Telstra responds on first anniversary in Second Life

Today I was contacted by Craig Middleton, BigPond’s Group Manager, Corporate Affairs, after seeing our story on Telstra’s first anniversary in Second Life. He’s provided his list of Telstra BigPond’s achievements in Second Life:

* We have built and maintained a leading position as the most popular real life brand presence in SL in the world, which has continued to reach record levels in early 2008.

* Approximately 85,000 registered users through the registration process.

* We have continued to grow the estate creating the opportunity for the community to take up residence and have recently added a further residential island called ‘Pondune’ which will be available for rental shortly.

* We hosted an in world extension of the Samsung advertising campaign for their new mp3 player during November 2007 (also reported in B&T)

* We have moved from a limited in-world support model to a more organic model made up of volunteers from the community. The community is now monitored 24hours and there is always help at hand. Further, a User Forum was launched on March 10 providing community members the opportunity to share knowledge between themselves and other members of the BigPond and Second Life community.

* We launched SydSIM – a virtual Sydney CBD – in late 2007.”

It’s now over to you – what would you add as far as further achievements or other observations on Telstra’s first year?

Telstra in Second Life: one year on

It’s actually just past a year since Telstra launched its Second Life presence. The reason we haven’t covered the anniversary until now is due to having a request for a comment in to Telstra on the first anniversary. There’s been no response, so I’ll reply on my observations and hopefully your comments on Telstra in Second Life.


The first theme that comes to mind is expansion – the initial eleven sims was significant but there are now sixteen in total plus the two Telstra Experience sims. Aside from geographical expansion, evolution in what’s offered on those sims has also changed, with the opening of rentals for individuals one landmark event. The SydSim virtual Sydney CBD expansion was also launched with some fanfare but is yet to be completed.

The second theme is learning – mostly on the part of Telstra. In the initial couple of weeks after its launch, The Pond sims were inundated with new and excited Australian Second Life users – the trouble was they weren’t getting any guidance. Not long after that, volunteer and paid staff started giving support in-world and that support is still pretty much in place. Another key learning was around what an effective social space was. The Pond sims have numerous activities and spaces – clubs, pubs, sport activities and sandboxes. And what’s the most popular? A bunch of wooden boxes out the front of the Billabong Bar. There’s nothing fancy – just the boxes to sit on and a campfire. And no matter what time of day or night it is, you’ll usually find a handful of people there chatting whilst the nearby club is deserted.


There’s no doubt Telstra have succeeded in Second Life – their traffic is considered one of the best for a corporate presence. They’ve been responsive to feedback and have had the resources to implement changes where needed. Whether they’ve succeeded in engaging the wider Second Life community is something to be judged by you. If you’re a regular Pond frequenter, what is it that keeps you coming back?

The Telstra Experience Centre in Second Life

You may or may not be aware, but early to mid March marks two significant Australian anniversaries in Second Life: a year since the Telstra BigPond and ABC presences in Second Life launched.

We’ll be writing more on both in coming days, but today I stumbled across another Telstra presence in Second Life. Two islands, Telstra Experience and Telstra Innovation aren’t part of the BigPond islands but they do come up in Second Life’s search functionality.


The Innovation island isn’t publicly accessible but I had a wander around the Experience island, and as the notecard offered on arrival says, it’s a replica of real-llfe Telstra Experience centres, one of which is nearing completion in George St Sydney. It’s very much an enterprise and government focus versus the BigPond end-user focus of the larger presence.


Because the build is a replica of a real-world one, it’s far from an immersive, creative experience, with standard corporate office-space containing multiple video viewing areas. My guess is it’s also being used as a prototyping tool for the real-life builds in Sydney and Melbourne. There’s nothing wrong with any of that and it does demonstrate the growing awareness by the corporate world of the utility of virtual worlds in non-consumer, non-brand awareness applications. I doubt we’ll see the islands launched with much fanfare, if at all. And that’s the way it should be.


The full text of the in-world notecard:

“The Telstra Experience Centre (TEC) is a new state-of-the-art facility built for our customers, now replicated in Second Life.

