This past weekend, August 12th-14th, marked the Seventh Annual Second Life Community Convention, held both in the real world (Oakland, California) and in-world (4 dedicated sims) and this year organised by the non-profit Avacon Inc. This is my personal look back over the weekend.
Speakers and Presentations
There were 33 talks, presentations and panels given over the weekend, including a number by Linden Lab representatives as well as by Second Life users, solution providers and virtual world enthusiasts. These are broadly divided into keynote addresses (two per day) and streamed break-out sessions broadly divided into five streams:
- Artistic and creative expression
- Social experience and communities
- Public service and education
- Commerce and marketing
- Developers and open source
The complete schedule and an overview of the talks and speakers can be found on the main convention website. The overall atmosphere at the convention was of relaxed informality, and all those presenting ensured they had time to take questions from the floor and, depending on the nature of the presentation, engage in debate and discussion. All talks were streamed in-world and via the convention website, and the organisers ensured that questions from in-world and on-line were passed to speakers wherever possible. The real-world event was rounded-out with a number of social events and film showings.
Sitearm Madonna has a nice gallery of pictures taken at the event in Oakland.
Four sims were provided in-world for those who could not attend the event in person. The sims themselves were beautifully themed around a New England setting – a foretaste, perhaps of the fact that the convention is to be held in Boston, Mass, next year – and the choice of landmark building from Boston (Faneuil Hall), LA (Bradbury Building) San Francisco (SF Museum of Modern Art) and Oakland (Fox Theatre) provided excellent venues for joining-in with the break-out sessions.
The main stage was located at the centre of the four sims, sitting in SLCC-2, with SLCC1, 3 & 4 providing seating areas allowing a large audience to attend keynote addresses without overloading a single sim.
Full conference information was available at each of the major sim venues, allowing in-world participants to quickly see what was on at any given time and locate the appropriate venue on the maps. Clicking on the any item in the schedule would allow you to go to the relevant webpage on the convention site to find out more, while clicking on the “button” for a venue on the in-world map would open your Viewer map, allowing you to teleport directly to the venue. All extremely well thought out.
The sims also offered opportunities to wander and explore or simply get away from larger crowds and have a quiet chat, if needed.
In-world mixers and liver performances were held across the weekend, allowing those both at the convention and in-world to mix, and I understand from others that several of the speakers at the split their time between the real world and being in world.
For those (like me) half a world away, or who didn’t want to face using Viewer 2′s media streaming for whatever reason, all the talks and presentations were streamed to the conference website via uStream. The quality was by-and-large acceptable, although the sound balance from some of the break-out rooms could be a little unpredictable at times.
A nice touch with the web uStream feeds was the availability of an interactive Social Stream feature which allowed people to sign-in via Twitter / Facebook / a UStream account and pitch questions to the organisers to be passed to speakers, or to comment on presentations and give immediate feedback to the wider community, without having to swap browser tabs, etc.
Twitter – for a relative newcomer like me – was a revelation in terms of the ability to give / gain feedback on talks and presentations (great while watching one and getting updates on another being held at the same time), and in the ability to give feedback to the organisers – a lot of which was acted upon.
A really good mix of speakers and some worthwhile presentations from Linden Lab that encouraged me in thinking the company is getting itself back onto the right track. Rod Humble certainly demonstrated he gets SL, despite admitting he didn’t understand it when he was offered the job! His presentation was crisp, and allowed plenty of time for an informative Q&A session as well as giving rise to speculation as to what else is coming from LL outside of SL.
There were a few technical issues for those participating either in-world or via the web streams, but most of these were sorted out as soon as possible after being raised with the organisers (the stream feeds were on the wrong channels initially during Saturday morning, for example, but rapidly fixed). However, from a remote participation perspective, one thing the organisers need to deal with next year is either a matter of stage layout and / or a pre-occupation with the speaker during the talks.
While we all appreciate the speakers giving their time and effort to attend the convention, much of the context for their talks comes from being able to see the accompanying slides. Sadly, both in the main hall and in some of the break out rooms, the camera remained resolutely fixed on the speaker; the slide screen, for various reasons, remained completely out of shot. This gave rise to plaintive and repeated pleas over IM, the uStream Social Stream, Twitter, etc, for the camera to be panned to the screen – many of which were ignored. This does need to be addressed next year, either by ensuring the main stage / break-out rooms are set-up so both the presenter and the slide screen occupy the same relative space & can be seen, or by focusing the camera solely on the screen while slides / videos are being shown.
That aside, from an armchair perspective at home, I really enjoyed the conference & would like to thank the people at Avacon, the volunteers, the speakers and all who worked to maker this year’s SLCC a success. Looking forward to 2012 and Boston!