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They have been marketing showcases for most, and a lot of these have already withdrawn from Second Life, such as Vodaphone, Pontiac / Motorati, Mercedes, ING and Wells Fargo, to name but a few. A number of these companies have withdrawn from virtual worlds completely, quite a number have moved on to a more private world as they figured their customers needed some privacy.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"

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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Saturday, February 09, 2008

ING and ABN flee Second Life

Following American early adopters Wells Fargo, AOL and Pontiac, the Dutch exodus from Second Life has started. Banking corporation ING, who initiated the Our Virtual Holland sims are withdrawing from Second Life.... Destination unknown. Residents of the OVH are now trying to make the islands survive the departure and it looks like they will be able to keep the community alive. The ING HQ in Second Life has been torn down though.

The second Dutch banker in Second Life, ABN Amro, is said to be leaving as well. The Word on the street is that they're disappointed by the level of interactivity they've gotten in Second Life and are moving on to a dedicated world on the Active Worlds platform.

For many of us this won't be a big surprise. Many bankers have entered the world of Second Life in 2007, but few have been able to find a concept which comes close to their real world activities, even though virtual economies and in particular that of Second Life are among the fastest growing economies in the world.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Massive lay offs and the future of NVE's

Today Massively made it into my RSS feed. There's really a couple of cool Second Life residents blogging over there now. This time it's Moo Money that brings up some juicy gossip from Second Life as she writes on the ESCapists:

In a shocking blog entry today, Jeremy Flagstaff noted that the Electric Sheep Company has laid off approximately one-third of their staff, or about 22 people. It has been previously noted that ESC had to cut back on the number of islands for CSI: NY, and now both AOL Pointe and Pontiac are pulling out of Second Life. This news should come as no surprise, but it's still heartbreaking to hear that it
happened so close to Christmas.

While it is not known at this time exactly why the layoffs occurred, Jeremy speculates that they will be focusing on technology like OnRez. Joel Greenberg, whose job status is unknown at this time, announced on Twitter that ESC is shutting down their virtual ad network project. In a prophetic blog entry written last week by Rez Menoptra, he speculated on how long builds will last in virtual worlds and who will remember them.

Massively will update you with the latest news on this topic as we hear it. Stay tuned!

Most of these people we will never know, but we've seen Jeremy himself move away from the Sheep earlier this year as well as Jerry Paffendorf. Is the negative trend for Second Life we've seen in Europe now crossing to the US as well? Are we close to a dotcom-burst in the virtual world industry? I don't think so.

In november I quickly mentioned AOL's departure from Second Life, now Pontiac is joining the list of departing companies. How should we read these signs: Is it true that Second Life has proved itself unfit for business? In the case of Pontiac / Motorati I think it surely didn't.

The thing I keep saying to our clients is this: Right now Second Life is the ideal platform to experiment. It is open, and it's present, which means you can start up exploring the metaverse at relatively low cost. Try to get a feel for the technology, explore opportunities, chase ideas. Second Life makes this possible because it's free to sign up and you can put in almost any kind of data. Second Life is as open as the gates of heaven to whom believes. The feeling I get now is that most of the departing companies are not going out of business, they're moving. It's just as much tribal migration that we see in social networking sites. You explore, then find a site that better suits your needs. A lot of these companies gained experience from Second Life and are now preparing for dedicated themed worlds, based upon enterprise technology on platforms like

It is a moving business we're in. The past year has seen an extreme usergrowth in Second Life, and an enormous commercial / PR drive for companies to enter virtual worlds. Now it's time to check the balance. All in all, as I wrote in my previous blogpost on the Millions of Us venue for Splenda; "It's Dozens of Them" meaning right now it's just too much of the same. We're creating presence for companies. There's an occasional immersion that goes beyond simple presence and really adds something to the industry.

Millions of Us, Lost in the Magic Forest, Electric Sheep Company, Virtual Italian Parks, and many many other MDC's have mastered the skill of building in Second Life. What they haven't got is the skill of Business Analysis.

It will take skilled consultants to translate core business to virtual representations. It will take experience and time for us to be able to build virtual venues that are fit for business and will form an extention to our daily operations. 2007 has been a year in which Second Life and virtual worlds have been a toy for marketing and communication departments, 2008 will probably see NVE's as a playhouse for IT departments and 2009 will probably be the year in which the NVE potential really sinks in, the time when the Business takes over and will use it as a medium for its core processes.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Pontiac Motorati's Crowdsourcing show

One of the companies that literally drives the notion of crowdsourcing to the edge is Pontiac / Motorati. There's heavy interaction between the wonderful SL sim and their website ( The sim is a buzz of activity with visitors designing new cars, dragracing and all sorts of car-centered events.

Since the Pontiac Motorati cluster borders on the Millions of US development sites, it isn't hard to figure who build this great sim.

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