SLunionisland » Companies in SL Union Island: International unions in Second Life Mon, 25 Jan 2010 16:04:53 +0000 en hourly 1 Dress codes for virtual workers Tue, 13 Oct 2009 14:41:58 +0000 Johninnit Ni We’re having enough controversy with RL dress codes after a motion to the TUC’s conference called on employers to stop mandating their female staff to wear high heels, even if it might cause them health concerns. But it seems that could be pretty tame now compared to virtual world avatar dress codes!

IT analysts Gartner have predicted (on what evidence I’m not entirely sure) that by 2013, 70% of employers will have dress codes for their staff when in avatar form. This does sound pretty likely I guess. People want to make their avatars into extensions of themselves – possibly as augmentations or fantasies based around their self-image and feelings. As people start to work more and more in virtual worlds, issues of how they represent their (possibly squeamish) employer with clients are likely to arise.

I remember several tech firms making people turn down more unusual avatars whilst at work years ago, but there are going to be issues when people feel comfortable online in a certain way, potentially happier, liberated and more natural – will the company that insists on a grey suit and flexi-prim tie be helping employees feel as confident and connected to their work as they might by giving their employees the leeway?

Have you been told to take off the spacesuit in meetings, keep the Gor gear to the back office, or even just to turn down the bling on your Blackberry?

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If paramedics could teleport Thu, 30 Oct 2008 17:40:39 +0000 Johninnit Ni New World Notes has an interesting write-up of University of London’s paramedic training program in Second Life. The University, in partnership with a London hospital, are devising emergency scenarios for distance-learning participants to teleport into, to roleplay out their learning.

Fascinating stuff, and pointing the way to a greater use of simulation in training across the world of work. I nipped into Virtual Worlds London Expo last week (as a guest of the very kind Metaverse Mod Squad), where I met some very interesting people working in different aspects of virtual worlds for business.

A number of different approaches – from the totally immersive to use in simulation and learning environments, through the heavily simplified to remove barriers to efficient and targeted office task based collaboration. One thing was clear, although this is still far from mainstream, the number of employers engaging with virtual worlds mean this is a place far more people are going to be working in in a couple of years.

For example, a great presentation from English language school Languagelab, showed how rather than using simulation as a kind of video conferencing to try to replicate 70% of the quality of the offline learning experience for distance learners, by thinking about their aims in a different way,  trainers can make gains in totally new areas. When they want to roleplay ordering in a restaurant, they can call up a restaurant environment, with all the tasks you need to be able to talk about demonstrable first hand. Or if you’re discussing art appreciation – bring in works of art that will stimulate your class, directly to the simulation as though your class had been able to teleport straight to the gallery – things you just can’t do in an offline classroom.

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An employer’s take on labour standards in SL/RL Thu, 07 Aug 2008 08:57:11 +0000 Johninnit Ni

Here’s an SL PR video that Draxtor Despres made for the multi-national employment agency Manpower, about business use of virtual worlds (thanks to Draxtor for sharing with us). Manpower are a signatory company to the UN Global Compact, a voluntary framework for businesses to measure themselves against a set of minimum standards of decent corporate behaviour internationally, and the video “The Power of Collaboration” discusses issues around corporate social responsibility in the real world and in SL, from Manpower’s perspective.

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HR meets VR Tue, 22 Apr 2008 13:16:46 +0000 Johninnit Ni UK personnel magazine People Management (the in-house journal of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development) have a feature article this week about businesses using Second Life. They’re more than a little sceptical about the wonders of virtual reality (”There are some good examples of the use of SL, but generally we are dubious”, saysCIPD adviser Martyn Sloman), but they do list some interesting case studies on recruitment (less so on other possible areas such as team building, virtual conferencing and simulation), and they have some questions for HR on legal implications of pay and discrimination in virtual worlds. Check it out at

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Step into our world… Fri, 04 Apr 2008 08:25:07 +0000 Johninnit Ni This is very interesting: IBM to host private Second Life regions(hat tip SLLU).

IBM are planning to host their own little Second Life as a corporate intranet. Previously all SL regions were held on Linden Lab servers, but for a company with sensitive internal information (and one wanting the world to actually work properly when their residents are on paid time), this could have been a bit of a stumbling block.

Soon though, IBM will be able to scale back its sprawling campus on SL, leaving it just for marketing and more public interaction, and bring the internal functions that they are pioneering back behind their own firewall.

Employees leave their Second Life private lives every morning, and teleport in from the club they were at last night, or their own little 512 on the mainland (no doubt donning a more sober suit as they do so). They can produce and circulate work all day in the virtual office, safe knowing it’s behind security that they control – no more pesky interruptions ;)

If this takes off, other companies will be doing it too. You could have a meeting at Microsoft, say, and just teleport across to a permitted section of their private conference centre to work on files which then stay inside Microsoft’s world.

And then in the evening, the whole work campus knocks off and goes down the virtual pub together, taking their avatars out of the private world to mix with everyone else at one of SL’s public hotspots.

Of course, some of the staff may opt instead to stay behind for a meeting in the virtual union office that they negotiated with the employer, in the same way they negotiate use of real world facilities on the employer’s premises ;)

Given that IBM are in the business of making sims for other people, they are also doing this with an eye to developing virtual worlds for other corporate clients. With a strong business advocate like IBM behind it, this idea could go a long way quite quickly.

