During Season 2 of the Cohere podcast, Dr. Lauren Vargas and I examined the role networks play in our lives – from the obvious to the subtle. In Season 3, Lauren and I are exploring the topic dominating the discussion of our collective digital future: the Metaverse.
Our intention is to have a discussion will go beyond the hyperbolic (and eye roll-inducing) to have a forward-looking yet practical discussion of what our connected future looks like in a world of ambiently available digital networks – and what this means for us as individuals, citizens, societies, and as part of globally connected humanity.
Topically, we are opening up the aperture to look at the interconnected components that make up a future Metaverse, including the technology trends, societal impact, and what the Metaverse means for future forms of community, collaboration and community leadership.
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Season 3 So Far
Ep 1. Exploring a Betterverse
The current Metaverse is a mirage. The pursuit of the Metaverse vision could lead us to a better Internet.
On the first episode of Season 3 of the Cohere podcast, we (Bill Johnston and Dr. Lauren Vargas) frame of this season’s topic: the Metaverse.
As they did with “community”, Facebook’s announcement of the company’s move to focus on the Metaverse, and rebranding to “Meta”, set off a frenzy of conversation, speculation, and investment. Made in a move remarkably similar to their 2017 announcement that Facebook was a “community” company, it remains to be seen if Meta follows through with creating their version of the Metaverse. It is interesting to note that Zuck’s “Community” announcement from 2017 appears to have been taken down at some point in the past year (archive.org version here).
But this season of Cohere isn’t about Meta. It’s also not (solely) about VR, AR, XR, or related Web3 technologies – it is about the combinatorial effects all of these technologies and trends interacting to shape the next generation of the Internet, and more importantly, how we create a better Internet that is safe, equitable, accessible and inspires the best of human nature instead of exploiting the worst.
Ep 2. What Role Might NFTs Play In Future Communities?
Moving beyond punks and bored apes, NFTs have the potential to play a transformational role in future communities.
On this episode of the Cohere podcast, we (Bill Johnston and Dr. Lauren Vargas) discuss one of the hottest, potentially most overhyped topics right now: NFTs.
For the uninitiated, NFT’s (Non Fungible Tokens) are unique, digital, verifiable (blockchain-based) digital asset that records an exchange of value. In turn, the NFT itself (which records an exchange) can be exchanged. Said another way, NFTs are a “deed of ownership to a digital item”.
Much of the discussion from the past 2 years has focused on NFTs related to digital art – Crypto Punks, Bored Ape Yacht Club and Beeple are notable examples, but just scratch the surface of the massive volume of activity. The NFT market represented a staggering $23 billion in 2021.
The core of our discussion in this episode focuses on moving beyond financial speculation, what role might NFTs play in future communities and digital networks?
Ep 3. Do DAOs Hold the Secret of Orchestrating Collaboration?
Can DAOs address the current fallibility and idiosyncrasies of human collaboration to create better organizations and communities?
On this episode of the Cohere podcast, we (Bill Johnston and Dr. Lauren Vargas) discuss the early promise (and obvious issues) with DAOs (Distributed Autonomous Organizations). Bill and Lauren have an in-depth discussion to try and separate the value and future utility of the DAO model vs. the current hype.
DAOs have been described as “digital flash mobs with money” by Raihan Anwar, manager of the Friends with Benefits DAO, and a blockchain-based “virtual entity that has a certain set of members or shareholders who have the right to spend the entity’s funds and modify its code” by Vitalik Buterin, Co-founder of Ethereum.
A recent article by Tarun Chitra on A16Z’s Future blog suggests that the key factors for forming a DAO vs a more “traditional” organization are curation, security and risk: “DAOs work best when the governance burden related to curation, security, and risk can be reduced faster than the natural increase in coordination costs that accompanies the need to have members involved in voting on every decision made.”
Metaverse Working Group
During the show, we mentioned convening a small workgroup for discussion, learning and sensemaking. If you would be interested in participating, please fill out the short form here to be considered.
As always, if you have comments, ideas, or want to suggest a guest or topic for the show, please feel free to send me a note.
She obviously did the hard part… providing great content!
