METANOMICS MEETS MICROSOFT
AUGUST 18, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, and welcome to Metanomics. Today we’ll be
taking a close look at Microsoft’s activities in the Metaverse of Virtual Worlds. If you’re like
me, Microsoft is not the first tech giant that comes to mind when I think of the Metaverse.
But our guest today, Zain Naboulsi, Microsoft’s developer evangelist, is hoping that will
change, and he’s going to talk with us today about Microsoft’s new role in Second Life, with
the Microsoft Developers Network and what the rise of Virtual World technology means to
Microsoft and what Microsoft’s plans in the industry might mean for the rest of us.
Metanomics is brought to you by Simuality, our primary sponsor, maker of SlippCat. We
also have four supporting sponsors: Language Lab, Kelly Services, InterSection Unlimited
and the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. Special thanks to
the Johnson School, my institution, and also special thanks to SLCN for allowing us to
broadcast Metanomics across Second Life and onto the web at metanomics.net. As usual,
our live venue is Second Life is the Muse Isle Arena, and we welcome everyone who’s at
our event partners across the grid: Meta Partners Conference Area, Colonia Nova
Amphitheater, Rockliffe University and the Outreach Amphitheater of the New Media
Consortium Educational Community Sims.
Also, as usual, we ask you to join our Metanomics Group in Second Life so you can get
information on the show. Over the rest of the summer, we’re going to be continuing our
survey of our Metanomics Group members, to see how we can improve our show. I’ll talk a
little more about this at the end of today’s show, in my Connecting The Dots segment. But,
please, do join our group so we can get your opinion.
One of the signature advantages of live events in Virtual Worlds is the rich and varied
discussions that you can have in text chat at the same time we’re having a more focused
conversation in voice. We use InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local
chat to our website and website chat into our event partners. So the backchat can bring you
in touch with people around Second Life and on the web, wherever you might be. You’ll also
see that Bjorlyn Loon and other Metanomics staff members will be pasting in relevant links
and other quotes. Ultimately this backchat becomes part of our archives along with the
video, audio and text transcript of the show itself. So chime in, improve the conversation,
and make our website resources better to boot.
Before moving on to Microsoft, our main event, let’s hear from Metanomics industry
correspondent Joey Seiler, who’s going to tell us about the upcoming Virtual Worlds Expo
put on by Virtual Worlds management, the publisher of Virtual Worlds News, of which Joey
is the editor. Joey, welcome back to Metanomics.
JOEY SEILER: Thank you very much, Beyers. I’m happy to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ve just heard so many people talking about this conference.
Excellent reviews of the ones that you’ve put on before. And I’m hoping you can just give us
a little more detail on what’s going on, starting with the fact that there are five tracks. So can
you give us the highlights on the five different tracks for the conference in L.A.?
JOEY SEILER: Sure. One of the things I’m particularly excited about, I think that is
important about it, is last year when we were doing the Expo, we were in Silicon Valley, and
we moved this year to Los Angeles. So we’re taking a little bit more mainstream approach,
which I hope is represented in a lot of our tracks, as well as our audience and our
attendees. This year we’ll be looking at five different areas from the Kidzworld, where things
have really, really popped off first, which I think is probably highlighted by Disney’s keynote
[AUDIO GLITCH] and then moving on to Hollywood, which is one of the things they’re really
focusing on this year, trying to bring in the entertainment industry where we’ve gotten a lot
of interest as well. Notably with our keynote from John Landau, who’s been working with
James Cameron on Avatar and working inside of [Metaverse?] as well, but again goes
across the board, and we’re seeing a lot of interest all over the place.
One particular note to highlight on a personal geek level is a panel will be featuring
Ruben Steiger, from Millions of Us, and Tim Crane, from Heroes, which personally I couldn’t
be more excited about. But then on a slightly more serious level, we’re looking at Enterprise
Worlds as well because that’s where we’re seeing a lot of interest really start to pop off from
there. We have everyone from IBM, with Colin Paris keynoting, to talk about some of their
efforts. Down to getting to the nitty-gritty of how do both convince your bosses to help bring
you in and then how to make the most use out of it, whether it’s an [own-boarding?] or a
collaboration. And this has been a little bit of my personal passion to help organize for this
conference is the future track. We’re looking at not just what’s happening right now as we
are with some of the other tracks, but what’s going to be happening in the next three to five,
and even farther out, years’ timeframe.
I’ll be heading up actually and moderating the panel talking about the business opportunities
for the future, with representatives from Linden Lab, Multiverse, Makena and Metaplace. But
I have to say I’m also particularly excited to hear from the folks from the Augmented Reality
Panel and see what they’re up to. And then finally, we have our track entirely about
technology and results that features people, from a little bit of everywhere across the
industry, talking about mostly case studies, of the results that they’ve already seen with
campaigns from there in Scion to work that Forterra’s been doing with IBM to initiatives
across in MMOG’s and everywhere else. So that’s just sort of a little bit of a sampler, but it’s
going to be a really busy two days in L.A. That’s September 3rd through 4th at the
Convention Center, and I think it’s going to be very exciting for everyone involved.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me echo the excitement, particularly on the fact that doing it
in L.A. is going to bring it much more into the mainstream, particularly on the entertainment
end of things. My own brother actually is in the movie industry, and I was talking with him
about actually something we talked about on the show last time you were on, the Virtual
Greats effort. And I noticed you have John Landau. He’s going to be one of the keynote
speakers, and he’s involved with the movie Avatar, which I know people involved in Virtual
Worlds are going to be first in line for. So that should be very interesting.
