I was fortunate enough to attend Convergence of the Real and the Virtual conference over the weekend in World of Warcraft. There were some interesting features and some really good take aways.
The first day of the conference there was a real attempt to keep it structured. The organizers abandoned voice at some point (which AV expected they would based on our experience) and by the third day abandoned much of the heirarchical structure in order to take advantage of chat mechanics as well.
I need to say that the organizers did a terrific job both before and during, but especially in getting the word out. I think the event peaked at 125 people, though I cannot say I looked at that time. The guild welcoming and the level of participation before the event was astonishing.
The environment use during the event was a bit different, it focused entirely on the guild chat and as JP Bruneau points out it could have been enacted in its form over IRC, though it would not have caught as many peoples attention. That is to say that the overall mechanism was not new, but the environment was… for the conference.
For me the most interesting elements took place outside the conference. Here is a short list:
- The run up to it – Talking with guildies in the informal setting leading up to it was interesting, making connections with Extropia and a few others from Second Life and teaching World of Warcraft skills was wonderful. It is always useful to see the universe through the eyes of the noob again.
- Guildchat after the first session – this is where it got serious, or at least became possible. The discussion was not constrained by the sessions but open to our interests and we had an established a community around science. The ad hoc community lends itself easily to the sharing of knowledge, interest and networking. Sadly I think this is the gem from the conference and the most fragile gain. If people do not value it, it will evaporate
- For me I got a chance to play an old toon, and fell in love with it again, I made level 58 and went through the dark portal. What does this have to do with science? Not much but I will always associate this experience with the conference.
All in all this was a good experience, the key is to learn from the lessons and advance this work regardless of who is doing the work. I think that in preparing for our next conference there are some amazing take aways.