METANOMICS: IMMERSIVE WORKSPACES
DECEMBER 15, 2008
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon. I’m Rob Bloomfield, and welcome to
Metanomics. Today Metanomics turns 60, 60 shows that is. We’re going to celebrate by
announcing some really exciting changes to the Metanomics organization, and then we’re
going to talk with Justin Bovington, CEO of Rivers Run Red, which was one of the first
companies to conduct enterprise marketing in Second Life and is now partnering with
Linden Lab to offer an enterprise solution for the workforce: Immersive Workspaces.
Metanomics is filmed from the virtual Sage Hall, home of my real life employer, Cornell
University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. But, for today’s show, I personally
am in the Hotel Métropole in Brussels, Belgium, giving a plenary speech tomorrow on, you
guessed it, the roles Virtual Worlds can play in managerial accounting research. So today
we thank our outside sponsors: InterSection Unlimited, Kelly Services, Language Lab and
Learning Tree International for making Metanomics possible.
Hello to our event partner viewers: Confederation of Democratic Sims, Meta Partners
Conference Area, Rockliffe University, New Media Consortium, Orange Island and
JenzZa Misfit’s historic Muse Isle. We’re using InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system
to transmit local chat to our website and website chat into our event partners. So this
technology brings you in touch with people around Second Life and on the web, wherever
you are. So speak up, and let everyone know your thoughts. Make sure to register on the
Metanomics website so that you can tap into this great resource when you can’t get into
Before we hear from our first guest, I’d like to welcome Doug Thompson, from Remedy
Communications, in Toronto, Canada, to join me for a special announcement. Many
Metanomics viewers know Doug as Dusan Writer, author of the popular blog Dusan Writer’s
Metaverse. He’s an active backchatter in Metanomics as well. I couldn’t be happier to
announce that Remedy Communications will be assuming management of Metanomics’
business and production affairs. I will be remaining as host and take on the role of
editor-in-chief, overseeing Metanomics content. So the show won’t be changing its focus or
its tone, and we won’t be changing our basic format either. We’ll still be what Erica Driver of
ThinkBalm has called, and this is a quote, “a futuristic combination of traditional lecture, TV
talk show, massive group text chat and weekly gathering of friends and associates from
around the globe.”
What will be changing is that Doug and Remedy will be bringing new energy and resources
to Metanomics so that we can continue doing what we’ve been doing, only better. So, Doug,
welcome to Metanomics, and tell us what this alliance means to you.
DOUG THOMPSON: Am I still going to be allowed to backchat? Number one question.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, you are still allowed to backchat.
DOUG THOMPSON: Oh, good! I don’t want to lose my backchat. I can’t tell you how
excited I am about this partnership between Metanomics and Remedy. For me, Metanomics
has always been the go-to place to hear interesting people share their experiences about
Virtual Worlds and what has worked and what hasn’t worked. And I think this partnership is
a way to help bring that message and bring those lessons to a wider audience. I think we
share a philosophy about the importance of Virtual Worlds, to business identity policy,
education and personal exploration. And our role at Remedy will be to help spread the good
word of what Metanomics is doing and the insights that you’re uncovering. We really look
forward to working with the Metanomics team and with Bjorlyn and JenzZa and the full crew
and also with SLCN TV who have done a great job broadcasting every Monday.
But one of the things I did want to talk about is the in-world community because one of the
things that makes Metanomics work, in my opinion, is the creative cacophony, or the
backchat, as you call it and the chance for people to share their own opinions and share
their own insights into what they’re learning in Virtual Worlds, and I think this will be a way to
further jump off into new explorations with the community within Second Life and the
Metanomics groups and on Muse Isle and elsewhere.
I’m really looking forward to 2009. I think this is really exciting for us at Remedy, and we’re
looking forward to helping Metanomics just keep getting better. So thank you so much for
this. I appreciate being here today.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! Well, I am excited as well, and, for those who want to
know more about this, we’re going to be issuing a press release shortly after the show, and I
will be able to stick around and chat with anyone who wants to talk. And you’ll be hearing a
lot more about the alliance between Metanomics and Remedy Communications, full name,
as the week and months progress. I do just want to point out quickly that the people that you
know who have been working with Metanomics, Lynn Cullins and JenzZa Misfit, who do just
incredible amounts of work in the back, are sticking with us. And, of course, all of our event
partner relationships, our relationships with advisors like IYan and iAlja Writer and
Bevan Whitfield and all the other people you hear from are still going to be with us. So, as I
say, the same only better, and I’m really glad that we’re going this direction.
On a related note, today’s On The Spot guest is, in fact, JenzZa Misfit, owner of Muse Isle
and half a dozen related islands, and what she’s now calling the Muse Isle Connection.
Metanomics has been filmed in Muse Isle I don’t know how many times, and JenzZa also
acts as the Metanomics imagineer. I saw in the chat someone said, “How are the avatars
moving so fluidly?” You’re going to find out in just a minute or two. So, JenzZa, it’s going to
be great to actually hear your voice on Metanomics. Welcome.
JENZZA MISFIT: Hey, Beyers, thanks, and it’s great to be here on this side.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: First, I just have to say a number of people have ribbed me for
saying “historic” Muse Isle every time I announce it, and maybe we’ll retire that phrase. But
it actually does have some history, doesn’t it?
