SLCC 2010: The Resurrection

Thursday, August 19, 2010 Thursday, August 19, 2010

It was with great nervousness did I watch the unfolding of 2010’s Second Life Community Convention earlier this year. I had attended two previous instances of this famous event, 2008 in Tampa and 2009 in San Francisco. The 2009 event was announced rather late in the cycle, leaving little time for presenters and attendees to get organized. It nevertheless took place, fun was had by attendees, but the convention’s sessions and organization were not exactly optimal.

Meanwhile, this year’s event almost never happened.

Weeks passed, with no announcements of any kind regarding the 2010 event. Like those who attended previous events, I was looking forward to attending and meeting up with virtual friends. But no announcements. Was there even going to be an event at all?

By March I had personally concluded that it must be over. There is no way a major convention can be organized in such a short time, particularly by SLCC’s previous organizational track record. Saddened, I wondered how this would play out. How would the SL community go forward without a foundational event around which we can come together?

Worse news: Linden Lab suddenly revealed massive staff layoffs and a vague change in direction. The Linden Dollar significantly slipped in value for the first time in eons. Both the annual convention and Linden Lab itself appeared vulnerable and perhaps even in jeopardy.

Amazingly, SLCC 2010’s date and location were announced only weeks before the actual event. This is incomprehensible as far as event planning goes; there is no way you can expect to have a successful convention with only a few weeks notice. Nevertheless, to support the community I registered immediately, not knowing what would happen.

I arrived in Boston a day early and learned the dramatic sequence of events: The previous SLCC’s were run by “The Future United”, a group which earlier this year folded when the last board member admitted they could not put on the convention. It was at that moment that concerned and leading residents put together a plan to save SLCC: the new body, AvaCon, formed and then began lengthy negotiations with the Lindens to secure the licenses to put on the official convention. Only after these documents were signed could AvaCon announce dates and location - and then they had only eight weeks to put it all together for real.

And they did, truly magnificently. I’ve attended many conferences and this one was run as well as any. The sessions were interesting and well planned; the hotel was near-perfect for this event (especially the blazing fast and free WiFi network); the off-hours events were terrific; the logistics, program, badges were better than any previous SLCC I’d attended. I give my highest compliments to the New SLCC organizing team, led by she-of-no-rest uberorganizer Fleep Tuque, for doing an impossible job in an impossible time.

As for SLCC 2010 itself, I remember it as a series of moments:

Gwampu Lomu singing with the totally awesome Tamra Sands. Well, at least he sung the last note of the song, anyway. Tamra is a far better singer than Gwampa.

Listening to the endless puns from master comedian Lauren Weyland, whose distinctive voice could be heard almost everywhere. Example heard in the extraordinarily elaborate main ballroom: “This room must have been built when America was China!” Have you found your shoes yet, Lauren?

Having an impromptu iPhone FaceTime party in the executive lounge, where several of us FaceTime virgins realized we could video call each other! So we did across a coffee table - a true NerdOut.

The discussions and arguments taking place every evening in the lobby, bar, restaurants or suites that ranged over any conceivable SL-related issue. For certain, we all had the answers to every problem, or so it seemed.

Meeting the notorious Prokofy Neva in person, who is actually more reasonable than many blog readers may think.

Spending time with the IBM virtual reality team, including the brilliant Zha Ewry, the delightful Dale Innis, Oura Scribe and the lovely Ahuva Heliosense, whose incredibly sultry outfit was seemingly ruined by the absence of a single rhinestone on her rather complex shoes. Or so she thought. But I didn’t.

Meeting a most amazing person: Pooky Amsterdam, whose dramatic presence simply took over every room she entered. If you’ve heard her voice on one of her shows, let me say that her personage matches her distinctive voice in every way.

Taking over the famous Cheers bar in Boston, with perhaps thirty avatars occupying the entire section. Fortunately, Cheers did not know our real names.

