January 05, 2009

What I Did On My Winter "Break"

Obama, Obama, Obama ....

Did anyone else get involved with local community meetings for the Obama-Biden Healthcare Transition Team? Oh, you didn't hear about them? When I tell folks what I did for the past couple weeks, I hear from a lot of folks who weren't aware of Daschle reaching out to the American people for thoughts on how to improve healthcare in the United States.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Join the Discussion: Former Sen. Daschle responds on health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/join_the_discussion_daschles_healthcare_response/

This initial discussion in early December was a provocative and interesting event itself. Daschle answered questions about many leading healthcare policy concern, the video was made widely available online, and public discussion ensued.

Obama: Daschle Healthcare Reform Discussion

After about 3500 comments, they started to analyze the discussion (after five thousand or so, they closed comments). One of the tools used was Wordle, which distilled out the 100 top words used in the conversation. Notice the biggest one? Insurance. I don't think that is a surprise to anyone, but I am surprised by some of the words I don't see present -- access, transportation, information, choice, rural, seniors or elderly, and much more. Some words are present, but a lot smaller than I expected -- children, change, available, service/services, free, etc. Oops - etc was present in the Wordle as a word, which sort of skews the results -- this would have been more useful with a filter to exclude generic words like etc, enough, done, going, getting, and such.

Obama Transition Team - Daschle Healthcare Reform

Top 100 Words in Healthcare Discussion (from Wordle): http://change.gov/page/-/images/wc_healthcare_full.PNG

Well, the upshot of all this was that on December 5th, Daschle put out a call for USA citizens to partake in the discussion through small group discussion events hosted in your local community. These were all to take place between December 15th and December 31st. Personally, this put a big hole in my so-called "break", but it was important to happen and important to partake when possible. I just wish the timing had been a little different.

Daschle asks Americans to help reform health care: http://change.gov/newsroom/entry/daschle_asks_americans_to_help_reform_health_care/

Most of these took place in people's homes. Most of the events I heard about happened through personal networks - sort of work of mouth from friend to friend. They were not necessarily open to the general public or to walk-in visitors. As a single parent of a special needs kid (you've heard this before if you read this blog often), getting out and about town is hard for me. Basically, not likely to happen. I don't think I was invited to any of the events in people's home. Some of my friends were, but they had so many obligations relative to the holiday season that they did not participate. I was thrilled to hear about first one, and then later two more events that were happening through social media.

The first event was for the autism community and was held via Twitter. This wasn't the only event for the autism community - there was another on Staten Island and in Virginia (see comments), and probably more I didn't find out about. The Twitter one was organized through Causecast, a sort of a social network for "registered 501(c)(3) non-profit" organizations. But I couldn't go to Virginia or New York, and wouldn't have even if the events have been open nationally. In theory, I could have sponsored an event locally in Southeastern Michigan, and probably could have gotten some folks to come. Still, there are a lot of people on the spectrum who are not very comfortable in social situations and who would either have felt excluded by the venue or found it stressful to participate in real life. Having an event online made it possible to include a broader range of participants, with some interesting discussions that happened specifically about the geography of access to care for autism treatment. This type of discussion would have been unlikely or impossible in a face-to-face event. You can read more about the Autism & Healthcare Reform Twitter Day in another blog post.

Autism & Healthcare Reform - The Twitter Event for the Obama-Biden Transition Team: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2009/01/autism_healthca.html

Because the organizer of the autism event (@TannersDad) describes himself as a "paper and pencil" kind of guy, and because after several nudges no one else volunteered, and because I believed it was important, I ended up being kind of behind the scenes tech support to try to archive the tweets for the event (with help from @ajturner). I finished up everything for them on January 2nd.

In between, there were two more events, both in Second Life. The first one was held on December 29th in Port Spinoza, coordinated by Siri Vita (one of my neighbors in SL), and was an open general meeting about healthcare reform without a specific target audience. The event was held primarily in voice (audio over the internet within Second Life) and was videotaped. There is actaully going to be a really wonderful video of the event for the Obama Transition Team, which I will share when it becomes available.

SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team
SL: Port Spinoza: Obama Transition TeamSL: Port Spinoza: Obama-Daschle HC Transition Team

For that event, I helped out by offering voice-to-chat transcription in order to make the even more accessible to people with disabilities, and Cotton Thorne (another neighbor) did the reverse -- read chat comments into the voice record for the event. This made it possible for people with a blend of sensory abilities to be able to attend as full participants and still have a complete record of the event. To make it even more fun, there were a lot of Justice League members who attended. After all, they work hard to help keep life smooth for people, both in fiction and in Second Life, and like all good hearted people are well aware of the importance of health and healthcare in making a good life possible. (My son was really excited to see the Green Lantern there, who shared with us that he has heard there will be a live-action Green Lantern movie coming out in the next 3 years.) They were back in for the final closeup shots for the video on Sunday for a couple hours, just for color, with the original event having lasted well over two hours. I was glad the Sunday event was in the afternoon, since the first SL Obama event was timed for the West Coast crowd, making it after 1am before I was able to go to bed.

The final event in which I participated was specifically for the large community of people with disabilities in Second Life and occurred on December 31st in the evening. The structure of the event was very different - they had small groups at several different tables, with a group of coordinators and facilitators -- they had a greeter, a couple guides, a facilitator at each table, and a timekeeper who clocked the discussion questions and kept the various groups on task and on target. The facilitator at my table old us she was deaf, and that this was why we needed to converse in chat (typing). My arms were still sore from all the typing the other night, which maybe slowed me down a bit. This was the first time for me that I was able to participate as a participant instead of as organizational help and background support.

I can honestly say I learned a lot from participating in all three events, and cannot imagine how the information from a nationwide clustering of these types of events will pull together for the transition team. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I will be reporting out in future blogposts about some of my thoughts and observations from being part of these events. One of the biggest take-home points for me is what I've said about both accessibility and healthcare for years -- there is NO one-size-fits-all.

Posted by pfa at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2008

Welcome to Virtual Abilities: Assistive Tech Meets 3d Virtual Worlds

This past weekend, I was able to attend the grand opening of Virtual Abilities, Inc. (VAI).

Virtual Abilities Grand Opening:

Virtual Abilities Inc. is an organization that is currently based in Second Life, offering information, assistance and community information, community and assistance to and about special needs and abilities. This includes information about assistive technologies and their use in accessing virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular, as well as best practices in designing spaces and activities in Virtual Worlds to maximize universal access, accessible design, and inclusive welcoming attitude and environment.

That is my understanding, but let me quote a few lines from Gentle Heron's speech during the opening.

[13:34] Gentle Heron:
"Yesterday a reporter asked me a question I had not been asked yet about this island. “Why are you doing this?? After explaining that it wasn’t me personally, but instead a whole community of people working together toward a common goal, I had to think on my feet, because that was not a question I had prepared an answer for. I thought first of the research that underlies the big picture here. A recent survey of 2,700 people with disabilities who play casual games online (meaning Second Life, not WoW) shows that about 20% of these gamers have a physical, mental or developmental disability, compared to about 15% of the American population, according to our latest census. Playing was stress relief for 81%, 69% cited mood lifting as a benefit, and 66% said gaming distracted them from disability-related issues such as pain. Compared to all casual gamers worldwide, those with disabilities play more frequently, for more hours per week, and for longer times per session. SL really isn’t a game for our target population. The data backs this up."

My understanding is that the full chatlog will be posted later at Healthinfo Island blog, one of the VAI partners.


Here are more images of the Grand Opening event.

Flickr: SL Virtual Abilities Inc.: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualabilities

Here is a video of highlights from the event.

Posted by pfa at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2008

Learning Machinima - Public Health in Second Life, the Video

I have for some months been observing Anne Perorazio explore and develop skills as a machinima artist and videographer. Initially Anne thought this was going to be easier than it ended up being. A year ago I had partnered with the School of Dentistry to make a machinima video about science in Second Life. I had taken all the machinima clips, recorded the voiceover (without a script), delivered these to the producer and videographer for final editing, and we had a final product in just about exactly three days from when we agreed to do it. That made it look easy, but it isn't really as easy any more.

A huge part of what made it easier for me was working with the team, with Sharon Grayden as producer making all the hard decisions, and especially having access to Dan Bruell, a very experienced video editor. It also made it easier that, at that time, that the Second Life browser on the Macintosh supported recording video without needing an external application. That is no longer true, and while the command remains available in the browser it does nothing but cause a crash.

Anne was faced with a very different set of technological challenges and had available very different resources. She negotiated for Camtasia, and a new computer; took classes on video capture and video editing; explored locations in Second Life as possibilities for the shoots; worked with Gillian as a producer to come up with a specific plan for the purpose and message of the video. When the script was agreed upon, Anne also did the voiceover and edited that into the video edit. Much of this required doing things over, and over, and over as part of the learning curve. Gillian provided oversight, coherence, vision, and functioned as a producer for the project.

Personally, I am enormously impressed with the production quality of the final effort as well as the elegance with which the content was selected and quilted together into a coherent whole with a very worthwhile message. Bravo to both Anne and Gillian!

MBlog: UM HSL: Second Life and Public Health Video: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/hsl/archives/2008/08/second_life_and.html

Click here to view the high quality Quicktime video version in a browser window.

Alternatively, you can watch the low resolution version from YouTube below.

Posted by pfa at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 29, 2008

Slidecasts: Second Life How To Do for Teachers and Others

A slidecast is like a podcast except that both slides and audio are embedded in a web page. We are trying to offer some of our podcasts in both forms -- the version for the iPod or MP4 device and another version for the website. I hope to soon do a podcast / slidescast on how to make slidecasts. Meanwhile, check out these three -- Why Second Life, Getting Started in SL, & SL Teacher's Toolkit -- and see how you like this as a way to deliver content easily to a wide audience via the web.

Why Work & Teach in Second Life



Getting Started in Second Life



Second Life Teacher's Toolkit



Posted by pfa at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2008

Why Second Life?

Some of my recent blog posts have discussed some of the reasons I personally find Second Life of particular value in my work. Today I was privileged to present on this topic to a group of university faculty. The presentation focused on the context of virtual worlds more broadly, and second life in particular. To my surprise, the presentation was videotaped. If I find out where and when it becomes available, I'll let you know. In the meantime, here are the slides.

Posted by pfa at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2008

Work Productivity in Second Life

Friday was one of those days when once I got into Second Life, it seemed like I couldn't get back out again. Some folk might assume that this relates to playing and a lack of personal discipline, but instead it is rather the reverse.

I spent my morning working on email and blogs, then came into Second Life for a meeting of our local Second Life community (which will be described at the SLUM blog). Immediately following that meeting was the regular Metanomics session, followed by a special extra Metanomics session with Larry Pixel of NMC. Somewhere around that time there was another meeting for Immersive Education, but I was too worn out to stay around for that.

During these 3.5 hours of meetings, I had separate private conversations with one of the presenters, a professional colleague from the UK, one of my SL neighbors, a local SL community member, and the Metanomics host. I also took notes of key points from the presentations and participated in the audience discussion (called "backchat"). At the same time, in real life, I periodically tried to make sure my sick son was drinking his fluids, eating lunch, and taking his meds.

This is one of the things I like and dislike about working in Second Life - multitasking. I find I can be so incredibly productive and efficient, but I also find the juggling a bit overwhelming and sometimes stressful. Mostly, though, I appreciate being able to maximise the effective use of my time.

The conversation with the professional colleague was, in part, about the issues of whether or not Second Life is useful for professional productivity, and specifically whether having professional meetings in Second Life is useful.

A Sexual Health Sim in Second Life: Web conferencing: 2D vs. 3D (or both), or ‘Why conduct events and meetings in Second Life?’: http://sl-sexualhealth.org.uk/?p=140

For myself personally, this is a no-brainer. I cannot imagine being as productive and professionally engaged without virtual worlds as I am as a resident of Second Life. (Note: Second Life is one of many virtual worlds, and seems to be currently the most productive one for professional engagement in my areas of interest.) This is not so obvious to people who are not active in a virtual world or Second Life specifically. So let me step back a minute and try to show why it is useful for me.

