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.
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.
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 ;)
The first big keynote session after the OGS (Opening General Session) was KEY106: Social Collaboration delivers Real Business Value in which Jeff Schick asked: What is your companies collaboration culture? Is it phone? Is it email?
What do you think will get you the best response? Is that dropping an email bomb on your employees or a dynamic search of a live site? Not surprisingly we are still in the proces of justifying corporate social software. We need metrics to convince our managers.
A number of partners and clients came on stage to showcase how collaboration has helped their business grow. First of all, Saleem Avan, Head of IT at the United Nations showed us how collaboration helps them to be agile and creative in harsh situations.
Other client showcases included Thomas Anger, manager Collaboration Services at Sun Life Financial (and guess what his blog is called: Anger Management. That drew a few laughs), Sogeti CTO Michiel Boreel (which I'll get into later), Travis Hall - Director of Client Engineering at Union Pacific and Eve McLain from ACI which deliver payment processing solutions
KEY106 Social Collaboration Delivers Real Business Value at Collaboration Matters.
Well, we had Shatner and the Social Enterprise for starters and now we have Vulcans. Where is this all heading to?
Project Vulcan was announced by IBM at LotusSphere 2010 as the IBM vision on the Future of Collaboration, and not yet the near future, but Vulcan kicks off a preliminary roadmap towards 2020.
The project is not about new IBM products but about making IBM products integrate more seamlessly and expanding their functionality. Key elements in the future development will be social analysis and business analysis. This seems to be a hot topic in Corporate Social Networking as many companies find it hard to put meaningfull metrics to Social Networking: Can it really improve my business?
Instead of using mockups IBM was working with real code during the demos and showed us a client interface much like the one we are used to from the Lotus Notes client and a webbased client. For end users there should not be a difference between desktop and webclients anymore and the client should integrate products like Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office Sharepoint into one seamless user experience.
You can tell IBM has been looking very closely at social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIN in continuing their Lotus Connections development of the homepage, which should become a central hub that lets users see and edit information from business applications in a relative context.
His performance drew a lot of laughs as he talked about collaboration in the movie industry. For a pretty extensive live blogging coverage of the OGS (Opening General Session) check out the Collaboration Matters website.
Since early april IBM has been running a managed beta for their next big release of Lotus Connections. Version 2.5 is officially set to come this friday, the 28th and we've been fidgetting around with this beta version since the beginning. Time to have a quick look at what's new.
The biggest changes compared to LC 2.0.1 are the addition of two new services: Files and Wiki's, but there are lots of minor changes as well. I won't go into too much detail on the specs, there are probably dozens of sites who will do so, I'd rather share a glimpse of what we've done with it in our project called TeamPark.
In the image below you'll see the main services for Connections: Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Files, Wiki's Bookmarks and Activities. In yellow (the middle part) you'll see the new, cool, microtweeting like functionality of Connections 2.5
One of the big advantages of Connections is that it is people centered and not document centered, like Microsoft Sharepoint. You can tag about everything, including people so that it becomes very easy to find experts. Obviously, it is very important to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile details, so we added a few things to the default Connections 2.5 implementation. On the left hand side you'll see two widgets below the profile picture (oui, c'est moi). The first is the standard Tagcloud for your profile (which is minimized now) which we use to find expertise and interest. At Sogeti, we work for different customers all the time so we added a "MyClients" widget. We added an extra field to the profile page where we can fill in the Clients we've worked for, and they appear in the bottom left widget "MyClients" This way we can easily find who's been working at a specific client to get references.
A second Widget we've made is to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile information and is a Profile % Complete counter, quite similar to what you'll find on LinkedIn. Currently my profile is 51% complete as you can see in the right column. Basically the widget counts which profile fields have been filled in, and assigns a weight to that. Obviously a profile picture carries more weight than the phone number of my (sadly) non-existent Assistant.
So, that's it for a first view of the Sogeti TeamPark platform based on Connections 2.5. More to follow.
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.
In this comparison I also showed the Gartner graph on Social Software;
In their review, Dogear Nation rightly pointed out that for instance Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and so on are missing. So where have the Garter researches been?
However, the graph also shows that none of the currently available platforms moves into the socalled 'Magic Quadrant';
The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner inc., a US based research and advisory firm. It is designed to provide an unbiased qualitative analysis of a “markets’ direction, maturity, and participants
In the upper left quadrant we see both Microsoft and IBM named "challengers" with a great capacity to execute (read established corporate penetration), in the lower right quadrant we see a number of "visionaries" like Atlassian, Jive and Socialtext. The majority however falls into the lower left quadrant of "niche players" and no solution has made it to the magic quadrant yet.
What does it take to get into the magic quadrant? In blunt translation of the Gartner graph it should be Microsoft buying Atlassian for instance to combine 'completeness of vision' with 'the power to execute'. But that is not the correct answer.
If we mix up Jive with IBM or Atlassian with Microsoft it does not create a winner, it will not be a magic quadrant recipe, because it will undoubtedly be a functional cocktail from a technical point of view, not from a social point of view. It will result in a (probably very good) platform which offers everything you would want, but in the end won't work.
What does it take to get into that magic quadrant? Basically this is an identity management based issue. In my opinion we use the web in three ways:
Probably we should rename 'www' to 'ppp' ;) .You could argue the terminology though, it could just as well be personal, social and professional. However, I think theseare the three domains to which we use the internet and with the current cloudcomputing trends this will create a new paradigm for identity management (IdM) and this will be the key in stepping inside the magic quadrant.
In the 'old days' we had our home pc to facilitate our 'private need', meaning we used it to store our documents, photos and accessed the internet to find information for our hobbies. We also had a corporate pc on which we stored our work related documents. And in the Web 2.0 age we started to use the internet for social interaction.
Nowadays, more and more is shifting towards webbased functionality. We use Google Docs for our documents, share our photo's on Picasa, Webshots, Flickr, Paintbucket or wherever. We started blogging, and we started Tweeting...
Each of these three domains is becoming more and more webbased and it confuses us, it frustrates us. We're constantly putting up content on a variety of sites, distributing our lives through various media to various audiences and we often find the content should move beyond the boundaries of just one domain and we end up duplicating the same information to another blog or wiki.
The current trends on aggregation, the creation of lifestreams is convergence; pulling the content of various media into one single lifestream distributed to all our contact. Regarding the three domains however, we want - no, NEED - divergence; one single point of entry and the option to distribute it to different audiences, across the boundaries set by these domains. One of the functional prerequisites is the ability to organically group contacts (there are more ;)) regardless of the domain they are confined to.
