Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Credit Crunch key to future of Social Networks

A variety of newsfeeds on different topics was poured onto me today, through various media. Snippets I picked up on the radio, television, conference calls at work, twitter feeds etcetera. The mashup my brain made led to an interesting thought (I think) on how the credit crunch and recession will affect social networking, for better or worse.

Primarily old media are pouring out negative news on the crisis, credit crunch effects and recession worldwide. I bet you can't get away from the news either. Most of my social networks barely mention it, except for the occasional twitter / friendfeed / blog rant of Scobleizer. Why don't they? Is it because they are all new start ups, dependant on Venture Capital and VC might be the first thing to save money on?

I think not. I'm beginning to think the credit crunch and social networks are totally incompatible entities. They just don't mix.

Business is going Social ?

Let's start with social networking. Throughout the day I've been working on collaboration platforms and how to implement social software inside companies. When you're working at a company which is 'considering' to go social, you know the hassle. It often fails as corporate structures are incompatible with the social networking way of life; not bound by corporate hyrarchy but organic. Corporations still have the idea to implement communities through a top-down decree.

One of the articles I read today which touches this subject is a report by McKinsey, titled "Six ways to make Web 2.0 work for companies" (Thanks to @AlexKaris). Another quote that triggered me was from the presentation by Cisco's CEO John Chambers at the MIT World. I found his speech at OpenZine in an article called "Business is Social"

John Chambers held this speech at the MIT World back in october last year.


At about 3.00 minutes into the video John says:

"And when you look at the future of companies, I think you are about to see the most fundamental change in businesses and governement on a global basis that you have ever seen, moving from command and control to collaboration and team work"

Will we see this change, or won't we see this change? Everybody is talking about it, but will it happen? In reflection today, the credit crunch will play a crucial role in this process.

The Anglo Saxon business Model

Switching to old school media, one of the stories I heard on the radio was a Dutchmen who lived in Japan talking about business models. The Asian businessmodel looked very similar to our Dutch "Rhineland" model, or negatively connotated "the polder model". He gave a few examples.

The example from Japan was the CEO of Japan Airlines who had to take drastic steps in his company. As a result, he himself took a huge payment cut and came to work by bus to give a good example to his employees. This relates to the attitude we have had for many years inside the Netherlands, where you expected your CEO to come to work by bycicle and have lunch with all his employees in the canteen, bringing the same ham and cheese sandwhiches from home as his employees did. In both these models, the company is the center of the attention. It is about stability, security. It is about the role the company has in a social environment, limited to its employees, or in a broader sense to the city or other communities.

This is very unlike the Anglo Saxon model in which the shareholder has become the center of attention, the model which originated in the United States and the UK. This model is about short term satisfaction and profits. During the 90's we, in the Netherlands, have adopted this model too, and CEO's get filthy rich. This model results in corporate leaders who take enormous risks to gain short term profits and shareholder approval.

Crunch to make or break Social Networks

Don't get me wrong, John Chambers is saying a lot of sensible things on how corporations should act during a recession, and how innovation is important during these troubled times. However, if we "are to see the most fundamental change in businesses and government" it will be the challenge to do so on a business model scale. Yes, there are companies out there -even in the United States - who are able to adapt to web 2.0, but the majority will fail due to the business models described above.

Worldwide, companies sense the need to go social again. They feel the need to do something with social networking in order to leverage the latent potential inside their companies, to gain a stronger commitment from their employees, to facilitate knowledge exchange or simply to boast about their tech-savvyness.

The Anglo Saxon business model focus on shareholders and short term profits might just be the key issue to the future of social networks. It blocks long term commitment to a community and it causes corporate leaders to cling to their position. Managers and CEO's are protecting their little kingdoms, their expertise, their budget and their staff to remain in control. This is corporate politics on the balance of power, fueled by hunger for a big bonus and shareholder approval. This is where the fundamental change has to start to really empower Business 2.0, to facilitate corporations going social and capitalize on the billions of dollars of VC funding which have been invested into social networking sites. This is where the fundamental change has to start to temper the recession and this is where the fundamental change has to start to create long lasting communities and receive employee commitment.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Virtual Healthcare 2: Palomar Pomerado Health

This week I suddenly was confronted with more hospital visits than I'd hoped for (though not personal), and kept delaying writing this post for days.

Early april 2007 I wrote a short blogpost on the Cleveland Heart Clinic in Second Life which was probably the first hospital to enter Second Life. The question I ended that particular blogpost with was: "I wonder though, are they about to perform virtual surgery? I'm hoping they can explain what SL can add to hospital care."

The times, they are changing though. Nearly a year later I see how virtual worlds can perform a massive role in education and training. A world like second life offers a lot of opportunities for modelling the complex human anatomy (see for instance the Testis Tour) and virtually practising surgery would overcome a shortage of breathing guinneepigs.

