It seems to me I’ve heard that song before
It’s from an old familiar score
I know it well, that melody
It’s funny how a theme
Recalls a favourite dream…
Well after my recent gaffe in posting prematurely, the Rosedale / Komin double-act took to the stage yesterday as promised. I didn’t get an invite to the show – shame on them! – but couldn’t have attended even if I had, as I’ve been swamped by the demands of visiting family – shame on me!
I’ve yet to find a video record of the meeting, so have had to make do with ploughing through the V2T transcription Mallory Destiny has made available on Google Documents.
Given this is Philip Rosedale, it’s hardly surprising that much of what was said at the meeting sounds so very, very familiar. So of it almost hauntingly so. Let Bob say hello. He’s been instrumental in my coming back to LL. We’ve teamed up to run the company. Bob is a super star. Philip gushes, His skills are vast. He was the prior CFO. He’s great to work with. We are a team. We talk at the same time.
Familiar? Somewhat. [He’s] a person with the rare and unusual combination of business leadership, creativity, and passion for Second Life that we were looking for … He has been in successful and highly regarded leadership roles … was how Philip once gushed over a certain Mark “M Linden” Kingdon in a (now deleted) SL blog post, before later stating, Much of my actual Linden work has been time spent with M. We have literally sat at the same pod, 5 feet away from each other.
Given the tailspin SL seemed to go into after Kingdon’s arrival such gushing *might* be taken one of two ways by the more cynical among us – that either Rosedale and the rest of the Board have impaired judgement when it comes to appointing CEOs (and remember, it seems that Komin may way be in line for the post), or that Komin himself better be mindful of Kingdon’s less-than-auspicious-ousting at the hands of … one P. Rosedale and the Board of Linden Research…
Beyond the gushing, we get what is – if commentators are prepared to be completely honest – pretty much a retread of All We Have Heard Before, starting with Philip’s repeat on the Tear[ing] down walls between SL and it’s potential and more and better use. and pull back and fix basic capabilities.
There is a lot that sounds good – at least initially – in what he has to say. He talks about making SL “Fast, Fun, Easy” and about “fixing” lag and crashes and even goes so far as to admit that Viewer 2 isn’t all it is cracked up to be and that as a result, users are “frustrated”.
But is there really anything new in what he has to say? Anything really defining as a means of showing that LL are actually beginning understand all that Second Life not only can be – but already is.
Well – and bearing in mind, this is only a transcript I’m working with, and one that seems a little disjointed in places, so it *is* possible some of what was said in the meeting is missing – in my humble opinion, the answer has to be “no”.
Let’s take the issues of crashes and lag: frankly these are not new phenomena; these been around since the dawn of Second Life – so the idea that they should be a “focus” for Linden Lab going forward isn’t new. Rather, it is a retread of things that have been said in the past; and Lord knows, Frank Ambrose (bless him) and his team have worked very hard on the overall infrastructure of SL to make the back-end much less crash-prone and unsettling. True enough, the Viewer is another issue; but the fact remains that given that Second Life is now seven plus years old, and that the Viewer is central to the user experience, “crashing” shouldn’t require some new and heavy focus in and of itself – it should be part and parcel of LL’s on-going modus operandi – seeking to ensure the any adverse impacts of code changes, etc., don’t result in such a drastic outcome.
Same for lag. It’s not new. It’s been around from day one, so again, it is something that, so far as they can, LL should be keeping an eye on, both in terms of overall grid performance and in terms of how “high-end” they try to push things in the Viewer. That Philip needs to say LL are now going to be focusing on these issues (again) is perhaps an indication of just how far they have allowed themselves to be distracted by Bright Shiny Things (while raising the question of whether they can drag themselves away from the Bright and the Shiny in order to deal with such mundane issues as lag).
He also raises the issue of texture loading and refers to the roll-out of http for texturing loading. I’m no expert in this, but I’ve read what the experts have said and I understand that not only will the use of http significantly speed-up texture loading – it is something that people have been cajoling LL about for some three or four years, their pleas and suggestions falling on corporate ears that were conveniently deaf at the time. Are they listening now?
I’m also not entirely convinced by the “Fast, Easy, Fun” slogan (and that’s what it is really, a slogan, not a strategy). As with the comments about lag and crashes, and the (albeit somewhat correct) analysis of things like Viewer 2, Philip uses the slogan to suggest that getting Second Life turned around is solely a matter of technical innovation and technical fixes.
It isn’t; and this is where LL have always fallen down: fixing SL’s “woes” never has been purely a matter of “fixing” the technical. It’s about LL taking a long, hard and objective look at its own culture and being willing to acknowledge that it is itself responsible for the majority of the key storms that have threatened SL in the past.
As so many of us have said – some repeatedly over the years, others very eloquently – the vast majority of people at linden Lab simply are not directly engaged in Second Life. They have no personal involvement in Second Life or on-going in-world interaction with residents (weekly Office hour meetings don’t cut it for either). Thus, there is a huge gulf between their perceptions of what Second Life is / should be about and what is actually the case. And it is this gulf, more than anything else, that has hurt both Second Life and the community’s relationship with Linden Lab far, far, far more than issues such as the premature roll-out of a new Viewer and the like.
Not only has LL been unable to accept its own actions have been much to blame for upsets, hurt and even people departing Second Life as new alternatives continue to surface – it is potentially incapable as to even recognise or accept that anything it does with the or within the platform can be anything other than beneficial for all of us. Rather, when matters start to unravel their response at best borders on the patronising, “Yes, we know it hurts now, but believe us when we say this is good for you, you just need to learn to adjust and change…”, and at worse manifests an almost gleefully malicious refusal to accept that anything really is wrong with what they are doing – as evidenced by some of the recent blog posts related to Search. Between these two extremes lies what can only be described as indifference: a corporate shrug of the shoulders indicative of a “deal with it” attitude.
Of course technical issues need to be dealt with. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that simply getting Search fixed and running in a way that is meaningful to those using Second Life (rather than just blindly adhering to web precepts that seem wholly at odds with the needs of the community) would perhaps the single biggest step to making SL Fast, Easy, Fun. BUT… LL shouldn’t simply look to the technical and expect to find the yellow brick road leading to a nirvana where everyone is happily and fully engaged in SL; because that ain’t the way to go.
If LL are to achieve anything – then they need to look inward and tear down the “walls of culture” they have built around themselves and start genuinely engaging with the platform and the community. Whether they can actually do this, however, really is the $64,000 question. If they can’t, then sadly all that Philip said in the meeting amounts to nothing that hasn’t, to a greater extent, been heard before by those who have been around more than the last couple of years; and it is going to do little to make things better in the long term.