Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Virtual Collaboration, Real Results

The Mill Pond Folk Fest wrapped on Saturday and I believe our main goal of "have a damn good time" was met and it some cases, including mine, was certainly exceeded. I learned more about the culture of Second Life and virtualized collaboration and as you know, I am all about the learning so let's dissect the event.

On the numbers
We hosted 15 hours of art and live music on 3 stages across 2 sims, with 43 musical acts. One stage was on Stone Hill and two stages were on Mill Pond - the Pond and the Tavern. The Tavern was wholly dedicated to musicians from Montreal, Canada *never heard in Second Life* and the talented Montian Gilruth hosted the mixed reality event.

I put unique visitor counters at each of the three stage parcels which gave us daily and overall totals. We had 1553 unique visitors in total (average 103 per hour) with a break down as follows: Stone Hill = 550, Pond Stage = 553, and the Tavern Stage = 450. Average resident concurrency for Friday and Saturday (thank you Tateru) was 31,526 which means in total we drew an average of 0.03% of the on line SL Residents to the event per hour, or 0.4% of the total residents logged in the last 7 days. [Trivia challenge: If you drew 0.4% of the Internet traffic to your site, who would you be?]

On engagement
Of course, we *all* know that the true power of this platform is engagement and not just numbers, so let's look at that aspect just a little. The Stone Hill and Pond stages hosted Second Life musicians while the Tavern stage introduced new, never heard before, possibly never to be heard again, musicians from Montreal. Note that the numbers for Stone Hill and the Pond are 20% higher than the Tavern.

This is representative of the Second Life fan culture, or the fandom phenomenon. In the era of new media networks and convergence, this is critically important to understand. Henry Jenkins is the expert here, take a read through his blog and books. Fandom is a powerful phenomena, and harnessing it is one way to drive traffic and increase engagement - a point that is not lost on many of the more successful Second Life performers or the more successful commercial locations such as the L Word sims.

On collaboration
Executing an event of this size requires a good deal of collaboration and cooperation and often this is where you make or break it. There were four main co-conspirators doing the heavy lifting for a few months leading up to the event: Montian Gilruth, Micala Lumiere, Montrealer Moody and me. As the fantastic four, we depended on two primary forms of communication - conference calls and a wiki. I don't think Second Life voice would have helped here, primarily because we needed a secure (i.e. not publicly available) line that the four of us could access. As a side note, I think the introduction of voice at this event would have been disastrous; Gwyn might agree or disagree.

The real essence of an event like this is the community contributions of every single person in their own way - every one of the artists and vendors, the musicians, Edward Lowell of The Stream Team and Reslez Steeplechase of First Call Musician's Co-op who donated streaming services, Bree Birke who graciously volunteered to greet and be bouncer for the entire 15 hour event, DrFran Babcock who made a delightful May Pole (it was initially a May event), and Slip Stringfellow who donated his time and soon to be "must have" security system, and each of the Second Life blogging outlets that helped promote the event including SLNN, Rik Riel on Rik's Picks for New World Notes, The Avastar, and Amalthea Blanc on Second Life Art News.

I causally mentioned having the next festival in the Fall at my Sunday gig, although the thoughts of how much time and effort it took to pull this one off is looming dauntingly in my mind - which leads me to a couple of closing points:
1) You can never have "too much help"
2) People - not technology - are the foundation of Second Life, and
3) You can not truly appreciate the power, inspiration and transformative nature of this platform unless you spend some time here actually *doing* something, anything.

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