A small gem at the Virtual World Conference last week was Paul Steinberg’s presentation of the genesis and launch of the Intel user community in Second Life. Humorous and helpful, Paul, of Intel's Software Solutions Group, readily shared the peaks and valleys of getting an online user community going in a virtual world.
Like all good online user communities it starts with a good vision, and as Paul articulated “What Intel should be doing is convincing the public that they are the real artists of society by going into details of what actually is involved in creating a new microprosscor, ….”
With executive blessing and a committed resource, the Intel project went through a couple of learning curves. The first was getting the right “look and feel” of the Second Life location. Initial design points from external designers ranged from something out of a 1950s Sci Fi flick, to a large confectionary concoction run amok. But the once the clean and open space was designed, then the project was launched last spring, (two launches to ensure global time zone coverage).
Here’s some observations from Paul.
On the virtual locale: Focus on interaction and community, not cluttered look and feel.
Keep cool: Initial skepticism from some participants,
voiced in the blogosphere, should be acknowledged but not over-reacted to. The community settles in pretty quickly. Especially if the mission of the community is
clear and above board.
Not just outreach, but in-reach: Once the project started, all sorts of internal Intel connections also emerged, creating a whole new network of people with new connections not formerly apparent through the usual forms of corporate communications. Internal participants were truly cross-functional not just engineers, but marketers, many of whom were already on Second Life or other virtual worlds that the Paul didn’t know existed.
Virtual Worlds are optimum for interaction and engagement. Don’t over develop content for a venue like Second Life. Websites are good for that. The Intel venue is now hosting a calendar of regular events for the next quarter; at least 2-3 month. He also described a coding contest for customized bots that was very successful and turned into an all-day event.
Stay true to your community: In Intel's case it means reaching out to technical people on technical terms and not do marketing. Some of the presentations Intel organizes are by noted technologists external to the company.
Keep the corporate PR people (politely) at bay. Dialogues in a user community will range from positive to negative, but it should be able to play out within the community without too much intervention.
In short, the Intel community Second Life presence has a clear mission, keeps its focus on a technical community, emphasizes interaction and engagement, and with Paul’s willingness to experiment and evaluate, evolves with the needs of the community, both internal and external to Intel. Cool.