Monthly Archives: November 2009

In social veritas

A new study from Euro RSCG Worldwide, referenced by eMarketer, shows that a fair number of people say they are more likely to “lash out” at brands online.  Not a surprise.  It’s been a long-time observation that people will say (or write) things online that they never would say when talking to someone directly.  I just can’t help wondering.  When it comes to brands and products, does that freedom to lash out mean people express more accurately what’s true for them, or less?  Either way, it’s worth paying attention.

Among some other findings from the study, eMarketer points out that “the stigma of online socializing is fast disappearing … Although only a minority of US Internet users thought online social groups could be ‘truly social,’ nearly three-fifths disagreed with the idea that socializing on the Web was only for ‘sad, antisocial types.’”

Even more interesting, something that eMarketer doesn’t mention is that contrary to what one might think at first, it’s older internet users who most disagree that online socializing is only for antisocial losers.  For example, 59% of 45-54 year old’s disagree while only 51% of 18-24 year old’s do.

Conversely only 26% of 45-54 year old’s agree that “social media online enhances my social life offline” compared to 36% of 18-24 year old’s.

So compared to us sad, old online socializers, who are apparently more content to engage with others armed with an internet connection from the comfort of our living room sofa, and go no further than that, the 18+ set more often sees online socializing as just a means to an offline end.

Ah — to be 18 and old fashioned again!

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Second Life Enterprise breaths new life into Second Life

“Twitter is over,” my partner at work, David, constantly chides me.  Even though I point out that Twitter isn’t just about telling people what you had for breakfast.  He goes on, “Look what happened to Second Life, you thought that was going to change the world too. Now it’s dead.”  That’s not exactly what I said.  But I did say that Second Life had tremendous potential to facilitate collaboration, work processes and relationships within the enterprise.  And that we hadn’t seen the last of Second Life.

With the launch of Second Life Enterprise, I don’t yet get to say, “I told you so,” but the reliability of my powers of prediction is looking better.

Second Life Enterprise

Second Life Enterprise

Second Life Enterprise now enables companies to use the same interface and features of Second Life on their own servers, so the content and information they place there is secure.  This is a big step, because security issues were an important barrier for many companies to use the Second Life platform as a virtual workplace.

Conference Center Island

Conference Center Island

The package, with a starting price of $50,000, includes VOIP, sandbox regions for virtual building and modeling, media and document file sharing, two conference centers and auditorium — virtual of course — and provides enough computing power to support eight regions and as many as 800 avatars all to work happily at the same time.

Who’s using Second Life Enterprise?  According to Linden Labs, 14 organizations have already signed up for the beta version, including the U.S. Navy, IBM and Northrup Grumman.  It will be in beta through the fourth quarter of this year and should be broadly available by mid-2010.

So maybe Second Life hasn’t changed the world yet.  However, it is being used by companies and organizations for a variety of tasks from teaching and training  to product development, prototyping and testing.  And it  allows teams of individuals from different geographies to come together at a fraction of what it would cost in “the real world.”  That’s good in the best of times, and great in times like these. IBM estimated it saved $320,000 by holding a recent conference in Second Life.

Northrup Grumman has used Second Life to simulate a control panel on a bomb disposal device, allowing workers to learn how to use it safely.  The company now does development work for clients where “one hundred percent of the product and the client relationship is virtual.” And Second Life has enabled Northrup Grumman employees at opposite ends of the globe to work together efficiently.

Ted Vera, Information Systems Department Manager at Northrup Grumman confirms something that I’ve always suspected, that the game-like elements of a virtual world could actually be beneficial to real work:  “We’re conducting real business, but there’s an element of fun that enhances the collaboration.”

Conference Center A 4

Conference Center A 4

Beyond the firewall issue, now resolved for a mere $55,000, the biggest obstacle to broad scale usage of virtual words like Second Life is ease of use.  I’ve enjoyed Second Life, but it was darned hard learning to use, at least the public version.  Presuming the “learning curve” gets a lot shorter, or already has in Second Life Enterprise, I think the prognosis for a long, healthy life looks good.

There’s a saying in German that has always intrigued me — “Tot gesagte leben länger.”  Roughly translated it means, “Those presumed dead live the longest.”

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From podcast to publication — the social media success story behind J.C. Hutchins’ The 7th Son

The 7th Son

I just received the first 10 chapters of J.C. Hutchins newly published thriller, The 7th Son: Descent, in a free, down-loadable “special edition” pdf.  It was sent to me courtesy of CC Chapman’s podcast Managing the Gray.  I say newly published, because the novel has been around for awhile.

Hutchins originally released it as a serialized podcast, also for free.  From those humble beginnings the story’s fan base spread through online word-of-mouth until it eventually caught the attention of a “real” publisher, St. Martin’s Press.  It is “now in bookstores everywhere,” as they say.

Hutchins’ web site, J.C. Hutchins Thriller Novelist, is highly interactive, providing links and downloads, updating fans on the novel’s progress —  e.g.  Amazon ratings, recent reviews and the like — and even has a section called “evangelize,” where fans will soon find tools for spreading further world of mouth.

It’s a wonderful case study in how online social connections can build a groundswell of support for an aspiring novelist’s work that eventually leads to publication by a recognized institution of the trade with access to an even wider audience. Interesting that despite everyone talking about the democratization of content and the wisdom of the crowd, the ultimate “legitimization” of a work of fiction, or for that matter non-fiction, still seems to be if it is picked up by an “old media” publisher and gets reviewed by the likes of  The New York Times and Publishers Weekly.  Why is that?  Deep down inside, do we still rely on the official arbiters of literature to tell us if something is good or not?

Despite the fact that Hutchins can now earn money on his work in book form, he continues to offer it for free as a podcast or pdf.  I admire his generosity and idealism, and I hope, for the sake of his bank account, that there will be enough readers who are willing to spend $14,99 to read the novel in what for many is still the most enjoyable format of all, words on a printed page between two covers of a book.

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