By now, two years into the pandemic, we're all well acquainted (and probably a little exhausted) with online video meeting platforms like Zoom. Everyone is a square face on a flat screen, in the same room. (Okay, maybe there's the occasional breakout room.) It's a far cry from the sense of place, space, and connection you get from being in person with others.
Enter: proximity chat. Proximity chat platforms graft video teleconferencing software onto a virtual world environment, so users can “walk” around and interact with people and objects in that environment. It's like Legend of Zelda meets, well, Zoom.
It's early for proximity chat, but there's so much potential to use it to create really special community experiences. And we're going to explore that potential today with Brooke Daily, the community manager at Topia.io, a browser-based proximity chat platform that's creating exciting opportunities for connection and play.
As you'll hear, there's a ton of opportunity to create some really special experiences with proximity chat, whether it's bridging the online and offline world through hybrid events, or creating persistent spaces like memorials that anyone can visit anytime.
You might never see Jillian's and Tony's wheels turning like they do in this episode. Check it out.
Brooke Daily is a community builder who stewards culture, relationship, and belonging inside and across diverse organizations. Having dedicated the last five years to building in-person, online, and hybrid communities with thousands of members, she cultivates the conditions for connection that enable us to work toward a shared purpose. She currently works out of the San Francisco Bay Area as the Community Manager for Topia, a browser-based metaverse platform for authentic connection and play. In her free time, Brooke enjoys listening to jazz music, reading science fiction novels, and hanging out with her bearded dragon, Drago.
In This Episode:
- How experiences in church and musical theater led Brooke to community work
- Designing active, participatory virtual experiences
- Interactive phone-tree parties
- What a browser-based, highly imaginative metaverse is (and why you should give it a spin)
- How place and environment creates authentic connection
- What exactly Topia does—with examples from Burning Man!
- Melding digital environments and in-person events (when those happen more often again)
- Taking local communities global
- How Tony used Topia for his latest “pandemic birthday”
- Etiquitte tips for virtual worlds, and how to moderate them
- Building a deep network of community leaders on Topia
- Some of the many amazing things that are possible in Topia
- Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown [Amazon affiliate link]
- Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown [Amazon affiliate link]
The CX 026: Creating Virtual Worlds to Hang Out In with Brooke Daily of Topia.io
Tony Bacigalupo: So imagine you've got this cute little cartoon avatar and you're walking around in this hand-drawn landscape on your computer, and you run into another little hand-drawn avatar and it turns out there's a person there and you can video chat with them and other people can go, walk around and talk to each other, interact with this really lovely little landscape, this virtual landscape that you can walk around in. That's what it's like to visit a space created in Topia.io, which is one of a growing number of proximity chat spaces that have become very popular during the pandemic.
Our guest today, Brooke Daily is going to tell us a little bit about how Topia works and why something like this might be of interest to you. So let's get into it in this conversation with Brooke Daily of Topia.io on the Community Experience.
Hey, what's uppity, suppity? Tony Bacigalupo here, and I've got Jillian B. with me as well.
Jillian Benbow: Hello. What's suppity, suppity?
Tony: So suppity, suppity. Jill, what do you know about proximity chat?
Jillian: Not a lot. When you say that, I think people who stand too close to you, like close talkers. And my defenses go up.
Tony: Am I standing too close to you? No, yeah.
Jillian: Don't stand so close to me. Thank you. Yeah. No, this is where I feel super old and I'm like, "Oh, it's an Internet thing." It's like when people start talking about the metaverse Bitcoin. It's like, what?
Tony: Yep. So proximity chat space is a little bit different from, let's say a Zoom meeting because in a Zoom meeting everyone's just square faces on a flat screen where everyone's all in the same room. Maybe you have breakout rooms, but that's kind of how it is. With a proximity chat space. You have environment that you have a character that can walk around in, in some form. And so that allows you to interact with different things that might be in that space. And it allows you to interact with different people.
So there's this allegory to real life where if I walk up to somebody, then when I'm close to them I can talk to them. And if I walk away, then I'm no longer talking to them, which you really can't do in a typical video meeting. And so there's a little bit more of a sense of, we are people who are traversing a space together.
And so people are using proximity chat platforms for events, for conferences.
Jillian: Yeah. I mean, it makes sense. Well, and I realize I've experienced this and we'll talk about that, but I have actually participated in one of these. I guess I just didn't realize that's what it was called. It does have a Zelda vibe to it. I agree.
And from a community standpoint, from the community builder lens, as we know, there's Zoom fatigue, we're all kind of just sick of always engaging in the same ways. However, that is. So having the type of platform where you don't need to know how to code my favorite kind and being able to just use your creativity and imagination to whip up this world, that your community can engage in, I mean, sky's the limit. I'm frankly overwhelmed that there's so much possibility. It's like, where do you start?
Tony: So, yeah, Brooke is great. We're going to get into, obviously, not just proximity chat, but some of the implications that proximity chat brings up and some good old-fashioned community building best practices. So what do you say, Jill? Shall we get into the conversation?
Jillian: Tally-ho, let's do it.
Tony: Tally-ho, off we go.
Hey, it's Tony from the Community Experience podcast here. I've got Jillian B. with me as always. We've got Brooke Daley here. Brooke, welcome.
