Virtual Worlds Conference at UT Austin


I had the good fortune of keynoting the Virtual Worlds conference at UT Austin. The conference was broken into two days: Academic and Enterprise. You can see the agenda here.

On Thursday, the winning papers submitted to Management Information Services Quarterly (MISQ) special edition on Virtual Worlds. Over 60 papers were submitted to this special edition – a significant number to be sure. The papers spanned both MMORPG and Virtual Words and explored issues of indentity, place and space, and virtual trading/commerce.

There is some GREAT academic working going on in the Virtual World/MMORPG space and I would encourage you all to get a hold of the special issue when it comes out.

Last night Eilif Trondsen and I had the chance to walk around the campus and check out the famous bats in Austin. It was certainly a sight to see. Here is a shot of the tower at UTA. I just love campuses so much energy and curiosity. Wherever I go I always try to walk the campus to feed off that energy.


On the enterprise side, Craig Becker form IBM addressed a very large audience at the Business School yesterday evening. He did a great job of sharing the IBM story. Most notable to me, however, was when Craig asked how many people had an Avatar in SL, less than 10 folks raised their hands…and most of them were faculty not students.

This morning I addressed the group and worked hard to tie the research papers to the Seven Sensibilities of Virtual Worlds that I talk about a lot. Turns out that there was a very good mapping.

Here are the charts:

Panel 1: Virtual Worlds as a Platform for Commerce and Collaboration
Right now, listening to a great panel that includes Dell, Cisco, American Cancer Society, and U of Stockholm.

Laura Thomas from Dell mentioned how she leverages twitter to drive spontaneous virtual world interactions around emerging news. She simply tweets that she will be in the Virtual Cafe on Dell island and those who follow her on Twitter show up if available.

Anne Lange from Cisco, following on Laura’s theme, brought up some great points about Virtual Worlds being but one component of the emerging digitally enabled Human Network. I think she is right on. I have written on this before in this post where I ask “What is the Uber Web 2.0/3Di Mash Up for the Enterprise”.

David Neff had a great talk on how the American Cancer Society is leveraging virtual worlds and seeing significant value. In building their environment on a community model, ACS generated $2,000 in charitable donations in 2004. In 2005 that number rose to $5000, In 2006 it jumped to $41,000, in 2007 they were at $118,000, and in 2008 that number rose to $215000. David’s talk was truly inspiring and a GREAT example of how they are able to leverage the virtual world for a very noble cause. As he says Cancer never sleeps and neither will we.

Robin Teigland from University of Stockholm is talking about the commerce in Entropia Universe from Mindark. Entropia does not get near the visibility of Second Life but they are certainly worth checking out. Entropia is very much oriented around virtual commerce and they are now a real Sweedish bank, having secured a license in March 2009. Entropia is different in that virtual assets deteriorate. If you are a digger and you use a shovel, it wears out and you need to buy a new one.

Mindark is partnering with CHINA (yes China) to create a “Virtual Economy District – A Virtual World where millions will work, communicate and be in love.”

Robin’s View of the she explores two key uncertainties to set up a potential set of scenarios:

    In 2012 how advanced will the usage of virtual worlds be? Very Advanced or Less Advanced

    How integrated will virtual worlds be? Integrated or Fragmented

This analysis sets up Four Scenarios for 2015: Integrated Worlds versus Fragmented Worlds and Advanced Usage versus Less Advanced Use.

Scenario 1: In one converged universe (Integrated and Advanced)
You have a gigantic market of consumers. High penetration, easy avatar mobility, High scalability and Security and Business Transformation.

Scenario 2: Digital Divide (Integrated, Less Advanced)
Ease of mobility, self governance, dominance by gaming, traditional versus virtual biz.

Scenario 3: Virtual Silos (Advanced, Fragmented)
Many competing limited worlds, Difficult Avatar and Asset Mobility, Limited Scalability,

Scenario 4: Wild Worlds (Less Advanced, Fragmented)
MMORPG like context. More grassroots and not a lot of business traction.