JENZZA MISFIT: Yeah, it absolutely does, and I’m sure I started that phrase, but Muse Isle
is almost three years old, okay, so it’s one of the original live music and art-themed private
estate islands, like in April of 2006. I’m not the original owner, but I am now--I have now
owned it longer than the original person who brought Muse Isle online. But a lot of Second
Life’s first live music performances were actually performed right at Muse Isle, at the Arena,
at Cecilia’s. We were even lucky enough to have been given a mention in Rolling Stone
Magazine. That was in September 2006, for those of you looking for it on eBay. I know that I
am. In an article about the future of music in virtual spaces, so that was pretty cool.
And while there’s been a number of sort of firsts that we’ve been part of, one example: In
the fall of ’06, Philip Rosedale gave a presentation at a real life conference, and he had
Second Life logged in on his laptop at the podium, and I think that was the first time he did
that. He certainly surprised everyone at Muse Isle that day when he stopped in for a visit, as
part of his demonstration, and we were not planning on that. But I think these kinds of early
days events and experiences and the memories really do create history, and I believe in
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: What are your plans now?
JENZZA MISFIT: Well, since midsummer, I’ve been working on an expansion to Muse Isle.
(Don’t you love it when blue windows drop down. Excuse me.) You and I have talked for
some time about having sort of a connection here. I’ve added four islands of my own, one
full one and three open spaces. And, of course, you have added Metanomics Island on the
south side of Muse Isle. For those of you that have not noticed that, do take note, and it’s a
full island. And so we are actually a complex of six Sims now, and I’m so happy with the
look and feel of all of it. And the stress and the expense of overseeing the project has been
worth it for me, although time will tell.
But I am most pleased with an amazing new structure at Muse Isle Northwest. I’d love
everyone to check it out sometime. It’s sort of my little vision. I call it the Mill, and it’s a great
place to gather for conversation. It will serve as another live music venue location. It’s highly
detailed, and there’s also a new village of shops, for the retail area that we want to present.
Different things we hope to have going on, games and activities. Live events, of course, are
going to be expanding. And I’ve even added a cinema on Muse Isle North, that is art deco in
design, and we hope to feature machinima premiers and festivals in the future.
There’s an art walk on the original island, Muse Isle, that goes back to its first days online,
and we’re going to give that an upgrade. We hope to feature an artist rotation program. I’m
really excited about that. So my plan is to continue to shape this all sort of into a community
experience that’s fun and in good taste. Things that will appeal to people who are wanting to
experience the arts, music and culture of Second Life and who even want to shop for virtual
content that’s not only original, but of fine quality. And, again, presented in good taste. I’m
working right now to line up people.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. I’ll say this works really well with us and what Metanomics
and Remedy Communications are trying to accomplish. Because what we want to be able to
do is integrate even more with the in-world community, and, as we bring in the enterprise
users who are coming in through Metanomics, we want to make sure that they are
experiencing the culture and the economy of Second Life directly. And so those of you, if
you are content creators and you have stuff, whether you’re an artist or a musician or
making clothing, helping people fix up their avatars, all of that, just contact JenzZa. That’s
something that really is going to benefit Metanomics, as well as the community.
JENZZA MISFIT: Exactly right.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’d like to move on and talk a minute about your work as
imagineer. So you’ve been working with programmer and animator Valradica Vale for a long
time now, to provide the Rendezvous Animator, which has sold some number of thousands
of copies. And now you’re working on a new animator that SLCN is using for their
broadcasts and that we’re using right now. So can you tell us about these two products and
maybe give a demonstration of Avateer Pro for us.
JENZZA MISFIT: I certainly can. I’d love to. Yes, it’s true Valradica Vale, he is my good
friend and business partner in Second Life, and he’s just such a visionary. He’s the technical
genius behind our company, RDV Animations, and everything that we present, to bring to
the market, he is actually the technical genius. Development is a long process. We’ve
known each other about two years now. We actually spent ten months developing
Rendezvous before we brought the first version to market, and it’s been on the market about
18 months, I guess.
But it’s actually a vehicle product, Rendezvous is, and it has animations and interactions
built around that technology, and that’s revolutionary because it made it possible for two
avatars to walk around together and fly together in a variety of fun animations, piggyback
ride, pick up and carry, hold hands and what not. So really, what we’re about is bringing
realism and movement in the World together. Because, if you’ve ever tried to shop with
someone or even just look at a Sim together, walking together is a challenge, and we saw
that right away. And we’re happy that we’re soon going to enter into an alliance with Vista
Animations. They’re a huge animation overrider company in Second Life, and they want to
have Rendezvous available in their area as well.
So moving on to what we’re using here today, and, for some reason, Beyers, your avatar is
being unruly with me and wanting to look over at Justin a lot.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I like Justin.
JENZZA MISFIT: I can tell. What I’m using today and what we’re working on now, totally
Alpha testing at this point, but it’s called Avateer Pro, and the concept is one person
avateering or puppeteering, so to speak, one or more others. Which I am finding to be quite
an undertaking. I am actually controlling both of you right now. It’s somewhat automated,
and then little nuances are added via a HUD, by someone like myself who’s avateering. Just
this past Friday, I was thrilled to be asked to be part of a project. I was the avateer for
Greg Hawkes, keyboardist for the band, The Cars, for a podcast video interview, and that
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I am old enough to know that band well.