Brooke Daily: Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Tony: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your background? How did you end up where you are today? Give us your life story, but a short version.
Brooke: Sounds good. Yeah. I grew up always around community, community was a really big part of my life from the time I was really young. I was really deeply involved in the church as well as musical theater, which are two communities that are very, very deeply integrated in my life. So that's really where I started to learn about community.
And then as I moved into my professional career, I realized that community was kind of at the heart of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So I have a background in event production and experience design, as well as community building and leadership for the past five years.
Tony: Very cool. I love it. In terms of Topia, tell me a little bit about that, how you first heard about it, how you ended up working with those fine folks.
Brooke: Yeah. Absolutely. So prior to the pandemic, I was mostly focused on in-person events and community building. It was my full-time career. And then when we all went into quarantine and lockdown, I had to pivot very suddenly. And so I got together with some friends of mine and colleagues and we started an organization called Liminalia. We actually ended up working alongside Topia to build out immersive events. We really focused on immersive art events digitally. That's really where I got into the digital event production side of things. And then through that, met the Topia team and started consulting with them about a year ago, which now is me being full-time community manager with them.
Tony: What was your experience like, I guess, as a non-employee working in that space? What did you find was working well? I know we were all kind of in an uphill battle with community building during COVID time. So what worked for you?
Brooke: Yeah. When we started doing event production, we were really asking the question, digital event production, that is, we were really asking the question, what helps people be embodied? What helps people meaningfully participate in digital environments? So much of our digital experience is focused on consumption. And it was really important to us at that time that we didn't have an event that was just passive, but that was calling people into action and being truly participatory. So we tried some of the Zoom things. We did a variety of different Zoom parties, and then we realized that that was really difficult for us. It wasn't really working out the loudest voice in the room, kind of dominated the conversation. And it was really difficult to have more emergent and conversations and agency part.
So then we actually tried to do a phone tree party one time, which was really interesting. So we were like, "Oh, well, we can't meet in-person. So let's try doing it with a phone tree." So we created an entire phone tree immersive party system where you would call in and get led through these phone tree tunnels to find the prizes and things like that, which was really fun and silly. But then we realized that spatial environments like Topia was really the most real life that we could find, because it gave us a sense of spatial context. It helped us understand where were in relationship to other participants, and it gave us the agency to be able to say, hey, I'm not really vibing with this conversation right now, so I'm going to go over here and see what else I can find.
Tony: So first of all, lots of follow-up questions. The phone trees, how did you do those? That sounds really fun.
Brooke: Yeah. So we put together a phone tree system and had participants call in and we had a voice actress come on our team and help us to immerse people in this world. The whole premise of the party was that you called in and the voice actress led you through a series of prompts that helped you find the immersive experiences in the phone tree.
And so sometimes you would go down the phone tree and you'd get a recording that would tell you to text a number. And then that number would text you a secret code to get on a website. So it was like you're chasing this game, but then sometimes you would call into the phone tree and you would get a live person on the other end who was playing, a fortune teller, or who was walking you through an embodied experience. So there were a couple of different ways that we used it.
Jillian: That's amazing.
Tony: That's awesome.
Brooke: It was really fun.
Jillian: What was, like if I was participating as the goal to get to the end, like solve the puzzle kind of thing?
Brooke: Yeah. So the goal of the party was really to find all of the different experiences and kind of see what this world was that we were crafting. We had a whole narrative arc that was associated with it. So kind of like Meow Wolf ask. Yeah, the goal was to follow the narrative and see, okay, what actually happens in this particular narrative arc and what's going to happen. Maybe I can guess what happens next time.
Jillian: It's like a very advanced modern version of the scavenger hunts that my parents used to do in the eighties, they would be in cars and driving all around, looking for clues and solving puzzles, but all from the phone. That's really cool.
Brooke: Yeah. There was a time where we really wanted to do the ARG type, like going through the forest to try and find all of the points. We thought about that, but then it was the pandemic and we were like, "Maybe we should just stick to digital stuff."
Tony: Oh gosh, more I want to ask, but let's get into Topia because there's just so much I want to get to there. I don't remember how I first heard about Topia, but I've been kind of a nerd for trying every platform out there, even though what I tell other fellow community builders is don't rely on the platform to do the community stuff for you, you still have to facilitate in order for a good community to happen. But I have been curious, especially with the terrible constraints of the pandemic, how can new bits of technology make our jobs easier? Can you tell me a little bit about, I guess just the theory of Topia and what they're looking to achieve that might be difficult to achieve otherwise?
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. So Topia is a browser-based metaverse type platform. We really focus on trying to create experiences, or empowering people to create their own experiences on our platform that enable really authentic connection and playful experiences. So our whole goal is to really inspire that authentic connection as well as empower creators to create anything that their minds could possibly conceive of. Yeah. We're hyper customizable and equally prioritize creation and connection, which actually in many ways go hand in hand.
Tony: You have people who are using it to create these kind of virtual spaces. You have a lot of creative ability around creating those environments. There's some templates you can use that you can start with. You can upload your own assets, so I can create my own things that I can place in the space. And then people come into it and use it, walk around and look at what you're doing and participate in some of the things. You've got some really cool folks that have been working with you on this. You worked with Burning Man?
