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Visual Purple has been on Twitter for some time now (@visualpurplesim), however we thought you might want to follow a few more Twitter peeps.

@visualpurplesim
@gisterpro
@meganrutherford
@edheinbockel

twitter

So there’s been a lot of buzz around out there about Google Buzz (no pun intended), that was launched at the beginning of February. Will this be a game changer for social media? While it does bring a new face into the social media application mix does it have the potential to overtake existing well established social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter. While I will admit that it does offer a host of elements that Twitter and Facebook are unable to offer their users, quite simply because it integrates with Gmail. Sure we still get the run of the mill abilities such as: links, photos, status updates, etc. But is this really enough to catapult Google Buzz into a bigger app. than the likes of Twitter and Facebook? Yeah I know Gmail has 176 million users (compared to Facebook’s 400+million active users and over 18 million Twitter users, respectively). While all three of these big names are looking to high growth rates, who will reign supreme at the close of 2010? More than likely because of the Gmail (email) application the majority of these users are actually users, unlike Twitter where some users sign up never to return again. Although Facebook’s user stats are pretty impressive.

While I try to be sociable, updating all of the various applications that I am signed up for would eat a big chunk out of my day. Sure it’s nice to see what other tech and social media junkies are doing and my old high school and college acquaintances but I don’t feel that it needs to be a wasteful activity of potentially productive work time. Not to say that people that are always updating their Twitter and/or Facebook stream have nothing better to do but every little thing one does takes time, regardless if it is only 140 characters or not. In my opinion we are all part of the social revolution taking place, these social conversations enable the ability for one to share our personal experiences and the ins and outs of our daily lives. Sure Buzz doesn’t link to Twitter just yet, but I am sure that it will soon! The issue of privacy controls, not just with Buzz. Facebook seems to be a little tricky with that too as of late. Could Google Buzz be the next big social platform? In the end it’s really all about sharing…

According to a recent NielsenWire report on January 22, 2010, time spent on social networking sites has increased from 3 hours per month to 5.5 hours per month in the last year alone, representing a staggering 82% increase in the use of social media. Yes, I said 82 percent increase!

A weekly wrap-up on what’s going on within the Virtual World sphere and beyond! Click on any of the below titles to read the full story.

New training in Europe brings reality to virtual worlds

Meet the Sims … and Shoot Them

‘America’s Army’ Blurs Virtual War, ‘Militainment’

Twitter OAuth Comes to Second Life

There.com is closing

While collaboration technologies may be a newer form of innovation in the workplace, they offer a way to bring people together to develop ideas and work on projects. From audio and video conferencing to digital whiteboards, all are making it easier to communicate and promote innovation. These “newer” methods of flowing information to the workforce are practical and tend to engage the participants (and in ways critical for today’s geo-dispersed workforce) more than traditional methods. You’ve seen me talk about collaborative virtual worlds in the past while being on the blog soapbox- but what about the other collaborative technologies on the market today?

Specific examples of collaboration technologies include: forums, blogs, wikis, and social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. With the business world becoming increasingly distributed, it is only natural that collaborative technologies pick up more steam. Collaborative platforms are popular today; whether they are being utilized to bring together a geographically distributed workforce or decreasing company expenditures on outdated, marginal technologies. There is a value proposition to it all. Through the deployment of collaboration technologies success stories are in abundance with more and more work being conducted virtually. Today’s collaboration and communication tools have transformed the way we do business. Today, collaboration fundamentals are still being established and there are a lot of first-generation technologies that organizations are learning about and adopting.

Forward-thinking companies are already adapting to a host of collaborative technologies. The workforce has been revolutionized by the introduction of collaboration technologies, with many more new technologies to come in the future. As collaboration evolves it will continue to introduce new ways of working. While all providing a new (and improved) method of communication within companies and amongst co-workers. Corporate innovation is an ever-changing landscape and companies must stay up with the latest and greatest to succeed and prosper.

