Malicious, lost, or out-of-time?

I‘m going to start this post with a quick statement: What follows here has been cogitating for a while now. It started as a number of posts that never made it beyond the draft stage (including one from way back in 2008, written in response to Mitch Kapor’s SL5B keynote address), combined with such factors as LL’s TPV Policy, the new ToS, Viewer 2.0 – and the (sometimes irrational) responses these have garnered among users of late. However, what with me being somewhat slow to organise thoughts, getting sidetracked by other matters and the arrival of Easter and family, it has taken me a little while to try and pull everything into a (hopefully) cohesive post. In doing so, I’ve pre-empted some of what I’m about to say, and others have come to the same conclusions, potentially with greater grace than I. I’ve also been pointed to other blogs wherein lie comments that echo – again, possibly more succinctly – my own thoughts (a fact that has also weighed on my mind as to whether I should order my ramblings into something comprehensible, or simply move on to other subjects). As such, this post is not an attempt to jump on the bandwagon, or lay claim to anyone else’s thinking; rather it is more an exercise in catharsis: getting everything down and out, right or wrong, so I can at least clear my head somewhat.

Why is it that Linden Lab, throughout the history of Second Life, appear to have such a disconnect between their management team and their users? How come, time after time after time, they consistently piss off so many, so quickly with (generally) so few words (or sometimes even lack of words)?

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of events that have upset users to a degree that – I think it fair to say – has actually surprised senior management at Battery Street, notably the OpenSpace / Homestead sim debacle and the Zindra upheaval. More recently, we’ve had the apparent push to align Second Life with Facebook and its ilk and reduce it to a simplistic, 3D social networking site (aka Viewer 2.0) causing consternation; and, bringing us right up to date, we’ve had the arrival of the Third Party Viewer (TPV) Policy and the sudden introduction of a new, and potentially far-reaching Terms of Service.

All of these have lead to predominantly negative reactions from users that have ranged from angry official blog postings right the way through to protests, banner waving, “flag burning” and even the departure of segments of the community (such as Elf Clan). Yet, each and every time, the management has sailed on; apparently unaware of the chaos they are leaving in their wake, only to blunder into the next crisis.

Or perhaps they are aware, and simply do not care. This is the most commonly-held view among those who find LL’s recent decisions so upsetting: that the Linden Lab management team simply don’t care: they are malicious grey suits only interested in the bottom line of the balance sheet.

While I’ve criticised LL a lot in my time, I do not believe that the likes of Mark Kingdon are driven by pure maliciousness. Those who have been around SL long enough know that heavy-handed attitudes and policies pre-date his arrival by a long margin – so if maliciousness is involved, he didn’t start it. As I’ve commented previously, the whole CopyBot issue, and LL’s complicity in its spread occurred a long time before Kingdon arrived on-scene. If you want to go back further than that, then there is the so-called tax rebellion of 2003.

I don’t buy the “simply malicious” argument because, at the end of the day, Linden Lab isn’t likely to profit or grow from it in a sustainable manner. Grabbing the profits today and saying to hell with the customer and to hell with tomorrow is an exceptionally myopic and ultimately stupid way to run a company. In the case of Linden Lab, it would probably have lead to the demise of the company a goodly while ago.

Similarly, the New User Experience makes no sense.  Viewer 2.0 is central to this – and yet, Viewer 2.0 (as many have pointed out over the last several weeks) is not so much flawed as completely broken – hardly an encouraging way to entice new users into SL, retain them and encourage them to part with their money in-world and grow the economy….

Maliciousness makes sense if the company profits. We may not like it, we may howl against it – but if we all see practical benefits from it: a growth in user numbers, more people spending time and money in-world, the economy expanding, etc., – then I think the majority of us will find the maliciousness a bedfellow we can tolerate because a) Second Life survives and we continue to participate in it; b) those in business within SL stand to retain viable income streams, and thus remain in-world and help encourage the rest of us to stay.

