Corporations in virtual worlds

There has been a fair amount written over the last couple years of corporation running public presentations and employee communication sessions in virtual world such as SecondLife. Some of the largest users have been IBM, Sun Microsystems and Cisco, however most fo this work seems to have been public type presentations.

A couple of weeks ago Nortel conducted internal presentation using a prototype “virtual mixed-reality world”. This environment joined together several technologies such as voice, corporate security and identity management.

Everything was linked to our telecom infrastructure, corporate security and identity management systems. In other virtual reality experiences, like Second Life or multi-player on-line gaming systems, you need to go into their footprint and are limited by their capabilities. For example, although a name may be attached to an Avatar, you have no way of really knowing who that individual is in the real world. Yesterday, the virtual experience (complete with high-quality spatial audio) became part of our own IT ecosystem.

What will be interesting is how these environments scale, which is something Second Life has struggled with for years. Where each island (read server) is limited to about 50 simultaneous users which makes management of large scale events very difficult.

However these types of technologies (telepresence, virtual worlds etc) once mainstream will have a profound impact on the way organisations operate in the future, think learning and collaboration.

We need a red pill for the organisation

Yesterday I caved and went back to Twitter, yes I know I am weak but that is a whole other story. There was a conversation about the red vs blue pill in the Matrix, remember the red one you learn the truth while the blue one you go on living the lie. I got inspired popped the DVD in, then I had a thought.

If you remember the movie once the machines took over they used humans as their endless supply of energy, growing them in fields, then keeping the human minds under control by through the use of the Matrix.

I started thinking it is similar to how organisations operate, they have universities where graduates are conditioned into a certain way of thinking, without which organisations claim graduates are not ready to enter the workplace. From day one a new graduate just falls in line, generating the power the organisation requires. If not they labeled “unconventional” or even worse”managed out” only to then turn into an Entrepreneur and disrupt the core market of that very organisation. Management practices and hierarchies are in place to keep us and our minds under control.

For people in the know, if you have ever tried to explain it to someone you get this stare. You know they feel like Alice, tumbling down the rabbit hole, accepting what they see and hear cause they know they will to wake up. Just like Neo as he begins to learn about the Matrix.

We need a Red Pill to help employees understand the whole web 2.0, social networks, collaboration, transparency, Cluetrain thing! Thereby allowing their minds to be freed from the shackles of the organisation.

While a simple red pill would make it easier to open people’s minds to the new world, we would still need to help their minds accept the new world, just like Neo has trouble first accepting being out of the Matrix.

What generation are you?

I have been posting a bit about the whole Generation debate/issue over the last few months, and so have a lot of people if the Google Trends graph is correct.

One such post is Penelope Trunk’s on What generation are you part of, really? Take this test. Which basically states your generation is not 100% defined by your birth date, it’s more about who you are and what you do. To help us figure things out Penelope has created a quick survey to work out where you stand. Not sure it is 100% scientific but I would guess it provides a good base line.

Add up your points to figure out what generation you’re really a part of:

  • Do you have your own web page? (1 point)
  • Have you made a web page for someone else? (2 points)
  • Do you IM your friends? (1 point)
  • Do you text your friends? (2 points)
  • Do you watch videos on YouTube? (1 point)
  • Do you remix video files from the Internet? (2 points)
  • Have you paid for and downloaded music from the Internet? (1 point)
  • Do you know where to download free (illegal) music from the Internet? (2 points)
  • Do you blog for professional reasons? (1 point)
  • Do you blog as a way to keep an online diary? (2 points)
  • Have you visited MySpace at least five times? (1 point)
  • Do you communicate with friends on Facebook? (2 points)
  • Do you use email to communicate with your parents? (1 point)
  • Did you text to communicate with your parents? (2 points)
  • Do you take photos with your phone? (1 point)
  • Do you share your photos from your phone with your friends? (2 points)

0-1 point – Baby Boomer
2-6 points – Generation Jones
6- 12 points – Generation X
12 or over – Generation Y

I scored 20 out of a possible 22, so I guess I am Gen Y at heart.

I am not sure I agree with the scores and think they are a little to “low” and would allow many non Gen X/Y into the categories. So I re jigged them:

4 or less – Baby Boomer
5 to 10 – Generation Jones/Baby Boomer
11 to 15 – Generation X
16 or over – Generation Y

Always on connectivity and management

I wrote about hyperconnectivity a few days ago which is essentially a technology trend, but it is and will continue to have a profound impact on management both professional and personal. The basic issue is with everything always connected and communicating where does one draw the line?

Let’s take the obvious examples, BlackBerry’s and personal email.

I walk around the office these days and people seem to be always checking personal web based email during work hours. 10-15 years ago back in the days when personal phone calls were monitored, this would be unacceptable. But today management in most “knowledge worker” organisations seem to have accepted that personal email will get checked.

A side note IT organisations have a paradox to manage, they don’t want the work email system filled with personal emails, however personal web based emails allow for virus ladened files to be easily deposited into the corporation.