Meeting the SL-banned Woodbury group, who surprised everyone by showing up to register for the conference. After initial fears of RL griefing subsided, they were an interesting group to speak with in the dark hours of the night.

Observing once again the astonishing real-life charisma of Philip Linden, who simply bent over backwards to meet and talk with everyone and anyone. Philip spent considerable time talking to the grumbly educators after the surprise announcement of the denouement of the languishing Teen Grid. It was also fascinating to watch certain women simply melt in his presence. One unnamed melting individual kept saying, “I want one of those”, while gazing dreamily at Philip. No, it wasn't Pooky!

Discussing the surprising outcomes of permitting intergrid teleports between SL and Other Grids with Philip, who has evidently thought quite deeply about the subject. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this in the future.

The never-ending post convention “secret” party, which was not so secret because it was being broadcast live over UStream. As soon as the stream went up, missing attendee Eshi Otawara videoed in and joined us virtually. Miss you, Eshi!

Spending time with Noona and Noele, who were perhaps the most unique attendees: they were simply residents! They did not own virtual businesses, perform any artistic works or organize anything. They simply enjoyed SL shopping and decided to come to SLCC for fun. While there were few sessions directed to them, their perspective on things was quite different from the ultra-creative types who normally inhabit the convention.

The continual exhaustion and exhilaration caused by endless hours of meeting new avatars and discussing everything. Some were totally spent, yet could not leave the party - like Dirk McKeenan who fell asleep on the lobby floor at 4AM. Dirk was an unstoppable force. Until he fell asleep.

A windup dinner involving all who assisted the convention at the longest possible restaurant table. I squeezed in beside Filthy Fluno, Prokofy Neva and Fleep Tuque, and had delightful conversations on a wide variety of topics.

Appreciating the several exLindens who still came to the event, even though they were no longer employed by Linden Lab, including Kate exLinden, Joppa exLinden, Teagan exLinden and Pathfinder exLinden. They are those who truly support SL. Yes, that is Joppa stuck on the window. Don't ask.

Watching the full-length documentary “Life 2.0” with many other avatars, and discussing it afterwards. Indeed, I found myself in the middle of a debate on the merits of the piece with Prokofy Neva, Tuna Oddfellow and Zha Ewry, a highly unlikely combination of avatars to be seen. I liked the film immensely, as it accurately portrayed (and made you feel and experience) the confusing emotional transformations that are so common in SL. This film is unlike any other SL-related piece I’ve seen, and if you are in SL, you must see it. How? You will be able to see it next year on the Oprah Winfrey network.

Catching up with old friends (well, they’re not old, the friendship is) such as Feline Slade, Daphne Abernathy, Roland Legrand, Loki Clifton, Ham Rambler, Beyers Sellers, Sloan Skjellerup, Apple & Nasus, Katydid Something, Rhiannon Chatnoir, Tuna & Shava and of course Dirk McKeenan and many others.

Meeting wonderful new friends, such as Explorer Dastardly, Spiral Theas, Anastasios Aurotharius, Landau Shippe, Tamra Sands, Fleep Tuque, Filthy Fluno, Winter Nightfire, Maggie Marat and so many others I cannot remember them all.

But by far the most special moment for me was also a special moment for two others: Chestnut Rau and Zha Ewry, long-time partners in SL who had never before met each other in real life. In fact, Chestnut had not met ANY avatars in real life before this event and was quite nervous about doing so. I am happy to say that I had a tiny role in their meeting.

Fortunately Chestnut had reluctantly posted a rather obscure RL photograph of herself some weeks earlier, and based on that image I was able to identify her standing in the hotel lobby. I approached her and introduced myself, but she seemed a little awkward as those were her first moments meeting avatars. We had a brief discussion, when suddenly over her shoulder I observed someone entering the lobby pulling a suitcase: Zha Ewry.

