Why metameets 2010 rocked

Why did metameets 2010 rock so much? The answer is simple, it is the same one I gave to John Mahon’s initial question on day one for what the killer app is for virtual worlds. People. Too often a conference will be about an particular product or artefact that needs to be sold/monetized/promoted. In the case of metameets, whilst there is a heavy Second Life focus, it is about us all connecting with one another. Some of that involves close proximity of one another’s carbon atoms gathered in a physical location, however lots of it was powered by people being present from wherever they happened to be at the time.
Clearly we are all enthusiastic about the use of virtual worlds and its related tech as a medium for the things we do. Also we are very tolerant and understanding of the various ways locations real and virtual got connected. We knew the tech would not always work, however the team how put it all together and made it run had so many bases covered it was very impressive.
Consider what was actually going on.
1. A group of early adopters fly in from all over the place to be at the Dublin Institute of Technology, many who know one another from purely online interactions and the mini fame bubble we have in all this.
2. A group of early adopters drop into the sim in Second Life where video from the DIT is streamed in.
3. The video of both Second Life and DIT is also streamed/recorded to a web chatroom
4. Some speakers present in Second Life as a talking head, some present as a more TV style chat show interview format.
5. Some speakers present in the DIT, mixture of slides, body language, stage performance etc.
6. Some speakers present as a Skype stream mixed with slides.
7. The whole thing gets threaded on twitter with a #metameets hashtag
8. Inworld chat in SL, and twitter, and web chat, and skype and physical voice are all used to present questions to speakers wherever they happened to be.
People in the physical room were also engaged with the online parts, some people in world, some on twitter etc.
How many conferences have you been to where there is not even a web stream, or a suggested hashtag, where the whole thing has been designed to be closed off. This was 100% open.
The team were both in the conference and organizing it, and as participants were were equally enabling and helping. A whole set of people were also not in Ireland but directing the streams from elsewhere
We realised that sometimes the remote presentations either direction meant we were a little detached form one another atmosphere wise. However, those are solvable. I was not in SL very much as I happened to not sit by a power socket, so it really was a very old fashioned problem of needing more electricity (we had wifi) to then engage in SL or webchat. I did though use my iphone a lot on the wifi to engage on twitter.
So not only did we have very interesting people saying very interesting things, we were doing it in the ecosystem that we all talk about and thrive in. After a talk people would go for a break, gather in small groups and chat about things, just as the groups in SL and wherever else were able to gather and chat. Chat sounds like a trivial word, but really it was to extend one another’s understanding, to challenge and support the various conversations, to share war stories.
The threads that came together though were so intriguing. The first night in Gogharty’s pub in Temple bar, talking with Ham Rambler about how his very famous Dublin in SL came into being. How the Blarney Stone in SL was modelled on the pub we were in. For me that had lots of serendipity, not least because the builder of said Dublin in SL was originally Robin Winter/Shukran Serendipity who now works at Imperial College with Dave Taylor/Daveee Commerce and who I have been working with on some medical training sims. The blarney stone also featured in one my earliest evangelist moments helping a client persuade the rest of his team about the benefits of virtual worlds, in particular the mirror world aspect. He described to me in front of them how I would reach this pub using verbal directions only. I then sparked up SL and turned the very corners he described to arrive at the Blarney Stone. They then almost 100% got that particular point.
So to all the organizers, speakers and attendees I have to say a huge thankyou. It is so nice to be amongst friends sharing ideas and leaving feeling motivated.
For me it was a great honour to do my pitch, to think some thoughts and also to do them as almost a warmup act for Philip Rosedale who was on straight after me.
Thankyou JojaDhara for inviting me to speak (via my old colleague Rick Reesen πŸ™‚ )
Well done to Malburns and the crew for the remote TV studio direction and wrangling too πŸ™‚
Slimwarrior and BevanWhitfield for seemingly powering the entire place with frantic keystrokes and electric enthusiasm.
Sitearm Madonna for keeping it all on the straight and narrow, and asking some damn good questions.
Other things and people you really should check out.
StuWarf should be an inspiration to us all. As he pointed out he probably was the youngest person in the room, yet he has driven into existence a whole business with whilst still being a student. I hope he will be at the next metameets and get to present his life experience to us too.
Chantal/MaMachinima and her marvellous machinima that the edit her pieces of work certainly bounced around with my emotions , a few brought a lump to my throat, others made me laugh. It is very inspiring too that her work has been show at the world expo in Shanghai.
Slimwarriors album Slimgirlfat is on itunes, I know that because I am listening to it now whilst typing this πŸ™‚
It was brilliant to hear Lisa Feay/Elfay Pinkdot’s rant/monologue/empassioned plea and list of words she never wants to hear again (monetize anyone?). Her radio show and Jazz geek out is worth checking out
Claus Uriza and his pop art lab are certainly worth hearing more about and visiting.
On the tech side of things it was great to catch up with my fellow colleague at the old firm and travel with justincc. He is Mr opensim and it was great to see him in the mix and hearing some cool things to geek out to.
Jon Himmoff of Rezzable had some very interesting things with opensim and unity3d to talk about and show. Something dear to my heart, that kind of integration.
Now of course I realize that this post could go on and on, Jessica Pater, Tim Savage, Paul McDonagh-Smith, Tim Goree, Justin Bovington, Robin Harper, Joel Foner, Mark Kingdon, Philip Rosedale ….. all had cool things to say.
Who could not though be inspired by all this? All in the beautiful city of Dublin.
So yay for bangers and mash
Rock and roll fish and chips
(I hope epredator makes it onto the roll of honour up there with U2 πŸ™‚
Guinness and the Blarney Stone/Gogharty’s
The megaprim needle in the centre of Dublin
My one concern is that somehow we may have excluded some of our virtual world peers as they seemed to be a little annoyed and have made a film about it.
Next year more furries in RL please. Thankyou……

