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Monday, June 09, 2008


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Takafumi Farina

The Orientation Island is still too quirky for new users. The default avatars are also very ugly, allowing many new users to believe that all of Second Life looks ugly.

A new Orientation Island needs to be put in place that does not require a nagging HUD.

I know the Lindens are working on the new avatars, finally! Great news.

Alicia Chenaux

Well, I have to ask this - But where are the mentors? I thought their purpose was to hang out on the Orientation Islands to assist the new residents, or am I mistaken?

Gahum Riptide

I actually looked at and followed most of the tutorials, tinkered with the appearance controls, and learned how to do the basics of moving things, content creation, etc. After learning the basics, the impetus to explore is what kept me there. It was also the fact that unlike WoW (as far as I knew), I could wander around and look at things, or do something.

Marianne McCann

I logged in, wandered about, edited my appearance, met one of the few other McCann's I've ever seen in SL, went though most of the tutorials, and promptly walked headlong into a river. Thankfully it was near the end of that first hour that a friend of mine TPed me off of orientation island and *really* got me started!

Heidi Ballinger

I was lost.. (plus I lost my clothes, and panicked) haha – didn’t knew what to do.
And I had a very deep conversation with one of the Buddha/monkey robots.. I was asking “Are you talking to me?” He never answered me back… lol

I think the fascination came after the third time I logged in. I just needed to figure this new exciting World out. I was too curious just to leave.

Rusalka Writer

There is an obvious missing step to the SL sign-up process. Something between clicking on JOIN on the website and appearing on Orientation Island. Specifically, a page named WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. SL is assuming far more knowledge going in than is the case. I'm talking simple:

1. You will be an avatar on Orientation Island.

2. Your appearance will be changeable, both on Orientation Island and in SL.

3. Orientation Island offers valuable information for new SL members.

4. Orientation Island is just one small part of SL. When you are done learning there, teleport into SL and enjoy!

Simple simple simple. I lasted in SL because I had researched SL and had a goal for my experience in-world. But I suspect that most people hear just a little about SL and sign up on a whim, with little or no prior knowledge. I think they're being spooked.


I wandered about, played with the appearance sliders a bit, got some newbie clothes, and followed the first half dozen tutorials until I got bored with it. Then I found out how to fly, and how to TP, and made my first friends. That's when I started finding the really interesting stuff.

Ann Otoole

Interested in the SL UI development process? Sign up to the list: https://lists.secondlife.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/sl-ux

Hopefully the general interest will be to help things along with new ideas and professional discussion more than just lurkers and nay sayers.

Chaddington Boomhauer

It was confusing for days. One short NCI class and things started to make sense. There should be SL Mentors or LL people at O island and watching the help islands.

Heidi Ballinger

Chaddington, I think it has changed since we created our profiles.
Today you will almost always find mentors at OI and HI.
I'm a mentor myself, and now and then I travel back to OI to help new residents, and I always see other mentors there :-)


i signed up pre-orientation island (killer!) and was plopped into the hanja welcome area where i could get to know the basic of the basic. getting to ask questions, casually, to people with a mix of experience just hanging around proved a lot more helpful to me than struggling through a course i didn't even know i HAD TO TAKE 5 minutes ago.. surrounded by a bunch of other newly born avs who also have no idea how to do what i want to do, how to get where i want to go, etc.
i don't know about everyone else, but when i first started, HUDs were so foreign. what was that thing in the corner? how do i get it off? confusion is a bad idea when you are just beginning to learn. bots might come across as confusing also (but what do i know?!)..though i don't think they'd get as frustrated with the barrage of questions as some live mentors/helpers :)

i still commend the ivory tower's step-by-step 'notecards with visuals' setup, but once again, forced upon those who aren't interested might have the same effect as the ori. island we know today.
further knowledge (albeit basic) should be an option. maybe even as simple as a 'would you like to start a beginner's course?' at login.

yeah, there really is a lot to be learned, but it shouldn't all be shoved upon you at once. open human interaction will save the population!
...maybe :)

FlipperPA Peregrine

Let's skip my first hour (the laptop I had at the time in summer 2003 wouldn't cut it), and go to the first actual hour I made it in world. It was the old Orientation Island, pretty straight forward, and I was one of 11 new accounts on the day I joined. We got plenty of hand holding and individual attention at the old Ahern welcome area. I met Jeff and Michael Linden my first time logging in - and had no idea they were employees. Fun times! I can't help but thinking of simplifying the process again might be beneficial. Trying to get off the new O.I. is a nightmare! It is a worse trap than the old telehubs with malls surrounding them.

Galena Qi

I blew through Orientation Island in about 15 minutes. Not staying never crossed my mind - I had spent hours playing with the prototype virtual world at the Tech Museum in San Jose and knew as soon as I read about SL that I wanted to explore it. That said, SL absolutely needs on-line or on-site help for new users as well as a simpler beginner interface. Let the users activate more advanced menus on request when they are ready.

Ann Otoole

Why not have training areas set up with small parcels and a movie screen for a video tutorial?

One can set up a number of such kiosks in a concentrated area. Then you need them done in all the major languages.

This can be done. And it would not cost much. And would be effective.

And anyone can do this but LL should lead the way. Especially given Torely's expertise with making tutorials.

Dusan Writer

User retention is multi-faceted, we all agree on that. And I've been trying to blow up some sacred cows, one of them being that we need an orientation island in the first place. In my opinion, avatar creation should happen OFF grid, because the main thing is you don't want to LOOK like a newb when you land. Within the creation process, tutorials. Anyways, I'm repeating myself, I cover all this at the blog: http://dusanwriter.com/?p=508

I shared a similar experience to others here. I had no idea what I was signing up for - I had been looking for Spore and somehow SL showed up in Google. I spent time when I landed tweaking my appearance, then rushed through orientation, afraid someone would spot me as green and naive and try to spam me for money or whatever - it happens in other "MMOs" I figured so why not here? I learned quickly how to fly, walk, and drive (it was the last time I drove a vehicle and still have no idea why it's included in orientation) and then FINALLY understood that search meant PLACES, and got the heck out of there.

