New Social Islands helping new users get started in Second Life

The Experience Keys based Social Islands
The Experience Keys based Social Islands

In May 2015, I wrote about the Lab’s work in adding Experience keys to their Learning Islands, the first in-world destination for new users joining Second Life through the Lab’s sign-up process. At the time, Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications, indicated the approach was one of a number the Lab were experimenting with, while subsequent to the article, Ebbe Altberg indicated that Lab was continuing with A/B testing of various approaches to getting new users started in Second Life.

Thanks to a nudge from Cube Republic, I’ve had the opportunity of trying-out one of the more recent aspects of this work, by paying a visit to one of a set of four Social Islands, which form the second stop incoming users make on their initial journey in-world, and which have been both redesigned by the Lab and which now also use Experience Keys to help new users gain greater familiarity with using Second Life.

The new Social Islands offer something of a Graeco-Roman feel (top image), presenting a number of circular structures linked by broad stairways and paths, sitting within a rocky island landscape. On arrival, newcomers receive a HUD which attaches to the to left of their screen before stepping through a set of welcoming messages to get them started in their explorations.

The initial HUD messages (click for full size)
The initial HUD messages (click for full size)

The HUD has a number of easy-to-understand icons (? = help; speaker icon = toggle HUD sounds on / off; – = minimise the HUD; Next Step = click to page through instructions, where relevant), and updates with messages and instructions as the user explores the island.

Central to the islands is a pavilion, where information boards provide basic help and support, and which provides access to the various activities on the island. The first of these can be accessed directly from the pavilion, and present users with the opportunity to practice using their camera, find out about building in Second Life and also learn about buying goods in-world and via the Marketplace.

The central pavilion in the new Social Islands includes information boards and - for those who have been involved in SL for a long time, the return of a familiar character from the days of the old Orientation Islands
The central pavilion in the new Social Islands includes information boards and – for those who have been involved in SL for a long time, the return of a familiar character from the days of the old Orientation Islands (right)

Stairs leading down to the ground level from the pavilion provide access to further activities, such as learning to interact with in-world objects at a beach bar or by using swings in an orchard, or learning the basics of vehicle driving by steering a boat through a course set over shark-infested water (swimming very inadvisable!), and so on.

As the HUD indicates, completion of the various tasks earns the user Linden Dollars. These are not added to the avatar’s account balance, but are indicated by a second HUD, which is attached as soon as the L$ start being earned. The balance obtained can then be used in the island’s shop to buy clothing, shoes, hair, and skins and shapes as means of introducing people to the concept of buying goods in Second Life.

The Advanced Camera Movement challenge
The Advanced Camera Movement challenge: use the camera control to move around the tower, touching and illuminating the red squares

A further section of the activities area offers a basic overview to in-world building, complete with a video overview courtesy of Magellan Linden and a couple of interactive elements. As an aside, I have to admit to being slightly bemused that a certain British Tabloid and a former south London community newspaper are featured in one of the demonstrations, simply because it was so unexpected.

The final part of the island is the portal area providing onward access to the rest of Second Life. This follows pretty much the same format as other versions of the Social island: a set of portals defined by category – art, role-play, popular places, editor’s picks from the Destination Guide, the Portal Parks, music and adult – which will deliver a user selecting one of them to one of several potential destinations. The portals are presented via a video providing more information on exploring SL, and users approaching them are presented with / advised to take a Landmark for the island so they can find their way back, if needed.

The new Social Islands include the same portal idea by which newcomers can continue their explorations of Second Life, but with some improvements over earlier versions
The new Social Islands include the same portal idea by which newcomers can continue their explorations of Second Life, but with some improvements over earlier versions

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Reading poetry, saying “yes” and encountering evil and terror

It’s time to kick-off a week of story-telling in voice, brought to our virtual lives by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s Second Life home at Bradley University, unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, April 17th

11:30 Crazy Eights: A Celebration of Poetry

PoetryFounded by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month takes place every April as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.

To mark the month, Seanchai Library has invited ten Second Life Poets to share both their own poetry and their favourite works of poetry by other poets.

Taking place at the the Crazy Eights special events area, A Celebration of Poetry presents Dubhna Rhiadra, Sabreman Carter. Seersha Heart, Michael Romani, Stranger Nightfire, Morgue McMillan, Talkwithmarie Resident, Rosedrop Rust, Sangreal Arnica, and Klannex Northmead.

Monday April 18th, 19:00 at Crazy Eights: Silent Running

silent runningGyro Muggins concludes reading Harlan Thompson’s novelization of the 1972 screenplay for Silent Running, by screenplay by Mike Cimino, Deric Washburn, and Steven Bochco.

In the future, all plant life on Earth has become extinct. A few specimens have been preserved in enormous, greenhouse-like geodesic domes attached to a fleet of space freighters, currently just beyond the orbit of Saturn.

Freeman Lowell, one of four crewmen aboard the freighter Valley Forge, is the resident botanist and ecologist who carefully preserves a variety of plants for their eventual return to Earth and the reforestation of the planet. Lowell spends most of his time in the domes, both cultivating the crops and attending to the animal life.

Then, orders come from Earth to jettison and destroy the domes with nuclear charges and return the freighters to commercial service. Orders Lowell’s crewmates are only too happy to follow if it means a return to Earth. Lowell, however, is less than sanguine about this new turn of events.

Tuesday April 19th, 19:00: Year of Yes

Year of YesCaledonia Skytower reads selections from Shonda Rhimes’ bestseller.

Shonda Rhimes is best known as the creator of television’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, as well as an executive TV producer. Despite her success and career, she is introverted and prefers to say “no” to invitations and engagements.

Then her sister presents a challenge to which Shonda reluctantly agrees: spend a year saying “yes” to unexpected invitations and opportunities.

This book is a record of that year, and how just saying one simple word – “yes” – had a positive and transformative impact on one woman’s life.

Wednesday April 20th 19:00: Dead Man’s Chest

Shandon Loring presents a reading of the second instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise, Dead Man’s Chest.

Thursday, April 21st

19:00: Solomon Kane

Shandon Loring reads from the exploits of Robert E. Howard’s 16th/17th fictional Puritan, Solomon Kane.

A “tall, sombre and gloomy man of pale skin, gaunt face and cold eyes”, Solomon Kane travels through Europe and Africa, seeking to vanquish evil wherever he might encounter it, armed with a rapier, a dagger, a brace of pistols – and the Staff of Solomon.

whispers21:00: Whispers from the Abyss

Shandon Loring opens the pages of this anthology of 33 short stories inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, edited by Kat Rocha.

On the subway, during lunch, or even under the fluorescent glow of your cubical—there is no escape! Now your slow descent into madness can follow you through the day.

Created as a ebook to be read by people on the move, the stories each present concentrated spine-chilling terror by the likes of Greg Stolze, Nick Mamata, Tim PrattDennis Detwiller, Greg Van Eekhout, A.C. Wise, David Tallerman and Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule.

The featured charity for March / April is Project Children, building peace in Ireland one child at a time.

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