IBM workers strike in Second Life; Twitter keyword alerts goes live; Google buys mobile social service Zingku; Facebook bubble?

The social web weekly: a quick-fire roundup of some of the news, announcements and conversations that have occurred throughout the week…
Written by Steve O'Hear, Contributor

The social web weekly: a quick-fire roundup of some of the news, announcements and conversations that have occurred throughout the week…

  • IBM workers strike in Second Life. The hype surrounding Second Life maybe fading but it seems that the virtual world can still be squeezed for some cheap publicity (and why not?). Italian workers at IBM (whose union RSU are in dispute over pay cuts) held a virtual strike on Big Blue's Second Life campus yesterday, joined by other IBM workers around the world. Declared a success by the organizers -- 1,850 avatars were counted -- the virtual strike echoed many elements of a real-life demonstration: IBM refused to comment, many IBM staffers continued working, and some protesters were moved on once they strayed onto parts of IBM's "property" which wasn't sanctioned as part of the official protest. The first question that springs to mind is what can a virtual strike hope to achieve? In this case the answer is a guaranteed amount of media attention -- something which the organizers readily admit was their intention, while at the same time stating that a virtual protest is just one way of registering their grievances, not designed to replace other types of action. Beyond PR, I can also see another advantage of using a virtual world to both organize and register a dispute: its global nature. How else could IBM workers around the world unite and protest together at the same location, at almost no cost? However, like many "firsts" in Second Life, whether a virtual strike will be as effective next time, remains to be seen.
  • Twitter keyword alerts goes live. Twitter's forthcoming realtime search functionality that I wrote about earlier in the week is now live. Called "track", users can get alerts over IM or SMS any time a certain word or combination of words are mentioned in a "tweet" (a entry published on Twitter). As I've said before, this opens up Twitter to become the ultimate buzz tracker for those who are interested in what’s being talked about at any given moment in time. (Note: Valleywag's work just got a whole lot easier).
  • Google buys mobile social service Zingku. An acquisition that is bound to fan the flames of speculation surrounding a possible GPhone, Google has purchased "certain assets and technology" of Zingku, a mobile social network which lets people create and share things via SMS, IM and the Web. Although, as mocoNews points out, Google has enough mobile activity already, through its various mobile versions of its existing apps and services, that Zingku's technology could have a purpose outside of any future Google phone.
  • Does Facebook's rumored valuation signal bubble 2.0? I haven't specifically commented on the rumors that Microsoft is negotiating a stake in Facebook. Or that Google might be, for that matter. Both seem a possibility, if for no other reason than to secure an ad and search partnership. However, what is harder to comprehend is how high Microsoft is reported to value Facebook -- a five to ten per cent stake in the social networking company at a cost of $300 to $500 million, would put Facebook's value at between $6 billion and $10 billion. David Bradshaw, principal analyst at Ovum, tells ComputerWorld that such a valuation suggests "we're in the run-up to another bubble." A Facebook bubble maybe, but an overall bubble is something very different.

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