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 News.com 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 News.com.

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 News.com 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.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks to all for great in-world book launch party


A big thank you to everyone who came out for the in-world launch party for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

There was quite a turnout, with several dozen people on hand to talk about the book, dance, chat with friends, show off fashions and more.

Special thank yous go to Alliez Mysterio for hosting the party on her land, to Nexeus Fatale for spinning great tunes throughout the event, to Professor Sadovnycha for making the book table and the in-world mockups of the book, to SteveR Whiplash for the Slegways, and to Persimmon Gjellerup for everything.

In addition to formally presenting the book to the Second Life community for the first time, it was also a chance for me to express my gratitude to the many SL business experts who helped out with the book. Not all of them showed up, but many did.

It was a fun time. And I have to bow my head to Alliez for knowing precisely how long the event should last. Which I guess is the one piece of advice that I can impart in this posting: When putting on a party in connection with your SL business, consider keeping it to two hours.

I had thought three hours would be the appropriate amount of time for my party, and Alliez said she thought two would be enough. But I was stubborn and scheduled it for three. And sure enough, at two hours, the crowd had just about thinned out. So, lesson learned.

Anyway, thanks again to all who came. It was fun. And now, the book is fully launched: On Amazon, in book stores, with a real-world party, and with an SL party. And so far, it's doing quite well, and looking like it will never find its way into the bargain bin at the Strand. Yay.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Residents Speak: Wynx Whiplash


When it comes to cool Second Life business innovators, you'd have to put Wynx Whiplash on any best-of list.

Wynx is the inventor of the "tiny" avatar, which, if you're not familiar with them, is just what it sounds like: avatars that are, well, tiny.

These days, there are tinies all over the place: bunnies, cats, dragons and so forth, and even people, and her store, Wynx's Whimsical Wonders is still tinies ground zero. But when Wynx first created them, it caused quite the stir.

Even today, there are those who hate the tinies, and they would probably be loathe to grant Wynx any respect. But for the rest of us, her ability to break the mold, and to really shift the paradigm is a great example of what can make a difference for a would-be Second Life businessperson.

I talked to her for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, and among other things, asked her for some important suggestions that anyone going into business in SL should be sure to follow.

And from that interview, I've chosen one of her suggestions as something well worth sharing here. Befitting the suggestion itself, the advice might not occur to a lot of people.

"Add surprises" to products," Wynx said. "Something folks wouldn't expect."

It's quite the simple suggestion. But it speaks volumes about what can make the difference between a product that some people buy and one that everyone has to have.

A good example might be the tinies themselves, which are just another take on the custom avatar. But it was a total surprise when Wynx first came out with them because it's not something that had been done before, at least not in any formalized way.

The point is to look for things you can add to an existing product line that will set your products apart from others like it. It can something small and simple, like a script that animates your product, or maybe something hidden inside a product that someone might discover by accident. Whatever it is, if it's not something expected--and it's cool--it will likely delight your customers and get them talking about you and your products. And as I've noted many times before, this kind of word of mouth is invaluable.

Of course, as I've also mentioned, you need to ensure that the surprises you include are good ones, and not things that are going to make your customers unhappy or uncomfortable. Because then, as I've said, the word of mouth you'll get will not help you.

In-world book party Sunday, 12pm SLT

For those of you that missed the book party I had in San Francisco last week to celebrate the launch of my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, all is not lost!

That's because I'm having an in-world party this Sunday and YOU are invited.

Well-known DJ Nexeus Fatale will be spinning great tunes, and there will also be special gifts for the first 50 people to ask me about gifts at the party.

Details:

What: Book release party for The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, by Daniel Terdiman
When: Sunday, Nov. 18, noon-3pm SL time,
Where: http://slurl.com/secondlife/dAlliez/216/59/31/

Please feel free to pass this invite on to any who might be interested.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I opine about SL business opportunities on CNN


Monday was an odd day. I took a sick day off from CNET because I wasn't feeling well, and planned--once I woke up, very late--to lie in bed with my cat and watch movies.

I was doing that very successfully when I happened to check my email and saw a note from someone at CNN urgently asking me to call them about an interview.

Given that I'm in a promotional state of mind these days, what with the very recent publication of my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, I figured I should return the call.

I did, and next thing you know, I've agreed to do an on-camera interview for CNN International about Second Life. Except you can't do on-camera interviews like this from home like you can with the many phoners I've done.

In this case, it meant getting picked up in a rather luxurious Lincoln and carted into San Francisco to do the interview in some contract production company's offices.

They led me into the studio, sat me down, miked me up and then left the room. And I was all alone, staring into a camera that I couldn't see because of a set of glaring lights illuminating me and my face, listening to CNN on a small earphone.

Finally, the anchor--"Christie from Hong Kong," I think--started speaking in my ear, and did her intro to the segment for which they were interviewing me.

I had to stop myself from laughing right at the beginning because in that intro she explained Second Life as a place that big businesses are going into, like American Apparel, Starwood Hotels, Giorgio Armani and now CNN, with its launching of a citizen-reporting venture in-world.

Well, obviously, we don't know yet how CNN's entrance into SL will go, because it's just gotten started, but for them to link themselves in that sentence to American Apparel, Starwood and Armani shows just how little CNN understands SL. In other words, they basically told the world that they won't be succeeding, since American Apparel and Starwood have both decided to leave, and Armani is an abject failure.

But anyway, they then launched into the interview, and to be fair, the questions were okay. She asked me why people go into Second Life, what there is to do, what kind of business opportunities there are and what it takes for big businesses to succeed there.

She did give me an opportunity to plug the book a little bit and to spell out my thesis: You must have a plan and you must work hard if you want to make it as an SL entrepreneur.

And then, just like that, it was over. I must have gotten into it, because it seemed like the interview only lasted about a minute, but when I watched it this morning, it actually seemed like it was much longer.

The only real problem I see with the segment, as it aired, is that they ran the same short piece of video from SL over and over again. How odd that they couldn't be bothered to come up with enough original video to fill out the segment. I don't know if they don't expect people to notice, but I sure did. It reminds me of what my journalism school adviser said about things like that: That it's sort of like when you're watching a movie and you see a microphone sticking out of the top of the screen. It's a little thing, but it pulls your eye away from the content you're supposed to be watching.

But I'm nitpicking, I suppose.

Ultimately, it was cool that CNN called and asked me to do this interview, and I was glad that they did give me time to explain a number of different things.

And then it was all over.

I walked out onto the street, and ironically, the production company was literally right across the street from Linden Lab's offices. How funny is that?

