DSS News
                   D. J. Power, Editor
             July 1, 2007 -- Vol. 8, No. 13 

     A Free Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM
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  Check classic article by Mark Demarest "The Information 
  Triad: A model of past, current and future information
        technology utilization in the firm" at



* Ask Dan: Can multi-user visual simulations
provide real world decision support?
* Report from Second Life conferences
* Upcoming Decision Support Related Conferences
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Headlines 


Ask Dan!

Can multi-user visual simulations provide real world decision

by Dan Power

The computing technology for creating realistic visual simulations
has improved tremendously in the past 20 years. Today, Internet-based
multi-user visual simulations like Second Life (
are creating excitement and interest in the possibilities of virtual
reality for entertainment, e-business and education. My experiences
suggest the possibilities for decision support are also exciting. 

An Internet-based, real-time multiuser simulation is not science
fiction. The graphic quality at Second Life (SL) is reasonably high,
the development environment is powerful, and the new voice capability
works. The problem of scalability remains a concern. At any given time
approximately 30,000 to 40,000 people are using their SL avatars. The
SL simulation engines run on almost 3000 quad core servers with more
than 150 servers added each week. Over 1.7 million people from most
parts of the world logged into Second Life in the 60 days from May 1,
2007 to June 30, 2007.

Second Life supports an incredible fantasy world where avatars, the
representations of the user, can fly, walk through transparent walls, 
and teleport to imaginary castles, shopping malls and even IBM's robot
maze. Marc de Groot (1997) defined an avatar as "a visible and audible
representation of the user in the virtual world. It is the 'body' of 
the user as s/he moves through the virtual space."

Virtual reality is not a new concept, but it is a maturing concept.
We have moved beyond MOO (Multi-user dungeon, Object Oriented),
paintball world, and Guardians at the Gate. We don't have low cost 
stereoscopic heads-up displays and 3D mice yet, but we will.

Wade Roush, in the featured article titled "Second Earth" in
Technology Review (July/August 2007) published by MIT, suggests we
will see an even better immersive 3-D visual environment that combines 
a social virtual world like Second Life with tools like Google Earth
to create a realistic duplicate of our earth. You can read his article
on the Web.

Roush traces the Metaverse concept to Neil Stephenson's 1992 novel 
"Snow Crash". Metaverse was a virtual city. He also notes Yale
scientist David Gelernter coined the term "mirror world" to describe
accurate simulations of real environments. Roush suggests some 
decision support applications in mirror worlds or a metaverse that
I'll summarize as I discuss various types of decision support using
realistic simulations.

Chesher (1994) notes that "On June 7, 1989 the computer-aided design 
software company Autodesk and the eclectic computer company VPL
announced a new technology called 'virtual reality'". Virtual reality
(VR) is supposedly an additional reality, while a mirror world is an 
extension of reality. Chesher traces the roots of virtual reality to
William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer. He reports the term virtual
reality was coined in 1987 by Jaron Lanier.

Movies like the "Matrix" (1999) and "The Thirteenth Floor" (1999) 
also deal with the topic of simulated worlds. In The Matrix, people
are connected using cybernetic implants to a simulated reality created
by sentient machines to pacify, subdue and make use of them. In "The 
Thirteenth Floor", computer scientist Hannon Fuller creates a
simulated parallel world with analogs who are controlled like the
avatars of Second Life, but the experience is much more immersive.

My interest in computer simulated worlds traces back to 1965, when as 
a 15 year old I read Daniel F. Galouye's novel "Simulacron-3".
Galouye's novel is the basis for Joseph Rusnal's movie "The Thirteenth
Floor". Recently, I watched the movie for the first time on a cable TV 
channel. Galouye imagined a simulectronic world that depends "upon the
Gestalt principle for its verisimilitude -- the presence of a
sufficient number of items in a pattern to suggest the entire pattern.
The cognitive whole is greater than the sum of its perceptible parts
(p. 83)."

Two previous Ask Dan columns (July 6, 2003 and November 6, 2005) have
dealt with related topics on simulation and computer games. My focus 
in this column is to present "right now" possibilities for decision
support in a Simulacron.

Communications-driven Decision Support

I have experienced first hand some of the possibilities of creating a 
shared collaborative workspace in Second Life and for holding meetings
and conferences. The tools for decision conferences and business
meetings are in place and ready to use. My new Second Life friends,
like Tom Samson can help facilitate team building and team meetings at 
his Teamwork Dynamics facilities. Anthony Adam at Group Vision
provides similar services and he has an Alpine Retreat meeting
facility in Second Life. Paul Clevett is a principal with and his group also supports meetings and conferences.
My plan is to showcase communications-driven decision support using
Second Life in a future column.

