AvaCon History


In the Beginning…

2008 Second Life Community Convention, Tampa, FL.
Between 2005 and 2007, virtual world technology experienced a boom of media and press attention as platforms like Second Life, There.com, Google’s Lively, Blue Mars, and OpenSimulator appealed to users with the invitation to create virtual worlds and virtual lives as interesting and exciting as the real world.

Many of these platforms were inspired by the concept of the “metaverse”, a term coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 cyberpunk thriller Snow Crash. The metaverse of the novel resembled an MMO populated by user-controlled avatars who lived, worked, and played in a virtual reality called the Street. The metaverse represented “Stephenson’s vision of how a virtual-reality based Internet might evolve in the near future.” [1]

Many of the founders of AvaCon were also inspired by the novel, and met each other as volunteers and organizers of the Second Life Community Convention, a user-organized conference about the Second Life virtual world platform. At its peak, the Second Life Community Convention hosted over 1000 participants in the physical world, and thousands of virtual attendees at the online component of the conference in Second Life.

Organized by a group called The Future United, the annual conference took place in cities all over the United States, and featured several days of programming, including keynotes and sessions headlined by executives and developers at Linden Lab, the company who created the Second Life platform. The Second Life Community Convention was run by The Future United from 2005 until 2009, when the group decided to disband.

Founding AvaCon, Inc.

Joyce Bettencourt, Peter Lokke, Donna Meyer, and Chris Collins had all been organizers or volunteers for the Second Life Community Convention for many years, and in the fall of 2009, the four came together to discuss the future of the convention given The Future United had decided to stop organizing it. Ultimately, the group decided that the convention was important both to the Second Life community and to the emerging metaverse, and agreed to form a new non-profit company to continue the production of the conference.

The first in-person meeting of the AvaCon Executive Board. AvaCon, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Massachusetts in April 2010, and the group went on to manage and produce the sixth annual 2010 Second Life Community Convention on August 13-15th at the Boston Park Plaza in Boston, MA. Joined by new staff members Dave Oberholtzer and Joshua Stortz, who managed the A/V and technical production of the event, over 250 attendees enjoyed keynote speakers Philip Rosedale, John Lester, Doug Thomspon, and a panel of Linden Lab viewer developers for a three day multi-track convention. Highlights of the convention included community led social events, the Avatar Ball, and a private film screening of the film Life 2.0 with director Jason Spingarn-Koff.

Following the 2010 convention, Treasurer Peter Lokke left the organization, and Kathey Fatica joined the AvaCon Executive Board in his place.

The next year, AvaCon produced the seventh annual 2011 Second Life Community Convention on August 12-14th in Oakland, CA. Over 2000 avatars joined the 250+ attendees of the physical conference to enjoy panels, discussions, and social events. Keynote speakers included new Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble, Rik Panganiban of Betterverse.org, Aliza Sherman, and a panel of Linden Lab developers, as well as over 70 presenters and speakers on a variety of topics.

At the conclusion of the 2011 convention, Clerk Donna Meyer left the organization to pursue other opportunities, and Beth Allen joined the team as a web developer and WordPress guru.

Broadening AvaCon’s Horizons

In early 2012, AvaCon was recognized as a 501(c)(3) public charity by the US Internal Revenue Service, and the Executive Board had begun to feel that the organization should broaden its horizons beyond a single conference or a single platform. Open source Senses Places Mixed Reality Performance.platforms like OpenSimulator had begun to stabilize and grow its userbase, while gaming engines like Unity emerged to become useful platforms for virtual world-like applications. At the same time, other technologies like the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Kinect were paving the way for new interface devices to interact with virtual environments.

In 2013, AvaCon announced two new programs. The Metaverse Cultural Series, a set of virtual events highlighting the unique aspects of living, working, and playing in the emerging metaverse, and the first annual OpenSimulator Community Conference , a joint production with the Overte Foundation.

The Metaverse Cultural Series went on to host five events in a variety of virtual worlds, including Minecraft, OpenSimulator, and Second Life. Armchair Author with Adele Ward featured author Patricia Averbach, whose debut novel Painting Bridges was workshopped in the virtual world of Second Life, and other events included MineOpticon, a live ensemble performance in Minecraft, RPG Storytelling in the Metaverse, an improv musical and speed building event, and mixed reality Senses Places, a somatic dance-technology international collaboration, which took place simultaneously in the virtual world and physically in Portugal.

The first annual OpenSimulator Community Conference was held virtually on September 7-, 2013 in an OpenSimulator grid designed specifically for the event. Jointly produced with the Overte Foundation, the conference featured two days of keynote sessions and presentations from the developers and users of the platform. Considering the alpha nature of the platform, the conference was extremely successful. Over 350 unique avatars attended the event, over 1000 live streams were accessed on the web, and 2291 archived video recordings were viewed within the first few weeks following the conference.

Looking to the Future

AvaCon is developing future plans to better serve the needs of metaverse technology developers, content creators, and the user communities working to make all of our virtual worlds and the metaverse a reality. Plans for 2014 include continuing support for the Metaverse Cultural Series and OpenSimulator Community Conference events, as well as growing the AvaCon team to continue our mission to move the metaverse forward.