Then I got back in that fancy Lincoln, I was whisked home, and it was back to watching movies in bed with my cat on my sick day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Problems with vendors in-world

For anyone who has spent any real time in Second Life, regardless of whether you're running a business there or not, you know that one of the biggest challenges is its steady stream of technological hiccups.

Today, for example, Linden Lab announced on its blog that there is a new problem associated with selling multiple items at different prices through multiple vendors that cropped up after a recent viewer update.

Essentially, the blog post said, the problem arises when someone with a bunch of vendors pulls all the for-sale items back into their inventory and then puts them back out for sale in a different location.

Instead of maintaining their original sale prices, as intended, the new bug reverts all the prices to a single price-point. And that means that you'd have to do a bit of extra work to make sure that everything costs what it's supposed to.

Now, the point here isn't to focus on this specific incident. Rather I want to talk briefly about how this kind of thing is something that any newcomer to Second Life business will have to be prepared to deal with. There is no end to the glitches that pop up in the various software updates Linden Lab does, and there's nothing you can do about it except persevere.

And that's really what this post is about. To remind folks who are interested in running an SL business that it is something they really need to be devoted to. In other words, you can't really get your business going and then just leave it alone without being eagle-eyed about how the various technical bugs might be affecting your business.

To be sure, some shops will continue to run just fine in perpetuity with no maintenance, but would you want to bet some income that yours will be one of them? More likely, you'll return from an absence to find that something, perhaps something small, but you never know, is broken. And that might well mean that your customers can't buy your products, or that your customer services processes are broken. Or something.

One business owner I interviewed for my new book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, talked to me about how he was excited by the fact that products he created for his store would continue to produce sales, and therefore income, for the foreseeable future, even without him having to do much to maintain the business. That wasn't to say that he wasn't going to keep on working on his store, but that he was aware that he could put down his tools and enjoy the recurring income if he wanted.

The truth is, however, that while he's probably right, he might find one day, if he had stopped paying attention, that he would return to find his store empty and not producing sales due to the vagaries of some recent software update.

All this just goes to support the central thesis of my book and my position on running businesses in SL: That in order to succeed, you really must treat it like you would treat any business. You wouldn't set up a real-world store and then disappear, expecting everything to just run smoothly. So why would you in Second Life?

The thing to do, then, in addition to going to your store or business location frequently to make sure everything is working, is to read the official Second Life blog regularly, to watch the forums and to talk to people about issues that may be new.

Only then can you have the best chance of staying abreast of these kinds of technical problems and making sure that they don't adversely affect your profits.

One final note. This isn't to try to scare you off of creating and running an SL business. Not at all. It's just to help you understand a little bit more about what you have to do if you want to be a success there. Everyone else who's doing it has to contend with this, and for those that do, the benefits can be substantial.

Friday, November 9, 2007

South by Southwest Interactive features me and the book

A big thanks to South by Southwest Interactive director Hugh Forrest for featuring me and my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life on the SXSW blog on Wednesday.

SXSW Interactive is a great event, held each March in Austin, Texas. I recommend it for anyone who is interested in interactive media, blogging, video blogging, etc. It is getting to be a massive event, yet still retains a small, intimate feel.

Anyway, I was humbled by the mention.

Book party a big success

It's been a crazy few days, with the real world book party for the launch of The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life being the centerpiece.

Over on the left, you can see me posing with Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale, who kindly showed up and bought the first copy of the night.

The party was a lot of fun. Between sixty and seventy people showed up and I sold about 20 books. Not bad, I think.

A lot of good Mediterranean food was eaten, much wine was drunk--with only one glass of red ending up on my shirt--and a good time was had by all.

Meanwhile, I recognize that I've kind of dropped the ball on keeping this blog updated every day with new and useful information about SL entrepreneurship, and I hope you can understand, given the intensity of the book launch and putting on the book party, etc.

But I will be picking this back up over the weekend, and next week. Rest assured, this will continue to be one of the most useful repositories of information about how to get a successful SL business going.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Book excerpt up on CNET News.com, NYTimes.com today


Of the many nice things about working at CNET News.com, one of the best is that my editors there are really supportive of the crazy things that I've wanted to do over the years.

First, they didn't blink when I suggested over drinks one evening that they send me on a road trip to write about technology and other things I find along the way. That idea, somewhat of a lark when I first mentioned it, later became Road Trip 2006 and Road Trip 2007. Rest assured, Road Trip 2008 is certain.

Well, when I told CNET I wanted to write a book, once again, they got behind me, and they really didn't have to. As a CNET reporter, they pretty much own me and can veto any non-CNET project I might want to do. And to be sure, they have put the kibosh on one or two ideas that I had. But when it came to the book, the response was thumb's-up.

Now, with the book just officially out in stores, CNET has run an excerpt from the book.

This is a fantastic development, from my perspective, at least. It brings some extra authority to the book, and, since CNET is seen as the publication of record for technology, a lot of new eyes will see The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life that might not have before.

One other nice development is that, because The New York Times has a content sharing arrangement with CNET, the more generally accepted publication of record ran the same excerpt this morning on NYTimes.com.

My hope is that the publication of the excerpt--approximately 3,000 words culled from both the introduction and the chapter on the fashion business--will start a publicity ball rolling that, so far at least, had not gotten going.

I'm realizing as I work my way through this process that it really is like pushing a big rock down a very light incline: You push and you push, and nothing happens. It barely budges. But then it starts to move, slowly at first, and then a little quicker. Eventually, I surmise, if pushed a little more, it will pick up real steam and roll away on its own.

I'm not there yet. But with the publication of the excerpt on CNET and NYTimes.com, plus blog postings about the book yesterday on 3pointD and New World Notes, and some more publicity that I am pretty sure is on the way soon, I'm hoping this ball will really start moving.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New World Notes also blogs the book

It's been quite the evening for blogger love for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

First I noticed that Mark Wallace blogged it on 3pointD.com, and then I flipped the tube to New World Notes and discovered that Wagner James Au had done the same thing there tonight.

James and I go way back when it comes to writing about Second Life. As he noted in his posting, I wrote a story for Wired News about SL in July 2003 with him and New World Notes as the lead. Back then the idea of a full-time, embedded reporter in a virtual world was pretty cutting edge. And I remember that when I first heard about his role there, my jaw just about hit the floor.

Like Mark over at 3pointD, James had some nice things to say.

"Dan was among the first journalists to write about Second Life back in my Linden days, and he's been following it closely and with aplomb ever since," James wrote.

