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Second Life: the campaign for real life

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Comment I received an email yesterday from the IBM analyst relations which read:

We are evaluating various forms of communication that would be effective, but also enjoyable and a change of pace. Could you please take a few moments to tell me:
  1. are you presently a member of Second Life, the 3D virtual world?
  2. if so, do you have an avatar (persona)?
  3. would you be interested in receiving IT Analyst storage briefings in Second Life?(We would offer you a choice of Second Life versus standard briefings via teleconference.)
  4. any additional comments

Margaret N Taylor Senior Program Manager IBM Storage IT Analyst Relations

My initial response was to write back simply asking the question "What makes you think that this is a good idea?" After a few moments thought, I decided to add a lengthier public response.....

Dear IBM

Let me first bitch about a minor detail in the email you sent. Question 2 is redundant. If you are a member of Second Life you have an avatar, unless (and this is unlikely in the extreme) you joined Second Life and found the procedure for creating an avatar too difficult. If you are trying to convince me that you are "hip" to Second Life, then you have disappointed me.

I do have an avatar. It goes by the name of Audacious Carbuncle. This isn't it's name in Second Life, by the way, that's its pseudonym in First Life (a.k.a. reality). I prefer to keep its Second Life name secret. No point in spending time in Second Life if people are going to know who I am. (Yes you can brief me as long as you don't know who I am).

Last November I published an article on Second Life which began "I was speaking to someone in the publishing industry who said they recently had to sack one of their staff. The problem was that the individual concerned (a woman) appeared to have lost contact with reality. She weighed 350 pounds, had become unproductive and had begun to insist that her colleagues referred to her by her Second Life avatar's name rather than her real name. The primary reason for her being "let go" was she spent too much work time in Second Life."

I doubt that this woman's Second Life avatar looked anything like her first life manifestation, but who knows, maybe it did. More likely it was pure fantasy. Fantasy and reality don't actually combine well. Haven't you noticed? Maybe that's why marketing folk are so enthused about Second Life.

The current issue of The Economist mentions Second Life and notes that ...

Edward Castronova of Indiana University estimates that sex is "a substantial portion, perhaps even the majority" of economic transactions in Second Life. (Users must first buy genitalia for their avatars, who otherwise resemble Barbie and Ken dolls when unclothed.)

Nevertheless, IBM, it's easy to understand your enthusiasm for Second Life and in some respects it makes sense to me. You recently announced a project that integrates your Cell processor (the highly parallel games chip that Sony used in the PlayStation 3) with the mainframe. Your rationale for this is to create a high performance hybrid that can handle the "virtual world" applications of the future. You clearly think that virtual world interfaces are going to proliferate and, sadly, I think you're on the money.

"As online environments increasingly incorporate aspects of virtual reality, including 3D graphics and lifelike, real-time interaction among many simultaneous users, companies of all types will need a computing platform that can handle a broad spectrum of demanding performance and security requirements," said Jim Stallings, General Manager, IBM System z.

The question I have is whether your coming mainframe will actually look like a mainframe. And if it does, will it also have a Second Life avatar that doesn't look like that at all, but instead looks like an iMac with a 24" screen that is coloured Day-Glo pink and winks at you constantly.

So what do I think of being briefed about your storage products in Second Life? Sure I'd like it, as long as the briefing takes place in this topless bar I've discovered in Second Life, where some of the avatars brief each other in outrageous virtual ways.

Meanwhile, back in reality, I'm going to start a campaign for real life. Let's not go down this crazy rabbit hole.

Yours Sincerely

Audacious Carbuncle

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