Virtual Worlds Conference at UT Austin

mccombs

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.

ut-tower

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!

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Uber Mashup Update: Thanks Chuck Hamilton

Chuck Hamilton (aka Longg Weeks in SL) and I go a long way back. I have always enjoyed his keen insights and easygoing nature. He was kind enough to send me a very thoughtful reply to my plea for help.

Here is what he said:
To create the Uber Web 2.0/Web 3D we need to sort out all these collaboration tools and processes into some sort of participation era filter ― a blended matrix of options that we can use to weed out the tired pieces and expand the use of more evolved pieces.

Below is a sort of filter I have in mind.

2x2-chuck

This is a sort of old and new ideas/models across a time and space axis. If we started to fill this matrix out with all available options, we would see that we can not only narrow the field, but also understand what the blend of activities and approaches will be most applicable.

I feel that there will always be a blend ― a mix that makes sense in the context of our life/work/play balance. When we are collaborating and working there is always a time/space context to consider and there are different approaches that work best in each case. Certainly the spaces are converging, but we are a long way from the sort of ‘one size suits all sort of Uber landscape’ you are hoping for. Let’s embrace mixed media and just position it properly and see if that starts us down the right path.

Right on Chuck! Funnily enough a number of us at Fuqua started building this very matrix as a foundation to allow us to understand how and when to integrate/build bridges across the time/space continuum (Watch out Einstein).

Also, another fellow IBMer, and “tribe” leader for Eightbar, Ian Hughes recently pointed us to the video showing ST integration with Forterra. You can see it here:

Right around 1:37 in this demo there is a jump from 2D (Sametime Conversation) to 3D a Room in Forterra. What I am trying to figure out right now is HOW that Interface looks. Is is simply a “Go 3D” button within the Sametime Client and there is a standard issue Room on the Other End? At timestamp 3:36 one of the engineers asks the others to hold on while he brings up a chart. Again, what I am looking for is the interface that makes it intuitive do do this.

Most of what I am seeing out there, including my own initial forays into this space, it appears are all about what things look like once you get into the 3D space. At Fuqua we are coming at this from a more nuanced (I hope) perspective. 3D is but one modality and even when that modality might be optimal, there will be ACCESS issues the do not allow certain participants to “GO 3D.”

The trick here, we believe, is to create an interface that marries 2D and 3D interface taking into account the most important and value added Time/Space connections to afford more immersive and engaging collaboration. If ANYONE has seen such an interface….please do let me know.

My students in Management of Innovation and Technology this semester were tasked with evaluating the disruptive potential of 3Di for a given set of industries. The team focused on Education highlited WiloStar3D . While focused on collaborative home schooling I found this diagram useful in emphasizing all that must go on in terms of Content, Contacts and Connections (thanks to Lisa Bobbitt from Cisco for those 3C’s) around the 3D world.
wilostar

Additionally, at around 1:02 timestamp, the video below starts to get into the notion of 2D meets 3D with Calendaring, Assignments etc in the 2D space…but, IMHO, we need to be a lot crisper on how this works and leverage the power of contextualizers to take maximal advantage of the small real estate we have to make things intuitively obvious and immediately actionable.

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If anyone has seen examples of flat 2D interfaces that integrate the formal learning context (Courses, Content, Deliverables) with Informal learning (Communities, Context, Conversations) while optimizing the multiple time/space technological affordances in a thoughtful way, please let me know ; )

What is the Uber Web 2.0/3Di Mash Up for the Eduprise?

Every spare moment this week has been devoted to investigating this question.

I come to this question having spent much time in the world of Electronic Performance Support (EPSS) and Workflow Learning and my perspective is informed by traditional Human Performance Technology (HPT) theory.

I can’t move on from that reference without sadly recognizing the passing of Geary Rummler. He truly was a giant in the field and his works were very influential on my own perspective and practice. RIP Geary.