JOEY SEILER: Yeah, it will be very [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. This year it’s the first year you’re giving out some awards,
the Innovation Awards. So can you tell us a little bit about what prompted that idea?
JOEY SEILER: Sure. That’s something that obviously to give credit where credit is due, that
you’re a part of as well, helping us organize that. But really what inspired that is that as a
company we were sitting and looking at the way that the conference has grown on our end.
And it really has grown. We’re seeing almost twice as many companies exhibiting this year,
but not just inside of our business, but everywhere across the industry. This year has been
one of constant innovation and exciting new features for Virtual Worlds. And not just the
platforms themselves but applications and ideas being put to use on them, and we wanted
to find a way to help recognize that and both bring some attention within the industry and
without of it, the people that have really been contributing to the future of what we’re all a
We’re going through the nominations and voting process right now, as you know, with
several other members who are all people that can comment on the industry without
necessarily having their own [product to flog?] particularly so we have a little bit of an
objective measure, and we’ll be presenting those awards there across a couple different
categories, looking at the Kidzworld, [Teen World?], the adult Worlds and also just kind of
overall innovation. I think it’s going to be really exciting to see what we can all come up with
as we’re doing that over the next couple weeks.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes. One of the things that has surprised me as we’ve talked
about this, I mean there’s obviously so much going on. There are so many new products
coming to market. There are so many new ways that these products are being used. But it
doesn’t necessarily make it easy to say this particular new product or use is innovative. So
it’s all new, but figuring out what’s truly innovative is definitely a challenge. So I admit I’m
wondering who’s going to end up walking away with these because, at this point, I don’t
think I have any idea.
JOEY SEILER: Well, it keeps it exciting to be a part of it then.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s right. My only disappointment is conflict of interest keeps
me from pushing for Metanomics and SLCN to win an award. But, whatever. I understand
Now I’d like to move on. One last question here, which is that we can use conferences often
to gauge sort of the growth and vibrancy of an industry. And I’m sure it’s hard for you to sort
this out with all the last-minute additions and registrations that you’re going to have. But how
do you stand with pre-registrations relative to this time last year?
JOEY SEILER: I can’t get into the specific numbers, but I can say definitively that we are
growing, and we are larger than we were last year. I’m not sure exactly where that’s coming
from, if that’s simply because it’s a part of the industry and the industry has grown or
because we are in L.A. or because we’re going a little more mainstream. But I think,
regardless of where those numbers are coming from, it’s definitely a good sign for us, and I
think it’s a great sign for the industry. If nothing else, we’re seeing a very robust group of
attendees from a large, diverse range of sections of the industry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I’m--go head.
JOEY SEILER: I was saying, as I was saying earlier, if nothing else, we’ve seen almost
double the amount of companies exhibiting from last year, which, to me, if nothing else,
says that there are more companies who have products to show off and the money to do it.
That’s got to be a good sign for the health of the industry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, absolutely. It’s tough for me and I think for a lot of people
involved with Second Life because what am I doing; I’m flying from the East Coast to L.A. to
go to your conference and then hopping on a flight and ending up in Tampa for the Second
Life Community Convention. And creating that enormous carbon footprint so that I can go
out and spread the word that Virtual Worlds allow you to teleconference and meet people
without traveling. So a little irony there, but I’m not willing what Christian Renaud did when
he was with Cisco, which is say, “I’m not going to go on conferences; instead I’m going to do
it all virtually.” I think it’s going to be a little while for me before I can get away with that.
Joey, thank you--
JOEY SEILER: We’d like to see it go that way then.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Joey, thank you very much for coming on to Metanomics
and telling us about the Virtual World Expo in L.A., right after Labor Day on, what is that, the
3rd to the 5th of September. And I look forward to seeing you there.
JOEY SEILER: Right. Thanks very much. I hope to see a lot of you out there.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Bye bye.
JOEY SEILER: Bye.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s turn to our main event, where we talk with Zain Naboulsi
about Microsoft in the Metaverse. For over 14 years, Zain has been teaching and consulting
on the latest Microsoft technologies. He’s been a Microsoft certified trainer since 1995 and
holds all of the major Microsoft certifications, plus credentials from a number of other tech
companies including Cisco and Checkpoint. Now Zain, in the last few weeks and months,
has been interviewed by Forrester Research, ThinkBalm, Ugo Trade, Gartner, Reuters, and
others I know I’m missing, for his work with Virtual World communities. So it might be a bit of
a challenge for us to plow some new ground here. But let’s see what we can do. Zain,
welcome to Metanomics.
