When one attends an event as big as SL9B, it is easy to get carried away with all the excitement and hype. This tends to overshadow thinking when looking back on the event and looking at it perhaps a little more objectively, as one’s perspective can be swayed by the residual excitement and fun. So I decided to leave it a week and let matters percolate quietly before providing a personal round-up on the event.
The back story, as I’ve mentioned before, is well-known: Linden Lab’s decision to withdraw from active involvement, the scramble (and drama) to try to make a centralised event happen:, the generous donation of 10 regions be Dream Seeker Estates, followed by six more from an anonymous donor; the further donation of two regions apiece by Kitty CatS and Fruit Islands and nEoStreams stepping forward to supply all the required media streams. And, of course, then the mad dash to pull everything together in just five weeks!
And, frankly, the results were fabulous. That’s not the hype speaking: it’s a simple fact. Over 450 applications received from people and groups wishing to participate in the celebrations; 397 separate exhibits; the entertainment calendar so over-subscribed a fifth stage had to be hastily commissioned and fitted into the established layout. From the start, it was clear that “the community” – residents across SL and around the world – wanted this to happen; they wanted a focal-point for celebrations, and many of them wanted to be an active part of it.
The theme of “community” – which I felt at the time it was announced by LL was of a hand-washing affair than an actual attempt to define a “real” theme – actually worked very well. The exhibits showcased the rich diversity of communities and groups within SL, most of them in every imaginative ways. The theme also served to highlight the many ways in which SL serves as a platform to bring people together to in mutual support and understanding, and can unify people in the fight against illnesses. For me, one of the highlights of the week was being able to visit pavilions raising awareness of AIDS, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, autism, cancer and cystic fibrosis, together with those hosted by a number of support groups and help networks, and being able to learn more about their work in SL.
Of course, there were a few hiccups: one display was replaced as it caused some upset among other exhibitors and volunteers prior to the event opening, while another artist opted to withdraw while some exhibitors failed to subsequently develop the parcels they had been allotted. But taken as a whole, the event seemed to bring out the very best in people, with everyone involved determined to ensure things would succeed.
Even when things went wrong on the technical side, the majority of people reacted with grace a humour. When opening the regions for the press preview proved to be a little problematic, people appreciated being kept informed and were content to wait while we resolved matters. Similarly, when teleports to and within the event regions went awry just after opening (requiring LL’s intervention over several hours to fix), most people refused to have their spirits dampened – as evidence by the fact that over 300 people arrived in the regions as things got underway – and numbers remained high across the regions despite the teleport issues.
The organisation of the event was marked by a lot of hard work from the core team – KT, Doc, Saffia, Honour, Diane and Budster (which is not to diminish the efforts of all the volunteers who stepped forward) – together with sparks of genius, such as the aforementioned roll-out of an additional stage for festivities at the 11th hour. Another spark of brilliance was Crap Mariner’s video promotions for the entire event, featuring the Angel of Death.
The Angel’s first outing
Some commentators, standing well off to one side of things failed to grasp the rich inventiveness in using the character, which perhaps speaks more of their own perceptions and bias than anything else. There can certainly be no denying the impact of the character in communicating important information about the event, or in its overall popularity throughout the thirty-one videos Crap produced – as evidenced by the fact that the videos even appeared in blogs not directly reporting on or promoting SL9B. I’m personally hoping we’ll be seeing him back once more as the doors open on preparations for SL10B.
Farewell to SL9B from the Grim Reaper
That LL were no longer calling the shots meant that the event had some greater freedom than previous years. Time could be side aside for raising money for a charitable cause; greater control could be exercised in preventing exhibits becoming little more than gaudy advertising, and so on – all of which further added to the attractiveness of the event.
When the event was announced, there were inevitable concerns (and grumbles) that it would overshadow other SL9B celebrations taking part across the grid. Rather than become embroiled in any controversy on this front, the organisers simply responded in the most positive way they could: by inviting other organisers to pass along details of their own events, which were then advertised at the Celebration Hub at the welcome area, allowing people arriving to learn about and visit other celebrations occurring across SL.
Could things have been handled better / differently? No doubt – and this is why the team behind SL9B want to hear back from everyone who attended. Feedback is important if mistakes are to be corrected next year and problems avoided. I’ve already dropped a couple of ideas via the feedback form, such as considering straddling the auditorium area across two sims in future (particularly if planned events are likely to pull-in a large audience). Aside from very crowded party venues, the auditorium area was the only place I experienced severe viewer issues and crashes.
While there is an inevitable desire not to disappoint those applying for exhibitor space, I’d also suggest considering the inclusion of a designated teleport point in each region (or perhaps “shared” between pairs of regions), perhaps with a directory listing of the exhibits to be found there. This would possibly allow easier movement around the regions and help people more easily find the exhibits they might be particularly interested in. Obviously, putting a complete directory of exhibits together is no easy task (and I’ve already volunteered to help with it next year, if one is done), but similar approaches have been used elsewhere (albeit on a smaller scale) to great effect, while still leaving people free to wander on foot.
That the event was a success there can be little doubt. Even before the gates had finally closed on SL9B, many of those directly involved were already talking in terms of SL10B – and of the possibility of organising other events between now and then, and anyone travelling the Lotus Express on the last day can attest.
Perhaps that was the greatest magic that came out of this year’s anniversary celebrations: the feeling that something new and special had been created by residents, for residents, together with a very strong desire and commitment to see it continue into the future. That is something which is pretty special at a time when it is so easy to repeatedly turn a cynical eye on SL and / or hark back to the “good old days”. It shows that people do very much still love and care for all that SL represents and can stand for.
I know I’m now looking forward to 2013 – and that I’m not alone in doing so.