He also pointed out the many fine features of this blog: "The blog for his book has some meaty avatar businessperson interviews and other great info, too."

Meanwhile, there is a pattern here. Like Mark and myself, James also has just finished a Second Life book, "The Making of Second Life: Notes from the New World." It is scheduled to be published, according to Amazon, next February.

You may have noticed that this is the time when the flood of Second Life books is coming. I can't even count how many there are, including the ones that are already out, and the ones that are coming.

On the one hand, I'm tempted to say that this poses a danger to my book, since perhaps the many choices segments the market. On the other, it's great because it creates a whole lot of interest in SL and, I would think, hunger for information about it.

Anyway, a big thank you to Wagner James Au for his post.

3pointD: Invest in the Entrepreneur's Guide to SL


Over at 3pointD this evening, Mark Wallace has some very nice words about me and my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life. And for that I am extremely grateful.

"If you’re around San Francisco this Wednesday (Nov. 7), crash the party at the CNET offices, where Dan works, pick up a copy of the book, and check out all you ever wanted to know about making money in the metaverse," Mark wrote in his post, entitled Invest in the Entrepreneur's Guide to SL. "Rather than the usual thin gloss on selling prim skirts, the book actually takes a deep dive into the process of building and running a business in the virtual world of Second Life, covering everything from laying foundations and writing a business plan, to entering the fashion world, the real estate business, the virtual construction trade, the 'adult' industry and even running a business on SL’s teen grid. I know Dan worked his ass off on this one, and it shows."

Mark knows the trials and tribulations of writing a book, having already been a major contributor on Wiley's Second Life: The Official Guide, and then completed (along with Peter Ludlow) the just-published Second Life Herald: The virtual tabloid that witnessed the dawn of the metaverse. That's as well as the professional journalism he does as a freelancer for major publications like Wired and The New York Times. Oh, and being a partner on the stealth virtual world startup Wello Horld.

So when Mark weighed in with some of the nicest words I could have hoped to hear about the book, I know it came from someone who must appreciate what I've been through since last winter when the book project began. It is a crazy process, especially when undertaken on top of a day job as a reporter for CNET News.com, one of the most-demanding technology publications there is, and sometimes I still can't believe I made it through.

Number of "profitable" Second Life businesses up 10 percent in October

It's really hard to get any kind of true numbers about how many profitable Second Life businesses there are, but Linden Lab does regularly publish one. Whether it's entirely useful is a much-debated question, but it's what we've got.

The number is the so-called "positive monthly Linden dollar flow" (PMLF) statistic, which spells out how many unique Second Life users there are who are bringing in more Linden dollars than they're spending.

First, the October numbers are out, and for the month, there were 49,156 people with PMLF, according to Linden Lab. That's up 10.1 percent from the 44,631 it reported with PMLF in September. More impressive still is the 157 people who showed PMLF of more than US$5,000 in October, up 13.8 percent for the month.

So, things are looking good. The 10.1 percent jump in total PMLF is significant, because it's the biggest jump since May, and shows that the negative number that happened after Linden Lab shut down casino operations did not extend to the whole grid. In fact, the October PMLF numbers show, business in SL is in fine shape.

Now, of course, no one really knows what PMLF is. On its Economic Statistics page, Linden Lab notes that, "PMLF (Positive Monthly Linden Flow) looks at the flow of Linden Dollars into a unique user's account BEFORE Linden Lab Charges are applied to the account. These numbers EXCLUDE payments or receipts related to the sale or acquisition of land (since theoretically these represent investments and not business receipts). All numbers are rolled-up among avatar 'alts' to the Unique Customer Level. Businesses that are operate Linden Dollar exchanges are excluded. Note that some businesses accept payment outside the Linden Economy (e.g. via CC & Paypal) and those numbers are not included in these reports. "

Parse that however you like, but it does seem true that you have to discount what people are paying for tier fees from their income. And that probably does significantly affect the number of people who Linden Lab counts as qualifying for PMLF, especially on the low end.

Still, the rate of growth is probably not affected, and so regardless of what the raw number of people with PMLF, I think we can safely say that the rate of growth is valid. I think.

And if so, this is good news for anyone wanting to run a profitable in-world business, something that you can learn how to do if you read my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

Residents Speak: Hyasynth Tiramisu

In Second Life, there are many well-known fashion designers, and as I've said before and is well-understood by anyone who has spent much time there, some of the real celebrities of the virtual world are those designing fashion.

Among the most respected of that group, it seems to me, is Hyasynth Tiramisu, the doyenne of Silent Sparrow, one of the leading purveyors of hand-drawn clothing.

If you're not familiar with the difference between hand-drawn clothing and fashion that is known as photo-sourced, that's okay. I'll fill you in.

Basically, photo-sourced clothing is made by taking existing textures and incorporating them into fashion designs.

Hand-drawn clothing, on the other hand, is done from scratch, an often painstaking process involving a whole lot of PhotoShop and/or Illustrator work.

Often, hand-drawn fashions have a rich, multi-dimensional feel to them that can be missing from photo-sourced items.

And Hyasynth has built a pretty significant and lucrative business--Silent Sparrow--by refusing to do it any way other than entirely by herself.

This entry really isn't about hand-drawn clothing, however. It's about one of the suggestions Hyasynth made to me when I interviewed her for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, and asked for some advice that someone wanting to start an in-world fashion business should be sure to follow.

She told me, "Make friends with other designers. It's really important to have a support network. Other designers will teach you more than any book or Website."

This is great advice, and I think it may come as a surprise to people with business experience only in the real-world, where competitors are often loathe to help each other. That's not always the case, of course, but there's certainly a higher degree of secrecy among competitors in the real-world than what I've seen in Second Life.

In SL, it's all about respect and mutual assistance, or at least being willing to pass on favors that you received from veterans when you were getting started to others later on.

Ultimately, the point here is that you really need to have a network of peers you can trust to be honest with you about your products--are they good? Bad? Need work? Need better placement in your store? Are you charging too much or too little?--or who can help you test out your vendors or who can just be available to talk when you need encouragement.

These are people you would turn to for help if you're in a creative rut, who will give you pointers when you can't figure out how to do something and who, if you're lucky, will refer customers to you.

Of course, you must give back as well as take. That matters hugely. No one is going to give freely of their friendship or advice forever if they feel you're not reciprocating. But assuming you are--and why wouldn't you?--other designers can be a terrific resource and a terrific source of support and understanding when you need it.

And that's really important because this stuff is hard. And having an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on or someone who can just hang out while you work in your store or whatever, well, it will make you a better businessperson and will make your business more successful.

It's not going to happen overnight, of course. It's going to take a lot of proactive effort on your part to meet people in Second Life, talk to them and make friends with them. But you need to do that anyway when you're getting a new in-world business going, as I've written before. Building a business in SL is extremely time-consuming and requires that you do tons of leg work. And making the fashion designer friends who will make up part of your support network is another piece of that.

Reminder: Book launch party for Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life this Wednesday evening in San Francisco


I've been absent for the last few days, and you'll have to forgive me. What with the launch of the book, and an all-day wedding I had to attend, and three different out-of-town stories I had to work on for CNET News.com, plus the fact that it was my birthday, well, whew!

But here I am, and this blog will pick up again now. I promise.

First, let me offer this reminder that if you are in San Francisco this Wednesday evening (Nov. 11), you are invited to my book launch party:

Writing a book involves all kinds of procedural developments.

Some are hard. Some tedious. Some exciting. And some are just fun.

Well, get ready for some fun.

Next Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 6pm until 9pm, I'll be having the official real-world launch party for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life. And YOU are invited.

It'll be an eclectic crowd of friends, family, co-workers, Second Life acquaintances and hopefully some journalists and bloggers.

There will be some light snacks and a little wine.

And, yes, books will be available.

I really hope you can come. It should be fun. It's a little scary to imagine having a book party, but then again, it's exciting too.

Details:

What: Book release party for The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, by Daniel Terdiman
When: Wednesday, Nov. 7, 6pm-9pm
Where: CNET, 235 2nd St., San Francisco. Between Howard and Folsom Sts.

RSVP's not required, but appreciated.

Please email me if you have questions. Otherwise, I look forward to welcoming one and all.

And feel free to pass this invite on to any who might be interested.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Book party in San Francisco, Wed., Nov. 7


As I mentioned earlier, writing a book involves all kinds of procedural developments.

Some are hard. Some tedious. Some exciting. And some are just fun.

Well, get ready for some fun.

Next Wednesday, Nov. 7, from 6pm until 9pm, I'll be having the official real-world launch party for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life. And YOU are invited.

It'll be an eclectic crowd of friends, family, co-workers, Second Life acquaintances and hopefully some journalists and bloggers.

There will be some light snacks and a little wine.

And, yes, books will be available.

I really hope you can come. It should be fun. It's a little scary to imagine having a book party, but then again, it's exciting too.

Details:

What: Book release party for The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, by Daniel Terdiman
When: Wednesday, Nov. 7, 6pm-9pm
Where: CNET, 235 2nd St., San Francisco. Between Howard and Folsom Sts.

Please email me if you have questions. Otherwise, I look forward to welcoming one and all.

And feel free to pass this invite on to any who might be interested.

The book is in stores

When you write a book, you discover that there is a never-ending series of milestones.

First you conceive of it. Then you talk to people about it. Then you re-cast the idea. Then you put together a proposal. You get an agent. The agent pitches it. The agent sells it. Then the work begins.

You start writing. You finish a chapter. Then another. Then another. And so on. The editing starts, and then more. And you finish more chapters. And there's more editing. Suddenly, one day, the manuscript is done and your part in the production of your own book is done.

One day, someone tells you that the "pre-order" choice is gone on Amazon, and instead it's "in-stock." Then a box arrives on your doorstep and it's your copies, direct from the publisher. Friends and family start reporting that they're getting their pre-ordered copies. Everyone is excited.

But all that may pale to the final step: When you see it in a book store for the first time.

For me, seeing my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, on a book shelf in public for the initial time was quite the emotional roller-coaster. We went to our local Barnes and Noble, asked at information where we might find it and were led on a long, unsure tour of the computer books section by a very nice woman. Finally, I spotted it: One lonely copy, jammed in between two other books, barely noticeable. I kind of had hoped for more.

But hey, there it was, and I was happy. Even if they just had the one copy.

So, I started to leave when, wait... I was directed to look at the outward-facing shelves on the aisles at the end of the computer books section. And, no way, they had my book on two different shelves, one on each side of the aisle. As they did with Wiley's other Second Life book that just came out, Creating Your World.

Now, this was more like it. This was placement where someone walking by could actually see the book and might even just stumble on it. That's how books get sold.

And I thought about it. There's a heck of a lot of Barnes and Nobles. And I'm betting the book is on a similar shelf in a lot of them. That makes me happy.

I just had to share.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Book party for "Second Life Herald" by Peter Ludlow and Mark Wallace

Of all my favorite memories as a reporter, there may be none higher on the A-list than what happened in Peter Ludlow's hotel room late one night in Austin, Texas.

For simplicity's sake, let's just say that two of my heroes, Make magazine senior editor Phil Torrone and Adafruit Industries founder Limor Fried, took a Roomba vacuum cleaner, hacked it, dressed it up to look like a frog and then wirelessly directed it to run back and forth across a street. It was Roomba Frogger.

To witness this, a crowd had gathered in the glorious hotel room of Ludlow, a philosophy professor from the University of Michigan who moonlighted as the founder of first the Alphaville Herald and later the Second Life Herald.

Among the others in the room that night, besides myself, Ludlow, Torrone, Fried, former Electric Sheep Company futurist-in-residence Jerry Paffendorf, Linden Lab engineer and world expert on teledildonics Kyle Machulis (aka qDot), Clickable Culture's Tony Walsh and several others, was Mark Wallace, the editor of 3pointD, and at the time the editor of the Second Life Herald.

Roomba Frogger is neither here nor there, except that it demonstrates just the kind of silliness that Ludlow is willing to countenance. Well now he and Wallace are about to publish the book they have been working on for some time, aptly titled "The Second Life Herald: The virtual tabloid that witnessed the dawn of the metaverse."

It is a tale based around, as I understand it, the stories that established the Herald as indispensable reading, and should be fun reading and a great look back at, among other things, SL's early years.

I can't wait to get my copy.

But meanwhile, there's going to be a book party for its launch on Saturday, Nov. 3, in Brooklyn. On 3pointD, Wallace says:

"It should be in bookstores momentarily, and you can already buy the thing online, but maybe the most fun way to acquire a copy would be to buy one at the party we’re having in Brooklyn on November 3.

As the official invite reads: Join us deep in ghetto-industrial East Williamsburg, for a night of measured discussions (yeah, right), virtual-to-real confusions, griefing, pr0n, and who knows, maybe even a bit of reading and/or speechifying, as we mark the publication of the official-as-it-gets story of the most kick-ass virtual newspaper you’ve ever read.