Research company Forrester also sees virtual Healthcare as one of the promising areas when it it comes to the virtual workspace. In the "Getting real work done in Virtual Worlds" they describe one healthcare project in particular:

Developing effective healthcare team coordination. Duke University and Virtual Heroes are collaborating on a high-fidelity 3-D virtual environment for healthcare, funded by the US Army. The initial project, targeting healthcare team coordination skills, is called 3DiTeams and combines gaming concepts with the healthcare team coordination training curriculum developed by the US Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In the past year we've seen several smaller 'medical experiments' in Second Life, but late February saw two major projects enter Second Life; the IBM Healthcare island and Palomar West, both opening in the wake of the HIMMS'08 healthcare conference.


The Palomar West simulation is a joint effort by Cisco and Palomar Pomerado Health, though in developing the Second Life sim, Cisco has had major help from Millions of Us. The february 25 press release reads:

Cisco® and Palomar Pomerado Health (PPH) today cut the ribbon on a new hospital in the online virtual world "Second Life." The virtual hospital, a simulation of a real-world hospital campus due to open in 2011, gives visitors the opportunity to tour the hospital years before its doors actually open.

The virtual hospital showcases the rich assortment of design and technology innovations planned for the real-world Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego, Calif., and to gather feedback that will be used to enhance the way that care is delivered. The immersive quality of "Second Life" allows visitors to experience the progressive nature-embracing design of the hospital firsthand. Visitors will also be able to experience Connected Hospital technologies that will be delivered in the real hospital by Cisco. (Full press release here.)

In short, The Second Life island is a representation of a new Healthcare campus to be opened in 2011. It actually is a very good build. For n00bs there's a short introduction to navigating Second Life near the entrance of the hospital.


I received my Hospital tag which guided me through the hospital, making sure I went to the right rooms to have my gall bladder repaired. Throughout the tour a lot of information was pushed through excellent movies, but they essentially are a promo talk on the Cisco solutions for Unified Communications, telepresence monitoring, rfID, etcetera. I can see this part of the simulator become real in the near future.



Fully automated, or robot-driven surgery probably won't be integrated in the RL campus opening in 2011.




After surgery I returned to my hospital room for a few second to recuperate, but soon was sent outside as 'clean air' helps a lot for speedy recovery. The downside is that I entered into an 'Al-Gorish' speech about minimizing the footprint, low emission products and more green bla bla.


For information about Cisco Connected Health technologies, visit www.cisco.com/go/healthcare

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/PalomarWest%20Hospital/30/120/35






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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Exodus ain't gonna happen

Yesterday I picked up a BBC News story on people flocking to Virtual Worlds. The article is a little outdated, it dates back to december 11 2007, but I tend to disagree here. Here's part of the newsstory:

'Exodus' to virtual worlds predicted

Will real pubs empty as people head for virtual watering holes?The appeal of online virtual worlds such as Second Life is such that it may trigger an exodus of people seeking to "disappear from reality," an expert on large-scale online games has said.

Virtual worlds have seen huge growth since they became mainstream in the early years of this decade, developing out of Massive Multiplayer Role-Playing Games.

And the online economies in some match those of real world countries.

Their draw is such that they could have a profound effect on some parts of society, Edward Castronova, Associate Professor in the Department of Telecommunications at Indiana University, told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.

"My guess is that the impact on the real world really is going to involve folks disappearing from reality in a lot of places where we see them," he said.

(read more)

Edward Castronova was one of the speakers at the VW Conference in San Jose (october 2007) and made regular appearances on the Clever Zebra, formerly known as Metaversed Metanomics sessions and usually has some pretty smart things to say. In this case I thinks he's off by miles. There won't be a mass exodus for a long time to come I think.

The only thing we have to go by is the number of subscriptions to these worlds. Not all worlds are giving out these stats as freely as Second Life, nor do they provide information on activity in these worlds. Cisco's Christian Renaud did a quick scan of the industry for his keynote at the VW Conference and came up with 450 million registered users in about 30 NVE's, (online gaming as well as social worlds). After the conference we hooked up our info and I did a survey of about 200 of these worlds. As far as public data goes, I could barely find another 10 million registered users in other worlds.

The percentage of active users in the gameverse is a lot higher than in the social metaverse, more like an 60% tot 10% division, so going by these numbers we could assume there are about 100 million active NVE users out there. Then there's the definition of how much activity you need to have before being active. Linden Lab defines Active as spending 1 hour a week.

Then we have to take into account that there are a lot of body doubles. I myself have accounts in a dozen virtual worlds and there are other geeks, bloggers, journalists, trendwatchers etcetera who are active in several worlds to keep up with technology. The supposed 100 million than has to be devided by maybe 5 accounts on average so we end up with 20 million users worldwide which spend about 1 hour a week in virtual worlds. True, that's more than the whole population of the Netherlands, but globally speaking still a niche market.

When we look at social websites, like YouTube, MySpace etcetera and add up all the registered accounts we have about 3 times as many subscribers as there are internet connections worldwide. What I do think is a trend is the new digital Tribal Migration where users move from one world to the other as usability and functionality are still evolving.

