We had a record audience for today’s talk with Steve Kachelmeier:  almost 50 people on the web and 30 people in Second Life.  And no one had to get stuck in an airport.  If you missed it, just go to our LIVE page and follow the instructions to see his talk ‘on demand’.

In other news, the Wall Street Journal has an article describing how large corporations are using Second Life to run meetings.  What an idea!

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But Second Life is getting a renewed lease on life as a setting for trade shows, employee meetings and other corporate events for the likes of Northrop Grumman, Cigna Corp., Intel Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Linden Research Inc., the San Francisco company behind Second Life, is targeting business users with new products and services, including a feature that will let users call into virtual meetings from their cellphones. It is also testing hardware that companies can plug into their computer networks to create private virtual venues.

Such uses are a departure from Second Life’s initial corporate appeal. Initially Second Life attracted the likes of Nike Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., which saw the three-dimensional world as a digital marketing test bed.

Nissan Motor Co., for example, built a virtual vending machine that dispensed cars that avatars could test drive, or even fly. But interest began to wane, Nissan says, and it pulled out of Second Life last year. “There were a lot of things competing for our marketing dollars,” a spokesman says.

The marketers are being replaced by corporations that are using Second Life to host virtual conferences for employees or business partners.

Few have jumped in as deeply as International Business Machines Corp. Last year, IBM hosted an annual gathering of its leading thinkers in Second Life. The October event would have otherwise been scaled back because of the recession.

The three-day event, which peaked at about 250 concurrent users, helped demonstrate the promise of virtual reality to many IBMers who were still doubtful, says Neil Katz, one of IBM’s distinguished engineers.

“We turned hard skeptics into skeptics and skeptics into true believers,” he says, noting the venues have since been used for other IBM events.