June 25, 2010

Back to the future?

Posted in Musings at 10:09 am by zhaewry

Beyond Micheal J Fox’s charming good looks, the Back to the future movies were built around the idea that its as easy to mess things up as make them better. Mark Kingdon’s been sent packing and Philip Rosedale has returned with the title of Interim CEO, Is this good? Bad? Indifferent?  I expect it will be a mixed bag.

Second life is at a crossroads. Growth has stalled, several initiatives have stalled, and 1/3 of the lab staff got handed walking papers. Growing beyond a niche is hard, and several Virtual Worlds and their associated companies have gone bust in the past year. SecondLife has the advantage of basic profitability, and a user base which, has enthusiasm for the environment, when the lab isn’t busy making their lives difficult.

Philip has remarkable strengths. He has vision, he is charismatic, and he is wicked smart. Above all, he is passionate. .  Philip is also, in part  impractical, a dreamer, easily distracted, and undisciplined. These are, in many ways two sides of the same coin. Creativity and Vision are not enemies of disciplined slogging, but they are rarely close friends either. Whether Philip sorts things out depends a lot on how he parses the basic problems of SecondLife, and how he attacks them.

So.. given this, here are some thoughts on what he should do.

Six things to do:

  1. Start by listening to your customers, and listening hard. Feel free to call them residents, but keep in mind they pay your bills.
  2. Play to your personal strengths, and bring in people who complement them, and bolster your weaknesses
  3. When you look at things like Avatars United, Second Life Enterprise, and other projects which haven’t prospered, look at not the simple fact that they failed, but WHY.
  4. While you are getting the core business sorted out, get someone good asking hard questions about how to monetize things which aren’t land. The Lab has resources it doesn’t monetize, and figuring out how to leverage them is vital.
  5. Keep firmly in mind that Linden Lab is 200 employees and no longer a startup.  If Second Life is to avoid being a niche player, it will have to grow again, and the management team needs to reflect this reality.
  6. You have a huge “technical debt”  Start paying it down. Yes, its painful, but it prevents Second Life from scaling and evolving.  Cleaning up code and architecture isn’t glamorous, but it unblocks progress.

In Detail:

Listening

Listening is hard, but vital. If you pay attention (LISTEN) to only one thing, start here.

Listen to what users have been saying for months. Fix search. Fix Group IM, Raise the Group Limit, Do Windlight estate settings, figure out how to allow megaprims in appropriate settings. Listen to your customers about viewer 2.x and tell them you’re supporting 1.23 while you sort it out.

Don’t run off to “fix” things without listening to the residents. When you think you know how to fix something, describe the fix, and then, listen again, to what people say.  Run Serious Betas, and let people play with things early and often, and when they complain, again, Listen. Don’t run a two week beta, fix three bugs and say “We listened.” Start early, share code often and actually allow tester input to influence the end result.

When you listen, actually respond to feedback. Yes, it may take a little longer to complete the process, but Viewer 2.0, and Search have shown very clearly, how badly things go when you build a lot of code and don’t listen to the community as you build them.

Work on saying “yes” to your customers, not “no.” The lab has spent a lot of the past two years telling its customers no. Yes is a better answer. This may mean telling lawyers, technical people and maybe even Phillip Linden to figure out how to make yes possible. Second Life needs some yeses.

Look at what people do to make things happen in second life, and then listen to them about how to make it better. A lot of your customers have figured out how to run big events using voice, web streams, chat bridges and other tools. Listen to them about how they do these events, and why, and then talk to them about how Linden Lab can make this easier. Then go back to them when you think you have answers, and listen when they give you feedback.

Play to your strengths and understand your weaknesses

Operations needs a solid hand, make sure you keep one there. The grid has become massively more stable in the past two years, backslide on that, and everything else is at risk. Take your time when piloting and deploying code. The steady drone of pilot roll, rollback, pilot roll, rollback sends a bad, unnecessary message about diligence in testing.

Put in place a full up CTO. Someone with a solid track record in building distributed systems, and understands scale. Listen to them, and give them enough authority to put some focus on solving the long term technology issues which get in the way of growing out the grid and single region concurrency. Tell them you know there is a deep technical debt in the current code base and support them in paying some of it down.

Get someone who is good at communications. Listen to them. Linden’s PR has been painfully bad and needs to get a lot better. Speak to your residents honestly, speak to them often and work to make that communication a two way street. A brown bag where people vent, but have little or no impact on behavior is not communication. When you hold in world events as part of communications, do a better job. The community has worked out how to hold large events with streams both in world and on the web. Linden should learn from best practices and not just “turn on voice and pray.”

Get someone who understands user experience and let them work closely with the resident community and figure out how to move beyond the current viewer 2 mess. Giving first time users a cleaner, simpler experience is important, but not at the cost of neutering the client in daily use. Defaulting some settings to permit a simple experience for new users, while allowing experienced users to personalize the experience is the way forward here.

Put someone in charge of the challenge of connecting users to exciting experiences on the grid. Make sure they understand why people thrive in SecondLife and how to make those experiences more accessible. Events and shared experiences are the hear of SecondLife. New users should have quick and easy ways of finding new experiences. SecondLife is not a game, but look at using game like rewards to get users to explore the grid, explore shopping, explore events. Add some low key rewards for people when they spend their first 100 lindens, when they attend their first event, when they make friends.

Learn from the failures

Look not just at what projects failed, but why they failed. A core appeal of second life is immersion were projects like Avaline and Avatars United helping, or hurting immersion. A core asset of Second Life is the rich content cloud and rich creator community. Did Second Enterprise tap into the asset cloud, or cut off enterprise users from convenient access to the content and economy on the main grid? A core value of any growing environment is the network effect of connecting users to users. Did Second Life enterprise have any ways of connecting enterprise users to the greater community, or did it hide them away from the core experience.

Retrenching to focus on the core experience is fine, but failing to understand why various project failed will prevent similar projects from going forward successfully in the future.

Second Life is an immersive, creative experience. Linden Lab needs to look at projects which enhance the core strengths of the experience, and recognize the unique nature of a virtual world. Turning the lab’s back on the rest of the web, and on customers beyond the current user base is just as much a recipe for failure as ignoring the current users.

Monetizing beyond land (and business models)

Linden lab has several core assets. The grid itself, and the actual regions are the heart of the service. Revenue from land is both the Lab’s most secure revenue source and biggest challenge. At the end of the day, land rental is value added server space rental and servers get cheaper every year, and margins get thinner every year. Second Life has important assets beyond the grid which are not monetized.

The content cloud, and access to the economy of second life is a huge potential source of revenue. Second Life has some of the richest most innovative content in the internet. Competitors to second life are emerging, and will continue to emerge. Helping make Second Life an internet wide hub of content creation and selling is a huge opportunity. This requires getting beyond the current model of a single monolithic grid and into spaces where Linden Lab is a hub not just for land but other services.

