Tuesday, October 16, 2007

VT Memorial on 10/16/2007

Today is a day to solemnly observe the six month anniversary of the tragedy that struck Virginia Tech on 4/16. The university has organized what I think is one of the best way to remember the victims, which is through service to community. The project, titled "VT Engage" is a call for all members of the Virginia Tech student body, faculty, staff, alumni, and others to volunteer at least 10 hours of service to an agency of one's own choosing. The goal is 300,000 hours of service by April 16, 2008.

The VT Memorial in Second Life is still up, and I still find it a quite, peaceful place to remember the victims. The School of Education's Office of Educational Research and Outreach put up the funds to pay for a one-year lease of a so-called 'sim-void' for the memorial; I hope it can go on for more time than that. The permanent location is now on the sim titled "Memorial Park." The SLURL is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Memorial%20Park/130/113/25

The Collegiate Times (VT's student-run newspaper) has some good front page article today. Although I was safe on 4/16, I still have vivid memories of that day and that week. Little things - unexpectedly - get me choked up and teary, though. The article is certainly right - we won't ever forget.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HSMF Donation Delivered to Virginia Tech Foundation

On Thursday, June 7, 2007, I went to the Virginia Tech Foundation office in Blacksburg and delivered a cashier's check for $1,200.00 for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. There, I met Mr. Steve Clark, the Director of Planned Giving. He was tasked to head up the HSMF gifts, with particular attention paid to "unusual donations" (here's an example of one inspiring story.) What's cool is that I happen to know from tailgate parties before Hokie football games! Steve is the I had already talked about the fundraising effort in Second Life just as it got underway (I wanted to be sure VT was OK with it). Steve knew about the effort and was intrigued by the idea of it. He was very thankful for the donation.

Logistics: It took a bit longer to get the actual check to VT than I had anticipated. All funds had been raised within a month of the start of the fundraiser. The delay happened for a few reasons: A) The logistics of getting funds from SL to a real checking account B) Time needed for a bit of last-minute fundraising, and C) me needing to make the time to go to the bank, etc.

But now it's done - and it feels great. All of you who contributed... thank you SO much!! I will be posting the picture of the Hokie Bird at the VT Memorial in SL, over to the right side.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Meditare senza retorica. Virtù del Memorial Park

An Italian journalist wrote about his experience at the Memorial Park. I do not read Italian well, and so had to rely on BabelFish, which is not the best means in the world - but I did get the sense that he entered as a skeptic, but left very touched. I have given the article to a colleague who lives/works in an Italian university in Switzerland. As soon as it's translated, I'll post it here.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Memorial Fund Update

It has been nearly two weeks since SL residents helped meet the goal of raising $1,000 US for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Since that time, there has been another $200 US donated to the fund. The actual money has now made it from my SL account to PayPal and then to my bank account. It takes about 5 days for this to happen. My process was slightly delayed due to the need to change banks at PayPal, but the process has otherwise been very smooth. So, next week, I plan to hand Virginia Tech's officials a check for $1,200. I'm excited about it. Of course, this is a drop in the bucket comparatively (the New York Yankees just donated $1 million to the fund), but the entire experience has been one of learning and healing.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wikis in Plain English

For those who are new to them... a great introduction from the folks at the Commoncraft show.


Monday, May 21, 2007

University of Paisley: MapSeat

An interactive technology on display at the University of Paisley's Second Life campus is the "MapSeat." There is a brief entry about it on the SLED Picayune blog by Dr. Daniel Livingstone, project coordinator.

