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Second Life: Ready Or Not, Here It Comes

I tried to join the hip crowd last week for an IBM experiment: a storage product launch it chose to hold in Second Life. While I'm usually on time for most meetings (traffic willing), I became hopelessly lost on my way to this virtual one.

Second Life

For more on Second Life and what vendors are doing, read "Making The Second Life Connection."

I tried to join the hip crowd last week for an IBM experiment: a storage product launch it chose to hold in Second Life, the virtual "world" you negotiate with the help of an avatar. While I'm usually on time for most of my meetings (traffic willing), I became hopelessly lost on my way to this virtual one. I am NOT a regular Second Life user. Having rather less time for "real life" than I'd like, it's usually all I can do to complete my daily to-dos there. Or is that here?

Anyway, rather than risk disrupting the meeting by showing up late (easier to do on a conference call), I slunk away. I even managed to mess up in another way: I left my "press kit" lying around on IBM's Second Life campus, some kind avatar soul had to return it to me. Apparently, it is a big gaffe to leave objects lying around. Kind of like littering. I probably need to invest in "The Complete Fool's Guide to Second Life." But I digress (as easy to do in Second Life as in real life).

After the event was over, several helpful IBM employees offered thoughts by e-mail of how things went from their point of view. Or should I say, from the point of view of their avatar.

Michael Scott wrote about the clothing choices and "socialization" aspects, which included a virtual coffee klatch. Jan Crews, who edits one of the internal IBM publication, noted that it was ironically easier to concentrate in Second Life than on a purely audio conference call because of the impression she wanted to make with her own avatar and because she had to focus on the activities around her.

One of the business partners who attended the event, Warren Messner, a storage brand executive with Micro Strategies, an IBM Business Partner based in Denville, N.J., found his experience intriguing. Like Crews, he felt that the "presence" of the speakers helped him concentrate on the information at hand and he appreciated the interactivity. Moreover, Messner was able to reconnect with a business contact afterward and exchange some e-mails he needed.

One thing that IS frustrating: because Second Life avatars don't necessarily share the same name as your real life persona, you don't always know who you are encountering. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, I suppose. For instance, you might be able to avoid someone or skulk around unnoticed.

Still, Messner envisions some important uses for the future: Companies, for example, could create animations of products being introduced, allowing briefing attendees to examine the technology more closely. Kick the virtual tires, so to speak. (By the way, irony of irony, Messner called me from IBM's real PartnerWorld conference to contribute his comments for this blog.

"You can definitely communicate more effectively," he says.

Considering that IBM has seemingly gazillions of miles of virtual real estate within Second Life, my guess is that Messner will have a chance to use those new communications skills more often. And IBM isn't the only company nudging partners toward the virtual community. UGS, the product lifecycle management (PLM) software company just launched the UGS Innovation Connection area, which I found quite easily!\ The company will use the site to collaborate with customers and partners, as well as host virtual conferences.

Who will be next?

What do you think of Second Life? Drop me an e-mail at my cyber inbox at Or meet me in Second Life. My avatar identity is Singing Writer.

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