At the end of last week, I attended a Second Life event organised by Metaversed. 'Second Life? That's so 2006,' I hear the Facebook crowd squak. It may be old hat to some but enterprise players like Sun, Xerox, SAP and Amazon think enough of it that they, along with about 60 0thers turned up for the hour long event. On the panel was Jeff Barr from Amazon, Jonas Karlsson from Xerox, Fiona Gallagher from Sun and Craig Cmehil from SAP.
The best way to describe the event is a cross between a webinar and conference call but with the added twist of having the Second Life 'immersion' experience. The discussion, which centred around Second Life usage in a corporate setting was both thought provoking and of a high quality. Fiona Gallagher waxed lyrical about the ROI from training opportunities alone arguing that once executives 'get it' Second Life events roll very quickly into the organization. All agreed there are internal issues persuading IT to punch a hole in the corporate firewall but I can see those objections evaporating once people see the value delivered.
I was so impressed that when Craig Twittered he was back in Second Life on Sunday evening (CET), I hopped over. Much to my surprise, I found he'd created a script that allows you to Twitter from inside Second Life. There's a few wrinkles to iron out but after a couple of false starts the service worked flawlessly. Almost immediately, Ramana Rao, one of my fellow Irregulars joined in the Twitter conversation.
Love it or hate it, Second Life provides a viable meeting alternative to a traditional conference, especially for those who are time starved but want to discuss a single issue. (Aren't we all?) The combination of IRC style chat and live voice, a well constructed location and readily identifiable avatars gives it a 'human' feel. Carefully organized events like the one I attended could easily become important meeting points, especially as Second Life doesn't seem to be plagued by the scaling issues of some streaming video services. As a value add, it is hard to quantify the value but on this showing, the savings in travel alone have to run thousands of dollars. And oh yes - the back channel and 'after event chatter' was just as interesting as you'd find at any real world event.
I had tried Second Life about 18 months ago and was deeply unimpressed. Today, I have a wholly different opinion. Yes, creating an avatar is a dreary process and yes, getting the best from Second Life requires an investment in programming. But the rewards are clear and obvious. This is a Web 2.0 service that is maturing nicely and one that should be given CXO level attention.