Brooke: Yeah, we did. So the last two years, we've hosted Build-A-Burn, which was one of the six virtual world for the official virtual Burning Man. That was just such a joy. We had this year over 40 different collaborators who built worlds and camps. We had a whole section of immersive experiences and all sorts of DJs and artists coming in to play and work alongside us.
The first year that we did Build-A-Burn was actually really what kicked off our community. It was really the kind of Nexus event that helped us to truly activate our own internal community. There are people who met each other at our virtual burn for the first time and are now building businesses together, and they're lifelong friends and they're traveling across the country to meet each other in-person. It's amazing.
Jillian: I just love how beautiful it is. The sky's the limit.
Brooke: Yeah. Topia is definitely a place where anything is possible. It's like, how far can your imagination go? Topia can do that.
Tony: Well, and I feel like with so much sterility in the digital environments, even in Zoom, especially where the priority is functionality, I just feel like it being immersed in a beautiful landscape goes a long way. It gives me a feeling of peace and exploration and joy that maybe really is refreshing during a pandemic, especially.
Brooke: Yeah. I think it's also really central. Our sense of space and place in an environment is really central to our ability to create meaning, and to be able to connect with others. And so the spatial environments really enable us to have an understanding of where we are in context to others. That allows us to create a sense of meaning and place in that space.
Tony: That's so cool. So tell me a little bit about, kind of painting the picture for someone who's maybe never been inside of a Topia space. You mentioned you had DJs, for example, how do you have DJs? How do you have these different experiences? I get the idea. I have a little avatar, the avatar can walk around a space, but how do I have these different kinds of interactions?
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. So our main feature for connection is the spatial audio and video chat. What that means is that your avatar, as it's walking around in our world will come into contact with other avatars. And when your avatars get close enough, your video and audio feeds will actually sync together and you'll be able to see and hear each other. And then as you walk away, their video and audio feed will slowly start to disappear. So that kind of creates this sense of serendipitous connection. You can meet new people and run into old friends in the environment.
In addition to that, we have a whole feature set that allows you to create more immersive experiences. So you mentioned earlier we have these uploadable assets, as well as our own Topia library assets that you can place in your world. Each one of those assets can become a clickable asset as well. So you can click on it and it can populate an IFrame that has a link in it that allows you to go to a different website or play a game online, or something like that.
We also have in embeddable media. So audio and video can be embedded into an asset and populate either as a video in the top corner of your screen, or as an audio track that's kind of ambient around the environment. So those are a couple of different features that we have. We've also got a whole host of other features. I won't go through the whole list, but really focusing on how can we create these tools and features that allow for that immersion to be present.
Tony: So for example, a participant in one of these programs, like a DJ, just for example, could be in control of a certain component that is present in a certain corner of the space. So there's some sense that while I'm going around and exploring the space, that I might go find this area and there's a person there and they have some tools at their disposal.
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. So we integrate with Twitch streams, you can place a Twitch stream directly into an environment. So that's how we did the DJs at Burning Man, was we had our own Twitch stream where the DJs would come on and play, and they would play live in-world as well. So that's one feature that we have. You can also upload your own video files. So if you want to sit in a Topia world and watch a movie with your friends, you can do that.
Tony: So there's the sense that, for example, in a Twitch stream I could just go to that person's page and watch their Twitch stream and interact with other people in the chat. But by wrapping it in this environment, I can go around and sample different people's Twitch streams and see who else is walking around, trying different Twitch streams and see who's there, do video chat with those people in real time. So it gives you a bit of a lobby layer to your social interactions on the Internet, where if I was normally watching a Twitch stream, if I click out of that Twitch stream, I'm now invisible, and everybody else until I show up somewhere else, right?
Tony: So, yeah. Got it. Very cool.
Brooke: You can also see others. So you can dance together on your video screens, and there's an exchange of energy that happens that you can't necessarily get via text.
Jillian: There's such a use case for this with communities that are kind of passion-driven, if you will. I could see so many community builders out there who are trying to build a unique community, especially art, obviously any sort of artistic creatives out there. My people come check this out. I'm just enamored by the possibilities of creating a really unique community experience through a platform like this. You don't need to have the coding skills that you needed in prior, not that long ago frankly, to create something just so special. I love how Topia works with artists to provide the art in many ways. I mean, you've got, your pricing tiers are so reasonable. There's free, and then nine bucks a month for a community level. That's amazing.
Brooke: Yeah. We want it to be really accessible. We also really want to help artists feel really empowered to create real value from their art and to have people see that value. So we also have a creator marketplace where you as a graphic designer or an illustrator can upload your own assets and sell them to other users.
Jillian: I just love it. I love that it's just a beautiful blend of community and the creator market. I mean, it'd be a good place to go check out some of the public ones. What would you recommend one of the public communities for people to just go see what's possible?
Brooke: Yeah. So my recommendation, if you want to jump into a Topia world and see what's possible is actually to visit our welcome lobby, which has a whole bunch of different art styles and different use cases present there. So you can see everything from a co-working office to an educational world, to a conference world, and you can see different little examples of what that might look like. So that would be the place to start. And then you can also just explore our discover worlds page and see what's there, there's a whole of bunch public worlds.
