Second Life 101: gateway communities – Australia, Ireland, and Turkey

Community Hut in Pondling's Camp

Today we’ll explore Australian, Irish, and Turkish gateway communities in Second Life.

Like Australia itself, the Australian-themed Big Pond gateway community is vast, comprising 16 sims with names such as Ponderama, Pondune, Pondessa, and Pondune. Big Pond is far to large to cover in this article, which will be restricted to the area for new Second Life members.

When you first land at the orientation area, you are given the choice of going to the training area or to Ponderama. If you’re new to Second Life, start by going to the training area. Be sure to join the Pond Orientation Group first; you are given the option when you first land in the orientation area. The training area is open only to members of this group.

Once in the training area, there are signs telling you basics of functioning in Second Life, and you are given free vehicles, including a horse. After you have acquired some basic Second Life skills in the training area, you can return to the starting point and go to Ponderama. You’ll see a small airplane waiting for you. Sit on it and it will take you on a tour, both flying through the air and underwater, finally landing at Pondling’s Camp. The first picture on the right shows the Community Hut in Pondling’s Camp.

At Pondling’s Camp, you can set your Home to there, giving you a home base in Second Life, where you can meet other new members, and from which you can explore the rest of Big Pond and Second Life. To teleport to the Big Pond orientation area, go to

Virtual Dublin's Blarney Stone Pub
 Dnncing in the Blarney Stone

Dublin in SL is a gateway community for newcomers, but is also a place that many Second Life old timers will love. Like Big Pond, is too much here to cover in these few paragraphs. You can learn a lot more by going to its website In Dublin in SL’s three sims you’ll find Dublin famous pubs, such as the Blarney Stone, pictured here on the right, a pool hall, a soccer stadium, regular music performances, and a literary pub crawl.

In the landing area, newcomers will find tutorial Second Life signs and a line of about a dozen free avatars that you can choose from if you want an easy way of changing your appearance. There are classes about Second Life on Tuesdays and Thursdays; for more information, login to Second Life and send an IM to Elwe Eldrich or Ginger Marseille. There is also a guided flying tour of Dublin, though the instructions may be complex for people new to Second Life.

You can teleport to Dublin in SL’s orientation area by clicking

Virtual Bosphorus Bridge
The Bosphorus Brige

The Bosphorus is a waterway separating Europe from Turkey. In Second Life, it’s a gateway community, Virtual Bosphorus. The orientation area is for Turkish speakers only, but this should not deter English speakers from visiting. The rest of Second Life’s Bosphorus has signs that are mostly in English.

When you leave the orientation area, you are on the Bosphorus Bridge, which is an extension of the orientation area. Most English speakers will find it more productive to fly from the bridge to the left, where you will find a Turkish bath (complete with free tradional bath clothing and pose balls for both male-female and same sex massage!), a large shopping area, venues for music performances, and two museums. The Ataturk Museum contains extensive information about Turkey’s revered early twentieth century leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Ottoman Museum contains historical artifacts of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey’s seven century long empire. The museum contains no information about the items in it, limiting its usefulness.

There are some technical glitches to be aware of. If you left click the teleport signs, you are teleported without warning and if you right click, the word "Teleport" never appears in the pie chart. You have to click "Sit Here" to teleport. If you try to teleport from the Turkish Bath to the Ottoman Museum, you’ll end up in a retail store instead.

You can learn more by joining Second Life’s Virtual Bosphorus Group, and you can teleport there at

Previous articles in this series were Holland, Avatar Island, Benelux, and China, and Gateway Communities and Renting.

Second Life 101: gateway communities – Holland, Avatar Island, Benelux, and China

Virtual Holland

This is the first in a series of articles about Second Life gateway communities, which were discussed in the last Second Life 101 article, Renting and Gateway Communities. Today we’ll examine four gateway communities: Virtual Holland, BeNeLux Community Gateway, 3Immersions, and Avatar Island University. One is English language, one is Chinese, one is Dutch, and one is multi-lingual.