Identity and users are another important asset the lab has consistently ignored. Look at how to allow users to take their digital selves beyond the current SecondLife grid and how the lab can be a hub for identity in other spaces. Don’t couple these opportunities with requiring people to expose a real life identity.  Second Life is as much about coming *to* the virtual world as it is dragging the real world into the virtual spaces, but by the same token, people’s virtual identities are deeply important to them, and they want to “be who they are” in many parts of the web, not just the current grid.

Make “premium” membership meaningful, and make “free” membership less valuable. Free, ready access to the grid is important, but, there is no reason to not put significant limits on what you get for free which encourage people to become premium. Free accounts are important, because they let people quickly enter and explore the world, but look at limiting them so that people are encouraged to become premium memberships. Separate out avatar name from account, and allow people to have alts share premium status. Be careful about privacy when looking at these choices, but recognize how and why people create identities within the grid, and work to provide a model which both helps users do what they want to do, and gives the lab better insight into what customers are doing, and how provide them with real value.

As time goes on, Linden is going to face an every more diverse ecosystem of competitors in its niche. The lab needs to position second life to be part of a growing ecosystem, and to profit from the success of the whole ecosystem, not just the current user base. Sorting out how to monetize all of Linden’s opportunities, not just land sales is a vital part of thriving in a larger web of virtual spaces.

The lab is not a startup

You said it yourself this week. You have been working on parts of Second Life for a decade. Even after laying off 100 people, Linden Lab is larger than most startups. The lab needs to be more focused, and more agile. This does not mean the lab can shoot from the hip. SecondLie Scribe used a wonderful phrase in this panel discussion “Manager of managers.” Its a description of something that is very much not what startups are about, but is what bigger companies need. Look forward for how the lab needs to function in its next decade, not back.  Take the title of “interim CEO” seriously, and find people who can focus on running the company well, so you can focus on Vision and Strategy, and listening to your users.

Most companies don’t get second chances to grow beyond their initial success. Linden Lab may not either. Second Chances are rare. The lab has a passionate but nervous user base.  This is a double edged sword. Passionate advocates can be your best source of ideas, inspiration and  new users. Passionate advocates thwarted and made bitter can be your loudest critics and take their ideas and passion and go elsewhere with them.  Second Life needs to execute less like a startup and more like a nimble successful company.  There are people who have watched what Linden Lab did well, and what Linden Lab did poorly. Unlike the field 10 years ago, there is a lot of technology, there is a large community of developers, users and potential competitors who will be looking to see if they can succeed where Linden Lab has not.

Second Life does not have the excuse of immaturity, or the luxury of obscurity. Customer Service, development, and user outreach need to be professional and serious.  If Linden Lab does not learn from its mistakes and move forward decisively others will, and the challenges to Second Life will grow.

Paying the lab’s technical debt

This is a painfully technical point, but not a trivial one.  Technical Debt is very real and does huge damage to companies and projects which ignore it. Linden Lab has a decade of technical debt. Some of it has been paid down. The changes which have made going from Havok 4 to Havok 7 far less challenging than the move to Havok 4 are a good example. On the whole tho, the phrase “We can’t do that, our code isn’t in a position to do that” is a phrase heard far too often in Linden Lab.

Technical debt has gotten in the way of scaling regions, adding caching to regions, offloading work from regions and breaking the grid into more manageable chunks. Technical debt gets in the way of supporting new business opportunities for the lab, and  slows every type of development. Part of moving beyond a startup mentality is paying down technical debt on a regular basis.

Linden Lab needs to make understanding its technical debt, and planning to pay it down a part of the technical culture. This is part of moving beyond being a startup and becoming a company that can execute efficiently.  Someone at the lab needs to be an advocate for investments which will improve long term scale, long term flexibility and long term stability. The lab needs to position itself to adapt to changes in the world such as mobile devices, and cloud computing. Technical debt gets in the way of business and technical flexibility.  Arcane, rigid code leads to arcane, hard to fix, change and use systems. Users don’t want to know why its so hard for the lab to permit “undelete” of objects, or rollback of a parcel’s state, they want the grid to what they want, in ways which delight them. Paying down technical debt is a vital part of delighting users.

In closing

Second Life is at a very real crossroads.  Linden Lab needs to take serious steps to sort out very real challenger. M was chosen by Phillip, and the board at Linden Lab to lead Second Life beyond where it was in 2007.  Bringing back a founder to a startup is fraught with peril. There were reasons Phillip and the board wanted to bring in a new team, and those reasons haven’t gone away because the team they brought in failed to produce the desired results.

Linden Lab is fortunate to have cash, to have a fairly sustainable business model in the short term. The lab needs to fix serious problems and fix them soon. Second Chances in business are rare, and third chances vanishingly so. Linden Lab needs to figure out how to listen to its customers, make a product they want to keep using and figure out how to grow again.

Second Life still has huge potential, but the longer growth stalls and alternatives mature, the harder the road ahead will become. Linden Lab needs to focus on delighting its current customers and positioning itself to grow beyond the current user base. This is a huge challenge. Philip Rosedale has met a huge challenge in getting Second Life to where it is today. I believe that Philip and Linden Lab can meet the current challenges, but only by being smart, disciplined and willing to Listen and Learn.

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59 Comments »

  1. this is very thoughtful. i think the most important thing is to listen to the residents. i don’t know what the best form of that is. but find it, and find it quickly. myself, i am sick and tired of dealing with arrogant Lindens. Lindens who dismiss my JIRA reports. Lindens who ignore my financial complaints. Lindens who don’t seem to know what they are doing, but think they are the only ones who do. in my experience, Residents of Second Life are a sophisticated lot. the ones i know are dedicated to SL. you’re lucky about that. use that talent and experience.

  2. spy said,

    not really far from my positive perspective, good post as good recomendation.

  3. brinda allen said,

    Well said!
    Those of us that came some time ago understand that Phillip and his company didn’t create Secondlife.
    They created a platform…they created code and viewers…they bought and fired up servers.
    We, the customers, have created Secondlife…..
    Never mind those that said Secondlife isn’t a culture…it is for those of us that made this world we so love.
    Yes, listen to us or we will feel unwanted and go somewhere else. Not because we don’t want to stay but because we will feel unwanted.

  4. Great advice! It’s a shame they blew all that financial and social capital by the unsuccessful run for Enterprise and Mass Markets.

    My advice to them would be to move to a real Agile software development methodology with some “wise” representative community members playing customer. People like you, Grace McDunnough, etc.

    It would also be a good idea to hire a Change Management professional (instead of a “community manager or PR person” to help mitigate the fallout of future changes.

