This blog is meant to document the work which has been achieved in Second Life for the Swiss Stem Cells Bank by Clara Young, project that is competing for the Linden Prize 2009.
It will try to recapitulate all the steps of the project and its production inworld.

The results of this operation are not so easy to measure because it is a corporate operation mixing education and image. We can measure the visits thru the land or the visitor counters that the counters give us and which are a first indication.

Then we have the information requests that are leaving a trace in IM or email. And we also know that we have a regular amount of visits thru the guided tour. 

The client did not want to have a special landing page to measure the links made with the website and have no special procedure at the call center to know how many people could have call to ask informations thru telephone.

He did not want either to make any big promotion or advertising of the place, except thru the land or, at the lauching of the site, a partnership with some clinics on SL to have a small presence. I am not too sure though that the resident who gets pregnant on SL are the same audience than the one in the real life. They sure were information requests and teleport to the place, but we cant really measure the interaction with the conservation of the stem cells.

We also can see some traffic going from the movie on youtube or other websites that link to youtube.

And we also know the place is quoted in a few medical websites or a few studies about Second Life as for example “Second Life: Its Virtual Intent, Its First Life Reality An Exploration of the Original Intent and Purpose Of Second Life as User Generated Content Guides its Evolution: Where It Comes From and Where It Is Going. Annalisa V. Manthos NYIT EDIT 602-SP08 – Dr. Shank-Kwei Wang

I would think that the indirect effects of education and learning about stem cells are not measurable. Someone told me once after seeing the SL site, that her sister was pregnant and that she would advise this to her. Sometimes people contact me to ask if I know a similar place in the US. Lately, I was contacted by a researcher who asked me a contact at the S.S.C.B. since he wanted to offer his services !

The client has renewed this presence for 2009, and is planning to organise a few conferences about stem cells for the SL audience. We will try to get more qualitative measure this year too, with some survey stands that will give us an idea of the way the site is perceived.

My deep feeling is that if we have informed at least one person, and thru this person, influence the destiny of someone who was sick and could be cured because of stem cells, then we reach our objectif here in Second Life.
In 2007, I joined the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago where I had the pleasure to meet some of my virtual friends and one of the greatest and older friend of mine, Gabriel Paci, known inworld as Master Quatro or Gabriel Pirandello. That happened to be a really nice time and for me, a unique opportunity to understand better what I was doing in Second Life, what was the power of the community, and what I could do with virtual worlds in my work. 

There were many tracks there at the S.L.C.C. but one was about machimina under the leadership of Moo Money, and it really impressed me. I have been making a few semi-professionnal videos in my life and I love editing. I realized I also could make a video in second life using SL tools and I decided to experience it on the Swiss Stem Cells Bank ! That would be helpful for a soft promotion of the SL site, and for learning something new in SL !

I first had to get familiar with the tools I could use. Starting with Alt-Zoom Camera, I finally ended up being more comfortable with Filming Path which is simple when you understand all its possibilities. I trained a lot on small scenes before I could use it properly. I was so excited that I decided to quickly make the SSCB movie. I wrote a small scenario and script, asked a few people in my Feel at Home Community if they would want to play in the movie, and they were all so friendly and generous. That was a funny experience and I made quite a lot of mistakes, and once again learnt a lot, but the movie was finally made.

Since we wanted the building to really be seen as a special piece in the landscape, the teleport area had to be dissociated and quite distant to give a wide angle to the vision at teleporting.

I had a very precise memory of my visit on Svarga, and of the guided tour I used to get familiar with all the ressources which were offered on this beautiful island. To explain better, you would get on a vehicule which would take you in a promenade with detailed commented in chat.

I proposed Pietro to make one for the S.S.C.B. project and contacted Blaise Timtam, the great inventor of the  Guided Tour System.  Strange coincidence, Blaise is also from Switzerland so we could speak french together and that made it also easier. Pietro wanted the visit to be similar to an RL visit, and to add sound or video in the vehicule, so tha tpeople could look around instead of reading the chat. I wanted the tour to be offered in different languages. The challenge was difficult to achieve !! 

We could not stream the language thru the land, there was no other chance than to ask Blaise to improve the sound functionalities of the guided tour system which were quite limited at that time ... and he did it. 

I first had to convert the whole visit in 9.99 seconds waw files to be imported into SL, and for each languages, that represented about 20 files. Those 20 files were a kind of synthese of the main point we wanted people to remember about S.S.C.B. Text would also come into the chat zone, in case people would prefer to read...

