Because most of the team wasn't focused primarily on the Web as their day gig like mine mostly is, it afforded me a great opportunity to force myself to sit down and really think about the direction and opportunities that the emerging Web technologies and capabilities presented our business.
For fun, I incorporated a slide that provided an overview of Second Life. If you're not familiar with Second Life, it's a sort of SIMS-like virtual "world" (environment?) that people join and have experiences in (I mentioned it in response to a comment yesterday, in case you're wondering where you heard about it recently).
The experiences in Second Life range from selling digital wares to building virtual businesses to selling real estate to just about anything you can think of doing in a virtual environment online (including some things that propriety and proper business convention prevent me from discussing in this blog). But just know if you have ever played the computer game Myst, you will have a good idea of the kind of virtual world I'm describing. However, the key difference being that Second Life is on the Internet and customizable, and so has the opportunity to empower and connect people in a way that standalone virtual worlds never could.
As it so happened, there had just been a cover story from Business Week about Second Life that provided some great background and sound bites. Like the fact that a whole separate underground economy was sprouting up there, complete with the buying and selling of of virtual real estate using real money (yes, you heard me right...people are building and buying condos on the Internet that don't really exist, and using hard-earned real dollars to buy them).
Actually, they're using "Linden" dollars (the dollars created by the creators of the environment), but for which real dollars (and Euros, and British Sterling Pounds, and Yuan, etc.) can be exchanged on the "LindeX" currency exchange.
Of course there's a virtual currency exchange. Where have you been?
You think I'm making this up??? I guess it could be a figment of my avatar self's imagination.
Is It Live Or Is It Memorex?
Okay, so there I am surfing the headlines today to find out what's going on out there in cyberspace after a really hard day's real work, when I stumble across this article, one which suggests that virtual environments are primed for a major advertising breakout.
As an example, it says that just last weekend, BBC Radio 1 kicked off the U.K. festival season by airing a real-world concert in Dundee, Scotland simultaneously inside Second Life. Take that, Woodstock or Bonaroo.
Also according to the piece, a number of ad agency execs have proposals in for integration in Second Life (Ogilvy and Digitas, have you guys received a virtual proposal yet???) Quoted in the story, VP of marketing for Linden Labs David Fleck says that he sees "no reason why Starbucks shouldn't set up virtual outposts or Hummer couldn't give test drives."
Hmm, I can think of a few reasons, like I'm already having a hard time avoiding Hummers buzzing down the streets of Austin. But it would be great if I could get myself a Chai Crème Frappucino and a Tazo Citrus and Cream slurped down my cable Internet connection, double grande pronto! I hate waiting in line for my frozen java treats.
Yeah, it all may sound crazy now, but then again, so did the idea of teenagers using instant messaging to ask one another to the prom a few short years ago. But the last time I checked, social networks for teenagers were the hottest thing since the Hula Hoop and Shrinky Dinks, and advertisers and big media companies are scrambling to get with that virtual program.
No, all this may seem like a really bad Neal Stephenson literary mind trip about now (or good, if you've already bought that Second Life condo you've been dreaming about), but if you ask me, I think virtual worlds are here to stay, and me, I'm ready to go all in.
I figure it won't be long before we'll all be holding virtual meetings and conferences and going on virtual casinos and business trips and to virtual sports events and having virtual meetings and virtual conflicts with our employees. The only difference between what is real and imagined will be a fine one -- and if all this plays out like I suspect -- a very fuzzy one as well.
It's all good, if you ask me. Because before you know it, the real world is going to be the hip and alternative place to hang out again, which is exactly where you'll find me.
Kicking back in my virtual Hummer and sipping my latte double caffeinated virtual frappucino.
I just hope my avatar self can find something good to wear.