This tool allows the user to choose a point on a map (of Scotland, at this point) and learn about the object or person represented by the "pushpin." One has a choice of two maps -one that shows where certain inventions were created, and the other about famous figures in Scottish history. So, for example, on the pushpin located in the region of Dumfreys & Galloway, one sees text reading "Pedal Bike with Pneumatic Tyres." Clicking that point gives the person sitting in the map seat a notecard with information about the bike and its inventor, and it also rezzes a 3D representation of a bike created by Kirkpatrick Macmillan in 1839. Another pushpin yields a representation of a telephone. A different map makes information and a pic appear about Robert Burns, Mary Queen of Scots, Andrew Carnegie, and so on. Here are a couple of pictures I took, as well as the SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Vesuvius/205/183/32
Take some time to check it out, and imagine the possibilities!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund update: First $1,000 raised!!

I posted the following "press release" to the SLED Picayune blog and to the SLED listserv yesterday:

"In an effort to provide Second Life residents with a means of supporting the "Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund," SL resident, a RL Virginia Tech faculty member, Milosun Czervik (Ross Perkins) initiated an in-world fundraising campaign on April 19th. Hundreds of SL residents have been donating funds via donation boxes and vendors, where they can receive a Hokies t-shirt to wear on their avatar.

After a silent auction, held this past week on EduIsland (see the Chronicle of Higher Education web report), the goal of raising L$300,000 has been reached. The funds have been converted to US dollars via LindeX, yielding $1,085 US.Once the money has been deposited to a PayPal account and can be accessed, Perkins will write a check for the full amount to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Next up? Perkins plans to initiate a new campaign to raise more funds for the Memorial Fund and scholarships that have been started in memory of the victims of the April 16 tragedy."

For this blog, I want to personally thank a number of volunteers who helped make the VT Memorial and the HSMF fundraiser possible (this list will grow as I remember/find more names!)

Lorelei Junot, Abbey Zenith, Katrina Sol, Marston Davids, Penelope Ghia, Perefim Cao, Eloise Pasteur, Dedric Mauriac, Dagmar Kojishi, Ann Enigma, ZeroOne Paz, DianaPrince Carter, Eddie Hagoromo, Robin Linden...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

HSMF Fundraising Report

I am *so* excited to announce today that I am on the way to raising another US$1,000 for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund! This means, of course, that the wonderful, generous SL residents helped meet the first L$300,000 goal! That goal was surpassed this week, when those who participated in the Silent Auction on EduIsland helped raise nearly L$15,000. Then, tonight, the HSMF received an unexpected, generous donation of L$10,000 - which is great start for the next L$300K goal.

So, I put the first batch of Linden dollars up for sale on LindeX (a limit sell of L$265 to US$1.00) on the advice of one SL colleague. I expected this to sell in three days. However, I got impatient after waiting all day and see nada. In fact, I was quite discouraged to see that there was something like L$15 million in open orders at this rate. Another SL colleague (Coal Edge) shared his wisdom - he sells for 267/1.00. I tried this tonight and within 10 minutes, ALL funds had sold and the net result was $84 greater than my goal! Now - I just have to move it to PayPal and give a check to Virginia Tech!! It appears that Edge's logic to sell at a rate where there is a low amount of open orders works very well (generally the lowest rate +1 or +2). If I'd gone with 265, I'd possibly have waited 3 more days for a mere US$8.00...

One question I am trying to get answered is whether not LindenLab will waive the 3.5% conversion fee. This would give another US $40 (or so) back. I can understand if they do not, but it would be great if they did that. Perhaps they'll make a matching gift ?? ;-)

Monday, May 14, 2007

VT Memorial Digital Archive

A digital library that captures stories and images about the tragedy at Virginia Tech on 16-APR-07.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Just funny...

