Fortune magazine: Why tech leaders think SL could be a gold mine

We mentioned an article earlier by David Kirkpatrick, senior editor of Fortune magazine. This is a different one. It continues the trend of a thoughtful examination of Second Life, neither media hype support nor naysayer put-down, but realistic consideration of how MUVEs and the 3D Web might be developing, including the implications of research-supported trends.

As Kirkpatrick notes in “Second Life: It’s not a game,” IBM has made a significant financial and time investment in Second Life, believing it to truly be “the next big thing.” IBM has certainly made errors in market judgment in the past, so this is no guarantee. More importantly, their experience in these early months gives an indication that the 3D Web is genuinely useful in ways that are hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it beyond newbie stage–just as it’s hard to explain the Internet to my mother, who has never touched a computer.

By early January more than 3,000 IBM employees had acquired their own avatars, and about 300 were routinely conducting company business inside Second Life. “The 3-D Internet may at first appear to be eye candy,” [IBM CEO Sam] Palmisano writes in an e-mail interview, “but don’t get hung up on how frivolous some of its initial uses may seem.” He calls 3-D realms such as Second Life the “next phase of the Internet’s evolution” and says they may have “the same level of impact” as the first Web explosion.

Kirkpatrick says that the ability to use SL as a platform for a whole new Net is what has caught IBM’s attention, as well as that of serious venture capitalists.

“Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist with Benchmark Capital, says he invested in Second Life because it’s like Microsoft or eBay – a venue in which thousands of ancillary businesses can sprout,” Kirkpatrick writes, noting that other investors include Mitch Kapor (creator of Lotus 1-2-3, whom many credit with launching the PC revolution), eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft chief technology architect (and inventor of Lotus Notes) Ray Ozzie.

To say the least, these are people with a track record for accurately spotting trends and opportunities.

“We’re all used to teleconferences,” says [IBM executive Ian] Hughes. “But in Second Life we gather and mingle before the meeting, and when it finishes, some people stop and talk again. We start to form social networks and the kinds of bonds you make in real life.”

It is exactly that sort of difference in experience that leads us to expect similar benefits for education, an expectation that so far is confirmed by the early research.

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Workaround for teleporting issues

Yesterday residents commonly reported being unable to teleport or to fly across region borders without getting stuck. Typically, attempting either causes kind of freeze, and then you get a message that you have been logged off–you can look at existing IMs if you want, but otherwise, you have to click “quit.”

I reported it to support, and last night was able to teleport and fly as normal–just figured they had fixed it. But today a colleague reported the same problem, and while I’m on campus, at least, I am having the problem again. For those of you technically-minded, a comment from a Linden blog post might shed some light on the problem. If LL fixes the problem soon, no worries. If not, maybe we can politely ask for another port to be opened, especially if we’re able to teleport at home, but not at the college.

In the meantime, here’s a workaround.

  1. While you are inworld (because you will be able to login SOMEWHERE), open the map and find the next place you want to go. You can even do this by double-clicking a Landmark from your Inventory and choosing “Show on Map” rather than “Teleport.”
  2. In the bottom right-hand corner of the map is a new button: “Copy SLurl to Clipboard.” With your target selected on the map, click that button. You’ll get a confirmation box telling you the SLurl has been copied and suggesting ways to use it.
  3. Log out of SL.
  4. Open your browser and paste the SLurl into the URL window of the browser.
  5. When the site comes up, click the “Teleport Now” button, and OK it if the browser asks you for confirmation.
  6. When your SL client comes back up again, the target will be selected as the login target. Just log in.
  7. The map will likely be open when you log in; you can just close it, since you are already at your target.

Yes, it’s kludgy. But it will work until LL either fixes things, or we get another port opened up.

[UPDATE 7 Feb. 2007] We have determined the problem is a too-restrictive firewall at the college. So this workaround should work until we are able to resolve that.

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More update problems, but a realistic perspective

It’s the Morning After. It has become routine among SL residents to expect problems after Linden Lab releases an update to the client. No doubt this is annoying. But a comment on the SL blog puts it in perspective. It says in part:

And for all the bugs and work arounds, I used to test developing software (mind you I’m not a programmer by any means and learning with the rest of you) as a end user and what I can tell for every update, for every release, for every improvement to the grid…there will be new issues, and new items to address. In a complex enviroment such as SL (which is very groundbreaking mind you) there will always be updates and new issues as the game is developing as we are playing it. A world such as SL will be permanently in development as the user demand requires new and exciting things to explore. If SL was like every other product on the market…we would be very limited to our abilities and growth but instead LL as created a wonderful developing World which is no difference then Real Life itself, ever changing.

