SLCC10: Thoughts on the Other Side

“Are you crazy?”  That was pretty much the sentiment when I told friends in April that I’d decided to help try to pull something, anything, together for this year’s Second Life Community Convention.  The timing, the workload, the politics – for all sorts of reasons it felt like a terrifying commitment.  I’d not attended SLCC in 2009, my grandpa had passed away a few months prior and I didn’t have the heart for it, and my experience as part of the organizing team in Tampa 2008 hadn’t been exactly positive.  But when the phone call came…

Stuffing bags and folding tshirts on Thursday…
Image courtsey Sitearm

The hardest part of organizing something in such a short time frame wasn’t the sleepless nights or ignoring the house cleaning (and friends and family) for weeks on end,  it was the fear that it would all be for nothing.  That no one would show up, that no one would come, or worse that the people who had paid to come would ultimately feel it had been a waste of their time and money.  We stressed about the budget, the program, the venue, the logistics, and all the things that every event planner worries about going wrong, and perhaps even moreso given the shortened time line to nail down all the details.

Conversation the night before the convention over drinks.
What’s Wiz Nordberg saying?  Image courtesy DirkMcKeenan

But more than the logistics, and venue, and schedules, and updating the website and all that .. stuff that goes into making a convention, we were far more worried about something less tangible.  Something invisible that it’s harder to put your finger on, that’s hard to even describe – that amorphous “community spirit” that threads through a diverse group of individual people to weave a sense of belonging together, an identity separate from one’s own that makes you feel a part of something larger.   Was the “community” still out there?  Did they still want to come together in person, and especially after such a difficult roller coaster ride of a year for the platform?

Hanging out with Tomkin Euler, fellow Chilbo resident, and Amulius Lioncourt,
one of the 11th hour in-world builders who did an amazing job.

I can only speak for myself, but I am so thankful that the answer to both questions was “yes” – a resounding, boisterous, defiance in the face of all challenges yes.  Yes, the people who discovered something new about themselves and found each other through this platform called Second Life are still out there, and though many could not come due to timing, cost, or circumstance, enough of us made our way to Boston and engaged in the annual ritual of baring our real life avatars for a weekend of fun, laughter, hopefully some learning, and lots of passionate discussion and debate about the future of the metaverse.  I was too busy to engage in much of it myself, but watching it unfold was a beautiful thing to see..

Stopping by to chat with Olivia Hotshot and AJ Brooks at lunch.
Image courtesy OliviaHotshot

The question I heard so many times over the last few months as we planned the convention is why, if the virtual world is so powerful, do people want to come together in person in the first place?  The answer isn’t so simple, but it has something to do with the fact that those of us living simultaneously in the metaverse and the physical world are living complicated lives.   Life itself has no guidebook, but virtual life has even less of one, and there is something inordinately powerful about being in the presence of hundreds of other pioneers in this space who know on a deep level some of the challenges you yourself have faced.

Laughing hysterically with Beyers Sellers..
Image courtesy Imjsthere4fun

Second Life is a platform, a technology, a tool.   But it gave us a glimpse of the future, and in one way or another has forced all of us who have immersed ourselves deeply to ask fundamental questions with a new perspective – Who am I?  Who is Fleep?  Who do I want to be if I can be anything?  What is real?   What is virtual?  What do all these technological changes mean for the future – for me, for society?  And where is this all going, anyway, this platform called Second Life, and this concept we call the metaverse?  Is it stalling?  Is the vision we shared breaking apart or are we just hitting some stumbling blocks?

AvaCon board meeting at PF Chang’s on Thursday…
Fleep Tuque, Misty Rhodes, Peter Imari, Rhiannon Chatnoir

My personal goal for SLCC was to provide a space for that conversation to take place.  Nothing more, nothing less.  All we needed was a place to sleep, a place to eat, and a place to talk.  It didn’t have to be fancy or out of the box, indeed there wasn’t time for that, and the end result was a very conventional convention with some very unconventionally wonderful people.  I think for this year, that was enough, for us to see each other in the flesh, to know that these deeper questions that drive us to put up with the lag and the deficiencies of the platform are not the result of some madness unique to ourselves, but a madness shared by many to understand what the future holds and hopefully to help shape it.

Hugs from Dirk McKeenan at the Avatar Ball.
Image courtesy Debi Latte

And for all those who helped make the conversation possible this year, in world or in Boston, on the web and in Twitter, I hope you feel as I do on the other side of SLCC10:

The community is as strong as ever.  Second Life, and the people who make it meaningful, aren’t dead by a long shot.

The vagaries of a particular platform are like the vagaries of the weather, something we must deal with but that doesn’t control our destiny unless we let it.

The future of the metaverse is as exciting today as it was five, ten years ago.

I can’t even think too much of next year right now, I’m too tired.  🙂   But I hope we can do an even better job facilitating that conversation in 2011.  Thank you to everyone who made it possible and I hope you’ll join us next time around.

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9 comments

  1. even though i didn’t make it to slcc, I assure you, the work you put in is appreciated. Thank you again for going the extra mile…. or ten.

  2. You are da bomb! One admires, applauds, worships you, running about with the microphone and a perpetual smile, and making everything work. It was my first SLCC, and I didn’t realize until after just what a huge challenge you an’ your team faced in terms of time and circumstances. You really pulled off a miracle. I had a great time. 🙂

    (I think I missed the “baring our real life avatars” part, though; are there pictures?)

  3. Mimi Muircastle

    It was so worth it, Fleep!

    Somehow, someway, even from one who experienced it only from *inworld* you and your team created a sense of community that was extremely powerful and positive. I am still not exactly sure how, but I know that the feelings I had as Philip spoke, the exchanges during the sessions I was able to attend, especially the VWER meeting that was streamed both ways – it definitely was no different than other conferences I have attended where the sense of community was so powerful.

    And, most importantly for me, I felt highly motivated to continue to find ways to be involved in SL, to contribute to the communities I am involved in – and, consider all of my experiences as *real*!

    Thank you.

  4. Fleep, you and the team of folks who made SLCC happen are simply amazing.

    Words fail me.

    /me simply stands up and applauds

    Bravo.

  5. I wish you had come to RI with us for a bit, but it was great seeing you, good luck next year! 🙂

  6. I soooooo wanted to attend more than I can say but really couldn’t. But that won’t stop me from giving you a standing ovation for the amazing feat you pulled off…through every kind of medium possible, from onsite, tweets, ustream videos, weblog to flickr and I am sure much more. I rezzed in 2006 but this is the first year that I can truly say I was very much aware of SLCC and its very real presence. Fantastic event and achievement! Beyond kudos, you simply rawk!

  7. Had a great time and Fleep you were great to meet. Thanks for all you did

  8. Fleep, you and the whole crew rocked. The whole event was just like second life at its very best: room for everyone, tolerance for different points of view, and affection for the creativity and cleverness of these amazing folks, from the most well-known to the most notorious. Although the crowd skewed a little gray-haired, it was most interesting to see the younger attendees who are the future of virtual worlds; may we all be there to see what they’ve built at SLCC 2030. Thanks to everyone who put this together!

  9. Fleep… it was my first SLCC…. I’m sure it won’t be my last… although I’ll probably only make it to ones on the eastern part of the country! The AVACON team did an amazing job. Glad you liked the photo of you and Dirk…. it certainly embodies everything that a convention like this is about… being able to reach out and touch the people we meet online and talk to so often.

    Devon… whatEVER are you talking about …. gray-haired?? Mine was as red as my avatars. LOL