Party time: Saturday, November 3, 8-11pm
Location: 3rd Ward, corner of Morgan Avenue and Stagg Street
Subway: L train to Grand Street (then walk down Bushwick to Stagg, then down Stagg to Morgan)

Refreshments will be served, but we’d welcome contributions of the occasional six pack, as we have no idea how many refreshees are actually going to show up. In any case, it should be quite a good time, so we hope to see you there."

Residents Speak: Sol Columbia

While much of my new book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, focuses on tips, tricks and tactics for building businesses in specific segments of the SL economy--fashion, real estate, building, etc.--I also included a chapter on business basics.

It's chapter 2, "Laying the foundation for your business," and while doing the research for it, I talked with Sol Columbia, one of the proprietors of the stylish fashion boutique, Luminosity.

I asked Sol for some suggestions of things newcomers to SL entrepreneurship should be sure to think about, and as with so many other experts I talked to for the book, she came up with some real gems.

One of the suggestions really stood out to me today when I was looking at them.

As Sol put it, "To do well in business in Second Life, pick a product that people will buy over and over, not just once, such as clothing, hair, skins and fashion in general. People don't buy a new couch very often, but they buy lots of clothes.

This is really good advice on lots of levels. To me, the one that matters the most is that this touches on one of the things about business in Second Life that is most important to remember, and which, even though I've mentioned it before, is well worth repeating: That SL is a micro-economy.

In other words, with a very small number of exceptions, the products you'll be selling, be they clothes or cars or toys or even couches, are going to cost a very small amount of money. Sure, it often feels expensive to shell out L$500 for something, but if you think about it, that's less than US$2 at the general exchange rate of L$270 or so to one US dollar.

Which means, as Sol suggests, you're going to need to sell a lot of product in SL if you want to make any real money.

And think about it. There are fashion designers, and others, who are making full-time incomes with their Second Life businesses. At US$2 or less per product, that's a whole lot of sales.

Which brings me back to Sol's suggestion: In order to make those large number of sales, you're going to need to be selling products that a lot of people are going to want to buy. Further, the best way to create repeat business is to regularly update your product line with new items that your customers won't be able to resist.

Fashion is a great example because, as Sol says, people buy a lot of clothes in SL. But there are plenty of things you could sell that would qualify.

And Sol's comment about couches notwithstanding, it's not to say that you can't make money selling furniture. Because you can. But probably not if you just offer one or two variations. Rather, you'd need to have a wide variety of pieces for sale, and you'd need to be constantly updating them, making sure that people looking to furnish their spaces have lots of choice.

Ultimately, this is common sense, but I think a lot of people wanting to be in business in SL overlook some of the more subtle elements of doing business here. And the fact that it's a micro-economy is perhaps number one on the list of things that you simply cannot afford to forget.

And, again, being a micro-economy, you have to service it if you have any hope of making money. And that means that you can never stop thinking about what new products you can create, and whether or not those products are the kinds of things that a lot of people will buy.

Because you can sell the most wonderful thing in the (virtual) world, and people can talk about it like it's the best thing they ever bought. But unless it's a whole lot of people talking about it like that, you're only going to be able to take a few dollars' worth of that good will with you to the bank.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Addendum to post about sales of "Creating Your World"

A little while ago I posted that at the book party to celebrate the publication of Creating Your
World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation in Second Life
, co-author Kim Anubis had said that the entire first run of 10,000 copies had been sold out even before the book was printed.

I think I may have misunderstood, however.

Afterward, Kim said that what she meant was that all 10,000 copies had been ordered by booksellers for their inventories, but that there hadn't actually been that many sales (yet).

I just wanted to clear that up, even though the fact remains obvious that the booksellers seem to have a lot of faith in this book, so it likely won't be long before all the copies have been sold.

Join the group for announcements about my book

I know that many of you probably are maxed out on groups, but if you're not, I've just started one that, if you're interested in this blog, or even if you're not, I hope you'll join.

The group is called Entrepreneur's Guide to SL, and the purpose is to make it possible for me to keep the Second Life community informed about the goings-on surrounding my book, this blog, the SL entrepreneurs community and the occasional other development.

If you're not clear on how to join a new SL group, here's the deets: First, click the "Search" button in your Second Life viewer. Then click on the "Groups" tab, and in the "Find" box, type, "Entrepreneur's Guide to SL." The group will come up at the top of the list, so then click Join. And that should do it.

I envision this as a place where I can make such announcements, and not as a place for general discussion. Nothing I announce there won't also be posted to this blog, though, so if you are maxed out or just don't want to join another group, you can stay informed by staying abreast of this space.

Either way, I hope you'll stay tuned, as I am planning some exciting things going forward.

Among them are book launch parties both in-world and in RL.

Anyway, I hope to see you join the group, or reading this blog, and as always, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I'll do my best to respond to you.

"Creating Your World" sells out first print run


I'm at the in-world book launch party being thrown for Kim Anubis (a co-author of Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life), and she is in a great mood.

Kim, who is featured in my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, which also just published, was talking about her book, and saying it was selling really well.

How well? It sounds like it sold out its entire print run of 10,000 copies even before it was published. And that's big news. I don't think mine has done that well, though I won't get any kind of sales numbers for a bit, since it just published.

But the fact that that many people have bought Kim's book so quickly is fantastic. It demonstrates, in a very tangible way, that there is ample and eager interest for SL, no matter what a lot of naysayers think.

Further, because our books are complementary to each other, and are being cross-promoted by the publisher, Wiley, the fact that hers is selling really well is good news for me, as a lot of people who buy hers will buy mine. At least that's my hope. It may not prove to be true, but I do think that there will be a lot of cross-over.

Anyway, the real point is that it's been fun seeing Kim's friends and fans show up and fete her for her achievement. It's good stuff.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Kelly in Second Life another sign of the emerging services economy

Also over on Second Life Insider today, Akela Talamasca--who so kindly blogged my book and this blog this morning--has an interesting post about Kelly Services, the gargantuan employment services company opening up an island in SL.

The reason it's interesting--and relevant to the subject of this blog and my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life--is that it is the latest example of services being perhaps the next great segment of business in SL.

Not that I'm endorsing Kelly's entry into the virtual world. Not at all. I don't know anything more than I read on Akela's posting.

But I do know that when I was researching the last chapter of the book, The Future of Second Life Entrepreneurship, I reported on the prediction of Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka that services will be the next great in-world business opportunity.

