I've never thought I fit neatly into any particular one of Malcom Gladwell's Tipping Point categories, but it was great fun the play the part of connector recently when we hosted a virtual kaffeeklatsch at the coffee shop on Dell's main island in Second Life.
It started with a simple, public tweet — an open call to see if anyone was interested in a casual get-together to chat about virtual worlds. I'd been doing a bit of the typical end-of-year reflection on the industry and thought it would be great to hear what some others were thinking, as well. Initial response to the tweet was good, and a virtual tweetup was born.
I'd prepared a few conversation starters, but there was no need to stimulate discussion with the group that assembled:
- Csven Concord, C. Sven Johnson of reBang weblog
- Ninoramai Hax, Jeff Lowe of the OU Center for Public Management
- Kim Anubis, Kimberly Rufer-Bach of The Magicians
- Poinky Malaprop, Poinky Malaprop of Xerox
- Erica Burns, Erica Driver of ThinkBalm
- Maccus McCullough, the US Navy's Virtual Naval Undersea Warfare Center
- AaronHunt Xerox, Aaron Hunt of Xerox
- epredator Potato, Ian Hughes of IBM and eightbar
- PrinterBrian Dowd, Brian Regan, Owner of Semper International
- Boliver Oddfellow, Drew Stein of Involve
- Burhop Piccard, Mark Burhop of Siemens
The day before our salon assembled, Worlds.com had announced its intent to enforce a couple of patents related to virtual world systems, so that was top-of-mind for many. Someone had already skimmed through the patents themselves and noted that while one was very specific the other seemed rather broad. Which led to an expression of concern it might hold back the development of the immersive Internet. And someone pointed out the curious timing of the announcement on the same day Sony announced Home for Playstation 3. This will certainly be an interesting one to watch in the coming year.
Another topic of much discussion was 3D printing. Some questioned the quality of it, while epredator encouraged a long-term view and noted that today:
[7:36] epredator Potato: could I fix a cog on a water pump ?
[7:36] epredator Potato: yes
[7:36] epredator Potato: could I make a faberge egg no 🙂
When it was noted that the technology would allow you to print 3D models in a variety of materials ranging from paper to plastic or ceramic and even sugar, someone noted that there is already a chef who prints edible food! Imagine the possibilities of a machine creating from raw materials with a virtual world delivery mechanism across the entire planet. Could 3D printing be the key to the rise of the prosumer (a new word for me)?
Indeed, I learned more than just one new word at this meeting of great minds. Other interesting topics that came up included the Japanese researcher who successfully displayed image on a screen from a brain sensor, Nortel's possible bankruptcy and impact that might have on their Web.Alive product, a good-looking GSLIS Continuing Education class on virtual worlds offered by Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science starting January 5, 2009.
I look forward to having more of these "coffee talks" in the coming year. It's something that wouldn't really be possible without virtual world technology – the ability for all of these people to come together in one place from all across the globe at little more than a moments notice. And, I still believe that therein lies one of the greatest opportunities for virtual worlds.