I immediately held up my hands to beckon Chestnut to stop talking and said in a totally calm voice, “Turn. Around. Right. Now.” She looked at me quizzically and rotated. In less than a picosecond she recognized Zha, who did not notice her. I will never forget the look on Chestnut’s face at that moment, as her emotions radiated brilliantly in all directions. After a moment she strode forward cautiously and began speaking to Zha, who still did not yet understand who this strange woman was talking to him in the lobby. But suddenly he realized it was Chestnut, and the rest I cannot say.

One memory I will definitely not cherish was the loss of my camera, which somehow became separated from me during the convention. I did not notice its absence until I returned home - having used my iPhone for most pictures. If anyone has seen a stray Canon SD980, give me a shout!

There was one more important impression I observed: the announcements from Linden Lab. We’ve all heard the new mantra: Fast, Easy and Fun, which appears simplistic is in fact what’s needed, if it can be pulled off. Philip’s announcements told a story of how they are going to do it by reorganizing their development process and focusing on critical bits first.

For sure, Philip didn’t mention a number of things that people really want fixed (search, for example), but that’s not fixable within this year - search is an extremely complex topic that will take time to sort out. I checked later on with Tiggs Linden, who is in charge of server development. He confirmed that the list of items shown by Philip was indeed achievable, although it will be tough. I’d rather have a shorter list of things that will actually get done than a longer list that won’t. Remember, the list shown was only the 2010 list. There will be more lists in the future, and that’s the nature of the new development process: fast iterations focused on specific features. The impression I got was that the Lab is very serious about fixing these things - and fixing SL overall.

SL is not dead. SLCC is not dead. One was resurrected this August, and the other is underway.


Dale Innis said...

Brilliant post! (And not only because I am delightful in it!)

This was my first SLCC, and I hadn't realized quite how enormous and last-second a challenge AvaCon faced in putting it together. Now I am even more impressed with how wonderfully it all came off.

(I may even stop complaining about the insufficient free coffee...)

Chestnut Rau said...

Thank you so much Armi. It was fabulous to meet you and spend time together at SLCC. I appreciate your description of Zha and I meeting. It was a special moment for us to be sure. There is no great mystery to what happened next though! We hugged.

Next I felt silly for being nervous about meeting people from SL. It felt totally natural to spend time with my friends in the physical world. I am already looking forward to next year.

Zha Ewry said...

We hugged, breathed, and found it just as natural in real life as in Second Life.

~ Zha

Unknown said...

I'm so happy everything was able to get worked out, even last minute as it was. It was great to see everyone again, and meet old SL friends in RL for the 1st time. I can't wait for next year! Excellent Post!

Pooky Amsterdam said...

Oh Armi! this was just great and thank you for the wonderful comments on so many fronts- and the story of Zha & Chestnut is really great.
You are an amazing cat and it was fantastic to meet you & everyone.

Having a communication that goes so far beyond the eyes to begin with makes meeting in person so special.
Thank you again!

Unknown said...

fantastic and you were a joy to meet.

Fleep Tuque said...

I've read your blog for ages but getting to meet you in Boston was one of the highlights of the convention for me. Thanks for such a great post and I hope to see you next year! :)

Kain Cleaver said...

It was awesome to be there at my first SLCC while I would have loved to meet more people I guess I haven't been the most virtually social either. So I'm making a vow to talk to more people next year!!!!! So if you see me say hello!! Good lord !!! Lol :). I can't help that I'm not a social butterfly .. :). See you all next year

Chimera Cosmos said...

After having such a great time at SLCC 08 and 09, it was painful not to be able to go to Boston to see everyone again. I'm glad you got to meet my SL collaborator Spiral Theas, but sorry I wasn't able to introduce her around to even more folks.

Reading your post made it seem a tiny bit like I was there. And I WAS on a fun trip to China, so I can't complain too much. Next year!

==Chimera Cosmos==

Robin Heyden said...

Thanks for this fabulous blog post, Armi! (Chimera Cosmos just sent me the link). You really captured the spirt of the conference - nicely done. It was great to meet you in person and I'm looking forward to getting to know you further and, hopefully, working with you on a few projects.

Spiral Theas

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