Yesterday I had a “virtual world vibe” going. At 5:30 a.m. when my dog Jack woke me up offering to take me for a walk, the first thing I noticed on my mobile was a series of tweets from Chris Rasmussen, NGA’s social software guru, posted the night before. Twitter is interesting for a lot of reasons, but one is the ability to snatch asynchronous stream-of-consciousness statements, from strangers and friends alike, as they pass by in the microblogosphere conversation.
Chris went on a tear about Second Life, with several hilarious observations and comments within the space of an hour, so here are several from his public Twitter feed:
- ckras Second Life hasn’t become a mass-market phenomenon. Early adopters loved it, but mainstream customers found it time-consuming and baffling 09:54 PM July 07, 2008 from web
- ckras ask @spdrock how to collaborate in SL. Run away from the nerds in there 09:42 PM July 07, 2008 from web
- ckras @helenmosher I don’t think magical elves are the secret to enterprise collaboration 09:28 PM July 07, 2008 from web in reply to helenmosher
- ckras 2nd life does not make your organization “hip” or “with it.” majority of young folks entering the workplace think it is ridiculous..agreed 09:14 PM July 07, 2008 from web
Finally, in response to a question from our mutual friend Bob Gourley of CrucialPoint, Chris wrote his definitive statement:
- ckras @bobgourley “If I have to choose between a Intellipedia and magical elves in SL, I’m going with Intellipedia” official quote 🙂 10:18 PM July 07, 2008 from web in reply to bobgourley
You can listen to Chris expound further on his views on virtual worlds and his skeptical approach to intelligence use for Second Life in this podcast interview posted last month, though you have to fast-forward through the background info on wikis; virtual worlds are discussed about halfway in. This skepticism hasn’t always been the hallmark of thinking in some IC circles on SL; CIA’s chief of Intellipedia development Sean Dennehy told Federal Compute Week just last September that some users were asking for a virtual world for the intelligence community similar to Second Life: “I think it is a no-brainer,” he said. “We could use it for training and other things.”
The Virtual Vibe Continues
I then attended yesterday’s big A-SpaceX Industry Day over at the University of Maryland (near the new IARPA offices). Helpful layout of the intent to use “synthetic worlds” to enable incisive analysis, or in the program’s words “the use of virtual worlds and shared workspaces to dramatically enhance insight and productivity.”
Microsoft’s Virtual Earth was mentioned four different times by the A-SpaceX program manager in his main briefing, though at least twice when he mentioned it he also added, “… or we could use Google Earth as well.”
There’s been much blogosphere interest in A-SpaceX, some of it thoughtful and supportive, for example Jeff Carr’s “Intelfusion” blog or Drew Conway’s “Zero Intelligence Agents” blog, while much of it has been skeptical, like the usually-thoughtful Noah Schactman’s somewhat kneejerk reaction on the WIRED Danger Room blog. I believe that in large part the skepticism comes from a fundamental misconception about A-SpaceX, which aims to be a closed metaverse for IC professionals. (Read the actual official description here for what will be designed.) Its goal is not to perform intelligence collection and espionage inside an open virtual world – like some run-of-the-mill commercial company mining Second Life activity for insight into invidividual consumer intent.
Anyway, the virtual vibe rounded off last night when Google announced its own virtual-environment product, Lively. Over on GigaOm, they aren’t receiving it very graciously – their story pans it as an unimpressive Me-Too effort, summing it up as “Not a contiguous, immersive, fully user-created metaverse like Second Life, as it turns out– so it’s not really a direct competitor– but a series of virtual world chatrooms.” The New York Times this morning calls it “cartoonlike.”
Well, we’ll find out if there’s a crying need for more cartoonlike virtual conversation. For now, I’ll stick to dipping an ear into the Twitter stream every now and then, and helping others figure out what A-SpaceX should and could be, to improve intelligence analysis.
Filed under: Government, innovation, Intelligence, Microsoft, R&D, Technology Tagged: | A-Space, A-SpaceX, blogging, blogs, Bob Gourley, Chris Rasmussen, CIA, computer, DangerRoom, data mining, datamining, Drew Conway, espionage, FCW, Federal Computer Week, GigaOm, Google, Google Earth, Google Lively, IARPA, IC, Intelfusion, Intelligence, Intelligence Community, Intellipedia, internet, Jeffrey Carr, Lisa Porter, Lively, microblogging, Microsoft, New York Times, NGA, Noah Schactman, podcast, Sean Dennehy, Second Life, SL, social software, synthetic world, Twitter, virtual, Virtual Earth, virtual world, virtual worlds, VR, web, Wired, www, Zero Intelligence Agents