  5. Kevin Tweedy said,

    Wonder if they will return to their policy of releasing their server code?

    Regarding your comment on monetizing it seems to me they have an opportunity to sell a developers platform which would include a more advanced tools for creating clothes, avatars enhancements, importing and exporting builds, libraries like libOMV, templates for Maya, 3ds Max, other creation tools. I of course would like to have that all for free but if it would save me time I would pay, and I think a lot of other designer or business would pay too. Maybe even include a copy of SLE we can only use for development and testing.

  6. Veronika Garzo said,

    A comprehensive and reflective piece on the current state of SL from the perspective of a ‘seasoned’ user. The recent upheavals and Linden Labs and change of CEO do nothing to reassure its residents, particularly the creator. If ever there was a time to communicate effectively, it is now.

    The new creator will have great difficulty in paying the enormous fee’s charged for land and setup. Thus, much creativity is stifled and maginalised. This shortsightedness will lead to a few monopolising and many failing and leaving in a relatively short period of time.

    Those artists who create showcase environments for all residents to freely enjoy and visit provide a wealth of experiences for old and new alike. These attractions should not be lost because of the extortionate cost of upkeep to its creators. Again, shortsighted, SL is a poorer place for the thousands of abandoned and cleared sims.

    SLX has now monopolised the supply of goods into the secondlife environment. Now having throttled its competitors, it raises the fence once more by charging listing fees. Another platform for the new creator to cut his teeth lost!!!

    Will you learn Linden Labs? before we all abandon ship and take our chances elsewhere. At the end of the day, we have little to lose and all to gain. The SL established will lose their customer base as we flee. Where does this leave you?

    I believe its a crossroads for Linden Labs, and i sincerely hope that a considered and positive direction is found fast.

  7. MaggieL said,

    Zha:

    Every single point you raise is cogent, and spot on.

    Get out of my brain! :-)

    Well done.

  8. Cox Nbalz said,

    Plain and simple, Second Life is about 3D eroticism and adventure. Monetization with SL branded weiners and paraphernalia is a must along with haptics. I am currently touring in Southeast Asia but shall return post-haste should Phillip contact my offices. Adieu.

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elisa Butler, Mr. Crap Mariner, Toxic Menges, Tycho Beresford, chestnut_rau and others. chestnut_rau said: Zha's message to Philip. Wonderful. http://zhaewry.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/back-to-the-future/ […]

  10. beladona Memorial said,

    Very well said!

    Fact is, IMNSHO, LL has lost sight of the business that they are in. The same thing happened to the railroads back in their heyday — they lost sight that they were in the transportation business and tried to treat the airplane as competition… As a result, they lost relevance and opportunity.

    LL is not in the business of providing a browser/viewer or an alternative business meeting venue. They are in the business of entertainment.

  11. Penny Patton said,

    I hope they hire some graphics people, too. Not tech people, design people. Both to help build up a library of decent starter and example art assets, and to help with the long neglected development of SL’s design tools.

    Sure, tech improvements like the introduction of mesh importing will go a long way towards helping SL look nicer, but since the beginning LL has ignored design fundamentals. How about giving us proportion guides in the appearance editor? Right now the majority of SL avatars have gimpishly short arms! People might not be able to look at SL avatars and not quite put their finger on what’s wrong, but most people know something doesn’t look right. SL’s starter avatars are a part of this problem, the women avatars have arms a full half a foot too short for their bodies!

    I’m happy to see that LL will begin showing people avatar height in the near future (assuming they work out the problem that AgentHeight isn’t actuall avatar height), if they can provide smaller starter avatars to new users maybe we’ll see builds in SL begin to scale down. Why is this important? Sims are a set size, if the content in that set area is larger, the sim is effectively smaller. Make a house twice the size it should be and you’ve cut your land area down to 1/4th! In addition, with prims limited in size, and megaprims an imperfect workaround, you always wind up spending more prims on the double sized house. Scaling down can save you 1/3 or more of your prims! Think of the detail you could add with that many prims freed up!

    And how about SL’s camera? Few people ever think about it, but camera placement is incredibly important. Just ask the gaming industry! SL’s current camera is very high up, looking at a downward angle. This contributes a lot to the scale issue in two ways. First, when the camera is up in the air, everything around your avatar looks smaller, and people tend to scale up when building to compensate. Second, with the camera so high above the avatar you need higher ceilings! With the ceilings shoved up an extra two-three metres, people tend to expand out in all directions so the building doesn’t look stretched.

    These are just a few of the things LL needs to start thinking about if they want to evolve beyond a niche. Graphics matter, and all the technological improvements in the world won’t help if you encourage bad design fundamentals among your content creators by not providing proper tools and guidance.

  12. Infiniview Merit said,

    Excellent article, bravo!

  13. Crap Mariner said,

    I agree with a lot of this, including the suggestion that a Change Manager needs to be brought in to assess impact of boneheaded policy changes and bad decisions (and Wallace shown the door as a failed interface/conduit), except for the final statement.

    I saw M’s letter as an application for the CEO job for the company he described that LL needed to transform into and the product/service that SL needed to both transform into and win back the customer base.

    His credentials shouted THIS MAN IS THE WRONG MAN FOR THE JOB, and sure enough, light the candles and blow him out the door at SL7B.

    Now let’s look at Philip… is he the right man for the job of CEO?

    His track record since he stepped up-down, forsaking the platform he helped develop and promote for a web-based hunt-and-seek for web burritos and bar tables to come up with his peer-review/management-hobbling love-tool: not so hot. More miss than hit.

    Plus, he’s said he wants to keep that fool’s errand going.

    (/1 wince) “Um… er… thank you, Mr. Rosedale. We’ll give you a call.” (/me slams door)

    As long as Philip is short-term, this transition and reorg/restructure might just work. Transition him into the genial Walt Disney type, tinkering and going around greeting folks as a living legend, etc. Setting visions and luring in people that can carry out those visions is a good thing, sure. Facebookification and Webification may help as an on-ramp for people as long as it’s a genuine effort and not just marketing spin like the idiotic verb-pod web site or the cheering over a broken and functionless Avatars-United sandbox for clickyboxes.

    But long-term, I do not think “The Visionary” is the right man for the long-term job, and some of that may be due to the fact that it’s not the businesses or customers he’s focusing on these days, but fending off the investors. (Mitch’s tweet suggests a short leash in the transition.)

    His manager-of-managers ability did not grow with the company and the challenges. Others can do it, the board just needs to be able to pay the price for them and the team they want to bring in. (or bring back)

    A lot of the optimism out there is misplaced on Phil The Hero (who most figure penned the termination orders on the 30%, not M.), and if I were a snarky type I’d say “Well, the customer-base is living in a fantasy-world and deluding themselves with digital dolls, so is this a surprise?”

    Wait. I am. So, I will.

    Let’s see if he acts on his “acta non verba” and picks out a team that can run the company, engage the customers, earn their business, respect their content, stick to their business plan instead of compete with the customers, blah blah blah.

    I’m hoping he can find the folks to do it.

    Am I sure of that happening? No.

    But I still have hope.

    -ls/cm

  14. Troy said,

    You make some great points and suggestions. Maybe send LL an invoice for consulting fees :D

    I’m not sure SL has any meaningful competitors yet, at least not for its core business (which they call “consumer” and I like to call “an internal economy of people serving people”). There are plenty of competitors offering virtual worlds for enterprise and education, but it seems LL is moving out of those markets.

    One thing Philip mentioned this past week was the idea that some of what Linden Lab does could become independent companies (spin-offs). Do you think that makes sense, and if so, which pieces do you think would make sense to spin off?

  15. Patnad Babii said,

    I find your research is right on the nail, bringing back Philip to the lab doesnt necesairly means garanteed sucess. They will have to work hard and smart from now on cause we’re watching more closely then ever. The customer base is more nervous then ever too.

  16. Nasus Dumart said,

    Amen.

  17. Apple said,

    Great post Zha! get out of my head! I just had this rant with Nasus the other night, scary. But where I was ranting, you have an exceptionally well thought out, historical, deeper understanding of the code and it’s worth, perspective. I think that is just so amazingly valuable, LL needs to listen to the community and focus on customer/resident satisfaction and actually understand what the community needs to help facilitate the current successful uses.

  18. Hypatia Callisto said,

    I recognise some of my own ideas here – especially regarding the Enterprise product not being tied to the general economy and userbase, as well as monetization of the content cloud. Thanks Zha, for simply stating the important into a strongly written post. :)

  19. […] return of King Philip, I’ve been mulling, as have some of the calmer voices. Zero, Grace, and Zha have all produced reasoned thoughts as well as a host of others. I just keep coming up against one […]

  20. SeanMcPherson Senior said,

    Zha,

    You have made some great points. Why do I think so?

    I’ve been a ‘customer/consumer/resident’ of some sort since the first day of public beta in ’03, and even tho SL at the time didn’t do what I was hoping for, I kept my eyes in world until 2006 when I became an ‘enthusiastic’ user of SL with great regularity. From then to now, I’ve upgraded thru Premium, had first land, purchased parcels on the mainland, owned what was eventually called a homestead, bought and maintained a full sim, and held arcels on others’ private sims. I’ve built event venues, hosted fund raisers, created a virtual incarnation of a decades-old ‘virtual world’ in this latest format, and enjoyed thousands of live music events in SL (while attending under a dozen in RL, all of which were at SLCCs!).

    What am I now?

    Tired, generally. I’m tired of feeling like a ‘piece’ of someone else’s corporate bank account, where I can be bartered around like currency and have the ‘products’ I’ve ‘purchased’ change instantly in value or cost to maintain, in order to, from what I can tell, generate that specific month’s ‘magic number’ of Island growth, Linden spends, Mainland growth, etc. I’m tired of wondering if my inventory will load, if my friends can still afford their parcels, and what Beta software (be it client or server side) will suddenly get rolled out to the end users and (more often than not) rolled back very shortly afterwards. I’m tired of being treated as a guinea pig, as opposed to a partner. I’m tired of being treated as someone who is suffered to be in the world, rather than one of the designers and builders. I’m tired of being told what my opinion is, rather than being asked.

    What do I hope I am in a few months, or a year?

    Re-energized, by seeing change that matters and is actually implemented and NOT just ‘talked about’. Feeling happy with my stable server code. Searching for events and *finding them again*. Talking to people in group chat without getting the “nable to start session with…” error code of doom. Looking at my groups list and seeing all 100 groups that help me manage contacts and functions in world. Seeing 100 avatars in a ‘large event’ sim where everyone doesn’t freeze for a few seconds every time a new user TPs into the sim.

    And I hope I’m back from SLCC looking forward to next year’s, rather than wondering if that was the last one.

    It can happen. Philip can ‘help’. First, he can say “I get it. I still believe. I want you to believe, too.” And then he can get some people in to manage some of that belief and goodwill and bring about those changes. These people need to also share at least some of his vision, even as they also bring in the ability to manage project rollouts, customer service, end-user-satisfaction, engineer challenges like change management, and more.

    That’s my take. I have some hope, and I have made a good faith effort to keep that hope through some trying times. Now I need some help with it, from Linden Lab. You see, it’s hope, but it’s not blind faith. It’s not set in stone. It’s not unlimited. I’d prefer that Philip, and Linden Lab, can fan the flames of that hope.

  21. Shug Maitland said,

    I would add: The people you call residents are your best experts on the SL culture, a complex machine with many faces, but at heart we are still one culture, LISTEN TO US!!!!

  22. ZenRascal Mandelbrot said,

    Just discovered your excellent blog, Zha. Extremely thoughtful analysis. Thank you for your excellent vision. I will remain an SL optimist !!

  23. Rock Vacirca said,

    Excellent article. To which I would add the following:

    Content theft and its antithesis, content vigilantism, needs sorting out, and quickly. Free, anonymous accounts, where alts can be had using throwaway email accounts, and using proxies to avoid IP detection, are the mainstay of the content pirates and the bane of the content creator. LL should limit free, unverified user accounts, so they cannot build or script on the main grid (but allow them to do these things on the safer beta grid). Next up from this should be the free (but verified) accounts, where verified info, such as address, CC details etc are provided, but still no charge, and would allow free accounts to build and script on the main grid.

    The Jira should be tackled in a serious way. There are Jira entries that have a huge number of supporters and followers, and have yet to be assigned within LL after being in existence for years! LL SHOULD listen, and they should start with the Jira.

    Innovation. SL was the market leader, both in terms of resident base, and in terms of technical innovation. While still being the market leader in terms of residents, they have fallen woefully behind in terms of innovation. It is all too clear that they are now playing catch-up with other VWs, such as Blue Mars, which itself is still in beta, in areas such as avatar meshes, and Meta7, with its Lightshare, which allows the saving and sharing of the Environment Editor settings, so everyone can enjoy the amazing environments that creative users have crafted.

    LL should not compete against their own residents. No more continents! The creation of new continents undermines the real estate market, and devalues resident holdings (one of the reasons I sold up and left). No more land development or content creation from LL, this seriously undermines creation in SL.

    If I was to give just one recommendation to LL to start getting their world back on track it would be this: avatar customisation. It is clear that for many residents the ability to customise their avatars is a top priority. Unfortunately, the SL built-in avatar editor is old-hat, clunky, and has over 75 individual settings. I would advise LL to take a close look at the avatar editor provided by APB, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WhOTrc5554 then take that to the next level.

