Second Life Community Conference (SLCC) – Day 2

Second Life Community Conference (SLCC)

The first day of the Second Life Community Conference (SLCC) was exhausting (and I didn’t even make it to the avatar’s ball!) – my head was chock-full of new ideas and my vision of the future was thrown for a loop.  Very, very good stuff.  And now, onto Day 2…

Pathfinder Lester

John Lester. John Lester (SL name: Pathfinder Lester), formerly from Linden Lab, gave a rousing keynote to kick off the second day.  Designed for inspiration he addressed the small, early morning group, as pioneers and encouraged us to both “predict the future” and to “protect your most precious assets”.  He had an impressive slide deck, complete with well-chosen images and a few nice clips (my favorite, a video clip from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…”if you’re going to shoot, shoot – don’t talk”).

He’s a practiced presenter which made the fact that so much of his presentation was about him, all the more glaring.  Which leads me to one of my observations about the conference in general… I’m struck by the self-consciousness of it all.  While I’ve discovered a solid cadre of people here doing very, very good work, there is also a thick layer of self consciousness or preciousness to it all.  A “me” culture that insists on my agenda, my needs, my story.  Maybe that’s what it’s like, being in a group of pioneers?

Here’s a captured USTREAM of Lester’s talk.  And here are his presentation slides.

Kenneth Y T Lim. Ken Lim (SL name: Veritas Raymaker), an Assistant professor in the Learning Sciences at the National Institute of Education in Singapore, gave an interesting talk about the Six Learnings Framework, which he had introduced at a previous SLCC, as a way of helping educators think about the pedagogical affordances of SL.  In Singapore, he uses SL with grades 7 and 9, to help students surface their own misconceptions and misunderstandings about the discipline.

He gave an interesting example of using SL to teach geography with middle school students.  They use SL to virtually represent tectonic landforms – contour lines are expanded to layers – cutting the virtaul mountain, in effect, with contour planes. Since Singapore is small and flat, his students don’t have an implicit understanding of mountainous terrain.  They have found that the 3D quality of the environment allows a greater potential for mistakes to happen, for misconceptions to surface.

For another of their SL geography lesson, he divided two sims into a series of bays that represent drainage basins – students then design and terraform their own drainage basin.  Lim explained that an important element of what they do is to transpose their work back to a written modality – they sketch, map, label on paper, after they’ve done their work in SL.

You can find Lim’s presentation slides here.  Very good stuff.

Andrew Hughes. Andrew Hughes (SL name: Andrew Hughes) founded Designing Digitally, Inc. which has done SL development for the US Department of Defense as well as 22 university builds in SL.  Designing Digitally was also responsible for the SL replication of the St. Louis arch and, most recently, 900 machinima videos for the state of Vermont.

Hughes gave a very well-done presentation about the future of virtual worlds for education.  He first quickly walked through a video timeline of virtual world development to show how virtual reality and virtual worlds are blending.

He reminded us that there are 450 virtual world spaces out there today – many choices and lots of action.  Browser-based virtual worlds are becoming an increasingly influential factor and a trend to watch.

He talked about augmented reality – data put on top of the video screen – as a coming trend. Microsoft’s  Project Natale (new name: Kinect) – an oft discussed example of this – will be released in November of this year – and will sell for $149.  That relatively low price point and the complete absence of controllers are two factors that are sure to drive things forward.  And surely, Hughes tells us, the other gaming stations will follow suit.

Designing Digitally has developed a motion tracking system on the Unity platform that controls their avatar without a keyboard (moving your head, waving your arms).  Hughes asks the question: “If we are trying to build communities in virtual worlds, then why do I have to be stationary, in front of my computer in order to engage?” as he talked about convergence of your iPhone/Droid and your browser based virtual world.

Andrew’s crystal ball:

–       Virtual worlds evolve into your booted operating system (“We are going to double the amount of users in a virtual world by next year” –  KZero)

–       Realism between virtual space and real space gets closer – blurred line between virtual and world

–       Neurological control and feedback to the virtual world (read electronic pulses from your brain to control your avatar)

What are the obstacles? To name two…

-interoperability issues (prims vs. poly vs. mesh)

– different user accounts for each virtual world; and a plethora of virtual currencies

What does this mean for education?

–       Easier ways to implement content and conduct classes in a virtual setting

–       Brick and mortar schools will diminish

–       Online virtual schools will become a standard, socially acceptable education delivery

Esbee Linden and Oz Linden, With Philip Rosedale chiming in.

Snow Storm Team. After lunch, the Linden team gave their presentation on the new viewer (Viewer 2) and the plans going forward.  Following the tradition of all people who work at Linden Lab taking on the avatar last name of “Linden”, Esbee Linden, Oz Linden and Q Linden (who, having recently suffered a small stroke, was piped in via Skype) took the stage. They talked a lot about their work going forward – “more transparency” – and how they were going to communicate with the SL community. Best way to get a sense of this one is to watch the USTREAM video.