Like many others who stay, I lucked out because I actually landed somewhere with people. Who helped. And gave advice, including the best advice which was "you need new hair" and even loaned me the 10 cents or whatever it is to buy decent hair.

Which is another sacred cow, I guess - I love the idea of mentors, but I never met one. I met residents, and most residents I know will help out a newcomer without hesitation. So my theory is, kill orientation island (or make it VERY optional), put avatar creation outside the grid, and land them where there's PEOPLE - because we're all here to help, we all want people to stay, and most of all, we all want good hair.

Dusan Writer

Oh...and you promoted me before Hamlet but please indulge my non-commercial spam? Because the client is also part of retention...you wouldn't need to take Torley tutorials in your first hour if you could figure out the interface. Thus the 800,000L I'm throwing into the pot to generate some ideas.


Ann Otoole

Starting around Wednesday new avatars will have the option of landing with a decent haircut/wig. And the other new avis are in the library. So the very first video tutorial should center on how to change avatars, clothes, skins, shapes, gender, and prim attachments. Followed by how to size prim attachments. Followed by an acronym lesson with how to create/use landmarks, teleporting, notecards, etc. And then have advanced topics on scripted items and huds.

Vidal Tripsa

It's a little tricky to remember with all that much clarity, but I did go through orientation and most of the steps Linden Lab wanted me to, up until the 'talk' island. Trying to get their chatbots to work was an exercise in extreme patience, so I moved along via the shiny sign to get off hand-holding land. Orientation island itself? I left very quickly. It was a pretty plain-looking place, nobody spoke to me, and despite talk of mentors I saw nobody who could lead me around, and doubt I would have wanted that anyway.

I finally came to be at a telehub, exploring some very basic but nonetheless impressive-at-the-time streets on foot, again not talking to anyone. Eventually I think it took a few sessions later, with me rezzing at the telehub by default and perching myself on a wall, for someone o talk to me and I got chatty with a Mr. Black Sands.

On the whole, not much of a legacy, however one thing lasted - I still have the same body I'd made in the 'appearance' castle during orientation. I wonder what that says about me, having had such an isolated first few hours.

dandellion Kimban

I went through my first hours in Second Life again... much like what most of us experienced. I guess it's personal. We all have some amount of interest and curiosity about what we just entered into. That curiosity defines the time that we have to get hooked. And we'll get hooked not because of the UI (though UI that gets in the way can reduce the available time) but because of finding what we, consciously or not, are looking for. For some, it's possibility to be creative, for some it is interaction, for some it is interesting content. But, I feel, that most of us really stays if they find friends, or better, other people with who we can share the experience. After all, if it's not for the people, we can build in blender or maya, or play some nice 3D game.

Erbo Evans

Since I already knew what Second Life was before I got in, I had some idea of what things would look like. This was a little over 2 years ago, so I landed on the "old" Orientation Island and carefully went through the tutorials (stopping at one point to reshape my appearance and outfit...I adjusted it until the face looked as much like me as I could get it, and the body was me without a few extra pounds; I still use that shape today, with only a few minor differences). At the end of Orientation Island, I bypassed the Help Island link and teleported straight to Waterhead. From there, I walked around a little bit, looking at some of the surrounding area, and then left by the road and just walked down it, gawking at the sights. There were other people around, but I only talked to one guy, a fellow in a pimp outfit that introduced himself by flying in front of me and standing in my path. He turned out to be a decent guy though.

The following night, I repeated my journey, taking pictures to document the experience for Electric Minds. At a certain point along the road, I passed the Isabel Infohub, which of course led me to The Shelter...and that's where I really got started.

Gahum Riptide

I wish I could remember exactly what I looked like but one of the first things I did was look for a new skin. I already knew that there were good skins out there (having seen some of the promotional images). I also went to look for a parcel and that was at the time when you could still get a starter 512 square meter plot without paying for it (other than adding land use fees).

A friend of mine keeps trying Second Life, but everytime he tries editing his avatar to look like he does (one of the only ones I've met to say that he wants his avatar to look like himself), he accidentally logs out or forgets to save and ends up getting frustrated. So, he's never made it off of Orientation Island.

Personally, I'd also like to see avatar creation done offline. Especially since I remember getting bumped, stood upon, and jostled when editing my appearance. I have to say though that the new basic avatars are a good choice. Noobs won't look so roughshod like they do now.


I just want to thank the Electric Sheep Company for making the CSI: NY experience. I first tried SL back when accounts still cost a 10 buck one time fee and absolutely hated it. It was confusing and ugly. I tried for hours and the best looking avatar a managed to come up with was a orange floating baby... And I was shooting for a rough and tumble albino.

I decided to give it a second serious look when CSI came out. The OnRez viewer + streamlined orientation area + decent looking avatars made me want to stick around a little longer.

I had been following SL even though I wasn't playing, so I was a little more aware of what to expect. But still, had CSI not been a stepping stone, I doubt I would be in world (and enjoying the experience) today.

Amara Parmelee

My first hour was confusing. I landed when Orientation Island was still just a mountain. I was very curious as I was very new to the whole virtual game thing overall. I didn't want to mess up. I ended up at Hyles, got bored, and started flying. Somewhere along there,I walked down Linden built roads and took rides on the subway. The majority of my hour was walking. I didn't realize I could do what I wanted. I went to clubs, malls, and Popular places( before camping ruined that)

As for mentors, I personally didn't see any on my initial start. When i went to the public Orientation and Help island, they were so many, I got nervous they'd laugh at me for asking dumb questions. I always tried to do things on my own, researching on the knowledge base, getting annoyed, and starting projects over again. it was a long learning curve.

I later joined a free lance club and trained to be a dancer. It was something different, something I'd never do in RL, but in SL, I could. That's what hooked me. I could literally write my own adventure here, which was not something I believed other "games" allowed users to do. I continue to write my SL story everyday. I'm not a dancer anymore though. I am a mentor :)

Most people don't realize the Mentor program is a volunteer thing. We choose on our own time which Help Island or Orientation island to work on, and for how long we will stay there. Not all new Residents stay around for the extra help, and not all Mentors are skilled in the same fields. it's an interesting duty nonetheless, and I've made some wonderful new friends out of it.


I think the most important thing to me was that I was primarily alone on OI. It gave me a chance to 'work out the kinks' on how to navigate etc on my own terms, without having others around.

I generated an alt a couple years ago (when I was still playing with libsl) and was shocked how many people were running through the place. It was a madhouse, but endured it anyway; I eventually dropped the alt and can't even remember his name (the experience was too annoying for some reason). Can't imagine what the current OI is looking like these days.

I agree with Dusan 100% that the avatar creation process should exist 'outside' the grid. It's not that hard to implement now - just create a small local sim and place the avatar in that, then save the resulting 'files' to the inventory.

As for better learning through the help of others, I think that's paramount today in order to overcome the current OI experience. I've had the opportunity to discuss this with the current group of entrants from MOUL, and most of them who had a 'good' experience were whisked out of OI immediately and hand-held through the basics of OI instead, in a more 'fun' environment (I have doubts about that last bit - its a club - but I have to admit that its doing just as well, if not better, than Telador did for the initial groups).

There was discussion as early as 2005 about having alternate start points out of OI besides the old Telehubs like Ahern, and for awhile places like Abbots were in fact available as 'home' points for the starting avatar. It would probably be a good idea to try that again.



I was just posting on my own blog about my first experiences. November 2003, 7 day trial offer, orientation was very limited, graphics card hated SL.

I came from There, where default avatars were pretty and moved naturally from the start. SL in comparison sucked! It got better in time, but it took me two years before I finally felt comfortable enough to sign up as a premium member.

Since we are suggesting changes to get more people to stay, the default walking and running animations still look like crap 5 years later.

Besides fixing initial avatars and orientation experiences, maybe finishing off the tutorial with a collection of really great scenery landmarks (i.e. Svarga, Apollo, Straylight, etc.) to give new players a taste of what SL is really all about. Then also some newbie friendly places like sandboxes, Yadni's Junkyard, Library of Primitives, etc.

Once new members realize whats possible, and know where they can find the resources to do what they want, its easier to keep them.


My experience on Orientation Island was both challenging and uplifting. Like many others, I stumbled through the tutorials and wandered aimlessly. Then I got hit on by a persistent idiot who was -- in retrospect -- destined for a short life on Sex Island. While I was doing a fine job ignoring this guy, a fellow new resident overheard the lothario's chatter and felt a need to step in. This good natured Samaritan became my first friend in SL and we spent a good part of our initial weeks in-world together. Sadly, my friend Vatsan seldom comes to the grid anymore, but I believe that developing a very human connection in my first hour is a large part of why I've stayed around.

Adz Childs

Join Date 4/4/2006

My first hour
Trying to make my avatar look like a child.

My second hour
A Linden-made sign in Waterhead had a notecard full of landmarks. One of them was captioned "who wants free ice cream?" Indeed!

...Trying to fly across the ocean towards the red beacon, and realizing that the dark blue regions were impassable.

...Arriving at the ice cream shop and eating an ice cream cone by myself.

My third hour
...Feeling lonely and brainstorming where to find like-minded people. The best i could think of was adoption agencies. I searched for one and found one, but it was empty. The second one I found was populated, and I stayed there for more than a week.

Torley Lives

@Ann Otoole and Dusan: Thanks for mentioning me! Some of my video tutorials are workaround bandaids until we get better (some will say "more humane") usability — concurrently, I highlight particular pain points for our Rx Team and I hope they're well-aware of your bounty.

But, videos (and showing, teaching... giving a human hand) will always be welcome in many areas, for many people. (My blog elaborates more on this.)

So, what about me?

I don't remember my first hour, exactly. But one thing springs to mind: I was trying to texture an object and couldn't figure it out, and some jerk tried to rip me off.

I swore that day if I ever had the opportunity, I'd teach others how to enjoy their Second Life more, with less fear, decreased pain, and a ton o' awesome.

Lillie Yifu

I had two friends help me, both are still in SL themselves.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

Like John Belushi said in an SNL sketch, "it's all fuzzy." It was late August 2006, and I went down the path learning the basics of the UI, seeing some, but not terribly many as I recall, other newcomers along the way. Once I made it through, I found my way to HCI, and the kindly people I met there, including a wonderful lady who is a great friend (and now my landlady too!), are what got me hooked.

I almost hate to bring up the old immersionist/augmentationist debate, but... I have to think immersionists are the more motivated to jump through any hoops of the UI, just for the joy of being able to make oneself over as one would like to be.

Morgan Northmead

As I recall, I got very tired of orientation island very soon. I flew out of it and just started looking around. It was exploring that hooked me...i made every newbie error, i invaded people's homes innocently, i accidentally found myself in a sex club (yes, "popular places"), and eventually ended up in Support for Healing island, where i met some great people and got started toward a happy second life.

Laetizia Coronet

I didn't think it was all that hard, actually. I did the old orientation island (as seen on Orientation Island Public) and not the Disneyesque crap with the geeky HUD that came afterwards. I thought it went just fine, taking me through basic steps in one line - instead of the main square and the four islands where newbies never know where to go next. I accepted that more was to be learned on the fly.

My idea is to go back to that: a simple, linear learning curve, no HUD, not too much info. And yes, some preview of what is about to happen to you when you sign up is good. At the very least tell the newbies that if they have just ten minutes, come back when they can spare at least an hour.

Ignatius Onomatopoeia

I'm a LL mentor, though not as often as I should.

Going back to Orientation Island confirms what most of you have said here.

What's sadder to me than the noobs frustrated and confused there are the noobs frustrated and confused on the Mainland.

My camping-alt (oh, dark secret of mine) spotted a naked noob walking around Welfare Island. I warned her they'd ban for that, and she answered "well, it took me an hour to get my stupid clothes OFF."

I explained the inventory process and found she'd come in-world, like so many I meet on Orientation Island, for "the sex." To be fair, she was actually polite and overwhelmed by the metaverse...so many noobs on Orientation Island are surly, even with mentors.

/me sighs...sent her to Sarah Nerd's for some better skin and hair and advised her to change her looks before she typed "sex" into the search engine. Told her I wasn't into that aspect of SL, but it would not be tough to find ;)

FlipperPA Peregrine

@Ann Otoole: I run SLGuide.com (soon to be VWMedia.net) which is compatible with both our in-world viewer and FreeView by CrystalShard Foo. We have an entire category dedicated to SL tutorials, including Torley's, and a viewer that will only show that category in a 1-prim viewer interface. Check it out if you get a chance, or ping me in world if you need a copy.

Leslie Farrell

We are bringing new users into Teen Second Life through a program called Kidz Connect. At the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, in conjunction with the IVKO Montessori School in Amsterdam, we are bringing teens from Tampa and Amsterdam together in TSL for a cultural exchange. Teens 13-17 will collaborate on a show based on the theme "What Is Real?" (Final show will be in TSL at 2 p.m. EST on the Kidz Connect island. Blog is www.kidzconnect.org) Hopefully, workshops like this will introduce new people to Second Life.

Quaintly Tuqiri

My housemate was in SL and kept telling me about it. I finally caved and signed up. She whisked me out of OI in two seconds and brought me to places where I could get free hair, clothes & skins. So I think having someone around to help makes a lot of difference. Of course, she forgot to tell me about opening boxes, so the first time, I ended up wearing one on my arm. lol

Corcosman Voom

My first hour was like my next several, pretty gruesome because of inadequate RAM and graphics.

But, because I had already watched a (then) small selection of Torley's vid tutorials on YouTube, I knew there was something beyond Orientation Island that I wanted to see for myself.

Rusalka Writer's suggestion that there be some simple "pre-orientation" webpage at sign up for those who might have absolutely no idea what they are getting into is excellent.

Eladrienne Laval

I had read about SL before signing up last year in Feb 07, so I more or less knew what I was getting into. I went through the old OI. I remember being really lost and confused, but excited and willing to try to continue to see what it was about. I didn't just jump into the group of other new residents milling around, but went off to the side to try to figure out the interface and what to do next. As soon as I could I discovered NCI and Natalia Zelmanov's blog was absolutely priceless to me in terms of help and tutorials. For me, exploring was the draw and I know I made plenty of new citizen mistakes, but I met lots of nice folks who steered me to the right places.

I made an alt more recently and got to experience the newer OI, which was a lot of bells and whistles to me as I'd imagine that most newcomers are like "Okay, I'm here. I've done the tutorials. NOW what?"

sirhc desantis

I only vaguely remember my first hours, it was the old OI and i don't remember it as being too bad (wasn't there a parrot?) Anyway I think I lucked out as I ended up at Hanja with a bunch of new residents and we hit it off (hello Auntie Sadie). I think thats a major reason why I stayed - people.

Veeyawn Spoonhammer

I logged in and had a fairly easy time getting through OI. I marveled at the level of customization that was possible with my avatar. I definitely expected to pick one of five heads, one of three bodies, a shirt, pants, etc. And then I flew across the chasm...and tp'd out to the Welcome Center.

When I first pointed at the ground and rezzed a cube, I was hooked.

shockwave yareach

My first hour was a combination of learning the controls, finding a friend and IMing him, then having him be my guide for a couple of days. There is so much to learn and it can be so frustrating; having a friend help you in person for the first day and in IM for a week or so goes a long way towards keeping people inworld. They have to see that they can have fun and use the controls. As it is, folks stand all alone and try to master controls with nobody to ask and NO FUN in sight. So why should they bother? In our group we teach our newcomers ourselves - few leave.

Lainy Voom

The first hour was a nightmare, luckily a friend was there to tp me out of there, she sorted my avatar and took me round a few places. Without that friend, it is doubtful I would have stayed more than a couple of hours.

Isadora Fiddlesticks

I too was duped into buying freebies...tsk tsk. Some guy I met in a club, at some event where there was a kissing booth. It was ok, but they weren't the best in keeping people. After that, I found myself in The Shelter, then in the old Phat Cats, then found myself an SL brother.

I think the best example for a starter sim the Lindens should look into are NCI's model. Part learning center, part party zone, a community in itself.

Mentoring in Help Island or Orientation Island is frustrating at some hours. There are some rude people around and trying to help them is an exercise in patience. Ironic too that the newbies who manage to get out of these places have better manners. Perhaps the frustration of Help Island and OI makes them rude?

Efemera Bisiani

I'm sorry, I haven't read the last 20 comments or so, but I just happen to be going thru orientation again as an alt and jeeez - wtf?!?! I KNOW how SL works - and I can't make this work - beyond belief.

DeltaDharmaDawn Aubret

I guess my introversion actually helped me. I read about SL in an article a workmate had on virtual worlds. I was curious about the ability to build. So logged in, and immediately looked for a quiet spot away from the chaos. Exploring hooked me. I very quickly bought a plot in Didugua sim below the tracks across from a lovely shrine and taught myself to build. Hence Dharamecho gardens and gallery which eventually covered most of Didugua which sadly I let go a while back.It was here in this quiet corner of SL I met most of my current friends and fellow travelers.I never felt pressure to do it all at once, did not give a rip about a cool skin (though I do now) and just kinda took my time. The community was so much smaller then and easier to meet people with like interests. Really the new influx of people blow me away, they are already miles ahead of me in skill. Maybe a bit of a learning curve is a good thing. Oh,and perhaps all the bells and whistles are just more confusing than useful.

Efemera Bisiani

Ok - I gave up! Srsly! Clicked the help island sign and got the F outta there - I couldn't complete orientation with 18mths experience - WRONG!!!

Limerick McMahon

My wife was invited to a SJSU MLS event and we went on early to get avatars and figure out how to get around. The event was an excellent intro. There was a trivia contest and a movie. We won $21L.

Pavig Lok

I spent my first ten minutes at waterhead talking to silent newbs in star jump pose till I realized they were afk editing. Someone sent me to NCI and i grabbed some notecards and rezzed a prim. I then met a hobo who took me to the calleta infohub which was the first quiet relaxing place i'd seen (not like angry fruit salad on the eye)... but maybe it was just nighttime.

I set my home there and stayed, (switching between calleta and nci for the next month or two.) My avatar was ruth switched to male and wearing a leather jacket and huge appearance shoes by the end of the hour. Looking back i was butt ugly. :) Someone gave me ten lindens and a bicycle. Someone I met became my traveling partner for many months - they told me I looked like a dork.

I still know people I met in my first hour, and still pop back to NCI to pay the stipend ball for all that texture money it gave me in my first month.

Alexandra Rucker

I had my RL husband walking me through things during my first hour. The first thing I did was fly up to about 150m so I could finish adjusting my avatar in peace! :)

I got the hang of flying, and flew EVERYWHERE, before I discovered AO's and how I could actually walk without looking like a complete dork. Clothing, hair, etc., came relatively quickly, but this was back in the days of high-paying camping spots, so a lot of time was spent camping during the week and "partying hearty" during the weekend.

If I had it to do by myself, it probably would have taken a LOT longer to "get it" or get past the frustrating parts.

Yes, the interface is a pain, but honestly? I've worked on MUCH worse. SL's client merely annoying. :)

Alexandra Rucker

I had my RL husband walking me through things during my first hour. The first thing I did was fly up to about 150m so I could finish adjusting my avatar in peace! :)

I got the hang of flying, and flew EVERYWHERE, before I discovered AO's and how I could actually walk without looking like a complete dork. Clothing, hair, etc., came relatively quickly, but this was back in the days of high-paying camping spots, so a lot of time was spent camping during the week and "partying hearty" during the weekend.

If I had it to do by myself, it probably would have taken a LOT longer to "get it" or get past the frustrating parts.

Yes, the interface is a pain, but honestly? I've worked on MUCH worse. SL's client merely annoying. :)

Kokoromi Umaga

well, as you can probably remember from your own personal experience, it was all pretty weird. I spent a lot of time trying to walk straight, which is something I prolly still have to master. I enjoyed being able to fly etc, but I did feel a bit like a fish outta water for most of the time. I learned how to change my outfit and appearance pretty quickly, but without the cash, it's pretty limited. Oh, and a vending machine in Osaka gave me free popcorn and coke, so it's nice to have a coupla props to play with.

Ren Austinmer

Flight. That's the one major thing during those few hours that made me want to stick around at first.

I didn't find the orientation island frustrating back then. I remember being dissapointed in the default clothing though. When I made it to the Mainland, I spent the rest of the time flying and exploring.


I'm still fairly new. I signed up in February and then didn't touch the thing again until this past week.

But, my first hour was pretty entertaining -- mostly because I skipped over all the normal orientation stuff. I've never been to orientation island. I prefer solo-exploration and the "Hmmm....what does this do?" approach. I had a roleplaying acquaintance introduce me to the world, give me a bit of starting cash, and take me shopping for clothes and hair.

When I came back last week, I just set about figuring it out on my own, reading all sorts of blogs and off-world tutorials, dragged a couple other friends around with me, giving them the same introduction I had.

Another commenter above had mentioned Mentors. I think some sort of personalized introduction like I had is a key element to generating interest.

QueenKellee Kuu

Although the specifics are a bit hazy now, I remember spending an inordinate amount of time moving sliders around. Stumbling around a bunch of other avatars in appearance mode also obsessing over sliders, with an unsure feeling that I was missing something important. I think I wanted a nice big book with a calming cover that reads "Don't Panic" :)

But I clearly remember one detail that I believe got me through: I had a goal. (in my case, hearing about Burning Life in SL having just gotten back from RL Burning Man). Therefore I was motivated and had a clear path. And my boyfriend rezzed a day or two ahead of me, so he was able to offer me a tiny bit of guidance.

Many (most?) people signing up to SL don't have a specific goal, or have goals but not a clue how to accomplish them. Absolutely the most common thing newbies ask me is "what is there to do here?" They don't know what to do because they have no idea what's possible. Add a little frustration to the mix (which, perfect viewer or not, is inherent in situations where you are learning new things) and suddenly the user without a goal feels there's nothing to make it "worth it," no reason to want to stick around.

Additionally, people are coming in with varied expectations. Many people come into SL thinking it's another MMORG or game with traditional, clear paths, goals and objectives. But this is only one type of user expectation, there are tons of different ones...from the socialites that want to meet people and chat to roleplayers, artists and geeks that consider SL a platform to make cool stuff, etc etc etc.

I believe that we need to focus less on such a long orientation experience, but set people up on a track with a goal tied to their interests. and by goal it could be as simple as "exploring cool builds" or "listening to live music" or learning about roleplaying sims. solicite this info before the AV is even born and let it help determine the orientation process. Find out what they are seeking, even if that's as unspecific as "whatever cool there is to do" and get them excited as soon as possible. Don't worry so much about trying to teach them so much detail past the basics right away. I say give them an uber basic Kindergarden level and then drop them in niche-community run newbie areas that let them meet people and explore their areas of interest and make that emotional connection. This is where Doing Teaches. But additionally also provide a bulletproof newbie help tool (a bunch of notecards? a HUD? a bot? whatever works best) that they can use to seek out answers and knowledge on their terms when they want/need the info. The fact is they are only going to remember so much on their first visit, so why fill it up with stuff that they don't need right away (like editing prim attachments) instead of basic interaction and UI info. (how to walk, fly, sit, chat, tp and search)

People still come back even when they haven't figured everything out. But they don't come back if they don't find anything that connects to them.


QueenKellee, you've reminded me of my second hour in SL (about four days after my first, and my 'actual' start date since I finally left OI at the time). Because like you, I had a reason to join - I heard about an island being built by the first Uru Live migrants.

Within minutes of scanning Search (this was in 2004 after all!) I found it. On July 3rd, 2004, I found a very young Telador Isle - and realized even then that I'd have a hard time leaving SL at that point. Heck, I keep calling myself 'retired' and yet keep going in to fiddle with sailing or golf. *chuckle*

So, I had achieved the main objective at the time, but now what? It was too late to help with that effort, and I was content at the time to just wander around and watch the build go up, but what else could I do? Well, an event about six months later supercharged me into an interesting idea - self-promote bringing back Uru Live from within SL, by 'living it' (bit complicated to explain the exact details, I was playing things by ear a lot - but its the main reason my av is as close to my RL self as I've been able to get it).

Did it work? Hard to tell; MOUL came and went, and in the deal we now have a new wave of migrants to SL from the Cavern. I now customize things with my D'ni name glyphs out of habit (and as an amusing trademark of my avatar). But Uru is still a driving force in my SL life - more from a 'networking' standpoint now, but its there.

In contrast, my roommate had one interest in SL (other than having fun) - the vehicle system (and scripting in general). He had no community ties to speak of within SL during his tenure, and during one of the 'low' points he picked up and left (with no intention of returning). Well, he did like to play one of the bingtris variants but when the gambling ban clamped down so harshly it was the last straw. [If Torley's still watching this post - do you remember Racer Plisskin?]



Gosh...I am not sure how much of this fit into my first hour, but my initial experiences were quite engaging, I must admit!

I don't even know how I got to SecondLife, and have no conscious memory of ever having heard of it. I must have been the target of subtle viral marketing, because I woke up one morning with the overwhelming compulsion to go to something called SecondLife and buy land....I joined before my first cup of coffee and stayed nearly around the clock the first week. I was not an internet denizen by any means and had only ever been to one chat room prior, which I thought was just a bulletin board when I arrived. I had never even heard of 3D online interactive spaces (or played a video game, for that matter--and I am still in my 30's! Anyway...

I accidentally teleported off orientation after crashing the people mover into a wall, and could never get back to the tutorials. I landed in Korea, where a flock of winged-demons vomited on me while I was trying to make a shape, and then stole my pants and threw me into the ocean (at least, that is how it seemed at the time.) Looking back, I think I may have just crashed—but the vomiting was real!

I think I managed to get into a skull t-shirt, bald head, a pair of wings and underwear and was pretty much stuck like that for several days. I had no idea what effect that was having on those around me...I was just happy to be clothed! I think I then spent two full days on the bottom of the ocean just trying to get my shape without disturbance. Somehow, people still managed to find me. I decided the first thing I would build is dressing rooms!

It was not long after when things got very ugly for me in SL, so I hid out in the desert for weeks prior to Burning Life. I had a sh*tty computer, so it was computing bliss out there: no graphics, no scripts, no people haha! A dream come true! I think I spent my time learning to build.

One year in, and I do believe I have joined the "community" properly, and look ok to boot.

Hi, All!!! :D *waves*

Osprey Therian

I remember Racer Plisskin.

Adia Clary

I just remember the lag. I had previously given SL a try, but lag and just confusion made me log out of the account. I did like some of the information, but I felt it was to silly to do all these tasks. I think on my first experience I got transported to a gor sim, but i didn't run into people. Out from Orination Island i don't remember where I landed this time, but i think it was more a neutral starting place. I think that newbies should be dropped off at certain newbie zones where free stuff is being handed out and mentors right there to assist with any first questions.

What made me stay? That is a good question. I think I felt comfortable and when I joined I was upset at life and just wanted to escape from reality and SL made that easy to do. Im definably glad I waited the lag out, because I have made some great friends and it really has aided the process of healing emotionally. The reason why I keep coming back is because of the limitless potential for this platform to expand and I would like to be a part of that.

Geuis Dassin

I joined in early 2005. I was working as the web designer and general IT guy at a real estate company and I listened to podcasts all day. I can't remember if there was one in particular, but I remember hearing about SL in a variety of podcasts like Supernova and some others.

At work one day I joined. I don't remember my first avatar, but I remember going through Orientation Island. I couldn't initially figure out how to fly and I recall there was this one part that was a high cliff you had to fly over as the lesson. I ended up missing and landed in the water at the bottom.

Eventually I got the hang of it and was able to teleport off the island. Once I was "free", I didn't know anywhere to go. My podcasts saved me. I remember an interview with some group of people on one podcast that was talking about Innovation Island. It was supposed to be a place anyone could go to learn and experiment.

I think I went to Innovation Island and stopped there. In all honesty, at that point I just didn't get Second Life and lost interest. My avatar hibernated on II for a while. After a couple of months, continually hearing about SL, I started poking around again with it.

Innovation Island was a great place. I was on an underpowered computer at work and II was *empty*. There were no buildings, nothing. Its like the owners had just abandoned the sim. It was great!

I didn't have much interest in socializing for the sake of socializing. I was thrilled with learning how to script and build. I stayed on Innovation Island for 5-6 months and might have left a handful of times.

For whatever reason, Fate saw reason to let 3 important people come to II as well. Bebop Vox, Orchid Glitterbuck(his RL wife now), and Nand Nerd. The three of them were testing out a scripted shattering window and drew my attention. Since they were the only ones regularly on the island I talked to them all the time. Nand was an excellent scripter and taught be a lot. Bebop and Orchid were doing machinima and introduced me to the SL machinima niche.

Over the last 2 years, I've had my best times in SL hanging out with these 3.

Bebop and Nand were my inspiration to create Filming Path and it introduced me to doing business in SL. Great, great people. I wish I could hang out with them more like we used to.

Solange Korobase

It was the good old Amsterdam (by S Serpentine) that made me stay. Seeing that kind of creativity unleashed without me having to make a commitment (i.e. paying for it) was the winning argument against the eternal upgrading cycle of The Sims. Even when the Sims graphichs look much better.

Lucky for me that at the time of my signup, it was places like Amsterdam or GOL club that were populating the popular places. I sure wouldn't have stayed in SL if I had tp'd to a hippie pay or one of these endless halls full of freebies.

Marcus Llewellyn

I pretty much had some idea of what SL was when I signed on, so although I was a bit confused with a few things, I just stuck with it until I figured out the basics. I don't remember seeing any mentors or Lindens on Orientation Island, and although I did try the tutorial kiosks, they were of dubious assistance. Most of what I did there though was try to figure out how to change my appearance. It also took me a little while to figure out how to leave the island, I seem to recall.

After that, residents were the most helpful. Learning how to manage inventory, how to use poseballs or dance, how to use attachments and HUDs, how far away people can hear you talking or shouting (I'm occasionally amazed how many people still don't get this one), how to use common vendors and open boxes, first steps toward building and scripting; these were all taught to me by residents.

One thing that might be helpful is to highlight to new users the experimental nature of many aspects of Second Life. This shouldn't be buried in the wiki, knowlegde base, or TOS somewhere. Sometimes even people who've been on quite a while forget that while we maybe sometimes use SL as though it's ready for prime time... it's so not! It's an evolving platform, and if you've aspirations as a fashion designer, land baron, or whatever, features are subject to change! I know I ran into my first asset server SNAFU very soon after signing up for SL. New things like Windlight can have consequences for that skin collection you laid out many thousands of lindens on. This could be a very long list, indeed. New residents should be warned to dig their toes in for things like Havok 4, Mono, viewer upgrades, etc.


When I signed up for a two-week free trial in September 2003, I found myself alone in a gazebo at the top of a small hill. I'd decided to proceed methodically, learning each of the lessons along the path, and carfully avoiding the stream, lest I fall in, drown, and have to start all over again.

At the bottom of the hill, I encountered my first stranger: a green-haired clown by the name of David Linden. Was there any danger? Would I be expected to defend myself in combat?

As it turned out, David was one of the liaisons meant to meet and greet new arrivals. Second Life's population was so small, that Lindens could personally give a helping hand to each and every newbie!

When I finally made it to the mainland, I landed at what I would later learn was The Welcome Area: An empty spot at the top of the hill in Morris/Ahern. I followed an empty road west down the hill, where I found a billboard listing the day's events, and other smaller signs announcing the winners of "Avatar of the Week". Of the handful of avatars I bumped into (sometimes literally), everyone was universally friendly, with one exception: a short guy grumbled to me that SL was pointless and there was nothing to do. He predicted that SL would go belly up in a couple of months.

Later, I found a handful of people playing with full-size wooden cars, and one offered to let me drive. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to sit on it (this is before sit targets), and 30 seconds later, I drove it into the ocean. Embarrassed, I got out of the car and hoped that its owner wouldn't be too angry with me for crashing it.

As a newbie, I was prevented from entering the "Mature" areas, but that wasn't a problem for me, since I didn't want to acquire any SL porn or die in a "combat" area and lose all of my money and inventory. (It wasn't until a week or so later that someone told me that pretty much nothing happens when you die. I was relieved.)

I found in SL friendly users who shared freely, and a rich, large world to explore (a world of *dozens* of sims!). I was instantly addicted.

Days later, I cancelled that first account, "Tillman Terra", because I was spending way too many hours in SL. A couple of days after that, I couldn't stay away any longer, and came back as "Cubey Terra". The rest is history. A very long, laggy, crashy history.


And just to add some constructive criticism about *today's* newbie experience...

I created a new account recently, and found myself on OI. Even as an experienced SLer and SL Mentor (!), I had trouble escaping to the mainland. The first "EXIT" sign that I found didn't do anything at all. Imagine what an actual SL novice will think.

* They don't know that OI is just a small training island before they go to the mainland.

* They don't know what they're expected to do.

* They don't know what SL is.

* Even if they know that they need to finish training and get to the mainland, there's so much clutter, crowding, confusion, and broken content at the OI, it's unlikely they'll figure out how to finish.

The best way to train newbies: let them watch the training videos on YouTube and then release them onto the mainland. Get rid of OI entirely. It only adds to the confusing. Give them a quick intro video and optional training, give them a short list of neat places to see (so they don't think that all of SL looks like ass), and send them on their way.

Nahasa Singh

Almost one year ago.... I remember walking many forest paths in Orientation Island, flying a lot, falling into a lava pit, and after a while, thinking "is this all ?". Yeah, as Cubey pointed out, there was no obvious way to escape to mainland... why take the chances of letting people confuse the island with the whole SL ?

Anyway, soon I found out the search button and my journey began. I learned about freebies and generally followed the Stages Of Development.

I say wipe out Orientation Islands, every fresh avatar should be presented (at the time of avi creation) a menu of themed SIMs where he/she/it would like to be rezzed for the first time (like music club, amusement park, jungle, haunted house, freebie shopping mall and yes, sex-oriented rooms). This way the initial experience would be greatly improved because a) the newbie would be on a somewhat familiar environment, b) said newbie would be soon joined by other newcomers with approximately the same interests, and c) mentors could choose different environments to work with newcomers.

Just my 1 L$, anyway


Hamlet, I believe you also asked us to say why we stayed even if we had poor experiences, and I did not answer this.

Two things really dictated this decision for me, and my first six months were just horrid. The reasons are related:

First--it was spectacularly clear to me how extraordinary this platform is, and I definitely wanted from the first moment to play a part in contributing to it.

The Second--it was clear there was a very concerted effort underway to get me to stop using SL--going as far as computer intrusion, threats, coercion, etc....terrible stuff. And if there is anything that is going to prompt me to dig in my heels in irascible stubbornness and launch the rocket-defenses, it is being mob-handled and slapped around by thugs.

I am very happy to be here, but so sorry I did not know of SL sooner. It really is quite extraordinary, and I am just getting started, in all actuality. :)

CyFishy Traveler

Is it awful of me that I barely remember? I remember being at the top of a hill on an island and seeing a sunset over the water. And I fumbled my way down the path and did each tutorial as I passed it, starting with editing my appearance.

I remember being on Help Island, making my first few attempts at building things, and being given a pair of black wings by one of the volunteers who worked there. (I eventually shed the wings, since I still didn't know my way around the camera controls well enough to see anything but the back of me unless I was sitting down.)

I stuck with it, initially, because I still held out the hope that Duran Duran would be playing a show there, and I met other Duranies through there and we shared information.

Then I met Miles Montgolfier, and everything changed.

The one thing that keeps people in Second Life is OTHER PEOPLE.

Stone Semyorka

Yes! Do a resilience study. Find out why we stayed.

I've been here 18 months and have done most everything there is to do. And I still want more. I am just as easily excited today as back then when I hear of new experiences to be had in Second Life.

I don't agree that default avatars are very ugly. In fact, most newcomers are excited by them. However, it would be a good idea to add several more choices since there are so many people coming in. As to changing the orientation approach...any educational material can and should be refined and improved continuously.

My first hour was on the sole Orientation Island of that time and it stimulated me immensely. I immediately saw the world of possibilities SL offers.

I saw a new place to explore and learn and play and relax. I was not disappointed. In fact, I was eager to complete the orientation basics so I could go beyond that island to see the new world. When I TP'ed out to the Morris Welcome Area, there were so many people arriving I was further excited.

I guess I'm saying there was something I brought to the experience that allowed it to further charge my battery, rather than turn me off.

I was not previously a video gamer. I am an educator and always have been interested in state-of-the-art technology. That meant I was thrilled by exposure to what I perceived as the very latest.

I'm a person who likes to get away to new places from time to time. And I like a nice hideaway for reflection and renewal. Second Life surely provided such opportunities.

I saw the opportunities for artistic expression, for creative outlets, for education and commerce.

Although I'm not physically challenged in RL, I immediately understood the gift it gives to the 650 million disabled people around the world (37 million in the United States).

All in all, my first hour in SL was a speculative venture for me and it closed the deal. That first hour set the stage for one of my real life's most charming, delightful, arousing, pleasurable, satisfying, gratifying, fruitful, rewarding experiences.


John Lopez

I don't recall the orientation island being very good or bad... just confusing. The most interesting moment of my first hour was once I figured out how to get off of it.

I was flying over the land, exploring, unaware of how glitchy sim crossings were or having any idea about how land ownership worked. I had smashed into quite a few ban lines, but I finally found an area where there didn't seem to be any and the builds were attractive, instead of chaos. Being a total noob in SL, I didn't recognize it as rental land, where people probably didn't want flybys.

After flying for a while, I bumped the home key and started falling out of the sky. I tried to re-engage flight (having done it a few times already) but I kept falling. I had stumbled into a no fly zone.

I crash landed into a plot of land with a house on it and a high fence all around it. I tried to take off, but couldn't. I started noticing messages saying "you are not authorized to be here, leave or be booted" or something similar spamming the chat channel.

Apparently because my "home" was still orientation island, the security device couldn't teleport me out of the parcel. Thanks to no-fly, I couldn't leave under my own power. And thanks to total noobdom, I hand't figured out teleporting.

The poor renter came out typing a blue streak about my invasion of her private space. I tried to apologize and asked for help off her land, but she went off about how she was abuse reporting me right then and there. By that point I had remembered teleporting and had randomly clicked a point, but the teleport failed. I tried a few more times, all the while suffering withering typing from the renter *and* a massive amount of chat spam from the security device.

I finally figured out that, while I couldn't jump high enough to clear the fence, I could jump on the diving board to her pool and then bounded from there over the fence... thankfully onto a public space. Having been in virtual worlds for a loooong time (all the way to the days of text)... I can't think of a single time I felt stupider or less able to control the situation.

Nexii Malthus

My first time in SL...well....wow..

My very first time was an odd experience, for some reason, I later found out, I had landed on the Main Grid in Nexus Prime, after some quick exploring I decided to log off for the day. Relogging next day turned me onto Orientation Island whereby I walked through, but mostly skipped the tutorials since it seemed to be too much common sense. Confusion of finding exit I later arrived on the Teen Grid welcome area and began to move into a nearby sandbox. This is where I started to build my first ever object and explored the different tools available, started going into the advanced parameters and visually imagined what I wanted to make. I made a cylindrical tower and used a cut, twisted and large cylinder to make stairs and some railings. I also grasped the relation of inventories and textures as well but got bored and explored the small continent. I flew across sim to sim and due to the infancy of the Teen Grid arrived very quickly on the end of the continent in a matter of minutes.
And well, the rest is history, where I later took up texture creation in a week and started scripting in another week after that. I also settled myself in a sim named Rowling by buying a plot of 512sqm land slowly enlarging my home.

Nexii Malthus

Realized I hadn't really answered the question as to -why- I stayed but merely explained what happened.

I have been playing many games since I was nine years old from the original doom games up to the modern HL2 and C&C games, playing a large variety of MMO as well. I always expressed lots of interest in modding or making new content and levels in games since it extended the enjoyment of playing a game greatly.

I have been always on the lookout for programs or open ended games with depth where anything was possible.

Second Life interested me because it was like playing a MMO but gave the tools to the user to create their own environment which is unique since I could create content and share it directly, even as it was made, in a social network of avatar presences.

It is just a joy to make something and get feedback from other people.

Asp Grelling

I arrived at orientation island and did the tutorials several times till I understood the interface. Next stop was help island and I was trapped there for a couple of days not realising there was a way out. The Stoller & Leiber song "Is that all there is?" was going through my head.

I remember feeling stupid, confused and annoyed by bad design and the lack of empathy in the implementation. Too much showing off 'features' rather than what was important to get started.

Why did I stay? Because of the wonderful people I met who helped me and are still friends 2 years later.

Hamlet Au

Thanks for all your thoughts, everyone. I'm closing up this post to aggregate the comments.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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