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Next Night 2.0

posted in College, Events on March 2nd, 2007

This past Tuesday, Generation Next organized the second evening in their, so far, successful, series of events called “Next Night”. The idea behind these events is to bring (CMD) students in touch with market influencer as well as innovation leaders and academic researchers, thereby creating an intriguing evening loaded with useful information. The best thing is that it’s limited to a small group of people and so far, I’ve only seen people who really wanted to be there.

The evening was kicked off by Barend Raaff from DNB Media. The speech contained some interesting questions - for example in regards of the latest events that are happening in Second Life and who should be held accountable for them:

Mr. Raaff likes to think of Second Life as a means of communication, not unlike the phone system operated by KPN or Ma Bell. He goes on to explain that the medium cannot be blamed for the things some, misguided users do with it.

This week, two nuclear missiles were exploded in Second Life. The objective behind this mission that was spearheaded by the Second Life Liberation Army (SLLA) is to make Linden Labs, the developers of the game, aware to the fact that users want to more control over the Sims (the gaming environments) and that they won’t refrain from taking game altering actions.

The type of bomb that was used can be acquired in-game and their effect is nearly as devastating as in real life. The explosions consume so much CPU power that the servers just shut down. With 2700 Second Life servers out there, one would think that two servers wouldn’t matter, but unfortunately they do. Every time, someone sets off a bomb and kills a server, there is a 25% chance that the server that crashes will take another server with it. This percentage increases by one point with every server that gets killed successfully.

The shutdown also means that any data that wasn’t saved might be lost, which could incur real-world economical ramifications, because, after all, the Second Life currency known as Linden Dollars has to be acquired by real world money. On that topic, Mr. Raaff also noted that he doesn’t (yet) consider Linden Dollars to be a threat to actual real-world currency.

The second speaker was Bas van Ulden, head of the Second Life team of ABN AMRO, a well known financial institution. His team managed to create an online presence inside Second Life, thereby earning his team the title of “First European bank in Second Life”. Quite a feat, especially if you consider that most of the team didn’t use Second Life before and they managed to build the whole thing in a mere eight weeks.

The interesting thing is that ABN AMRO bought 32 sims, however, only six or seven are currently in use and by summer 2007, another ten sims will be made accessible to the general public. I’m curious as to what they have in store for their customers.

I think their approach, so far, is unique. They are the first European bank I know off that let’s you “skype” with your account manager (as opposed to calling an expensive phone number) as well as check your account balance via MSN Messenger.

Naturally, the decision to start out in Second Life was entirely business based, after all, the Netherlands are home to the biggest non-English community on Second Life. However, you can tell that this bank really values the social aspect of the Internet and Mr. Ulden’s speech was probably the best of the whole evening. Not because it offered possible employment opportunities to anyone interested and qualified, but rather because he was very open about the whole experience. He didn’t refrain from telling us how much they did wrong and how they had to learn the hard way.

I value his honesty and I think it tells a lot about how he and his small team of ten thinks of the net community.

The keynote was concluded by some statistics which gave some insight into the success of the whole operation. It turned out that ABN AMRO gets about 500 to 600 visitors a week in all their Sims combined and even though they only cater to the Dutch market right now, they get the occasional foreign visitor too.

After a short break, Raymond van der Kaaij from (lost in the) Magic Forest kicked off the second half of the evening by sharing some insight into the hows and whats of marketing in Second Life. For example, if you want to expand your base of operations into Second Life, you should ask yourself how you can do that in a way that links up with your offline brand. It is important to know how you can add value to the experience of the visitor and how you can turn them into recurring visitors.

Mr. van der Kaaij also believes the “whole thing” to be about experience design: “If there’s no experience then there’s no unique selling point and that’s when you should stop considering Second Life as a base of operations.”

David de Nood from EPN concluded the evening by explaining how Second Life was a game without a set ending point, but far from pointless. He also shared some very interesting stats with us. It turns out that from the group of heavy users, that is, people that play approximately ten to forty hours a week, more than half is female. What’s even more interesting is that this group is between 25 and 40 years old and has at least completed college. Most of them have creative jobs in the IT or marketing sector.

Even though this group plays an average of 25 hours a week, only 40% of the members consider themselves addicted to the game. The main reason, according to Mr. de Nood is, that the psycho-social wellbeing in-game, is a lot higher than outside, in the real world. It’s easier to establish contacts because there’s some sense of anonymity. EPN’s research also predicts that more businesses (especially those with goods related to Second Life) will open up to payments made in Linden Dollars.

The evening was concluded with an informal discussion where all of the speakers actively took part in. Thanks a lot to Marc and Noortje and the other members from Generation Next for setting up this meeting. Congratulations on a job well done. I’m already looking forward to see what you guys can come up with for Next Night 3.0!

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It’s about how you sell it

posted in College, Projects on December 11th, 2006

For the last few months, I’ve been working on a Battlefield 2 based movie. Machinima movies always intrigued me and I wanted to shoot a film in 2006 anyway, so I thought that I might as well combine those two.

During the summer months, I started writing a story about the war some soldiers have to fight during the actual war. Since the movie is based on Battlefield 2, we’ll have loads of American and Middle Eastern actors and I’m doing my best to create micro stories around each and every important character. Granted, only five or six of them really are important, but you’ll probably know a lot more about them by the end of the movie.

I’m not willing to break the story yet, but I wanted to talk about something relating to this movie:

During my first year in college, we spent two weeks in a short-term project called “FreeSpace”. The idea behind said project is that the only thing your tutor gives you is a word, no idea, no limits, just a word. Ours was “waiting room” and during the two weeks the project lasted, we (a small group of four students) came up with a less than greatly executed solution. Don’t get me wrong, the idea we had really had (and has) potential, but the way we executed it just wasn’t up to par.

Those two weeks were really the only time during that year I regretted, I didn’t learn anything (new) and we (all) created tension that, for a certain part, still lingers around and influences current decisions, nine months after “FreeSpace” concluded.

This year, I wanted to do something different, I wanted to do something productive and expand my knowledge. Normally, “FreeSpace” in the second year links up with a very short internship (of ten working days) at a company that will probably help you make a final decision as to which profile you’re going to choose for the last two years of your college career. I was really looking forward to that internship and even got in touch with a print shop, because, well, printing stuff, the right way, is something I’m interested in.

Long story short, we were supposed to have some sort of orientational period this year but it won’t be an internship - a pity, if you ask me. Then again, I already know what I’m going to do next year and I don’t want to waste another two weeks, just to regret them two months from now (FreeSpace is coming up at the end of January 2007).

So, not wanting to waste another two weeks of my short time in college, I decided to put in some work and talk to the man. I pitched my idea for the movie in the most business-like way I could imagine and guess what? It worked.

Turns out, the people I pitched my idea to where sold after about the first minute, out of the ten minutes I talked. Apparently, it’s just about how you sell it and if you do it the right way, your college will even give you permission to play a game and earn some credits with it.

(Naturally, I’m not just playing a game, I’m actually writing a scenario, drawing up story boards, locating suitable actors and supporting actors, dabble with Adobe Audition to clean up the audio, work with Adobe Premiere to cut and edit, use Adobe After Effects to create flashy effects and finalize the whole thing in Flash Video with Adobe Flash.)

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