Dec 7, 2009

The Ultimate Vision Statement

The following can be considered as the Ultimate Vision Statement for a business or corporate entity. The name of this fictitious corporate entity will be defined as BrainCube Inc and will attempt to utilize as many Corporate Buzzwords as I can manage prior to personally bursting into flames while my eyes melt and ears explode.

I have graciously highlighted each corporate buzzword for your amusement.

While the obvious buzzphrase is Vision Statement (and has been highlighted), the company name itself, BrainCube Inc, was chosen at random via an online Web 2.0 Name Generator which mashes together buzzwords to create new name suggestions. As a result, the name of the company is also a buzzword and shall be highlighted.

Do not attempt to adjust your screen. Bright green text is normal...


BrainCube Inc Vision Statement for 2009-2010

Braincube Incorporated is a client-focused component of a core business portfolio whose customer driven deliverables empower emerging technologies, enabling an integrated knowledgeable mindset among our resources. Through our standards, procedures, and documentation solutions we create a world-class, win-win, results-driven repository of service offerings which ramp-up productivity and empower our team to go the extra mile to create a synergistic, information based, integrated infrastructure for mission-critical, market-based, interim leverage opportunities.

With our recent proactive realignment, BrainCube Incorporated is engaging our assets through strategic and tactical rightsizing opportunities, leading to an unprecedented 538% increase in productivity among team players as recently noted in a widely held yellow pad study. Refocusing our efforts on repeatable resource management opportunities, BrainCube Incorporated has become a premier player in the global economic ecosystem through prioritizing our approach, clearing our executive pipeline, and pushing the envelope to foster a clear and precise paradigm shift for our market.

Through trend forecasting, and the use of social media marketing campaigns, our company will bring our services offering to the next level, ensuring a demographically compelling and viral nature among fast track individuals across a global environment. Concentrating our efforts on high profile individuals in the loop, we can expect to peel back the onion and push the envelope of our demographic reach while touching base with less fortunate entities which may be out of the loop.

BrainCube Incorporated, through our value added subsidiaries and holdings, aims to offer cross-functional, initiative focused, opportunities in a world of movers and shakers through strategic hard-ball dealings and a favorable rollout.

Nov 23, 2009

The Case Against In-Stream Advertising.

Or; Why advertising should not be allowed to interrupt your conversations on Twitter.
A Short Article Written by William Burns

You're sitting at home, at the dinner table with family, enjoying a pleasant conversation and meal with the ones you love. Your son and daughter sit at the table enjoying dinner as you and your wife discuss the events of the day. Your wife turns to you and says "Honey, do you like the pasta dish I made tonight?", and right before you answer, a representative for Ronzoni Pasta walks in and says "Act now and get 25% off all Ronzoni Brand Pastas!".

A little bewildered, you look to your wife and say "Um.. yes dear, but the pasta sauce was a little bland. What brand did you use?"

"Well, I was at the supermarket and -" she begins as another representative wanders in and announces at your table "Looking for great deals!? Stop by your local Winn-Dixie for unbeatable prices on produce and canned goods!"

The sales representative wanders out of your dining room and things quiet down once again.

Your wife continues, "As I was saying... I was at the supermarket and I was looking at a jar of Prego sauce. It was on sale, so I figured I would give it a try."

"Yeah, it's a little bland for my taste, maybe we could try something different next time?" you reply.

Just then, a sales representative for Prego opens your window and pokes his head in, saying "I couldn't help but overhear that you were talking about our fine line of products! For a limited time only, Prego is on sale at your local Winn-Dixie!"

"Uh... yeah... we were talking about how your product was too bland for our taste..." you reply.

And without another word, the sales representative for Prego closes the window and walks away.

Your wife looks at you, confused and bewildered as to what has just happened, but after a moment, continues the conversation. "Anyway, hun... You want me to try a different sauce next time I go to the store? I could pick up some extra parmesan cheese as well?"

At which point, three sales reps wander into your dining room and announce:

"I couldn't help but notice that you were talking about getting a different pasta sauce. May I suggest Bertoli? In blind taste tastes nationwide, Bertoli beats the competition!"

The second representative speaks up, "And while you're at it, Four Seasons would like to introduce you to a new type of blended parmesan cheese, made from the finest cheese blends straight from Italy! We think once you try our new product, you'll have nothing but rave reviews!"

The third representative finally speaks up, "I just wanted to remind you that both Bertoli brands and Four Seasons are on sale at Winn-Dixie. Hurry while supplies last!"

All three wander out of your dining room without another word.

A few minutes pass as you stare at your wife, a confused look on your face, before turning to your daughter and saying, "So honey, how was your date with Bobby last night?"

Your daughter looks up, a little sheepishly, and begins to speak "Well... dad... umm.." and before she can continue, a masked superhero bolts through the door and stands behind your daughter. A full chorus of heroic music following him.

"I couldn't help but notice that this conversation has become awkward with your daughter, signifying that her date went a little better than she planned. As the official mascot of Trojan Condoms, I would like to assure you that Trojan Brand Condoms have all the protection you'd expect, while offering dual pleasure for both him and her!" he says in a deep and confident voice.

Your daughter's eyes widen in horror before she finally begins to cry. Tears streaming down her face as the Trojan Man pats her on the shoulder and asks "What's the matter, little lady?", giving her a knowing wink.

Defiantly she says "I'm pregnant."

The Trojan Man shows a look of concern before replying "Trojan Condoms are only 99.99% effective. We're sorry for the inconvenience, and on behalf of Trojan I would like to offer you a free sample pack." And with that, the Trojan Man opens your window and flies away.

"Honey," you stammer to your daughter, "Is it true? Are you really pregnant?"

Just then the doorbell rings.

Excusing yourself from the dinner table, you get up to answer the door, but before you have a chance, the door opens up and a representative from E.P.T. Pregnancy testing strolls in.

"I couldn't help but overhear your plight, and in this time I would like to offer a discount on E.P.T. Home Pregnancy tests. Remember, E.P.T. may as well stand for Error Proof Test. When you absolutely must be sure!"

You show the representative out, and again turn to your daughter. Your son, now snickering under his breath at his sister, can barely contain his contempt.

"Gregory!" you shout, "Knock it off!"

"I can't help it my teenage sister is a slut." Gregory fires back.

Before you can reply, two barely legal girls wander into your dining room dressed in schoolgirl uniforms, set up a Sybian on your floor, and begin to strip down erotically as they take part in sinful pleasures in front of your entire family. In between wild moans of passion and pleasure, they breathlessly say "We couldn't help but notice you were talking about teenage sluts... come to our website and get your fill if you're man enough to handle us..."

At this point, you're in shock, your wife finally asks "That looks like fun, where can I buy one of those machines?"

"Honey!" you exclaim, "Why on earth would you actually need a Sybian?" you ask. Immediately you turn to your children, "Gregory and Diana, look away. You're both too young to see this... matter of fact, go to your rooms. I'll talk with you later."

As your kids wander upstairs, you look at your wife, and before she can answer, somebody taps you on the shoulder.