But again, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Linden Lab. If we look at the OpenSpace / Homestead fiasco for example – did it lead to an obvious growth within Second Life? Did it make the platform more sustainable? No. When all is said and done, when all the angst and drama around the change is put to one side – the overall status quo of the platform remained unchanged from a fiscal perspective. The economy neither expanded radically, nor contracted. LL themselves may have enjoyed a small upward blip in cash inflow as a result – but longer-term, the move didn’t really help them.

Zindra and the Adult Policy are also held up as an example of the maliciousness of the Lab’s management – that they are “anti sex”, “anti BDSM” and that the Lab wanted both to “go under” by driving people into leaving SL. But again, I simply don’t buy this. Certainly, both the policy and the Zindra move were ill-considered, poorly-executed and almost certainly could have been handled a lot more pragmatically – but none of this happened simply because senior management “don’t care”. Furthermore, simply driving out a segment of the community makes no sense – not when said segment is actually responsible for generating a large amount of in-world spending, which in turn generates an inward flow of cash to the economy as people convert real money into Linden Dollars. Thus, if “driving out” a very profitable segment of the community was the aim, then the Linden Lab management aren’t only malicious, they’re stupid.

So is incompetence within the management hierarchy responsible? A management team that seems to be constantly chasing its tail, or which leaves all its policy making to the lawyers (as seems to be the case with the new ToS and TPVP) would certainly appear to be incompetent. But again, it is hard to reconcile this with the business profiles of those at the top of the management tree. Take Mark Kingdon as an example, and his history prior to joining Linden Research Inc.

He joined Organic in 2001, after the company had been forced to down-size following the bubble bursting in 2000, which also forced the company to re-privatise. Then, and contrary to sniping posts in the official forums, he steered the company through seven years of successful growth, which included the launch of an entirely new arm of the business. Before that, he was a senior executive at PWC, closely involved with that organisation’s merger with Lybrand. So he’s hardly a slouch or an idiot when it comes to managing a business.

Thus, the idea of rank incompetence doesn’t entirely fit, either. Yes, the management team have got it wrong. Yes they have at times let lawyers run amok in the playpen (most recently with the poor wording of the TPV Policy) – but people in business do make mistakes; this doesn’t automatically make them totally incompetent.

What is more, Kingdon has demonstrated, through the first of his in-world meetings with residents that he is potentially far more aware of the potential for the technology than his spin-laden blog posts, etc., would imply. As his honest, unscripted answers to questions at this meeting indicated, he does hold a certain vision and hope that goes beyond simplistic bottom-line costs and profits.

Indeed, the fact that Kingdon is taking the time to come in-world and spend time with residents, face their concerns and anger head-on, is another reason to thrown the “malicious” argument out the window. If he were so minded as to simply not care about what we think and feel – if he was simply looking at “new users” to sustain LL, he simply wouldn’t bother participating in such open engagement with us.

So what is it? If it is not incompetence or maliciousness, what is it about LL that causes them to repeatedly underestimate / misinterpret the liable outcome of their broader actions?

For the most part, my own feeling is that when all is said and done, it is this: Linden Lab’s management team have no intuitive understanding of, or identification with, their users. To use Grace McDunnough’s wonderfully-chosen term (and curse her for beating me to the punch and posting first on this subject – as well as for putting it so beautifully succinctly! *smiles*), they simply don’t grok us.

There is a fundamental disconnect between what they see as the marvellous potential of the environment presented by the technology behind Second Life and their ability to connect with the equally marvellous potential of a passionate and engaged user community. And, I believe, it is this failure, more than anything else that has damaged both their ability to approach use, and our ability to see them in a credible light.

This is partially understandable: Second Life is unlike any other platform or business model, having the unique ability to bring together so many facets of life into a single environment. There is no single quantifiable reason as to why we’re here: there is no treasure to hunt, or enemy to kill or war to wage or objective to reach. There is no single demographic within SL that fits traditional marketing and promotional tools that Kingdon and his senior management are going to be familiar with.

What is more, the reasons we stay involved in Second Life are not always constant. We may initially come here because it offers a “gaming” or “role-play” or “lifestyle” outlet – only to find weeks or months down the road, that we’re involved in many other things: scripting, building, “business”, be it simply working in a club or store on behalf of someone else right the way up to full content creation and re-sell. But through it all there is no defined objective.

Thus, rather than being malicious or incompetent, I tend to feel that those running Linden Lab simply do not know how to approach us, deal with us and engage with us. In a word, we’re a pretty overwhelming force, one quite outside the keen of most corporate executives….

….but that is no excuse for sitting in isolation from us, as the current management team have tended to do to far, far greater extent to their predecessors. And even while I do applaud efforts by Mark Kingdon to host in-world meetings and address concerns head-on, the fact remains that the frequency of these meetings leaves much to be desired. The first was held in February, but it doesn’t look like any follow-up will be held for several months. If Kingdon really wants to get to grips with matters, then frankly, he should be putting an hour aside once a month to sit with people.

A lack of involvement, a lack of understanding has lead to those leading LL to regard SL purely in terms of numbers: if the metrics are good, the platform must be good and therefore the users must be happy. But metrics are only one side of the equation. If there is a fundamental lack of understanding as to who we are, and how we are feeling; if there is an inability to link our upset over heavy-handed policy implementation with our love of Second Life  – then LL will continue down the road of losing its most valuable commodity.

In this regard, it doesn’t matter how they change the New User Experience. Nor do the number of man hours put into developing a new Viewer account for much: because at the end of the day, if the management still don’t understand us, if they still see us as standing apart from their platform, as “just users” – then whatever they put out on display to entice people into the store is ultimately going to fail.

In 2006, Facebook launched an applet that enables users to track changes made to, and activity on, their Friend’s pages. The tool caused outrage in the community, with tens of thousands of users viewing the tool as an invasion of privacy and protesting about it. Two days after the tool was launched, Facebook issued a statement that they would put the tool under individuals’ control so they could determine what others could see. At the time, one marketer commented:

The members prevailed. How? And why? Members used this powerful medium to connect, assemble, and make their voice heard. Fortunately, Facebook listened and responded.

The takeaways for marketers:

  • Listen carefully. If you target connected customers, have a mechanism in place to collect feedback before taking major actions (product changes, new product launches, etc.). Don’t act in a vacuum. Use social media to engage customers and solicit their feedback. Then, make their input an important part of your strategy.
  • Be ready to act. Social networks and many Web 2.0 tools make it very easy for people to assemble around a cause. Major brands should have a rapid action plan in place to identify and address these situations before they get out of hand. In the old world, this was called public relations or crisis communications. In a new, networked world, it’s good community relations.
  • Respect the community. What I wrote in an earlier column about five best practices for marketers who venture into social networking still applies: “Respect the Community. It’s a club and you don’t really belong. Most social networks aren’t about advertising or commerce per se… As an advertiser you’re a guest in the club. Understand the environment and respect the unwritten rules: don’t intrude on conversations or connections in a way that irritates members; don’t divert users from the network to other sites; and don’t disguise yourself in a dishonest way.”

If this advice doesn’t resonate with you, close your eyes and imagine this scenario:

You’ve just spent six months developing a new campaign for a major new product launch that’s a line extension in a very popular, somewhat dated product line. You and your management team have high hopes for this product. You need to invigorate the product line and generate a big bump in sales. You’ve carefully researched the product and launch strategy. The focus group results indicate you’d add new customers without alienating your core franchise. You launch.

Within a week of launch, 126 groups have formed, all calling for a boycott because you spoiled the product with this line extension. The revolt started in the U.S. and is now moving to Europe. Angry customers are filling your inbox with hate mail. Your boss calls and asks what the heck’s going on, how significant the damage could be, and what you’re doing to respond. You tell him you’re going to change the campaign messaging and heavy up on PR. Then, you realize that strategy won’t fly. These people want answers and action — now. You have hours. Not weeks.

Sound advice to any company: listen, engage, respect the community and build community relations. The author has the right idea.

So what, exactly, has gone wrong, Mr. Kingdon? Why is it the advice you gave to others just four short years ago has been largely absent in the management philosophy at Linden Lab? Why are you only now making some effort to more properly engage with us?

