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Virtual Event Email Promotions and Hotmail Active Views

January 14, 2011

Note: Image sourced from a Hotmail YouTube video.

Introduction

The Hotmail Team has introduced an interactive email technology called Active Views.  The technology allows recipients of Active Views emails (within Hotmail) to interact with the email itself.

Hotmail showed examples of two of their early partners, Orbitz and Monster.  Recipients of the emails could search a flight (in the Orbitz email) or search for jobs (in the Monster email).

Interactive Emails and Virtual Event Promotions

Interactive email technologies present interesting possibilities for virtual event email promotions – and, more broadly, for any email promotion that seeks to elicit a response.  Imagine the following for virtual event email promotions:

  1. Register for the virtual event
  2. Enter your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. identity and see which of your followers, friends, connections, etc. have already registered
  3. Navigate through the session schedule and indicate which sessions you’re interested in attending
  4. Complete your attendee profile – upload your image/photo and add a short bio
  5. Social sharing – let your social networks know that you’re interested in the event – or, that you’ve just registered

The possibilities are endless.

Considerations

  1. Only Hotmail “trusted parties” can utilize Active Views
  2. The technology is platform-specific (it’s limited to Hotmail)
  3. The technology is new and largely untested (at a large scale)
  4. It remains to be seen how well the technology functions across platforms (e.g. email clients, operating systems, tablet devices, etc.)
  5. While security provisions are in place, it may open a window for providers of phishing and malware

Related Links

  1. Active Views introduction on the Inside Windows Live blog
  2. TechCrunch: “Hotmail Active Views Look To Make Email Interactive
  3. ClickZ: “Hotmail Active Views Revives E-mail Innovation in 2011
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Trends from Enterprise 2.0: The Move to Social Business

November 11, 2010

Introduction

I attended Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara, CA this week.  I predict that in 2011, “business as usual” will move to social business.  As usual. Meaning, social tools will be enabled across the enterprise and they’ll quickly be ingrained as the “new way to do business”.  Here are specific trends and observations from Enterprise 2.0.

Start-ups on Equal Footing with the Technology Giants

Social business, by way of its “newness”, evens the playing field.  In fact, it actually provides an advantage to the start-ups, who built their business (from the ground up) on a foundation of social features.

The established giants, meanwhile (e.g. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, etc.), need to retrofit existing offerings – adding social into (or on top of) what already exists.  Or in some cases, the giants are developing new social platforms that live in parallel with their legacy systems.

Commenting on a T-shirt that poked fun at “jive talking”, Christopher Morace (@thinkoutloud) said it well when he tweeted, “How in a space with IBM, MSFT, & SFDC did Jive become ‘the man’? I’m still in my 30’s!”

Social Business UI – New Models Needed

During the event, I tweeted that if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Facebook should be quite flattered.  In other words, everyone’s social business UI looks and feels like Facebook.

Conference attendee Robert Lavigne (@RLavigne42) agreed and tweeted back, “good from a cross training point of view, bad from a breaking that mindset in the sales cycle though. Need innovation not UX copy”.  Robert continued, “Time for something innovative in terms of UX”.

If we do not see UI/UX innovation and differentiation, then the market will face commoditization, where everyone’s platform looks the same.  And that’s not good for the market.  Expect to see fresh, new looks in 2011, especially as some of these platforms evolve to version 2.0.

The Intranet (As We Know It) Is Dead


The Intranet, as a self-standing web site, is now dead.  In its place will be social business platforms.  Do you really use your company’s intranet?  It’s good for routine activities (e.g. look up phone numbers, find the expense report template, etc.), but it doesn’t significantly improve employee productivity.

The typical intranet doesn’t get much activity and it’s hard to find what you need.  Now consider the likes of the Socialtext, Yammer, Salesforce Chatter and others. Common features they provide are:

  1. Follow and be followed – people, documents, sales opportunities, etc.  Need to track an important document?  Follow it, and be alerted to all updates on it.
  2. Crowdsourced answers – need to find a nugget of information or an obscure document?  Ask your followers via a status update and you’ll likely receive an answer within minutes.
  3. Polls – want to know how Marketing is doing with sales collateral?  Create a poll and invite employees to participate.  Publish the results via a status update.
  4. Collaboration via 140 characters – OK, most social platforms don’t impose Twitter-like character limits, but you get the idea: status updates are the new water cooler conversation.
  5. Mobile – access to social business is enabled on your smartphone, via apps provided by the social platforms.  How often did you access your intranet from mobile?

What This Means for Virtual Event Platforms

In my 2011 predictions for virtual events, I wrote about “Market Expansion”.  Guess what? Social business platforms do, in fact, look a lot like virtual event platforms.  Some striking similarities:

  1. A move from point features to a “platform”
  2. Presence
  3. Private and group chat
  4. Collaboration

Some social platforms provide capabilities not found in virtual event platforms today, such as wikis and real-time collaborative document editing.