The TEC has been designed to provide business and government customers with hands-on experience with Telstra’s world-class technology, service and media capabilities. Customers will be able to see, touch, feel and use Telstra’s products and services. Most importantly, this centre allows customers to explore solutions using Telstra’s Next IP™ Virtual Private Network and Next G™ high-speed wireless broadband network.

This Telstra Experience Centre in Second Life is designed to give visitors a taste of what to expect from the RL centre. It also allows us to experiment with the use of Second Life for RL collaboration and projects across business and government applications.”

Check it out in-world.

Cisco’s Second Life launch for network processor

If you’re one of those people who get excited by networking hardware, then you may be interested in Cisco’s upcoming launch in Second Life of its latest network processor, Quantum.


Cisco are not surprisingly being coy about the technical details of the processor prior to the launch – suffice it to say the in-world build has a walk-through area that contains the word exabyte.


The event is being held on the 4th March at 10am PST (5th March, 5am AEDT) with musical acts and the launch itself. I’d love to hear from any Australians excited enough to attend at that time…

Check it out in-world.

Virtual Sydney CBD slowly taking shape

As we’ve previously mentioned, SydSim is Telstra’s replica Sydney CBD that started development in November 2007. In December I was critical of the build’s nature.


I dropped in again this week and there’s been some significant progress i.e. a lot more buildings and other objects. It’s starting to show some potential although I’m still uncertain as to how engaging it’ll be. That will probably depend on the rental aspect – if the right sort of tenants move in then a momentum of its own will develop.

I contacted BigPond’s media contact for comment on the build’s progress but haven’t received a response as yet. What are your thoughts – is SydSim something you’d like to be part of or is it too much like a mirror world?

New TV show on business in Second Life launches

Australian-based SLCN TV have added a new show to their in-world offerings. Real Biz in SL will feature interviews and stories with personalities and real-world businesses involved with Second Life.


You can view each of the shows live in-world by checking the schedule or you can stream them via their website (QuickTime required).

Enterprise 2.0 forum – Business IS getting it

At today’s Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum at Sydney’s Luna Park, I was encouraged to see that business is actually starting to get its head around virtual worlds as something much more than a brand recognition exercise. There were two events during the day that confirmed it:

Westpac and Second Life

Westpac’s Chief Technology Officer, David Backley, gave a wide-ranging presentation on Westpac’s use of Enterprise 2.0 tools. Part of the discussion was centred on the company’s use of Second Life for the induction of new employees.

The impetus for the move into Second Life was the geographical reality of Australia-based operations and the desire to look at a better way of inducting people into the organisation. Instead of waiting for a large enough group to start employment in Perth and then sending a trainer across, the induction can occur with individuals spread across different locations.

Backley claims that the feedback from the SL-based training was good and there was some amusement around feedback that some avatars dominated the induction process. Sound familiar?

On the future, Backley is upbeat on continuing involvement with virtual worlds. “We want to explore further” was the summary. He also alluded to Westpac questioning whether they would continue on the Second Life platform or investigate an internal virtual world option.


Roundtable on virtual worlds and organisations

During the lunch break I hosted a roundtable discussion on virtual worlds with five interested business people. I was really impressed with the absolute open minds displayed on virtual worlds and their opportunities and challenges. These were people who work in very large organisations and there’s obviously momentum building toward establishing business cases for new technology approaches to business.

For a perspective on the wider Enterprise 2.0 discussions (Wikis, Blogging etc), check out the forum blog.

The media and marketing myths of virtual worlds

Gwyneth Llewelyn is a veteran Second Life blogger and has spent a lot of time digesting a very comprehensive market research report on virtual worlds and the myths that have been promoted by parts of the mainstream media. It’s a very detailed analysis of an even more detailed report but it’s well worth spending the time reading it.

The six myths expounded are:

1. Everybody is a freak or geek;

2. Users don’t know what’s real;

3. People think and act differently on a virtual world;

4. Virtual worlds are a lawless, anarchic jungle;

5. It’s all about pornography;

6. Virtual worlds alienate us and turns the society into something dangerous.

What do you think – are there other myths you’ve run across or do you believe some of those listed above are facts?

