A Writer’s Guide to Learning About Second Life (Part 1)

by Joan Kremer on February 17, 2009 · 7 comments

in Adventures,How-to guides,Virtual tools

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Learning About Second Life

“Why aren’t more writers flocking to Second Life?” I asked my partner one day.

“Because SL is pretty overwhelming at first, viagra 40mg my partner answered.

I laughed. “You should know! Remember how you wore two sets of hair for the longest time? Kept wandering off and getting lost?” (see photo below for example)


No verbal response was forthcoming, click but I sensed the irritation in the air.

I tried another approach:  “Well, I also had a hard time getting my head around Second Life, but once you learn a few things, it’s as easy as two clicks on your computer!”

My partner rolled her eyes.  “You’ve got to remember — most people don’t learn new stuff as fast as you.”

She had a point. I’ve been a “professional learner” ever since leaving academia — first as a journalist, then as an instructional designer, which is a job where, basically, you learn new stuff fast and then figure out how to teach it to other adults.  Many years of learning lots of new stuff fast has given me plenty of practice in plowing through obstacles to learning.

“You’re right,” I said, though a bit grudgingly, then paused and reminded her, “but when it comes to some things in SL — like building, scripting, and designing, for instance — I have to take the short bus, you know.”

“So focus on your strengths,” she said, “and share what you’ve learned about functioning in Second Life.  Maybe that’ll make it easier for your writer friends to jump in.”

She was right. I may not know how to create beautiful, sophisticated objects, or use any but the most rudimentary scripts, but I do know a lot of the ins and outs of living, learning, and laughing in Second Life.  And those I can pass on. So here goes:

Alas Zerbino’s Newbie Guide for Writers
(and Anyone Else) in Second Life: Part 1

Step 1:  Learn a little about Second Life before you enter this virtual world.

I discovered Second Life in a sort of roundabout way, for which I’m grateful, because that prompted me to do some online research before I signed up. That process gave me an idea of what was possible in SL and what my first steps in-world might be.  Second Life is a world as vast and diverse as the physical world. Just as you’d probably learn a bit about a foreign country before traveling there, it helps to have an overview of Second Life.

howto-tutorialsite Here are links to some great resources to look at before you go in:

Step 2:  Sign up for Second Life (it’s free).

Go to the Second Life home page and click “Join.”  You’ll be guided through a brief sign-up process, during which you’ll also be given a couple of choices (beyond password, etc.).

Choices you’ll have to make on the sign-up page:

  • Choose a starting look: You can pick a look for your about-to-be-born avatar, from about 12 options.  Don’t  belabor this decision — you can quickly change looks at any time in SL, and you’ll probably end up changing everything about your avatar in a short time anyway!
  • Choose a community: I recommend leaving this unchecked — unless you want to be certain to get an orientation in a language other than English, or want it to look similar to your physical-world home.  My experience with these communities is that while they offer a lot, they tend to overwhelm the new resident with information and don’t always keep the initial learning process simple.  By leaving this option blank, you’ll go to Second Life’s own Orientation Island, where you can learn the basics and then leave quickly.
  • Name: You can use any first name you want, but for a last name, you’ll have to choose from the current ones available (which change often).  Recommendation: Use a first name that’s easy to say and type — in other words, don’t use a typical chatroom or forum handle like “yummydough9872xyz” because you’ll make it hard for people to say your name in voice or type it in text chat.  And your name is used a LOT in SL.

After you’ve made your choices, you’ll be prompted to download and install the Second Life viewer on your computer, and within a few minutes, you’ll find yourself on Orientation Island (or one of the community orientation sites, if that’s what you chose).


Step 3:  Take all the tutorials offered on Orientation Island — then leave!

Just follow the path and signs, which guide you through the tutorials. You don’t need to become an expert at any of these skills — just learn enough to practice later as you explore Second Life.  On Orientation Island you’ll be introduced to skills like walking, flying, text-chatting, moving objects, using notecards, and so on.  But where you’ll really learn these skills is while exploring Second Life.

Some key things to remember:

  • howto-piemenu You control things in Second Life by clicking on them. If a sign offers you information, put your mouse on the sign and click.  If nothing happens, then right-click instead; you’ll open up a pie-shaped menu (see photo at right) and choose an option (usually “Touch” to get a notecard).
  • You control many of your avatar’s movements by clicking or right-clicking on objects. Want to sit down?  Right-click on the chair, choose “Sit here” on the pie menu, and your avatar will instantly sit in that chair.
  • You do NOT have to get your avatar close to something to click it and trigger its function. All you need do is move your computer’s mouse to the object and click.  This saves a lot of frustration common among newbies who assume (and often are even told!) that they must be standing right next to a chair to sit down.  When you’re first learning your way around Second Life, it’s not always easy to walk to the exact spot you want to go!  (Come to think of it, it’s not that easy after a year, either!)
  • howto-clicktosit

  • You can’t hurt anything in Second Life by clicking on it, nor can you hurt yourself. So experiment with your mouse and its “clickers”!!
  • IMPORTANT! Ignore all other “newbies” on Orientation Island (some of them are focused more on mischief than anything else, though they can’t hurt you in any way), and exit the island as fast as you can.
  • Don’t accept any friendship offers on Orientation Island. Learn what friendship means in Second Life before you send out or accept friendship offers.

