Day two at OSNBC 2008

I missed the morning of day two at Online Social Networking and Business Collaboration (I was attending a seminar on MySource Matrix) but ended up sharing lunch with two Government 2.0 innovators from the speakers line up, Phillip Bower from Centrelink and Dheeraj Chowdhury from the NSW Department of Education (see below).

Here is a summary of two sessions from the afternoon:

Paul Salvati, Smart Service Queensland

Due to the demographic profile of Queensland’s population, they need to engage with a sparse population across a large geographic area. They investigated the use of YouTube and MySpace as a way to engage with young people, but ended up picking Second Life. They built an island with a public landing area, but the majority of the space is private and accessible only by invitation. During 2007 the held a forum in Second Life to gather feedback on how they might use the space and in April 2008 they held a virtual youth forum to celebrate Youth Week.

Feedback from these forums showed that the vast majority of the young people involved found it easy to participate, most felt involved with the discussion and that they found it as good or better than a traditional workshop. The benefits from using Second Life were found to be:

  • Convenience;
  • It was a non-intimidating workshop experience;
  • The chat feature gave participants a history of the conversation taking place and the process of chatting provided the opportunity for considered input (but will the availability of voice in Second Life devalue this?);
  • People thought it was a fun and interactive experience, but they wondered if this might be reduced overtime once people get past the novelty factor;
  • The ease of supply of objects that assist meeting facilitation (since they are virtual!); and
  • Automatic capture of a transcripts from the event (for the organiser – however, see my point about voice support above).

However, they also identified some issues with using Second Life and these included reliability (I think this was a more general statement about using a hosted solution), ‘griefing’, lagging, legal implications, content moderation, system requirements (in terms of the user’s computer performance), maturity of user’s collaboration skills, and accessibility for people with disabilities.

Overall it sounds like there are some real opportunities to use immersive environments like Second Life, but Salvati thinks there are still some barriers to overcome before it becomes mainstream. It was also a reasonably low cost pilot – other than the time and effort of the people involved, they invested less than $1000 in building their island.

Dheeraj Chowdhury, NSW Department of Education

Dheeraj works in the department’s Centre for Learning Innovation. It provides teaching and educational resources for teachers, students and parents, with a key online presence at TaLe. They are very interested in providing interactive methods for engaging with their community of users – for example, the TaLe site hosts ‘Professional Learning Communities’. Murder under the Microscope is an example of a collaborative online educational game they developed.

He shared his ideas about implementing social networking – key points were:

  • Actively seek out the right open source tools;
  • Once you’ve selected a tool, move fast and be agile;
  • Focus on developing frameworks and platforms;
  • Engage quickly (a idea taken from Google);
  • Enable self expression;
  • Let them browse the social graph;
  • Proactively drive communication; and
  • Include buttons to ‘add this’ and ‘rate this’ everywhere.

But, don’t forget, “what’s the fuel? Engagement with the audience”.

I actually think Dheeraj has more ideas in his head than he could explain in such a short session – so I’m glad I had the chance to talk to him over lunch!

He also talked about his experience of implementing social bookmarking with Scuttle – using only a viral adoption approach,they deployed the solution in just 2 weeks and at a cost of less than $5,000.

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