Poking at the new Welcome Islands

The new Welcome Islands

Update: Keira Linden indicated as well as A/B testing against the Learning / Social Islands, the Welcome Islands are also being compared with throughput via the Firestorm Community Gateway. you can find more on Keira’s comments on the Welcome Islands and the Guidebook in my July 7th Web User Group meeting summary). 

Following my recent look through the new Guidebook that now forms a part of the official Second Life viewer (and is filtering its way into TPVs), and which is aimed at helping those get started on the platform, I’ve had the opportunity to take a poke at the new Welcome Islands that are designed as an arrival point for incoming new users, and which leverage the viewer’s Guidebook.

Before getting down to some of the details, it’s worth pointing out a couple of things:

  • The new Welcome Islands and Guidebook appear to be in A/B testing alongside the existing Learning Islands / Social Islands that are in use.
  • This means that should you opt to create a new account to try-out the new Welcome Islands, you may not actually be directed to them, but are instead directed to one of the existing Learning Islands / Social Island (reviewed here).
Arrival: the Guidebook opens at the first page, and a path directs you around the island

Given this, I opted to use the Guidebook within the viewer to get me to the new Welcome Islands rather than creating a new account and relying on pot luck to get me delivered to them via the on-boarding process (when I might easily be routed to a Learning Island).On arrival, I found the Guidebook had opened itself at the first page – much as I would expect it to do for a new user on their arrival at the Welcome Islands. As with other new user experiences, Welcome Island presents a path for  arrivals are to follow, one that meanders through a park-like setting built around a water feature. The latter offers an interesting view of the Second Life grid – as a planetary globe, canted on its axis and spinning gently, its watery surface dotted by the Mainland continents, mini-continents and private estates / islands.

The Avatar picker area displays a selection of start avatars, all of which are animated in their display area

Along this path can be found the three main stations referenced within the Guidebook for interacting with objects,, changing / customising an avatar and gaining familiarity with avatar attachments, all of which sit relatively close to the landing point. Beyond them are two more large stations – a bar and a café, each with interactive food / drink givers – and a number of open-air seating areas offering the chance for social interactions – if there are sufficient new users on an island who wish to mingle.

Also to be found on the islands is a sign directing all those who wish to move on elsewhere in Second Life to use the Destinations tool bar button. However, what the sign fails to indicate is that if it is clicked, it will (via a dialogue box) offer to open the web search at the Destination Guide, which can then also be used to locate places to visit.

Two new arrivals work on avatar looks – or try to(?)

These islands are a simple in design, easy-to-explore settings with some nice touches (e.g. seats that actually offer poses, drinks and refreshments trays that attach objects to an avatar in order to help new users gain familiarity with interacting with scripted object) and sits well with the Guidebook.  However, part of me does wonder if it is a little too minimalistic in approach in order to satisfy all incoming new users.

The grid as a globe within the new Welcome Islands

Certainly, there is a strong contrast between this somewhat contextual approach and the more tutorial-oriented Learning Island / Social Island approach. There are strengths and weaknesses to both, so continuing with them on a side-by-side basis even beyond A/B testing is likely not a bad idea, so it will be interesting to see what happens down the road.

What I will say is that, whilst loitering in the Welcome Islands I was delivered to, several people dropped in as well. Those who responded to me indicated they had just signed-up (although looked like they were coming back to the “Welcome Back” Island where I was hiding, rather than being “brand new” users”), and further indicated they were finding the Guidebook useful – although this obviously didn’t stop questions! – although one who had managed to find their way into inventory did admit to getting somewhat confused and wanting more information on have to change looks without having to pick an entire new avatar, and what was the difference between WEAR and ADD.

I’m not sure we’ll be given any clear insights into how well the new Welcome Islands perform when compared to the other routes into Second Life, but hopefully it will contribute not only to getting people into SL, but also giving them the level of information they need to keep on visiting – and exploring.

