Yesterday a small group of Forrester analysts and research associates held a team meeting in Second Life to try to figure out whether meeting this way is a viable alternative to the usual teleconference. Teleconferences are terrible. While we're talking and listening, there's not much to look at but our computer screens (which are constantly blinking at us with new emails and IMs and reminders of all the tasks we haven't completed yet) so inevitably we end up multi-tasking. And in teams that have been around for a while people know each others' voices but not so for new teams. So when people on the call forget to introduce themselves before they say something, the first few words are lost while listeners try to figure out who's talking, and then the next few words lost while you try to recreate the first few words.
While we had some fun yesterday trying on free T-shirts, teleporting to otherworldly locations, and taking some carnival rides, the sentiment of most of the participants was that Second Life isn't really ready for prime time team meetings. If it was tough for us it will be tough for other information workers. Here's why:
While market drivers like compliance, eDiscovery, and risk management get a lot of press (and point to great opportunity for records management), the fact is that many organizations are not ready for full-blown RM programs. Why? Mostly due to organizational immaturity — not correctly aligning roles, responsibilities, and budget ownership (for more on this, click here). But there is also the problem of mutliple repositories containing records; organizations struggle with the question of moving records to a central repository or investigating federated RM.
Alfresco recently announced integration with Facebook. The news works well for Alfresco, which continues to demonstrate a bit more edge thinking in the world of ECM than their commercial counterparts IBM, EMC, Oracle, and Open Text. Facebook's not making a big deal out of it, which should be expected considering their exploring what it means to deliver applications to businesses at this point.
Microsoft today put itself squarely into the enterprise search market by introducing Microsoft Search Server Express 2008. You can download the release candidate from its website and give it a try if you have a Windows 2003 Server with some free space on it. It's free today, and it will be free when it goes to general release in the first quarter of 2008. Don't be fooled by its cost; this is a capable product that will get the attention of anyone considering or in the midst of a search deployment. Search Server will disrupt the strategies of clients and vendors within the already confusing search landscape. It is better than 'good enough' on many fronts, including its connectivity into Documentum and FileNet content repositories — also free — and its unified administration interface. For more insights, take a look at Forrester’s view on the release.
Second Life is an anonymous virtual world — most people cannot identify themselves with avatars that use their real names. I say most people because I suppose there is a chance your name in real life could be Baklava Lacava and you could have picked this combination for your avatar. Oops, no you couldn’t – Rob Koplowitz picked that one a long time ago. Anyway, users in Second Life (called “residents”) choose a first name and a last name from a list of options ranging from realistic to fantastic. For a long time I’ve been thinking that because Second Life is an anonymous world it will be doomed to be no more than experimental grounds for use at work. But yesterday I had a phone interview followed by an in-world tour from Claus Nehmzow, a partner at PA Consulting, a 3,000-person consulting company headquartered in London. My thoughts after talking with Claus: