As of October 27th, I have joined the fantastic team at ReactionGrid.
My new role is Director of Community Development.
Read on for some of my thoughts on where I’ve been, where I’m going, and what brought me to make this new career jump.
The Road Behind
I’ve been working with virtual worlds for about 20 years. Back in the 90’s, I worked with physicians and patients at Massachusetts General Hospital to develop patient support communities using web-based and 3d immersive spaces. And I helped create medical education environments for Harvard Medical School to advance the case-based teaching method.
The broad potential of virtual worlds to augment those qualities that make us most human has always buzzed in my brain, and this continues to be a running theme in my deepest interests.
By 2005, I was already using Second Life in some of my education research and patient support work. The possibility of future projects loomed on the horizon. But I had a choice to make.
Did I want to continue to develop my own specific projects, or did I want to try my hand at helping cultivate the broad growth of virtual worlds as a platform?
I chose the latter. In 2005, I joined Linden Lab. My focus for the next 5 years was to help cultivate the use of Second Life as a platform for education. I also worked on broader community development projects, focusing on the innovative intersections between different communities and how they all fit into a broader ecosystem of interests. Along the way, I also founded and helped grow Linden Lab’s Boston Office.
My tenure at Linden Lab ended in March of 2010. In the following months, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do next. For a while I completely disconnected from the online world, seeking to reset my perspective on life and the future.
But my mind continued to come back to virtual worlds. Their amazing potential to change the world. The vibrant communities of people pioneering their use. The possibilities of new tools and technologies. The sometimes spooky qualities of virtual worlds as places to foster deep collaboration.
I spent time exploring the broad space of virtual world development. I began to deeply investigate the work going on with Opensim and, in particular, Hypergrid connectivity. I also joined the wonderful jokaydiaGRID community, setting up my own region Pathlandia as my home-base. I began to explore jumping between Hypergrid-enabled worlds with my Hypergrid Adventurers Club.
That’s when I had an epiphany. It’s one thing to understand the theoretical potential of interconnected virtual worlds, but it’s another thing entirely to actually see it working. The possibilities of interconnections between virtual worlds exploded in my mind. And I realized I wanted to help cultivate those possibilities.
Now I just needed to find a place where I could help make that happen.
I explored various companies involved in virtual world development. Many folks are doing great work, but something about ReactionGrid really clicked with me.
ReactionGrid deeply understands the value of interconnections between virtual worlds. They have brilliant tools for people to set up and manage their own grids and virtual world presence. They deeply value customer support. They see themselves as part of a collaborative community of companies and organizations working to develop the future of virtual worlds. They are focused on education and business while simultaneously understanding the value of the arts and entertainment. They are developing completely new platforms like Unity3D-based Jibe to broaden access to virtual worlds. And they are even working on ways of connecting virtual platforms with the physical world (sensors, robotics, machinery) and the internet in general.
ReactionGrid is pioneering a lot of work with Opensim, but the company is much more than just an “Opensim Shop.”
And after personally meeting with the ReactionGrid team, I also realized they were scary-smart both in a technical and business sense.
This all made it very easy for me to decide on my next career jump.
The Road Ahead
As of October 27 20101, I’ve joined the ReactionGrid team as Director of Community Development. My broad focus will be on improving the use of ReactionGrid’s tools and service across all user groups, and helping cultivate the communities using those tools and services. I’ll be representing ReactionGrid at conferences and public events, as well as working closely to support all of our clients. There are many educators using ReactionGrid, so I’ll be spending a big chunk of my time working with those folks to learn about their specific needs and help them succeed.
To say that I am thrilled by all this would be a gross understatement. There’s an amazing future for virtual worlds, and I believe I’ve found the perfect place for me to help build that future.
Dreams made Real
I like to dream about the future of virtual worlds. Sometimes I even speculate into the far future around those dreams.
But I want to do more than just dream.
I want to work with people to make such dreams a reality.
So that’s exactly what I’m going to to next.
-John “Pathfinder” Lester