Tuesday, January 26, 2010

LotusSphere 2010: Remix

While I keep working on some notes and editing some pictures on LotusSphere 2010, here's a short under 3 minute recap of the entire event by DJ Steve Porter

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LotusSphere 2010: Connections Next!

The big session we've all been waiting for at LotusSphere 2010 was "Connections Next!" on the upcoming features for Lotus Connections 2.5 and Lotus Connections Next (probably 3.0) presented by IBM's Demo-Queen Suzanne Livingston f.k.a. Minassian.
Big news in this session was that Forums will be extended into a standalone service, and not just a subset of communities. However, what I missed in the presentation was the further integration of Quickr into files, or highly desired additions to the files service and the addition of video libraries to Lotus Connections.

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Profile Background gets seperate tabs for adding education and stuff like that.

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Social Analytics seems to be a keyword for Lotus Connections in 2010. We need metrics!

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To improve building the social network, Lotus Connections will be extended with recommendations; suggested blogs, communities and people based on your own searches and tags.

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LotusSphere 2010: Orlando, we have a problem!

"Orlando, we have a problem" was the title of the funniest session I attended during LotusSphere 2010 on monday Januari 18. Two crazy Scotsmen, but crack lotus admins Paul Mooney and Bill Buchan did a very inspiring session on how small mistakes can lead to huge catastrophes.
(photo Ed Brill)
Paul and Bill discussed 10 worst cases of 'fatal errors' that literally crippled entire companies. How can you send all 18,000 employees on holiday in just one click? Well, it happened! Of course, they did not just share the best jokes in sysadmin land to us, they investigated how these errors were made and presented the lessons learned.

Link to the presentation at Paul Mooney's site.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

LotusSphere 2010: TeamPark the best solution in the market

During the first major keynote with client showcases, one of the case studies was Sogeti's offering of TeamPark which was introduced to the 8,000 + audience by Sogeti CTO Michiel Boreel.

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As said in a previous blogpost, many companies find it hard to put real KPI's on Corporate Social Networking and Michiel also touched this subject; "there is a chance that your managers see social collaboration as a whole new waste of time" but in this day and age you have to push the limits, especially as a global IT company. The world is changing fast and competition heats up. As a company, you need to be agile and close to the market. You need to keep up to speed in terms of the latest developments. That is the reason why Sogeti chose to implement Lotus Connections 2.5 by the end of 2009: It's the challenge to increase the speed of innovation by engaging the talent of your employees.

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Michiel described the for stages of the TeamPark methodology; Awareness, Strategy, Implementation and Live. In many IT projects we do the strategy and the implementation but we do not do the first and last phase: Awareness and bringing the platform to Live. Especially when it comes to corporate social networking, these stages are essential. Else you would have an empty restaurant. And where do people eat? Not in the empty restaurant, but one across the street where it's busy. Now if your company would be like that, your employees would probably eat out in restaurants like Facebook or LinkedIn.

A social environment breaks down into five areas: Socialness, Organicness, Collective Intelligence, Aliveness and Linkedess (it needs to be S.O.CI.A.L.)

According to IBM, Sogeti's TeamPark offering currently is the best in the market when it comes to implementing social software in companies. If you would like to know more about TeamPark, just leave me a message or contact me on twitter (@vjburns), or call your nearest Sogeti Offices off course ;)

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is Social Software?

A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L. But what exactly does it mean?

As of this moment we only have a Dutch version of our book available, so I'll try and write up a few bits and pieces here on the blog.

Social Software

The foundation of Enterprise 2.0 is social software. A TeamPark which has a lot in common with MySpace for instance, but with clear differences.

What should your TeamPark look like? Whatever we think of and eventually build, a core requirement should be that it should be a place where people like to come to, without directions in their function description or receiving notification all day long to let them know something of interest has been added, or changed. A corporate hangout which lets people experience community and mutual interest. Various literary sources call this aliveness, as an important quality of social websites and, as far as we're concerned this pretty much nails it. It is just like in real life, as people are looking out for signs of life to find a place to socialize. Once inside that environment it takes some time to find the talk of the town.

It is not really that difficult to sum up what is necessary to build a social website, more or less. Which means; which are the elements that give a website a social character. A website on which you lookup a telephone number or are reading a text is not really social. In no way you can see what happens or who else is there, what the others think and there are definately no options to collaborate. A social environment does show these signals. As soon as you can see the presence of others, track their activities it suddenly gets a lot more social. It is perceived entirely different, and these signals, or stimuli, create an environment to interact. Which (inter-) actions actually do take place, and the result of these actions in consequence is primarily dependent on the focus the designer puts in the environment. The design of the website is a dominant factor, both the layout as the interaction design, in delivering the right stimuli.

All these stimuli a social environment offers, will stimulate people to engage in conversation, produce content and share ideas.

A conversation is quickly started by allowing users to react to a newsarticle. Different sorts of conversations can be facilitated by various web elements ranging from Instant Messaging to Chatboxes, Shoutboxes and a forum.

If there is a lot of content added to the environment, it will become important to weigh (rate) and filter which will allow content to surface that really has value, is popular, interesting, funny or up to date. With these mechanisms you avoid an information overload and stimulate quality.

As soon as a website starts to get a lot of users, the urge to create subcommunities arises. Each of these will form itself around special interests or themes. In large groups individual ideas are lost in the din and a sense of anonimity grows. A well designed social website stimulates growing optimum sized communities.

Finally, it requires enough mechanisms which truly enable to leverage the talent of the crowd. These are called aggregationmechanisms. Participation and UGC (user generated content) only is not enough.