Data-driven Decision Support

Last week, Richard Hackathorn's avatar showed me the real-time 3-D
weather map at the U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) Island in Second Life. A large 3-D weather map retrieves METAR
data from NOAA every eight minutes which is decoded and render into
representations like rain or clouds of the appropriate weather
phenomenon for an area. You can actually watch the weather as it
happens. This weather map demonstrates a visualization tool for 
real-time data-driven decision support. Imagine walking around
simulated factories or gambling floors receiving real-time data.
Management by walking around will take on new meaning in a Simulacron
or Virtual World. 

Roush (2007) also discusses NOAA's weather map. He also mentions the
virtual Wimbledon where visitor's can observe matches in real time. He
suggests company's like Walmart will be able to use a mirror world to 
track merchandise from factory to warehouse and explore what-if
scenarios. Roush suggests that with a mirror world a person with
mobile device that is location aware will be able to use the mirror
for real-world location relevant decision support. 

Document-driven Decision Support

Reading note cards and PowerPoint slides in Second Life is still a
problem. The search engine in Second Life is also weak, but in a more
dedicated virtual world one can imagine accessing multimedia content 
easily. People can replay virtual meetings, examine IM and chat
conversations, listen to voice recordings, and walk through and browse
in a document library.

Knowledge-driven Decision Support

Using scripting languages, we can actually create knowbots in a 
Virtual World that would advise managers. The Linden Scripting
Lanaguage will need to be expanded, extended or replaced, but
knowledge can be stored and retrieved effectively in a virtual world.
Readers can interact with an Ask Dan! knowbots that have been 
programmed to answer questions about decision support systems. We
should be able to interface tools like Exsys Corvid to knowbots in
Second Life or a similar Virtual World.

Model-driven Decision Support

Envisioning the future has always been a goal of computerized
decision support. The environment simulator in Simulacron-3 was
intended to provide probability-based forecasting. The simulator would
answer any question about the behavioral and social reactions of 
people in the simulation. In a special study in a simulated world,
avatars can be hired to shop in a newly designed store or to "try and
evaluate" a new product before it is produced. Managers can manipulate 
visual models to try to improve productivity and can interact with a
simulated environment before they encounter a similar situation in
real life. During the past 15 years, a major application of virtual
reality systems has been training for real-life activities. Games like 
Roller Coaster Tycoon suggest that both avatars and robots can be used
in model-driven decision support simulations.

The metaverse, virtual reality or the simulacron is more than an
entertainment technology. Realistic simulation can be a powerful 
technology for computerized decision support. is
starting a new website related to realistic simulations for decision
support called Watch as the decision support
world simulacron develops and matures.

In 1991, Jaron Lanier argued "virtual reality is the first medium to
come along which doesn't narrow the human spirit..." He said virtual
reality would free the imagination of the masses and "help people to 
communicate" and bring a new kind of spiritual understanding.

In a September 1988 white paper titled "Through the Looking Glass",
Autodesk founder John Walker argued virtual reality was the conclusion 
for improving human-computer interaction. Walker defined "a cyberspace
system as one which provides the user a three-dimensional interaction
experience that provides the illusion he is inside a world rather than 
observing an image."

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcomed.


1993 VR Conference Proceedings, Center On Disabilities Virtual
Reality Conference 1993, URL .

3D Weather Data Visualization in Second Life, URL

Chesher, C., "Colonizing Virtual Reality Construction of the
Discourse of Virtual Reality, 1984-1992," URL Cultronix--volume 1, number 1,
Fall 1994.

de Groot, Marc, "Multi-user virtual reality system for simulating a
three-dimensional environment," United States Patent 6421047, .

Galouye, D. F., Simulacron-3, New York: Bantam Books, July 1964. 

Lanier, Jaron, "Brief Biography," URL .

Noto, T., "Multi-user Virtual Reality System 'MAARE': Design and 
Implementation," March 8, 1996, Url .

Power, D., How can simulation be used for decision support? DSS News, 
Vol. 4, No. 14, July 6, 2003.

Power, D., "What can DSS designers learn from video games?" DSS News,
Vol. 6, No. 24, November 6, 2005.

Reingold, H., Virtual Reality, Summit Books, July 1991.

Roush, W., "Second Earth," Technology Review, July/August 2007, pp.
38-48, URL

"virtual reality," Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007,
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, June 30 2007 at .

Walker, J., "Through the Looking Glass," September 1, 1988, at URL . An abridged 
version of this paper appeared in the book The Art of Human-Computer
Interface Design, edited by Brenda Laurel, Addison-Wesley, 1990.


        Check the interview with Tom Davenport 
      "Competing on Analytics" at DSSResources.COM


Trip Report from Second Conferences June 18-June 30, 2007

by Dan Power

The past 2 weeks have been busy for me in Second Life. On Thursday, 
June 21, 2007, I attended an IBM Web 2.0 Briefing. Avatars Jay Clarke
and Mystique Beam organized the event. After a few minor technical
glitches, Anita Mather alias Mystique Beam gave a voice introduction.
It was hard to read the slides and other avatars floated in front of 
me at times, but a generally successful first IBM developer works
briefing in SL. I deposited my evaluation form in the dropbox at the
end of the 20 minute briefing.

On Monday, June 25, I attended Gareth Ellison's talk on Open Source 
and Visual Simulation. He is proposing for the current web and the
other forms of communication on the internet to be unified into an
open source 3-D environment. This was a crowded gathering of about 40
avatars. The talk was all done using chat so it was not very 
efficient, but I felt like I was watching as the Wright Brothers were
planning to fly their airplane at Kitty Hawk. I spent more than an
hour listening to Gareth and hearing about Open Source and Second
Life. In real life, that's Gareth Nelson, .

Thursday night, June 29, 2007, I tried the Second Life Voice First
Look Client at a meeting of the Serious SL Meetup in Boulder CO group 
at NOAA Island. Richard Hackathorn (aka Hack Richard) invited me to
attend. I was one of 5 attendees using the voice client. This was a
highly experimental group meet up. Five of us using voice, 10-15 still
using chat who couldn't hear the voice, and 8-10 in a Boulder 
Conference room who could see the SL venue, but couldn't here the
voice. We also had live quick time video of the real world Boulder
meet up. Made some new friends, including Betsy Fisseux of the IBM
Eightbar group and Sean Cinquetti. 

The last formal event I attend was a talk by Sue Paulson aka avatar
Maisy Kidd at Hyperstring Island on Cyber Stress. Sue is the Queen of
Calm with . She was promoting her new book. I
wanted to see how Hyperstrings shoutcast servers worked. My thanks to
Paul Clevett aka PaulC Beck.


  Link to Dan Power:


Upcoming Decision Support Related Conferences

1. AMCIS 2007, Americas Conference on Information Systems, 
Keystone, CO USA, August 9-12, 2007. SIG DSS mini-tracks.
Check .

2. DaWaK 2007, 9th International Conference on Data 
Warehousing and Knowledge Discovery, Regensburg, Germany,
September 3-7, 2007. Check .

3. Pre-ICIS SIG DSS Workshop, Sunday, December 9, 2007,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, papers due Monday August 20, 2007. 
Check release .

4. IFIP TC8/WG8.3 DSS Working Conference, Toulouse, France,
July 1- 4, 2008, papers due November 16, 2007. 
Check release .


What's New at DSSResources.COM

06/29/2007 Posted an article by Mark Demarest, "The Information
Triad: A model of past, current and future information technology
utilization in the firm". Check the articles page.


DSS News Release Headlines - June 17 - June 29, 2007
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

06/29/2007 Business Objects again recognized as the worldwide
business intelligence market share leader. 

06/28/2007 'Digital Trust' essential to enterprise business
prosperity, says CSC report.

06/28/2007 Spotlight 29 Casino to deploy Compudigm and Teradata to
optimize gaming floor and analyze customer behavior. 

06/28/2007 Oracle customers named to the Managing Automation 2007
Progressive Manufacturing 50 list.

06/27/2007 Call/Recall unveils first multi-terabyte optical storage
solution compatible with existing CD and DVD formats. 

06/27/2007 Microsoft technical fellow keynotes on the reinvention of

06/26/2007 MSC.Software's Chief Technology Officer featured as New
York Times recognizes value of simulation.

06/26/2007 Call for papers: Journal of Electronic Commerce Research
(JECR) Special Issue on Virtual Worlds, submissions due November 1,

06/26/2007 Call for papers: IFIP TC8/WG8.3 Working Conference,
Toulouse, France, due date November 16, 2007.

06/25/2007 CyberShift's workforce management solutions extend
capabilities for mobile employees with BlackBerry support.

06/21/2007 Intranet DASHBOARD survey shows North America takes first 
place in utilizing cutting edge corporate intranet capabilities.

06/21/2007 Report focuses on the leading vendors in the Business
Intelligence market.

06/20/2007 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases New Orleans risk 

06/20/2007 University human resources department enhances strategic
contributions with Ultimate Software’s UltiPro.

06/20/2007 Surpassing search: new Xerox text mining software goes 
beyond “keywords” to deliver more relevant information.

06/20/2007 CIGNA HealthCare chooses SAS® business intelligence
for member and employer group informatics.

06/19/2007 SAP expands footprint to meet growing demand for mobile 
business solutions.

06/19/2007 Stage Stores expands deployment of MicroStrategy for
merchandising reporting and analysis.

06/18/2007 Social responsibility: most people have good intentions
but only a small minority really practice what they preach. 

06/18/2007 Polycom first to unify video conferencing and video
content management with new enterprise solution.

06/18/2007 MFS Investment Management deploys Actuate globally.


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