Step 4:  Bypass “Help Island” and teleport to one of the excellent resident-run locations that support newbies.

Linden Lab’s “Help Island” isn’t a bad place — it’s just too confusing, complex, and full of mischief-makers to provide everyone a pleasant initial experience.  So if you want more information and grounding, go from Orientation Island to one of these locations (or one like it that’s been recommended to you):


NCI Kuula – New Citizens Incorporated: This is a volunteer-run organization focused on helping new SL residents learn and get adjusted to their new virtual world.  To get here once you’re in-world:

  • With SL running, open a Web browser and go to this address:  http://slurl.com/secondlife/Kuula/55/168/29.  This links to SL’s SLURL Web site, which will open a window inside SL that lets you teleport to that location.
  • Or use the SL Search function, pick the Places tab, and in the search box type: NCI.  There are many NCI locations; this is the main one, but they’re all extremely helpful.  You’ll find it crammed full of tutorials, advice, freebies, etc.

The Learning Experience Newbie Park: TLE is a large, free virtual education center in Second Life. It include a Newbie Park, designed just to help new residents.  Here you’ll find a lovely garden-like location with lots of information available from signs and almost-daily classes led by a live instructor.  To get here:


Step 5:  Log out of Second Life before you get overwhelmed by it!

It’s like learning anything new — if you try to learn it all right away, you may get overwhelmed or depressed or irritated, and end up forgetting everything or just giving up in frustration.  Maybe you won’t even leave Orientation Island the first time you go in-world.  Not a problem!  You’ll always pick up where you left off when you next log in.

Think of it in terms of scenes or chapters from a novel:  leave wanting more, not less, at least the first few times!

Step 6:  Watch more of Torley Linden’s tutorials!

Over the years, Torley has produced hundreds of these awesome videos that are the best way I’ve found for learning almost anything you want to know about Second Life. I think I’ve watched 80-90 percent of them during the past year, and I’ve never been disappointed.

The videos are all available for viewing on the official Second Life tutorial site, but I recommend accessing them instead from the Second Life Wiki tutorials page. I find it’s much easier to both browse the videos and find one on a specific topic on the Wiki site.  The videos range from 2-minute quick tips to 10-20 minutes for complex topics, but they’re all a hoot to watch, as well as providing the best SL learning.

That’s it for Part 1.  In Part 2, I’ll share my tips on how to get acquainted with the SL writing community. Got additional tips for writers at this stage?  If so, I’d love it if you’d add them in a comment!

Post to Twitter Post to Plurk

No TweetBacks yet. (Be the first to Tweet this post)
If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my email updates or to my RSS feed.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Diana Allandale (4 comments.) February 18, 2009 at 7:40 am

(waving hello to Alas!)

This is a GREAT summary of newbie info, Alas. You wore two sets of hair? I kept refusing any offers to “tp”–thinking they wanted to ‘toilet paper’ me!

SL is a wonderful place for writers to hone their skills in workshops, to get inspiration and to meet readers. I look forward to your Part 2. 🙂


2 Zillow February 18, 2009 at 9:36 am

Great advice, Alas. So in-depth as usual. And not just for writers. Your all too infrequent posts are worth the wait. I’m going to mention it briefly on my blog and post a link later this week. (You might want to post a link on the official SL blog, where newbies are more likely to find it. Just make sure it’s in one of the sections that allows links.)

3 Zillow (1 comments.) February 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

Question: Why call it a “writer’s guide?” It’s great for any newbie.

Zillows last blog post..Fashion Blog Favorites

4 Debbie (8 comments.) February 18, 2009 at 12:02 pm

What a GREAT post, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. And I’m definitely going to point writers this way.


5 Joan Kremer (71 comments.) February 18, 2009 at 2:59 pm

@Diana: That’s so funny about the “tp” offers!! Every newbie has great experiences like that — it would be fun to get together a collection of those! Thanks so much for your comment.

@Zillow: Thank you so much for your comments and support of this site! And that’s a good idea to post it on the SL blog. I’ll do that!

@Debbie: Thank you — and, by the way, I was just at your place today and astounded at the work you’ve done! I love the area for newbies, and I’d already decided I need to be sure and add that to Part 2.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv Enabled

Comments links could be nofollow free.

Powered by WP Hashcash

{ 2 trackbacks }

Comments protected by Lucia's Linky Love.

Previous post:

Next post: