The Watch – virtual worlds in the news

1. The Sunday Herald (Scotland) – How a desperate father fought demons. “TWO YEARS ago, he was a high-flying IT specialist for a leading bank. Then the young Scot was introduced to a life of adventure in the magical online land of Azeroth. Today Arklore – the “virtual name” by which he wishes to be known in this story – works for a fast-food restaurant.”

2. Online Media Daily –
Deloitte, BrandGames Create Virtual World To Teach Teens About Business
. “DELOITTE & TOUCHE USA has partnered with BrandGames to bring business education up to speed, with The Virtual Team Challenge for High Schools (VTCHS) Event–an online simulator that lets teens create avatars, learn business best practices and deal with real-world ethical and financial situations.”

3. mi2g – Virtual Worlds and Second Lives’ Asymmetric Threats?“he US government has begun a project — codenamed Reynard — to develop ways to spot extremists who are using virtual worlds like Second Life, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty 4 and others. Reynard, a data-mining project from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), is an exploratory effort to monitor activity in virtual worlds and online games and then model what extremist activity in those worlds would look like. The Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI) recently released a Congressionally mandated report on various data-mining projects of which Reynard is just one. It is known that the CIA and other US Agencies have a presence in Second Life and that IARPA has investigated Linden Lab’s world as well.

4. The Economic Times (India) – Second Life: Amul plans aggressive online play. “One company looks set to unleash a revolution in the online world. Here there is no policy glitch, no threat of a Wal-Mart and no small kirana stores to reckon with. Sample this: Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation is studying the feasibility of starting an online store on Second Life, the virtual world owned by Linden Labs.”

5. – Aussie helping to shape World of Warcraft. “IT wasn’t that long ago that Julian Morris was a chef. Now Mr Morris is living in California working on World of Warcraft, arguably the hottest videogame on the planet.”

6. The Village Voice – Whorelore: The Magical World of Warcraft Porn. “Welcome to a dusty fantasy land of deep-throating elf ears, masturbating trolls, and chain-mail-wearing porn stars. Pornography director Dez is standing on an outdoor set in the L.A. hills, on the first nice day in months. He’s surrounded by actresses who’re naked except for some strategically placed sheet armor. “It’s been like thirty degrees here,” he laments over the phone, expressing concern about his naked employees trying to “work” in the cold. “Finally we can shoot.””

7. GigaOM – Can Sims Carnival Compete? “Om just passed me word that The Sims Carnival, yet another spinoff of the long-running franchise from Electronic Arts, is now selecting users for its closed beta period — to apply, just create an account at the site. Like “EA Land,” the free, web-based revival of The Sims Online we blogged about last week, this is another property full of Web 2.0 flavor –and from such a mammoth publisher like EA, surprisingly so. The site describes a platform that “Empowers you to create games from scratch,” and one on which where you can “Build a community around your own game creations!””

8. The Inquirer – Pretentious? Moi? “WHILE we obviously applaud and actively encourage the widespread use of words such as paradigm, leverage, incentivise, core competencies, world-class and solution, there comes a time when even the most out-of-the-box-thinking brainsharers must call a halt to meaningless absurdisming. Some people are cursed with daft names by cruel parents. Imagine, if you will, the trauma caused to someone named Roo Reynolds. Surely life can throw no more misfortune in their faces? But no. Roo is employed by IBM.”

9. EDN – Second Life: Inevitable, Eventual ‘Real’ Life? “Speaking of science fiction, now’s as good a time as any for me to get another long-planned ‘to blog about’ topic off my list. I’m partway through a sci fi classic called Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson. Like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, from whence came the term cyberspace, Snow Crash has proven to be a particularly prescient predictor and influencer of future events and innovations.”

10. MediaPost – Imitation of Life. “When it comes to their depictions of the real world, the media have always walked a pretty fine line. Lately, it seems the virtual world may be winning out. It’s a progression as old as canvas, vinyl, celluloid or magnetic tape, but the ephemeral and amorphous nature of digital media appears to be pushing the boundaries separating our actual world from our pseudo-societies.”

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.

Deloitte and Westpac explore Second Life

A story last week in The Australian’s IT section mentions that both Deloitte and Westpac have made some initial forays into Second Life. Both appear to be adopting a model of using it for internal purposes like meetings, something that business is increasingly latching onto.

Both companies have enormous numbers of staff – Westpac has 27 thousand and Deloitte has 4 thousand in Australia (135 thousand worldwide). Those are the sort of numbers that make virtual worlds a very attractive proposition from a cost-saving viewpoint, let alone the innovation potential.

Thanks to Ross Dawson for the heads-up.

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