I Didn’t Know You Had a Mohawk

Alan BelniakVirtual WorldsLeave a Comment

In the fall of 2007, I participated in an experiential class at Babson, called Second Life and Entrepreneurship. The main intent of the class was to see if Second Life could be used as a successful education medium, and to see what lessons that we collectively and collaboratively would learn. Most of the class members were newbies to Second Life, so simply getting around and navigating was a challenge, but it was fun. Our main deliverable was to pick some entrepreneurial or business idea, and tie it back to Second Life. Could the idea be prototyped and tested in Second Life? Was it a business inside Second Life? Was Second Life a platform for the business?

Two other members and I chose to examine the merging of social networking service (SNS) platforms and Second Life avatars. Knowing that the various SNS platforms cater to different demographics of users, the manner in which one displays oneself online can vary from person to person. Further, the way that one person displays themselves in one SNS can vary from another SNS (think LinkedIn and MySpace). See the hyperlink below to view the presentation – it’s only ten content slides, plus a title and Q&A slide.

The Business Idea: Second Life as a Social Network Aggregator

Instead of having to maintain several identities, what if a user could take those various SNS profiles and point them to one avatar in Second Life? Once inside Second Life, those members inside a person’s particular SNS would see that person’s avatar’s appearance as it was created it for that view (think multiple personalities, and always showing the one you want, to whom you want to show). We created the concept of a virtual ‘den’ – a space inside Second Life that reveals a bit of your character, but not too much. As you invite friends into your SNSs, they see various portions of your den – music, pictures, scribbling and quotations – based on what you permit them to see, and all themed to the SNS in which they belong. And they see your avatar dressed or displayed in a pre-defined way, again based on what you have defined for members of that SNS (think suit and tie for members of your LinkedIn SNS, and a green Mohawk for your MySpace SNS members). If you have multiple people in your den at any given time, Second Life handles the rendering of the display of your avatar to your friends – no need for you to change it.

We delivered the presentation inside Second Life, which was fun and challenging, in and of itself. Many of our classmates expertly delivered their presentations in a Second Life auditorium, complete with seats, a stage, and a large projected screen. We decided to buck the trend, and set up a series of billboards (single presentation screens) in a vertically-arranged, inverted horseshoe (see the two pictures). We started the presentation on the ground, and then flew – as only one can in Second Life – up, over, and then back down, passing by all of our billboards (slides) and verbally delivering the content. It was great, because if a spectator wanted to linger a bit longer on one of the slides, they could. Our audio track kept going, and permitted the straggler to catch up (think walking in a museum, and lingering to look at one display while the group moves on ahead a bit). It was well-received, and we learned a bit about Second Life and virtual worlds, and the process of presenting inside Second Life.