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Second What?

what is second life I’m sure most of you have heard of Second Life (SL) before. In case you haven’t, let me give you a very short overview of what we’re talking about. Second Life is a 3D virtual world, entirely created by its inhabitants (residents). In SL you will find almost everything you know from your Real or First Life (RL), and more.

It works much like a game; you sign up for a basic (free) or premium account, install the software (viewer) on your computer, start to form your personal character, you can explore the world, interact with other residents, play your role within the game, create things, receive things other residents have created and so on.

Yes there is role playing within SL, yes there are games within SL, yes people have jobs in SL earning virtual money (Linden Dollars or L$), yes you can go shopping with your L$ and spend real money too, yes you can buy or rent land, yes people earn real money in SL, yes there is sex, yes there is crime, and yes everything else you heard may well be true.

Let me tell you that there is a lot less of all the bad stuff one might expect. During my time in SL (over two years) I was never harassed and witnessed merely a handful of serious griefings (terrorist attacks). Surprisingly, most people do behave quite well!

More questions are answered in the SL FAQ .

So what’s the hype?

slgridstatus.png It’s tough to give a specific explanation, but in general it’s probably the diversity of options that makes SL so attractive. People live out their dreams and fantasies, they detach from the real world and their RL issues, they unwind in a game that offers a niche for almost every shade of the human character. Many residents engage in RL topics, supporting real people with real issues. Yet others are in it for the money, forming SL businesses with which they earn RL cash. Some are in it for the free entertainment, they enjoy being creative, hunting down free stuff (freebies), playing the SL version of Bingo (Slingo) or other games, while chatting with fellow residents. Many love to hit the clubs, dance, mingle, participate in a contest, play trivia, and simply explore the beauty of a thousand worlds. Employers even conduct job interviews in SL. Ask a thousand different people and you will receive a thousand different views – a thousand people, a thousand worlds.

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Why the heck a post about Second Life on Make Use Of?

As suggested before, SL offers a lot more than a role playing environment. It’s a haven for anonymous support groups, discussion rounds, as well as online education. There are regular meetings supporting cancer patients (survivors) and their relatives (caregivers), people with emotional issues, and alcoholics. Discussion groups cover everything from dream interpretation to zen practice to creative nonfiction or children’s poetry.

Second Life Events

Education is one of the most progressive fields in SL. Many educational programmes focus on skills required inside SL, which is a great way to get started for new residents (newbies or noobs) or those wishing to start a business. But that’s not where it stops. The German Volkshochschule (adult education center) for example regularly offers free courses and guided tours through museums or rebuilds of national monuments. Lots of universities provide their students with lectures and seminars held inside SL (in-world). Publicly listed educational events range from English classes, via classes on Creation vs. Evolution, project management to Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Most but not all of these events are free. Most classes are free, however some charge a small fee, for example L$500 ($1.90 or €1.30) for a one hour English class.SL is a market for artists and talented people from all walks of life. There are singers, furniture designers, fashion designers, tattoo designers, painters, photographers, scripters, managers, sales people, estate agents, teachers, doctors, actors, journalists and more, and many of them make a RL living in a virtual world.

Taken together, there is a virtual world out there that has great potential for more than just having fun. It’s up to you and your imagination and if you need a little help stay tuned for insider tips & tricks that will show you how to get started and make use of a Second Life.

Second Life runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. I hear the Linux client isn’t very stable and there are various issues with graphics cards on all platforms. Please refer to the Second Life System Requirements, the Knowledge Base, and the Forums for details, help and support.

What is your experience with SL or other virtual worlds? Why do you love or detest these “games”? Please share with us in the comments!

  1. Miles
    October 26, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Okay, dude. Have all the people who are complaining about this looked around? From what I've seen MakeUseOf has at LEAST a 100:1 ratio of Productive:Less-Productive apps. This may not be high on everyone's productivity list but whether you use it or not is your choice. If you don't like this particular article? There are tons more on this very sight. Such a novel idea, eh? Looking at something else if you don't like whats currently on your screen.

