On Tuesday, February 16th, 2021, and in a surprise to Second Life users, Linden Lab’s Vice President of Engineering, Oz Linden (aka Scott Lawrence in the physical world) announced his forthcoming departure from the Lab.
Oz joined Linden Lab in 2010, taking on the role of Director of Open Development. At that time, the viewer was in something of a state of flux; the “new” Viewer 2 had not long been launched, the development of which had largely excluded the user community and, particularly, developers who had long been associated with viewer development through the submission of code contributions.
As a result of this and other factors, users and developers alike were at the time feeling alienated and disenfranchised – facts that Oz immediately recognised and sought to address.
In the first instance this was done by replacing the open-source viewer Snowglobe project with a new Snowstorm project, intended to bring as much of the viewer development out into the open as possible – an approach Oz continued to push for throughout his time at the Lab, thus bringing order and surety out of a time that might be best described as having been “chaotic”.
The most obvious areas in which this was demonstrated was his adoption of weekly Open Source Meetings, initially held on Mondays before moving to their current Wednesday slot. These meetings continued alongside other technical in-world meetings such as the Server and Scripter meeting(now the weekly Simulator User Group), which took place even during the drought of other office hours meetings. He also implement the fortnightly Third Party Viewer Development meetings, allow Third Party Viewer developers to discuss all matters relating to the viewer directly with him and members of the Lab’s viewer engineering team.
In 2013, Oz oversaw the complete overhaul of the Lab’s internal viewer develop process, officially called the Viewer Integration and Release Process, which greatly simplified viewer update and viewer feature development. This project also brought me into my first direct contact with Oz when I offered a summary of the new process. It marked the start of a long and informative acquaintance that I’ve continued to appreciate over the years.
As well as direct contributions to the viewer, Oz also helped open the door to user-led projects aimed at providing broader capabilities for the viewer. While constraints on what could / could not be accepted would always have to be enforced, this approach nevertheless resulted in the adoption of materials in Second Life, and helped to encourage project-based contributions to the viewer that have included capabilities such as the hover height slider, and graphics and camera presets. This approach also included major lab-led projects such as Project Bento also encompass direct user involvement pretty much from their outset.
While it has always been the Lab’s policy to try to recruit personnel from the ranks of users as and when there is a suitable “fit”, in his time at the Lab, Oz has become perhaps one of the most enthusiastic proponents of this approach, frequently seeking – and often succeeding – to recruit qualified users into technical positions under his management.
As the Lab opted to start work on Project Sansar, Oz decided to pro-actively campaign to take on the work in continuing to develop Second Life, drawing to him those within the Lab who also wished to stay engaged in working on the platform. It is not unfair to say this resulted in one of the most intense periods of Second Life development we have seen, interrupted only be the need to focus on the work of transitioning all of Second Life and its services to run on AWS.
In 2019, Oz – together with Grumpity and Patch Linden – officially joined the Lab’s management team, taking on the role of Vice President of Engineering and putting an official seal on what Grumpity refers to as the Troika: the three of them being largely responsible for determining much of the product and feature direction for Second Life.
In announcing his departure, which sees his last day with the Lab being Friday, February 26th, 2021, Oz states that it has been something he’s been considering for a while:
Some time ago, I reached the point that I could afford to think about retiring but decided to stay to finish moving SL to its new cloud platform. I can’t imagine a better last act in my working life than ensuring that Second Life has this better platform for its future growth. Now that project is done (well, except for a few loose ends), and it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life.
He also emphasises – hopefully to prevent the rumour mill turning its wheels – that his decision to leave the Lab is not in any way connected to the company recently being acquired by new investors:
I want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms: my decision has nothing at all to do with the change in ownership of the Lab; the timing really is a coincidence. If anything, I regret that I have overlapped with them for only a few weeks; in that time (and in the time leading up to the change) I have come to respect and appreciate the skills and energy they bring to the company.
For my part, I cannot claim to know Oz as well as I would like to – but I’ve always found find his enthusiasm for Second Life never to be anything less than totally honest and infectious, and his high regard for users utterly genuine and sincere.
As such – and while his actual departure from the Lab is still more than a week away, – I’d like to take this opportunity to offer him a personal and public “thank you” for all the times he’s provided me with insight and / or encouraged me to get involved in various projects, all of it has been greatly appreciated. I am, and will be, genuinely saddened to see him leave the Lab; we are all losing something in his departure, and the void left will not be easy for the management team to fill.