Tag Archives: Second Life

GimpGirl community – [notes from #ocrsf]

These are my notes from the talk by @lizhenry on @GimpGirl community at The San Francisco Online Community Report Meetup.

GimpGirl is a community for women with disabilities, basically talking to each other. It’s very important for them and hard to come by for many of its members. They don’t focus on any special disability.
They’ve started in 1998, started with with mailing lists, later moved to LiveJournal in 2003 (about 350 people there). Opened in Second Life, Facebook and Twitter in 2008.

GimpGirl poster - thanks to @lizhenry for sharing the image
GimpGirl poster - thanks to @lizhenry for sharing the image

Often different communities transition around different technology, leaving little ghost towns of communities behind.

Second Life

Tunnel vision
Image by Netream via Flickr
  • Provides opportunity to network with other disability, women and non-profit groups.
  • Allow easier collaboration within community.
  • They’ve added adaptations for further accessibility by adding IRC relay.
  • It’s really useful for people with different disabilities, e.g. they to be able to use their hands a lot, have trouble viewing, etc.

Their main site currently runs on Moodle.

You can get the fastest response on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Safe Space – we’re all taking from our personal POV, supporting each other, talking from our personal experience. No harassment would be tolerated at all.
  • “Being studied” – often academics want to talk to people with disabilities. Community members usually just want to talk to each other and not being studied and trying to explain themselves all the time.

Interdependent Models of Access to Virtual World

Giverny Spirit XLIV…!!!
Image by Denis Collette…!!! via Flickr
  • Accommodation for individual users – “guide dog” that tells the names of the objects in SL environment.
  • Architectural access to community space
  • if you build your online spaces to support accessibility, it can be more welcoming to all people.
  • Build it in a way that is useful/easier everyone.
  • Universal Design for conversation – some people need synchronic communication, others would need asynchronies communication.

Differences between formal/unformal styles and comments can be off-putting to some people. Different channels allow for better access for everyone.

Integrate multiple channels

  • Build strong cross-platform relationship that distribute information on multiple channels. This allows greater amount of people to communicate as not all the platforms are accessible to all people all the time.
  • We should be building platforms that allow to aggregate and federate information across the web/platforms/multiple-channels.

Best practices for communication

.cold and tireD
Image by 27147 via Flickr
  • Provide accessible formats for event information, e.g not just PDF flyer but also in plain text. (508/WCAG guidelines)
  • Live events in virtual worlds should have an IRC relay and audio feeds for voice chat. It might be also useful to everyone that would prefer alternative communication channels.
  • Asynchronous methods (blogs, forums) should be used along with synchronous (e.g. IRC).
  • Be inclusive of various speech and writing styles.
  • Acknowledge all contributions from the community, not just the most active members.

Give responsibility to most active community members. This allows the community to manage itself and own itself.

In bigger communities, it’s useful to acknowledge them also in private on publicly in community as then they have a feeling that it’s really a relationship. Public spotlight it’s also useful way to give community members public awareness.

  • Use person-first language or other language preferred by people with disabilities.
  • Have clear methods for feedback on accessibility and other topics.
  • Include your audience/members in planning and execution of events – “Nothing about us without us”


Image by Will Montague via Flickr
  • Impersonal – no opportunity for trust
  • Profiles in courage. Pity. Charity.
  • Infantilization of people with disability by controlling information.


  • Authenticity
  • Identity
  • Respect

+ many more.

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3 easy ways to do online interviews

Image by hz536n via Flickr

Gathering qualitative data, like interviews, presents an interesting alternative to classical online surveys. While in survey gathering we can setup an online environment, and leave it running for longer time without our strict supervision, in interview setting a real-time component is really important (unless you want to do a bit longer interview over e-mails).


Going the voice way


Our first option is to emulate phone interview, by using one of the IP/internet based – VoIP alternatives. Most well-known would certainly be Skype, freeware multi-platform Voice/Video/Chat system. It should be fairly easy to setup an interview session using this medium. You can even call them to a land-line or mobile phone and use one of the popular Skype recoding utilities to make a digital copy of the interview.

Skype Limited

Image via Wikipedia

Afterwards you should use a dedicated transcribing tool, to easily make a transcript of your session. Do note that you really want to have a specialized utility for transcribing, since it allows you to slower down the recording, to the speed of your typing, pause and rewind easily with keyboard shortcut and a lot more.


Having a chat


Other alternative to voice or possibly video, would be asynchronous-chat. While it isn’t as involved as interactive voice, it gives more ease to interviewee since they can take time to think of their answer, have someone else in a room, etc. The same luxury is also present on your side of the interview.

The tools of the trade would usually be chat applications like Microsoft Messanger, Google Talk, Skype, etc. The issue here is that connecting using these tools can present serious invasion into privacy of other user (as you now know their screen name), it also means that the person will be online at the time, making probability that some-one else will want to chat to her, much higher. It also turns out that a lot of people online still don’t fully understand the Instant messaging, so this might lead to a serious of confusions and problems (especially if the person interviewing is not technically most skilled).

My proposed solution to this would be to use a tool like Campfire from 37signals, to setup a web based chat room, into which the interview participants would then be invited it. This is also good tactic for online focus groups, as it allows for easily connecting a number of people without worrying about their different screen names and incompatible applications. 

There are a number of free alternatives that could be used to setup a Campfire like environment, one way would be to use Moodle with a chat module where you would treat participants as students and conduct chat sessions with them.


Online worlds


Second LifeImage via Wikipedia

Second Life is today a de-facto standard for a virtual world. If you have luxury to place your participants there, you can also study their gestures and general body language while talking or chatting to them. The only problem is that it’s quite a complex environment where all participants need to beforehand know how to navigate it.

Easier (but less powerful) alternative could be Google’s 3D world called Lively that allows a bit more freedom like traditional chat room, while still having limited enough controls to be within reach from technically less-savy participants.

While conducting interviews in online worlds looks like a great idea at the start, it usually turns out that you’ve severely limited the amount of people who can participate because of hardware requirements, internet speed and technical knowledge. Depending on the type of research you do, this can present a serious set-back once you start your work.


General observations


Doing online interviews is demanding task that will folly occupy you. You should expect that each interview (esp. unstructured) could easily take you a few hours of involved typing. Afterwards you should also take time to go through the interview, adding the notes and studying responses so you’ll have easier time later analyzing it.

Also don’t forget to take time in the beginning to do a dry-run full interview with someone you know and trust so you can learn the technology and get general idea of things that could go wrong.

I mentioned just a popular few applications for doing the tasks. There are numerous alternatives with their own specific, but in this context I felt discussing them would add noise to the post.

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Ian Kennedy – Collaboration in an Open Innovation World, Cisco systems [Thinking digital session notes]

Confesso che ti (in)seguivo...

Image from Flickr

How relatively small organizations could grow so quickly to overtake traditional organization? There are two different styles of innovation: open and closed innovation model. Closed model assumes they can go and hire all the smart PhD’s and other individuals.

About 3% of any national population is “smart”, “clever” – entrepreneurs, innovators, people who will make a market difference. This equate in US to about 9 million people. China would then have 39 million of smart people. This is so many people that it’s not possible for organization to retain them all – the need for open collaboration model arrises.

From this follows the need for collaboration and sharing on a level of a personal face to face contact. So what we can do about this in virtual worlds, without getting lost in the hype of Second life? It still is a very interesting collaborative space.

World Economic Forum in Davos had a main topic of Collaborative Innovation. The appearance of co-competition is one of the trends – the fact that you can compete and work together at the same time.

Some interesting statistics about timeframe in online world:

  • 2 weeks – Time it takes to build trust in the e-world
  • 4 times – As long to communicate a message electronically than face to face
  • 64% – of communication is non-verbal. Visual cues messages can be easily interpreted
  • 17 weeks – time lag for culturally diverse teams to begin outperforming single-culture teams

Tele-presence system, that is not a video-conferecing system. It’s a system to be remote from somebody but it feels like they would sit across the table. The idea is to start building these system and bring in remote people. While the technology is not trying to solve the problem of speed of light, they can optimize the software and hardware part of equation. They have proof-of-concepts using HD televisions that are good enough to use and be a good experience. Possible usage of the technology is to add a HD camera to the TV and just be collaborative over the system. This has important implications for health.

Matt Locke – How are they approaching commissioning in Channel 4? [Thinking digital session notes]


Image from Flickr

Taking 6 million TV budget and spend it online – it’s very hard to reach attention of young audiences (14-19 year olds). So how to design for them?

What was life before internet? Most people thinking that revolution in media is about choice, the fact that you can have everything online, no need to go library etc. This is the paradigm shift, and young people can extrapolate back to limited choice.
But what young people have hard to understand is that before you didn’t have permission to speak in public. You had to have permission from public media (newspaper, TV station, etc.) to have voice.
The similar process happened in regarding to Phone boxes vs. Mobile phones. From stepping out of public space into the private space of phone box, towards new set of gestures and cultures to explain to by goers that you in a private space of phone conversation.

There are roughly six kinds of spaces:

  • Secret spaces – (Mobile, SMS, IM) – intimate spaces, we share them with people we know. We expect privacy, even though technology might not provide them.
  • Group spaces – (Bebo, Facebook, Tagged, etc.) – the conversation in this group is about sharing and re-enforcing the group idea. Even though the technology doesn’t provide privacy (MySpace page is public), they are talking to a limited group of people in their heads.
  • Publishing spaces – (LiveJournal, Blogger, Flickr, Photobucket, etc.) – using these tools to get students to peer review their work. Students put their stuff out on the blogs to other students to comment and engage in further converstations.
  • Performing spaces – (Second Life, World of Warcraft, Home, etc.) – people who perform in these spaces they reherse their identity and play by the certain roles
  • Participation spaces – (Marches, Meetings, Markets, Events) – the goal is to have/get something to happen. The architecture of these spaces allow for such actions.
  • Watching spaces – (Television, Gigs, Theatre, etc.) – They are trying to design services where they can ask each other who they think they are sharing space with.

In general social software will become commodity that will make the whole process ubiquitous.

For teens, social embarrassment, is something that’s most problematic for these groups. When you design spaces for them, you have to watch out how you are designing around these so they are not expose to these problems.
There are also some things that teens are not prepared to tell to their peers who they know in everyday life, but would still like to discuss anonymously online.

How do you reinvent the world that is not about public – private but it’s about personal – social. You can’t really just join there as an organization, and you can’t just break into social spaces.
Organizations are used to having monopolies on attention, so there is also a big challenge to tame their ego’s before they can enter the space. How can organizations learn to dynamically change and shift their role depending on the needs of the social playing space.