Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flashback: VW LA '08 recap

Apologies for not getting this out more quickly; see my previous post for my "I'm too busy" excuse.

Honestly, I delayed blogging VW LA '08 because of my level of disappointment. I had attended VW NY in April, and was completely energized. LA left me equally deflated. Because this blog is late, and because I'd like to keep to the salient points, I'm not going to write up a play by play, but just some overall thoughts and experiences coming from the conference. So without further ado or build up:


There were some pretty big names that keynoted the conference: Tim Kring, Jon Landau, Collin Parris, Steve Parkis. Sadly, I thought the interview structure of the keynotes was a disservice to the speakers, and became as much about the interviewers as it was about the keynote speaker. Also a bit of a disappointment was that the keynotes obviously were peripheral (for the most part) to the nitty gritty of what's going on in virtual worlds, yet they were positioned as experts. What might have been more interesting (of course, just my opinion) is to hear how each of the keynotes, from their respective viewpoints, see virtual worlds impacting the future of media, movies, television, the Internet, enterprise, kids media, etc. The collective intelligence in the audience was far beyond that of the speakers, so to position them as experts was a bit of a farce that became painfully obvious as each of the keynotes progressed.

Exhibit Hall:

You know, most conference exhibit halls are the same. Booths, people looking awkward trying to talk to people about what they do and hopefully make some sales as a result of standing around for 2 days. I don't begrudge anyone for their conference efforts on the exhibit floor. AND...the exhibit hall was pretty small. I didn't see anything new that I hadn't seen in NY, and in some cases, booths were scaled down. There were less people/companies there overall. My particular favorite was the booth that no one was staffing, just some instructions on how to navigate to their demos on the laptops in the booth. Classic.


So the tracks included:
Virtual Worlds Hollywood
Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise
Virtual Worlds Kids
Future of Virtual Worlds
Technology and Results

My first question: where were all the people using virtual worlds in academia? Besides kids worlds, academia is where all the action, and certainly all the research, is. I was stunned that there wasn't an academic track. I was even more stunned that there really weren't that many people there from schools and universities. A huge miss, and an obvious one.

I mostly attended the Virtual Worlds for the Enterprise sessions. I can't speak for the other tracks, but that one was a ghost town. I was SHOCKED that there were so few people in the enterprise sessions. And at least half, if not more, of the people attending the sessions were vendors not actual enterprises. In April, more than half the room was filled with companies looking at virtual world technology. In general, I was disappointed with the attendance at the conference, but I was particularly disappointed with the Enterprise track.

A point of comparison to the Game Developers' Conference in Austin last week: the GDC sessions actually tried to teach attendees something, the VW LA sessions? Not so much. It seemed much more that speakers were limited by their experience, or by their willingness to share lessons learned. Every conversation seemed like it was tempered by a question of whether the person you were talking to was a competitor. I suppose when no one is making much money yet, that's what happens. But I don't believe in sacred knowledge, and every session I attended seemed like they were sharing the last bite of their steak dinner.


It seems like the same people keep showing up over and over. As previously mentioned, I was disappointed that more companies interested in integrating virtual worlds didn't attend. At 1300 attendees, I'd guess at least 800+ were vendor attendees. Not a bad thing, if the sessions were more geared at knowledge sharing. Which they really weren't. So there seemed to be a disconnect between the people who attended the conference and the flavor of the sessions.


For a marketplace that should be as dynamic as virtual worlds, very little had changed since April. The biggest thing I learned was that we're still ahead of the curve on our development of a training platform utilizing virtual world technology. Are there other sleeper companies out there? Perhaps...

And, my personal favorite quote of the conference: "There's about to be a knife fight in the alley between learning companies and technology companies. The learning companies are going to win."

Of course we are.

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