Well, the offices never looked like this when I worked at Macmillan. Last night, Nature Publishing Group unveiled the new enhanced Macmillan presence in virtual world Second Life at a champagne and canapé fuelled launch in London.
One of the questions raised in the discussion afterwards was ‘should we make virtual worlds more – or less – like real life’? I’m very pleased to see that the new islands aren’t modelled on an industrial estate in Basingstoke. In fact, the Elucian Islands (not to be confused with Random House’s Elysian Isle), are rather lovely.
I had to read the email twice to realise that the launch was in Real Life. As anyone who has spent any time in SL will know, we quickly come to think of it as a physical place where one attends events. The RL event, however, did had a live video link to attendees in SL. We could see the Khufu Conference Centre full of avatars; they could see the speakers in London on an in-world video screen, and take part in the Q&A.
Speakers included Timo Hannay from Nature, Anthony Steed from UCL, and Eddy Shah from the union-busting 80s (remember him?). These days he’s an entrepreneur and author, and his forthcoming Second World (UK | US) is now firmly on my reading list. Timo Hannay said: ‘Though virtual worlds are still in the early stages of development, we believe that they have the potential to become an important medium for the communication and proliferation of ideas, a process that is at the core of our business.’
Nature’s business model includes hiring out virtual meeting rooms and conference facilities, and inviting sponsorship – some of the ways you can directly monetize your SL presence, in addition to using it purely as a marketing means to sell stuff.
I think Second Life is still a bit of a niche network for nerds, fascinated as I am by it. But it will become more mainstream. It already is in terms of press coverage and public awareness. Less so when it comes to actual usage, though there are some large communities of interest that can be tapped into – including scientists and writers. If SL is a place where your community hangs out, then so should you.
Inspired by the launch, I made a long overdue visit to SL when I got home, mainly to take a few photos to post here (see the Publishing Talk Flickr Group for more). I had the strange experience of seeing my name in some sample virtual pages from The Writer’s Handbook, in which I have a short chapter. Then I bumped into my old SL friend Jilly Kidd (quite literally, since I’d almost forgotten how to walk after such a long absence). She organises a lot of writing groups and events, and hosts the Meet The Author show on SLCN.
The biggest SL writing event of the year is taking place this month, the Autumn Writer’s Exhibition, organised by Jilly and Hastings Bournemouth. You see? Networking in SL works. I’ve made some new connections, found out about an event, and joined some new groups, including the SLociety of Authors. So, if you’re a writer – or a publisher – who has put off setting foot in SL so far, this is a good time to join. Hope to see you in-world soon!