ZAIN NABOULSI: Hi, it’s a pleasure to be here, Rob. Thanks for having me.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I really look forward to learning a lot more about Microsoft
because, to some extent, I always say, “Zain, (or whoever), welcome to Metanomics,” but
today I feel like I should also be saying, “Microsoft, welcome to the Metaverse.” Because, if I
look around at the tech giants, Sun has their Open Source Virtual World Dark Star and
Wonderland. Google has come out with Lively. IBM has been making incredible investments
in just about every facet of the Virtual World space, software, hardware, business
applications. And Cisco Systems have their incubator effort focusing on Virtual Worlds,
headed up by Christian Renaud. Microsoft really doesn’t have the presence, at least that I
can see, that some of these other companies do. So maybe for starters, would you agree
with that, or do you want to take exception?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Interesting point. Well, no. I mean yes and no. It kind of cuts both ways. I
would say that the one thing I love about Microsoft--and bear in mine that when I speak, I
can’t speak for all of Microsoft. I think there’s only a few people that can. I can speak for my
little piece of the world within Microsoft. But, from what I’ve seen and from what I do, I think
my experience has been we’re more about enablement, and we enable and become
enablers for folks to do things. We kind of disagree when you say we’re not involved in the
Metaverse because we’re absolutely involved in the Metaverse. Right now today people are
running the Second Life client on Windows, which is kind of an indirect thing. But even more
directly, you’ve got projects like OpenSim that are written in CSharp, our technology; use
the .NET framework, again, our technology, and so on and so forth.
So we’ve done what we do best so far, which is enable others to take this stuff and run with
it. You mentioned Lively. There are several Silverlight examples of 2D Virtual Worlds. Those
things are out there. So we absolutely have been involved in the Virtual World space, and
that’s not even getting into things that which, I think both Google and Microsoft do very well,
like Virtual Earth and things of that nature.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: As you say, Microsoft is a huge company. You can’t speak for all
of it. Let’s start a little bit with letting you speak for yourself and then we’ll work our way out.
And I guess I’d like to start with your title. What is a developer evangelist?
ZAIN NABOULSI: That’s a good question. I’ve only been one for a little over a year now,
still kind of figuring it out. But a developer evangelist basically is like we just talked about, an
enabler. My job is simple, straightforward and fairly elegant. My job is to enable users of
Microsoft technology to get things done. Now I do that in a variety of ways. In my particular
case, it’s manifested itself in the form of live events, where I’ll go out and speak to anywhere
from groups of ten to groups of two or three thousand. I also do numerous webcasts. And
then, of course, specifically in the Virtual World space, what we’ve done is create
communities in-world. We’ve got them in Second Life. We’re working on getting them in
OpenSim and have actually begun that. And looking at other places. We started some in
Facebook. I’d like to do LinkedIn. I think that’d be a great place to do a kind of a virtual
get-together type stuff. So essentially the job is what you make of it if you’re a developer
Microsoft is very, very, very open about allowing us to do pretty much whatever we want.
There’s certain things we have to do, and it’s ironic because I was just in a commitment
setting discussion yesterday--sorry, not yesterday, Friday--and we were talking about this
very thing. And there’s some things I have to do, like I have to do certain live events
because they’re events we’ve already committed to the community we’ll put on. Which I
don’t mind. It’s just part of the process. And then there’s other things like Second Life and
OpenSim that Microsoft says, “Look. What would you like to do here?” And I tell them. They
go, “Great. Here’s some money. Here’s some time to do it. Go make it happen.” So that’s
pretty much what a developer evangelist does. I enable folks.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now you have a number of live events in Second Life to integrate
the Microsoft Developers Network, MSDN. And you just mentioned live events that you said
you’re committed to. I assume those are Real World events?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Correct. Yeah, correct. Those are the big events in hotels and stuff.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now do those have a similar focus, the Real Life and Second Life
events? Are they trying to accomplish the same goals?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Absolutely. In fact, I’ve gone way out of my way to make sure they’re
duplicates of each other so they accomplish exactly the same goals. The only difference is
the reason I do the Second Life events is to prove definitively the reason we’ve done it for a
year, the business value of doing events in a Virtual World space, and I’ve done it quite
successfully. I’ve proven that we can save money. I’ve proven that we can get folks in, and
they can actually benefit from it, and they don’t have to be face to face. Like you mentioned
earlier, the whole carbon footprint thing. I happen to have gone the other way. I’m the guy
that says, “Look. I’m not going to go to conferences and things unless they’re
super-important.” This year especially, I’ve really pared down my T&E so that if somebody
wants to do a big conference, we’re going to duplicate it in a virtual space, and that’s where
I’ll spend my time.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And now in addition to MSDN, you also launched Heroes Happen
Here, with a Second Life event a little while ago. Can you tell us I guess first a little about
the product and then about the Second Life launch?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Sure. So MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network is really a huge
variety of things. It’s everything from the free resources we give folks, in terms of knowledge
bases and that sort of thing, which can be found, by the way, at msdn.com. It looks like
they’ve got the link up there. And so it goes all the way from that to subscription services
where you get, say for example, a premium MSDN subscription where you get free, well, not
free, you pay--you get this whole package of developer tools, operating systems, servers
and things of that nature. And so your typical developer, like your enthusiast, would
probably just take advantage of most of the free stuff. One of the coolest free things we
offer, by the way, just as an aside is CSharp Express, which is one of my favorite products
ever, which can be found here, and it’s just an awesome, awesome product. All the way up
to you could pay, gosh, I don’t want to lie about the prices, but it’s several thousand dollars
for this super ultimate premium subscription that just gives you like pretty much everything
we ever made.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ll say I can tell that you’re very comfortable with this sort of
multi-streaming voice text thing because, while you’re talking, you’re pasting in links to
CSharp Express. Very impressive. I don’t have many guests that are that immersed. So
wherever Microsoft’s engagement may be with the Metaverse, yours is obviously very high.
