Getting started in Second Life

It’s almost official. CQU has an island in Second Life. Going under the name “CQU Learning” the purchase of the island is for the express purpose of examining what can be done in the environment to improve learning and teaching at CQU. The purchase is being funded by Curriculum Design and Development Unit and is connected with the Carrick Web3D project the unit is involved with.

Currently, the island is bare/empty and access to the island is restricted to a few CQU staff. This will change during January 2008, hopefully very quickly, but it all depends. I’m thinking that the open source ethos of “release early and release often” might well apply to the island. i.e. allow folk to access the island earlier and have them help in the improvements to the island, rather than limit it to a few people who are responsible for everything.

I’m hoping to use this blog to save some of the reflection on the experience of setting up this island and our eventual use of it. The rest of this post will reflect on the experience in the last couple of weeks in getting the island purchased.

Information is all over the place

Even the act of finding out how to go about purchasing and island, what is required and how much it will cost seems to be more difficult than it needs to be. The official Second Life information is all over the place, stored in different parts of their web presence (e.g. the official Second Life website, their Wiki, the “grid education page”, the land store and finally the “shopping cart”.

Even the way you pay for the island is different from how you pay to get a premium membership. At least in my experience, paying for the island is very different.

All of this separation and jumping over the place made for a very confusing time.

Then the actual process for purchasing the island seems more complex than it needs to be with

  • arbitary limits; and
    An island name only be between 3 and 25 characters and 3 words or less. So “CQU Learning and Teaching Island” had to become “CQU Learning Island”. And no, for some reason I hadn’t picked up that limitation before actually purchasing the island. I had to change the name after the order had been placed.
  • funny workarounds.
    I’m sure CQU would love to know that the sales order we have from Second Life has a total of over $USD30,000. Which appears to be a necessary workaround in order for them to charge monthly for maintenance on the island.

I don’t think wrinkles like this are unique to Second Life. I’m quite sure students studying at CQU can point to similar sorts of issues.

I’m also quite sure that at least some of the problems I encountered were due to it being the end of the year and me being in holiday mode and skimming much of the information.

Non-second life help

There are some very useful non-second life sources of information about using Second Life (e.g. Second Life in Education and many others) but none seem to have been a really good fit for what I needed during this process.

I don’t mean to sound churlish. There are many great and useful resources on Second Life out there and many have been very useful.

I guess I’ve grown accustomed on the web to being able to Google a problem and very quickly find someone who has already had the same problem and written about how to work around it. This didn’t happen with the purchase of the island.

Obviously, this should be seen as a challenge to me to either search a bit better or to create tat resource. But, like many others I suspect, I probably don’t have the time (I shouldn’t really be wasting time on this post).

Problems paying

Of course the totally unexpected problem was that I couldn’t pay. I couldn’t enter my credit card details, it got rejected. This has apparently been fixed and the details are in. However, the account is still showing up as “awaiting billing” and the island still doesn’t appear to be visible to other folk.

Current status

So the current status of the CQU Learning Island is that it exists, it is completely bare except for a couple of experimental trees and is only accessible by me (the purchaser of the island).

The current focus is on opening up access to a broader (but still limited) group of CQU staff and getting some areas built.

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