When you land in the Virtual Holland Future Nederlandse Gateway, you are on a tiny island, surrounded by instructional signs in Dutch to help new Second Life members. Although there is nothing here for non-English speakers, it is part of a cluster of scenic Netherlands regions with names like Virtual Holland Village Noordzee and Nederland. Even though you may not understand the language, you may enjoy visiting this mini-Netherlands in Second Life.

The teleport link for new members is Flying is not allowed on the island, but you can walk underwater to the adjacent islands, where flying is allowed. The picture on the right is from one of the Virtual Holland islands.

Avatar Island University

Avatar Island University is for new members only. If you’re already a Second Life member, you’ll be ejected if you try to enter. The description they give of it is:

"Make Avatar Island your first stop in Second Life. On Avatar Island you’ll find all you need to create and accessorize your avatar before heading out into SL. You can even use a photo of yourself (or anyone else!) to make a truly unique avatar!"

The setting is beautful, a collection of structures on an open sea, which you can see in this picture. I wasn’t able to enter it, however, so I can give no further personal observations.

Selecting an avatar name
Choose a different first name

The Benelux Community Gateway offers a comprehensive series of tutorials for new members in three languages, English, French, and Dutch. It’s open to existing Second Life members as well as new members. When you land there, you follow a series of arrows on the ground to a series of areas ringed by tutorial signs int three languages. When you get to the end of the tutorials, there is a large shopping area.

You can learn more by joining the Second Life group Benelux Community Gateway, and you can teleport there at This picture shows some of the tutorial signs, and boxes of freebies.


Chinese Learning School in Lenovos

My first visit to the 3Immersions, on the Chinese island Lenovo, conjured up unpleasant police state images when an avatar dressed in a police uniform and with "Police" in his group title ran up to me and demanded that I wait. "What kind of place is this?" I wondered, but it turned out that he had no connection with Lenovo, and just wanted to know where he could buy a gun!

Although 3Immersions is a gateway community for Chinese speakers, the primary purpose seems to be to teach the Chinese language (Mandarin) and culture to non-native speakers. I found it fascinating, and if I had the time to study Chinese, I’d sign up for classes.

You can teleport to 3Immersions at

Second Life 101: gateway communities and renting

There are two more important things for prospective and new Second Life members to consider: gateway communities and renting land.


Like our physical world, Second Life is a vast place, with much variety, and a wide variety of languages (Second Life members hail from over a hundred countries!). It can be very bewildering to a new member who doesn’t know people already here who can guide them around. Second Life’s Gateway Communities offer new members an opportunity to have their initial Second Life experience among people with common interests and a common language. When you first sign up and you’re choosing your avatar appearance and name, you can check a box that will give you a choice of communities to land in when you first log on. This doesn’t commit you to joining any groups; it’s just an opportunity to hopefully be with people who share some of your interests and speak your language. As of today, communities are available in thirteen different languages! You can find out more about these communities before signing up for SL by going to Second Life’s Community Gateway page Some of the Gateway communities you can choose from are Dublin (Ireland), Australia, London, the Fashion Research Institute’s gateway for training & development entry for apparel industry personnel, steampunk, a faery world of dark forests, and a support community for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Renting Land

It’s not necessary to have a premium account to have your own house or land in Second Life. If you want to buy land, then you’ll need a premium account, but you can save the expense of a premium account by renting a house, apartment, or land. A basic account also allows you to buy a house and place it on land that you rent. If you want to learn more about renting, a good place to start is Second Life’s “Land renting advice for new Residents” page, This page gives some reasons you might want to rent rather than own, even if you have a premium account:

  • You might want to open a business in a popular area where buying the land is either too expensive or simply not possible
  • You want to live in a zoned community, that is a community with a defined set of rules
  • You need or prefer to pay in Lindens (the Second Life currency) rather than dollars
  • You want the flexibility of being able to move whenever you want without having to find a buyer for your land first.

