Second Life Presents at Catalyst

June 28, 2007 at 10:51 am | Posted in burtongroupcatalyst07, collaboration, communication, virtual worlds | 1 Comment

There have been scores of great presentations at our Catalyst conference this week, but I wanted to take time to single one out that was a bit outside the norm.

Joe Miller (VP of Platform Technology at Linden Lab) did a presentation on Second Life, focusing on its collaboration, community, and enterprise aspects. From conversations at lunch, it seems attendees were pleasantly surprised how many enterprises have a presence in Second Life to interact with their customers. And even more surprised how many have a presence for their own internal use as well. It’s well known that IBM has made great use of Second Life as an outreach system, but Joe described how it is used internally by 5,000 IBM employees for uses such as gatherings of retirees and fellows.

I was speaking to Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services after the presentation and they have looked extensively into Second Life. Personally, I think the concept of a virtual bookstore would combine the best of the instant access via search that the web provides with the serendipity that browsing bookshelves can provide. Alas, Amazon doesn’t do that quite yet. But there does seem to be something important about spacial relationships. He mentioned that their Second Life real estate is located near that of a number of other retailers, forming a cluster of online retailers. The concept of being “near” the other retailers is one that could only be realized in a virtual world.

One conclusion we came to in our discussion is that it’s difficult to really comprehend the potential value of a tool like Second Life without actually using it. From a textual or verbal description, it seems one could communicate and collaborate just as well with a group of distributed people over IM without the virtual browser around it. But then again, people seem to like gathering in person to communicate information that could be conveyed over the phone as well. There’s value in personal contact and gestures and some of that seems to apply to a virtual environment as well.


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  1. Very well written and factually presented. Indeed, IBM is the flagship example, what with 50 sims and now a great number of Second Life sims that are located on their intranet within their firewalls. There are also over 250 universities involved (library scientists truly understand the power of virtual worlds).

    It still has a way to go (in my opinion) before it can be mainstream, but it is inevitable that all companies will have some virtual world presence. It is tantamount to the web years ago and is just one of those expenses that may not have any ROI, but there will be just an expectation that you are online and inworld.

    SL and other virtual worlds are different than a normal web presence. They do require real people being inworld in order to succeed (as you indicated in your last sentence). There are many stories of companies jumping in, making a real world replica of their brick and mortar facilities and failing. Toyota nearly did, but was able to retool and create success. But there are some things that don’t work very well inworld. Why would someone go to Dell island to build and order a pc when the experience is not nearly as good as on their website?

    The people at Linden Labs are indeed very focused on enterprise solutions. A few weeks back I met with the business development manager and also a another business person who was former Senior VP of Ninth House. Impressive effort is being expended to move forward and increase the value of SL to corporations.

    One last example is the Air Force with myBase. It’s a four island compound that is very well done and will be used in recruiting and training. It’s open to the public and worth a visit.

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