JENZZA MISFIT: You bet! And that was conducted by Pop Art Labs and filmed by SLCN so
that was really, really fun. So it’s mostly automated, but I can make the avatars do things,
and I could do a little demo of that right now with you, Beyers. You’re doing a fair job of it
yourself by looking to the right or left, whichever it is.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Second Life has been interesting today.
JENZZA MISFIT: Yeah. I could make you look all the way over that way if I care to and then
turn your head all the way back. And there’s different thing, like nodding and shaking, and
you kind of switch these things up. Did anyone know that Beyers has a toothy smile? There
it is. I could make him point. I can make him shrug and change up various sit positions that
are set on a timer so that they kind of act on their own, and then the human touch adds the
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ll say I really appreciate the work that you and Val are doing on
this because it’s just one more step to making the show’s visual impact match its content.
So, JenzZa, can you let me give you a big hand so I’ll clap. There it is, and now a big whoot!
Way to go!
JENZZA MISFIT: You can, Beyers, and thanks for having me on the show.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And backchatters, tell us what you think. Okay, it was great to
have you on On The Spot, and I know I’ll see you after the show when we do the big
JENZZA MISFIT: Thanks, Beyers. Back to you.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now we turn to our spotlight guest, Justin Bovington, founder and
CEO of Rivers Run Red. Justin worked in traditional brand strategy at an agency in
New York City, saw Second Life in 2003, and the rest is history. Rivers Run Red has won
awards for its marketing work in Virtual Worlds, with companies like Coca Cola and
Vodafone and has now turned from marketing to collaboration tools through the Immersive
Workspaces platform being developed in partnership with Linden Lab. Justin, welcome to
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Thank you for having me. It’s good to be here.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great to have you. Now last week, when we talked, you told me
that when you first told Philip Rosedale, founder and then CEO of Linden Lab, what you
wanted to do in Second Life, that was in 2003, you said he thought you were mad. What
exactly were you proposing then?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Let us go back, as you said quite rightly, our history and that’s
where we started from. We initially found Second Life, either literally like most people just
found it randomly in October 2003. And my wife said to me, “What are you doing?” I said,
“I’m in this cool place where you can actually build stuff.” And she said, “You do realize that
you’ve been on here for seven hours.” And I suddenly went, “I think this is a cool product.”
But, even at that stage, we kind of identified how Second Life was very much taking the
internet to a whole new level. Very much about this thing, about what we called immersion;
even back in those days we were talking about brand immersion and content immersion.
Traditionally, the internet has been very much akin to the written word. At its worst, it’s
catalogues online, and actually, where it’s really bad, it’s actually just lists online. And we
were kind of looking at a way how internet could really start to break in to being feeling more
like TV and have emotional pull of a film. And we felt that the Second Life at that stage was
actually going to do it. We flew out to San Francisco, and we actually spent some time with
Linden at the time. If I remember, we put together a proposal, and, in that proposal, we said
that we felt that it was going to be a great place for brands and marketing people to talk
about their products and get people more involved in them. Because we said the rest is
history, in terms of that. I remember that was way back in 2003 so this is obviously quite a
We banged onto different companies, media owners, about the potential of Second Life, and
I can’t tell you how many doors we got slammed in our face at that stage. And then it was
probably the first ever real commercial activity in Second Life, which I’m not sure if people in
the audience remember, but it was when we worked with the BBC. The great thing about
the BBC in Britain is that it’s a nonprofit-making system so, of course, the great thing is,
they’re very much into experimentation, very much into new media and all the art forms that
are out there. So they actually gave us a chance. And I think it’s arguably probably the first
commercial product that kind of got a large audience in. And back in the day it was four
Sims we had, it was a live broadcast from an outdoor concert. And then, as we said, from
there we kind of built a kind of momentum behind us from other brands and other content
people wanting to come in.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I saw a good part of that coverage and, even as recently as the
Virtual Worlds Forum in London in ’07, your emphasis was very heavily on brands, but now
your focus is on collaboration tools. Why the change?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: I think this is one of the important things I’m going to say about this
is that, obviously, there was a big hype wave that existed more in the blogs and the media,
rather than actually what the brands coming into Second Life were actually doing. One of
the problems is is that most of the work that happened--not just us; this is generally across
the board--was campaign driven, meaning that it wasn’t the brand owners, it wasn’t actually
the people who actually owned the products themselves, it was their agencies pushing
Second Life as a new medium out there. And, of course, the problem with that, I can give
you an example of stuff that we did with Adidas and Reebok, is that these campaigns do
have a finite time period. I mean literally a shelf life. So obviously after a given period,
they’re pulled. The clients that we’re still working with now are the ones that we were
working directly with the brand owners. So for instance, Sky News which is the Fox
Network, Vodafone and a few others, who were still active, in some way and some form,
from within Second Life and have been.
So 18 months ago, we found that the best way for us to cover it with our own clients was to
actually to use Second Life. If you look through the annals of history, you’ll see that we
were, at that stage, also working on the feature film Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where
we were trying to work out new ways of doing brand immersion. So we worked with
interactive billboards and bus shelters. And I had to get over a few ideas to the actual film
production company. It was very easy for us to pop into Second Life, do a quick and dirty
mockup of Marvin, animate him walking around, do the billboards. And suddenly we realized
this was obviously a very good way for us to communicate with our clients.
