Saturday, 24 November 2007

Sogeti Netherlands (and Sweden, a bit)

Last night I got an Instant Message (IM) from my friend VeeJay Burns to let me know that his company island was now open to the public. VeeJay, who blogs at Mindblizzard and is credited with first coining the term "metarati", works for the Dutch division of global IT company, Sogeti, where he is a Project Manager. However, over and above his day job he is also a Metaverse Evangelist within the company, and has been one of the prime movers in them setting up a presence in Second Life.

His division, Sogeti Netherlands, has had a private island in Second Life since around March, 2007. Recently, another division, Sogeti Sweden, moved in next door, resulting in a 2-sim island. I am interested in all of this for several reasons: 1) VeeJay is a friend of mine; 2) we both work in the IT industry and 3) Sogeti is sister-company to my own employer, Capgemini. So does that mean my assessment will be biased? Ummm... yeah, probably! Let's just see how it unfolds.

I gather the principal aim of the Sogeti presence is to provide a virtual space where colleagues and clients can meet, work and socialise. It also provides an area where staff can come to learn about virtual worlds and the (expected) future of the internet: web3.D. Although casual visitors are welcome, the site is not intended as an out-and-out marketing exercise. While using mentors, much of the work has been carried out by the Sogeti team themselves as part of the learning process. If you are reading between the lines, you will no doubt detect a non-too-subtle management of expectations. Certainly that was clear to me when talking about the build with VeeJay. However, I think his concerns are largely misplaced. True, the site does not feature "Wow Moment", jaw-dropping, cutting edge effects - but then, there are few that do, and those are largely related to the media and entertainment industries.

Before you even arrive you will likely have spotted the first piece of company branding - on the map you will see that the Dutch sim is in the shape of a spade (the suit of cards, not the digging implement), while the Swedish sim has a lake in the same shape at its centre. The "red spade" is the company logo. Capgemini, just to be different, uses a blue spade. I will concentrate on the Dutch sim, as the Swedish sim is still deep in construction.

The Dutch sim is modelled as a tropical island, subdivided by 2 broad boardwalks that span the island North-South and East-West. There is a sandbox, a couple of large beach huts, the Red Spade Bar and 2 large outdoor auditoriums. With Christmas on the way, there is also a Santa's Grotto under construction. The white and tomato(?) red brand colours run through the buildings and furnishings. And just to make sure you are in no doubt, there are flagpoles flying the company colours and logo too. Initially I thought this was fine, but the more I think about it, the more I think this is a bit over-the-top. I'd cut down on some of the flagpoles for a start.

The seating in the auditorium has a neat feature. When you take your seat you are placed into Mouselook mode and your focus is directed at the screen ahead of you. This might seem a tad excessive, but the thinking is to make it easy for newbies to attend seminars and presentations. I love the elegant seating in the Red Spade Bar, but then I would, since I made them [grins]. OK, to be honest, they need some fancier sitting animations, but they do the job. I opted to go with the Windlight viewer (and kill my PC's performance) to glean the following pictures:

The Dutch sim is largely complete, but I am still not sure why Sogeti have chosen to open it to visitors. My suspicion is that they want to see how their sim is received in the wider Second Life community, in terms of style, content and brand promotion (earlier management of expectations notwithstanding).

I like what they have done, but have a few suggestions for tweaks they may wish to consider:
1. Reduce the amount of branding (a little, not a lot)
2. Add an orientation area for staff and clients (this may already be planned)
3. Cut down on the amount of tropical vegetation a little. It looks good, but can get in the way.

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