Exploring Second Life – First Opinions

This afternoon I set about reading Wikinomics (Tapscott and Williams). They mention Second Life. Alot. I had a look at second Life when it first came out. In those days I was still very self conscious about online networking and quickly logged out as soon as someone said Hello.

Second Life

Second Life

While reading I became curious as to how Second Life could be used by a law firm such as mine. Is this something I should also be pushing at my colleagues and employers? Can we use this?

Having downloaded the software I was impressed with how much there was to do but the range of options very quickly became a deluge. I was swimming in messages telling me how to do this, do that, keyboard shortcuts, “You can fly”, bad haircuts on the Change Your Appearance screen and way too much information about textures.

I was reminded why I love Twitter so much. It has an extremely stripped down offering. Tweets. 140 characters and that’s it.

One simple tool, albeit a very versatile one.

With Twitter the message is clear. With Second Life, I felt as if I was getting lost in the thing itself instead of being able to discern how I can apply the thing. For all of that I recall when I first entered Twitter. The public timeline there is a similarly disengaging experience. You need to populate your online arena with friends and contacts.

On that basis it would be rash to dismiss Second Life on the back of no more than 90 minutes stumbling around. What is clear though is that Second Life does not have the immediacy of other online tools. I am thinking that it would probably actually make sense to have a consultant develop a Second Life presence whereas it would be a nonsense to have consultants write your blog or Twitter comments.

For now though I will not be pushing my firm to open a Second Life office.

Since I shared my experiences on Twitter this afternoon, I have been encouraged to keep trying by @BettinaTizzy. In turn she has pointed me to her fascinating blog “Not Possible IRL” and especially her 10 secret tips for Second Life Newbies. Recommended reading, especially if you have dipped your toe and felt as bewildered as I did.

What are other peoples experiences of Second Life either from a social or commercial point of view?



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4 responses to “Exploring Second Life – First Opinions

  1. Like you when I first entered SL I thought it was weird – mostly because it felt like a video game and I had never played video games. i walked around the orientation areas where creepy creatures walked around with the newbies trying to intimidate or pick up on them.

    It wasn’t until I realized that Second Life has to be an “Event and Destination” driven tool. Log on for an event and log off when finished. I attend regular meetings and conferences in SL with attendees around the world learning about technology and education. None of these are creepy and the learning is phenomenal!

    If you flew into a foreign city, rented a car and just started driving around looking for something to do-you could possibly end up in a seedy area with creepy people. This is the way most people approach Second Life. They log on and just start walking or flying around looking for something to do.

    We bring clients into SL to our campus which has orientation areas as well as coaches that walk you through basic functions and hand-hold through the first experience. We also have collaborative meeting tools like white boards, discussion boards, 3D voting and more that beat sitting in webinars or conference call meetings!

    Linden has done a lot to improve the orientation process, but it can still be annoying or overwhelming for many (although it has gotten so much better since they no longer allow old time creepers to hang out there. It is strictly a practice place).

    If you are ever wanting to see how it is really used for business, we hold weekly business meet ups at our campus for networking and sharing best practices with technology. Find me on Twitter (Ginaschreck) and I can send you the link to go directly to the meeting (remember…destination and event driven!)

  2. As I mentioned briefly on twitter, the problem I had with Second Life was the feeling that it was going to take a lot of time invested to get anything out of it (and in fact I wasn’t sure there would be anything at the end!)

    Like Twitter, facebook etc it’s a social environment, but whereas they connect the real you, second life seemed to be a place where you could “act” out a different you. But it took me a while the “get” twitter and so maybe as @BettinaTizzy says once you “get it” it really takes off.

    Trouble is I have the time problems of a young family and so I don’t really have enough time for this life, never mind a second one.

  3. I’m not a fan of SL. I find it clunky, unfriendly and pretty nasty looking, too. Especially the “hands typing” thing…

    I spent a long time on http://www.there.com and still dip back into it every so often. It’s also a 3d environment, but more about community and friends than the whole commerce / business thing that tends to be the focus of Second Life.

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Gina, I am encouraged by the reframing of SL into a tool with functionality. The “event and destination driven” parameters are helpful in limiting the very wide horizons that SL presents to the novice.

    Am I right in recalling that SL actually made everything accessible soon after the outset following complaints from users that it took too long to get free roaming, flying and the like?

    In this sense I am mindful of the video game model which restricts your functionality at the start so that there is a clearly defined learning curve – hence the often excruciating tutorial levels and the like.

    And thank you for the invite to the Wednesday networking session. I will try to login to see how it feels and operates.

    The problems Jason highlights are also shared here. I am becoming aware of a need to build time into the working day to deal with the business/social networking applications and to distinguish those from the purely social, which neatly brings us onto the ethical issue that Mike turns to.

    Mike writes, about There.com “It’s also a 3d environment, but more about community and friends than the whole commerce / business thing that tends to be the focus of Second Life.”

    I felt a bit of unease in SL in discerning social use from commercial use. Was it appropriate to mention that I was visiting from a business perspective? In doing that was I being invasive or even exploitative? It felt like I was coming up against an unknown ethical code, which no doubt, as Jason points out, could take a long time to learn and abide by.

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