Meet People and Make Friends in Second Life
Right now, as these words are sitting on the page, the total population of Second Life is fast approaching 8 million residents. So it's easier than ever to bump into strangers and start a casual conversation. But in some ways, it's more and more of a challenge to make friends.
In this chapter, you will learn how to add the next layer of personality to your avatar and online life, so you will be and feel more approachable. You'll learn how to create a Profile for yourself that will invite other people to talk to you, and how to spot the stuff of small talk and commonalities in others' Profiles. You'll take a good, long look at the single most useful tool in every dimension of Second Life—and that tool is Search. Finally, you'll learn how to combine what you put into your Profile with Search results to find entrées into the areas of SL that match your interests.
Advertise Yourself: Creating Your Profile
You can make a first impression in Second Life by walking past another resident. Or, alternatively, you can make a first impression via your Profile, which is a set of biographical "pages" provided to every resident of Second Life. Your Profile can, and does, reveal a great deal about your personality, your interests, your credibility, and even your general air of friendliness.
If you want to look at your own Profile, or the Profile of somebody standing nearby your avatar, click on the semitransparent oval hanging over his or her head. This will open the semitransparent pie menu, and the Profile option is at the center right.
Looking at others' Profiles when they're not standing nearby requires a different strategy. The easiest way to find a Profile is to find the resident by name using Search. Click the blue Search button along the bottom of the Second Life window; then click the People tab and type the name of the resident into the blank text box near the upper left corner. (We will explore Search much more thoroughly later in this chapter.)
There are six pages to your Profile, each devoted to a specific type of information. The actual use for these pages, though, continues to evolve just as Second Life keeps growing and changing. So let's have a look at each part of the Profile in turn, starting with the default first page, 2nd Life.
Your Profile: The 2nd Life Page
There are nine text boxes and other such areas on the 2nd Life tab page, along with half a dozen blue buttons at the bottom edge. Some of these areas are filled in automatically by the Second Life server, i.e., the contents of these text boxes cannot be customized. The Name box, for example, is going to display the avatar's name; the Born box shows the date that avatar was created; the Account box reveals whether or not the avatar's account is free or paid and if that resident's payment information is on record (see Figure 4.1).
Figure 4.1 The 2nd Life tab page of the Profile.
The most important areas on this tab page of your Profile—in terms of conveying biographical info about yourself—are the Photo, the Groups list, and the About: Text box. These are the three places someone else will glance over first, because residents have control over what appears here, so this information is unique. Also, the quality and presentation of this information, specifically, can persuade someone to dig deeper into your Profile.
The Photo area is the place to drag-and-drop in an image of your avatar. It's usually a "pic" that's taken in-world, using a combination of poses or animations, the Snapshot tool, and the Camera Controls. The final product (if you like it and decide to keep it) is saved to either your computer's desktop, or to the Photo Album folder in your Inventory.
Figure 4.2 An eye-catching pose...
Figure 4.3 ...just enough detail in the clothing and hair...
Figure 4.4 ...and focus on the face.
The Groups text box just beneath the Photo is a scrollable list of all the Groups you've joined. Although you can belong to 25 groups, the Profile page lists them alphabetically and only the first three appear in this window. Still, whatever appears in your Groups window will provide a glimpse into your hobbies and interests, and may open (or close) doors for you socially.
Some role-playing communities require a "record" of association with or proven interest in the game, world, or novels upon which their RP is based. This requirement guarantees a basic degree of familiarity with the culture and the rules, so everybody who is playing along will know what they are doing and why. Also, landlords often carefully screen the Profiles of Second Life residents who want to rent property. If a would-be tenant belongs to a Group known to attract griefers, or whose members are wannabe hackers, a landlord may think twice about inviting that kind of mayhem onto his or her private property.
Group membership also serves many practical purposes because of the way the Second Life grid works. For example, many designers and businesspeople in SL use Groups to make announcements to customers, affiliates, and other interested parties—you can send a single IM to everybody belonging to a group or hold a collective discussion without anyone else overhearing. Group membership may also limit access and activities on a particular bit of land. You can use Group-related settings to keep strangers out of your home, to prevent nonmembers from leaving trash on your lawn, and even to allow or deny someone else the ability to build on or terraform your property.
Similarly, doors may be scripted to keep out everybody who does not belong to that household's Group. These are other, significant reasons why someone else might browse the Groups list on your Profile. Sometimes, the Groups to which you do or do not belong have a lot to say about the people you trust or the people who trust you.
The third all-important area on the 2nd Life tab page is the About: Text box. What's the most intriguing, descriptive, or crucial thing about you that you want others to know? This is the place to spell that out—not in 500 characters or less, but actually four lines or less. The About: Text box may be scrollable, but it's a lot like a Web page. If you don't grab somebody with the first "bite" of information you provide, without them having to click-and-drag that scrollbar, chances are good they won't bother to read the rest.
So use the About: Text box to summarize the meaning of your avatar's Second Life. List your business, praise your friends, declare your love, spell out expectations. You can expand on all these things in subsequent Profile pages, but this area is where you are guaranteed to get one point across.
Your Profile: The Web and Interest Pages
Now that the Web tab page is working, more and more Second Life residents are using this page to promote Second Life resources on the Web at large. Designers have created blogs to announce the debut of new products and Web sites to promote their entire product lines. Landlords, real estate agents, and other residents who buy, sell, or rent land will use a Web site to list all their properties. Groups with a "dual-world purpose," such as the organizers and participants in the Second Life Community Conferences, use a mix of in- and real-world resources to keep vital information circulating. So the Web tab page on someone's profile is worth a quick glance, just in case there's something interesting at that URL that you don't want to miss (see Figure 4.5).
Figure 4.5 The Web tab page of your Profile.
The Interests tab page, to be honest, just isn't that interesting. If you want to demonstrate that you're into building, or that you have talent as a builder (just as one example), you'll get far more mileage out of dedicating a few Picks to your projects than by clicking a box or two on this page. So feel free to use the text boxes only, and type in something like, "See my Picks." This sort of quick note will drive people to the next tab page in your Profile, the second most important area, your Picks.
Your Profile: The Picks Page
By now, you might have realized that your Second Life Profile is comparable to your personal Web site in real life. (Well done! You're very perceptive!) So if that comparison holds true, you've come to the equivalent of the "Links" page: your in-world Picks.
You can list anything in your Picks—your favorite stores, shout-outs to your favorite people, information about your Second Life business, and more (see Figure 4.6 on the next page). But you only get a maximum of 10 Picks per Profile, and there are limits as to how much text will be displayed. So here are some tips on how to use Picks to their best advantage.
Figure 4.6 The Picks page of your Profile.
Your Picks are composed of a Photo, a short title, body text, and a landmark.
If you want to create a Pick of your favorite place, your home, your store, or any other Second Life location, just go there. Then open your Profile, click on the Picks tab, and click the New button near the top of the Profile dialog box. A new Picks page will automatically appear, with default text and a default Photo, prepared and uploaded by the landowner.
You can edit every part of a Picks page. If you want to add a different Photo, open your Inventory and click and drag the texture or snapshot you want into the Photo box. To change the side tab text, click once in the narrow text box just below the Photo and then start typing. The side tab text will transform once you press Enter or Return. The same basic strategy works for changing the body text; click once in the big text box, delete or add new text as you wish, and press Return or Enter to save your changes.
The general size and composition of a Picks Photo should be the same as the portrait Photo on the first page of your Profile. But there are specific considerations to keep in mind for Picks text. At most, the side tab text that will be visible when the Picks are all closed is 18 characters. Also, even though the max length of the body text is 500 characters, only six lines of text will appear without scrolling down. So try to keep your title and description of each Pick within these shorter, smaller limits.
If you're trying to arrange your Picks in a particular way, you have to trick the grid. The default order will be alphabetical, based on the first letter of the side tab text. However, you can use numbers, or an increasing number of colons (:) or exclamation points (!), to force a rearrangement. Popular reasons for doing this have to do with ranking, role-playing, or creating a chronology. But also, because your Picks are ultimately just like your favorite links or bookmarks in your Web browser, you should have control over the order in which other people will browse them.
If you own a store, a casino, a club, a garden, or any other sort of destination that needs advertising, you can use this same strategy to push yourself to the top of other people's Picks, too. To create or modify the default Picks-related information, choose About Land from the pie menu and then look at the General tab page. The way you type the name of your land in the Name text box is how it will appear whenever somebody makes a Pick. So take advantage of the side tab text defaults and begin the name of your land with colons or exclamation points.
Your Profile: The Classified Page
Just about everybody in Second Life, at one time or another, has an event, a business, or something for sale that they want to advertise. Hence, the Classified tab (see Figure 4.7 on the next page). Each Classified listing you create on this page, much the same way you create a Pick listing, appears in SL's worldwide Search. Where, when, and how these listings appear—and how effective they are—depends on how you create them.
Figure 4.7 The Classified page of your Profile.
Just like Picks, you can create a maximum of 10 Classified listings. The main components of a Classified listing are the Photo, a short title, the body text, and a landmark. However, unlike Picks, each Classified you create here serves double duty—it places an ad in Search, and it is visible to anybody viewing your profile, minus a few key bits of information at the bottom of the Classified tab page, which only you can see. So Classified listings in your Profile act as a second directory of your favorite things.
After you've written the title and added body text along with a Photo, walk to the place where you want respondents to arrive and click the Set Location button. This will create the Classified's landmark.
Now you are ready to Publish your Classified. Choose the best category for your Classified from the drop-down menu. (There might not be an exact match, but pick the best one possible.) Then check the Mature box to maximize the ad's exposure, even if the content is not R-rated. Click the blue Publish button and decide how much you want to pay, in Lindens, each real-life week, for your Classified listing. It's almost always best to check the Auto-Renew box, even if you are only offering an item or two for sale. You can always revisit your Classified listings and update or cancel them, but it's a pain in the neck to rewrite and re-list them every week.
There are two strategies to consider here. On the one hand, Second Life residents are becoming more and more savvy about using the Search tool to its best advantage, so chances are good that they will find your listing by keyword search if you provide a thorough list of keywords to work with. Then again, the more Lindens you pay for your Classified listing, the greater the chance it will appear at the top of any general search list in its category.
The best way to figure out if it's worth the cost to aim for the top of the list is to do your research. Open Search yourself and start browsing the categories of listings while pretending to be the type of customer you want to attract. Not only will this help you figure out where to put your own Classified, but it will also give you an idea of how much other people in your line of work, or selling what you have to sell, have shelled out to get top billing. (You must click OK after creating a Classified listing, or the listing will not be uploaded and saved.)
There's another way to advertise if you own the land underneath your business: by customizing certain Land Options settings. If you do these customizations, Search will "grab" text and other information from the Land Options settings and compile a listing for Search > Places. This type of promotion is less expensive than placing a Classified, but it's also more simple and limited. To use the Land Options settings for advertising, click on any part of your land—on the ground itself, not on something sitting on the land—and choose About Land from the pie menu. The About Land dialog box will appear (see Figure 4.8).
Figure 4.8 The General tab page in the About Land dialog box.
First, look at the Name and Description text boxes at the top of the General tab page. The text you type into the Name box will be the title of the Search > Places listing. The text you type into the Description text box will appear as the details in the listing.
Next, click the Options tab, and look for the Land Options settings in the middle area of this tab page (see Figure 4.9). Check the box labeled "Show in Search > Places" and drag and drop a Photo of the destination into the Snapshot box. You should also select a Search subcategory from the drop-down menu; the most practical is the default "Any Category," however.
Figure 4.9 The Options tab page in the About Land dialog box.
The benefit in creating a Search listing this way is definitely the price. As shown, this listing costs a mere L$30 per week, and is renewed automatically as long as you own the land. There are two downsides, though. First, you can't track the success of this type of ad like you can with proper Classified listings. Second, the Description text provided here can only be a maximum of 130 characters long, compared to 500 characters in a Classified ad. So you really have to think cleverly and boil down the essence of what you want to say in order to get this type of listing to work.
Your Profile: The 1st Life and My Notes Pages
The last two pages of your Profile are entirely optional, not often visited (because they are most often left blank), and not often used (because, well, they are most often left blank.)
It's obvious why many residents leave the 1st Life page empty; everybody spends quite a bit of time, energy, and forethought creating an alternate identity, so, referencing your first life can feel somewhat counterproductive. Also, because this is still the Internet, privacy and anonymity remain precious. So don't be disappointed or put off if somebody's 1st Life page is completely bare (see Figure 4.10).
Figure 4.10 The 1st Life page of your Profile.
The My Notes page is, as described, intended as an easy-access place for your own notes on a particular person or avatar (see Figure 4.11). (It's definitely easier to jump to this spot than, say, comb the average overbloated Inventory for a single notecard.) But in reality, you just won't see that many avatars frequently enough to make this Notes page a viable place to keep personal notes.
Figure 4.11 The My Notes page of your Profile.
Two unexpected, but interesting and practical uses for the My Notes page were uncovered during research for this book. The first, most universal application serves as a to-do list. Some Second Life business owners will use the My Notes page as a low-tech sort of appointment book/reminder list. But, they do this in their own Profile and only for themselves.
The other possible, though infrequent, use for this page is as a virtual role-playing character sheet. Traditional, pencil-and-paper-type role-players have co-opted the My Notes page as a place to paste in their SL character's stats, race and alignment information, and the contents of their all-important "knapsack." This keeps such info readily at the fingertips, where it can also be easily updated or modified. No eraser or Inventory hunting required.