OK, Investigating this question takes the tension of topic/content/formal versus task/context/informal we’ve been wrestling with for some time in learning/KM to the next level. It forces us to examine how Web 2.0 impacts the enterprise of the future as we migrate from database centric stocks of tagged explicit knowledge to social computing enabled flows of digitally enabled people with ability to find each other to innovate and problem solve in real time. In short, I am in a hurry to figure out the Enterprise (or Eduprise in my context) 2.0 IT infrastructure looks like…because we need to BUILD IT here at Fuqua by August of next year ; )

Mc Kinsey’s “Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise” Global Survey Results found that companies are using Web 2.0 technologies more frequently for INTERNAL purposes. Similar to its Web 1.0 cousin, it looks like the B2C period of inflated expectations has passed and we are moving to focus on pragmatic, internal applications with a focus on efficiency. Within the internal use category, the top six enterprise application areas were:

    Managing Knowledge

    Fostering Collaboration across the Community

    Enhancing Company Culture

    Training

    Developing Products or Services

    Internal Recruiting

Interestingly, as I look at analyst reports on the trends and lists of internal application areas where virtual worlds will have impact, the list is strikingly similar to those outlined above for Web 2.0.

Steve Prentice of Gartner has long maintained that the Business to Consumer Marketing focus of Virtual Worlds will retreat to the Enterprise and seek safe haven from the treacherous waters of an increasingly unpredictable market in the safe harbor of productivity focused internal applications of Collaboration and Learning.

Thinkbalm’s Erica and Sam Driver in their recent Immersive Internet report break enterprise applications into 8 High Impact use cases. They further hypothesize that these 8 use cases will array across three phases moving from Cost Savings, through Harnessing Unexpected Business Value, ultimately leading to Business Transformation.

Their time chart for how these enterprise applications array across the phases and time is shown below:

thinkbalm1

So what gives? If BOTH Web 2.0 and the Immersive Internet/3Di forecasts promise to have enterprise application in the areas of collaboration and learning, it seems to me that these emerging applications can only be a thoughtful and nuanced Mash Up of both. The trick here is figuring out what mix of what technologies for what outcomes.

Justin Bovington and his team at Rivers Run Red appear to have spotted this early. Here is a nice video that explains their Immersive Workspaces 2.0 offering developed with the Lindens:

From this overview, it is clear that much thought must go into the orchestration and coordination of digitally mediated presence, connection, conversation, sharing, presentation, co-creation, discovery etc…in order to enable a seamless 2D/3Di experience that allows people to work at a distance with mind-numbing ease.

Here at Fuqua we are right in the thick of prototyping/iterating/co-creating the Uber 2.0 Eduprise Mashup. We not only need to integrate Web 2.0 and 3Di but we also need to plug it into (or more appropriately position on top of) our existing technological infrastructure that enables the orchestration of World Class MBA programs at a distance (i.e. our LMS and LCMS).

In guiding our Itervation (Iterative Innovation that is), there are a few sources that provide direction:

FIRST is the Seven Sensibilities of Virtual worlds mentioned earlier in this blog. Our guiding premise here is to only leverage 3D where it makes a strategic and significant difference. No good doing 3D just for its own sake, much better to apply where it makes a marked and memorable impact on the end-to-end educational experience for our stakeholders.

SECOND, Erica Driver’s work at Forrester in defining the Seven Tenents of the Information Workplace have been very helpful. Here is our slightly modified version:

    Context: Today users have to make conscious decisions about when to use which tool to collaborate with others on a document or deliverable. To overcome this issue we need to clearly define what “contextualizes” and what is “contextualized.” Profile/Role, task and Connection Mechanisms will contextualize content and connections in real time around the endeavor at hand. This will lead to a more intuitive and usable immersive workspace that allows users to more rapidly get to the “Doing” rather than dealing with the overhead of planning, co-ordinating and connecting before getting to the “Doing”

    Individualized: The user (Prospect, Student, Staff, Faculty, Alum) must be at the center of the design of our next generation learning Collaboration and Learning Intuitive Learning Environment (CLIVE). The technology must adapt to the individual, not the other way around. CLIVE must have both a social/personal and personalized programmatic component. Leveraging our understanding of the Contextualizers (i.e. WHO the user is, HOW they are connected to the environment, WHERE they are in the workspace, and WHAT they are trying to do) allows CLIVE to tune the interface to the individual context and shift the burden of orchestration and coordination of resources required to accomplish a given task from the individual to the environment itself.