Art work created at SLCC by Filthy Fluton and Friends

A favorite element of the conference for me was the ongoing art installation, in one of the small conference rooms, with Jeffrey Lipsky (SL name: Filthy Fluto) and CJ Ross (SL name: Winter Nightfire).  I kept wandering back there, throughout the weekend, to watch what was happening.  Filthy and Winter were creating stunningly beautiful abstract paintings and drawings of the conference events.  Capturing moments and summing it all up.  Apparently the artwork will be auctioned off in-world (soon?) for the benefit of Virtual Ability Island.

Filthy Fluto and Winter Nightfire

One of my over-arching impressions from this conference is feeling struck by how intensely interested the SL community is in the inner workings of Linden Lab. The post-lunch presentation by Oz and Esbee Linden on Viewer 2 involved a deep and extended Q/A session, with people asking questions and making suggestions about the way their product development teams are made up and function, communication strategies, and the way the public is represented in the inner circle. For instance, one irate participant stood up and told the team that, in his opinion, they would not be successful if they did not have stakeholder representation, from their customers, on the team.  To which Oz Linden replied, “If we get productive user input, we promise we will use it.  We have regular office hours, show up!”  The participant quipped back, “That’s just the opposite of what I’m suggesting.  A small team (scrum) can get it done, but if you have 100’s of voices talking to you about what they need and want, it will get lost.”  I am hard-pressed to think of a business example where customers are so intensely interested and involved in the business creators of their products. Certainly, one of the functions of a business is to listen carefully to its customers and then, with that input vetted and synthesized, make thoughtful decisions about their direction. They are a for-profit company, not a cooperative.  Can you imagine a group of Bank of America or Colgate or GM customers demanding their place on the company’s product development teams?  Of course, maybe the interesting twist on that question is – can you imagine a BofA, Colgate or GM customer caring enough to even ask the question?

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Second Life Community Conference (SLCC) – Day 2

  1. Thanks for posting the updates on SLCC Spiral. Can’t wait to hear more! In theory Chimera could have attended some SLCC sessions in-world, but in practice, the time difference between Boston and China made it impractical. The human kept falling asleep!

    The way that SL evolved in the early days explains a lot about what you observed in the culture and relationship between residents and Linden staff. We can talk more about that later.

    The trip is great fun, but I feel very disconnected here in China. Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, Blogger, Four Square – all the main social media sites are totally blocked. I can’t post anything about our trip or see what others are up to. We fly home at the end of the week so we can catch up then!

  2. Graham Mills

    @Liz Meaning SL isn’t blocked?

    @Robin: Thanks for these great posts. What was strange inworld was how few people used the inworld sims compared to using the web streams. I assume that’s down in part to the use of shared media and limited uptake of viewer 2. Great sims but the overall effect was v different to VWBPE, if less laggy!

    • rheyden

      Thanks, Graham. Yes, that is strange. Many that I spoke with (or tweeted with) were watching via UStream. I loved the look of those Boston-themed sims!

  3. Prokofy Neva

    I liked your fresh take on SL and its personalities and issues.

    Re: They are a for-profit company, not a cooperative. Can you imagine a group of Bank of America or Colgate or GM customers demanding their place on the company’s product development teams?

    Well, can you imagine a Bank of America or Colgate that provides a substrate for my social life on line, my business, my education, in 3-D, in the round? Then I’d be asking more of them. The service of virtuality software production and platforms is more like a government’s service than a business making a widget. I brush my teeth with Colgate toothpaste. Do I have virtual sex or hear live music or make real money from my toothpaste? No I don’t. Hence the deeply emotional relationship — and rightly so.

    There is no reason in hell that a profit-making company can’t function *more* like a liberal democracy, given that its revenue, the way it makes its money, is by creating a platform that makes it possible for others to make a living. No reason in hell! Software must become socialware, which naturally involves the user not only as user but as liver inside the reality produced by coders, who must be made to be accountable.

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation. And you’re right, my goal was to be as inspiring as I could while offering advice that I felt could help all the pioneering folks in the audience. Plus, I had to be entertaining. An 8am slot on Sunday morning kind of requires that. 😉

    But I do have an issue with something you mentioned:

    “He’s a practiced presenter which made the fact that so much of his presentation was about him, all the more glaring.”

    I don’t like focusing on myself at all. When I present, I do my best to focus on the condition of the audience and what they are interested in hearing.

    The reason the first part of my presentation focused on me was simply because I have *constantly* been getting asked “so, what are you doing since leaving LL?” Seriously, I get asked that question a dozen times a day.

    So by talking about myself, I was doing my best to preemptively answer that question.

    But the vast majority and main point of my talk focused on strategies that I feel could really help pioneers in SL during these challenging times.

    I hope this explains my methods and motives. 🙂

    • rheyden

      Thanks so much for this – and for reading my blog. Your explanation makes good sense and I do remember you saying that you are often asked this question during the introductory moments of your talk. It is interesting, isn’t it, that the Second LIfe community has so much interest in the personalities, the people behind the curtain, at Linden Lab. Even after they leave!

      • You’re welcome. I really enjoyed your blog summary of your experiences at SLCC, too. Very insightful.

        And I agree, it’s been very interesting for me to see firsthand the interest that folks have in departing Lindens. In my case, I also wanted to reassure people that I’m still active in SL and show them examples of inworld projects that I’m involved with.

        I’m not gone, just reloaded.

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