A Report from the First Day of the BlockDown 2020 Conference

As I wrote about earlier (here), the BlockDown 2020 blockchain/cryptocurrency virtual conference is taking place April 16th and 17th, 2020 on a special-purpose, white-label platform operated by Sinespace.

I got an email yesterday evening inviting me to download a special version of the BlockDown client software, visit the BlockDown Lobby area, and customize my avatar. (Note that this is a separate client from the regular Sinespace client, and you must have purchased a ticket to the conference to be able to attend.)

So I decided to pay a visit before the conference started at 9:00 a.m. CET (2:00 a.m. my local time here in Winnipeg). The BlockDown Lobby area is futuristic, spacious, and attractive, with plenty of space for avatars to mix and mingle:

However, there is no getting around the fact that there is still an overwhelming amount of information presented for newbies to process and digest, both in the PDF guide attached to that invitation email, and on in-world bulletin boards in the lobby!

There was always going to be a learning curve associated with holding a conference in a virtual world, but I really think this could have been drastically simplified. After all, these are crypto people first and foremost, who might not be all that interested in the finer details of avatar customization, attachment repositioning, and shopping for new duds to stand out from the crowd.

To make things a bit easier for those brand new to virtual worlds, there are eight starter avatar models at the landing point, which you just click on to grab a predetermined avatar look (four male and four female, including a couple of astronaut suits):

Me, I immediately hit the Shop button and spent some of my starter 30,000 “Blocks” currency to make myself look a little different from all the cookie-cutter avatars around me! (I also fattened myself up a bit to match the real-life me. Sinespace is still among the very few virtual worlds where I can actually adjust the body sliders to be overweight! Hey, it’s my reality, I may as well embrace it.)

New eyes, new skin, new hair, new jacket, a little extra avoirdupois…much better!

A couple of Sinespace employees were present to help out the newbies, whom I chatted with for a bit:

So, all set up for the conference, I set my alarm for 1:45 a.m. and went to bed. I landed up getting up once in the middle of the night for about half an hour, then going back to bed, and then finally waking up again this morning at 5:30 a.m. to revisit the conference.

There is a small trade show floor, rather sparsely attended when I visited, with virtual booths (some manned by avatar sales reps):

I was slightly disappointed when I realized that most, if not all, of the featured speakers were not going to be represented by in-world avatars, but by video screens in the conference auditorium:

To be honest, I really came more for the novelty of attending a white-label version of Sinespace, designed specifically for an event. I simply wanted to see what would be the same as regular Sinespace, and what would be different. My interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies only extends as far as blockchain-based virtual worlds, so most of the presentation topics have not been not that applicable to me.

As I predicted, almost all the other avatars I encountered were one of the eight basic models provided in the lobby, with absolutely zero modifications. Were it not for the name tags over everybody else’s heads, I would have had a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between people!

The BlockDown 2020 conference runs all day today and tomorrow; here is the complete conference agenda. Tickets cost £20.00 and can be bought through their website.

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