A last thought on why this Exodus isn't going to happen anytime soon is that we've seen the number of registered users explode last year, while social NVE's were going into hype-modus. 2008 will probably see a downward trend in user activity, as most social worlds will not be able to meet expectations (gameverse is another story). This will last a while untill we find real corporate use and means of business integration for Virtual Worlds.This will happen though, but then again, when it really goes mainstream and NVE's become a Business Tool, still there won't be an exodus. There will be millions of new subscriptions and active business users, but on the whole the social part of these worlds will still struggle in keeping the attention of most users.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Alcatel Lucent

It's been a while since I've visited a good corporate build. I have to be mild nowadays since our own Sogeti island opened up. On the other hand, that was a DIY job and we didn't hire a big MDC. Alcatel Lucent did, as they brought in Millions of US to immerse in Second Life.


Alcatel originally is a French telecom hardware company doing a lousy 18 billion Euro a year. They make pretty good stuff too. I've worked with Alcatel stuff before and a friend of mine just told me last week he purchased the Alcatel Unified Communications suite for his company.

Millions of Us did a very good job on the build again... at least, the quality of the build lived up to my expectations. Great texturing, quality stuff, but lacks innovation. If you hire a big name in the industry, I'm sure you've got the intention to build a community in Second Life; which in this day and age means you have to have gadgets and entertainment. That I didn't see at Alcatel Lucent.


What I saw was a purely functional build, with corporate information and an auditorium. If it is functional though, the engagement has to come from events, but there wasn't a schedule to be found. The only community-gathering-tool used here is a competition to do xtreme innovation (more at the bottom). So in short, a class act by Millions of Us, but not one that I'm about to revisit

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Alcatel%20Lucent/128/128/0

Alcatels' Xtreme Rip-off: Contest Guidelines

(notecard)

Imagine it is the year 2017 and you have the power to create the ideal technology and devices that would fit your lifestyle in your virtual and real-world lives. Technology that would allow you to socialize, communicate, entertain yourself and your friends, get and share information and content, and/or manage appliances and devices in your home.

The Alcatel-Lucent Second Life Island is all about imagining the future and making it happen now. We are opening up our sandbox to the residents of Second Life to inspire them to come up with the future of what the next generation of wireless can bring. This is a call for Xtreme innovation!


Imagine:

  • Latency (lag) problems are a thing of the past (wireless and wireline)
  • Devices are creative flexible and can be designed to meet your needs (oh, and they are affordable too)
  • Wireless streaming of audio and video in real time for unlimited time periods with quality levels equal to the best HDTV
  • Always-on wireless connection with simultaneous use of both voice and data
  • Or how about having your household appliances, car, laptop, and mobile devices have the ability to talk to each other and send data remotely (and yes, this is all really easy to do)
    We want you to submit your ideas! Show us the awesome device or technology that would just make your Second Life…or real life, so much better.

Enter our “Next Generation Wireless Design Contest” for a chance to come up with the future and a chance to be noticed. In addition, you can win up to 50,000 Lindens. Your entries can be submitted to Alcatel-Lucent in accordance with the following guidelines. By submitting an entry, you agree that the official contest terms and conditions, which can be viewed at [enter web address here], will be applicable to and govern the contest and your submission.

Winning entries will be displayed in our showcase center on Alcatel-Lucent Island.


Contest Guidelines:

  • What: Enter one or several design prototypes for a functional device (gadget, HUD, wearable item, video) that makes Second Life or real life more enjoyable.
  • When: Entries must be submitted by December 1, 2007.
  • How: Submit design, notecard, video (flash, wmv. Mov) or prototype to Alcatel-Lucent Next Generation Design submissions display (located on the Main Plaza ). Include a note card with design description and functionality. • All Entries will be confirmed within 48 hrs, and will become the property of Alcatel-Lucent.
  • Prizes: First Place winner gets 50,000 Lindens and the chance to have their design built or displayed as an ALU island asset. Three runner ups will each get 20,000 Lindens
  • Judges: Millions of Us, Alcatel-Lucent

Submissions can be dropped to the pod post box or given to Hilary Millionsofus.Confirmation will be given within 24hrs.

Crowdsourcing is cool. Crowdsourcing means you draw ideas from the crowd, the general public. This isn't crowdsourcing anymore, this is a rip off. If you've got a great idea about the next generation computers or mobile phones, find yourself a trusting partner and have your intellectual rights properly documented and legally recorded, and don't sell them off for a lousy 200 USD from which Alcatel could make millions of USD (no pun intended).

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Friday, November 02, 2007

What's interoperability?

This afternoon I spent over an hour on the phone with Chritian Renaud, Chief Metaversal Bigshot at Cisco. Yes, that's right on the phone.... media 1.0 so to say. As I was on a sogeti-issued IBM T43 laptop I couldn't get Second Life to work (Ian please tell me this can be fixed) and also Skype failed.


After a good personal update (the us, timezone issues, busy schedules, kids, traffic jams, Prokofy Neva and stuff) we got down to business discussing the Metaverse and one of the VW Conference's buzzwords interoperability.