Event though I’ve had a premium account since my second month of Second Life membership in 2004, I have sometimes rented land in addition to the land I owned. The reason was that I needed the land for building. Everything you build in Second Life consists of "prims" (primitive building blocks), and the number of prims you are allowed to put on your land is directly related to how large your land parcel is (there are some other details about how your prim allotment is calculated, but let’s ignore those for now!). The larger your parcel is, the more prims you are allotted. On several occasions I temporarily needed a lot more prims than I had available on my land, so I rented additional land for my building projects.

When renting, you need to be aware of whether the land is on the Second Life mainland or on a privately owned island. If it’s on the mainland, some considerations are:

  • Is the land zoned PG, Mature, or Adult? These determine the kinds of activities you and your neighbors can and cannot engage in.
  • How many prims will you need? Your house, your furniture, even trees and flowers on the property will eat up your prim allowance. Generally a 512 square meter plot is the smallest size people build on, and on the mainland gets you 117 prims (which isn’t as much as it might seem).
  • Are there clubs, racetracks, or similiar activities in the area, it could enduce "lag", a situation in which response times can become very slow or erratic. They can also attract more visitors, which you may not want.

If you’re looking at rented land on a private island, the above considerations still apply, except that in some cases, you may get more prims than you would for the same size parcel on the mainland. An additional thing to be aware of on private islands is the covenant, which can restrict your activities. To learn whether there is a covenant for land you’re considering renting, and what the covenant contains, right click on the land and when the pie chart pops up, click "About Land" and then click the "Covenant" tab.

There are three ways to find land for rent:

  1. Ask friends. The best way to find a good place to rent is to ask your friends if they know of any good places to rent. Most of the time they won’t know of any good places, but occasionally they will. It’s worth asking.
  2. Use Second Life Search. The picture at the top of this column shows the result of a search for land rentals. Click "Search" at the bottom of the Second Life window, then click either the "All", "Classifieds", or "Group" tab, and then enter what you’re looking for in the box after "Find:". Depending on what you’re looking for, somethings you might enter are "land rental", "house rental", "apartment rental", or "shop rental". Then click "Search". A list of rentals like the one in the picture above should come up. Note: the search window in Second Life is by default smaller than in the picture above. You can enlarge it by left-clicking on a corner of the window and dragging it out.
  3. On the internet, use Google or another search provider. Enter a search term such as "second life rentals".

Be sure to read the Second Life land renting wiki that I mentioned earlier for information I didn’t have room to include here. For many or most new Second Life memebrs, renting land is the best option for getting started, and even for old timers, it often makes sense.

Second Life 101: getting started

Today’s column is for the newest of the new, people who have been hearing about Second Life and want to try it themselves.

The good news is that you can join Second Life for free. You can download the software, install it on your computer, and become active in Second Life without spending a penny. The real obstacle for many people people will be Second Life’s two fundamental technical requirements:

  • At least a DSL or cable internet connection. Dial-up is too slow.
  • An approved 3D video card. Generally this means minimally NVIDIA GeForce 6600, ATI Radeon 8500, or Intel 945 chipset. A good card doesn’t have to be expensive. The card I primarily use, the EVGA NVIDIA 9500 GT, can be bought online for $70 or less and produces outstanding graphics.

You also need at least 512mb of RAM, a 800mhz CPU, and Windows XP or Vista (Windows 7 also works). Second Life can also be used with a Mac or Linux. For detailed requirements, go to

The next step is to create your account, which you do at You will be given a choice of signing up for two plans: Basic and Premium. Basic is free and Premium costs $9.95/mo. If you’re not certain about your interest in Second Life, choose the Basic plan. You’ll have all the privileges of Premium plan members with one exception: Basic plan members can’t purchase land in Second Life. You can always switch to the Premium plan later if you want to buy land.

Choosing an avatar
Selecting your avatar name

After choosing your plan, the next step is to choose your avatar. Your avatar is your appearance in Second Life. It’s how others will see you. Currently, new members can choose between six female and six male avatar bodies, shown here on the right. Don’t fret over this too much. You can change any aspect of your avatar appearance later. You can even change to a non-human avatar, such as a machine, an animal, or a plant. When choosing an avatar, there’s no need for you and your avatar to have the same gender. Many people openly choose an avatar with a different gender than their own. There is no stigma attached to it. This picture shows the current choice of avatars

The next step is to choose your avatar name, which will also be your account name. This is often the hardest and potentially most confusing part of the process. Give it some thought. This will be how people know you in Second Life. Choose a name that suits you and that you want to be known by. Your name can’t be changed after you set up your account, so choose it carefully.