This is, what in my opinion, will make it impossible for each of the platforms mentioned in the Gartner graph to truly claim the Magic Quadrant. Each of these solutions focus on one particular domain; social / personal or professional. The Magic Quadrant platform needs support all three domains in one coherent mashup of these multiple online identities we have fostered with ample mechanisms to guard our privacy, with the appropriate tools to include and exclude people to see certain types of information. It needs to be able to discern who is allowed to see which part of a certain domain
Labels: cloudcomputing, digital identity, enterprise 2.0, facebook, gartner, ibm, identity management, LC25, Lotus Connections, microsoft, social networking, social software, social web, teampark, yammer
All around us, companies feel the need to go Social. As the web grows and companies see their employees blog and interact, share knowledge everywhere, suddenly we have to take Social Networking behind firewalls and create a corporate walled social garden.
It's not that big of a surprise senior management sees merit in embracing social networking as communities are pretty loyal and dedicated. It would be nice if we could bind our employees so strongly and also use their creativity to get better. It's probably no surprise either that they just don't quite get the essence of social networking. In the end it is about information, about knowledge that is the company's main asset, isn't it?
The next thing your senior management will probably ask for is a thorough analyses of requirements and a turn up a full list of features. A Social Networking site should have blogs, wiki, forum, chat, and so on. Over the past month I've been doing just that and made a thorough comparison between Microsoft MOSS 2007, IBM Lotus Connections and Telligent Community Server. Drawing up comparison charts, listing the functionality is a cumbersome job. Especially when the result is that there hardly is a difference. All platforms offer more or less the same functionality.
When it's all about the same, the obvious choice for senior management is to stick to what they know and we already use inside the company. From this reasoning, many companies will probably go for Microsoft MOSS 2007 (or MOSS 14 if they can wait until 2010) as it will offer the basic functionality you would want and integrates well with the other corporate software, and even allows you to keep sharing those all important documents.
Last week I attended a presentation by my Swedish colleague Andreas Sjöström, who founded the website inarockband. In his presentation he said working for Sogeti was like playing in a rockband:
inarockband.com builds on the analogy that working for Sogeti is like playing in a rock band.
Just as rock musicians we are serious about our passion, instruments and customers. In our creative work we understand that everyone in the project plays and important role, just as every instrument counts.
Working with Sogeti is not about working your career, but about your passion. Be passionate about your work, try to excell and in excellence delight the crowd.
In my opinion, Corporate Social Networking also fits this analogy. Blogs are a stage to enthuce and delight, communities a place to share passion. When we look at platforms to support this we are looking for simplicity, easy to use software instead of massively complicated configurable packages. The most suitable software for the job is Social, Organic, Collectively Intelligent, Alive and Linked.
We at Sogeti are passionate about our job. We like to excell. Small wonder we are constantly working up new books on best practises, creating new standards and methods. One of the latest books we've come up with is about moving from Crowd to Community. The second part of the book deals with the Teampark idea, a method to implement and adopt social software inside companies. In the next release this part will be extended and worked out into a full approach.
In the acronym S.O.CI.A.L my colleague Patrick Savalle has tried to capture what the elements are that empower social software:
These are the key elements for Social Software. From this vantage point, there is a clear winner when it comes to Enterprise platforms: IBM Lotus Connections. Whereas MOSS will excell in sharing explicit knowledge, LC will tap into the implicit knowlegde of your workforce.
I'm not saying Lotus Connections is the perfect match, but from an enterprise point of view, it's closing in on the magic quadrant, as Gartner puts it:In the graph IBM is not yet in the Magic Quadrant, and Microsoft isn't far behind. Don't get me wrong, MOSS isn't a bad product, not at all and I'm not saying IBM has done the trick yet, but they're slightly ahead at this point in time. In June last year, the CIO magazine also ran an article on IBM vs. Microsoft in the Social Software space and concluded:
While both vendors showed their products could integrate with existing e-mail systems (especially e-mail systems that they sell, such as Notes and Exchange), IBM’s Lotus Connections looked, at minimum, a year or more ahead of SharePoint in its social computing capabilities out of the box.
It was a lot prettier looking, too.
If we look at the road ahead, this conclusion still stands with Lotus Connections 2.5 going into Beta in April and expected to go Gold by Mid July whereas Microsoft MOSS 14 is due for early 2010. However, it is more than just release dates. It is about the core focus of the product. In terms of S.O.CI.A.L aspects, LC2.5 still has a more informal, organic, people centered approach than MOSS 14, which (from what I have seen under NDA) still is more formal and hyrarchical focussed on information, despite all it's slick tricks.
Identifying the right triggers to create Social Networks is not a guarantee for instant succes though. On the one hand, setting psychology loose on Social Webdesign to delight the crowd and direct communities, creating emergent behaviour is tricky, but on the other hand we have the issue of the walled gardens. Companies will try to contain these platforms behind their corporate firewalls.
About a year ago I did a project in wich security played an important role. The client went into extremes to protect its data. However, all it's corporate knowledge, its value, could be found on Wikipedia for free. Knowledge and creativity are hard things to contain, they will find a way. Take blogging for instance.
From a bloggers point of view, his main drive will probably be to build a reputation. Blogging is more than just jotting down short things you are passionate about. You want to excell and gain authority. A global audience will probably suit you better than a limited corporate stage can offer.
Regarding this, Hutch Carpenter wrote an interesting article on his blog "I'm not actually a Geek" where he asks how much scale is actually needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption.
Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.
The article raises many interesting issues, but the question remains if we should take it all behind walls. It is quite true that Blogs do not require a large scale adoption, It will take justa few catalysts to start interesting corporate blogs, but if you want your employees to excell, to put effort into this Social Environment you have to offer them a worldwide stage. Have them interact with the world instead of limiting them to peers.
From a knowledge point of view we really have to consider which information really is actually a corporate asset. Is it knowledge on technology (which probably is out there on the web anyway) or is it about privacy, personal data and sensitive information about competitors or clients?
When you carefully look around in your company you might find these catalysts; passionate people who engage and delight the crowd. These thoughtleaders and visionaries inside your company probably have their own blogs, as they will be sharing their passion, having a global stage to build their reputation. Do we really want to confine them inside corporate walled gardens? Will they combine the pursuit of their personal passion and delight the corporate crowd? You will undoubtedly find out they will put more effort in personal blogging than in corporate blogging if we rigidly put our Corporate Social Network behind firewalls.
The current Social Networking trends focus on aggregation, pulling together updates from a variety of media into a single lifestream. If I look at my Plaxo Pulse stream for instance puts my twitter messages and my blogposts into a single update stream which is visible for all my connections. The next challenge will be to move from this information convergence to information divergence. This divergence will allow me, as a blogger, to write one passionate article and distribute it to the medium I chose and the audience I choose. This divergence will even more require personal and professional digital presence to blend, calling for better identity management and privacy measurements. In short, getting into the Magic Quadrant of Corporate Social Networking will not be about more features, but about smart blending of corporate and private digital identities.
Over the past month I have been doing a Proof of Concept to see which Enterprise software would offer the most social value. The main focus was on the differences between IBM's Lotus Connections 2.5 (going into Beta in a few weeks) and Microsoft MOSS.
