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About This Video

Cory Ondrejka spoke at F2C: Freedom To Connect, a 2007 conference on Internet connectivity hosted by David Isenberg and held in Washington, DC.

About Cory Ondrejka

Cory Ondrejka is Chief Technology Officer of Linden Labs, the creator “Second Life.” His team has created the technologies required to enable collaborative, atomistic creation, including distributed physical simulation, 3D streaming, completely customizable avatars and real-time, in-world editors. He also spearheaded the decision to allow users to retain the IP rights to their creations and helped craft Linden’s virtual real estate policy.

About the Music

That little bit of harmonica work you hear as the video loads? That would be Howard Levy. You can learn more about him at his site.

Things I never thought I’d say until I said them in Second Life: “Can I touch your Dalek?”

When first exploring this world, learning how to fly and meeting various characters, I realized that Second Life is a space where a bunch of 20 and 30-somethings suddenly revert to being three year olds, and I mean that in the very best of ways.

Second Life puts us in a new world with new bodies and new physical limitations that we need to learn. We bump into walls, we fall down stairs, we get lost before we get found. We do so with open eyes. And slowly, eventually, we learn how to fly. Literally. That’s not an attempted poetic twist.

We learn all this by mimicking. It’s our most advanced human feature. That and curiosity. We ask people where we are, how we get elsewhere, how we stand up, sit down or pick up an object.

We explore our bodies, our capabilities, our limitations. Similarly, we meet, touch and “feel” each other. We’re all very young again in this very large digital sandbox. And this is a very good thing.

Cory Ondrejka, Chief Technology Officer at Second Life creator Linden Labs touched on this while talking at Freedom To Connect in Washington, DC. What’s telling though is his explanation of how people explore and equally important, how they create.

Second Life is not just a mammoth multiplayer game and it’s not just a very new economic sphere where very real digital property, goods and services are bought and sold to the tune of $1.6 million in the 24 hours leading up to when I write this.

It’s a wildly provocative experiment in user generated content. Unlike most upload-your-content-and-we’ll-share-it-in-some-sort-of-social-media-Web-2-point-oh-way, content creation in Second Life is really, really, difficult.

That it’s successfully attracted over a million active users and that these users are building things like cafes and learning centers and retreats and nudie bars is either a comment on the collective masochism of Second Lifers, or a twist at the intersection of usability and content value itself.

Yet people still create and people still come to those creations. By Ondrejka’s account, users have contributed over $500 million in design and development within Second Life.

Think about that: $500 million.

Linden Labs originally considered building out the worlds that Second Life provides. They’d hire the designers and developers to create all the cool and neat places where people could go and all the cool things that people could do.

And then they didn’t do so. They gave tools to all of us so that our inner primates could construct and construct we have. Last fall Business Week reported the first Second Life millionaire, a woman who made her fortune creating virtual real estate.

Now back to the Dalek.

It was my third or fourth time in Second Life. I was still trying to find my way around. I ran into a guy. We had a conversation. Another guy was nearby and he had this interesting pod-like thing with him. “What is it?” I asked.

“A Dalek,” he replied.

“What does it do?” I asked.

“It’s a bodyguard,” he replied.

Interesting, I thought. If I’d been more keen on my sci-fi knowledge, or more up-to-date on my Dr. Who, I’d have known that Dalek’s are radiated beings that are impervious to most weapons. If I’d been even more keen, I’d have known that they’re bent on universal destruction and conquest.

I didn’t know all this, but I was curious.

“Can I touch your Dalek?”

Kind guy that he was, he let me touch his Dalek.

He offered to sell it to me too. I didn’t have any cash and I told him so. We talked some more. Beat around the bush. And then the kind guy offered me his creation.

I’m still wandering Second Life. Still finding my way around. Still thinking that a first life would be neat to have.

But I’ve got a Second with a Dalek in tow.

And I never thought I’d wake up one morning with that notch on my belt.

And never, of course, thought I’d be writing about it here.