The portability of indentity is an interesting issue here too. Other social networks like Facebook have had to deal with this for a while – the idea that offline you are expected to behave more ‘professionally’ in your work life than your private life, but once everything is written down online, there’s nowhere to hide, and employers have to face up to the fact that their staff are actually real people in their spare time. Of course it goes without saying that this can have complications for the employment relationship (and has in many cases).

SL has for most users been more of a roleplay environment, where you don’t have to admit who you are, or even be the same personality (or gender, or species). Taking your av to work, with all the social pressures that could bring in an environment where everyone knows you’re not really a tiger, could mean either an employer being much more tolerant of staff individuality, or people having to develop multiple identities, roleplaying real life within a roleplay fantasy (I predict many hurt heads – especially mine!)

And what will the big increase in corporate n00bs (as everyone gets given an av as they join the firm) do to the after-hours scene in SL? Could be interesting, as people will be forced to stay with it for their jobs’ sake and may in time grow to use public worlds more often too, bucking SL’s 90% new member dropout trend.

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Bonus Monday at NWN Tue, 18 Mar 2008 13:44:40 +0000 Johninnit Ni It must have been bonus Monday yesterday at the seminal SL blog New World Notes, with not one but two whole articles about real world company uses of Second Life.

NWN rounds up some of SL travel blogger Garth Goode’s reviews of IT companies’ presences in Second Life, from slick marketing promotions, through customer interaction spaces (albeit empty ones), to conducting business online first and foremost, he’s uncovered some interesting stories.

And there’s also an interesting video and write-up of the Spain-Vietnam Investment and Business Cooperation Forum, a mixed-reality expo event to promote Spanish technology and manufacturing in Vietnam’s growing business sector, and allow more people to interact with the event than can make it to Ho Chi Minh City.

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Will we miss meetings? Mon, 21 Jan 2008 16:16:15 +0000 Johninnit Ni A short article in The Hindu’s Business Line about IBM’s corporate use of virtual worlds, including international team meetings in Second Life:

“People use their avatars to immerse themselves in the meeting. Despite being scattered around the globe, they can come together in a way that is more like an in-person meeting. Creating a collaborative culture across a diverse and global workforce is the best way to achieve common goals.” – Simon Thomas, CRM Leader, IBM India

This would seem to echo some of the conclusions of Forrester’s recent research. As more people work in multi-national and multi-organisational teams, and more people work from home or remote locations, we’ll need to look for more ways to recapture the sense of being a team that might otherwise be lost.

Could virtual worlds be the way forward for those of us who are missing the meetings?

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Your workplace in 5 years… Thu, 10 Jan 2008 12:12:13 +0000 Johninnit Ni Interesting reports of a report from Forrester Research. They’ve looked five years into the future and reckon that virtual worlds will be a natural environment for real everyday work for many people.

Despite the difficulties in using current technologies (SL included), they see virtual worlds as a pretty much inevitable development:

Virtual worlds like Second Life,, and more business-focused offerings are on the brink of becoming valuable work tools. Major companies and public-sector organizations — such as BP, IBM, Intel, and the US Army — are investing heavily in virtual world technologies. But it’s still early, pioneering days. You’ve practically got to be a gamer to use most of these tools — setup can be arduous, navigating in a 3-D environment takes practice, and processing and bandwidth requirements remain high. But within five years, the 3-D Internet will be as important for work as the Web is today. Information and knowledge management professionals should begin to investigate and experiment with virtual worlds. (Forrester)

Forrester have identified 4 main scenarios for work applications:

  • Saving on travel costs for meetings and networking – link up more people than possible before, and for less money
  • Saving on buying expensive machinery for training – use a simulator instead, and keep the costly kit for the trained practitioners
  • Replicating the experience of working with other – particularly good for teleworkers, including training
  • Role playing exercises – especially on disaster management issues that you really wouldn’t want to try recreating in real life

Of course, five years is a long time, and SL might not even still be around then, let alone still a major contender in virtual worlds, but this kind of futurism is pretty useful, and we’d agree with the idea that we need to test out today’s tools to some degree, in order to seize the opportunity when it really arises.

You can buy the report online from Forrester for $279 – unfortunately we’re not talking Linden Dollars either, so we won’t be getting a copy ourselves :(

If you’re as skint as us, you can read interesting writeups in CIO magazine and in ComputerWorld.

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Through the keyhole… Thu, 20 Dec 2007 13:13:04 +0000 Unionisland Republic IBM in SL

Have a look at this photo story on from earlier this year about some of the blue-chip companies with a presence in Second Life. Screengrabs from IBM, Dell, Intel, Toyota, AOL, Samsung and others.

Picture credit: Second Life/Linden Lab

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Business networking in SL Wed, 05 Dec 2007 14:03:34 +0000 Johninnit Ni Interesting article in The Australian on blue chip companies’ plans to conduct internal networking in Second Life (hat tip: workblogging).

The companies mentioned, Westpac and Deloitte, seem to be impressed with the way that talking to an avatar of a colleague in another country can break down barriers for people who might otherwise not engage so fully, or who might not even get a chance to engage.

Here is Westpac’s CIO, David Backley:

“It helps overcome the difficulty of communicating to 30,000 people, and the difficulty of getting people together from different locations and time zones to disseminate information. It also simplifies issues such as the amount of training you need to provide and the information to be provided. We saw it as a way of getting information out without the flying, driving and time-consuming travel to a central location.”

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