Book Review — Second Life: The Official Guide, 1st ed.

Rymaszewski, Michael, et al. Second Life: The Official Guide. 1st ed. Hoboken, N. J.: 2007, Wiley. ISBN 047009608X.

Front cover of bookThis book, and the more recent Second Edition, is Linden Lab’s official user’s guide to the experience of life on the Grid. The review will focus on the First Edition, which may still be available in some areas.

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Who better than Linden Lab, the logic runs, to write a guide to their main product? And the result is adequate to the task as well as fun to read. The downside to this is that familiarity may let the authors (or sponsors, if nothing else) miss tips and techniques that would come in useful to Residents. You know something that, down in your gut, you’re sure everyone knows; but you forget that you know it only because of your day-to-day familiarity with the intricacies of the program.

I am not sure at this point if that has happened with this book. Of course, Second Life is not a fixed point in the software universe; it undergoes constant change and debugging, and what’s part of it one day could disappear tomorrow. What I can say is that common tricks such as alt-zoom, which I use a good deal of lately, are not covered in this first edition. One hopes that such easy-to-fix lacunae are repaired in the newer edition.

What the guide does do, among other things, is thoroughly discuss the uses of the Library and, especially, the Inventory. Control of your Inventory is neither art nor science; it is both, and it is an absolute necessity. I try to prune my Inventory almost every session in world, and it’s in part because of this book [1]. Another chapter is devoted to short-talk pieces by some of the Grid’s notables, e.g. Desmond Shang, Tao Takeshi, and Iris Ophelia. Their personal words on what got them involved in SL make for fascinating reading; I long for more.

Overall, this is not a perfect book. (What book is?) But it is an adequate book, as I say, and useful as a first stepping stone to other volumes, and, of course, learning more with experience.

Incidentally, the foreward was written by the new Chairman of the Board of Linden Research, Philip Rosedale. Take a look at his words to see how well things are matching to his vision.

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[1] A digression concerning Inventory control: it would be wonderful if LL allowed us to drag folders into a THiNC box or similar device, instead of needing to “repackage” them to keep related items together. Having to add in this extra operation slows down the entire process, making it more of a pain than just simply sifting through the thousands of items of freebies, demos and other detritus we’ve accumulated in our careers in world.

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