Translation: Johan Vermij / VeeJay Burns
Original: TeamPark Method, the development of the intelligent organisation Page 13/14 by Arnd Brugman and Patrick Savalle, Sogeti Netherlands.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Virtual Banking (20) Westpac

I've been pretty extensive in blogging banks that immersed themselves into Second Life, but here's one I never noticed; Westpac.

The following article is grom Virtual Worlds News: UPDATED: Australian Bank Westpac Exits Second Life

In November 2007, the Australian bank Westpac had set up shop in Second Life for
internal use. According to a ZDNet article from the time citing then-CTO David Backley, IBM and Westpac had experimented (with positive results)with using the virtual world for centralised onboarding for staff from offices around the country. The National Business Review reports today, though, that the bank has cut the project in
spite of positive feedback. [Update at bottom]

It sounds like the results weren't enough. Backley joked that he's now GM of application development ("Read into that whatever you will") and said that returns weren't strong enough to support the project.

"Failures can become expensive. We do massive systems rollouts and we expect huge paybacks," he told the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney.

I don't point this out to sound the death knell of Second Life as Valleywag has (earning it a link from the National Business Review) or any number of publications. I think it's silly to look at the departure of one project as the tipping point, especially since that one project was likely generating more money for IBM as a technology partner and consultant than Linden Lab through land sales in Second Life.

I think it is worth noting the reaction that companies like Westpac are having. For one, it entered Second Life long before Linden began to seriously refocus the virtual world to serve enterprise customers needs. For another, in the current economic climate everyone, possibly especially banks, is looking to cut costs.

Experimental efforts, which I think is what most organizations label virtual world projects, are attractive because they're a new option to save money, but there's an ever-increasing need to show ROI--and apparently enough of a return that you don't get demoted.

UPDATE: Metaverse Journal was also at the event where Westpac's efforts were discussed and has a much more positive takeaway than the National Business Review: Westpac regarded the effort as a project ahead of its time, but the costs of maintenance and implementation were too high and a key sponsor left the company, stalling momentum. The new insight here is less about corporate reactions to Second Life and more about the media's: fyi, there's still some bias against it.

To learn how to successfully take advantage of virtual worlds for business, come to the 3D Training, Learning and Collaboration conference taking place April 20-21, 2009, in Washington, DC.

Related Articles:

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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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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Linden Lab writes out 10K innovation contest

Linden Lab are offering $10K for projects that improve real life through virtual world.

Linden Lab, the company that runs Second Life, just announced that they are launching a $10,000 (USD) "Linden Prize" for "an innovative inworld project that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world." The criteria include:

  • Work in Second Life that also achieves tangible, compelling results outside of Second Life.
  • Distinctive, original work using Second Life that clearly demonstrates high quality, execution, function, aesthetics and technical sophistication.
  • Work that has the capacity for inspiring and influencing future development, knowledge, creativity, and collaboration both inside and outside of Second Life.

The price money offered is a substantial increase from previous initiatives (which in my opinion have been nothing but shameless crowdmining projects), including USC's "Public Good" challenge that offered $1,200 to three winning projects and the Foundation for Rich Content which has been providing small grants of $80 for projects that enhance Second Life in some way.

However, with 10K in the offering, I doubt it will be enough to attract larger real life businesses to compete and in the passing make a difference. For individual entrepeneurs and Metaverse evangelists, this might be a daring opportunity though.

Entries for this innovation contest are due January 19. See the Linden Prize site for further details.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Plaxo looking for the People Layer

A few weeks ago I made a few remarks about the new fanpages on plaxo (currently in beta) on twitter, which got picked up by John McCrea, head of Marketing at Plaxo. About the same time I blogged Yahoo's oneConnect in which I wondered what the differences were with services like Plaxo.
In my book, Plaxo didn't have the best of starts, as it carried the smell of Napster. Way back in 2004 David Coursey wrote a (2nd) article on Plaxo, titled "Plaxo Reconsidered" at eWeek.com.

The big issue was that one of Plaxos co-founders, now departed, was also a co-founder of Napster. That company, of course, was basically about enabling people to steal other peoples intellectual property. My own opinion is that some Napster people should have ended up in jail. After the Napster meltdown, Plaxo was positioned as the "next big thing" for this ex-Napster exec. That publicity helped Plaxo raise $20 million in venture money and gave the new company more credibility than it would otherwise have had.

I don't want to get into the Napster story here, and just concentrate on Plaxo. I think the Napster background serves well in positioning the founders as being early experts in networking and understanding the power of virals. What I wonder though is, what were the initial thoughts on Plaxo? What was it that the founders envisioned. What was Plaxo supposed to do, or grow into? And what's still standing of that original conception?

Although I was not there at the time (as I joined in 2006), the original concept was to help people stay connected by leveraging the power of a networked address book. But not just another online address book, one that synced with the various tools you used, like Microsoft Outlook or the Mac address book. The vision is still pretty much the same, but the challenges of staying connected have expanded in a world of many different social apps. That’s what gave rise to Pulse, the first social web aggregator, which brings your address book to life, with feeds from your connections from all over the Web. What’s interesting to note is that the original “grand vision” observed that the Internet was missing a “people layer.” Now, as web itself is going social, and the Social Web is going open, that grand vision is looking smarter with each passing month, as we help a new “Open Stack” of OpenID, OAuth, XRDS-Simple, Portable Contacts, and OpenSocial come together to enable exactly that.

Another quote from the Coursey article:

Given that I consider Napster money and influence to be tainted, I was immediately concerned about Plaxo, especially when I couldnt imagine how they could turn the company into a huge moneymaker without doing something shady.