And so you’ve got islands here--one island here. Is that right, where you hold your events?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Yeah. It’s got a funky history behind it. It’s one island. It was meant as an
experiment. When I started this, I had no clue if this could be done or not because, in
Second Life, you’ve got groups. You’ve got folks who get together. But what I wanted to do
was something really different. I wanted to create actual user groups meeting in this space,
just like they would in a city. And the way I described it to people was, “Down in my neck of
the woods we’ve got Houston, we’ve got Dallas.” I wanted them to think that Second Life is
just another city. So you say Houston, Dallas, Second Life. And it’s just another city you
visit. And it was a challenge. I won’t lie to you. It was a new way of thinking that, even for
Second Life citizens, was a little different. But in the early days we had Tori Ashe, who really
helped us quite a bit and got started. She and I kind of roughed it. Our first meeting we had
an overwhelming number of three people on the University of Phoenix campus.
And now, thanks very, very much to G2, which is Kyle, and then his wife, Robin. Both of
those folks have taken over now. Kyle runs the MSDN Group, which is--Kyle, please keep
me honest here, I think 820 members. I’ll let Kyle fill in because I’m probably lying there. I
think it’s a little bigger than that. Yeah, Kyle, what’s the latest numbers on that? And then
Robin, we’ve got 170, I think, tech net or administrator folks in that group. So we cover both
major technical areas: developers and administrators.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We’ve worked very hard to build up the Metanomics Group to
carry these efforts on. Those are hard numbers to hit, but I’m glad that it sounds like we eke
it out a little bit over your group size. So in at least one dimension, Metanomics is bigger
than Microsoft. I’m going to sleep well tonight.
ZAIN NABOULSI: Absolutely. Congrats on that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now a couple weeks ago, maybe a little longer than that, you
were interviewed by Erica Driver, formerly of Forrester, now with ThinkBalm, an
independent Virtual Worlds research analysis company. And in that article, you emphasized
how Virtual Worlds altered the typical calculus that marketers use when they think about the
cost of getting that, I guess what it’s called: the touch, with their customers. Can you give us
a little more insight into that?
ZAIN NABOULSI: You bet. And before I do, I want to give a special shout-out to Erica, who,
in my opinion, is probably one of the bravest people I’ve ever met in this space, leaving
Forrester and coming and doing her own thing, and her and her husband are running that.
That’s just wow! In my book, she’s just a huge adventurer and just awesome. So given that
though, and given that love out, the specifics of how this works, I think, has to change in
marketers’ minds. And this came about because of an education process I’ve had to do
internally. Right now today, when you use the word “online,” it’s real easy. When you use
the word “online,” your marketers immediately start drooling and thinking in terms of
hundreds of thousands or millions of touches. Now what’s a touch? Well, it depends on how
you define it, but it can go anywhere from a light touch to a deep touch. In this case, your
classic marketer, when they hear the word “online,” immediately must like a Pavlovian
response, will start thinking it’s a super light touch, a very small percentage of people are
going to be able to respond, and you might actually get something out of that.
Classic example: Clickthroughs. If you got a clickthrough on a website, that’s a light touch,
but you’re going to get a huge amount of numbers out of it, but only a very small percentage
will actually come away maybe buying a product or whatever.
What I’ve had to do is, I’ve had to educate marketers to say, “No, there’s got to be a
paradigm shift in the way you think about online marketing.” And not just places like Second
Life. Because this applies even to places where you can get scale. But particularly in
Second Life, OpenSim and Virtual Worlds of today, you really can’t get a huge scale. You’re
not going to get ten thousand people in one place. It’s just not technically possible. Yeah,
you can get a whole bunch of islands, put them together--Sims--put them together in a grid
and maybe achieve it like you guys are doing here. You go, and you’ve got the ChatBridge,
etcetera. And you can achieve scale through that way, but you’re not going to get everybody
in one spot. Even with ChatBridges, etcetera, you’re still not going to get ten thousand, a
hundred thousand, these huge numbers that marketers expect from the word “online.”
