My take on VW2007 will be different than about 90% of the people that attended, because I was most definately in the minority side of attendees. I knew what I was getting into, and went willingly, and paid for it out of my own pocket. I came from the angle of a (Second Life) developer, a passionate resident, and with the new eyes of a crayonista.

My reasons for going? Networking (which I did not suceed at as well as I’d hoped) and for an insight on what else is out ‘there’ – advertisers and platforms – and what they hope to get out of it. Yes, it is easy to do the research online, but something can be said for being able to talk to the people that make it happen.

What about the 90% in the audience besides me? Most don’t get it. At all. AT ALL. Mostly journalists looking for sound bites and quotes to write about. Ad and marketing types that were looking for an exact number to plug into their ROI equasion. (I thought I was going to vomit if I heard the term ROI one more time…) Data data data. Numbers. Money. Predictable outcomes. This is what they all looked for. No one found it, and I’m GLAD.

I heard the phrase “wild-west” brought up a few times also, as in “right now we are in the wild-west phase of virtual worlds”. No we aren’t. And I say that because in the wild-west, gold-rush/land-rush days, people packed up a stable (but average) life into a wagon, looked up at the sun, and headed west until they found something better. They had no clue what they would find but some rumors of gold, land, and a better life for those willing to work hard for it. A good chunk of the attendees at VW were looking for the easy way to a better business … statistics, numbers, predictability. Or maybe they were looking for a nice compact success story that they could emulate. I’m pretty sure a good number of them left more confused then when they came. My hope is that drives some of them to research more, dig more, explore more.

As far as the conference itself, I was quite happy with two of the talks/panels. First one being the case study on Pontiac’s Motorati islands. Tor Myhren (Executive Vice President / Executive Creative Director, Leo Burnett Detroit) was the sole speaker on that one. First, hats off to anyone that has the balls to drop the F-bomb at least 3 times in the first few minutes of his talk. Shock the audience into listening, but also conveyed his out-of-the-box approach to the whole shindig. Probably scared the crap out of Michael Wilson from Makena Technologies/ too. (Full disclosure – I had a tiny bit of a personal stake in the Motorati dealership opening by running the audio with Gideon Television.) Tor brought up ideas and views on integrating a brand into Second Life (or any virtual world) that I have held true for two years. Work with the community, ask what they want, give value back, LISTEN, don’t talk AT me but talk WITH me. They get it, and it works. Companies that have plopped down island to let collect dust don’t have to be so bad. Add interaction, HUMAN interaction, host events, involve the community, change, evolve, listen, ASK. Pontiac had the land giveaway to anyone willing to bring in a business on car culture. He announced they are adding more island for the sole purpose of giving away more land. Wow, free land to build a business around a culture you love (cars). As far as his take on what his ROI was, he had no fucking clue (his words, paraphrased, complete with F-bomb). Loved this session, the speaker, and the content.

Next panel I liked, the last one, “Virtual World Applications That Work.” Why did I like it? For the content, yes, but for the way that it was actually moderated. Yeah, I’m biased because Eric Rice moderated it. But you know what, he did it right. Didn’t let it turn into a commercial for the panel members, or a pissing match (which most other panels were). He made quick intros for the panel, and asked well thought out and relevant questions based on each person’s genre. Some other panel moderators just jumped into the pissing match themselves or just sat it out all together. Anyway, nicely done. It was a shame that these two sessions were the last of the conference, as a good number of the journalists and marketing folks already went running for the hills (or took a nice tour of the Statue of Liberty).

As brands were being introduced, and case studies studied, I did hear a fairly loud murmur from the attendees on the lack of some of the competition. MTV and no VH1? Pontiac and BMW and no Ford? Those types of questions. Are there reasons for that? Is the competition too far behind now, can they ever catch up? Are they even paying attention? Interesting to see that the companies that have taken the leap into virtual worlds already, even if not very successful at it, have made a very clear impression to even the most skeptical person that these brands are ahead of the curve, willing to take a chance and reach out to their audience. But is that enough to make the others pay attention and step into the game? Let’s hope so.

Now onto some of the more memorable moments for me… John Bates, Evangelist, Entropia Universe. Evangelist is right. Ok, I may be going out on a limb here, but I have never seen a more jaded, ill-informed speaker in my life. I didn’t write down exact quotes, so if he Googles his name and winds up on my blog, please feel free to correct me … but he had gone on record saying his platform was ahead of the rest because it has a real commerce system. Even the journalist from Asia sitting in front of me was better informed, and she had never even stepped one pixel in a virtual world. He made no mention of the availability of advertisers and marketers to become involved in Entropia, which I thought was a good part of the reason people were at this conference. He presented a user created video (that was at least 2 years old) and didn’t really seem to even understand that he was not there to trash Linden Lab. Amazing. Anyway, go Google the guy and the platform to go find out more on this cutting edge, first person shooter GAME that has a bit of social integration. Blech.

One thing I did get out of the conference, was a desire to dust off my membership. I have vivid memories of the one and only time I tried to get into this, as I was stuck on ‘help island’ (aka noob hell for someone that is fluent in virtual worlds). I can get past the cartoon 2D avatars in a 3D world (new accounts in SL seem to have very cartoonish characters, I forget this as I’ve long since upgraded to a photorealistic skin). But the fact that I was stuck with 25 other avatars that looked just like me made it hard to tell where “I” was. And I wasn’t allowed to customize my look until I had completed the noob bootcamp. I’ll make an effort to sit through all that junk to give it another chance. seems a very PG13 environment, which very well has it’s place in the corporate world. For me personally, I prefer a world where I can be a dragon with pasties, but on a business stance, does have a lot of strong points. MTV’s virtual worlds (Laguna Beach, Hills, and soon Pimp My Ride and Cribs – all of which will be accessible to each other) I think may have hit on that perfect mix of TV integration and personal expression. I’m out of the demo for that – too old and I don’t watch any TV – but worth checking out anyway.

Other highlights, running into some of the eSheep and Second Life Herald people I had met before at last month’s metaverse meetup. I didn’t get a chance to say hello to some of them, as they looked really busy making deals and granting interviews to the press. I did want to meet Reuben Steiger from Millions of Us, but he was perpetually busy too. Peter Ludlow (Urizenus Sklar from the Herald) was there also, but I think may have been nauseated by the overwhelming view of people/avatars as statistics to be counted, cataloged and milked for their dollars. He’s a bit out of my league anyway, but it would have been cool to say hi – especially since I see he is starting rumors about me 😉

Three cool new faces for me – FlipperPA Peregrine and Jennyfur Peregrine, as well as Aimee Weber. FlipperPA was volunteering at the check in desk and recognized my companies name and me (I think) and it wigged my husband/business partner out a bit. Jennyfur is a gorgeous person and very interesting to talk to. As it turns out, they live close to us, so a “meat-space metaverse-meetup dinner for four” is in the future I hope. I had Eric Rice introduce me to Aimee Weber, because I was shy about it (WTF for??) as she’s another local to me and I really love her work in Second Life. These were the types of people I put in that 10% of the audience along with me, and it was very interesting to hear their reactions on the conference. I know they all blog for the most part, so go look them up for their own take on it.

I did get to introduce Phish Frye (husband/business partner) to Spin Martin aka Eric Rice, which was interesting. Phish is not an avid blogger/reader or too much into that side of my world, and watching Eric ‘spin’ on about all the relevant things in the blogosphere was quite interesting. Phish’s reaction of “how the HELL do you know this stuff” was interesting too.

Should I wrap this up now? Sure. All in all the conference was interesting, if not for the talks themselves, but the hallway chatter and the action items that will come out of it.

Next week, PodCamp NYC. Too bad my talk (Women in Podcasting) is pitted up directly against C.C. Chapman and Chris Penn.
[tags]Virtual Worlds, VW2007[/tags]