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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Maria Korolov – Hypergrid Business

by Orb Emerald –

Maria Korolov the Owner of Hypergridbusiness.com, and Best Selling Author, has graciously accepted our invitation for this interview and has provided us with some informative, innovative and inspiring answers.  She’s upbeat and rockin’ the Metaverse while organizing an assortment of all that is thrown her way during the production of the Hypergrid Business website. She has a wealth of information (and is a bit humble) considering all that she’s come to know in her many years of being part of this platform.  Read on… as you’re sure to find interesting topics within.

1)  Maria, can you please tell us about yourself (real life) and in that can you also explain when you first started using the internet?

“I first started using the Internet in college, back when it was called Bitnet, and  IRC – Internet Relay Chat. I’m old! I was a computer engineering major at first, before switching and graduating with a math degree.  But my experience with computers goes back further. My first job was as a programmer for my school district, when I was 14. I wrote quiz programs for teachers, maintained the library catalog program and database, and performed regular tape backups and similar maintenance on our HP 2000 mainframes. 

“Relational databases were my first love, and this was back when you had to drop down to assembler to hand-code sorts and searches, and set up all relationships manually, and store all numbers only after converting them to base 256.  Since store operations, at least on our Apple IIe computers, had to be directed to specific memory locations, my biggest challenge was always to avoid running into the DOS buffers. Oh, those pesky DOS buffers!

“Yeah, I was a big nerd. Super skinny, glasses, math team, — my nickname was “scurvy” — and, according to my former classmates, I used to go around singing songs about binary sorts.”

2) Can you share with us about when you encountered virtual reality and when you found OpenSim?  Also, which grid(s) do you belong to, and what do you want to tell us about those?

“So I was back in the U.S. after a five-year-stint running a news bureau in Shanghai, China.  Yeah, I know, it’s a big leap from high school math nerd to foreign correspondent! This was around 2009, when the Asian financial markets crashed and half of the publications I’d been writing for went out of business, including the one I was running the news bureau for. Ouch. Those that were still in business shrunk their editorial budgets dramatically, and eliminated their travel budgets.

“Now, I love to travel. And in technology journalism, conferences are huge.  You get to meet all the movers and shakers, corner them, and make them agree to sit down for interviews!  It’s the tech industry’s equivalent of front-line reporting. Okay, not quite as exciting, but the accommodations are usually better.

“Now, I couldn’t go to any conferences unless they were within close driving distance — basically, anything other than Boston was out.  Then I saw that IBM was having a virtual conference. It was in Second Life. I’d checked out Second Life before, when it first hit the news, and thought, “this could be something interesting someday” but I didn’t really have any time to follow up.

“Now, I dusted off my SL avatar and came to the conference. It was on a little island — I still remember that the weather was perfect, sunny, just a slight breeze in from the ocean.  Before the presentations began, I went around and met everyone. Then, after the presentations, I went up to the presenters and asked them follow-up questions, and got them to agree to sit down for an interview later on.

“This is dramatically different from other virtual conferences I attend, which are typically just phone calls, sometimes with a slide show.  In, say, an earnings call, you listen to the executives’ presentations, then get into a queue, and ask maybe one or two questions. There’s no opportunity for an individual meet-and-greet with the presenters, no chances to ask private questions, no opportunity to ask for a follow-up interview. And, of course, no feeling of having ‘been there.’  The virtual conference in SL was a dramatically different experience for me, something totally new.

“Then, during their presentation, the IBM folks had talked about OpenSim — their private, behind-the-firewall, local deployment version of OpenSim.  Could I visit? Maybe, someday, but really, no. It was for internal use only. But when I looked into it, it turned out that while IBM’s OpenSim grid was private, the OpenSim platform itself was public and open source, and anyone could set up a grid, and there were several public grids already out there, chief among them OSgrid.

“I was excited about the fact that you could actually build a whole virtual environment, by yourself, from inside the environment itself.  I thought it was the virtual world equivalent of the Web’s WordPress platform. Plus, with the hypergrid, we had the equivalent of the Netscape browser for the WWW.  I honestly thought I was looking at the next evolution of the Internet — and nobody was writing about it.

“So I decided to start Hypergrid Business.  Since then, I’ve personally written more than 2,000 articles, and edited more than 1,300 articles from more than 200 other contributors. We’re indexed in Google News, and since expanding our coverage area to include VR, have seen some months with more than 200,000 page views.  A typical month is between 30,000 and 100,000 pageviews.”

3) What are your interests in the virtual world, which applicable skills do you use there, what are your projects there and which are you most proud of?