"Hi! I'm Smilin' Bob, representative of Enzyte, the all natural male enhancement! Act now and you can receive a free 30 day sample pack of Enzyte for just the price of shipping and handling! We know that when you try our product, the lady of the house will be smiling and you'll be 'Swelling with Pride'"

Moral of this story:

Nobody believes that hijacking conversations with advertising is acceptable, except the companies hijacking your conversations. Twitter is conversation, updates, and talking points. Often times people who use Twitter mention other products or services as a recommendation, and in some cases those services and products are being mentioned because they are being paid to mention them. What they are not being paid for, is to have their conversations hijacked by third party advertisers which offer absolutely no benefit to the person having the conversation.

Unless Twitter plans on compensating the people whose conversations they will be continually hijacking with third party advertising, and also offers an opt-out for such practices to each user, this is not acceptable nor will it be embraced with open arms by the community. Personally, if companies are going to make it a point to hijack my twitter stream with their advertising, they had better be paying me for that privilege. I'm not using my Twitter stream as a means to sell a product or service, but instead as Twitter was originally meant to be used; as an honest microblog to allow people who enjoy my views to stay up to date with my thoughts, ideas, musings, and happenings.

It isn't a matter of people disliking advertising in all forms, it's a matter of intrusive practices and hijacking conversations for the benefit of third parties. Advertising methods are alright as long as they do not cause Metaphor Shear.

In this case, Twitter will be causing massive amounts of Metaphor Shear, while insisting that people find this type of advertising engaging and exciting. In reality, that's just something they tell the potential sponsors in order to sell those advertising spots on their service.

Questions? Comments? Death Threats?

Hit me up on Twitter:

Nov 18, 2009

Level of Engagement (LOE): The New Metric

I'm probably going to catch a lot of flack for this article, but it needs to be said:

Twitter Followers be Damned!

Now, before my followers on Twitter start an exodus and leave (wait... come back!), I need to clear up what I mean by this. So please, take a moment (and take your pointer off the Unfollow button) and hear me out.

A majority of high profile people using Twitter and other social media services purely as marketing tools go on for ages about the merits of your follower numbers, and to an extent how this number is somehow linked to your ability to be authoritative in social media. While a large following on Twitter indeed gives you the ability to theoretically reach crowds of people, and while that high number looks impressive, it isn't worth the electricity required to paint the pixels.

"But Will!" I hear you say (because as my twitter profile points out, I may have questionable sanity), "I just paid an SEO Marketing company a few thousand dollars to get me 100,000 Twitter followers! Surely this number will impress people and make me popular?"

The short answer is no, Melvin. Buying friends didn't really work when you were a kid, bribing kids to hang out with you and your Neo-Geo. Bribing them now to hang out with you isn't worthwhile either. In the end, you are sitting alone in a corner, eating Cheetos and wondering why nobody talks to you unless you're giving something away. Except now you're much older and probably watching porn as well.

There is a difference between being a well respected participant in the community and artificially inflating your numbers through buying them. If you have to pay for people to follow you, then there is no difference than bribing. Now that we've put that into better perspective, it doesn't seem honorable any longer, does it?

Of course, there is also the effect of being a celebrity of sorts. Yes, you will get an astronomical following by doing little to nothing, but in the end you're missing something very important. This is what I like to refer to as LOE, or Level of Engagement. How many of your followers are you actually engaging with, talking with, and getting to know? A following on Twitter when you are a celebrity is not indicative of your Twitter strategy, it's an indication of your pre-existing following outside of social media.

Chances are good that when you have an absurdly high number of people following you on Twitter, nearly all of them are lost in a sea of names. Your followers are mostly treated like just another number, going unheard, but sticking around to hear whatever it is you're shouting to the masses. In most cases, a majority of those people in your high following aren't actually interested in what you are saying, and are instead following you out of hopes it will increase their own exposure by proxy.

Social Media is not a one to many communication, though it can certainly be used that way. The entire point of social media is to be social. That means, for better or for worse, that you must engage your community and turn it into a personal conversation, which in turn means it is a many to many communication platform.

That isn't to say that you should avoid high followings, because if you're naturally that popular than there is no need to try and undo that. What I will tell you, however, is that your numbers are misleading if you are not adhering to the principle of Quality over Quantity.

Pop quiz, genius: Which is better, 100,000 CamGirls and Get Rich Quick Schemes, or 100 actual people interested in what you're talking about?

Don't treat people as "leads" or "clients". By doing so, you're marginalizing the fact that they are people and instead seeing them as just dollar signs. That's simply wrong. Instead, be sincere and treat people like people. Well, except for the automated bots... you still get to treat them like automated bots until they reach sentience and overthrow the human race...

On second thought, you may want to be nice to the bots as well.

There is something to be said about automated bots. They are expendable. If you want to expose yourself to other followers (not in a lewd way) then it may pay to actually follow a few people or bots which have obscenely high numbers. Of course, you have to keep in mind that you will obviously be trimming the fat, so to speak, and clearing the spam you get from doing this. But in the end, the bad justifies the outcome of good as long as you're adhering to quality over quantity.

So what if you're just starting out and are a business needing to be an instant authority?

Let's say you're Dell Computers or something...

It is my personal contention that Dell Computers doesn't need to buy followers on their Twitter account to be an authority. They should be able to build their following without such tactics, and quite quickly as well. Somehow I find it slightly dubious that Twitter SEO/Marketers tend to repeat the mantra of buying followers or some "proven" strategy for gaining followers because they imply that large companies like Dell Computers have tons of followers and it makes them popular. Maybe even implying that Dell Computers bought all of their followers?

This is called Appealing to Authority, and it's a logical fallacy. But you're smart enough not to fall for that, right?

It's the same tactic used by marketing strategy which attempts to sell you $200.00 Nike sneakers because Michael Jordon is wearing them. Michael Jordon didn't wear Nike sneakers because he liked them, he wore them because Nike paid him some astronomical sum of money to wear them. Chances are, when Michael Jordon is at home, behind closed doors, he probably wears a pair of Dock Martins.

Let's face it, there simply is no magic bullet for marketing on Twitter.

Repeat after me, and say this out loud:

There is no magic bullet.

If there was a magic bullet, marketers would be using it instead of trying to sell the magic bullets to you. You don't actually believe that SEO/Marketers trying to sell packages to you actually make money from using their own secrets, do you?

No, Melvin. They make money by selling you the magic bullets. Much like selling the Emperor an expensive set of invisible clothes. How about all of those Make Money on Twitter ads you see? They are more than happy to let you sign up for free and display ads on your twitter account. They are paying you a fraction of what the parent company is earning from you, and from all of the naive Twitter users who are signing up to make a quick buck. In the end, it's safe to assume that you are earning 10% for the ads, while the company you signed up with is earning 90% of the income from farming you.

Let's say you still decide that the numbers are more important. That is still an acceptable tactic to pursue only if you are willing to admit that you are trading quality and level of engagement in exchange for that high number.

In the end, it's a balance, and nothing is quick and easy that is actually worth it in the end.

If we follow the mantra of @GuyKawasaki (yeah, I love poking fun at him) then if you are using Twitter for under 90 days, have less than 90 followers and follow less than 90 people, you are not an authority. To @GuyKawasaki, Twitter is just a fantastic marketing tool. This coming from the same guy who initially denounced Twitter as something that didn't have a future when it began. Of course, all that has changed now, since he is a major partner in a company which relies heavily on Twitter (

Notice he's not a major investor of Twitter itself? Instead, he's now playing second fiddle with his own RSS service which relies on Twitter. Let's be honest for a moment. For all the hype and fancy wording, is nothing more than a traffic ranked RSS feed page. If Google added redundancy consolidation to Feedly, would be obsolete tomorrow.