There were other things Plaxo did, such as keeping track of how many information requests Id received and using the number in e-mails to try to convince me to sign-up. That seemed a bit like stalking and, along with a few comments and rumors Id heard about the company, only intensified my concern.

His initial hesitation against Plaxo is one I share, but this wasn't untill sometime early 2007, when I started receiving tons of invites untill finally almost everyone in my company was using Plaxo, so I signed up also. I reckon many people have felt that initial hesitation. Did it affect the way you did business in any way, did it temper your expectations for the platform? When most invites at that time were generated by my professional network, I assumed Plaxo would take on the competition with LinkedIn for instance, being a profiling site plus extra features to lifelog. When looking at the current profiling options, it looks like it's somewhere in between LinkedIn and Facebook. Was Plaxo aimed at professionals to take on the competition with LinkedIn?

Plaxo has always had a broader vision than simply “business networking.” We are keenly focused on providing a better way to stay connected with the people you know and care about, rather than being a service that is for “networking” or connecting with people you don’t know.

The latest addition to Plaxo are the fanpages in which you can sign up as fan of a tv series. Right now this feature is only available to US residents. Are there any plans to go beyond GEO blocking and make this feature available worldwide?

The geographic restrictions are not Plaxo-specific, but rather come from the content sources. You’ll note that everyone in the space is dealing with the same issue.
[to work around geoblocking read this blogpost on hotspot shield]
Considering this latest addition, is Plaxo moving away from say LinkedIn and moving closer to Facebook, from business oriented to more social oriented?

We aren’t moving toward or away from either company. We are continuing to move further down the path that we started upon back in 2002.

From the Coursey article again:

Plaxos current mission is to reach 10 million users and $10 million in annual revenue as quickly as possible. Right now they are at more than 3 million users and essentially zero revenue. The Plaxo execs asked that I not pre-announce their forthcoming products, but they discussed them in enough detail that I have great confidence that Plaxo wont abuse its customers. A key part of their plan is finding other services that Plaxo customers would be willing to pay for. There is no plan to discontinue the free service, only to add revenue-producing products to the offering.

Well, I figure you've more than doubled the 10m users now, but where are we with revenues? This previous quote, as well as the first one about the 20m VC gets me thinking about the Business Case behind Plaxo. I've discussed this with colleagues of mine. Maybe it's because we're Dutch, but we just can't see where the money is to be made. Signing up is free, there are hardly any adds and datatraffic streaming all the lifestreams must be huge. Where's the return on investment for Plaxo?

The return on investment for the investors in Plaxo came earlier this year when the company was acquired by Comcast. Our current business model is a combination of Premium services and advertising.

What can you tell about new features for Plaxo? What are must haves for you?

As you may have noticed, Plaxo shows up in the majority of news announcements around opening up the Social Web. Plaxo is today one of the largest and most prominent OpenID Relying Parties (sites that accept OpenID). With Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, and MySpace really heating up the OpenID space working on a great end-to-end OpenID user experience is an area of critical focus. And that’s really all about getting not just the sign-on piece right, but leveraging the whole Open Stack to make onboarding to a new site as frictionless, secure, and useful as possible.

I'd like to think I've got a pretty big digital footprint and participate in dozens of social networks and platforms. Initially I thought that Plaxo had a number of advantages. One was that it gave you more flexibility in managing groups than LinkedIn and you that with the new Pulse you could plug into tons of services. However, when I look at my own usage of Plaxo, I just plug in and let it stream, and it's what I see happening with dozens of colleagues. We sign up, use it for contacts, but that's it. In a way, Plaxo is converging channels into one stream, just like most sociall apps right now. This is, I believe the design flaw in the current web 2.0 landscape.In the past year I've thought a great deal about web 2.0 and how we deal with it, how we use it. We spread our names all over the web, signing up everywhere and leaving parts of ourselves all over. The major issues we have to deal with -in my opinion - are privacy and identity management which need to be elevated from a classical corporate solution to be web 2.0 ready. At plaxo, you've got millions of users putting private information into your databases. How do you deal with this? Where do you see Privacy going in this changing information age?

As you can imagine, privacy, security, and trust are critical to the success of our service. We have one of the strongest privacy policy’s in the industry. And we are focused on giving users fine-grained control of what they share with whom. Hence, not every relationship is forced under the term “friend”. When you give people a choice of family, friend, business, it unlocks a lot of sharing that would not be possible otherwise.

As LinkedIn now is gearing up with adding more collaborative tools, it will be pretty interesting to see what the competition will bring us, users and if the world is big enough for multiple players in the market. To be honest, I have spent more time and energy on my LinkedIn profile than I did with my Plaxo account, and although lately I'm starting to favor Plaxo a bit more, I think it's just not good enough yet to relocate my digital self. Both Plaxo and LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and oneConnect still have too many design flaws in common where it comes to Identity Management for me. At this time, they're players in the same yard to me, with each addition the scales might be tilting slightly, but I don't predict a big landslide here in the near future.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Intel and Qwaq team up to crack the Virtual Workspace

Ever since the plans were on the drawing table 3-D based collaboration software developer Qwaq has kept its eye on the price: The virtual workspace for the enterprise. It resulted in an environment where focus didn't go out to slick avatars, but towards integration of office applications.

Earlier this week Qwaq made a joint announcement with Intel according to which Miramar, a 3-D information space technology originally developed by Intel Corporation's research labs, will be brought to market by Qwaq, which reminds me somewhat of the joint collaboration of IBM and Linden Lab. It shows that the major players on the technology market understand the potential of 3D environments, have been working on it themselves for years, but failed to crunch the 3D-ness and need to team up with new emerging specialist companies, which in their turn could use a big partner to crack open closely sealed corporate IT doors.

First Intel is/will be using the Qwaq technology internally to improve their teamwork, an act which they apparently didn't get together in Second Life, where they also have a strong presence. It will enable information, which is now only available to individual departments or divisions, to be easily accessed and shared across the enterprise, in dynamic unified views.

Secondly, Qwaq and Intel plan to work together to integrate Miramar technology into a new cross-platform edition of Qwaq Forums, which is expected be available next year. As for Miramar’s backgrounder, the software with immersive 3D and 2D components was originally developed by Intel Architecture Labs aimed at increasing the productivity of distributed enterprises by enabling new information visualization capabilities across distributed teams.

A very thorough article on the collaboration was posted online yesterday at the TechRadar magazine and originally featured in PC Plus issue 274. Here's the introduction

Working in a virtual world

Leave your car - and yourself - at home. Here's a virtual office
you can actually work in.

The use of virtual worlds and genuine 3D interfaces for anything other than fun and frolics has been a long time coming.

Granted, virtual worlds such as Second Life get an awful lot of media coverage, but until recently they remained a niche activity, even among the gaming community.

However, thanks to years of research by Intel and a collaborative effort with a specialist company known as Qwaq, 3D visual metaphors in general and virtual worlds in particular are becoming the latest business productivity tools, used for all kinds of collaborative work, from conferences and training sessions to work groups and project management.

The story of Intel's involvement in 3D interface and collaboration technology is actually rather convoluted. To make sense of it all, PC Plus met up with Intel's Cindy Pickering at the recent IDF conference in San Francisco. According to Pickering, it all started in the late 1990s with a project known as Miramar in which Intel Architecture Labs was investigating the use of 3D metaphors as alternatives to conventional, fl at 2D workspaces.

3D Multitasking

The research began by observing how client PC users coped with complex multitasking and then studying the effects of adding a third dimension to the user interface. "Going back and forth between lots of windows introduces a lot of task overhead. Having that third dimension allows you to put things aside in a different way that means they're still visually available, but without dominating the virtual workspace," Pickering explains.

Read the full article here.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cranial Tap opens virtual business showcase

I'm not sure if I or Aleister Kronos noticed the presence of Cranial Tap last year, but they've been around a while. The first time I ran into them was with the Things To Do group (Good old days) when we visited the Cyberextruder in June 2007. Another one of their projects has been 1-800 Flowers, blogged at KZero. These were pretty cool projects and when I received a press statement today, I didn't have to take long before putting it up. Here's the introduction.

Cranial Tap, Inc. today launched a business solutions showcase geared specifically towards 3D online virtual worlds. Located on Cortex Island in Second Life®, businesses and organizations can now connect remote teams, conduct
research, offer training, recruit candidates and conduct meetings. These solutions are aimed at increasing productivity while reducing operating expenses.

The four showcase areas provide working technologies that demonstrate the benefits of Teleworking, Virtual Meetings, Training and Presentations. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the featured solutions. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by Tia, a computer driven character (bot) that provides information related to Cranial Tap and their services. She serves as an example of an automated character that can be used in place of human hosts.

Read the full press release here.

Folks over at Cranial Tap are doing pretty slick things at the moment. Go check out their website and visit their showcase in Second Life:

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cortex/27/231/5

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wipro Innovation = Redundancy?

Today's last expedition led me to te Wipro Innovation Isle (I guess it they'd love to abbreviate it to Wii - but that one's already taken in SL). For people working in the IT Services a well known name as it is one of India's giants when it comes to IT services.

"Wipro Tech is an information technology service company established in India in 1980. It is the global IT services arm of Wipro Limited (in operation since 1945, incorporated 1946). It is headquartered in Bangalore and is the third largest IT services company in India. It has more than 79,832 employees as of December 2007, including its business process outsourcing (BPO) arm which it acquired in 2002. Wipro Technologies has over 300 customers across U.S., Europe and Japan including 50 of the Fortune 500 companies." (Wikipedia)

Near the end of 2007 there were speculations of Wipro Technologies considering to take over Capgemini and thus Sogeti as well, but in the end it was a no show. The corporate website puts focus on 'applied innovation';

"At Wipro we have fine-tuned the science of viewing innovation through the lens of practicality to design unique solutions for end customers. Applied Innovation is the ability to infuse newer ideas and newer ways of doing things into all parts of the organization, and improve business outcomes, often without major disruptive change. It is a 360-degree business approach covering process, delivery, business and technology Innovations that help Wipro to work
collaboratively with clients for cost take-outs, speed to market and new business opportunities."

It is this theme that is the starting point for the Wipro presence in Second Life, which looks to be in the first stage of the experiment. It is a 3 sim cluster, of which only one is fully build, one only holding an expo stand and an empty sim.

Applied Innovation is the ability to infuse newer ideas and newer ways of doing things into all parts of the organization, and I can well imagine this applies to their Second Life expedition as well. I do believe we have to bring Virtual Worlds (newer ways) beyond the average marketing department (i.e. into all parts of the organization). The question remains how to do this.

Let's see if Wipro can bring the answer. The sim is filled with an assorted array of buildings, with two larger builds standing out. The first of these is the 'Learning Center' and is shaped a little like the Sydney Opera (not really, buyt you can see which building I'm referring to).

Please reread the lines on the triple sim: "One build, one half build, one empty." This is pretty much the case with the Learning Center as well. It holds two auditoria, and right outside there's an amphitheater. Also, at the second level it has several empty officerooms.

Further onto the campus we see various buildings, like a 'Client Engagement' building, a library and a datacenter each filled with several workstations / cubicles.

