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Virtual Worlds: Are they really dead?

Depending on who you talk to, some may say Virtual Worlds are dead. But are they really? In this recent San Jose Mercury News piece, Business is Booming in Virtual Worlds for Companies, virtual worlds are still all the rage for companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Intel. What about San Jose’s Tech Museum of Innovation using Second Life to drive design ideas? Even Hollywood is getting into the virtual mix in order to reach new audiences. While there have been a lot of articles written about companies exiting virtual worlds such as Second Life, they’ve been balanced with a good number of stories highlighting its successes. Personally, I think just looking at virtual environments as simply a marketing tool can be a recipe for disaster in the long run. Whether it comes in the form of an online video game, 3D similation environment or social networking utility, you should look at them more as powerful collaboration tools. Still not convinced? Cisco’s very own CEO, John Chambers will be in Second Life on Tuesday, June 24th at 2:00 PM Eastern for a Q&A session with the virtual community to discuss just that — the power of collaboration. Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect at the event. Don’t miss it! A better way to navigate to countries

imageWe’re instituting a nice upgrade to the country and language selection on This new function will appear soon on our worldwide site, but you can already see a working sneak preview on many of our country sites. For instance, go to our UK and Ireland site and choose to change country at the top of the page.You’ll get a new popup with an interactive region and country selector:imageWhen you select a region, the screen wipes to a new view of countries in that region:imageWith it’s light animation, the selector is even slicker to see in action, so you should try it on one of the country sites where we have it in preview (like UK & Ireland or Argentina or many others.)An advantages of using interactive country selection like this is that there’s much less scrolling vs. the traditional pulldown list or long selection page that you see on many sites. Kudos to Chris, Sumeet, Philippe, Valerie, Janet, and everyone else who helped get this across the finish line.We have some additional future tune-ups planned, so let us know what enhancements or changes you would like to see.

Cisco Live in Second Life

Last year we worked to extend our Cisco Live (formerly known as Networkers) conference into Second Life via on-demand video of some of the keynotes and panel discussions from the physical event as well as unique Q&A’s within Second Life on topics as varied as Data Center 3.0 and Digital Media and the Consumer. The feedback was positive from the in world attendees and a physical conference attendee submitted a challenge to take it even further, see below image. So this year we are taking it to infinity and beyond…sorry couldn’t help myself.This year we will feature on-demand technical break out session/s, collaborative gaming, several live Cisco Live in Second Life TechChats…and last but certainly not least a live QA in world with John Chambers, Cisco CEO, on collaboration. See below for a detailed schedule. I hope to see you out in June for what should prove to be an exciting weeks worth of virtual events and tours! For those who can’t join us in Orlando or Second Life you can still take take advantage of this learning opportunity by attending the Second Life events via this web blog, where they will be featured live and on-demand. Read More »

Everything New is Old Again

In the world of perpetual Beta, “final” never really is. A case is point is the recently launched, segment-savvy home page from the design team at were many pros and cons chronicled about this “black page” design, but I think it exhibited some nice advanced thinking around how to organize and showcase key content from a home page and make it relevant to different kinds of visitors. Dell experimented with a similar type of design (sans the black color scheme) and Laura Thomas at Dell had an interesting post about the HP home page design at the time.So here’s the twist: For the moment, for most visitors, the black is gone, and the old home page has been resurfaced:imageThere’s a blog entry explaining the change back, but I think the lesson for all of us in the Web business is that even with unlimited A/B testing, you never know how something will play out until you put it live. And, as Nandini Nayak says there at HP: “This project will always be going on and will never be completely finished.” (This sounds exhausting, but true.)P.S. Speaking of home pages, something is smoking over at the related Voodoo site.image

Eye(Pod) Candy

If you own an iPod, you have probably noticed that album covers are a little extra part of your media consumption experience: They not only show what you’re listening to, but also serve as a way to browse and select from different recordings.Over the past couple of years, we’ve developed a range of different styles for these album covers, and the inconsistency was beginning to bug us. For instance, you might easily browse into the iTunes podcast area and find a range of completely different cover styles for Cisco podcasts:imageRecently, we decided it was time to standardize the look, and now you see more icons (“album covers”) like these:imageThere are a few advantages to having a real strategy around your album covers. First, a consistent approach to album art extends your brand into iTunes and to the iPod and other players. This means someone who is listening to a 20-minute podcast during a train commute (as some customers tell me they do regularly) can glance down to see the topic, title, and originating company (you). Second, if you chose colors or some other kind of theming, customers can identify different types of podcasts quickly through color and labeling.Some tips if you decide to do this for your company:

  • Think about categories for the various types of podcasts you usually do. Do you want customers to be able to differentiate them in some way? In our case, we chose different colors for different topical types.
  • PNGs work great, JPEGs are good, and GIFs don’t work too well. We found that when the image is a index color GIF, it comes in very dithered — it actually looks like 16 colors! When we changed it to a regular RGB image and saved it as a JPEG, it came in nice and smooth.
  • Take extra time to follow common size conventions to make sure the icons look great in different expressions and sizes. We adopted a 600×600 size and PNG as the format. This assured that the album covers still look good in iTunes and other venues even in full-screen mode. (Some developers have blogged about going to 900×900, which probably makes sense for detailed album art)