Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Credit Crunch Crash Course for VW's

Amidst all the turmoil on the current Credit Crunch, twitterati Malburns pointed me to an excellent article from the Metanomics.

My social web life seems to go down the drain because of the banking crisis, which makes me work day and night covering the endless stories of banks going bust, regulators and politicians scrambling to save them, the doom and gloom spreading and making consumers and investors extremely nervous.

It makes me aware of the fact that connectedness has its idealistic, hopeful face, like one can experience in the online Connectivism course but also a more ugly face, of spammers, griefers, online communities which seem to deal in hatred and stupidity.

Relating this to virtual worlds, I think there are some interesting similarities between banking, society at large and virtual worlds and communities.

Banking is an activity which is extremely connected. Long before people started talking about web2.0, social networks or even the internet, finance professionals linked up all over the globe using telegraph, phone, spreading information through private networks or monitoring wire services such as Reuters.

Not only good ideas spread through those networks. Also toxic financial products, like repackaged dodgy loans, travel at the speed of light. Dubious financial practices originating in the US end up in Europe and Asia. Reckless over-leveraging in Europe affects Wall Street etc.

Read the full article here.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When virtual money becomes a horrid reality

There's no denying trouble at the Dow, or any other Stock Exchange. Some even say the storm of the century is blazing across Wall Street. There's so much going on that even I felt the need to comment on it, even while I focus on Virtual Worlds.

Come to think of it, it isn't that farfetched as the NYSE guys and shortshellers didn't speculate with real money either. They've thought up a virtual capital, a virtual economy, uncovered wealth to push the market in the direction of real profit. Now speculating with this virtual wealth falls through and to many people it becomes a horrid reality as they run into credit or mortgage trouble, or might be fired in the coming months.

Techblogger Robert Scoble wrote an article called Economic Idiocy and at this point in time we may face Idiocy, maybe even frenzy, but at its core is something much darker: It is greed. A ‘little while ago” Descarte wrote: “Cogito Ergo Sum”, I think therefor I exist. In the past century -and especially in the USA -it has grown to I shop, therefor I am.

Marketing guru’s like Edward Bernays have found the triggers that make us buy things we don’t need, all to keep the economy running. Now throw in a bunch of greedy stockowners and shortsellers and you’ve got a volatile mix, focussed on short term profits. Profit is the main driver in our present economy. We lack long term vision and that’s what’s killing us now.

In our drive for profits and growth we have overextended ourselves. Where did sound economics go that said “Don’t buy if you can’t afford”? Instead we’ve invented credit card debt. We let go of the gold standard an have invented trillions of dollars of State Debt. We started speculating with money we don’t have.

Well, now we drop dead shopping. Back to thinking, looking at what we’re doing out there. What do we need, and why do we think we need more? Why do we desperately want to have a bigger car than our neighbours, or a bigger house than our colleagues. If you’ve done healthy financial management, didn’t overextend and are debt free, the storm will pass. Maybe we’ve got to accept the fact that in other cases it’s a dreadfull, yet necessary correction to our unbridled greed.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Walled Gardens of Second Life

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

  • Red Bull
  • Heineken
  • Shell

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?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

CIGNA Healthcare in Second Life

One of the latest, more interesting, corporate excursions into Second Life probably has been the immersion of the US Based insurance company Cigna.

"CIGNA can trace its roots back to 1792, and the founding of the Insurance Company of North America (INA), the US's first marine insurer. Its first life insurance policy was issued two years later. In 1865, the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CG) was formed in Hartford, Connecticut. Nearly 120 years later, in 1982, CG and INA merged to form CIGNA. In 1993 CIGNA introduced its Tree of Life brand identity. In 1998, CIGNA sold its individual life insurance business to Lincoln National Corporation, and the next year it sold its property and casualty insurance business to ACE Limited. In 2000, it sold its reinsurance business to Swiss Re. In 2004, it sold its pension business to Prudential Financial. CIGNA's business segments include CIGNA Healthcare, CIGNA Group Life & Disability, and CIGNA International, all core businesses designed to help customers improve their health, well-being and security." [wikipedia]


Cigna has teamed up with Metaverse Development Company Method to shape their virtual presence. In what I think is a highly succesfull build the company focusses on health awareness, as thinking in the Healthcare business (and thus healthcare insurance) shifts from treatment to prevention.





Unfortunately the island itself is closed for the general public, but I hope to be able to post some more info shortly. In the mean time, here's some links to the press coverage the immersion received:

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Generali's Virtual Heroes

It's been quite a while since I first noticed the Generali island, but at the time it was still under construction and closed for the public. Today I tried once more and it's open. It's a good build with a lot of detail and well designed furniture.



Generali, Italy's largest insurance company plans "to engage with the SL community and explore the nature and ‘insurability’ of risk in virtual worlds, as well as to interactively promote the Group’s image and business."



Let's start of with a few snapshots:









Since it's still early saturday morning I'm not going to describe the island but quote from Generali's Second Life flyer:


In Generali’s perspective, Second Life represents an opportunity laboratory for innovating (prototyping new products and services), learning and communicating as well as an interesting emerging market – virtual worlds inhabited by dynamic and knowledgeable users.


