Twestival: Twitter and Second Life Together Make A Difference

February 18th, 2009  |  Published in SL Entrepreneur Magazine, SLENTRE.COM Magazine Feature Articles  |  1 Comment

By Emmett Burnett

Five times a day, 15-year-old Jean-Bosco Shy walks a Rwandan jungle trail in search of water. Carrying a jug on his head and thirst in his soul, he reaches his destination; a pool of murky goo villagers call “drinking water.” Jean-Bosco is lucky because, in the next 24 hours, over four thousand youngsters will die from water or the lack thereof.

Some Second Life users want to help change that statistic and last February 12, they got a good start. On that date, avatars across the planet joined real life counterparts in over 100 countries. They united in a benefit-awareness called Second Life Twestival for charity: water. Simply put, In-World joined Real World to save the Third World.

Twitter and Second Life team up to benefit Water, a charity that helps provide clean water to needy children across the globe.

It started with a twitter – the communications program, that is. Over the past few months, thousands of Twitterites chatted up the plight of poorer countries needing fresh water. Soon the hub of world water woes focused on the non-profit group, charity: water – an organization dedicated to clean drinking water for millions needing it. One tweet lead to another and Twestival was born.

It was an ambitious plan – around the world tens of thousands of Twitter users in 185 cities would simultaneously share the power of social media and good works. Joining the 6 physical continents was a virtual one; Second Life’s Moderne Island.

The volunteers of Moderne Communications Inc, the island’s owner and SL Twestival designer, are no strangers to cyber bashes. Designing them is what they do for a living. With projects embedded throughout Second Life, they have the expertise to create the charity’s virtual venue.

Twestival stage set-up to host a live concert to kick-off the event.

(The Twestival stage set-up on Moderne Island hosted a live concert to kick-off the event.)

The Second Life show kicked off with a live concert at 4:30 SL time. Cyber developers like to say, “We came online and rolled out our product.” Twestival didn’t roll, it rocked. Hundreds cut the rug to live bands, strobe lights and a dedication to raise wet awareness. “I teach 11 to 16 year olds,” said concert guest Leisa Decuir of the UK. “This is a perfect way to show my students world issues in a media they understand. I would like to film this section and take it back to my classroom. The world has enough water resources; it’s just not distributed properly. This charity and work with Moderne seems like a wonderful platform to me.”

No man is an island, but SL Festival is. Moderne loaned the company island for the festival. “When I met Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, about a year ago, I was compelled to work with him and to support his mission of bringing clean water to millions,” said Moderne’s spokesperson, Leigh Rowan. “Moderne is honored to be hosting Twestival in Second Life and we can’t wait to unveil future support in Second Life for charity: water in the coming months.”

And the future is now. Unlike the physical festival charity event on February 10, Twestival in SL lives on even after the cyber bands packed away pixel instruments. Avatars can still participate in interactive worlds of walk-through simulations, real life scenarios, bubbling brooks and gurgling streams. Visitors may take walking tours of charity: water’s water-drilling, life-changing work. There are wishing wells along the way for dropping donations.

Like the February 10th gathering, visiting the island is free, but donations are appreciated – 100 percent go to the charity.

“One out of 6 people on earth does not have pure water,” said Rowan. “We joined with Twitter to bring Twestival online.” And no one said you couldn’t have some fun along the way.
“But this is more then a concert,” cautioned Moderne’s Nick Vitale (Knuw Kidd in SL). “The site is embedded with exhibits, information areas and interactive venues to raise awareness for the importance of clean water.” Of course this is Second Life, and Vitale concedes, “There’s also lots of fun stuff to do.” But a word of warning; this place is sneaky – if you’re not careful, you may learn something while having a good time.

Remember our hero, young Jean-Bosco Shy? Second Life Twestival allows visitors to join the youngsters’ desperate quest for H2O. His saga and photos are displayed in walk-by signs, each advancing triumphs and tragedies. Jean’s picture is pixelated, but he is not. This is a living person, whose journey was chronicled by real people, as he searched for the treasure of water.
Along the path are water wells accepting financial offerings from generous avatars. Vendor booths sell tee shirts, boots and other items with the Twestival logo.

In a written press release from Moderne Communications, charity: water’s Communications Manager, Nicky Yates, said “charity: water is in awe of how the group of Twestival volunteers have taken this event and then ran with it. We are excited to take part in our first global event.”

Three days after Festival live from around the world, the SL Island is quiet. Walking across the empty dance floor, one feels the presence of the rock concert held three days earlier. The site will be up and running for several more weeks – self guided tours are still available and wishing wells accept donations. The tone is different but just as poignant.
As I walk this island that recently hosted a global gathering, today’s silence is emphatic. Thirsty people almost pop off their displays. In the still and quiet, their predicaments are more pronounced: they speak directly to you.

Second Life Residents are asked to donate their Linden to Water at the Twestival Concert.

(Second Life Residents are asked to donate their Linden to Water at the Twestival Concert.)

At press time, donation amounts were still being tabulated from Twestival worldwide and the cyber-gig in Second Life. Hopefully, Twestival, charity: water, Moderne Communications, Second Life and others will make a difference. To access Twestival in SL, visit Moderne at . Twestival’s website is
Perhaps one day, young Jean-Bosco will look back at the days of dipping a pot in oozing liquid as only a memory as he drinks, bathes and cooks from crystal clear streams. The days of dangerous brooks will be water under the bridge.


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