Esbee – aka Sarah Kuehnle (nee Hutchinson) in real life, had previously had responsibility for the SL Viewer, prior to departing from the Lab in January 2011 of her own free will, but returned in June. While active on Twitter, her public-facing profile at LL was quite low following her return.
At SLCC-2011, she was part of the team that demonstrated some of the gaming mechanisms the Lab were then experimenting with (some of which eventually found their way into Linden Realms). During the presentation, it was announced that she would be taking-on the role of “Subject Matter Expert” for “role-play” – but so far as I’m aware, did not have a major user-facing roles as such, and didn’t host and user group meetings related to this.
I didn’t really “know” Esbee (as much as anyone can get to know Lab personnel), but we did swap a few tweets and other bits, and she always came across directly as someone who was warm and fun-loving, and I remember that at SLCC-2010, after coming in for a lot of criticism for the level of spin around Viewer 2, she Oz and Q had and open forum on the (then) new Project Snowstorm, and that by-and-large they were more aware of worries and concerns from both users and devs than perhaps they’d been given credit.
Charlar has had a fairly high-profile role at LL, firstly with regards to mesh, which rolled out last year, and then within the Content Creators group. He’s enjoyed something of a mixed reputation in the eyes of users, but I will say that I had the opportunity on several times to chat with him one-to-one, and we swapped ideas and points-of-view via profile direct messages, and I always found him to be polite, thoughtful and with a keen sense of humour.
News of the departures is bound to bring mixed reactions across the community. However, being laid-off is never a pleasant experience, so I certainly hope that both Esbee and Charlar find safe havens work-wise soon.
So, Rodvik has blogged on the subject of last names. In sort: they’re not coming back. The overall direction of the post is pretty obvious from the outset – that last names won’t be making a return just yet – simply because the first couple of paragraphs ramble somewhat – as if Rodvik knows what he is about to say is going to draw howls of disappointment.
As the Lab can’t strike a balance between freedom of choice and pre-set last names, they’re not doing either. However, special characters are being introduced to the sign-up process to allow some degree of freedom. This means, as Rodvik says, the someone signing-up can be “Horatio-Nelson”; it’s a step forward, given that the Lab are also looking to expunge all last traces of “Resident” (and Rodvik has asked to be informed if people come across any) – but it’s a very small step.
I have to admit, I found the claim that pre-set last names appeared to cause more new-user sign-up angst than the current system surprising. Admittedly, it’s been a long while since I signed-up, and almost as long since I was forced to create what is now my “crash test alt”, but I can’t ever remember feeling frustrated by being limited to a list of pre-sets (which was pretty extensive). Rather the reverse, in fact – I found I was dallying over the name selection as the available presets were intriguing – a make of name-up names, names from history and fiction, ethnic names, and so on which (I do remember) got me thinking on the whole question of identity and how I wanted to project myself in Second Life – what aspects of my personality, which interests, and then playing with various name options to see how they worked before I made my final choice.
But then, I’m weird like that.
So as the Lab can’t strike a balance between pre-set and free-form last names, neither will be making a return to the sign-up page for new users. In the meantime Rodvik will be kicking-off a new Profile Feed “round-table” to discuss recapturing the “frontier feel” of SL, probably next Monday. Interestingly, one of the ideas he put up for discussion what that of allowing new users pick from a list of pre-set last names after having been involved in SL for six months or so. Also offered-up for discussion is the potential to re-think Linden Homes (which I thought they were doing anyway…or did I simply dream I’d received a survey on linden Homes last month…?), and the idea for a new “Mainland-like region” – something that is bound to intrigue / cause concerns ahead of the actual discussions.