    Rock

  24. Excellent, in-depth analysis of what needs to be done Zha! I think your thoughts plus those of all the comments herein pretty much sum of what Philip and the Lab needs to address to get SL back on track.

  25. Well said. Thank you.

  26. soror nishi said,

    Absolutely. Excellent.

    I have also been aware for some time that SL could become a sort of hub, like Oxford Street/Fifth Avenue, as tping between grids becomes possible. This idea that SL has to become ‘the whole world’ is dated.

    Currently as most of the cost of running SL is laid at the feet of landowners, tier is sucking the economy dry.

  27. Hiri Nurmi said,

    Nice Piece Zha

    The trouble is I really now don’t see how this can be turned around now. In my own case I first discovered SL back in 2006 about three months before they hype boom and since then have ridden through several of the ‘creative’ roles in different avies – initially coding, then a pretty successful period as designer and finally building up and running one of the more popular clubs in SL (traffic 50k+ at it’s height, with no campers or other cheats).

    But I sold both my sims last month, about a week before the layoffs.

    Why? Well a lot of it’s me and a certain ennui with the world. But there’s reasons for that

    1. Tier pricing is excessive. For example unless you are prepared to run a club in the middle of a shopping mall, or are in it for the vanity, it’s pretty much impossible to turn a worthwhile profit. At my height I was making maybe 20% over full tier on a highly successful club. After a while it dawns on one that it simply isn’t worth it.

    2. Related to this the sim limits and associated lag when you approach them kills development. At it’s height my club was hitting 60 avies in the sim *and no-one could move*. The result of this is that the vendors in the sim supporting the club by rent are real unhappy because no-one can buy and there’s no-way forward. You can’t grow and the experience in your club starts to suck. This gets old really fast.

    3. SL looks tired. Three years ago people were complaining about how ’90’s’ the graphics looked, and although Windlight and Sculpties helped it still looks clunky. I have serious doubts this is solveable without a complete rewrite, although new avie meshes and mesh imports may help. Incidentally I’ve been in Blue Mars too for a while but have been reluctant to commit to that until the community looks viable – which it doesn’t yet.

    4. If it’s not growing then why bother? Back in 2007 and 8 and maybe even early 9 we all thought SL might grow up to half a million concurrents or more. But that’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon now and even if the tech improves the ‘Brand’ is looking increasingly worn. My design work made at it’s height respectable amount of RL cash and the prospects of an increasing market to an order of magnitude or more bigger made the investment in time seems really worthwhile. It no longer is. Also I’m at a loss to understand where the ‘record’ inworld transactons are coming from since the overwhelming majority of designers I know are have decreased sales – even those actively designing and promoting new stuff. It’s known that the prime time for avies to purchase clothes and the like is in the first few months after their rez-day, and with stagnation that market is noticably smaller.

    Despite all this I’m not leaving SL, wll not just yet – particularly as my accumulated body of design work is a worthwhile asset. The club has been sold on and I’ve downsized my landholding to what I need to have a viable main store plus some overhead for low key design work as the mood takes. And with that I’ll sit it out to see what happens until such point as my cash-flow is negative or SL blossoms again – a strategy which seems to be quite common if not the norm. But I think it’s more likely that I’ll be taking the experience on from SL into it’s successor than reanimating in LLs world.

  28. As a relatively long-time resident and semi-successful content creator, there are several things that have really frosted me about the Lab’s direction under M.

    1. The XSL / XStreet / Marketplace transformation has been a nightmare and the treatment of merchants by the “Commerce Team” has been shameful and outright condescending. There are so many opportunities to create a win-win environment for merchants and residents and the Lab, but the Commerce crew seems bent on screwing that up.

    2. Silly decisions like bringing in Jive SBS / Clearspace software to fix problems that never existed have to stop.

    3. Viewer 2 does nothing to improve the new user experience. That only happens when real residents and real people help other new residents and real people. Thinking you can solve retention with shiny software that doesn’t actually work all that well is silly.

    4. People are psychologically tired of being jerked back and forth by Lab decisions that seemingly get made in a vacuum. Zindra anyone?

    I’m really curious what the culture of working at the Lab was like under Mark Kingdon. Maybe we’ll start finding out from some of the ex’s soon. The whole atmosphere just felt “poisonous”. Like Mr. Mariner, I don’t think the return of Philip Rosedale is anything like the second coming — but it certainly has to be some kind of improvement of M’s tenure.

    And yes, listening to your customers and actually DOING things they want has to be job one going forward.

  29. Prokofy Neva said,

    Technocommunists hate land, and don’t take it seriously, and view it not as private property but merely a sandbox or a substrate for content or some political mission. But land is land, it is private property, and civilization rests on it. The sooner the tekkies stop scorning land — starting with Philip, who hates it and loathes arbitrage — the better things will be. Scaling need not be fast, constant or rapid growth is a dangerous modern myth. SL is not a Word document that it needs an “undo” on an object. Editing and rezzing new prims is easy enough.

    The “content cloud” concept is a lot of jargonistic jumble for the real agenda: liberating content and exporting it around the Metaverse through Zha’s interoperability, and telling people to call their lawyers if they are worried about theft. It defeats the DRM that makes this world work; it defeats the social search and shopping that makes the economy function as well as it does; it defeats community policing of content theft. No constituency except IBM and various other big companies like Intel want to flush out SL’s content “cloud” and grab it to build their own “business models” on. The content *creators* have not asked for this. Those few that have, or want to “share are merely in the expropriating interop camp.

    Interoperability tries to international away the problems of SL that are rooted in absence of the rule of law and poor governance. It’s not effective.

    “Listen to your customers” is a fascile and cheap mantra. Listen to which customers? There are several loud and diverse lobbying groups and constituencies all pulling the blanket on themselves. The task is rather to make fair procedures for people to express their will and to adjudicate conflicts. That means put the Feature Voter that Torley executed at dawn one day BACK and allow it to have a “no” vote and have visibility and use. Intervene to stop the constant intimidations, closings and bans supported by aribtary and extremist Lindens removed.

    As for fixing search, who could disagree? But people mean different things by fixing search. I suspect Zha is more of the Google persuasian than she admits. But the task is to completely excise Google out of the world as inappropriate and put back the yellow pages as they were.

    As for technical debt? Not persuaded by this jargonistic insider’s argument whatsoever. Spaghetti code and cutting coders aren’t hobbling anything *important*. The examples of what “can’t grow” because of “technical debt” aren’t persuasive. So what if Metanomics can put on a large event? So put on a large event. But that isn’t the core of SL for most people. Most people want search to work and for community institutions to stop being savaged (like Xstreet or the forums).