At our offices in the Netherlands we have a version of MOSS 2007 running, but apparantly we were not using it to its full extend, so Microsoft felt we were not giving them a fair chance and they did a full proof of concept at our offices in Paris. I must say, I was a bit surprised. Microsoft Moss (Sharepoint) is actually better than I had thought.
We also received a preview of the upcoming MOSS14 release, which should head into Beta later this year and will probably arrive early 2010. Without going into specifics, it won't be a surprise that Microsoft will continue the trends they set with Office 2007, using contextual ribbon menu's and throw in a lot of Silverlight. Of course, there will be more focus on social networking. One of the features Microsoft included in the presentation was an external kit, the Podcasting Kit for Sharepoint (PKS) by Codeplex. This kit went into beta last month and also heavily leans on the Silverlight technology. PKS can also be added to the current Sharepoint version of course.
Earlier this week I wrote about Ian Hughes departure from IBM. So did half of the blogosphere. Sillicon Valley Insider also thought about what's next for IBM:
Earlier this week, we wondered if the departure of IBM's (IBM) "Metaverse Evangelist" means the company is scaling back its interest in virtual worlds and Second Life. We haven't heard much from the group in months, which only added to our speculation. IBM reps finally got back to us, and they let us know they're still in there
Read the full article here. The question however, is not if they still digg the metaverse, but if they still grog it.
This supernova in the Metaverse is the 2008 Virtual World Innovation Award winner Ian Hughes , or better known as epredator. This digital predator has hunted virtual worlds by the score, grabbing the available technology, devouring it and has been an inspiration to many people out their. Last monday Ian left Big Blue after a tour of duty lasting 18 years in search of new territories and a new prey. Ian announced his resignation on the Eightbar blog.
Today is a day of mixed emotions. Today I resigned from IBM having been there for 18 years, 19 if you count my year out from university.In all that time I have worked with some great people, and felt a tremendous sense of belonging.
Its been quite a journey, both in technical education and in personal growth. It is the extent of that growth and the speed that has not always been kept up to pace with by the system that I worked within.
From this place, Ian, I wish you all the best.
Creditcrunch or no, Google keeps unleashing new products by the day it seems. Better said perhaps, keeps adding new threads to its web to pull you in. Just today I came across an article on one of the top 10 Dutch weblogs, Hyped, and noticed an article on Google Health.
Together with IBM they've worked on integrating Google Health with lots of medical appliances. Late last year I blogged about Google tracking the flu worldwide, but now they're monitoring your heartbeat as well.
In demonstrations, IBM and Google fitted Wi-Fi radios to gadgets like heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, scales and blood-sugar measurement meters, allowing the devices to communicate with a PC and feed real-time medical information directly into Google’s online records. [Forbes]
When looking at the service in itself, it could definately be added value to patients and help reduce cost in healthcare. The problem I have with this service is Google. The Mountain View corp is a technology firm and a commercial one at that, regardless of all their free services and open source thingies. Google is about making money and this money making machine is getting into our lives in a pretty scary way. They know everything about you and are able to connect everything together with all their services.
I blogged about this before (In a World...), and that was even before Google Health, their flu tracking and the privacy law violating Google Latitude I haven't gotten round to blog yet. One thing is clear though; Health will be one of the money making machines on the internet in the coming decade.
In the past months there has been a huge discussion in the Netherlands about the Government and the Healthcare industry implementing the EPD, the Electronic Patient Dossier, a system in which patient files are linked together. Especially the privacy of patients has been the volatile issue in this experiment. With Google Health this conversations is outdated, as Google -oblivious of privacy rulings - makes it work.
A recent study by Pew Research on the future of the internet was clear on one thing: Every expert in the field feels the focus of the web is moving towards mobile. The number of cellphones worldwide is rapidly growing. In India for example, there are 10 phones to every 1 pc. The latest wave bring smartphones with full internet capability. IBM's institute for Business Value predicts the number of mobile web users worldwide will reach one billion by 2011.
So it's really not surprising that businesses are starting to shift gear as well. One of IBM's latest insights is the voice controlled web, or the spoken web. 'You will talk to the Web... and the Web will talk back,' predicts IBM in its latest list of innovations that "have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years".
The concept is gathering steam with a project named "Spoken Web" that is being led by IBM's India Research Laboratory (IRL) team, and also being incubated in IBM's eight global labs in six countries. In fact, the corporation recently completed a pilot in Andhra Pradesh to implement the concept.
"The project was very successful. It started out with around 100 villagers but many hundreds joined later after seeing the response," Guruduth Banavar, director, IBM India Research Laboratory (IRL), told Business Standard.
The reason for this enthusiasm, he said, is simple. "Most people do not have a PC. Even smartphones are far and few. Besides, most people, especially the semi-literate kind, are not comfortable using a visual interface. But what most of the Indian population can do is talk. So the spoken web project makes immense sense." he added.
Read more at Rediff News / Business Standard
To support this fundamental change in how the internet works, IBM has developed a new protocol, named Hyperspeech Transfer Protocol (HSTP).
World Wide Telecom Web (also called as Spoken Web or Telecom Web) is an initiative to create an alternate web for the under-privileged. It could help bridge the digital divide by bringing the benefits of the information revolution to the billions of underserved people by providing information and services through a voice driven channel over an ordinary phone call. Information on this web could be community created as well as leveraged from World Wide Web. It is essentially a voice driven eco-system parallel and complimentary to that of the existing Web. Though primarily meant for the under-served in population in emerging economies, it has several applications for the developed world as well.
WWTW can be accessible to more number of people in the world as it enables an ordinary phone subscriber to join the digital information revolution. This enables a significatly larger fraction of the human population to benefit from existing and envisioned services than what was made possible by WWW. Specifically, it removes accessibility barriers that manifest themselves in terms of illiteracy, unaffordability and lack of relevant information. Further, it provides the means to create and sustain an ecosystem of local (and global) services, information and communities relevant to these underprivileged users. [Wikipedia]
IBM has put an effort into getting the abstracts of the HSTP onto the web, with wikipedia entries a with brief outline of how it works and various papers, such as the paper submitted for www2008, the 17th World Wide Web Conference in China in april last year (Paper:
The World Wide Telecom Web Browser) and an introduction to HSTP on their own website.
photograph from the book: The First Book of Sound: A Basic Guide to the Science of Acoustics by David C. Knight, Franklin Watts, Inc. New York (1960). p. 80
"IBM Research and five universities have teamed up to creative “cognitive computing” systems that can simulate the brain’s ability to sense".-BRAINWAVES at FLICKR
Yesterday I blogged (again) about the beaty of IBM's virtual Forbidden City from a historic and educational point of view, rather than it being technologically advanced. Today, I'd like to take you on a tour to a different historic setting: The Monastery of Dordrecht.
The Monastery of Dordrecht is not a fullgrown virtual world or a game, rather a simulation of one of the key locations in Dutch history.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands started in 1572 in Dordrecht. This historical fact formed the basis for an exposition in late 2007. The city archives organisation, DiEP, inivted Paladin Studios to create an interactive 3D visualisation of the so called ‘Court of Dordrecht’. The goal was to recreate the old monastery at the site, of which the only remains are some of the foundations, and show the changes of the site over the centuries. The result is an interactive visualization which provides historical insight and the experience of “being there” in the late Middle Ages.