Ondrejka, who knows a little bit about Second Life, talked in a lengthy interview for the book about the idea that integrated voice will make it possible for individuals or small organizations to set up shop in SL and provide things like translation services or customer service for real-life businesses.

We're not seeing a lot of this yet, and of course, Kelly's no entrepreneurial venture. But while the world is wondering how Fortune 500 companies are going to make a go of their six-figure SL builds which are designed around some sort of interactive "experience," many of which are failing--often because of poorly conceived ideas or manifestation--a new breed is going to realize that where SL really excels is in putting people together.

And so services could very well be the next big thing.

You can read more about it in Chapter 11 of the book. I hope you'll check it out.

Second Life Insider blogs the book

A big thank you to Akela Talamasca for a nice write-up this morning in the Second Life Insider.

Some have questioned my ability to write a book about entrepreneurship in SL because I've never run a business there. And I'm open to that criticism, though I often say that my role as journalist allows me to report on things even when I haven't done them myself.

But Akela has a different take: "I'd argue that by not being an entrepreneur himself, (Daniel) brings a much-needed perspective to the subject."

Anyway, it was nice to see Akela's post this morning, and I hope that people feel that the book lives up to his kind words.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Marketing Methods: Second Life businesses leveraging CSI's in-world entry


Over at the Second Life Herald today (thanks, Tony), I was reading about an interesting phenomenon: That of SL businesses using the fact that the CBS TV show, CSI: NY, had done an episode inside the virtual world and that the show would likely be driving a lot of traffic, as a way to draw customers.

Essentially, Pixeleen Mistral pointed out, a number of businesses had added the Classifieds search term "CSI: NY" to the terms they use for their own operations with the goal of coming up in Classifieds results when the show's fans show up in-world and start to look for content related to the show.

Putting aside for a second the fact that CSI might not be all that happy that a bunch of adult-oriented businesses were taking advantage of its name, it is an interesting idea, and something to think about as you look for ways to increase your customer base, particularly because more and more well-known TV shows are going to be coming into SL, as well as new shows on big networks like HBO.

Here's the deal: If you pay enough for the Classified search term, say "CSI: NY," you may well come up near the top of the search results someone gets when they type that in. There's some upsides and downsides to this.

Let me deal with the downsides first.

The biggest risk of using this method is that you may end up annoying people who show up at your business thinking there's going to be some tie-in to CSI or whatever show you happen to buy the Classified term for. People don't want to end up in places that don't offer them what they're looking for, and in a word-of-mouth economy, you do run the risk of having people complaining that you're wasting their time. Unless of course, you actually do create some sort of tie-in.

And this downside is not to be taken lightly. You should think very carefully before you try out this method, particularly if you're a young business, because you can't afford to be pissing people off.

In addition, there may actually be some legal reasons why not to do this. I'm no lawyer, but it does strike me that it might be illegal to use a copyrighted term for your own financial benefit. However, this is not something that is all that likely to be a problem any time soon, I would think.

On the other hand, there could be some very real benefit in terms of the number of people who might follow the search and end up at your store. If you have something they might want, even if it's not related to CSI or another show, then maybe they'll stay and spend some money.

It's definitely a balancing act, it seems to me. And to be sure, there aren't going to be that many opportunities to leverage this. But there will definitely be some, as the CSI example demonstrates.

In the end, it may well not be something that you want to try out, but it's certainly another marketing method, albeit one that is taking advantage of the notoriety of others, and in SL, as some would say, anything goes when trying to build your business.

Just, I repeat, be careful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Welcome CNET readers

Just a quick note to welcome anyone who finds themselves on this blog after reading my post this afternoon on my CNET News.com blog, Geek Gestalt.

If this is your first time visiting, I hope you'll stay awhile and come back often. I'm updating this blog regularly with information and expert voices on how to make money as an entrepreneur in Second Life.

I look forward to seeing you again soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Residents Speak: Prokofy Neva


If you haven't noticed, the real estate business in Second Life is pretty big.

Sure, it's dominated by a fairly small group of people--Anshe Chung, Adam Zaius and Nexus Nash, Dana Bergson and others.

But as with any segment of the SL economy, there's still room for newcomers who have the right approach.

When it comes to SL real estate, there's one key ingredient to success that seems to be overlooked by many of the outfits trying to make a buck. And that is the concept of community building, of giving people a place to live their second lives that is what they want, and helping them get to that point if things aren't quite right.

To Prokofy Neva--a vocal critic of my book and this blog, who is also the successful manager of Ravenglass, a pretty sizable SL land management business--providing value add to your customers is just about the most crucial thing you can do, both for your bottom line and for the wellbeing of your customers, and SL in general.

As Prok--who has studied what has worked for Anshe Chung--puts it, "Most people in the land business want to scorch and burn, make a killing and never look back at the people who bought from them....Anshe figured out that it is not a land business. It's a customer service business and a development business."

I am loathe to try to put words in Prok's mouth, but my take on this point is that Second Life residents want and need a lot of hand-holding and a lot done for them. They need to have the option of renting or buying land that is already developed, and which was developed with a sense of community and neighborhood. They want someone who can be a firm and strong manager who will set down rules (the covenant) about behavior and who will enforce those rules.

All together, the idea is to let those who are not yet ready to do it themselves come in, and buy or rent a piece of property on an established estate that meets their needs and that nourishes their sense of place and home.

Whether or not the place you provide meets someone's specific need is not the issue. Because no one can provide for everyone's needs and desires. Well, maybe Anshe can. But when you establish a relationship with a customer, you want to be able to offer that person the best experience you can--within reasonable boundaries of course.

And, to be sure, that customer needs to be willing to play within the boundaries as well, and as manager of an estate, you must try to assure, to the best of your ability, all your other customers that when someone new arrives, they are going to be a good neighbor.

But the reason there is so much potential pay-off in being a proactive provider of a value-added customer experience is that most land owners and estate managers aren't doing that. Most don't have the first clue what it means, or how to do it.

For those that do, word of mouth will reward your efforts. For those that don't, word of mouth may well be your undoing.

And while Prokofy will surely quibble with my interpretation of his words, and my explanation of his ideas, I hope that what you take away from this is a better understanding that if you want to be a player in the SL land business, you will have much better success if you make community building a very high priority. Because the truth is, there is no end to poorly managed land in SL, and customers have a lot of choice. Which do you think they will choose?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The book is here!


Like in my hands!!

I was coming home from getting some breakfast today and there was a UPS truck outside the house.

I ran up to meet the delivery guy, and he handed me this big, heavy box. And it could only be one thing: My copies!