Selecting an avatar name
Choose a different first name

You have to select a last name from a list, but you can use any first name you want as long as no one else is using that first name last name combination.

The first step is to enter the first name you want. After you do that, click "Get Available Last Names" and "choose" will appear after a list of last names that are available for your selected first name will appear. If no list appears, then your first name has already been taken. For example, as of this morning, neither "John" nor "Johnny" as a first name will generate any last names – the message "Sorry, all the last names are taken. Please try a different first name" appears in red. This message often confuses people. It doesn’t mean literally that all last names are taken, only that the first name you’ve selected has already been used for all last names.


Selecting an avatar first name
"Click the triangle to see the list of last names

In this picture, we’ve clicked "Change First Name" and then entered "Barack" as our first name. "- Choose -" then appears after "Select Last Name" and when we click the triangle, a list of last names appears that are available with Barack.

The rest of the signup process is fairly straightforward. When you log on, you’ll be in Second Life.

Over coming weeks I’ll write several more columns for those of you who are new to Second Life, telling you how you can change your avatar’s appearance, buy or rent land, and do basic building. Until then, you can get some basic but excellent graphic instructions on the first things you’ll need to know by logging into Second Life and then clicking Help/Tutorial. You can get much more detailed help by clicking the F1 key.

You can also get help and information about your account on the Web. Log into your account by going to and clicking "Login" in the upper right corner.


Visit the famed Hotel Chelsea, now in Second Life

Silent Art Auction to benefit Relay for Life

For over a hundred years, New York‘s Hotel Chelsea has been famed for the many prominent artists, writers, and other creative people of the twentieth century who stayed or lived there. The very long list includes Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Sid Vicious, Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey while staying there), and Jean-Paul Sartre. The Chelsea played a starring role in Andy Warhol‘s film Chelsea Girls about regulars at his "Factory".

Live music at Hotel Chelsea width=

Today the Chelsea is embroiled in a bitter battle between supporters of 72 year old Stanley Bard, a member of the family that managed the Chelsea from 1945 until 2007, and David Elder, a descendant of the Chelsea’s original owners and current manager after Bard’s ouster.

The Chelsea now also exists in Second Life, offering virtual world rooms for rent, live events, and sporting "Bring back the Bards" signs. On one recent evening, three hours of scheduled live music was followed by another unscheduled performance.

Nearly every wall, staircase, and even the occasional ceiling is adorned with artwork in Second Life’s Hotel Chelsea. It’s a pleasure just to wander the hallways and climb the stairs. Most of the rooms are rented, but some are still available.

The door to Room 100 is blocked off with yellow police tape. This is the room where in 1978, Sid Vicious’ girl friend Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death while Sid Vicious wandered the halls crying that he had killed her and couldn’t live without her. He was arrested for the killing but died of a heroin overdose while out on bail. When you enter the room, you see signs of Sid and Nancy’s tumultuous life, hypodermic needles, grimy bathroom with a smashed mirror, and blood from Nancy’s painful death, stabbed by a knife she had given to Sid just hours earlier.

Room 211 is evokes more pleasant memories. Bob Dylan lived in that room, which has become controversial with the hotel’s current management recently gutting the room. You can see photographs of the gutting on the Living with Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog.

Hotel Chelsea staircases

You can learn about up coming performances at Second Life’s Hotel Chelsea by joining the group Hotel Chelsea Manhattan NYC, which is dedicated to "bringing the famous bohemia of the Chelsea Hotel to Second Life." Live events include poetry readings and music. Live music generally is on Wednesday evenings starting at 5pm and Saturday evenings starting at 4pm. Second Life members can teleport to the virtual Hotel Chelsea at