Social media seems to be all the rage right now. Is it really possible to infuse social media into a virtual world space? Would it be beneficial or detrimental? I guess it would all depend upon the context- many virtual worlds already encompass social media aspects, whereas serious virtual worlds may not be the ideal training ground to implement social media into the mix. Can virtual worlds really compliment social media? Well that is still up for debate. I believe it all boils down to context. Majority of companies would loathe for their employees to login to a virtual world for training and then rather than training up, pass the time away by updating their Facebook status. “Supposed to be training but thought I would update everyone on my life’s happenings instead. Chris is doing well and the children are growing up sooo fast…” Communication and collaboration are all nice things to have within a virtual world space, but they certainly are not a necessary piece of the puzzle when utilizing a virtual world for training/ learning….or, are they?

Sure a handful of social ‘virtual’ worlds exist currently, such as Vivaty and Habbo Hotel as just a few examples. Rumor has it that the former is still searching for a viable business plan…if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right?! Incorporating social media into training has been talked about for some time- but would it actually be useful or seen as disruptive to the learner/ trainee. Is there a misconception about virtual worlds, that they are already a social networking opportunity? Although collaboration is brought up quite often in virtual worlds, bringing your live Twitter or Facebook stream into the virtual world training environment could lead to more distraction than anything else. While many companies are enacting social media policies across the board for employees, some are encouraging their employees to utilize social media outlets while on the clock (hey, free marketing, well almost). Sure the real-time experience is cool, but is it really worth the inherent risk of a company’s reputation being tainted without having big brother watching what is coming through the social media channels?

I believe the potential is there, it just has thus far been untapped. 3D virtual social networks may be on the horizon, but only time will tell as to their success. Sure, real time interaction is cool and all but it can also be seen as a distraction when applied to specific training/ learning environments. So let’s keep social virtual worlds in a different category for now…

So here is your social media primer, short and sweet. It seems like everything has gone social! From social media and networking to social learning, the entire world has become more social! I run across write-ups and advice daily on how to become more immersed in social media (i.e. tweet more, gain more followers, sign up for more social networking sites, etc.). But can this all be worth it, or is it all just a passing fad? Fad I think not, my belief is that social media is here to stay. However I do see changes within the social media sphere, currently it seems like there is every possible Twitter application out there- most will fade and the bigger players (i.e. Tweetdeck, Seesmic) will remain.

This addictive social and immersive media offers a little something for everyone. Everything from national brand names to small Mom and Pop businesses are jumping on the social media bandwagon. For the most part, social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter are growing in user base and daily use. Yet you also see some conflicting stats (especially for Twitter) that show some never log back in once signing up for the service. Sure social media can be foreseen as an over-hyped topic, but it is here to stay!

Look for Part 2 of this post: Virtual Worlds…Do They Mix with Social Media?

So what exactly does make a virtual world immersive? Well aside from the real-world representation that they offer, many VW’s are 3-D. Does it have to be 3-D to be immersive, not necessarily but 3-D is always better in my book. I virtually attended a Metanomics event featuring Chris Abraham- he stated that the problem with Second Life is that it may be “too immersive.” Hmmm, could SL really be seen as too immersive? I wouldn’t exactly call it that, although it can be an overwhelming experience for a newbie to the world, I would not define it as being too immersive by any means. The learning curve can be immense to someone with little computer (and do I dare say gaming) knowledge.

Although a variety of different types of immersion exist, from sensory to tactile. Immersive environments are unique in that they offer a high level of realism to what is found in the real world. Some of the enticing factors of virtual worlds are the ability to explore, create and interact all of which bring in multiple layers of immersion. By engrossing the player in the environment virtual world environments are gaining prominence as immersive training spaces for all types of learners and organizations. These ‘immersive environments’ are especially helpful when replicating dangerous real life situations such as combat zones and medical training.

My Grandmother used to be a fruitcake-making junkie each year when the holiday season rolled around- many friends and family would graciously accept then turn right around and regift “Grandma’s famous homemade fruitcake.” So this got me thinking- social media tools are a lot like a fruitcake. Although thought, care and a little love may initially be baked in, the end result is nuts and the weird fruit candy-like things. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. are the social media kitchens, but often at the end of the day, it’s still the same fruitcake!

Some almost relevant tidbits you might enjoy… Online communities and social networks are becoming more and more mainstream, a part of our everyday lives (both personal and professional). So here is a scary stat: With the ever growing size of Facebook’s 300-million active users, if Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth most populous in the world.

So in reality it’s fitting how the term ‘fruitcake’ can also reference a crazy person. Every time I see the commercial for Verizon selling phones where the parents and kids are on the back porch and Dad is tweeting: “Sitting on the back porch,” I chuckle to myself about how true this is with some social media updates today. Although I have carefully handpicked the people I follow on Twitter I still see random tweets like “sitting on the plane waiting to take off” or “going out to Mexican food with the girls.” Although these tweets do depict an activity- are they really relevant? I tend to want to follow people that have the same interests as I do- although I have not met most of them face-to-face I can tell a little bit about them just in the way that they tweet. So on a whim I decided to try posting a ‘pointless’ tweet and see what the reaction was. Although there was no reaction after I pressed the ‘tweet’ button, I felt like I had jipped my followers (sorry, loyal followers!)… Here I was, yet another person in cyberspace that had posted a tweet with no real value and was in fact, pointless…who knows I’ll probably see it re-tweeted soon…wish I liked fruitcake…

“- Link to”
YouTube Visual Purple Verizon commerical- Twitter Updates and Facebook

With the convergence of social networking on the rise- I must look at the question: Can Twitter really transform the way we train & learn?

A recent article in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal outlined a few key points of Twitter use that really provides relevancy.
• Regional emergency preparedness organizations are looking at Twitter as a way to reach millions of people during a disaster.
• NASA is using it to regularly update interested parties about the status of space shuttle flights.

So back to the question: Will Twitter transform the way we train people? Probably not but it does allow for collaboration and real-time information/news updates; more mission-oriented than training. Clearly there is value in ‘tweeting’ for first responder Incident Command that needs to reach a large audience when a large disaster occurs. But if you look at it from the standpoint of real training apps, well, not so much. This doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to search for Twitter training apps, but right now we’re coming up dry. But Twitter certainly is interesting…

And now even a real-time Twitter sentiment search is available- yes, I have always wanted to search for all the happy people on Twitter ?

And now Twitter has reached the Classroom

I have a confession… I have become addicted to social networking, more specifically Twitter and Facebook. Ok, well maybe addiction is a little too harsh, but I am always curious as to what is happening within my network – who went where and what the big weekend plans are. And although I hear the question posed everyday, “What’s a Tweet?” for us social networking junkies, we all know. Connecting with long lost friends and receiving quick, real-time status updates on what everyone is doing without even picking up the phone or sending off an email is very appealing within this increasingly digital, fast-paced society; social media has become a daily aspect of our lives.

So this is all great (I think)… but how does this relate to the blog. Well I thought it appropriate to address social networking applications being baked in to virtual worlds.

First let’s review some quick stats on the recent explosion of social media.
Nielsen reported in October 2008 that Twitter was the fastest growing social networking site, with growth of 343% in 12 months! Facebook, LinkedIn, and Reunion.com are most popular among visitors ages 25-34, 35-49, and 55-64, respectively.

“As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others. Twitter and similar services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 and 24 have ever used Twitter and its ilk, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34. Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.” According to Pew Internet.

Here are a few thoughts on what the future may hold for social media within the virtual worlds:
-Look for more in-world interaction, increase in avatar-based communication and new companies entering the social media landscape.
-Enhanced sense of community and social presence.
-More and more people establishing themselves in virtual worlds solely for the social aspect of it.
-More real-time collaboration taking place in virtual worlds.
-Deeper and more engaging interactions.