Looking at the (award-winning) Second Life video ad

A still from Children of Creation, Linden Lab / Leverage Media

During the Lab Gab special on Monday, June 21st, that featured board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and the SL leadership team of Grumpity, Patch and Brett Linden, a “commercial break” was taken to show – I believe for the first time – a complete advertising cut of the video filmed for Second life as a collaborative project between Linden Lab and  Levitate Media.

I’ve extracted the video via timestamps and embedded it at the end of this article so it can be seen without the interviews that come on either side of it, and during the show, Brett linden revealed more about it:

  • The overall project for the video has the internal title at the Lab of The Children of Creation.
  • The version shown (and embedded below) is one of several cuts of the recorded film, and is specifically geared towards teasing out the ideas of freedom of expression and imagination taking flight, hence the emphasis on flying.
  • Other cuts of the video (I believe from Brett’s comments) emphasise Second life in other ways, some offering a “considerable amount” of Second Life footage, and a “directors cut” that does not really show the virtual world, but acts as a teaser.
  • The ad (as seen here) was entered into the 2021 Telly Awards for artistic achievement in video advertising, where it received the following adjudicated awards:
    • Gold Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Visual Effects.
    • Gold Telly winner – People’s Telly General-Online Commercials.
    • Silver Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Music/Jingle.
    • Silver telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Directing.
  • The video is regarded as a “concept  ad” and has not as yet been widely deployed as a part of any advertising or other campaign. However, there are plans to discretely test some of the edits (including the “director’s cut”).

You can list to Brett’s comment on the ad below:

Personal Viewpoint

From a purely personal perspective, I think the advert as shown works pretty well; the images are well-matched to the narration, and the overall impact is the idea of liberation and freedom of expression. The intercuts of changing avatar appearances particularly underscores this, as do more subtle elements (take the still used as the banner image for this article, for example – the person / avatar flying away from the bright “Hive” sign, alluding to escaping humdrum, unified thinking and moving to new horizons). There is also a good sense of mystery to the ad that present the encouragement to go find out more about what it means

However, I have to caveat this by saying the phrase “if you’re travelling beyond this life” perhaps doesn’t sit as well as it might, given that terms like “beyond this life” are often using in reference to people passing on. This and other phrasing in the video might push uninitiated ears towards thinking the add is about some kind of cult or similar, rather than promoting a digital world; perhaps “beyond this world” might have been a better choice of words.

I’d be curious to learn how well the ad (and variations thereof) sit with assorted audiences, and maybe we’ll find out in time. For now, however, here’s the ad as shown during Lab Gab.

Additional Links

SL18B: A look at the Linden Homes Fantasy Theme preview

The Linden Homes Fantasy Theme preview at SL18B

Note: the images here do not show the intended EEP environment for the fantasy theme. They have been taken purely to show the house designs themselves. I will have images reflective of the Fantasy homes and their new sub-continent utilising the correct environment lighting when the Fantasy theme becomes available. 

As a part of the opening of SL18B, Patch Linden announced the next Premium Membership Linden Homes theme will be Fantasy, and a preview area opened within the celebration regions, giving people a chance to see the new theme ahead of its release later this year.

Fantasy has been a common request for a new Linden Homes theme, and the new theme is to address this call. In keeping with the majority of the “new” Linden Homes themes, the houses occupy 1024 square metre parcels, and the theme appears to comprise four styles, as described below – but please note it has been indicated that:

  • The interior layouts may change between the preview and the release.
  • This theme is to include “special features” not previously seen in Linden Homes – but these will not be revealed until Patch’s Lab Gab session on Tuesday, June 22nd (unless he spills the beans at the Leadership session on Monday, June 21st!).
Amberbrooke

The four styles are:

  • Amberbrooke: a large, open-plan central room with stairs to the upper level and front and rear access, flanked by two additional rooms. Upstairs are three rooms, with the central room featuring a balcony overlooking the rear of the property.
  • Mistbrooke: a large, single-level house with central entrance hall flanked by two rooms on either side, the two rearmost of which each provide access to a small terrace / patio sitting between the wings of the house.
  • Rosebrooke: central entrance hall, flanked by a large room to the right with access to the rear of the property, and a smaller room to the left. Stairs from the hall provide access to a landing with a room to either side, each with skylights.
  • Stonebrooke: a turreted entranceway provides access to a large main room with access to the rear of the property and further access to an inner hall / room that in turn leads to three further rooms.

While it is purely speculative on my part, I wonder if these homes might also follow in the footsteps of the Chalet theme, with each style offered both with complete interiors and in a more open style variants for people to create rooms of their own.

Mistbrooke
As it is, and again given the interiors are not finalised, the Mistbrooke would appear a little cumbersome in layout – the only way to get to the rearmost rooms in the house (and indeed, access the rear terrace / patio) is to traipse through the rooms they adjoin.  Some might not find this especially enamouring, depending on the uses to which they put the intervening room. Given the hallway overlooks said terrace / patio, I’m surprised the window it contains is not actually a doorway.

In terms of overall design, the Fantasy Homes could be described as “the Cotswolds meets Lord of the Rings”. True, these are are not faced in stone (at least for the preview), but on the whole their general appearance (ignoring the skylight motif and fretwork over entranceways) wouldn’t seem too out of place if dropped into a Wiltshire village.

Rosebrooke

It is the fretwork that pretty much carries the “fantasy” theme (along with the “Linden typical” approach the the general landscaping (twisted and gnarled trees, crystals thrusting out the the ground together with giant mushrooms). This fretwork and the skylight window motif do give the houses a lean towards “elven / Lord of the Rings”, but to me on this first look – and granted I know nothing about the “special features”, so may well have to eat my words later – the overall designs feel as if they are tinkering with the fantasy theme, rather than embracing it.

Truth be told, wandering / camming the region left me asking, “where are the rounded doorways? Why not something with a little more of a fantasy edge to it such as homes with open-sided entranceways and halls leading to rooms that are somewhat more enclosed?” and so on. However, and in  fairness, I can also recall the original Linden Homes fantasy theme came under heavy fire back in 2009 for being too other-worldly (/Lord of the Rings-ish) and thus seen as having “limited appeal”, so a more staid approach might be for the better.

Stonebrooke

As it is, much of the initial reaction on the forums has been positive, and it is fair to say that in not going “all out” on the fantasy theme, these homes could find favour among both fantasy lovers and those who are not so heavily fantasy oriented, but want a home that is just that little bit different without being completely “outlandish” to their way of thinking.

Either way, the preview region will be open for viewing throughout SL18B, and I’ll doubtless have more on this theme down the road.

Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life

Ebbe Altberg memorial

On Friday, June 4th, Linden Lab announced that the company’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg had passed away. Across the grid and blogsphere, tributes and obituaries have been offered in the wake of the news.

Ebbe Altberg memorial

Now, for those who wish to commemorate Ebbe’s time with the Lab and pay respects to his memory in-world, a memorial has been created on – appropriately – Altberg region in Bellisseria.

Designed by the Moles of the LDPW, the region features a single island that is home to the memorial. Surrounded by fir trees offering a hint of Scandinavia, with water falling into a pond that feeds flowers, the memorial stands  as a tall bronze figure of Ebbe, with a photo of him and the text of announcement of his passing located at the base of the plinth.

Candles are also to be found at the base of the statue, which will light on being touched, and benches are available for those who wish to sit and remember Ebbe and his time at the Lab.

The island is a gentle, quiet place; a place one cannot help but feel Ebbe himself would appreciate.  A place where contemplation and reflection can be embraced.

So, for all those who  do wish to pay their respects to Ebbe in-world, I can think of no better place in which to do so.

The base of the statue includes the test of the announcement of Ebbe’s passing (l), while the memorial has been drawing a steady stream of visitors (r)

With thanks to the Moles for creating the memorial.

