Tips for Establishing a Presence in Second Life
November 13, 2008, 2:48 pm
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As I roam the virtual frontier, I’m occasionally asked for advice about establishing a presence in Second Life, and I share the same bits of advice time and again. I thought I would share a summary of these points here for any readers considering the same, and invite comments, corrections or additions to the list from those with more experience.

Here are some general tips to get you started:

  • [updated addition, per colleague inquiries] – Start with Second Life. It is, by far, the most advanced virtual world platform that offers in-world building tools for user generated content. In my opinion, this feature is where the true game changing new frontier of virtual worlds lies, and what makes Second Life so unique among competitors – which don’t even come close. Plus, Second Life is still where the strongest community lives, and that means a lot. I realize many of us are patiently awaiting a stable version of OpenSim – and many are already working there. But I think we all recognize that it has a long way to go before it can become as stable as Second Life.  I think that will be the case for at least another year or two. By then, I would like to believe Second Life will be that much farther ahead. In sum, get a good start in Second Life before considering any alternatives.
  • Start small, with a few others in your organization who are also interested in exploring Second Life. Don’t waste your energy trying to convince people who aren’t interested! I consistently witness that some people ‘get it’ and some people not only don’t get it, but are seemingly opposed to it. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground between these two polar extremes, and its best to focus on working (at first) with those who appreciate it at first glance or after a brief introduction. Demonstrate the value to the others by proving success with a small group before trying to expand support.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money! Enjoy the fact that its free! Use the sandboxes (we just opened a new one, HERE!) to learn the ropes, and get to know others
  • Read the blogs! There is a great list HERE.
  • Don’t use Second Life as a business collaboration tool for mission critical work! Focus on what Second Life is already good at; not as a replacement for other tools, but a means of augmenting those tools. If you reach a point where you really want to push the Second Life interface to a new level for business collaboration, consider Linden Lab’s and Rivers Run Red’s new Immersive Workspaces solution
  • Get to know the Second Life community – join groups, attend meetings, read blogs. Use the ‘search’ function to look for keywords for topics you’re interested in. Because everyone accessing Second Life is able to be in immediate contact with each other, you can meet some of the highest caliber individuals you’ll ever meet. The opportunities for networking and cross-disciplinary innovation increase exponentially if you reach outside the bounds of your own immediate plot of land!
  • Participate in the community, if you have time. Help organize meetings, set up your own group if you don’t find the one you’re looking for
  • Start an internal skunk-works group for anyone interested at your organizaton. Again, approach it as an experimental application, not as a replacement for your existing communication tools, but as a means of augmenting those tools
  • Use any/all of the great collaboration tools already available, at very low cost – use or
  • Rent a small plot of land for a more permanent location, as needed – populate it with content you and you colleagues build, or prefab buildings you can purchase at the links listed above
  • Gradually prove the value of Second Life to your colleagues over time – share screenshots, machinima and appropriate links to resource materials to prove the value of Second Life to your colleagues over time. Record machinima and transcripts of your meetings, and post them to an internal location for them to review. It helps to show those who aren’t involved what they can expect to experience if they decide to join in the action. Machinima and screenshots help perforate the perceived boundary between real and virtual space
  • Use Second Life to engage long distance or remote workers. This is a great way to provide the perception of everyone working together in the same ‘place’. I’ve written more about that here, here and here.
  • When you do get a budget, you don’t necessarily need to spend it by hiring a ‘solution provider’ to build a bunch of stuff. Instead, try establishing some guidelines and let others in your organization generate most of the content, or obtain content created by the community. Just about everything you can imagine is already available at a very modest expense.
  • Instead of hiring a content creator, invest in the advice of a consultant who can provide ongoing and regular guidance to your team, be available to answer questions, teach newbies, give building classes, etc.
  • If you have specific buildings that need to be custom built by a content creator, use Second Life’s directory of ‘Solution Providers‘ to find the right team for your projects. The vast majority of my own clients found my listing within this directory, where you can find the right group for your project.
  • Don’t try to control the project too much! I really don’t think unique dress codes or strict rules governing behavior in SL is necessary on a formal level. It seems logical that if you’re representing a professional organization, your avatar should have an outward facing profile that reflects the same professional standards as that organization.

I’ve also observed three common mistakes or misconceptions that are worth mentioning.

  • First, is what I’ve called ‘the fear of being a newbie‘ – and being afraid to try anything or make mistakes. I already wrote about that on Clear Ink’s blog.
  • On the other end of the spectrum are those who want to do way too much, too soon. It is incredibly important to have realistic expectations, and to understand what can, and cannot be done in Second Life.
  • Finally, I’ve noticed lots of potential clients who are ready to hire a content creator, and have a budget – but struggle to even operate their avatar. I’ve made a point of avoiding projects altogether under these circumstances, and instead sharing some resources and links that will help them get up to speed before investing in a build. So often, people are excited and motivated by an article they read somewhere, and see Second Life exclusively as a marketing tool – or an opportunity for some PR. Second Life can certainly be great for both marketing and PR, but it has to be done properly, and will never succeed as an exclusive goal. These should only be bi-products of a more comprehensive multi-faceted strategy.

That’s all I can think of. What did I miss? What did I get wrong?

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

What a giving, insightful post, Keystone. Such terrific nuggets of wisdom… “Don’t waste your energy trying to convince people who aren’t interested!” – I did exactly that for about 3 months soon after I rezzed and yes, I lost valuable time, although I did learn some important lessons along the way.

The one thing I would add to your list is this: Second Life is the largest, most stable and best organized of the virtual worlds where residents can create content, but it is no longer the only game in town. Don’t drop anchor in Second Life until you’ve give yourself an opportunity to explore other worlds, because a lot is beginning to happen there.

Comment by Bettina Tizzy

For the ‘paranoid newbie’ just a note that places like New Citizens Inc exist with people that actually enjoy helping new people. Some of them even remember exactly what it was like to rez in to the unknown and be at once delighted and completely overwhelmed.

Comment by Corcosman Voom

Great job Jon! If I could add one more common mistake, it’s trying to avoid the fun elements because work is supposed to be serious. Virtual Worlds seem to promote emergent behavior, and a lot of that emerges from the possibilities for fun. It’s hard to separate the fun from your reflexive architecture designs, for example.

Comment by Peter Quirk

Great post, Keystone. Setting appropriate expectations of Second Life is most important. I am an author of fiction, an inventor, and a technical writer (patent clerk), and I’m using Second Life as a promotional tool (not the ONLY promotional tool!) for my work. One of my major projects is a model of an underground city from my principal fictional setting. I constructed the model on private land in SL, and I take visitors on tours individually to help attract attention to both the fictional works and the e-publishing inventions I’ve created for presenting them. Second Life is priceless as an assist to me, but I must emphasize that I don’t expect it to replace other avenues of promotion and marketing. One thing it has done well is to attract attention worldwide — something I never expected. A year and a half ago, I was a total newbie in SL. Now, I script and build and present my work. It costs me a little, but certainly a lot less than I would pay a professional marketer or agent to accomplish the same things, if such is even possible.

And I must second heartily what the three comments ahead of mine have said. It is grand and glorious fun, and it has taken me some time to discipline my use of resources to avoid getting sucked in altogether.

Believe me, with fuel and energy and social changes the world around, the virtual worlds will be assuming greater and greater importance. Those with good practice in Second Life will have a tremendous advantage as the rest of society starts to get a clue.

Comment by Jeddin Laval

[…] in case you do need to be in Second Life, check out Tips for Establishing a Presence in Second Life and Learning How to Build in […]

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