ActiveWorlds Expo 2006 - The Aftermath
The ActiveWorlds Expo 2006 was the first of its kind. An attempt by the ancient, but dying VR platform ActiveWorlds, to revitalise itself, and bring new blood into its eleven-year-old social VR platform.
In the time-honoured fashion for the first time of any event, it was a complete mess. However, from that mess there may well be lessons to be learnt, for that, and for all such venues. With the recent rash of conferences, expos, and workshops held in VR, you might be forgiven for looking critically upon this one. However, it is best to remember that most of those, take place in the VR platforms Second Life, and Moove, both far larger, and more experienced at this sort of thing. Indeed, ActiveWorlds' tiny size - less than approx. 5,000 active subscribers - and isolationist attitudes - to the point of denying any other social VR platform exists - have made the creation of such an exposition at all, a remarkable achievement.
It is worth studying this achievement, and learning from it, both for their benefit, and for the benefit of other platforms, who might like to host their own expos, and get people more interested in their platforms, with less of the same mistakes.
This event was organised as the first time all different walks areas, trying to advance AW as a platform, gathered together in one place, where other people could meet them.
There were only a few booths, and less than half the truly great attempts to improve AW were covered, but that was partially for awareness issues - not everybody was aware - and partially for reasons best covered later.
AW is a multi-faceted community. It has a strong following of children and their parents; it has a strong following from mature audiences, and a sizeable proportion of adult lifestyles. Yet, despite the mature and adult membership, outnumbering the children - and many bold initiatives from those areas, not one stall or representative at the expo was from other than the child-friendly section of the community. The expo was set up as if those other sections did not exist, a theme which is common to all AW events, and which does much to alienate, and anger those sections of the community.
This reporter spoke with a handful of members from the latter community, who are themselves, very much into further development, using ActiveWorlds' internal telegram system. This study was not fair and balanced, as it focussed only on those who would perhaps have been interested were they consulted, but never were - again, likely because they spend most of their time in R-rated (mature) and X-rated (Adult) sections of the AW community. This telegram (name removed at request of sender) perhaps best sums it up:
Favouritism. It's an ugly word, and even uglier in it's use. It may or may not have applied to the AW Expo, but things certainly look suspicious.
*Note: Since the original production of this report, feedback has been recieved back from the organisers of AW Expo. They are unlikely to repeat the voting category exercise in future years. Many of the winners did not claim the prizes they were awarded below, as they had no interest in them, and in several cases, the winner was the winner as it was the only booth in its category's sub-category, voted for.
There were thirty-six booths at the expo, all told.
The list of sponsors of the AW Expo - people who paid for it, or contributed significant time and effort to set it up, is as follows:
This is how the prize winning categories shaped up, pay attention to the winners in bold, and cross-reference the above list.
As you can see, the strange thing is every organisation - not the Individuals King and Queen RaMel, who did not exhibit - that sponsored the expo, came first in the relevant competition for their stand. Now, this may, or may not be favouritism showing up - after all, the show floor was limited in variety, but it does seem odd.
The following is a snippet overheard from in-Expo chat. The  round a name indicate its being spoken through the official expo bot.
Goober King: Mark, I thought SW City was exempt from voting... DaisyBlue: I really like vr5's design Demon Wolf: ^jump vr5 Flamebrain: WHAT IS THAT JUMP Joeman: OMG Flamebrain: ^jump/near GSK: ^jump/near GSK: ^jump nintendo GSK: o_O [Mark]: Nah Goob Goober King: heh k Flamebrain: hey goob Flamebrain: ^jump/near [Mark]: although it would be nice and civil if people voted for others rather than themselves
The voting was a strange affair, not only was voting for yourself apparently allowed in the vote coding, but each person was assigned a 24 digit vote password. Yes, 24 digit. This long, and complex number was apparently for maximum security. It was so secure in fact, that only registered citizens of activeworlds were allowed to have one. The unpaid visitor accounts, or tourists, for whom the event was mainly set up for, were not permitted to vote on any booth at the event, for 'security concerns'.
Whilst yes, it is possible for someone to spoof their address, in order to vote multiple times, it is extremely unlikely a tourist is going to do that, and maybe an expo booth vote doesn't need excessive security? As it was, a great many of the expo's 480 unique visiting IP addresses were unable to vote for anything, as they had not paid AW money to do so.
The first AW Expo marked a radical shift away from ActiveWorld's roots, as a introverted community, trying to survive by continually looking inwards. It was a refreshing attempt to try to look outwards. Yet, it still has a long way to go, if it is to convince many of its own users of it's sincerity, especially the many older users who put so much in, but feel ostracised by the platform that houses them.
It also needs to try and pull away from politicking, or the appearance of such, if it is to have any hope of appealing to the broader community, and embracing new people in.
Here's hoping next year's event will learn from this year's issues, and embrace the full power of the community, to be all this old platform is, in the years to come.