METANOMICS IN THE NEWS - ENTERPRISE 2.0 CONFERENCE
NOVEMBER 4, 2009
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is brought to you by Remedy
Communications and Dusan Writer’s Metaverse.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Hi. I’m Robert Bloomfield, professor at
Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.
Today we continue exploring Virtual Worlds in the larger sphere
of social media, culture, enterprise and policy. Naturally, our
discussion about Virtual Worlds takes place in a Virtual World.
So join us. This is Metanomics.
ANNOUNCER: Metanomics is filmed today in front of a live
audience at our studios in Second Life. We are pleased to
broadcast weekly to our event partners and to welcome
discussion. We use ChatBridge technology to allow viewers to
comment during the show. Metanomics is sponsored by the Johnson
Graduate School of Management at Cornell University and
Immersive Workspaces. Welcome. This is Metanomics.
ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Welcome to Metanomics! Today we have a very
special mixed-reality show. Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon will be
at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, announcing
Linden Lab’s new enterprise solution, named Second Life
Enterprise. Mark will be joined in San Francisco by
Douglas Maxwell, Program Technology Lead for the US Navy’s Naval
Undersea Warfare Center. Douglas’s colleague Steven Aguiar will
be speaking from Second Life, as will Neil Katz, who has been
responsible for IBM’s technical strategy for immersive Virtual
Worlds. The session will be hosted by Doug Thompson, CEO of
Remedy Limited, a communications firm that also happens to own
For those of us who have been focused on serious uses of Virtual
Worlds, this has the potential to be a watershed moment. I can’t
help but think back to the very first episodes of Metanomics in
September of 2007, 2 years and about 85 episodes ago. I kicked
off the series with an episode called Metanomics 101, in which I
defined Metanomics as the economics of the Metaverse, a term for
Virtual Worlds popularized in the science fiction novel Snow
Crash by Neal Stephenson.
I think of those early days because they show just how far
Second Life has come in two years. Back then, Second Life didn’t
have voice so we had to use Skype to patch in sound. Linden Lab
would take the grid down for maintenance just about every
Wednesday and any other time they needed to so, more than once,
that was during Metanomics. Guests, and entire regions even,
would crash without notice. Second Life was pretty clearly not
ready for prime time enterprise use, and that was reflected in
the topics that we covered on Metanomics. We devoted most of our
sessions to business and policy matters that affected the
Second Life was filled with entrepreneurs, banks, stock markets,
designers, and these people came on to Metanomics to talk about
the challenges they faced in running a virtual business in a
world of anonymity and complete dependence on the platform
developer, Linden Lab. We also brought in legal scholars to
examine challenges of governing virtual communities, identifying
the right legal analogies. We had a senior staff member from the
Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress talk about the
regulation and even the taxation of resident businesses.
But when we covered enterprise in our first year, it was
primarily through covering other platforms, like Forterra and
There.com. A year later, it was a different story. Second Life
had become much more reliable and had introduced voice
technology. While not every resident was a fan of voice, which
made it hard to be anonymous, it was a boon to enterprise users.
In November of 2008, Victoria Coleman, of Samsung, provided one
of my favorite descriptions of the value of Virtual Worlds for
enterprise. Victoria was leading a team of engineers in the U.S.
and Korea, and conference calls were simply not cutting it for
them. A big problem was the language barrier. The Korean
participants were simply not confident enough about their
language skills to interrupt and say their piece in a conference
call. So they couldn’t accomplish the most basic task of a
collaborative group, which is to communicate their ideas. Let me
quote a bit of what Victoria said on the show about how things
changed when they moved from the conference calls to Second
Life. She says, “The same Korean people, who were really
reluctant to get on the phone and were very shy and wouldn’t say
anything, would show up in the Virtual World environment, decked
out in completely fantastic outfits. They would be very
sociable, very talkative. It was really like talking to a
completely different set of people. So the fact that Second Life
created this medium that let them connect with us, but in a way
that amplified their skills versus made the lack of English into
a central point, all of a sudden became a truly empowering
experience for them.” That was Victoria Coleman talking about
her experience at Samsung.
Samsung isn’t the only group that saw the promise of Virtual
Worlds for enterprise, and, since summer of 2008, about half of
our shows have covered the enterprise-oriented projects of just
about every type of organization you can think of, from
nonprofits like American Cancer Society to tech giants like
Microsoft to a variety of federal agencies.
Today, Linden Lab makes a big leap forward with Second Life
Enterprise. As I understand it, Second Life Enterprise allows
firms to run Second Life servers behind their own firewalls. Not
only does this allow security, but firms will have control over
user accounts, data transfers, and key server decisions. No more
worries that Linden Lab will restart your servers in the middle
of a big presentation to your boss or a key client. One of the
most unusual features distinguishing Second Life Enterprise from
other Virtual World enterprise solutions is, well, Second Life
itself. Second Life proper still boasts a large and extremely
energized and creative resident community, and I do mean
creative, as you can see by all of the different content that we
have featured on Metanomics. Owners of Second Life Enterprise
can tap into this community, and transfer assets between Second
Life and their own instance of Second Life Enterprise.
Now no doubt many of you are thinking that there is a great deal
of content in Second Life that isn’t actually intended for
enterprise use. That’s true. But Victoria Coleman’s experience
with Samsung conveys an important message. The rather whimsical
nature of Second Life content can be very effective in fostering
traditional corporate goals of teamwork, collaboration and
brainstorming. Corporations go on hiking retreats and play
softball; why not have the occasional meeting led by a gorilla,
for example, as I once hosted a Metanomics episode?
Residents of Second Life should also be aware that enterprises
that adopt Second Life Enterprise are potentially creating a new
group of Second Life residents. After all, a key barrier to
entry in Second Life is simply getting to know its interface and
tools. Once people have come into Second Life Enterprise for
work in the day, at night, why not go to Muse Isle’s new Midwest
snowscape for a little ice skating?
I’ve got one last thought. Widespread adoption of Second Life
Enterprise may well change the nature of enterprise overall, in
ways we can’t yet imagine. In summer of 2009, Margaret Regan, of
the FutureWork Institute, talked about, well, the future of work
on Metanomics. Margaret has a vision of enterprises being
structured more like Hollywood productions: a team assembles for
a task, they make the film, and they disband once they complete
it. This is a very different labor market, and it’s a very
different and much more decentralized way of managing a large
This model, if it’s going to be possible, will require a very
strong platform for virtual collaboration. Second Life
Enterprise might be that platform if it can do what Professor
Mitzi Montoya, of North Carolina State University, spoke about
during her Metanomics appearance. A good collaborative platform
needs to allow people to engage with one another, engage with
the subject matter at hand and engage with the environment in
which they are collaborating. The level of engagement Second
Life already provides its resident community tells me that
Second Life Enterprise has promise.
Of course, the devil is in the details. So let’s turn now to the
live panel in San Francisco to hear those details. I’m
Robert Bloomfield turning the reins over to Doug Thompson, who
will be introducing the speakers and moderating the discussion.
We’ll have a short break as we switch over to the live feed, but
I’ll see you in there in the text chat.
INTRODUCTION AND DISCUSSION
DOUG THOMPSON: Thanks for your patience, everybody, and
welcome. It’s good to see a full room here, and we have a full
room online as well. As I mentioned before the session started,
we are broadcasting live to Second Life and to the web. Today
we’re going to be talking about the future of work. That was the
title of the session, but this whole conference really is about
the future of work. We’ve been hearing a lot about how
technology can help us to collaborate better, connect more
effectively and share knowledge and experience.
There was a great quote yesterday, by Andrew McAfee, of MIT, and
he was talking about how, with Enterprise 2.0 technology, we are
looking for ways to narrate our work. I love that phrase
“narrate our work.” Because today we are going to explore this
idea a little bit more by looking at immersive media or Virtual
We’re joined by two panelists here: Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden
Lab, and Doug Maxwell, of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. And
we’ll be joined shortly by two other guests who will be
conferenced in. So to kick things off, I’m going to pass it over
to Mark Kingdon to talk about some work that Linden Lab has
done. And, I’ll pass it over to you, Mark.
MARK KINGDON: Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Dusan, and
thank you to our folks in-world as well for attending the
conference this morning and joining us here as we talk about the
future of work. To get us started, I thought I’d do a pop quiz.
You expected probably something a little bit different, but I
thought we’d do a pop quiz. And, most of you, if not all of you,
should have gotten a laser pen. Do you have one? It’s in a small
box on the table, if you don’t. Get it out because it’s part of
the pop quiz. Read the warning label if you’d like. The print’s
a little bit small for me, but it says, “Use this carefully
because it could probably blind you and burn you.” So we’re
going to try to use it safely today, and it’s part of the pop
quiz. So get it out.