The BlackBerry and other push email devices have taken over our personal lives. I walk around shopping centres, restaurants, parks etc and there we have people checking work emails. Spouses, kids and friends are ignored while the process takes place. Again a portion of society now seems to accept that this will take place.

I haven’t even begun to touch on RSS readers, SMS messages, blogs, mobile phones but the same is true for all.

It is only going to get worse.

Over the last few weeks Microsoft in the UK set up a tree house in a park in down town London to show that with all this great new technology people can work anywhere, at anytime. They even have a new name for this type of work Moof, “Mobile out of office” with a blog. Where is the balance?

Web Worker Daily wrote about Busy vs Burst working styles back in April, based on James Governor’s post , a FastForward post, and a post from Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee. The basic idea across all posts is that we have a clash of cultures brewing around how work actually gets done in the workplace. Web Worker Daily summed it up nicely:-

Busy: Show your face during all standard working hours.
Burst: If you produce what you need to, we don’t care when you do it or how long it takes.

The bursty style can only succeed when you have an always on environment.

Here are a few questions I think we need to explore.

  1. As a manager how do you control both, personal and professional so one doesn’t take over the other?
  2. How do we manage the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies” James Governor talks about?
  3. How do we measure productivity of the “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkies”?
  4. Do we need to change the definition of productivity?
  5. How do you recruit a “social/knowledge/collaboration tool junkie”, what would the job description look like?
  6. How do we explain to the Busy people that the Burst people are actually getting their work done?
  7. If Bursty people can, or are perceived to, get their jobs done so quickly, should we expect more productivity out of them during 9 to 5?

There are some easy answers to some of the questions but I feel once we add everything together management is going to get very interesting.

Hyperconnectivity and the Semantic web

This is another half thought out post where I am “throwing mud against the wall to see what sticks”.

(Disclosure I work for Nortel, and they in no way support, or sponsor/endorse this blog, all the comments are personal.)

One of the big trends Nortel, and others, see in the coming years is hyperconnectivity, where more and more devices are connected to the internet. There has been lots of talk both internally to Nortel and externally over the last 6 months on topic, with a recent CIO article and press releases and an feature article. There is now even a Wikipedia article which defines hyperconnectivity as:-

Hyperconnectivity is an accelerating market trend in which all things that can or should communicate through the network will communicate through the network. This encompasses person-to-person, person-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication. It is fueling huge increases in bandwidth demand and changes in communications because of the complexity, diversity and integration of new applications and devices using the network.

One of the keys to this hyperconnectivity, besides lots of bandwidth and devices, will be communication enabled applications. These applications maybe traditional people to people/people to machines or machine to machine agent based applications. For example there are now 3.25 billion mobile phones in the world, and with phones adding technology such as WiFi and using high speed data access the phone will move form being just a voice communication device to a unified communication device. Phones now have RSS readers, push email, Skype, mobile interfaces for tools like gCal, Twitter. Another example is the growth in consumer electronics that are now being connected to the network, for example WiFi photo frames. Finally we have mashable services being produced such as Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly, and FaceBook APIs/Applications. These applications/tools/services will be used on and by lots and lots of different devices.

For me this hyper-communication is a foundation layer that is needed to move us towards the semantic web, if you disagree that it is not a foundation layer then at least it is a result of the semantic web, almost a chicken and the egg thing.

The semantic web is an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which web content can be expressed not only in natural language, but also in a form that can be read and used by software agents, thus permitting them to find, share and integrate information more easily.

For us to have communication enabled applications, and the semantic web, I also see that we need more support for Microformats and other tools that are designed for humans first and machines second, and above all are simple! These tools will allow for more inter application and device communication. (Microformats is a little project that has been going now for 2 years and is finally gaining momentum with some great example of microformat implementations.)

EmployeescreenIQ provides background checks to employers globally.

Real cool technology

Two very cool things I found today.

Google Map’s new Street View as a major source of distraction, the privacy issues with this are going to be huge, in the meantime it is very cool.

The second was from Duncan Riley’s post on Techcrunch about Microsoft’s Surface Computer (I’m kind of behind on the tech news).

My initial reaction to the surface computers was WOW, when can I get one!

Watching the different videos floating around I started to see how the deployment of these surfaces being a major change in how we work with technology. They can be integrated into tables, kitchen benches, walls, desks, hotels etc. The mutitouch technology is very slick not to mention the object recognition. Object recognition part allows you to paint with a paint brush, transfer music, pictures and videos between devices.

In the future we will…

I find futurists fascinating. From their wild ideas to which I think “no way” or their ideas which seems so obvious that I go “of course that will happen” they stretch my understanding of what the future holds.

One such is Ian Neild who is visiting Australia at the moment to attend Borderless World Conference, asking what will the world be like in 60 years when today’s kids are all grown up.

“In the next 60 years, nanotechnology and biotechnology will have impacts on our lives that might seem like magic to us, but will be quite normal to our children’s children”

Mr Neild released a 60 year timeline a couple of years ago with some really wild ideas including some things a lot closer to home.

