‘Evolution of Games and Social Networks’ panel at VW08 – call for questions

I’ll be moderating a panel at Virtual Worlds 2008 on Friday, entitled ‘The Evolution of Games and Social Networks’. To give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about, the abstract for the panel describes it thus:

“With the planned introduction of Sony’s Home for the PlayStation3 and multiple virtual worlds providers now creating widgets for Facebook, Bebo, and other social
networks, we’re seeing virtual worlds reach out to every part of the Web and consumer life. This session offers a detailed understanding of how virtual worlds are taking advantage of these emerging distribution formats and how you can leverage Virtual Worlds Everywhere.”

I’ll be joined on the panel by some very smart and interesting people, including

  • Christian Lassonde, President & Co Founder, Millions of Us
  • Susan Panico, Senior Director, PLAYSTATION Network, Sony Computer Entertainment America
  • Sean Ryan, CEO, Meez

(Mark Limber from Google was supposed to be joining us, but I understand that he won’t be able to make it.)

What would you like me to ask them?

The intersection between virtual worlds and social networking is a pretty big and (hopefully) interesting topic, and should be a well attended session. I’ve been preparing some discussion points and questions for the other panelists, and I’d love your input. If you won’t be there in person, here’s a chance to let me know where you’d like to see the discussion go. Specific questions for specific panelists or general topics for discussion are both welcomed. Leave a comment on this post. I’ll be posting the results after the event (audio? text? video? at least one of those anyway), so think of it as a way of participating remotely and asynchronously. Alternatively, think of it as a blatant lazyweb request to make my own life easier. 🙂

13 thoughts on “‘Evolution of Games and Social Networks’ panel at VW08 – call for questions

  1. As I see it, the main difference between virtual worlds and “social networking” is the effect of giving the user a single place where they interact from (virtual worlds), rather than a single place where they can be interacted with (the web). It’s the locating of the locus of interaction and focus. I’d like to see that the people working in these fields understand both the philosophical advantages and disadvantages of these, and care about making the transitions between the two modes as seamless as possible. For makers of virtual worlds, this will be more about making sure that their software doesn’t expect to be the only thing running on your machine, that it doesn’t insist on stealing your focus, and that the context switch between other applications and the Virtual World application is as small as possible. It probably also means making sure that it can sensibly respond to standard uris. Ideally it involves the creation of a global namespace that all virtual worlds fit into (including enough information to download and run the possibly multiple different clients), and the standardising of referencing for users and places in them. A virtual world done right won’t just accept links from websites, graphics programs, im, gps mapping, social networking software, etc, but will also allow links from it out to IM, mail, web, real world locations, graphics programs and perhaps most controversially to other competing virtual worlds to work seamlessly. It’s only when we actually have the infrastructure that provides a common interface to many different virtual worlds from many different suppliers that we can truly claim to have built a metaverse.

    For makers of other software, like IM software, this might involve placing a Virtual World button next to their Call or Video conference button. For 3d design software such as blender, it might involve adding a Send to Virtual World button.

    To really make this kind of thing a reality will need a standard for interchange of 3d models and for launching and descriptions of space and people that is standardised. What are the relevant people doing towards that?

    Walled gardens have failed on the web, lets make sure people aren’t trying to create the same thing in virtual worlds.

    Another big issue that I have as regards both virtual worlds and social ‘networks’ is the issue of ownership. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee said of his data and web history “It’s mine – you can’t have it. If you want to use it for something, then you have to negotiate with me. I have to agree, I have to understand what I’m getting in return.” How do the makers of Virtual Worlds and social ‘networking’ sites feel about this attitude. Why the obsession with owning the ‘place’ that users meet, rather than providing the infrastructure that enables the meetings. (the difference between facebook and wordpress).

    Second Life took a radical approach with making explicit the point that the Virtual World creations belong to the creators rather than LL, but to me this is an essential part of these virtual worlds becoming real spaces, and not just that, but essential to virtual worlds being useful to business. (You don’t want to lose your IP to a device when you show a colleague a prototype in a virtual world). I want to know that the importance of this been accepted, and what people are doing to make sure that this works.

