Friday, August 10, 2007

The realities of virtual worlds for corporate sites

There has been a swirl of hype, and anti-hype around the idea of 'Serious Virtual Worlds'. Of note were the Wired article, as well as a blog posting by Chris Anderson that generated a lively exchange. Even more recent was a Gartner report cautioning corporate America about the risks of doing business in Second Life.

Metaversed, yesterday, held a really nice event in the SAP space on Silicon Island on Corporate Challanges in Virtual Worlds. The panel was:

Here's a shot...hardly a 'ghost town' for tech firms in Second Life!

The panel seemed to be in agreement that much of the recent coverage of virtual business was uninformed, or based on misconceptions. As an example, Gartner cautioned that corporations could not control access to their virtual sites. Expectation plays a big part here too. I think it is true that corporations that expect to build a virtual commercial for a product will be disappointed because nobody showed up. Second Life seems driven by events and gatherings, and is very much a socially driven animal around small networks. Increasingly, real life blogs, and things like Twitter are playing the same role in virtual space as they do in real life, acting as an alert system for happenings, and reporting events later to a wider audience.

The virtual medium has characteristics that distinguish it from the web. Instead of an ad that is encountered for a brief few seconds by a wide audience, virtual interactions involve deeper contacts with customers or contributors in small groups. It was pointed out that surveying a corporate office and seeing it empty can be misleading. The vendors represented pointed out the fact that one must understand the point of a particular build, it could be used for various events, could host customers for private exchanges and training, and also has ripple effects in the 2D media that must be counted in any calculation.

This was alluded to by one of the presenters, but I think about trucking out to the Airport Sheraton for Oracle Tech Days, or similar, vendor-driven events. In those cases, vendors ship out their employees, arrange conference space, and put on an all-day show to a small group. How is this any different from the corporate uses described by the panelists? Not very!

Anyhow, the Metaversed podcast carries the content. I continue to be impressed with the richness of these experiences in virtual space, including all of the networking that occurs before and after these presentations, which in itself demonstrates one of the true, unique properties of the 3D web.

I took a tram into the fourth dimension
Cos I had the blues, the blues of throwing it all away
Just gimme a Tequila, I'll slam it the 4-D way
And when I got there you know it had certain similarities

Like no smoking anywhere
And hiding in the khazi to avoid paying the fare
4-D Tequila anyone
And dont think we didn't dance to records by the Fifth Dimension

-Joe Strummer

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