Jillian: They're so many.
Tony: Good stuff. So where are you headed? Where do you see Topia going from here?
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. I think what's really special about these kinds of digital environments is it can take us from local community building to global community building. And so that is really the exciting part for me. Also, I think with platforms like this, there's an immense amount of room and space to step into emergent leadership. So anyone can come into the platform and create their own community within it. And so what I would really love to see, and where I'm pointing my energy as a community manager is starting to really empower that sense of emergent leadership within our community, so that local and global communities can have their own groups and own communities on our platform.
I think when we're talking about the relationship between, as we open back up and what that looks like, and these digital environments that now exist, I don't think digital environments are going to be able to replace the experiences that we have in person. Our goal at Topia is not to replace the experiences that we have in-person, but rather to just help amplify the connections that have been created over the course of the pandemic and to strengthen the connections that do exist in our local communities already. So that's where I see it going. I think it's going to play off of real life and we're going to see hybrid events in the future.
In fact, we already did a hybrid event at the most recent Product Hunt event in San Francisco, where we had a little table where you could stream into a Topia world and see a global community for Product Hunt, but you could also be in real life in that environment talking to others and conversing. We had a projector screen where you could see the Topia world and who was moving around in it. So I think we're going to see more and more of these hybrid type digital and in-person events.
Jillian: This whole metaverse thing, I feel old. I always was so judgey about people older than me. I'm like, "Why did they just stop with technology?" And now that this is happening, I'm like, "I don't know about these kids. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it like, NFTs are hard enough. And now there's this virtual worlds, but there really is some beautiful possibilities to bridge how we've experienced the world so far.
I think the opportunity to have it be hybrid is really interesting. I think it's going to touch a lot of people in a really positive way. I know, to out Tony completely, Tony has a Topia and I've experienced it. I didn't realize until we were on this call, I was like, "Oh, that's what we were doing." So Tony, tell us what you did.
Tony: Okay. So real quick, my birthday's at the end of March, so I'm two pandemic birthdays in now. As a community designer, I saw the constraints of the pandemic as a invitation to experiment. I said, "How do I create a meaningful connection between my friends and have a fun birthday when we can't hang out together?"
And so I gave everybody basically a little creative art project. I sent them a little kind of challenge coin thing that had an illustration of a little character of mine that I created. I challenged people to plant that coin somewhere where people can find it and then record a video of themselves in that spot where they planted the thing. And then I created a Topia where people could walk around and watch each person's video. So you could see this kind of gallery of videos of all of the friends of mine. And so now I have also a gallery of videos of all my friends doing these fun things all around. And if you can come by at this time, there will be other people hanging out and we can all kind of chat together. But what's nice is that it's always there and maybe I could recycle it for my next birthday or use it as a gathering place for any other activity that I might want.
Jillian: It was so much fun.
Tony: Jill. Yeah, you were one of the recipients of my coin and ...
Jillian: I was. I feel like we hadn't been working together for a super long time. So you put out the invitation if people wanted to participate, and I was like, "Yeah, that sounds cool." I remember I got snail mail and it was just beautiful. It was so well done. There was a note, Tony's not selling it the way I would. He has this illustration named Sinclair. And hello, I am Sinclair. It's the cutest little monster guy. As Tony knows, I'm obsessed with this little teefs. He has these cute little fangs. And Inktober, he has his own Instagram. Yeah. There's the coin. Only we can see it. We'll have to put it on Twitter, Tony, but it's just at.
Brooke: So adorable.
Jillian: Or you can just go to Instagram. It's @helloiamsinclair. It's so cute. But it was just so fun. And then uploading the video and seeing the whole little world that was created.
I mean, as far as a pandemic birthday goes, it was just five stars all around.
Brooke: Yeah. That's kind of a great example too, of how you can bridge the embodied physical world with these digital experiences, sending your friends on an adventure and then asking them to come together in a virtual world and exchange stories. That's powerful. That creates a real connection and sense of meaning between people. I love it. I want one of those coins now.
Tony: Send me your address. Well, Jill mentioned snow. We had people there who were all over the place. So we had somebody who put the coin somewhere on a beach, and so you see a little bit about their physical world and their families, and what's a favorite spot, what's special. So now I have lots of places that I'm excited to visit.
Brooke: Yeah. That reminds me of, one of the first times I heard about Topia as a use case was actually as a friend's memorial space. So they created an entire Topia world as a memorial space for a friend that is persistent. You can go back to that world at any time and visit that container again, which I think is just incredibly powerful. These persistent spaces that anyone in the world, you can't mimic that in real life, that is wholly unique to digital environments. Anyone in the world can come and visit this memorial space now. So there's some really, really powerful stuff, I think that can be done in these spaces, new ways of connecting that we just didn't have access to before.
Jillian: What an amazing idea, a memorial space. I mean, it's obviously sad in many ways, but as far as capturing people's memories and even photos and things of that person and celebrating them, that's powerful.