It remains hard to define the industry of NVE's, Networked Virtual Environments or virtual worlds. There's a mega grey area. You just can't categorize it straightforwardly. And yet we're trying. I'm doing so, Nick Wilson over at Metaversed is doing so, Christian is doing so and KZero is attempting much of the same.


It gets even harder when you get to discussing interoperability and some sort of unified communications or standardisation between these worlds. There's a few worlds out there that have a positive attitude towards the initiative, but others don't (see this post). What exactly is interoperability? Do we just throw all virtual worlds into a blender, find a common denominator, standardise it and run the risk of us all walking around in milky white avatars with jelly-green shirts and denying us all to use the potential of individual platforms?


Christian did quite a good blog on this over at Cisco: "Ode to Interoperability" It's truth, perhaps not the whole truth. It's a discussion. We're not there yet. What it all boils down to is that one of the key-elements will be Identity Management on the web. Christian tried to voice this in his piece, much of the same, not for virtual worlds, but for everyday web usage I run into every day, just like in my previous blogpost. I do have some thoughts to add to this discussion, but that'll have to wait. Bedtime now.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

CSI (5) The Aftermath

It's saturday night. Just a few days ago we were all watching the grid with great anticipation to see what would be the outcome of the first CSI:NY goes Second Life show. There's many blogs out that that voice an opinion, but I'd pick out Ambling in Second Life over almost any other blog.

Here's Aleister's views:




As the hubbub starts to subside on the whole CSI:NY thing, I thought I would record some of the stuff that’s been rattling around in my head over the last few days.



My first reaction when I read all the hullabaloo coming out of the Virtual Worlds Conference was: “Meh.” However, folks with a far keener interest and knowledge of the entertainment and media industry were at pains to assure me that this was groundbreaking stuff, and that is was “game changing.” I thought I should wait and see. The impression given was that this represented a real leap forward in the pursuit of convergent media, and is the way of the Future. To quote Mr Zuiker, proud owner of the CSI franchise: “What’s the future of television? It is as follows: TV, online, mobile, and gaming.”

As for Linden Lab, CEO Phil Rosedale’s take, as quoted at Ugotrade was: “I think it is a great project. We don’t look for traffic for Second Life in general we more look for opportunities to present Second Life to people in a more obvious way to people who don’t understand it, or haven’t experienced it.”

So… a major leap in convergent media – and good exposure for Linden Lab.What could possibly go wrong?



The big risk we all knew about was grid overload, but so far (touch wood) this has not happened, in part because the invasion of newcomers simply has not happened on anything like the anticipated scale.

However, what I think has gone wrong is, frankly, the whole shebang. What I’ve noted, rather than a magical blending and blurring of the lines between reality and virtuality, is simply the co-opting of Second Life to act as a games
platform. A role for which it is particularly inappropriate – and for which CSI has no need, since such platforms exist already. Now, I’m not trying to be precious about SL here. In the whole wide metaverse there is clearly a large need for entertainment and, indeed, for gaming. But to be blunt, Second Life cannot offer the level of gameplay that seasoned gamers have good reason to expect.

And this leads to my next point. TV is an illusion, where it is necessary to tweak reality (and in this case, virtuality) in the interests of entertainment. CSI was not out to make a documentary about Second Life, and was bound to present it in a way designed to extract the maximum entertainment value. And this has led to 2 basic lies. First, that the Second Life virtual world is smooth, fast and beautifully detailed. This would be fine if newcomers weren’t then invited to come and try it out. The gulf between the TV version and the horribly laggy, grey, slow-rezzing virtuality cannot, to my mind, be called
“good exposure for Second Life”. The second lie is that Second Life is a sleazy game, populated by players. This lie was not necessary to the plot, and is the one with which I have the single biggest issue.

In common with many of the readers of this blog, I spend a great deal of time in Real Life extolling the features and benefits of Second Life and virtual worlds in general. Through this one piece of unnecessary scripting I feel like I’ve been thrown back a year in my own evangelising efforts; back to the days of: “Second Life? It’s just a game isn’t it? Full of sleazeballs and geeks.”
Again, how this view of Second Life can be viewed as “good exposure” I am at a loss to explain. This might also explain the less-than-impressive uptake of new accounts.

On a lighter note – I was tempted to call this piece: CISCO:NY. As I have mentioned previously, the grossly over-the-top “Ciscofication” was – to me at least – a complete turn-off.

I think Linden Lab have done themselves no favours here. It is not true that “all publicity is good publicity.” I am dismayed at the short-termism shown by Linden in going along with this farrago. Also, in handing over the source of the viewer to Electric Sheep we have the interesting situation where the open source code has been re-skinned, a few neat, new features added, and the whole thing seemingly locked up again as a proprietary product. Well that’s what I think.

So what did I get wrong?


