Monday, November 19, 2007

New Machinima

Here is my new machinima which attempts to explain Second Life with a gardening metaphor. It's part one of two. Part one answers "What is Second Life?" and part two will answer who does it and what they do in it.

Hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

In Command! goes to AASL

At AASL Dr. Loertscher added me to the knowledge blitz during his session where I presented the ideas from In Command! The hall was absolutely packed and I loved that we didn't use a Powerpoint, but asked the audience to actively participate online during the session. There were librarians from so many places and the inclusion of everyone's ideas in creating something greater and more profound than one person was deep understanding in action. Of course, I was thrilled that educators came up after the session and throughout the conference to tell me "I can do this!" -and they can! We knew that the ideas were important and timely but the reaction was just so fantastic. The book sold out!

I would love to hear how implementation works out for people and also about any problems or stumbling points that might arise. I would be happy to help troubleshoot solutions and also know that people will come up with things that I never dreamed of. There is an In Command!blog and when I return from Internet Librarian I will add some tools so that people can collaborate and add widgets and gadgets as I learn of them. Together, we'll continue to help the digital school library evolve and remain not just relevant but central to good personal information spaces.

The Beginning of a Conference Whirlwind

Early Wednesday morning I left for my very first library conference, the Treasure Mountain Retreat in Reno. The "Treasure" in the description was no exaggeration. If you are in school librarianship and ever have a chance to attend Treasure Mountain, you can't pass it up. The room was filled with brilliant scholars whose works I had quoted often. What really makes this group extraordinary though is the enthusiasm, passion for what they do. There were no "Yeah, buts" in the hall. Participants didn't sit idly by but actually are participated freely sharing ideas and tactics for making it work. Dr. David V. Loertscher was kind enough to allow me to present the ideas from our new book In Command! Teaching Kids and Teens to Build Their Own Information Spaces and Learn to Manage Themselves in Those Spaces and the response was fantastic. These brilliant librarians and exceptional people went the extra mile at the AASL Conference afterwards and introduced me to so many wonderful people. The passionate exchange of knowledge and true collaboration and collegiality reaffirmed that I have found my people,and profession and I am grateful to them all.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Greylin Fairweather, Second Life avatar extraordinaire

Whoo! The Second Life Segment aired on KQED and I thought it turned out quite well! Fellow student Bernd Becker and I contributed machinima to the story.
You can watch it at:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

New World Notes: Top 10 Art Installations of Second Life

Here is a great survey that helps answer the question "What can you DO in Second Life?" Second Life has a thriving and growing art scene. This blog features their top 10 art sites.

New World Notes: Top 10 Art Installations of Second Life

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Easy Second Life Shirt Tutorial

A little shirt tutorial from the SL side, once you have your texture

Friday, September 7, 2007

Building Virtual Communities

Building Virtual Communities
By Robin Williams

“Why are we here?” he whispered to me in an instant message in Second Life.
“I’m not sure” I giggled back and truly, I was not sure. The call had gone out over our virtual group and so many had responded, that eager to participate group members were being turned away after the area quickly filled to capacity. How was this group able to get more than forty people to immediately drop what they were doing and wait patiently for further instructions? The three primary reasons people in Multi User Virtual Environments choose to join a group or guild are for socialization, information or advancement. Effective virtual community leaders, also known as guild leaders, group leaders or owners have the unique opportunity to bring people together and satisfy the needs of the group and individual. The Second Life group members’ instant mobilization was a reflection of the effectiveness of the group’s leadership and its ability to satisfy member needs.
For building virtual communities there are six major principles that have helped me lead the Khazi Travelling Circus, one of the oldest still active guilds in Everquest and various groups in Second Life and real life.

Size Matters
The way you choose to structure membership is very important and should determine how you allow access to your group. For marketing purposes as many people as possible should allow free and open membership but in an online social structure each new member is a potential disruption to group harmony. The welfare and existence of voluntary groups, small or large, depend on the willingness of group members to make regular investments in those groups (Van Vugt & Hart, 2004). The goal is active membership.
In Second Life today it is only possible to have forty to seventy people in any region so the goal would be to have as many active members as it takes to bring your area to capacity at any given time. In an International group that owns a region, 120 active members might be an excellent goal. Let members know that you will review the member list and inactive members will be removed from the list but able to rejoin upon their return.

Cut the Cancer
Virtual worlds are not family reunions; you do not have to invite the crazy uncle. I was invited to speak on a guild leader panel at the Everquest Fan Faire in Las Vegas and the hall was packed. I stressed the importance of not keeping people who do not fit with your organization. One asked if I felt guilty and I answered without hesitance that I do not. I certainly would not want to belong to a group that secretly hated me. There are many groups in virtual worlds and no one should suffer through a membership. If it is not working out, let them know before you lose excellent people as a result.

Recognize and Nurture Talent
You may notice in most MMORPGs the Guild Leaders are rarely the ones leading the raids. A good group or guild leader must recognize and encourage talent. The people in the group are there because they want to be involved. Discover their talents and help them learn new skills like event organization, or recruitment, or whatever interests them or you think might be a good match. They will be happier for it and you will be able to focus on other matters.

Simes, guild leader of TnT in Everquest says that he views the organization like an onion, at the center of which you have your “hardcore” players. In an online environment it makes sense that people who tend to spend the most time in the world will have the most to offer. Beyond your hardcore center you have your regular players, then your occasional players and at the outermost layer are your newest members. Part of your goal is to bring as many members as you can through the layers toward the center.

Differentiation of Participation
Give people different ways to participate. I have seen many a group or guild dissolve because of stringent rules and requirements that made the member’s virtual world seem like real work. In Warpmongers, our Star Trek based Second Life Club , members can earn rank points a variety of ways to allow for different types of play. They can complete quests, enter and win contests, build things that we may use at the club, dance, roleplay, or just hang out. The means of participation allow their needs, socialization, information or advancement, to be met.

Be Interested
Guild Leaders rarely are the ones who run raids in Everquest or World of Warcraft nor are they necessarily the most powerful. What they seem to have in common is a genuine interest in their members. Listening to your members, asking for their input or suggestions helps them feel more involved. Use of animations, or gestures combined with text can make much more of an impression in 3D worlds than words alone. In real life if someone responds to you with an expressionless face you may doubt the sincerity. Actions enhance words in a digital environment as well; lol is fine, but lol with an animated belly laugh carries more weight.

Be Decisive
Only seven percent of all players in Everquest are guild leaders. Your members rely on you to make the tough decisions. Although often a member might just want a sounding board, they depend on you to protect them and their interests and you must be able to diffuse situations and act decisively when necessary. Simes estimates he must make a “make the tough decision” about twice per year. With the KTC, which has about a fourth of the members of TnT I have to make the tough call about once per year. These moments though rare, are important and will help define the success of your group.

The exciting part of leading an excellent virtual community is that friendships grow and together individuals are able to achieve more than they could alone. Many people describe their guilds in Everquest as their “family” and some carry those friendships over into real life with real life meetings and events. Virtual communities offer a special opportunity for people with specific interests to meet, socialize and work together toward a common goal. In my city a local Star Trek group had only six members but our Second Life version has 92. Web 2.0 and virtual worlds function and thrive not because of beautiful, empty buildings but because of an active community run by leaders who understand or learn in the process, basic group management principles.