A few weeks ago I heard about a group of municipal government employees meeting on a regular basis in Second Life. The group is called MuniGov, and from the description on their website was formed as “a coalition of local/municipal governments focused on exploring the use and principles of Web 2.0 in an effort to improve citizen services and communication via technology.”
I thought cool, this is exactly the kind of folks I’d like to connect with to talk about some of the work that I’m involved with on a daily basis. So I checked out the MuniGov website – a lot of great info about different technologies and how some cities are using them; some good reference materials about web 2.0 & government use of social media; a primer to using Second Life; and the latest tweets from the MuniGov twitter feed.
The group is also organizing “the first virtual conference on Web 2.0 for government, by government”. The event will take place in Second Life on Friday April 10th from 1pm to 4pm EST, and will include a series of presentations about various web 2.0 initiatives at the municipal government level. The group has been meeting on Wed evenings to discuss plans for the conference, and I’ve been wanted to attend for some time now, but always seem to have something else happening on Wed nights.
Last night I finally made it to my first MuniGov Second Life meeting:
It was pretty cool, seeing a bunch of cartoonish avatars sitting around a table of “uniquely styled” chairs on a virtual island. The meeting convener, Bill Greeves IT Director at Roanoke County, aka Greever Wemyss appeared as a wolf, and let out the occasional howl. Otherwise the meeting was very much like a real-world meeting, except that all the attendees were there from the virtual convenience of their own locales – whether Ottawa, Nanaimo BC, Roanoke County, LaSalle Illinois or any other place around the world. I think most of the other participants were from the U.S., and incidentally most of the MuniGov members seem to be US or Canada based.
I think the meeting demonstrated an excellent use of virtual communities to bring together like-minded and intentioned people. Although the meeting was longer than I had expected, I think it was no longer than a face-to-face or teleconference meeting would have been; and it was more powerful in some respects. (Most) participants were able to chat with voice – some (myself included) did not use voice chat but instead participated using live text chatting; and there was the occassional direct (private) text messages flying around. So a number of simultaneous conversations could be ongoing without disrupting the meeting. One of the participants had worked on some logo concepts for the conference, and was able to display them to everyone in-world, and get immediate feedback from the participants.
I’m looking forward to future meetings and discussions with the MuniGov group in SL, and especially looking forward to the virtual conference on April 10. Maybe I’ll “see” you there?!?