Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What every Second Life newbie should know - 10 secret tips that will boost your experience from the get-go

October, 2009 update: This blogpost is soooo old, and desperately needs to be refreshed with new links, slurls and photographs. I fully intend to do so as soon as I can find the time. While some of the information may not be current, and some of the links that are offered here, broken, the core message remains the same. - Bett

Let's face it, the first few days and even weeks in Second Life are friggin' hard. Whether you are a geek or computer-clueless, take my word for it... you are going to be challenged. Looking back, I can't believe I stuck around. I almost didn't make it.

Is it worth it? Oh yes. Whether you are looking merely to socialize, explore business opportunities, or exercise your mind... whatever your reasons may be, once you "get it," you will realize that it is the ultimate creative tool, and superlative fun.

There is very little about Second Life that truly parallels Real Life. Just as a day in Second Life is only four hours long, so goes the speed, the immediacy with which things take place once you become an active participant. It is also so much easier to expose yourself to new information. Fact is, Second Life is a library, a school, a conversation... on steroids.

Speaking for myself, nearly every sentence I uttered in my first few weeks in the metaverse ended with a question mark. You aren't alone in worrying that you don't have enough time in your Real Life, let alone a Second Life. I also worried that it was unproductive and possibly not the wave of the future that the media kept reporting on. I was quite frustrated with the technical glitches I was experiencing, too.

In my earlier explorations, I sometimes inadvertently found myself in the seedier areas of Second Life, which I hardly ever come across anymore, just as I don't elect to spend time in the back alleys or social wastelands of Los Angeles. You learn where to go and what to avoid as you become more experienced, but a word of advice here: avoid the areas that report the highest traffic numbers. They are nearly always traps.

Second Life is so territorially immense that you could travel continuously, day and night, and never see it all. Yes, it is quite possible to be the only person in a region, but a quick teleport will land you amidst 70 other avatars, all doing whatever it is that you most enjoy... and this at any time of the day or night.

So... if you think you are ready for a taste, but want to skip a lot of the growing pains, take heed. Here are 10 rarely disclosed secrets - actually a lot more - that will greatly enhance your experience, right off the bat:

1) MONEY - Access to Second Life is free... so splurge a little and enter the metaverse with the idea that your experience will be vastly better if you are willing to spend $10 to $15 US dollars (less than the price of a movie ticket plus popcorn and a soda, if you think about it) to get yourself started off on the right foot.

It is fair to say that asking for money upon arrival in Second Life is shameful and akin to begging in Real Life. Realize, too, that your skills - especially in the first few days - make it nearly impossible for you to earn any real money. Later, yes, your chances are much better. Early on, no.

You get a much better exchange rate for your Real Life money at SL Exchange than you do in-world (sorry, Linden Lab and no, I'm not getting a kick-back from SL Exchange).

I'm still on the fence regarding the value of a premium account ($9.95 US dollars a month), though one benefit I really enjoy is the ability to see who is online even when you are offline. Only paying members can access this info on the Second Life website.

2) YOUR PERSONA - Choose your name wisely. Pick a name that is easy to type, easy to spell, and easy to remember. Nearly everyone experiments with who they are in the beginning. Consider the possibility that someday you may actually want to meet one or more people you've encountered in-world, face-to-face, in Real Life. You might fall in love, or develop genuine business relationships, and friendships in the metaverse can be as real and as deep as anything you've experienced before. On the opposite side of that spectrum, but equally important, I would advise you not to reveal much about your Real Life until you've had a chance to get to know the people you are interacting with.

3) TAILORING YOUR AVATAR: Ladies, before you begin customizing your avatar's chest (there's a little slider that goes from flat to humongous... just like that), consider Neil Stephenson's description of the three almost-standard-issue breast sizes on female avatars in his landmark book Snow Crash: improbable, impossible, and ludicrous. Too much can be ridiculous.

If you choose to be a human, you have the option of purchasing ready-to-wear shapes, though keep in mind that you will not be able to alter them later (they are rarely modifiable), and they are often very, and I do mean very (read: unrealistically) tall.

