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Broviak, pictured above as alter ego Renoir, will teach attendees how to build a virtual plant in Second Life at the American Public Works Association's Congress and Exposition in New Orleans. Photo: Pam Broviak

Since its launch in 2003, more than 13 million people have visited www.secondlife.com. As the community grows, Broviak hopes more professionals will meet in the virtual world to share ideas—and as companies establish presences—to research and buy products. IBM, Toyota, Sony BMG, and AOL are among real-world businesses that have set up virtual shop, according to Second Life Developer Linden Research Inc.

A basic Second Life membership is free. Broviak suggests that those new to the virtual world attend one of Public Works Island's orientation events to minimize their learning curve.

“A virtual interface is such a paradigm shift that initially it's difficult to digest it all,” she says. “It took me about a month of exploring, and then I met someone who spent about 10 to 20 minutes with me in Second Life. That really helped me learn faster about the controls and culture.”

To help colleagues learn from her experience, Broviak will host a Virtual Public Works workshop this month at the American Public Works Association's Congress and Exposition in New Orleans.

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Pam Broviak is also co-publisher of Grid Works, formerly SLEngineer Magazine, an online magazine about engineering projects and tools in Second Life. For more information, visit the article links section.