New report warns of dangers of trashy avatars

In conjunction with the rise of virtual worlds as a tool for business training and meetings, companies should assign a dress code to their employees' avatars, according to market research firm Gartner.

If you're running a business that has a presence in a virtual world, market research firm Gartner thinks you might want to make sure your employees' avatars aren't dressed like Lady Gaga at the VMAs.

"Companies with codes of conduct for other Web activities, such as blogging, should be able to extend those policies into virtual environments," a release Wednesday from Gartner announcing its new report "Avatars in the Enterprise: Six Guidelines to Enable Success" explained. "However, because 3-D environments add the visual dimension, they will need to make sure that their policies also cover dress codes."

That means your avatar might want to lose the sparkly pink torpedo bra, metallic leggings, and giant bat wings. When it's representing your company, that is.

The presence of businesses in virtual worlds like Second Life is nothing new--and has been much derided in recent years. But according to Gartner, it's still on the rise, particularly when it comes to training and virtual meetings. "Avatars are creeping into business environments and will have far reaching implications for enterprises, from policy to dress code, behavior, and computing platform requirements," the release explained. Gartner estimates that 70 percent of enterprises will be regulating the avatars of employees who use virtual worlds for business.

Two years ago, Gartner put out a study detailing the risks and pratfalls of doing business in virtual worlds, among them the difficulty of brand and reputation management. Now it's getting more specific: Gartner now says that employees ought to know how to operate their avatars properly, use the same degrees of discretion and professionalism that they do on social-networking sites, and even keep separate avatars for personal and professional use.

About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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