So the thing I’ve been trying to educate them on is, when it comes to Facebook or when it
comes to where I’d like to go, like LinkedIn, when it comes to Second Life, you have to
understand that marketing now is all about smaller groups, but those small groups are
meeting all the time. I think the best example of that is Metanomics itself. You guys come
here every Monday, right? You have your show, and it’s regular, consistent, and you don’t
have a hundred thousand people showing up, but you always have that consistent--
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Not yet.
ZAIN NABOULSI: --audience showing up all the time. That’s right not yet. You will. I have
faith. And when the technology gets to the point that it can reach that, I have no doubt you’ll
fill those seats. But you see my point, which is, it’s really about consistency and smaller
groups of people over time. And, by the way, while we’re at it, those smaller groups of
people, the touch you’re achieving with them isn’t the equivalent of a clickthrough. Far from
it. It’s a super-deep touch we’re having right now. The only thing superior to the touch we’re
having right now would be if we were all live, physically sitting in some place together. Short
of that, this is as good as it gets.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I can’t disagree with you there. So I’m curious. We had
Joey Seiler on On The Spot right at the beginning of this, and he was talking about one of
the focuses of the conference coming up in L.A. is making the case for Virtual Worlds
investment to your superiors. I’m just wondering, I mean you’ve just given a great lecture on
marketing, and I’m guessing you probably had to give, as basically a programmer
developer, you’re giving this lecture to someone in your marketing department and trying to
persuade them? How does that work? How do they like taking their marketing from
someone more on the developing side?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Well, lucky me, I’m not dumb enough to think that I know everything so
my strength is, I know what I don’t know, and I know what I do know. And what I know is
that no marketer is just going to listen to some developer, especially a newbie at Microsoft,
telling them how to work. So I’ve been backed up by Mohan, if you’re familiar with him, from
the Kellogg School of Management. He says basically what I say, and several others
obviously. There’s tons of articles on just basically reiterating what I’ve just said. So there’s
plenty of luminaries, real luminaries, not folks like me. I go on what I see and what I know.
And I have to learn the rest. Like I said, I don’t pretend to know everything. But these folks,
they’ve got their Ph.D.’s. They know what they’re talking, and when I know that we’re all
saying the same thing and I can take that to marketing folks, then I know they’ll listen, and
One other thing I’ve found that works amazingly well, by the way: pictures; pictures and
video. Nothing works better, believe it or not, even better than a Ph.D. telling them that this
stuff is cool, is you showing them how cool it is.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, that’s why I’m so glad that now in our summer season,
SLCN can make our lips move, which makes the pictures we can get from Metanomics even
ZAIN NABOULSI: That’s awesome.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now Harper Beresford, one of our regular Metanomics viewers
and someone who’s quite involved in marketing within Second Life, wants to follow up a bit
on the super-deep touch. She asks: How much is your super-deep touch going to pay off if
you only touch, say, a thousand people? So you get 20 bucks out of each of them in the
long run. How much is that actually going to be worth compared to the cost?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Great question. So getting back to the example then, it’s real easy. What
we’re talking about here is, my argument essentially is, and this is the part I’m trying to
prove now this year more so than last year. Last year was just proving we could build
communities, and we could actually have people show up to the party. It could be done. And
an important movement. This year is all about business, business, business and proving the
business case. My argument is that you can absolutely do it. Because, think about it. If you
have a million touches, but only a very, very small percentage of those touches produce
leads, and then only a percentage of those actually produce sales, then I am quite certain
that when you get a thousand folks meeting, right, if you get a thousand folks meeting, but
they’re meeting consistently over a regular amount of time, and, by the way, it’s not always
going to be the same thousand, is it. Right? It’s a thousand folks at that first meeting. Maybe
two/thirds of the same folks at the next meeting, but some new folks. You’re going to get
some flow through there. But those folks are getting that deeper, deeper level of touch,
almost as good as you being there right in front of them. And, as we do regular, consistent
smaller groups over time, then you build up that volume.
I’ll give you a classic example, a perfect example. The Heroes Happen Here launch we had.
We had 150 people register, and we had 220 show up and stay over the entire day. And, at
the end of the day, there were 220 people. Now that’s not counting just the folks who walked
through and looked at stuff and saw our ads and all that good stuff. That is the folks who
came and stayed for eight hours in multiple track sessions.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s very impressive. And I see while you’re talking about
numbers, in the backchat there’s a very there's a very active discussion going on about who
these people are. And we don’t have a whole lot of time to go into it, but I guess I’ll just
mention that I think it looks like a number of people in the group are saying that you want
the qualified audience. You want the people that you actually want to get the touches on,
and this looks like a very solid way of doing that, especially for developers. You’d like the
early adopters. You like the people who are on the cutting edge, and that’s probably pretty
much who you’re getting.
