Thursday, July 10, 2008

Virtual worlds - do they help in collaboration?

Today I found an announcement in my mailbox that Google has released Lively where you can create a virtual alter ego (also called avatar) together with all sorts of apparel and virtual spaces. Well, after having played around with it a bit (it's free of charge, being paid by advertisements), I can say that, while it is easy to use, it needs a bit of time to get ready to go, without me really being able to see what the benefit is. Maybe one thing that is missing is a number of templates, involving rooms, avatars, furniture, clothing and the like which would get you started really quickly. But on the other hand, I may be one of these persons that is getting too old in order to really grasp the benefits and perhaps the fun that may be involved in using this kind of virtual space.

But the question was whether virtual worlds may help in collaboration, that is, in a professional context. If I do not see the person I am working with (for example in international project work), I personally do not mind, as I am likely to either know who that person is, or, if not, I am able to at least see a picture via their web page or get some other information via their blog etc. What counts for me is to have an impression how well I can work with that person, and on what basis. In other words, I need to know what language (technical, marketing, research, adminstration) my partner is used to, added by how well I can get along with that person (although personal sympathy should probably not have too much of an influence). So, why do I need the support of virtual gadgets? After all, I am not earning my money fooling around with cool stuff, but working on my projects and getting my tasks done.

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