The Monastery of Dordrecht has been developed by a Dutch game company, Paladin Studios. Its managing director Dylan Nagel has a backround in Archeology and it shows in the level of detail of this simulation.
Wireframe rendering of the Monastery
The final simulation has excellent graphics and wonderfull lighting, small wonder that it ended up as Quest 3D's Award winner in the 2008 competition.
The application starts with a short intro with singing monks in the background. When the intro is finished the user can navigate trough the monastery and its courtyard with a single click navigation system. The lighting creates subtle accents of sunlight and shadow. The 'gimmick' in this presentation is that the user can travel through time by using buttons that pop up at the bottom of the screen. When the user clicks in the time line the scene changes to different situations in time.
As I said, it's a simulation, not a world. You can't walk through this with an avatar, which is a pity, although it's rather easy to navigate.
Another feature is the bird's eye view that allows the user to have several overhead perspectives of the building. In stead of using the mouse to drag the perspective it uses a fixed camera path which is easily controlled using two buttons on the left and right side of the screen. Without a doubt this presentation would work very well with a touch screen interface, even for users that have little experience with navigating in a 3D environment.
The polished look and feel, the excellent use of lighting and surprisingly simple user interface made the jury decide to make this presentation this year's best entry.
When looking at the graphics, the Monastery of Dordrecht is a winner as a simulation. The next step I would love Paladin Studios to take is to make it a multiuser environment so we for instance could reenact the Dutch declaration of independence (1572) or the synod of Dordrecht (1618/1619), which once again makes you wonder about standards in 3D environments and interoperability. When I'm teaching history, I'd like to take my pupils along with me to the Forbidden City as well as the Monastery of Dordrecht without having to register again and create new avatars.
Today I strolled around the virtual Forbidden City once more to drink in some of the ancient Chinese history, thinking of great tales of Marco Polo, the Silk Routes or the terracotta army. I must admit, I'm a sucker for history.
Speaking of which, here's a short history of the Forbidden City, which launched october 10th and to which I already devoted two blogposts:
Exactly one week later, the number of registered users has grown to 128.101 users, which I think is great. This isn't exactly a social world but more like a dedicated virtual environment. Dedicated to one single real life space that spins a thousand tales. Over at the Eightbar blog, IBM's Metaverse evangelist Ian Hughes finally blogged the Forbidden City today in a blogpost in which he gave us a little insight into the history of this build.
John (Tovla) was exploring options for the project that rolled on from his previous one of Eternal Egypt. John specializes in running large innovative projects that use the web for more philanthropic reasons as part of what is called corporate community relations.
So there we were in SL, I had my personal shiny new island Hursley and he and his team were looking at how they might represent the forbidden city in the growing world of the virtual, non game metaverse. So I loaned the team the island, and a massively detailed chinese build started to form in the sky over the next few weeks whilst they procured their own official island. [read full article here]
What I do like to point out is that once again, it clearly names Second Life as the catalyst, the testing grounds for dedicated virtual environments. The other thing that excited me was the mention of Eternal Egypt.
I'd hoped this would be yet another virtual endeavor, which unfortunately it wasn't. It's a great resource website on the ancient Egyptian culture. This however does bring me to my next point.
The first time I walked the city and marvelled at its detail, I thought back to my days at Ancient Sites and wondered how it would be to walk from this city, to say ancient Rome or Athens, to have multiple sites like these exist. Given the current meme one would start talking interoperability right away, but I'd like to turn the other way for now.
The Ancient Worlds community started in the early 90's I think , under the name Ancient Sites, as a bulltetin board based community which initially focussed on history, but later developed into a widespread community with a lot of roleplay as well. Initially it was split up into 4 cities, Rome, Athens, Babylon and Thebes if I recall correctly and was later expanded with Machiu Piccu and the Ancient Celts. It grew in the early 90's to about 120K users, which historically speaking in pre-web2.0 times was pretty good. In the late 90's it went bankrupt, but started up again shortly after 2000 under the name Ancient Worlds but in 2005 returned to its former url: http://www.ancientsites.com/. In this second evolution of the community it was no longer strictly focussed on cities but more regionally. It was also extended with the Orient (hence the Forbidden City association) and the early German tribes. It never rekindled this old spark though, and now holds about 35K members.
Inside Ancient Sites I created my first internet handle, Johannes Nestor. It had about the same user format as Second Life has, predefined last names and free first names. These last names were familynames from well known historic people and families from these ancient cities. My initial interest in this site was history. At the time I was writing my senior thesis, titled "The Alternate Word - A comparison between Fantasy Literature, Mythology and Religion" and was looking for resources on various myths, both ancient Roman and Greek as well as Scandinavian and Etruskan. Through the bulletin board system I could easily find the tales I needed and came into contact with experts from around the world to find out more on these topics (who ever said the social web is a post 9/11 thing?)
I got caught up in Roleplay pretty soon though and one of the roleplays I got into was the recreation of the Byzantine Empire in which I tried to set up an economic system which earned me an estate on the isle of Naxos, made me a Patriarch and finally earned me the title of GrandMaster of the Knights Templar.
The plot thickened and we were up for war. So I created my second handle, Uriah Atrahasis, a Hetite named after Bathsheba's husband Uriah, which became one of the leading generals in the Byzantine army. We 'blogged' our travels to Syracuse and waged war on the Moors. It was a sport to do this as historically accurate as possible. So everything was checked against Sun Tzu's Art of War (which wasn't untill much later and on a different continent, but that made me win the wars), I dug up every scrap of information I could about old Roman galleys and other seavessels of that time, got into smithying, Phoenician and Hetite cultures, etc just to get the facts straight. In my roleplaying days at Ancient Sites I learned more about history and culture than I ever learned in school.
My third handle on Ancient Sites was Finn Folcwalding. In the initial plans for the extention of the ancient sites with the Germanic Tribes the creators focussed on the Goths and other tribes like Blatand (Blue-Tooth), Meroving, Habsburg and Scylding I urged them to included the Frysians as they were one of the strongest tribes fighting the Romans. Hence, the Folcwalding family was born. Not that it's a typical Frysian name, but Finn Folcwalding appears in (e.g.) Beowolf as one of the Frysian Kings.
From about the day I signed on to Ancient Sites I've had the believe that this had the potential to change our Educational system in the way which students could globally interact, learn languages, geography, history, art and you name it. Shortly after it's revival I worked shortly with the creators of the site to see if we could find a more 'immersive' way to set up the site and we experimented with flash based maps of the ancient cities. Unfortunately this wasn't sponsored by IBM, as is the Forbidden City, and had to make do with limited funds and knowledge so we never got that makeover work out.
