Thursday, December 6, 2007

Boing Boing blogs the book

A big thanks to Boing Boing co-editor Mark Frauenfelder for blogging about my book today.

Boing Boing, of course, is one of the most influential blogs in the world, and so to see the posting about The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life this afternoon was a very nice thing.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Residents Speak: Katt Kongo

When I wrote a story for CNET yesterday about a new National Football League initiative, one of the pieces of source material I used was a full-page ad the NFL had placed in The New York Times.

In the ad, I noticed, the league's copywriter had misspelled a word, using "complimentary" instead of "complementary."

Well, it wasn't that big a deal, but particularly because they made the error in such a prominent place, it made me think about something that Metaverse Messenger publisher Katt Kongo told me when I interviewed her for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

As you may know, the Messenger is one of the more popular Second Life publications, coming out each week and reaching a fairly wide audience. Big enough that Katt is able to live off of the money she makes from it.

And when I asked her for some suggestions that anyone wanting to run an SL blog as a business should be sure to follow, she had several to offer that covered a number of different bases.

But the one that the NFL's gaffe reminded me of was this: "Try to proofread carefully. You lose credibility when words are spelled wrong, etc."

Now, some may reject that notion out of hand as elitism, but I think Katt is spot-on. It's just like what my adviser in journalism school told us once: That encountering misspellings or egregious grammatical or punctuation errors in a story arrests your attention and pulls you away from the subject at hand in much the same way as when you spot something like a microphone sticking out of the top of the screen in a film.

I cite that wisdom often because I think it's such a great analogy, and because I find dumb errors in stories all the time. And the other day, when I was watching Richard Linklater's terrific film, Slacker, I even noticed at one point exactly the offending microphone out of the top of the screen that my adviser was referring to. And indeed, it grabbed my attention, just as he said it would.

The point here is that if you're trying to be a Second Life blogger, you really want to put as much emphasis on writing clean as you can. Your readers aren't reading your work for clean copy. They're reading it for good information. But believe me, they notice if you can't spell or if you consistently misuse commas or semicolons or apostrophes. They might not think they notice, but they do. And in spite of themselves, the more errors they find, the less they take the writer seriously.

So, with that, let me just conclude by opining on perhaps the most frequent such mistake that I find in the written word: the mistakenly used apostrophe in "its" or "it's." For some reason, writers of all stripes seem to be unable to get it right. Let me plead with you, if you're going to try to make a go of it as a blogger, to avoid the mistake. Study up on the proper usage. Your readers will appreciate you for it, even if they don't know they do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Read The Second Life Herald by Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace

I just finished reading Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace's new book, The Second Life Herald: The Virtual Tabloid That Witnessed the Dawn of the Metaverse. And I liked it.

It's got flaws, certainly, but on the whole, it's a really good book that covers a lot of the early history of SL and The Sims Online, much of which you could only get by reading way back through the archives of the Second Life Herald and Alphaville Herald blogs.

Anyway, my review of the book is up this afternoon on CNET

Monday, November 26, 2007

Remember to include landmarks with your items

I was looking through the classifieds this morning on the Second Life forums, and came across a posting that made me think of one of the simplest, yet most important things you can do when you're selling something.

The post was titled "Chevrolet '65 Impala SS," and in it, the author was asking, essentially, if anyone knew where to find such a car in SL. He'd stumbled across one somewhere along the lines of his in-world ramblings, but couldn't remember where.

In truth, what this made me think of was not something that would have helped this poster with his exact problem, but which will help anyone who has ever bought something from your store find you again.

Now, this is an extremely rudimentary piece of advice for anyone who has been running a Second Life business for any length of time, but it is nonetheless crucial and something a newcomer might not think of and would do very well to learn.

And that is to include a landmark to your store with every product you sell.

The idea is simple, and based on an elementary truth of Second Life: That many people buy things on impulse, walk away from where they bought it, and instantly forget who sold it to them.

It makes sense. There are endless numbers of stores in SL and many people buy things all the time. So how can they be expected to remember where they got any individual item? Unless you tell them where, that is.

And a landmark is the way to do it. And the way that works is that you bundle the landmark in the folder that a customer gets when they buy an item from you.

Here's how to create a landmark and include it with a product you're selling, as I wrote in the business basics chapter of my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

To create a landmark, go to the exact location where you want people to arrive--whether that's standing in the doorway of your shop facing inward or directly in front of an item that's on sale. Then go to the World pull-down menu and click Create Landmark Here. You'll see the landmark open up on the screen showing you the option to teleport or show on map. But that landmark will also show up in the Landmarks folder of your inventory.

The default name of a landmark is the place name, the sim name, and then the map coordinates. But you can go to that landmark in your inventory and rename it anything you want. That's a good idea if you want to make it obvious what it is a landmark for, like your store.

You can then take that landmark from your Landmarks folder and drag and drop it into the folder of an item you're selling.

Then, after someone buys something from you, and wants to return to shop at your store again, but can't remember exactly where you're located, they can simply look in their inventory, find the folder for the item they bought originally, locate the landmark, and teleport directly to your store.

Of course, if they deleted the folder or it disappeared in some SL glitch, it won't help them. But in most cases, they will still have it, and they'll be able to find their way back to you quite easily.

As for the resident looking for the '65 Chevy, if you happen to run across one, do Yossie Hax a favor and send him (or her) an IM with the location. And consider dropping a landmark for the store where it's for sale on Yossie.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

On a very non-SL note, I want to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving. And a great beginning to your holiday season.

And for your laughing needs:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wired interviews me on Second Life entrepreneurship

One of the things I've discovered since my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, came out is that promoting it is at least as much work as writing it.

Well, maybe not quite. But it's definitely a lot of effort, and it became clear right away that if I didn't promote it tirelessly, then no one would know about it.

On Tuesday, that effort paid off when Wired ran a full-length Q&A with me about entrepreneurship in Second Life.

Having been a long-time Wired writer myself and a fan even after I left to join CNET in 2005, it was pretty cool to see this run today. After all, I wrote my first stories about Second Life for Wired back in 2003.

In any case, it's a proud day. And, you know, I had to share.

Residents Speak: Kim Anubis

It's been a busy fall for books about Second Life.

I was at a book store in San Francisco yesterday--ostensibly to attend a book signing by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, but while there I just "happened" to go and notice that they had mine on an outward-facing display--and it turned out they had a whole shelf of Second Life books.

One of them was Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life, by Aimee Weber, Kim Rufer-Bach and Richard Platel.

For those that don't know, Rufer-Bach is known in Second Life as Kim Anubis, the owner of The Magicians, an important designer of in-world building projects for real-world institutions.

Well, Kim is also featured in my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, and in it, she shares her thoughts about how someone getting started out in the SL construction business who's not sure of what kind of prefab builds to sell can decide which way to go.

She explained to me that her approach would be to "employ some traditional market research" methods:

- Give a gift to people who fill out a questionnaire about what sort of prefab they would want.
- Start a thread about it on a message board or forum.
- Talk to lots of people about it.
- Put a number of things on sale and see what sells, and what doesn't.

For some people, there may be no question about what to build. They already know exactly what they want. Many others, however, have the building skills and interest to go into the business but may not be familiar enough with what's out there to know what would sell well.

In addition to Kim's suggestions, I would add another piece of advice, and one that applies to any segment of Second Life business: Check out what the competition is selling. That will ensure that you don't try to sell the same thing that a dozen others are already saturating the market with. Or, if you do decide to go that way, that you can identify a way to make your prefabs stand out from the competition.

But Kim is touching on a very sound principle of business, both for SL and the real-world: Building a product line based on what customers want.

It may not be the simplest endeavor. It will take time, and you'll have to be willing to sift through a lot of ideas--many of them less than valuable. But, after all, Second Life residents are going to be the ones buying your prefabs, so shouldn't you give them what they want?

To be sure, your own ideas may be even better than what the residents come up with, but don't discount their collective wisdom. They are the people who are out there, frequenting the existing prefab builders, and they know what's available. If there are people who have something they want and can't find on the market, and they tell you about it, you may strike upon a great business opportunity.

Ultimately, a successful approach will likely be to mix Kim's market-research methods with some creative thinking of your own. Don't discount the value in what the residents say they want.