More from Rod Humble (2)

Tateru Nino has interviewed Rod Humble on behalf of the Metaverse Journal – and those of us engaged in Second Life after specifically asking us via her blog to submit questions to The Man.

The result is a mixed bag of nuts: on the one hand there appears to be a lot of ducking a weaving on the part of Mr Humble (but it’s not: the poor man has only been in office 3 weeks, so asking him to comment of events from three years ago is a bit hard); elsewhere he strongly repeats an encouraging message relating to the customer base as a whole and on the need to enable creativity; finally, without actually saying so, he demonstrates that in just three weeks, he’s identified a number of weaknesses within Linden Lab, and I’ll be very surprised if at least some branches of the tree aren’t shaken before too much longer.

At the end of the interview Rod asks for feedback. I hope people will take the time to give considered replies to his question “In 2 years time what would you most like to be doing in Second Life, and how would you like to be doing it?

For my part, I’d like to bullet some (potentially broader thoughts) here, and I’ll be taking a leaf out of Cheatnut Rau’s book and asking if Mr. Humble would care to take a look and read.

To start with, I’d like to make an observation.

Thank you, Rod Humble, for coming into Linden Lab and refusing to use the (frankly) God-awful term “Residents” (or worse “Resis”) when referring to those of us who  use the Second Life platform, and for using the more respectful and accurate term of “customers”.

This is something I’ve personally jumped up and down over since I started blogging about Second Life three years ago, and while it may seem like sour grapes and nitpicking, stating that we, your users are not “Residents” but customers – it is actually important on three levels:

  • “Resident” is suggestive that we are part of a community in which we have a genuine voice that can influence policy; that we can have a dialogue in the decisions of leadership and representation that goes beyond lip-service. But the reality is that Second Life isn’t a community in that sense. It is a platform providing services (as the SL Terms of Service make clear) to its users and customers, managed and operated by an incorporated entity
  • While there was more of a “community” spirit between LL and the users back in the early days, this has now long gone. What is left, frankly, when the term is used by Linden Lab employees, is a sense that we, the customers, are being patronised. It’s akin to the pat on the head a child might be given before being told to “run along and play” by a well-meaning but disinterested guardian.
  • Worse than the above, given Linden Lab’s on-going track record in communicating with (at times aka “telling and not listening to”) customers over the last few years, one is left with a feeling that “Resident” has almost derogatory connotations: that by using it, people are able to overlook the fact that we are customers and that, like it or not, the company does have a degree of responsibility towards us – or simply risks losing our custom as alternatives continue to grow and mature.

So, as a first, easy tick-in-the-box for what I’d like to see come from your tenure is the clear communication to all and sundry that those of us using Second Life are precisely that: customers. Doesn’t matter if we’re Premium Account holders or not; we all contribute to the SL economy – and the LL coffers. I’m not saying LL has to listen to every single word uttered from our collective mouths; what I am saying is, let’s see the company start acting with greater foresight and maturity in dealing with us.

As to what else I’d like to see:

  • I’d like to be able to reliably search in-world for whatever I am seeking, be it land, goods, people, events, destinations – whatever. I want to be able to do so consistently and reliably, and view my results in a manner that does not require me rapidly parse through them and get to what I’m seeking. I want to be able to rest assured that as a content creator, I’m not going to bed one night wondering what the heck it is I’ll have to jiggle about with the following morning in order to simply get my products to show up on search. In short:
    • I want to see Search “fixed”.
    • I’d like to see LL do more than blithely pay lip service to concerns each and every time they are raised in response to blog posts and the likes and actually take the time to appreciate the upsets people are experiencing. Let’s face it, it is over twelve months since Search was first broken, messed with, revised – and it is still causing major headaches across the platform.
  • I’d like to be able to use SL with confidence and the knowledge that my privacy is not being compromised – directly (e.g by LL) or indirectly (e.g. due to the actions / activities of those intent on exploiting the platform). I’d like to see Linden Lab react responsibly and promptly to user concerns, particularly where they are valid, and take clear, accountable action to resolve issues. I want to be in an SL where I’m not faced with a choice of compromising my ability to keep things within Second Life (and losing SL functionality) or having them pumped out to the web in order to keep that functionality – as is the case with web Profiles currently.
  • I’d like to see a Second Life wherein LL staff respond to their customers. This not only means massively improving customer service – but also ingraining staff with additional civility towards customers, rather than allowing them to treat customers (as times) like delinquent children. I want to be in a Second Life where I know that if I suffer a drastic loss of inventory or am the victim of a server-side glitch that leaves any of my inventory inaccessible, I’m going to get it back  – and that I’m not going to get told off by LL staff for filing the wrong ticket, raising a bug report and then being made to wait eight or nine months for an “inventory fix”.
  • I want to be in Second Life where the company engages in two-way dialogue – not just through the “integrated community platform” of the web et al, but right here inside Second Life. I want to see LL taking the time to actively promote upcoming releases, features and the like and take questions on them. It’s not hard. Others do it perfectly well, and I’m not asking for fortnightly reports from LL – once a quarter would be a massive improvement over now.
  • I want to be in a Second Life where every third word uttered by Linden Lab isn’t “Facebook”. By this, I mean I want to be able to do all the social networking I want from within Second Life. I want to be able to effectively network with friends here, with other users, even being able to reach out to those I know beyond SL (and who know me and of my involvement in SL) from SL. In short, I want to be able to throw my social net as far as I like from within SL. I don’t want to be constantly told to bugger off to Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else, and I don’t want to feel like there is a Linden behind me poking my rear end with a sharp stick and muttering, “You go Feacebook! You go Facebook now!” in my ear.
  • Similarly (and conversely!), I’d like to be in an SL where the hooks to the likes of FB and other sites are available for those that wish to use them and can be presented both as opt-in (emphasis deliberate) tools and without a lost of “anti” angst from users as a result of said tools being presented as a hard-to-opt-out fait accompli.
  • I want to be in a Second Life where in-world creativity is a driving force, where users have the tools to create, script, build, animate and develop amazing content that can be supported by the use of external tools like 3D applications for creating mesh, but which are not the new “focus” of “Second Life creativity”.
  • I want to be in an SL that is affordable. Frankly, tier in SL is ridiculous and needs to be properly adjusted if it is to remain the engine of growth for the platform (and lets face it – what else is there?). Tier needs to be structured and brought to a level that stimulates in-world growth once more. The figures don’t lie: having 47% of the Mainland lying fallow to all intents and purposes, is ridiculous.
  • And on the subject of growth: I want to be in a Second Life where in-world commerce is as vibrant as anything web-based, rather than seeing everything being driven towards the web tools at the expense of in-world commerce. I want to see an environment where LL actively seek to promote in-world commerce: hosting “trade fairs” (including provisioning sims!), working with merchants in all sectors  to hold conventions or suchlike that get other customers out and shopping and discovering the wealth of merchandise available in-world.
  • I want to be in a Second Life that is more responsive to the issues of IP infringement and content ripping, where Linden Lab are seen to be moving beyond simply doing the minimum required by law and proactive working with and alongside users to help protect IP and content as far as is possible. In doing so, I’d like to see SL become a place (relatively) free from the drama and issues surrounding tools such as RedZone and Gemini CDS (and refer back to privacy vis-a-vis this as well!).
  • I want to be in a Second Life where Linden Lab understands the most valuable resource it has is its existing customer base. There is no-one better placed to act as world-wide ambassadors for your product, or better able to encourage new blood into the platform. As users we know what SL can offer our families, friends, colleagues, and we can promote and sell it far better than 10,50,100, – even a million – “likes” on the SL Facebook page. I want to be in a Second Life where LL understand this and actively work with its existing users to generate a flow of new users who not only come in to SL – but become an active part of it.

I could probably go on…but that’s enough for now. I’ve deliberately avoided focusing of technical issues like “lag” or “sim crossings” or “viewer features” or “stability”, not because they don’t affect me, but because getting them sorted out should be a given (and in fairness, LL are working on them). I only mention Search because – quite honestly – it is an unmitigated disaster that takes a step back for every step forward; and that’s after it took around two dozen steps backwards to start with…

I’m posting a link to this from Tateru’s interview. I really hope Rod Humble takes a peek here. Again, not for ego’s sake (I’d be asking him to leave a comment if it were *grins*), but because, as jaded as I get in-world at times, I still believe in Second Life, and I want to go on believing in it.