3DTLC 2.0 in San Jose Sept 23-24


Well it is official. Chris and Tonda have asked me to MC 3DTLC 2.0 in San Jose in September. Those of you who managed to make it to the first show know first-hand the energy that we managed to create. Please tell ALL your friends.

Submission deadline has been extended through end of week so please consider sharing your wisdom with the community.

Call for speakers link is here

I sincerely hope to see you all again in San Jose.


Enterprise Virtual Worlds Get REAL (Really ; )


It is very rare to get in on the ground-floor of an emerging industry. It is also somewhat frustrating to be in the thick of it for a few years writhing with impatience for the market to or the technology catch up. The dance between market and technology readiness stair steps its way through predictable peaks of inflated expectations and troughs of disillusionment on one side and eras of ferment followed by dominant design on the other.

My intuition tells me that 2009 is the year that the planets align for Virtual World Enterprise applications to head up the proverbial hockey stick. For years now I have been hearing Virtual World vendors complain that they do not have a legitimate home. At the Serious Games conferences they are marginalized my the more jazzy games. At Training Conferences they are pushed out of the limelight by Instructional Design Approaches and LMS vendors, and, until NOW, at the Virtual Worlds conferences it felt like Entertainment and Media was sucking up the bulk the oxygen. NOT ANYMORE ; )

On the client side (people who are hungry to implement Virtual World Technologies within their enterprises) I have heard an ongoing plea for TANGIBLE EXAMPLES of how Virtual World solutions have solved REAL Business Problems and delivered REAL Business Results.

Today I am pleased to announce that Chris Sherman has asked me to develop the program and MC the first Virtual World show dedicated specifically to the Enterprise.

I am incredibly excited about the opportunity we have here. I am hoping, like the inaugural VW show in NY, that this will be THE event that creates a critical mass of innovation and collaboration that finally catalyzes the widespread adoption of Virtual World technologies within the enterprise.

Chris, Tonda and I have had a number of conversations about the positioning and tone of this show. At this conference, we are clearly seeking to move beyond discussing the potential of Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise and instead to be focused on sharing PRACTICAL EXAMPLES from early adopters in industry that have already applied Virtual Worlds successfully.

Gibson’s (or is it Brand’s) old saw that “The Future is Already Here, It is Just not Evenly Distributed” is quite appropriate. My goal over the next six weeks is to search high and low and in an out (it is 3D after all) for the most compelling examples of Enterprise Virtual World applications that will help build an evidence base to substantiate our hypotheses that Virtual Worlds will reshape industry and value chains in ways at least as profound as its one-dimensional cousin. We want to even out the distribution by bringing the best examples of virtual world enterprise applications so we can accelerate the path to the future.

Some Acid Test Questions for Vetting these Exemplary Stories Are:

    What was the business issue or opportunity you were faced with?
    What was your virtual world solution and how did it address that problem?
    Why was this virtual world solution chosen over other options? What differentiated it?
    How did you get sponsorship and funding to implement this virtual world solution?
    What virtual world platform did you choose to implement your solution?
    What were the key attributes of that platform that led to its selection?
    What were your biggest barriers to implementing the solution?
    How did you evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution?
    What results have you been able to demonstrate to date to legitimate the investment in the Virtual World Solution?
    What advice would you have for others considering implementing a virtual world solution within the enterprise?

In many ways the pattern of diffusion of 3Di has followed a similar path to Web 1.0. In the early days of the browser there was a lot of emphasis on B2C, then over time, and the collapse of irrational exhuberance of the dot.com era, companies retrenched and started leveraging browser technologies behind the firewall. Sound familiar?

Right now, after speaking with a number of folks close to the industry the wisdom of the crowd says that Virtual World technologies are most likely to be applied within the enterprise for Training, Learning and Collaboration. Consequently, our primary focus will be on these big three for the April show.

The success of this show hinges upon how compelling a case we can make that the time for Virtual Worlds TLC application for the enterprise is NOW via the power of example. So if you know of a wonderful TLC enterprise application, please submit to the call, or contact me directly.

Lets all work together to make this show the best it possibly can be.

Researching the Effectiveness of Virtual Worlds

I attended a very good session at the Masie Conference where folks from HP, Intel, Accenture, to name just a few, discussed the issues around applying virtual worlds in the corporate context.

One of the big issues that seems to be coming out is that corporate decision makers want EVIDENCE that Immersive Learning Experiences are more efficient and effective than traditional learning approaches.