The main problem encountered was that sounds load at your entrance on the parcel, and if there are so many files, it would take too long before they upload in your cache, and you would only receive only part of it. After many tests and tries (and swears !) we finally arrived to a mix solution which consists for the user to click on an upload box with his language sounds, waits 2 minutes until he sees the box is green, and then he can ride the tour and have it sounded in his language. Wow, that took us so long , but we finally created the first real audio guided tour of SL ! And this in 3 languages...

Blaise told me a few days ago that this work served a lot of other people in SL, especially many cultural projects and sims, and that it really helped him to improve the G.T.S.. 

For information, because I did not have a big budget, I used synthetic voices on that project and I really think it would be much nicer with real voices. And if Second Life would allow us to import longuer audio file, that would even be much nicer !!!

For the next version, we have been working with my friend, the scripter, ab Vanmoer, on a kind of audio hud people could put and get audio explanations just walking or crossing places or objects, a kind of simulation of an augmented reality tool. That, I hope should come soon....
What is really great in Second Life is the possiblity you have to test and retest without real damages and costs... except your time. You need patience, you need desire, and sometimes nice people around you willing to help and teach you .... This is how I learnt in Second Life... dont think you can make it by just learning into books or blogs... that will help for sure but it is mostly practise and practise again and again ! 

I was never before in any big lab so it was quite difficult for me to figure the kind of details it needed and the organization of space...  I was lucky at this time to have met Islanddoc Wollongong who really helped me to get a better approach of the labs. He was a practician and if I remember good the ex-mayor of a small american city. You can meet a lot of interesting people in S.L., and the Doc was one of them...  

So for a while most of the conversations with Pietro or Veronica from the S.S.C.B., were quite technical, based on photos, notes, and drawings...  

[14:00] contactum2000 Allen: no, sorry, research center is something else
[14:00] Clara Young: explain me what is the difference between labs and research center
[14:00] contactum2000 Allen: is the place where the company conduct scienfic trials
[14:02] contactum2000 Allen: Research is very important for scientist and also for sscb, but it is completely different from the laboratory activites, we do not search on the people stem cells who conserve the stem cells of their child in the bank.
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: so we need both of them but to make sure they understand are separated activities. was I clear?
[14:04] Clara Young: ok, i understand, so the labs are more biological area for treating the blood
[14:05] contactum2000 Allen: brava!!!
[14:05] Clara Young: and the research is more a separate area for development
[14:05] contactum2000 Allen: exactly

Pietro wanted the exact machine, and even the exact brand of the machine to appear in the labs. I guess for him, that was some kind of secret meaning of quality, which I was totally unsensitive to !

The position of the chairs, their shapes, the tubes, and all the small and big materials and machines (even the garbage cans) had to be the closest as possible to the real one, put at an exact location, and each lab had to be unique as you can see on the Second Life site.

There was no sculpties yet at that time or only starting very experimentally and I was not really aware myself of what they would bring for the creation in Second Life. So I only worked with textures on prims and this sometimes may feel strange ... If  I would have time ,  I would re-create all the machines with sculpties to give them a more accurate shape. 

The building shape and textures took me about 6 weeks to fix, from the first brainstorm to the settlement on Entre Deux. Oh, by the way as we say inworld, in the meantime I had bought my first corporate sim and named it Entre Deux, which means "Between Two". This was my personal frame of mind at this time, entre deux, jobs, ideas, world, life... I reserved the first south west corner of the sim to the project, and we could settled the building there. I had different ideas for the terraforming, I had thought about mountains at first, since S.S.C.B. is in Switzerland, we had a yin-yang lake in the middle of the place, but on and off, we finally decide to leave it simple, just on an upper level to really enhance the building itself on a hill.

Came the time of the interior details, and that took about 2 more months to decide and fix. Pietro wanted all spaces to look like the real S.S.C.B. , plus add some special places for the audience of Second Life, so the original brief was to create : 
  • a lobby
  • an administration room and office
  • a waiting room with the main documentation 
  • 3 labs that were copied from pictures and a clean room
  • a research center 
  • an auditorium
  • the conservation room
As a marketing & communication person, I remember I was obcessed by the identification of the place, and my question was : how to make it unique, branded, and give a unique experience to the visitor that will leave a trace into his mind ?
After many tests, 2D and 3D, we finally agreed on the staging the logo : we would have it integrated to a basin outside, on the road leading from the teleport area to the building, and once in the lobby with a reflection of it on the lobby's wall below a running water. Once again, the idea was to give notions of purety, transparency, lightness.