The first thing I’m going to have you do is point it at the
ceiling, which is not hard to do. And then, if you push this
bar, you’ll get a light on the ceilings. It looks like a little
firefly. Okay. Most of you are doing it. Yes, don’t blind any
friends. Now we’re going to test a little bit and see how your
aim is so follow me over here. Okay. Yeah. Pretty good. Hand-eye
coordination is about I’d say B-minus, but we’ll try it some
more. Towards the middle here. Yeah, okay. Great. And then
behind me. All right. Good enough for the quiz, I think. All
So let’s test by pointing at the screen. Don’t blind anyone in
the front of the room. All right. You’re pretty good. Let’s go
to the right-hand bullet. You’re there. Good enough for the
quiz. All right. So the first question is:
Do you have teams in your companies that work remotely? Yes
or no. Yes. Good news.
Are you currently using web or video conferencing more
frequently today than in the past? Yes. Wouldn’t be here if you
How satisfied are you with your web and video conferencing
technologies? Yeah. Exactly. I don’t see many fives or fours,
that’s for sure, and I think you all probably fall within the
two to four range.
How important is security in your work collaboration tools?
Again, all over the board but leaning towards the high end,
which you would expect in most companies or enterprises.
Have you ever attended a meeting or an event in a Virtual
World? Okay. So we’re slightly more than probably half. Yes.
Have you ever been in Second Life? Okay. Pretty evenly
split. Well, good. This helps us know a little bit about you as
we talk about the power of Virtual Worlds today.
You can put your laser pens away now. I’m glad to see that no
one was hurt, and, if you didn’t get a pen, there are more at
our booth out in the booth area. We have quite a stack out
there, and the team’s happy to share one with you.
So we’re going to talk a little bit today about virtual work and
how work in the enterprise is changing as workforces change and
There are two sets of opposing trends that are driving what we
see is the adoption of virtual work technologies. The first set
of opposing trends is the fact that workforces today are more
globally organized than ever before. Even in our small company
of 300 people, moving soon to 400, 30 percent of our staff work
remotely, and they work from countries around the world. Travel
has become prohibitively expensive, in terms of cash and carbon.
When you put the facts together, you have a globally organized
workforce and the need to connect, what does that mean? It means
it’s hard do so, which draws people into the Virtual World
because it’s a wonderful facsimile for the kinds of connection
you can get in the Real World.
Another set of opposing trends is bringing people into the
Virtual World. One is that, in order to rapidly innovate, you
need to be together to create. I was at a presentation recently
that John Chambers gave, and he talked about what he saw as the
next wave of productivity in business. He said it would come,
not from supply-chain management, as it had in the past, or even
refined investment in information technology. He said it would
come from increased productivity through collaboration. We
believe very much the same thing, which is that collaboration
brings people together and allows people to innovate more
The challenge out there today, and I think this is what brings
people into the Virtual World, is that collaboration tools
generally are weak, two dimensional, don’t allow you to have a
presence, can often be asynchronous. And, when they’re
synchronous, there’s a technology barrier that keeps people
apart. So these are the opposing factors that we think are
driving people into the Virtual World. Gartner published a study
recently that looked at adoption of Virtual Worlds and believes
that, by 2012, more than 70 percent of organizations,
enterprises will use private Virtual Worlds to support
collaboration and interaction in their business.
We think that Virtual Worlds are an incredible compliment to
traditional collaboration tools. Not a substitute for, but a
great compliment to. They offer persistence and presence. You
can represent yourself in the form of an avatar. You can work in
an environment that persists after you leave. It also offers
layered communication opportunities, through text, spatial voice
and audio. And you can interact with your environment in ways
that you can’t, say, in a video conference. So it adds another
layer of richness to the collaborative experience.
Today when we look at Second Life, there are more than 1,300
enterprises or organizations in Second Life, moving towards
1,400, doing everything from events and meetings to training and
simulations, large companies with distributed workforces.
Businesses in Second Life are doing all kinds of things today.
They’re doing recruiting, virtual meetings, scenario-based
planning, data visualization, team building, complex simulations
of supply chains and data centers and manufacturing facilities.
They’re prototyping products. They’re engaging with consumers.