Finally I arrived at the second large building, a four storey square concrete office block which looked a little cramped when I walked into the hall and up the staircase. It made me wonder how much of the build is actually shaped like their real life offices... This building is labelled 'Offshore Development Center' and that is what interests me, what would bring innovation to the virtual workspace.

I was a little disappointed though when there were more rooms with workstations, and more and more. But no show. One of the great benefits I see for Virtual Worlds is what they potentially can do for the offshoring industry, as offshoring projects often require a lot of attention; extra management, extra communication, extra code checking etcetera and in the virtual workspace where you can collaborate while both in offshore and rightshore location would greatly aid this process.

Yet I'm fully aware of the limitations Second Life has in this regard. There's no real integration with development suites or management tools. Then there's always the issue of security. I can't really blame Wipro for not finding the solution for Second Life, but I had hoped for more info, more ideas.

The last redundancy in the sim was when I moved from the cantine inside the ODC to 'the Glacier', a cafe on the campus.

As for the build itself, I find it of average quality. It is a melee of textures (a lot of default SL texturing) and styles. As I said, I'm under the impression that part of it is based upon real life buildings, so maybe they had to work with what they had. Otherwise, I'd say the triple auditorium, the cramped staircases etcetera don't really utilise the 3D-ness of a virtual environment.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Wipro%20Innovation%20Isle/109/225/23

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Life 2.0 in Wonderland

One of the prime Technology events is Dr. Dobbs Life 2.0 Conference. Today saw a series of talks in Second Life as well. Unfortunately I didn't have time to drop in. The good thing was that I was kept up to date through the Metanomics group IM on today's keynote;


9:00 AM PDT - 10:00 AM PDTKEYNOTE:
Project Wonderland - 3D Toolkit for Building Virtual Worlds. Nicole Yankelovich, Principal Investigator, Collaborative Environments Project, Sun Microsystems Laboratories

Project Wonderland is an open source toolkit for building 3D virtual worlds for business and education collaboration. Within a Wonderland virtual! world, p s, interact with team members, and have chance encounters with colleagues, all using natural voice interaction. Most importantly, real work can be accomplished with Wonderland's support of X and Java applications as well as innovative telephone integration. With application sharing as the default, people can create, edit, and share documents within the virtual world.

Wonderland is built on top of the Project Darkstar game server platform, which provides enterprise-grade scalability, reliability, and flexible integration with other enterprise systems.


Surprisingly enough, synchronisity strikes again. Thursday I have to give a presentation on collaboration and project management in Virtual Worlds, and one of the options I will discuss is the Wonderland project as it is one of the most advanced platforms when it comes to collaboration at this point in time, I think.

Perhaps we have to clarify a bit on the names used, as it sometimes causes some confusion.

  • Darkstar: (also referred to as project ~) The game server platform which is the foundation of the technology
  • Wonderland: (or project ~) The open source virtual world produced by Sun, which is built on top of the Darkstar platform.
  • MPK20: The wonderland version Sun uses as its own private development VW.

Some bits and pieces on Darkstar / Wonderland from the speech:

Darkstar permits users to participate in one space without sharding. In addition to Darkstar they use jVoiceBridge for audio. It also permits interacting with telephone systems. They are also trying to get their artwork to be open source or CCL. Part of Wonderland includes collaboration capability that can be extended to enterprise software.It can interact with business data. Darkstar also scales down...an instance with 2-3 users can run on a laptop

There are external worlds live today: and some coming up fairly soon. They have tested some already. Small wonder; Wonderland is not planned to interact with SL... However, except maybe in the interoperability space (transportable avatars, etc.) and they will cooperate as much as possible.

For a complete schedule of the Dr. Dobbs Life 2.0 conference in Second Life click here.
More info on the Wonderland click here.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

New HOAP for Second Life

I had lost a little faith in Second Life, but there's new hope coming about when it comes to Second Life being a serious tool for business: Html-On-A-Prim.

Gwynneth Llewelyn wrote an excellent article on this new feature and its implications, here's a short extract:

"A few months ago - not many in terms of “real life”
hours, but an eternity in Second Life® - a brief discussion with Linden Lab exposed the rumour that they were planning to integrate an HTML browser inside the Second Life application client. This is not a revolutionary breakthrough - things like ActiveWorlds or OpenCroquet have done it ages ago, and the world did not shatter and end at that time.

Some eager residents of SL were happy about the idea. At the very least, you would be able to exchange notecards with “rich text”. Perhaps even have a way to browse a bit while in-world - no more need to open up your browser to check the Help pages, do some forum posting, or even insert events directly from in-world.

On a second stage (according to Linden Lab®), HTML may be directly drawn on top of a prim face. This would mean, for starters, a way to get outside information on top of a 3D world. Older platforms already allow for this usage of HTML. Things like proper text management on top of a prim are finally possible - books, slide-show presenters, coreboards, even clothes vendors, will be able to get away with textures for writing text, and use HTML-rendered text instead.

The third stage is full integration. Prims with HTML pages (and LL is still thinking on how this will happen) will be point-and-click browseable. Neither we nor Linden Lab have yet figured out how exactly this will be implemented..."

HTML on a Prim boosts options for virtual workspace

Although the features at this time are pretty basic, it has brought Second Life back into focus for me as a possible platform for serious collaboration. My frustration with SL was mainly caused by lack of real collaboration possibilities.

What it all boils down to is that you rez a prim and put a webpage on it. Now you can look at a webpage with others. Nothing spectacular, but it gets more serious when you can look at secure webpages. I've done some tests with a colleague displaying secure content. Through the built-in media browser you can access and log into secure sites, then use the option to 'send current URL to parcel' and it will display set itself at the parcel media URL and display at the screen. Your fellow observer won't see the webpage unless he's logged in as well. Today we started working through some of our project tools (like JIRA) in which we can monitor our projects.