  30. Prokofy Neva said,

    >I have also been aware for some time that SL could become a sort of hub, like Oxford Street/Fifth Avenue, as tping between grids becomes possible. This idea that SL has to become ‘the whole world’ is dated.

    No. Not with my stuff or my tenants’ stuff. I’m not interested in SL becoming the Pirate’s Bay for the Internet.

    If you fancy this, go on OpenSim and develop it and…tp back and forth between your sterile sandboxes that have no rich content because there’s no economy, no DRM, no rights. Go to Blue Mars and be in a privileged merchant class that works with third-party tools and has no accessibility to content for the amateur. Go do those extreme things left and right to your heart’s content. Leave SL alone. No one but a handful of geeks has asked to have their content liberated with interoperability.

  31. Prokofy Neva said,

    >My advice to them would be to move to a real Agile software development methodology with some “wise” representative community members playing customer. People like you, Grace McDunnough, etc.

    It would also be a good idea to hire a Change Management professional (instead of a “community manager or PR person” to help mitigate the fallout of future changes.

    Ugh, ugh, ugh, and ugh agagin.

    “Scrum” and “agile” and all these other faddish collectivist California software cults have to go. They breed little authoritarian mediocrities, disincentivize individuals, and scramble coherence. Get rid of these fads and just do the basics of outcome-oriented software that looks at customer satisfaction and not little exotic projects like avatar foot shadows.

    No, no, no I’m not voting Grace McDunnough or Zha Ewry to go serve on some precious panel as “customers” with some phony cult process with the Lindens. That’s irresponsible, unaccountable, and plays to their already-existing tendency to be cultural and technical commissars without real buy-in from the general public. I’ve called for Dusan Writer to sit on the board because power-sharing is the solution here, not another feted FIC panel. And I’d like someone who is able to debate critics frankly and tell the story of SL frankly and not ignore and ban people.

    And ugh, ugh, UGH again to have some jargonistic in-house *thug* hired to foist change yet again on the user. No way. Power-sharing has to happen, not thuggery. Community managers are stupid, usually female office wives sent out to placate angry customers while the males tinker with code. Awful role to play. But change managers are even more instrumentally evil because they are hired to change others, not the company that needs to change.

    Use the world. Put the Feature Voter in world where people can vote and have “no” votes. Make it so that they can copy the devices and have it also play and update on their own sim to socialize around (Angela Talamasca has already scripted a polling device of this nature).

    • “Scrum” and “agile” and all these other faddish collectivist California software cults have to go.”

      Agile is neither fad nor cult. Unlike the hula hoop and pet rock, It has been growing in acceptance within both the business and technical communities for a quarter century. Today, Agile is fairly mainstream software development methodology that is commonly used in thousands of companies around the world including Fortune 500 companies for mission critical projects.

      The role of “customer” in Agile is not to sit on a panel. The customer is full-fledged member of the project team and serves a number of roles including creating and prioritizing requirements (user stories), review of software created within each one to two week iteration (acceptance testing), and being available for the team to answer questions that come up during the course of development.

      Agile is not a magic bullet, but if done well creates high-quality software that evolves to meet the changing needs of its users.

      For those interested in finding more about Agile, a good place to start is the Agile alliance: http://www.agilealliance.org

      ———

      “But change managers are even more instrumentally evil because they are hired to change others, not the company that needs to change…Put the Feature Voter in world where people can vote and have “no” votes.”

      Change Management is a professional practice that mitigates the negative consequences of change across an organization. Change Management would actually help show the organization where it needs to change itself, because it delivers metric-based information on stakeholder awareness and satisfaction over time. If trends are not improving it would show that the enterprise was going in the wrong direction (or at least not communicating adequately.)

      The key is for management to see things from the user perspective. Not because the enterprise has to do what users want. No company I know of is a user-based democracy. The reason you want to see things from the customer viewpoint is so that you can include their perspective as one important factor in your decision-making process. You can then communicate whatever choice is made from a place of integrity and articulate why the choice was made in reference to other more popular alternatives.

      Users don’t expect companies to do whatever they say. They do want to be heard and have their opinions considered.

      • Correction on my previous comment: My reference to Agile’s growing acceptance for “a quarter century” was in error. It’s closer to a decade.

        Although some of the software development methodologies that are now under the “Agile” umbrella have been around since at least the ’90’s, it wasn’t until 2001 that the “Agile Manifesto” was created and became the commonly used term.

      • Prokofy Neva said,

        No, both Agile and Scrum are *cults*. They are ideologies about software production that create intensive authoritarian systems in offices that many, many people have criticized — go and Google it and read the criticism and stop pretending this has been mainstreamed. Just because some big company has adopted a cult doesn’t mean that it is freed of the problem of authoritarianism.

        If agile or scrum worked in the way you imagine, then Viewer 2 wouldn’t have been the road wreck that we saw it become.

        Software needs to stop becoming alchemy for a privileged class of the technorati. It’s just plumbing and pipes. It needs to be democratized *really* by not being hijacked by open source extremists at every turn who in fact keep it a closed cult. Software needs democratic participation and far less ideological hobbling.

      • Ralph Martin said,

        They are a cult. I had been subjected to agile and scrum for years, without access to my family, wife, kids. I honestly believed it was best for the world. I shaved my had and wore a weird toga thing and was forced to preach agile and scrum in airports and also in public parks by my agile and scrum overlords. I tried to get unsuspecting IT geeks to join the cult by befriending them at Trekkie conventions and the like. Luckily there was an intervention and after 36 hours in isolation I emerged deprogrammed. To all of you who think agile and scrum are just ways of getting software to be built, you’re wrong and hopefully you’ll find that out before you’re getting your ass kicked by a CTO who is late for his flight out of SFO.

      • Sidney Smalls said,

        Good god, now the crazy cat lady imagines she knows something about software engineering. Hilarious.

      • I can’t code my way out of a paper bag, but I have had pretty deep involvement on many Agile projects in non-technical roles. Project sizes of $50,000 to >$10 million. Enterprise and Government customers. Some with multiple contractors working in locations scattered around the country. A few as Agile projects within very large waterfall initiatives.

        The Agile methodology I have most experience with is Extreme Programming (XP). The primary difference between XP and traditional methods is that a project proceeds through 1-2 week iterations, and commonly 4-6 week release cycles. Although a release plan is created at the start, the customer can re-prioritize or add requirements (user stories) at the start of each iteration. Test-driven development is commonly used, which means that before coding begins on any story, a validation test is created. Another common practice is “continuous integration” which means that every time code is checked-in, it is tested within the large base of the software. Practices such as these ensure the quality of the code and its conformance to current requirements.