ZAIN NABOULSI: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m very satisfied with the depth of it. The
first love of my life is the Virtual World space. It is, in my mind, the most important space of
the future. And while I do also engage in the 2D Worlds like Facebook and, like I said,
LinkedIn, some of those places I want to engage in, without a doubt this is my highest
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. So there are a few Microsoft products that seem like they
might have direct implications for Second Life in particular and Virtual Worlds more
generally. Let’s start with Silverlight. Can you tell us first what it is and what the horizon
might be for integrating it into Second Life or other Virtual Worlds?
ZAIN NABOULSI: You bet. So Silverlight obviously is our rich internet application or RIA
entry into the market. And basically it allows you to create all these wonderful, cool
two-dimensional type, I don’t know, animations, visualizations. You can show movies in it.
Right now today, I think our coolest claim to fame with Silverlight, my favorite feature is, you
can play HD video, right, high definition video in Silverlight players, which is just
phenomenal. Some people call it our version of Flash. I don’t like making those comparisons
because I think it’s too abrasive. We’re not trying to kill Flash. We’re Silverlight. You’re going
to use Flash for some things. You’re going to use Silverlight for other things. And you’re
going to pick and choose your weapons of choice, if you will, your tools of choice.
One of the things that I’m a huge proponent of is choices. So Flash is a flathead-end
screwdriver, and Silverlight’s a Philips. You’re going to use the right tool for the job, and I
think what we’re going to find is, over time, people use Silverlight for certain types of 2D
application needs, and people use other competing products like Flash. I know Adobe has
some good stuff, AIR, other stuff like that that they want to use as well.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You’re in active development trying to integrate Silverlight into
ZAIN NABOULSI: Good question. No. We’ve had discussions about the possibility of doing
that. And certainly that’s something I think we would like to see, but unfortunately, the
discussions I’ve had with the Lindens means it would require probably quite a bit of effort to
get it integrated. Does that mean it won’t be integrated? No. I’m sure as some point it will be
integrated down the road, but, in the short term, it’s probably not very realistic to say that’s
going to happen in Second Life.
OpenSim, on the other hand, I think it’s very realistic to say that you’d probably see
Silverlight integration. From the community, right? I’m talking about the community here
doing these things, not necessarily Microsoft. Because, again, we’re about enablement. But
I think you could absolutely see Silverlight integration in a product like OpenSim in short
order, probably within the next year.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now an even more aggressive and ambitious project that you’ve
talked about is actually another Microsoft product, .NET, and the programming language in
environment and using that to replace Linden’s scripting language, LSL. That’s something
you’ve been thinking about at least. Can you talk a little bit about what that might mean?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Yeah, absolutely. I think anybody who knows the history, and I’ve been
in Second Life for about four years plus now. And, if you know LSL’s history, you know that
it was created kind of almost as an afterthought. It was like, “Oh, yeah, we need a scripting
language.” And it turned into something really good. I love LSL. I think it has some great
pieces to it. But, without a doubt, there’s some pretty big holes in terms of some of the
functionality it can achieve. For years, and many, many years now, the Lindens have been
saying they’re going to bring in Mono, which is an Open Source version of the .NET
framework that runs on Unix-based systems. And finally, it looks like that dream is coming to
fruition so then we’ll be able to use other languages. Again, this comes back to my theme or
my premise that choices are important. LSL’s good for what it does today, but I think it’d be
even better to use CSharp and particularly for new people to be able to use things like
We were having the discussions yesterday, and one of the discussions was, it was
mentioned, “Well, I learned LSL. It was kind of cool and hip.” And I said, “That’s great, but
you could do really cool things, I think, faster, particularly if you didn’t know programming
languages, using more natural language type constructs. And Visual Basic does that.” And
so I said, “Like, for an IF statement in CSharp or LSL, if you want to do an IF statement, it
would look something like this--and I’ll just put it into chat. It would look like, you know, blah.
Let’s see. IF, blah. And then you’d have these funky curly braces where you do some kind
of code. And so you’d get something like that, whereas, in Visual Basic, an IF statement
would look something like this: IF, you know, blah, then some code. It’s just more natural
language. It flows more naturally. It was ironic that, as part of that discussion, it was then
revealed they had never really tried an IF statement because it was kind of funky and hard
to do, which led back to my thought, which is, “Hey, VB you probably would have
experimented with the IF statement because of more natural language.”
