February 15, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Power lunching with wizards and warriors
Sure, it has about 100 members, some of them wealthy, a few of them wildly wealthy. On the membership roster are at least 10 people who have the letter "C" in their job titles. And members of this particular club say they've joined so they can bond with friends and other like-minded people.
But there's one big difference between "We Know" and famed clubs like San Francisco's Olympic Club and the New York Athletic Club: "We Know" exists only in the virtual world. It's one of many virtual guilds, or groups of kindred players, in the popular "World of Warcraft" online game.
With more than 5.5 million people now playing WoW and joining guilds for everything from police officers to soldiers returning from Iraq, it was bound to happen: The rich guys have carved a virtual space to call their own.
In fairness, the six-month-old guild isn't just for rich folks. There are plenty of bartenders and regular workaday types in the group as well. But what sets "We Know" apart is its concentration of movers and shakers in the technology world. The guild includes Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText; Sean Bonner, who runs the Metroblogging network and who is a popular blogger in his own right; John Crain, the chief technology officer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); and Diego Rodriguez, a product developer at Ideo, a well-known design company.
The name "We Know" is actually a self-effacing joke, said guild founder Joi Ito, a tech investor who has put money into well-known tech outfits such as Technorati. The tech movers and shakers, said Ito, joke that they don't know very much, but they sure like to make people think they do.
Still, being the tech guys they are, they can't help networking and talking shop. Even as the guild members--virtual priests, hunters, warriors and paladins--go on raids together or sit around in WoW talking about the game, some are using their access to one another to do what they do best: put their heads together to create new software.
"Because we have a lot of IT geeks in our guild, a lot of us are now focused on building guild management tools," said Ito, "which I think is going to be a key part of the guild eventually."
While some might view WoW's sophisticated socialization features, which allow people to chum around in the virtual world, as a sort of "new golf," Ito thinks it's more than just a way for people to hang with their own kind.
"It's the guys at the bar that keep calling you back," said Ito. "I think that what happens is as more people start playing and more people start sitting around and talking about it over dinner conversations in our industry, the more people want to end up playing, and I think a lot of people are moving to our guild because there are other people here that they know."
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