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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

First SL London Virtual Meeting

There was a meeting in SL Knightsbridge on Monday with a real life company called ‘Ozone conferencing’. The company offer the perfect solutions to holding corporate meetings without the need to travel, they offer phone and web services, which include Audio conferencing which enables groups of people to talk together on the same telephone call, web conferencing which allows people to share information over the Internet and Telephone Interpreting, which enables communication with non-English speaking customers and colleagues, involving 150 languages. The company are now exploring SL with a view to pushing the boundaries even further in respect of virtual meetings and London sims owner Debs Regent organised the first ‘in world’ meeting with them. The avatar representing the company was Ozone Beck, who chaired the meeting. The other avatars attending were Debs Regent, London sims Owner, Mal Burns Writer, designer/producer and author of web information services, Kwame Oh, SL and real life Landlord of The Greyhound Public House in Kensington, Ozone Martian of TFB Graphics who supply exhibition stands, displays and graphics for any venue in the UK. Ozone Breen of Click Profiles, optimising the use of search engines, reducing time and effort and Cid Ducatillon, who is part of a 2 man architecture office in California, specialising in Frank Lloyd Wright and Julia Morgan design (Cid told the meeting that he has been in SL promoting and mentoring small real life businesses to come into SL)

I attended the meeting with fellow reporter Hibiscus Hastings to record how the ‘in world’ gathering would pan out. As we arrived it was evident that the majority of avatars where using ‘voice’ and only a few of us were using ‘text chat’ (typing). It would seem that voice would be a good medium to use in SL in lots of respects. I have been to past meetings in SL where just text is used and the avatars present tend to all type at the same time, making the discussion virtually impossible to follow. Especially, as in some cases, one or two avatars type continuously without following the agenda, making the meetings disjointed and the topics to be discussed are then left inconclusive. In voice you can certainly make life easier by the chairman taking control and allotting each person round the table their time to speak, as in real life. One of the drawbacks with voice, however, is that there appears to be no simple way that audio can be recorded within the Second Life program, so no record of voice can be kept for notes. Text can be recorded back to your hard drive on your computer by setting the preferences window in Second Life, thus enabling the notes to be recorded. From Hibiscus’s and my point of view, being able to record voice ‘in world’ would be ideal for interviews etc. Perhaps a hand held voice recorder next to the computer would be sufficient. If you know how voice can be recorded more easily I would love to hear from you.

We all introduced ourselves and Debs explained how using Second Life as a business platform for brand promotions, consultancy, sales delivery, meetings and training, is cost effective for real life organisations already present in SL. Everyone in turn explained their reasons for attending the meeting and what they hoped to benefit by using SL . There were a few problems during the meeting with ‘voice’ as static noises and sometimes echo’s from peoples’ mics made it a little hard to hear at times, however, this will soon be sorted out as people get the right set up with their headphones and mics etc.

I know that some organisations such as IBM already hold ‘in world’ meetings and this is the way to go for communication in the future, especially as virtual meetings take the geography out of the equation by cutting the cost of not only travel but the time spent away from work desks.

1 comment:

Hibiscus said...

It was an interesting experience.
As for text versus voice, at the NASA CoLab meetings I go to they use chat only, and it goes very well. They start off with an agenda, which is "read" into text, people are able to submit items for the agenda right there before the meeting starts by im'ing the meeting chair (and of course the chair already has agenda items), and the chair pretty much keeps everyone to the agenda. Also, I attend meetings for people with disabilities, in that case they, too, use text, because for some people who are hearing impaired it is a better option. And, as you say, it is a great way to have a record of the meeting and everyone has one instantly. However I know that for people who are just coming into SL, getting used to chat is unusual, and they may feel uncomfortable with it.