My Keynote at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2017 Conference #VWBPE17

I had a great time attending and speaking at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2017 Conference last month in Second Life. It was a very special 10th year anniversary conference, and the presentations were all a wonderful mix of the past and future of virtual worlds and their role in immersive education.

I was honored to give a keynote presentation¬†on “Beyond Escapism: Virtual Worlds, Vulnerable Populations and Social Good.” ¬†Here are my slides, and below is a full video.

A big part of the specialness of virtual worlds is the malleability of one’s identity. ¬†It adds a creative and fun element to any event. ¬†Which is why I dressed up as a penguin that could rez flocks of other penguins and throw fish.

But mind you, the points I made in my keynote are¬†very very serious. ¬†I strongly believe that the ability to leverage virtual worlds and VR technologies to improve quality of life and increase social good has never been greater. ¬†The “killer apps” have everything to do with enabling the disabled, supporting the unsupported, and giving us all the ability to reach across the world and share life-giving creativity with a global population.

And we can do it all while never losing our sense of wonder and¬†play. ūüėČ

Penguin Mosh Pit Pathfinder Virtual Worlds

Thank you everyone who attended, and thank you everyone who helped organize this very special event.

Take care,
-John “Pathfinder” Lester

New addition to the family – Stella

We’ve just adopted Stella, a 4-month old little dachshund.


Stella at the shelter.

Look at those green peepers!

Look at those green peepers!

Stella comes from the Humane Society and Shelter – SouthCoast (¬†in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. My cousin Melinda runs the shelter, and Stella was¬†brought in nearly dead from neglect. After a couple months of love and care from the amazing folks at the shelter, she made a full recovery. They do incredible¬†work at the HSSSC, so if you’re looking to support a shelter that serves all of SouthCoast¬†(Fall River, New Bedford, Dartmouth and more),¬†there’s none better.


Ready for the trip from Dartmouth to Montreal.


Couch time. We bought her a new pink harness to match her pink leash.

We drove down to Dartmouth over the weekend and picked her up. She’s the sweetest little girl and is bonding very well with everyone.


Olly, Stella and Sam.

Sam keeps a close watch on the puppies.

Stella tries to figure out how a hose works.

And to Ligea at the HSSSC, thank you so much for taking care of her each day. I know it was a hard road to recovery for her, and I know you must be sad to see her leave. Please know that we will give her the best forever home we can give and that she will always be surrounded by people and other dogs that love her.


Olly and Stella are both puppies, so they share a special puppy bond.

Stella and Olly “fixing” a hose.


She likes to lie in the pine needles and chew sticks in our backyard.

They also love puppy play.

We love you Stella!


Stella sleeping on the ottoman next to my chair in my home office.

She also loves her new bed from her friends at Canine & Compagnie.


Sleepy puppy belly

First Eye Exam in 30 years. Plus pictures of my brain.

Had an eye exam last week. First one in about 30 years.

Over the past 5 years I’ve noticed that I really need reading glasses. And since I’m someone that hopes for the best but expects the worst, I was a bit nervous that something had slowly been going very wrong with my peepers over the past few decades. I’ve been using various over the counter reading glasses that have been working well for me, but I figured it was about time I got a professional exam.

Turns out I’m not doing too bad. Age happens, so yeah, my ol’ eyeball lenses are having a more difficult time focusing on the closeup stuff. ¬†After talking with the optometrist and going over my prescription¬†(here’s a helpful¬†page for interpreting eyeglass¬†prescriptions) I decided to get¬†a pair of ¬†glasses with progressive lenses. I hate having to keep taking my reading glasses on and off, so I’m going¬†to try¬†wearing these new¬†glasses all the time.

They should arrive in a couple weeks. I opted for Silhouette TNG frames and Varilux S Series lenses.

I asked the optometrist to email me the digital images of my retinas. Because why not? I think they’re beautiful, like outer space nebulae or something. Maybe I’ll use one as desktop wallpaper.

The retina, a layer of nervous tissue, is a direct extension of the brain (brain -> optic nerve -> retinal tissue). So this is basically a picture of my brain.  Cool beans.


Right Eye – Optomap Ultra-Widefield Retinal Image


Left Eye – Optomap Ultra-Widefield Retinal Image

The Silhouette website also has a neat little app where you can virtually try on the glasses.


Finally, I really need to give props to Pro Optical Boston. I was in the neighborhood and walked in to schedule all this on the spur of the moment, and they accommodated me wonderfully. Whole exam and fitting took only about 45 min. Very professional and friendly and helpful. Especially for someone like me who is a total n00b at all this eye exam stuff and generally skittery around doctors. Highly recommended.

Anyway, as a soon-to-be new member of the eyeglasses wearing population, if any of you have any advice or suggestions, please let me know in the comments. I’m an eyeglasses newbie and need to learn stuff!

UPDATE 10.07.2016
Glasses came in the mail yesterday! Fast service! And so far I love them. So great to be able to see things clearly close up again.


-John “Pathfinder” Lester


Bone + Hat

Couldn’t find my hat the other day.

Olly was the thief, and he had other plans for it involving a bone.

Found him with it like this.

olly bone hat

A little bit about Olly

We have a new dog in our family. His name is Olly. Here’s a little bit about him.

He’s a rescue dog and was only a few weeks old when they found him in a cardboard box on the side of the road with 5 of his brothers and sisters. He was the runt of the litter and the only one with a stubby tail. Here’s how he looked when the rescue folks found him.

Scamp 02.jpg

He’s a bit more grown up now. Except for his tail. We think he’s a labrador/terrier mix.


He’s about 10¬†months old now¬†and is completely in love with¬†Samantha, our wiener dog.

sam and olly maine.jpg

When I work from home, he likes to sit next to me with Samantha.

Olly and Sam on floor.jpg

He likes to lie on his back and¬†“let it all hang out.”


He likes to look out the window and watch the world with his friend Samantha.

Sam and Olly watch snow.jpg

He likes to eat peanut butter in the jar.

Olly and Samantha.jpg

He likes to eat sticks.


He also likes to drag rocks across the yard with his paws. Sometimes he talks to the rock.

He likes garden hoses.

He likes to play in the yard with Samantha. Even though he is very strong, he is careful when playing with her and (mostly) pretty gentle.

He is fascinated by nature. Especially birds. Especially a dead crow he found in the snow.


He is also fascinated by things like full Kleenex boxes, which he likes to “disassemble” while the rest of the family is out of the house and¬†watching in horror¬†on a webcam.

Olly vs Kleenex box

He tries to help out with many things, like putting together a new couch.

Olly and the Couch

He likes to be carried around like Samantha. Even though he’s a little¬†too big for that.

Sam and Olly

That’s it for now. Bye¬†Olly and Samantha! ¬†We love you both very much.


sam and olly sleeping



Election Tracker ’16: Transforming Unstructured Data into Interactive Insights

I’d like to share this awesome public-facing example of the stuff I’m working on now.
Check out¬†Election Tracker ’16, ¬†a new website where you can¬†visually monitor, compare, and discover interesting facts about the 2016 US Presidential Election coverage from the world’s top 48 online news agencies.


I’m a¬†Product Manager for OpenText¬†InfoFusion, the software in Election Tracker ’16¬†that is collecting and processing all the news articles. ¬†After¬†it has collected everything, InfoFusion translates¬†the free text into specific topics,¬†entities and concepts as well performing a sentiment analysis on the unstructured data¬†using both¬†statistical and linguistic analysis. ¬†OpenText iHub software is then used for the data visualization and embedded analytics you see on the website.


election tracker 16 behind the scenes 1

Election Tracker is great example of the power of InfoFusion + iHub, but it’s only a single use case.

You could apply this system¬†to any huge collection of unstructured data that potentially holds valuable insights and knowledge. ¬†Once you modify and tune the content analytic system’s taxonomy and linguistic framework with details and language specific to¬†a¬†particular knowledge area (e.g., aerospace industry, neuroscience research, general business), you could then point it to your collection of unstructured data like research papers, medical reports, support tickets, lab notebooks, legal documents, email, twitter feeds, etc.

Some user stories off the top of my head: Market analysts who want to evaluate social media content to understand customer sentiment.  Legal analysts who need a quick understanding of context and sentiment in large volumes of legal briefs.  Pharmaceutical companies who want to be aware of potential breakthrough discoveries that are only apparent when the contents of all their research lab notebooks are conceptually organized and correlated.

More focused on healthcare, I could imagine healthcare organizations using this technology as a window into all those data that never make it into the structured format of a medical record.  One could look for insights into unreported drug interactions and outcomes by tracking particular medical procedures and medications and the sentiments around them as expressed in the large volume of unstructured notes attached to medical records.  And in academic healthcare, imagine using a system like this to get a big-picture view of research trends and patterns across large numbers of peer reviewed journals in a particular field.

Imagine the possibilities!

election tracker 16 behind the scenes 2


Take care,
– John Lester
Product Manager | OpenText | InfoFusion

A New Adventure: Working at OpenText


Last week I started a new adventure here in Montreal working as a Product Manager at OpenText.

OpenText’s focus is¬†helping¬†businesses¬†manage all their¬†Unstructured Data¬†with EIM (Enterprise Information Management)¬†software.¬†Unstructured Data (aka “Big Content”) accounts for¬†about¬†90% of the digital information in any organization, and as a civilization we’re getting better and better at generating vast amounts of it while lacking in our ability to manage and extract value from it.¬†Just think of all the email, transcripts, IM conversations, spreadsheets, reports, internal webpages and documents you typically deal with on a daily basis at work. It’s a sea¬†of data, and it’s¬†growing all the time. Enterprise is¬†drowning in it.