        Another unique feature of Agile is that the business customer (and/or non-technical stakeholder representative) is part of the development team. In traditional development, non-technical stakeholders are only consulted during the initial requirements phase, and then at the pre-release acceptance phase. With Agile, the customer directs the work of each iteration at its start, and then confirms that the deliverable is acceptable. He or she is ideally co-located with the developers and is available for ad-hoc discussion.

        Although people with no personal experience with Agile often bring up concerns about scope creep, architecture, etc., my own experience and all of the data I’ve seen indicates that Agile lowers such risks and greatly enhances the quality of the software, delivering a better product than could have been envisioned at project start. It allows the entire team to take their growing knowledge over the course of a project and adapt the direction of the software.

        Agile is certainly not magic. One key requirement is that the person or persons playing the customer role deeply understand the needs of the stakeholders. In Second Life, this would be the residents. My suggestion to bring in respected and knowledgable SL users into an Agile development process was so that the ongoing work could be vetted by those who really “get” the user base, rather than corporate business people or hard-core techies.

        Another benefit, from a Change Management perspective would be that the evolving vision for the software could be socialized through trusted members of the community on an ongoing basis, rather than through top-down pronouncements immediately prior to each huge change.

        Of course, you can’t please everyone and some will be suspicious no matter what is done. The good thing about Agile is that you build confidence through delivered software every couple of weeks, rather than by public relations oriented communication.

        Wow. This ended up being longer than I planned. That’s it for now.

    • RE: Scrum

      I have criticized a level of arrogance from Silicon Valley – especially recently with “You’re holding it wrong”. However, Scrum and Agile have NOTHING to do with this. While it’s entirely possible that arrogant people will throw these two terms around as buzzwords to make themselves seem more hip / important, agile and scrum mean:
      Agile – a development method where you have short term goals and you meet every day very briefly to discuss project. It’s suitable for smaller development teams, and where the requirements of a project may change.
      Scrum – a specific meeting format often used in Agile.

      That’s it. No magic, no technocommunism. Anyone who took the time to read the wikipedia article on them instead of remaining willfully ignorant would discover these facts.

  32. MaggieL said,

    The nice thing about walls of text is they let you say things like “search is broken; who could argue?” and “technical debt is just meaningless insider jargon; I’m unconvinced” in the same post without having the self-contradiction being quite so apparent.

    Even though it’s the very next paragraph.

    It might be amusing to hear Prok slam “jargonistic insiders” while dismissing technical debt and turn right around and prescribe fixes to development methodologies…if we hadn’t seen such tail-biting so many times for so long.

    But technical debt is very real, and anybody who’s actually dealt with code (or related structures; the US tax code comes to mind) with a lifetime of more than a few months knows what it is. A good treatment of it can be read here: http://blogs.construx.com/blogs/stevemcc/archive/2007/11/01/technical-debt-2.aspx

    Dismissing technical debt because you don’t understand (or maybe just don’t *want* to understand it) it is no more a winning strategy than refusing to do needed work on a car or a house. It’s a inescapable component of he cost of ownership, and ignoring it imperils the value of the asset concerned.

    The “you own land” metaphor came to us as a more palatable replacement for “taxes”. See http://www.massively.com/2010/06/26/the-virtual-whirl-a-brief-history-of-second-life-2002-2003/

    But it *is* only a metaphor, and a flawed one, because what “virtual land” actually represents is only the right to purchase server usage.

    For any serious LL “landowner” the *price* of land is economically irrelevant next to the tier charges involved if it is held for any significant period of time…unless the land is ludicrously overpriced, or held only long enough to flip it for a quick profit during an unreal estate bubble.

    The downside of that sugarcoated metaphor is that SL “land” differs from actual land in that the supply is *not* fixed. Our noses are not rubbed in this as long as demand is rising and LL creates new supply to meet the demand. It becomes painfully obvious when demand tails off.

    Profits from land arbitrage are based on that illusion. It made for some good “real wealth from virtual land” press coverage, but the FairChang empire will never happen again. Bad news for land barons.

    Too bad there’s a glut on the pundit blogger market too.

    • Prokofy Neva said,

      Technical debt is indeed jargonistic blather.
      It doesn’t matter if in fact the Lindens’ code really is a mess and really has a backlog of chores or re-vamping in some major way — we alll get that.

      Technical debt is being invoked here *politically* as a *political strategem* to gain some effect — some belief that it is “hobbling” something else. Therefore to get those other things we “must” address technical debt (which wouldn’t *be* a debt if it were that easy to address).

      But I’m here to question what Zha thinks is important. Basically, it’s just a Grace Oclock thing. That you can’t get lots of people on a sim to hear music. So what? Fix search and advertising and spread out people to the long tail of the music offered, then we’ll talk. Note that music isn’t the popular thing that everyone imagines, and not because you can’t fit more than 160 on four sims.

      It’s just not the most burning issue, this “technical debt” to be addressed to fix…what? More angels fitting on the head of a pin, more magic tricks like undoing a rezzed prim.

      • MaggieL said,

        Technical debt that has accumulated in a codebase (whether as a result of hasty, sloppy design (LSL anyone?), hasty, slammed-out implementations (Viewer2 shows many signs of being such) or hasty, hackish bugfixes) can only be paid off by rewriting code to make it possible to understand what it does and change it–to fix defects or add features–without a prohibitive levels of cost and consequent injection of new defects.

        Regardless of what bugfixes or new features the people controlling the project may decide are important (whether it’s region avatar concurrency or the very broken search that’s on *your* wantlist, Prok) it is expensive to keep chaotic, elderly code running, and even more expensive — too often prohibitively so — to improve it piecemeal.

        Technical debt is very, very real. And you’re right: it’s *not* easy to address. If it were easy to abate, it wouldn’t exist. But it’s a huge obstacle to making *any* improvements…regardless of what they are.

  33. Troy said,

    @MaggieL: The reason FairChang and similar SL land businesses work is that they offer something over and above plain vanilla land (e.g. a random parcel on the mainland). They add value to the land.

    One kind of value they add is an enforced covenant – rules and regulations that make renting from them a better option. Another kind of value added is connection to a community: the other renters. Yet another kind of value they add is customer service. You might never hear back if you contact Linden Lab for help with a random mainland parcel, but if you’re renting from a good land renter, they’ll get back to you right away. Of course, there are shady operators who add very little value, but SL is a social world and it’s not easy to keep that secret for long.

    In summary, supply and demand are still at work, but the scarcity isn’t in the land per se, the scarcities are *good* land, good neighbors, good communities, and good customer service.

    • Prokofy Neva said,

      That just feeds into Philip’s cultic view of land as “in the way” of content and a scaling challenge and feeds into his notion that only content/creation are stake and value, and land is only valuable if it has “value-add” in the form of “service” or “content”.

      Baloney.

      Land is land.