The ciscofication maybe was a bit over the top, but here in Europe with tv stations like the BBC and public broadcasting companies in the Netherlands we do have a slightly different opinion of such blunt advertising. But seriously,



There's several blogs that have been negative over the amount of traffic generated by the CSI show. Well, it was aired in different timezones, people came in in several runs. And in the days after. True enough, these 16 million viewers didn't push the SL headcount from 9 to 10 million overnight, but it's too early to tell. There's a lot of speculation on how many came in. Prokovy Neva states (on the first timezone run):



"But the numbers of people on those sims, for the three
hours I watched them before, during, and after the CSINY show, couldn't have beat 5,000 concomittant, and no more than 20,000 max total arrivals. In fact, it's probably far lower."


For exact numbers we either have to wait for CSI or the Electric Sheep Company to come with traffic stats and onRez viewer downloads and compare them to next weeks' Headcount by Tareru Nino. I do believe though that the average number of concurrent logins is higher these days. I'm not saying it was a smashing success. The massive number of islands, the fuzz upfront made us expect a lot. Again, too early to tell. There may well be ROI's made, but not sure which. I hope it'll continue though. Haven't had time to start solving the murder yet, but I for one like the concept. Me liking something isn't a guarantee that it'll make you millions though.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Defining the Virtual World Industry - input needed



Last week Nick Wilson started to try and define the virtual worlds. It's a pretty hard job to try and categorise this stuff. Currently I'm writing a few chapters for a (Dutch) book on Web 2.0 and emerging trends and am faced with the same question. Could you help out in making some educated guesses?





Defining the worlds





Here's some of the definitions I'm using:



Web 3D seems the most applicable generic term, but there is no such thing as a universal format for Web 3D and it comes in various guises, some more and some less likely to be used as a business platform.



Terms which are most commonly used are Virtual Worlds, Metaverse and NVE’s (Networked Virtual Environments). Virtual Worlds are not 3D by definition, there are many 2D platforms which are also considered as virtual worlds.




A virtual world is a computer-based simulated environment intended for its users to inhabit and interact via avatars. This habitation usually is represented in the form of two or three-dimensional graphical representations of humanoids (or other graphical or text-based avatars). Some, but not all, virtual worlds allow for multiple users.[1]




The term NVE was first used by Gartner in a quick study on Second Life, but residents of various virtual worlds prefer to call it the Metaverse, as coined by Neil Stephenson in his 1992 cyberpunk classic ‘Snowcrash’



Another section of web 3D consists of the socalled Paraverse, sometimes also dubbed mirror worlds, since this world is most akin to our own reality.



The Paraverse Parallel Universe is a virtual environment that is based on real
world data such as GIS and satelite information that is overlayed with 3
dimensional objects representing the objects in the real space. Examples of a
paraverse include Google Earth, Microsofts Virtual Earth, Nasa's World Wind and
TerrainView.[2]






A large and booming business in the web 3D environment are the online gaming worlds, the socalled MMORPG’s (massively multiplayer online role plaing games) such as World of Warcraft, Runescape etcetera.



Finally, there are all sorts of variations and hybrids such as:







  • Interverse A term used to describe a globally integrated NVE, accessible through a single common client and integrated by a common back plane.



  • Intraverse A term to describe the 3D equivalent of the intranet, a private or corporate NVE residing on an internal network and accessible to users within that network environment only.



  • Extraverse A term used for the 3D equivalent of the extranet which is privately or corporately owned and resides on a private network but accessible by one ore more organisation, but not by the general public.



    [1] Virtual Worlds definition by Wikipedia

    [2] Paraverse definition by Wikipedia





Sizing the worlds




Now it's time to get into numbers. A first excellent start by doing a raw headcount of registered users was done by Christian Renaud at the Virtual World Conference. Now let's see if we can split up some other things:







  1. Networked Virtual Environments can be split up 2 ways: Online Gaming and Social network worlds. How are they divided? 50-50%?



  2. They can also be divided by 2D and 3D, what's this pick 40-60%?



  3. How much of Online gaming worlds are 2D, is that 40%?



  4. How much of Social Network Sites are 2D, is that 50%?



  5. What is the division between Metaverse / Interverse, Intraverse, Extraverse and Paraverse?

    I'm using Extraverse as term for corporate sites, like themed sites, Laguna Beach etc.



  6. I'm also looking at our usage of the web. Like web 2.0 stuff we use it at three levels:





    1. Personal (like gaming)


    2. Social (like Second Life)


    3. Business (like Qwaq or dedicated training platforms)

      What's the spread for these in Virtual Worlds?





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Friday, October 12, 2007

Best Practises for employees

Thursday, 1:30pm - 2:30pm


Best Practices for Employees in Virtual Worlds


With companies issuing avatars to large groups of employees what are the best practices required to create a smooth operating environment for those individuals. What standard operating procedures should be implemented to create the best experience a company projects when sending employees into public virtual worlds?



Speakers:


  • Bob Ketner, Creative Director, Studio SFO
  • Adrienne Haik, Metaversatility, Inc.

Bob gave a pretty fast ramble on best practises, kind of hard to keep up with taking notes. Here's a few tidbits though:

Why is doing Business in a VW a good idea?