In addition to helping organizations manage and extract value from their Unstructured Data, a¬†powerful benefit¬†happens¬†when¬†OpenText’s EIM software integrates with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.¬†Organizations use ERP software to¬†manage all their¬†Structured Data (the 10% of data in organizations¬†that resides in databases). But their¬†Structured Data¬†is typically not connected¬†to all their¬†Unstructured Data.

This is when the real magic happens:¬†When Structured and Unstructured data¬†is all connected, an organization has¬†the benefit of “a single version of the truth” based on all the information¬†they possess. Information ultimately¬†becomes Knowledge that¬†can be put to the best possible use.

Finally, all this data is behind organizational firewalls and part of the Deep Web, which on a global scale is vastly larger than the Public Web. Figuring out how to manage and extract value from this combination of Structured and Unstructured data (especially while having to adhere to businesses requirements for compliance, access control and permissions) is much more challenging than working with data on the Public Web.

But that’s exactly what OpenText helps organizations accomplish.


The full scope of what OpenText is doing is impressively massive, involving many different software components that provide a wide range of benefits to the enterprise. My new role is Product Manager for OpenText InfoFusion, software that brings powerful search, content analytics, auto classification and semantic annotation to unstructured information and big content.

Basically, my piece of the puzzle is driving the strategy and vision for software that helps people Discover, Analyze and Act on enterprise information.

InfoFusion Platform THE ONE.JPG


What’s particularly¬†fascinating and exciting to me is that I’m helping build a future where organizations will be able to ask¬†really valuable analytical and predictive questions of huge collections of data. Questions like¬†“Why is this particular product a big success?” or “How effective is our¬†recruiting?” or “What new insights can I leverage right now from all our R&D?” And organizations will then¬†have the ability to immediately act on the valuable answers they receive, transforming insight into change.

This is just the¬†beginning of my¬†new adventure, and I have a great deal to learn. First of all, I need to become an expert at understanding all these tools, their specific benefits and our customers’ needs before I can make smart strategic decisions about the¬†future. But the cornerstone of my entire career has been helping people and digital information come together to create knowledge and learning opportunities. So I’m eager and ready.

I’m also very proud to be¬†a voice for the users, sitting at the intersection of people, technology and business. I get to work with¬†brilliant customers, software developers, business and marketing experts, and even computational linguists. To the Future, and Beyond!

-John Lester
Product Manager | OpenText | InfoFusion

P.S. You can also reach me at my new work email address: jlester AT opentext DOT com.


I love you Jasper

Jasper passed away yesterday.  This is the last picture I have of him just hours before he left.  He was 2 months away from his 16th birthday.

2015-11-22 13.18.38

I will always love you, Jasper.

Wiggle Planet in the News: “Petaluma startup‚Äôs educational app plays with reality”

Petaluma’s primary¬†newspaper, the Petaluma Argus Courier, just ran a great piece about Wiggle Planet.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality.

“Petaluma startup‚Äôs educational app plays with reality”

What if you could open a book and have the characters spring to life from the pages to play and interact with? It sounds like fantasy, but the creative minds at Petaluma-based Wiggle Planet, are making it reality ‚ÄĒ an ‚Äúaugmented reality‚ÄĚ that has the potential to disrupt the educational and entertainment industries.

Founded by Jeffrey Ventrella in 2012, Wiggle Planet has developed a software platform that allows for the creation of emotionally intelligent animated characters that can inhabit the world around us through geolocation-based augmented reality. Differing from virtual reality, augmented reality is a layer of the digital world on top of the real world. Augmented reality incorporates the real world as opposed to virtual reality that is designed to escape it.

It sounds complex, but for the average person it‚Äôs simple. The user downloads a Wiggle Planet app and through it is able to see and interact with a unique variety of animated characters called Wiglets that are ‚Äúartificially alive.‚ÄĚ Through the software they‚Äôve developed, the Wiglets incorporate artificial intelligence, virtual physics and genetic inheritance, which make them completely different from the characters in video games.

‚ÄúThey are dynamic characters that can be used in particular for storytelling,‚ÄĚ said John Lester, lead technology evangelist for Wiggle Planet. ‚ÄúThey are not pre-programmed or scripted agents. They are artificially alive. They have dynamic, evolving behaviors. And the best way to summarize it is this: it‚Äôs augmented reality plus artificial life as an overlay on the physical world.‚ÄĚ

Check out the full article for lots of great information!

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

Peck Peck, an animated character created by Wiggle Planet, stands outside the Petaluma Historical Library & Museum.

-John “Pathfinder” Lester
Lead Technology Evangelist, Wiggle Planet