Here's a quotation-heavy write-up of Randal Moss's presentation from the first SL Future Salon. You can download full audio of his presentation right here. Click "Continue reading..." at the bottom of this post for more material, including a transcript of audience Q&A.
Note: Randy is Project Specialist for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and their Futuring and Innovation Center. He's organizing an upcoming Relay for Life event inside Second Life that the ACS is officially endorsing. This is a truly groundbreaking event (Randy explains why here), and he's looking for as many volunteers as possible to help make this mixed-reality fundraiser live up to its full, revolutionary potential. If you're interested in participating and/or volunteering (planning, getting the word out, building and scripting things in Second Life, writing a news story or blogging the event, etc.) please let Randy or I know, or post your interest in the comments. As Randy points out, it's the volunteers who are going to make this happen (as it is in the real world!).
From Randy's talk, "Merging Real World Nonprofit Events with Digital Worlds":
As an opener, Randy started out with a nod to some of Jim Purbrick's later ideas about merging real life work, presence and identity with virtual worlds and virtual identity. He also explained his role with the ACS and offered some brief conceptual thoughts about the future of avatars and the convergence of online and offline identity:
>>>“Being an embedded futurist in the American Cancer Society… I’m tasked with looking at how virtual space and virtual communities are going to make an impact on the workings of organizations… I’ve spent a good number of hours and days putting together my impression and my future view of what the avatar is going to be.” (see PDF sketch in Randy's post here)
>>>"We don’t consider virtual worlds [3D/avatar worlds] and digital worlds [textual/WWW] the same, and I think that in due time they’re going to be merged. And I think that a digital representation of you is going to be very much associated with the personal you and the real, material you. And that carries a lot of weight in the sense of representation and in the sense of the way people perceive you."
>>>"The context of your virtual and material life are going to meld in due time, but at this point they’re not. So how do we go about our virtual and our real lives knowing that eventually they’ll catch up to us?"
After this intro Randy started in on the meat of his presentation:
>>>"We’re [the American Cancer Society] putting together something very new, and something very exciting, which in my knowledge is the first time an organization, especially a major organization, is going to attempt to recreate a multi-decade old event in a [3D] virtual community. There are a handful of challenges that we are facing in the migration of the real into the virtual, and some of them are physical, some of them are technical, and some of them are truly organizational and people-based. And it’s something that has to be considered as we move through and as we start to fuse the material and the virtual."
Randy spent a lot of time speaking about the organizational challenges and how to sell and get people on board with this kind of undertaking. This is something that a lot of us thinking about mixed-reality applications for real world businesses and associations have to consider, and Randy's experience makes (and will continue to make as it plays out) a great early case study.
>>>“As an organization of 6,000 employees who are approaching a billion dollars of annual fundraising and funding, we have to be very selective in identifying the type of event that we’re going to be hosting and where we’re going to be hosting it. There are various levels when you’re dealing with an organization of our size…various levels of approval…and planting the seeds of this idea in the various departments and individuals, and the gatekeepers and power holders, truly was half of the battle to make this event congeal… The way that we sold this was as an untapped market. We sold the concept that Second Life users, and more importantly digital community and digital world users…are not our core volunteer group or our core fundraising source. So it’s clearly an opportunity for us to tap a whole new market. To educate a whole new sector of people about cancer risks, about cancer education, and get people motivated, educated, and moving forward to drive the advocacy mission and of course eventually fundraising.”
Randy discussed some of the initial organizational resistance and how he had to be persistent and appeal to higher levels.
On how ACS became of aware of Second Life, and a case of organizational future shock:
>>>"We were lucky to have a fantastic volunteer in Second Life already, named Jade Lily, who’s out in the audience, who last year did an event that really caught our attention. Jade did an auction that raised almost $2,000 for Relay for Life and when we received the check our Nebraska division didn’t know what in the world to do with it. And that caused a whole lot of confusion and a whole lot of intrigue in my very small Futuring and Innovation Center, and we really moved forward to address it very, very quickly. And after that incident Jade and I have kept in touch and we are very excited that she is helping us along with Jerry/SNOOPYbrown Zamboni and hopefully some other folks and new volunteers to put together a real mock-up of a virtual Relay for Life."
On engaging and working with the Second Life community and within the culture:
>>>"We wouldn’t look to go into So-and-So, Texas, and to force an event down people’s throats. What we need to do is to gain a supporter and a champion within a community, have them build up support, and really have the community itself work on, produce, and at this event. So again, we are starting to build Second Life support from Second Life users. We need people to help us build the roads and help us build the luminaria(?), and to help us build the t-shirts and kiosks and the stadium. I can’t do this on my own, nor do I want to, nor should we."
