52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 38 – Second Life

Week 38: Investigate Second Life (http://secondlife.com/): a 3D virtual world community. Check out the presentation What is Second Life? (http://secondlife.com/whatis/?lang=en-US) This learning tool has all the appearances of a video game, but there actually are vibrant genealogy social communities and discussions within the network. Genealogy Wise maintains a group of Second Life genealogists (http://www.genealogywise.com/group/secondlifegenealogists) and a calendar of upcoming discussions. You do not have to join Second Life for this challenge. The goal is just to give genealogists exposure to this type of genealogy learning tool. If you have a blog, you may jot down your impressions of Second Life if you wish.

I gave Second Life a go a few months ago. It’s a very rich environment, with lots to do. Some members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) were holding meetings and other activities there, which is why I decided to check it out. Most of their activities take place in the United States, which is far away from where I am.

It’s a steep learning curve, though, which I decided I could’t afford the time for, so I stopped playing with it. Now it’s time for another look.

So in I went. Luckily the program remembers my id and password.

Second Life arrival

That’s me in the centre foreground, in the jeans and singlet. As far as I had worked out previously if you want alternative clothes you have to buy them. You make up your name when you sign up, and mine is rather unimaginative, as you can see. I thought that if I didn’t use my first name I wouldn’t know when people were talking to me, and I might forget my own name! Oh well.

As you can see, I belong to a group called Just Genealogists. And that’s what we are. There are meetings and parties, and I don’t imagine I have been conspicous by my absence. I think I used to get emails when notices were posted, but I must have worked out how to turn them off after I gave up on Second Life.

I appear to be in a hotel foyer, and I can see other people, and I can also see the conversations they are having. They are fairly uninspiring conversations. One of these people seems to be doing rather complicated dance moves.

So far all I have managed to do is to walk forwards and backwards a bit, and I’ve found a list of gestures I can perform. When I shrug or look embarrassed I look like a silent film star, with those exaggerated gestures.

Let’s go outside:

Second Life outside

Hmm. Obviously I’m not supposed to walk from place to place.

Let’s change my appearance:

Second Life appearance

Actually I have quite a lot of choice here. I didn’t figure this part out before. I can make my singlet longer or shorter, and looser or tighter. I can change the fabric, colour, and fit of my jeans, and create new ones. Skirts, jackets, shoes… I could become a real little dressmaker!

Here’s what I came up with after more than a few minutes:

Second Life outfit editting

I can’t figure out the shoes so I’m staying with chunky.

I could spend hours on this, creating outfits, but I’m not going to. You get the idea. At least I don’t have to traipse around in a singlet.

I’d show you a map of the place, but it’s taking too long to load. Bring on the National Broadband Network! There’s a teleport button so perhaps I don’t have to walk, which is a great relief as my aim is a bit dodgy.

The map also showed events, so I presume I can teleport there and join one. If I knew when I genealogy-related one was happening I could go there at the right time and join in, provided it wasn’t the middle of the night in my timezone. Events are rated PG, Mature and Adult.

I don’t know how popular Second Life is in the States and Europe, but in Australia I am the only person I know that has ever even dabbled in it. Perhaps the speed is the problem. It takes so long for a map to load that it seems I am stuck in whatever location I start off in. The only place I can go to quickly is ‘Home’, which looks like the edge of a castle and has a lot of strange people dressed for a fancy-dress ball:

Second Life Home

It’s all a bit weird and takes some getting used to. I can see how you could spend hours here, wandering around and finding things to do.

Recently the APG Board approved a new Chapter in Second Life. Perhaps I will join.

Facebook Privacy

Last week I gave a workshop at the Society of Australian Genealogists Research Library for new Facebook users. There is a lot of interest in Facebook and how it can be used to connect with family and friends, but there is also a lot of concern about privacy.

The biggest issue is the default privacy settings that new users are automatically given. Facebook was designed by college students for college students, and the fact is that this age group are not as concerned with privacy as most of us have learned to be. Facebook has been much in the news lately because users can be too trusting with people they meet on Facebook, and .

To address these concerns Facebook has recently simplified the presentation of the privacy settings. What you see when you go in to the privacy settings [under Account in the top right corner] looks like this if you haven’t changed any of the settings:

Facebook default privacy settingsThis is a summary. When you click on Customize settings you can change all of these settings, in much more detail thank you can see here.

This is what my own settings look like:

Updated privacy settingsThere is some information that Everyone can see, and that’s that. Your name, your photo, your gender and your networks (which are optional) is always visible so that people can find you. Everything else is customisable, from Everyone to Only Me:

  • Everyone
  • Friends of Friends
  • Just Friends
  • Customizable – allows you to choose individual people, lists of people, or Only Me

Of course, there is a balance between what you don’t want people to know about you and what people need to be able to see so they know it’s you. I suspect this balance is different for everyone, depending on what you want from Facebook. If you want to get in contact with people you went to school with all those years ago then it helps them to find you if you put your high school and year of graduation in and make it visible to Everyone. If the very thought fills you with horror, then don’t enter it, or make access more restricted. Professional networking needs employment details, connecting with classmates needs your current school or university, and so on.

I think the problem some of us have with Facebook is that we don’t know enough about how to control it. Once you learn how to make the changes you want it can become an indispensable part of how you communicate with friends and family. I’m pleased to say that some of the students in my class last week have gone on to become confident, active members of Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of Facebook, take control!