Searching for things, both in and out of Second Life™, takes an appreciable amount of many people's time. I am going to look at searching the web for content first, then look at searching within Second Life.

Searching the Internet

If you google the terms Second Life blog you currently get over 40 million hits! (Although some of them aren't actually to do with Second Life, no doubt.) Second Life is one of the most discussed, blogged and even reported in print and on television and radio news etc. entities in the modern internet. There are a few obvious places to start: the Official Second Life Blog and if you are interested in education in Second Life in general there are also the SL-Education blog and the (high volume) SLED mailing list. After this, if you want to read more about Second Life, you should probably consider picking and choosing your blogs. You can find links from blogs and avatars you know, personal recommendations, or simply searching in Google can help.

You may like to consider following some or all of the following news sources about Second Life: Reuters' Second Life feed, Second Life on Massively, Second Life Herald, New World Notes, Second Life News Network and Second Life Cable Television for various slants on the news. Not all of these publications are always safe for work, but their front pages are and make it clear when inappropriate content may be following. The editorial policies can vary widely: being listed here is not to endorse any of the blogs.

After this there are a number of commentators on Second Life, and on certain aspects of Second Life. I am not going to make recommendations here. You can find blogs which are personal commentaries on all or some aspects of Second Life, blogs on education in and learning in Second Life, blogs on fashion, diaries and many other forms of blogging. Many people follow some out of support, general agreement, interest, or the need to argue with the blogger so I suggest you find your own supply of blogs and consider them and either keep reading or move as your heart tells you.

Searching in world

Second Life search window

All information here is correct at the time of going to press. However, search in Second Life is frequently gamed, as higher search results may result in improved income, and so the algorithms and interfaces are fairly often altered. In addition the ratings system has recently been changed to include pg, mature and adult. The fine details of the distinctions are not yet clear. Access to adult content is not enabled by default and should include all advertisements of an adult (sexual or violent) nature.

You invoke the Search window by pressing Cntl-F (it used to be called Find, hence Cntl-F, Edit>Search, or pressing the Search button). That will bring up the window above. As you can see this is quite complex. However, often searching in the All tab which is the default tab will find you what you are after. You may also wish to take notice of the Include Mature Content checkbox. If you check this, you will find items that will be considered adult and may be considered offensive under all kinds of search terms. You should consult your institution's internet access policy before you use this. If you do not check it you will find you often miss a significant amount of the content available. Many think this is just fashion content and adult activities which are almost certainly banned under any institutional access policies. For example, searching for Men's Clothes without mature on gives about 80% of the results that you get whilst searching with it on, searching for Women's Clothes gives about 75% of the results. However, there is an appreciable amount of educational content which is hosted on mature sims and can contain mature content, either because the educational content is mature or because the educational material is only part of the sim and neighbours undertake mature activity. Consider, in just one field of study, how much literature contains adult themes and so is rightly considered mature content in Second Life. Without checking the Include Mature Content you will not be able to find this. You should check your access policy before checking the Include Mature Content box, but it can have educational merit.

You should also be aware that there are mature role-play communities and such within Second Life, some of them based around literary works. These are usually clearly signposted as such in their search terms, but if you find you arrive somewhere where you feel uncomfortable about the material on display you can always File>Quit Second Life, or use World>Teleport Home or Cntl-Shift-H to return home quickly.


What your search results look like


If you complete a search: simply type in the search box and press search, you get quite a complex results box as well. Parts of this interface may seem rather familiar: the search algorithm is based on Google's and the replies are structured rather similarly too, however as yet you cannot use search options such as quotes, + and - in front of terms to generate more precise searches. You will notice down the right hand side a string of classified ads. Clicking on them will bring up a little information window with options to teleport to the location. Classified ads in Second Life are always tied to a location for billing purposes, and like the ads in the side bar on Google are paid for. If you have Include Mature Content checked this content is almost always mature.

In the left hand column are various icons that indicate the type of result. Search for Linden gives results that link to the Second Life Wiki, avatar profiles and landmarks as indicated. You will also find pink and blue stars for events (pink denotes PG events, blue denotes mature events); dollar bills for Land for sale; Second Life logos for classified ads, and three heads for groups if your search returns these items. Although not directly relevant, Linden Lab is the company that runs Second Life. The avatar surname Linden is restricted to their employees, and Linden is not available as a forename in Second Life because of this.

The central area contains a link to more information about the search result and two lines of preview text. Clicking on the link will open it up within the search window so you can read more and depending on the nature of the result you may be able to teleport to the site, send an IM to the person, join the group or similar.

Different people doubtless have different search strategies, but I tend to use the All tab for about 90% of the searches I make. I will use the Groups or Land Sales tabs on those occasions where I am looking for those things. As always with such searches, the more precise you can be, the better. If you search for the name Pasteur you get 41 results, but if you search for Eloise Pasteur you only get 13 and they're all about me, directly or otherwise, so being more precise in your search will usually give you better focussed results.


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