I went, and I had a great time. I was completely blown away by the excellent presentations and level of professionalism at OSCC13. Everything worked like clockwork, and I saw many friends from Second Life.
I went with the idea that, if I could use virtual worlds technology in any way I wanted, I would use Second Life as my “parlour,” a place where I could entertain guests, showcase student work, and collaborate with other universities, but I would also use OpenSim, a much less expensive venue, as a workshop, a gated classroom, and a place for student experimentation. (If you’re confused about the difference between OpenSim and Second Life, see this post)
After OSCC13, however, I’m beginning to look at things a little differently. Although Second Life is still the easiest way to welcome new people to the virtual worlds classroom, a solid webpage and a set of instructional videos would go a long way in making an OpenSim classroom more welcoming. Second Life does shine in the number of established sims, many of which do regular events, and I do love bumping into people at these venues. However, OpenSim seems to be experiencing healthy growth and optimism. As a conglomerate of grids and companies, OpenSim as a whole is also less vulnerable to the stupidities of corporate management, and many grids are particularly welcoming to education. Most important of all, Open Sim is far, far cheaper than Second Life.
I believe that for many educators the biggest point of resistance in adopting OpenSim is the problem of visiting other grids. In Second Life, an avatar can travel between any two points by simply clicking a teleport button, and I do this frequently with my students on their field trips. In OpenSim, visiting other grids seems more intimidating; for me, there’s always the vague, irrational fear that the next jump may be my avatar’s last. I don’t even want to imagine the chaos that would ensue if I lost a whole gaggle of students in there.
After the recent rousing success of OSCC13, however, there has been a renewed interest in exploring the hypergrid, and John Lester (Pathfinder) has proposed restarting the Hypergrid Adventurers Club, a group of hardy avatars who meet regularly to explore intriguing corners of OpenSim grids. I’ll be going along with them on their next trip, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.