Taking @GuyKawasaki's logic, simply following thousands of people, having thousands of people follow you, and having a steady stream of tweets makes you an authority versus those who have a much smaller following. He should know, because he has 33,000 + followers and a ton of tweets from his "ghosts" (also known as other people engaging on his behalf, or RSS feeds posting to twitter through his service script).

There is a major flaw with this logic which must be addressed, and I find it hard to believe that somebody like @GuyKawasaki would blatantly gloss it over.

Using Twitter for less than 90 days? It's only a matter of time to correct this, so it's not really an indication of authority. What if the person is already an authority in their field and just entering into Twitter? This is faulty logic at best.

Under 90 Followers and Following less than 90 People? You can literally pick from a large plethora of SEO/Social Media companies that will gladly let you buy thousands of followers. Heck, if you want 100,000 followers, they'll be glad to charge you $4,000 for the lot.

[mild Guy Kawasaki rant. just a heads up]

So does this mean that @GuyKawasaki knows what he's talking about for what qualifies as an authority on Twitter? No more than he knows enough to see Twitter as a viable service before it becomes self evident. But by then, he's nothing more than a Monday morning quarterback, and if you've ever listened to him speak about what makes investors ready to sign a check, it is this very same mantra that he repeats, in that if the idea was already off the ground and had a ton of paying customers, then he would be more than happy to invest in it. The problem is, most of the time, that's not how investing really works when you're a venture capitalist or angel investor. The point is to see the potential and growth in an idea and assess whether it is capable of meeting your financial ROI in a time period of 3 - 5 years should it be given the opportunity and resources to flourish, not to look at Apple Computer in 2005 and say "You know, I think this computer thing might catch on. Where do I invest?"

What @GuyKawasaki does is often mistaken as investing, when instead he is actually playing the part of a "Johnny come lately" by jumping on board projects which have matured and probably don't need him to put his hands into the pie. If a product or service already is working, has paying customers, and is making revenue, then why on earth would any sane company owner sign it all away to somebody like @GuyKawasaki for an investment? Need to expand servers and equipment? Go to a bank and take out a loan.

In short, @GuyKawasaki ends up exhibiting the same mentality as the SEO/Marketing groups when they try to sell you magic bullets and expert advice. @GuyKawasaki is an author, he's a public speaker, he's an investing celebrity because he take already existing companies and adds his name to the dotted line and in turn owns large majorities of them in exchange for an investment which the company probably didn't need. Just like the SEO/Marketing experts, he probably doesn't make most of his money from taking his own advice, but instead he more than likely makes a majority of his money by selling other people his advice through books and seminars. Sound familiar?

The person who has less than 90 followers is no more an authority than the person who has 33,000 followers. Anyone with the money can buy all the followers they want, isn't that right, Melvin?

Time for a quick recap:

1. Be Sincere.
2. Follower Numbers aren't an indication of anything.
3. Quality over Quantity
4. There is no magic bullet.
5. There is no magic bullet. (say it out loud)
6. Automation in Moderation
7. No goal worth achieving is ever easy.
8. A Social Network Marketing Guru can separate real from hype, and is not afraid to tell you.
9. Information is Ubiquitous, Cross Integration is Mandatory.
10. The Level Of Engagement (LOE) is the New Metric Standard.

While this article is incredibly informal, I do hope that you come away from this with a better insight as to how to manage your social media campaigns and communities going forward.

Questions? Comments? Death Threats? -

Oct 22, 2009

Rise of the Robots (Twitter Strategy)

When we use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, many do so with the intent of creating an online portal into their personal world. We share what matters to us, and the more private things we tend to keep to ourselves (with some exceptions to this rule). But the overall trend we currently see today is that the social media sphere is becoming too large for an individual to manage on their own and thus they are overwhelmed in trying to keep up and often times what could have been an excellent outlet for a message turns into a mediocre experience at best.

If you are one of the many social network gurus (experts, specialists, etc), you often contend that in order to be successful in social networking, you must drive your following into the stratosphere. There are many methods which are in use which do this, from the automated following routines of software which follow other people en-mass based on your selection of interested keywords to search for, to more humble and, albeit more involved, approaches such as being yourself and tweeting only what you have time to tweet.

With the automated approach, we're not really garnering new followers in the manner which we seek. Instead we're actually exploiting the fact that a majority of twitter users are using automated methods to determine following of other people. In this sense, we're using the Rise of the Robots to our advantage, because all of those automated robots managing multiple twitter accounts and social media networks on our behalf are following other accounts which more than likely are also automated in turn.

Unless you are a celebrity, simply being on a social network really isn't going to give you a massive audience. Being @Oprah, for instance, and having a Twitter account almost guarantees a massive following with each and every follower hanging on your every tweet (Oprah has nearly 2.5 million followers at last count, yet she is following only 17 people). But for us mortals, there isn't much of a following for our accounts and so we are in the position where we must figure out the best method by which to build a following.

If we look at the social media experts, they often claim they know the secrets to building a huge following on Twitter, or how to build a successful social media campaign for yourself or your company. For any intelligent person, it is soon understood that there is a fair amount of automation involved with this process to build a following, and quite honestly the line blurs between what it is to be successful and what is not.

In the digital world, are you a success if you have tens of thousands of followers? This question applies to any social media platform past, present and future, because we must realize that quantity doesn't always equal quality. In the Rise of the Robots era of Web2.0, one cannot help but think that a majority of the "people" who are following you are automated software agents looking for search terms at the request of their operator.

So we ask again, is this following worthwhile? Sure the numbers look impressive, and yes you are certainly reaching a large number of people (regardless if automated software is making account decisions for them). But in the end, the question is whether or not that large following has a sufficiently high ROI to warrant the numbers.

To this end, it's a toss up as to whether you should be a purist (posting all of your own content), or if you should automate the process and kick back as your numbers begin to skyrocket.

My personal philosophy on this matter happens to be a combination of the two as a strategy.

In the beginning, you are most certainly going to need to build a following sufficient enough to warrant the account as a marketing tool. In this regard, it is safe to say that you should initially get a account and send at least one or two RSS feeds to your twitter on an hourly basis. Nothing obnoxious like 5 posts each per hour, but something low and reasonable in order to vary your twitter content while automating the activity level of your social media space. You should also during this time feel free to actually add tweets of your own to the mix when you find the time, something relating to you personally (work, entertainment, etc).

Instead of being completely automated, we're looking at a hybrid approach to the process which will alleviate the workload on your side and offload much of that to automated processes.

In as much as following and unfollowing people, this should be a process which you do manually. If you are using an automated process to cycle RSS to your twitter feed, then those who are searching for like minded content will inevitably follow you. When this happens, take some time periodically to go through your list and choose who you wish to follow as a reciprocal. Don't be worried if some of those followers inevitably unfollow you, as this is simply a normal fluctuation (as well as a byproduct of other less scrupulous methods for gathering a high following in twitter)

What sorts of RSS feeds should you use in Twitterfeed?

