SL18B Meet the Lindens: Lab Gab special 2: Leadership Team – summary

SL18B Meet the Lindens will focus on the leadership team of Brett, Grumpity and Patch
On Monday, June 21st Lab Gab and Strawberry Linden hosted a special Meet the Lindens show as a part of the SL18B celebrations.

This is the second of two summaries of the show, and focuses on the discussion with the Second Life leadership team of Grumpity Linden (VP or Product), Brett Linden (VP of Marketing) and Patch Linden (VP of Product Operations).

Table of Contents

The first part of the show, featuring board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) can be found here.

Note that this is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.

The TL;DR List of Key Points

  • Decision making: The leadership team will continue to be making core product decisions for SL, as they have been doing for the last few years.
  • Immediate technical focus: the new New User Experience, covering both the viewer and the entire on-boarding process. A second focus is on overall performance improvements, and a longer-term project (yet to commence) is to overhaul the viewer’s rendering pipe.
  • SL Mobile: public beta for iOS “Soon™”.
  • Premium: no plans to change anything at this point in time or to introduce Premium Plus, although this is still on the future radar.
  • Land products + tier:
    • New region options, ways of offering regions for events, possibility for de-coupling Homestead purchase from Full region ownership, etc., all under consideration for the future. But no actual plans or options that can be discussed.
    • No immediate plans to change tier – although LL is constantly reviewing options.
    • Unlikely to see changes to region sizes beyond the current 256×256 sq m, as this is too thoroughly baked-in to the SL software architecture.
  • Marketing:
    • 2021 the “year of experimentation” examining and testing methods to acquire and retain new users, and in bringing back former users who have not logged-in to SL for some time.
    • Experimenting with the Second life video ad.
    • Developing external partnerships (e.g. NFL Alumni, Titmouse) to extend SL’s reach into new potential user acquisition spaces.
    • Looking towards acquiring users across all age ranges.

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On the Loss of Ebbe

All three spoke to the recent passing of CEO Ebbe Altberg. Rather than paraphrase their words, I’ll simply include an audio reference here, which as also at the start of the video extract at the end of this summary. The comments start with Grumpity, and then go to Patch and then Brett .

As a reminder, those wishing to pay their respect to Ebbe can do so at his in-world memorial (see also: Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life).

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How Will Key Business Decisions Be Made Moving Forward and What’s Next for SL?

[Video: 43:32-50:36]

  • There shouldn’t be too much change in terms of platform / product, as the leadership team has been pretty much managing things for some time [Grumpity, Patch and Oz until the latter’s retirement, now Grumpity, Patch and Brett].
    • Disagreements between the team are rare, and there is a huge amount of mutual respect between the three, so things should continue pretty much as they were.
    • The hope is that the resident community can see the continuity of leadership through the team.
    • What is missing is Ebbe’s mentorship / oversight.
  • The major focus at the moment is on the new New User Experience. This involves:
    • UI changes to the viewer, some of which can be seen in the Project UI RC viewer, other of which can only be seen when visiting the new user social and learning islands.
    • A complete overhaul of the user on-boarding process and experience, which will be deployed “really soon”.
  • Other on-going work relates to performance improvements.
  • A future project the Lab is currently gearing up for is extensive work on the rendering pipeline. This will take some time to complete.
  • In general terms, a further viewer UI update that will be forthcoming to allow users to more easily adjust settings to help with their viewer performance. While this is recognised as only being a cosmetic fix when compared to the work noted above, it is hoped it will help people more easily adjust settings in keeping with the ability of their hardware.
  • [55:05-55:53] Group limits: the Lab would like to raises caps (including group limits) wherever possible, but the key factor in doing so is performance – so when it is felt there has been suitable overall performance enhancement for users, this is something that would likely be considered .
  • [1:12:48-1;13:15] Will the basic SL avatar system ever be updated? This is something that has been thought about, and it is likely that moves in that direction will be made at some point, but it is for the future, and not something being addressed right now beyond internal discussions.

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Mac OSX Support

  • LL do not plan to stop supporting Mac systems.
  • Part of the graphics work mentioned above will be to allow support for more modern APIs than just OpenGL (currently due to be completely deprecated by Apple), including Metal for OS  X (and most likely Vulkan for Windows).
    • In the case of OS X / Metal, there are questions over backward compatibility that need to be addressed.
  • Issues with the Space Navigator 3D mouse are more to do with changes within OS X more than anything the Lab has done, and it is not clear if LL can do anything to alleviate the problems Mac users are experiencing when using the device.

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SL Mobile

[Video: 50:37-51:54]

  • Currently, SL mobile development focus is iOS.
  • It is initially a communications tool.
  • It has had some problems passing Apple’s testing and requirements but the hope is to have a public beta available through Apple “really soon”.
  • It was also pointed out that the Speedlight third-party client is available for all browsers and iOS and Android (see here for Speedlight coverage in this blog).

