usual and now you’ve got us caring the tune!

So I’m done but I should also say that a blogger convention crowd is the not the right demographic for Mahalo, their parents and the millions of other search challenged users are. It is however a great place to drum up some press and classic Internet drama.

Watch the Presentation:

Try the new product for yourself:

Mahalo Follow

(Disclosures: I work in the Mahalo Greenhouse and don’t trust anyone over 40. This and most others posts are bias to my interests, isn’t that what a blog is for?)

Posted in Events, Human Powered Search | 2 Comments

Social Booking Marking in Plain English

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Viral Videos That Work

East Coast – Tea Partay
 

VS

West Coast – Green Tea Partay


A great viral video campaign from the good folks at Smirnoff, more info available here. Over a year old but for some reason they are still making the rounds. Also New England looks better than ever, hello Buffy. Can’t wait to move there in 2 months, where my wasps at!

Posted in Videos | 2 Comments

Mahalo Badge Redux

As a follow up to the original Mahalo Badge I made last month I’d like to share the new and improved version. This one pulls several sources and can be changed using the pull down menu. For a bonus I’ve created a feed for the Mahalo Top 50 which displays the most popular pages on the site. Looks like Veronica Belmont has finally been knocked out of first place thanks to Michael Vick and the amazing guides created by Nicole. Why Sexsomia is still up there I have no idea but it sounds like fun.

This is also a belated thank you to Mahalo for giving me chance to be a part of the Greenhouse and of course the Jesus phone they gave me as part of their iPhone Contest. Want your own? Just signup and create 100 pages for Mahalo, they will even pay you for what you create. Lets hear it for getting paid to surf the tubes and if you like, doing it in your underwear at home.

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Posted in Human Powered Search | 7 Comments