    Seamless: CLIVE must seamlessly integrate new Web 2.0/3Di service apps with our existing LMS/LCMS infrastructure. It must mask the complexity of back end applications and interfaces with elegant and intuitive simplicity on the front end. People must be able to invoke and act upon the information, contacts and tools they need with minimal effort. We should not burden the cognitive load of users in preparing to do work. Rather, we should provide a “draggy, droppy, clicky” environment that allows them to get on with the REAL work of collaborative co-creation.

    A consistent look and feel must be maintained across the various components assembled in the environment even when multiple back end systems are being leveraged. To the user, it should NEVER feel like they are switching back and forth between applications or telescoping up and down within a rigid navigation system to marshal resources to accomplish a task. CLIVE orients the world of content, contacts and connectivity around the user and shrinks the world to surface relevant resources to solve the task at hand.

    CLIVE must also accommodate the seamless movement back and forth between structured formal learning and unstructured collaborative peer learning in a way that both approaches are honored and activated where they are most appropriate and where the whole learning experience yields moments of synthesis for the participants that are greater than the sum of the pedagogical/technological parts. CLIVE must continuously strike the balance between structure and serendipity in the service of enriching the learning experience.

    Visual: Our mash-up should resonate visually and allow people to quickly grok content and intuit context (i.e. Tags and Social Network Representations in 2D space and avatar interactions with each other and data/models in 3D space). Traditional Web-Based navigation schemes are information-centric and thus challenged in their ability to keep pace with a user’s need to quicky scan, interpret, and act on contextually relevant information. Clearly there is an opportunity to leverage visualizations of meta-data via tag-clouds and social connectedness via Social Networking technologies have relevance here as does the opportunity to leverage the third dimension (avec ou sans avatar) to improve the “grokability” of the environment.

    Multimodal: Our system must recognize that, as Kevin Kelly so ably suggests, there is only One Machine and the Web is its OS. We need to strive to be able to accommodate all the devices that connect to the one machine in a seamless way (can we please hurry up with visualization and the cloud?) – Timestamp 3:15 to get to demo.

    Quick: Does this need explanation? Wiki is a Hawaiian word for Fast! CLIVE needs to work. CLIVE needs to work without a manual. CLIVE needs to ignite talent opportunity and passion around ideas and endeavors at an an accelerated pace, and CLIVE needs to activate the growing and incredibly talented network that is Fuqua (over 14K strong today) to address the pressing issues of our times. What am I missing, oh yes…..CLIVE needs to work YESTERDAY (OK, not yesterday, but late March at the latest).

The THIRD source of guidance for itervating CLIVE comes from Gartner’s analysis of the Business Impact of Social Computing on Higher Education. In this report, Harris and Lowendahl suggest that, “the incorporation of social software features and integration capabilities with institutional applications will become necessary to accommodate the higher education user expectations, while closing the gap between personal and institutional structures.” They go on to say, “If positioned strategically, social computing can fill a gap between the inflexible structures in place in most higher-education organizations and the chaotic personal structures that have spread across the desktops of both student and faculty.”

So CLIVE must bridge the gap between the existing enterprise infrastructure and the personal chaotic structure that has emerged to compensate for the ridgidiy and inflexibility of that enterprise infrastructure. CLIVE needs to provide an adaptive structure that allows users to CREATE, ORGANIZE, FIND AND INTERACT more intuitively. To do so CLIVE must:

    Provide Persistent Presence to allow ongoing openess for participation

    Render Content, Contacts and Connectivity that is contextualized to user role/workflow

    Organize Content, Contacts and Connectivity to reflect users current use and needs

    Encourage natural and serendipitous group formation based on location, activities and interests

    Leverage links, tags, ratings and usage to determine relevance, importance and quality

    Find content through people links and vise versa

    Dynamically update profiles based on content/tags created, involvement in interactions and aggregation of user-generated commentary,co-creation, content, filtering and organization.