Helping organise thoughts, and speaking freely

Once again for my pitch at metameets I used a little bit of virtual world technology as a mental aid to help me figure out what it was I was going to say and in what order. I am finding thins an increasingly useful technique, so as this is the second time around for it I thought I would explain it again.
I created the presentation in the usual fashion a set of keynote/powerpoint slides, mostly because I had ones from other presentations that I wanted to thread in and re-use. Once I had the single threaded narrative sorted, and the slide in the right order a structure, for what is in effect a story, appeared.
In order to preserve this structure I took images from all the slides and put them into my local Opensim.
Once in there these simple flat panels take on a relationship to one another that just does not happen when you are flicking from slide to slide.
In the picture above the pitch really started at the back. The back row is the underpinning, an introduction. Seven related slides to go through at any pace, but ideally quite quickly.
Next is a challenging step forward, as the next row comes forward. To support that is a another row, which is held to the side a little as it is really optional. In this case its a slide about how it feels to attach things to your avatar. That allows free expression, no script but just a memory of a feeling.
Then the next row is group into three groups. This is a change of pace, a set of ideas with an example in each of the three.
Then the penultimate row as you come forward is the tying it all together picture. Ideally by the time I get here the other 3 ideas have started to make a little sense.
Then there is the final slide to finish on.
Rather than sit and read the slides or over rehearse I just had this image on my iphone of the layout. It is enough that I can see the sort of pages I had created and when presenting I can think where I am in the flow. So if there is some sort of distruption, or an idea that comes to mind whilst talking I can think quickly as to where it will fit in or if it has missed its chance.
This is really just storyboarding meets mindmapping, but the multiple dimensions of it and the visual memory of having been there is incredibly powerful and I recommend anyone try and structure some thoughts or ideas or keypoints in some way like this to see how it feels.
Does anybody else do this, I would love to hear stories about it ?

Not all avatars and islands – Metameets 2010

I am over here in Dublin this weekend for a very good gathering and conference Metameets 2010. I was lucky enough to be able to present yesterday, and as I mentioned in a previous post I decided to suggest we had some more places and directions to go.

Not all avatars and islands? from Ian Hughes

The underlying premise of this is that a thread of narrative, and event, a set of ideas do not have to live in one virtual world or in one place. Threading and augmenting physical and virtual and web in multiple ways may start to give us new metaphors for connecting our ideas and improve human communication online. This is because though I love virtual worlds at the moment, and they are not going away, I know there is more we can do, better ways still to use all the ways we can interact and engage. It’s not all avatars and islands.
What was a great honour too was to effectively be the warmup act for Philip Rosedale, talking about Love Machine and Mark Kingdon talking all things Linden Lab/SL. Both those presentations were streamed in. In fact quite a few in the afternoon had to be streamed in due to the ash cloud stopping some travel.
I will write a post on the whole experience and some thoughts once we are done, but for now the slideshare of my pitch is up.
One of the anecdotes to describe this that came to my whilst I was talking was to consider being in an irish pub, with the band playing and wanting to join in on the penny whistle. You don’t have one to hand so you quickly check out the virtual world shops and find one you like, 3d print it out in the pub, join in and then find the whole thing is captured and streamed into another virtual world, like the blarney stone in Dubln SL. It’s not one place or one experience.

Getting organized at a legal level.

On Friday I was lucky enough to be asked to join a panel at a Governance in Virtual Worlds event in SL. It was hosted for Sandra Day O’Conner College of Law Arizona State University by the guys at World2Worlds
We were there to discuss “are the trappings of place-based governance the best model for virtual worlds? Given a choice, do people prefer corporate-style management to political government? What are the opportunities and perils of each model? Are hybrid forms evolving in virtual practice?”
It is always interesting to be a panelist or presenter at hosted events like this, as just as in a physical venue it is no always apparent the amount of organisation and attention to detail the goes into getting everyone where they need to be.
Kim/Rissa and John at World2Worlds (and the rest of the team) were busy all the time during the event.
From the initial elements of having a reception for panelists and attendees complete with catering
event catering
to the more technical challenge of the panelists being in a specific Skype chat as well as in SL in voice to help bridge and mitigate any voice issues and broadcast what we had to say to the web. The initial gathering for this was akin to a green room at a physical event where we chatted and got organised before taking to the stage.
I am often struck with how people can assume that online means easy and no effort, when in fact the effort required is the same from the organizers. Getting the agenda sorted out, dealing with people turning up, advertizing the event (based on a track record of doing good events), getting the great audience that we had to come along all take time and persistent effort.
World2Worlds always do a fantastic job and so a huge thankyou to them from me.

What are games really teaching us?

Last night I was in London at the Dana Centre for a session on What do games really teach us. It was mainly a panel session with
John Kirriemuir from Silversprite (a fellow metaverse evangelist)
Pat Kane, author, The Play Ethic (and singer with Hue and Cry)
Sophie Blakemore, video game designer (and TV presenter)
It was facilitated by Gareth Mitchell, Presenter, Digital Planet, BBC World Service.
The event was Nintendo sponsored so there were lots of booths with Wii’s and various games for people to experience. Also curated and put together as part of a series by the good Dr Aleks whose TV show Virtual Revolution got a good few mentions in intros πŸ™‚
The first part of the evening was to go and play some games. This was interesting, but as I am a gamer and have played most of them already I left the many people who did not seem quite so game aware to get on with it. Though I did get thoroughly beaten up on boxing, I guess my heart was not in it πŸ™‚
Gareth was very keen to promote the use of twitter, and the #danacentre hashtag. I ended up overhearing a couple of guys saying whats a hashtag, so I helped them out with some free social media consulting πŸ™‚ The hashtag was up on a rolling display on the main screen. So as often happens at these events it becomes hard not to grab a little screen time with the odd tweet hear and there.
Gareth (@GarethM) was keen we sent questions to him and also jokingly said we could heckle him as he had never been heckled before on twitter.
I was sat with my good friends Giannina and Ren and it turned out we were kind of the SL mafia in the room.
We were also tweeting a lot and responding to the request to heckle! I think most of our direct tweets got read out though Gary seemed reticent to say “epredator” but did say other peoples handles. However, its all good.
The panel did a great job of informing the audience of some concepts and anecdotes around what games are and where they stand. This was of course to a mixed audience, professionals and gamers such as us in the SL mafia and some people to whom everything was a surprise I should imagine.
In discussion around task based games and completing and winning missions and the formulaic nature of many games Pat was very vocal and passionate about needing to push the art form forward. An Avant Garde set of games not designed to be popular and commercial for the sake of it. It is in these we will see richer ways to reflect and rehearse. Clearly this relates to the play ethic and his concern as to how those boundaries of ethical decisions are being created for us to rehearse.
Sophie mentioned America’s Army and how whichever “side” you are on the enemy look like the apparent enemy of America. Which forces people to take on a certain perspective.
John covered a lot about how virtual worlds and free expressive sandpits are a huge area for education. The ability to try things out not just in a packaged game but as experiences extends how we can learn from games.
Somewhere along the line Eve-Online got a mention, primarily for their economy and then with the audience joining in saying how they have real pyramid schemes in there by some nefarious players. We nearly got all Daily Mail. Ren was busy laughing at some of it, heard it too many times before and he decided to reveal his true identity by ripping open his shirt as I tweeted anyone need to know about Eve talk to RenZephyr.
Super Eve
As much of this is my chosen field, and also one I frequent as a pastime this was more like watching a popular film but sat with some friends. Still a good event and I would interested to hear what the others less tied into this world thought.

180 ideas by 22 experts

Yesterdays quick brainstorm idea generation session for DotGovLabs was a very interesting session indeed. Ren Reynolds had invited an amazing set of people and I have to thank them all for coming and joining in.
We only had two hours to see what we could all generate from one another’s interactions. Using the tried and tested (but still quite scary) technique of crowd-sourcing with post-it notes around the subject of Games and Government everyone dived right in.
Having (over) 22 people in one session was likely to be too many, but as it turned out once everyone got going things started to flow. The lack of complete structure is not always for everyone, though many people have experienced this free form idea generation before. I had created some themed areas to help focus some thought, but in general we wanted whatever came up to be put on the board.
I was very happy when the brainstorm “rules” I had on a whiteboard that included “Wild and extreme ideas are good” was adjusted to “are fantastic”
The voting section highlighted some interesting points which then led to good round table discussions on the subject too.
There are some report deliverables out of all this which need some work to put all the various other inputs together.
I went through all the 180 ideas and comments this morning grouping and ordering them. I also had a flashback to a whiteboard session in 1998 when I put MMORPG up in a session on where we should go with the web business at the old firm. It was not high on the list of voting, but would have actually generated a lot more revenue if we had engaged with it all at the time πŸ™‚
Idea generation workshop
One thing I can share at the moment is the result of the warm up exercise.
I suggested that people write down a significant influential gaming moment and put that on the board. As we are dealing with engagement and we were in general a group of gamers it created the following list. See how many resonate with you πŸ™‚

Playing quake for England
Doom II over a serial cable for the first time
Getting the Babel fish in hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
Getting an Xbox to try and get down with the kids (Failed!)
Meeting Darth Vader in Star Wars Galaxies
Pong in the 1970’s
Choosing to be a vengeful or benign god in Black and White
Discovering I was actually evil in world of warcraft (where I thought I was good)
Galaxian 10p after 10p spent in an afternoon
Swooping in Zagawhateva on flying mount
Capture the flag (in real life)
Having pong arcade game fall on me at youth club circa 197?
Heavy Rain
Seeing the power of narrative in Fahrenheit
Portal’s ending made me cry
T-Rex on original Tomb Raider
Learning to play chess with my dad
Linking 2 BBC B together and playing Elite for days with brother aged 10
Getting 70 on Iphone Scrabble
The death of Aeris on FFVIII
Seeing the facial animations on Half-Life2 on my PC (real time) for the first time
Finding out that β€˜Hunters’ are really fun in PvP in World of Warcraft
Realizing what Stranglethorl Vale was saying
Completing Myst – No Cheats

Facilitation thats what it needs. Ideas welcome

This afternoon I am running a brainstorm, ideas generation session in London (as I mentioned in this post) for Ren Reynolds and his tVPN The Virtual Policy Network as part of DotGovLabs which is an R&D project co-funded by Directgov, NHS Choices and Business Link. Initially for a small(ish) group but now a much larger one I thought I best ramp up on the equipment needed.
Pre event equipment audit
Postits, pens and stickers are the order of the day.
These sessions are always very flexible and interesting in their outcomes. There is a beginning a middle and and end but other than that …. its down to the people attending sparking up ideas.
A regular facilitator may not get overly involved in the idea generation, but I feel that as this is a session on games, virtual worlds and government I will be joining in and a few of those post-it notes will have my scrawl on them.
Fingers crossed and good luck to all the attendees.

If you want to throw any ideas into the melting pot please feel free to comment on these or any points.