However, one of the issues we consistently run up against is that in order to measure “apples to apples” on the efficiency outcome variable (i.e. can you learn and retain as much in the virtual world as you can via instructor led training or web based training). The underlying issue here is that in limiting ourselves to comparing apples to apples when it comes to knowledge retention we limit the very thing that makes the virtual world so special: Serendipitous, peer-based, discovery based experential learning. Put more curtly, it is why when we take stakeholders into a virtual world they immediately ask “where are the classrooms, I don’t see anyone learning in here?” Rogers classic on the Diffusion of Innovations has taught us that Familiarity is a necessary rite of passage on the road to fundamental disruptive innovation, but I sure hope that the era of digital avatars in digital classrooms watching digital documents will be a very short lived meme.

This evening, after many hours of wrestling with this challenge, things became clear. We need to separate the WHAT (Declarative Knowledge) from the How (Procedural Knowledge). Most ILT and traditional learning is about topic not task. It is about what not how. The virtual world is all about HOW and learning WHILE doing. Most traditional pedagogical approaches are focused on learning BEFORE doing. Thus it is not appropriate to compare ILT to Virtual Worlds because they actually are based in fundamentally different instructional paradigms. ILT is about content while Immersive Learning Experiences are about context. ILT is about Topic while ILE is about Task while ILT is about What, ILE is about HOW. ILT is about Knowing while ILE is about Doing,

If history does not repeat, it certainly rhymes. This should sound familiar to many of us. (Hint: Think Blended Learning). A blend that brings the value of immersive learning to provide an experience where the “WHAT” can be synthesized, understood within the context of task and internalized in an authentic way.

The ILE adds to the ILT as the bridge that finally straddles the Knowlng-Doing Gap that Pfeiffer and Sutton highlited in their excellent book a few years ago.

Finally, as we work on the evaluation it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the very cool work that my friends and colleagues Mitzi Montoya (NCSU) and Anne Massey (Indiana) are doing to develop an instrument that captures Perceived Virtual Presence. I will be using their PVP instrumentation in my evaluations from here on out as those of us in the academic world try to create an overarching evaluation rubric to look at perception, efficiency and effectiveness of Virtual Worlds. You can read about their very cool and innovative research here.

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.

A Thousand Virtual Worlds Bloom…but where are we headed?

Randy Hinrichs of 2b3d turned me on to this cool video called 50 Virtual Worlds in 7 minutes. It is well worth a look:

Given the explosion of virtual world new entrants, K-Zero did a nice job of trying to tag a lot of these worlds by sector in this plot:

So, it would seem with all this activity the movement up the s-curve of adoption should be significant right? Not so fast says Gartner. According to their most recent Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle, public virtual worlds have not yet hit the bottom of the Trough of Disillusionment but they have been moved from the 5-10 years to 2-5 years column in terms of years to mainstream adoption.

So what gives? Linden Labs is about 2500 days old. Yesterday I waxed on Kevin Kelly’s observation that the web is merely 5000 days old. Why have we not crossed the chasm and gotten on main street yet when it comes to virtual worlds?

Well, because there are so many of them and they serve different niche needs. To my mind this won’t pan out like Web 1.0 did. I don’t think I will be teaching the Virtual World Interface wars case like I have the Browser Wars case where Microsoft and Netscape go at it full force. There are worlds that serve different niches and need and they will stay vibrant to that community. Everquest continues to enjoy active participation by 250K folks year over year and they are not going anywhere.

That being said, I do believe that there is a line between social/entertainment worlds and business/enterprise worlds. Forterra recognized this by setting up There to address the entertainment market using the same underlying platform but customizing it in different ways.

I also agree with Steve Prentice’s comments lately at the V-Business Expo. The B2C applications of virtual worlds have gotten a punch in the gut, and similarly to how things went down in the Web 1.0 era, on the enterprise side of things companies are looking to take the technology inside the firewall and try it out in a controlled setting (in Web 1.0 parlance this would be a Business to Employee application).

So here is the big question. In the video above, the front runners for B2E enterprise applications were not prominently covered. In K-Zero’s Virtual Worlds by Sector, I don’t see an Enterprise Learning and Collaboration Sector and Gartner is not yet breaking out public and private virtual worlds on their hype cycle?

What gives? If this is the very place where most pundits are suggesting the industry is moving why is it not showing up on these analytical constructs? Am I missing something? Help me out. Am I wrong in assuming that for Virtual Worlds B2C was the Sizzle and B2E will be the Steak that enables companies to make money selling steak in the B2B space? If so…should we not be placing more emphasis on Private virtual worlds focused on enterprise learning and collaboration?

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.

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: