Meet the Lindens is a series of conversations / Q&A session with staff from Linden Lab, held as a part of the SL Birthday celebrations in-world. These are opportunities for Second Life users to get to know something about the staff at the Lab: who they are, what they do, what drew them to Second Life and the company, what they do, what they find interesting / inspirational about the platform, and so on.
Monday, June 20th saw Torley and Brett Linden sit down with Jessica Lyon and Saffia Widdershins, this article hopefully presents some “selected highlights” of the chat, complete with audio extracts from my own recording of the event. To hear the conversation in its entirety, please refer to the video at the end of this article.
About Brett and Torley
Brett Linden is the Digital Content Manager at Linden Lab, as is most likely best known for his work overseeing the Second Life Destination Guide. However, he is involved with multiple marketing initiatives for the company, and while his primary focus is on Second Life, these also involve the Lab’s other two products: Project Sansar and Blocksworld.
A website editor, web content strategist, Brett also teaches digital content creation and promotion at a major university. He is a former print and on-line journalist, who has been published in Billboard, Rolling Stones, Vibe, and Hollywood Reporter, among other publications. He’s also held managing editor positions at Amazon.com and Real Networks.
Torley Linden really needs no introduction for most people engaged in Second Life. Known for his love of watermelons and their bright, happy colours, he’s been involved with the platform since 2004, initially as a resident before joining the Lab directly, where he has been Amplifiying the Awesome in Second Life through his famous TuTORial and QuickTip videos, promoting new Second Life features and providing quick bites on how to use the video and do things in-world, his photography, by word of mouth and his very genuine, very infectious enthusiasm.
How did you come to work at Linden Lab?
Torley: I was in a really hard place in my first life, and I discovered Second Life through various sources, and I was reading a lot of cyberpunk and transhumanist literature at the time, thinking about a brighter future for my whole life. And I soon found myself – well, there’s no nicer way to put it than I was utterly obsessed with being here every day, and my Mum would be like, “What are you doing?” “I’m in Second Life!”
So, after several months of this, I had a dream, and I basically sent this crazy, rambling note card to Char linden at the time, And she, Robin, Philip and Daniel Linden – those are some OG names, if you remember those! – at the time they gave me the opportunity to apply. So I went through that – guess it turned out OK; so yeah, leading up to the present, I’m so very grateful and also very thankful to be here.
Brett: Well, since I had a background in journalism, I first heard about Second Life during the so-called “hype era”. And you might remember a lot of corporations jumped in, and Reuters, which is a journalistic outlet, had a bureau in Second Life. And I thought that was really crazy, just so random and strange that a legitimate organisation would be in a virtual world . I’d actually played around with other virtual spaces prior, like worlds.net or worlds.com back in the day, and others, so I’d been an enthusiast for a long, long time.
So when Reuters jumped in, I had to check it out. That was my very, very first taste of Second Life. When I was there, I met a lot a people and had a lot of deep and interesting conversations about world events; it was just a whole different type of experience to what I’d expected, at much deeper level.
The thing that sort-of locked it down for me was at the end of that conversation, about a two or three-hour text chat, because it was even pre-voice, somebody gave me a hug, which was such a strange thing to get hugged in a virtual world; it was just a nice parting, basically. And that just clinched it for me emotionally; I just thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really something else. You can connect with people and actually form really deep relationships. And that’s what did it for me; and I’ve never looked back since.
So when you first came in, Brett you had that really positive experience, Torley, you were very committed to it right from the word go. Have you become full residents, do you have homes and places you see as special to you in Second Life?
Brett: As you can imagine, I do spend – and not just with the Destination Guide, which I’m sure we’ll talk about, but outside of my Linden “identity” – I have several alts, many of which are long-time residents and established. And yeah, I do have a place, and I love, for example, the music community and going to live performances. And I love the museums and the arts. I love what is happening with the LEA, the Linden Endowment for the Arts. Not only professionally as a Linden and putting that in the DG, but also just checking them out and being blown away by what is constantly being refreshed in those sims and even outside those sims, across all of the grid.
Torley: The first day I was ever in Second Life, it was sort-of like arriving at the most amazing of airports, you know? Where people are all over, and [there’s] this diversity of avatars. And I’ve mostly been a nomad explorer; I have had homes, and full regions – I still do in fact. But I think the prime thing that really drives me is the force of discovery, and to share those discoveries, and I really get curious, and I love asking people “where did you get your avatar?” or “did you make these parts of your avatar?” or comment on a cool build they’re making – and finding connections. I love introducing wonderful creative minds in Second Life to each other, and we’ve had so many over time.
So I would say that keeps me going, and it’s really a positive feedback loop. Because when I hear from one resident, that I’m reminded of another resident and I want to introduce them to each other. And as some of you may know, I’m frequently on some of the social media channels. Well, mainly Plurk, but I really, really like to ask, “what’s hot in Second Life right now, what do you enjoy exploring?”
And like Brett touched on, some of the most creative people here, they are very shy and very modest about their work. They don’t see all the awesomeness in it, and sometimes their friends have to kind-of drag them closer to the spotlight even though they don’t want that attention, necessarily. But, we still like to shine a light and say, “Wow!” And once they have that admiration and recognition, they can see their creative work makes a very real and very vibrant [contribution]. It affects other residents when they come and explore, or they take pictures and they post it on their blog and more word gets out.
So, I’m always looking for those sorts of under-mined, under-rated gems that are out-of-the-way of Second Life. I randomly teleport – I got this recent cool backpack to that, this neat device …. but its sort-of this interplay, this dynamic between the chaos and the order, and that’s the stuff I really love; the serendipity – the things that you don’t expect to find, but when you look back, and they sort-of relate to s sort-of grouping. For example, a collection of futuristic, cyberpunk-looking – there’s that word again, but I’m not locked to any single genre.
And I’m always driven to listen to people’s stories. Just like in an airport, someone catches your attention and you start a conversation as a stranger and they may end up telling you the most fascinating, fascinating tales. so for me, yeah, it’s that relentless urge to discover and explore.