Nozulla may cause the following symptoms: itchy rashes, full body hair loss, projectile vomiting, gigantic eyeball, the condition known as 'hot dog fingers,' children born with the head of a golden retriever, seeing the dead, bone liquification, possession by the Prince of Darkness, tail growth, elderly pregnancy....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sculpties test on the Beta Grid

I downloaded the new SL Beta Client yesterday and tooled around with the "sculptured prim" (sculpties). I'm sure this will be big when it hits the main grid; we are likely to see SL come to stand for "still life," as bowls of fruit will start popping up all over the place. What I want to learn is how to make a sculptie texture. The beta client only comes with the APPLE texture as default, so you have to save/upload the banana, stem, plate, cube textures yourself. The link for that is here: http://tinyurl.com/32wfx8

I found some problem though - that a sculpted prim would snap out of shape from time to time. So, instead of being a sculpted cube, for instance, I would all of a sudden see a sphere. I'm not sure if this is an artifact of my graphics card or if its beta bug (my guess is the latter).



Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Silent Auction covered in Chronicle of Higher Ed blurb

Ms. Foster called me today around 11:30 am; the short article about the Silent Auction in SL has already been posted! Thanks, Andrea!

Silent Auction to benefit Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund

To benefit the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, I've set up a "silent auction" on EduIsland. It goes from today through Sunday, May 13.

The idea is to browse the objects and offer the most you would be willing to pay for them (which is done via a web-based survey tool). Remember, this is a charity event, so the point is to bid generously!!

You do not need to be in SL to bid. The bid forms (which have links to pictures of items) are linked from: http://www.oero.soe.vt.edu/sl/index.html

More detailed instructions are found at the SL site and on the bid forms. Going to the SL allows bidders to learn more about the tools on which they might be bidding. The SLURL is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Eduisland/121/127/23

The following items are available:

1) Many tools useful for educators, donated by Eloise Pasteur, Dagmar Kojishi, Dedric Mauriac, and Ann Enigma

2) A Retail Holodeck Room (with 40 scenes) donated by Bishop Carroll

3) Artwork by Alchimia Jewell and Professor Believeau

4) Misc. furniture

Happy bidding!! If you have questions, please let me know. I guess we'll see how this works...

Friday, May 4, 2007

VT Memorial: Sim Name Change

Marston West, the location of the VT Memorial, has changed its name. It is now known as "Memorial Park."

Here is the SLURL:

Monday, April 30, 2007

Official VT Memorial now established

After a couple of weeks of temporary locations, I'm happy to report that there is now an official memorial spot in Second Life to remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings (16-APR-07). Marston Davids and Penelope Ghia have been exceptionally dedicated to making this site happen. Marston, in particular, has shown his building skills, and has created a place that is indeed respectful and beautiful. He even textured part of the parcel to resemble at VT, and placed 33 trees on it, making for a very somber park in which to walk or sit. Since the memorial is now on privately held land, the griefer incidents have not been a real issue.

To see more photos from the memorial on Marston West, see my flickr.com site: http://tinyurl.com/26yzsl

Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund: The initial goal has nearly been met! Only about L$14,000 left to go!!
Blog entries about the memorial(s): I recently did a Google search on VT memorials in Second Life, and entries about it seem to be popping up all over, though most of what I have seen is merely a recasting of the original MTV article. Some of the blogs have comments about the memorial, not all of which are positive. I wonder if these same people who don't see a role for a VT Memorial in SL also criticize memorial websites that have gone up? My guess is that the critics have not yet accepted the 3D look of the web. I can understand the perception that the "game-like" appearance of SL might seem trite (my very first concern), but I think the environment we've created there is actually quite respectful. I will not be refuting the negative comments on the blogs. Here are a couple of memorial websites, though I'm sure there are many more:
I recently met a VCU professor in-world ("Ignatius Onomatopoeia") who blogs for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. His article about the fundraising efforts are found at: http://slbeat.mytimesdispatch.com/
The SLURL for the VT Memorial site:

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Other VT Memorial Sites (and fundraiser update)

There are two other VT Memorials in Second Life that I have not mentioned yet. One was set up by Perefim Cao, who created the original memorial statue that was placed on Info Island (see on back of platform in the picture below, and referred to in an earlier blog posting).

The other was set up by VooDoo Zheng at his sim, Shinning Light. I am a bit disturbed by the "graveyard" look of this memorial, but VZ has done a lot of work and I appreciate his efforts to memorialize the victims. There is even a book of the victims' faces, with a brief bio about them.

