The Second Life Blog was once a place where the Lindens talked casually with you about policy, their projects, recent news, the future of SL, etc. Residents regularly told us that they loved having access to such broad insight into the company and frequent communication with the full range of Lindens. And Lindens loved the ongoing dialog with residents.
Sounds like something I might have said here – or you might have read from Tateru or a dozen other SL commentators. A harkening-back to the “good ol’ days”.
But it’s not. It’s actually from – wait for it – a Linden, who went on to say:
Over time however, as more Lindens came to participate, the blog got a bit manic. Some of you complained that reports of temporary performance issues would eclipse larger conversations related to long-term plans and features while others believed that tutorials and opinion pieces were distracting them from the hard news of inworld issues they needed to know about in order to run their businesses.
In other words, we outgrew our single channel blog […] We knew it was important to get back to using the blog as a key means of constructive two-way conversation with the community.
“We knew is was important to get back to using the blog as a key means of constructive … conversation…” How times have changed, hmmm?
These quotes come from the Linden Lab blog archive on WordPress. Written by Blue Linden (sadly gone in the re-organisation of June 2010), they demonstrate how much attitudes have changed within LL over the last three years.
The archive is a great resource for looking back over the history of Second Life, and something I frequently refer to when looking back at past events. It includes blog posts – and user comments – from October 2004 through until February 2009. For the cultists among us, there are posts from the likes of Philip and Cory, as well as from Blue, FJ (also sorely missed), Katt, Jack and even M. Wandering through them, those of us who have been around awhile can recall the heady days of Windlight roll-out, and before that, things like the Viewer 1.14 release!
The archive is an interesting reminder as to how much really has changed in Second Life – and how much has remained the same (both in terms of blog posts about issues or problems, and in terms of some of the inevitable feedback LL get from frequently disgruntled users).
The cut-off point is interesting. That marked the move to the initial “new” blogging / forum environment using Jive which largely coincided with the start in the decline of constructive dialogue between LL and users, as situation which worsened in the switch to Lithium in February 2011 and has continued to decline as Rod Humble’s tenure as CEO continues, despite promises otherwise which gave many of us some hope that things would improve.
For me, the problem here is not even with the lack of any two-way dialogue – the thing that, under M Linden tenure was seen to be “important” (and streaming the conversation across channels within the blog wasn’t actually that bad an idea, despite reactions at the time). The problem is that we have almost no channels of outward communication that can be readily accessed by the majority of users. Even a regular one-way dialogue from Linden Lab would be better than the current state of play with, as I’ve pointed out before, some blog channels not having been updated in over a year and others a single update in the last twelve months.
Yes, there are alternative channels of communications – forum posts, user groups, Twitter account (when used), Plurk and my.secondlife.com – and these are often informative and helpful. While not everyone uses Twitter or Plurk, these accounts do have value in getting things like urgent updates out to users (although they’re not, as I’ve repeatedly said, any substitute for in-world notices). We also have the forums and in-world user group meetings – but both of these are limited in effectiveness; not everyone can make in-world UG meetings, for example, and even forum posts (with the exception of a handful of notable LL staff) tend to be sporadic and sometimes hard to find / go entirely unnoticed.
The Lab would have it that the reason they don’t post to the blog is being only a “minority” of users read them. But again, whose fault is that? The WordPress archive alone demonstrates that people were only too willing to read news from the company and provide feedback. Yet with Jive and – more particularly Lithium – it was LL themselves who stilted the use of the blogs, simply because they ceased using them.
There’s another aspect to this as well – albeit possibly a minor one. One of the issues people coming in to SL have is finding something to do. As such, their Dashboard page is somewhere they may well look for help and ideas. Assuming they get past the bland (dated?) look and feel of the Dashboard, the only thing they’re liable to immediately spot is a series of sporadic blog posts, the majority of which are from previous years. What kind of message does that give them about LL’s own interest in the platform?
Lab / user relationships are always going to a fraught; it’s the nature of the platform, it’s the nature of corporate / customer relationships. In many respects, I don’t blame LL from stepping back for more interactive engagement; if they want to present themselves as more corporate and as a service provider, I can live with that. However, doing so shouldn’t also come at the expense of regular, open, outgoing dialogue as to what they’re doing and when they’re doing it.
If nothing else, the WordPress archives should demonstrate that, even with the warts, comments-wise, on the whole and informed user base is far more of a happy user base.
with thanks to Trinity Dejavu for the suggestion to blog on the old archive.