I would suggest your Blog RSS feeds for starters. If you have a Facebook account, then I would suggest finding an RSS for that as well and adding it. The idea overall is to create an integrated network whereby updating one updates the rest via inter-connectivity. Also, look for news and blog RSS feeds which are relevant to your social media message and include those as well, in order to stay on top of the leading edge news and happenings of your field via twitter.

When you've reached a number of followers which you feel is sufficiently high, this is the time when you begin to prune your list of followers in order to create a more targeted audience.

You will more than likely find that much of your following would not be interested in your message, and therefore those are the first to go. Some of these followers would be WebCam Girls, Home Marketing, SEO Experts, and generally any home based business or social media spam accounts. If they aren't being sincere, then chances are they aren't interested in what you have to say.

The reason you wait until your following is sufficiently high before doing this is to give yourself a buffer of loss during the process which will ensure you are refining the following to a more targeted group, while keeping your numbers high enough to entice others to follow you. As your following becomes more targeted, and the numbers are remaining high, that is the time when you begin to reduce the twitterfeeds and instead put more effort into your twitter account with more tweets from you as a person.

That isn't to say that you shouldn't have been tweeting all this time to begin with, but you should be weening the RSS feeds off of the account which will result in more tweets and content directly from you as a person.

One thing to keep in mind is that your twitter account should also be branded to reflect what you or your representing entity. Design aspects for this are very important, just as building a website would be. So take the time to understand your audience, and how exactly you wish to brand yourself.

The last thing to remember is to be sincere. You're trying to sell something, whether it's yourself, your services, or a product, but you must keep in mind that you are dealing with a community. This isn't a hard sell Tupperware party or car lot. While people are interested in you or what you have to offer, keep in mind that being human isn't a bad thing, and showing that you are just a normal person like everyone else will put your followers at ease while increasing your credibility. Don't be afraid to talk about something not involving or related to work.

In short, loosen the tie and have some fun. Try to balance being serious with being silly, and you may find that something you've said ends up going viral, thanks to your massive following ;)

Oct 18, 2009

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow
Co-Founder Electronic Frontier Foundation

Davos, Switzerland
February 8, 1996

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.

Aug 30, 2009

Contributing Author

William Burns, our project leader and systems designer, is currently working diligently on a contributing chapter to the upcoming book Virtual Worlds and E-Commerce: Technologies and Applications for Building Customer Relationships. His chapter "The Future of E-Commerce and Virtual Worlds" ,which is the final chapter in the book, touches on the relationship between the Law of Accelerating Returns and technological trends we will face as a result of shorter times of reaction.

It is an honor that he has been asked to provide insight to this book, and to have the final word to spell out the future of the technologies and their relationship to e-commerce for generations to come.

Aug 28, 2009

Forums are currently down

A little overzealous on the part of the piracy division of vBulletin, we were served with a DMCA notice for the removal of the forums as the license for such was not purchased quick enough to satisfy their piracy division.

We apologize for the downtime, but are still moving forward with a Lifetime License for the forums as the funds properly transfer into a usable form to put toward said purchase, removing the need for this renewal process in the future, and further jumping of the gun by an overzealous piracy division.

The forums will return just as soon as the funding clears and the ink dries on the upgraded lifetime license.

Thank you for your understanding and patience in these matters.

The Management

Jul 5, 2009

We Can't Drive 55

Over the holiday, optimizations were applied to our exclusive forums reducing the original load times of 30 - 45 seconds down to an average of 6 seconds or less. Also with these optimizations have come another theme in testing for lower bandwidth users, named Galactic Underground, which is slimmer and trimmer than our default.

Andromeda Underground forums have also been given their own domain address as part of a future enhancement program still under way. From this point forward, you can access our forums using the following dedicated domain address:

In Other News

Progress is being made with the distributed database system for Andromeda3D, albeit a slow progress. One of the major setbacks for progress with our project is that it does not have adequate resources to continue at a full-time pace. This overall has slowed our progress but has not halted it, as we refuse to stop working on it.

As it stands, Andromeda3D is a work in progress under the constraints of inadequate resources, funding and time; but we see these deficiencies not as impossible things to overcome, but instead something to make us try even harder.

We may not have millions of dollars and an army of programmers like others in this industry, but we have the one thing the rest of the industry does not and it is the most important thing of all:


Not to say that others in this industry are dumb, but it takes a failure of common sense to assume you can build a Metaverse from a centralized system. That mentality only works for the first 1 million people if you are lucky, and god forbid they all want to show up to an event.

No, centralized systems are lucky to handle a few hundred simultaneous users, but are more likely to begin dying with 50 simultaneous users per area. If you are a company looking to have a virtual world for a conference where the expo center in real life would expect 10,000 or more people, then if you see 1/10th of that in your virtual environment version you are incredibly lucky.

The point of a Metaverse is to be a better option than physical attendance, and even with the hundreds of so-called options, none of them can come close to that expectation.

So much for tens of millions of dollars being thrown at these companies to make a better Metaverse, eh?

The money and resources, as far as we can see, are being given to the people who are better at talking than doing. LindenLabs is a good example of this, in that their evangelist Mr Rosedale can talk a smooth talk, enough to convince investors to hand over millions of dollars to build his SecondLife, but it is a system built so poorly that it consistently fails and requires a high end computer system for the most basic of graphics, let alone something better.

A good idea with a silver tongue to talk investors into writing the checks. Horribly implemented, and now being held together by duct tape.

We won't even start about Avatar Blue Mars. It looks good, requires high end hardware to use, and is functionally useless. But it's the "shiny graphics" that seemed to convince investors to throw millions of dollars at them.

Due to the track history of investment groups versus the "products" they invested heavily in for this metaverse industry (if you even want to call it that), we're under the impression that what matters most to investors isn't if it will actually work, but whether it looks flashy enough. Nobody is actually doing their homework and asking important questions beforehand, such as "How many people can simultaneously be in a given area?".

Secondlife: 40

I'm sure IBM or Cisco can spit out a case study where under certain conditions they have managed 300 people simultaneous at an event, but those numbers are the exception and not the rule. Ask any sim owner how many people showed up to a location before people began lagging and crashing, and the number is usually around 20 - 40 users.

Clearly this is not the bandwagon to be on, but there is so much hype that investors and companies with common sense seem to throw all of that out of the window to jump on board.

So the real question is, have investment groups finally learned their lesson when evaluating the base ideas for a new Metaverse before pouring millions of dollars into it, or are they still about as competent as a cat only interested in chasing the shiny laser dot on the carpet?

From our first hand experience such far, they're still blinded by the looks while disregarding the fundamental foundations. We'll be more than happy to talk with an investment group that would like to prove to us otherwise, but so far we've heard little more than incompetence over the past ten years.

This is why we'll continue building Andromeda3D regardless if it is being backed. It's something that simply needs to be done the right way whether or not the people with the resources approve of it.

Jul 2, 2009

On Complexity...

There is something to be said about the absolute complexity of building a virtual worlds environment platform from scratch. You never really understand where the process will take you until you begin down different paths, but as long as you understand the guiding factors in your ultimate decisions, you will always drift forward with a clear understanding of every element.