Key question for panel, if Virtual Worlds go behind enterprise firewalls for legitimate security and privacy reasons won’t we be further fragmenting the VW space? This speaks directly to one of the key issues I see in terms of what kind of business model virtual world providers will use: Software as a Service or Enterprise License? If it goes enterprise license, we will end up with a lot of enterprise islands of collaboration but not an overall virtual market within which people participate wholesale in a 3D virtual economy.

Keynote: Eilif Trondsen – Virtual Worlds for Work and Learning

Eilif gave a great overview of enterprise applications and again echoed that virtual worlds are but one of many collaborative technologies. Business people do not like to bring in disconnected tools. They need them to be connected and integrated. Eilif also mentioned that there are 100 lawyers holed up in Silicon Valley working on the IBM/Sun deal and that could set up a lot of opportunity (or threat) for enterprise virtual worlds.

Eilif also had some very good analysis of the different platforms available. I will ask him to post the charts. In looking to the future Eilif proposed five possible futures: Grand Unifying Theory (Habbo and Disney say no), Balkanization (Where we are today), Semi-Unified Theory (Sun and IBM), De-Facto Standard (Microsoft), Web as a hub (sending data back and forth between worlds via the web).

All very interesting stuff and I leave the conference pumped up for 3DTLC!

Hope to see you all there!


Global Executive Presentation on Disruptive Technology

Last week I had the great pleasure of presenting a one day seminar on the Transformational Role of Emerging Internet Technologies on Business Innovation to our – now graduated (Congratulations!) – Global Executive MBA class. Many who attended asked for access to charts and any media that went along with the presentation. This post, I hope, fulfills that request.

Back in June, I was asked to present at an Eduverse mixed reality symposium where the primary audience was located in Holland at University of Utrecht where I presented via Skype and where other participants met at the Eduverse center in Second Life. Rob Sheppard is a wonderful host and, IMHO, puts on an excellent symposium with a very thoughtful mix of technologies that makes it work. In this case it it truly was a “Medium is the Message” moment for me. Be sure to check out other symposium presenters if you have interest in Virtual Worlds.

For those of you who attended the GEMBA session, this 23 minute video gets as much of what we discussed in terms of how emerging technology is enabling entrepreneurs to bypass institutional command and control by embedding collaboration and coordination into the workflow rather than trying to intuit and plan it in advance institutionally. Clay Shirky’s example of how, now that we have cell phones, we just say “I’ll call you when I get there” rather than having to laboriously plan a meeting location and time with backup plans in advance should come to mind. I also talk a bit more about the lessons from our leadership study that was published in HBR here earlier this year.

I hope you find this video to be of value in helping resurface some of the main themes we discussed.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I have also uploaded the handouts to Slideshare for you to view:

Congratulations again, and best of luck to you all as you lead your respective organizations to new heights in the coming years.

Keynote at Masie Conference

This morning I had the pleasure of doing a keynote session with Elliott Masie. True to form we agreed to just riff…and that we did.. I think it went quite well and I had a lot of folks come up after the session to say they got something out of it.

Elliott is pulling out all the stops this year. There is an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) that David Metcalf and his crew are running called Dream Corp. Also, Ann DeMarle’s students at Champlain college are building a game in real time during the conference to deal with the issues of teleworking.

Finally, being the king of last minute, I just signed into the social networking site that the Masie folks have provided and found it to be very user friendly. Here is a screenshot of the social network view. I am the blue dot closest to the middle:

I am very much looking forward to soaking it all in and leaving with more questions than I came…that way I know I have learned something ; )

Over and out for now from Orlando.

Save the Date: Feb 2 and 3 3Di Workshop at Training

NEWSFLASH: Use VIP Code TTZE6 to receive $150 off Registration!

Well it has finally happened. I am wrapping my two years of research into a “roll up your sleeves” 3D Internet Boot-Camp as part of the Training 2008 Certificate Program.

