Tip #1 -- Take the time to learn the UI
The tutorial, while not the best thing in the world, isn't a bad introduction to learning how to navigate the user interface. It shows you the ropes (dryly) and lets you get in some practice before you're dumped onto the main grid. Take your time through it, listen to what it has to say, and then jump on into the world.
For gamers, here's a couple of protips. Right click opens a radial menu, and holding it down does nothing. If you're looking to spin the camera, remember to use alt + click and hold. However, also remember that alt + click centers your camera on whatever you clicked on. If you want to orbit your avatar, alt + click and hold on your avatar, then move the mouse left and right to orbit and forward and back to zoom.
Resetting your camera is the escape key. That's very handy.
Clicking activates many, many things. Try clicking on objects, as you never know what might occur.
If moving is too slow for you, try flying. Hold down E to start flying, then use E to go up and C to go down. Beware that you can't fly everywhere though... look at the top bar to see if flying is amongst the "banned symbols." It looks like a little man flying.
Tip #2 -- Search is your friend
If Second Life is the internet, then the search button is your Google. This little fellow is super handy for finding stuff that you want. Interested in finding a Star Wars group? Just type Star Wars into the group search box after you press the search button, and you're on your way to finding Star Wars fans like yourself. Do you want to buy a lightsaber? Open the "places" tab and type in lightsaber -- you're sure to find a few hits.
You always know where to go when you master the search tool.
Tip #3 -- Be social!
You see the people over there? Talk to them! You like someone's avatar? Tell them! You looking for a specific sim? Ask questions!
One of the most important assets you can have is to speak with the others around you. Find out new things, make new friends, and actually experience SL rather than just watching it on your monitor. If you want a good place to check out that's reliably filled with people, I recommend the city of Nova Albion. If you're new and you want more help with Second Life, then I recommend checking out all of the help options at New Citizens Incorporated.
Tip #4 -- Know what you want
Lastly, set a goal for yourself in Second Life. Don't just go in to wander, go in and search for something you like. Does roleplaying interest you? Search for some roleplaying sims. Games? You'll find a wide variety of independently created games in Second Life. There's even an MMORPG inside of SL! Clubs? Yeah... there's way too many clubs to really count in SL.
If you follow these few tips, your time in Second Life will probably benefit greatly. Of course, if the system isn't your thing, then it isn't your thing. You can't enjoy what you don't enjoy. But if you were always on the fence with Second Life, perhaps now you can give it a "second look" (see what I did there?) with confidence.
Colin Seraphina Brennan is the weekly writer of Anti-Aliased who thinks all games should be given a fighting chance. When she's not writing here for Massively, she's rambling on her personal blog, The Experience Curve. If you want to message her, send her an e-mail at colin.brennan AT weblogsinc DOT com. You can also follow her on Twitter through Massively, or through her personal feed, @sera_brennan.