SLCC postmortem I

Back from Chicago and the Second Life Community Convention. Had a great time even if everything didn’t quite go to plan… I’m going to try and focus on the big picture in this post, expect more detail to follow.

Arrived late on Friday and missed the tools panel hosted by Columbia College – which I think I was supposed to be on.

Saturday, getting set up we discovered that we had problems accessing Second Life. We ditched our plan of having Second Life run on one of the two projection screens, and decided to use it for videos and the like instead. We also ditched any attempt to use a wireless router to provide wireless access to people in the room.

Later in the day, James Morgan let us try to use his wireless cell-phone broadband, but the concrete and steel bunker that is the Chicago Hilton quite effectively blocked the signal on that too.

Connie Yowell of the MacArthur foundation gave an inspirational keynote, during which I was too-often distracted with trips to the tech support to try and work out how we could get connected. Eventually we discovered that audio streaming to Second Life wasn’t working properly either.

Eventually it transpired that the hotel hadn’t allocated nearly enough upstream bandwidth to the convention, and the network was generally borked. Eventually, towards the end of Saturday, the cause of the problem was identified and after negotiation with the hotel enough bandwidth was obtained to allow streaming at least to work. (In short, the hotel had been *contracted* to provide a set amount of upstream bandwidth. When the hotel offered this, and signed it, they must have forgotten to check with their technical department to check they actually could deliver on their promise)

We also started the day in one of the smallest of the meeting rooms – after packing that out completely for Connie’s presentation, Randal (the SLCC head honcho) realised that we’d been right about needing more room and allowed us to move over to a bigger room.

Ate lunch while moving equipment and un-plugging and re-plugging cables.

Breakout sessions seemed to go very well, with lively discussions underway at all the tables.

Presenters and panels were all great, though we over-packed the event with panels and presentations (see Alan Levine’s comments, for example). There are a number of reasons for this ending up the way it did…

  • When we put out the call for proposals, the majority that we received were for papers and case-studies. Which usually implies a presentation. A few of these we asked the authors to re-purpose as breakout discussions, but perhaps not enough.
  • We wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to present their work.
  • We hoped putting case-studies together into panel sessions would allow room for discussion. Although this did enable a little discussion, it didn’t do so sufficiently.

The Saturday talks and panels went well, but by the end of the day we’d gone on too long without sufficient breaks and no-one seemed keen to use the final half-hour discussion slot. See above for some of the reasons why the schedule ended up this way, and also:

  • We had originally wanted to multi-track the education track, but were not able to confirm that we’d have the facilities to do so. I really would have been uncomfortable scheduling a parallel track if I didn’t know for absolute certainty that there would be a room for the track!

Had we know that room would be available, we’d have split things up a little more – and certainly had more breaks.

Barry Joseph’s interactive session for Global Kids went down very well, and really gave a boost to the attendees. Special award to Barry for managing to squeeze the event into the very small amount of time we were able to allocate to him.

Very intermittent streaming and communications from in-world on Saturday – with demands from in-world for all the Chicago audience to shout out ‘supercalifragiliciouswelovesarahrobbins’. Which we were only too happy to do.

Sunday went well also, this time with streaming more or less throughout. Carol Tucker and Beth-Ritter Guth improvised a link to the in-world convention using two tin cans and a long piece of string, since we still couldn’t get SL to run in the room. (Well, OK, using the gmail instant messaging features). I was really happy to take questions from the in-world audience when I could – simply relieved that we had *some* connection to the global audience.

You can see me on the defensive, next to a summary of the feedback at the end of the Sunday session here… though I have to say that there weren’t too many comments that I actually disagreed with. In particular, I really felt that I had far too few opportunities to meet and hang out with people – though that might be unavoidable for a co-chair!

Daniel summarizes

(Photo credit: Alan Levine)

More to follow: thoughts on the different presentations, take home messages, and ideas for next year…

p.s. High praise to Jeremy Kemp and his ‘conference in a bag’. Jeremy brought just about everything you could ever need to run a tech-heavy conference with him. Which was just as well, as almost everything he brought ended up being used. Only two things he didn’t have in his bag… screen for projecting onto (OK, we had two of those) and a T1 internet connection, which would have been nice. :-)

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