Here is the URL to the Certificate Description. I’ve also saved you some time by pasting the description here. Hope to see you and yours at the Workshop.

If you have been exposed to the 3D internet (3Di) hype, but you are not sure what to do about it, this certificate program is for you! This intensive and immersive program will take you on a journey from understanding the basics of 3Di technology to addressing the details of how to: conceive of, finance, develop, deploy and demonstrate value for 3D learning.

According to Gartner, by 2011, 80% of internet users will have a “second life” (not necessarily in Second Life). Research also indicates the most useful commercial applications of 3Di are: Education and Training, Simulation and Virtual Collaboration.

Don’t’ get left behind! Attend this program and understand the value of this new technology—and get a roadmap to successfully drive the adoption of 3D learning within your organization.


    How Virtual Social Worlds and Online Role Playing Games are similar and where they differ.
    Where 3Di technology is being applied today to enhance experiential and peer-to-peer learning.
    How to build a case to invest in 3D Learning.
    How to design an optimal 3Di learning experience using 3D learning archetypes.
    What to consider when selecting a 3D learning partner/vendor.
    How 3D learning will evolve and mature.

This certificate is designed for learning visionaries, leaders, and change agents who are passionate about the possibilities that 3Di can bring to our profession. It is a must-attend for anyone who wants to understand the value of 3D learning but has no idea where to begin, and for those who want to take their online virtual learning strategy to the next level.

Enrichment of Experience….Must See TV errr Web Video

I found out today that I get to chat with a Business Week reporter on Monday about 3Di.

Being a Web 2.0 kinda dude – and since I cant sleep anyway – I decided to see what I could find out about Aili McConnon before we got to talk next week. I do this all the time. The web is such a cool way to find a hook/meme or something in common between parties that quickly allows the synchronous connection to move to co-creation of insight.

My last post was about the power of Web 2.0. When I read the work (and watched the interviews) from Aili and her colleagues, I immediately sent it to two of my pals whom I knew would be very interested in their work.

Moreover, I now know so much more about where Aili is coming from our conversation will be all the richer. In this new world of information overload and attention defecit, Informaiton is the currency, people are the transport mechanism, conversation is the transfer mechanism and insight is the value exchange. As John Seely Brown so eloquently put it, Information does indeed have a social life and Web 2.0 just makes it happen faster. As Larry Prusak would say Knowledge Management is an oxymoron because you should not focus on managing “stocks” of information but instead we should be doing all we can enable its “flow” thereby creating knowlege accidents that generate value.

Also, because I think the research that Aili and her colleagues have done is so cool, I am so excited about the fact that we get to talk next week. This goes back to my notion that hardcore Web 2.0 people essentially become hardcore lifelong learners by default. The only adjustment here, for clarity, is that life-long learning is also every-moment learning in the Web 2.0 world.

Imagine a frictionless and distance-free environment powered by Web 2.0/Semantic Web/3Di that enables folks who are passionate about what they do to automagically connect with with people who have a need (i.e. willing to pay for) for exactly what those people are passionate about. This is the ultimate virtuous cycle. Could we really be on the cusp of something this big? Service Orient Architectures componentize social web services enable Mash Ups that make this value connection on an ongoing basis based on: where people are, what they are doing and the profile of who they are and what they like driving what is rendered up in that very same space.

Who knows? When I read SnowCrash 10 years ago after Dorothy Leonard Barton decreed at a PDMA conference that this is a book you must read… I said to myself “That is such a cool notion….too bad I’ll be dead when the Metaverse becomes a reality.”

Boy was I off-base on the time scale here. I did survive a 100-mile an hour head on collision in my early twenties…but barring that here I am at 40 spending more and more time in the Metaverse, and hopefully I have at least half my life still ahead of me. I won’t go back into Ruben Steiger’s funny story about his chat with Neal about Second Life being the Metaverse….but I will say that the arrival of the Metaverse within my own lifetime is a very welcome surprise.

