Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Golden Age of Marketing?

I attended a discussion with about ten marketing types from all over the world - Australia to Phoenix (and three of us from Boston!) regarding the recent Forbes Magazine article describing how corporations were bailing on sl (http://members.forbes.com/forbes/2007/0702/048.html). Attendees included, in part, Shava Suntzu, Anastastia Cazelet, Samson Francis, Barbarella Noel and a writer for sl identified as Wire Writer (profiles available). We met outdoors in a space that looked like the Esplanade, with seven Hatch Memorial Shells surrounding us. I think we were floating above the clouds.

The conversation was led by a marketing strategist curious about corporate presence in sl. We (well, they. I was just observing but welcomed by the group) talked about how it’s not good enough that corporations build fancy looking sims in sl – they have to host events and create community in order to participate (be successful) in-world. As one of the attendees pointed out – avies don’t need to eat or sleep so what’s the point of creating, for example, a Starwood Hotel. Interestingly, IBM has 4,000 employees present in sl (but no one knew quite what they were up to). Participation and creativity are key in sl. Successful projects were noted, such as Steelcase, who sponsored a chair design contest, 1-800-Flowers, who sponsored a flower arrangement competition, and a Ben & Jerry’s competition sponsored by Esheep. It’s the immersive nature of sl that makes it appealing, and the group pointed out that people open up more in this environment than in typical brainstorming sessions. Meetings in-world are more productive than a typical conference call.

The marketers in the group then got very “market-y”, discussing how to use sl to drive brands into the community, and how sl communications will allow visitors to perceive in a more “deep” way certain marketing campaigns (isn’t this what cultural organizations are struggling to do?). I got worried about being spammed in sl. The beauty of the metaverse now is you can avoid all advertising, cell phones, suvs, soul destroying things from rl…Anyway, we all stopped for a moment to appreciate the idea that we had a diverse group from all over the world, that we could “hear” one another speak, review conversation, and that no generation gap was perceived. The conversation turned to the book by Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place (hey, hc’ers, have we discussed this yet?) – home and work representing the first two places we inhabit, but what are our third places? Coffee shop? Church? Library? SL? A bit of a golden age in sl right now I’d say…

Shava’s response to Forbes’ article is here: http://slbizreview.com/2007/06/28/forbes-has-a-dirty-mind.aspx.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Appearance isn't everything

SL is not for the vain. True, you can turn yourself into the most buxom, quarter-off-the- arse type babe you want, but things happen. Here’s a photo of my friend Nellie with her hair attached to her crotch. Here’s a photo of me, arriving at a museum looking like I’ve been torched with an aerosol can sometime during the teleport.

Last night I visited Paris 1900. I ran into two newbies, a male and female avatar, having an anxious conversation in French outside the Moulin Rouge. The woman’s arm was stuck over her head and her hair was pulled over her face. The gentleman was wearing a tuxedo shirt, black spandex pants, and what looked like black woolly socks and one brown orthopedic Birkenstock. They turned to look at me and fled around the corner, still typing wildly. I wanted to run after them and shout “I understand! I was there once too!” Maybe I ought to become a newbie counselor.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Newbie Show and Tell

I attended a self-guided tutorial at the Ivory Tower Library of Primitives so I could learn how to make prims - otherwise known as spheres, cubes, cones…After the lesson I flew over to the sandbox where I could practice. Sandboxes are set up all over sl and are basically an empty landscape of field or desert where avies can built anything however large or small they want. Etiquette dictates that avies clean up after themselves but many are self-cleaning every few hours, like those automatic kitty litter boxes.

Nearby, an avie with huge shoulder pads and cape made a sports car appear, drove it up a skate ramp and flew off into the air until both disappeared into the metaverse. Off in the distance I could see someone throwing batons in the air. Another constructed an enormous structure with glass panels and tiled floors. I set myself up in the field and futzed around a bit, creating shapes that resembled sculptures I’d made in my last art class in college, only bigger. I uploaded my own textures, since the ones provided by reminded me of the tiled floors one finds in 1970s kitchens. Next to me a fellow conjured up acres of beds and coffee tables, making the sandbox resemble an old Macy’s department store. I dithered around for a few more minutes and came to like the sculpture I'd created. The shapes and colors stood out from the prims around me. I even considered carrying it over into real life. I envisioned designing cord-wrapped ceramic knick-knacks for mod apartments.

Later in the evening I attended a show and tell for newbies at the New Citizen Institute. There was a requirement that you had to be less than 90 days old in order to show your stuff. I thought I might conjur up my African textile-wrapped cylinder, feeling pretty accomplished. The NCI was packed with a whole variety of avies – fairies and Harajuku styled ladies, a man dressed as a naval captain, and the rest of us, dressed pretty much as we would in rl (which is a whole other topic – it seems really lame to dress normally in this environment when you could prance around with a tiger’s tail and wings).

The first avie brought an amazing particle simulation that looked like the big bang. The avies went wild, hooting and applauding. I nodded like I knew what a particle simulation was. The next avie tried to bring a structure onto the stage, but it was so huge it landed on some spectators. The third avie showed a lovely fish tank, complete with bubbles, drifting water plants, and little fishes, all “hand-crafted”. The final person showed a building I couldn’t see due to lag, but the more experienced avies were shouting how they’d never seen a building created with so very many prims, what skills he had, and did he want a job in-world. Suddenly my big lumpy cylinder looked totally naff. There are some sophisticated folks in-world, even the newbies. Back to the sandbox...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Things I Wish I Could Do in Real Life

Turn into a muppet.
During staff meetings.

Inside the Planetarium at the National Air and Space Museum

(click on photos to enlarge)

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Had a cup of espresso in the Cybrary run by librarians at Info Island. It was totally deserted as you can see in the photo, so come keep me company, people! For anyone interested, there are plenty of spaces open for activity and the conference rooms set up here are far more interesting than in any rl hotel (anything is more inspiring than spending an entire day inside the moldy conference room of the Radisson in Chelmsford, where I recently gave a talk).

I combined searches in sl and on the web and found graduate student Richard Urban’s paper on Second Life museums, (http://www.richardurban.net/), which was presented this past April, in San Francisco, at the “Museums and the Web” conference sponsored by Archives and Museum Informatics. See link to Urban's paper. (http://www.archimuse.com/mw2007/papers/urban/urban.html).

I joined the Museums in Second Life Group and found one of 28 identified archivists in sl and sent a query to the leader of Archivists of Second Life run by Christi Janus (Netherlands) and Dinnie Devonshire (Canada). Christi happened to be online and invited me into the group. He teleported me to Cybrary City II, where I landed next to a blank white scroll, the group’s signage, hanging in the air. “Obviously we need a logo. But we do have a mission statement”, which I read with interest. The group is in its infancy, and, knowing nothing about the humans behind the avies, who knows if we’ll even get along, but it’s a place to start. We took a seat on a couple of benches that had been set up around a campfire. “We didn’t want a traditional building. The campfire is where we tell stories and collect oral histories.” We talked for a few minutes, bickering almost immediately about the use of the word document as it pertains to archives.

Next, off to catch last hour of Brian Eno’s sl exhibition “77 million paintings” designed to coincide with the rl exhibition taking place at theYerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF. http://www.longnow.org/77m/


I put the kid to bed, said “see ya” to hubby, put on my headphones, and logged on. Eager to practice my new dancing skills I teleported to the Pier on Pier Island for a bit of nightlife and appeared beside a dance floor packed with avies having a high old time. The dance floor was actually a pier with a stage at one end, extending out over the sea. Stars twinkled overhead. Many hubs in sl are manned with a greeter who welcomes you in, making you feel like an expected guest. This is a real asset in Second Life. With so much stumbling around it’s nice to know that there’s a friendly face on hand to help you out and answer your questions. An indie-looking avie in mini kilt, t-shirt and what looked like doc marten shoes, told me to click on the disco ball over the stage if I wanted to dance. I threw myself onto the dance floor and went for it.

I have no problem dancing by myself and do it as much as possible in rl – when I ride my bike or walk to work with my headphones on I’m like one of those ipod silhouettes, singing aloud like a dork. But I’ve been told that when I dance I flap my arms like “the stubby wings of a chicken”. (This was alarming to hear ‘cuz I actually made money as a go-go dancer – the non-stripping kind. What the hell were people thinking when I was up on my box?!). So anyway, it was great to go on the floor where everyone looked goofy. There was a lot of chat, about the music, about rl…one avie had some trouble on the floor and lost his hair – the sign of a rocking good time. The dj took requests and within ten minutes I heard mine ("Downtown" by Peaches http://www.peachesrocks.com/). How cool is that?

I teleported my friend Nellie to the club. She arrived on the dance floor, totally disoriented, then, once she realized where she was she began changing her clothes frantically, seeking dance-wear. She mooned me a few times and then settled on a corset and poofy skirt over jeans. After a time, Nellie suggested we find a campfire, to mellow out a bit. We teleported to a quiet forested island. The mini-map told us that we were alone in the environment, which was great because we both arrived dancing our asses off, unable to stop the gestures animating us from the Pier. We tapped /99stop into the chat bar and finally calmed down enough to exploring. What a blast to check this place out with a friend. Nellie, who’s as impulsive as I am, immediately tried to break into a cabin nearby. I tried to ride/steal a bike (notices flash up that tell you that you’re fiddling with someone else’s property). I lost Nellie in the woods at one point, when she finally hollered to me (you can shout your text via the chat bar) “I’m in a bi-plane!”…I flew up over the trees to locate her but ran into some mid-air sculptures which were wonderful – wonderful because I don’t yet have the skills to create something like that and amazing to imagine floating sculptures in real life. Like the art in White Cube, the sculptures were based on the most accessible shapes and tools available to sculptors/builders in sl. The shapes hovered over the trees and blinked red, yellow, green, or blew gently on the wind…a relaxing site.

I wandered around until of course I found my way to a bar where four avies were dancing some kind of accelerated hustle, laughing and poking each other with gestures. I told them I’d lost a friend. “She’s in plane? And she’s new? Uh oh.”

“Shh, don’t scare her,” One of the others whispered. Suddenly I heard from Nellie. “I’ve crashed into a tree! I’ve ruined someone’s lawn!” She abandoned the plane, leaving a burning hole in someone’s back garden and ran for it, not knowing how to leave a note behind…

We found our way to a swing and rested there for the rest of the evening…when I spoke to Nellie in rl yesterday she told me she missed me last log-on. She had spent her session as a triceratops.

Next stop…Cybrary on Info Island, to participate in some librarian action.