Personal Perspective: The End of the Second Life Community Convention

[Author’s note: I meant to post this yesterday so folks wouldn’t be left wondering what happened with SLCC, but as you may have read if you follow me on Twitter or elsewhere, my kitty Beanie died in a horrible, tragic accident yesterday, and I’m afraid all thoughts of SLCC went right out of my mind.  So, I’m sorry for the late posting, but if you have a bunch of mean nasty things to say in response, please, post them somewhere else.  I’m not up for being flamed today.]

You may have read the official announcement that AvaCon is not organizing a Second Life Community Convention this year.  This post is not an official anything, it’s just one person’s opinion and personal perspective.  I knew how I felt about organizing another SLCC after last year, but I remained silent on the question about this year to give the other organizers an opportunity to communicate whatever they ultimately decided to do.  Now that they’ve done so, I feel some obligation to address the questions from people who want to know what happened.

To be clear, this is purely my own opinion / interpretation / understanding of events and doesn’t represent the position or opinion of AvaCon or the Board or any other organization or person I work with.  I didn’t run this post by them or Linden Lab, and I hope I don’t get sued or something, but considering the nature of SLCC as a user-led community event, I think the Second Life userbase has an important interest in hearing fair comments and criticism from one former organizer of SLCC about what she thinks happened.

The tl;dr short answer of why there is no SLCC this year is because Linden Lab opted not to sponsor one.  

I can’t say I was completely surprised considering the meeting we had with Linden Lab at their offices after SLCC last year. Instead of being treated like valuable customers who had just volunteered months of our lives working for no pay to organize a fan event for their product, we basically got chewed out for not producing the equivalent of BlizzCon. Seriously, that’s what they said.  (Note to Linden Lab, if you want BlizzCon, you have to pay for it – BlizzCon had a budget in the millions.)

I’m sure it was easier for them to blame us than to face what I think is the reality of the situation: Second Life isn’t the draw it once was. The fact is, the number of people willing to pay to fly to a real world location to discuss it has dwindled over the years. As the number got smaller, the costs went up, which meant fewer people could afford to come, which.. the very definition of a vicious cycle.

I know many people have criticized us about the costs of the convention, but I swear to you that we did absolutely everything we could to keep costs down.  To try to help counteract the declining attendance, we came up with strategies to encourage attendance (like the bi-coastal convention plan), and even tried to talk to Linden Lab about how they and we could help turn things around into a virtuous cycle instead – but I honestly don’t think they took us seriously nor did the team we met with last year seem to feel that SLCC was an important investment for them.

And for us, at the end of the day, hosting a multi-day, extremely tech heavy conference that is simultaneously streamed in-world is very expensive – even last year it was almost on the edge of being unsustainable given the resources we had, without their support, I thought it was simply too much of a financial risk for AvaCon to take.

In my opinion, if Linden Lab had been more responsive, had helped better market THE premier annual event celebrating their own product, or made it their number one priority to interact in a positive way with their most passionate userbase (thereby leading more people to want to attend), I think things might have been different.

But they didn’t. As with the Second Life birthdays and other events that used to receive their support, they basically said AvaCon could use the name but we were on our own. As I understood it, there would be no financial support, no sims, no marketing, and no participation from them.  Given that, it didn’t seem like another SLCC was feasible to me.

That’s the easy answer.  The longer answer of why there isn’t an SLCC this year is more complicated than that.

I’m sure many folks are thinking, well, they did that with the SL Birthdays this year too and the community managed to pull that off and even did a really great job even without Linden Lab’s help.  That may be true (and congrats to the SLB team!), but I’m not sure people ever appreciated all the differences between organizing a real life event compared to a virtual one.

I’ve done both and I can’t tell you how much more complicated things are when you’re dealing with not just the event itself, but all the physical things that surround it – planning for people’s travel, hotel accommodations, meals, after hours entertainment, wheelchair and other accessibility issues – and that’s before you even get to the event itself.  For that you have to line up venues, internet access, the tech and audio and cameras to stream all the rooms and performances in-world, and work with the hotel or other venue to accommodate all of the non-standard stuff that SLCC folks like to do like the Art-athon.  And once you get that all sorted, then there’s the content of the program – the speakers, the schedule, trying to make sure to include all the diversity of Second Life.

And don’t forget, we were never organizing just one event, we were also doing the simultaneously in-world program too!  So for all those folks who just worked so hard on SLB9 – imagine all that hard work PLUS a real world event that is about 10 times as much work AND you’re legally liable for being sued if something goes wrong.

Still, even with all that, and even without Linden Lab’s support, you may think we still should have tried.  Maybe we should have, but we also couldn’t ignore the other half of the equation – which is the Second Life community itself.

You guys are not always easy to work with or for.  I’m not sure some people ever understood that we are NOT Linden Lab, we don’t have Linden Lab’s financial resource or people resources.  We do not even get paid for any of this work.  We’re just volunteers, regular Second Life users, just like you.  We have jobs (actually some of us lost our jobs), and families (several of us are dealing with very ill family members), and other things and people in our lives that also need our attention.

But people weren’t very understanding or sympathetic about that, in fact lots of people seemed to feel entitled to our efforts, like we owe the community our hard work.  Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t.  This was a volunteer labor of love, and while some folks appreciated that and were supportive and kind, lots of people simply weren’t.  In fact, lots of people were the opposite of that.

So at least for me, when I was thinking about doing SLCC again after last year, I had a lot of reasons NOT to do it again that had nothing to do with Linden Lab at all.  I’ll rattle some off in no particular order:

  • A very vocal contingent of the Second Life community is pretty darned mean.  Some of the “celebrities” and thought leaders in Second Life seem to really enjoy trashing the event (and by extension the people organizing it).  Maybe it gave them lots of page views, I don’t know, but it definitely had a negative ripple effect that discourages people from attending, discourages other people from wanting to help out, and demoralizes everyone working so hard to make something good happen.  Who wants to be the target of that kind of Crap?  No one.  I’d guess some folks are right this very moment pointing gleefully at how it has failed, feeling no responsibility for how their own actions contributed to that end result.  But they are partly responsible. If folks had been a little kinder to those of us who worked very hard to do something positive for the community, maybe we would have felt like forging ahead instead of feeling like no good deed goes unpunished.
  • Griefers and lawsuits make the risk not worth it. Real life conferences are fraught with legal liability and the conference organizers take on _ALL_ of the financial and legal risk for holding them. Linden Lab wasn’t on the hook if something went wrong or someone got hurt, WE were. Last year’s shenanigans put us in an extremely difficult position – we were forced to deal with people’s personal vendettas against each other (!), threats of harm against other attendees (!!), vandalizing of sponsors’ booths (!!!), and even threats of lawsuits (!!!!).  At some point you have to ask yourself, is it really worth this much grief? The answer for me is no, especially if people’s physical safety is at risk.  If people had been more respectful of the legal liabilities AvaCon and its members were _personally_ taking on the community’s behalf, things might have been different.
  • People like to complain more than they like to volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, the people who did volunteer were amazing, wonderful, unbelievably hard working, and deserve far more thanks than they ever got (and let me say again to you – you know who you are – thank you, thank you, thank you and I’m sorry you’ve been left hanging). But there just weren’t enough volunteers to cover all the bases without requiring some people to basically have no life outside of SLCC for months on end – and that’s not sustainable or fair for anyone.  If more people had been willing to volunteer, things might have been different.
  • Everyone thinks they could do it better and cheaper, few of them have any idea what it really costs in time or money or how hard it is to herd this bunch of cats.  Second Life is a microcosm of the (future of the) internet – so many diverse use cases that it’s very very complicated to create the kind of experience that professional academics, sex bed makers, musicians, roleplayers, government agencies, random people from the internet, artists, and both corporate and small business people all in the same room together will want to have. Expectations varied wildly – the business people and academics, who made up at least 60-70% of ticket sales, expected a professional hotel and environment, while the roleplayers and musicians might have been just as happy in a bar somewhere.  Trying to accommodate everyone’s expectations, needs, and desires was very hard to do cheaply – and it often felt that we could please no one in an attempt to please everyone – or even anyone.  Add to that the actual costs in man hours and money, and I promise you, it isn’t as easy as you think it is.   If people had been more reasonable in their expectations of an all volunteer team working with an extremely tight budget, things might have been different.
  • Those who couldn’t come always felt left out. As hard as we tried to make the in-world part of SLCC a compelling experience, our focus always was and had to be the in-person event. That’s what people were paying for and that was the whole point of SLCC in the first place – to come together in real life to share the excitement, passion, and energy we feel about the virtual. Unfortunately, many Second Life users couldn’t afford to attend the in-person event, and that caused a lot of resentment and anger that became increasingly difficult to deal with. The fact is, the people who paid to come to SLCC were the ones financing the in-world event, too! We never charged in-world attendees for all the extra overhead and costs required to stream, record, and put on a simultaneously virtual program and believe me, those costs were not insignificant! Despite our best efforts be inclusive, many people felt left out no matter what we did.  If the in-world community had been more supportive, or willing to help share the costs, perhaps things would have been different.

That’s it in a nutshell, the straight scoop.

When I came to the fork in the road and had to make a decision – was I in or was I out – I’m afraid I just didn’t have it in me anymore.  I was out.  Try to see it from my perspective,  if the company itself didn’t care enough about the community to support it, why should I or a handful of other people put in enormous amounts of work, at great personal cost and legal risk, to put on an event that could never live up to impossible expectations, all while being constantly second guessed and vilified by the chattering classes?

The answer I came to is – we shouldn’t.

These kinds of community events require many things to be successful – but a company and a community that is actually supportive instead of antagonistic is essential.

AvaCon ended up caught in the middle of ugliness from both sides. The anger people felt about Linden Lab was often erroneously directed at us, and Linden Lab itself never seemed to value how special it is to have a community that _wants_ to organize an event about their product.  Many individual staffers from the Lab were absolutely wonderful (you guys know who you are, too, and thank you for all your efforts on the community’s behalf), but on the whole, it always seemed like Linden Lab felt we owed them something instead of the other way around – as if communicating with the people who loved their product the most was some pain in the ass burden instead of a crucial and important opportunity.

I’m sure I/we made mis-steps along the way, but all I can say is I did my best.  I honestly, genuinely, sincerely tried very very hard to have SLCC be a grassroots, truly community led experience that showcased the diversity and creativity of Second Life’s userbase. I hope SLCC was, on the whole, a good experience for lots of people, but after many years of hard work and more grief than anyone should take for a volunteer activity, I decided to put my own life and my own family’s needs first for a change.

Some people may be wondering, if that was the case, then why didn’t someone speak up before now?  I was just one of a team, and once I let them know I was out for the next year, I stepped away from the day-to-day stuff, in part because I’ve been very busy since last fall helping care for my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s.  What happened after I bowed out of the decision-making, or what the other organizers thought or did or why they decided not to continue either is not my story to tell.  But I don’t think you should be angry at them.  Disappointed – ok; sad – well, I’m sad too, honestly; but you shouldn’t be angry.