It works. We could both look at 'classified content' and discuss the status of a project, manage service calls and have a look at the time budgets for the project at hand. At the end there was one question nagging me: Security? Anyone?

The thing is, Second Life doesn't have the reputation of being a safe and sound business environment (remember ABN is partly moving to Active Worlds because they need a secure environment). What happens with my username and password when I enter this info in the built in browser?

A Quick HOWTO:

Maybe it's me, but it took me some time to fiddle out how it worked. And because there's a little bug (it can crash your sim) I thought I'd do you the favour of a quick 'howto'.

The feature only works with the new Release Candidate 1.19.1 client (March 6th) and there are a few new features that are obvious - such as the extra media tab next to the talk settings - and some little settings to tweak in the 'Preferences' bit.

The basic element for displaying web content is in the estate management settings, the 'About Land' configuration where you have the option to set the media url for the parcel. The downside is that you can only set one URL per parcel. Remember to select the texture that will be used on the prims to display the content as well. If you're working behind a firewall or proxy, you now have the option to set proxy stuff as well in the preferences bit (pic right)

Then build the prim, select the desired texture (in this case the new *default media texture) corresponding with the texture set at the media options in the previous step. Then go to the general tab and select prim properties. Where you used to have buy, open and sit options, there are now two extra's: Open Media Content and Play Media Content.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Siemens Solid Edge to enhance Second Life 3D design

PLANO, Texas, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Siemens PLM Software, a business unit of Siemens Industry Automation Division and a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today announced a new interactive tool that enables users to create their own 3-D Razor Scooter in Second Life. The tool is easy to use like Siemens PLM Software's Solid Edge(R) software and meant to expose Second Life residents to the possibilities of CAD software.

In the real world, Siemens PLM Software hosts "test drive" Solid Edgeseminars to illustrate how easy the software is to use. Solid Edge is apowerful hybrid 2D/3D design system and a core component of the VelocitySeries(TM) portfolio.

In the virtual world, the new interactive tool provides companies a glimpse into the use of 3-D modeling software inproduct development. A transparent screen guides Second Life residents to click through a range of selections to create a custom-built scooter in less than a minute. "

In our industry it's important to be able to vet out design ideas as quickly as possible," says Bob Hadley, product development manager, Razor(R). "In the real-world, with Solid Edge, we're able to introduce at least two or three times as many new products each year as we could previously. To compete in our industry, that's essential. Siemens PLMSoftware is taking this to the next level by integrating real-world design experiences in virtual worlds."

According to a recent report, "Getting Real Work Done In Virtual Worlds," Forrester Research, Inc., Jan. 7, 2008, "Virtual worlds like Second Life ... are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools ... " Thereport notes that virtual worlds have advantages over other approaches to communication and collaboration. One example is "they allow people to work with and share digital 3-D models of physical or theoretical objects. Many disciplines rely on 3-D models and designs: Surgeons, architects, engineers, and product designers all use CAD models or sophisticated visualization systems to explore and create complex real-world objects ...You can release near-final designs to a limited external group of users and solicit feedback before starting fabrication." The report predicts that within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today.

"This new tool is a great example of how companies can use some of the unique characteristics of the Second Life platform to create interactive experiences for their products," said Chris Kelley, vice president, Platforms and Partners, Siemens PLM Software. "Our goal in Second Life continues to be to find new ways to collaborate with our customers and partners in an effort to provide a more immersive way to experience our software. The user experience in Second Life is based upon our successful Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events where you learn first-hand how easy it is to use Solid Edge compared to competitive products."

In the real world, Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive events guide users through key stages of 3D design: part modeling, sheet metal, assembly creation, drafting and documentation, plus analysis and full motion simulation.

To reach the Siemens Innovation Connection on Second Life, visit http://www.siemens.com/plm/secondlife.

To attend a real-world Solid Edge Dare to Compare Test Drive, visit http://www.siemens.com/plm/daretocompare.

Source: PRNewsWire

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Widgetting at Google SL

Real life has been very busy in the past weeks. Holidays, and now a busy project and trying to redecorate the house in the evening hours have kept me away from blogging. It shows though. Sad to say my ratings dropped drastically.

Before I went to work this morning I noticed a blogpost over at KZero's; Google Island now open to the public….but not for long which drew my attention. I jumped in and took a look and a load of snapshots before I went to work. Now I just washed off the plaster from my hands and am picking pieces of stucco from my hair and sat down to blog this build.

Here's Nic Mitham's (KZero) pick:

"Built by the Vesuvius Group for Google as part of their Zeitgeist bi-annual event, Google Island opened for the public today. The island has been up since October, just for some Google employees and attendees of Zeitgeist.

The island was actually spotted by a few people several weeks ago, some assuming it was an unofficial build. Well, the mystery has now been revealed.

The venue is based on the real world Google campus and focusses heavily on interaction and socialising. Various Google products and apps such as Earth, Checkout and Analytics are on show - visualised where appropriate. Speaking to the guys from Vesuvius Group, the island has been sold already and is coming down tomorrow. So, here’s some images and the SLurl if you’re quick."

In itself the build does raise a couple of questions, which probably makes it the pick of the day for a lot of bloggers. As Nic said, the build is based on the Real Life Google Campus, but the official reading that it has been intended for internal use only doesn't fit the build. It's got a promo feel all over it, or as Aleister Kronos puts it:

The one thing I found strange about this build is: Why furnish it with all manner of models and links to existing Google products when the sole users of the island are Google employees - who should know all of this already? Indeed , time has been spent constructing working models of some of these - such as Sketchup and Checkout.