Note: as Tish Coronet has pointed out via the SL Feeds, be sure to look down on the memorial from overhead – the ground before Ebbe’s has been set memorial has actually been set out to form the Second Life Hand logo, the statue replacing the eye. 

SLurl Details

Opinion: in consideration of Ebbe and the Lab’s next CEO

Source: Google

Friday brought the sad news that Ebbe Altberg, the CEO of Linden Research Inc., had passed away. And while it is perhaps too soon to be thinking about things as people are still coming to terms with the news, polls, comments and opinions have nevertheless already started circulating as to the kind of CEO the company should now look towards.

Chief among the opinions being expressed is that it should be “someone who has been in Second Life for a good amount of time and has plenty of experience.” But is this accurate?

Ebbe Altberg: perhaps linden Lab’s most successful CEO. Souce: Linden Lab

As I noted in  my own tribute to Ebbe, while he did come to Linden Lab with a good degree of foreknowledge – his son Aleks had been very successful with the Teen Grid before transitioning to the Main grid, and Ebbe himself was a close friend of Jed Smith, the former chairman of the Lab’s board; as he readily admitted himself, he was not in any way either a long-term user of the platform or who had “plenty of experience” with it prior to joining the company.

And yet, as we’ve all noted over the pass several days since the news broke, Ebbe has been without a doubt, the most popular of CEOs at the Lab among users. His tenure was by no means perfect, but overall his presence strengthened both company and principal product enormously – up to and including spinning-off a revenue-generating subsidiary that in time might help both, in the form of Tilia Pay.

Thus, I would suggest that the qualities needs for CEO are not so much any deep / long-term exposure to or involvement in Second Life, but rather the qualities and skills needed to manage and lead a company and leverage the strengths inherent in its management team and staff. In this, I would say that long-time friend and commentator R.( R. Dismantled) has summed up the requirements of any incoming CEO the best:

Not a celebrity, but a manager of managers, making the good and difficult decisions. And not just talk and hype and making Second Life something it isn’t, but making it better…

… I hope that the next person entrusted to manage the managers of our weird little social soap bubble will be cut from the same cloth.

– R. (R. Dismantled) commenting on this blog

From the outset, Ebbe was “a manager of managers”. He trusted those reporting into him to run their departments in a manner that would best support the company, its core product and its users. At the same time, he was prepared to make the necessary hard choices to swing the company back onto a more solid course of product development – shutting down the Creatorverse, dio and Versu projects almost immediately (and later allowing the creators of Versu to spin it off into its own platform), winding down work on Patterns and selling Desura, whilst allowing Blocksworld to serve its community through until mid-2020. And – while it may not have entirely worked out as hoped – he set the company on paths that might seen the development of additional revenue-generating opportunities, through both the aforementioned Tilia Pay and through the development of Sansar.

Ebbe Linden, aka Ebbe Altberg.  Credit; Strawberry Singh

There’s also the fact that the CEO’s brief is a broad one, encompassing skills and abilities far beyond general team leadership and product understanding.

While such skills can be acquired from within organisation, they do make promotion from within potentially more difficult even when – from an outside perspective, at least – there may appear to be “obvious” candidates, simply because they do take time to acquire and effectively wield.

As such, the “hire from without / promote from within” is a difficult path to tread – with the latter aspect further compounded by the fact that even if there are potential candidates within the organisation that could transition and acquire the skills of a CEO over time – they may not actually want to do so, simply because it means they must relinquish aspects of their work they actually enjoy the most.

In the specific case of Linden Research, things are perhaps further compounded by the fact that Ebbe Altberg was somewhat unique in his background. This spanned running large and small corporate entities, presenting him with the broadest base of skillsets, and was coupled with his own “left-brain / right brain” balance of technical and creative skills and knowledge that – even without a long-standing involvement in Second life – provided him with a solid foundation for quickly understanding the complexities of the platform and its communities of users with their needs once he was at his desk at the Lab.

