Perceptions of Qwaq

I caught word of Qwaq, the Croquet-based virtual world collaboration application, receiving an additional $7M in funding a couple of days ago and have been watching the word spread, both curious as to how it would be received but also because of what CEO Greg Nuyens told Red Herring (Link):

Mr. Nuyens, who describes Second Life as a “fancy pick-up joint,” said that although Qwaq Forums is more focused on sharing documents, the social aspect is still important. “It isn’t one or the other. It’s about being able to do both in the same place,” he said.

Some of you might recall that I earlier raised the issue that PLM applications which are also part virtual world/part social application might lead to problems in the workplace. Namely, they could become “fancy pick-up” applications.

I don’t doubt such potential uses (misuses?) goes largely unconsidered when the more tech-centric blog The Weekly Squeak reports in their entry “Qwaq Secures $7 Million in Funding From Alloy Ventures and Storm Ventures” (Link)

The platform takes the concept of a virtual world with all the benefits of immediate communications and immersive visual feed back and integrates it with important business technologies that allow users to truly collaborate in real time. They have taken Croquet and made it work for business.

Almost seems as if people have never heard the term “office romance” (though to be fair, I don’t think of The Weekly Squeak as the place to read about non-technical things).

The New York Times however, doesn’t do much better in their selective culling of Red Herring’s coverage, “Qwaq Suits Up With $7 Million Round” (Link):

Much like Second Life, Qwaq Forums uses animated avatars representing users to populate 3-D office spaces, complete with rotating fans and potted plants. Only instead of being a time killer, Qwaq Forums aims to actually increase productivity by allowing clients to skip those long flights and stuffy conference rooms and let their avatars take the meeting for them.

While that’s provocative, the Times editor apparently hasn’t been paying enough attention to news feeds reporting things like how educators and librarians are increasingly experimenting in Second Life. When the Cleveland Public Library opts in, that should be a wake-up call, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not the application, it’s what users do with it. Of course with more layoffs hitting the venerable publisher, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of depth in their reporting.

The interesting part is that while the seriously business-/tech-minded folks mostly seem to ignore the human part of the equation, marketers apparently perceive something quite different in what Qwaq and other virtual world applications might have to offer. Via the blog Marketing in a Web 2.0 World comes an entry shouting “Virtual Marketing is a Reality!” (Link).

Now, all you guys out there are going to tell me an attractive co-worker (perhaps represented by an avatar in branded clothing) isn’t going to make you forget you’re in a strictly business application and not some “fancy [virtual] pick-up joint”? Right.

Just wait. Human Resources teams everywhere will be adding entire sections to company guidelines dealing with social interactions inside their virtual world applications. And I’ll be reading Virtually Blind waiting for the first lawsuit… involving Qwaq.

For more on Qwaq and the convergence of work and not-work, you might find some older posts of interest:

Cisco, WebEx, Qwaq, Ning, etc (reLink)
IBM: The EBO and Some PLM (reLink)
PLM, VPLM and Game Dev (reLink)
Take 2: Cooperative Building Games aka PLM (reLink)
Sun: Wall Street Really A MMO(rp)G (reLink)