The Drax Files Radio Hour: examining the Ebbe and flow of SL

radio-hourUnsurprisingly, the fifth broadcast from the attic-over-the-former-post-office-next-door-to-the-police-station studios of The Drax Files Radio Hour focuses on the announcement of Mr. Ebbe Altberg as Linden Lab’s new CEO (profile here,  for those wanting background info).

As well as this, the show takes a fascinating look back at the teen grid through the eyes of two people directly involved in it throughout most of its lifespan, and pokes at Project Spark for the Xbox and Windows 8 (and a few other things).

Communications forms a central theme of the coverage of Mr. Altberg’s appointment as the Lab’s new CEO. Hardly surprising, given it has been at the heart of the vast majority of Tweets and blog posts about his imminent arrival at Battery Street.

Robin Harper, formerly Robin Linden, provides insight into what has contributed to Second Life’s longevity, and offers words of advice for Mr. Altberg. I confess, I’m not entirely comfortable with all that is said, particularly with analogies between the CEO and a “mayor” of Second Life.

Ebbe Altberg: takes-up the reins on Monday February 10th, 2014

But overall, in terms of communications, I agree with sentiments, and very much hope that one of the first tasks Mr. Altberg will try to tackle is the complete reticence within the Lab for broad-based, pro-active and consistent communications with the Second Life user base.

As Vic Mornington points-out in his comments on the show, Mr. Altberg doesn’t have to do it all himself (although the occasional update blog post from him would be nice), just so long as an individual (or team) is put in place to ensure communications are used as an effective, positive and informative means of engagement, one which can go an awfully long way towards preventing upsets, misunderstandings and even miscommunications (which have been somewhat prevalent of late).

Mr. Altberg’s lack of experience (or possible lack thereof in terms of in-depth exposure to VWs and games) has already been pointed to as a “negative”, and the show touches on this. My own feeling is that judges based on his past experience are premature, and I can only again agree with Canary Beck’s comments.   A nice excerpt from an interview with Frank Zappa certainly reminds us that “corporate types” are not necessarily out-of-their-depth just because we perceive them as “not understanding” something.

Elsewhere in the show, Drax (rightly) pokes at Mitch Wagner for referring to Second Life in somewhat derogatory terms which have little to do with the subject on which he is writing.  True, SL didn’t achieve the dizzying heights which it was expected to reach (heights heavily over-hyped by the media as much as anyone else, I might add), but that’s no reason to take a swipe at it in the tone taken. It’s a shame, as I’ve said before,  that noted journalists and commentators prefer to fall back on cliché rather than exercise their grey cells when visiting the subject.

Project Spark for the Xbox One gets a mention. This is a digital canvas on which users can create games, movies and other experiences, either from scratch or using pre-defined levels for the Xbox and Windows 8. As well as providing the ability to create original content, users can download  other user-generated content and mix it into their own work. It offers an interesting on mixing creativity with gaming, and could be one to watch.

The interview with Mike Mikula is a fascinating piece on a number of levels: history of the teen grid, the accidental wonder of “early” Second Life, the issues of copybotting, and the painful realities that can accompany the transition from teens to adulthood aren’t only confined to real life.

The real and virtual Barry joseph
The real and virtual Barry Joseph

Similarly, Barry Joseph offers a unique and informative look at Second Life, past and present, the teen grid and the work of Global Kids within SL.

For me, one of the most fascinating elements of Mr. Joseph’s comments are on the psychological aspect of engaging with Second Life, and he uses his son’s use of Minecraft as an example, noting that his son initially played that game in its creative mode, with all the resources he needed but quickly switched to using the survival mode, in which resources must be acquired. He goes on:

There was something that motivated him to find value in creating and finding things. There is nothing in Second Life that is structured in the same way from a psychological perspective, from a motivational perspective, that helps users engage in the space and find meaning in it. Its magical promise has always been that you can do anything, but i think that’s always been a heavy burden to lift.

Interesting food for thought, particularly when it comes to his follow-on comments about the manner in which young people are being taught today. As i commented on the show’s blog page, there’s enough in this interview for an entire programme.


Another well-balanced, informative piece, particularly with regards to the interviews with Mike Mikula and Barry Joseph – both of which really should be listened-to even if you’re not that interested in thoughts and feedback concerning LL’s new CEO.


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8 thoughts on “The Drax Files Radio Hour: examining the Ebbe and flow of SL

  1. We really do not need to hear directly from the CEO all that often. What he does need to do is create some kind of improved communication. Perhaps a full-time in-world Governor Linden. When I first came to SL it was still not infrequent to see Governor Linden at events or just wandering the mainland.


  2. Another excellent episode, I really enjoyed the interview with the ex teen grid resident and the interview with Barry Jospeh was good too.

    However, I think yourself and Drax are being harsh about Mitch Wagner’s piece. He became jaded by Second Life, as many have, that’s why it took him so long to publish the interview but he was doing podcasts and recorded interviews in Second Life many moons ago and was most definitely an enthusiast, he has more experience than many of the journalist who write about it.


    1. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

      The entire second paragraph of the piece could be removed without impacting the article. A short expansion of the third paragraph could easily cover the point of SL failing to live up to the hype which once surrounded it. As it is, what comes across is not so much a man “jaded” by SL, but bitter towards it.


  3. Another good show and good feedback on the new CEO I thought.

    The ex teen grid resident part of the show was interesting and I agree with most of what he is saying because I was a ex teen grid resident between October 2006 to December 2008. Barry Joseph I met in late 2006 in the Global Kids region and I used to attend fun events/meetings there.

    Back then I enjoyed logging in each week and attending Linden Lab teen grid office hours to find out the latest news. On my blog you can find historical posts from the teen grid which may be of some interest. Also on my Flickr stream I have a TSL collection of thousands of snapshots from my adventures.

    The lab needs to improve communications with the SL community userbase this year and for many years to come under the new CEO I think. Facebook, Twitter, SLUniverse, SL Forums and the SL official blog are the key areas that the lab should focus on more.

    It would be really nice to see growth in the SL economy again this year. I hope that the new CEO can address whats gone wrong and fix it.


    1. Daniel, While I agree that the lab needs to work on communication, Facebook, Twitter, and even SL Universe are fine for discussion but they really are not appropriate for the “official word”. They need a hard and fast policy to announce through the LL blog and other official channels before they start rumors on social networking sites. OH, and in the comments in a web profile definitely not official!


      1. I agree.

        The Lab excuse themselves for not using the blog because it “isn’t read” by a lot of people. The reason why it’s not read (aside from the appallingly boring look and feel to the dashboard) is that Linden Lab won’t communicate tthrough it. So the whithering of the blog has been a circular situation which can only be broken by the Lab breathing new life and vitality into their own medium of communications.

        The official blog should be the focal-point for communications, purely because it is “official”. Let’s have Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, the SL feeds, the SL forums, etc., be the “tannoy” for broadcasting the fact news and information is available – but the “voice” for giving such updates should be the SL blog.


        1. Also, as I said in my latest post, better use of email. My email is cluttered with “newsletters” (mostly advertising) that point to articles at a web page. LL only uses email for bs from the PR department. One of the biggest advantage of email is that it goes to everyone, active or not, blog reader or not, the email always gets through.


          1. Email is a good call. I played Eve-Online for a while, when I was a new user, they sent me daily tips for a short period on how to improve my new user experience.

            After that, they periodically emailed me, even when my subscription was over, so I was kept abreast of the Eve-Online news, even though I wasn’t at that time participating, some I skipped, some I read. Good marketing tactic.


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