I arrived in time for registration at the Marina Mandarin hotel, but learnt that members of the press, as well as 'locals', would only get their name tags tomorrow. That felt strange, some of us going around without name tags.
Fortunately, it was still easy to strike up a conversation. It felt like I was in a different country, America or Europe perhaps. I met a PhD law student from the Queensland University of Technology, and asked him about the signficance of having so many reknown law schools involved in an international discussion on virtual worlds. He explained it was due to the growing popularity of such worlds, giving rise to questions on whether they should be subject to laws and taxes.
Others I met were involved in the bleeding edge of virtual worlds in their own large organisations, such as Philips and Singapore Technologies. So far, the strategies seem sound - not jumping onto the bandwagon, not buying islands only to leave them empty. Using simulations in Second Life to train engineers was a good idea. Apparently other companies have developed similar models for medical training as well.
The place got crowded quickly as dinner time drew nearer, and since I didn't have a name tag I was probably harder to spot. Still, I've managed to meet 3 of the 4 speakers I blogged about earlier.
After all that SXSW 2007 Twittering, I finally met Ted Tagami from MillionsOfUs. We spoke for a short while before I did my interview with Michael Wilson, but I hope to catch Ted again. I love the events MillionsOfUs have been organising, such as Jay-Z in concert.
On my way out, I saw Ian Lamont from Harvard University and advised him preferably to avoid Hotel 81 chains if he was looking for a decent place to stay.
I have yet to meet USC Director Joshua Fouts, though I hope he is still suitably distracted by the shopping facilities next door. If and when I meet him, I might suggest he try Vivocity or Orchard Road. Or, if he is a geek, Funan Centre.
During dinner, two New York Law School professors gave welcome speeches. We were then treated to a long video produced by Glenn Thomas, whom I met while hovering around a pre-dinner cocktail table. It was quite well done! It gave a fluent account of the history of Second Life (a la "in the beginning, there was water"), to the early Residents' issues with taxes, their virtual protests, the problem of trolling and worse - getting booted out of Second Life minus your hard-earned Lindens and created objects.
It was mind-blowing learning how a woman created her own designs and earned enough money to buy a real-life computer for her partner. She makes a few thousand US dollars a month, meaning she can do what she wants and be anywhere in the real world. It made me think of the 4-hour work week.
Also, I finally got to see a video of Anshe Chung. She seems like a sweet Chinese girl, wearing spectacles and a Cheong Sam. She was a top Communist student too. Who would've expected her to be the top virtual land capitalist in Second Life?! Mao would be proud.
In case you were wondering, the food was fine, though the conversations were tastier.
No promises if I can attend the rest of the sessions. Will see how work goes. Keep your fingers crossed for me.