SLCC 2009 - Friday

This was a great day! I've learned a lot in the sessions, but what's amazing was meeting more people I've known for a couple of years or so. And I realized that the Second Life community is really small. Well, at least the hard-core community, those of use who are serious about the platform.

Business track: SL pay rates

After finding the schedule online (which was difficult, by the way, and is surprisingly found in, instead of in the Second Life official web), I decided I wanted to focus on the Business Track, but I was also interested in a few other sessions in the other tracks. So, in the morning (I got up too late to catch the keynote speech by Ray Kurzweil), I went to a couple of sessions in the business track. The first one was a panel discussion on why pay rate tends to be very low in Second Life compared to real life pay rates. Unfortunately, the panelists mostly had the why's, but not much on how to bring it up to real world rates, or, in fact, whether it *should* be on par with real world rates. It was a very good group of panelists who made great observations and insights on the why's, but it seems that we're all focused on the business owner's side of things. What I think we need is more economists looking from a higher perspective and analyzing the effects of pay rates on the future of the SL economy. It is a complex issue and there may not be a "right answer".

During the session, a young man, who seemed very familiar, walked in, and it took me a couple of seconds to remember where I've seen him before. It was Philip Rosedale! I had not seen him before in person, only in video, but it's surprising that the brain makes these strong connections. I guess it *does* make a compelling case for internet marketing, but that's a discussion for another day's blog.

The second session was more about the enterprise and SL, and I wasn't as much interested in it as I used to be. To be honest, I think Linden Lab is disproportionately focused on its enterprise customer, which I think they define as large corporations or organizations. That's understandable, there's more money there. However, in the current economy, the number of small- to medium-sized companies is growing, especially as people turn to self-employment after the layoffs in the past year. So, I think LL should pay more attention to that segment precisely because SL is a great platform for micro-entrepreneurship. Sure, not many people make a living out if it yet, but at the same time, the investment and the risk are very low. Those of us building these micro-businesses inworld are learning business skills in an environment where making mistakes are not as costly as they would be in a real-life venture.

Second Life is a great incubator for business ideas. And it doesn't necessarily have to be a purely in-world business. Just take a look at the fashion industry, for instance; designers who had their start inside Second Life are branching out into real-world fashion.

Hugging old friends in the music track

Two more enterprise sessions were scheduled after that, so I decided to look for the location of the music track sessions. I knew that Capos Calderwood (Alex Whitmore) and TallGuy Kidd (Dale Marsh), both of whom I met while they were in Seattle last month, would be in the convention, so I decided to look for them and say hi. Sure enough, as I was standing in the hallway, Capos walked by. After a hug, I followed him to the room they were in and listened in on the presentation.

The first person I recognized was EvaMoon Ember who was sitting closest to the door. As Capos went up to the front to prepare for his presentation, I joined their table, and TG saw me before I saw him. He still calls me by my main alt's name. :D Long story short, I also met Apple McKay (whom I originally met at Burning Life 2007), Katydid Something (whom I met at Molaskey's Pub), Dallas Horsefly (whose shows I followed a long time ago before she took a break; in fact, I met Capos at one of her shows, and it was Capos who introduced me to TG, and they both performed at the grand opening of my SkyWheels Galleria). It was funny because I recognized Dallas by her voice.

Anyway, I learned a few techie things about streaming. Capos's talk was about equipment and I had actually talked to him about that a long while ago, when I was thinking of doing voiceovers for a machinima group. But I learned a number of things about streaming in Ed Lowell's presentation.

Although I never talked with Ed inworld, I have been to several of his shows and met a very dear friend in one of them. I also realized that there were several people in the room with very familiar SL names.

(And then, Philip walked in and sat down in the middle of the presentation. But, again, he didn't stay long. I think I'll make it my goal to shake the man's hand at least once this weekend.)

What I've noticed is that the SL music community is a very close-knit community. They're very collaborative and very supportive of each other. I've seen a collaboration among fashion designers inworld, but it was an orchestrated event and I get a sense of a greater competitive spirit among fashion designers, in general. But, again, that's a blog for another day.

