My First Meeting in Second Life – C’est La Vie…Deuxième?

Real life brings its fair share of embarrassing moments.

Tonight marked my first embarrassing moments in Second Life.

Sure, I have been giving participants in my Web 2.0 workshops a pseudo-tour of SL, but I had never attended an actual meeting with live interaction.

Learning that MuniGov 2.0 was hosting its weekly event in SL, I decided to join them. I teleported to the meeting right around 7 p.m. ET and found about 10 avatars sitting at a long wooden table. “Recognizable” faces included GovLoopers Pam Broviak (Lasalle, IL) and Bill Greeves (Roanoke, VA). There were probably more GovLoopers present, but their avatar names made it difficult to discern. All greeted the newbie (Zedeka Nadezda) warmly.

I walked around the table, attempting to sit in a chair, but realized that I didn’t know how to perform that function yet! So I stood next to it. Just when I was starting to get psyched about the experience, SL crashed on me for the first time.

After rebooting my machine, I returned to hear a discussion regarding the importance of providing orientation to new folks. If I knew how to raise my hand, I would have done so at that moment…or if I knew that my microphone was working, I would have given them an “Amen!”

Pam Broviak politely asked if she was sitting in my chair. “No,” I typed my reply. I’ll just continue to stand directly and awkwardly behind your chair, making you nervous and demonstrating my status as part of the “noob herd” that Greever’s discussing with the group… you know, the new folks that can bog it down! I chuckled to myself and wondered when I could schedule my first session.

Another Pam (Renoir – not sure it that’s a real or SL name) reached out through an IM to help me feel less uncomfortable. It’s probably bad etiquette during a meeting, but I acknowledged her kindness (and showed her that I figured out another feature!) by sending her a friend invitation. She accepted. And SL crashed on me again.

Not wanting to disturb their meeting further, I elected not to log back in. I am sure Zedeka stood there slumped over for the rest of the proceedings, looking like he was catching up on some much needed sleep. In the meantime, my new friend Pam Renoir had emailed me in real life to inquire about my virtual health and well-being.

So what are the lessons from my first meeting in Second Life? Here are three:

1. Don’t be afraid to get started. I admit that I entered the meeting with trepidation, knowing that I would encounter some SL pros. They were gracious and welcoming, and I plan to attend again armed with a bit more knowledge about navigation.

2. Request an orientation session. And speaking of gaining knowledge, the group was obviously anticipating this influx of neophytes and are planning to host or leverage the existing orientation available in SL. When I tweeted my experience a few minutes later, one of the State Department’s SL ambassadors (@lovisatalk) offered to give me some training as well.

3. Allow yourself to make mistakes. I’m sure my future adventures in SL, at least for the short term, will continue to provide some humbling moments. Most new endeavors have a significant learning curve, but it’s usually worth the investment of time and energy.

So now that I have shared my embarrassing moments in Second Life, I’d like to hear yours! What has been your experience in SL – good, bad and ugly? What are your tips for getting started?

In fact, I’d like to open up the floor here to see what other gaffes people are having in their initial ventures into social media. It’s a whole new world on the Web for many…and we’re bound to have some laughable – and highly valuable – lessons to share!

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Lovisa Williams

We are well trained at bringing in newbies and getting them to feel comfortable in the space. There is a steep learning curve. Others who may be willing to give you a hand are @hackshaven and @kennyhubble. Pam Renoir is an old friend of ours and a great collaborator as are the others listed here.

SL feels like information overload at first. There is a lot to learn, keep track of and you are constantly being bombarded by large amounts of stimuli. It can be a bit overwhelming unless you have someone to talk you through it.

My first experience was going to a night club with a live DJ with my boss. I couldn’t figure out how to move, was distracted by all the people (GREAT people watching!) and by trying to figure out how to animate my avatar. Not to mention how to keep track of the conversation. I really felt out of place and like the wall flower standing in the middle of the dance floor. 4 weeks later of off and on time in world I was more than experienced in navigating the world and had a much better understanding of the socital norms and the culture of most of the places I visited.

Now, when I am in world I am recognized by my avatar name and by her face. People from all over the world give me grief when I haven’t been there in a while, just like your real life friends would do if you were out of touch too long. I was in world the other night after not having been there for about 6 weeks. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it and the people until I went in world to reconnect. This may sound strange, but some of my close friends are from SL. I know I may never know their real names and perhaps never meet them, but it doesn’t make the feelings of friendship any less real.

Jeffrey Levy

It took me a bit to stop laughing before I could type. Sympathetic laughter, you understand. My total time in SL is about 30 minutes so far. I wouldn’t know how to raise my hand, although I do know how to type a message, rudely interrupting whoever happened to be speaking. Microphone? I wouldn’t know it worked, much less whether it was on!

