Is Second Life Just A Big Chatroom? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
5/30/2007
12:45 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Is Second Life Just A Big Chatroom?

Intel's launching a series of presentations for developers in Second Life puts the virtual world to its best business use, as a platform for conversations with customers. And yet it got me thinking: Is Second Life just a big chatroom?

Intel's launching a series of presentations for developers in Second Life puts the virtual world to its best business use, as a platform for conversations with customers. And yet it got me thinking: Is Second Life just a big chatroom?

Intel on Tuesday launched a series of presentations on its new Intel Software Network area of Second Life to allow developers of multicore, manageability, and mobility technologies to interact with Intel engineers and experts.

The new Intel Software Network area will offer online training, Webcasts, and meet-the-experts events, as well as the "Braniac Warbots" contest, where developers will be able to use the Second Life standard Linden Scripting Language (LSL) to build robots that compete.

The event had everything I look for in a real-world business application in Second Life.

When a real-world company comes to me and wants to show off its Second Life presence, I want to know how they're using the virtual world to engage with customers, employees or business partners.

If a real-world business wants to get real business value from Second Life, that company has to have knowledgeable people in-world ready, willing and able to talk about the company's products and services.

That's what's really valuable about Second Life for real-world businesses. Companies have become disconnected from their customers by more than a decade of Internet shopping and big-box stores. Customers don't want to talk to salesmen anymore, they want to go buy something on Amazon.com, or eBay, or Craigslist, and not have a real-time interaction with human beings.

That's true everywhere but in Second Life. Second Life is all about people connecting with people. The chief complaint users have about real-world businesses that come to Second Life is that there's nobody to talk to. The real-world businesses put up impressive builds, and leave them standing empty.

Smart businesses come in to Second Life prepared to host events. That's what Intel is doing, with its presentations and its software developer contest. And that's what we're doing with our series of kaffeeklatsches, Tuesdays at 6 pm Second Life Time and Fridays at noon -- we're bringing people together to talk about technology and business issues. Yesterday we had 25 people, which is great turnout for a Second Life event.

And yet, as I sat there watching the text chat scroll up my screen, one of the attendees said Second Life is a substitute for Internet chat.

For that particular application, he was right. Our avatars were motionless, and we were just sending text-chat back and forth. We could have been holding our discussion in an Internet chat room; there was no multimedia element to the presentation.

Seems to me that a lot of the real-world business applications for Second Life are like that. Either they're text chats, or Webinars, or -- like the Braniac Warbots part of Intel's new Second Life initiative -- they're just publicity gimmicks designed to entertain customers without really communicating with them.

I'm looking for real-world businesses that have gone beyond text chat and Webinars to really make use of the full potential of Second Life to communicate with customers, employees, or business partners. If you know about one, leave a message below, or e-mail me at mwagner@cmp.com.

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