The workshop will bring together Government, Industry and Academics to discuss topic such as:
β€’ Opportunities for presence in platform menus/dashboards
β€’ How can we get government in the space where gamers are?
β€’ Partnerships and placement with 3rd parties
β€’ Online communities
β€’ Being involved in storyline
β€’ Likely costs

The future of learning? Wake up to virtual!

This week I have been to two events related to learning and education.
The first was eduserv’s final get together on where next for virtual worlds. The entire audience was made up of experts and evangelists and practitioners of virtual worlds across lots of UK universities. As a body of people and experience it was very heartening to be in such a gathering. Given much of what I have been doing recently has been education related it was good to know there were so many of us.
Still however there was the pressure for many that this was seen as some strange art form and hobby sideline. We battle on though as we do know this is the right thing to do. It is not just the technology that needs to be accepted though. The main battle is challenging ways of doing things that are accepted practice and in many ways easy and lazy for people to change. e.g. rolling out another ppt lecture to a group of students forced to sit in a room an listen. Daniel Livingstone from Sloodle used a picture from the middle ages of a lecture theatre. This showed there are deep rooted patterns in education that can still be used but improved with a little bit of thought and willingness.
The second event was the Learning Technologies 2010 expo at Kensington Olympia where there were over 130 exhibitors in learning technology. Great ! It was a huge trade show to go to and full of experts in this field.
With only a very few exceptions I was struck by the number of filling in form based applications, not even all Moodle. Lots of putting powerpoint and video and documents into “elearning” courses. Lots of “evaluation” and criteria based systems. Where were the virtual world learning platforms, even the serious games. Where was the deep rooted use of social media?
I was surprised and dismayed, followed by not being surprised again at the lack of more forward thinking technology and social solutions. Most people I talked to were surprised at what can be done with a virtual world, and they were supposed to be selling to me really.
The expo and conference is running for two days and today there is a presentation by Mark Oehlert for the US DoD about all the virtual projects and clever things they have been up to. I know that is going to blow the audience away of all they are used to is forms and videos in “elearning”. It was good to catch up with Mark and with Koreen Olbrish from TandemLearning as we keep in touch usually but meet very rarely (the last time was 3DTLC in washington).
It was interesting that Koreen had recently written a post “Do Virtual World Evangelists Really Want To Go Mainstream“. The answer from this one is of YES! πŸ™‚
The insular nature of some industries and cosy gatherings, doing things the way they always have been done really is human nature. I have already been push the fact that avatars and islands are not the end point. There is a way to go. However the way we get mainstream acceptance is (as Koreen points out) diving into places and industries and pushing things forward.
So I have to ask the question why was there such a small selection of game and virtual world related people at this show? It would seem there is a gap in the market. I was thinking I just should have had a generic metaverse stand and explained all sorts of things like The Coaches Centre (Using web.alive and moodle to work with sports coaches and their organizations) and the work I am doing at the moment in SL with instructional design etc. Invited some or all of the people from the eduserv conference to talk and share their experiences.
There was at lease one stand there though, Kevin Corti was there with Pixelearning, and I liked the fact they were actually stand 101 πŸ™‚
Another was Caspian Learning with Thinking Worlds which has a great way of allowing people to describe a scenario and generate a browser based game engine experience. Though these were single user stand alone ones.
Many of the others that had any rich visuals looked like they were more custom builds and effectively CG movies.
I am left back at the thought the games industry is still missing a huge trick here. Whilst the virtual world companies like Linden Lab explain the use of education in the UGC Second Life the games companies have fantastic tools and techniques for creating experiences, how script writers and level designers work with visual, audio and code production. There is a middle ground and place for the instructional designers and educators to make a huge impact.
Anyway I look forward to hearing how Mark’s pitch goes.
I will get back to my Opensim, Second Life, Web.alive, Unity3d, Moodle, Sloodle, Pivote and custom build meanderings and try and convert as many people as possible in as many industries. What do I know ?

Cory Doctorow on Copper Robot

For those people who don’t get the whole presence in a virtual worlds thing. A whole bunch of us are sitting in Second Life right now listening to Cory Doctorow (boingboing and books like Makers
) interviewed by Mitch Wagner. We have a sense of belonging. Likewise there are some celebrities from Second Life here and some old friends. It makes it better, even though we are listening in effect to a live interview.
Copper Robot talks to Cory Doctorow
Wherever this conversation goes it will be brilliant I know.