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s move on. You mentioned OpenSim before, and we
talked quite a bit about interoperability and the Open Grid Beta project that Linden Lab has
pulled together in their efforts with IBM. So people who have been following Metanomics
over the summer have heard us talk quite a bit about this. One of the key elements of Open
Grid is the idea of an agent domain which provides, in the words of Zero Linden,
Mark Lentczner, who’s heading up this effort on the Linden side, the agent domain provides
user-centric control of your identity. So Microsoft has Windows Live ID, which seems like to
me, and remember I’m an accounting professor, not a professional developer, but they
seem like they’re serving quite similar roles. And, in fact, Eric Reuters wrote an article for
the Reuters Second Life last month, and let me just quote quickly from this, “No one’s really
sure yet how avatar identities will be managed in a chaotic World filled with thousands of
interoperable OpenSim grids. But Microsoft believes it has a solution: its own Windows
Live ID.” And then he quotes you as saying, “We went to come out with a shipping version
of OpenSim that integrates live services and a SQL Server, that’s the database server.” So
can you talk a little bit about your take on Live ID as an effective basis for maintaining avatar
ZAIN NABOULSI: You bet. You bet. And first let me clarify there. I’ve just posted to the chat
my response to Eric Reuters’ article. I felt like the article was misleading at best and
bordering on a tragic travesty of what journalism should be. Unfortunately, I think he
misunderstood or misinterpreted a lot of what I said, and I don’t really think much of his
journalistic integrity. But beyond that, his point what he had tried to insinuate was that we
were coming out with Live ID, and I guess there was some secret cabal that we were trying
to take over the world as far as identity went. Absolutely not! Basically the idea is simple,
elegant and straightforward. All any of us wants out of this deal, whether it be websites or
Virtual Worlds or anything that’s out there, whether it be inside the company or outside the
company I would argue, is this dream of the single sign-on. Right? To be able to have a low
friction way of getting into multiple places without having to remember a billion freaking
passwords. And so certainly Live ID is our particular option, especially on Microsoft
properties and with Microsoft partners.
But let’s not deviate away from some of the larger picture things which are just cool as hell,
in my opinion, like Open ID. I think it’s just awesome. And ultimately, down the road, I think
what we’re going to see is entry into the identity space from people who are already very
well established in that space, like VeriSign, for example. I don’t think it’s inconceivable at all
that, that in the future, a well trusted third party like VeriSign will start getting into this identity
space more, and we’ll see people signing up, getting VeriSign IDs of some sort, to have that
single sign-on type experience. So it’s really about lowering the friction, not about trying to
make sure that Live ID is the dominant sign-on or all this stuff.
In fact, to my knowledge, and I noted this in my response, we don’t have a stated Virtual
World identity strategy. I mean it’s just not there, and it’s not something that’s on our mind.
We’re about--coming back to that enablement, we’re about enablement. So if somebody has
a Virtual World, and they want to get together with some of their partners and stuff and
integrate Live ID, well, we’ve got an API. We’ve got open stuff they can use. They can
integrate it and have a good time with it, but that’s their decision to make, and that’s their
choice to make. We’re not going to force it on anybody.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Great. Thanks for clarifying that for us. Now I’ve been
keeping a list of a bunch of questions that are coming in from Metanomics viewers and
thought I would just run through some of these. This is from blogger Malburns Writer: Is
Microsoft now perceiving a future where something like a local OpenSim viewer might be
incorporated into an operating interface, as like an active desktop?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Good question. Good question. So remember, I’m kind of a low man on
the totem pole, so I’m not privy to some of the high-level executive decision making that
goes on. But if I have my way about it, it will absolutely be a consideration. Is that going to
happen in Windows 7, the next version of Windows? No. Is it going to happen maybe within
the next couple versions or so? I hope so. I personally hope so. I don’t know. I’m certainly
walking around all the product groups, saying, “Look. I would love to see this. Let’s do this.”
It’s ultimately up to the Windows product group to decide if they want to go that path or not.
But I would be willing to bet that, given all the new technology and all the direction that
things seem to be heading and particularly the great work being done by everyone who’s
listening to this and everyone who’s being part of what’s going on here today, I think it’s not
inconceivable that, within the next three to four versions of Windows, you will see some type
of integration. I hope so. I really do.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Jim Brock asks: Why isn’t Microsoft using its resources to
contribute more to Virtual World development? Things like, for example, integrating Virtual
Worlds with NetMeeting or enhancing some other Office applications, things like that.
ZAIN NABOULSI: Great question. Great question. So, Jim, first of all, we are. The first part
of that discussion was, we’re enablers so we’ve put out free versions of CSharp. Oh, you
know what? We’ve got a free version of SQL Server. And, by the way, I’d like to really give a
major shout-out to Strawberry, right, Chris Hart; Strawberry Fride, Chris Hart, who was
responsible for getting the OpenSim folks to get it to work with Second Life and getting that
put into the trunk. She just totally, totally kicked major butt on that, so special round of
applause to her. And this all again goes back to what I’m saying. This is all community led
for those types of things. And I just pasted in the link to the free SQL Server edition, and you
guys can grab it. This is free CSharp. So we’ve done that.