A few objects were created there to add some life to the "whiteness", as a fish water rug, a painting, plants and lately Assistant Claire who is not a bot but a nice marketing tool with a human face !

In the same spirit, we chose the style of the furniture in all this part, contemporary, light and clear. Feeling of reality often comes from small details, and we added several objects to make the environnement correlate with the reality...Xerox machine, water fountain, and even toilets in the back of the lobby zone !

In that part of the work, I learnt a lot about textures, how to use them with alpha, decrease their density to mix text and transparency. 

And to end up that part, I created a lot of interactive objects on the reception desk to make it easy for people to identify where they are especially if they arrived directly to the place and not thru the teleporter area : information notecards in different languages, possibility to ring one of  us inworld if questions, link to the website, etc...

How did we get to the final building ? Pietro sent me first a picture of the Swiss Stem Cells Bank in real life, but he wanted something different. So I went to make a research and fell in love with the buildings of the Hydro Houses Company in Second Life. The work of Porky Gorky seemed to me exactly what we need for the S.S.C.B. : light, transparent, aesthetic... it was just a question of choice.... so I asked Pietro to meet me there at Hydro Houses and tell me his feelings. And this is how it started .... 

[13:42] contactum2000 Allen: ok, I would say...
[13:58] contactum2000 Allen: a mix between this farahon
[13:58] contactum2000 Allen: icarus
[13:59] contactum2000 Allen: caprica
[14:00] contactum2000 Allen: enigma
[14:01] contactum2000 Allen: calypso
[14:01] Clara Young: =)
[14:01] contactum2000 Allen: pacifica
[14:01] Clara Young: i bought pacifica and enigma and i dont remember which other one
[14:01] contactum2000 Allen: nemesis
[14:02] Clara Young: we will go now to try them on the island
[14:02] Clara Young: you want them all lol
[14:02] contactum2000 Allen: end, finally, skylaa!!!!
[14:02] contactum2000 Allen: that's it!!!!!
[14:02] Clara Young: =))))  i bought that one and i have to talk with this architect builder
[14:03] contactum2000 Allen: I think you absolutly got what I think also my client would like
[14:03] Clara Young: =)), good then
[14:03] contactum2000 Allen: I'm talking about a mix that has to manifest:
[14:03] Clara Young: you know why i like this
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: modernitiy
[14:04] Clara Young: because aqua
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: sureness
[14:04] Clara Young: aqua is life
[14:04] Clara Young: life is birth
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: transparency
[14:04] Clara Young: yes
[14:04] Clara Young: we are in the concept there
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: sureness = security
[14:04] Clara Young: we just have to push it max
[14:04] contactum2000 Allen: brava!!!

After some tests I made in the sky with the different buildings we mentionned, I arrived to this solution, a double enigma which was for me the symbols of life like a DNA... but aesthetically it was massive though well balanced.

[8:55] contactum2000 Allen: I went again to the Hydro-projects and I feel that to use the building not simmetric would be better
[8:56] Clara Young: ok i understand
[8:57] contactum2000 Allen: maybe we also could to enlarge it adding "modules" like the 3 that allready are in the demo.
[9:00] contactum2000 Allen: what I think is that the arc of the building is very similar to the S of SSCB logo, if you remember
[9:01] Clara Young: this is why i chose that one
[9:01] Clara Young: and also because it is waves
[9:01] contactum2000 Allen: BRAVA!!!!!
[9:01] Clara Young: and round
[9:01] Clara Young: i think the building should be curvy in some way
[9:02] contactum2000 Allen: I agree
[9:03] Clara Young: but i also understand the dissymetry
[9:03] Clara Young: now that we have the land, i can think in situation which is very different
[9:03] contactum2000 Allen: you know what? we could reduce by one module on the left site and add it to the right side. In that case would reflect exactly the logo SSCB
[9:04] Clara Young: ehehe, very smart.  ok let's try that

And this is how we got to this great unique building, which if you look at it carefully is exactly half of the SSCB logo (you take the logo and you divide it in two horizontally). 

At that time, I was a real beginner at building. To create a beach bungalow is quite easy, but to make such a complex building was a real puzzle for me. I learnt a lot about prims modifications, made a lot of mistakes, tried, canceled and retried, learnt also to save the work, dealt with crashing (which in those times were much more frequent than now) in the  middle of a complicate manipulation, and loose it all... But when I look at the building now that I am a much better worker (!), I really think that was a great job (that could for sure be improved), and I am proud that with the help and reamrks from Pietro, we finally got that piece....