Anyway, I digress (a byproduct of ADD).

Aili and her colleagues have a truly fascinating study that correlates with my own hypothesis that Avatar-Mediated Interaction enables an Enrichment of Experience. The creation of an experience that is not only near-real life or even augmented-virtual-reality but…plain-and-simply an experience that is different and than one you could ever experience in real life and by going through it you learn more about you own self and those around you.

All I can say is….check out Aili and her colleagues’ fine work for yourself. It is a great intro to SL in general…and more importantly it sets up a lot of questions about the yet-to-be grokked possibilities for avatar-mediated interaction.

BTW, even though the title is “Dating and Mating in Secondlife,” rest assured that there is nothing whatsoever in this video that I would deem to be offensive. It is simply an enlightening conversation between the researchers/journalists where they very discuss their findings.

Too tired now to figure out how embed this particular video into my page.

Just click here and then click on video. It is only one additional click…go ahead click….one more time……now that was not so bad was it? ; )

Virtual Worlds Going Mainstream!

I know, I have been a bad bad blogger lately. But rest assured, I have not been idle and now you get to share in the fruits of my labor!

At Training this year I delivered a presentation entitled Games and the Future of Learning at 8:00 AM on the opening day of the conference. To my pleasant surprise, the room was packed and the energy palpable.

I won’t go into the whole story about Tony’s typical last minute shennanigans in pulling together pitches, but suffice to say that I pulled this one off with very very little sleep the night before. That being said, the response to this pitch was overwhelming. Folks were truly pumped about the possibilities for games and virtual social worlds.

Since that pitch much has happened both internally and externally. The e-Learning Guild published their report on Immersive Learning Sims, I wrapped and IBM study on Leadership in Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing games and Lisa Neal at e-Learning Magazine asked Jay Cross, Eilif Trondsen and I to do a piece on VSWs for this months edition (good timing right ahead of the first Virtual Worlds conferece in NY next week).

The e-Learn article is up right now so please have a read and see let us know what you think.

If you liked it, and you did not make my session at Training, I have been working like a maniac to condense this message form this pitch down. I bought some video editing software and hacked together a 9 minute piece that I really believe will leave you with a true sense of the incredible possibilities that the 3D internet offers to learning. I spent over 30 hours to get this thing together, between learning how to film in virtual worlds, to learning how to edit video and audio, to scouring the web for good examples of the sensibilites and audio clips from visionaries like Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia.

Take a look, the first two mintes are talkie, but then I get into some very cool machinima clips from inside virtual worlds that bring the sensibilities alive. To completely mash up some of Jay’s eloquent writing, my latest one liner is “Avatars are Free Range Learners and Virtual Social Worlds are the Learnscape within which they learn.”

So go get a coffee, sit back for a 10 minute break and take a look at movie director debut ; ). More importantly please respond here in this blog so others can share in your widsom.

UGH, unfortunately it seems that this billion dollar lawsuit is causing some drag on our Google pals. For whatever reason, access to this video intermittent. As a backup, I have posted a slightly longer,ergo more detailed version of this video on Acid Planet. The benefit of this site is that you can download the file for your own use, the downside is it costs you two more clicks!

Click HERE to view and/or download.

In the Web 2.0 world is all about Rip, Remix, Resubmit, Repeat. Let me know how to make this better of if you are better at video editing than me, rip it, remix it, resubmit it and lets get the power Wikiography (as opposed to videography) going.

Lifelogging from SL: Part Deux

Today we held a baby shower for a colleague of ours in the UK. Stae Young let us use the Agora Ballroom. He and Liv (his wife) put a ton of work into decorating the ballroom in a blue theme since Tracy is having a little boy.

We sent Tracy gifts via snail mail. She then opened them while we were all in the Agora ballroom and our pal Cal Gemini ported in pictures as Tracy opened the gifts and described them.

Cal also rendered out a picture of a quilt that one of our colleagues made for Tracy. She is waiting to embroider the birth-date and name before and sending it over the UK, but here as you can see, Tracy got a good look at it.

Of, course, since we were at the Agora, we needed to try out our (or more accurately Stae’s) dance moves ; )

So what Tony? Why blog this? Aren’t you basically just goofing off here?

Actually, I was moved to blog this based on a few things that Tracy said. She said that in the UK baby showers are not common so she did not know what to expect. At the end of our time together Tracy said she was really touched by all the effort her colleagues had put into producing this experience for her and she felt she now knew what a baby shower really was all about! Sounds like an authentic learning experience to me. So, she LEARNED what an American baby shower was, not by reading about it but by actually EXPERIENCING it.

Let’s go back to the sensibilities of VSWs again. We leveraged the DEATH OF DISTANCE to allow folks to convene in one place in cyberspace from many places in matterspace. We leveraged the POWER of PRESENCE within the Agora Ballroom and by porting in pics of the gifts that Tracy was opening which led to an ENRICHMENT of EXPERIENCE for all involved.

I would also venture to guess that she will remember this experience far more than a conference call or Centra session since our minds are wired to absorb things in 3D and there are a lot more memory hooks for us to hang stuff on when we experience things in three dimensions. So, we managed to share with Tracy an American cultual artifact in a digital world witout any of us having to leave our respective abodes, or countries for that matter.

Now, change the context from a Baby Shower to something like a Negotiation around a complex deal or a consultative selling situation around a white space opportunity and real possibilities for this experential learning platform as a source of competitive business advantage emerge.

In Informal Learning, Jay Cross has coined a number of new terms. Free Range Learners and Learnscapes are two of my favorites. Avatars are Free Range Leaners and the 3D internet is their Learnscape.

By applying the sensibilities of VSWs in thoughtful and creative ways we can create truly new expriences that cannot be accomplished (either practically, financially or due to the laws of physics) in the real world.

Liv and Stae Young are a poster children in the Virtual from Gilmore and Pine’s work that talks about the Experience Economy (see my earlier post on this.).

Each week that goes by opens me up to more insights and the event horizon on possibilities moves further out into the vast abyss of opportunity. This platform provides a place in cyberspace where Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics concepts are coming to life in new and different ways every day. It truly is the wild wild west of the web. Grab a flag, stake your claim and build great things!

Over and out…gotta get some sleep for a change.

I Love Web 2.0

The more I steep myself into the Web 2.0 and 3Di domain the more amazed I become.

Throughout today grabbing 5 minutes here and there to upload snippits and about 2 more hours this PM after everyone was in bed, I was able to put this picture/video montage together on Jumpcut:

Movie Link

Movie Thumbnail
It's Up to You!

This was literally thrown together per per Brent Schlenker and Mark Oehlert’s RIP, MIX, FEED, repeat, repeat…infinity ideas…thanks guys ; )

Take a look and let me know what you think. It is my first attempt to demonstrate the key Synthetic World Sensibilities and at the end I ask you whether you are willing to be like Neo and take the Red Pill. I need to learn how to use/import audio etc…but it is a start.

I got to get some sleep…over and out from Cary

Death of Distance Demo

This GE commercial gets across the notion I have about the Synthetic World Sensibility I call the “The Death of Distance.” It provides the frogs eye view (mouselook in SL) as he jumps (teleports in SL) from one place on the planet to the next.

This video (I hope) gives someone who has not been in a 3D environment at least a taste of what teleportation and the death of distance means.

Training 2007 Grok

This week I was finally FORCED to sort out the random smatterings of insight I have gleaned from hanging out in games and VSWs over the past year.

Why? Because I had to present something coherent on the topic at Training 2007….and as Ed Schien has explained to us no-one likes to look silly in front of a large audience ; )

I’ll spare you all the gory detail about my experience of delayed plane and difficulty finding room once I got to Disney. Suffice it to say that at 11:30 I found myself in front of my laptop with a blank screen and a strong desire to make sense of it all ASAP.

Here is what popped out by 4AM the same morning:

My first observation is the insight is that we need a taxonomy for these digitally mediated environments. I am sure there are already many out there. But for my simple mind, which on good days has the attention span of a ferret on two cappuccinos (thanks to Gary Dickelman for this quote), this is all I can handle.

Borrowing from Ed Castranova’s work, at the top I have what I call 3D Synthetic Worlds. Below that there are two primary categories: Virtual Social Worlds (Which I have also heard referred to as Emotive Networks) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs).

My second observation is that while VSWs and MMORPGs are kin…they are definitely not twins. As I mentioned previously in this blog. Many of the arguments that luddites leverage against the application of VSWs for learning and/or collaboration are in-fact arguments about Game Sensibilities (not MMORPG mind you, just regular games). Here is my .02 on trying to sort out where these things are Kin and where they are Twin:

Given this palette to work with and leveraging a VSW Platform such as Proton, Forterra or even Second Life, there is no rule that says you can’t incorporate the sensibilities of games into that environment. Only difference is that it won’t cost you millions of dollars.

If you think of developing a VSW/MMORPG “Mash Up” then you gotta define to the sensibilities that differentiate these spaces from others and then determine if the learning need being addressed is better served by leveraging those sensibilities. By 3:30 AM, here are the sensibilities that popped out. Note that my Irish education came to mind here as onomatopoeia and my love for William Butler Yates poetry seemed to slip into my sleep deprived synthesis.


I have written about some of these sensibilities before. In a later post (pending the arrival of my Articulate Software) I will put some more detail and video illustrations around them to convey what I am talking about. Again, what I provide here is NO SUBSTITUTE for getting into these spaces and experiencing them yourself.

Finally, borrowing from a pitch I saw Roger Shank do one time, I tried to fit the learning leverage points that these environments provide. I have started building a repository of educational examples of 3Di Learning and will start to tag by how much FREEDOM they provide ; )

At the end of the day I leave the conference even more fired up about the possibilities for 3Di and Learning. In David Metcalf’s talk he gave an astounding statistic. He said that the military spent $14.6B on Immersive Sims last year. Given that the entire U.S. Training budget is in the $60-$70B range and given that where it comes to bleeding edge technology the military usually leads and corporations follow, I think that we are on the cusp of something very big when we talk about the integration of 3Di technology with Learning and Collaboration.

This week, I also got to see more of the enterprise focused 3Di Learning and Collaboration Environments. Of particular note in this regard was Proton Media. For enterprise applications of 3Di where you need security, access via 56K, VOIP, Application Sharing, LMS integration and in- world browser access, enterprise focused 3Di vendors (Forterra being another with Multiverse not far behind) are well worth checking out. Their business models are different and work more on site license basis. You can’t really design and develop yourself within the worlds as you can within SL, but what you give up on that front you gain with the ability to plug into your existing apps and offerings within the enterprise network. Think of these apps as Centra/Interwise/Adobe Connection Meets Secondlife.

At the end of the day, there may not be one multiverse, but many. At IBM we are thinking not only of the concept of multiple multiverses and having the ability for your avatar to pop from one to another just as easily as you can go from the Starbucks page to the IBM page on the 2D web today. We are also pondering the concept of Intraverses…virtual worlds that represent a parallel corporate universe that is inhabited only by its corporate citizens.

Exciting times indeed! Now if only I could get some sleep. As Ed Castranova says in Synthetic Worlds: “Those of us who do research for a living actually don’t have much control over the subjects we study; thinking goes on 24 hours a day, and it seems that if a topic so desires, it can force a higher priority for itself than we want it to have.”

For me that subject is the mash up between 3Di and the incredible potential it affords those of us in the learning profession to truly create engaging experiences allow working, doing and learning to fuse into a more pleasurable and satisfying experience for the knowledge worker.