I ran inside, ripped it open, and there it was. My copies of my first, book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

I'm awful excited.

Amazon has the book


At long last, the status for my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, has changed on Amazon from "pre-order" to "in-stock."

I still haven't seen it, but I suspect that a box will arrive in a day or two. Possibly even tomorrow.

This is very exciting.

Might I put in a rather more direct plug than usual: Please buy the book. :-)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

I'm on ur airplane, rocking ur Second Life

Continuing my mission to use Second Life from some of the more unusual locations, I'm sitting here right now on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport, and I've got SL running just fine.

Well, not entirely fine. But I'm able to move and search. And that's always a good day in SL.

How do I do it? I'm using Verizon's EV-DO card, which allows high-speed Internet access via the cell network.

Earlier, you might have seen my post about using SL while on the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, again, I have no way of knowing if I'm the first person to be in Second Life while on an airplane--though I highly doubt it--but it's pretty cool nonetheless.

I wonder what odd spot for logging in will be next.

Anyhow, I'll be home tonight and back onto my regular blogging about making money in Second Life, and about my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life.

Which, by the way, is scheduled to be published TOMORROW! Eeeeeek!

Friday, October 19, 2007

G4 blogs The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life

I got an email this afternoon letting me know that The Feed, video game network G4's
blog, posted an entry about my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, today.

That's pretty cool. Interest is definitely ramping up. And the book is expected to hit the warehouse on Oct. 22. My father even wrote me this morning to let me know that he had gotten an email from Amazon.com informing him that his pre-order of the book would arrive sooner than expected.

This is exciting. I still have a lot of promotional work to do, and of course, I must keep this blog updated regularly. It's hard while I'm in Austin covering Maker Faire for CNET News.com. But it seems worth updating it with news of media coverage of the book.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Video Game Venture Capital blogs the book and my answers to questions about SL entrepreneurship

I just got back from a long day hanging out with the Maker Faire folks here in Austin--I'll have a package up on CNET News.com tomorrow morning--and found that the kind souls over at Video Game Venture Capital have an entry up this evening about my book and my thoughts on entrepreneurship in Second Life.

They had sent me a list of 11 pointed questions a few days ago about SL entrepreneurship, and I had to stop and think about how to answer. They were good questions, strong, pointed and giving me the opportunity to opine on some of the most pressing issues facing Second Life these days.

For example, they asked, "Pardon us for saying so, but it sounds like an email scam: make millions while sitting at home in your underwear! Why should anyone believe that investment in virtual businesses will ever pay off? Second Life has already been overhyped, called by some pundits a ghost town corporate strip mall. Sure, some exceptions have done alright, but aren’t an inordinate number of these businesses doomed to failure?"

To me, that question was a great way to get at the chief thesis of my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life: That making money in SL is not easy, and that only those willing to put in a great deal of time and energy and effort are going to succeed.

My actual answer was: "Absolutely they are. And so are businesses in the real world. The first and most important point I want to make with this book is that a Second Life business is just like a real world business in the sense that to succeed, you must have a plan, be committed, have the talent, the time and the energy. Most will definitely fail. Those that succeed will be the ones that have the right combination of skills. But it is not an email scam: No one who is worth listening to is saying that SL is a place where you can just show and make money. If someone is saying that, they’re talking out their ass."

Now, pardon my French, but that's totally true. One of the perceptions of SL--spread in the media and not altogether refuted by Linden Lab--is that it's an unmitigated entrepreneur's paradise. And that's just not so. But there is great opportunity there, and that's why I wrote my book: To help put people interested in taking advantage of that opportunity on the right foot.

And no, I haven't created a successful SL business myself, though I suppose I would say that my ability to make a living that is at least partially based on my reportorial coverage of SL is a form of entrepreneurship, right?

Well, that's a debate for another time. But look. I'm a journalist. My job is to report. And that's what this book is: reporting on the experiences of those who have been successful at this. And I think that a lot of people who read this book are going to have a much better sense of how they can go about building a business in SL than if they tried to do it on their own. Did I get it all right? Absolutely not. But I'm pretty proud of what I wrote. And when the book comes out in a couple of weeks, I hope you will appreciate it, flaws and all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Speaking on Online News Association panel Thursday

It's a busy week for me. I'm in Austin to cover the Maker Faire here, doing a series of behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the event.

Meanwhile on Thursday afternoon, I'll be speaking on a panel being put on for the Online News Association conference in Toronto focusing on journalism in Second Life. Obviously, I won't be in Austin and Toronto at the same time, so I'll be calling in and hopefully logging into SL as well for the panel.

My ability to blog about entrepreneurship in SL for the next few days will be limited, but I'll do my best.

Please stay tuned.

Thanks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marketing Methods: Volunteering to raise awareness of your name


I was looking back this morning over the interview I did with building queen Aimee Weber (whose own book, Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life, is coming out next week), and I was struck by one of the suggestions she made for how to become better known in the Second Life community--and thus to boost awareness of your business.

Here's what she said: "Volunteer for work, especially charity work. This will get your name associated with a reputable and respectable cause."

She went on to talk about how the American Cancer Society puts a lot of energy into its Second Life Relay For Life and how that organization would need builders to help with its efforts. Thus, Aimee said, any builders who helped out would "not only be working for a good cause, but they will have a good reference and their name will likely appear in press."

This is an interesting theory. I have no doubt, of course, that Aimee's right. She, after all, knows more about Second Life and marketing in SL, than most. But I'm acutely aware that some might look at such a comment and think it's cynical: Volunteer for personal benefit. Is this really something you want your name associated with?

Well, that's one way of thinking about it. Then again, look at the real world. Aren't athletes always volunteering for organizations like the American Way, and in the process getting a little positive press? Don't we always see corporate names attached with charity work?

I guess the message is this: If you can find a charitable cause to help out with, and you aren't crass about the way you leverage it, there's some clear advantage. It feels a little weird, but it obviously does offer some marketing benefit.

I might have wondered if such a method would be frowned upon in SL, but to hear Aimee Weber of all people list it among her top five suggestions for how to build a business was noteworthy to me.

Perhaps, however, I would offer a slight caveat, based purely on my own reasoning and not on any direct experience. Which is this: Go ahead and follow Aimee's advice, if you're so inclined. But maybe not at first. In other words, do volunteer. Do help out where you can, especially when you're getting started--if you have the time and inclination. But maybe don't try to leverage that help for marketing purposes right away. It might be more seemly to help out for purely altruistic reasons for awhile before you look to gain from it.