The FOURTH area of inspiration for itervating on CLIVE comes from Anderew McAfee’s work on Enterprise 2.0 that I discussed in an earlier post here. Contextualizing his SLATES components to CLIVE comes out something like this:

    Search and Serendipitous Discovery trump Interface Navigation/Hierarchy. In fact, just as Thomas Friedman suggest that the world is FLAT. A core design point for our CLIVE is that the interface itself must be FLAT and that the content, contacts and connectivity elements are surfaced within that FLAT interface based on the contextual factors at play.

    Links, Tags and Extensions and Signals are the domain of User Generated Commentary, Content, Filtering, Organizing and Distribution that CLIVE must provide. The trick here is that it must work across all the underlying apps that the FLAT interface masks. How do we take all the richness of web-serviced applications, mash them up with existing enterprise platforms and allow the informal serendipity of fortuitous interaction to prevail in a system that is optimized to create a flow state for formal and informal learning and inquiry that rivals that of World of Warcraft?

    The very interesting thing about the participatory web approach is that it not only helps others find explicit knowledge but it also exposes the patterns and processes in knowledge work that others use. As McAfee says, these participatory systems make an episode of knowledge work more widely and permanently visible.

This is going to be a fun ride….anyone with any experience, advice, wisdom, counsel, please bring it on. This is new territory to be sure and none of us is as smart as all of us. Ideas and insights PLEASE.

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.

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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.

Masie Keynote Video: My 23 minutes of Fame

Elliott Masie was kind enough to invite me to do a keynote interview with him at his Learning 2008 conference. Here is the video his team posted a few days ago.

It was a blast doing this. Elliott and I truly riffed…as you will see when he stops me and asks me to repeat something he thought was insightful and I reply that I have already forgot and we will have to check it out on the tape ; )

Here is our 23 minute jam on Technology Adoption and Hype:

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You can see other great keynote interviews with the likes of Kevin Kelly, Steven M.R. Covey, Amy Sutherland and Wayne Hodgins just to name a few, by clicking here.

Thanks to Elliott for taking a chance on me and to all of the Learning 2008 attendees who were kind enough to attend my session. BTW if you want a complete set of charts from my session they are available via Slideshare by clicking below.

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.

Redefining Education for the 21st Century?

I am about 60 days into my new role here at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. With each additional day I become more and more aware of just what an incredible institution I have been privileged to join.

The vision of the administration, the caliber of the faculty and the sharpness of the students are truly something that must be experienced to be understood.

Besides my teaching role here at Fuqua, I am also tasked with identifying key leverage points where web 2.0 and 3D internet technologies can be leveraged create distinct and differentiated learning modalities for our MBA programs.

If you stop to think about it, as Kevin Kelly so ably recounts, the web is just over 5000 days old. The amount of change that this innovation has brought to society at large and to industry and business is quite astounding.

On the societal front, the Myspace generation is truly wired. Or is it wireless?. In either case, their connectivity to others is both pervasive and persistent. They view the computer as a connector not a cruncher. They are not willing to be passive consumers of broadcast media, instead they demand to be active co-creators of content and insights and they want ongoing push-pull/dialogue to occur in the sensemaking process that amounts to traveling on many vectors of successive approximation toward the truth.

On the business front, we are moving to the era of the Globally Integrated Enterprise, one where work seeks its own level and supply and demand for various components of the business are optimized in real time through the IP network.

As I thought about my new role I began to wonder how my perspective on the thoughtful application of technology to learning would change if I put on my IBM Consulting hat and thought of my students as clients. How would they rate my service as a teaching professional? How would they rate me in terms of engagement and transformational learning given that they live in an age of permanent, persistant and pervasive access to information and experts with the touch of a button. How would I stack up relative to the array of technological affordances they have at their disposal to figure stuff out for themselves?

If I reframed my role from that of professor teaching student to one of service provider educating client would my strategic approach to the application of technology to improve the educational experience be different?

Suddenly my mind flashed to a great video by Michael Wesch, Digital Ethnographer from U of Kansas (you probably know him from the Machine is Us/ing us fame). The video below provides a pretty compelling look at what my clients most likely want to say to me but don’t dare to because I am not their service provider or experience coordinator, I am their Professor.

As a student of disruptive technology who has spent the past 20 years working in enterprise learning I believe we are now at a true inflection point where one of the most powerful sets of transformational technologies of our time is training its sights on the one institution/enterprise function that has heretofore managed to emerge unscathed from the application of technology: Education.

So here I sit in the nexus. In one corner, a set of technologies that are fundamentally transforming how we live work and play and, in the other, an institution (i.e. University or K-12 School) and or enterprise function (i.e. Learning Function) that has largely deployed technology not to transform how we facilitate learning but simply to automate how we teach.

There is an old adage that says that the diffusion of innovation follows a predictable path: A scientific discovery, informs the creation of a new technology, which ushers in a new set of business opportunities that end up reshaping the structure of industries and organizations. An apple falls on Newton’s head leads to the creation of the laws of physics, leading to the invention of the internal combustion engine, which dis-intermediates the thriving “buggy whip” manufacturing business and ultimately leads to Sloan’s notion of the Bureaucracy and Ford’s Assembly Line.

The is another adage which suggests that for change to occur there is a precondition that learning take place. With all the change that has happened in Society and Business over the past 5000 days due to the arrival of the internet and significantly more on the way in the wake of Web 2.0 and the 3D internet, I believe it is safe to say that individuals and organizations will have more than their faire share of change to deal with in the next 500 days.

So the real question is, how will they learn to deal with that change? Will it largely be self taught through the network or will those of us in the education business recognize the huge opportunity that lies before us and begin to redefine what education should look like in the era of the first-person interface.

Technology has fundamentally transformed society and business, can it do the same to transform education to help us cope with change in the 21st century. In his video on the next 5000 days of the web Kevin Kelly suggests we need to get better at believing in the impossible because if we don’t we will be more unprepared for the future when it arrives.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to rumble ; ) Let us all reach for the impossible when it comes to changing the game in learning rather than speeding up the past.

V-Business Expo Day 1

Currently in Forterra’s Olive Platform listening to Steve Prentice speak on virtual worlds. Here is the agenda. I will be keynoting this event tomorrow and talking about the 3Di web singularity.

Here is my real-time capture of Steve’s insights:

Virtual worlds are all about people not technology. Function is as an environment for people to interact. Basic premise underpinning is presence in concurrent space. If it is about interaction, is Myspace or Facebook a virtual world in its own right even without Vivaty. Are MMORPGs virtual worlds? Presence based interaction would say yes even though they are more deterministic than virtual worlds.

The real truth on the future of virtual worlds is very hard to predict. But his famous 80% quote was to wake up CIOs to the reality. 300M registered users in virtual worlds according to KZero.

Huge gulf between registrants is huge. So counting registrations is easy but not accurate. On average ratio is 12:1 in terms of registrants to users. For instance, Habbo is 90M registrants to 9M active users for instance. So a good rule of thumb to use. Some indications suggest for younger demographics have higher ratios.

But HOW MANY users don’t matter. More important to know WHO the users are. VWs are dominated by kind and tweens from a population perspective. However, adult residents of VWs are passionate about environments. Research shows that it is the older users (30+) that are most dedicated even though they are a smaller population. Lots of plugs for KZero’s anaysis. Encourages us all to take a look at the most recent analysis.

Virtual worlds are all about people, but this industry is being driven by engineers so the predictable pattern of functionality explosion and interface confusion. Technologists see things as physical problems when VWs are really about people. Therein lies a disconnect. User interfaces are a HUGE issue. Keep it simple. If you notice the interface it is already getting in the way.

Community and Socialization needs to come before creation. People like talking to people they have things in common. Community built around Love, Belonging and Self Esteem (Maslow). Contrasts going to Barbie Venue versus SecondLife. Secret of vibrant active virtual world community is about community not creativity, people not physics.

SecondLife saw huge growth early on. It is not a failure, but not as successful as some that focus on people. Carefully targeted or linked to toys. Look at IMVU, Habbo, closing in on 100M downloads. They relentlessly deliver against the needs of their segment. SL tries to target everybody…but everybody is not a segment.

We need to provide ability to personalize and customize. But just like you go to IKEA to buy your furniture instead of building yourself, this should happen in VWs. Societal pressure conspire adults to do things required to do rather than having fun. Kids are easier to target. Kids/tween worlds have strong aspects of gaming and social/reputational capital. Habbo is 2.5D but gets 10M unique users. High end features are not essential to success. Virtual worlds are about people and interactions.

How about Virtual Worlds in the Enterprise. Increasingly he talks about intersection of Technology, Business and Society. Notion of Co-Evolution. Business and Societal landscape. Ref to 1962 Arthur C. Clarke’s laws. Democratization of IT challenging the very fabric of how enterprise IT works. Users are increasingly changing the rules for Enterprise IT leaders. Rise of global communities that have broken free from the constraints of geography.

Why did initial enterprise foray into virtual worlds fail? Not understanding demographics and not understanding community. Enterprises got caught up in hype. End result was as predictable as it was disappointing. Few successes were focused on internal deployment rather than customer oriented. Educational Sector, virtual worlds have progressed quite well. Lot of universities are engaging with students around virtual environments. Broadcast media has also had some success.

Opportunity to engage with audience and control brand experience is attractive. Know your segment and build affordances around the community they want. Add the immersion of Virtual worlds and you have a place where people feel they belong. VWs are 21st century equivalent of Fanzines. TV program will become the trailer/advertisement for the Virtual World community build around it.

Training is the one place where promise has been met but it does leverage creative component. Virtual reality as tool for simulation and scenarios is a historical artifact here. Can do deterministic (simulations) and non-deterministic (social interaction) scenarios. Vastpark, Wonderland etc allow the technically savvy to create a controlled and customized environment. We are also seeing RRR and Sheep getting into this work. Scenario based role playing is a key area where Virtual Worlds have significant advantage. Training is always the first application he recommends. Role based scenario is key. ESA says 70% of major employers leverage games/virtual worlds for learning and half are role based.

Gaming is huge…average age is in late 20s. Most business audiences have serious WOW players. Maybe time for them to come out of the closet. If you are a good trader on EVE online you are probably a pretty good trader in the real world too. If you are a Guild Leader you could be a world class project manager. Maybe all the long hours at MMORPG keyboard can help you in your career.
Steve referenced our IBM GIO on online gaming research, he says…”Read it, digest it and leave it out for your boss to see.”

Beyond training there are also Meetings, Bloody Meetings. We can effectively use VWs for this. But we need to be careful. Sometimes Webex and Webcam is all you need. Sometimes you need Telepresence, but VWs fit into the face to face sense of belonging required for meetings. Immersive Work Space from Rivers Run Red. Wonderland may be strong in the enterprise next year. We will see more of the collaborative benefits of Virtual Worlds due to fuel prices. So first focus on TRAINING, then INTERNAL COLLABORATION. But beware on collaboration, do not get too carried away. Remember to keep it simple. They are but one tool.

Next stage for organizations will be about resolving social elements of work as we are no longer physically co-located. Virtual worlds are good for cementing and strengthening the social fabric and the culture of the organization. These trivial conversations are important. Virtual worlds can play an important role as a virtual water cooler. But ROI is hard.

