Cancer charity back to Second Life

Last week, Laura Crane Trust, a non-profit which provides support to teenage and young adult cancer patients in the U.K., had decided to build its virtual world in OpenSim.

Jonathan Tyreman, the charity’s online development coordinator, originally wanted to go with Second Life but decided to recommend OpenSim to the trustees instead because Second Life was closing down its Teen Grid, and the charity would not be able to serve a key target group. In addition, OpenSim would allow the charity to have as many as 16 regions for the price of one in Second Life.

Since then, however, the charity’s trustees have decided to go with Second Life and focus on the older cancer patients — a decision they came to before Linden Lab announced yesterday that they would be allowing the youngest teenagers in Second Life after all, under some restrictions.

The main reason? The credibility of the companies behind the two platforms and the support available.

“It all seemed to be going in favor of OpenSim,” said Tyreman. “That was what I recommended over Second Life — and still do, actually, and speaking to some of the trustees individually it seemed like their choice, too.”

Jonathan Tyreman

But after Tyreman put together a report with the advantages and disadvantages of the Second Life and the OpenSim alternatives, the trustees voted and chose Second Life.

“They felt that Second Life had moved on further, while OpenSim was just open source software,” he said. “If we do get a problem with it we can just go back to one company — Linden Lab — and not between OpenSim developers, who may or may not help, and the hosting company of the virtual world.”

The Trust has put in its order for a region in Second Life, he said.

“Hopefully, very soon, we will be the owners of our own virtual island and the proper building can begin,” he said.

Now that Linden Lab has said it will allow younger users on the platform, the Trust will have to decide which age group to focus on. Currently, the organizations serves patients as young as 13 and as old as 24.

Under the new Linden Lab rules, teenagers aged 13 to 15 would not be able to mix with older residents, and will be confined to the regions owned by their sponsoring organizations.

“We would not really want children as young as 13 mixing with 24-year-olds,” Tyreman said. “So we need to decide, do we go for the older group — like we would have been had not Linden Lab announced this — or do we now go for a younger age group initially?”

Second Life has become a familiar destination for fund-raisers. This summer, for example, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Second Life raised almost a quarter million dollars.

But the Chat-World project would be the world’s first virtual environment dedicated to the people the charity supports, according to the Laura Crane Trust.

The Trust funds ongoing cancer research, specifically into cancer in teenagers and young adults, where cancer often strikes in its rarer and more complex forms. The trust also funds various measures to improve the lives of these young cancer patients whilst they are undergoing treatment. Visit Chat-World for more information about the Trust’s virtual world project or to make a donation.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • It was a hard decision to decide on SL, but as well as the points stated in the article, it was also down to time.

    The whole project, 'Chat-World', actualy came about around two years ago, but it is only more recently we have managed to sercure the funding to really get started with it and make it happen. So becouse of this we want something up in a virtual world prety quickly, so at least it can be rolled out across some local hospitals for testing.

    The huge amount of resources availiable for SL, in world and on their market place, means that a lot more objects will be able to be bought instead of being built from scratch. This means a quicker build time but also more cost effective. The example I have used before in meetings is that of a park bench – the chances are we are bothing thinking of an object that looks prety much the same, so why bother spending two hours designing one, the charity paying my thoes two hours, when we can buy one for less then $2 wich would look the same as the one I would of made.

  • Kimo Junot

    “If we do get a problem with it we can just go back to one company — Linden Lab — and not between OpenSim developers, who may or may not help, and the hosting company of the virtual world.”
    The ongoing problem with SL is customer support. There are countless people that have spent A LOT of money and time in SL and when they have a problem and contact LL they are told to send in a ticket and they will get back to you. Problem is a lot of those tickets are never looked at and the customer is left hanging. There telephone support is a total joke.
    All one has to do is read the forums on the SL web page and everyday there are people posting comments about how LL has dropped there customer support.
    I,myself,got tired of the way LL handles things and moved on to another grid called Inworldz.
    The owners there are devoted to making everyone happy. If you have a problem there you can contact the owners and they will get right on it. They are an amazing group of folks there that do nothing but help and support the residents…they are called Mentors and that is what LL decided to drop and leave everyone on there own. Customer support is the #1 key element to success for everyone. Without it the company will soon fall on it’s face.
    I have lost all faith in LL and the way they handle there customers. That is why after 5 years of owning and running a very successful business in SL I closed it all down and moved on to a different grid where you are made a part of things and not just a dollar sign and left on your own. Simply said….I got sick of the zero customer support of LL. They only seem to help the ones who rub elbows with them…everyone else is well….just another face. Also,just to clear things, I did not post this as a plug for Inworldz…I simply posted why I left SL and moved on to better things. It is a BIG world out there and SL is not the only game in town anymore.

  • Kimo —

    I’ve heard that from a lot of people. For the most part, the OpenSim customers I speak to have been really happy with the service they’ve been getting from their OpenSim vendors. And if you don’t like the service, switching is super simple. Get OARs — or even full database backups — of your old grid or regions, and IAR inventory backups, and upload everything to your new hosting provider. If you’re efficient, you can have the move done in a day.

    (To do this, you have to be careful to pick a host that offers OAR and IAR exports, which InWorldz does not, but most other OpenSim providers do.)

    That said, however, all the OpenSim providers are a year old or less. For the most part, they’re small companies. Some are run by guys working in their spare time. Even the biggest has no more than handful of people on staff.

    They could vanish over night, or flake out.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee that won’t happen with a big company, as well. There.com closed down last year, as did Metaplace. And Second Life just shut down the Teen Grid.

    Personally, I’m with Tyreman — I’d rather own my own a grid, and have a choice of vendors.

    But from the standpoint of brand-name recognition, Second Life has it, and OpenSim vendors don’t. Yet.

    – Maria

  • "But from the standpoint of brand-name recognition, Second Life has it, and OpenSim vendors don’t. Yet. "

    I think this is a good point and one of the main resons for going with Second Life.

    As for Metaplace, funny you should say that, that was going to be our first platform for the project.

  • Ener Hax

    big red flag

    i have no idea about the UK, but in the US and Canada, it would be very difficult to comply with patient privacy laws plus the issue of minor's rights in using Second Life. Reaction Grid has deep expertise in this with a sizable grant they participated in for youth counseling

    the laws are specific as to safeguards on the computers, networks, and servers. Reaction Grid was able to comply by configuring Dell laptops with special security (this is a big forte that Kyle and Robin have from their US Navy experience)

    any conversations with patients, regardless of whether recreational or therapeutic are protected by stringent laws. since this is a formal endeavor, i would imagine these laws are similar in the UK

    i say this more to others considering virtual worlds, Jonathan has emailed with me and seems to have crossed all his Ts =)

    many of these laws are difficult to enforce and just like copyright issues, people tend to think they may not apply to their usage, and they will likely never be called on it

    good luck jonathan!

    to Maria's point about small guys. I'll take James over all of LL's customer support any day. we have a true working relationship. he is not some customer service rep. he is deeply knowledgeable about OpenSim and servers. he is also deeply involved in it for his own use (he gave me an incredibly scripted sailing sloop – beats a Linden Bear any day). i fully trust James with both my very real time and effort and subQuark's very real investment in his educational endeavor

    this is not a hobby for us and a serious project that i sincerely believe will help reduce middle school dropout rates, raise science literacy, and help address the gender gap in STEM careers. subQuark has a true gift in reaching students and making science fun and just a part of everyday life

    lol, sorry, that was supposed to be a huge vote for OpenSim over Second Life! (i <3 subQ)