Brooke: Yeah. I mean, I do think that Topia and these types of spatial real time interactive platforms have the potential to not necessarily replace, like I said earlier, what our physical in-person events look like, but amplify them and amplify our connections. There are people on our platform who have had these incredibly deep and intimate connections with others, where they come from different points of views, different world views and they're able to have really meaningful conversations because they can see the whites of each other's eyes, because they can see the micro expressions, because they have agency to walk away at any point from the conversation. They're not stuck in it.
As a result, we have people who come from totally different worldviews, totally different backgrounds, opposite ends of the political spectrum, having these really generative conversations on our platform. One of our users said to us the other day that they had a really difficult conversation with a person who thinks very differently than them, but they were able to come to a place of alignment. He was like, "That kind of conversation wouldn't have happened on Facebook."
Tony: Well put. In terms of those interactions, the idea that you can walk away, that's obviously important. Do you have any maybe etiquette tips if somebody joins their first spatial chat space for the first time after listening to this or if they create one and want to let other people know what to expect?
Brooke: Yeah. I think that there's a couple of things that are core philosophies of mind when engaging in these particular containers. One is that, remember that you have agency. You don't have to be stuck in a conversation. You can walk away from any conversation at any point you want to. And because of that, I would encourage you to be a little brave, try to say hi to new people, try and walk up to someone that you don't know and say hi and see what happens. See what that connection ends up looking like.
Also, just be incredibly curious. Click on things, see what's going on, do walks around, ask lots of questions. These faces are really meant to help for us to truly envision and imagine into the worlds that we want to create and that we want to live in. And so when you're going into these containers, try to stay curious, think about what do you want to create, what world do you want to live in. Because you can do that here.
Tony: Amazing. I love that. I love just stepping into the possibility space of that. Actually in terms of moderation, I'm curious about how y'all handle that, because in a Zoom meeting I see everybody, I can manage that. If it's at forum, I can see all the comments coming through. If I'm in a spatial chat space where there's lots of conversations happening in different places all the time, I really can't know everything that's going on. So how do I strike the balance if I'm trying to create a safe environment for folks?
Brooke: Well, as a world owner or an admin of a world, depending on the permissioning that you have set up for yourself, you can ban and kick members from your world. We also have a report feature. So if you're having a conversation with someone who is doing something that isn't aligned with our code of conduct and our community guidelines, or your community guidelines, you can actually block them right on the app and they won't be able to see you. They won't be able to hear you. They won't be able to message you anymore. And so those are a couple of features.
Then as the world owner, you can also get notifications when members get blocked in your world. So you'll be able to kind of see. It's like, the community kind of helps you to do the moderation by blocking and things like that. And then you as the world owner can also ban and remove participants and get notifications for those blocks.
Jillian: That's great. All the community managers who are thinking about possibly building a world are like, "Perfect."
Jillian: What does your day-to-day look like? Because you're a community manager for basically a community platform, for lack of a better word, not world. So are you working with world owners? What kind of stuff are you doing day-to-day? I'm curious.
Brooke: Yeah. I mean, we're a small team, so I'm also doing a whole bunch of other things right now that wouldn't typically fall in the category of community manager, but I host recurring events for our community. So every week we host a Topia Town Hall, where we invite all of our users to come and give us feedback, talk with us about new features. We demo things for them. We give them updates on the coolest events that are happening. We also have a weekly community happy hour where our community comes together and does that.
We have a persistent coworking space for our community so they can come and co-work alongside the Topia team during the daytime. And a lot of my role is facilitating, kind of being the bridge between the Topia team and the community, and making sure that our community stays a stakeholder in the decisions for our product development. I act as a steward of that, to the Topia team and vice versa. I help communicate where we're going with feature updates, what our priorities are, what our goals are, what the most exciting things are that are happening inside of Topia to the community.
Jillian: I love it. Yeah. I feel you with, you get to kind of be the the middle person where you're the voice of the community to leadership, but then you're also the voice of leadership to the community. And you have to kind of navigate, not saying it's bad, but sometimes there are things that happen, but it's a big thing to ... I always joke about community managers, like our role, we're sales, we're PR, we're conflict resolution, we're HR, we do it all. That's a great example of public relations. Customer experience all of it.
Brooke: Yeah. I'm hoping that the future of what community looks like at Topia, I'm really hoping to start building a more intricate, more deep network of community leaders that are deeply involved in our community. Because I think that this type of community management on the Internet is brand-new. This is so new, we still are learning so much about how to build authentic connection, how to build community in these spaces. I work for Topia, but I don't know it all.
I think as community leaders, as community builders and community managers, there's a ton of skillsharing that I think we can do to help each other be better about building community in these spaces. So if you're a community leader and you're listening in and you want to talk about this, you want to do some hackathon style on conference style sessions. Let me know. I'm hoping to host a variety of those in the new year.
Jillian: I'll sign up. Yeah. Okay. Put me on that list please. Yeah, it sounds great.
Tony: Yeah. I'm picturing, Jill, us creating the SPI Pro virtual co-working space for our members.
Jillian: For Topia.
Tony: Yeah. And maybe even having, what's the word? Like a convention, giving everybody a chance to have their own table with the presence for ... with their business and they could embed videos or they could have some interactive elements.