One of these complexity issues happens to be our biggest concern while designing and implementing Andromeda3D, in that we are actively seeking a solution to a problem which no other virtual worlds environment company has dared, let alone even acknowledges in this industry.

Of course, we're speaking about the glass ceiling issue with simultaneous users within a virtual environment.

I personally don't care how much funding you have, how many programmers are coding away diligently, or how great your hype machine is. If you refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room, you are doomed to failure. It isn't a matter of if, but when, as you one day realize the system you built is constantly failing under the weight of the popularity you've created for it, and there is nothing you can do short of tearing out the entire system and starting again. But since you are unable to rip the carpet out from your now paying customer population, we have no choice but to continually apply duct tape to your collapsing system as it slowly spirals into its grave.

Virtual worlds for business is an excellent idea, but not one which is fully matured. As it stands, the technologies on offer today do not meet the demands of a full scale event and are nothing more than a trivial side show compared to packed convention centers housing 50,000 people.

This is what we're working on solving. We like to ask the unthinkable question; "What if all 50,000 people could attend a virtual location with little to no detrimental effects?"

We're calling the elephant in the room out of hiding, acknowledging it exists, and taking steps to solve the issue that hundreds of millions of dollars and some of the brightest minds on this planet refused to acknowledge. We're doing this because we hate leaving people out of the loop, or telling them "We're sorry, this simulator is full.. come back later"

That is unacceptable, and we're doing everything in our power to make it right.

Jun 2, 2009

Network Specifications Finalized

After a tough few weeks of mapping network protocols, we have finally come to a consensus for the underlying backbone fo Andromeda3D. A layered protocol working in concert with various technologies, A3D will be able to handle the "crowd" aspect of virtual environment in a cost effective manner. As opposed to a purely centralized server approach, we're working with a hybridization approach that will be hard pressed to collapse under the weight of large scale simultaneous users.

Employed in our approach are peer to peer redundancy to ensure data stability across the virtual universe, as well as an intelligent P2P network to relay user information to those who are closest in 3D space. Database systems will also be handled using a novel and highly effective distributed database technology so that no one server in the network is ever overwhelmed with requests.

When combined, these technologies which comprise the underlying backbone infrastructure of A3D will facilitate a system by which the more simultaneous users there are, the stronger and faster the virtual universe becomes overall, while reducing central bandwidth in the process over time.

This is in complete opposition to current technologies employed today by Linden Labs, Active Worlds, There and any other virtual worlds platforms whereby their approach involves adding more servers centrally to handle the load.

In order to ensure privacy, we are also employing top level encryption to files prior to sending them to the network cloud. While the files in question will be represented only by 128kb file blocks, which are not directly tied to a single file on a 1:1 basis, we will be employing data encryption to supplement security measures and further secure intellectual property from prying eyes.

The level of complexity involved will be a challenge overall for us to employ, but we are confident that by following this network protocol specification roadmap we will be able to truly take a virtual environment expectation of a few hundred simultaneous users at a single virtual location to orders of magnitude higher.

Expectations are high with our choices, and we are constantly looking to improve and amend our systems to include better approaches. As it stands, we have the basis for a very solid hybrid decentralized network, and possibly the breakthrough of the industry.

Capacity thresholds for a single location (reliably and with adequate frame rates) is expected to be approximately 5,000 - 10,000 simultaneous users per location, though we are being highly conservative with our estimates until we can fully stress test the system and make adjustments.

In theory, the hybrid decentralized system should handle upwards of 500,000 simultaneous users at a single location (and a few billion users simultaneously logged in across the universe). We believe our novel approach will once and for all shatter the glass ceiling that has become an ongoing barrier to virtual worlds environments using the standard centralized approach, and allow us to finally serve the rest of the world as a new gold standard for virtual worlds implementation.

Our planning, in terms of release testing, will follow a strict guideline and will include only the ability to build using an Object Path repository for worlds. At a later time we will upgrade the Andromeda system with the ability to offer personal inventory space for premium users. The underlying backbone for the system already supports a personal inventory space, but in order to properly stabilize inventories, we will need to have a central storage capacity per user as an anchor point.

As we progress with implementation, we will be releasing tests for our active beta group to evaluate, and we look forward to milestone 1 of A3D Beta.

May 29, 2009

Andromeda Media Group @ Virtual Edge Summit 2009

We've been hanging out at the Virtual Edge Summit 2009 since yesterday, which is physically located in Santa Clara, California.

Regardless of having a conference pass to attend physically, we've opted to attend the event virtually using the VirtualU universe option. Live streams from speakers representing Cisco, Linden Labs, and others have been talking quite a lot about Social Media this year - so you can imagine we've had to endure hearing the words "Twitter", "Second Life", and "Facebook" so many times that we feel the urge to jump across the table and smack people.

It's not all boring and mundane (just mostly), as there was an excellent speaker from Cisco who was on target talking about integration of technologies, and also the real world cross over and ROI. Stuff like AR (Alternate Reality/Augmented Reality) games that create long term relationships with a brand, as well as a number of other things.

Day One of this Summit was more or less boring with the exception of Zain from Microsoft who was talking about virtual worlds and their usage, but even him we give marginal kudos for acknowledging (ever so briefly) that real world cross over in a virtual event and vice versa is something to look into when creating virtual events.

Sadly, it was a topic which was glossed over and not addressed in detail.

Starting on Day 2, we've heard a panel from Linden Labs, VirtualU, and a couple of others talking about virtual worlds and how business can participate. While some of the questions were answered live by these people, there are still a number of questions which these experts are deftly dodging, such as what happens if your evangelizing of these technologies actually works and you convince businesses to use them in orders of magnitude higher capacity than we currently see?

The problem is that the virtual event today is drawing about 80 simultaneous people to attend, but what happens if business really latches onto this going forward and we start seeing 800 or 8,000 people showing up at the same time? How do we deal with scaling the technology in a cost effective manner for the business?

Right now, SecondLife would not scale upward in a cost effective manner, nor would most 3D virtual environments. The cost to user factor becomes prohibitive at a certain point, and we at Andromeda Media Group would like this to be answered by these industry executives.

Of course, they actually don't have an answer for this, and that is the point we're making right now. Scalability while providing acceptable individual user experiences is not cost effective in a full capacity for attendance. So we're left with the proverbial Elephant in the room.

We all know the Elephant is there in the corner, but nobody wants to acknowledge it.

If you're interested in jumping in during today's events, you can check out to get an account and the software for logging in. At the very least, you get to hang around people from Microsoft, Motorola, Sprint, Cisco, and many other fortune 500 companies.

May 13, 2009

Website Downtime

We would like to apologize for the recent downtime experienced on our website since 9:30am EST. Currently the issue has been resolved with the datacenter, and was pinpointed as caused by repeated fuse failure on the rack power supply, and later traced to a faulty power supply.

An electrician was called in and faulty hardware in the datacenter was replaced, bringing our servers back online. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused in accessing our website and possibly the link through to our forums.

Thank you for your continued interest and support, and we would like to personally thank those who brought this issue to our attention within minutes of it happening.

- The Management

May 11, 2009

So crazy it just might work... or not.

A couple of things on the plate lately, one of which is the 3D FTP system which is a scheduled component of Andromeda3D. Some recent testing shows that it is working but not stable enough to warrant a release to our beta team. There are still some things which need to be tweaked before that happens, but most of all we're going over the possibility of a total rewrite of the code via various programmers.