This month’s Online Community Expert interview is with Joi Podgorny of Ludorum, Inc. Joi’s area of expertise is the post-Facebook crowd, Tweens and Children.
Joi has worked the past decade building and managing safe, online communities for kids, as well as developing and implementing strategies in the realms of digital production, integrated marketing, and youth interactive research with such companies as Nicktoons, YTV/Corus, ABC (Australia), Kraft/Post Cereals, Neopets, Sparktop, and Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Ludorum is dedicated to developing, acquiring and marketing intellectual entertainment properties, in both the new interactive distribution channels as well as classic linear TV. At Ludorum, Joi leads the integration of interactive/online strategies into Ludorum’s television, publishing and toy properties.
If you are in the Bay Area, and are actively working with online communities, this event might be of interest to you. It’s invitation-based, so please drop me an email if you are interested.
The Roundtables have been a regular, but intentionally “under the radar” gathering since July of 2005. Thats longer than BarCamp (ok, only by a month). The intention of the events is to provide an open and safe environment for community practitioners to share experiences and best practices. It’s also an excellent excuse to have a cocktail and meet other interesting people in the space.
* No sponsorships. Host organization provides space, food and beverages
* No pitches. Presentations should be about sharing experiences, having a discussion about a problem or issue you are facing, or reviewing a project or site you are working on.
* The guest list is up to Bill & George.
* Bill and/or George sets final agenda based on topic appropriateness and time available
* “Soft” NDA: No blogging, or discussion “in public” about specific presentations or content, unless the presenter gives explicit permission.
6:00 – 7:00 Networking hour.
Drinks and food will be available.
7:00 – 9:00 Presentations.
After the networking hour, we’ll share thoughts on community. We request that you bring a 1-2 slide deck to talk to. Topics can range from:
* A report back from a conference
* A new community that you have recently launched
* A feature that you are developing, or are interested in discussing
* Challenges that you are facing in developing, growing or managing your community
* Or any other topic that you feel would be appropriate and enlightening to this audience.
We try to keep the size of the group small (about 25 people) to ensure a quality group conversation. As such, we limit invitations.
The latest issue of Wired has a an article that takes a not so flattering view of Second Life, and of several large brands that have tried to open up shop in the virtual world. The title says it all: “How Madison Avenue Is Wasting Millions on a Deserted Second Life”
One of the things you never see in Second Life is a genuine crowd — largely because the technology makes it impossible. … Created by an underfunded startup using a physics engine that’s now years out of date, Second Life is made up of thousands of disconnected “regions” (read: processors), most of which remain invisible unless you explicitly search for them by name. … And even the popular islands are never crowded, because each processor on Linden Lab’s servers can handle a maximum of only 70 avatars at a time; more than that and the service slows to a crawl, some avatars disappear, or the island simply vanishes.
The article goes on to cite several examples of failed or failing storefronts, including coke, H&R block and Toyota. The author chalks the willingness by marketers to experiment with second life to the fact that traditional marketing techniques are essentially failing.
“A terror has gripped corporate America,” says Joseph Plummer, chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, an industry think tank. Plummer has been around Madison Avenue since the early ’60s, when modern advertising techniques materialized. “The simple model they all grew up with” — the 30-second spot, delivered through the mass reach of television — “is no longer working. And there are two types of people out there: a small group that’s experimenting thoughtfully, and a large group that’s trying the next thing to come through the door.”
It’s pretty easy to come up with examples of silly ideas (at least in hindsight) or poor execution. What about presences in second life that actually work? Before I left Autodesk, I was shown what I still consider the best application of the technology that I’ve seen to date. Warning: It’s a pretty modest and practical application.
Crescendo Design, an architectural firm in Wisconsin, is using SL to model their home designs, experiment with renewable energy, and walk clients through potential designs. The demo I got about a year ago just blew me away. You can screenshots of their work in SL here.
The interesting thing about Second Life residents is that they REALLY love it. I’m not sure that it’s possible for real world brands to come inworld have a meaningful interaction with the residents without changing somethign about their real world product or marketing formula (ex: coke machines in second life?!?).
What do you think? Have you seen examples of companies large or small using having success doing business in a virtual world?