HSMF Update: To date, approximately L$270,000 has been raised for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund! This is very close to the goal of L$300,000. Depending on how long it takes to reach that goal, another goal may well be set! The generosity of SL residents never ceases to amaze me. I have heard that there has been some controversy about VT memorial fundraising in SL; I am glad people are asking questions. I am not sure what Linden Labs can do, but it would be great if I could get a LL employee to verify that what I'm reporting is the actual amount. The money raised to date is not much compared to the private and corporate gifts rolling into VT on a daily basis (one of our former football players, now with the Browns, donated $50,000 - which is a lot given that he makes the league's minimum of $250K per year), but it will be a showing of support that is the first of its kind at Virginia Tech!

VT Memorial on Info Island Update: Abbey Zenith has requested that the memorial be moved from its current site. I will likely relocate the pictures/wall to the ICT Library location, but I'm not sure of the logistics quite yet. This actually coincides with the movement of the RL memorials - many of which were taken off the drillfield yesterday and placed inside, due to inclement weather. The use of that location for the past week has been imporant and I personally thank Katrina Sol and Abbey Zenith for their help in that effort.

VT Memorial on Linden Land (Fame) Update: Griefers have continued to be a real problem on the parcel. This is very unfortunate, but the irony is that had it not been for their idiocy, I would not have met with some of the Linden Lab employees who have helped clean up messes, and I would not have met some SL private citizens who keep a vigilant watch over the place. Among these are folks who make up part of the Justice League of Second Life. This may sound odd, but their activity has helped get griefers banned and have ensured that stupid objects do not get left all over the place. I have been very impressed with their dedication. However, it has been suggested that since the location is near a sandbox (griefer training grounds, it seems), that perhaps it should be moved to a private sim. I had the opportunity to talk with a man who is willing to donate a sim for the purpose of having the memorial. This is a tremendous display of generosity that, again, I would not have seen had it not been for the griefers' activities. So, though the intent of the Patriotic Nigras or /b/tards (whoever they are - the faceless, nameless cowards) was to disrupt, destroy, and harass, they actually helped me gain friendships and partnerships with legions of civil, sympatheic, and generous SL residents.

Monday, April 23, 2007

VT Memorial on Linden Land

After the parcel on Info Island was full of memorial objects left by visitors, Robin Linden made a parcel of land available on a sim managed by Linden Lab. The photo above is an overview of the memorial: in the center is the landing spot, with a sign the reads "Remembering those we lost." To the left are large images of the VT student newspaper, The Collegiate Times from the week of 4/16. On the walls are large posters of the victims, along with links to their biographies as published on the Roanoke Times website. More photos of the memorial are located on my Flickr site.

Over the past few days, I have had a good deal of internal debate & consternation about putting up any sign for Mr. Cho. I tried to do this once, and took it down again because I was too angry. I'm still angry with him - and always will be - for what he did to 32 wonderful people, but I was beginning to think something was needed. My decision to put up a panel (pictured below) was not a response to the griefers (vandals), many of whom stood on the false claim that they would continue to attack if no picture of Cho was included. In fact, I was strongly resisting any attempt of any SL resident to put up his picture solely for the reason - for two reasons (at least). First, it looked like capitulation to the idiots who were attacking the parcel/sim. Second, Cho had his fame all over the world with his videos and pictures. The "Question Mark Kid" became an exclamation point over and over again. The victims, in my mind, did not get nearly the acclaim they deserve. I am glad to see that they made the cover of Time magazine.

On Friday evening, I had a conversation with two SL residents who were concerned about a lack of any sense of sorrow for Mr. Cho. They had erected a poster of him, which I promptly covered up with a large black box. This of course led to a discussion! The conversation got me to think again about a situation that happened to a colleague just a few years ago. Let me recount briefly...

A couple of years ago, one of professors - a respected scholar and a great guy - had a son (in his 20's) who had some substance abuse problems, etc. Early one morning, he was on the run from having stolen cigarettes (or attempting to do so) from a small convenience store. When a police officer responded, the professor's son beat him, pulled him from his car, and shot him to death. Within a few moments, the young man was shot and killed by police who responded to the scene. The tragedy shocked the community - all felt a deep sense of loss for the slain officer and his widow and young daughter. Nearly all felt anger and hatred toward the young man who killed him - knowing full well that if he had not been killed, Virginia's capital punishment clause would certainly have been applied. But for those of us who knew, worked with, and loved the professor, we grieved for both families, but especially for our colleague and his wife - the father and mother of son who perpetrated such violence. The tragedy ripped aparts lives of the victimizer's family and the victim's family. Ever since that time, I have been more sympathetic towards the families of criminals, and I have tried to understand the person behind the depravity or evil. I'm human - this does not always come quickly or easily. In the case of Mr. Cho, I cannot find it in me to post his picture. Instead, I wrote created the following sign for the memorial:
"The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

In memory of...
Not who he became, but who he
was beneath the hate and rage.
The peace his family knew
before April 16, 2007.
The friendless and unloved,
who felt dead before they died.
Victims, whoever they are.

Each person has to grieve in his/her own way and come to an understanding on his/her own about how - and who - to remember from this tragedy. On Virginia Tech's drillfield, there are 33 "Hokie Stones" that surround the review stand that sits just below Burruss Hall (the main administration building at VT). Whoever put it there felt compelled to remember Cho's humanity before I was convinced it was necessary. Today, during the ceremony to remember the victims, only 32 balloons were released - a strong message that this community is focused - not incorrectly in my estimation - on the innocent victims alone.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund

I wanted to create a separate entry about my efforts in SL to raise money for the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF).

Some months ago - maybe as long ago as last April - I created a Virginia Tech t-shirt that my avatar could wear in SL. Those who see me regularly "know" it's Milo because of my maroon and orange shirt - with "Virginia Tech" and "VT" on the front, and our mascot, the Hokie Bird, on the back. I sometimes wear other shirts or costumes - but the VT gear and black pants are my normal attire. Since I do not have official licensing permission from the university, I never sold the shirts - just gave them away to other Tech faculty or students working/playing in-world. Monday's event changed everything - and when it was declared on Wednesday of last week that Friday, April 20 would be "Hokie Hope" day... wear people across the nation were encouraged to wear orange and maroon (specifically, burnt orange and Chicago maroon), I knew I had to act quickly. I immediately thought that with the tools I had, I could turn this into a fund-raising opportunity for the HSMF.

So, from late Wednesday to early Thursday morning (2 am EST), I worked to set up a vendor (created/scripted by SL's Eloise Pasteur) that allows visitors to donate to the HSMF. They could choose from six different amounts - ranging from $1 US (approx. L$300) to $100 US (approx. L$30,000). For *any* donation amount, one receives the VT t-shirt I created for SL. I set up two vendors at the Info Island memorial site, and then another on the plot donated by Linden Lab. Two more vendors (including one with a white VT shirt) is at the "Illusions Night Club" in SL, run by an avatar whose RL dad is a Virginia Tech alumnus. There is also a vendor at the ICT Library (of course).

At the suggestion of a visitor to the memorial on Thursday, I added "open-ended" donation boxes, so that one could add any amount large or small. These co-exist with the shirt vendors. My goal is to get as many vendors and donations boxes in-world as possible, to see what happens over the next 30 days. I am also trying to work with others to coordinate fund-raising efforts.

As I write this, the shirt vendors and donation boxes have taken in nearly $420 US, or almost 1/2 the target amount of $1,000 US!! I am going to work with Linden Lab (or hope to) on a way to convert the funds from Linden dollars to real money without incuring a fee.