A couple of years later, i.e. present day, I still see potential behind this site in order to change education. Last year I encountered a recreation of Ancient Rome in Second Life, and again I wondered how this would work out at Ancient Sites. A short proposal didn't work out, the crowd there isn't into VW's much, but in the end it was one of the reasons I got involved with the startup of the Eduverse Foundation, which tries to chart the educational benefits of virtual worlds for educational purposes.
No doubt you'll find all sorts of arguments of why not to do this. Within the Eduverse Foundation itself I've had a number of discussions on this topic. Quite a number of Metaverse Evangelists are of the opinion that recreating Real Life things in a virtual environment is a bad thing, and shos a lack of understanding 3D-ness. I partly agree, but cannot deny its power to explain present and past as well.
In this regard I'd also like to point out the "Otherland" series by Tad Williams. When speaking of the Metaverse we always name Neil Stephenson and William Gibson, but I think Tad Williams should be mentioned in the same breath as it comes to visionaries on the Metaverse. In the Otherland series he describes a virtual world which has two aspects:
A number of simulators described in the Otherland series are historical sims. We find ancient Egypt and Troy for instance. I would recommend reading this series to get an idea of what could be created in Networked Virtual Environments and what this could do to aid education.
Image from the upcoming Otherland Game
Concluding I'd say: IBM, please go on. Not from an innovative point of view, but from a historical point of view I'd like to see more environments like the Forbidden Citycoming
As I blogged the newly launched Forbidden City yesterday, I was impressed by the beauty of it. Today I took a bit of a longer stroll to walk the city. I am pretty amazed by the level of detail and the brightness and light in this virtual environment. Here's just a few snapshots.
The avatars aren't as complicated as in say Second Life in which you can customize them, you just choose one of the above. Also in movement, they're much simpler, more like a gliding motion than actual walking.
Upon visiting the Beyond Space and Time community, currently there's a photogallery with user generated snapshots of the City (you'll see a lot of the same pictures) and a forum. Most of the topics I browsed were in Chinese, so can't tell what it's all about.
The only topic I managed to follow a bit was about the performance of the Forbidden City. It seems as quite a number of users have experienced performance issues, especially in the more detailed areas (i.e. highly decorated chambers). One of the remarks was that the City would be scaled in the near future to solve performance issues.
After blogging the Forbidden City today and Boulanger3D two days ago I've yet another post about IBM in Virtual Worlds. Rest assured, I am not becoming an IBM-er, I rather find it troublesome that IBM is the only bigshot from the traditional tech companies that is actually doing stuff in the Metaverse these days. Fortunately, it's not a guaranteed success with them for now. I was disappointed in Boulanger3D, but on the other hand found the Forbidden City actually quite exciting to explore.
This time is the news that's been inbox since yesterday when my obsession to get to hear Terry Pratchett in Second Life prevented me from keeping on top of the news. The news is actually not a release yet, but just a press statement that IBM signed a service agreement with the Fashion Research Institute.
Fashion Research Institute, headquartered in New York, NY, conducts research into technology-based initiatives and develops emerging technologies to overhaul traditional fashion practices and methodologies. FRI's mission is to reduce the carbon footprint and change the environmental impact of the industry in ways that are sustainable, replicable, respectful of the practitioners, and meaningful for all stakeholders. FRI maintains Shengri-La, a five-island complex in Second Life, and an OpenSim complex.
The most interesting point in the press release to me is that we have now officially left the small cash development scenery of Second Life (ranging from 50K to 500K for a sim, okay small cash which doesn't fit into my wallet either), but are actually moving on to million dollar assignments.
NEW YORK, NY, Oct 09, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) --
IBM today announced it has signed a multi-million IBM Global Business Services agreement with the Fashion Research Institute (FRI) to implement a first-of-a-kind Virtual World Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Enterprise System.
"We're proud to pioneer the first big business solution that leverages the OpenSim virtual world platform to address economies of scale," said Shenlei Winkler, FRI. "The Fashion Research Institute understands how to design real world consumer goods using a virtual world environment, and IBM understands the scaling challenges of global enterprise. Taking on both simultaneously is a winning move."
This virtual world enterprise solution, expressly created as a product design environment, will offer a fundamentally new work flow addressing critical issues facing the design industry, such as ensuring manufacturability of designs and decreasing substantial sample costs by two-thirds. Users of this solution will ultimately be able to enter a virtual world, receive training on the systems, and take a design from concept to prototype -- with every step short of actual manufacturing being done virtually.
Read full press release here.
Another interesting point to note is that the FRI also has a presence in Second Life and Opensim. They've worked with IBM to explore Virtual Worlds. This experiment led to the believe it was worthwile pursuing a full scale Virtual World. Contrary to the believe that Second Life is a total business failure and stories about companies fleeing Second Life, this is once again an example of where Second Life has been the catalyst. The platform in which companies could (relatively low budget) experiment with 3D-ness and prepare a full launch in a socalled extraverse (also named themed world or branded world).
Visit the Fashion Research Institute in Second Life at the Shengri La island:
Today I walked the Forbidden City, which reputation has grown to mythic proportions. Though I did walk the streets of the actual Forbidden City in Bejing, but it's virtual representation which can be found at the Beyond Space and Time project page.
"The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the Dongcheng District, in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.
Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres. The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
Since 1924, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum, whose extensive collection of artwork and artefacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum's former collection is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War." [wikipedia]
After registering (you'll find me there as VJBURNS) and downloading the 200 MB client I could install the virtual city with a neat MSI installer and after a couple of forced software updates (which I'm not fond of) I immersed myself in the virtual city, which looks fantastic. I've always been a sucker for history (also been a member of the earliest online history communities, Ancient Sites since 1995 or so.)From the official press release:
“The Forbidden City: Beyond Space & Time” Recreates Historical Treasure as a Fully Immersive 3D-Internet Experience
BEIJING, Oct 10, 2008 — Today, some 600 years after construction began on the 178-acre site that would become the center of unrivalled imperial power known as China’s Forbidden City, the Palace Museum and IBM will open the walled fortress — and hundreds of years of history and culture — to the world.
Three years in the making, IBM has meticulously built a virtual recreation of the architecture and artifacts of the former palace grounds, enabling online visitors to get a first-hand view into imperial China as embodied in the intricate design, history and storied culture of this newly accessible Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City: Beyond Space & Time” is a first-of-a-kind, fully immersive, three-dimensional virtual world that recreates a visceral sense of space and time of this Chinese cultural treasure — as it was centuries ago during the height of the Ming and Qing dynasties — for most anyone with access to the Internet.
Full press release here.
Well, I'm in early, the city just opened it's doors today and we're still under 2K registered users with about 300 online right now. Be prepared to take a few minutes for installing and loading, but then it looks lovely.
In particular two areas are advertised as being highly splendid on the website, being the Meridian Gate,
The Meridian Gate is the front entrance to the Forbidden City. It has five gateways, with the central gateway being reserved for the emperor.
and the Gate of Supreme Harmony
The Gate of Supreme Harmony is the largest gate inside the Forbidden City, and serves as the front entrance to the Outer Court. The gate is located on the central axis and lies just before the Inner Golden River.