Some of the best known non-human or barely-human avatar creators give away a few basic and cool avatars for free or at very low cost. Flea Bussy's Grendel's Children, and Tooter Claxton always have fun things. You can also pick up free avatars (and scads of off-the-wall and/or practical and interesting things) at Hobo Village (teleport from here), Yadni's Junkyard (teleport from here), and the Gnubie store (teleport from here).

One other thought... less practical, but certainly droll... A friend of mine and his in-world girl friend amuse each other by donning the avatars of attractive celebrities, and yes, it is entirely possible to indulge your inner A-List yearnings and look like Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp.

There are dozens of good websites and blogs that are devoted to fashion in Second Life, but one of my favorites is a column by Iris Ophelia on New World Notes.

4) PRIVACY: There is no such thing as complete privacy in Second Life. Once you learn how to operate your camera well (see the next tip), you will realize that your camera can look inside a house on the next island over, traversing through walls... with ease.

That said, here are some helpful privacy tips:

Teleport directly from here to Mystical Cookie's shop and pick up a free version of her Mystitool. Mystical just lowered the price on the full version of the Mystitool, and believe me, this is the best purchase your $396 Lindens can buy you. One of its many features is that it gives you the ability to always know who is within 96 meters of you, and how far away they are, and if they are coming closer. Use this tool immediately (you wear it) and never take it off.

Chime Desoto - one of the members of our Not Possible in Real Life group - created a Private Changing Room, and you can pick up a free copy of it, as well as easy instructions for its use, at my treehouse by teleporting directly from here.

5) SEE THINGS BETTER - Learning how to use your camera will turbo-charge your experience. In fact, learn how to do this first. It takes a little practice in the beginning, but later you will maneuver your camera automatically. The best instructions are available via one of our favorite Lindens - Torley - and can be viewed here.

6) RECORD YOUR EXPERIENCES BETTER - One of the pleasures of Second Life is the ease with which you can capture moments and places through photography. In-world snapshots cost $10 Lindens a piece, which doesn't sound like much, but ultimately adds up. After a few months, you'll find that your inventory is beginning to clog up with photos, too. In-world snapshots are good to have if you plan to share them with others immediately, but most of the time it pays off to save them on your hard drive or send them directly to Flickr or Snapzilla. Both of these services are free, although Flickr does offer a very reasonably priced premium account and you can retrieve your photographs for blogging or editing or duplication purposes whenever you like.

It is easy to keep a log of in-world text conversations, which you can later refer to, though it is considered a violation of the Terms of Service to share these records with anyone who didn't participate in them. It is also considered good form to secure permission from the person with whom you are "speaking," and whose conversation you are recording.

7) LEARN THE BASICS FIRST - As soon as you are able, learn at least a little about building and scripting. Even if you don't become a dedicated content creator, some notions of what's involved/elementary knowledge will serve you very well, indeed. Two people whom I'm extremely proud to know, have given generously of their time and land to provide stellar tutorials: Lumiere Noire's Ivory Tower - Library of Prim (teleport directly from here ), is essential when it comes to learning about building, and Jopsy Pendragon's Particle Laboratory, is a first-rate place to learn basic script and particle creation (teleport directly from here).

8) ASK QUESTIONS WHENEVER YOU CAN; FIND A MENTOR OR TWO - Nothing beats first-hand advice. Nothing. Also, never forget that we were all newbies in the beginning.

9) KEEP YOUR INVENTORY ORGANIZED FROM DAY ONE. Oh, oh, oh how I wish I had done this. Don't be like me and start thinking - and acting - this way from the beginning. Here's another gem video by Torley Linden, which will help you tidy up that inventory and keep it lean.

10) PEOPLE AREN'T ALWAYS WHO YOU THINK THEY ARE - Until the advent of Voice in Second Life, a surprisingly high number of men opted to portray themselves as women. Many, many still do. Do not assume that this means that they are transexuals or gay or any such thing. In fact, throw all your assumptions out the window. It's been my experience that most of them are straight. My advice: go shopping with them. It's fun, though they tend to have racier tastes than I do. :P

I'm sure I've missed oodles of good tips, and I won't be surprised - in fact I hope - that seasoned SLers will gently remind me of them. I'd like to learn more things! Seriously though, all comments are most welcome.