The minute I started reading, I thought “he needs to talk to Lovisa.” 🙂 She really is a terrific ambassador and teacher.

Your lessons learned are wonderful, not just for SL for all of this stuff. How to learn Twitter? Dive in and know that there are no original mistakes left to be made. Not sure how to get around in Facebook? Sit down with a friend and get a tour.

Thanks for the wilingness to laugh at yourself and share what you learned – it all helps new folks to any tool feel welcome and like it’s safe to not know everything.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Lovisa and Jeffrey. I forgot to mention that my wife entered the room while I was participating in the meeting and asked me (in a whisper) “Why don’t you sit down?” I just read to her this blog post and and we nearly laughed ’til we cried…because I can’t. But I will soon!

Robin Riat

Hang in there! Life in Second Life does get easier. Just so you know – when Second Life crashes, usually your avatar disappears, so you needn’t worry that your virtual self was abandoned at the table. When I was new, I spent a lot of time looking for sparsely populated places so I could practice walking and flying without crashing into things, so I think you were very brave to start by attending a meeting.

The education-related sims and the Information Islands in particular tend to be very friendly and welcoming to newcomers. I was wandering aimlessly near an education sim one day and was quickly taken under the collective wing of a bunch of teachers who were having a dance party. They had me dancing, chatting, and up to speed in no time. If you like music, you might check out some of the live concerts. I found those to be very friendly to newcomers, and you can listen to the music while people coach you in chat and IM windows.

I think my best SL “oops” moment was when I got in the wrong window and blurted out something about shoes to a very large group during a very silent moment of an event. Lesson: The Chat window and the Instant Message windows are not the same. If you mix them up, just say “Sorry, wrong window” in chat or turn red and quietly sink down in your chair (as I did). My second best moment was when I attended a building class, created an object, hit the wrong button, and promptly sent it sailing off into some other universe. Someone eventually found the item and sent it back to me, but I felt guilty thinking that someone came home to a big wooden box in his/her virtual living room. (I still do this on occasion if I’m not paying attention. I’m sure my SL neighbors love me.)

If you need help, feel free to send me an IM (Ashbrook Llewellyn in SL).

Pam Broviak

I was the Pam Renoir at the meeting – SL won’t let us use our real names. I thought you did an excellent job handling moving around and communicating and have to admit I would have never been able to do what you did during my first few weeks. When I first entered SL in Dec 2006 with my first avatar, Pam Ock, II had no clue where to go and what to do. I saw things that actually scared and frightened me. Eventually I built the ugliest building you ever have seen and finally a fox came up and pretty much told me that in the nicest way possible. Fortunately for me he took pity on me and spent about 20 min. with me teaching me some basic things.

The folks above are right, it really helps the learning curve if someone spends some time with you just to go over a few things. As you can see above, all of us, myself included, would jump at the chance to meet you in SL and show you around. Actually helping each other out like that is what makes SL so great and that helping continues long after you are new. It is part of the culture.

Also, meetings are tough because there are so many people there and sometimes the computer bogs down so you end up running into people. Standing is also ok; I have even been at meetings where people hang suspended in the air.Sometimes I stand because I dont’ want to try to sit, have it not work, then have to stand again. And even as long as I have been in here, I still do embarrassing things. At one meeting, I sat on someone! It was the tiniest little avatar I have ever seen, or in my case hadn’t seen. (Because the avatar was so tiny, I didn’t notice and sat right on top of her.) Eventually, I saw her name above mine and realized what I had done. She was very nice about it, but boy was I embarrassed.

The key to remember is all of us in SL deal with the same issues so what would normally be embarrassing in real life is just accepted as normal in SL. I guess even accidentally sitting on people.

I have often wondered if the GovLoop SL people should offer regular orientation times to others here who might want to try out SL knowing they will have other GovLoopers there to help them. Having gone through joining SL on your own, Andy, do you think something like that would be worthwhile? And do other SL Gov Loop people think that would be beneficial?

Andrew Krzmarzick

These comments are exactly why this community is so tremendous. Thanks for the ongoing support and stories. They’re making me laugh out loud this morning (especially the part about sitting on someone)!

Robin – I’ll be sure to check out the education and information islands. Thanks for that tip. And I now have 5 guides for SL!

Pam – To be honest, I have been in world more than a dozen times. When I conduct my Web 2.0 workshop, I enter SL so that participants can see the government presence there (NOAA, State of Missouri, etc.), so I wasn’t completely new. In fact, I have flown around quite a bit and had a few conversations. I think you’re onto something with that idea of establishing a regular schedule (i.e. every week at XX) Wouldn’t it be great to organize a 30-minute orientation followed by a guided tour of government in SL? Given the number of individuals who have significant experience in world, the instruction/guide time could be rotated such that any one person would only have a commitment of one hour per month (or even less frequent). With a couple sessions, I think I’d feel comfortable serving as a tour guide as well.

Thanks again!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Pam: P.S. Despite the fact that I’d been in SL several times, I still had never experienced a live meeting….so that felt like a big step. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

Pam Broviak

Well you are doing a lot better than I was doing in the beginning. I would have never been able to attend a meeting – not sure I even knew how to get to any. I think it is great that you wrote about your experience since it helps others know what to expect. It also helps them realize that they don’t’ have to worry about any crazy things that happen.

Do you think we should organize an SL orientation during the week or on weekends or both? and what times?

Andrew Krzmarzick

That’s what I’ve learned over the past few months. If you’re vulnerable with folks and let them know about your stuttering, starting steps, it makes the leap to social seem less scary and difficult.

I respect people’s lack of time (and access!) during the week, so weekends may be best. Maybe we could run a poll to determine best day and time. We could use Doodle to determine best dates and times for those interested…then collect RSVPs to see the number of folks that plan to attend on a particular day. My best times seem to be Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Adriel Hampton

SL won’t let you use real names? Is that a liability issue?
Very funny post, Andrew! And helps cement my decision that at this point I just can’t learn one more difficult network, even one so exciting as Second Life. I will refer people to Pam and Bill.
And, Andy, sit down, will you?

Paulette Neal-Allen

I would love to have an orientation. I tried once to get started, and I have to admit that I was so intimidated that I just left. The MuniGov stuff is what I was thinking about trying to check out the one time I thought about it.

I would never be able to do Second Life at work, though, so it would definately have to be on a weekend for me.

Pam Broviak

Great idea about the poll. I am also usually available at those times on the weekend – unless my college kid comes home for the weekend and I have to take her back to Chicago. Can you set up something on Doodle?

Adriel – I don’t like the fake names either and always told everyone who I really was if they wanted to know. Now I just have it in my profile. The other virtual worlds that are patterned on SL let you choose your real name.

Bill Greeves

Greever Wemyss here – Andy, trust me, you did much better than I did my early days! The first time I went in to see what the hubbub was all about, I ended at a place called Pier – full of very kind aussies and brits. For two hours, I chatted, learned how to dance and asked a whole bunch of questions. A particularly kind Londonite then sidled up to me and said “Hey Greever, did you know that you aren’t wearing any pants?” To which I replied “No way, you won’t get me with your noob joke.” Then she snapped a photo and gave it to me. Of course, I was fully clothed from the waist up and on the bottom, nothing but my Hanes. The Tightie Whitie Greever Groove was born. To this day, that Londonite and others are still very good friends. In fact she refers to me as her adopted “son”. And whenever she thinks I am getting too full of myself, she likes to wave that photo around. ; )

Having an orientation and people you can count on to show you the virtual ropes is crucial! Perhaps MuniGov can help in this regard. Pam and I can maybe work with you to organize some regular orientation sessions and get more govloopers in there. Until then, anybody who reads this and jumps into the SL world, please do not hesitate to contact me in world (Greever Wemyss) if you need any help. I’ll show you how to sit down and I promise to tell you if your undergarments are showing!

Virtually Yours,

Mark Danielson

O Andy, thank you for the post. I’ve often wondered what others thought when I was slumped in my chair, uncommunicative, catching up on the eyelid show during a meeting. But that was real life.

Universal lessons above. Very nice. I’m happy I saved it up to read later. Thank you again.


Lovisa Williams

@Pam & @Andy, I’d be happy to help give orientations. I warn you in advance that to teach someone to move, talk and some of the cultural norms takes about 2-3 hours. This does not mean it has to be one person alone doing the teaching. We might want to separate out the SL tour from the basic orientation. When I give the SL tour I tend to tailor it to my audience needs/interests but I also ensure I cover a couple different bases. They see a social site, an education site, a government site, and an art site. I make sure to showcase how people have solved various problems in SL and the technical capabilities.

I have a large inventory of SL sites. In fact the Lindens requested our tour list. Before you do something in SL, we ask the question how is this a more compelling space to conduct this event or showcase this product. We try to ensure whatever we do is something that could not be done in real life or that would be cost prohibitive.

@Adriel Actually, you can have your real name used but you must apply to Linden Lab and pay not only an up front fee, but a monthly fee to keep the name. We did this for the former Under Secretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy at State. We used his real name in SL to take questions from some Egyptian bloggers in Cairo. We also built out his custom avatar.

Lovisa Williams

Regarding meetings in SL or events for that matter, I have found them more useful and more valuable than real life meetings. The power comes from the multi layers of communication. You have no idea how often I have wanted a private IM session in real life meeting.

What happens in a normal meeting in SL or even let’s say a panel event, the speaker uses voice. The public chat window is used for people to ask questions and comment out loud to each other or provide background resources such as links to documents, websites etc. Then there is the private IM function which allows you to have a private discussion with someone at the meeting or else where in SL. Holding meetings here provides a richer environment and more information than a meeting in real life.

Unlike a DVC you have the side bar chatter before and after the meeting. People in SL are more relaxed than in real life because we do have these crazy things that happen event to the most experienced user. Having a sense of humor is key!

There was also a study done (I think at Stanford University) that showed interacting in a virtual world is filed in the brain as it records a real life experience as compared with a DVC which is filed as a more distant experience. I’m not doing justice to this right now. But ultimately virtual world experiences (events, meetings, speaker programs, musical events etc) have been shown to be as compelling as an event in real life.

Eric Hackathorn

I know this blog is a bit old but last week Lovisa said I should track it down and comment. While not a story about my first steps in Second Life, perhaps it’s still worth relating. The names have been redacted to protect the um… innocent.
Back in 2007, I was briefly interviewed by NPR to talk about NOAA’s island in Second Life. Here is the fallout:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: NPR Story
Date: Fri, 04 May 2007 09:29:19 -0400
From: XXXX
To: XXXX ,


Two days ago a NOAA employee was interviewed by NPR concerning the creation of the “NOAA Virtual Island” on the Second Life web site. I believe the employee was Eric Hackathorn of OAR located in Boulder, Co.

He indicated this was a new outreach effort for NOAA and talked about the interactive activities for guest who visit the island. One activity I was concerned about was a virtual “swim with the dolphins” experience sponsored by NOAA on this site. My understanding is the latest version of the MMPA would make this conduct illegal and we continue to get complaints under existing regulations on this activity.

I do not believe NOAA should be condoning this activity. Can you advise if you have similar concerns and if so, who this should be sent to?



My initial response:

—–Original Message—–
From: Eric Hackathorn [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, May 04, 2007 9:04 AM
Subject: virtual dolphins caught in a virtual net

I got a call from XXXX this morning inquiring about our ability to “swim with dolphins” on the virtual island. Turns out this is frowned upon in the U.S., and we may be promoting illegal activities. After explaining these were not real dolphins and winning a temporary stay on their execution, with additional funding we could improve the AI causing them to swim away from overly interested visitors. I personally think we should script the dolphins with defensive capabilities so that they can “take out” abusive avatars.
(Frickin laser beams!)
While we are on the subject, I should also point out that unlicensed individuals can fly airplanes and come through a virtual skylight in our conference center before checking through security. Swimming with dolphins is obviously so much worse than the other activities we condone in video game technology nowadays! Also, don’t even get me started on the laws of physics we are breaking on a daily basis. Einstein and Newton would be furious.


After thinking about it a bit I decided to take a different tactic:

dolphins and the MMPA
Eric Hackathorn
Fri, 04 May 2007 19:50:40 -0600
[email protected]

Your comments today intrigued me and I took the liberty of doing a little research into the “MMPA” that quite honestly I had never heard of before today.
Under the MMPA (Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972), it is illegal to “take” any marine mammal. The term “take” is defined as: “to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal.”
In 1991, NMFS amended the definition of “take” in the MMPA regulations to include a prohibition on: “the negligent or intentional operation of an aircraft or vessel, or the doing of any other negligent or intentional act which results in disturbing or molesting a marine mammal; and feeding or attempting to feed a marine mammal in the wild.” (You obviously already know all this…)
In other words, no swimming with wild dolphins. Lesson learned!
Your office is truly sincere about protecting wild dolphins and deserves any cooperation we can render. The article correctly points out, “we need to impress upon people that interactions with wild dolphins are harmful to the animals and can also be harmful to humans. People need to respect these animals in their natural habitat and let them stay wild.”
I propose we follow the article’s quote! With a few modifications, I believe that we could highlight the dangers of feeding and swimming with wild dolphins. I’d be happy to assist in brainstorming, and I believe we could come up with a cost effective solution to reach a large number of people with your message.

Let me know what you think,
Eric Hackathorn

Never heard from him again. Turns out the best way to make people leave you alone is to ask them for money.

What do you know! The original interview is still available!