Thank you, Jeremy & SJSU

The machinima video, created by Jeremy Kemp of San Jose State University, shows the SL representation of the RL support for Virginia Tech. Seeing things like this is a great reminder of the solidarity of students and faculty no matter their location.


Friday's notes...

Some very nice blog entries about the VT memorials in Second Life can be found on the PacRim Exchange blog. The provide history of the memorial, showing how it has grown. I was struck today how the RL memorials on the Drillfield keep on growing - and how there is almost no difference between the virtual and real locations with regard to sentiment for the victims, survivors, and those impacted.

April 16th: Virginia Tech Memorial on Main Grid
April 17th: Another visit to the Memorial
April 18th: Virginia Tech Memorial - Day Three
April 19th: Official Memorial Established - Land Donated by Linden Lab

For the record, just because it's on Linden Lab-owned land, I don't think this is the "official" site. The article is good, but I take issue with the assertion. On and around the Drillfield on campus, there are a few memorial sites - none of which is "official," even though one sits right in front of the main administration building, Burrus Hall.

The best news of the day is that, thus far, the donation boxes and "Donate to get a VT T-shirt" vendors in Second Life have brought in almost $400!! All the money will be donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. The goal is $1,000... so we're getting there!

The worst news to report from the memorials is the presence of griefers and frauds - and I am not talking about the crush of RL press coverage in Blacksburg (though, here again, the similarities are marked). There were at least three attacks at the SL memorial sites, one of which I saw just after it happened after a resident IM'd me about it. Thankfully, two alert Linden Lab employees cleaned things up quickly and prevented the idiot from doing it again (by not allowing him to sign up with an alternate account). Another person has started a fraudulent group in SL that seeks to raise money for victims families, and states that he lost his brother in the shootings (the name he provided is NOT that of any of the victims). What kind of depravity would make him do this? I reported him to LL for abuse. I sincerely hope his account gets banned and that someone (in RL) punches him in the brain. I kicked him out of the "Virginia Tech" group, which made him unleash profanities in our short IM conversation. This paragraph was more space than either happening deserves.

And from the "sloppy reporting" department, I offer the following two links to stories. Both essentially ripped-off the MTVnews.com story about the VT memorial. One of the two credits me for building a statue created by Perefim Cao (see yesterday's entry). The other mentions the MTVnews article, and then the author writes it like he is the one who covered it. I may not understand "new media journalism" as well as I could - but I know plagiarism and sloppiness from a mile away.

From mmorpg.qj.net (April 18):
Virginia Tech research associate builds memorial in Second Life

From 1up.com (April 18):
Memorial to Virginia Tech Goes Up in Second Life

I talked to a student journalism major from Indiana University SouthEast today who wanted to do a story related to SL for his class. His professor didn't think he had a story... I would say it was a compelling one. Hopefully, his prof gets unstuck from 20th century technology and Web 1.0. Good luck, Colin.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The VT Memorials in Second Life

Since Monday's events at Virginia Tech - which has been my home for the past eight years - all of us here have been trying to come to grips with the tragedy and what it means us personally and for the university that we love so much. Obviously, there are 33 families who are simply trying to make it to the next minute without crying or screaming.

On Monday afternoon (4-16-07), I was in Second Life for just a few minutes, wondering if I should make some kind of memorial... but I couldn't figure out what to do, I was totally drained, and I didn't know if it would be something that others would take seriously. After all, the real-life memorials here on campus are quite touching, and I wondered if some (or many) would object to the "video game" aspect of doing it. But then on Monday night - on their own initiative - some folks in Second Life (Abbey Zenith and Katrina Sol among them) got land on Info Island, not too far from the ICT Library. There, they set up a small memorial with two sculptures - one by Perefim Cao (top) and the other by Darrien Lightworker (below):

Soon, all around those sculptures, SL residents came to leave candles, flowers, teddy bears, and so on. All objects to show their sadness and support for the Virginia Tech community. On Tuesday afternoon, I decided to log-in to see the memorial, as I saw it described on the SLED listserv. I was very touched by what I saw. Evidently, there was a candelight vigil in SL the night before that I could not be part of, but I heard great things about it (except in the blog about it by Prokovy Neva, who wrote a verbose, rambling account that could have been simply left to a few words of regret and support). Prok did get one thing right - that when something like this happens, it's hard to think. Evidently, it impacted him/her too. At any rate, the pictures of the ceremony (by Katrina Sol) can be found on Flickr..

While standing at the VT Memorial site on Info Island, I decided that it needed a backdrop to give it some definition. Since I had "Hokie Stone" in my inventory, I thought a wall with the stone texture would be appropriate, and it would give the area a sense of Virginia Tech. As I put up the wall, I was IM'd by a reporter who was visiting from MTVNews. We chatted a bit, and he posted his story the next day, "Multiplayer: Virginia Tech Teacher Builds Memorial Wall in Virtual World." A different article about it appeared on Hamlet Au's New World Notes, "For Virginia."

I'm just thinking of this now, as I write, but one cannot even escape press in virtual environment! A lot of my colleagues and others I know at VT have been very discouraged with the press coverage (not the lack of it, but it's crushing presence... so much so that we can barely even grieve in peace). I know that they have a job to do, but the openly hostile and accustatory way in which our police and administration are being treated is patently unfair. Sure, questions must be raised, but on the first day? The first week? But in with 24-hour news cycles to fill, and commercials to sell, then one has to have a few different stories to keep people coming back. Every angle they take seems to want to put blame on someone - a group of someones (anyone but the gunman) - for the fact that 32 innocent people died. I have friends who can not even visit the memorials on the Drillfield for fear of having cameras in their face. Ok, enough about the press.

On Tuesday I was having a hard time dealing with the tragedy. Yes, I was terribly sad, but I found that as I tried to take in the enormity of this terrible thing, I could only do so by focusing on the lives of the victims. I cannot grieve in the abstract - I needed faces and stories. So, going back into SL, I began to build portraits of the victims - an idea given to me by one of the memorial visitors. I set to work on Tuesday, but only finished today, as getting all the names and photos took time.

On Wednesday, I worked on getting the bio links up and organizing the photos of those we lost. Then, in the late hours of the night - and into the morning - I had a flash of an idea: that I could set up a vendor to collect funds. Donors, in return, would get a Virginia Tech t-shirt. They could donate at six different levels. Putting all this together took about 2.5 hours, as I was working from home where my computer is slower than dirt.

Today (Thursday), Robin Linden donated land for a second memorial site on a piece of Linden land. There is a map/teleport to it from the Info Island location, but its grid coordinates are : Fame (192,85,29). I don't care for the sim name, but at least the title of the plot is "VT Memorial." At this location, I put up some 'Hokie Stone' walls and the pictures (larger than the ones at Info Island) of those we lost. Additionally, there are places for people to donate to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. Unfortunately, there are already places and groups that appear to be fraudulently raising money or selling items related to the tragedy. As good as SL can be, there are also the idiots running around. I reported one case of abuse to Linden labs, and Robin tells me that they will get on it.

HSMF Update: As of 10:30 PM EST on 19-APR-07, more than $100 US has been raised for the fund! Tonight, I will try to think of ways to further promote it within SL. The goal is to raise $1,000 US ... the record in SL (by the American Cancer Society) is $60,000. It would be incredible to ever reach that!!

A lot of folks have thanked me for building the memorials, but as I close this entry, I want to make it very clear that I did not build them - only parts of them. Even ideas that I implemented sometime came from those who dropped by to visit. The first memorial, and subsequent statues, came from other SL residents who wanted to show solidarity with those of us at Virginia Tech. I cannot express how much it means to me to see such incredible support from the SL community. They have left hundreds (thousands?) of prim in the shape of gifts that show their concern.

I walked around campus today and saw the memorials and signs on the Drillfield, the flowers donated by various people that are filling the chapel, and the signs by university students across the nation. It is humbling to see the outpouring of support; to know how many people care about us. It is great that I can walk around RL and SL and feel such support.

Friday, April 13, 2007

ICT Library website

Over the past year that I've been building and revising the ICT Library, and working on the SLED Picayune, I have not ever taken time to make a proper set of web pages that give people information about it. Why have I waited so long? I don't have a good answer for that, but now it's here, thanks to the ease with which GooglePages allows me to create the site! Though I am fairly adept with Composer, NVu, and some bits of DreamWeaver (and even NetObjects Fusion!), I have long since passed the time when I was willing to spend hours developing sites.

For all my fellow teacher-educators out there who dislike spending time guiding pre-service candidates through building pages, making sure their links are right, making sure images appear, etc., I *highly* recommend GooglePages. One does have to have a Google Mail account, but that can be set up with relative ease. My own students who have used it really like it a lot, though others preferred NVu. In any case, it makes linking and paths SO much easier. Sure, they could use Lectora or some other means - but they all cost money. I like free best.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

AECT in Second Life

Over the last week or so, I've put together a "headquarters" building for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) on EduIsland. I thought of doing this last year - around conference time - but then got distracted. In any case, the AECT leadership, at that time, were not on-board the Second Life train. Now, they are. The building is by no means an award-winning structure, and as time goes along there will be lots of changes inside and out. After all, structures in SL are supposed to evolve! Perhaps we will one day have a towering skyscraper, with each division having its own floor...who can tell!

I recently read a blog that reported the existence of the AECT building (I found this amusing, as I *just* put this news in the SLED Picayune yesterday). It complained that its contents were not nearly as "rich" as the AECT website. First, it's a new build - so lay off. Second, the AECT website is not rich - it's confusing, with way too much information on each page. Thankfully, there is an electronic services committee, headed up by the likes of Dr. Trey Martindale, and they are in the throes of discussing a major re-design. At any rate, I will soon link up with the ESC (!!) to see what kind of SL-related things we can do.

Anyway, I wanted to relate the history behind this building. It started early last week when I tried to call Sharon, the editor of a certain AECT publication. I was looking for information about what my duties as "liaison" might be (and I still haven't found out as I have yet to follow up). It turns out that I called the wrong number - a university where she has not taught for a few years. Now, I know where she is ... but the letters of the URL for the university name are the same, so when Google gave me the URL for her office information, I simply looked at the number and called. Yes, I should have paid closer attention. What happened, though, was that I wound up chatting for quite some time with Sharon's colleague (and AECT president-elect), Dr. Mary Herring. She had just been introduced to Second Life not too long ago, as had the organization's executive director, Phil Harris. We talked for close to 30 minutes about SL, AECT in SL, and all sorts of things. The next day, I got permission from the EduIsland owner (SL's "Lorelei Junot") and my co-manager on EduIsland (SL's "Mari Asturias") to build the AECT structure. Both said they had no problem with it - and so I got right to work! It was a serendiptious conversation, and I've been excited to be part of AECT's first official steps in SL.

A number of AECT members, of course, are already in Second Life, as I learned at the 2006 conference in Dallas. Some members of the community, however, are downright secretive about their work. Learning, then, exactly who is doing what in SL will probably only become clear once certain egos are stroked / satisfied. That might be a bit too cynical of a position, but I don't think I'm too far from the truth. Anyway, being the first to publish on (fill in the blank) seems to be the coin of the realm. This is ironic in a field that encourages students to collaborate. I really need to be publishing more (in general), especially on the educational community-related stuff I'm doing in SL. After all, publications (not buildings or t-shirts in SL) lead to tenure. HA! Wouldn't that be great?? Peer-reviewed buildings...