I'd like to especially thank Pavig Lok, Orhalla Zander, Arcadia Asylum, Thinkerer Melville, Wellington Bahram, Luna Idler, Corporate Jay, Alec Paragon and dozens of other people who didn't pitch me out with the bath water... and put up with my endless questions during those first few months. Thanks to them, I collapse in bed with a grin on my face every night and bolt out of bed the next morning, eager to see what the new day will bring. For now, I hope it will bring happy and informed newbies.

January 2 update: Ha! Just discovered this video about a "noob" - and clearly for newbies - via Caleb Booker's blog. Created by Akanjee Yongho and Anamkhaï Sodwind, it's a pilot for a series, and is set up for advertising. Pretty clever.

January 3 update: Since posting this piece, I've met over a dozen newbies who have read it! Nearly all asked me for suggestions on what to do in Second Life. Best answer I could think of was to suggest that they bookmark this blog since I make every effort to share our best findings here, complete with slurls (the equivalent of a Landmark), and that they join the Impossible IRL group in-world. It's free and open registration. I send about two or three notices a week with information on the best new builds and builders.

January 4 update: Just discovered what promises to be an excellent blog for men in Second Life. This is a first! Are We Not Men looks like it might have a real future, indeed. Men get short shrift in Second Life, especially when it comes to hair, but I have a feeling they'll give you some important leads on this and more... manly stuff for those teeming with testosterone. ^.^

February 10 update: Interested in art? Get your virtual life off to a bang-up start and make use of Sasun Steinbeck's extraordinary HUD which guides you from one gallery and museum to another (teleport directly from here). Hehe, that's how I got started!

February 26 update: Experiencing Second Life is not a requisite to understanding the wealth of information in the just-published book The Making of Second Life by Wagner James Au, the first embedded journalist and historian in the metaverse. Highly recommended.


Peter Stindberg said...

Amen to that, especially the tip of doing a start investment of 15 US$. It took me 2 months to realize that camping and money tree harvesting gets me nowhere. I invested 15 EUR (~20 US$) which gave me ~4500 L$ and that was the only cash injection I needed since then.

I compiled two "Newbie welcome folders" for male and female newbies with some landmarks and a basic allotment of good freebie clothing. Feel free to IM me for a copy.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful gift you have made to those just starting, your 10 hints and pointers to getting started. I would rate learning to use the camera and how to load the client/server menu as my personal top two, just behind your best advice. --- Were you start in SL will have a large impact on the whole experiance--- Most of use have retained friends we met in our first few days inworld.

One small correction: "the ability to see who is online even when you are offline. Only paying members can access this info on the Second Life website." non paying menmbersd can, at least I can. I can see you online once I log in to the site. https://secure-web0.secondlife.com/community/friends.php
Merry Christmas

Bettina Tizzy said...

Thank you, Peter. Nice of you to compile those things for newbies.

Jeanricard, thanks for clarifying that point. So what in the heck ARE the advantages of a premium account? *scratches head*

Peter Stindberg said...

I was THAT close to go Premium, when they started to add the VAT for European residents. There's two advantages as I see them:

a) You are allowed to buy mainland parcels, and get the smallest one without tier

b) The monthly stipend

If you take the stipend into account, premium memebership is rather affordable, but not a real bargain, especially not since they add VAT for Europeans.

Lem Skall said...

Maybe a whole separate list is worthwhile for tips on communication and all social interactions. Things like IM-ing strangers without a good reason, offering friendship to people without knowing them (the friends list is not a trophy collection), barging into private spaces and conversations (there is no such thing as privacy in SL but there is such a thing as expectation of privacy).

The concepts of augmentism and immersionism are quite essential to understanding the social interactions in SL. Augmentism is kind of obvious but understanding immersionism in SL is especially both important and difficult.

As an example of learning about communication and social interactions, one of my biggest revelations in my early days was that a lot more goes on in IMs at all the social gatherings. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that (maybe it's just me and others figured that out right away) and many people would just give up on SL before understanding things like that.

Bettina Tizzy said...

Lem, that's a great idea! Go for it, please.

Moon said...

