I was lucky enough to attend a 1 day training session, exploring Second Life on Monday. I am totally bewildered when it comes to second life, I really don’t get it. Nonetheless the opportunity came up to go to the session run by Kathryn Greenhill from Murdoch uni in Perth. I like Kathryn’s blog and the idea of spending a day out of the office learning to play a computer game was pretty appealing, so I went in ready to be convinced of Second Life’s value to the modern organisation.
It’s fair to say I still don’t get it. That is no slight on Kathryn’s session, it was great! She gave us loads of time to play and explore, and I had lots fun learning to fly and to make the bookcase I built, float and spin above the ground.
The thing I can’t work out is, what benefits SL can offer to knowledge workers? I can see the value in manual training such as occupational health and safety hazard assessment but sitting watching an animated person like me talk to another animated person just doesn’t seem to be that much better than a phone call, video conference or webinar.
Below I have listed my “Challenges that must be overcome to make SL (or similar) revolutionary”
- I found it quite difficult to navigate around, this concerns me as I would rate myself as very computer literate, this was also observed by Joe Sanchez’ Amazing Race students.
- We found it to be pretty unreliable. During the day I had to restart the second life app around 8 times. Kathryn was able to tweak the settings a little to make it use less bandwidth and thus run a little more reliably, but I had a similar experience on my Mac at home, so I worry about non technical users with hardware that is not cutting edge.
- Big chunky computers are required and you need to download and install an application. Once we can run this in a browser it will open up access to a much broader audience.
- Getting in to SL takes ages! You need to register, create your avatar, customise your avatar… it’s pretty fiddly.
- If using it internally, we could create a group of ‘stock avatars’, but if conducting a meeting or training session in SL we’ll need a cheat sheet to work out who is who! (Avatar names appear in SL – not real ones).
- We need to decide why virtual worlds are substantially better than other communication options. They take more effort so they need to provide value for that effort.
All of that said we are going to continue with our plans to experiment with SL at an upcoming conference. I really do support this. Kathryn made the point that Virtual Worlds are not yet a mature technology (demonstrated by the number of times the app crashed during the day). There is a lot of evolving to occur before the broader population is ready to communicate regularly via this medium.
That is why it is worth continuing to experiment, these tools will get easier to use and become more stable, so we might as well learn about them now. The question is will our customer base embrace this? We are throwing a lot of stuff at them this year blogs, wikis and social networks, will this be overload?