Think of how different the experience would have been if Linden Lab had approached things like the Adult Policy and even the new ToS through a process of open engagement with the community, rather than playing word games and leaving it all in the hands of the legal staff. Yes, people are frightened by change – but we can deal with it if we’re given the opportunity to participate in the process and understand the underpinning reasons why change is needed. None of us are fools – and many of us understand the environment at least as well as Linden Lab management. Engagement with the community, using – as Grace McDunnough suggests – the process of appreciative inquiry rather than autocratic mandate, could have lead to the Adult Policy and the TPVP being far less traumatic affairs than they have so far been – for both the community and Linden Lab.

The sad thing is that, despite pleas for LL to raise their grok factor, it may now be too late.

Mitch Kapor has made little secret of his desire to see the “pioneers” (aka you and I) of Second Life to get out of the way and let the “pragmatists” (e.g. big business) in. He’s been wanting SL to “do” something for a goodly while. In part, this has likely fuelled some of the errors LL’s senior management have made in pushing through policies with absolutely no finesse whatsoever. He’s also likely fuelled the drive towards the SLE product and the development of the business side of SL. Doesn’t take a genius to work that out.

Even so, despite all the pushing and pulling, the hype and hoped-for, LL itself is still something of a lame duck as far as venture capital companies are concerned. It’s sitting in that 30% zone of VC-funded start-ups that tend to limp along, making just enough to stay in business, but not enough to be a raging success. Sure, the SL economy is continuing to show modest growth and LL continues to make a modest profit from it as a result. But it is not the stunning success all the hype surrounding it these last 8+ years has suggested it could or should be.

One cannot help but wonder if Kapor et al blame the very people they’ve failed to understand – you and I – for the failure of SL to “achieve”. We’re the “pesky kids”, constantly getting in the way. If this is the case, it could explain why we’ve seen the rush to bump Viewer 2 from beta to full release, despite it being badly broken, and why we’ve seen the almost stealthy (and certainly unexpected) shunt of an entirely new Terms of Service & its associated policies.

Some has decided that it is time to break up SL to some degree. I’ve already touched upon this in an earlier post – that the operation to run the Grid might be licensed-off, allowing LL to focus on what might be regarded as the “core” business that is likely to generate a more predictable income stream.

The business enterprise side of Linden Lab is still fledgling – also it is being realigned as a set of three services – but a lot of hopes are pinned on it. Could it be that someone right at the top of the Linden Hierarchy has set a deadline for the management team, something along the lines of “achieve X by the end of Y, or get ready to license-off the platform. Let some other poor sod deal with the user issue…”?

It wouldn’t be easy to go this route, certainly; but it also wouldn’t be impossible. Yes, it would cause some upheaval and no doubt wailing and rending of garments – but again, isn’t that the response (as far as the upper echelons of LL are concerned) to every decision made?

As I’ve previously said, putting all the paperwork in order would be a first step in this process. As of the 30th April, the lines of responsibility, the type of services being supplied, are clearly spelt out (well, as clearly as legalese allows), making it much easier for anyone taking up a licence to run the grid to see where their liabilities start and finish, and how external liabilities (such as third-party viewers connecting to the grid) have been “minimised”.

Of course, exactly how much time the management team have been given to “get things sorted” and realise both the increased influx of users, etc., they’ve been promising as a result of the new viewer, the new ad campaigns and the cosying-up to the Facebook community and the anticipated growth within the SL economy is totally open to question. And that’s assuming this speculation is even right.

But it does potentially mean that it no longer matters whether or not senior figures in Linden Lab empathise with us. Does this in turn make them malicious, as postulated at the start of this post? Not at all; nor does it make them incompetent. Careless, then? Absolutely.

10 thoughts on “Malicious, lost, or out-of-time?

  1. This was really quite well stated, Inara! I have to agree with you. I had never read Kingdon’s statements while he was at Organic. One has to wonder why he changed his attitude in just four years, when switching to Linden Lab…


    1. Thanks, Gwyn. I have no idea how frequently Clickz rotate through a list of experts – I’m not a marketer per se nor a technologist – ot whether it is simply a case Mark Kingdon got tired of / ran out of time for blogging there, but he was active for a tad under six months – and his posts do make interesting reading.