On technical challenges, including virtual currency and Intellectual Property:
>>>"There are a couple of other technical challenges. Like when dealing with money we had to have an exit strategy. It’s going to be wonderful if we raise millions and millions of Lindens [Second Life’s currency], but if this were another system, like, I don’t know, EverQuest [a game-driven, fantasy-themed virtual world with few and limited channels for real world interaction], there’s no exit strategy, there’s no clear legal way to get the rubies or rupels or gold pieces out of the system and into the bank account. So this was another very, very big bonus having Gaming Open Market [Second Life’s main currency exchange for turning Lindens into US dollars]. And there are also very serious regulations and restrictions being a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit organization]. One of the biggest things and lessons that we’ve learned as far as technical challenges is to pay heed to the volunteers that are putting this together. I want our volunteers—hopefully some of you will be volunteers—to really give your input, and to really give technical expertise far beyond anything that we as an organization have. At the same time there are some items that our organization has demands on. We have intellectual property issues. When you’re working with a company, our brand is our lifeline, so keeping our brand safe, protected and in good spit-shine order is a premium. There are also other issues with timelines and finances. Our Second Life event is going to be the very last weekend in August, I think it’s 27th and 28th, and the reason is because our fiscal year ends August 31st."
On the challenge of expressing the virtual world concept, and on the virtual world having a life of its own that tweaks real world imports:
>>>"Nothing can ever be duplicated in the virtual world, and things need to be flexible. I had a couple of questions and demands on constraints and restrictions and regulations from some of the departments I’m working with, and I said, “You know what? We just can’t do that. It just doesn’t work like that. This is not the real world.” We also have to face the fact that not everybody gets it… It’s important to develop a consensus, but even with a consensus there are people who simply do not understand what in the world this virtual world thing is. And it takes a lot of handholding. It takes a lot of coddling. And it takes a lot of “Let me show you.” A very neat story is over a year and a half ago, when I first saw Second Life, there is a very, very famous professional futurist named Joe Coates, a brilliant man, incredibly nice, very well known… Joe doesn’t get this. He simply can’t make that leap of faith. And no matter how many times... I tried to explain it to him he just didn’t get it. And you have to understand that, and you need to find a way to work with it." [My note: Randy's example is dead-on, but I'd like to add that Joe Coates is a very sharp guy who gets a lot of stuff (which is also why this makes a good example)—if you can track it down, check him out on the "Technology" sketch from the first American season of the Ali G Show :-)]
General organizational wisdom:
>>>"Large organizations like ACS are like icebergs, and it takes a lot of effort to move an iceberg an inch. So sometimes it’s better to just go with the flow of an organization and be creative in implementing a solution… Instead of looking to forge a whole brand new path, we look to work within the context of an organization… Skirting authority can be an absolute disaster."
By being open and persistent, Randy gained a lot of support from powers-that-be within the ACS that he wasn’t sure he’d get support from. Now the project is in its for-real planning stages and will be held at the end of the summer. If you'd like to volunteer, get in touch and climb aboard!
Audience Q&A free-for-all (seriously! ... what got into you guys? 8-P Ha, this is a total blizzard. Email Randy through his blog to ask him anything you'd like, one-on-one) Randy is RC Mars below:
RC Mars: I would love to field Qs
Digo Bomazi: ha, Babbage Linde: *NOOB*
Max Case: ketnar.org?
Jade Lily: Hudson's site.
Babbage Linden: heh
Csven Concord: how many of those challenges that you've encountered do you think translate over to the commercial sector and those within the corporate environs?
Jade Lily: ketnar.org
Digo Bomazi: clap clap clap
RC Mars: all of them
Jimmy Thomson: you welcome Snoopy
Max Case Claps
Babbage Linden: woot
Icon Serpentine: awesome
RC Mars: any org will freak out and these are the most common isues you will face so be ready to answerthe qs
Csven Concord: worst of them would be????
Sue Stonebender: Brilliant
Max Case: and now dance party!
Max Case: hehe
Jade Lily: I feel like Randy's show and tell.
RC Mars: Missunderstanding of what virtual worlds are and their values
Sebastian Maginot: /clap
RC Mars: Sue go to my website and e-mail me
Digo Bomazi: the audo part was cool
Csven Concord: sure seems like the kind of issue i'm running up against :)
Babbage Linden: yes, selling this stuff to anyone other than LL is going to be hard!
Dnate Mars: how do you plan on preventing fraud events claiming to raise money vs. real events?
You: slfuturesalon.blogs.com :)
DigitalTwin Ambassador: fabulous, jerry!
Hudson Stryker: Woo!
RC Mars: dnate that is a reall challenge and my hopes are that LL will help in making sure ahtt people are legit.
You: thanks :)
RC Mars: The scarry thing is that people may use an orgs. name without them knowing and then steal the moneu
Max Case: but that happens in RL too
RC Mars: that is why as an or we need an online presence to monito and make sure that there are no abuses of our brand
Max Case: yes
Jade Lily: It's important for individuals who want to donate to insure that they are donating to the right person, as well, I imagine.
Dnate Mars: right, but in RL you can do background checks, in SL you can't
Csven Concord: brand abuse does appear to be a real issue
Jade Lily: You can do a certain amount of research for sure.
Max Case: dnate - will be incumbent on those doing it to have some trust from community
Hudson Stryker: if anybody has any audio questions or wants to know any details or wants to become a customer, i'll take IM's ;)
Max Case: maybe set up a site showing cereedentials
Csven Concord: beyond the piracy....
Chip Midnight is online
Hudson Stryker pimps shamelessly.
RC Mars: just like in RL we are building a trust community
Hudson Stryker: one good ting about it being in SL
Hudson Stryker: if sonebody trys anything fishy? wrath of linden +12!
RC Mars shouts: A
Dnate Mars: lol
RC Mars: anyone who wants to get a hold of me Im or e-mail through my blog is better!