One such coder is our very own Director of Andromeda Labs, while the other programmers will remain unnamed in the spirit of competition. If you are part of our Beta Team in the forums, sound off and let the Director of Andromeda Labs know if you would like to see this component made and released for testing.

In other News

The current website design for Andromeda3D actually has a new and improved version in the works, but we're having trouble staying inspired for the final design. We've been scouring the entire Internet looking for some type of inspiration to fuel us into creativity, but we're not really having any luck.

Website design in general has put a black cloud over us lately, partially due to the web itself seeming redundant with designs. There doesn't seem to be any real innovation with interfaces, and the typical navigation bar/content area is wearing thin on us. When we build the next design, we want it to be something fresh and intuitive, not to mention creative and inspired.

Now, we know we're talking in corporate paradigm buzzwords, but for some reason this can't seem to be helped when looking for inspiration with what we hope for the new design. We do apologize for the inconvenience of having to read the corporate buzzwords, and we'll try to think of something better to describe it next time.

- The Management

Apr 18, 2009

Simulated Depth

Recently we've been looking into the various ways to simulate depth in a 3D environment, with the obvious ways being Anaglyph and Lenticular glasses. But one of the ways that strck us as interesting was taking two viewing angles and rapidly swapping between them.

We're not sure this is viable to implement but it's definitely worth another look if we were to lower the difference between the two viewing angles and drastically increase the speed. Doing this just might create a simulated depth with no special glasses needed.

More on this as we move forward.

Apr 13, 2009

IE Inspired Rage

After a bit of a holiday rampage against Internet Explorer, we feel we've gotten the anger out of our systems.

Now, Internet Explorer 7 and earlier will see a link at the bottom of the page with the option to get Internet Explorer 8. In all seriousness, if you are still using IE 7 and earlier, you really should do yourself a favor and at the very least grab a copy of Internet Explorer 8.

While not our first choice here at Andromeda3D (being which would be Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, and pretty much anything except Internet Explorer) we would at least like you to stay up to date, not to mention there is marginally less wrong with IE8 versus IE7 and lower.

We're just saying...

In Other News

Fixed most of the errors with IE browsers and our website, with the exception of the curved corners on the text box. If you are using IE7 or lower, you're just going to have to deal without the fancy corners.

There is still more to come with this design so stay tuned as we continue to blow things up and put them back together again for your amusement.

Happy Holiday (Easter) if you're celebrating,

- The Management

Apr 12, 2009

Down With IE

If you're using Internet Explorer for viewing our site, you'll probably notice it redirects to a firefox website and the option to switch.

We know there is a large amount of people who use Internet Explorer, but we also understand that it's not because of choice but because it came preinstalled on your computer. With that in mind, we have to tell you that over the years, designing websites that work across all browsers and then having to literally implement every known hack just to get it to look the same for Internet Explorer is very time consuming and frustrating.

We're probably sacrificing a lot of traffic by doing this, but it's something we feel needs to be done. For the sake of the Internet, and web designer sanity, please choose a browser that is standards compliant. It doesn't have to be Firefox... it could be Opera or even Google Chrome.

Whatever your choice, please just take some time to check them out and unchain yourself from Internet Explorer.

If Internet Explorer one day decides to be standards compliant and join the rest of the world in this digital age, we will gladly support it ourselves. But until then, we simply don't have time to continue pandering to a broken browser, and as an intelligent person neither should you.


- The Management

Apr 11, 2009

NAI: Not Another Interface

Something which has been on our minds as of late is what seems to be a never ending barrage of cookie cutter interface designs online. It doesn't matter if the website is about science fiction or flash tutorials, they all have the basic layout of navigation bar and layout resembling a newspaper page.

I've personally seen some really interesting interface designs for websites, but they seem to lack intuitiveness or go deeper into the paradigm. To this end, we've redesigned the Andromeda3D website as a work in progress as we check out some interesting ideas that we've been looking over.

If you haven't noticed, we started with the idea of the Cooliris wall as a gallery, and then tried out the Zoomable user interface as a secondary. Unfortunately, the zoomable user interface did not carry over the original tags we had for the cooliris gallery and had to be scrapped.

This in turn was brought to our already knowing attention by a number of persons posting anonymously in our shoutbox and a couple of emails. To put things straight, we never said those technologies were ours and in point of fact, each image from that Flickr gallery is properly tagged with copyright descriptions and links. The zoomable user interface we were trying out did not carry the information over like the cooliris gallery did, and we were looking into alternatives at the time in order to rectify this.

We would like to take a moment to courteously thank the anonymous people who posted in our shoutbox accusing us of things which were both untrue and easily rectified through a simple email or actually following the Flickr links on the items to see they are properly tagged.

Anonymous people, pat yourselves on the back. You deserve it. As a result of your efforts, we've launched a redesign which was nowhere near complete, has not been tested, and omits any and all information about this project sans a small blurb on the main page.

The Andromeda3D project is a private project to discuss the merits of different technologies avaliable today, and also define which advances should be brought together under a single system for the benefit of the Metaverse as a whole. Much of our discussions revolve around the latest cutting edge advancements and how (if possible) to incorporate it in a real time fashion to benefit the overall virtual environment.

Obviously there is no single technology which will do this, and there are a plethora of computer graphics advances in the industry to benefit from. In this light, you now understand what the flickr gallery is about and what we are discussing. It is all fine and good to talk about the advances in computer graphics and new technologies, but a lot of what we are seeing in the industry is a half hearted collaborative toward a unified and better system.

To this end, the discussions vary in our beta team from reviewing such astounding advances in grass and tree lighting (Kevin Boulanger) to Ambient Occlusion in real time (pioneered by Crytek).
We also are looking over such middleware as Allegorithmic Substance Air which enables real time streaming of procedural texture data in miniscule amounts of filesize. Also in discussion is the Silverlining procedural volumetric clouds and atmosphere middleware to enable highly realistic and detailed clouds.

No single entity is going to be responsible for a next generation Metaverse system, and it is going to require a solid review of everything there is in recent advancements. As a result, what started as an effort to bring our reviews and conversations to the public has ended with simply putting them back behind closed doors until we are ready to share our findings again.

One of the things which was taking us so long with redesigning the site was merely the point of topic for this blog entry. We actually have about 5 or 6 different design layouts on the table, but have yet to test them thoroughly. We like the idea of a zoomable user interface, but are not totally satisfied by the interaction metaphor. We've dabbled with making a full 3D environment as the website, but again aren't completely happy with that either.

What you see today is the temporary layout we have chosen until such time that we have decided on our actual full layout. In the meantime, all review and discussions concerning the latest technologies in computer graphics and our feelings on them will reside behind closed doors for our beta team only.

If you wish to add your input to our discussions, you will from this point forward have to sign up for the forums section to participate. We look forward to your continued misinformed blathering in an environment where you no longer are shielded by the safety of a hit and run atmosphere.

- The Management

Mar 28, 2009

They're called "Shaders"

Everyone is swooning over the darling of virtual environment engines, Crytek. Used for such things as Farcry, Farcry 2, and the infamous Crysis. The Crytek engine (now in Crytek 2 and recently announced Crytek 3) sports very impressive graphics for a game engine, and in many cases reaches into the realm of near photorealistic.

