Startup Camp Day 2
Day 2 of Startup Camp was a little more subdued than Day 1 but the sessions continued to be interesting.Business in virtual worlds / Jeff Barr
Jeff Barr led another great session giving a guided tour of the emerging world of commerce in Second Life - you can really start to see the first glimmers of how this might work. Jeff mentioned that Amazon was in the process of creating a specific island (it's about $1600 and $200 / month for an island which more or less corresponds to a server run by Linden Labs). You can create 3D object in Second Life, apply textures to them and add scripts to them. Jeff showed an example of calling out from Second Life to his own webservice that returned a custom image. Objects can be sold with DRM to prevent resale or copying within the universe. There are already some commercial sites in Second Life as well as a growing community of consultants to help you build things within it. One of the cooler things Jeff showed was fabjectory.com which uses a ZCorp prototyping machine to convert objects in Second Life to physical 3D objects. Tim Bray mentioned that Sun has done some presentations in Second Life with mixed result and Jeff Barr also has used it to do remote presentations.
There was a healthy amount of skeptism about Second Life as the multiverse. Some people said that the UI / rendering was clunky compared to various MMORG games like Everquest and that we really need better input / display tools to work in this environment. Tim Bray contrasted it with the Web in 1994 but said this didn't feel the same. No one really said it but a big difference was that the Web was an open system whereas this is a closed platform run by a single company that you can build upon. If I could set up my own server that provided an island in Second Life, it would be a different story. As a specific example, I became a bit wary when Jeff mentioned that there is a recurring charge to have your property listed in the global directory. You can't really blame Linden Labs for trying to profit from this, but I think if Second Life aspires to replace some portion of the web in the long term, it can't be controlled by one company.Dealing With Analysts & Media / Stephen O'Grady
Stephen O'Grady and Michael Coté from Redmonk led an excellent session on the role analysts fill, how startup companies can deal with them and how your PR person needs to operate with the press. Like a lot of industries, the world of technology analysts and press is being radically changed by the world of blogs and social media. Rather than carpet-bombing people with press releases to drive buzz, startups need to focus on building a groundswell of favorable attention through blogs, discussion groups and wikis. I think this is in general an improvement in the state of affairs because the whole process is a lot more open and less subject to coercion. Of course, it also means you need to have a great product.In summary
It's been an entertaining two days. I appreciate Sun Microsystems for putting on the event - I hope they got something out of it. I'd especially like to thank Amazon and Redmonk for treading the fine line of providing useful information while resisting the urge to club us over the head with a sales pitch.