Friday, May 08, 2009

Is there a way to dynamically draw text from the web into Second Life

For the SLENZ project I want to find ways to dynamically draw text (and other media) from the web, into note card like displays in Second Life. The idea is that when a user clicks a graphic or object in SL, information will display, and preferably content of a reusable cross platform kind.

At the moment the developers have resolved to two options, take a note card and save it to inventory, or open the wiki page where the information is maintained. The user preferences determine if that web page open in the SL browser, or on the computer browser. Personally for the particular purpose of the project this is being applied to, I think it is much better to have the very small amount of content load in the SL browser, but there is no way we can control that, and whether or not it does or doesn't open inside seems to be unreliable anyway.

The trouble with the notecard and cut and paste to update approach, is that it doesn't address the problem that the original idea was attempting to solve. We end up with two versions of information - the note card versions and the web site version. For now we are making do with cut and paste updates - not ideal.

The reasoning behind wanting the web site version should be obvious, but in case you're wondering - we have a significant SL access issue here in NZ, and so I've been trying to explore innovtive ways in which Second Life can be used to enhance the wider web and vice versa, not to mention offline learning as well.

I put this question on ways to draw web content into SL dynamically, out to a wider network and so far I have a number of recomendations:

  1. WikiHUD as suggested by Chris Harvey
  2. Parcel Media as suggested by Sean FitzGerald, but it sounds as though this interferes with other media
  3. Features in SLOODLE
  4. Automatic update from the Wiki into Second Life (I think this is a periodic thing along the lines of sychronisation - but using a back up system that SLENZ developers have been working on)
  5. Microblogging HUD another suggestion from Chris Harvey
  6. and my own wondering about how could an RSS feed by rendered in SL

The discussion in the SLENZ team on the issues preventing us achieving this design principle have largely gone over my head I'm afraid, so I'm not sure if the following issues negate the above suggestions, so here they are for the consideration of anyone who might be able to help:

Historically, there have been numerous requests for an ability to write to a notecard within second life. Especially a notecard that is in the contents of an object, to allow for persistant data storage.

> This has never been acceptable because of how the asset sever works: A UUID is a unique identifier to an asset. If any data in the notecard is changed, (ie. writing to a notecard) it has to be saved as a new asset- because if other residents had the same notecard before it was changed, your edits would go to this other person's notecard if a new UUID was not created. I believe that different people with the same object in their inventory in fact just point to the same UUID in the asset server. If you were to be able to write to a notecard from the script, every write command would create a new asset, which would create a huge number of additonal notecard assets.


The method that loads a Wikipedia into the HUD is probably based on the media texture approach that is parcel specific, and means that all other media in the current parcel will not be available while this technique is used,


The transfer of “rendered layout” from a wiki (the web) to Second Life is via Media Textures; this mechanism is not completely reliable, working for some and not for others. It requires modification of the media settings for a parcel of land, interfering with any other media that is being used by the parcel owner. This imposes a constraint on the reusability of the build, requiring that a parcel of land be specifically set up for the build.

I'm posting this here in the hope someone in my network may have pulled this off somehow, taking into considerations quoted above...

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