The main objectives of “Generali Virtual” could be summarized as follows:

On the left, places and areas on Generali Virtual

  • explore the extent to which virtual reality might affect and extend the nature of risk and risk management services
  • experiment with new insurance-related services relevant to a world where connectivity and virtuality become dominant features: insuring virtual risks in reality and real risks in virtuality
  • witness Generali’s effort in providing innovative services, and promote the Group’s image throughout non-traditional environments and communities.

The success of Second Life itself may be transient, but the phenomenon of technology-enabled virtual worlds will not and the Group is keen to put itself in a position of monitoring and learning early on in order to be ready for future challenges.

The Generali island is organized around a central piazza – the Community Area – which provides a space for presentations and virtual encounters, and potentially an alternative channel for real-world corporate events. A large screen can be used to show a registration or the live video from the event. On one side of the piazza the Generali Building provides up-to-date information about the Generali Group and links to the generali.com website. Close to it, a structure informally known as “Chill Area” is designed to provide a context for hosting some social, educational and entertainment activities of the SL community.

The large Water Tower is a panoramic view point with a room that gives a view of the whole island. The most interactive part of the island is the Warehouse Set, where a game can be played by visitors, in fact Generali Virtual offers to visitors an interactive game, a sort of “car chase” with prizes to be won, that is meant to convey a simple but effective message about the rewards for risk-adverse behaviour.


To be honest, I really couldn't spot the interactivity, tried a few warehouses but couldn't really get in. Perhaps there's a teleport point somewhere. A second thing I couldn't really figure out is what the islands' subtitle "keeping heroes safe" means.

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

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Walking in a winter wonder land

In a time when global warming and major climate changes are the talk of the town, Dutch insurance company Aegon (one of the biggest insurance companies in the world) comes with a good old Dutch winterscene. The island is dominated by the flat fields of the Netherlands with frozen streams.

The scenerty reminded me of the legendary 'Eleven City Tour' a 200 Km long skate tour which was last held in 1997 (it's been so long since then we have had enough ice). Due to the requirement that along the route the ice needs a minimum thickness of 15 cm. it's only been held 15 times since 1909. When it's on though, it's a national holiday.


The second picture reminds me of the Bridge of Bartlehiem (a tiny village a.k.a. Bethlehem in Frisia, which the tour passes two times en route to Dokkum and back to the finish at Leeuwarden).




It's almost impossible to have a guaranteed thickness of 15 cm. everywhere on the track, and especially under the bridges the ice grows slowly. To safeguard the over 15.000 skaters that usually participate there are occasional 'kluning points' where skaters have to pass a bridge on the road. These parts are usually carpeted so the skating irons don't get blunt.

But alas, that's ancient history now. Let's concentrate on speedskating. And so does Aegon, who's been sponsoring a Dutch speedskating team for ages. The center of the sim contains a mega iceblock which holds the Aegon logo. On top of it, there's a speedskating ring.



At the side of the ring you'll find this seasons speedskating calender and you can buy (~!@#$%^) skates for L$ 900 and try it out. Get outta here, I like freebies!

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

Last but not least, a new Dutch company has arrived in Second Life, this time the USP XS4All, though they're not open for business yet. (SLURL)

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Collector 2.0 and Tribal Migration on the Web


Tonight I was adding some books to my Visual Bookshelf on Facebook. Right now the number of books on my shelf is 229. I stopped when I added David Baldacci's "The Collectors" and reflected some on my web 2.0 lifeystyle.




The thing is, I remember this isn't the first time I'm doing this. I remember me making a list of my CD's and Books in WordPerfect 5.2 to keep track of my stuff after I'd lend it to friends (some stuff didn't return-and some still doesn't).



Later I entered my CD's into CD-Collector, my DVD's into MovieCollector (both by the Dutch Collectors.com). That was fun. It connected with several online bookshops, like Amazon and it downloaded covers, synopsis and reviews.



The thing is, I don't wanna do this over and over again. I've been talking with a Sogeti colleague of mine on this yesterday. We talked about the future of the web. One of the things is that NOW we have customized content. We choose what we want, what we like. We decide what gets in and what gets out. The next step will be customized functionality. We choose which functionality we want to have at the time we need it. It's basically cloud computing.



Today I discussed Tribal Migration with another (Sogeti) colleague. People move from site to site. Let's join MSN spaces, it let's you do stuff. Then move to Hyves as it lets you do more stuff, now we all migrate to Facebook as it provides even more functionality. We're sitehoppers, application addicts.


We migrate, but our content doesn't. Our account doesn't and in the mean time all our stuff (the personal info we registered and the content we've added) stays put. Our stuff is all over the web. This is soooooooo wrong. I just want one single point of entry for the web. I want to register with one site folks. And I want functionality when I need it.