  • Employees are already there
  • It can solve problems
    - I can't reach you
    - too little time to come over
    - info retrieval
  • Gamers are doing it better
    - Gamers focus on getting the job done (single action focus)
    - Gamers are selforganising folk
    - Your new (young) employees are aleardy gamers
    - Are using PC's a lot more effectively

Work can be a drag. How many of you say "Hey I can't wait to get to work on monday", and how many say "I can't wait to play World of Warcraft tonight".

IBM is currently looking into World of Warcraft Guilds, as it takes Guildmasters a lot of experience and compentence to manage all these guildmembers. These Guildmasters are actually people that distill and manipulate digital info in an advanced way. So which skills are involved?

The Avatar as a Uniform

Metaversatility's Adrienna Haik gave an insight as to how serious business in a VW can get.

  • It's important for employees to understand they are in a virtual workspace, and not a game.
    -Let your people take it serious and avoid them flying around during discussions and stuff.
    - Visible clues like chairs, desks and other office furniture may help.
    - Set up different spaces for different forms of communication and interaction.
  • Interaction guidelines, rules of engagement for the natives
    - How do you react to weird encounters? Your clients my come in as Furry's. A client new to SL can go ballistic if he's shocked by some appearances.
    - Take time for clients and new employees to acclimate. Take them shopping for instance.
    -Respect the community. You're on their turf.
  • Your avatarname is associated with your business.
    - Like with email, use a personal and business avatar.
    - Think about sexual harassment by avatars representing your brand
    - Your employee is your best marketing instrument inworld. Have them take the brand serious and advocate it.

There were several things in here which I didn't agree on. Especially the private and professional avatar distinction. I've only got one avatar as the lines between work and play are blurring. We're in a global business now and shifting timezones lead to business encounters at many different hours. Nor do I see the leaders of the industry, like Ian Hughes (IBM), Jeff barr (Amazon) and Christian Renaud (Cisco) have different avatars.

When speaking to Jeff Barr on this after the session was done he came up with several good reasons. First of all, these are community leaders. They've got a very professional attitude towards second life and have to build relations on their reputation. Switching Identities makes you have to build multiple reputations. Another thing (which at least goes for Jeff himself) is that they've probably all had PR training and know what they can and can't say. A third reason why you may not consider switching avatars is by self-protection. For some people there might be tempting stuff in Second Life. If you want to stay away from that, it's a strong motivator if you've got a reputation to think off.

It might be different though for regular employees who come into a virtual world to do some work then go off again. They have a completely different precense than their community leaders.

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VW Conference buzzwords: Interoperability and Portability

Christian Renaud's keynote this morning was generally received as an outstanding analysis of the Virtual World industry and the challenges that lie ahead of us if we want it to go mainstream.



Divergence


What it all boils down to is that the web, and especially the social web is getting very confusing. We need to have multiple identities, and now there are virtual identities to juggle as well. You've gotta go nuts if you have to juggle all that. This isn't much different from what I've blogged midway june (VeeJay juggles web 2.0 chaos). Like Christian said, we've failed to get openID into place when it comes to the web, let's try to get it right for virtual worlds.



Thought Leadership


In order to get this right for the Virtual World industry, several thoughtleaders met the day prior to the VW Conference, amongst which Cisco, IBM, Linden Lab and Philips. Linden Lab and IBM put forth a press release stating they are working on interoperability and portability. Other terms to describe this are unified communications between Virtual Worlds, or setting new industry standards (is it going to be VHS or Betamax?). IBM has made no secret of the fact that they have been pursuing this for months, the only speculation and blogosphere fuzz at the moment is that it's now an official tie-in with Linden Lab.



Convergence


So the market needs convergence, standards of portability to go mainstream. I personally feel this is a very, very good thing. In fact, I've been saying so for months. The real big challenges are:


  • How do you asses the value of virtual goods on various platforms in relation to other platforms
  • How do you get a sound Identity Management System in place

No consensus yet

In the beginning I said Christian's keynote was generally accepted as outstanding. Here's a few thoughts from the business

While talking to Craig Sherman on this he let me know that Gaia is pursuing its own target group and has no intention whatsoever to even start thinking about portability. pretty much the same goes for Habbo Hotel, as Timo Soininen doesn't see much chances to asses the value of goods for portability.

John K. Bates of Entropia / Mindark noted that value is generally based on user demand for goods and in a lot of instances World-specific. Like in Entropia you've got dung. Absolutely of no value if you return it to the Entropia caretakers, but a must have for landowners who need dung to fertilize their lands so they can grow monsters and tax those who come to their land to hunt monsters. So in entropia you might wanna be a dung-baron if you don't want to pay for stuff and still get rich.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christian's Keynote: What''s next?

Christian Renaud , Cisco – What’s Next?


This isn’t the first attempt to start virtual worlds and virtual business. This has a long history. And there are many steps to be made to get to the next level.



In 1988 there was a seminar on interoperability, TCP/IP and there were just a few attendees, five years later it was mass market.



What’s different right now is that we have all this creative energy. We’ve got mmorpgs, we’ve got unified communication tools. Taking that and combining it and slamming that together at this high speed and you can use Second Life or World of Warcraft as business tools.