Now your question about integration is an important one, and that’s something I’m
evangelizing internally. I’m personally going to as many product groups as I can get to and
saying to them, “Hey, let’s get this stuff integrated.” And the response has been everything
from, “I don’t really see the value in that,” to, “Oh, my god, this is so great! I wish we could
do this tomorrow.” And so it really depends on the group and how motivated they are to do
this, but, to be perfectly honest, Jim, the biggest problem has been right now today we
haven’t gotten far enough in the technology to be able to do it effectively. Even the
800-pound gorilla in this space, Second Life, hasn’t been able to do anything like this, even
with lower-level type products in this way. I still have to do presentations, using JPEGs on a
prim. That hasn’t changed yet. So until we progress a little bit further, and we’re on that
curve, very much so, it’s going to be a little while before we get full integration. But make no
mistake about it, at least there’s one Microsoft person who’s absolutely working towards that
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess we really have time for one more question, and I’ll just
make this my own. I’d like to follow up on your reference Linden Lab and what they’re doing
and what they’re trying to do. In a recent interview on .NET, this was with you and G2 Proto,
one of you, I actually don’t remember which one, said, “Linden Lab is a monopoly and a little
bit of a dictatorship.” Which, naturally, right there a privately held company, not a public
service or governmental agency. I’m wondering what is your take on how they’re holding up
their end of the technology and collaborative aspects of growing their product and making it
possible to integrate the types of features that you’re describing?
ZAIN NABOULSI: Yeah. So I’ve got to be real careful here. Now this is Zain Naboulsi, the
Virtual World’s guy, not so much the Microsoft guy talking here. So I absolutely am not
speaking for Microsoft when I make the following comments. From my personal perspective,
I believe Second Life has exceeded marvelously in some areas. We wouldn’t be here if they
hadn’t. And failed utterly, completely and miserably in others. And I’ll give you specific
examples. The fact that we can come here, and I can do a voice solution with you, using
voice, and not have to worry about the underlying details, amazing! Just absolutely
amazing! And the spatial voice and all the things that go with it. The fact that I still have to
do my PowerPoint presentations using JPEGs, in my mind, utter complete, miserable
failure. They’ve done the social pieces real well, but seem to have ignored the business
pieces which I think will take the Virtual World movement forward, and that are so critical to
getting us all where we really want to be. By the way, for the record, it wasn’t me who called
them a monopoly. It was G2. I try to avoid those terms.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I was just ready to say, “Well, tell us what you really think,
Zain.” No, that’s great. It’s very insightful. It really is someone, you know, I think you really
caught my perspective on what works and what doesn’t work for the types of events that we
do. Just to give people a sense of the production behind Metanomics, we take on all the
tasks, all the hard work of the graphics because there’s no way that we are going to force
our guests to do that kind of work. We just have them give us the real simple stuff, and we
do the hard work of the conversion. And thank God that voice now works so smoothly that,
other than getting people in for a sound check and making sure they have a high quality
headset, it’s really very straightforward and has been a huge improvement over the recent
Thank you, Zain, for coming on the show and giving us your thoughts and some insight into
what Microsoft is doing. I really appreciate it, and I hope we’ll be able to get you back on
ZAIN NABOULSI: It was my pleasure. Thank you again for having me. Thanks to
everybody for coming and listen to me rant.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, and there’s a fair bit of ranting going on in the backchat. If
you didn’t get a chance to look, you might take a look after the show.
ZAIN NABOULSI: Awesome.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you very much, Zain Naboulsi, developer evangelist for
Virtual Worlds and lots of other things, not just Virtual Worlds, at Microsoft. And that brings
us basically to the end of our show. Just a very brief moment here to Connect The Dots. I
would just like to say that I agree very much with Zain on one aspect of what Virtual Worlds
are all about. They are certainly, for Metanomics, it’s really about community. And one of the
things that we are trying to do to make our community stronger and provide more of what
you want is that we are working with GSD&M Idea City and the folks at Metaversality, to
survey Metanomics viewers, to understand who you are and what we can do to make this a
better show. There are two ways that you can participate in this survey. One is that we have
a couple of bots helping us: Roxy Ideator and Vogel Ideator, and I believe one of them is
joining us here, a giant red dot here on Muse Isle. You can simply open the web tab on the
profile for Roxy Ideator or Vogel Ideator. Load the web page which will ask for your avatar
name and an email address. Just follow the instructions which are very simple. You type
“begin,” to start the survey; “repeat,” to see the last question; and “help,” if you have
questions or want more information. You can also take the survey on the web. I believe our
producer, Bjorlyn Loon, will be typing the link in, and you’ll get an email very quickly. You
can click on the link inside. Either way that you do this, it won’t take more than ten minutes,
and it will help us make Metanomics what you would like to see it be, so we really would
appreciate your taking those few minutes to participate in our survey.
Next week we are going to close out our season with Nic Mitham, of KZERO, which has
been deeply involved in a number of marketing efforts for enterprises in Virtual Worlds, and
those of you who have been following Second Life know that this has been a very up and
down year for enterprises looking for brand expression within Second Life in particular. So I
will be very interested to hear what Nic has to say on that front. That’s also going to be the
last show of our summer season before we head out to the two big conferences, the Virtual
Worlds Expo in L.A. and the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa. So we’ll try to
make this a touch of a year in review as well. And, if you have thoughts about what you’ve
seen over the last 12 months since September of 2007, let us know, and we’ll try to fit that
in. Thank you so much for coming to Metanomics again.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com
Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer