This blog is meant to document the work which has been achieved in Second Life by Clara Young for the C2B agency for their client FrontRange Inc. in preparation of the CEBIT 2008 in Hanover. This project is competing for the Linden Prize 2009. It will try to recapitulate all the steps of the project and its production inworld. Thanks to Kai and Kigh who were really helpful with all the pictures taken into the real exhibition.
Kigh Kline: ah, hi...good morning Clara
Kigh Kline: i just visited the CeBIT booth to get the statistics
Clara Young: and what are they ?
Kigh Kline: meanwhile there were 1530 Visitors until now..
Clara Young: on the booth ?
Kigh Kline: yes, ok , there were our visits also included...
Clara Young: incredible, are you are sure ?
Kigh Kline: if i take 400 visits back, coz that were we (building, adjusting and rehearsals...)
Kigh Kline: Unique visitors today = 1, yesterday = 2, total = 106 Peak unique visitors today = 1, Yesterday = 1, Total = 2 Visitor minutes on your land today = 1, Yesterday = 10, Total = 1530 Totals are for 78 days of monitoring Range of monitoring = 30 meters Memory = 9149

This discussion shows you the first way to measure results on our operation : the classic statistic sensor that Kigh had put on the parcel where the booth was hosted on Champs Elysees.
Kigh considers there were about 453 serious visitors on the booth and that the discussions the sales forces had with the second life visitors were serious, and that many leaded to contact in real life after this, so to say many sales opportunities which was one of the goals.

We also conducted a small qualitative enquiry on the booth with some survey stands, that were showing a real interest from the visitors on that kind of communication and contact from the client. Some clients were really enthousiastic and even wrote to me or Kigh to ask more about Second Life and how they could develop their own project.

And most of all, the FrontRange people were really satisfied of this and it really brought a new spirit to some of the team showing them new path of developping relationships into a professionnal environment. 

I do not consider myself like a real "evangelist" as we used to say about the Apple people, but sometimes I feel this way. When we think we convince maybe about 400 people that were discovering Second Life thru this operation, and maybe some of those people will really develop their real life activity with it, and maybe returns to Second Life to create something that will also brings something useful to the resident community. We cannot really track this and measure it, but I am sure this small action is one of those small stones that grows the future of collaboration thru virtual worlds, and maybe for the best. And in some ways, I really feel proud to be an actor of this process....
Contacts on the FrontRange booth were no problem when sales forces were there, but how to make it real when noone was here to answer questions and make requests during the month after the Cebit show was off. We all know this terrible feeling of being totally alone in a place in Second Life and I really wanted to make the visit positive for anyone coming there after all was gone...

First, I added some sculpted prim assistants to make the place more welcoming. OK it is not as if a regular avatar was there but it creates something different. The assistant is able to greet every customer with a personalized customizable message. She can also delivers gifts, notecards, or anything along with the greetings. They also keeps track of visitors and reports per email. The thing I like is that they have the ability to collect feedback, like how the visitor got to the booth, if they have a question or if they need a contact in real life.

I met ab Vanmoer on my first days in Second Life, and he has been a great friend since then. ab Vanmoer is a programmer in real life and it is not incidental if he became a talented scripter in SL. I always feel I am asking him crazy things like "ab, would it be possible to make shadows that follow the sun in SL" or like in the case of FrontRange " would that be possible to make a script to download a virtual good from a server after a purchase was made on SL". So ab proposed me much better, and that was the File Courier which he created and that gives you the possibility to really bridge with RL. If the second life visitor wants to receive a documentation per email directly, he just have to touch an object and enter his email, then he receives the files per mail, and we can keep a track of this request. The File courier is one of the greatest product I have seen for this "comes and goes" between second life and real life. This was just a fantastic tool.

All small stahls on the booth were scripted to lead to landing pages on the company's and partners url on the web. Plus I created some small stands that were leading to PDF download links.

Last steps were to stream videos and flash movies into the screens to deliver dynamic content. This is easy to do in Second Life and it brought a lot of realism to the booth content itself.

For most of us, newbees time is far away... so far away that we even dont remember sometimes how long it took us to understand what was IM and chat mode, what to do with a blue menu that suddenly appear on the top right corner of the screen, how to sit correctly clicking on a poseball, zooming or even walking straight exactly to where we want to go... that were funny times and we took the time... 

For those business people who come to Second Life for collaborative practises, this is not so funny !! Because in general, once they have resolved the problem of uploading the viewer on their machine though firewalls etc.. , they have not so much time to dedicate to learning how to make the best of their Second Life visit. Except if they are geek or videogamers, most marketing or communication people are totally "noooobs" and keep excusing themselves to be... We just wanted to avoid this feeling by creating those accounts. They did not have  then to go thru the orientation island and see themselves in clothes or skins they would not like... Kigh was very talented on this and really felt concerned in order for each avatar to be customized according to their profile, marketers, sales people and clients whom did not own an sl account or did want to simplify the first access. On another type of budget, we sure would have like to develop a customized solution, viewer and avatar under second life API, but this budget did not allow us to do it. Maybe next time !

As I explained in the concept, a part of the goals was to have the international marketing people and the sale forces to meet in the booth before the show, and interact virtually on a business level but also on a personnal one. Some people knew each other, some did not. It was certainly a nice way to meet and prepare the show. I do think it really created a very nice stimulation, as it did for the sale forces.  
In the few business projects I was associated to in Second Life,  I have noticed how suddenly, those people act funny, a little bit like children or old friends making good jokes, fun of themselves. In a certain way, training in SL, put them back to school, but the fun part of school. The personnalities express differently than in real life, as if the avatar was like a protection that allow themselves to be more natural. They are allowed to be clumsy, slow, or exactly the opposite. One will wait a robot to answer chat or voice, this other one will get stuck behind a wall, or does not know how to stand up anymore. .. In some ways, training in SL is also like sharing a mountain trip .. OK, I can already hear you, .. without the sensations... the pure air... the beautiful view... yes sure, nothing to really do with this... but I mean the effect on the team can be very similar.. People share something and here they would share something really new : learning to work in virtual worlds....

Once they would have experienced this kind of being and working, they sure would be able to  welcome their audience on the virtual booth.

And maybe become fan, like all of us !
The complexity of the project was not on the booth itself but on the obstacles linked to a business to business operation inworld :
- the downloading of an exterior application inside a company system (network restrictions)
- the first apprehension of the second life viewer to newcomers who come for a business reason in SL

To work with this we have used a few tricks :

The audience of clients and prospects were encouraged to come to the SL booth in an emailing invitation and with the other printed materials that were used by the company. The website was describing the procedure to enter in the SL booth, for people would never had entered in Second Life before.

To avoid the complexity of opening accounts, we had created a few clients avatars that the audience could use to get direcly to the booth. The sale force could then take contact to give them login and password and wait them at the entrance to show them the first steps, before talking business !

I also had created a learning zone at the entrance with reading and audio messages to learn how to walk, zoom, chat or take an object. That was easy for some and more complicated for others...

The important thing for us was not to create any frustrations so people feel OK with Second life, and of course with the brand FrontRange. A lot of them were quite surprise and for some it was a real revelation ! 

Once the main operation was over, I left a few nice robots (not bots) on the booth that could help to understand the place. 

Once the client validated the project itself, he also had to validate the design and the brand identity for the booth. Kigh with C2B-concept had prepared 2 kinds of design lines and with Second Life, it was also very easy to feel the power of those two lines.

The first design line was based on the association if the brand with working people. Pictures of men and women mixed with texts and slogans.
I personnaly thought the integration of human being was making the environment more friendly, and balancing the coldness of the media, but when we integrated it with a lot of images of real people around and the usual traffic that you can have in this kind of show, it really looked like a bit messy. Maybe in the future, that will be like choosing the skin of your website... you woud be able to choose to make business in the environment you like the best !

This is why the second line seemed to work much better, being just pure and dynamic lines that would really enhanced the booth, and do not raise the cognitive charge of the visitor. And honestly, that worked perfectly in second life as in real life.

It would also work with the brand itself that also value other brands that are in their group, like Enteo, NetInstall etc.. Actually this design line was helping to read the text and messages that were scattered on all the walls of the booth.

The furniture were very contemporary, so not so complicate to reproduce with normals linked prims. I just included some sitting animations and scripts to adjust to SL, and added some furniture in the same idea, like the PDF displays, and there we are. We were ready to concentrate on the welcome area and integrate videos and sounds.
Creating the FrontRange booth was a lot of pleasure since I was given all the instructions thru the architects plan and some 3D projections thru jpg and pdf documents.

As I told earlier, the SL booth had to be exactly the same dimensions and proportions than the real one, which meant for me to really figure correctly the heigth of the avatars so the general impression at the end would be the exactly same that in the real booth.

The first benefit of this experience was to forced me to work with coordinates which I am naturally not so fanatic. I guess this is a question of brain preferences ! I admit the exercice was really interesting and grateful, because building was going quick, and modifications were easy.

When I finally designed the main structure, I could concentrate on the details and furnitures, and I used for this a super presentation in 3D, I could manipulate from anywhere to see the angles, the corners, and all the views people could have depending on where they stand or sit. I could zoom on the details and re-create exactly any objects at the exact position where they would be.  

That was really fantastic and I really appreciated that Kigh helped me a lot on that because it made the work much more simpler and gave me the opportunity to concentrate on the functionnalities and interactions.

When the basic building work was done for the booth and the furnitures, Kigh and his agency started to test different creation concepts for the dressing of the booth. They finally choose to keep 2 main concepts that they would present to the client to help selling the project. I completed this by a small machimina movie that also convinced the final client that it was a really good project ! And it was definitely !!