Together with Brian Whitworth from Massey University, New Zealand, I am editing a Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems, to be published by IGI Group in 2008. See the call for chapters. It is a massive project, requiring at least 50 quality articles. Our goal is to get researchers and practitioners talking to each other, not only by the publication itself, but also by building an author community. To be continued…
On June 14, I was at the University of Twente in Enschede to attend the Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop. It was organized by the new inter-facultary Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), part of the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology.
The workshop was very well-attended and lively. The speakers gave a good overview of the main promises and problems surrounding Second Life. The workshop was preceded by an inspiring keynote address by Peter Ludlow, well-known as editor of High Noon on the Electronic Frontier and founder of the Second Life Herald newspaper.
The titles of the presentations give some idea of the kind of issues addressed:
- Peter Ludlow (Uni Michigan): Emergent Gameplay, Deviant Ageplay, and the Elusive Payday of Business in Second Life
- Dan Seamans (Open Uni, UK): The Vital SPark: Managing a Dynamic Learning Space in Teen Second Life
- Patrick Ozer and Albert van Breemen (Philips Research, the Netherlands): Interreality Communication: iCat Meets Second Life
- Robert Slagter and Wil Jansen (Telematica Instituut, the Netherlands): Real Business in Virtual Worlds
- David Nieborg (Uni Amsterdam): ‘Don’t Sponsor a Game that is a Playground for Criminals!’ – The Many Media Frames of Second Life
From a research point of view, everything still is wide-open. Tools, but especially governance, workflows, and business processes still are only in their infancy. However, the general consensus seemed to be that Second Life, at least as a stepping stone on the way to a whole class of virtual worlds, holds great potential, waiting to be mined.
Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.
Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.
MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.
Below the gallery that contains the pictures taken by Al Mohr (Second Life) / Aldo de Moor (Real Life) of Schomer Simpson ‘s (Second Life) / Peter Twining’s (Real Life) presentation at the Second Life Best Practices in Education International Conference 2007. The topic was “Using Teen Second Life to Explore Visions of Schome (Not School-Not Home-Schome, the Education System for the Information Age)”. As you can see from the pictures, Schomer/Peter’s talk was very well attended. The issues raised were most interesting and he got lots of questions. The Era of Immersive Online Conferences has begun…
An interesting development where web technologies meet real societal needs is the rapidly growing phenomenon ofcommunity lending. Microcredit has been around for longer as a concept to empower poor people and communities by letting them help themselves by creating social systems to provide small loans. These systems help create the trust, do the administration, etc. With the web, however, new socio-technical dimensions are added to the idea. For example, small loans can become global instead of just local in scope, much more background information on debtors can be provided, risks can be reduced by automatically distributing a loan over many lenders and so on.
Everybody interested in Second Life should attend the 1st Second Life International Conference 2007: Best Practices in Teaching, Learning, and Research. Lack of money or travel time are no excuse, since the event will, of course, be held completely in-world. There will be all day events, keynote speakers, and even free bags of goodies from the best SL content creators. So, sign up, and see you on Friday!