More early birds on blogging the Virtual Forbidden City (coverage appearing while I'm doing this extensive download, installing and touring):
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.
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.
Last year many of us thought that Second Life would be the virtual walhalla for companies to conduct business. Yet over the past year, we've seen that in many cases a public, open world does not work out for businesses. ABN Amro was among the first to acknowledge that they needed more privacy with their customers and went to Active Worlds. Meanwhile IBM has been working on getting Second Life ready fit for business and made succesfull attempts to get Second Life running behind a Firewall. A parralel track has been the development of Open Sim, a reverse engineered open source version of Second Life.
Regarding the Open Sim project, 3Di, a Japanese subsidiary of the NGI Group, announced yesterday that they will be releasing an Enterprise version of Opensim. Based upon 3Di technology it is a reworked and extended version of Opensim, and prepped with additional tools and support under the name 3Di Opensim Standard.
Virtual World News has the following thoughts on this special Enterprise version:
"There's already been significant development on OpenSim, on both a consumer level and, as in IBM's integration with Lotus Sametime, for business. OpenSim itself is available as server software, so I'm interested to see what 3Di's model is to set its own software apart. Either way, I look at the commercialization of OpenSim as a pretty big step towards adoption.
It seems like 3Di's target audience is "corporations and academic institutions" looking to create their own virtual worlds. Possible use cases cited include real estate showrooms, education, and offices for collaboration. All of that would be much simpler with the browser-based interface 3Di is developing, but, as a feature, that's shared with all OpenSim worlds and, eventually, other platforms as well. It's not unique, but the upside of that is that it should help build an install base." (read more)
Massively provides a few techspecs for 3di Opensim Standard
3Di Opensim Standard version 1.0 runs on Windows Server 2003 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 (with Mono support). Requirements include a dual-core 2Ghz processor or better, 4GB of RAM and 10GB of hard-drive space. Standard Second Life (or compatible) viewer software is required to connect to and use the virtual environment.
3Di Opensim Standard appears to go for a little under $5,000USD.
More info is hard to find as 3Di operates a fully Japanese website, illegible to us US and European bloggers.
In the past year and a half I've been exploring Second Life, mostly seeking out corporate sites. Most of these had maginificent builds, some were utterly disappointing. The general consensus though has been that no matter how beutiful the build, most of the companies haven't got a clue of what to do with a virtual world yet.
They have been marketing showcases for most, and a lot of these have already withdrawn from Second Life, such as Vodaphone, Pontiac / Motorati, Mercedes, ING and Wells Fargo, to name but a few. A number of these companies have withdrawn from virtual worlds completely, quite a number have moved on to a more private world as they figured their customers needed some privacy.
Quite a number of companies still continue to explore Second Life in relative privacy, with islands unaccesible to the general public. Among these are (to name just a few):
Also, a number of companies have come and gone almost without noticing, such as
Which have had private islands, but no report exists on what they have been doing out there. The general idea is that thse companies have made it to Second Life and have explored the possibilities for inworld training and conferencing.
Ian Hughes, IBM's metaverse evangelist says:
"Second Life and its public nature make it a wonderful place to let people explore the potential of virtual worlds and human interaction there, which then leads to them understanding how they might apply the principles to inside or outside their enterprise. The need for privacy, the need to grow and understand, the need for a company to still act as a tribe of some sort if a common pattern.
When we started Eightbar back in 2006 it was with a private" island. It let my IBM colleagues join a public space but feel a bit of safety to experiement. That very quickly led to the need to have real privacy, internal virtual worlds as people very soon understood that they could communicate and gain value from avatar based meetings in virtual worlds over and above telecons and emails and even instant messaging.
At the same time that sparks off into a discussion of how can our business and our customers business reach their customers and partners in a public space. The two are similar, but different, an intranet in normal web terms has a very different purpose to an internet presense. Sometimes
the technology is even different. Also there are two diverging approaches to what an environment needs to do and they are based on the mix of communicating instrumented information (mirror worlds showing machine rooms, traffic problems in a real city etc) and emotional and human connection through expression (building, sharing, acting in a web2.0 open way, avatar customization)
Understanding these approaches will only help once people have experienced a connection of some sort at a personal level. Then the business ideas will flow. It still wont be for everyone, but most people are visual, and we live in a 3d space. We communicate non-verbally, sit next to people we know in RL and in virtual environments. Ignoring that and filtering it with telecons and IM is clearly restricing our potential. A little more about this is on Eightbar.com"
If you know more about these companies and what they have done in the Virtual World, would you please let us know what your experiences have been?
Tomorrow the Fall-Edition of the Virtual World Conference and Expo starts again, this time in Los Angeles. It's been a year since I visited the one in San Jose. At that time, there were a few buzzwords around, amongst which "Interoperability" was very hot.
Popular belief is that in order to become mainstream, virtual worlds need to have interoperability, i.e. the possibility to exchange information between various virtual worlds, like teleporting your avatar from say Habbo Hotel to World of Warcraft, or to put up the Wikipedia definition:
"With respect to software, the term interoperability is used to describe the capability of different programs to exchange data via a common set of exchange formats, to read and write the same file formats, and to use the same protocols.(The ability to execute the same binary code on different processor platforms is 'not' contemplated by the definition of interoperability.)
The lack of interoperability can be a consequence of a lack of attention to standardization during the design of a program. Indeed, interoperability is not taken for granted in the non-standards-based portion of the computing world."
A year ago, this was the gospel according to IBM and Linden Lab that would change the face of the virtual earth. And thus they made a deal to work together. Aside from this more or less official partnership, dozens of companies, like Philips and Cisco teamed up and the Interoperability Forum was opened, a wiki to discuss interoperability issues. This forum didn't really live up to my expectations, with barely 50 posts (50% of which deal with organisation proposals and quabbles) in a year and the last post more than 3 months ago.
So, what happened to interoperability, is it dead? Not yet. In June 2008 IBM officially announced they had succesfully teleported an avatar from the Second Life grid to OpenSim. The following account, posted by Zhaewry gives a little insight into the extent of interoperability:
"At about 11:00 AM, Linden, Ruth arrived on an OpenSim server, quite quietly, and to her surprise. We had been testing some code, and I’d asked Layla Linden to try to log on again, to see how the bug looked on the client side. But.. the latest fix, put on moments earlier, was, in fact, the last one we needed. I logged in as well, and several other folks from Linden lab joined us.
What’s so unusual about logging into OpenSim? Nothing. But.. this wasn’t a normal login. All three Avatars had been logged on via the Agent Domain in the Linden Lab Aditi test grid. The Agent Domain took a “place_avatar” request from the client, and issued a “rez_avatar” request to the OpenSim, which handed the Agent Domain the necessary details so it could relay it to the client, and permit a login. We’re all Ruth, because we’re not yet syncing the agents with openSim inventory yet. That’s just a small matter of programming… (Well, that’s what we programmers always say.) We have no inventory, and we’re stuck on the single region. But.. It’s a very nice first step."