As we were heading out to pick up boxed lunches, I made a comment that I was basically following the business track but all my friends were in the music track. CoolCat Maximus(?) overheard me and replied that I needed an alt. :D

We picked up a box lunch before returning to the room for a break-out session on one of the streaming services. Because I got distracted in the lunch area, the table I was in was already full, so I went to the next table and met Ethelred Weatherwax. He owns a museum both inworld and outworld and he was there to learn about streaming to his land.

Fashion distraction

Anyway, the reason I got delayed in the lunchroom were the two tables set up. There was one with Hamlet Au, and I wanted to say hi, but the closer table was Avenue, so I decided to go there first. I thought it would be a brief stop.

I met Eshi Otakawa. She's one of the high profile haute couture designers in SL, but her name was only vaguely familiar to me. (I know, I know, I really should be more aware of fashion names in SL.) Next to her was the chief of marketing for Avenue (and darn it, I forgot her name and I can't look it up in a chat log) and next to *her* was the founder of Avenue, Rusch Raymaker. I had a great chat with them about the business side of the fashion industry and marketing in SL in general.

I didn't even have the time to visit Hamlet's table, but I'll catch him yet.

Education track with an old acquaintance

A couple of years ago, a friend talked about bringing his alma mater into Second Life. I thought about that too with my own alma mater. I think SL is just a natural choice of platform for business students to try their hands on business building.

So, I attended a session by JanythKY Techsan who talked about using SL to enhance bonding among students in distance learning courses. We did an exercise in the beginning (making a sandcastle out of Play Doh) and ended up chatting with my table mates, Einstein Linden and his friend Jhung(?). Sure enough, after that exercise, it's obvious that group activities help people get to know each other.

Later in the day, as I was browsing through the bios of the speakers, I realized that Janyth's alt could be someone whom I had met in Burning Life 2007 as well, and who is even in my friends list. I'll have to confirm with her when I see her again.

Back to business

The last two sessions I attended were back in the business track again. One was about triggering as many different brain neurons as you can in order for customers to have a relationship with your brand. The presenter, Lesele Rose, seemed more like an anthropologist type in the way she teaches, and it's a refreshing change.

But my table also had interesting people in it. I met Winter Johin, who's a teacher both in and out of SL, and Marshall(?) and Bob. I didn't get a chance to find out more about Marshall, except that he used to live in the Bay Area (Winter used to live in LA), but they're now on the eastern coast. Bob lives in the Bay Area and, in fact, works near the St. Francis hotel, so it was just a short walk for him. I'll be contacting Winter again to chat more about education in SL too.

Note to self: I need to sharpen my memory again. I'm so used to depending on chat logs and notes in profiles to remind me of people I've talked to and what we talked about.

Finally, fashion again

The last session in the business track had Ina Centaur and Eshi talk about themselves and their fashion businesses. Ina's name is more familiar to me than Eshi's. Eshi's rise to celebrity status was a very interesting story and Ina's accomplishments were impressive. However, the title of the session was "Branding for a cause" and there was only a cursory mention of that topic. Even after asking a question about what they think made their brands stand out among the numerous other fashion designers in SL, they couldn't quite give an answer.

Eshi's fame was triggered by Bettina Tizzy's discovery of her and her fishhook dress, and by the Relay For Life auction that soon followed. It's a path to fame that's not quite reproduceable. And she did not *build* her brand; she just became one as a side-effect of being discovered. It's more about celebrity branding than business branding.

Ina has done several fundraisers for her SLShakespeare project, but she didn't talk about the relationship of those activities with building her brand.

The only takeaway I got from this session is that business owners should create something for auction for Relay for Life to get exposure.

I think these two young designers haven't yet analyzed what made them successful, but that insight will come with experience. After all, this platform is very new and things don't always work the same in the real world and in the virtual world. Although the basic business success factors are the same, there are other factors that could be surprisingly different. Yet again, a blog for another day. :)

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