“Frankly, as a writer, I like writing about it more than I like actually doing it.  So I don’t spend too much time in-world anywhere. I do very much enjoy trying out new things — I’ll try out new distributions, new tools, new building techniques.  Then I write tutorials, and usually don’t do those things again too often. Just enough to keep up on developments. I know the general basics of a lot of stuff, but am not really that good at anything.  Which, actually, makes me the perfect test subject. 🙂 If I can’t do something, then probably our average reader will find it difficult, as well. Techy folks are constantly amazed about how little I actually know about the underlying technology.

“It’s true.  As a journalist, my job is to know just enough about a lot of different things to be able to ask relevant questions.  I’m constantly encountering areas where I’d like to know more. I want to learn some AI programming languages, (Ed. Note: ‘AL is the programming language that is used for manipulating data, such as retrieving, inserting, and modifying records. in a Dynamics 365 Business Central database, and controlling the execution of the various application objects, such as pages, reports, or codeunits.’ -docs Microsoft.com) especially Python. I want to learn the latest neural network training tools. I want to learn about the mathematics of 3D physics modeling.  But, as a journalist, I’m like a shark — I have to keep moving to stay alive. So I move on.”

4) When did you begin your journey with Hypergrid Business?  Can you tell more about your work there and what you would like everyone to know about the HypergridBusiness.com website?

“I’ve already explained about how I got started.  I think the biggest misconception that people have is that I somehow magically know everything that happens in OpenSim, know all the people, and spend my entire life on grids, and have preferences about one grid versus another.

The reality is — I know NOTHING about what happens in-world.  I don’t hold grudges against people or grids because I don’t remember them from one story to the next.  If people didn’t remind me of a bad experience with them, I wouldn’t know!

“I have so much information to process each week, mainly at my day job covering AI and cybersecurity, that I can only remember what I need for the story I’m working on right now.

If I don’t cover your news, it’s not because I’m biased against you. It’s because I literally have no idea that there was news happening.

“I find out about things because PEOPLE TELL ME.  I get emails from readers, grid owners, creators, nit pickers, rabble rousers, and everyone else, to tell me that I missed something. Then, if I have the time, I’ll do the story.  The best way to get coverage in HGB (HypergridBusiness.com) is to just send me the story. That is literally the whole-entire secret of getting into HGB. Just show up. 

“Kitely and AviWorlds get so much coverage because Ilan Tochner and Alex Pomposelli write me every single time they do anything — and they answer my questions immediately. That’s the entire thing. That’s all it takes.  Anyone can write a press release or an announcement or an opinion column or a how-to article, or a review of some favorite destinations or stores — anything, really, relevant to OpenSim or VR. I run something like 99% of all submissions. If I don’t, either it was laced with profanity (it happens!) or had nothing useful to say about OpenSim or VR or I lost it.  Feel free to remind me. If it needs a lot of editing work, it will take me longer to post it — so the closer your submission is to a typical HGB article, the faster it will appear on the website.”

5) What are your future plans with Hypergrid Business?

“For a while, I was thinking about shutting it down, since it was starting to look like OpenSim wasn’t going to become the Netscape of VR after all.  But then I began writing science fiction set in virtual worlds, and decided to keep doing it — for purely selfish reasons. I want people to read my books, and help me get better as a fiction writer. That means that I need an audience that’s interested in VR, and that’s willing to take a chance on a new writer.  OpenSim peeps are my peeps! I’m paying it forward. I’ll continue writing about OpenSim, and if, in return, you guys put my books in the Amazon category ‘best-seller’ list – and you did, for both of my first two books! Thanks so much! — then it is so super worth it.

“Plus, I love writing about this stuff.  OpenSim readers really care about what I write. They call me up on my phone in the middle of the night to yell at me about disrespecting their grid!  At my day job, I write for much larger publications, with millions of readers, but I don’t think any of them even know my name!”

6) Tell us about the OSCC (OpenSimulator Community Conference)?

“I’ve been helping organize it from the beginning, and have done a presentation each year about OpenSim stats and trends.  In addition, I usually also do at least one other talk or moderate a panel. This year, in addition to my stats presentation, I’m moderating a panel on creativity.”

7) If you could change anything about OpenSim what would that be?  How would you like to see it change?

“Support for browsers and mobile devices.  Easier user interface. Better, more stable frame rates and full VR support.  Scalability that allows companies to offer land for free at scale, GeoCities-style, to get mass adoption of the technology.”

8) What does your future in OpenSim look like?

“I’ll keep doing this until I can’t do it anymore. 🙂  I’m having too much fun to stop.”

Maria,  Thank you so much for spending time and sharing this exclusive interview, also for generously giving us space on your website for HyperGrid Zone Magazine.  For space on her website please write Maria@hypergridbusiness.com