Perhaps the answer is a simple and prosaic: "because they could."

Maybe the answer is just as simple and prosaic, but there's more to this build. First, let's take a look on the Google campus, if the sim isn't down yet, grab yourself a Segway to move around

The central plaza has the typically Google-colored tables and is lined with several event pavillions, each with a different theme such as 'collaboration' or 'networking'.

Perhaps the most interesting part on the plaza is the Google Garage which shows the first signs of serious Widgeting with links to Google Analytics. Inside the main buildings it gets more interesting though:

In one of the halls you'll find a number of celebrity photographs with links to bio's and the option to message these people. Another room shows a cartographers table with a Google Maps interface, further on you'll pass file cabinets with links to Google Docs and a counter representing Google's new Checkout.

Of course, Sketchup is a must for the SL community, to prove it works as good as any other 3D designer and finally Google Earth rounds off Google's widgetting in Second Life.

Like Aleister said, it might be just a thing for Google to prove it can interface like this with Second Life and that this build served no other reason than to offer a place for the Google employees for the Zeitgeist celebrations but I personally find this build very attractive. Not because it's a high quality build though.

The most attractive point in this venue is the widgeting. Probably unintentionally, I think Google did the SL community a service: Many people and companies do not deem Second Life fit for business. One of the reasons is it is too open and too less secure an environment to do serious business.

However in interfacing with Google Maps and Google Earth (as a Paraverse) it opens up opportunities for integration with GIS data (geospatial information system), i.e. integration with Real Time Real World data it puts Second Life forward as a serious option in disaster training (like play2train) or as base for a virtual control center (see Ugotrade).

On the fun part, you could start using GIS information (e.g. Traffic Information) to simulate traffic in Real Life Cities in Second Life, or use Damanicorp's Weather Station to let your sim use actual weather data.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Google%20Island/128/128/0 (as long as it lasts).

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Virtual Banking (13): BCV

Sharp readers will have noticed I skipped no. 12 in the series of Virtual banking. No. 11 in the series was Crédit Agricole and no. 12 is Cofidis, as French banker and insurance company. That blog was titled "Have a little Cofidis" due to the Tour de France debacle.

Bank number 13 is a Swiss bank, called the BCV (Banque Cantonale Vaudoise). Here's their profile from their website:

"BCV was founded over 160 years ago to serve the people of Vaud, and we have kept our strong community focus to this day. We offer a full range of services, including retail banking, corporate banking, private banking and asset management.In addition we engage in BCV has trading activities in various financial markets. "

The island is quite craftly landscaped, stepping away from the 'normal photorealistic' trees and stuff, but doesn't hold much more than BVC's virtual Headquarters, but for a venue dating back to 7 februari 2007 it's part of the early bankers in Second Life.

In a second stage - a second Island - they've must have started looking for deeper involvement with the Second Life community and opened up BCV island 2. On this sim you'll find different venues, maybe from partners, or maybe collaborative builds but of lesser quality and inspiration than the main venue.

In a past life I used to do some webdesign and one of the deadliest sins in the business was - and still is - putting a visitor counter on a professional website. On BCV island 2 there is one ! It's on a building which counted me as visitor no. 63 since june 17.

(Okay, it's nice if you're called Esmee Denters and get 0ver 40 million views on youTube, but it's a bummer when you're a big corporate name and get only a few visitors).

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/BCV%20Island/156/121/60

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Virtual Banking (11): Crédit Agricole

There's another bank in Second Life, after BNP Paribas the second French Bank in SL is Credit Agricole. I've never heard from them other than that they're sponsoring one of the Tour de France teams, but that's about it.

Here's a little Wiki-knowledge on them:

"Crédit Agricole SA (CASA) (Euronext: ACA) is the largest banking group in France, second largest in Europe and the sixth largest in the world by Tier 1 capital according to The Banker magazine. It is also part of the CAC 40 stock market index.

Crédit Agricole SA is a semi co-operative bank, being majority owned by 41 French Caisses Régionales de Crédit Agricole Mutuel. Its subsidiaries are:

  • Calyon, the investment banking division of Crédit Agricole.
  • Calyon Financial, global futures and options brokerage serving institutional investors.
  • LSA, the Asian securities brokerage division.
  • Predica and Pacifica, the insurance divisions
  • LCL (Previously Crédit Lyonnais), the nationwide retail banking network, acquired in 2003.

Okay, enough of the promo. We understand they're pretty big in Real Life. But I'm not sure they're big in SL yet. Their focus, like ING, is not on banking in this virtual world, or establishing a presence but on collaboration, mutualism as one of their hosts, Caliel Writer told me.

The Institute for Mutualism (have to watch typos here or it'll get mutilated) also exists in the Real World, though this isn't a replica.

Other parts of the sim are the boat, which is a part of history, space to set up future franchises and a piece of nature "where we can relax and which we should save and cherish" according to Caliel.

I'm by far too exited on getting out some new info on Rezzable, so I'll keep this short. I have to, since I logged out of SL so fast I forgot to save my transcript of the conversation with the kind Caliel. For more info, read Ambling in Second Life's Credit to Crédit Agricole.

One last remark though that should be mentioned. Right now everything is in French, but they're working on getting out the info in English as well.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/CREDIT%20AGRICOLE/119/150/23

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Eco Savvy Eolus

Although I was stressed because of my doubledate (which later evolved into a triple and even quadruple date), tonight's main venue was the sneak preview of Eolus One.