They’re meeting investors to discuss investor relations. Every
imaginable activity in business we’re seeing today in the
Virtual World space. Some of our panelists will talk about what
they’re doing, and they’ll give you a richer sense of the
One way to think about Virtual Worlds and their evolution into
the future is to look at it through the eyes of an employer or
worker in an enterprise. So we’re going to look at the future of
Virtual Worlds through the eyes of Zoey. Zoey’s a designer and a
really cool company. It’s a new division of a manufacturing
company that makes office furniture. They have a new method of
manufacture that allows them to work with suppliers in local
markets, minimize the transfer costs of products, build them
almost to order in local markets. She relies on a global
footprint from a supplier perspective and a market perspective,
to create and then bring these products to market.
Some of the complicators in her job are that she works from home
a few days a week, and many of her partners, as well as her
customers, are in other parts of the world. And she needs to be
able to communicate and collaborate with them, particularly
around product design, in a way that’s very powerful and enables
them to share materials, designs, ideas in a real-time way.
Now imagine Zoey working in Second Life trying to do those
things. Imagine a future that’s not at all far down the road,
you can see a Zoey who perhaps got her job through a job fair
that she went to in Second Life, went through the interview
process in Second Life, was assigned a mentor, given a space to
work in Second Life where she created her own unique space to
connect with her customers and her suppliers. In the case of
Zoey, it’s probably a giant table in a field, with a small
office sitting on top, since she’s interested in furniture
She goes to company meetings in Second Life. She connects with
her co-workers and partners, collaborators around the world. She
works with suppliers to look at their manufacturing process, to
make sure it’s on spec, that it uses lean manufacturing methods,
that it’s eco-friendly, that the product is designed in such a
way that it’s easily shipped. Then once the product is
created--of course, she’s been working with the suppliers and
manufacturers throughout the process--she can begin to work with
distribution partners, demonstrating the product in Second Life
before it’s actually shipped out to the market.
Now you could say, “Gee, can’t Zoey do this today in Second
Life?” And, arguably, she can do a lot of this in Second Life
today, on the main grid of Second Life. But there’s an element
of her work that her company might not be comfortable with her
doing in Second Life because it turns out that her company, she
being part of a startup in a much larger organization, has very
stringent rules around security, and they have a very robust set
of internal systems for document sharing, planning and the like.
And, for them, an optimal experience would be one where part of
the Second Life experience happened behind their firewall. And,
when you think about Second Life today and you think about
virtual work, there are companies that want a public experience,
where they can interact with customers quite freely, they would
buy an island in Second Life and do that.
There are those who also want an experience that’s by invitation
only. Perhaps they want to invite select suppliers in for
conversations or select customers. They could do that on our
main grid today, just using our basic permissions controls. But
then there are elements of the Second Life experience that they
want behind their firewall, connected through LDAP to their
internal systems. And that’s where the need for a “behind the
firewall” solution comes in. We see the Second Life experience
evolving in very much that way.
There’s a public, what I would call “private by invitation only”
and a firewalled experience. And it is because of our vision of
the Second Life experience and how it’s evolving that we decided
to invest last year in a “behind the firewall” solution. And
this was very much driven by customer demand. Companies came to
us, and they said, “The Second Life experience doesn’t feel
complete to us until you had a “behind the firewall” solution.
There’s a lot that can do and do do and want to continue doing
on your main grid. But, for it to be complete, we need a “behind
the firewall” solution that’s neatly integrated into our
internal systems and that allows a level of security that you
might not find elsewhere.
We also want the ability to bring our existing content from
Second Life into a “behind the firewall” solution, and we want
access to a rich array of content.” And that’s what we have done
with Second Life Enterprise, which today we’re announcing is in
Beta. It was code-named Nebraska. Many people who have
participated in the earlier Alpha and private Beta know it as
Nebraska. From here on, I think it’s going to be called Second
Life Enterprise. So Second Life Enterprise unlocks another level
of potential for virtual work because it will exist behind the
There are a couple of features that make Second Life Enterprise
very powerful. I talked a little bit about security. Content is
also very important. One of the major costs of the virtual world
and working the virtual world is the creation of content. Second
Life offers an amazing marketplace for content. This year in
Second Life there will be 500 million U.S. dollars in user-to-
user transactions, a good part of which are content, people
buying office furniture. I have beautiful office furniture in my
Second Life office; none in my real office. And we’re going to
enable people to move content that they own from the main grid
into Nebraska. And then later in the first quarter, we’re going
to open a marketplace that’s for enterprise, and it will be the
first content marketplace for enterprises in a virtual world,
Second Life specifically. And this will a boon for companies
that are building their presence in Second Life. Certainly there
will be things that they want to do that are highly customized
to what it is that they’re doing. But there are also basic needs
that people have that can easily be acquired.