What about external deployment. It will take a while. 18 Months or Two Years. Interfaces will have improved and user bases will have become clearer. Some good examples. Retail Shareholder example from a Steel Organization. Chambers from Cisco also hosted a meeting in SL. Opportunity to promote organization directly at the grass roots. Microsoft has made product announcements in SL at 30% of cost. Direct comms and brand building in public virtual worlds will pick up, but it will be a while. Controlled limited deployments with specific audiences and community/collaboration agendas.

Average dwell times in virtual worlds is about 15 minutes. This is very attractive for marketeers. Here is where Lively comes in. Maintain and build a community around a brand is going to be a key play. RRR and others are seeing this.

What about the future. Technology is advancing. Visual fidelity and gestural computing are on the way. Combine with multitouch and broad adoption of accelerometer. Much more intuitive control interface. Forget the mouse, forget the interface. These things will trickle out. If we don’t VWs will be abandoned by the mainstream. MOBILE will be huge. 3B of them as opposed to 1B interfaces. VWs need to build on the Mobile Platform. Not full functionality, but do need to maintain DIGITAL SOCIAL GROOVING. More valuable will be SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY BETWEEN platforms rather than visual fidelity within 3D platforms. Huge explosion in Mirror Worlds using geospatial data. Virtual Travel before real Travel.

Big challenge is USER INTERFACES, THICK CLIENTS. Browser based interfaces need a middle ground. Interoperability is a key. He does not believe in the overarching Metaverse. People are getting used to maintaining separate digital personai.

Are we nearly there yet? No but people before physics, community before creativity and enterprise focusing internally on employee education and collaboration will be key. Today’s virtual worlds have interfaces that people do not have patience to learn. People don’t want technology they want magic. In the words of Jean Luc Picard…JUST MAKE IT SO.

HBR: Leadership’s Online Labs

I was in the Houston Airport today and saw that the May edition of HBR has finally hit the stands.

Byron Reeves, Tom Malone and I have an article in the issue that talks about two research projects we conducted looking at the application of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and their application to Leadership. I have talked a lot about his research in previous blog posts that you can read here.

This is a big day for those of us who study learning, leadership and virtual world technologies ; )

A very well respected business journal talking about gaming and learning. I must say that I am very proud to have been part of this effort. On that note, credit is due to a number of folks who made this article happen. This research could not have happened without the foresight of David Yaun, VP of Communicaitons at IBM who leads the GIO project among other key innovation initiatives. Furthermore, beyond David’s insight, without the ongoing support and guidance from Kris Lichter, Director of the GIO program, it would never have been realized. Finally, when it came to the running the internal survey with IBMers who were also gamers my colleagues Eric Lesser and Michael DeMarco were instrumental in driving this work to completion.

18 months ago I shared with Tom Stewart the research we were doing and suggested that HBR readers might find it of interest. He put us in touch with Paul Hemp who was wonderful in helping take our research and helping us craft it into a piece worthy of publishing in HBR.

Today, a year and a half later, I see the article in glorious technicolor print in Houston. It has been a long journey, kinda like getting to level 70 in WoW, but we made it!

Thanks to all. Publishing in HBR truly is a collaborative, co-creative sport!

The i-web Singularity Redux

Virtual Worlds III is in full swing up in New York and around the blogosphere. The big news is that IBM announces a development deal with Second Life to bring their platform to the enterprise. This is yet one more piece of the puzzle that falls into place for a vision for what I am calling the i-web singularity: A technological black hole at the apex of four technological vectors that is moving forward at an exponential pace and integrating across vectors at the same time.

I have noodled on this topic before, but this time I think the focus is getting sharper.