  2. Jonathan Bennett
    March 29, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    I tried Second Life for a day recently. I must say, I was mostly bored throughout this whole process. I mean, flying was kind of cool, but it isn’t enough. I know there are many interesting things to do in this world, such as buying land, building property, and all sorts of other things, but this is not my type of thing. I think mowing my lawn in real life is more exciting.

    What's sad is the people who live for their second life. People should focus on making their first lives something wonderful and special. Not their "second."

  3. Michaek
    March 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Sounds a lot like a partisan AD for the game rather than the fantastic stuff that is usually posted here.

    I've tried it, and its definitely something you could lose yourself in, after a fashion. I found the learning curve was extremely high though. And the amount of time lost trying to find the useful bits vastly outweighed any value the program provided.

    • Maina231
      March 28, 2008 at 10:56 pm

      strange thing is that! if people sit on there chairs and play this worthless games, when they gono do some real work.

      ts funny that makeuseof (productivity blog) is writing this up. I would rather put secondlife 1st on "top 10 things that distract productivity"

  4. Tina
    March 28, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Thank you for the comments everyone. I knew this might be a controversial post for MUO. However, this other, useful, philanthropic, educational side of SL has been fascinating me for a long time. My post was a sneak peak from a different perspective compared to what you normally see in the media. Mind you, I don't think SL is a game, it's more than that because it's much more flexible than any game I know; it really is a world, it even has its own economy, as unstable as it may be in reality.

    @Michaek You're right, there is a lot of room for improvement. However, the learning curve is much lower than that of let's say Excel. It takes less than a minute to understand and do the most basic things, all it takes is common sense. Yes, some people may never be able to grasp the more complicated concepts or functions, most don't even want to and that's ok.

  5. Maina231
    March 28, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    seems like you have started posting things that doesn't interest digg!

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 28, 2008 at 12:13 pm

      Yeah and you know what? We are so devastated about that. I mean, how can we possibly live without your digg? Our life is totally over now.

  6. Andrae
    March 28, 2008 at 5:59 am

    I gained from this post. I heard about SL but was doubtful about it. Thanks for clearing it up. I hear you can start a business and earn an income from it. I will try it!

  7. Catharina
    March 28, 2008 at 4:22 am

    I think Second Life is a great place for education, but it takes time to get used to the world of SL and find your way, so maybe it is not for everyone.

    The Linux client runs fine, btw.

  8. Chirag
    March 27, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    I second Alex's comment...I didn't really gain anything from this post.

  9. Alexander
    March 27, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    can we please stick to articles about useful programs? The only reason you don't do one on WoW should not be because it costs money.

    • Aibek
      March 27, 2008 at 9:23 pm

      The only reason we didn't do a story on WoW is because none of us is familiar with it. ;-)

    • Mark O'Neill
      March 28, 2008 at 6:31 am

      I think you missed the whole point of the article. Tina thinks that Second Life IS a useful program. We all think differently you know.

  10. Chip
    March 27, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I tried Second Life a couple years ago and found it both remarkable and clunky. What folks had created was impressive but actually finding anything could be a challenge. I'm not into fantasy or role playing so I didn't get any entertainment value from it. I agree there are educational opportunities within 2L, but I would only consider them if I could attend a similar class offline.

    My $.02.

    • Clif Swinford
      April 24, 2008 at 3:49 pm

      You might be surprised. Consider that, given the rate of change in computers and the web, saying you tried something a couple of years ago and weren't impressed might be similar to someone in 1940 saying they'd seen the Wright brothers fly and didn't think that gadget could be good for much.

      I'd say it's still fairly clunky, but the difference between Second Life even a year ago and now, especially on a computer with a good graphics card, is remarkable. I've gone from finding it an amusing curiosity to regularly using it as a tool for learning, entertainment, and networking. My wife and I even attend church via Second Life. I'd suggest looking at it again.

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