It fills a need in the technology toolbox. Cisco likes to make probabilities from possibilities.



  • We have 6.5 billion people on the planet.
  • 2.3 b mobile phones (1/3)
  • 1.2 b internet connectivity (1/6)

That’s the audience for virtual worlds.



  • 465 M VW users (excluding Asia) appr. 1/12)
  • 45 M are active virtual residents, not tourists.

That’s about as big as all the early communities (compuserve, the well, aol, eworld etc) together had at their peak.


“We have to make the community grow, so I don’t have to explain what I do over and over again to the guy sitting next to me on the plane.”



We’ve failed with instant messaging. We’ve got these big walled gardens and need multiple clients to talk to all our friends. Do we need to find a standard, or do we have to have just one platform? We have to have interoperability. There has to be no switching cost. You have to be able to choose which platform gives you the best return on your investment.



There’s a 40 million people market, and as a business you have to choose one in 40 platforms, that’s a bad choice to get your ROI.



If we had this discussion about platforms 10 years ago we wouldn’t have web. Platform shouldn’t be the discussion. It’s the content put on it.


There are too many genetics and too many usecases to get one-size fits all jacket. It’s different tools for different jobs. There’s a number of different dimensions, like mobile and peer to peer needs that have to find a place in this landscape.



It’s not my intend to be a big corporation that brings in a bulldozer and levels the diversity of the landscape and put out a huge concrete mall strip. There has to be different modalities, variation between fun and work.



Attention is the only currency left. Attention needs diversity. Howver, work needs to be fun as well. Screen, desk, a very industrial setup will have to change.



We also have to rid ourselves of stereotypes like:

  • A 12 year old girl: level 70 night elf
  • A 70 year old couple: owning 8 neopets
  • An asian businessman: Puzzle Pirate.

There’s too much overlap throughout the industry to categorise. Think of the industry and it will get bigger, don’t focus on the little piece of the pie you cut out for yourself.



There are things we can do from a technology point of view to help secure the content of VW’s. We need to have a strong concept of idendity, it’s based on trust. We haven’t been able to solve open-ID for the internet, but maybe we can do so for virtual worlds.



A strong Identity can give you credit, a reputation, a trust that helps you sell, make your business, How do we manage our presence? Let people know we are busy etc.

  • Identity
  • Reputation
  • Presence

There are things we can't do as good as we can in RL, but there are things we can do better than in RL as well. Augmentation, specific content based upon who you're talking to.

The new math:

If it's just amongst us we can throw out every number we like. When talking to people outside we have to rationalise, come with metrics. Real facts and figures. The industry has to step forward and come with universal metrics. Business needs to know where the money is.

One of the good initiatives is MMI, the metaverse market index. (spin off from Metaversed's Grid Safari's and Metanomics sessions. This is a derisking and industry building initiative.

Common Platforms:

There's work going on on interoperability. Content is core, platform flexible. Convergence over divergence will benefit the industry.

MIT Collective Intelligence:

We've gotta look for pitfalls and not stick to the "we could this" suggestions, but also consider if "we should this" element. What can we do for collective intelligence. What can we do for collaboration, for culture? What can we instrument, do to overcome deficiencies in our options in Virtual Worlds?

Wrap up:

  • Common Identities
  • Common Denominators
  • Common Platforms
  • Common Understanding

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Businessweek cracks business code for Second Life


In the past weeks the Second Life blogosphere (me included) has complained a lot about 'Old Media' being cranky on Second Life and not understanding it. There's one notable exception though, which is Business Week, where Mitch Wagner posted an excellent article, Five Rules For Bringing Your Real-Life Business Into Second Life, which probably sums it all up.



Mitch wrote:

"Second Life is one of the most controversial technologies to hit the Internet. Praised last year as a platform that would turn the net upside down, this year it's being dismissed as an overhyped fraud and a waste of time and money.



The truth is somewhere in between last year's hype and this year's backlash. Second Life is revolutionary, but the revolution will take a few years to play out. For now, the virtual world is rough around the edges, and at times very difficult to use.



Nonetheless, you can get a lot out of bringing your real life business into Second Life. You can use Second Life for effective marketing, building relationships with customers and partners, and creating business value."


Then there's his Five rules:

  1. Do Like Captain Picard Said: Engage
  2. Add Value To Second Life's Communities
  3. Don't Believe The Backlash
  4. Be Smart About Keeping Out Trouble-Makers
  5. Think Of Second Life As Beta Technology


This article was also the input for last thursday's Metaversed - Live session



"On this week's Metaversed Live, Metaversed.com's weekly business and technology talkshow hosted live in Second Life and on Talkshoe, Cisco Systems Christian Renaud, SLNN's Aliza Sherman and UgoTrade blogger Tish Shute join Metaversed Nick Wilson to talk about what the second wave of businesses coming into the virtual world are going to have to do to succeed, and hear how Cisco turned around their entire virtual worlds strategy based on hands on experience in Second Life. "









The podcast from the session is available here at Metaversed.