I don’t like it when I can’t teleport around, or my hair disappears, or any number of other problems crop up. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the platform SL is pioneering is about in the same place the Web was 10 years ago. I can remember having all kinds of issues at the time, getting frustrated, waiting for pages to load, able to evolve into another life form it took so long. But I’m still here. Linden Lab needs the positive pressure to continue improving the product, of course, but I’ve done just enough programming to appreciate the enormity of the task they’re undertaking.

Pioneering is, by its nature, dangerous. I appreciate my colleagues who are pioneering this platform, and glad we’re able to do it virtually. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how quickly we can get attached to our virtual realities?

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Yet another article: No, Second Life is not overhyped

Fortune senior editor David Kirkpatrick says:

Yet Second Life may be more important, longterm, than even this much publicity would suggest. That’s because what it really may represent is an alternative vision for how to interact with information and communicate over the Internet.

Yes it’s cartoony, but one of the great things about Second Life is that whenever you are doing anything, you can see the other people who are nearby as well. This brings a dimension of social life – so elemental to how we live our lives offline – to the Internet in a way that up to now the Web has not. In Second Life everything you do is done in a social space, though you can get privacy if you want.

The whole article is worthwhile.

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Article worth examining

People who know me know I’m suspicious about using business as any sort of model for education. I’m very pro-business—I just think we have different concerns. (Side note: using a professional service firm model (think accountants/doctors/lawyers and their clients) works very well, though.)

Still, it’s worthwhile noting the way business looks at platforms like Second Life. “Starting a Second Life Business” is another article that clearly makes the distinction between SL and “just a game.”

Anyone who has bought an Xbox knows games can be big business, of course, so for clarity: this article gives a feel for how business is looking at SL as a platform for conducting business, not as a business itself. It’s almost the kind of article you expect to see a business magazine write about a particular city as they assess whether it’s a good place to start a business.

And that certainly has implications for organizations such as educational institutions as well.

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Tour this week

We’ll have a tour group this week. I don’t know where else we’ll tour, but we definitely want to take a look at our own Islands, so we’ll start there.

If you haven’t been there already, it’ll all be new, of course. Even if you have been there, a lot of early development has already taken place. It’s presentable enough to bring students into for the first time.

Let’s meet at 10:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 18 on Island 2.

[UPDATE] The Welcome Area, mainly intended for students, is now up, but is a good place to start the tour, and is now, I think, the default location for most of Island 2 anyway. So let’s meet there.

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Learning to manage objects on group land

As we develop our Islands, an additional layer of object creation complexity will come into play. Along with learning to create objects and learning to set permissions to achieve what you want, you should also think about how to set it up in relationship to the group that will own and manage the Islands.

Linden Lab has set up a FAQ file that addresses sorting out most of this terminology.

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Excellent learning place in SL

There are lots of ways to learn your way around Second Life. Some involve interaction with a teacher, and some involve self-learning. I have no idea how long this resource has been available, but I just stumbled across it, and want to share it. It’s called Knowledge Port, and has not only many tutorials on various aspects of managing SL, but also many tools. Follow the SLurl, or just find it in Maryport. Continue reading “Excellent learning place in SL”

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Answering some concerns

Originally published in The Metaverse Messenger, in the Dec. 12, 2006, edition in the “Learning Curves” column on page 20.

Staff Writer

As some of us explore Second Life as a tool for education, we’ll see many different perspectives. Surely it has always been the case. I can imagine some ancient Greeks sitting around drinking ouzo and talking about the new-fangled teaching innovation.

“I don’t know,” says one, “I just don’t see how having 20 people sitting in a classroom listening to a guy talk can possibly be as good as walking around the hills engaging in dialogue.”

“It’ll never catch on,” says the other. “I mean, can you see Socrates standing at the front of a room like that? He’d choke on an olive pit first.”

Second Life will not be for everyone (either student or teacher) any more than the Web is for everyone. Lecture isn’t for everyone, either. Group learning isn’t for everyone. Yet, some people reject SL in education because it won’t serve everyone. Continue reading “Answering some concerns”

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