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Wednesday, December 02, 2009


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thanks for the mention, Hamlet.

Here's my own skeptical take on virtual workplaces from a nonprofit point of view.


How about the government just charge a huge tax on employers with office staff that do nothing but sit in front of a computer all day when they could be doing it from home? Going to the office to sit in a cubicle is so smart. The fancy clothes, the having to get all perfect looking or be discriminated against because you are not barbie or ken doll look, the gas, the car, the risk of accidents and insurance ramifications, the office politics, the sexual discrimination and advances and innuendo, the hate for race/religion/whatever, etc.

Telecommuting will have to be forced into the workplace because of all the little lord fontelroys that feel they are not complete without an ass kissing line outside their door. So the government is going to have to mandate it. Period.

Do it Obama. Do it now.

Loraan Fierrens

I've got to admit this is part of the reason I got interested in Second Life in the first place. I do a lot of my work over IM, phone, and screen sharing; and I was curious what things would be like if there were a more natural metaphor for those things. I think whatever technology is used (3D, 2D, 0D, what does it matter, really) needs to be much more transparent than it is today. It takes far too long getting all the bits and bobs lined up just right to get a meeting going... wasting a lot of time and getting people into a non-productive mood. It's still disruptive (and not in a good way). This is true both in Second Life and in the tools I use today at work. I was in a meeting in Second Life a little while ago that was experimenting with synchronized chat and video stream... I never could get the video stream to work, and it distracted me from the material trying to get it to run. At work, meetings are often delayed 5 - 10 minutes while people fart around trying to get the conferencing software to work or messing around with presenter rights or what have you. There are days I just want to walk into a meeting room with a good old stack of acetate slides and an over-head projector and just get to the matter at hand without fuss.

In my experience (after many years of working on problems with my coworkers both in person and remotely), the real reasons companies want you in the shop is that most of the time it is far and away more efficient to collaborate in person than over the phone. You don't have technology getting in the way, you can pick up on body language, and you know when someone is paying attention (the number of times I have asked a question to get the response "I'm sorry... can you repeat that?" is enough to make me scream). Someday, things may be different, but that day isn't today.

Arcadia Codesmith

Meatspace as workplace is so last-century, like brick-and-mortar. If the right people take the right cues, we could have widespread gesture-based interfaces in a few years that make 3D virtual worlds the medium of choice, by virtue of being easy and intuitive.

Jeffrey Fischer

If "going green" is the only thing that's important, why virtual worlds at all? Require everyone to conduct business via e-mail on a netbook. Or better yet, let's go back to the telephone.

Saving money is good, but having the right tools for the job is important. Perhaps that means using a 3-D virtual world at times, but perhaps that means working in an office, or traveling to meet face-to-face. The whole "green for green's sake" is simply a liberal fetish.

Arcadia Codesmith

As opposed to the conservative fetish for rendering the planet uninhabitable in hopes that it'll speed up the Rapture?

Arcadian Vanalten

We've done teleconferencing since the late 90's using video over a network of dedicated T-connections we use in our clinics for telemedicine practice (our organization covers a catchment area of over 20,000 square miles and 21 counties). Note this isn't virtual world conferencing, but streamed 2-way video calls. For some things, it works very, very well, but for others...not so much. We tried using our TM network to do the monthly staff meetings, and we really didn't get nearly as much done as we did doing them face-to-face. Our experience with it was remarkably similar to what Loraan noted. It still works great for psychiatric and psychological consults and evaluations between 2 centers, but trying to simultaneously connect 7 locations for monthly staff meetings was NOT spectacularly productive or successful. No one lamented when the Powers That Be dropped it after several months of trials.

Admittedly, this wasn't over a virtual world, so that might have a different outcome, but I'm not sure it would make much difference. I'm pretty comfortable with new tech, but I'm the exception rather than the rule in my line of work. Some of our most gifted and experienced clinicians would hit a brick wall at interfacing over a computer, and the loss of their contribution and insights would be significant. Plus, it makes a handy time for review and signature of various forms, documents, and medical records that legally require original (not faxed) signatures, which simply cannot be done in any medium other than RL.

I could see where things like tech support could be telecommuted, and I know several who run successful medical business consulting and billing services mostly from home, but that model doesn't work for all lines of work. Techno-snobbery aside, telecommuting is a great idea for some professions and some tasks, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution.

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