Vector 1: Flatland 2D Learning applications integrate with Knowledge sharing repositories. The outcome here is that truly NETWORKed Virtual Spaces emerge. These spaces will integrate Synchronous Sharing with Asynchronous Storage so there is finally a one stop shop for storage and sharing of content. Since MS owns Sharepoint and Live Meeting they could create a slam dunk in this arena. Cisco bought Webex for 3.2Billion dollars (Austin Powers comes to mind) recently so they must be looking for some kind of value-added play here too and I know that know that my students would love nothing more than more jumping back and between Illuminante to Vista (Blackboard) and Yahoo Groups to get their work done.

Vector 2: Web 2.0 meets Knoweldge Sharing Spaces. I won’t go over well trodden ground on how Blogs, Wikis and Social Media sites like Facebook and Myspace are revolutionizing real-time interactive KM concepts. However, the true transformation lever in the Web 2.0 revolution for me is is the one least discussed: Tagging/Folksonomy. Pretty much everyting created and stored in the Web 2.0 domain (people,profiles and content) is TAGGED. This means that contextually relevant knoweldeg through people or content is much more easily or even serendipitously encountered. More tagging means more knowledge accidents of both the people-to-people and people-to-information kind. In the attention economy, information is the currency, people are the transport mechanism and conversation is the transfer mechanism. The mash-up between real-time tagging and NETWORKed Virtual spaces will jack up knowledge accidents and drive the immediacy of access to key information and interaction with key people around a given task or activity. In this emerging virtually afforded, contextually relevant matchmaking world, knowledge discovery and expert encounters becomes like air, it just happens and people don’t give it a second thought.

Vector 3: The 212 degree point for for both Trend 1 and 2 is when the web enters the next dimension, literally. With the infusion of 3Di technology, it is only a matter of time before 3D Social Networking taking off. The 3Di space is a different kind of cottage industry. It is the first one I have encountered that is run on blogs. The time between idea and actualization is tending towards zero. Case in point, at Virtual Worlds II in Christian Renaud’s Keynote introduction Ruben Steiger predicted that one of the key Social Networking sites (Facebook or Myspace) would go 3D in 2008. Later that SAME AFTERNOON the Active Worlds booth was demoing a 3D Facebook page mash-up that someone had sent them. When you think about it it just plain makes sense. Look at MySpace. They will truly become MySPACE (and not MyPAGE as it is today) and actualize their brand promise by integrating 3D technology. It is just too obvious an outcome for it not to happen. This social movement will, in turn – like its more stripped down relative instant messaging – will then force corporate CIOs to develop enterprise grade 3D Facebook/Myspace mash-ups for their for corporate citizens. Forterra is already playing with integrating sametime into their platform and Proton Media already has enterprise grade 3D Myspace built into its archtecture. So from both the consumer, enterprise and vendor side of the equation we are seeing convergence here.

Vector 4: Last , but by no means least we see how Synchronous 2D learning platforms will enter the third dimension. As is the case with social media, it just plain makes sense that flatland distance learning systems like Webex, Adobe, Citrix and Illuminate will be pulled into the 3D realm, particularly given the activity in the other four vectors. Karl Kapp and I have written extensively on this and I have a summary of our notion of learning applicaitons escaping flatland here.

These four vectors are on a collision to creat the i-web: Immersive, Interactive, Immediate and Intuitive. When this world-wide, three-dimensional, avatar-mediated Cognosphere emerges we will truly reach a singularity: a point where technological progress reaches infinity as it relates to leveraging and enabling human capital.

The i-web will become a worldwide virtual platform that allows people to exercise their skills and abilities passion around endeavors that matter most to them (and get paid for it too). The i-web will be like e-bay for trading work rather than second-hand products. No one will work for the i-web. Instead the i-web will work for them. Providing i-web dwellers the opportunity to find both work and people to work with on endeavors that they share a passion around. e-Bay allowed people to sell their personal items in a world-wide yard sale, the i-web will allow people to sell their personal skills and abilities in much the same way.

Free agent nation – nay virtual planet – here we come! If you think the i-phone was cool, wait until the i-web consumes us (or our avatars).

Here is the 2minute 30 second romp through the model on YouTube: