18 October 2006

Building Reflections

I wandered over to the new Wired site. I've enjoyed a lot of their articles. The build left me feeling oddly disappointed. This article by Caliandris Pendragon pinned what I was feeling in a phrase. "in" SL and yet not "in" SL.

The Wired site was a total letdown for me; the motherboard and bits outside were delightful (except for the view-blocking particles bigger than my head) and creative, but inside the "buildings" were vacant and impersonal offices/conference rooms. A desk, with one chair on one side and a pair of chairs on the other. Good conversations don't happen across a desk. It felt like going on a first date with someone gorgeous who can't talk about anything other than their hair.

Many corporate builds seem to be nothing but reflections of RL. Why have miles of hallways in a world where you can teleport? Reception areas without a host/ess? Dozens of empty offices and conference rooms? A whisper travels 10M, standard talk 20M. Offices and conference rooms tend to be clustered in RL buildings - if they were being used in SL you'd have to IM or be stuck overhearing other conversations. These structures aren't designed to be used.

When my neighbors explain why they've built a fancy house complete with bathrooms they talk to me about having what they've always wanted, recreating a place with fond memories, wanting to explore a building virtually before deciding whether to build it in RL... there's a lot of motivations that go into such builds. They're reflections of both the real world and of their builders' aspirations and dreams.

Starwood's Aloft hotel build makes sense to me. It is both advertising and a conversation - "There's this hotel I want to make... what do you think?" American Apparel's store reflects how they want to be perceived and makes a handy vehicle for experimenting with RL/SL cross marketing.

When I see yet another big office building filled with unused impersonal spaces, another unresponsive block with a logo... This is a reflection of your organization, of its hopes and dreams, of its adaptability, of its willingness to explore and take risks... What are you telling me?

I've got a bit of advice for companies moving into SL. If you don't understand it, spend a little more time exploring, learn a little more about the place. Three words.

Borrow Philip's pants.

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