  2. I’ve been suspecting something similar to what you line out here for some time myself, but could have never put it both so comprehensively and succinctly. When I started in SL almost exactly three years ago now, it seemed very much a diverse, but still closely-knit community which the Lindens were part of; I still remember how, shortly after I signed up, all my new friends were excited about a Linden townhall meeting (which was about some terribly important issue or other that at the time I had not the first clue about), how it was widely followed and discussed, and generally gave the newbie the impression that everyone was involved in the decision-making process on a very basic level. Today, it seems more like some corporation, whose upper echelons stay in their upper floor offices and pass their decisions and orders on downwards to their subalterns. Of course, this change might reflect my own loss of naiveté rather than anything happening in SL, but even so, one would assume that there has to be some reason for this disillusionment. And I can’t remember having heard anything about townhall meetings for a long time now…


    1. I’d actually erased the Townhalls from my memory until you mentioned them! Even then, in fairness to the current management team, I always had the impression that they were more about touchy-feely perceptions than actually trying to fully engage with us: this left us with a warm inner glow of being involved – whether or not we actually were.

      The “corporate” aspect of LL had to come in at some point: The company couldn’t grow in terms of manpower and technical spread (multiple co-locations, etc.), without formalising its structure and internal operations. BUT….that doesn’t excuse what comes across as a disregard for long-term users in so many ways; especially when the Man At The Top clearly recognised the value of engagement just four years ago – or two short years before he joined LL.

      Or… perhaps that’s another element I missed for things – like the majority of us, Mark Kingdon simply doesn’t practice what he preaches. Or perhaps it is simply that we do come over as passionate, involved and committed, that we simply frighten them. We’re the Star Trek fans of virtual worlds: rabidly committed and perceived as being somewhat bonkers and therefore to be avoided.

      And in fairness, we ourselves don’t help. We all behave as if we have a God-given right of access to the platform, no matter who we are – users, TPV developers, etc., – when the fact remains, we have absolutely nothing of the sort. But this attitude sometimes leads some of us to take up arms far too virulently against Linden Lab. Rather than trying to ourselves learn from the errors of the past, make the effort to get together ourselves and present a reasoned proposal / response to LL, we’re ruled by the mob reaction – and what voices of reason do call out, are lost in the general screaming and shouting.

      We’re effectively our own worst enemy in how we react to LL – and even to each other. An example of this is in the published comments of some TPV developers. These individuals are screaming blue murder over the TPVP; as a result Joe Linden offers to host an in-world meeting to try and discuss matters. BUT…rather than say, “OK, when and where?” These same developers scream that they’re not going to attend because they must sign-up to the new ToS, and start demanding LL organise the meeting through other channels. Such reactions – given that said developers have also said that they are “finished” with SL as from the 30th April, so signing-up to the new ToS shouldn’t be an issue given they are in theory “never coming back” once the ToS comes into effect – smack of nothing short of outright petulance. A petulance that is liable to reinforce negative views in LL and lead to people at Battery Street saying, “Why do we even bother?” and well as coming across as the developers themselves cutting their noses to spite their faces when they have the opportunity to potentially influence and correct LL’s thinking on the imbalances of the TPVP.

      But all the above aside – the fact remains that if you’re going to run a “social networking” environment in this day and age, you’re going to have to come up with a strong differentiator if you are a) going to stand a chance of surviving with a decent market share (as AOL has found with Bebo – and don’t mistake the “need for investment” as purely meaning hardware and technology); b) going to continue to be competitive in the expanding environment of “3D socially-driven virtual worlds”. Having a browser-like Viewer simply isn’t good enough, nor is giving new sign-ups a pretty little house (albeit on the virtual equivalent of a Council Estate). You’re going to need to have compelling reasons to hold folks’ attention and to get them to invest. While it is not the *only* way – or even the most important way – a strong differentiator for SL could be renewing that sense of engagement between users and LL; open the doors to two way communications without any hidden agendas, or the perception that there is a hidden agenda; losing the deliberately-loaded questions asked at various OH meetings. A loyal user base is worth gold compared to “pass through” memberships.

      This is a lesson that needs to be understood by anyone running SL, whether or not LL retain control of it.