Firstly, I am a single parent of a special needs child. When I became a single parent, my son asked me not to travel for a while. "A while" became about five years. Traveling is a hardship both financially and even more so for parenting and trying to provide a stable home environment for my child. Being able and willing to travel is essential for many if not most professional positions, and is often a requirement for promotion.

Travel is important for very good reasons. Professional meetings provide opportunities for engagement with other professionals, continuing education, professional acculturation and support, discussion and learning about core issues and trends in the profession. Without a rich foundation in all of these one is at risk of becoming not just socially isolated as a professional but of losing touch with the current standards of practice, and eventually losing what it is that really makes the difference between a professional and someone who isn't.

In Second Life, I participate in professional meetings on a variety of topics on a weekly basis. I engage with other professionals in education, librarianship, technology, science, and healthcare at these professional meetings. I see the same people over and over, know who they are and why they are important to know. I engage with these same professionals outside of the meetings as well. The "hallway conversations" of geosynchronous meetings become conversations in chatrooms, via twitter, by email, on wikis and social networking sites, and other media.

Geosynchronous meetings (meetings to which someone travels) have common outcomes that contribute to your professional productivity. You gather information to apply in your home environment, have useful and enjoyable discussions with like-minded folk, find and share solutions to common problems, are invited to present or publish, are invited to partner on research projects, discover that someone else has already done what you were just about to start, etcetera.

There is not one of these outcomes that does not also happen with Second Life meetings. For myself, I have given two professional presentations in Second Life, taught classes, been invited to partner on grant proposals in collaboration with other institutions, and had many of those interesting and productive conversations that lead to useful outcomes or resources for my parent institution.

Geosynchronous meetings, however, have significantly different costs embedded in the events. Just on a personal level, the costs of the actual travel, hotel, food, and meeting fees are significant. The additional costs and inconvenience and risk of arranging childcare, petcare and home security are also items that decidedly get my attention.

When those costs are extrapolated to all attendees, and extended to include the costs of planning and coordinating the physical arrangements of the meeting, well, frankly it is baffling to me that more organizations don't define virtual worlds as an institution priority as a cost savings mechanism! IBM is one example of a major organization that has indeed made virtual worlds an institutional priority. IBM has at least 26 islands in Second Life, of which one is open to the public and the rest are reserved for the use of IBM employees on IBM business. That says something to me. IBM is far from being the only significant corporate presence in Second Life, but to detail out the corporate landscape of SL should be saved for another post.

Alright, so for the sake of the argument, let's say we've established sufficient cause for shifting some or many professional meetings to an online environment as a cost savings mechanism. There are other ways to have online meetings. Why not just have a web conferencing system? What is special or better about having meetings in Second Life or another virtual world? What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds? Good questions, that can be better answered by others, but I will make a small attempt.

What are the barriers to having meetings in virtual worlds, Second Life in particular? The barriers have mostly to do with the technology itself and learning to be comfortable with that technology. This, too, could be a whole blogpost by itself, easily. To touch on it superficially, software-hardware compatibility is a problem for many folk. If you are buying new computers, make sure they have the video cards currently preferred by most virtual worlds.

What is better or special about having meetings in Second Life. The two words the come up with overwhelming frequency are IMMERSION and ENGAGEMENT. For myself, I have attended and presented at professional meetings in Second Life. Feels an awful lot like doing the same thing in real life. I have attended presentations on web conferencing systems. Perhaps my experiences were atypical, but what I recall most is the awkwardness and technical challenges.

So, perhaps I am prejudiced, but for me, speaking personally, this seems like an obvious choice to make and an obvious direction for institutions to explore. Given the choice, check out virtual worlds for your next big meeting or seminar series.

Posted by pfa at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2008

Red Letter Week

This is my 441st blog post in MBlog. Of course, that doesn't count blog posts done at other places, but still, quite a chunk of work there! I figure with ones I've done other places I'll just call it a round 500. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Also today I posted the 45th slideshow in our shared Slideshare account:

Slideshare: UMHealthSciencesLibraries: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/slideshows/

Earlier this week I hit a few other social tech landmarks.

I hit 2100 tweets and over 600 followers in Twitter.

Red Letter Week: 2100, 600+

Now, since then I have a hundred new followers, with no idea why.

One of my early slideshare presentations hit 10,000 views.

Red Letter Week: 10,000+

I now have over 13,000 links collected and organized in my del.icio.us account.

Red Letter Week: 13,000+

And Flickr - let's not forget Flickr, which is where I started with all this "Web 2.0" jazz. 45,000 views of my photostream, and will likely hit 12,000 images in the next week.

Red Letter Week: 45,000+

Last but not least, the YouTube video I made with Sharon Grayden and Dan Bruell of the School of Dentistry recently hit 8,000 views (although I'm not sure when).

Red Letter Week: 8,000+

Ed Vielmetti of SuperPatron fame has been heard to ask what is the point of social technologies if it doesn't make people want to connect face to face? So I found the also remarkable in that the following tech-to-face events happened.

1) Someone sat down on the bus, looked at me, and said, "Excuse me, but are you RosefireRising? Of Flickr?" (Let me tell you, that created a bit of a conversation in my Twitter crowd!)

2) I had lunch at Angelos with a woman I know from Second Life. (hey, Diva? /me waves)

3) I got this postcard from a Twitter pal.

Twitter Postcard via Tojosan

What does all this mean? I'm not sure, but it looks like someone somewhere thinks I'm doing something useful. A nice feeling. :) And it is nice to have friends. :)

Posted by pfa at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2008

Healthcare in Second Life

Today's presentation to the School of Pharmacy.

I also promised to send them the link to this video (Science Learning Opportunities in Second Life), which just broke 8,000 views!

Posted by pfa at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2008

Howard Rheingold at ISTE Island

Video and blog info about Howard's presentation over at the SLUM blog.


Second Life: ISTE: Howard Rheingold - Cyberspace is Social

Posted by pfa at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2008

Trends in Virtual Worlds, Part 1: Metaverses?

A couple months ago, I stumbled into a presentation on the NMC Campus in Second Life. The presentation was an advance announcement of the MediaGrid. MediaGrid? What the heck?

Well, MediaGrid turned out to be a group working on portability and interoperability of various open source virtual worlds, with a goal of increasing access to educational content in these virtual worlds. Wow, now *that* sounds cool! What virtual worlds?

Second Life is a big one, lucky for us here at UM who are working there now. World Warcraft is another you might have heard of. World of Warcraft has educational content? Well, not only does WoW have educational content, but IBM mentions in a recent report that they are actively recruiting people with strong WoW skills because of their experience with flexible leadership patterns in teams.

There are two more open source virtual world platforms being emphasized in the initial MediaGrid efforts, but these are not quite as well known - Wonderland and Croquet. Wonderland is from SUN, and Croquet is a consortial effort. The main point is that they are all open source, meaning that people can download, install, tweak code, customize, etcetera. They play nice with others. This is the important trend to note here.

Second Life: NMC: MediaGrid

Croquet Consortium: http://www.opencroquet.org/index.php/Main_Page

IBM Research: IBM Innovation: Gaming and Leadership Report:

MediaGrid: http://mediagrid.org/

Second Life: http://secondlife.com/

SUN's Wonderland: https://lg3d-wonderland.dev.java.net/

World of Warcraft (WoW): http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/index.xml

Posted by pfa at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008

Recent Presentation on Second Life, Wikis, and Health

Last Saturday I gave my first professional presentation in Second Life, which was also my first professional presentation in my new position as Emerging Technologies Librarian. It was a stressful and rewarding experience in what turned out to be an utterly amazing event! More information will be forthcoming about that. For now, here is my presentation.

Slide presentation with script available at the SLHealthy wiki:


Posted by pfa at 09:58 AM | Comments (0)