So I said 18 months ago we started to actually develop Immersive Workspaces. It’s been in
the market now for nine months as an Alpha product and started working in a number of
clients, who have actually very successfully used its. And, as you know, in October we
announced the strategic partnership for the version 2.0 with, in fact, Linden Lab.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now before we get into that topic, which I know a lot of people
want to hear about, I do want to just digress for a moment. You were part of the preferred
developer program for Google’s Virtual World Lively, which started way back in the summer
of 2008, I guess it was, and it’s going to close at the end of 2008. First, what did you do with
them as part of the preferred developer program, and what’s your take on why they didn’t
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: I think it’s an interesting point about what’s happening generally. I
think there’s an over-saturation of kids-based Virtual Worlds, which, in their own form, are
actually pretty much just glorified chat rooms. I think--let’s accelerate this forward now. I
think Sony Home’s going the actual same way as well. If you look at the blogs from the
weekend, you’re hearing exactly the same protest that happened before, that really, there’s
nothing to do. In fact, the same detractors who were talking about Second Life--and you
know, there’s going to be a new version of Second Life--is they’re actually saying it’s
missing the features that makes Second Life good: user content, interaction and a bit more
Lively, I think it’s a bigger issue. I think what Google have done is, they’ve entrenched
themselves back to their cool product offering. I think Lively is not one of the projects they’ve
done as an experiment like that which they’ve closed before, as we know. I think this is sad.
What’s going to be interesting, I think, especially in quarter one and quarter two of ’09 is
how many of the incumbent kids Worlds disappear off the market space. A lot of these
companies put their business plans in front of us in the early days, and, literally the first line
of their executive summary said, “Club Penguin was sold for XXX million.” So if you like,
they’ve gone into it actually in the wrong vein.
I think it’s a great shame that actually Google have dropped out. I think they gave us all a lot
of validation in what they were doing by being in the space. But I think it just shows when a
company doesn’t think it’s right, it will pull it, and that’s exactly what they did.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, at least they have the guts to admit a mistake, though I
believe they’re calling it an illuminating experiment or something like that. Let’s turn to
Immersive Workspaces. I’d like to start with what appears to be the heart of it, which is a
meeting space and the technology for facilitating Virtual World meetings. Thanks to
Mimi Browning, my staff and I got a tour of one. And, thanks to our broadcaster, SLCN, we
have it captured on film. So we played around with a brainstorming tool and then navigated
some web pages. I know we’ve got that footage we can roll now. Can you tell us, while
we’re watching, about those tools and what else is in the meeting room?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, sure. I think the first thing, first of all, is to explain is that--what
we did is, when we designed the product, we kind of initially were looking at it in terms of
being a hermetically sealed 3D space, very much using Linden’s scripting language as a
way to collaborate and create a much easier way for people to use Second Life. And it
became very evident very early on that we needed to go beyond just the in-world tools. So
we created a whole new code-based system, to actually build from ground up a whole
web-based World. And, what we’ve done, is that we’ve seamlessly integrated, through our
own written API’s and middle ware, a connection between Second Life, as the Second Life
platform and a 3D space, so I had an actual 2D website. The reason for that is, some things
are still better controlled through 2D.
The kind of killer application that we have in there is our media streaming ability. One of the
things that we were going through our Alpha testing and kind of talking to the market is,
people said they loved doing meetings in Second Life. One of the issues was is that a
15-minute meeting could take three-quarters of an hour to set up because you’re having to
upload textures, use the in-world currency to do that and all the normal problems that you
would actually do. So we created a system that actually was a secure streaming system that
allows you, on the website, to upload multiple different forms of media, whether that be
music, PowerPoint, URL, PNG files, anything you want. And you can actually put together
your own presentation archived on the system.
And then, while you’re in-world, we have an actual paging system called Pebble Code that
allows you to call those individual presentations for your audience. And what’s really cool
about it is that the meeting system, when you have a meeting, it records the whole meeting,
and it also embeds all those media codes as well so you can go back and review it. One of
the things that we found has happened with this, which is probably a kind of change to sea
change that we think’s happening on that is that people who were using are tending to pull
away from just presenting a 60-slide presentation in a traditional form. What they’re actually
doing now is, they’re splitting up their presentations into smaller bite-size portions and
making those sessions in-world much more interactive. So what they’re actually doing is,
they’re almost jumping between Pebble Codes and asking other people also to jump
between those Pebble Codes as well.
The other thing is, what is this thing about security. We got a great security system built into
it. It’s all SSL now. It’s very robust. It’s fully tested. It’s fully compliant, as you would expect
us to have when we’re dealing with corporate culture. We had to go through a massive,
vigorous system from there as well.
And also, we’ve taken the in-world tools which maybe needed a little bit more help in terms
of being updated, and that’s things like the group tools, we got to understand your profile
system now, that allows you to create further team systems and also storing kind of more on
a social networking form, where you can have your teams around the world globally listed
on the website and actually able to do lookup.
