Second Life Orientation

Check out the "Basics for Noobs" attachment at the bottom of this page for a Quick Start in Second Life!

Welcome to MuniGov2.0 and to Second Life (SL). 
We'll be doing a lot of business here and you will find it advantageous to get comfortable with SL before you need to focus on the meeting.  The information below is intended to help you get a quick start into Second Life so that you can participate in the weekly MuniGov2.0 meetings as your schedule permits.  Although Second Life is a rich user experience and has tremendous potential value to us in the local government sector, the interface can be a bit intimidating for a first-time user.  We've all been through the awkward experience of trying to interact with others while fumbling with the controls for our avatars, our audio (mic controls) and just getting used to the new experience.  
So, in this orientation you will find many helpful tips to get you started, as well as some more advanced tools for after you've gotten your SL sea-legs.  We've included a "Quick Start Section below if you need to attend a meeting right away.  Check it out, and of course, once you log in, others in the group will help you if you experience problems online.

A view of the deck area, where various activities can take place.

The info below is broken down into three sections – The Essential Stuff, The Advanced Stuff and The Specific Stuff.  The Essential Stuff is really the basic topics you need to become proficient at in order to be successful “on the grid”.  Here is where you'll find the Quick Start information.  The Advanced Stuff is not all necessarily complicated, but rather the topics that are not really essential for you to get started within Second Life.  These can be learned later on at your leisure, if and when you want to get deeper into the potential the application has to offer.  The Specific Stuff are protocol, procedures and resources exclusive to the MuniGov2.0 group.  The info in this section focuses on getting the most out of the group, our meetings, our resources, etc. 


All of the areas include content provided by MuniGov2.0 members as well as links to a lot of tremendous resources across the Web.  Most of this stuff comes from other sources – no need to reinvent the wheel.  Many of the sections below contain video tutorials that will make it much easier for you to become acclimated to the SL interface.  We’ve tried to keep it short and sweet, but we are constantly tweaking this info and welcome any comments or suggestions!

The Essential Stuff


The Background and History of Second Life

Second Life (abbreviated as SL) and its sister site Teen Second Life are Internet-based computer games launched June 23, 2003 and developed by Linden Research, Inc, which came to international attention via mainstream news media in late 2006 and early 2007. Second Life caters for users aged over 18, while Teen Second Life is restricted to users aged between 13 and 18. A free downloadable client program called the "Second Life Viewer" enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items (virtual property) and services with one another. (


The true value of Second Life lies on its ability to expand in scope and size based on the input (i.e. creativity) of its residents.  SL was basically the concept of creating a workspace and the tools and then turning the reins over to the users to see what they could come up with.  It has certainly evolved over the years, but the basic premise of a creative user base is the key to its longevity.

Though you may be anxious to plow ahead and set up your account right away, there is some important information in this orientation concerning SL etiquette, privacy and security, and more that you should know before you jump in... things like setting up an e-mail account for your SL name, friending, communicating, etc.  It's easier to set up these things to your liking the first time.  So, take the time to read this orientation and view the video tutorials as they are really helpful in spinning you up on how to get places, move your avatar, use the camera tool [this tool can save you lots of time and effort in exploring SL] and a lot of other useful stuff. 

Finally, you may find it useful to login to SL and get your "sea legs" before you attend your first meeting.  It does take a bit of time to get used to using all the tools at once while trying to get used to the interface and pay attention to what's going on in the meeting.  So dig in and enjoy!

SL Quick Start

Here what to do:

  1. Review the information in the MuniGov2. Welcome kit.  There's lots of good stuff there on how to get started.
  2. If you don't already have one, set up an e-mail account to receive messages from MuniGov2.  A separate account in your avatar's name helps to preserve your privacy
  3. Create an SL account online at
  4. Download/install the SL viewer
  5. Set up your system controls

Using the "talk" feature seems to be challenging to some, SL glitches and bugs aside,   Here are some of the controls we use to interact.  Note the "Communicate" box is open at the top left of the screen, and showing typed-in chat.  The audio controls are located at the bottom right corner of the screen.

