tao-ing the line

On Monday, Linden Lab saw fit to publish an updated version of their Company Principles, which they opt to call (in a manner that sets many teeth grinding at the sheer hippiness of it) The Tao of Linden.

The new Tao differs quite a lot from the previous version – which has given a number of people cause to comment, both neutrally and somewhat more negatively, albeit in a wider context.

I’ve now read the Tao several times, and I have to say that it reveals more about Linden Lab than perhaps was intended – and not in a good way.

What is most striking is that of the five principles, only one actually addresses Linden Lab’s user base (“walk in our residents’ shoes”). Even then, one cannot help but look at this as a sinecure to pat SL users on the head rather than a genuine exhortation to the staff. After all, the policy to date with Linden Lab has been to increasingly distance themselves from their user base and systematically cut-off / control whatever voice their users have (restrictions of Linden Office hours, restrictions on what “residents” can discuss when meeting with Lindens, removal of blog comments; new rules relating to forum postings & the threat of account suspension, etc.).

As to the rest of the principles, it is a sad fact that they are suggestive of an increasiongly Orwellian leadership within the company. Of the remaining four principles, three (“work together”, “good people make good choices”, and “no politics”) could easily be interpreted (once the fluffy-feely text in the explanatory paragraphs is brushed aside) as saying, “the company is always right”.

Then there is the remaining principle, “be thoughtful and transparent”. Now this sounds great to the casual reader; a dose of something that is very much needed where Linden Lab is concerned: transparency. But then comes the follow-up explanation, which makes it totally clear that such “transparency” is restricted to dealings within the company – colleague to colleague – and has absolutely nothing to do with dealing with you or me – LL’s customers.

And this is perhaps the saddest fact behind LL’s new Tao. Where other service / customer-oriented companies at least try to address the needs and hopes of their customers when defining and publishing their core values, Linden Lab simply bins them, once and for all.

But then, another meaning for Tao is doctrine (in the sense of a dogma) – and the new management at Linden Research Inc., seems very focused on establishing a dogmatic* approach to the company’s activities.

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* “asserting opinions in a doctrinaire or arrogant manner; opinionated” (dictonary.com); “said of an opinion: forcefully and arrogantly stated as if unquestionable” (Chambers English Dictionary); “firmly asserting personal opinions as true” (OED online).