Saturday May 10, 2008

Bragging Rights



In the midst of stories dissing my company because of our weak Q3 and subsequent drop - ok, plunge - in stock price, my day was brightened this morning when I opened up my morning paper, the Los Angeles Times. There, on the front page, was this headline: A Second Life for Corporate America

I'm an internal communicator, and my job is typically behind the scenes, not making headlines.  So the fact that our recent Global Employee Connections meeting in Second Life was prominently featured in the story has just made me grin, ear-to-ear.

Here's a quote from the story:

"Sun Microsystems, which makes computer servers and software, owns seven islands in Second Life, two of which are open to the public. The rest are used for training sessions and meetings. During its biggest event, a 12-hour corporate meeting held last month, 14 of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun's top executives hobnobbed with hundreds of employees. Alpine skiing, car racing, live jazz and a sandbox were also part of the event....

....Hundreds of Sun avatars lounged in the audience, some wearing sneakers and jeans, others in business attire, asking questions about new products, Second Life and Sun's competitive position. Thousands of other employees watched the virtual meeting on monitors in Sun's offices in Santa Clara, New York and Tokyo."

How did employees react to our global meeting in Second Life?  I'd say the reaction was pretty split, with some people loving it and other not so crazy about it. But while not everyone loved the experience, you've gotta love good publicity!

OK, I'm going to get this big grin off my face any minute now....




Monday May 05, 2008

So You Wanna Have a Second Life Party....



The party is over.  The streamers have been picked up, the avatars have gone home.  And I think we've answered the question that my chairman, Scott McNealy, raised at his Second Life training - as he made his avatar jump really high and laughed with his trainers - "This is really fun.  But what's its business purpose?"

Two purposes in my mind:  the first was to encourage our folks - including our executives, btw - to try a new technology.  The second was to give employees around the world the opportunity to hear a series of our leaders talk about the company, regardless of location.

Here are some facts:

Average number of attendees in the central arena for presentations: 185
Number of webstream viewings: 1751
Number of new avatars added: over 600
Number of training sessions held: too many to count
Number of presenting executives:  14
Size of presentation hall: largest in Second Life. Built over four islands to allow lots of employees to attend the Town Halls
Number of "skiers" on the SL Alpine Run: don't know...we're still picking up virtual broken skis and poles! Fortunately, avies bounce better than humans so no injuries
Number of dancing fools in Club Java: sooooo many! Alas, we only captured a handful on film:

Dancing at Club Java
Club Java dancers: 6 (and they're still dancing since last week!)

While the cost of Second Life is virtually (no pun intended!) free, the preparation for the event clearly was not.  We invested hundreds of hours of time in getting ready. We had to do the training, help folks develop their avatars, create the virtual arena and playgrounds, work out the technical issues. 

The payoff, though, made it all worthwhile.  As I said to one of our execs after he finished presenting, "You just reached 600 employees in 30 minutes.  Not a bad ROI for your time!"

Terry Getting Ready for Intros
My avatar walking on stage.
JonathanS, ChrisM and DonG
Jonathan, Chris and Don ready to go.

Mike Dillon, our chief legal counsel, commented that in a way it felt like a giant conference call but with visuals.  A fair comment, I think. 
We have a lot to learn about how to best use the technology, which continues to evolve rapidly.  For example, presenters who were already very comfortable with Second Life, such as Rich Green and Jonathan Schwartz, were able to not only present to the crowd but instant message individuals in-between comments.  This moved their presentations from a speech with Q&A at the end to a much more personal encounter.  Interesting....

So there were no train wrecks.  The system did not crash.  People brought their sense of adventure and sense of humor, which helped make the day fun and participative.  We did have issues on people being able to hear the comments, but I think we addressed most of those on the fly.  There was that naked and bald issue, of course, where slow resolution of your avatar caused your body to be seen before your clothing, and hair was disturbingly slow to appear.  Fortunately, in Second Life, you have the body you choose and your most naked self appears to be covered with gray ace bandages, top to bottom.  

Would I do it again?  Oh yes, I would.  Although I'm thinking now about more targeted audiences for a specific executive to go after - a Second Life session held with engineers, for example, where they could talk with our Technical Management Team.

Did you go?  Did you try to go?  Would you want to go?  Let me know so we can do better next time!

 

Wednesday Apr 30, 2008

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Second Life



And it takes a great, great, great team to make it happen! I was blown away by the dedication of all the people who worked to make this day a success - Debra, Christy, Jessica, Fiona, KJ, Wincy, Chris and others worked behind the scenes training newbies on Second Life, creating the beautiful setting and helping style avatars so we looked as fabulous as we could ever hope to be. And reassuring me that we were not about to commit career suicide.

And then there were all the business group communicators on my team, who contacted executives, helped them prepare and convinced them to come to the party (not that much convincing was necessary - my favorite response was from Jonathan, who in response to my email asking if he'd be willing to join the experiment was, "absolutely.")

There's so much to share, photos to post and tales to tell. But I still have earnings to get through this week and so duty calls. I promise to tell all (well, most of all, anyway) next week. Meanwhile, let me entice you back with these words:

Naked happens.

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