The best way of introducing Eolus is by quoting another excellent Ugotrade post:
"I met Eolus McMillan from Implenia on Second Life yesterday. And, I heard the extraordinary story of how creative minds from different backgrounds, IBM, SAP, Wago, Zumtobel and Implenia amongst others, have come together to make a major leap towards 3D internet. The fruits of this collaboration will be unveiled on July 6th, on Second Life. The picture above shows a birds eye view of EOLUS One on Second Life.

The most important aspect of this breakthrough is the EOLUS focus on Real Life and Second Life interactions that serve to make a better world - addressing many aspects from CO2 Reduction, Energy Management, Health, to Education, Collaboration , Networking, and more."

After this excellent blog, the story was quickly picked up by Nick Wilson of Metaversed who quickly arranged a podcast interview to give us a lowdown, followed up by today's Things to Do outing.

Our host was Eolus McMillan, or Oliver Goh gave us the grand tour of the site, which started at the museum:

"Here you can see the story of how we came up with the idea of Eolus One. It basically started one evening at a European computer exhibition. Ansi and myself met there. She had a booth at the IBM stand showing digital divergence and I was there for the energy management part.

We met one evening and found that we had a common vision to merge the projects and we sketeched out a plan on a napkin, you can see it in the corner. The idea was to bring partners from cross industries together to form a think tank."

Well, on the pics below, you can see that it worked out, there are many well known names participating in this project.

"In this building we have many aspects of every day life that we cover shopping on the first floor an exhibtion/ innovation area in the second offices in the thirs together with residential and an executive floor. Behind me you see a model of a house (still in the museum), a house that I live in in RL. The house can be fully controlled from SL"

When we came to the control room, Oliver showed us what he meant by controlling his house from Second Life.

"What you see here it the control center of Eolus One. It is actually tied to a number of rl buildings. The idea here is to show how companies can improve Facilities management services
to make the processes more efficient and improve the failure rate.

I will be able to show you the technical parts when the exhibtion opens (which should be open by the time this blog is done). The system is linked in to ERP2005 (SAP) and the whole maintenance process is shown here. You can monitor the hvac systems, change schedules, programm the building automation system and so on. The idea of the control room is that it knows the identiy of the avatar and represents the data in the context of this person. So for example if a finance person sits here he would receive other info on the screens as a technical person"

We're closing in on 7-7-7, Earth Day and Eolus is one more climate savvy project trying Second Life as stage. Yesterday I blogged on the Spanish getting climate savvy in SL as well, and today Philips was giving out energy low lamps.

However, Eolus does hold some extraordinaire potential in making real and virtual worlds interact. This is a show to watch!

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/EOLUS/128/128/0

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Robert Jordan contest

Robert Jordan, author of the legendary the Wheel of Time series has set up a competition for the 2009 calendar, announced on the Dragonmount blog. The money raised by the calendar sales will go to benefit Amyloidosis Research at the Mayo Clinic where Robert Jordan is receiving his treatment from.

In Second Life a group named 'Wheel of Time Fans' has been around for a while now, and me being a total tWoT fan am a member of this group. It seemed like a good thing to get the group together to build an entry for this contest in collaboration.

Several group members have already signed up to participate .

IM VeeJay Burns for more information.

Looking for sponsors:

The group is looking for a piece of land where we can set up a build.

Here's a few more pics of what The Wheel of Time could look like in Second Life.
A'Lan Mandragoran and the Malkieri banner

a Whitecloack

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Downsizing Big Blue

The Register reports that IBM could lay off upto 100,000 employees of it's total of about 350,000 and that this weeks 1300 is just a start. The mass lay off project is codenamed LEAN -which gives me the idea they'll try to run it LEAN and MEAN.

The question is, will they drop the masses, or are they going to outsource? A complete 100K lay off would give rise to speculations, perhaps even riots. Outsourcing, or transferring the labor to cheap labor countries (offshoring) seems a more likely scenario. IBM has been investing big time in Second Life collaboration research, having a very strong presence. Are these collabs so successful that they trust Virtual Worlds as their bridge to offshoring?

Anyway, Big Blue isn't getting leaner in Second Life, as on thursday, May 10th, will see the opening of a new IBM sim. This time it's the BeNeLux R&D

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cisco Community Center

Triggered by one of the things I read earlier today about Cisco, I decided to go in for a look.
Cisco has got 4 islands, actually I should say sims. The sims are a terraformed like a cluster of smaller islands with gazebo's and nice bridges crossing the waters
Cisco's really getting into community, also giving some room for their partners if you're able to read the signs below. Trust me, there's a lot of different areas, no real events or fun thingies, but plain old community building and collaboration.
I like the build, the general setup of different islands, quite open but with a sense of privateness. The architecture is a little simple though.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NGI opens up

April 26th will be the opening of the "Isle of NGI". The NGI is a dutch organisation for IT-professionals and will be hosting a series of events in Second Life.

The NGI sim is meant as a meeting place for IT professionals for knowledge exchange and collaboration. As far as I could tell the sim is build from several prefab offices.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Third Life Foundation

The Third Life Foundation is a group dedicated to the exploration and development of synergies between RL and SL, with an eye to supporting experiences that help people come to a deep appreciation of their interrelatedness with each other and nature.

That's a nice promotional text, isn't it, but what does it mean? Where is the interrelatedness?

When flying around I saw some idyllic spots on the island, some spiritual ones, but the centerpoint of attention is a whole jumble about Arthur M. Young's Proces Theory.

Teamwork and Collaboration projects are certainly processes that could be carried by Second Life as a medium, but I didn't gain much new insights here. I hope one of the members can shed some light.

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