Podcasts for Metaverse and XR

There is so much happening in the XR and Metaverse space, that it’s important to carefully select the right sources of information, to filter out all the buzz, save time, and still have a good awareness of what’s going on front and behind the scene. Here the podcasts part of my personal informative diet. In order of importance.

Building the Open Metaverse podcast logo

Building the Open Metaverse (RSS) is a podcast that invites a broad range of technical experts to share their insights on how the community is building the metaverse together.

I follow it because the hosts, Patrick Cozzi and Marc Petit, rarely focus on “the latest news”, but instead, they bring on stage people with a wide range of expertise and experiences, and there are always good-to-mind-blowing learnings in listening to what they’re doing on “the metaverse”, and how they’re contributing to its development. The cut of the podcast follows an open and collaborative philosopy, so it’s not uncommon to listen about standards, techy topics that are fundamental to understand the current challenges, cutting-edge explorations creators and companies are facing today, etc.

This week in XR podcast logo

This Week in XR Podcast is a pithy take on the week’s tech news, followed by interviews with industry guests. Hosted by Forbes Tech Columnist, Professor Charlie Fink, and Ted Schilowitz, Futurist at Paramount Global.

I listen to the podcast for a summary of the latest news in the space. They’re shared and commented every week with different guests, bringing their diverse points of view into the discussion. What I like about this podcast is that I’ve the perception to listen to a “watercooler discussion about everything about VR”, but run by very informed attendees.

Voices of VR podcats logo

Voices of VR: since 2014, Kent Bye has conducted over 1200 (impressive!!!) podcast interviews featuring the pioneering artists, storytellers, and technologists driving the resurgence of virtual & augmented reality.

The podcast archive offers a ton of content (and often audio contents are transcribed on the linked website), so there is also a page on the top 10 episodes to Get Started into VR. I highly recommend listening them, and not only to the beginners in this space. Plus, in episode 1000 transcription, there is a sort of index of different topics and how they’ve been discussed in various episodes.

Boz to the Future podcast logo

Boz to the Future is a podcast hosted by Meta CTO Andrew “Boz” Bosworth where he talks to technologists and leaders building the future of technology, entertainment, and beyond. Episodes will talk about the future Meta is building, Reality Labs, AR/VR/XR, and the metaverse

Despite being very focused on Meta’s vision for the metaverse, the guests explorer and analyze topics in a way that is not only related to Meta, but pertinent to the whole space. Of course, it’s important to consider the podcast is sponsored by Meta.

As stated at the beginning, this was not a comphensive list, and here some additional podcasts I haven’t the time to really explore / follow / have an impression on.

Happy listening!

Organizer a Slide Roulette for conference speakers

A Slide Roulette is, at its core, a way to challenge conference speakers on their public speaking and improvisation skills, adding a lot of fun. For them and for the audience. Let’s see how to organize one of them.

Slide Roulette basic structure

At it’s core, the Slide Roulette is an improvisation activity where two teams compete on a game structured as follow:

  • A team of two people goes on stage, ready to present a session, but with no knowledge of the session topic and slides.
  • The first speaker is decided.
  • The topic of the session is revealed to them, along with the first slide in the deck.
  • The first speaker has about 1 minute to talk about the proposed topic, “taking inspiration” from the slide in some way
  • Once the first speaker ends their presentation, the ball moves to the second speaker
  • A new slide is shown
  • The second speaker should continue to build on the topic, following the direction of the first speaker, and “taking inspiration” by the new slide
  • The exchange continues, and after 6 slides in total, the session ends.
  • Then, the other team goes on stage and does the same, with a new topic and a new deck.
  • Once both teams finish their performance, the audience can vote and the winner is decided by measuring the intensity of the applause.

This structure can be replicated following a pyramidal elimination structure. For example, four teams at the baseline, split into two groups. The winners of each group will compete, to become the final winner.

As per every improvisation game, rules should be read as guidelines. So, creativity and deviation from this format is more than welcome, in particular to better adapt to the specific conference context.