  3. My RL is extremely busy as I am in the process of switching jobs, but let me comment on one aspect:

    LL does not need to retain us “oldbies”, immersionists and business wner (or any combo of it). We are here to stay anyways, out of whatever motivation. We contribute to the economy, we contribute to LL’s cash pockets. But we do not contribute enough to keep SL running. But we have a high pain threshold. Those of us who leave spectacularly (or silently) are replaced by some newcomers in our circle. But we can’t pull the show off alone.

    What LL *does* need is a fresh stream of folks. Fresh signups, following the promises of Klondyke, to get rich fast, to have kinky sex, or whatever appeals to them. When I joined Anshe Chung was all over the place, and probably was a major factor for new signups.
    However, LL does *not* need all those new folks to actually *stay*. In fact – and now maybe I am cynic – if they just leave some money: a one time purchase on the Lindex, or maybe a quarter of premium, and then silently leave again… as long as that number is high enough it is beneficial for the Lab. So the objective *could* be to get as many new signups spend some initial money, and then not care for them anymore. Maybe they drop out, maybe the join our circle sooner or later. It is not important anymore for the Lab.

    I might be wrong. I *hope* I am wrong. But sadly I get exactly this impression.


    1. Peter, I hope the job move goes well, and I look forward to seeing you back in SL soon!

      And you’re right about LL and existing users – to a point. If we’re brutally honest, the only reason we endure the pain is because at the moment there is nowhere else for us to go. But, as the old adage goes: ignore your existing users at your own peril. The likes of OS Grid don’t currently offer the technical capabilities of SL – yet, but they are maturing rapidly. What is more, some are looking to stabilise themselves through secure financial backing, etc., register themselves as entities and thus start to overcome the “trust” issue currently inherent in the OS Grid world. Beyond this, the OSG environment potentially offers groups that are not driven by economic considerations – large roleplay groups, etc, – with the possibility of setting-up their own environments elsewhere, draining the grid of talent and population.

      As for new users, I have to disagree: a high churn rate of users coming and departing, simply won’t grow the economy in a sustainable manner. Yes, it may lead to a very slight upward trend initially – but it is hard to see that being sustained in terms of overall growth. And will (indeed are) people actually invest in annual or quarterly, subscriptions to start with? What reason do they have for doing so, when easier options exist?

      Let’s face it, when all is said and done, SL doesn’t doesn’t have a stellar track record in terms of publicity; those that are aware of VWs, but who are not involved in it, tend to look upon it disparagingly; and the publicity that does get out into the wider arena tends to sway towards the negative. and while people might seek refuge in the hoary old cliche “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” – sadly, there is.

      So, I really don’t think people will be queuing to fork out $25 or $73 (in round terms) upfront to join SL. Most of those who are willing to part with cash are most likely to opt for a monthly subscription. Thirty days is enough time to evaluate an unknown, and $11.69 isn’t that much to pay in order to do so. And if people aren’t compelled by SL by the end of a month – they probably aren’t coming back. Thus, any gain for LL is going to be negligible.

      And that is with those willing to part with money up front. Such people are probably in the minority. Most will go the free account route. This offers LL nothing in terms of a direct income stream, leaving them reliant on LindeX transactions (as you point out) and in-world / XSL trading. But the amounts LL make here are simply peanuts and certainly not enough to keep the platform viable. While these folk might be willing to stick around for longer (as they are not seeing money drain from their account on a monthly basis) in order to “give SL a chance” – their input into the economy is going to be of very limited value.

      One of the reasons LL may be so apparently focused on the “Facebook crowd” is that it offers an almost self-propelled advertising system that could lead to increased visibility and use of SL: if people come in to SL and like it, then they are liable to tell family and friends and contacts about it and encourage them to come take a look. But again, it’s a two-edged sword. If people find there is “nothing to do” in SL, or that the hype exceeds the reality – then the viral “advertising” to friends and family, etc., is going to be completely negative….