It is not full interoperability yet, but it's a step. I'm wondering how big a step it actually is, as OpenSim is a reversed engineered Open Source Second Life thing in which both IBM and Linden Lab themselves highly participate. It actually is miles off interoperability between say OpenSim and Active Worlds. The question is, will it ever get there?
Dozens of worlds out there do not see the value of interoperability, right from the start, as I wrote in one of my reviews on the VW Conference last year:
"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."
Tomorrow the fall edition of the Virtual World Conference 2008 kicks off. I am curious to see if Interoperability degrades into a purely Linden Lab - IBM project, which really would be a shame. Maybe the interoperability these two pursue isn't the one that will fit the market, but there will have to be standards in the end. We've tried Microsoft Passport, OpenID and a few others for the flat-web, and those were also disappointing.
It's going to be a long hard road. Don't stop walking it.
IBM has more than 5,000 employees using Second Life for purposes such as sales training or collaborating across different geographic regions. The company will also allow the employees to explore Second Life. And whey will be able to cross into IBM’s secure firewalled corporate network, much like users do with a virtual private network, which creates a secure connection from the Internet into a corporation so that users can log into enterprise applications from their homes.Source: The Standard
The firewall will also prohibit regular users of Second Life from gaining access to portions of Second Life that are available only to IBM employees. Spohrer said that the companies have to work out exactly what to move behind the firewall to guarantee security.
Today's world is getting more complex by the minute. Terms like Information Overload have been buzzing around for many years now, but are getting more and more quantified off late.
Scientific research has shown that we've actually started to walk 10% faster since we've fully adapted email and internet and your average kind of NY Times reader (which basically is 'old media') is getting more information a week than a person in the 1800's would have access to in his whole lifetime. The amount of information on the net doubles about every year and we've produced more content in the last year than we've done in the past 5,000 years in total.
Product and Information cycles alike are growing shorter and shorter. It's like when you buy a computer, you'll find yourself with an outdated model as soon as you leave the store. Pretty much the same goes for information. As soon as you're in year 4 of your education, there's a good chance everything you've learned in year one is outdated. Students have to juggle such vast amounts of information these days that in a lot of cases it's getting impossible to learn facts. Virtual Worlds can play an important role in modelling these complex issues
VeeJay Burns, a.k.a. Johan Vermij (Networked Virtual Environments consultant for Sogeti) and David van Gent (IBM Learning Consultant) will be hosting the symoposium which managed to secure an impressive list of speakers like:
Main force behind getting this incredible lineup is Eduverse founder Robert Sheperd (a.k.a. Ollie Kubrick) and the rest of the Eduverse team, including Frank Husmann (Up the Vortex), Bart Bockhoudt (Dutch Xchange), Jeroen Franse (Vesuvius Group) and little old me.
The symposium will be held in RL Amsterdam and various SL locations (to be announced). More info and complete programme on the Eduverse website here.
This saturday I attended (and spoke) at the first Sogeti Engineering World conference, an engineering event for software engineers with various technology updates and workshops.
Today's keynote speaker was IBM's Scott W. Ambler, the practiseleader in Agile Software Development. His presentation about an agile approach to developing software and projects was very inspiring, though at times a little blunt. On the other hand, that made his points come across very well. Here are some oneliners I picked up:
"Most software development is based upon false standards and don't work that well."
You have to step back sometimes and observe what works and doesn't work, rather than just do what we've been told what work"."
"Agile challenges the religion of traditional software development"
"Business isn't really interested in 'on time' and 'on budget' projects. Yet they ask for it in the contracts because they have so little faith in the software community."
"RfP's with long lists of requirements are meant to minimize financial risk, but do the opposite: They increase risk. 45% of development generally goes to functionality that's never used at all."
"The best timeframe for development iterations are usually 1 to 4 weeks. A 2-week iteration works best for its short feedback cycle."
A question from the audience: "How much time do you take between iterations?" "I usually call it the weekend."
"We don't want to have repeatable processes, we want repeatable results. Nobody cares how you do it if you do it over and over again."
"The worst possible time to do testing is at the end of a development phase."
"Testers don't need a set of specs, they need to break the system. The defects are your requirements."
"Every product works on powerpoint slides, but the longer you wait with actually starting coding, the bigger your risks are."
"At the beginning of the project we write big documents, but in the end when things go wrong we throw them out the window and we solve the problem. So why bother to write stuff that nobody uses anyway?"
After the Ambler's Keynote there were three technology update sessions with our partners Microsoft (on silverlight, linq, wpf etcetera) , IBM (on SOA Service Oriented Architecture and there Websphere and BPM solutions) and Oracle.
The afternoon was filled with break out sessions by Sogeti on various expert technologies, such as Microsoft, Security, Oracle and Java and yours truly did a presentation on Second Life again.
The first edition of the Sogeti Engineering World ended with a very interesting presentation by Playlogic, a Dutch gamemanufacturer on how the production of a game looks like and how they are starting to approach this in an agile fashion as well to make their development a lot more effective (whereas the old approach was very much like traditional software development)
Trough Ogoglio Trevor Smith's twitter stream I noticed phone company Orange had organised an interesting meeting on Scalability and called it the ‘Orange Geekend’. It was a rather interesting technical update by PhD John Plevyak on scalability. The obvious thing in the future of Virtual Worlds is in cloudcomputing but Plevyak suggested some of its load will go back to the user in peer 2 peer sharing of CPU power. The meeting was interesting, yet a little out of place. It would have sutied better in a natural habitat, like Intel...
... but Intel was celebrating a nice new deal as Linden Lab purchased a nice load of new Xeon 5148 servers. Starting February 1 you can upgrade your sim from class 4 to class 5. Upside is you get better performance, downside is rentals go up from $ 195 to $ 295 monthly (US Dollars).
Residents didn't take that rise very well and reacted heavily on the Linden Blog, and dearly want Linden Lab to open the source of the servercode shortly. This will make islands a lot cheaper and will give users and companies alike better opportunities to experiment with Virtual Worlds.
Linden Lab did react to the user comments by stating:
‘we’d dearly like to open-source the servers’
Which sounds pretty hopefull, but...
‘The big problem is that in the current architecture, servers are trusted. Identity information, ownership information — all that is stored on the servers, and in a closed-source, behind-the-firewall environment, we can communicate between the servers securely. Trust, identity, connectedness — all of these are huge problems.’
However, I've already seen infrastructure designs that would make this possible. The plan is on the table, so please don't hesitate to make it happen.
(The Grid Now - Tao Takashi)
(The next Grid - Tao Takashi)
... we'll have to be patient though. I remember Linden Lab's Joe Miller stating that Second Life has no future as long as there's only one company controlling the grid. Outsourcing or Opensourcing seems to be question for Linden Lab as it is said that Linden Lab does want to open up its sourcecode --but only to a select group of companies (often mentioned names include Google and IBM).
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.
Here's Prokofy's account on Second Thought:
Nick Wilson (57 Miles) in Second Life, IM'd me during the IBM/LL
Interoperability meeting today and told me that he was canning my podcast, and banning me from his
island, group, and site. I had "gone too far" yesterday in telling a heckler to
fuck off in group IM, he hadn't liked my last podcast critical of the Sheep, and
I "wasn't good for his business". He couldnt' really point to any *content*;
just his own nervousness about the optics of metaversed.com Like the Linden
said, who confessed that I hadn't actually violated the TOS when I was banned
for calling Aimee's name "like a cheerleader," it was "a business decision".
Nick offered to give me the domain name he had registered and offered to put out
a cover story that he was cutting the podcast because "he had no time" lol.
Now, I don't fear Proky's life here is at stake, since she's always gotten through and keeps her course (which some may think to be a head-on collision course with disaster) and nodoubtedly will continue to put her worries to blog on Second Thought.
The thing is that Metaversed has been gaining a lot of momentum in the past 6 months, becoming one of the leading blogs and discussion panels on Second Life and the metaverse in general, partly due to the effort of Prokofy and her sharp analysis on the podcast show. Now, will Nick be able to keep up, or will this have a shakeout?
What sticks out is: "I didn't violate the ToS when calling out Aimee's name like a cheerleader". I wish I had been there. Prokofy seems to have a deep grudge against Aimee, as being top of her envied/hated Feted Inner Core circle and I can't imagine her actually 'supporting' Aimee like a cheerleader. For the record... you just don't go out there calling Aimee names. That's just not done.
Proky's FIC-list is a list of Second Life celebrities whom she calls haughty, arrogant and whatever. Aimee is many things, but certainly none of the above, at least the way I have gotten to know her over the past months.
During the Virtual World Conference 2007 (Fall edition, San Jose) lots of companies were showing off at the Expo. Platforms like Active Worlds, Multiverse and There.com, had a stand. Then there were lots of complimentary tech stands as well, ranging from avatar creating, 3D Modelling to motion capture. Here's the Icarus Studio stand:From their website:
Icarus Studios is focused on helping our clients launch online virtual worlds,
MMOGs, simulators and 3D collaborative and educational products. We enable our
client's vision with our unique combination of next generation technology and
services, making Icarus a comprehensive resource center for those tasked with
quickly creating all or components of these initiatives. From complete project
development, platform and tool licensing to studio services and library
resources, Icarus will work within our client's time and budget constraints to
quickly create a quality product that meets their objectives.
Another very well visited booth was the stand that IBM had rezzed
Here's what Epredator / Ian Hughes had to say over at Eightbar:
Our stand we had both SL, Active Worlds and the IQ Metaverse (the torque based
one). We also have Jacques from the SMB media and entertainment and the guys
from Vivox there. There was another part to the stand over with Icarus and that
was where Peter Finn set up shop with his alpha demo of blending virtual worlds
with a browser. That needs a whole post in its own right of course.I had a good
chat with most of the stands, though it is amazaing how little time you end up
having when you are talking to press, analysts and bumping into the metarati
that you know from in world and on Twitter.
And certainly the meterati were there. Not all of them, and not all those present considered to be on the official metarati list (but some will make it there I think as the list needs updating.)
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
One of yesterday's sessions was IBM's talk on Navigating Uncharted Terrain. Here's the announcement:
Wednesday, 11:00am - 12:00pm
Virtual Worlds: The BEST platforms for Enterprise Value
An Examination of Virtual World Platforms From the Enterprise Perspective.
The number of virtual worlds platforms are proliferating from publicly operated virtual worlds to private world engines. Where does an enterprise start when evaluating a platform based on BEST: Business, Economic Value, Social Interaction and Technology? This detailed session will review the leading platforms for enterprise use, talk about the real business value being realized in virtual worlds today and have a look into the future of virtual worlds fit for business.
Speaker: Sandy Kearney, IBM Global Director, IBM 3D Internet and Virtual Business
Here's my notes:
"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. "
Last week has been very busy with pressing Real Life projects, so I've not been following the news properly. Here's a round up of some interesting news from the virtual world blogoshphere:
Ambling in Second Life:
Virtual World News:
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.
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.
In the past months I've seen various people comment on and link to my blog, such as:
This first image is a photoscreen in front of the real build. It's set up with a photocamera and a circle on the floor will tell you where to stand. Take your picture here, and have it printed on your Real Life credit card.
The build itself is inline with the current trends to let go of traditional 'gravity-bound' architecture and is basically an open banking floor with two hovering skyscrapers.
Epradator, one of Second Life's big chieftains, heading the IBM tribe which has grown to about 6.000! members, blogger at the famous eightbar blog was to kick off the meeting giving us some inside information on wtf IBM is doing inside SL. Well, that's easy. Ian (epradator) works for the IBM CIO office, and is responsible for moving 330K people into a virtual workspace;
"the subject is using the metaverse for business and what are we up to that is not Second Life. Firstly I have to say that SL has been the catalyst for all this, many of us have tried to get things like this going for years so we are not in any way not supporting SL, but.... there is a need for corporates to be able to have secure intranets and on those intranets there is a willigness to have a metaverse now. Still some resistence of course but most of the time I get asked 'right can we have a secure meeting?' whereas it used to be 'what the heck are you up to playing games at work'. So we have moved from a skunkwork project with Algernon Spackler and I to a digital convergece emerging business unit"
IBM's ideal situation would be to create some unified communication standard between various metaverses;
"The trick then is to deal with the flow between all these virtual worlds, the underlying standards. So I think its fair to say we are less interested in building another SL, more interested in having more than one platform to then get talking to one another, dealing with property flow between the environments helping with open standards"
The second speaker was Parviz Peiravi (a.k.a. Core Stine), Intel's evangelist but SL newbie, and thus running only a short story on virtualisation;
"I think if we run SL on virtual infrastructures utilizing both virtualization and grid we will be able to handle much more audience."
Third speaker was Klaatu Niu, a Sr. Systems Engineer from Sun, who mainly tried to propagate Sun's networked.com to a crowd of SL addicts, so that was a little queer.
"What we at Sun have done is make avail to the public a large scale computational grid for anyone to run jobs on... Today.. its a batch oriented environement. but you pay only $1 US per CPU hour consumed we also allow you to publish for others to run .. and use your own applications there.. what I think . might be interesting. and something that I'm begging to investigate is ..can an SL object.. submit to our grid some processing needs and get the results back."
To the metapolitans present it wasn't a quick win, someone was quick to point out that Amazon's EC2 cloud only runs at $ 0.05 /hr and that large scale projects, such as Jerry Paffendorf's innovative Destroy Television experiment, streaming 99,000 pictures from SL to Flickr turned out to be quite expensive.
Most interesting point is that Sun tried hard to steer away from rumours over the alledged virtual world project codenamed MPK20.