Virtual event platforms will continue to have the upper hand in supporting live/scheduled (online) events, but will face expanded competition in the area of “virtual communities”.

Conclusion

(A tag cloud generated from the session descriptions at Enterprise 2.0 – using wordle.net)

It’s an interesting time.  2011 could be a year of battles, shifts and migrations.  With the move to social business, along with the larger shift to cloud computing, expect 2011 to be  The Year of the Shakeout.


“It’s All Virtual” On Virtual Worlds

October 3, 2010

Introduction

Given Microsoft’s rumored interest in acquiring Linden Lab (developers of Second Life), I thought I’d assemble some recent virtual worlds content.

Related: “Microsoft Buys Vivaty For New Project, May Be Looking For More,” from Virtual Worlds News

Virtual worlds have taken a hit, as Twitter, Facebook and other services have become media darlings.  And while I love social networks as much as anyone, I do think the market is under-considering (if that’s a word) the potential of virtual worlds technologies.

At A Crossroads: Where Does Second Life Go From Here?

I analyzed different directions that Linden Lab could take Second Life.  Of course, one that I did not cover was an exit – if the rumored exit (Microsoft) were to happen, I’m very curious to see how and where Microsoft folds the Second Life technology into its business.

On a slightly related topic, I wrote about how virtual worlds can be more like Twitter and Facebook – that is, more social and more open to the rest of the web.

Related: Guest Post from Pooky Amsterdam, “The Business Benefits of Second Life.”

Conference Coverage: FountainBlue Virtual Worlds (September 2010)

  1. 3 Virtual Worlds Technologies To Watch
  2. Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry
  3. Hear From A Panel Of Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs

Conference Coverage: Stanford Media X Virtual Worlds (August 2010)

  1. Stanford Media X Event: Virtual Worlds Entrepreneurs Show The Way
  2. Stanford Media X Event: IMVU’s Online Community

Insights And Experiences From Virtual Worlds Experts

March 9, 2009

On Monday evening, I attended FountainBlue’s High Tech Entrepreneurs’ Forum at Microsoft’s Mountain View (CA) campus – the event was titled Virtual Worlds: The Hype, The Reality, The In-Between and was sponsored by Microsoft and TIPS Group.  FountainBlue, a “membership-based, for-profit, collaborative organization designed to positively impact the way people, businesses and organizations work,” has organized a new sub-group around virtual worlds, which officially launched coincident with Monday evening’s event.

FountainBlue landed a true All-Star panel of Virtual Worlds visionaries and experts.  Each panel member provided thoughts on virtual worlds and then took questions from the audience.  A summary of each panelist’s thoughts follows.

UPDATE: FountainBlue has posted a summary of this event on their blog.

Steve Nelson – EVP, Chief Strategy Officer, Clear Ink

Steve is EVP and Co-Founder of Clear Ink, an interactive agency based in Berkeley, CA, who has many “claims to fame” in Second Life development. Among their Second Life projects was a simulcast of the 2008 TED Conference (in Monterey), an appearance by Newt Gingrich in-world, the development of a virtual headquarters for Linden Labs and an in-world island in conjunction with the popular sitcom The Office.

Steve started with his definition of “virtual world” – a social platform that’s immediate and immersive – quite a relevant and apt definition, if you ask me.  Steve stressed the immersiveness of 3D virtual worlds by comparing a webinar viewed “standalone” with one viewed in-world.  Steve noted higher retention and recall rates of the in-world viewing – as viewers of traditional webinars are far from immersed – instead, they’re checking their email and multitasking with other apps on their workstation.

Steve noted that Clear Ink assists companies in virtual worlds via three e’s:

  1. Expectations
  2. Experience
  3. Experimentation

In closing, Steve noted five business models for generating revenue with virtual worlds:

  1. Own the virtual world platform
  2. Sell virtual goods
  3. Create virtual worlds tools and utilities
  4. Be an agency – design, consulting, etc.
  5. Use virtual worlds effectively as an enterprise – save money and be a more effective company

Robin Harper – Former VP of Marketing and Community Development, Linden Labs

Robin took us back to the very early days of Second Life and noted that in the initial development stage, Linden Labs thought the platform was about facilitating entertainment.  Fast forward to today and Robin believes that virtual worlds are so much more than entertainment.  In the past 18 months alone, Robin notes that growth in Second Life has been driven by education and enterprise (which each have grown by 2x in that period).  There is an increased use for simulation, prototyping, design and experiential learning.  60,000 residents are profitable (meaning they generate revenue that exceeds their land costs) and the top resident grossed over $1.7MM in US dollars (real money) by selling virtual shoes.

