On Monday, June 22nd, 2020 at the SL17B celebrations, the first of five Meet the Lindens sessions was held, featuring the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, aka Ebbe Linden.
The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with audio extracts where relevant. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of the article. Time stamps to the video are also provided for ease of reference. In addition, audio extracts are provided in places that may be of particular interest to readers.
Note: the following is taken from both Ebbe’s comments and my own research into his background, carried out when he joined Linden Lab in 2014, and which also included input from Ebbe.
Swedish by birth and still by nationality – he is still working in the US on a green card.
Graduated fromTärnabySkidhem in 1983. He had hoped to be a ski racer – with eyes on the Swedish national team and the world cup – but was prevented from pursuing this career due to a back injury.
Instead went to the USA to study at Middlebury College, Vermont, USA, where he spent a lot of time in the art studio and the computer lab in an extreme left brain / right brain type of education”, before graduating with a degree in Fine Arts and a concentration in Computer Applications.
He “slipped into Microsoft on a random banana peel”, where he spent twelve years. He was particularly involved with the Office products (Word, Mac Office, etc.), and although he wasn’t directly responsible for Clippy! – he did oversee it being ported to Mac Office 98.
In 2000, he joined Ingenio, a company that created marketplaces for people to buy and sell information over the phone. As well as managing the engineering, program management, operations, and quality teams, he also served as both the company’s interim CEO its Chief Product Officer. He also “racked up quite a few patents there.”
Joined Yahoo! in 2008, filling out a number of senior roles, working in both Europe and the US.As the Senior Vice President for Media Engineering based in the USA, but with global responsibly for Media Engineering, managing an organisation of more than 600 engineers, architects, program managers and quality engineering staff, and with dotted-line oversight of some 150 product managers and designers.
Moved from Yahoo! to San Francisco based BranchOut, a small company that had, prior to his joining built a 25 million user base for its professional networking app before seeing that number shrink to just 3 million. He was specifically responsible for pivoting the company to a new workplace messaging application called Talk.co, launched in October 2013.
Has had a long exposure with SL indirectly through his son Aleks, who initially joined the Teen Grid before moving to establish his own in-world business.
Has also been long-term friends with LL board Chair, Jed Smith, through whom he met Philip Rosedale. Smith had asked Ebbe to consider the LL CEO position previously to 2013/14, but “things “didn’t line up” .
Is immensely proud of the all that the company has achieved and continues to be drawn by both the rewards and challenges involved in running a platform that is so technically and socially diverse.
Loves the technical / product aspects of the platform and the diversity of potential use cases it can meet. Also loves the rich diversity of ways users make use of SL creatively, socially, etc., that mean the platform constantly offers unique opportunities and challenges.
Enjoys the fact that SL makes it possible to meet people from around the world and from all walks of life who find value in the platform for so many different reasons.
These aspects also, for him, present the challenges of working with SL: putting all the different technologies that make SL work together such that they can form a virtual world where people can create, socialise, earn income, etc.
There’s also the challenge of talking to a customer base that is not of a single mind in using the platform, but rather is a range of user communities, each of which has nuanced needs and requirements that need to be met.
Also likes the challenge of trying to extend and build a product set that no-one else has managed to develop to the same degree – such as with SL’s economic model and the development of Tilia Pay.
The strength with SL that he loves is the sheer diversity within the technology required or SL and the people that use is – which is also the platform’s most engaging challenge.
Is appreciative of the power that SL has in bringing people together during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and providing a safe space for continued interaction, and that it can continue to help furnish those using it to generate an income to continue to do so.
From a business perspective, SL has seen significant increases in demand. However, this has been somewhat impacted by the “land shortage” [see The Cloud Uplift, below for more on this].
This increase is not just from “social” users; here has been “a lot” of demand from businesses wanting to host meetings through the platform, education institutions wanting to hold lessons, etc.
Company has been very fortunate in its operations because, while it does have offices in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Atlanta, many of the staff have always worked from home, so there has always been the assumption of remote working [even the Operations Team works remotely from LL’s co-location data centre in Arizona]. So, moving to that model of operations was less stressful than it might have been.
The real hamper in the move has been more the “knock-on” effect caused by the isolation – having children at home whilst trying to work, seeing to their needs, etc.
Overall is very pleased with how the company has been able to continue to manage SL and move ahead in plans and development.
Pandemic has also caused the media to re-examine SL, and Marketing has been via busy dealing the increased interest in how the platform and how it can be of use to people / organisations during the pandemic.
What has been particularly pleasing is the more positive view the media has of the platform, and the recognition of its maturity as a platform.
Like to point out to reporters that Second Life isn’t “old”, it is “mature”, which is not necessary a bad thing when talking about a platform.
[Note: Cloud uplift is the term used for the project to transition all of the Second Life services from hosting in a single co-location data centre used by Linden Lab and using their own hardware, to provision it all via Amazon AWS cloud services.]
Likely to be around 3-4 months before new regions are once again available, although it is understandably hard to put a definite date on things.
The shortfall is due to LL wanting to cease any expenditure in hardware and supporting infrastructure for SL during the cloud transition, believing they had sufficient reserves to offer during the uplift period – but the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic resulted in an unexpected burn through of that reserve.
Provisioning and testing new hardware and infrastructure is being avoided, as this would effectively be “lost” capital expenditure.
The uplift work is the primary focus of the product, engineering and operations teams at the Lab, with many services have actually already been transitioned to AWS.
Details of which systems these might be are not generally given out by LL due to the fact users often make false assumptions on things like issues when aware of such information.
Region servers [aka simhosts] make up the majority of the Lab’s hardware, and the Lab now has a test region server successfully running within AWS, but there is still “quiet a bit more work to do” in terms of security and other elements before the Lab will be in a position to offer a region product running in AWS.