Fourth Age Communiqué - Leadership for the rest of us

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Adoption is relative

There is a fine line between business value and self-expression. Or perhaps a very deep and wide chasm.

And Mo effectively begins to articulate the problem (or opportunity) when explaining the relative virtues of a "create it as you go" virtual world vs. an off the shelf, retrofitted "first person shooter" gaming engine.

In a moment of frustration over my perceived SL bigotry (and longtime Second Lifers are nothing if not fiercely loyal to their world), I pointed out to Mo that one particular enterprise we are very familiar with has more than two platforms in use internally. In fact, said enterprise boasts no less than seven (7) internal virtual worlds, and maybe up to dozen. This underscores the point that the enterprise in question does not advocate one single virtual world; it advocates them all.

The debate we could have (and have had, and may yet behind our own firewall) is not over platform popularity. It is almost not even about adoption. It is over the relative merits of self-expression and business value. Mo and I share a common passion for seeing virtual worlds become adopted at the enterprise level because we both see the potential of the technology, much like we all did in the early days of the World Wide Web. Where we differ in professional opinion is a worthwhile case study.

Finding the right balance for your enterprise is the sole purpose of this discussion.

Adoption is not enough; it is a means to an end. Just as Netscape found its death grip on the web browsing market was not so lethal to Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer got out-Firefox'ed, who are finding its shine isn't Chrome ...

Google decimated Yahoo in the search wars because its automated, algorithmic search capability was vastly superior to Yahoo's internal user-recommended results. It won, essentially, on usability.

As we wait on OpenSim to become usable enough for the masses, enterprises may be forced to go along to get along. That is to say, some of Mo's points on adoption may very well be fueled by the successes and failures of other platform investment.

Credibility and cost: two sides of the same coin

To be credible, Mo says, one most be confident a technology will stick around. This is a slippery slope, because credibility is a function of cost and investment.

Cost is not the issue in 2009 that it was in 2006. This is in large part because Second Life gained credibility with subscriptions (how else do you fund all those new, free users?), which, in turn, gave way to an open source play. But OpenSim is accessible enough to the brave few who would have installed Linux on their computers when BSD was the closest thing to an industry standard.

That pesky ROI chestnut

In very crude Maslowian terms, show me funding and I will show you business value. The social software value proposition, then, is as much about business investment as it is user acceptance.

At the heart of the virtual worlds discussion is how you build community out of social context. Businesses historically try to quantify or ignore intangibles like creative expression and inclusive leadership, only to fall perpetual victim to the cold, hard realities of market share and profit and loss statements.

Forging a union between the undeniable, yet seeming unmeasurable need for social proximity, community building and creative outlet with the results-oriented needs of business is the flashpoint.



  • Personally I would like to see a business model for social networking outside of the "advertising" arena. LinkedIn is the closest of external applications with its "premium features subscription".

    Business value is another story. As you can have business value due to cost savings, many things can be applied to internal enterprise social connections. Examples would include rapid dynamic cross functional team building. Also, product generation from connection mining (finding which teams that seem to be unrelated are so how connected).

    By Blogger Singing to Jeffrey's Tune, at 6:16 PM  

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