Second Life 101 with James Au, Linden Labs embedded reporter

I recently had James Au come over my house for beers and a conversation about Second Life. Who is James? He was the embedded reporter that was hired to study what is going on in Second Life. If you’re a marketer and keep hearing the hype about Second Life you’ll want to watch this series. It’s long, about an hour and a half in total (split up over four videos) but we cover a lot of ground. If you’ve heard the hype but have never had a good tour, this is one way to get educated about Second Life. James is also writing a book about Second Life that’ll come out in January 2008 and he has a blog called New World Notes.

If you’re an expert Second Lifer (Eric Rice, are you out there?) then you might get a little bit out of this, but probably not. Instead we tried to answer all the questions I get from marketers who hear about it.

Part I: Intro to James Au and Second Life.
Part II: Cool places to visit, keeping kids safe, a game inside Second Life called Tringo.
Part III: Avatar customization, camping chairs, teen grid, Second Life going open source.
Part IV: Tax revolt, pregnant avatars, memorial plots, fundraising.

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Can we go ahead and post all the textbook crap we KNOW we’ll hear?

    1. More like ‘get a life’
    2. I don’t have time for a first life
    3. Clay Shirky playing with Excel spreadsheets again and not social issues
    4. I don’t get Second Life
    5. Insert something about gaming here
    6. Child Porn
    7. Gazillion damn dollars being spent via corps
    8. BTW, Microsoft and the Visual Studio thing is KICKING MUCH ASS IN SL
    9. More like ‘get a life’ oh wait I said that already haw haw haw it was funny the first 9842309482098 times.

    Okay, wtf did I forget? Cuz really, I wanna save everyone the bandwidth.

    10. There are other Second Life competitors out there, also. Some of them are better and worse. But, see #1 if this worries you.

  2. Can we go ahead and post all the textbook crap we KNOW we’ll hear?

    1. More like ‘get a life’
    2. I don’t have time for a first life
    3. Clay Shirky playing with Excel spreadsheets again and not social issues
    4. I don’t get Second Life
    5. Insert something about gaming here
    6. Child Porn
    7. Gazillion damn dollars being spent via corps
    8. BTW, Microsoft and the Visual Studio thing is KICKING MUCH ASS IN SL
    9. More like ‘get a life’ oh wait I said that already haw haw haw it was funny the first 9842309482098 times.

    Okay, wtf did I forget? Cuz really, I wanna save everyone the bandwidth.

    10. There are other Second Life competitors out there, also. Some of them are better and worse. But, see #1 if this worries you.

  3. As someone who just doesn’t get Second Life (I’ve tried to play it a couple of times) I’ll definitely take a look.

    I think it’s definitely a great way to brand a game, but I’m unsure as to whether a game can be any good based on just its concept? Especially when the concept is as over arching as Second Life’s. Perhaps I look at it too much as a game, when really I shouldn’t be playing it but living it?

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time, unless I can read Scobleizer in game?

  4. As someone who just doesn’t get Second Life (I’ve tried to play it a couple of times) I’ll definitely take a look.

    I think it’s definitely a great way to brand a game, but I’m unsure as to whether a game can be any good based on just its concept? Especially when the concept is as over arching as Second Life’s. Perhaps I look at it too much as a game, when really I shouldn’t be playing it but living it?

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time, unless I can read Scobleizer in game?

  5. I personally get frustrated with hearing about the same old well-trod five smooth stones being brought out — Svarga, Lost Garden, the Prim Tax Revolt, Tringo, Ice Dragon.

    I suppose for those very new to SL those are must-sees but…then what? It’s like going to New York City and going to the Central Park Zoo, seeing the panda, eating those too-sweet peanuts from the pushcarts and then you go, ok, now what? And…that is the question. What next? How will *you* live in Second Life?

    There is so much more, but it really is a very, very long tail of a wide variety of demographic niches.I’m flying out of the dusty atoll continent with Magellan’s plane crash under the sky temple, now I’m looking at the Norwegian waterfalls and rocky cliffs (now made by real Norwegians lol!), earlier this evening I was in the Amphibian gardens listening to Frogg Marlowe and Jaycatt Nino live. Now a tenant is IM’ing me from a motel to open the door in a flat grassland sim next to a cobblestone road and somebody from England is asking if I can put out a poster of the lost British girl…and somebody is clicking on the Aids Memorial Quilt object on a mall plaza, donating a square of virtual quilt. Maybe SL just needs to become more twitterable.

    And I think the answer to those worried marketers is: people make their own amateur content, and it’s not just about the very tiny percent making the highly polished professional content that gets consumed by tourist-like activity.

    What people enjoy about SL is putting together their own lean-to and primitive garden at first, or buying a prefab of some style they like, like a goth house or a Frank Lloyd Wright house, and then the thrill of making their own table or buying one from a friend or going to a yard sale. So the pleasures are simple and often have a home-made effect but that’s what people like there, and marketers have to follow them doing that, not hope that if they park content on a big, expensive island that people will come.