The "local Chat" button (lower right corner) opens the chat box.  There is a push-to-talk button just below the local chat button (again, bottom right).  I'll get to those shortly, but these are important and you should know where they are. 

Here's the button you need to push when you want to talk.  It's the blue button next to the padlock icon.  If you click and hold the "talk" button. it will go off when you release your mouse button.  If you click on the padlock icon, it will stay on. 

One big caution!  You need to wear headphones if you plan to use the talk feature.  If you don't, you will create major feedback problems for everyone in the area.  Feedback is what happens when the sound from your speakers re-enters the system through your microphone (mic).  It's very annoying!   So, I recommend that you use headphones and turn your speakers off when using the talk feature.  More about this below in the communication section.

For more information on these controls, see below under the heading "Communication.

Before you do your system set-up, you'll want to be sure you have all of your peripherals [headphones, microphone, etc] plugged in so that the app "sees" them.  Some people logging in for meetings have problems using the talk feature, and often it's because they launched the SL viewer before they plugged in their headphones or mic.  You need to do plug peripherals in before you launch the SL viewer every time.   

The video tutorials below ["Create a Second Life Account" and "Install Your Second Life Viewer"] contain valuable information, and I recommend you view these two before you start.  The other video tutorials below also provide a wealth of information and will save you time and angst if you can view them before getting started.
General Intro Tutorials:

Create a Second Life Account


Install Your Second Life Viewer



Communication is an essential component of effective use of Second Life.  Communication can be via voice, gestures or via chat.  Your Communicate Panel includes all the tools necessary to communicate with your friends you have on your contacts lists and or anyone in the near vicinity, either via voice (audio) or chat (written).  You will find that after a little time spent in-world, you will begin to use both for voice and chat for efficient communication.  Second Life includes many common abbreviations (i.e. afk, lol) as well as terminology you may not find anywhere else (borked, rezzed, ruthed, avi, griefer, etc.)  Below are some helpful resources to get you up to speed on both the process of communicating and help you understand some of the terminology as well. 


Tutorials & Resources for Communication:

Meet, Make, Manage Contacts


Configure Audio, Media and Voice


Currency Basics

The currency of Second Life is known as Lindens or Linden Dollars.  Much like in the real world, Lindens can be earned via work or donations and they can be spent on inventory, activities, etc.  Via the SecondLife Web site, you can convert Lindens to real-life currency and vice versa.  The ratio of Lindens to US Dollars is extremely high and will fluctuate much as in real life.  At the time of this writing, $1 USD equates to $184 Lindens.  It is not necessary to have any money whatsoever to participate in MuniGov2.0.  There are many places in SL where you can get free stuff.  You can find these by using the search window at the top right of the SL interface.


Getting Around

Moving around in Second Life takes many forms.  Using keyboard arrows, you can walk, run, fly and use vehicles of all types.  These capabilities of movement are very good for moving around in the local area.  However, if you want to move over great distances, or to a specific place, the best way to move is via teleport (yes, just like in Star Trek).  You can use the search or map feature of your interface to search for a specific location, and then teleport to the destination once you find the one you are looking for.  Also, Second Life also uses Landmarks, which are predefined destination points that are stored within your inventory (very much like internet browser bookmarks).  Once you add a destination as a bookmark, you will always be able to return to it with a simple click of the landmark within your inventory.


Tutorials & Resources for Navigation:

Learn to Navigate



Getting to Know You (Avatars, Appearance & Clothing)

Your avatar is your Second Life icon, the virtual representation of you within the virtual world. Avatars (also known as avis) can take on many forms including male and female humans of every race and size as well as animals, both real and fantasy (furries) and small creatures (tinies) and just about anything else someone could imagine and create (and we do mean anything).  Most avatars can be customized according to your preferences (size, color, gender, etc.) and can be clothed or otherwise outfitted to meet your liking.


Many people spend a good amount of time customizing their avatar to make the experience more realistic, while others continue to walk around Second Life with the clothes they came in with – either extreme is fine for the purposes of MuniGov2.0.  There are no restrictions on appearance or form to participate in the meetings, with one exception.  Like in the real world, indecent exposure may offend some participants.  We ask that you clothe your avatar so as not to expose any inappropriate parts of the anatomy.  So, before attending the meetings, please clothe yourself unless you are otherwise already covered by fur, feathers or scales. (I bet my mom would be proud if I told her my career has come to writing a user guide with a sentence like that in it).


Tutorials & Resources for Appearance:

Adjust Your Appearance


Your Stuff (Inventory & Objects)

Your Inventory is your treasure chest. It holds everything that you build, own, and need. There is no limit to what you can store in here, but extremely large inventories can cause slow down your client when loading.  Your inventory can be organized according to your preferences and can easily be searched using a keyword.  We highly recommend that you organize your inventory from the beginning; otherwise it can quickly get out of hand!


Tutorials & Resources for Your Stuff:

How to Manage Your Inventory


The Advanced Stuff


Animation Overrides (AOs)

An Animation Override ("AO") is a scripted Attachment which replaces standard animations (walk, jump, stand, run, etc) with animations created by residents. (


Animation Overrides help you make your character more natural and realistic. They are not required in order to explore second life, they merely add to the realism.


Tutorials & Resources for Animation Overrides:

Camera and Snapshots

Using the camera effectively in Second Life will make it much easier to see where you are going and what is around you without relying on some of the cumbersome commands used on the keyboard. It allows for a much more fluid interaction with your environment.  The Snapshot feature allows you take photos (or perhaps more accurately – screenshots) of your current surroundings and save them for later.  You can use this feature to document something under construction or perhaps to simply commemorate an occasion, event or specific scene (just like in real life!)


Tutorials & Resources for Camera and Snapshots:

Learn to Use Your Camera


Take Snapshots and Share


Land Ownership

In Second Life, users can purchase outright and/or rent land for sum of money based on current fair market value (just as in the real world).  The value of the land is based on its physical dimensions as well as the amount of objects (prims) the land enables you to create and store.  Land owners essentially have a blank canvas to construct the geography of the land (terraforming) and build natural and man-made features (houses, stores, streets, etc.) as they see fit to meet their needs.  Additionally, land owners can also establish other environmental features such as the weather, audio and visual streaming for the property and define what rights that visitors to the property enjoy.  Building from scratch within Second Life requires significant creativity and some technical knowledge but can be extremely rewarding when mastered.


Although most land is privately owned in Second Life, most of it technically open for people to visit.   Most SL users operate under the code of conduct that keeps them from hanging out in someone’s home uninvited; however, there are tools that some landowners use to ensure that people do not trespass on private property.


Land ownership is not required for MuniGov2.0 participation or general MuniGov2.0 exploration.


Tutorials & Resources for Land Ownership and Building:

Second Life Construction Tutorial


Your profile is basically your biography.  You can include a brief bio of your avatar as well as your real life, relevant links, your favorite places, etc.  It also contains your group membership info.  It is not required to complete any of your profile info in order to participate in Second Life.  But you will find that you can learn a lot about most of the people you meet by reviewing their profile.


The Specific Stuff


Getting into MuniGov2.0

When you get into Second Life for the first time, after you have played around with interface, check out the video tutorials above…it will make your life (both of them) much easier!  After that, send an private message in-world to Greever Wemyss or Pam Broviak.  We will friend you, add you to the MuniGov2.0 Group, and send you the group welcome kit to get you started.


The Group

The MuniGov2.0 group is a group within Second Life that consist of MuniGov2.0 members and other interested SL citizens focused on discussing topics of interest in local government use of 2.0.  All group members will receive the broadcast messages submitted by the group leaders.  These typically include meeting reminders and other bits of interesting news, landmarks and inventory items of general interest to the group.


Group Roles

The Group membership includes seven different title roles to help organize and orient new members as to who can help them on a given subject.  Specific roles for the group can be found on the MuniGov Web site.


Master Innovator – Reserved for Group Leader and Founder Pam Renoir (Pam Broviak, Director of Public Works and City Engineer for LaSalle, IL)


Chief Innovator – Reserved for Group Leader and Founder Greever Wemyss (Bill Greeves, Director of Information Technology for Roanoke County, VA)


Lead Innovator - MuniGov2.0 member who coordinates some aspect of MuniGov2.0 operations (membership, content area, meetings, etc.)


Skilled Innovator – SL Experienced Local government members who are interested in collaborating and implementing the technologies and concepts of Web 2.0


New Innovator - SL "Noob" Local government members who are interested in collaborating and implementing the technologies and concepts of Web 2.0


Citizen Innovator - Non-govt Second Life residents who assist us government types in learning our way around this SL world and are also willing to give us feedback on our ideas for SL and Web 2.0 use for RL work.


Group Meetings



The group meets currently in a temporary venue on Public Works island in a tuscan-style meeting hall.  You will also have a landmark for the office in your welcome kit. 


The meetings always begin in the office, unless otherwise posted in advance, but sometimes we will do group tours or site visits of areas of interest.  Please do not hesitate to IM us to ask for a teleport if you get lost when looking for the venue. 


If you show up when no one is around, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the huge MuniGov2.0 mural on the wall.  You’ll also see the group mascot and guard spider, Charlotte.  Fear not – she’s harmless!


Feel free to visit the office any time of day, and bring your colleagues to have a look around.  You can also set your “Home” to the office if you’d like, allowing you to rez in here each time you log in.



Our group meetings currently begin officially at 7PM EST/4PM PST although we generally tend to gather early for troubleshooting, noob assistance, etc. 



The meetings are very informal in tone and although we typically have at least one main topic to focus on, we generally drift off on to other topics as warranted.  There is typically at least one facilitator to keep the conversation moving.  Check the calendar on the MuniGov2.0 site for more information of the meeting topics.


Voice Chat

Although it is not required for participation, it is highly recommended that you have voice chat enabled to fully engage in the meetings (otherwise you get stuck doing a lot of typing!)  You can get a set of headphones with a microphone for $10-$20 at Walmart, Radio Shack, Best Buy etc. and they are highly recommended.  Oftentimes, the meetings are a mix of talking and typing.



Dress is completely casual.  The only requirement is that you do actually dress. (Yes, there is a story behind that one).


Hover Text

With so many people in the meetings, most with an SL user name not the same as their real name, it can be confusing.  To help with this, we use a nifty little inventory item called Hover Text.  Hover Text creates a separate small floating title above your head to help identify you (i.e. Hi, I’m Bill from Roanoke County or Pam Broviak, PW Director for LaSalle, IL, etc.)  You will find this item in your Welcome Kit, if you search for hover text.  The full name of the item is Color Changing Hover Text /8 Message.  To activate the item:

1.      Search your inventory for hover text.

2.      Once found, right click on the inventory item and select Wear from the drop down menu. Once worn, the item will appear in bold.

3.      Now, in the Local Chat pane of your Communicate panel, type: /8 Your Text Here, replacing Your Text Here with the content you want to appear above your head. 

4.      You can change this as often as you want by typing /8 in local chat followed by the new content. 

Please wear this title when participating in the meetings.


The Welcome Kit

The MuniGov2.0 Welcome Kit contains the essential items you need to get started in the MuniGov2.0 group here in Second Life.  In it you’ll find some essential inventory items including landmarks to the MuniGov2.0 offices, several interesting places in Second Life and several stores that have freebie items such as clothes, gestures, hair, etc.

MuniGovCon'09 Self Guided Tours and Live Orientation Sessions

Mar 9, 2009, 6:27 PM