Web 2.0 is a bubble, and Second Life is arguably the brightest shiniest example.
Plenty of time has been devoted to the phenomenon from a technology and business perspective.
What's needed is a good debate about the PR and marketing issues raised by companies experimenting with one of the fastest changing new media.
And it just so happens that the 8th National Public Affairs Convention is going to tackle this very issue on Thursday. I will be joined on stage by ABC's head of new media Abigail Thomas and Telstra and AFTRS Second Life projects director Gary Hayes to talk about how valuable Second Life will become to the PR community. Check out the full program here.
But before I do so, what's your take on Second Life? Do we believe their usage statistics (6 million+ users), and do many PR and marketing execs really understand what a fundamental shift in thinking is required to engage with SL inhabitants? Big companies like traditional online marketing because you can buy stuff - ads, sponsorships etc. With SL it seems the stuff you buy is a "space" where you invite people to interact with your brand. Is it working? Why/why not?
Yes, I'm still here, for those people who have kindly asked if I'd vanished and/or how my "new life" was going. In short, it's true what they say about starting your own business - you can become busier than before. Another maxim is also true - it's not until you step out that people start approaching you with questions about how we might work together.
So, I've been getting stuck into mountains of reporting for a couple of feature articles. I've also started work on one consulting job, but I'm not really at liberty to talk too much about that yet. Oh, and then there's the small detail of the fact that we sold our house in Sydney last week, and found another one to buy on the weekend. Anyone wanting advice on how to negotiate with real estate agents lemme know - I've become a quick study thanks to two brothers in law who are in the game.
As for college, I've been on a two week mid-semester break and I'm about to get stuck into a small mountain of essays and related assignments. There's plenty more stuff I could write about college, but I'll save that for the moment, and perhaps my nascent "faith blog" idea. Actually, if I was to go down that path what would you want to know??
At some point last night as our party effortlessly transitioned between two pubs and a Chinese restaurant I'll not forget stopping to scan the room and take a mental photograph of the 20 or so happy faces (beer and finger food, what else do you need?) which were my AFR colleagues. The thought flashed through my mind that there's something remarkable about the Fin where you work with seasoned journos who've been around for some 20 years, constantly refining the craft that is newspaper journalism. It's a culture that's inclusive of young, aspiring journos who are keen to learn from the best in the business.
Around ten years ago when I started out as a technology journalist, this role that I'm leaving behind today was my secret ambition. It was an outrageous idea, in my post-University mind, that perhaps one day I could work at the AFR writing about technology. As you know, my next outrageous idea is that perhaps one day in the future (think more than 5 years) I could possibly become a pastor, or apply what I'm learning at Tabor College in some other meaningful way.
So when people ask how does it feel to leave the AFR, it usually takes a little while to answer the question. The first part of the answer is that I'm leaving my role as IT Editor, but not journalism. I've been offered tonnes of freelance work here, so in a sense I'm not really leaving, just changing. What I'm trying to process is how it came to pass that I can simultaneously pursue two passions at once, and it all just works. In short, it's all good.
As I just mentioned in my Twitter stream, Mike and Scott from Atlassian, an Australian wiki developer we have written about in the pages of the AFR, are pictured in a Business Week yarn on young entrepreneurs.
Aussie startups take note: The profile piece on BW's slideshow makes no reference to the fact they are Australian. And that's a good thing, because geography doesn't matter. Forget about traveling to Silicon Valley and trading on Brand Australia.
So my colleague Joshua and I today dived into this Twitter thing that's been buzzing around the blogosphere for weeks. Here's my page, and Joshua's is here. He wrote a yarn on the subject which was slated to run in tomorrow's paper (Friday).
So what is it? Think instant messaging meets blog, meets SMS messaging, and stir with large amounts of random bizzare conversations. I went out to lunch with an SMS notification service turned on and kept getting an SMS for each message one of my friends wrote. Let's just say I turned that little service off quickly. I can't decide if it's all just a little bit silly. Whatdya reckon?
Update: Story got held. You get that.
Update2: It got a run on page 3 of the Weekend AFR in case you missed it. Joshua kicked off the piece thus: "A digital stream of consciousness called Twitter has become the online flavour of the month."
Amanda Meade took another shot at the AFR today in her media column, due to a number of resignations. It's worth noting for the record that I have not "become a Christian pastor." It's an odd statement given that she interviewed me a couple of weeks ago. What is true is that I have begun my studies, a Bachelor of Ministry degree. When completed some 5 to 7 years from now it will qualify me to become a pastor, which under the traditional model means you are employed by a church. Until then, I'm really excited about my freelance journalism career which starts on the other side of Easter.
Check out this Wired yarn on what happens when Microsoft's PR company accidentally sends a journalist who's writing a story about Microsoft the in-depth file used to track his every move. Just spectacular.
It's no secret that PR's keep files on journos - they use it to justify billing rates and as part of broader strategies to massage the message. What's amazing about this is the level of detail, including internal Microsoft emails which give you an insight into what their hoards of PR people do all day long. And people wonder why we journos are cynical...
Exactly one week to go before I wrap things up as IT Editor at the AFR. It feels vaguely surreal, I gotta say. People have been asking me all sorts of questions from the profound to the practical. On the practical side, my last day as I said before, is April 4. On the other side of Easter, I will embark on my freelance journalism career writing primarily for Fairfax Media. I've already been commissioned on a few stories, so that's great. If you want to keep in touch, my work email is markhjones <at> gmail.com. Naturally enough, I also have some other plans in the works, but more on that later!
If you'd like to join me for a few celebratory drinks, we'll be at Sydney's City Hotel some time after 6:30pm on Tuesday April 3. And when I say we, that's a few of my AFR colleagues including Tony Boyd, who after 18 years at the AFR (a few years spent as IT Editor, interestingly enough) is also leaving on the same day as yours truly.
The Australian Information Industry Association's new boss Sheryle Moon has launched into the blogosphere. Notable because she's a CEO of a very vocal IT industry lobby group, and there are few CEOs blogging in Australia. Also notable because she did one of those comeeko photo cartoons, a sign that she can't take herself too seriously. It's not exactly a funny cartoon, but hey, she's blogging!