      Land is a blank slate, not a value-add. It might be a value-add, but that value-add is on *a thing*. A *commodity*. And…that’s okay. Land has location and proximity value on the mainland. In contintents of private islands, location and proximity also matter. Even in a sea-surrounded private island, all kinds of things come together for people, ranging from the name of the sim to its landscaping to their memories on it that make it something of value *to them* which is not the tekkies’ perennial value-stripping “value-add” that never concedes *intrinsic value*.

      When the Lindens can learn that their servers have intrinsic value, and not “value add” that can be tacked on or stripped off by various coding routines, they will respect their world more, and have more customers, just like real life.

  34. MaggieL said,

    @Troy:

    We’re firm believers in customer service, but it’s awfully tricky to provide enough service to justify a premium price (and thus a healthy margin) while scaling enough to make the admin overhead worthwhile.

    We do a pretty good job in New Grayson but the volume is miniscule.

    see http://tinyurl.com/3cvdpr

  35. Zha – thanks for the great post, lots of gold in here both about product stuff and management style/me. I’ve had it up on my browser for several days to go back to and think about when I have a spare minute. I’ll do my absolute best to make SL grow again.

    • Prokofy Neva said,

      You’ve let us know what you’re doing again, here Philip.

      o Listening to your own kind — engineers, coders, opensource freaks. You can’t do that if you are a leader of a complex world

      o Listening to advice from big customers — Zha represents IBM even if he doesn’t formally

      o Listening to recipes that involve savaging land, your meal ticket — this content cloud Zha invokes is *our stuff* and you don’t to be casual with that and export it to the Metaverse to make a buck

      In short, Philip, I can only tell you once again: make a democratic and fair world with processes that can lead to governance for a wide variety of constituencies with different needs. Not just opensource freaks you like. Not just big IT. Not just geeks who want shiny. People you don’t like. People who want their IP protected and their land protected who pay your bottom line.

      I once asked why you brought in all those big businesses in 2007. You said you didn’t deliberately engineer for them, but that you didn’t discriminate because “SL is for everybody”.

      Well make good on that *really* and don’t set it up so that only some interest groups you like win the game of SL once again. Make it a fair place for competing interests and values.

      • MaggieL said,

        When a “progressive” starts using the word “fair”, lock up your daughters and hang on to your wallet. :-) Pretty soon you’ll be “robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul”.

        I don’t think “you can’t listen to engineers, coders (engineers) and opensource freaks (engineers)” is really winning advice either. You absolutely have to listen to them.

        Just not exclusively. There’s plenty of folks on the grid who aren’t engineers, and they have valid things to say too. It’s harder to really understand *what* they say about the service because in most cases they don’t know the official geek names for things. Take “lag” for example. Everybody knows “lag is bad”. They know when they’re experiencing it.

        But only the geeks Prok hates (like Philip) understand that there’s all different kinds of lag with wildly different causes and cures, and can tell the difference. It’s only by listening to a geek–an engineer (and one who is a user as well) that you’ve got a chance of finding out what kind of lag they’re really experiencing.

        That was one of M’s big problems. Not only was he not a geek (not necessarily required in a CEO, as long as he *listens* to geeks) but he wasn’t a user either…more dangerous but clearly fatal because he didn’t listen to real users.

        He was such a noob that he was afraid to spend any time with his customers in-world, apparently because they knew so much more about his product than he did, and he couldn’t descend from MBA mountain long enough to be humble and learn from them.

        Let’s be clear that “listen to” is not a synonym for “obey”.

    • Coughran said,

      Might be worth more than a “spare minute”.

      I’m just sayin’…..

      • MaggieL said,

        When Philip says he’s “had it up on his browser for several days to go back to and think about when he has a spare minute” I think he means when he has a spare minute he reads it over and reflects on it.

        More than one spare minute is involved.

  36. brinda allen said,

    **********************
    Philip Rosedale said,

    June 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Zha – thanks for the great post, lots of gold in here both about product stuff and management style/me. I’ve had it up on my browser for several days to go back to and think about when I have a spare minute. I’ll do my absolute best to make SL grow again.
    *********************
    Phillip, Thank you.
    Seeing your response it’s self gives me hope, It shows me that at least you read what we as customers have to say and perhaps don’t dimiss us out of hand.

  37. AlexHayden Junibalya said,

    Zha, as a relative newbie to Second Life (hate that expression though) who is contemplating his first steps into land ownership and self build, just wanted to say thank you for writing a thought provoking and intelligent piece.

    Interesting to see Philip commented. Perhaps, just perhaps, my shelving the Premium account was a tad hasty.

    I’ll wait to see though…..

  38. MaggieL said,

    Starry sky above us!

    Somebody with some power at the Lab is *listening* to us!

    There is hope indeed…

  39. Zha, I’m sorry I didn’t have you on my RSS before. I do now. I glanced at this, agreed, then read through and looked for something that stood out glaringly incorrect. I failed to find that. While I think you may have skipped over mentioning the issue of what role the Board played in the last 2 years, the layoffs, etc, I think your analysis about what Philip has in front of him is good, and you came up with some pretty decent advice. (albeit sometimes vague – which isn’t a bad thing necessarily when one is telling someone what to do).

    @Crap – Agree.

    -Ron / Hiro
    Twitter.com/zero

  40. MaggieL said,

    I’ll be interested to see how Prok proposes to “democratize” software without actually cracking open code and becoming one of those horrible tech cultists.

    I have a suspicion it involves a horde of despised winged code monkey henchmen to do her bidding as the “elected” Representative of the Common Good.

    There’s certainly some cultish aspects to Scrum, and it’s not a panacea. But that’s true of just about any development methodology or tech.

    Furthermore, there’s a lot of projects whose management *thinks* they’re doing some form of Agile that really aren’t. Certainly concealing the Viewer2 design and development behind an NDA, out of view of the actual user community would be an example of that.

  41. Geo Meek said,

    All i can say is I hope things work out.

  42. Yesha Sivan said,

    Zha, Good post.

    I wrote about it here: http://www.dryesha.com/2010/06/taking-ride-with-phillip-at-second-life.html

    I still think that Second Life is the best real 3D3C virtual world we have to date. I think it is a great for experimentation, education, testing, learning, some minor work, etc. It is FAAAR from being ready and able for prime market. Further, people attention today is in Facebook (not to say Farmville), iPhones and iPads.

    Plan for CEO — 90 days”

    1. Stabilize revenue:
    get back to CORE. serve the island owners who pay most of your bills.
    Lower prices on islands and allow people to have on-demand islands.

    2. Cut expenses even more (if possible)

    3. Slowly add R&D to solve problems. no more ghosts, load all content even in viewer 2.0 (dahhh), allow more than 25 groups.

    go back to 1.

    Forget about 3D Facebook and social networks (ok do allow auto twits, and auto facebook posts from inside SL)

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