Jillian: I know, my mind’s spinning too. Also, one of our members, Heather, runs a company called Protospiel, which is a tabletop gaming simulation. She helps people create tabletop games. And so there's testing and all the stuff. I just keep thinking, I'm like, "We got to show this to Heather."
Brooke: We have a ton of tabletop gamers on Topia.
Jillian: I bet.
Brooke: People are using it like crazy for that.
Jillian: Yeah. I feel like she could have some fun there, for sure.
Tony: Amazing. Brooke, maybe just tell us a little bit more about some of the other features and creative uses of them. You mentioned that there are so many, you didn't want to list them all, but …
Brooke: I could list more.
Tony: Just because I feel like it's going to continue to conjure images in people's minds of what's possible. Right now, when it comes to gathering on the internet, we need to stimulate our imaginations a little.
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. So we have other features that are on our platform that people use often are we have a broadcast feature, so you can turn any asset into basically a broadcast microphone that allows you to broadcast to a larger spatial environment. And your video and audio feed will get pushed to the top of people's connections so that you can actually speak to an entire world at the same time, or a subsection of the world.
So it's actually really great for panels. It's a great feature that people use for panels and workshops, educators who are teaching for classrooms will use this feature. So that's a really, really important one that we have that I use all the time as the community manager. The other one is private zones. So you can turn any asset into a private zone and set the amount of people that are allowed to be in that zone at the same time.
Tony: Because right now the way that it's set up, there is this open-endedness which I was going to ask about too, about the etiquette of walking up to a circle of people who are already talking, that you don't have physical doors that close. So how do you create some privacy where needed?
Brooke: Yeah. So this is a great way to do that. I use it in our co-working space since I work in the digital environment all day, but I'm also taking meetings and in calls with the team and doing a bunch of other things. So I'll turn my office and our co-working space to a one person private zone. So I'm still in the office, but nobody can actually come up and talk to me because I'm in a private zone.
Tony: The co-working space community managers in real life are like, "Oh, God, I wish I could have that in reality. My invisibility cloak."
Brooke: Yeah. But you can also put it over a conference room and you can have a 10 person meeting in a conference room that nobody else could walk into. You can put it on a table at a conference with a question on it, and you can say, this is the question that we're going around the table and answering. There's only eight of us allowed in here at a time.
Tony: Yeah. Great for un-conferences or any kind of conference format where you need to be able to have structured and contained conversations.
Jillian: Also, just be such a good, like get to know people tool for an existing organization or community or any sort of group you could set it up really smartly so that you kind of hop from different tables, do a round table with different groups and learn about them.
Tony: One of the things I did for a client of mine, it was a large group of alumni that were trying to do the virtual version of what's normally their in-person event. We created a grid of spaces that you could go hang out in. And in each space in each kind of section, there was an embedded Padlet, which I hadn't heard of until I started playing with Topia, which is basically like a embedded site where you can answer a prompt. They are like little cards, kind of like Trello cards that you can drop in. And so I could ask a conversation prompt question like, what's your favorite song of 2021? Drop a YouTube link here or just say what it is. And then people can add their YouTube links or their images or their comment.
And then similar to what you described in the Twitch stream, you could have people walk around, answer the different discussion prompts and then discuss the discussion prompts. So I imagine you see a fair bit of stuff like that.
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. Padlet is one of my favorite tools to use on the platform because it kind of function as this collaborative bulletin board of sorts. Miro is also another one that you can use on Topia as well, which is a collaborative whiteboard. So there's all sorts of embedable features as well, which is really quite cool.
Jillian: My head is just spinning.
Brooke: I was just going to mention the other thing that I think is really cool about Topia is that we believe that creators aren't just people creating these digital assets, but we believe that community builders are also creators. We've been using this term confluencer a lot to ... A confluence is where two rivers or two bodies of water can meet. Yeah. And so we have a confluencer program for community builders and event producers, where you can actually earn commissions for bringing people together in-world.
Tony: Tell me more.
Brooke: So I can send you some links to it and we can distribute it to the listeners if they would like as well. Yeah, so you can bring people together in-world, you get a certain commission rate for how many people are in there, how long they're staying, and you just earn commissions on the worlds that are a part of that confluencer program.
Brooke: So it's a whole new way of valuing community building and bringing people together, which I think is really powerful.
When we're looking at our metrics, we're not looking for how much time people are spending on the platform, we're looking at how much people are connecting on the platform. We're much more interested in driving toward building authentic connection, enabling creators and community leaders to come in and gather people and establish these long-term relationships. We think that connection and creation is the future and it's what's going to help us move forward as humans. And so that's really what we're doing, we're trying to be a force for good in the world.
Tony: Heck yeah.
Jillian: You can tell because it's such a refreshing, just look at community. And everything y'all are doing, it's just like an advanced step in community in general. I mean, digital community is fairly new to begin with, and this iteration of it is just refreshing. It's really cool.
Brooke: I think so too. I'm biased though.
Tony: Well, that's a great closer before we move on to the rapid fire. Jill, are you good to lead the charge?
Jillian: Brooke, if you've listened, you have a heads-up. And if you haven't [inaudible], be ready. But don't worry, it's actually really fun. So just whatever comes to your brain first, just quick, little back and forth here. Brook Daily, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Brooke: Oh, I think it depends on what age of Brook you're talking to, but for most of my childhood, I really wanted to be a performer on Broadway.
Jillian: Oh, wow.
Brooke: With school theater.
Jillian: When you were theater kid?
Jillian: Yeah, did it all.
Brooke: It was my whole life.
Jillian: Fantastic. I feel like you and Tony could have a really fun conversation after this, just about shows and all the things. Okay.
Brooke: Yeah, absolutely. It was everything to me. I still have little fantasy dreams about like, oh, what if I were to go do a show again? I don't have time, but I would love to one day.
Jillian: It may all work out, right?
Brooke: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jillian: Brooke, how do you define community?
Brooke: This question is always so hard because you ask 20 people and you're going to get 20 different answers.
Tony: We did.
Jillian: And confirm.
Brooke: Yeah. I think community to me is about belonging. It's about feeling a sense of belonging in a group of people that have shared interests, shared values, a group of people that you can turn to and know that you belong there and feel that.
Jillian: That's wonderful. It's the easiest, hardest question in the world. All right. So thinking about your life, whether you have a bucket list or not, is there something on your so-called bucket that you have accomplished?
Brooke: Yeah. I have been skydiving twice, which is amazing. It was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had. I'm sure a lot of people are like, "Oh my gosh, how did you do that? That's terrifying." It is, but it's so worth it.
Jillian: That's funny. I was one of those people that was like, "Why would you pay money to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? That's not what they're made for. That's the opposite." But then I did one of those indoor skydiving things, which I didn't want to do. I was like, "No, I do not want to jump on top of a jet engine. Thank you." But it was really fun. It was amazing. So now I'm like, "Maybe I could do it." Not there yet, but good for you for going.
Brooke: It's a powerful experience.
Jillian: Yeah. If you went twice, that says it all, you're willing to do it again. It's going to be fun.
Brooke: I think if you go, you should do it twice, because the first time you do it, you can't even comprehend what's happening. Your brain, it's in such fight or flight mode that you just don't even remember anything, but the second time you're actually a little bit more present in the experience. So if you're going to do it, I would say do it twice, at least.
Jillian: All right. We'll keep that in mind. Tony, quickly, have you ever gone skydiving?
Tony: My sister has, I have not. But there's always the next team SPI retreat, Jill.
Jillian: There you go. Let's bring that up. All right. Brooke, on the other side of it, what's something on your bucket list that you have yet to do, but you want to?
Brooke: So many things. I feel like because I'm already thinking about skydiving, I'm going to say scuba diving. Actually, I'm more afraid of the ocean than probably anything else, but that makes me kind of want to dive in there and really see what's going on. Also, the ecosystems underneath the ocean are bonkers. They're insane. It's amazing. It's so beautiful. So I would love to be able to scuba dive.
Jillian: I feel like if you've gone skydiving, scuba diving is going to be a breeze, as someone who has gone scuba diving many a time. Tony, have you gone scuba diving?
Tony: Very briefly once. I've done a lot of snorkeling though.
Jillian: What is briefly like?
Tony: I did a one time training thing.
Jillian: Gotcha. Yeah. It sounds straight up.
Tony: But I mean it's fun, scuba. Yeah.
Jillian: Yeah. It's like little mermaid straight up, not with the Mer people, but the scenery, it's 10 out of 10. Highly worth it.
Brooke: It's a whole other world, speaking of worlds.
Jillian: I mean, don't you dare close your eyes. Okay. I'll stop.
Tony: Underwater Topia coming to you in 2022.
Jillian: Brooke what's a book that you've read recently you're just like an all-time favorite that you love?
Brooke: Right now I'm reading Atlas of the Heart, Brené Brown's new book, which is quite good. I've been enjoying it so far. She talks a lot about map making and how to map the human emotions and connection, which I think is a really just awesome topic and very relevant for the work that I do. But I think the one that I would recommend as an all-time favorite is Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown. That book changed my life. That was the moment I read that book and I was like, "I am a community builder."
Brooke: I see it now.
Tony: Yeah, she's amazing.
Jillian: All right, to add that to my list.
Brooke: Yeah. See, that book is amazing. It's like one of my Bibles. I turn to it constantly when I'm thinking about community building strategy.
Jillian: Oh, wow. All right. Excellent. I’m excited to read that. Okay. Brooke, we know you told me earlier you're in the Bay Area, but if you could live anywhere else, where would you live?
Brooke: Oh, man, I love the Bay Area. This question is so hard to answer because I feel like the Bay Area's my home, but if I had to choose, I recently took a trip to Mexico City and I fell in love with the creativity there, the energy. It's a beautiful, beautiful city. So if I had to choose, I would probably choose Mexico City.
Jillian: I love Mexico City as well. It's gorgeous, the architecture. I also just love Mexican culture on a very deep level. And so all the art and folk art and stuff, love it.
Tony: And the food, so good.
Brooke: Oh my gosh, stop it.
Jillian: Stop it, all of it.
Tony: Well, thanks for joining for the Mexican cuisine appreciation podcast.
Jillian: Yeah. We all have to go now because we're all hungry. Okay. The final question, Brooke, how do you want to be remembered?
Brooke: I feel like that's loaded.
Tony: Yes, it is.