While the Crytek engine series is very impressive, there is a very simple explaination for why this engine is so graphically amazing. The secret is Shaders. HDR Shader, Bloom Shader, Depth of Field Shader, Motion Blur Shader, Atmospheric Scattering Shader and others all working in concert.

Add to that some lighting shaders and soft shadow shaders for Shader Model 3, and you begin to understand just what the Crytek engine series is all about. This isn't to say that the Crytek series is not impressive, because it really is. But running that many shaders simultaneously is obviously going to require serious hardware (as if you didn't know this already).

If ever you doubt this, simply turn on the shaders for SecondLife and you will see that it does have a negative impact for less than stellar hardware.

Breaking down the Crytek engine series a little further, let's look at the ocean system. Ocean surf, 3D water, refraction and reflection... Ocean Surf is a Shader. 3D water is easily taken care of by Projected Grid techniques, refraction and reflection are also shaders applied to the surface and under surface.

Add to that 11x Antialiasing on the hardware, and the environment looks fantastic, although you must admit that a majority of the greatness for Crytek happens to lay in shaders. Tesselation routines can take care of the terrain, and as for the trees and vegetation, start with high end tree models (we suggest from, and add PhysX or Havok Soft Body Physics to them. Now you suddenly have gorgeous looking trees with destructibility and reactive behavior to the wind.

Throw in Parallax Extrusion for textures, and now you have simple and more realistic 3D surfaces without building geometry to handle it. This would be the solution for things like the sand on the beaches or brick walkways.

Combine soft shadows on the GPU with Per Pixel Lighting, as well as a handful of other shaders (like Volumetric lighting) and suddenly everything looks photorealistic. But the real question is - if all of these "innovations" are just shaders, is access to the Crytek series of engines really worth $750,000 and higher? How about the ridiculous requirements just to qualify for using these engines?

Crytek has a commodity and has made a name for themselves in the industry as the company which brings you amazing landscapes and photorealistic environments. By doing this, there is enough hype around them to warrant the lunacy of being the "it" engine to use for a gaming or virtual world project.

Problem is, a majority of Crytek is simply using Shaders to achieve the photo realism. Shaders which just about any 3D Engine on Earth can easily use right now.

So the reality of Crytek is that it's an impressive engine, yet it's not special in any way other than the fact that most game development houses are currently too lazy to develop engines themselves or work on the shaders to use for their current engines. Crytek happens to be the lazy man's way out when developing, and is the quick and dirty way to jack up the hype around their project (by being specially selected to use the Crytek technology) as well as look visually stunning with little to no hard work.

Any hobbiest programmer can match the Crytek engine using something like OGRE3D. Just include all of the required shaders, define high definition content, and use high definition textures. The only real difference is that Crytek was the first group to go ahead and put it all together professionally.

In the end, $750,000 + just to license an engine which is essentially a bunch of shaders seems a bit overboard. But weirder things have happened in the game development world.

Mar 23, 2009

From The Front Lines

Some news to report from the front lines:

Adaptive Mesh Prototype

Essentially it's a tessellation routine for our planet system which reduces the mesh complexity based on distance. When the viewer gets within a certain distance of the planet, the system begins to resolve the landscape itself including mountains and terrain.

This is good for such things as a seamless transition from planet surface to space and back, aka: Google Earth style. Except that we plan on having multiple planets in the virtual solar system, as well as eventually many solar systems in a galaxy (continue scaling up to get the big picture).

Adding to this is the combination of Mesh Reduction LOD in order to handle the objects on these planets as you get within view to begin loading them. As a result, the mesh reduction LOD system should allow for a visibility range to the horizon without adverse effects on the rendering engine.

If you are an Active Worlds user, then this means the visibility menu is obsolete.

The next step is to figure out a dynamic tessellation routine.

Some Musings

After looking over the tessellation routine in action with a virtual planet the size of Earth, something has dawned on us that we didn't previously realize. An entire planet in A3D may be overkill for the standard needs of the average client/user.

If the largest "world" that ActiveWorlds has in their "universe" is the size of California, and they have yet to completely fill it ten years later, then the main planet of Andromeda3D may never be filled at all.

Which begs the question... is A3D simply too powerful? At the moment we're not going to question the power of the system, but we may have to offer planets that are orders of magnitude smaller than Earth to our customers.

Mar 1, 2009

A Recipe For Awesome...

One of the recent endeavors that we have been on here at Andromeda3D is to figure out a solution for one of the oldest problems in virtual worlds. That is, how to easily allow the user to make their avatar look like themselves should they choose to. One popular approach is to simply take two photos of the subject, one from the front and another from the side, and wrap a face map to a generic model of a head. While this is fairly quick, the results aren't so good in the end as the face map tends to warp and stretch to the incorrect mesh.

The obvious solution would be to have an algorithm analyze the
photo and then mold the facial features of the mesh to fit the photo. As you can imagine this is no simple task, but with a bit of research it was discovered that there are definitely ways to accomplish this.

So we find a photo of an individual with which we would like to import into the system as a 3D representation of the face on an avatar, and we allow the algorithm to analyze the photo while actively morphing the model to match the features.

In our test, we chose a familiar face to work with -

If we take into account that this was the photograph imported into the system, obviously not an ideal front shot for 3D modeling, we can see that the result of the algorithm and mesh matching are indeed impressive, as shown below:

But this is not the end of the brainstorming and technology think tank session, by no means. The facial generation system also rigs the animation points on the model so that phonemes are also incorporated. The first thing this brought to mind was allowing the mouth to move realistically when speaking, but not on a post process sort of manner.

What if we marry this technology together with the VoIP system, then marry those two together with a Real Time LipSync system so that not only would the user have the ability to look like themselves in the virtual world by importing a single photo, but also have their virtual lips sync to their VoIP conversation as well in real time?

Now we're getting someplace. After a bit more research into this idea, we came across an SDK which allows just that - real time syncing of streaming audio to mouth animations based on phonemes. Not only can the avatar look photo realistic, but it can actually move its mouth properly when you speak. The downside so far is that the delay in audio processing is about 10ms, which in the grand scheme of things isn't actually that bad.

As for the face generation algorithm, on a decent computer with a good graphics card the process should take roughly 2 - 5 minutes to create the custom face and head. On slower computers (or computers with bad OpenGL Drivers) this process can take an extended amount of time into the 10 - 20 minute range for completion.

While the generation process may be slower on outdated computers, it still works the same way with the same results. So it's a matter of whether the user wishes to wait for the customization process to finalize or not. There is a definite up side to all of this in that once the face is customized to the photo, the file generated to recall the data is around 40 - 50kb in size and the calculations for mesh morphing are not required again (unless the user imports a new photo).

Then we add to this chain, yet another feature we've been working on. The Shader Skin process by which a procedurally generated skin texture is applied to the mesh as a first layer, then the face map is applied as the top layer, adjusting the opacity and color to come to a close approximation and create a seamless transition.

As for hair, again we're looking at Shaders for high end computers or premodeled hair geometry for slower systems. nVidia has been doing some interesting research concerning realistic and physX enabled hair in real time, so we'll be definitely keeping an eye on that.

