Book Review: Second Life: The Official Guide (or more accurately, the "official travel guide")

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Book Reviews

One of the reasons why I love Web marketing is that the tools, techniques, and content are constantly evolving. This stuff is more art than science, and your buyers reward creativity by responding to your online efforts. But the Web moves very quickly. Just when you figured out that blogging thing, along comes podcasting and YouTube.

But if you're open to trying out new things, you can be first in your industry to use something new to communicate to your buyers. Some of the very first blogs are still the most popular in their niches—the authors are rewarded for their foresight with popularity.

During the process of researching and writing my new book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, I became fascinated with the online virtual world Second Life. For those of you who aren't residents yet, I'll give an overview (if you know this stuff, skip to the next paragraph for the book review): Second Life is a 3-D online world entirely built and owned by its residents. But this is not a "game" because there is no goal and nobody is keeping score; rather (except with money), it is a world with well over a million residents (as of this writing) and an economy built on the Linden dollar in which millions of U.S. dollars (at the current exchange rate) change hands each month. The Second Life World is teeming with people who use a self-created, in-world avatar to interact with others by buying, selling, and trading things with other residents (and just milling about and chatting). You can purchase land, build a store or business, and make money. People sell clothes for avatars, artwork and furniture for homes and businesses, and, well, basically anything that you need in the real world. There is an, ahem, underworld of sleaze as well. But you don't have to be into commerce, you can just walk around and hang out.

I'm most interested in what organizations are doing in Second Life from the marketing and PR perspective. Examples: CNET, an interactive media company, has opened an office in Second Life that looks like its real-world San Francisco office. Sun Microsystems has a presence where they work with their gaming developers. The rock band Duran Duran is playing a live concert in Second Life. John Hockenberry, host of The Infinite Mind, NPR’s popular mental health program, interviewed author Kurt Vonnegut inside Second Life. But there is so much more.

The best way to learn about Second Life is to become a resident. It's free to get started.

But if you want to bone up first (or if you are already a resident to learn about things you never knew before), I highly recommend the excellent new book Second Life: The Official Guide by Michael Rymaszewski, Wagner James Au, Mark Wallace, Catherine Winters, Cory Ondrejka, and Benjamin Batstone-Cunningham. The book is due out mid December 2006. (I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy.)


Wow. Second Life: The Official Guide is just great. But I need to explain where I am coming from.

I'm happy to be a reasonably early technology adopter and I usually practice the "jump in and try it" mode. For example, I figured out my blog in 2004 without any guidance. But as I was thinking about Second Life as a brand new resident a few months ago, I was sort of feeling like this isn't a new technology metaphor, it's a travel metaphor. Second Life is a new place that needs to be learned more than it is a new technology that needs to be learned.

I've traveled the world a great deal. For example, I lived in Japan for six years and Hong Kong for two as Asia Marketing Director for Knight-Ridder (at the time, the second largest newspaper company in the U.S.). My entire career has been as an internationalist. I've visited some 40 or 50 countries on business or pleasure and logged several million air miles. Before departing for somewhere like Bombay or Bangkok or Brussels, I always purchase a travel guide and read it on the plane. I just like knowing the basics like what's a funky old restaurant to try, how to hail a cab, and how much to tip (or not).

What Second Life: The Official Guide does is act as your travel guide to a new place. The authors got that right. Thanks! Just like a great Frommer's travel guide, the book is chock full of places to go, people to see, etiquette, currency exchange, what to wear, and more. In fact, the publisher, Wiley, could do a version of this book as an actual Frommer's guide, to complement the Sybex computer book imprint that Second Life: The Official Guide is published with. Wouldn’t that be cool!?

Yes, there is also a boatload of stuff for Second Life experts including details on the Second Life scripting language. This stuff is beyond me but if it is as well written as the parts that I devoured, than even long time residents will get a great deal of practical information from the book. Several of the authors work at Linden Labs, the company behind Second Life so it must be accurate.

Thanks for doing this book, guys. It is important.

Disclaimer, the publisher of Second Life: The Official Guide, Wiley, is also publishing my new book.