And now, some of the things, the reason why this is very important, it’s on a legal
standpoint, with finding a situation where we have to have considerations for HR and
people’s personal rights, which is, if they’re exposed to the greater Second Life World, the
actual secondlife.com, if they ever go and visit there, we have to make sure their identities
are protected and we’re not actually infringing, obviously, their HR issues. I mean obviously
there’s a lot of other [CROSSTALK]
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: If I could ask a couple clarifying questions. One in particular is
when you talked about the integration with the web and we actually saw in that video, I think
it was the Metanomics website apparently being navigated from within Second Life. But, you
haven’t actually cracked what they call the web on a prim challenge. You can’t actually sit in
there, and, inside Second Life, navigate the web.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: No, not at all. No, I think actually what’s actually quite interesting
about that is, when that becomes available as part of the Second Life code itself, again, the
obviously we can do that. I think, actually, a lot of us are waiting for html to prim to happen.
One other thing that we’re looking for though is, one thing which is important to say is that,
and it’s a sea change in terms of thinking as well, is that we’ve got to start thinking of Virtual
Worlds and the web as one, which is still the browser is the best way to browse. You could
still pop that browser up and come back in again. I think it’s all about changing the way that
we’re working. Working is a more kind of inclusive solution around all the things that we use
on a daily basis.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: One of the biggest challenges running a number of events in
Second Life, bringing in accounting professors and standard setters and so on, the initial
orientation is such a huge hurdle. And we have some footage of your orientation area as
well. While we look at that, can you talk about how you deal with that challenge?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, in fact, that was actually one of our biggest considerations is
this thing about getting people onboard into the space itself. What we’ve actually done is,
we’ve actually created a series of videos, as well as a more focused orientation experience
because the majority of users who come in, particularly in a collaboration space, may not,
first of all, want to understand how to rez a prim, how to actually put clothes on; they just
want to get in and experience it first of all. So if you like, we’ve done an edited version of
that that’s been pretty much designed from, again, the ground up, in terms of working with
particularly change management and HR companies to understand really what’s relevant to
them, what tools do they want to see that they can see on a daily basis. And I think
obviously there’s a call for a light version of the Second Life client that allow for a much
more “walk and talk,” if you like, version rather than actually just the full enchilada of
features that we have, that we all love, but, of course, if you’re a new user.
And the other thing as well is that part of what we’re doing is, we have a very big training
system. We have hands-on either on sites, or we’re having in-world people. A lot of those
we’ve actually recruited from the community itself, and I think actually one of them’s in the
audience now actually, a person called JoJa Dhara, who actually works with us training
people. So for that we’ve use a number of different ways, and, again, it’s about working with
everything that we’ve learned over the last five years, to do it more--obviously, it’s about
creating that focus on relevance for them.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Some viewers may have been wondering what that colorful tree
was in the orientation area. That was a visualization of the stock market data for that day. It
was last week, as I recall. The leaves were a mix of green and red in the morning, and,
when I came back in the afternoon, they were pretty much all red. So this is just an example
of the type of data visualization you’re trying to do. Is that a major focus of your resources?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, absolutely. From what we’re finding is that there’s been a
massive emphasis, over the last couple of years particularly on the role of the avatar, I
notice from the books it’s all very much a celebration of the individually avatar and very
much the avatar carries its--almost like a snail, it carries its home on its back as it walks
I think the thing is what we’re looking at is how we can create what we’re calling a kind of
living landscape, which is about using the environment itself to actually be part of the whole
experience a lot more. So what does that mean? You saw there an example of the share
tree, which obviously is a real time polling system that goes out. We have made that bigger,
and we took the metaphor of, literally, the Manhattan skyline, and we watched the whole
stock market operating, where you could actually see the cause and effect of the oil price
change across global transportation and freight-forwarding industry. It doesn’t sound very
important now, but when you’re watching it collectively in a persistent space or you’re
actually looking at it from top down, it’s going to give us very, very interesting ways to
perceive and actually manipulate data. In fact, we’ll see it very, very differently around us.
One of the ways that we’re winning people over on Virtual Worlds and why they’re so great,
the reason why we’re all is here is because we know how good they are, is that we can start
to integrate backend database systems into these spaces now and create visualization of
that data. And that’s one of the reasons why it has to be private, is the fact that we have to
make sure that data is obviously secure and obviously very much in a situation where
they’re assured that their market data or customer data or product data is safe as well. But
we think that’s very important, and we think that’s going to be part of the big sea change
again for 2009 is that the space itself becomes as important as the avatar.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now you talked about your integration with the web, and this is
data integration, that the data really could come from anywhere. But, in particular, you’re
also working with integrating with mobile telephones, text messaging and things like that,
and we have some video of the atrium where you have some of that, sort of a message, a
cool little water droplet message area. So while we roll that video, can you tell us what you
have going there?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, sure. It’s interesting. I’m sure some of you have seen this
desire to run Second Life client on a mobile device, and I think it’s a very interesting use of
it, but does it make the best use of it in the fact that you’re looking at Second Life on a
two-inch screen. What we’re saying is that you should use your devices around you, to their
strengths, to their core usage. So what we’ve done is, we’ve created a thing called Mobile
Ripple, which is very much a kind of micro-blogging system that allows you to send a
message to the website, to your journal but also in-world as well. And there’s nothing
groundbreaking here. Yes, we’ve seen this all done before, but what we’ve done, of course,
is, we’ve integrated this into a much bigger solution.
Everyone in this room has been part of the Mayflower generation. We’re getting this out
though into market that’s just discovering, really, the power of all of Virtual Worlds for
collaboration. So we’re very much in a kind of new world, if you like, in terms of these keep
happening. What they like about that is that we’re looking at this on a larger scale. Not
everyone is going to be able to always get in-world, but they may want to contribute to the
space and contribute to the teams they’re in. We’ve also created it, by the way, even if you
can’t be part of the in-world meeting, you can go to the website and, through text system,
also contribute to the meeting obviously through a web-based interface system as well.
Now, what’s going to happen with that is, we are going to also expand that. We’re going to
expand the use of that to be voicemail as well so you can actually voices in-world and voice
annotations. You’ll be able to also send photographs in as well, and also then eventually
actual video as well. So the idea is that what we’re calling your mobile device is very much
your spirit guide. And the idea is, it’s almost your avatar in your pocket, and the idea is that
you can communicate back to the space.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So I’m looking at the backchat while you’re talking. Lots of
interesting questions. Mimi is answering some of them. One of the threads here is
wondering whether you’re working with other Worlds, and Mimi’s saying, “No, the product is
built for Second Life only.”
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Let me explain that position. I must have that clear.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Sure. Yeah.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: The thing is the OpenSim project is a fantastic product. It’s not
though at the moment ready for commercial use. It’s still very much in its Alpha phase of
development. There’s lots of great things happening there, and it will eventually be a great
product. We’re also in a position as well where a lot of companies will want to have a
service agreement and obviously terms of service that are actually there. And at this time,
we’re working with Linden, and anything that we’re doing it will only be available via Linden
Lab and the Second Life grid. This is very important because we need to make sure that
we’re accountable to those clients that we have the support structure at this stage so
obviously what we can support and have a kind of backstop, if you like, in what we’re doing.
And this is going to be very important for us all who want this market to expand is because
the fact that we need to make sure that we’re building from a strong [seed base?] for that.
And that’s really going to only come at this stage from Linden Lab.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And so if you could talk a little bit more about your relationship
with Linden Lab. It sounds like, from what you’ve just said, that one of the big things is that
you want to know that the platform developer is there to support you and you have their ear.
I understand they are also the ones who are going to need to do some work to get this as a
secure behind-the-firewall product.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah. Sorry.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Go ahead.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Sorry, Rob. You carry on first overall. I was just going to say let me
explain how our product is actually in the market. It’s in three flavors. One is behind the
firewall. One is semi-private on the grid, and then there’s the private grid as we know. And
the idea is, we got it in three different areas, and that’s how it’s been set up. It’s very difficult.
You’re going to have to really get someone from Linden to talk specifically about the
behind-the-firewall solution. Obviously the fact they’ve been talking about it in the markets,
and I can only talk about what they’re really talking about, for obvious reasons. Because it’s
not fair me to be a spokesman for Linden Lab because I’m not. But obviously, as you know,
it’s in Alpha. It’s going into Beta. I can tell you that we’re really excited about it and so
should everyone else be. It’s going to potentially be a killer application out there for what
they’re doing. And I think looking at what’s happening in that market space, it’s very much
needed in terms of a good collaborative system behind the firewall, as we know, and it’s
something the market has been asking for, for about 18--to two years anyway.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now the other side of your relationship with Linden Lab, when
you think every business when they develop a formal relationship with Linden Lab, there’s a
bit of a backlash, where people are saying, “Why? We’re all out here trying to use the
platform to create content, do new things. Why does this particular company get the
privilege and the benefits of partnering with Linden?” How would you respond to that type of
concern among the developer community?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, it’s just something that I think, first of all, is that there’s
nothing untoward what’s happened with this deal. It’s not as if we’re really getting in any
more access to what’s happening out there. What we’re actually doing is that we’ve signed
as a strategic partnership, where they can take our technology and use it for their
behind-the-firewall solution. But we said, very early on from this, is that we were going to
create a full affiliate program anyway, where people could take advantage of the Immersive
Workspaces technology themselves and sell it on. So we always have that in the back of
our minds and obviously to make sure that we get that out into the market as well. We had
some very good responses. People like it. They see it as a very good strategy.
One thing that we’re obviously very, very keen on for that is that this is the first time, really,
there’s been a centralized solution where we can keep a version control. We can keep it
updated. There’s a big enough team to support it. So people coming into the market space,
who traditionally were coming to just work with one developer, now the developers have got
a solution that they can build around. What we’re saying to people is, if you do sell it, there’s
no reason why you can’t put another island on that and do a custom build. There’s no
reason why you can’t do a second-level build on it as well.
But what’s really interesting is a lot of people have said to us, especially over the last three
years is that how can they get involved with being a solution provider or a developer if
they’re not good at building or they’re not scripters but they have a particular good niche
skill. And this is about those people now having a very, very clear way to engage with their
client base as well. And, again, this is happening now as well so people are starting to
approach us. I’m in San Francisco in January to bottom out what that affiliate program is
going to be, and there’ll be some announcement at that stage.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now there have also been some questions in the backchat about
pricing, and I looked at your website. You mentioned you don’t post prices on the site. But
what can a for-profit enterprise expect to pay, and what kind of support do they get?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Well, again, all these questions, I think if you ask any solution
provider, they’ll say exactly the same thing. It depends on the engagement that that
particular client wants. Because basically it’s normally based on time. What’s different is
that, with Immersive Workspaces technologies, we have a full team there who can act as
strategic implementation people. And I know if anyone here is a solution provider, they know
this question. One of the things you have do first of all is make sure they got their ports open
and they’ve actually got the right laptops to use this and also working with HR and change
management people, in terms of getting this embedded in. So prices do vary, depending on
the level of engagement that’s there. The full version of the Immersive Workspaces solution
can be anything from about 35,000 bucks to about 65,000 bucks, again depending on the
level of relationship that’s there.
So some clients we’re working with can have up to 15 people working on a project at one
time. It’s a very different sell actually. I mean this is the one thing that’s very different, and I
think as one thing, as solution providers, we’ve got to get a handle on is that is a much
slower-burn sale. And I think the difference between when we’re doing commercial work
from campaign-driven stuff, it was easier to get all the actual buildings for that, that’s part of
the actual building through. Now you have to go through a lot more hoops to do that so it
does take a long time to do.
Obviously, in the audience, they’re asking a lot of questions. I love this because this is what
we’ve been used to, the kind of control to see that surrounds anything that happens in
Second Life is there.
This is not about corporate world dominance. This is one thing that keeps coming up in the
blogs as well. And I think it’s perception. This is one of the issues behind--maybe it’s my
own background. This is, if you like, the kind of brand perception that’s out there about
Second Life. Second Life, as we know, really is a noun. Although it is a copyrighted thing,
it’s become synonymous with Virtual Worlds. Second Life is a product. It’s still very much a
Virtual World itself. But what we need to start talking to people, and I know that Mark himself
has started to talk in the market, is looking at the education world, the corporate world and
the Second Life resident world as being three different entry points. We know that all those
people can work well together. We just need to make sure we’re giving people--and you
touched on this point, Robert, about how do we control the experiences, how do we train
people, how do we get through orientation. We can do that a lot more effectively if we’re
focusing those particular people to what’s relevant to them.
So for instance, if you go through a corporate world, being able to talk to the [powerites?] as
we used to do is not really relevant, but relating it to maybe some of the products they have,
to get them to use it, that will happen. The education is the same. You could build the
orientation of that particular immersive solution around a curriculum activity that can actually
help them and so on and so on.
As you all know, I’ve come from the Second Life community. I didn’t just roll up here and
open a business. We’ve come through the ranks, if you like, and gone through creating
everything from our own products, our own solutions, all the way through to what we’re
doing now. And we’re very, very conscious of that.
And people keep saying to us--in fact, I had a very good friend call the other day, with
Keystone Bouchard, who has been very vocal in the blogs about this. In fact, we spoke at
the time about what’s happening, and I think we kind of answered a lot of questions about
there is space in this area for people to come, who particularly want to be there for business
purposes. But, we must give them the potential to be private, and then we can encourage
them again to open the doors, to engage with the community. But we have to do this on an
actual permission system. We have to make sure that they want to do it, to get involved in it.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So now the backchat is all fired up on pricing and just a couple
comments here. One is, “Does the cost mean this will only be marketed to major
corporations?” That’s Stace Finesmith. Georgianna Blackburn, who represents a major
corporation, is saying 35 to 65k to management is not huge money for big corporations. But
there was a question quite a while ago--actually, you know, people are starting to talk about
education and nonprofits. And Ricken Flow had a question about pricing for nonprofits, and I
believe that you are willing to talk about your new pricing schedule for educational
institutions. So, SLCN, if you can bring up the slide, with the numbers, let’s take a look at
that. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us, Justin, what you’re doing and how that will work
for the educators?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, sure. When we launched the product, we had an enormous
amount of interest from the education market, particularly the educators who’ve been in
here for a while, who want to use something like the Immersive Workspaces platform. But,
maybe for corporations, the money that we’re talking about is actually very good value
particularly when you create an ROI model for a hundred users, it doesn’t take long for you
to get your money back monthly, if you just take a couple less taxi rides and a few less
flights when you use that.
The thing about the pricing that we’ve done is that we were going to tackle the education
product, which is our immersive education spaces product in quarter three and four. But,
because of the demand, we’ve actually [brought?] into now--again, I can’t explain to you
we’ve had an enormous amount of inquiries from there. So for instance, I think you’ll
probably have difficulty seeing it because it’s not rezzing in so I can tell you what it is. It
actually works out for the whole year at about $18,800. And that is, if you got an existing
Sim, it’s a setup cost of $5,000 and a monthly charge of $1,150.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I just wanted to make sure that $5,000 is just the up-front
cost, so your second year would actually be just a little over 12, excluding the payment to
Linden Lab, is--
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s $15,000 in the second year. I mean I
haven’t got the sign in front of me now. But we wanted to do that because what we’re really
keen to do is get this out. I mean we know how good it is, in terms of a product. I would say
that because it’s my own product, but we know that from the feedback we’re getting from
people. And the price that we’ve obviously put there is being designed for education people
to really use it. It was a big decision of ours to make. But we think it’s going to be good for
the education market, in terms of what we’re doing out there. We’re very, very keen on that.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Are the educators getting less support? Is it really just exactly the
same thing that you’re getting in exchange for less money?
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, I think. Yeah.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I got the impression from some of your materials that they would
not be getting the same extensive support as the full-paying groups.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Yeah, I think it’s very different. Again, there isn’t such an issue
around the strategic implementation stuff that we would have to do. The idea is, of course,
that if you’re in that space, just the cost of hosting the website system and the streaming
media service in there as well makes it very, very good. I mean the thing is what we’re trying
to do is cut down, in terms of the support, but the difference is you don’t really need as
much support for the education market around, to said, the more consulting level. It will
have the same level of support in terms that the product development more importantly. And
the thing is that the Immersive Workspaces is now not set in amber; it’s going to be
changing a lot in the next 18 months, with a lot of products in development for it. A lot of
new features and functionalities.
One of the things that we made a commitment to now is, we got a small team, who’ve
broken away from the main team, who are specifically going to be creating [an APO?]
integration into some of the more commonly used applications. I won’t say what they are
because we haven’t done any deals yet, but, of course, you know what they are, and the
idea is to be integrating those and making them more seamlessly in. It’s going to be a very
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I see the backchat is just racing along with lots of questions
on what clients you are already nailing down, and who’s next. Is the Military interested? Is
that pricing still too steep for educators? And, I’m sorry to say that we’ve reached the end of
our time, but I really hope we can get you back here as this progresses. It’s certainly going
to be a fascinating thing to watch. Given what I personally am doing in Second Life, certainly
I’m looking very carefully at that pricing for educational institutions and seeing whether that
works for me.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Fantastic.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you, Justin Bovington, so much for joining us on our 60th
show of Metanomics.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Great stuff then. And actually my pleasure to be here. And, if
anyone’s got any specific questions, as I said before, please email me
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com as well. We’re very happy to answer
questions. And particularly as well, just before we do go, we are always looking for partners,
people who’ve got any products, new ideas, you may want to work with us as well. So if
you’ve got some ideas, give us a shout.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you. And I see we have Keystone Bouchard saying these
shows need to be two hours long, and I say, from your fingertips to SLCN’s ears, but they
say a show is an hour so a show is an hour. Thank you again, Justin.
JUSTIN BOVINGTON: Thanks again.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let’s move now to Connecting The Dots. The economy hasn’t
given much cause for optimism in any industry, but the new alliance between Metanomics
and Remedy Communications reflects my own optimism about the future of enterprises that
take Virtual Worlds seriously. I think it’s too much to say that the global economic crisis is
good news for the Metaverse, but there are several silver linings here. First, in academia, I
can tell you that schools are already getting very tight on travel budgets. For faculty who are
isolated and need to interact with colleagues, but can’t get approval, now to travel,
especially internationally, Virtual Worlds provide a natural alternative. I don’t think academia
is that different from other industries so that’s one silver lining on a very dark cloud.
A second silver lining is one that I talked about the Second Life Educators Conference, in
Tampa, back in September. And just to quote myself briefly, in September I said, “I think
we’re approaching a critical point in the adoption of Virtual Worlds for education and
enterprise use in general. Many people who come into Second Life for professional reasons
start by acting on their own, and then this enthusiasm, experimentation in community
building, is very much a grassroots effort. Usually with top administrators looking on, often
with a puzzled look, sometimes with some kind words, but rarely with the support that these
projects need to succeed. And, by support, I mean money.”
This is still from my talk in September, “Over the next two years, I see large numbers of
educators going to their deans, to their principals and superintendents, to their vice
presidents of human resources or customer outreach, and they’re going to be asking their
enterprises for the money they need to get their students in-world.” So I guess the update
on this is, since September, I know that many of these efforts are indeed happening, and
some of them are coming to fruition. I know, just looking at the names of people who are
chatting now, some of you have already received significant grants to do some very
interesting stuff. Feel free to type that out, and let people know what has happened with
you. I don’t want to say anything and get it wrong or say something that isn’t actually on the
The final silver lining is this one: It actually doesn’t cost that much money to get started in
the Metaverse. The prices that Justin Bovington just quoted for the Immersive Workspaces
build, they’re certainly not chicken feed, but they don’t add up to the cost of a single midlevel
line employee plus benefits. So what we have right now is pressure to reduce travel and do
things in a cheaper way, and it doesn’t look to me like it’s going to take enormous amounts
of money for people with enterprises, educators, nonprofits and for-profit and governments
and the Military and everything else that’s been mentioned in the backchat today. These
numbers are not that much, and it takes a while for this type of work to get rolling. So while
Rivers Run Red works with Linden Lab to create the platform and the tools, and while
people are getting their schools and other institutions to fund them, I think 2009 is going to
be a very interesting year, and I think it’s going to be a positive one. That’s why I am
continuing to increase my investment in Virtual Worlds, and I’m not the only one.
So do join us again next year for our winter season 2009. We are going to be taking a hiatus
for the holidays and gearing up for an improved Metanomics with Remedy Communications
onboard. We’ll be having a variety of events to engage the community. We’re going to have
a holiday party. We’re going to have some focus groups and some informal discussions.
Please do join us for those. And, see you back on the set of Metanomics in mid-January.
Thanks a lot. This is Rob Bloomfield, Beyers Sellers, saying thanks for everything you’ve
done with us, audience participants, etcetera, for the last 60 shows. Join us for number 61.
Thanks a lot, and bye bye.