Saturday, 29 December 2007

Santa Linden Rezzes an Island

I was largely absent from the Yuletide/Solsticial proceedings in Second Life, choosing rather to make merry with friends and family in Non-Digital Life. OK, I admit I did pop in from time to time but not with any great plan in mind. However, while I was over-indulging in roast dinners, wine and prezzies, Santa Linden dropped by Second Life and left me a whole island to start working on. I say "me", I actually mean "my company."

I was first alerted by a friend and colleague, who informed via Twitter. I dialled in to my company mail system and sure enough, there was the confirmation email and a fair amount of technobabble. The island actually came into being on 26th December, still a public holiday here in the OK. So thanks, Santa Linden, I now have my work cut out to convert it into something habitable, on a budget that a church mouse would struggle with. But it's a great start, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Why am I telling you this? When originally mooted, longer ago than I care to think, I intended to keep all knowledge of the island out of the public domain. However, as time has passed, we have refined the purpose of the island and there is now no benefit in keeping its existence secret. Initially, we had thought in terms of a public island, offering company information , meeting facilities, virtual trade fairs and the like; the general thrust being in a marketing direction. Part of the plan would have been to maintain a cloak of secrecy over the island until it was ready to launch on an unsuspecting virtual (and real) world. This may yet come about, either at a corporate level or a more regional business unit level. But this island is going to be private - at least for the foreseeable future. Sorry.

Why private? Simple really... perhaps the most demonstrable ROI for corporate use of Second Life is in "collapsing geography" (to steal the title of Cory Ondrejka's post-Linden blog). I have long maintained that virtual worlds are ideal for global corporations as they allow you to... well.. collapse geography. In Second Life colleagues from a range of countries and, indeed, continents can gather round a virtual campfire to exchange information and ideas. Virtual SIGs can meet and share views and discussions using a common, shared medium. The experience may not be as good as face-to-face, but it is vastly better than teleconferencing and videoconferencing. More to the point, it saves a great deal of time (and time is money, ladies and gents) and other travel costs, and also let's not forget those pesky carbon miles. It therefore makes sense to have a private island where colleagues can meet both formally and informally, and cost-effectively.

Another use for a private island in Second Life is as an "innovation incubator" - sorry, I had to shoehorn "innovation" in there somewhere. The 3D immersive nature of virtual worlds offers us all an affordable palette for the development of new ways of envisioning and manipulating information. For example, IBM and Eolus have already shown what can be done with virtual operations centres. This, too, strikes me as an opportunity worth pursuing.

A final thought: as regular readers will know, I can be somewhat critical of poorly executed public commercial sites in Second Life. As part of the purpose of this island is to nurture skills, I am not looking to develop "the perfect sim" but instead allow people a great deal of latitude to develop their ideas individually or in teams. The net result is not to deliver a coherent build across the sim, but rather act as a hive for creative ideas and solutions.

So it looks like I, and the small group I have co-opted into this enterprise, are going to have a fun, if exhausting, 2008! If time and policy permits, I may post the occasional snap here.

No comments: