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The SL Economy and the Worldwide Economy

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Very well… thank you very much!

First Quarter results were released today in the Linden Blog. Highlights of the quarter include:

  • 124 Million User Hours, an increase of 42% from the same quarter last year
  • Peak concurrent users of 88,200, an increase of 33% from the same quarter last year
  • 120M in user-to-user transactions, up 65% from the same quarter last year
  • The Islandmarket has stabilized, although overall square meters of resident owned Land has decreased
  • Gross sales on the Xstreet SL marketplace grew 23% over Q4 of 2008 and 72% over the same quarter last year

Growth numbers of ranging from 23% to 75% are impressive for any business in any economic cycle. The fact that Linden is posting these numbers during this economy is extraordinary, though not unexpected. IMHO, the following factors in the corporate training community are adding wind to SL sails:

Travel Budgets: While there are many elements that drive the SL economy, the fact that travel budgets have been slashed, if not completely eliminated, plays into the hands of SL, which allows companies to continue training sessions and meetings without touching their travel budget.

Small Business: Because there are few (if any) established 800 pound guerillas in SL, small businesses are flourishing. Small businesses are suffering in the US because of the credit crunch. In SL, the barriers to entry are low (other than time spent on the learning curve). The low cost of start-ups means that bank financing is unnecessary, and therefore the credit crunch does not impact as many small business in SL

Free Time: Displaced employees are seeing SL as an opportunity to grow their skills without paying tuition or spending hours and hours in a physical classroom. It would be rare for an employee to be commended for spending time in SL while at work. Now that so many people, unfortunately, out of work, they are less hesitant to tune in and turn on.

Why Wonderland May Fall Short

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It is easier for a competitor in its early stages to promise many of the advances discussed in the last blog entry. Of course, large questions remain with regard to Wonderland’s ability to deliver on its promises. The challenges include:

Too Few Developers within Sun: Wonderland remains in the research phase and there are only 8 developers within Sun working on the project. (Recently fixes were delayed because the 2 developers working on the project went on vacation…)

Small External Development Community: So far Wonderland has not been able to attract an external development community comparable to OpenSim and SL.

Budget: Sun’s current business challenges (and possible acquisition by IBM) may stop the project in its tracks.

That being said, there remains a great deal of excitement surrounding Wonderland, and it is worth it to keep an eye on its progress over the next year or so.

Wonderland is Wonderful

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I just attended a meeting in Second Life where SunMicrosystems’ Nicole Yankelovich described Sun’s Wonderland 0.5, which is planned to be released this summer. While a 0.5 version in any software program demonstrates that it is in its earliest stages, Wonderland is trying to address many of the concerns corporate training departments have expressed about Second Life.

Some examples:

Firewall Issues: While SL is planning to release a version that can exist “behind the firewall,” Wonderland has been built from the ground up with the intention of existing behind the firewall.

Remote Access: In SL, employees who do not have access to a computer are not able to participate in meetings. Sun has addressed this issue by creating an inworld phone system where people can call in and attend the meeting. While it is obviously more beneficial to have everyone inworld during the meeting, this dial in approach at least allows employees to participate at some level.

Business Tool Focus: Because Wonderland is focused on business and education, it includes tools built specifically for those purposes and therefore incorporates powerpoint slides, white boards, Web integration and data visualization.

Multiple Conversations: SL started with text chat communication and then integrated voice. Wonderland has been built with a focus on voice chat. Therefore they have developed tools such as a microphone that allows front of the room speakers to extend the reach of their voice, while attendees can reduce the extent of their voice projection so that they can essentially conduct IM Voice Chats.

While these are interesting developments, Wonderland has a long way to go before it overtakes Second Life. Tomorrow we will discuss some of the limitations of Wonderland that may prevent it from reaching a 1.0 level…

SNI in SL: Learning in the Virtual World of SecondLife

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SNI has developed a presence in Secondlife to deliver content without the expense and hassle of travelling to a training progam. SNI’s founder, Mark Jankowski, has emerged as one of the industries thought leaders on using the virtual world to enhance the learning experience for SNI clients.

Listening Tips for Negotiators

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When we teach people to be more effective negotiators, we tend to focus on our Three Ps – Preparation, Probing and Proposing. Perhaps even more important than these threeskills is being a good listener. This area is often neglected because few people think that there is skill in listening, and even more believe it is inheritied and cannot be learned. It is assumed that if I hear what you say that I’m also listening to what you say. This is a bad assumption. Here are ideas and comments about listening that might help you improve your abilities in this often neglected area.

Learn Your Blind Spots – These are words, ideas, and topics we have strong feelings about and, therefore, tend not to be able to listen to very well. We become over-excited by them and stop listening. Alternatively, we become angry, frustrated, or simply refuse to hear and block them out. Try to identify three of these “blind spots” and consciously work to listen when they arise in conversation.

The “Rehearsal Effect” – Most of us are wrapped up in our own lives and we find it boring and painful to let someone else talk. We are absorbed in self-concern. I recall reading in Carnegies “How to Win Friends and Influence People that Dale Carnegie was regarded as a great “conversationalist” by a woman to whom he merely questioned and then listened to her responses intently. Try to enjoy the part of the conversation where you are learning about the other side!

Speed of Thought – The difference in the time it takes to talk and the time it takes to listen is another barrier to effective listening. The average speaker delivers at about 140 words per minute. The average listener, on the other hand, can listen comfortably at about 300 words per minute. Instead of using the time differential to analyze the speaker’s message, we tend to fade out, day dream, think about other things we have to do, or plan what we want to say next. The only way to combat this is to try and jot down brief notes when listening…this activity will use the remaining excess”bandwidth” in your brain.

Distracted by Speaker Behaviors – Most people do not talk in a very organized fashion. Speakers tend to “think out loud” and grope for the idea they want to convey. This process often causes us to give up trying to decipher their message. Other reasons listeners may tune us out include irritating mannerisms and talking a long time. Ask paraphraing questions thoughout, and summarize what you heard to fight this tendency.

Focus on Body Language – Approximately two-thirds of a speaker’s message in any conversation is not contained in the words themselves. It is instead conveyed by the speaker’s tone of voice, body language, and word tense. Listening only for the words and not for the feelings behind them is another common listening problem. So listen for the meaning behind the words and ask questions about what you observe.

Distractions – Disruptions in our environment can affect our ability to focus on what the speaker is saying. Some typical examples of disruptive factors in work environments which could impair your ability to listen effectively include ringing phones, slamming doors, people walking in and out, street noises, etc. If you are engaged in an important conversation, try to have it in a prvate area with minimal distractions.