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Premium Membership

[Video: 52:11-54:04]

  • No plans at present to increase the weekly stipend.
  • Premium Plus was put on hold in 2020  due to both the need to focus on the AWS migration and the fact that the pandemic was impacting people’s disposable income. It currently remains on hold.
  • LL aware that many users are interested in multiple levels of service / subscription, and so Premium Plus (or similar) is still in the plans.
  • One thing that is unlikely to return is resident-to-resident mainland auctions (first introduced in March 2019), but which failed to gain significant traction and proved problematic in deployment.

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Possible Future Land Products and Tier

[Video 54:05-55:02 and 55:59-1:02:29]

  • With the AWS migration complete and a broader base of hardware / infrastructure available, new land product offerings are something the Lab is starting to consider.
    • No details are available yet in terms of type of product, pricing, etc., but the Lab’s thinking is around providing better performance around hosting events, etc.,   but the hope is to have more information on this “soon”.
  • It is possible that a some point in the future, the requirement that Homestead regions can only be purchased by those already holding at least one Full region may be decoupled, so that homesteads become an independent product.
  • Tier prices are always being looked at, in conjunction with how the markets has responded to past tier reductions. It is something the Lab would like to do again in the future, but no commitments on when this may happen.
    • Care has to be particularly taken with regards to tier simply because it can easily have a negative impact. So changes, should they come, will be cautious.
  • While larger region sizes is often requested, post-AWS migration a members of the simulator engineering team looked at the issue again, and the fact is the 256×256 size is too baked-in to the SL software architecture makes larger region sizes extremely unlikely.
    • The focus instead will be to continue to try to improve and optimise region crossings .
  • Can residents use Lab spaces for events & temporarily re-decorate them? Some facilities – around 2 dozen in all, including the Bellisseria Fairgrounds and the SS Galaxy – do actually support this. If there are other locations residents would like to see added to the list, then names should be passed to the land team.
    • The point-of-contact for booking these facilities is Mischievous Mole.

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[Video: 1:02:33-1:12:46]

  • This year is being used as the “year of experiments”. Several approaches to promoting and growing SL are being tried, and it is acknowledged some will work and some may not. This overall goal with this is to see what moves the needle in terms of new user registrations and on-going engagement.
  • The most visible of these are the on-going A/B testing with the splash / login-in screen [see: Splash Screen Gets a Further Tweak and Lab Further Updates SL Splash Screen with Mixed Media Video], which involves swapping in and out different messaging, imagery, etc., in order to see what garners interest / engagement and what doesn’t.
  • The most commented on these tests has been the integration of the video featuring physical world actors intercut with avatar images; [as I noted in the 2nd article linked-to above] this footage comes from a larger professional video shoot the Lab refer to as Children of Creation, and which was shown at the mid-point in this Lab Gab Special.
  • The “win back initiatives” are a drive to encourage past Second Life users who have not logged-in for a time to return to the platform and give it another try. These take several forms, including offering Linden Dollar and other items as awards for logging-in.
  • Partnership drives have also been a focus of experimentation (such as the recent drive with the NFL Alumni Association and the Titmouse partnership which started in 2020, and has seen a number of in-world events).
  • A complexity with marketing Second Life is trying to present it to an audience outside of Second Life and staying clear of any subjective image / cliché it may have, whilst also staying true to the heart and soul of the platform and its users.
    • This is something LL  are acutely aware of – they want to see SL mentioned alongside all the Johnny-come-lately competitors for “the metaverse”, whilst being very aware that a major reason SL has outlasted its would-be competition in the past is down to its existing user base.
  • Overall, the past 12 months have been “good” in terms of metrics for the platform with organic growth likely related to the pandemic, and the aim is now to build on this as the world starts opening-up once more, and trying to maintain the momentum and achieve future growth.
  • Areas of consideration include the Roblox generation, and the idea that as they get older they are going to start looking for alternatives, and also to the older generation of silver surfers ad potential catchment groups for Second Life.

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The Future of SL – Thoughts and Comments

[Video: 1:14:02-1:18:19]

  • Brett: believes the users will have a role to play in the future directions of the platform, as indicated by Brad Oberwager. Would like to see the media would give greater credit to Second Life, which led the way in so many areas – micro-transactions, digital economies, user-generated content and sales, etc., and wants to work towards that. Hopes that the platform does continue to grow and become easier to use.
  • Grumpity: has never been as excited by the opportunities for SL as is the case now, with the platform genuinely poised for a new era of growth and development. Believes that the Lab has the right mix of experience and discipline coupled with free thinking and respect for their user base that many of their potential rivals have yet to attain. Is happy that the world is once again talking about “the metaverse”, and believes SL has a lot to show those who are interested in it.
  • Patch: wants to get to a reality where using Second Life is a matter of simply picking up a tablet and using it, where students on Chrome books can log-in and participate in learning experiences that are globe-spanning in their content / student mix and reach far beyond anything that can be achieved in the traditional classroom / learning space. Wants to see SL grow and expand so that it can fulfil dreams and offer wide-ranging opportunities for engagement.

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