The “behind the firewall” product, Second Life Enterprise, will
also be quite flexible in that it can be integrated into an
enterprise’s existing systems, and offer a very high level of
control. You can set up accounts in bulk for your company, use
real names, have an administration panel as you would expect in
a product like this.
There are a couple of features that we’re really really excited
about. Beyond the security and beyond the content richness,
Second Life, if you’ve experienced it, has spatial 3D voice,
which means if you’re sitting around a conference table in
Second Life and someone is speaking, have your headphones on,
you feel as if you’re in the room with them. It’s uncanny. And
it’s because there’s a 3D orientation to the source of the
voice. That’s going to be available in Second Life Enterprise as
part of the solution.
We’ll also have standard communications with text chat and other
things you find in Second Life today. You’ll be able to have 800
plus avatars in the same immersive environment across eight
regions. And as I mentioned before, you’ll have administrative
control. You’ll be able to use real names, which is not
something you can easily do on the main grid today, and you’ll
have the marketplace which I mentioned before.
I talked a bit before about the key features. Here they are in a
little bit more detail. At our booth we have spec sheets and all
of the things that you need to understand Second Life Enterprise
at a much more detailed level. This is a very comprehensive
product that we’re putting out in Beta. And it’s comprehensive
because we’ve been working with 14 different organizations on
the Alpha and Beta product development, played a very active
role with us in defining the requirements and helping us build
the solution that we think is incredibly powerful.
All right. So you can learn more about Second Life Enterprise at
our booth, or you could go to our website, work.secondlife.com.
DOUG THOMPSON: Thanks, Mark. We’re really lucky today now
talking about virtual environments, it made the most sense to
actually patch in a virtual environment, and we have two guests
who are joining us from Second Life. They’re actually on a stage
in Second Life, and there’s about 200 people watching them right
now in a virtual environment, and this is also being streamed to
the web. We’re joined by Steve Aguiar, also of the Naval
Undersea Warfare Center, and Neil Katz of IBM. So that’s who’s
joining us in-world.
There’s been so many case studies, use cases, examples of
technology here at the conference, what we wanted to do was get
some of your use cases and to find out people who have been
using Second Life Enterprise for the last six months or a year,
find out what they’ve been using it for so we can kind of get a
sense of the range of applications that you folks here in the
audience might want to think about.
I’m going to start here at our live panel and welcome
Doug Maxwell. Doug is a staff researcher at the Center for
Advanced System Technology at NUWC. And, welcome, and maybe
share a little bit about what you’ve been doing behind the
DOUGLAS MAXWELL: Well, thank you, Mark and Doug. We have a
number of research goals. We go beyond just the normal training
applications that we can also discuss a bit later. But we would
also like to create a collaborative engineering environment,
using Virtual Worlds. What we would like to do is be able to
prototype next-generation combat attack centers inside of
submarines and be able to quickly and efficiently show alternate
designs. We would also like to connect to the shipyards and the
fleet users and bring fleet users in earlier in the design phase
so that we can catch any issues earlier. I believe Steve will
have some other comments on our training applications.
One thing that has attracted us to the Second Life framework is,
it has a very robust external communications mechanism so we can
also link objects in-world to Legacy simulators that we’ve spent
quite a bit of time and resources developing elsewhere. So for
example, we can have an unmanned vehicle, as a model represented
inside of Second Life, driven by one of our Legacy behavioral
models outside. I could go on and one, but those are some of the
DOUG THOMPSON: We’ll pass it over to your colleague.
Steve Aguiar is also at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. He
was appointed the project lead for the Virtual Worlds
exploration and application program. Steve, welcome to our
STEVE AGUIAR: Thank you. It’s a real honor to be here. Having
worked with the technology for a while, it’s really interesting
to talk about this. I will just start out by saying that every
week or so we are finding new ways of using this, and it’s a
very interesting process to go through. Doug talked about our
collaborative engineering examples with design of command and
controls for new submarines. I’ll just throw in an anecdote that
last week I was attending a conference in Sweden, and, right in
the middle of the conference support, I’m working with engineers
back in Newport, designing these combat control systems. So the
remote accessibility of this stuff is really important.
