Friday, August 26, 2011

Live events still rock & thoughts on the future of virtual events

Over the past week I attended two very different live events that epitomized where virtual events need to go in order to gain more widespread acceptance.

Geeks Celebrating Their Geekiness

The lovely Pamela Kucera & I geeking out
Last Friday, I attended the Philly Geek Awards, conceived and hosted by Geekadelphia and featuring awards for all kinds of local geek-related activities: tech start ups, film making, comic art, blogging, podcasts, viral videos, geek fashion, art, science, app development, game development...really, a veritable smorgasbord of geekery. There were mentions of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and bacon (lots of mentions of bacon). At one point, a furry accepted an award. Besides the furry, let's just say I was with my people. It was a black-tie event, the equivalent of a geek prom. It was a blast.

Cosplay Kids Category Winners at BCC
On Sunday, I attended the Baltimore ComicCon. This is the 3rd year I've attended, and it continues to be my favorite of the ComicCons (no, I haven't been to San Diego) because of the emphasis on the writers and artists. I got to see Anthony and Conor from Kill Shakespeare, peek behind the big black curtain to glimpse Stan Lee, chat with the writer/artist for one of my son's favorite kids graphic novelists, and see more cosplay than I need to for the entire year.

What do both of these events have in common? They bring together busy communities for an opportunity to bond.

Granted, both of these events focused on people in creative full of innovators, entrepreneurs and creators. They provided an opportunity for people who busy themselves making things a chance to look around and see what their peers are making. There is immeasurable value in lifting up your head from your own work and seeing the success, hearing about the trials and failures, of others. I loved being a part of these events because they inspire me to look at my own goals and dream bigger.

Can virtual events recreate that experience of allowing creatives and creators to talk, share, bond and inspire each other? Yes. But they need to reach beyond their own user groups.

Right now, the most successful virtual events are focused on the communities and people engaged in virtual events. No surprise there, really, and its encouraging to see people eating their own dog food. But as a designer, I think about how these technologies could enable the extension of the communities that gather in person for events like the Philly Geek Awards and ComicCon on an ongoing basis. I don't think the live events will go away, nor do I want them to, but I see potential in extending out the connections made, information shared, and inspiration disseminated at these events on a more consistent and ongoing basis. We're not just a community for an annual event...we're a community all year round. We're not a community when we're face-to-face, we're a community that exists in interest and common goals no matter where we are.

Virtual worlds and event platforms can enable that type of interaction whenever you need it, not isolated to the scheduled dates and times. Pervasive community interaction already takes place in 2D tools like Facebook, but it doesn't capture the feeling of presence and engagement that 3D environments provide. It's really not possible to have a Facebook "event" and Twitter, although it provides the opportunity for live chats, is lacking the visual sharing that is such an integral part of creative communities.

Consider this a challenge to my creative friends. We push the boundaries and pride ourselves in creating new things. Shouldn't we be the ones to embrace the most progressive technologies for establishing and growing our communities?

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