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25% of Global top 100 in SL

In June I wrote 30% of Dutch Top100 corporations in Virtual Worlds, listing the top Dutch companies in Second Life. Earlier this month though SLionheads' Timbo Urbanowicz did the math on the global top 100 companies.



Based upon the Top 100 Global Brands Scoreboard he checked to see which companies were in Second Life and concludes 20% of these Global brands have a presence in Second Life:

"Interbrand takes many ingredients into account when ranking the value of the
Best Global Brands. Even to qualifyfor the list, each brand must derive at least
a third of its earnings outside its home country, be recognizableoutside of its
base of customers, and have publicly available marketing and financial data. "


1. Coca Cola

2. Microsoft

3. IBM

6. Toyota

7. Intel

10. Mercedes-benz

13. BMW

18. Cisco

25. Sony

29. Nike

31. Dell

42. Philips

43. Siemens

44. Nintendo

52. MTV

62. Amazon

69. Adidas

76. Reuters

81. ING

98. Nissan




Missing on this list are apple (33), SAP (34), eBay (48), Accenture (50) and BP (84) though, so it's closer to 25%.



Some, like Coca Cola and SAP only hold a small spot in Second Life, others such as IBM have a multble island presence and others (like eBay and BP) are still under cosntruction.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

MindBlizzard growing

The MindBlizzard blog has been up for just 4 months, but it's growing (too) fast...

Size


This is getting a regular habit I fear. Right now I'm having a hard time publishing to my blog. It's been barely a month ago that I upgraded my hostingaccount from 50 to 100 Mb and DataTraffic limits from 2 Gb/month to 4 Gb per month.



Now, halway through July I'm at 3.2 Gb Data Traffic already and have grown beyond 100Mb.
Maybe I should start considering getting a sponsor as well.



Reputation


To look on the bright side of life: In the past month my technorati rating has rocketed from autority 26 to authority 50, and closing in on the top 100K blogs. Not bad for a 4 month old blog.




Readers


In the past months I've seen various people comment on and link to my blog, such as:


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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tonights Geek Meet Wrap up

Tonight saw another brilliant episode of the Metaversed Geek Meet. With speakers from Ogoglio, Amazon and Cisco.


First to kick off was Trevor Smith of Ogoglio who had a very straightforward story on the open source community in virtual worlds.

  1. 1. Point One: The web is open
    Open source software from the apache project hosts a huge percentage of the web. Open source operating systems run most of the core application level infrastructure like the Google borg and DNS. When facing such cultural, technical, and legal momentum... ...it seems foolish to glom closed spaces onto the side of this huge open web.

  2. Point Two: Basic 3D technologies are no longer black magic.
    When a layer of technology has matured to the point where it is commonly understood the open source community can step in and replace proprietary systems with open ones. This is not a particularly glamorous function,... but it does have the huge benefit of enabling people to try new ideas without reinventing the wheel or taking on funding. For example,...
    the Ogoglio platform is a web server for shared persistent spaces You can host spaces on your laptop, on an inexpensive web account... or scale it up on the Amazon elastic compute cloud. Creative groups can experiment with new ideas without spending a

  3. Point Three: Open source is painfully honest.
    When your checkin comments are in the public record and anyone can fact-check your press release by browsing your code..."

Our second speaker was Jeff Barr from Amazon, known for his enthusiatic commitment to Things to Do and the Amazon build, speaking on Amazon's Elastic Computing Cloud.

"With a virtual environment like Ogoglio hosted on it, you can conceivably spin up a whole bunch of them (hundreds and eventually thousands) to deal with a short-term event like a party or a concert. Or a big company meeting. Maybe it lasts an hour, or a whole weekend. Instead of begging your friends for loaner servers or buying them outright, or paying a by-the-month hosting plan, you use what you need. This seems to be an ideal solution to the very spikey demand that you will see from a virtual world. Mostly low demand, but occasionally very, very high."


Last, but certainly not least was the inspirational Christian Reinoud from Cisco who spoke on the future of Web 3D.

"Wen people invest as much time and energy as we all have into our sims, avatars, etc. we'll want to take them with us at the same time you have companies like Wells and MTV who are concerned about liability and their brand and will opt for more walled/controlled experiences"


This discussion handsomely evolved into a very sharp discussion on various cultures within the metaverse, creating their own identities, just like in Real Life.

The notorious Prokofy Neva was also present and did some seriously sharp questioning of the speakers.
"If you make a uniform protocol for avatars/goods across the frontiers of worlds, won't that introduce the same ill effects of RL globalization, and demolish some unique indigenous cultures and overutilize labour and resources in some areas and underserve others? Im' not certain that cross-world identity porting is quite in demand as you may think."

That surely did leave us time to ponder!

The Geek Meets are becoming a popular event. I got in early as I expected the meet would be maxed out and truly 15 minutes upfront it was hard to squeeze in the speakers. Our host, Nick Wilson from Metaversed is becoming a real facilitator and set up a few things like ustream tv so other people could follow the meet as well.

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