    I would submit that to follow them, you’ll have to spread out and do a whole bunch of things — sponsor live music, sports, games, clubs, events, discussion groups that people themselves make, then have more activities like that on your own high-end sim or it will moulder with no traffic no it.

    I think the other advice is that if your company does have it’s own IT staff or even if it has people reasonably familiar with gaming or Internet new media, that it’s worth them going through the steps of learning some of the basic interface rather than shielding yourself from learning the world from the ground up by hiring an expensive metaversal dev company. I think if you’re there for the long haul you’ll want to do that anyway.

    I think Hamlet’s comment about “no script” and “no build” and such need to be supplemented by the obvious for those who don’t understand yet the concept of “land tools”: if you buy or rent land in Second Life, it’s like a website, you will be able to block entry to it, you can publish it just for your family as some photo sites are or you can open it to the public. You can “moderate comments” if you will, limiting it to only a certain group, or you can do the equivalent of banning the IPs of people who verbally harass you by putting them in a ban list, etc.

    But you have to balance whether you want a sterile experience where people can’t come and rez out or demonstrate out of inventory things they’ve made or bought, or can’t build because you turned that function off. Putting “autoreturn” on for 5 minutes is another way to clear content constantly that isn’t set to the owner or his group.

  6. I personally get frustrated with hearing about the same old well-trod five smooth stones being brought out — Svarga, Lost Garden, the Prim Tax Revolt, Tringo, Ice Dragon.

    I suppose for those very new to SL those are must-sees but…then what? It’s like going to New York City and going to the Central Park Zoo, seeing the panda, eating those too-sweet peanuts from the pushcarts and then you go, ok, now what? And…that is the question. What next? How will *you* live in Second Life?

    There is so much more, but it really is a very, very long tail of a wide variety of demographic niches.I’m flying out of the dusty atoll continent with Magellan’s plane crash under the sky temple, now I’m looking at the Norwegian waterfalls and rocky cliffs (now made by real Norwegians lol!), earlier this evening I was in the Amphibian gardens listening to Frogg Marlowe and Jaycatt Nino live. Now a tenant is IM’ing me from a motel to open the door in a flat grassland sim next to a cobblestone road and somebody from England is asking if I can put out a poster of the lost British girl…and somebody is clicking on the Aids Memorial Quilt object on a mall plaza, donating a square of virtual quilt. Maybe SL just needs to become more twitterable.

    And I think the answer to those worried marketers is: people make their own amateur content, and it’s not just about the very tiny percent making the highly polished professional content that gets consumed by tourist-like activity.

    What people enjoy about SL is putting together their own lean-to and primitive garden at first, or buying a prefab of some style they like, like a goth house or a Frank Lloyd Wright house, and then the thrill of making their own table or buying one from a friend or going to a yard sale. So the pleasures are simple and often have a home-made effect but that’s what people like there, and marketers have to follow them doing that, not hope that if they park content on a big, expensive island that people will come.

    I would submit that to follow them, you’ll have to spread out and do a whole bunch of things — sponsor live music, sports, games, clubs, events, discussion groups that people themselves make, then have more activities like that on your own high-end sim or it will moulder with no traffic no it.

    I think the other advice is that if your company does have it’s own IT staff or even if it has people reasonably familiar with gaming or Internet new media, that it’s worth them going through the steps of learning some of the basic interface rather than shielding yourself from learning the world from the ground up by hiring an expensive metaversal dev company. I think if you’re there for the long haul you’ll want to do that anyway.

    I think Hamlet’s comment about “no script” and “no build” and such need to be supplemented by the obvious for those who don’t understand yet the concept of “land tools”: if you buy or rent land in Second Life, it’s like a website, you will be able to block entry to it, you can publish it just for your family as some photo sites are or you can open it to the public. You can “moderate comments” if you will, limiting it to only a certain group, or you can do the equivalent of banning the IPs of people who verbally harass you by putting them in a ban list, etc.

    But you have to balance whether you want a sterile experience where people can’t come and rez out or demonstrate out of inventory things they’ve made or bought, or can’t build because you turned that function off. Putting “autoreturn” on for 5 minutes is another way to clear content constantly that isn’t set to the owner or his group.

  7. I think, as Prok verbosely points out, much of the magic of SecondLife is missed. The same kludgey points of where to go, what to do… the landscape changes, and exploring *with friends* is probably the best way to get around.

    That said, I think the basics have been beaten to death. Being an expert in SecondLife isn’t necessarily a matter of how long one has been there – it is a matter of how well one keeps up. James has managed to do this and do it well, and that in itself is admirable. But like any social experience, the proof is in the pudding and you can’t really tell people where the pudding is. They have to find their own version of the pudding.

    Of course, that is the failure of most marketing.

  8. I think, as Prok verbosely points out, much of the magic of SecondLife is missed. The same kludgey points of where to go, what to do… the landscape changes, and exploring *with friends* is probably the best way to get around.

