The Awesome Book of free stuff

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Virtual Worlds – Second Life

Several Demonstrations of Second Life here

Where to start describing Second Life?

It is something different to everyone I think, it has just SO much potential to be used in so many different ways, millions of users probably go in so many diverse directions with the basic functionality that it is virtually a world of worlds.

In its simplest sense Second Life is a 3D “environment” or “Virtual World” comprised of a User-Edited arena of Land and Objects of varying degrees of complexity, from simple “Primitive Objects” like Cube, Sphere, Tube, Pyramid, etc. people can build their own creations limited only by their imagination. Kind of like a Computer Game where you explore imaginary spaces.

Your “presence” in this world is represented by a fairly basic three-dimensional character called an “Avatar” (From the ancient Hindu term used to define the manifestation of a deity in our dimension) This Avatar is also freely modifiable, in terms of height, skin colour, clothes, etc. You might be surprised exactly how detailed this can get, even to the length of eyelashes and eye colour, etc.

The unusual thing, and possibly one of the biggest attractions to S.L. is that it also has a Virtual Currency trade-able in both directions to REAL money. Just like a foreign exchange, the implication being that you can create articles in Second Life and trade for them, thus making real money. One woman Anshe Chung is famous for being the first virtual Millionaire.

If you can grasp the concept of moving through a 3D “World” of objects and people built by its own members then perhaps I can explain the next level which is that these prims can also be “sculpted” into all manner of shapes using conventional 3D graphics editors, so someone who has an existing 3D model of a Sport's Car could “import” that into SL and sell unlimited copies of that original work.

Furthermore, the “customising” of one's Avatar is as compulsive as any Fashion and clothes, shoes and hair are big sellers. This urge to personalise and improve and refine one's appearance to represent one's image in this world seems to know no bounds. Some people like to be Human, others animals, or mythical creatures, Aliens, or Robots – and just about every hybrid combination you can think of – and then some. I have met Angels, Demons, Vampires, Dogs, Tigers, Dragons, and lots of very sexy looking people too.

To Communicate in SL there are two key levels of Text;

Open Chat is where you type and everyone locally sees it.

Instant Messaging is where you elect to 'chat' in text with only one person, or group of people.

There is also Voice in SL, just like using Skype really – and some people even use this feature to give live performances, these could be reading poetry, or singing or playing music.

Audio and Video can also be channeled into SL, and of course, Web Links passed in world can be opened either in-world or in a separate browser.

With all of these mediums available, it is a highly immersive environment, and also takes a bit of a learning curve to get used to.

I forgot to mention, but you can also upload pictures or graphics in-world, and paste these onto objects – so, for example, you could photograph your house and replicate it in-world on a construction of building blocks.

The prims are also capable of being programmed to do various things, this is called scripting, and is an incredibly powerful type of Computer Language, if you consider you can effectively tell an object to resize, recolour, move, or change textures, or change sounds – even pick up chat and respond to key words, or being touched or on collision. It is fascinating and leads to the creation of realistic vehicles, weapons, magic objects, working doors, sculpted animals that follow you around – even inter-breed. (yes, people buy and sell those too!)

It is possible to enjoy Second Life completely as a free member, but there are advantages to being a paid up “Premier” member, such as owning land to build things.

Second Life has its own culture of freebies, and also free money. Usually not much money, and generally the freebies won't be as good as some of the priced articles, but there are some brilliant things out there.

There are Freebie “Stores” in-world, like Freebie Galaxy and many more.

There is also a MASSIVE website called SLMarketplace where you can sell or buy an incredible range of items for use in-world. It is like a Sears Catalogue, but Sears couldn't even match it for variety – after all Sears wouldn't sell Flying Saucers, or “Noob-Throwers”, and I am not even going to mention the Adult “Toys”, but, if you are a pervert you will have fun.

To get Freebies you can search SLMarkeplace for goods with a price of Zero Linden Dollars, and, of course, just about any search word you can think of, and then some.

As for Free Money;

There are a few schemes in-world, mostly designed to encourage beginners, and some of these are open only for the first month of membership – such as the Money Trees, which are exactly what it says, literally Trees, with dollar notes on them, Noobies can click the notes to get amounts up to 20 linden dollars (which is worth about 7 cents in the real world, but the Linden Currency is much more valuable in-world, as it is kind of like being in a 3rd world country. In fact goods are created by people both for fun as well as for money, so you can get some pretty neat things for relatively small amounts of cash.

There are also spots where they simply want people to hang out, (known as “Camping”) as that represents “traffic” or what we call “footfall” in the real world. So, to encourage people to stay put, (thus showing as green dots on the World map and attract attention and yet more traffic) they often give away small amounts of cash for sitting on a prim, perhaps that might animate your avatar to Dance, and issue a reward for the amount of time you spend there, say 1 linden for 10 minutes as an example. If you can be bothered to work out how to create and log in more than one Avatar – or have access to more than one Computer, it can mount up while you are sleeping. I once went out of my way to try this and kept a whole bunch of Avatars online 24x7 for a week and actually made £50. (just over US $78) in REAL money. I admit it was a bit of a hassle, but I had time on my hands and just wanted to see what was possible.

Of course, to make money you could create things, but there are other ways;

People run “events” talks, lectures, demonstrations, tutorials, or Discos are very popular. It is common practice to put out a “Tip Jar”, or, in some cases, ask for a few Linden Dollars for your time and trouble, but, do remember, people use SL purely for fun, so the chances are someone will do it for less, or totally free. However, if they want your time on a regular basis, then you would expect something for your trouble. Some people are happy just to sit at their Computer in their bedroom playing their music anyway, and so being a DJ is hardly any trouble for them. If they make maybe 600 lindens (around $2) they would be happy, as that would get them a new outfit perhaps. Some Clubs and other types of Venues might put out a Donations box to help pay for their land rentals. It can be hard work to break even, it can, in fact, be a full-time job just to do so.

Second Life only appeals to a certain audience, relatively versatile with Computers and a lot of time on their hands, interested in surreal virtual reality or the bizarre. It also attracts programmers and artists, and just some sad and lonely people. However, it can be a lot of fun, and a great laugh and surprisingly social. One does make friends, some even marry in-world. A few even meet up, and, extremely rarely, it works out in real life too.(don’t fall in love!)

I mention Second Life in this book because it can be enjoyed free, and it is possible to make money. Even if you just would enjoy sitting at home while your avatar is dancing and you listen to the music and text chat with a friend or two, it is a pleasant enough way to spend time. The trouble is, if you DO enjoy it, it can be addictive. Very much so.

Here is a list of links to Second Life Demonstration Videos that might give you some idea of what it is like.
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The Awesome Book of free stuff iconThis book is copyright of James George Whitelaw and is available free of charge for you to download and read in an electronic format. This book may not be

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