None of the aforementioned applications; Word Perfect, MovieCollector and Facebook's bookshelf did for me what it has to do eventually: create a single complete database with portable content. I have to go to enormous lengths to get a complete database of my stuff. I've got about 500 CD's, 200 vhs/dvd's and 30 meters of bookshelf filled to the brim (yeah I'm a bookworm). What the killer app has to do for me is make it easy. Be smart, be intelligent. Now I've got an API with Amazon and I have to choose which book I've read. I've got to choose the edition. No, just give me a barcode scanner and let me scan my books, you fill in the details...


The second thing it needs to do for me is give me a standardised output file. Give me an xml file which I can upload to the next application. For instance, I'd like to have my collection of books insured. If it can't be done in a single app, then at least let me upload it. The house burns down, I can tell the insurance company which books I owned and they can cover for the damage.


I must admit I just discovered that Collectors.com added a barcode scanning feature... Now add portability and I'm back as customer ;)


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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rectification on Cofidis

My previous post, titled Have a little Cofidis, needs rectification.



It's the time of the Tour de France, one of the great sports events. The past week has seen allegations made against Rasmussen -who came through clean on 15 consecutive anti-doping tests and the climax yesterday with the positive results on the Vinikourov tests and the withdrawal of the complete Astana team.



Despite the allegations, Rasmussen kept his head cool and the Rabobank mountain-goat declassified Discovery's Leipheimer and Contador in the last mile to the finish.


This morning, before today's monstrous mountain stage I blogged on the island of Cofidis, dubbed the blog have a little cofidis, meaning confidence. I'm not sure if this was a bad omen, as today it turned out that a Cofidis member returned positive on the doping tests.




Yesterday Eric Boyer, the Cofidis manager spoke disgrace of Vinikourov, calling him a dirty ****-something and demanded the whole Astana team would withdraw from the competition. Well, it's pretty obvious which course of action should be taken now with Cofidis.




Will they draw back their Pro Tour cycling team oriented island in Second Life as well?

[Pictures by AP press]


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Have a little Cofides

Et maintenant? (and now what?)


Yesterday didn't see a spectaculair stage in the Tour de France, but a media circus and extremely volatile situation with Rabobanks' Rasmussen under attack and Astana's Vinokourov being tested positive on doping.


Hardly a time to take a Tour de SL, but I jumped in at Cofidis island.



Here's the Wiki knowledge about Cofidis:



"Cofidis is a French company, one of the Otto Group's financial services providers.
Founded in 1982 by 3 Suisses International in cooperation with Cetelem, Cofidis specializes in the consumer credit business of the 3 Suisses Group.



Its business concept of offering customized consumer loans either by phone or over the Internet has been exported to other countries - Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and Greece. In 2003, Cofidis combined with Crédit Mutuel Nord Europe to found a new joint venture, Créfidis. And in 2004, Cofidis acquired a 66 % equity stake in C2C, the financial services provider of the French Camif Group."



Again it is a Financial Institute coming to Second Life, but focussing on their Pro Tour cycling team




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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Univé:Insure your Second Life

Univé and Aegon, two Dutch insurance companies have had islands sitting out there in Second Life for months now. Univé is the first of them to open up shop on July 12.

Besides offering insurance for real life, Univé now offers the possibility of (Dutch)Second Life residents to insure themselves agains theft and other forms of damage.
At a central point at Univé island you can report damage, each incident will be registered in a database. Univé processes the claims and makes appointments with the client in Second Life for an assesment if necessary. If the damage is covered by the insurance, claims will be paid out in Linden dollars.

Pricing for this insurance is at L$ 200 per 6 months (0,57 Euro), the insurance has a limit of L$ 10.000 per claim.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

SLUC: Second Life Under Construction

A number of corporations have sims under contruction

Millions of US

These sims are not accesible yet, but at least Microsoft and Comcast look nearly completed.

Electric Sheep
  • Too many half finished sims makes you wonder if they can finish anything soon.

Rivers Run Red
Lost in the Magic Forest

SLionhead

  • According to the CEO they've recently started working on some major projects. I'' try and scoop them.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Virtual Banking (2): ING and Our Virtual Holland

At the Media Plaza Second Life seminar Gertjan Kaaij, Business Innovator of the ING held a presentation about ING in Second Life.... well, not exactly. The Dutch baking and insurance company ING they started cruising the virtual worlds in late 2006, but did not see a ROI on short term.

So there wasn't a big ING hit to launch, then what else to do? For the time being, ING uses SL mainly as a branding medium. They've hired Rivers Run Red to build a region of sims called "Our Virtual Holland"


The plan is for Our Virtual Holland to evolve into a virtual mini-state, and to this end they have been offering free parcels of land to would-be residents. Don't all rush to the website though - the offer closed on 21st March. Rather than churn out all the details here, I would refer you to this page of their website, which tells you everything you need to know (if not, try their FAQ). As is usual with SL that magic word for 2007, "Innovation", looms large. I will be interested to see what emerges. Certainly the pittoresque windmills will add to that innovative spirit...


At the moment ING is working with partners like the Rijksmuseum to add some spirit to the sims.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Holland/128/128/0
Pictures kindly provided by Sir Aleister Kronos

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