Robin notes that the power of virtual worlds lies in the collaborative tools that are provided with minimal constraints. She compared the development of virtual worlds to the development of third world countries – growth is facilitated by allowing residents to own their own land, own the intellectual property (of their land assets) and participate in an economy that fuels commerce.  Important areas of development today are “behind the firewall” applications, as well as interoperability across worlds.

UPDATE from Robin Harper: I’d like to clarify the statement attributed to me above. The figures I reported were originally estimates based on one quarter of data, so should not be taken as more than an annualized estimate. In addition, my reference to the sale of virtual shoes was in the context of the types of industries that are generating return in Second Life. In the top group of earners based on the estimates, most were involved in the land business, and a couple were in other businesses like events management and retail/virtual goods, including shoes. For more information, please see my blog: http://couldtherebewhales.blogspot.com/2009/03/correction.html

Michael Gialis – New Business Development, Sun Microsystems

Michael works in Sun Labs, with a focus on online gaming and virtual worlds.  Sun’s technologies in this space are Project Darkstar, Project Wonderland and Project Sun SPOT.  Michael notes that the #1 barrier to virtual worlds adoption is the non-intuitive nature of the client application.  Michael’s comments stirred some discussion among the panel regarding enhanced client capabilities, such as the use of sensors in lieu of keystrokes.  Robin noted that Mitch Kapor is experimenting with a 3D camera – when you smile, your avatar smiles. Some panelists, however, noted that some contexts may require separation between your true feelings and your avatar’s expressions – for instance, in a learning environment, you may not always want your true emotions to be on display.

Anne-Marie Roussel – Business Development Director, Microsoft

Anne-Marie manages Microsoft’s digital media portfolio, which includes Xbox, Zune and MediaRoom.  Anne-Marie noted Microsoft’s early efforts in the virtual world with its Flight Simulator game – which in turn led to the development of a product called Microsoft ESP (for 3D visualization).  Anne-Marie gave the interesting example of leveraging virtual worlds for training sales staff – if you sell Ferraris, then your clientele are much different from those buying Fords, so a virtual world can train sales staff on how to interact with prospective customers and face the sorts of questions/issues that Ferrari buyers are sure to present you with.  Anne-Marie spoke of Microsoft Virtual Earth and noted work being done to marry its 3D visual maps with crime scene data (to assist local law enforcement).

Susan Stucky – Manager, Service System Design, IBM Almaden Research Center

Susan noted that IBM’s involvement in virtual worlds is not to be a platform provider – instead, IBM is platform agnostic.  Susan’s interest in the virtual world is to achieve results that would be harder to accomplish in the real world.  One example noted was the practicing of negotiations of complex deals – reviewers (of the deal maker) could provide a virtual thumbs up or thumbs down.  Trainees could then replay the segment and view the feedback as it occurred.  Susan spoke of the need to capture data to better understand in-world behavior.  IBM Researchers developed technology to take audio chat, utilize voice-to-text to transcribe it and then perform unstructured text analysis to decipher patterns of behavior.  Susan also spoke of IBM’s Sametime 3D initiative and referenced the use of Second Life to facilitate a virtual meeting for IBM’s Academy of Technology.

If you’re interested in related events from FountainBlue, have a look at their events calendar.


More Meetings From Your Desk

December 23, 2008

It’s a growing trend.  In 2009, you’ll be attending more and more meetings.  From your desk and desktop, that is.  In a Travel Procurement article titled “The Next Best Thing To Being There: Virtual Meetings Earn Their Rightful Place In Strategic Meetings Management”, surveyed travel buyers confirm that the trend is real:

Faced with an economic downturn and increased airfares, three-quarters of 230 U.S. travel buyers responding to a recent National Business Travel Association poll reported increased use of teleconferencing and Web-based meetings. Nearly 57 percent cited increased use of videoconferencing. More than 80 percent said the technology replaced actual trips.

Consider the travel policy at P&G:

“Our policy is set up so that virtual media must be considered if business objectives can be achieved,” said Diana Johantgen, service manager for Procter & Gamble’s new meeting, event and convention management team, who helped incorporate a virtual meetings program into that company’s strategic meetings management program.

This shift towards virtual meetings means good things for Cisco (Telepresence and WebEx), Nortel and HP (Telepresence), Citrix (GoToMeeting), Microsoft (Live Meeting) and many others.  While virtual meetings and telepresence may never reproduce 100% of in-person meetings, you can’t beat the cost efficiency and convenience.

Additionally, online meetings provide unique benefits, such as the meeting archive.   Ever need to schedule a series of information sessions or training presentations?  Why not do a virtual meeting (live) and record it – take the archive, edit it down (if needed) and then allow all reamining groups to view the session on-demand, on their schedule.  If the presentation is mandatory, the online meeting can be tracked to ensure that all required users end up viewing it.

OK, gotta go now.  A virtual meeting awaits!


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