    All of the most successful internet applications are distributed; email, websites – empowering the users. Why are most social ‘network’s and Virtual Worlds avoiding this kind of model?

  2. Kyb makes some good observations about standardizing the namespace to enable references to people and places in virtual worlds. (There’s some suggetsion that Linden Labs will introduce unique “phone numbers” for each resident in a future release.

    I would go further and generalize the model to include support for named services and objects, accessible from outside the VW. I would argue that an enterprise application should be able to get/put things in container objects using simple RESTful APIs for example. I should also be able to interact with an object in a virtual world such as a sensor. Pushing the model further, one can imagine avatars providing services, ranging from “who are your friends” to “who have you seen in the last 24 hours”.

  3. Can you ask Sony about how they plan to make Home sticky and compulsive? Social networking is a rampant success because satisfying your curiosity about people you’ve known or know now is addictive. I don’t think logging into Home to see Roo’s new shoes that he bought with a micro payment is going to generate that response… I’m sure you’ll put it more elequently than me.

  4. Phone numbers are a fascinating example of how the real world is becoming less like a virtual world – in the old days a phone number located you at a point in space, these days a phone number follows your focus whereever it goes.

  5. @timdp that is an interesting point around why you woudl hit PS3 Home. Though I think the curiosity factor may be a bit more like we seem to have with Xbox Live. I have some peoples gamer cards with the games they are playing/played, the things they have achieved with the points system across games. I suspect Home is more aimed at that. being able to visit Roo’s apartment to either talk to roo and join a game or to see what he has to show off from game acheivements.
    The Xbox, you turnit on it signs in and you are attached to friends, its part of the substrate. If Sony do the same with home then people will end up in there anyway as part of the experience. At the moment you have to launch it like any other game.
    I guess thats a question to all the panel “Do you think we benefit from choosing to go to a particular place or site virtual or web based versus it just being there all the time as part of what we do? Is it better to choose a task and be willing to engage with people, or just not really notice that you are engaged because its so pervasive?”
    That’s a long question you dont have to ask that becuase it me Roo 🙂

  6. Here’s a few possible questions for the panel:

    “While reputation systems have been useful for transactions systems on the web (e.g. eBay), they’ve haven’t tended to feature as prominently in social networks… for example while a ratings system was added to Second Life it didn’t really take off all that well. Is there a way to implement reputation systems in the social networks of online games (in a way that’s different from player level, scores, or standings)?”

    “Part of the success of social networks like Facebook is that they try to be true to your actual identity – the face in facebook is your actual photograph and you’re not supposed to have multiple alts. This all changes in games, where being someone other than yourself is ok, and having multiple characters is often the norm. What’s the impact of having a non-real self to the structure an integrity of a social network?”

    “Often, consumer technology is on a more rapid improvement curve than what’s available to enterprises. Today innovations in both virtual worlds and social networks are happening at a breakneck pace, in the process it’s redefining how people collaborate with each other socially. For enterprises, what do these new collaborative processes and environments tell us about how we can collaborate (perhaps using similar technology) more effectively in workplaces?”

  7. I’d add to Alan’s question by asking what is the latest thinking on non-player characters (NPCs), their identities and their reputations? The US constitution recognizes corporations as “people”, so can a corporation be represented by an avatar? If so, how is its identity authenticated and how do we establish its reputation?

    Beyond the corporation, it’s quite feasible for my intelligent house (or data center) to have an avatar. How do we tie its identity to my house and mine only? How can you trust my house when it asserts something such as the current energy consumption?

  8. Thanks everyone. I used several of these questions (didn’t get through them all I’m afraid). I’m working on a summary of the panel, including what I remember of the answers to these questions, which I’ll post here soon. Hopefully I’ll get a recording of the panel from the organizers soon, which will help flesh that out in more detail.

  9. Pingback: eightbar » Blog Archive » Summary of social networks panel at VW08

  10. Phone numbers are a fascinating example of how the real world is becoming less like a virtual world – in the old days a phone number located you at a point in space, these days a phone number follows your focus whereever it goes.

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