Over time, however, I think the community will see that you have helped out where you could and will likely not begrudge you a little recognition for what you've put in. And then everyone benefits.

Book editor and agent both have kids at inconvenient time (for me)

It's kind of a funny coincidence, but both my book editor and my literary agent have both just had kids.

On the one hand, I offer both of them the most heartfelt congratulations. New children are a blessing and I'm excited for them.

On the other hand, given that my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, is about to be published, and that I have all kinds of questions about promotions and logistics, the fact that both of these gentlemen are a little tied up with their good fortune is a bit inconvenient for me.

I'm not really complaining. But I did take note of this this morning when I wrote my agent with some questions and got back an auto-response about his wife having just given birth. And I thought, holy cow, again?

Well, such is life. Fortunately, things are pretty well in hand. But, really, what are the odds of this happening? Actually, pretty high, I suppose. Everyone I know is having babies.

Anyway, congrats to Willem and Dave and their families. Now...could you guys respond to those emails. :-)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Marketing Methods: Building business by blogging

This post may well be a little meta--since what am I doing here but trying to build traffic and interest in my book with this blog--but I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts about building a Second Life business by blogging.

This is distinct, of course, from a business that is a blog, or a newspaper. That's a different conversation.

But let's say you have a fashion boutique you're trying to establish. Or a great new toy shop. Or you're getting going with a prefabs business.

There are several important marketing methods you're going to want to pursue as you attempt to raise community awareness of your products and/or services. And I've written at length about those methods in the marketing chapter of my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, which will be published by Wiley next month.

Today, however, I wanted to talk here about the idea of using a blog as a way of letting people know who you are.

First of all, it's worth pointing out that except for a very small number of people, your blog is not going to become a significant source of revenue in and of itself. Rather, it's about becoming part of the conversation; about letting people know what's on your mind, what new products you have, what new things you've bought and so forth.

In particular, you can use a blog to post all your new products. This is a great, free marketing method. Of course, it's not worth much if no one's reading your blog, so this is something that only gains value over time, as you blog regularly, participate in others' blogs and generally do things that bring readers.

But if you can achieve that, if you can create a regular readership, you can find that each time you put up a post about some new product you're offering in your store, buyers will follow.

Naturally, as I mentioned earlier, this is only part of the purpose of a blog. Much of it is just about establishing you as someone worth listening to. But altogether, when you take listing products, offering general opinions, reviewing others' products and just musing on this or that, you can become an essential stopping place.

There are SL blog aggregators, like Tao Takashi's World of SL--which posts snippets of all new blog posts by a large number of SL bloggers--which can help drive traffic. But in the main, you'll be wanting to be sure to make your posts relevant, regular and pithy.

I write this wondering if this post, or this blog, fit that criteria. I guess I'll leave that up to you to answer.

There's also the matter of which blogging software you use, and whether you use an RSS feed. These are topics that are probably too complex to delve into here, but if you are considering starting your blog, I would definitely put some thought into it: Blogger? WordPress? Typepad? Each software has advantages and disadvantages. And each has its champions and its scourges. Do investigate.

All in all, blogging is a great way to make yourself known. But like so much of building your SL business, it's not going to happen overnight, nor will it happen in a vacuum. It's just one part of your overall marketing efforts. And you'll have to put in a lot of time on it, be committed to it and willing to let it build. Don't quit if it doesn't happen right away. But if you stick with it, the readers--and the business--may well come.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Terra Nova blogs the Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life

So, okay...I'm a little behind.

But I just discovered that Dan Hunter, one of the smartest folks studying virtual worlds and their economies, blogged my book earlier this month.

Hunter is one of the co-founders of Terra Nova, without question the leading blog when it comes to examining what virtual worlds really mean. So to see the reference to the book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life which will be out next month, on Terra Nova, well...it was a thrill.

He also noted that there are a bunch of other Second Life books coming out in the next few weeks and months, including the Dummies Guide to Second Life, which is also being put out by my publisher, Wiley.

That's something I've been thinking about: Will the rush of new SL books mean another big influx of users and media interest? I obviously hope so. But it's going to be an interesting dynamic. One thing is definitely for sure, though: As a reader, you're going to have a lot of choice when it comes to deciding what you want to read about SL.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I'm on ur Golden Gate Bridge, playing ur Second Life

I'm not a big gadgeteer, but I have to say I really love the Verizon EV-DO card that I've been using for the last few months. It allows me to get high-speed Internet via the cell network.

And one of the things that means is that I can get online while I'm on the bus going to and from work.

And what that means is that I can be in Second Life while on the go. So, here I am writing this blog, with Second Life running in the background, while I'm on the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, this may not be the first time anyone has done that, but it's got to be one of the first.

Don't you think?

Whither virtual world interoperability

One of the most interesting things to come out of the Virtual Worlds conference in San Jose, which concluded last night, was the idea of virtual world interoperability.

This is the concept of being able to migrate identities, content and even currency between the various virtual worlds.

Well, you might ask how this affects you as a Second Life entrepreneur, but I would say it definitely does. That's because if interoperability ever does come to pass, it could make for a dynamic in which any content you create for your SL business can be easily moved directly into There.com or a Multiverse virtual world, or wherever.

Either way, this is far off in the future, but it's a very interesting idea. If it happens it could be a boon for entrepreneurs, as well as big businesses. If not, well, we continue on with life as normal.

In the meantime, you can read my story on the subject on CNET News.com.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Second Life still on top at Virtual Worlds conference

I just completed two days at the Virtual Worlds conference in San Jose, which I was covering for CNET News.com, and I am utterly worn out.

But before I fall down in a heap, I thought it was worth a quick post to comment on just how much Second Life still dominates this industry.

At so many past virtual world-related events I've been to, Linden Lab has absolutely over-saturated everyone with its marketing efforts. This time around, it seemed to have gone the opposite direction, with almost no marketing and only one or two panelists.

Yet, everywhere you looked, people were talking about Second Life, Second Life, Second Life.

Maybe they were comparing their virtual worlds to SL, or maybe they were developing projects for it. Either way, it was still on everyone's lips.

And since one of my goals at the conference was to talk up my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, which comes out next month, it was great to see that people are still very, very interested in SL.

Among the very cool things I saw at the show were inDuality, a browser-based front-end that lets users move between virtual worlds, and Movable Life, a light browser-based Second Life client that lets you chat and move around SL from any browser.

Anyway, the conference was a nice surprise after the spring version in New York, which I felt was kind of unimpressive. But here, everyone seemed to be excited about the subject, and that's a very nice thing to see.