Michael Linden Departs Linden Lab

Michael Linden in his usual Mole look, attending the February 2017 Mole Day
Michael Linden in his usual Mole look, attending the February 2017 Mole Day. Credit: Marianne McCann

As explained below, long-time Lab employee (over 13 years with the company) and head of the Linden Department of Public Works – the Moles – Michael Linden, has departed the Lab. I didn’t know Michael that well, having only chatted on a couple of occasions, so I invited Marianne McCann, someone who has known him for a long time, to write a piece about him and his impact on Second Life.

By Marianne McCann

Over the weekend of February 11th and 12th 2017, it was noted that Michael Linden’s profile was not showing up in Second Life search, nor was he showing as a member in several groups within his profile. Many began to question if he had left Linden Lab, and – given he was known as the head of the Linden Department of Public Works – if the LDPW was being shuttered.

At the Bay City Alliance meeting on the 14th of February, a trio of LDPW staff, Shaman Linden, Squishy Mole, and Sylvan Mole, attended in part to address these concerns.

Speaking at the meeting, Sylvan Mole confirmed that Michael has indeed left Linden Lab, but was unable to give many specifics. It is assumed that he left of his own accord.

Michael once showed up at an impromptu Lab / resident get-together aboard the SS Galaxy, (2015) complete with an Starax wand, and proceeded to set about with good-natured mischief: until he doused himself beneath a giant faucet!
Michael once showed up at an impromptu Lab / resident get-together aboard the SS Galaxy, (2015) complete with an Starax wand, and proceeded to set about with good-natured mischief: until he doused himself beneath a giant faucet! Credit: Inara Pey

Michael Linden started with Linden Lab in the autumn of 2003 as an in-world Liaison, moving briefly to Governance in 2007 before becoming one of the heads of the LDPW with the former Blue Linden. The LDPW has expanded to include several Linden staff members and a fair number of “Moles,” as the resident contractors working on content for Second Life are known.

One of the first projects released by the LDPW under Michael was the Bay City mainland regions. Last week, Michael added a rail and boat terminal to Bay City, in the Grub Beach region. It is believed that was his last project under his Linden name.

Michael has been heavily involved in the past with vehicles as a Resident, in particular with Second Life railway projects. It is expected that he will again do so, but no longer as a member of Linden Lab’s staff. Resident and Linden alike will miss his presence within the LDPW.

Grub Beach Station - thought to be the last of Michael's projects while at the Lab
Grub Beach Station – thought to be the last of Michael’s projects while at the Lab. Credit: Marianne McCann

As to the question of the LDPW’s future, they are most certainly still an ongoing department under Patch Linden, with Shaman, Dee, Keira, Kona, and Vitae Linden as an active part. As we’ve seen, the LDPW has just recently completed the multiple-region residential and experience-laden Horizons project, and they have several current and future projects on their plates.

Those of us who know Michael will miss his presence and guiding hand as a Linden, as well as his sense of fun. We all hope he enjoys every success wherever his career and work take him, and offer three cheers as he sets sail to pastures new.

Michael's love of vehicles can be seen in his collection of vintage seaplanes
Michael’s love of vehicles can be seen in his collection of vintage seaplanes. Credit: Inara Pey

Many thanks, Michael for your years of work within Second Life!

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An adept look at Second Life

Virtual Ability Island, featuring in the Backchannel article
Virtual Ability Island, featuring in the Backchannel article

First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia appeared in Backchannel on February 13th, 2017. Written by Kristen French, it’s an adept examination of Second Life, with a focus on the help the platform has brought to disabled people around the globe.

The piece starts with Kristen spending time with Fran Serenade, perhaps best known through an early segment of The Drax Files World Makers in 2013 (I covered her story a few months prior to that, as a result of seeing a story about her in the San Diego Union-Tribune). Suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Fran has found that her involvement in second Life has generated physical world benefits for herself, and she has been – among others – the subject of studies by Tom Boellstorff, a professor of anthropology at the University of California and Donna Z Davis, a professor at the University of Oregon (see my reports here and here).

Kristen French
Kristen French

From Fran’s story, the article broadens its canvas to explore the work of Virtual Ability Inc., touching on the story of Gentle Heron and how VAI came into being and the services it provides. Through this, the piece enfolds the fact that Second Life has been an enormous book to those with many disabilities, including illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, conditions such as autism and PTSD (See here for more on one way in which the platform has been used to help hose suffering from PTSD),  physical disabilities and more.

Much of this may not be especially new to SL users, particularly as a result of our being attuned to the likes of The Drax Files #22, which looked at Sl and health through the work of Virtual Health Adventures. However, for anyone who has not been exposed to Second Life, the piece offers a refreshing, clear-cut insight into one aspect of why the platform remains so popular and well-regarded among its users after 13 years.

It has long been shown that Second Life can have a range of benefits for all of us: it puts us in contact with people, and the ability to visit places and enjoy activities with them where otherwise we might be house bound and confined to little or no physical interaction with anyone of days at a time. It can help us stay healthy, physically and mentally;  it can help healthcare agencies reach their patients (see here and here), and it can be – as seems to very much be the case with Fran – physically and mentally therapeutic.

Fran Swenson (Fran Seranade) and her daughter Barbara Richard (Barbi Alchemi) - images courtesy of San Diego Union-Tribune / Bill Wechter
Fran Swenson (Fran Seranade) and her daughter Barbara Richard (Barbi Alchemi). Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune / Bill Wechter

This examination of Second Life and how it is used makes taking the time needed to read the article worthwhile, but there is more. Through a neatly-encapsulated piece on why Second Life perhaps isn’t as easy to update as extensively as some might believe, the piece moves on to a look at the potential of new worlds like Sansar and High Fidelity.

This is again a considered examination, laying out fairly the benefits more immerse VR environments might be for those with disabilities – and touching on some of the potential barriers. As a part of this exploration of the future, the piece offers a solid reassurance that Second Life isn’t – as yet – facing the end of the road. Instead, it underlines the point the Lab (and I) have often made: SL’s longevity lies as much with its users as it does with LL. So long as there are enough users engaged in the platform to keep it viable, there is little reason for it to be arbitrarily shut down.

There are a couple small misconceptions within the piece. For example, the origins of Radegast: while it is true it was conceived and developed by someone engaged in SL’s Adult / BDSM world, but that doesn’t actually mean it was primarily developed for that market.

However, these really are quite minor quibbles, when noticed. The fact is, First They Got Sick, Then They Moved Into a Virtual Utopia is an engaging, informed and informative piece adeptly written by someone who intrinsically “gets” Second Life. It’s a piece which should definitely be on your reading list if you’ve not come across it already.