It takes willing partners on all sides of the equation to pull something like this off, and this year, it just wasn’t there.

So what happens now?  I have no idea.  I’m not sure if this is the end of SLCC or not, but I also have to be honest that for me, my eight year love affair with the platform is over.  I devoted enormous amounts of time and energy not just to SLCC, but also other conferences and events and communities like Chilbo, I convinced my university to become involved and it still makes up a big part of my real job, and I’ve paid full tier for a very long time.  But Second Life is no longer moving in the direction I think it should be.

The thing that inspires so many of us is the concept of the Metaverse, an open, freewheeling 3D internet, full of amazing experiences and opportunities – but Second Life is not that.

It is not open. It is not free or even reasonably priced, in fact, it’s ridiculously expensive. The experiences that were amazing and cutting edge in 2003 or 2006 are no longer either, the technology has stagnated.   And the opportunity for profit, or creativity, or fulfilling your real world mission is limited by a shrinking user base, constant changes in direction and management, canceled programs, bad policies, and the simple fact that you can’t “own” anything you create if it’s locked on their servers.  As sad as it makes me, I honestly believe the story of Linden Lab and Second Life is the perfect case study of how to screw up your competitive edge while screwing your most passionate userbase.

And based on what I’ve seen from Linden Lab, I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon, either.  I think at this point they are just milking a cash cow, and that cow is you and me.  I’m not sure I think Second Life even deserves to have a user convention anymore, and I definitely think that passionate community who wants to see the Metaverse of our imaginations become a reality should should focus on more than just one platform.

I have moved on, and personally, I think AvaCon should as well.

 

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65 comments

  1. Riven Homewood

    *Hugs you*
    I went to SLCC last year, and I had a wonderful time. The people were what made it wonderful, both those attending and those who organized it. Sure wish Linden Lab had any understanding of how lucky they are to have such a fine user community.

  2. Fleep,

    Thank you for posting this. Putting your own feelings out in the open when there are many who may appear waiting to pounce and shout you down took courage.

    Speaking as one who in her time was involved in organising conventions and conference both professionally and as a volunteer (admittedly for different audiences) I can only agree with your comments as to just how hard it can be to make it happen. Even when provided with a more than adequate budget, pulling a conference together can still require blood, sweat, tears and stress. When the budget is minimal and you’re having to work at everything in your “free time” as a volunteer, the pressure increases tenfold – even when you have the full support of those for whom you are organising the event. Kudos to you and the team for taking it on the way you did.

    I was never able to attend an SLCC in person, but I did very much appreciate the opportunity to get involved in-world in 2010 and particularly last year.

    As to SL and future, I can’t really comment. My personal view sways so drastically between the optimistic and the pessimistic nowadays, although it was directly because of SLCC 2011 I did feel a renewed sense of hope for SL – so again thank you to you and the AvaCon team for that.

    SLCC will be missed – as as you say, perhaps the time has come to move on.

  3. Thank you for you dedication (same goes for all of Avacon!) and your honesty. No one should be expected to go to the extraordinary lengths needed to pull together a convention for free only to recieve that level of negativity and drama.

    I’m biased, but I do agree with you that the time has come for the Metaverse to evolve beyond Second Life. The longer it stays bottled up in SL, the more I fear the negativity that has ended SLCC will fester.

  4. Thank you for the insight – it’s as much as I expected, including the burnout, and the reasons for it. I gafiated* from SF convention fandom 30 years ago for much the same reasons.

    *gafia = “get away from it all”

  5. Fleep, I’m one of those who’s never been able to make it to SLCC, but even so, thank you and all the AvaCon people for running it. I consider it pretty remarkable that it happened, and you should be proud.

  6. Huge thanks to all from AvaCon for all their hard work. Im sure this has been a horrible decision for everyone.

    And RIP Beanie.. so sorry for you loss, Fleep! Hugs!

  7. I don’t see why yall can’t still do a metaverse festival each year. Call it something else and truly include all of the various VWs out there. Exclude SL too just for kicks.

    Then, with your experience, go get sponsors to help pay for your “MetaverseCon 1”. Forget LL. They are a bunch of clowns.

    If you still love to do it, do it on your own without the LL baggage. Who knows, maybe in a few years they will beg to be a part of it and then you can charge them a bunch to have one booth. That’s if they are still around, mind you.

    Break free from the clownishness and move forward.

  8. Corcosman Voom

    “…we basically got chewed out for not producing the equivalent of BlizzCon. Seriously, that’s what they said.”

    Whoever said that is seriously detached from reality.

    The disdain all SL users suspect is common within the Lab toward the paying customers is bad enough … getting punched in the face with it in RL is too much.

  9. Fleep, we don’t know each other that well (Eraldo Carlucci in SL) but you’ve always been an inspiration and I’ve admired the work you’ve done. In years past, I’ve organized large conventions and know exactly what you would have gone through with SLCC, even though I was never able to attend. I’m still a firm believer in the viability of virtual worlds, but have moved on from SL also. You’ll recover from this and be stronger than ever in the metaverse. And my sincere condolences for the loss of your much loved pet.

  10. Gwenette Writer Sinclair

    Many mahalos to you Fleep, to all the Avacon crew, to the original SLCC organizers and to all the volunteers over the years – and to all the attendees rl & vw who supported the events. It was an honor to be part of it all as a track leader in 2010. I def agree with what you say here: “[the] passionate community who wants to see the Metaverse of our imaginations become a reality should should focus on more than just one platform.” Now we GO FORTH & CREATE THE OPEN METAVERSE! In creative collaboration we coalesce.

  11. Dear Fleep and all of Avacon crew,

    With allmof the above I can only sympatize. Organizing a convention about virtual worlds is the sweetest headache 🙂 Honest from part of europe we wanted to skip it for a year but out of the blue a person came with great ideas and MM will be there again only a little later. I honest gave up on Linden Lab the first time. The golden uppertunity to set foot on Europe ground they screwed up and found out it was not even the ceo in that time that hold it back. As it became a meeting with the community about more worlds it became more a succes. I hope dear Avacon crew you will find a different path and there will be a better meeting that even Lindenlab wil regret. They can lock themselves out but is the community that makes the succes and they should not be blind. More worlds are immersing the development goes fast. My hugz to you all and who knows maybe we should think of something to connect the continents..

  12. I’m one of the people who did step up and volunteer for the 2010 and 2011 conventions. The difficult part of the decision was not doing the work (it’s what I do at conventions) but the required disclosure of my real life identity. (Normal attendees of SLCC were not required to give RL names to the public but track leaders and board members were. It’s a decision I agree with; if you’re going to trust us with $200+ of your money you deserve to know who we are.)

    I talked to a lot of people about SLCC during the two years I was involved with it. I heard three reasons for not going:

    1. It’s too far away / I can’t travel long distances. This one usually came from non-US people or people with physical limitations.

    2. I keep RL and SL separate and I’m not interested in meeting people in RL. Many people in SL feel that way; I did for my first couple of years but the barriers gradually came down.

    3. It costs too much.

    The people who give the first reason will only attend SLCC or a similar event if it’s in their back yard; the plan to limit the convention to two locations would have left some of them out permanently but I think it was a reasonable decision looking at all the facts. The people who gave the second reason were never going to attend SLCC.

    #3, however, needs a closer look. When compared to a typical professional convention SLCC was cheap; those things often cost $1000 or more for a full convention pass. But hardly anybody actually pays for a professional convention pass out of their own pocket, and even the people who do (consultants and freelance workers) get to write the amount off their taxes as a business expense. Compared to a typical leisure convention (such as a science fiction convention) SLCC was expensive; a weekend SF convention typically costs $50-60. The fact that business and academic people were the bulk of the attendees is partly because people outside those categories looked at the cost, compared it to other things they might do, and passed.

    So why can a science fiction convention charge so much less? (Most of the same arguments hold for other types of leisure conventions; SF cons are the ones that I’ve worked on enough to know the numbers.) One big answer is economy of scale; the final SLCC only had about 150 members and there were a lot of costs being borne by a small number of people. (It costs just as much to fly in and house your keynote speaker for a 150 person convention as for a 1500 person convention, most of your cost of getting internet connectivity is a fixed cost, and so on.) Difference in tech level isn’t a factor – modern SF conventions are quite tech-heavy – but the use of nearly all of it is donated by enthusiastic fans, whereas SLCC had to pay for a lot of equipment. Another big factor is that SF conventions usually take undesirable locations and dates; that’s why the two big ones in Boston are held in January and February. Hotels want a lot more money to host a convention in August, except in places that you don’t want to go at that time of year (ie, Florida or Arizona). Finally, SLCC included some things in the base price (notably the Saturday lunch) that SF conventions don’t normally include. (That’s no small thing; my understanding is that lunch cost us about $40/head.)

    Dramatically increasing the non-professional attendance level of SLCC would have required a drastic price cut; I think we would have had to find a way to get it under $100 for the weekend. I’m not sure whether there was enough interest in the convention to get the number of attendees necessary to reach that price point, and it’s even more clear that the much larger number of volunteers that would have been needed was not available.

    I will always have a soft spot in my heart for SLCC. The 2010 convention was the catalyst for my deciding to try living as a woman in RL; when I heard that SLCC was coming to my home city of Boston my first thought was “I have to go”, which was quickly followed by “I have to go as her”. That led to the decision to live full time as Shirley – yes, I took my avatar name as my new RL name.

    On a different note: in some ways I welcome the upcoming open metaverse, but in other ways I see it as the death of the dream. One of the joys of Second Life is that you can actualize all the aspects of your self within a single world: you can be a teacher and a kinky sex fan and an artist and a combat gamer and a philosopher and an all-night party person (and many more things) all in the same place. In the fragmented metaverse you generally have to choose one aspect to present in any given world; the others are either barred altogether or marginalized.

  13. Katydid Something

    Thank you, Thank you for putting this all out there. I’ve been biting my tongue a bit trying to remain professionally neutral. You know you echo my feelings as well. We all poured our hearts into last year and, in the end, sadly burned out. Burn out comes from lack of support. Thanks to all who did and have supported us and the convention. It was magical to those who got it! My hope is that there will be, in the future, a similar event open to all the Metaverse. Fleep, you have inspired so much of the vision of the event. This inspiration will be your legacy!

  14. And nothing of value was lost.

  15. Went to the convention in ’09 through ’11. ’09 was incredibly fun. ’10 was alright but not quite as good. ’11 was a sad remnant, more like an old folks cruise than a convention where anyone interesting would be found.

    This is because SL is a ten year old platform and is dying. It began losing steam in 2008 and never got it back. There are more entertaining ways of spending time than playing around in a glitchy environment populated mostly by sexo-Brazillians and late-middle age people strutting around in freakish seven foot two avatars that look like 19 year old mannequins.

    SL is the dregs right now. Their platform is losing relevance faster than Congress loses approval ratings.

  16. Thank you, Fleep, for organizing an event that changed my life forever.

  17. Thanks for all the work you’ve done Fleep! I’ve never been to one of the conventions but I’ve spoken ppl who went there and loved it.
    big hugs x

  18. The whole concept of a REAL LIFE convention for a geographically global virtual world community is flawed. Add to this the choice of expensive locations (expensive hotels in downtown San Francisco, Manhattan, etc). Most Second Life users, including many of its most prominent members, are in Second Life because for all types of reasons they can’t or don’t want to travel and interact in person with other Second Life members. Making it a requirement to give up your SL roleplay identity/avatar, engage in expensive and time consuming travel (think of 50% of the SL userbase being located outside America!) and be forced back into a real life setting to be able to meet all those Lindens and take part in “important” sessions and panels etc is simply a bad concept. The result was that the people who actually attended the SLCC, even though all decent people, were highly unrepresentative of the actual Second Life community.

    An important conference/convention in Second Life should happen in Second Life. It is called: “eat your own food”. A Second Life convention in downtown San Francisco is similar to a organizing your local suburb’s yearly fair in, say, Daytona Beach. Second Life users are in Second Life and should not be required to travel halfway across the globe to some hotel in America.

  19. shockwave yareach

    I can understand the misdirected anger. And I am sorry you had to experience that. As a staffer at a Furry con, I don’t experience too much of that because everyone in the con knows that we are just fans like them, and busting our butts to give everyone a 3day party. Sounds like the attendees to your con did not grasp that it was a fan-run convention rather than a company-run one, and thus vented their rage on the wrong folks.

    Though I did not ever attend one, I am very sorry for the behavior of my fellow SL fans who treated you so shabbily. I hope one day, we can all make amends to you and your staff for the efforts you put forward for a largely ungrateful company and unhappy fans of VR.

    But… as you said, if the company won’t even bother to host a convention of its own or pay for it, why should you do it for them? If LL wants to replicate Blizzcon, let them do it. And good luck to them, finding experienced staffers who know how to put on a con. As you and I know, we don’t exactly grow on trees.

  20. Richard Hackathorn

    Sad… Yes, let’s move on. But let’s remember the fun and insights that we all experienced over the past 7+ years in Second Life (and past SLCC). And then apply those experiences to the next generation of virtual worlds! Still, it is sad…

  21. Celebrate what was. Learn from what has been. Create what will be.

    I attended every SLCC from 2005-2010 (last year’s was the only one I missed). Thank you Fleep and everyone else who helped make them all happen.

  22. Thank you for posting this, you brought up some good points. Blessing to the soul of your sweet furred loved one!

  23. This is the gospel. Amen. Sorry about your kitty.

  24. Fleep. You rock. So sorry to hear about your cat. Hugs from afar.

    I’m also sorry about the events so eloquently described in your post. I was lucky enough to be in Tampa, FL for a SLCC and it was a great experience, despite my having a massive cold at the event. I got hugs from folks I’d only met inworld and extended relationships with other educators into “real life.”

    Despite all the factors you describe, though, ISTE SIGVE is experiencing a resurgence of energy. Only last night we concocted a new initiative, a “Massive Online Open Calendar” which resides at our ISTE wiki site and will attempt to carry all sorts of events in all sorts of worlds. Not popping in a link here but you can certainly google ISTE SIGVE and see the calendar. We’d love to have you come visit and rejoin our little tribe.

    Keep the faith, whichever it is for you…

  25. Thank you for such a frank and thorough post.
    I fully sympathise with you on all levels, understanding through first-hand experience both LL and the General Public.
    Often have I bemoaned the terrible waste LL is guilty of until my move to InWorldz where a small group of owners care for their customers as any good service-based business should.
    I fully support your decision … there comes a point where we wonder “am I a masochist, putting myself through all this when a majority don’t really appreciate my efforts?”
    I always think that when I start to feel like a sucker… it’s time to stop.

    big hugz …so sorry about your pet.XXX

  26. Fleep; I now see that you were a pillar of strength during SLCC last year. Because, except for one content squabble, I had the feeling that the event went really very well. Thank you for doing all you’ve done. If ever we meet in person again, I owe you a big hug. (._.)

  27. Thank you.

  28. Fleep, you absolutely hit the nail on the head. This is exactly why I bailed on organizing after 2007, after running three (the second mostly on just Jeska and my backs), and rarely logged into Second Life much after that. I guess I just got started a few years before you. Anyway, great job, you did the best you could, just like the original organizational team had.

  29. Fleep,
    I’ve never been and we’ve never met but thanks for sharing and for your candid feedback, am hopeful that our paths would cross at some point!

  30. Thanks very very much for this post, and for all the work you put into the SLCC’s! I just saw you zooming around 🙂 at the one that I managed to attend, but have always thought of you as a great and positive force in the community, and this post just reinforces that.

    Don’t let the griefers and the litigious and the unappreciative get you down. You done good 🙂 and the vast majority are grateful.

  31. i am sorry to hear of the deep and personal grief this has caused you. but you are a better person for the work you did and your work did affect some people in a positive way that you will never know

    that has tremendous value and you are a wonderful person

    thank you =)

  32. I am amazed at just how supportive of the SL community you have been, Fleep but I do know how thankless a task that can be. One section of the community are all about taking and leaving a rush of bad feeling in their wake while another section are really wonderful people in so many ways. Linden Labs, IMO, are little better than the taker section of the community. LL are the biggest takers!

    Linden Labs don’t deserve our support but the better part of the community dose so when someone as dedicated as you is forced to say they can’t do it any more for all the reasons you state then it just goes to show why SL is in slow, terminal decline.

    I, myself, am still hanging in SL by a thread with two expensive RP sims but I have so much more for less cost in OSgrid and a private Opensim standalone. And it’s good to have the freedom too.

    With that said I want to express my sorrow at your loss. I am a cat owner too and I really understand how you feel.

    Thank you. All the best.

  33. One of my best moments at SLCC was sitting out front of the Marriott with you on the smokers bench, talking to you like we were like old friends, though we had just met.

    I will hate to see us lose the opportunity for moments of time like that.

  34. Fleep, very sorry to hear about your cat, I feel for you. I never made it to SLCC in person; when I started going to conferences in the USA in 2009, it had already been developments beyond Second Life I wanted to keep up with, such as presented at State of Play VI, the Immersive Education Summits, or the Federal Consortium for Virtual Worlds annual gatherings at NDU. But I have always admired what you guys made possible for all of us in all these years, plus, you gave me the opportunity to experience much of SLCC in-world in person – being there without physically being there. I owe you and the great efforts of everybody supporting this so many inspiring acquaintances, so much insight and so many moments both surprising and touching, I can hardly put it in words. Thank you sincerely for all the love, time, energy and creativity, and best wishes from Hamburg for your future work, exploring and creating the 3D Metaverse.

  35. Your last two paragraphs sum up the entire reality of the tech/ people network/ business .. and it refuses to change. And what LL has done will repeat again. Up to you to pay into the next one or not.
    Some of use tried to tell you all how the “technology biz works” in 2006. But lessons learned again. Enjoy telling the class of 2012 as they all pay in time and effort for another cult like set of folks to join the 1%.

    Own your Tools, or you are the tool. A lesson that is now 20+ years old in terms of digital creative works.

  36. I’m going to include this – this is a thread from the SLED educator’s mailing list. Things you may not know:

    On Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM, Tim Allen wrote:
    > I’m sorry Kate, we normally see eye to eye, but there are some factual
    > inconsistencies I must fix here as founder of the SLCC. In line below…
    >
    > On Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 9:16 PM, Kate Miranda wrote:
    >>
    >> Well as I pointed out many times it wasn’t really an SL community
    >> conference. It was a US meet-up of some sub-section of SL community
    >> members, mainly Americans. If Linden Lab feels that it was a misnomer to
    >> imply it was inclusive of the whole SL community or to imply that it had
    >> significant inworld participation available then I totally agree with them.
    >> Please don’t tell me about how it was possible to stream video content
    >> inworld and watch the cool kids at the conference. That is NOT
    >> participation.
    >
    >
    > It was a community convention, not conference, first of all. We actually
    > debated during the forming of the first event whether to go with convention
    > (think Star Trek or DragonCon) versus a more academic setting (conference).
    > We, as a committee, made it clear during SLCC1 that we intended it to be
    > more of a convention – fan based, all-encompassing, everyone is welcome,
    > family barbecue style. It was not our intention to create an academic
    > conference; it wasn’t until SLCC2 that educators (Jeremy Kemp and Daniel
    > Livingstone, in particular, great guys!) started to play a major role after
    > we made headlines with SLCC1 in 2005. They’d be the first to tell you that
    > while we incorporated academia, that wasn’t the initial goal of the
    > conference. I still consider them great people I could rely on any day.
    > Hopefully, they’re still on this list and will chime in with their thoughts,
    > they’re actual academics and not just a guy like me that’s some guy who
    > writes code for The Wharton School, and not into calls for papers or
    > publications on SSRN, etc.
    >
    > Our meet-ups were based in the US, sure; but at SLCC1, and in following
    > SLCCs, the attendee makeup was only about 75% US based. Nick Rhodes, Frans
    > Charming, Fizik Baskerville, Nick Laurence, Stephane who’s last name I
    > forget, Anshe Chung and her husband Guni, all come to mind off the top of my
    > head. One of our board members was from the UK, Justin Bovington of Rivers
    > Run Red. Granted, the finances involved with flying to SLCC1, paying $65, or
    > $95 if you wanted the open bar, was the payment, and flight / NYC hotel was
    > the major part of the expense. I no longer have access to the SLCC1/2/3
    > data, unfortunately, as I deleted it all when I retired and turned SLCC and
    > the Future United over for SLCC4 in Tampa.
    >
    > However, the SLCC cost lways paled in contrast to the typical $1000 economy
    > trans-Atlantic flight…and I can relate, being a dual US/UK citizen. SLCC2
    > was $150 when Linden Lab really helped us out, since it was in San Fran
    > (BTW, at the time, was the locale with the highest density-per-capita of SL
    > residents – which is why we did San Fran) and I’ll be the first to admit the
    > city selection for SLCC3 was a mistake. Chicago, Union Town, expensive
    > downtown hotel, and also, an ironic story. It was also the first time we
    > allowed city selection by SL forum vote. We should have probably included a
    > potential cost estimate next to the city name. I wanted it to be in Philly,
    > where I could have had space for free, and made the admission price about
    > $50.00.
    >
    > The funny story about SLCC3: Chicago is this: I had to write a check for
    > $139,000.00. Yeah, that’s a boatload of cash.We had just become a
    > non-profit, before that, it was run out of our personal bank accounts (so
    > anyone who says it was a Linden Lab conference can screw off, it was
    > sponsors like Rivers Run Red, Anshe Chung, Involve, Millions of Us, Electric
    > Sheep, Stroker and Munch who really made it happen, trust me, I payed taxes
    > on the first two out off my side business as sponsorship). We only had
    > starter checks. So we’re at the Chicago Hilton, and I write the biggest
    > check I’ve written in my life, for $139k, to the Chicago Hilton on our blank
    > starter check – and I didn’t write in Linden Lab, I wrote THE FUTURE UNITED
    > on the blank “From:” spot. No one from Linden Lab there. This was us. We
    > were on our own. To acknowledge Fleep Tuque’s recent blog entry… she’s was
    > on the spot financially and legally. We spent a hell a lot of our money on
    > event liability insurance. If they knew what actually happened at SLCC (me
    > versus prok, furries vs w-hat, joshua vs half the planet, and frankly, cory
    > vs philip) they’d have STFU’d.
    >
    > During the first SLCC, we had arrange with the New York Law School (the
    > reason it was so cheap – free space – no caterer bill) to up their
    > bandwidth. Level3 had a major outage during our event, which limited our
    > upstream. Still, we had 80% uptime of the conference in-world from the video
    > stream; just watch the videos. In in-world video on the screen behind the
    > panels shows a 15-20 second delay. The proof is there. All of this on a
    > net-zero budget.
    >
    > SLCC2 was also a disaster: I had to prove to them that a 1mbps uplink wasn’t
    > enough, even though we were uplinking to Virginia, and I needed this a
    > dedicated 1mbps uplink at least. (It was 2006 at this point.). Second Life
    > also had a bug with Quicktime streaming at the time which could crack sims;
    > each SL viewer would spin up with a connection request, which was an
    > expensive proposition. So, basically, it was run audio only or crash the sim
    > according to Lindens I trusted on site. I caught HELL for this.
    >
    > I fought it, but we were charged $15k out of the 2007 bill for Internet
    > access. We were supposed to have 15k streaming for Taco and his team to
    > stream all the audio, with one video stream per session. We test on Friday,
    > and we’re getting 15mbps according to speedtest.net. I’ve brought EVDO cards
    > for wireless streaming from work, and we test, and it works fine. As soon as
    > shit ACTUALLY starts, people are reporting choppiness in world. I’ve running
    > a conference with 1,000 people – and thank gawd I had some of my best friend
    > with me, like Taco and Nethermind and my wife, Jennyfur – and we don’t have
    > the 15mbps pipe. We have a 1mbps pipe. CRAP! WTF! What happened? It isn’t
    > until Saturday night that we get the fucking Union guys out to “swing the
    > lever.” So everything is fine for Sunday. Great. Missed the keynotes. Missed
    > the live music. Wow, how awesome is that?
    >
    > After 2007, my wife said to me, “Since we got married in 2005, all we’ve
    > done is run these conferences that just make people mad at us, when all we
    > wanted to do was bring join to the world… and make the world a better
    > place.” That’s what I told Nexeus is was his turn, and he, in turn, turned
    > it to Fleep (Chris, correct me if I’m wrong).
    >
    > So there’s your early history. While I loved running and founding the SLCC,
    > it is time for it to die a peaceful death. Everyone on this list should give
    > some love and a shout out to Fleep Tuque for keeping it alive. It is the
    > most thankless job ever, and frankly, I think she did a better job with it
    > than I ever did.
    >
    > But – other than maybe being a slave driver in Uganda – most thankless job
    > ever.
    >
    > Be sure you give Fleep / Chris a big pat on the back. Trust me.
    >
    >> If we say that virtual events are a cost-efficent, environmentally
    >> friendly alternative to live events, it makes no sense to have a virtual
    >> community event primarily as a face to face conference in some hotel in a US
    >> city. You have to walk the talk.
    >
    >
    > Who said that? I certainly never did…neither did anyone ever from SLCC
    > during my “reign of terror”, or however is was put . It was a simple
    > choice: if you’re comfortable coming to SLCC in person, and meeting in 1L,
    > then do so. If not, we hold nothing against you and will do our best to
    > provide you content. But the in-world event always had to take a back seat
    > to the realities of running a real-world convention.
    >
    > I just ran the most successful event I’ve ever run. I ran the first three
    > SLCCs, and learned a lot from them, and this was probably the 15th-20th
    > major event I’ve run finishing yesterday, featuring Steve Wozniak, who could
    > be called the biggest name in tech alive. Given Steve’s awesome personality,
    > it was fairly easy (trust me, some speakers can be a handful… (Philip is
    > easy and a really nice guy, but also quite vain, for example… everyone has
    > their quirks). Everyone who attendees were enthusiastic, enjoyed it, and
    > with Woz being such a great guy, it was easy, frankly. SLCC was the biggest
    > nightmare I ever carried on my back. Instead of the ease of Woz the past two
    > days, it was four months of horseshit arguments on forums with a complete
    > lack of facts being presented as facts by people who refused to volunteer;
    > no one would offer constructive criticism continuing while they would “offer
    > their important (and complete anonymous) opinion” and say they were helping
    > by chiming in. Yet, they’d offer the most disheartening, things like death
    > threats, personal violence, and rape . Yeah, it isn’t even funny when its
    > virtual, but once you get real, it gets really scary. I can totally relate
    > to Fleep Tuque’s concerns, let alone Chris Collins. It had gotten bad when I
    > was running the show, but when Fleep took over – you want to talk about RL
    > concerns? Yeah, consider for a second what she went through last year.
    >
    > I’m sorry to rant, but I’m glad I helped found the SLCC. I’m proud of what
    > we did: built a conference where 99% of the attendees were passionate about
    > the product they love. We created successful marriages (look up Eddie Escher
    > and Fallingwater Cellardoor or Garth Fairlight and Pituca Fairchang). I met
    > my virtual mom, Misty Rhodes, who went on to be one of the best Lindens ever
    > through SLCC. My first virtual friend – through the Virtual Spaces program,
    > Nethermind Bliss nee Elle Waters, is one of my wife and my best friends.
    > Shit, half my friends list on Facebook are people I met at SLCCs, had a beer
    > at a bar with, and said something fascinating to me. It still influences my
    > life. After running SLCC from 2005-2007 though, the negatives outweighed the
    > positives from the poison of the SL community who enjoyed anonymity and
    > being an asshole more than being a positive member of the evolution of
    > virtual worlds.
    >
    > I still believe 99% of the Second Life community is awesome. But it is tough
    > doing a labor of love when people who care enough to tell you they
    > absolutely hate you (I got called EVIL INCARNATE at one point) would rather
    > bad mouth anything you do that anything you try to build.
    >
    > Good run, Fleep / Chris. You did your best. That job has a maximum 3-year
    > tag on it anyway. 🙂
    >
    > Ironic that the 1% is ruining America… and ruined our virtual home too.
    > Just a different 1%.
    >
    > A final shout out to the folks who started SLCC – our hearts were in the
    > right place, trust me – Jennyfur Peregrine, my lovely wife; Hiro Pendragon,
    > a dear friend; Jerry Paffendorf, who apparently now owns 90% of Detroit or
    > something , Valadeza Anubis, who’s recently gotten married and gave
    > Jenn and I a sword for our wedding which wards off Jehovah’s witnesses with
    > ease…
    >
    > This sword is awesome by the way. Broad sword, two handed, but before I get
    > distracted…
    >
    > And the one in a million friend of mine, Jeska Linden, who looped our
    > insanity in to making the first three awesome. After Jeska left… SL kind
    > of died, IMHO. That’s my first personal take on it… but its true.
    >
    > So the evolution of worlds, virtual, mental, and “real” has moved on. So
    > should we. I know I have.
    >
    > See you all on the other side.
    >
    > Regards, your friend,
    >
    > FlipperPA Peregrine / Timothy Allen (call me “Tim”, just not “Tim Allen”
    > )
    > tallen@wharton.upenn.edu
    > IT Director, Web, Wharton Research Data Services
    >
    > My business card used to say, in addition:
    > SL: FlipperPA Peregrine
    >
    > See you all on the flip side. I’m out.

  37. You made the right decision, for the right reasons. Thank you for sharing them.

    The “entitlement” that so many people seem to feel they have to your time and effort is something that I have experienced in SL over the last 5.5 years. It’s the down side to being someone who is passionate about what they do.

    I agree with Pathfinder.

    All of these difficult lessons will enable you to create more in the future, in the manner that is best for you, and for those you touch.

  38. Shirley Marquez

    There is one more reason that attendance was light in 2010 and 2011, and it was also Linden Lab’s fault. Both years, the convention dates and location were announced very late: late May in 2010, early June in 2011. LL’s unwillingness to sign the convention contract in a timely manner was a problem. In 2010 there were other factors as well including the transfer of SLCC to a new organization; in 2011 LL’s intransigence was pretty much the entire reason. My no-data guess is that we would have had 100 more attendees each year if we had been able to announce six months in advance instead of two months.

    I should also credit Avacon with attempting to get the 2012 deal done in a timely manner. Despite being exhausted from running 2011, the board with with Linden Lab immediately after the convention. If LL had actually been interested in supporting SLCC the deal might have been done right then and the 2012 convention could have been announced a YEAR in advance.

    By the time the conventions were announced, it was too late for many people to plan a trip; their vacation dates were already committed or their organizations had longer lead times for requesting conference support. For those who were interested in going, the short notice increased the cost of making the trip, as cheap airfares were mostly already gone and the limited seats available for booking on frequent flyer miles were gone. I got lucky and was able to use the Southwest anniversary sale for my return trip, but that only worked because I was staying on in California for two weeks after the convention. (My return date was adjusted to be the first eligible date for that fare.) Airfare wasn’t a factor for me in 2010; I live in Boston.

  39. Shirley, I had been wondering about that. Have to say, I for one am glad you managed to catch a plane to Oakland. Just wish we’d had more time to talk.

    Flipper, thank you.

    Cube, what you’re seeing here is not regret. It’s grief. Don’t you recognize a wake when you see one?

  40. Tommy Brouwer

    The last two paragraphs describe exactly why i left SL and in consequence, sadly, the great Chilbo Community a few years ago. I felt the world did not develop as i hoped and that no effort from my side could ever help stopping the downward spiral Linden Lab was in.
    So it was time to move on to other virtual worlds, because i learned one thing in SL and from you, Fleep: It´s not the Pixels that matter, but the people behind the avatar building communities and connecting.

  41. Annabelle Fanshaw

    Fleep, my condolences for your loss, our pets sustain us with their unconditional love, and to lose that is tragic indeed. I agree with your views on SLCC- I was there running a panel in 2010, even had lunch with Philip and Pathfinder, but even then I could see that it was the beginning of the end, and the start of a new phase of our Metaverse experience. I do believe that this virtual experience is going to expand again, and there you will be, a star shining in the middle.

  42. So we’ve all agreed to move on. What’s next? Really?

  43. Good question, Flip. This will make me sound like a silly oldbie, but my first thought was, “Let’s ask if Salazar Jack’s ancestors left any maps or journals about other lands we might rediscover.”