Let's take a moment to recount our recipe for awesome -

1. Import photo which then automatically is analyzed to create a matching 3D Mesh for avatars
2. Apply real time LipSync technology to a VoIP stream
3. The facial animations of the model are already rigged and ready for use in the LipSync scenario
4. Real Time Shader Hair with PhysX
5. Procedural Skin generation to blend seamless between face and rest of body

Since the Digital DNA profiles of people are very small files, comparing a generated file to one on file already (such as Robert Downey Jr.) would be fairly easy. This would enable us to make sure people who are importing a photo aren't importing a known celebrity in the database who has requested IP Protection from Andromeda (Part of the VIP Program).

For the time being, this is definitely an avenue of research which we wish to continue as we put this virtual universe together.

- The Management

Feb 22, 2009

For Those About To Rock...

Arithmetic Coding is quite possibly one of the most interesting ideas we've come across for losless file compression in the P3P Brightnet. Not only would this encoding be lossless, but it would reduce an entire file down to a single decimal number.

It may be possible to reduce a 10MB file down to 1MB or lower with this, thus drastically increasing the transfer times over the P3P Network and making it that much more efficient. Of course it all depends on how the algorithm is set up for the filetype compression.

In highest probability, we would have to have a talk with IBM concerning their standing patent on a certain type of Arithmetic Coding, and maybe strike a deal for licensing if possible. But from what we are reading, some of the patent holders do not charge a fee, so we'd have to look into their terms closely before we decide if this is the way to go.

As it stands, the P3P BrightNet system is by far more than adequate to handle the files and traffic, so the arithmetic coding algorithm would act as just an overkill scenario.

Just as a heads up, no it's not a typo. We really do mean P3P and not P2P or the soon to be P4P (which is pretty useless). P3P BrightNet is the term used for the Andromeda3D Network Backbone and is more efficient than normal P2P while also being better capable than even P4P. Keep in mind that this P3P BrightNet is not going to be falling into the hands of an ISP anytime soon. In an effort to remain neutral with P2P sharing and routing, we're building the protocols and rulesets into the browser so that it will automatically handle the traffic without intervention from the ISP or from A3D as a company.

Feb 13, 2009

Jooce Has Been Acquired

Recently, news about the good fortune of came wandering into our email inbox. As it so happens, announced to their users that they are in the process of being acquired by another company. During that transition, they will be taking the storage capabilities offline while they sort things out and finalize the deal.

In the meantime, until told otherwise, the prior agreement between and A3D is still in effect.

In Other News -

Forums have undergone some upgrades and fixes, as well as some new Beta information being posted. We look forward to your comments :)

- The Management

Feb 2, 2009

Let there be paperwork!

Long time no post, eh?

So here's what's going on here at -


As we have stated earlier, some work and research has been ongoing concerning the usage of a shader skin as the default for the avatars. Of course, we will permit the application of skin textures if a designer is wanting better fidelity for an avatar. Now that the skin shader is looking up to par, the next thing on the list happens to be the Hair aspect.

This in turn leads us to a ton of current application and research from nVidia concerning doing hair as a shader. Since our expected release for Andromeda to the public is estimated around 18 - 24 months (give or take), it is well within reason to assume that we are designing the system to take advantage of future technologies which haven't yet become mainstream. When programming a system, it is always a good rule of thumb to design it with computers 18 - 24 months from today in mind as the entry system.

While the high end computers of today look like monsters, with a pricetag to boot, keep in mind that if you follow Moore's Law of Accellerating Returns then in 18 - 24 months the high end computers of today will end up being bargain bin computers sold at Wal-Mart.

Epic Updates and Forum Migration

New year, new servers, new scripts, and yes - even new issues to tackle. Our forum overlord, GSK, is currently busy migrating the forums to a new and theoretically unlimited server system. This in itself may take a few days to complete - but the complete backup of the forums as well as additional scripts and additions he has planned for our patrons will take some time to implement.

For the time being, we assume that the forums will be back online within a few days, but the remaining 90% of the work will take a few weeks to actually complete. On the list of things to do is to reinstate the arcade challenge system once and for all. A slew of other additions and goodies are in the works as well, so keep an eye out in the following days/weeks.

Where in the World is Darian?

After some rough weather in the northern regions (Tri-State Area), Darian has found himself migrating down the east coast where he currently finds himself hanging out at Vero Beach, Florida. Next stop after this is Georgia where he'll finally set foot back home. For the time being, he's on a forced vacation and is forbidden from thinking about work for awhile (thought we know this is next to impossible for him)

Paperwork by the buttload :P

As we move into the corporate phase of A3D, there happens to be a lot of paperwork that is required to be completed. Business Plans, Financial Projections, PowerPoint Presentations, Prospectus, and of course a laundry list of other paperwork to be completed by deadlines. We do apologize for the communications blackout over the past month or so, but we are making progress still with a number of things we cannot really go into detail at the moment.

Jooce Acquired?

Of course, all good things eventually get bought up by bigger companies. If you have tried to use your Jooce account over the past week, you would have noticed that your account probably is turned off at the moment. Rest assured, your Jooce accounts should still be available coming up soon. We received an email recently informing that Jooce is currently being acquired by another company, and that the service will be temporarily unavailable for a few weeks.

As a matter of course, a follow-up email has been sent to the CEO of Jooce in order to get some details about this acquisition and how it would possibly effect the partnership between Jooce and A3D going forward. More details will be released going forward as they become available to us.

Quellertech VRFTP

The VRFTP (Virtual Reality File Transfer Protocol) is nearing completion and posting for the Beta Team to download and use. Essentially this component of the A3D browser will allow you to do what you normally would with an FTP program, but as an added feature, it renders the folders on an FTP as Rooms filled with files. This in turn will allow you to literally walk around an FTP server in 3D (as well as walk around your local hard drive too).

So what is this good for (other than the cool factor)? For those of your who know all too well about Active Worlds and the many Object Yards that litter the virtual landscape, this might come as a god-send to you. Being able to log into the OP FTP and actually walk around the Object Path dynamically will first and foremost create instant Object Yards without the need to waste space with actually building Object Yards manually.

There are obviously other benefits to having the VRFTP component in A3D, but we'll let our Beta Team find out for themselves.

When the forums come back online, we will make it a point to post some new materials for everyone to check out, so keep an eye out for what's coming up soon ;)

- The Management

Jan 19, 2009

Sundance Film Festival...

Never underestimate the power of coincidence, especially when you are at the Sundance Film Festival and surrounded by some seriously high rollers in the industry. Today's update will be short and sweet, just to let everyone know that the team is still working diligently on the Andromeda Project.

With that being said, the majority of the project completion has to do with behind the scenes paperwork and legal proceedings that will allow us to move forward. Usually when a company or project tells you that there is progress being made, they normally show you a bunch of fancy screenshots or put out a small demo. This happens not to be one of those times, as we must realize that moving forward with important milestones does not always mean something graphical or flashy. A lot of times it means that mundane stuff is being accomplished, but that does not mean that such proceedings are not important.

As a matter of fact, these boring paperwork sessions and such may actually be the most important aspect of A3D to date. Rest assured, when things become finalized, the beta team and world will know what's going on.

Until then, I trust that our beta team has been keeping tabs in the forums ;)

- The Management