Brooke: I really want to remembered as someone who stayed curious and continued to grow and learn her whole entire life. I want to be remembered as someone who accessed compassion and all the moments that she could and called in healing and helped people grow together.
Jillian: There you go. Can't top that, love it.
Tony: Brooke, where do we find you on the Internet? Where do we find Topia?
Brooke: Absolutely. So you can visit Topia at Topia.io. If you want to jump in a world, I suggest visiting Topia.io/welcome. And then you can find me on LinkedIn at Brooke A. Daily, or you can visit me in-world at our co-working office at Topia.io/coworking.
Tony: Amazing. Brooke, thank you so much. We will see you in there. Look forward to chatting with you more as we experiment with creating our own for SPI.
Brooke: Yeah. Hit me up. Let me know. I'm here to help.
Jillian: We'd like you to join our Topia.
Tony: Thank you, Brooke. Appreciate you.
Brooke: Thanks, guys. Thank you so much.
Tony: Okay, so that was our conversation with Brooke Daily. Man, sometimes I just really turn on my radio voice, Brooke Daily's great. And Topia, I'm such a fan of the platform and I'm really glad that we had a chance to have a chat with her. She's brilliant.
Jillian: Yeah, me too. I mean, anytime I go on their site, I just fall down a wormhole of possibility, because I think anybody who has any sort of artistic mindset will do the same. It's just beautiful. I love it. There's an escapism to it.
Tony: All right. So I wasn't going to talk about this first, but we're here. Let's talk about it. The sense of place, which is important for social interactions, but I think it's also important for having a feeling that you are going somewhere that other people have a relationship to, even if they're not there at the time. That a place is meaningful, not just because other people are currently there, but because they were.
I think there's probably a really deep strong value that people have to feeling like they are entering into a place was created for them, or for people like them. Topia, and proximity chat spaces in general, but I think Topia really plays up the magical wonder side of that because of its illustrative design aesthetic.
Jillian: And that's, I'm like a moth to the flame with that. I like where you're going with that. It's very true. There's something about a term that a lot of people are using now, is like, if you know you know. It's like that insider wink-wink, and very much I think that is at play with this a bit as well. It's like that belonging to the group that knows. The insiders know that they can participate in this way.
Tony: Okay, so real quick, even if you never do a proximity chat space, the sense of place thing can also apply to a more traditional community forum or something in the sense that I might go there in my own time, which might be very late at night after the kids are asleep and no other community members are around and I can see people were here, these discussions did happen. These photos got posted, and I can passively enjoy that. Or I can interact and I can asynchronously still be a part of that experience. Obviously it's a lot more of a visceral sense of place when it's this digital landscape, but you can cultivate some of that, even in a conventional community space.
Jillian: Oh, for sure. I think too, just knowing the type of community you are looking to engage with, like if this is your community and you're like, "Oh, maybe they'd like this." I mean, look at how do they like to interact, because I do think there are plenty of people out there that would get totally lost in this whole concept and it wouldn't be right for potentially using as a main community platform or even as something as an aside, but there are also definitely communities that I think would just go bananas over this. It just kind of depends how you like to engage online.
I'm still in this place of I really want to create one of these and I just don't know what to do. The sky's the limit. I need a boundary. I need someone to bring it in so I can make a choice.
Tony: You can always just sandbox it for fun, but I think it does have to do a lot with use case.
Jillian: Really I like the idea of using it for, if you have an existing community and you just want to have a really cool event or experience, whether it's a time sensitive event or kind of that persistent space type experience, I think it could be really fun. I mean, one of the options they kind of give you or highlight that you could use it is to use it to bring lessons to life.
But I think it would be so engaging for people like me, but even just for younger audiences and people who don't just want to read a long PDF, basically.
Jillian: It's cool.
Tony: So I thought it was really compelling how with Brooke, she was less concerned about how much time do you spend in a Topia and more about the quality of the experience, which I think is just brilliant.
Jillian: Yeah, me too. I think that relays very, very much, that overlaps with just community engagement and community metrics as well, the whole quantity versus quality.
Just something quickly to touch on. I love how the Topia team is looking at community building from above. So it's the people creating different Topias. They themselves are a community. And so Topia provides town halls and happy hours, and they have a persistent co-working space that people can participate in that are Topia creators. That's huge. I think that's probably part of why it's such a successful platform because there's a community within the community, if you will.
Tony: Yeah. It's great. It's always value for creating connection between people who are creators and sharing what they create. So go check out your Topia. There's so much fun stuff to even to just poke around solo, and let us know what you think. We're @TeamSPI on the Twitters. We'd love to hear what you think of Topia or proximity chat platforms in general. So thanks for tuning in and we'll catch you at the next episode.
Jillian: See you next Tuesday.
Tony: This has been the community experience. For more information on this episode, including links and show notes, head over to SmartPassiveIncome.com/listen.
Jillian: Learn more about Topia at Topia.io/welcome. And you can find Brooke on LinkedIn, Brooke A. Daily.
Tony: Our executive producer is Matt Garland. Our series producers are David Grabowski and senior producer, Sara Jane Hess. Editing and sound designed by Duncan Brown. Music by David Grabowski.
Jillian: See you next time.