If A Conference Is Held In Second Life, Will Anyone Listen?

metanomicslogo.jpgThe second session of the Metanomics Conference was held in Second Life today (see our previous coverage here) and I had the pleasure of attending.

Guest speaker for today’s session was Sandra Kearney, IBM’s head of 3D Development. Kearney spoke from Sage Hall, Cornell in front of live audience, with a live stream being delivered to both Second Life and IBM’s Active Worlds chat platform.

One of the inherent problems with Second Life today is the limitations on attendance; an entire island or sim (Second Life for server) can only handle a maximum of approximately 78 users at one time. Conference attendees could participate at two locations in Second Life, but it was a first in, best dressed affair, so to attend I had to teleport in 45 minutes before the conference session started. 30 minutes prior to start and the main conference facility of Metaversed Island was at capacity, and unlike a TechCrunch 40 conference, you couldn’t sneak into the back of the room and stand against a wall; once full users simply couldn’t teleport into the facility.

The conference location itself mimicked a real life conference: chairs, lectern, stage and video screen.

The discussion itself was interesting to those following the virtual world space as it focused on the evolving role of virtual worlds and covered the move towards open source and interoperable virtual worlds. Metaplace, a TechCrunch 40 presenter has launched a product that is promising to provide interoperability, and Chinese Second Life clone HipiHo is currently attempting to form an industry working group to work on standards to allow this. Linden Lab has also been making noises in this direction for some time.

From a viewing perspective, it was not unlike a regular conference; the video quality on the live stream from Cornell was watchable and participating in the session live provides a superior experience to watching the recorded video of the event later.

The first question from the audience came from me and I asked Kearney what she thought of Paul Twomey’s suggestion that the future of global commerce is in virtual worlds. She didn’t agree, saying that ultimately nothing will replace face to face, however there was scope for virtual worlds to provide an alternative when face to face isn’t an option.

Overall I think the format works. IBM is already holding meetings and doing other staff/ communications activities in Second Life, and others are including Cisco and Amazon are also using Second Life for business meetings. It won’t replace a top end teleconference setup, but it works as a more affordable alternative.

A short video clip below show the layout of the conference. I couldn’t voice over it and run the audio from the presentation at the same time, so there was some one speaking during the clip, even if it’s not recorded.