Deepening Our Roots in Second Life


Recently, the VP of Marketing at HP blogged about why they are not in Second Life, and I think the title of his post says a lot about our differences in approaching this medium – “Top 10 Reasons as to why I still need to be convinced about marketing on Second Life“.

If someone is just there to market to me—throw up some billboards and leave—then as a resident of Second Life myself, I’m not that interested in them being there either.

However, if you’re approaching the world as an involved resident, then it’s about more than marketing and it has more meaning. Dell entered Second Life to explore new ways we can extend our direct relationship with customers, and to learn new ways to interact with virtual communities so we will be prepared for the 3D Internet.

Because we wanted to add to this fast-growing community, not just market to it, I’m excited today to announce the expansion of Dell’s Plant a Tree for Me program in Second Life. This blog post from Tod Arbogast explains the program in more detail. On our main island in Second Life, we have now ripped out some old industrial-style architecture and replaced it with green park space. There Second Life residents can relax and not only enjoy the scenery, but also take a little bit of it back home with them. Free virtual saplings of the Red Oaks growing there are available for all Second Life residents.

Now, while trees themselves are nothing new to SL, I think we’ve added some pretty neat features to this one:

  • Instead of just one texture for the tree, the tree will change appearance as it grows larger – from sprout to sapling to young tree, to full tree

  • You can select the maximum height of the tree to grow, and you can choose one of a few time-frames for the tree to grow: 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, or 10 weeks

  • If you reposition the tree while it’s growing, it won’t mess up the growth process

  • You can re-grow the tree after it’s completely grown or even in the middle of the growth process

  • Each tree carries with it a link back to our Plant a Tree for Me page on, where we hope residents will take the opportunity to participate and offset a bit of their carbon emissions in the real world.

To celebrate this new space, we are throwing a party on Earth Day, April 22, at Dell Island. Residents are invited to come hear SL musicians Edward Lowell and Dimi Van Ludwig perform from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. SLT (Second Life Time, which is the same as U.S. Pacific Time). Come listen, dance, visit and get your own tree sapling to plant in Second Life! Oh, and you can get there via this direct link, or by selecting Second Life in the country selector of, or going straight to, or through our new page.

Update: Here’s a StudioDell video that explains how the Plant a Tree For Me program works.

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17 thoughts on “Deepening Our Roots in Second Life

  1. Laura,

    Thanks for your post.

    I think focusing solely on the title of my post – and not its content – is misleading to your readers. I was actually challenging brands that go to SL only for marketing purposes. However I also highlighted as you did the need to experiment with SL to get ready for the 3D web. Here is an extract of my post: ” I really believe that Second Life is another example of a web 2.0 property that marketers should explore and understand. It opens up a window into the future of 3D web, but I still need to be convinced about broader marketing activities “. The fact and the matter is that residents have today a poor perception of RL brand experiments in SL.

    Furthermore I see blogging as an exploration of ideas vs. a PR machine – I had great follow up dialogues with Prokofy and epredator on the merits and challgenges of SL that you can read in the comments section.

    See you in SL

  2. Eric,


    Welcome to
    Direct2Dell!  We’re excited to have you extend your conversation about
    Second Life here.  I did not intend to mislead readers by mentioning your
    blog post’s title. That’s why I linked to your post to allow folks to read it.


    Beyond the
    title, there were many varied points to your post.  I didn’t want to get
    into a point-counterpoint discussion of them, but now that we’re extending the
    dialogue, I’ll touch on a handful.


    In the less
    than a year that I’ve been a resident of Second Life, I’ve seen the platform
    make many leaps in simplifying the technology.  By no means will it be for
    everyone, but it was easy enough for this “37-year-old mother of a
    preschooler who’s never played an MMO in her life” to grasp.