      But then, LL don’t seem to be aiming for sustainable growth – at least on the surface. In a recent conversation, Amanda Linden indicated that the aim of the new viewer, etc., is to grow “actives” (defined as those spending 1 hour per month in SL) to around 700K to 1 million a month. Yet, if the official figures are to be believed, SL is already hitting around 600K a month. Independent observers calculate the number to be closer to 700-800K a month. Thus, Amanda is looking at a very modest growth – and if that growth has a high churn rate – users logging for a while and then never returning, then it doesn’t measure up to her promise of growth within the economy.

      Obviously, the platform itself can only support so many concurrent log-ins before it winds up impersonating a puddle on the floor od so many data centres – so looking for modest growth could, in fairness to Amanda, be the appropriate course of action: raise the technical stability / capability of the grid, then gear for a modest growth while further enhancing the grid, then go for another modest increase, and so on.

      But again, this doesn’t fit. There is only so much technically that can be done. Growth will always come more beneficially through user retention – getting people to invest more heavily in SL; build in-world businesses, buy land, develop content both in terms of merchandise and places to visit. Provide reasons for people to get involved – settling on high churn rates, rather than retention, won’t achieve any of this.

      “If you build it, they will come”, may have worked for Kevin Costner in Hollywood, but it is hard to see it happening here. That’s why, again, I wonder about the overall strategy here: lifting “actives” to around 1 million a month spending 1 hours in SL might not be enough to sustain growth – but it might make SL more attractive to potential licensees if the aim is to hive off the operational side of the grid…


  4. Well, I admit to never having attended a Townhall meeting myself; my perspective on them is very much that of the then-newcomer to Second Life who stares at everything in wide-eyed awe and wonder. Still, while that warm inner glow might not have corresponded to any actual involvement in decision-making, the way its user perceive Second Life certainly contributes to how long they stay there and how much money and time they are willing to invest, so I wouldn’t entirely dismiss it. Which of course might in the final analysis just be saying that Linden Labs PR used to be better. And maybe it’s precisely that warm fuzzy feeling of being part of one big family that gave rise to the sense of entitlement which is indeed running rampant in some quarters, and maybe that’s even a good reason to cut back on the warm glowiness on the part of the Lindens and present things in a more cold and sober, but also more realistic light.

    I don’t quite agree with Peter there – while I could imagine that LL *might* be satisfied with the kind of fast turnover he describes if that’s all they can achieve, I think they’d probably prefer to keep them around spending time and money in SL for as long as possible. And I can’t see anything in the whole rigmarole about Linden Homes and Viewer 2.0 and whatnot that would indicate that they’d be aimed at short-term retention only – either they work in keeping new people in SL and they’ll stay, or they don’t and they won’t make it far beyond Orientation Island.

    Personally, I think a large factor in deciding whether someone stays in SL or doesn’t, is whether they manage to find a purpose in it during their first few days or not, something to hold their interest, or in other words – a home. Obviously, I’m not talking about Linden Homes here, but suppose I’m back to glowy fuzzy feelings of warmth again, someplace people can emotionally invest in. And that’s were I think any working user retention program should start; at the moment this is entirely too much left to chance.


    1. I entirely agree with you – perception has always been the key. I don’t think I expressed that very well in my last reply. It doesn’t matter if LL engage with us or not, as long as we have the perception they are. And this is – as you say – what has been lost in many respects.

      I say “in many respects”, because I actually think that the management team are still playing the perceptions game somewhat within some of their revised policies. Again, one of the reasons (to me) the TPV Policy is a mess is that not only does it mix two very different audiences – users and developers – and thus generates confusion; it appears to be less about securing the environment against malicious viewers as it does about giving the perception of security to users. So in this respect, the game of “perception vs reality” is very much alive and kicking. It’s just a shame that it is not more…sincere, I think is the right word. Again, in fairness, the townhall meetings may have engendered the sense of engagement far more than was actually intended by the likes of Philip Rosedale, but there is no denying that in many respects, he did see this as a big adventure for all of us, and that we were all in it together. We just missed the point that every team of explorers needs leaders – and our leaders have always been Linden Lab when it comes down to practicalities.

      I also agree that we do need an injection of reality into things, and that could be part and parcel of LL’s updates to the ToS. The light may indeed be cold and hard – but at least we can now see where we stand in matters. While it may hurt, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Poorly handled, perhaps – as for many long-term users it has been perceived as either a bucket of ice water in the face or some kind of unwarranted “power grab” – but again, perhaps our own actions towards LL have left them with the perception that only a short, sharp shock will work.

      I also agree with you on why people stay: emotional involvement does play a key role. It does have a major part to play in user retention, it’s a message I’ve been trying to get across to Amanda Linden. In this respect, warm, fuzzy feelings are not bad things to have. What it really comes down to is – to use that term again – the upper echelons at Linden Lab taking the time to grok us.


  5. Hello again, Inara it’s me, Ay ((OOC again))

    I probably posted in the wrong thread, since I appear to have all the direction-finding skill of a cruise missile when it comes to navigating a blog.

    Running through this post and its replies, there is nothing I could add, I think, except to state my broad agreement that this is a worrying time for those of us that use SL as (I originally supposed) a virtual world in which to be that which we could not be (for a variety of good reasons).

    I fervently hope that this apparent mess is sorted out very soon.

    Yours Ay.

    === original comment, mis-filed with TPV Brown Bag, and moved here for clarity – IP ===

    Well, Inara ((sorry, posting OOC here))

    I do not share your sanguine opinion of LL’s seniors (Kapoor, Kingdon et al).
    I DO believe that LL intend to render SL as a competitor for Facespace and its ilk. I also do believe that LL give not a hoot about those of us that use SL as a second community.

    When I learned of TPVP and Boy Lane’s vitriolic reaction, I was appalled, and Boy’s subsequent decision to leave SL and not register the Rainbow Viewer is a major blow to my future participation.

    I must hope that Emerald DO build a compliant viewer and register, for that is the only way forward that I can see for those of us that use SL as a virtual World and not as a place to sit around playing trivia games until we crash.
    Recent scuttlebutt seems to suggest that Viewer 2.0 is not amenable to being converted to an RLV, so that eliminates it even from the range of possibles.

    What IS it about those of us, who for a variety of reasons (transgendering, disability, illness etc.) use SL as a Lifestyle, not a social network, that LL seem to dislike so heartily?

    I am saddened by SLs slow demise. I had hoped for so much more.

    Yours Ay


    1. Hi, Ay -I’ve taken the liberty of moving your original comment to this thread, since it is the one you were intending to comment on – hope that is OK.

      I wouldn’t say I’m entirely “sanguine” with the directions being taken; Kapor’s attitude towards the user base has in many respects left much to be desired – particularly his comments back in 08. However, While it is saddening to see the lack of understanding among the Alphabet Lindens, despite efforts now being made, it is true to say that at times we have not helped ourselves – as your reference to one developer’s reaction to the TPVP demonstrates.

      As to viewer 2.0 and RLV – if you take a look at Marine Kelley’s blog, you’ll see she’s working on a version for Viewer 2.0. The Emerald devs have indicated that a) they’ll be “complying” with the TPVP (although some comments I’ve seen in writing on their forum and elsewhere do leave me concerned; b) their next release will be built on Snowglobe 1.3 (i.e. the current 1.2x interface) and that c) they will be porting some of the more interesting functions from 2.0 to their own viewer – whether this means Emerald will gain a Viewer 2.0-like interface or not, remains to be seen.

      I’m not sure that I agree with you in that LL “dislike” any sector of their community – be it transgender, BDSM or whatever. Were this the case, they could easily act far more rapidly and pro-actively to shut down such lifestyle options on the grid. At the risk of repeating myself, the Adult Policy was flawed through a combination of a lack of clear thinking and a lack of open consultation with the community it was going to impact the most – and the Zindra move certainly showed a similar lack of forethought and follow-through – but I don’t believe either was intended to drive people out of SL. If anything, both smack of the lack of appreciation and understanding of the people who engage in SL (as stated in my original post) and – in the case of the Zindra move – they suffered from the five Ps of inadequate project management.

      But again, to return to the main thrust of comments expressed here – all of these errors have lead to the perception among those most impacted that LL “don’t like” them – and perceptions count for a lot, whether we – or LL like it or not.


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