The following sections contain the reasons for these choices, but it’s really up to the Slide Roulette organizer to “fine tune” the activity.

Create the teams

This is where the conference organizers help is needed the most. It’s important to identify, together with them, a group of speakers that feel comfortable in being challenged and pushed slightly away from their comfort zone. This attitude is more important than having great public speaking skills.

Then, create teams of two speakers each. Having two people on the stage at the same time brings more energy, creates a variety that keeps the audience more engaged, and if a speaker get stuck, the other becomes their safety net.

8 speakers is a good compromise to cover 45/50 mins of time, considering the Slide Roulette introduction and the conclusion segments too. They will form 4 groups, and have 6 matches.

Speakers on stage
The Slide Roulette team at Codemotion Rome 2022

Define talk topics

Define talk topics choosing something that is related to the conference main themes, and in the speakers’ domain of expertise. Leaving some space for creativity.

Familiarity with the selected topics facilitates speakers in finding connections between what they’ll say and the slides, offering a common background that keeps the audience engaged. A topic that has some sort of conflict at its core, of it’s known for being a challenging situation, generally creates space for a lot of fun, and even some jokes.

Avoid too technical topics. For example, if a conference is about frontend development, I would go on something along the lines of “When the team disagrees with the frontend framework choice“, or “The migration of legacy code“, but I would avoid topics like “Management of error conditions in React“, or “How to organize your resources in Angular“. The risk is to “improvise” another conference session. But this is a Slide Roulette, right?

Alternatively, topics can refer to the working life of the speaker/audience. Still with a tech conference in mind, some examples could be like “How to be successful during your job interview”, “Hiring a great candidate for your team“, “Manage conflicts between client needs and product priorities“, “The first stand-up meeting of a newly formed team“, etc.

Build the slide decks

In theory, every kind of image can be used to build a deck. There are services that return random images, they can all be around the same topic, or a mix of everything. Some useful suggestions to choose the images:

  • Avoid text in slides, because it consumes time to be read, and tends to distract the speaker.
  • Avoid slides that are related to the topics, as they could bring “back to reality” the discussion. For example, if the topic is “How to coordinate a successful customer meeting”, avoid slides with people in a meeting room and similar.
  • Put a generic “inspirational” slide at the end of the deck, so it’s easier for the last speaker to wrap-up and close with a final message.

Counting 1 minute per slide allows the speaker to build a micro-story for each slide, without forcing into too many (potentially boring) details. Considering two speakers per team, giving to each one 3 opportunities seems fair enough, for a total of 6 slides.

The role of the presenter in a Slide Roulette

As for every show, the presenter is the person introducing the activity, the people, and keeping the rhythm of the show. Two additional important roles of the presenter are to keep the audience energized between the talks (it could happen that not all of them are an explosion of fun), and to help a speaker when is stuck, moving to the next slide and passing the ball to the other speaker.

The presenter can also be the judge in measuring audience level of applause, or delegate the task to a jury, generally composed by the conference organizers. And to take a selfie at the end of the activity!

Selfie of conference speakers
A great selfie, taken during the Slide Roulette at Codemotion Milan in 2019

Warming up the speakers

Hidden from the audience, but crucially important, is to spend some time (60 to no less that 30 mins) in warming up the speakers with some games. This is a common practice of improvisation, and every sport in general. There are millions of games that could be played to activate the positive and lateral-thinking mind, and to foster connection and collaboration among speakers, so it will be more natural for them to support each other while on stage. Here there are some good ones to use, especially from the “Yes And Exercises” section.

Have fun with Slide Roulette. If you have suggestions to improve the format, please let me know.

Android notifications in GNOME Linux with GSConnect

MacOS’s Continuity show the possible level of integration between an iPhone and a Mac computer when a single company controls the OS stack of both devices. Sync notifications, make and pick-up phone calls from the desktop, file sharing, etc. Less powerful, but on the same line, the Android – ChromeOS integration offered by Google.

I’ve always missed something similar to show my Android phone notifications on my Linux desktop, without using questionable cloud services (in terms of privacy). But today I almost completely filled the gap, thanks to KDE Connect.

KDE Connect allows devices to securely share content like notifications or files and other features like SMS messaging, clipboard sync and remote control. The complete list of features supported by KDE Connect is impressive:

  • Receive phone notifications on the desktop computer and reply to messages
  • Control music playing on the desktop from the phone
  • Use the phone as a remote control for the desktop
  • Run predefined commands on the desktop PC from connected devices
  • Check the phone’s battery level from the desktop
  • Ring the phone to help find it
  • Share files and links between devices
  • Browse the phone from the desktop
  • Control the desktop’s volume using the phone
  • Send SMS from the desktop

And there are two additional good news: everything runs locally on the Linux desktop computer (no cloud needed), and there is a porting for GNOME, called GSConnect. It uses GNOME Shell with Nautilus, Chrome and Firefox integration.

KDE Connect wiki has detailed instructions on how to install and configure the software. Below, I’ll report what I did to install and configure GSConnect on my Linux box with Ubuntu 20.04.

GSConnect installation

Despite being available as gnome-shell-extension-gsconnect package since Focal (20.04), it seems the recommended way to install GSConnect is via a GNOME Shell extension. So, I opened the relative GNOME Shell Extensions website on my Linux desktop computer, and agreed in installing the extension.

Alternatively, there is a manual installation procedure, consisting in download the latest release of the Extension from GitHub, and then installing it using the following command:

gnome-extensions install --force gsconnect@andyholmes.github.io.zip

A restart of GNOME Shell is required, and there are different ways of doing it, based on Wayland or X11/Xorg (how to know the server in use).

Android installation

In parallel, the app KDE Connect needs to be installed from Google Play or F-Droid.

Then, the setup can continue following the standard instructions, both on Android phone, and on the desktop computer. In a couple of minutes, the mobile device should be paired with the desktop.

The GSConnect extension menu, after paired with the mobile device

Several app features will work only after granting the respective Android App Permissions to KDE Connect. The app shows a list of those that are disabled, and tapping on one of them opens the corresponding system setting, where the permission can be given.

For example, to share notifications with the desktop computer, open the app, tap on the “Notification sync”, and then tap again to open the corresponding system setting for granting the permission.

To enable integration with Nautilus, in order to send files from the desktop computer to the mobile device, the python-nautilus package has to be installed:

sudo apt install python-nautilus
Easily send files from desktop to the configured destination folder on the mobile device

In case of problems, the Help section of the wiki contains troubleshooting instructions to follow.

Conclusions

GSConnect desktop app, and the KDE Connect mobile app, offer a long list of feature that will require some time to be explored and mastered. But they almost allow to forget to have a mobile phone while using a desktop computer.

As a final note, there are early releases of KDE Connect for Windows and MacOS.

Build your Community Strategic Plan

Manage a community is a complex activity, multitasking and multidisciplinary. A clear understand of what to do, and when to do it, is fundamental to have success, and avoid community burnout.

I presented one of my preferred tools to create a connection that starts with community goals, reaches strategy to realize it, and ends with day-to-day activity planning: the Community Strategic Plan.

(Italian Community Managers Lab #2, May 2021)

Leadership Lessons From A Team of Community Builders

Good managers are made, not born. It makes no difference for a team of community builders, with added complexities such as remote working, high burnout risk, unclear career path. I’ll share my story covering topics about hiring, set a vision, metrics, remote management, work-life harmony, etc.

Here my story covering topics about hiring, set a vision, metrics, remote management, work-life harmony, etc.

(CMX Spark EMEA, April 2021 – Slides)

The founding elements of every community

As a community manager, you always need to keep in mind the core elements of your community, and the business value your community brings to the company.

I presented two frameworks to identify and describe them: The 7P’s of community, and the SPACES model. To the road for an Indispensable Community.

(Italian Community Managers Lab #1, March 2021)