    That said, I think the basics have been beaten to death. Being an expert in SecondLife isn’t necessarily a matter of how long one has been there – it is a matter of how well one keeps up. James has managed to do this and do it well, and that in itself is admirable. But like any social experience, the proof is in the pudding and you can’t really tell people where the pudding is. They have to find their own version of the pudding.

    Of course, that is the failure of most marketing.

  9. Prokofy: those are all legitimate criticisms, but I wanted to get all the basics down in a video to give people some framework to start with. It’d be fun to do a more advanced video next time where we get more into how to build something, especially using scripting, which James admits he’s weak on.
    But I do wonder if you watched all four videos cause we cover a lot of stuff beyond the usual. It’s just that in my descriptions I pulled out the biggest things we talked about.

  10. Prokofy: those are all legitimate criticisms, but I wanted to get all the basics down in a video to give people some framework to start with. It’d be fun to do a more advanced video next time where we get more into how to build something, especially using scripting, which James admits he’s weak on.
    But I do wonder if you watched all four videos cause we cover a lot of stuff beyond the usual. It’s just that in my descriptions I pulled out the biggest things we talked about.

  11. Eric, yah forgot a few. :)

    11. Ponzi scheme, done faux new economy MLM. Buzz is up, goldrush it, get bloggers to foam over it, and bam quick economic tank-out crash. Fake as fake is. 12. Pyramid scheme serious, Giza to the 100th power. Linden dollars go pop.
    13. Church of Scientology SL style.
    14. Microsoft Island, MICARMA Initiative (Gillian as Supreme Leader)
    15. World of Warcraft crack-like, for the weak-headed, Pick a safer drug, like pure cocaine or something.
    16. IBM briefings, serious product pitches gone bezzerko…I hope the team that thought this was a good idea, got sliced in that downsizing.
    17. ROI? Wotchatalkingaboutwillis?
    18. Real relationships aren’t in pixel-form.
    19. It employed Beth Goza at one time, complete with her style of Marketing, trained Pitbulls and Secret Decoder Ring Insiders.
    20. Griefing as sport. Boredom begets griefing all the live long day. John Edwards de jour.

    But an overhyped artificial environment, be perfect for all those Social Marketing types, they can talk to themselves and their cult, all the live long day, and think it actually means something. Keeps the bug-eyed freaks outta normal society at least.

  12. Eric, yah forgot a few. :)

    11. Ponzi scheme, done faux new economy MLM. Buzz is up, goldrush it, get bloggers to foam over it, and bam quick economic tank-out crash. Fake as fake is. 12. Pyramid scheme serious, Giza to the 100th power. Linden dollars go pop.
    13. Church of Scientology SL style.
    14. Microsoft Island, MICARMA Initiative (Gillian as Supreme Leader)
    15. World of Warcraft crack-like, for the weak-headed, Pick a safer drug, like pure cocaine or something.
    16. IBM briefings, serious product pitches gone bezzerko…I hope the team that thought this was a good idea, got sliced in that downsizing.
    17. ROI? Wotchatalkingaboutwillis?
    18. Real relationships aren’t in pixel-form.
    19. It employed Beth Goza at one time, complete with her style of Marketing, trained Pitbulls and Secret Decoder Ring Insiders.
    20. Griefing as sport. Boredom begets griefing all the live long day. John Edwards de jour.

    But an overhyped artificial environment, be perfect for all those Social Marketing types, they can talk to themselves and their cult, all the live long day, and think it actually means something. Keeps the bug-eyed freaks outta normal society at least.

  13. “Tweakers, lokers, slammers, coming and going, swearing eternal allegiance and undying love for one another, only to wake up after the binge and realize you wouldn’t walk across the stree to piss on one of them if their head was on fire.” – The Salton Sea (2002), Tony Gayton

  14. “Tweakers, lokers, slammers, coming and going, swearing eternal allegiance and undying love for one another, only to wake up after the binge and realize you wouldn’t walk across the stree to piss on one of them if their head was on fire.” – The Salton Sea (2002), Tony Gayton

  15. But in the meantime, people are saying my world is reminding them of Half-Life 2 and various titles from XBOX 360.

    Given where I’ve been in blogging, podcasting, vlogging, etc… what could be my potential opportunities in the game space…?

    Life waits for no one.

  16. But in the meantime, people are saying my world is reminding them of Half-Life 2 and various titles from XBOX 360.

    Given where I’ve been in blogging, podcasting, vlogging, etc… what could be my potential opportunities in the game space…?

    Life waits for no one.

  17. Well…
    Second Life is a nice 3D virtual community.. but it wasn’t the first..

    Second Life is a copy and not the other way.

    I played around in Internet 3D commities in late 1999, before Second Life started. The Blaxxun VRML communities and so on.

    Project Entropia was first with real money economy..

  18. Well…
    Second Life is a nice 3D virtual community.. but it wasn’t the first..

    Second Life is a copy and not the other way.

    I played around in Internet 3D commities in late 1999, before Second Life started. The Blaxxun VRML communities and so on.

    Project Entropia was first with real money economy..