TrainforSuccess I participated in a panel yesterday on Train for Success in Second Life in which three panelists discussed:

  • Highlights, lowlights, trends in the 2009 virtual world enterprise market
  • Directions for 2010

The other panel members included Sam Driver of ThinkBalm and Doug Thompson of Remedy Communications, and the event was moderated by Anders Gronstedt .

While the discussion was lively, engaging, and interesting my experience was impacted by the environment itself.  The organizers had assumed that I was a veteran Second Lifer and that I was familiar and comfortable with the platform.  They were wrong.

When I sat down to enter Second Life about 15-20 minutes before the start of the event I realized that I had changJenniferBVyceratopsed laptops and had never accessed Second Life on my current machine.  I clicked on the link that they had provided me, which was to take me to the specific venue in world.  However, without the Second Life application on my computer I got an error message.  It was actually only then that I realized that I hadn’t ever downloaded the app on my new laptop.  I first had to find my login and password, which is not easy.  I had been initiated into Second Life through a product demo by Linden Labs and my user name was pre-selected as JenniferB Vyceratops – and I certainly hadn’t remembered that.  Not using your real name is the convention with Second Life.   I was not alone with my animal persona; I was joined by Gentle Heron and Anders Wildcat among others.

After doing a login lookup, a password reset, and downloading the app, I was able to get in world and to the correct venue – the Train for Success stage.  However, I appeared in the audience with an avatar that I didn’t recognize.  Not being a Second Life user, I’d never “dressed” or “coiffed” my avatar.  Apparently, I was still using the default which is a perky blond in a grey suit.  At least I wasn’t a spikey rocker in a lace-up leather halter, a short skirt and boots.

Fortunately, the hosts noted my arrival and invited me to the stage.  So, disguised as a professionally dressed blond, I next had to figure out how to move.  Rather than taking a step forward, I accidentally hit the up arrow and did a giant leap into the air.  That went unnoticed, I think.  Or else the audience, host and fellow panelists were too polite to comment.  The bigger challenge was figuring out how to sit down – for those who don’t know, you click on the object and choose what you want to do with it (pick it up, hop over it, sit on it etc).  I fortunately correctly clicked this time and took my seat on stage.

Finally, I was in place as a panelist ready to discuss the increasing role of virtual environments in global marketing, or so I thought.

As the audience numbers grew, however, my ability to communicate ground down to next to nothing.  My typing was so delayed that I couldn’t respond to anything via the chat window.  Conversations had moved on before I could type a complete thought.  I had much to contribute and comment on but couldn’t make it work.  Then, I was asked to speak.  Needless to say if typing was a challenge, speaking was at first a complete failure.  Fortunately that reversed as I connected my headset and learned the idiosyncrasies of the talk button – press and hold, but with the delay I had to wait seconds for the button to activate.

The conversation was informative for me, and I hope valuable for the audiences.  I did manage to contribute despite feeling completely humiliated by the experience.  In the end I think I got more out of the panel than it got out of me.  My fellow panel members were very knowledgeable and, better yet, patient (and seemingly non-judgmental) with my maladroit performance in Second Life.

However, my take on the experience:  If Second Life is going to become a useful enterprise application — be it marketing venue, simulation environment or collaboration tool — it must markedly enhance its user experience by improving its ease of use, simplifying the interfaces and increasing the scalability to eliminate the debilitating degradation in service that comes with larger audiences – and our audience was in the environs of 50.

I look forward to seeinAfterSLpanelg a more enterprise-ready Second Life soon.  For now, I’m still in the virtual bar recovering from my experience.  I’m the blond in the grey suit.

[Cross-posted on]