How an Online Conference 5 Years Ago Led Me to Share #CookieLove with my Grandma

The opening keynote at SLBPE 2007 – Look at all that bad system hair!!  
Image courtesy: Rosefirerising

Back in 2007 when Second Life was still at the peak of its hype cycle, I and a few others who had been working to explore how virtual worlds could be used for education decided to hold a conference in Second Life to discuss it with other educators.  I know, it doesn’t sound very novel now, but it was the first time it had been done and the Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference was born, with over 1400 unique avatars in one 24 hour period talking about the cutting edge of education.

One of the people I met through that conference had the cutest dog avatar I’d ever seen and on a day when I was so stressed out I hadn’t slept literally in three days and was panic stricken that horrible things would go wrong and the whole conference would be a disaster, this cute canine avatar named CDB Barkley was cheering us up a storm and helping us go with the flow.  At the end of the conference when it was all over and I felt like passing out from fatigue, there was this magical moment where all of the organizers and the real trooper attendees who had stuck it out to the very last session all congregated, and I very clearly remember CDB telling us what a great job we had done and I cried right there on the spot in gratitude.

Five years later, it’s still going strong (though now called Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education to account for other platforms), and many of the connections I made at that first virtual conference have become the kind of net friends every gal should hope to have – great professional colleagues, many of whom I’ve since met in person, and great life friends, sharing stories about their experiences not just with technology but also life in general.

Fleep hanging out with Alan and Joanna at NMC Summer Conference 2007.
Image courtesy: J0 anna 

CDB Barkley, otherwise known as CogDog (or Alan Levine if you’re Google+ and demand to know his real name), was one of those people.  He worked at the New Media Consortium and was one of the early and tireless supporters for those of us trying to start our own campus projects in virtual worlds, and over the years became one of the bright stars in my online universe – tons of great links, resources, thoughtful blog posts – but also plenty of humorous tidbits, loveable crankiness about this or that, and just plain good stories about living life in this crazy digital age.

When I heard last week that his mother had passed away unexpectedly, it brought back all-too-fresh memories of Dad’s passing, and reminded me again how tenuous life can be – and how very real our relationships developed online can be, too.  I remember how painful Dad’s death was and how comforted I felt that my online friends were thinking of him by thinking of me during that rough time, that his life was being honored by so many people from all over the world really meant a lot to me then and now.

CogDog’s mom, Alyce.  Image courtesy: cogdogblog

I never met CogDog’s mom, but through the ether of the net, my sympathy for his loss is no less real for having met him online, and his beautiful tributes to her on his blog are moving to anyone who has experienced the deep grief of losing a loved one.  More than that, when I think of all of the thousands of people’s lives who have been enriched by knowing Alan, I think all of us in his network, through him, have a deep appreciation for the lady who raised him to be such a generous, caring, good person, too.

Clearly I’m not the only one who felt that way, as some other folks came up with an idea to share his mom’s awesome generosity with #cookielove:

In tribute to Alan Levine’s mom, who passed away unexpectedly last weekend, we’d like to invite you to participate in Cookies for Cogdog. One of the wonderful things that Alan’s mom did was bake chocolate chip cookies every Sunday and then give them away to strangers. This Sunday, September 4th, we’re hoping to get people to follow in her footsteps. Bake some cookies and then brighten a stranger’s day by giving them away.

So I’m heading out to visit my grandmother today to share the #cookielove in honor of CogDog’s mom, in honor of my grandmother who I’m lucky to still be able to visit, and in honor of the power of online friendships and support networks that endure through all of life’s challenges, whether it’s a stressful conference, joyful celebrations, or helping each other through the most painful of times.

Three generations, my mom, my grandma, and me.

Cheers to CogDog and Alyce and to all those sharing the #cookielove today.

Update:  Just got home a bit ago, here are some pix from the day spent with my grandma (we call her Momo) enjoying cookies..

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2 comments

  1. I think that’s me all the way in the back corner, directly in the middle of the picture. The purple un-rezzed one dressed in black standing up. I’m pretty sure it’s me. Lag was horrid there.

  2. CDB wags for you, Fleep/Chris, thanks for being part of Cookielove

    I remember how we had a surplus of Chris Collins’ at that conference!