Yesterday was a Webmontag (Web Monday), a German series of events started by Tim Bonnemann. In different German cities webdesigners, coders and others gathered to discuss different internet related issues and topics. One of the meetings this time took place in Second Life.

The venue was the Corecon Convention Center (SLURL), newly built in Second Life by Sebastian Küpers in the past week. Corecon intends to schedule regular events there, starting with a number of basic SL courses. The Webmonday was a good experiment to see if the space worked well.

The ambiance was certainly good, and the number of people wanting to attend exceeded the number of avatars the sim could handle. However the meeting itself went pretty poorly, because of failing technology and the audience knowing too little about basic functionality in SL to handle themselves with confidence. Nonetheless we all had good fun, and the conversations afterwards were interesting and useful. And even the fact that the meeting did not go as planned is a very good source of lessons learned. This is what I took away from the meeting:

  • Expect different levels of maneuvering/camera skills by participants. Some will be completely new to the environment
  • Expect yourself to be less proficient in the environment than you think
  • Check what the limits on the number of avatars are for the location you will use
  • Check whether that number will have an impact on the live streaming server you use for presentations/video
  • Make sure that displays in-world can only be manipulated by people doing the event, not by participants
  • Create different channels for different types of communication (general chatter in chatmode, group IM channel for questions, not discussion)
  • Second Life puts both the IM window and general chat in the same corner of your screen, making it impossible to follow and contribute to both at the same time

  • Group photo by Pixelsebi
  • For each channel have somebody moderate (and make clear up front what each channel is for, as well as making sure that people understand that)
  • IRL roles like facilitator, moderator, mediator and supportcrew for tech apply in SL as well. Don’t think you’ll be able to handle all on your own. You cannot moderate while you’re busy fixing the video stream
  • Being able to automatically log IM and other chat channels in SL would be very useful
  • Have different rooms available, and designate them as such for the event, for different modes of interaction. Main room: broadcasting, side rooms: 1 on 1 and group conversation, or poster presentations, general conversations and displays that can be manipulated by participants
  • Do not underestimate the effort it takes to create an event, just like IRL
  • Even if you are aiming for a low key event geared towards conversation mostly do not underestimate the effort. Because the audience will not immediately ‘get’ what is going on, as we do in more usual surroundings. The SL environment triggers culture shock like responses. So script much more ‘accepted and expected’ behaviour into the event location.

In conversation with Sebastian Küpers and Tim Bonnemann