I love reading your blog! BTW Roland and I both take the yr membership..it costs alot less when payed for once, it's a bigger payment but works out at less per month, and yes the stipend makes it worth it!
As for the whole social scene..after getting through the kinks of sl, you eventually find ppl who resemble yourself..like in other life experiences...and the addage what goes around comes around...if we are basically good ppl, we will atract the same, that said, sl also gives us the gift of meetingppl from so many walks of life...I personally am the same as my avatar, I don,t try to be something I am not...frankly its so much easier that way...I have met some who pretend and live by lies unfortunately..and forget their own stories lol...On the other hand, I have made some true friends and really enjoyed meeting extraordinary ppl!

Anonymous said...

I spent weeks looking at blogs and video tutorials on You Tube before I came in. I had no prior experience in other MMO's and that was useful for me. I advise new people struggling with basic skills in the beginning to do the same.

It also pays to have at least a vague idea of what you want to do in SL from the start. That may change over time with more experience but setting your own goals seems to be a stumbling block for some folks.

Knowledge, not money, should be the first priority for most new people. There is more free "stuff" around the grid than any one person could possibly use and it will be good enough for starters.

- Corman

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for the information on the Mystitool. I hate the mini-map as it rarely works for me, and nothing unnerves me more than to have someone walk right up behind me and start talking to me.

I'll be picking one up post-haste.

Bettina Tizzy said...

Such good news to hear that this has helped at least one person, whoever you are. One thing I forgot to mention... People cannot hear your text chat beyond 19 meters. Using the Mystitool helps you to determine when they are out of text chat range.

Moon, thank you! Great advice.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if it will be as good as Mystitool, but there is something called RADAR HUD which tells you who is in both chat and longer range, and it's free. I wear it all the time.

Anonymous said...

I agree HANDS DOWN about the mystitool or some kind of scanner. I have just a basic freebee scanner that I picked up somewhere I absolutely love it. I can't live without it. And I think one of the best ways to really get your hands dirty in SL is to learn how to build and modify objects. This not only gives you a venue to go on to make money later, but it helps you to do basic things like arrange furniture and resize your skirt so you don't look completely bizarre with oddly sized clothing. Also, I think one of the best and most important investments is a skin. Upgrading your avy and putting that 10-15 dollars in at the beginning really makes a difference later. Take that money and get a decent skin, hair and clothes... and you'll feel like a tenured resident in NO time. Lastly, I agree with the comment above about communication. Alot of times Noobs just kind of randomly enter a conversation, confused and lost and either rudely interupt or kind of walk up to someone and stand right on top of them and tell them they are hot. NOT the best way to make friends and not the best first impression. Also, if you DO happen to use voice chat, keep in mind it's outloud over the ENTIRE channel you are in... So if you are in a 16,000sqm sim... someone may not be able to hear you 100sqm away... but they can set their voice options to camera and cam in and hear you... privacy doesn't reall exist in SL... courtesy can, but most don't exercise it.... =P

w.w. said...

Nice tips, I know it's an old post and not sure if it's worth it, but one thing I have gotten in the habit of doing, besides wearing a radar HUD, is as soon as I TP somewhere, I immediately hit the minimap to see if I am about to bump into someone as I move (since it's nice to move and not "hang around" a landing point). Sometimes the radar HUDs don't refresh fast enough but the minimap is instant and will tell you if you are in the middle of a crowd.

Anonymous said...

great tips for everyone. i am two years old, a mentor, and own 12 sims, and i found this to be all very good advice

thanks for the tips on boys who are girls. nice that you said they were not anything more than just people :) i had a resident who was a former pro football player who was almost always a woman isl, he fell in love isl with a woman and now they live together irl. he's not isl anymore and i sure miss him, he was wonderful

and prepare to be hit on, oh lord, even by people just a few minutes old (my av is pretty cute, but i really don't have pink hair or pink wings irl) :)

Jegatheva said...

Oh wow... this is really great. Wish i saw this my first day.

Been a step learning curve for me as i bought a full sim the first day i signed up a few months ago till my first 'mini-launch' two days ago.... i shared this link with members of my build team on my sim....

Jayjay Zifanwe (SL)