What I find interesting is what will the workplace be like in 60 year, how will we have to recruit, what skills will be required, is the education system able to cope, and what will the management practices be?

Seems to me we will have much bigger issues than just Gen Y in the workforce, but it will be fun.


Nigel James reflects on 20 years since he left school with an invitation to his 20 year reunion back in Australia. Yes I agree Nigel a 13 hour flight is shorter than 26, but when you are in the middle of a 9 hour flight anything over 2 hours makes you feel like a sardine! :-)James’s last paragraph made me think, very soon it will be 20 years since I left high school as well, what have I done?

All this sort of stuff can tend to make you a bit reflective and could tip one into a mid-life crisis if you let it! It certainly drags some of the memories back and makes you think about the next 20 years. This is a good thing. I certainly have lot to be thankful for and while there are good memories back there and it would be great to catch up with all the guys 20 years on, I am focusing on the next 20. There is far too much going on at the moment to be pining for the good-old-days. The future is bright…

Stop and reflect on the last 20 years give yourself a quick performance review.


Rating 1 to 5

where 1 is poor & 5 is great


How did you go? I have put this reflection on the list to do during my upcoming weekly review.

How many people are online?

During the recent discussion on “Do You Need a Resume?” we were reminded that not everyone is online or knows how to find you online. Many people are still scared of technology, don’t understand it or are just plain ignorant of what can be achieved. (This is not just in the workplace many of our schools are like this as well, but that is a whole other discussion.)

Tim Bray, a geek from Sun and major contributor to XML, provided a perspective on how small this hip, cool and connected community really is, when he asked just how big is this club, in a recent post.

We who read (and write) blogs and play with the latest Internet Trinkets (and build them) have been called an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors, a teeny geeky minority whose audience is itself.

In March, I gave a keynote at Web Design World in San Francisco. Frankly, it did not go that well; in particular, the crowd didn’t laugh at my jokes. Here’s one of them, more or less: “Being a Web Guy at Sun is a little intimidating. At high level strategy meetings the Chip Guys talk about what they’ll be shipping in 2009, and both the OS Guys and Java Guys talk about things a year or two out. As for us Web Guys, well… three weeks ago, I didn’t know that Twitter would become the Hot New Thing.”

It became apparent that most of them hadn’t heard of Twitter. The same joke (I’m a slow learner) fell flat at a meeting of University IT and Computer Science people a week later in Calgary. So let’s take this as evidence of the insularity and smallness—and, perhaps, unimportance—of the Internet In-crowd.

Do this means without a resume or forcing people to find you online means you might be missing out on the greatest job in the world? Maybe.

But many readers would say that they don’t want to work for such an organisation. I think you should. Why? Working for a unenlightened organisation might just be the challenge you need. Because the benefit to the community is huge.

Let me explain.

For us who are online all know about the power of social networks and hence why they are becoming the biggest thing on the internet. Geeks in the audience would know that this power is caused by Metcalfe’s law “which states that the value of a (telecommunications) network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system (n2).”

Therefore the more people that come online the more power for us all. So go work for a company that does not know how to find your blog, wants a hard copy resume and show them to power.

We really need to do this we need to work at closing the digital divide, John Udell explains why.

What’s more, I believe this tribe is, over time, growing farther away from the rest of the world. That’s happening for an interesting and important reason, which is that the tools we are building and using are accelerating our ability to build and use more of these tools. It’s a virtuous cycle in that sense, and it’s the prototype for methods of Net-enabled collaboration that can apply to everyone.

However to communicate to the “others” we need to be careful we don’t alienate them in the process. John provides, for me, a small insight on how to do this, tell stories.

How do you talk to everyone about the transformative benefits of the technologies we’re so excited about, in ways that don’t make people flip the bozo switch and tune you out? How do you tell stories that make the benefits of the technology come alive for people, in ways they can understand, without overwhelming them with technical detail, but at the same time without dumbing down your explanation of the technology?

Don’t know how to tell a story? Listen to Anna Farmery’s latest podcast on just that topic.

Did You Know video follow up post

A couple of weeks I posted about a video called “Did You Know“, the video has done the rounds on blogs but few people (that I have seen) been able to point out the source.

Today via SoulSoup I found the source of the video, the original presentation and the source documents for the statistics.

The original presentation came from Karl Fisch, he provides some background on how the presentation came to life.

Karl has also posted the sources, note in his original post he makes updates to some of the content based on not being able to find an independent source.

Scott Mcleod put the video together that many of us have seen, and in the process making some changes from the original presentation.

You can also find 2 other presentations done by Karl “What If” and “2020 Vision” along with the profound posts that go with, What If and 2020 Vision.What If covers the age old question of back in my day…, and how all this new technology is ruining our children 😉

2020 Vision looks back at our future from the year 2020, it is fictional and contains predictions. Some great food for thought for all educators, parents, training professionals and even IT managers.

Oh and I really want an eyeMAGINE!