Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get a (Second) Life

Social networking is booming. Financial executives and CPAs seem to be relatively familiar - directly or indirectly - with sites like LinkedIn (check out the FEI Group on LinkedIn!), Facebook and Twitter , but less so with the virtual world of Second Life. (For related commentary, see Hey Social Media: The Big Four is Just Not That Into You in Francine McKenna's Re:TheAuditors blog, Why I Finally Joined LinkIn and Facebook by IRWebReport's Dominic Jones, and Is Social Media an Oxymoron in Barbara Bix' The Top Line blog.) We provide more info on Second Life, below, and invite you to post a comment on our survey further below.

One group that is significantly ahead of the curve when it comes to Second Life and social networking is the Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA). MACPA has taken the lead in developing and promoting the Second Life Association of CPAs (SLACPA) and CPA Island, which they frequently post about in their blog, CPA Success. Bill Sheridan, MACPA's Electronic Communications Manager and Editor recently wrote on this subject in his post, Shortest List Ever, the 1 Top Reason to Use Social Media, and I have been receiving some very helpful information on the use of Second Life from Tom Hood, MACPA's Executive Director and CEO, and others on his staff which I appreciate very much.

Another group using Second Life is FASB - yes FASB! - by offering "FASB Research Office Hours" on Second Life.

[UPDATE 1.2.10: Even if you don't use Second Life, you can access live or archived webcasts of FASB Research Office Hours Roundtables at; visit the FASRI Roundtable Calendar for upcoming and archived events, then go to the FASRI viewer, click on the "On Demand" button that will appear at the bottom of the viewer and click on the date of the program you wish to watch (if it is an archived program).]

The FASB presence, aimed at promoting the sharing of knowledge on current FASB and IASB projects and current academic research has been coordinated by Prof. Rob Bloomfield of Cornell, who serves as Director of FASB's Research Initiative, and Prof. Ray Pfeiffer, Jr. of UMass, currently a Research Fellow at FASB. Invitees include members of the American Accounting Association (AAA - the association representing professors of accounting) Financial Accounting and Reporting Section (FARS). [In fact, that reminds me, the AAA started its own social networking site this past year, called AAACommons. If you're not a professor but you are interested in academe and/or AAA's conferences, you can become an associate member.]

According to a recent email from Prof. Bloomfield sent to AAA FARS members, "Over 75 research faculty and doctoral students have attended [FASB Research Hours on Second Life] at least once, many attending repeatedly (with crowds averaging about 15-20). " He adds that attendees from the standard-setters have included FASB board and staff members, and IASB staff members. This week, FASB board member Larry Smith is participating.

The increased interest I've seen in various professional venues surrounding Second Life has prompted me to take a quick survey in our blog:


How many of you are in the virtual world, Second Life? If you are, would you mind posting a comment in the comment section of this blog post, to let us know:

1. Has Second Life benefited you (or your firm) personally or professionally, if so, how? (Please also indicate specifically or generically what type of position you hold, in what industry or profession.)

2. Would you like to share the name of your Second Life avatar with us (privately via email, or by posting it in the comments section for the world to see)?

I thank you (and my avatar thanks you, too) for taking our survey, and feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues! Check back to this post periodically to see the results.

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DougBarnert said...

Barnert Global Announces Opening of Microinsurance Island


(New York, NY) 23 January 2008 – Barnert Global President Douglas W. Barnert today announced the opening on Second Life of a new island for microinsurance projects from around the world. Microinsurance Island will be home for a variety of projects. It will also contain a Main Building for offices for providers, donors, and other participants in the microinsurance world. The opening of the island is coordinated with the opening of the World Economic Forum in Davos and is an opportunity for villages in rural poor areas of the world to display their projects.

In opening the island, Barnert said “There are multiple sites on microinsurance, they are all specific program oriented. This site makes itself available for projects and people to inform each other on their attempts to provide microinsurance in the rural poor communities of the world.”

“While a two-hundred page case study may be informative, it is not going to be read by farmers in rural villages who might want to form a group on crop insurance. Second Life is the perfect answer for that community”, said Barnert.

Second Life is a way for villages to display their programs by building replicas of their projects. Additional materials from the sponsors can be linked and videos links could expand the vision beyond the four corners of the island.

Parcels are organized for rent. A separate space is set up for conferencing - video presentations - classroom style – to fit about 20 people with larger space available on request. Also there is a Main Building with offices to rent for organizations that want to set up and use it to interview, distribute grant applications or present their own programs in a more formal setting.

With tree-lined paths and a sandbox for construction, Microinsurance Island is the only location of its kind on Second Life. Barnert said he expected the huts to be filled quickly and plans to start construction of another island in the near future.

“Donors in the microinsurance community will want to rent space to layout their needs and qualifications for people who want to apply for funding and sponsorship” said Barnert. “Insurance companies and other sponsors will want to rent space to advertise their corporate responsibility in providing these plans.”

In Beijing in January Barnert gave a presentation on Transparency and Disclosure in Microinsurance at the Workshop on Expanding Access to Microinsurance for the Poor sponsored by the World Bank, the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, and the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.

Edith Orenstein said...

Doug, thanks for your comment, it reminded me that this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos is beginning later this week, does anyone know if Reuters is doing interviews of Davos attendees on Second Life again this year? Here's one of their articles from last year:

Broc Romanek said...

I haven't spent any time on Second Life, but my hunch is that other "social" (read "business") platforms have a greater chance of making it long-term compared to Second Life. Everything I've read recently points in that direction, including stats in usage of Second Life compared to platforms like LinkedIn. Of course, a new service may outdo them all as all the existing platforms have their limitations. My ten cents...thanks for posting the note on the "SEC Staff Alumni" group on LinkedIn!

Bob Laux said...


I have made a presentation on the MACPA's CPA Island site in Second Life and have also participated in the FASB Research Office Hours. I found both experiences very rewarding and believe Second Life is a great way to communicate. My avitar name is Ro Shippe.

Bob Laux

Edith Orenstein said...

Bob, thanks for your comment that you've had a postive experience using Second Life, I bet you have had something to do with the Enhanced Business Reporting (EBR) 360 presence on Second Life ( in Real Life).