    There are
    ways to scale to larger groups.  Our auditorium that floats above Dell’s
    islands spans all four sims and can accommodate as many as 400 people at
    once.  Yes, that’s nothing near the number of people who visit
    today, but it might be close to the number that visited it concurrently during
    the first six months of its existence.


    the existing Second Life values was very important to us when we chose to build
    Dell Islands.  Rather than a simple
    re-creation of a Dell manufacturing facility, we attempted to bring the fantasy
    of TV commercials into the design—complete with purple gorilla.  Our
    recreation of Michael Dell’s dorm room bends reality by placing an XPS 710 on
    the desk—which would never have been there when Michael was attending UT—and
    clicking on that 710 will transport you inside for a walking tour of the

    It is hard to find Second Life integrated with the online presences of many RL
    brands, but at Dell, we elevated it to the status of a country in its own right
    by placing it in the country selector of the home page.  And we
    continue to find new ways to blend the 2D and 3D experiences.


    We fully
    understand the investment beyond upfront costs, and planned for that investment
    to be made over a longer period of time.  So, while you may not have seen
    a lot of new additions to Dell
    Island since we launched
    last November, there is a lot going on behind the scenes.  We’re exploring
    options and discussing best approaches.


    It’s hard
    to learn sitting on the sidelines watching, however, so we dove into Second
    Life feet first.  Learning is not always easy or painless.  That’s
    evident by the varied reactions our free virtual trees have elicited here and
    elsewhere in the blogsphere. 


    We’ll take
    the lumps and the praises, and enjoy the ride toward new frontiers in
    communication and commerce.

  3. This is a stupid idea.

    Your virtual tree planting is not going to help Earth.

    Your marketing group should be fired.

  4. If you think your efforts may generate some goodwill toward Dell, remind yourself that your efforts are also virtual and will not save us in the real world.

  5. If you’ve been reading SL blogs, there already a tree planting initiative in Second Life called the Second Chance Tree project that was launched a couple of weeks ago and actually triggers the planting of a real life tree in ecologically damaged areas.  This sounds like a big “me too” and doesn’t seem to do anything to actually help out on an enviromental issue.  This is called Greenwashing.  Disappointing as well as unoriginal.

  6. Nick, Jenny and johnny:

    Thanks for your comments. In response, I wanted to reiterate the first feature of the
    tree mentioned in my original post—each one links back to our RL “Plant a
    Tree for Me” web site

    The purpose of offering the program in SL
    is not only to add trees to the virtual world,
    but also
    to help raise awareness of an easy and inexpensive way to make a
    difference for the real environment.

    passes along 100 percent of donations to our non-profit partners, The
    Conservation Fund
    and to plant real trees in sustainably managed
    forests. Our hope is that SL residents will learn more about the program and
    visit the RL ‘Plant a Tree for Me’ Web site to make an impact in the real world.

  7. It always seems to me that marketing people are way more interested in Second Life than the rest of us. Well, Dell customers that is :-).

  8. I think this is a great idea. Took an oak and plated it on Vulcano with a little ceremony among our residents. Many of them will come by and take more to plant on their own. Some people were not aware of what going carbon neutral meant, so this has also been an opportunity to explain the concept, and spread the word.


  9. I am about ready to throw up over this be green corporate marketing strategy. What is it about the world that makes everyone one want to jump on a wagon as soon as it passes us by? All facts about global warming aside I find it slightly ironic that a huge corporation that uses more energy and paper then anyone, is trying to advocate it’s green program through a virtual environment that feeds off the very resources they are trying to create awareness for.

  10. I think Second Life is overated. The software is way too buggy and it is not as good as older, more established communities of this type. This is nothing new. I participated 7-8 years ago on my first Dell in a community like this and it was a lot better than this one. You can do more with your avatar now than years ago but otherwise Second Life is boring and you have to spend real money to actually do anything there (like buy a home and furnish it, etc).  It is just a marketing ploy and not a very good one. 

    Oh, I’ve looked all around Dell’s island and got me a Dell backpack, etc. I came too late today for the “party” which was just as well as I was asked to accept a new version of Second Life and that borked everything. This current version seems to hate nVidia cards. I have constant problems with the site but this latest version is the worst. It turned my avatar to green arms and her hair appears and then disappears and the Dell backpack she is wearing half disappears and the sides of it have squiggly white lines. The avatar’s makeup I worked on so hard is now ugly and all the wrong colors. I have an XPS 600 with nVidia 7800 card and that site does not work well with it. If that site has problems with this nice a video card…gee…I feel sorry for the average user trying to experience Second Life.

    I have never seen anyone from Dell on Dell Island. It is always deserted.

  11. I thought it was interesting Dell did this, and interesting that it sparked the usual predictable extremists in response. I got 2 of their trees and put them in the SL Public Land Preserve in Carlisle in Botany’s Grove and set them to grow for a long time because it seemed more fun to watch it that way.

    I had an article here in the Herald about Earth Day and Dell and everybody which I called “Turf Day”. 

     I think all these me-firsts here about tree-planting are forgetting that in fact Friends of the Urban Forest was the first to do this sort of symbolic action a year ago or more — and probably even they weren’t the first. With the FUF project, you could pay about $20 US equivalent to buy a virtual tree in SL, then water it, watch it grow, take care of it, and that money goes to buying and planting a RL tree in the San Fracisco area.

    But why does it matters who’s first? What matters is not to be last in doing even symbolic things that are preparation for the soul to do RL things of merit as well.



  12. Apparently, I am not the only one to see the irony in planting a virtual tree for Earth Day. This tidbit has made it to the front page of Slashdot.

    Personally, I would have been more impressed if Dell had offered a choice between a virtual and real seeds or seedlings to plant on Earth Day, or even given out both. I can’t imagine that sending a postcard with a couple of seeds taped to it would cost all that much.

  13. Dell — As CEO of an social media organization that launched an ambitious tree reforestation effort in Second Life on April 11 with the help of the SL community (and a good deal of “in world” visibility) i want to welcome your effort.  Second Life can indeed be a powerful place for individuals to learn about environmentalism.  It can also be a place where a real world impact can be made if constructed effectively.  While many people won’t ever have the experience of flying to Brazil to plant a tamarind tree (while learning about the impact of deforestation and the ecologically fragile environment), they can have the closest approximation in SL.  That immersive, educational experience hopefully will spur others to action (in the virtual AND real world).

    The Second Chance Trees Project, done in partnership with Plant It 2020, a 501 c3 organization founded by John Denver, is constructed so that when a virtual tree is planted, the same species of tree is in real life.  We also work with local indigenous groups for education and planting to ensure it is sustainable and has a positive impact in local communities.   The virtual to physical relationship is critically important, as well as the need to fully understand and respect the SL community in advance of rolling out efforts like this.   We worked very hard to collaborate long time environmental activitists in second life to embrace the concepts because of the rightful skepticism of that community towards brands who enter the environment without heed to precedent, norms and values, or embracing the community in the “right way.”  As a result, we have planted several hundred real trees in just the last week and that is accelerating.

    WIth our focus of real world tree planting and the support of the SL community, I invite Dell to visit the island and join our effort that is already well underway to positively impact real world tree planting.  We believe there is indeed a place for brands in such places as Second Life if they truly respect the community, engage “community elders” and make efforts to use the virtual world for real world benefit without the expectation for immediate PR or commercial gain.  We call this concept “karmic communication”  — do good for the community and then the community will do good for you.  This is the only way that brands will be accepted by increasingly skeptical communities that have, as we have seen too often, been increasingly overun by overeager marketers that don’t understand the nuances or fully respect the environment.   Best of luck to you. 

  14. Ok…I just read 

    Am I the only person who sees the REAL irony? I’m personally comitted to recycling in my efforts to help the earth… if I ask other people to recycle and convey my message via the internet, are you going to call me out as an environmental devastator? I mean come on. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. If all you people think that virtual trees are really harming the environment, then shame on you for posting your thoughts in a blog….which consumes energy…  thereby harming the environment. 


  15. Everyone, calm down! Don’t get your britches tied up in a knot over what was really a very innovative way to share Dell’s Plant a Tree program to early adopters who have moved on from the Internet you are using, and are now using the Internet you will know and love when you finally “get it.” 

    Second Life is not a game… it is 3D (three dimensional) Internet. Marketing in Second Life is more advanced than the same efforts on the flat 2D web we are using to share our thoughts right here.

  16.  Hi,
    Great read, thanks for the info. If you want to support Earth Day you are very welcome to Earth Day – World Poetry Day. You will find some great Art & Poetry. Please give your support to Earth Day, you can make a change.

    Have a great day,

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