(Thanks to Massively for the heads-up)

A timely treatise on virtual worlds and enterprise

I’ve mentioned next week’s Enterprise 2.0 forum in Sydney previously. At Stanford University in the US, an event called MetaverseU is well underway and in recent hours a session was completed on the role of virtual worlds and work. It’s a timely coincidence of events. This excellent report is worth a read but I thought I’d highlight some of the key points from that information:

“The opportunity for these worlds to be entertaining pales in their opportunity for work,” said Reeves. “If we could figure out how to entertain a couple thousand call center employees and keep them in a virtual world while they were working and they stayed around for three months longer at their jobs, I think we’d have a multi-million dollar business on our hands.”

This is a key component that most businesses fail to grasp with virtual worlds and enterprise: it’s one of the likely ways in which productivity can be enhanced whilst ensuring some degree of entertainment. I doubt anyone would argue the reason for widespread use of the internet for non-work purposes on work time is anything other than boredom and a time-constrained lifestyle. Imagine a call centre employee being able to interact with a customer in a virtual world context, demonstrating the product they’re supporting or selling.

“Something the industry needs to understand is to put yourself in your customers shoes,” he explained. “They have a lot of risk in taking this technology on. They might get a lot of benefit, but there’s the risk that this technology isn’t going to be there tomorrow. We need to, as an industry and as customers, put a lot of work together to make this more of an affirming cycle.”

There’s no doubt that the majority of customers don’t see virtual worlds as an obvious business route, but as the opportunities that route offers combines with easier access and improved usability, the business equation becomes a lot more attractive.

The immediate use case for virtual worlds in the enterprise, said Steiger, isn’t dealing with his clients and partners. 70% of his business is with people he’s never met. The difference is in an employee-to-employee relationship. A hosted, behind-the-firewall solution could make that easier.

And that’s where the big success stories like IBM have demonstrated their key wins and why Australian companies like Westpac have made the investment.

“You can’t understand the primitive engagement that comes from puppeteering a cartoon character that looks kind of like us,” said Reeves. “When you look at the physiological response when an avatar gets touched, there’s a complementary reaction in the user. Brining those responses in for an ROI presentation is tough, but those responses that we see in the lab give me confidence that the bandwidth for communication is a value add for the engagement.”

Business is rightly skeptical about anything proposed for core operations that can’t demonstrate ROI – but the intrinsic nature of human interactions and the power virtual worlds bring to that can’t be underestimated. And the key point from the presentation for me:

The scary thing for executives, he says, is that guild leader gamers could be reporting to stockholders.

“IBM just did such a survey [looking for those gamers in management] and found 1000s,” said Reeves.

As the gamer generation is growing up and leading the workforce, game mechanics become much more appealing than spreadsheets for getting work done.

“To do that is not going to be quick in the enterprise,” said Reeves. “One strategy we’re looking at is to look at the recipe for why these worlds are engaging or why games are engaging and see what you can extract. Can you take the economies from the virtual environment? They’re fun and we know they light up the same neurological regions in the lab as real money does. They leave behind self-representation and 3D environments, but they’re worth looking at.”

It’s fair to say that developments in virtual worlds are something that enterprise needs to be at least aware of. Ideally they’ll have the resources to dip their toe in the water or even jump right in. The only option not on the table from an enterprise viewpoint is denial.

Enterprise 2.0 forum – Luna Park’s the perfect venue

On Tuesday 19th February, Luna Park will play host to the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum. Hosted by Ross Dawson’s Future Exploration Network, this is a forum where Australian business will hear about the innovations occurring with Web 2.0 and virtual worlds like Second Life.


Yours truly is attending as a media partner for the event and I’m looking forward to discussing with attendees both the challenges and opportunities that virtual worlds provide. If you run a business that’s interested in innovation, it may be worth investigating a late registration for this event.

So why is Luna Park the perfect venue? In the lead-up to next week I was interviewed by Des Walsh from the newly launched Social Media Show. We talked on everything from business interest in virtual worlds to a 3D walkthrough of a human testicle in Second Life – but one point I made was that Luna Park was a metaphor for how businesses tend to see virtual worlds as a game. The reality is a lot different and event’s like next Tuesday’s will help to bring clarity to the issue.

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