But just to emphasize a little on the training example, you
think very simply of distributed learning, say, with classroom
training. But we’re also using it for scenario simulations,
using real operational areas and real tactical missions,
contextual or immersive learning where the power of the Virtual
World is allowing your student to be immersed in information
spaces that otherwise was impossible. We’re also looking at
procedural training and even just simple augmentation of Legacy
content such as Flash. So we’re not replacing all our training
content; we’re augmenting it with the Virtual World capacities.
DOUG THOMPSON: Awesome! Our fourth panelist is Neil Katz, who
is an IBM distinguished engineer and a member of the IBM Academy
for Technology. Welcome, Neil.
NEIL KATZ: Welcome. Thank you for having me here.
DOUG THOMPSON: What kind of range of use cases are you seeing
for immersive or Virtual World technology at IBM?
NEIL KATZ: Well, I think many of the use cases that Mark
addressed is really what we’re seeing it being used for. In a
large globally distributed company, like IBM, we have teams that
help us in emerging geographies: India, China, and then across
the U.S. Even my team, we’re not all together, with members in
Austin and myself in South Florida, and Burlington, New York. In
this day, when it’s just that much harder to get together, we
see using this for meetings and large events where it gives a
very immersive and interactive and collaborative experience that
you can’t get by other means such as web meetings, not that this
is a replacement for them, but it provides that alternative. In
addition, of course, using it for learning activities and other
type of collaborative activities are other use cases that we’re
applying the use for Virtual Worlds inside our enterprise.
DOUG THOMPSON: It’s interesting at this conference, it’s like
there’s a narrative arc that’s kind of happened in the
Enterprise 2.0 market. It sounds like this year there’s
sufficient evidence to really put forth a good case for why
Enterprise 2.0 technology makes sense to deploy in your
organization. And Virtual World technology, as part of that
Enterprise 2.0 ecosystem of technologies, also has a lot of
data. But I’m kind of curious, from the panelists, how do you
keep your project sponsors? How do you measure whether this
stuff is working and whether it’s successful? I’m going to jump
back in-world, maybe pass this back to Neil.
NEIL KATZ: I think the way we measure it inside of IBM is
really through the community and the interest generated by the
community in using these types of environments. And so we have
programs inside where we can deploy Virtual Worlds and then,
through internal communications, that generates interest. And,
through that generation of interest, we’re able to then create
that internal viral effect, which creates more demand.
So we’ve seen significant interest inside of IBM for using these
virtual events, starting a year ago, to where we are today.
We’re at the point now we’re running at least one virtual event
a day on our internal systems with just continued demand. So
that’s really how we measure it is really by the community and
this viral approach to getting increasing demand through using
it, leveraging it and interacting with it on a regular basis.
DOUG THOMPSON: Maybe I’ll pass this over to Doug as well
because I imagine you needed a project sponsor to get your stuff
up and running. Tell us how that works.
DOUGLAS MAXWELL: We have a number of project sponsors, but
really the metrics that you use are dependent upon the activity
that you’re engaged in. So if you want to measure proficiency in
a Virtual World training application [versus?] a Real World
training application, that’s fairly easy to do. One thing that
we also do in some of our testing in our virtual combat control
experiments is, we want to know things like can a sailor do
time-to-target with a certainty the same inside of a Virtual
World as they can inside of a Real world. So right now we’re
just wrapping up some experiments in that realm, and what we
would like to do is bring a more statistically relevant sample
in there, to be able to actually produce scientific validation
of our hypothesis. And, again, it really depends on what
activity you’re engaged in for your metrics.
DOUG THOMPSON: So, Steve, I’m going to ask you the same
question. I got to go to my boss and tell him I want to bring an
avatar to work. What kind of proof am I going to bring my boss
that I should be doing that?
STEVE AGUIAR: Well, we’re still gathering that proof. And, as
Doug pointed out, it really is application specific. That is the
holy grail to be able to come back with metrics and numbers and
quantify that, if you invest this amount of dollars, you’re
going to get this much more productivity. A lot of our benefits
are just more subjective. For example, we are seeing improved
product quality and customer satisfaction, and our customer is
the U.S. Navy so, to us, that is a very important metric. Now
we’ve just started scratching the surface of the application so
as we’re developing the applications in tandem, we’re developing
the ways to measure success. I’ll just also add too that, from a
project perspective, at a high level we are seeing significant
and quantifiable return on investment by using these products so
I can leave it with that.
DOUG THOMPSON: I’m going to pass it back to Mark for a second
because he’s kind of got a bird’s eye view of the types of
organizations that are using this technology. We have IBM and
these guys here; those are large organizations. Can you point to
metrics or examples across a wider range?
MARK KINGDON: Sure. There are as many examples as there are
applications. We have some case studies on our website,
work.secondlife.com, that lay those out in more detail. One
common metric people look at, if they’re looking at this as a
substitute for some sort of conference is the reduction in
travel costs. I think that underestimates the benefit because
you’re just looking at a cost savings, and you’re not looking at
the productivity gain. But even that justifies a very high
return on investment. So I think it very much depends on the
application. Check out the website, and look at some of the case
studies. The thing about Second Life is that it’s easy enough to
try right on the main grid and bring project sponsors in that
way, which is what we see a lot of.
DOUG THOMPSON: Doug made a comment earlier, which was about
bringing in other content. I think one of the big topics here at
this conference has been bringing Enterprise 2.0 technology into
IT systems where there are already systems that exist. So I
think it was at yesterday’s keynote they talked about, “We’re
not going to get rid of email and Blackberries overnight so how
can we bring in Enterprise 2.0 applications that link into
that?” I’m curious because, when I first thought of Virtual
Worlds, I think of them as this separate place that you go. It’s
kind of this place that you log into that becomes disconnected
from web-based or internal information. Maybe I’ll ask Doug here
first: Does this technology--can it be integrated into
enterprise systems, and what’s that connection to web-based
DOUGLAS MAXWELL: One thing that we have to do is, when we get
into these systems, you have to remember that it’s serious work,
and so you have to treat it just like serious work. When we do
integration-type demonstrations to potential sponsors, we’ve
learned that just the magic of being able to connect their
Legacy systems into the in-world objects and being able to
connect people via the multilayered chat and IM is all great.
But when the first question out of their mouth is, “Why is that
guy wearing wings?” you know you’ve got kind of a problem. So
kind of an obscure answer to your question is the reason we like
the Virtual Worlds platform is because they’re so flexible. And
it’s easy for us, depending on the kind of latencies you need,
to bring in other content whether it be web-based or video or
even Legacy simulators into the system and treat it just like
real serious work.
DOUG THOMPSON: So, Neil, let me throw this over to you. If I
was an application developer building an Enterprise 2.0
application, can I extend existing applications to include an
immersive environment with things like the Second Life
NEIL KATZ: You have to go through certainly the scenario and
the use case for this application developer and make sure that
it applies to a Virtual World. But the thing that we’re working
on and we have done is making sure that we integrate our
instance of Virtual Worlds with our enterprise back ends. The
biggest thing, of course, is integrating it with the corporate
directory so that people log in with their user ID and password
that they are most familiar with. But then beyond that is
allowing it to integrate with the existing tools and systems
that we have so that they can easily bring in their existing
desktop applications that they need integrated with the
libraries of content that they have and be able to bring that
easily within the Virtual World so that we try to make the
experience as seamless as possible. So for an application
developer, of course, it’s kind of understanding what the users
expect and then using the tools that are available, integrating
it with the Virtual World environment.
DOUG THOMPSON: Steve, I’m going to toss this next question over
to you, if that’s all right, which is: What has surprised you or
delighted you or where did you get a return that maybe you
weren’t expecting from using Virtual World technology?
STEVE AGUIAR: I think every day at work I get a new surprise. I
would like to just talk though for a moment that when you give
demonstrations of this product, to try to explain it to various
levels of management or program offices, I find it very useful
to remember that every individual comes to this technology
different, with different levels of experience. And some people
get it right away, and some people just don’t get it. I would
definitely recommend that my experience has shown I’ve had to
demo two or three or four times even, and I cross different
applications before that light bulb goes on. And then suddenly
that person who was a naysayer or just didn’t understand it is
one of our biggest advocates. So on such occasion, one person at
a time, and, once they get past that threshold, then they come
back to me with ideas that I had never even dreamed of, and
hence the innovation just starts to happen, and that’s what I
really like about the technology.
DOUG THOMPSON: That’s wonderful. So where do you see this going
next, or, if you had one piece of advice for somebody who was
thinking of taking on this technology, what would that be, Doug?
DOUGLAS MAXWELL: I think it would be, again, to take it
seriously and to make sure that you understand your audience,
the people who you’re pitching your ideas and who you’re
approaching for funding. If they’re savvy and they understand
the platform, then you can go a little bit crazy with your
demos, but, if they’re quite conservative or if they’re perhaps
a bit hostile to it, don’t show up looking like a dragon. That
would be my best advice and make sure that you understand your
DOUG THOMPSON: It’s interesting. And I can’t remember who said
this, but it was somebody from IBM, however, and I’m going to
give the alternate view, which was that you can do serious
business--and it was somebody from IBM, and I think it was
David Levine. He said, “but at the end of doing the serious
business, they take the IBM folks sailing.” Because there’s
something about the water cooler effect and the team building
and a sense of kind of getting outside of your normal box, which
actually does add something that has a measurable return. Neil,
maybe I’ll just pass it over to you for a comment. Where does
this all take us?
NEIL KATZ: Well, who knows where it’s going to take us. I think
what we’re really trying to do is get people to experience it,
and it’s one of those things that we can talk to it, give people
demonstrations of it, but what we’re really doing is making it
as easy as possible to allow different people and groups to come
in and experience it themselves of providing the tools and the
facilities to easily get onboard and begin to hold meetings and
events. Certainly you have skeptics as in any new emerging
technology, but it’s actually amazing what you hear from people
who actually experience it, where they come in and afterwards
they say, “I thought I’d really hate this, but I’m actually
amazed that I really enjoyed my experience.” You hear that
regularly from people who come in. And so where is it going? Who
knows. We will continue to make it available, enhance it, and it
will grow based upon what people are looking for.
DOUG THOMPSON: Steve, you made a bit of an interesting comment
earlier, which was each week you’re discovering something new,
which there’s been a lot of discussion here. There was a
presentation yesterday by somebody that was talking about doing
a new release every week of an enterprise software platforms. Is
that sort of what it’s like, rapid prototyping, iterative
prototyping, or describe how do you take advantage of this
technology once you’ve got it?
STEVE AGUIAR: Right now it’s still just all R&D for us, and,
like I said, the more people we put into the environment, we’re
deploying our enterprise grid, if you will, to our R&D workforce
so that about 2,000 people will be able to access it in the near
future. And, to us, again, that should just open up innovation.
So my speculation is, as I sit one on one with individuals and
they say, “Can you do this with it and that with it?” and we
work out whether it’s the right maturity and the right
technology for the right problem set, more often than not we’re
finding that, yeah, there’s some real performance benefit here.
I’m looking forward to seeing all the other applications that
I’m not privy to or really knowledgeable of.
DOUG THOMPSON: On which note, I’ll pass it back to Mark for a
little future vision. If I was enterprise today, where could
this take me?
MARK KINGDON: I think it’s taking us, well, into another
dimension, the third dimension for sure. I think that Virtual
World space is incredibly rich, with possibility, because every
aspect of a company’s business can be enhanced by the Virtual
World space, and we’re at the very, very beginning, the first
step, I would say, in the adoption of this technology. I’m
absolutely convinced that, in the next five years, it will
change in very fundamental ways the way we work. And I can say
that with confidence, not just because we developed this
product, but, because I spend one to five hours a day in Second
Life myself working, because we have a distributed workforce.
It’s such an incredibly powerful tool and much more powerful
tools than I’ve used in the past because of the level of
engagement and connection you can have with people.
That’s just one of probably hundreds of use cases because, at
Linden Lab, we’re not simulating warfare. I would say that my
business meetings are probably a little bit more pedestrian,
although I’d love to have a submarine, if you have a spare one
sitting around. But you can see the possibility set is almost
endless, and the next five years will bring change that we can’t
DOUG THOMPSON: I want to thank the panelists and wrap it up
again with the concept of virtual environments as providing an
opportunity for us to narrate our work and to go deeper that as
social technologies increasingly get picked up in the
enterprise, these are places that we can have rich experiences
as well. I’d like to thank you all for being here today, as well
as our online audience.
MARK KINGDON: Thank you very much. If I may add, I’d like to
thank Dusan, from Metanomics, for bringing the panel together
and organizing this in-world experience. Thank you very much.
And I’d also like to say, if you’re interested, Judy Wade, who’s
our VP of Enterprise International, is here, and
Hamilton Hitchings is here, if you’d like to speak to the folks
that have been driving the development of Second Life
Enterprise, and our booth is over in the Trade Show. Thank you.
Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com