Dear Linden Labs,
Your article on "How Meeting in Second Life Transformed IBM's Technology Elite Into Virtual World Believers" was a great example of how Second Life has changed the world of business for the better. In the article, you described the initial meeting in Second Life for a meeting and how this triggered the involvement of more employees and more meetings for the future. I feel that the comfort that people felt inside of these meetings as avatars was quite impressive. Many of the employees had seemed to have enjoyed meeting others inside the virtual world and even staying after to "lay on the hammock". I feel that this presence of comfort and happiness is a great addition to a business as a whole. It's one thing when a business has top level managers that are able to run the company; however, it is even better when a company can involve and inhibit interaction among every level of employees. As the article hints, it is very difficult to sometimes get a conference call or video call going because of different schedules and time barriers. What I thought was very interesting was the description of the costs that IBM has been saving. Besides saving costs of $250,000 in venue and travel costs, there was also savings in opportunity costs, or deeds that are given up or prohibited because of the act of another deed. Positively, because of the easiness and quickness of the beginning and ending of meetings in virutal worlds, productivity gains increased for employees when they would have had to use that time to travel home or back to work if they had been in a regular face to face meeting. All of these benefits seem worth it, but it is definitely important to weigh the costs before continuing to create more meetings in virtual worlds. There are certain questions such as is everyone actually getting involved while in the meeting over the computer inside of Second Life? Are some people using these meetings as ways to get their online shopping done on a different screen than Second Life? In face to face meetings, some of these questions can be eliminated. This article touches upon the GOOD and even the GREAT parts about using virtual worlds in business, but that does not necessarily mean there are no negatives. Many companies should look into the negatives of virtual worlds on their business before putting these online group conferences into play.
Edward Castranova's article, "Synthetic Worlds- Implications and Policies", did not touch upon the ins and outs of a specific company in a virtual world, but did touch upon the positives and negatives that can come from virtual worlds especially video games and the advancements that have come about through virutal worlds, as well. Castranova does something a little differently, however. The author provides examples where this use of virtual world can be more expanded than it already is in today's world. In his article, Castranova uses his grandmother "Meemaw" as an example of how virtual worlds can be enhanced. The author wishes for his grandmother to be able to put on a pair of glasses and see him and his family which live far away from her. This idea brings about the subject of relationships in virtual worlds that he touches upon, as well. For a couple who is made of two people that do not both use virtual worlds, a relationship can be easily diminished. One person may be too involved in their virtual world while the other person does not understand it. Yet, there can also be a brighter side to virtual worlds with relationships and that is one which breaks the social barrier. Many people are shy in real life and there are also many stereotypes in our world based on skin color, hair color, size, shape, religion, etc. With virtual worlds where people become their own avatar (an avatar can be of any size, shape, color you want), people have the chance to be who they want to be and not care as much about what someone looks like in real life because it may not be the same as their avatar. With these thoughts in mind, virtual worlds can be beneficial to the human race because of social interacton and quickness of results in a business. Nonetheless, there is still tons and tons of "virtual-biz" that has not been found yet. Many advancements can still be made in the future to ease the use of these virtual worlds and find them beneficial in all aspects.