All in all, I thought it was a wonderful conference this year. Things appeared to run smoothly; a few small glitches I noticed along the way were quickly corrected or worked around. I can’t speak to any of the social events but I heard good things about them. So, a few things:
Why the heck did I volunteer for people-facing things if I’m a shy introvert?
I was asked this recently, and the answer is simple, “I wanted to help and that’s what was needed.” Sure, it’s a bit like an arachnophobe offering to watch your pet tarantula, but I’m capable of being pleasant and helpful regardless of the anxiety I’m feeling. Oddly, on two of my three shifts welcoming people to the conference, another volunteer was also there. He was far more chatty and social than I will ever be, and since he jumped to welcome people, I was largely irrelevant. I stood there awkwardly, and then changed into my pteranodon avatar and flew around and squawked. It’s remarkable therapy for shyness.
There is a way to take silent photographs.
Though I understand some people find silent photos creepy, hearing a Polaroid-like shutter sound over and over and over and over and over during a presentation can be a bit grating. Perhaps some people don’t know how easy it is to mute that sound. I can’t speak for the SL viewer, but in Firestorm we can simply use the Avatar menu, choose the Advanced tab and enable the Advanced menu. On the Advanced menu that now appears across the top of the screen, mark Quiet Snapshots.
Presenters would benefit from a very simple standing AO or a poseball near the podium.
You’ve seen some awkwardly positioned avatars in my photos because generally, they’ve been standing at the front of the room without an AO (animation override), bending and turning in a way that isn’t often seen with experienced SL residents. The final keynote presenter specifically mentioned this. A speaker poseball or simplified AO could help them appear as professional as their talks. If I were a speaker, I’d probably use the capability for saving an AO in the viewer itself. I’d choose a simple walk and an appropriate standing animation or two from another AO and save it as a new “Speaking” AO. I may write about how to set up AOs in the viewer soon — it’s a splendid way to have a custom AO (or several AOs) available without adding to the script weight of a sim. I not only have two full AOs in mine, but I’ve used it to replace my dance and modeling HUDs.
The experience of attending the VWBPE conference outshines several conferences I’ve attended in the physical world.
The annual National Association of Broadcasters conference is a zoo. As much as I adore anthropology and always want to attend 90% of the sessions, the crowds at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association are unbelievable. I really loved the Popular Culture/American Culture conference when it was in DC, but that was overwhelming, too. There have been others, and my memories of them are mostly of holing up and ordering room service, unable to face the packed hallways and rooms of folding chairs any longer. Very social people might appreciate the physical conferences more, but there were plenty of opportunities to meet and mingle, play games, and dance at VWBPE.
If you want to provide access to your event for people on the autism spectrum, with disabilities or chronic pain, or with other conditions that make a physical conference very challenging, consider offering an online mirror in a virtual world. Even the crowded “rooms” at VWBPE aren’t that visually or perceptually full. Rather than rushing through jammed halls to try to navigate to the next session, I click a link and poof! I’m there. If my arthritis is bothering me, I can get up to pace and stretch during a presentation rather than sitting stiffly on a bad chair in increasing distress. The organizers do their best to provide sessions in both voice and text, to make them accessible to more people. I don’t think it is a coincidence that there were many people at VWBPE with disclosed disabilities; we want to participate, learn, and share, and virtual worlds give us a forum for that.
So in the end…
… a huge thanks to the organizers, presenters, builders/scripters/texturers, filmmakers and photographers, transcribers, sponsors, and other volunteers as well as Linden Labs and the AvaCon Grid, who made the conference possible. Fantastic work.