There is also another factor to consider here: does the Lab actually need someone to take over directly as CEO?

Since the acquisition process closed-off at the end of 2020, incoming investor Brad Oberwager has been conspicuous in the degree to which he has been hands-on in his role as Executive Chair within the management team, as reported by the likes of Grumipty, Brett and Patch Linden at various in-world events. Mr. Oberwagerf has also brought long-term business partner/colleague Cammy Bergren into the LL fold as the company’s Chief of Staff.

Linden Lab’s Chief of Staff, Cammy Bergren (centre left) and Board member / Executive Chairman, Brad Oberwager (centre right) and their respective avatars. Both appear to have been very much at the helm of Linden Lab since Mr. Oberwager and his fellow investors acquired the company at the end of 2020.

Between them, they have considerable experience in running corporate entities, and as such are well-placed to steer Linden Lab through the next several months without the need for any immediate appointment from without or within, giving staff more time to deal with the loss of Ebbe whilst ensuring both the company and Second Life adjust and move forward under a broader management umbrella (I exclude Tilia Pay here as that entity appears to be almost entirely self-managing).

So, with all that being said, right now it is far too early to be considering “what ifs” and “who mights” in terms of the role of CEO at the Lab. Ebbe’s legacy is huge and something that we should all spend more time reflecting upon  – and we should allow Linden Lab space to reflect on the  loss of a man they knew better than the rest of us, rather than speculating on “who should be next”.

In memoriam: Ebbe Altberg

via Linden Lab

On Friday, June 4th, Linden Lab broke the news that the company’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg had passed away.

The post, from Patch Linden, reads in part:

Second Life found new highs in 2020 between a worldwide pandemic taking grip, through the times of a tumultuous leadership change in the United States, and during movements of civil changes that will forever live in history books.  Second Life provides many with the comfort of a normal that continues to exist for all of us, where many use it to escape real life pressures, stressors and day to day challenges.  In Second Life we can be our ideal, our best, celebrate all that is good across the world together.  Sadly we have also seen some people go, and they will never be forgotten as they touched us, gave us their best from their hearts, minds and souls – this thing called real life sometimes knocks on our door and makes a call.   
As I am here before you today, it is with profound sadness that I share with you Ebbe passed away yesterday evening restfully and surrounded by the love of his family. 

This is deeply sad news for all of those who knew or had contact with Ebbe during his seven-year tenure at LL. His arrival at Linden Lab the start of February 2014 came at a time when user  / Lab relationships were at a particularly low state, and his arrival could not have been more timely.

From the outset, it was clear that he had more than a passing knowledge of the platform  – his son, Aleks, had been keenly involved on the Teen Grid, up to and including starting his own business, and Ebbe himself was a long-time friend of former Linden Lab board member Jed Smith (who had actually tried to get Ebbe to join the company once before).

Referring to himself as a “left-brain / right brain kind of person” – he graduated Middlebury College (Vermont USA) with a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Applications, it is fair to say he not merely was aware of the potential of Second Life – he was positively enthusiastic about it, technically and creatively.

Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg) as he appeared at one of his first official engagements with users after joining Linden Lab, February 19th, 2014.

From the outset, he was openly and warmly communicative with the platform’s user base, getting in-world as often as he could to meet people either casually or via small and large events – such as an early “fireside chat” a handful of us were invited to attend just a handful of days after his official arrival at the Lab, or via larger town hall style meetings, and appearances at events such as VWBPE, the SLB celebrations the Lab Chat sessions and their successor, Lab Gab, and more.

His openness and honesty did much to renew users’ faith in Second Life – but occasionally carried something of a price. When he popped-up at a Third-Party Viewer Developer meeting in June 2014 and mentioned in passing that the Lab were working on a new platform (which we would come to know as Sansar), the resultant conniptions among users was very palpable (and, being honest, partially fuelled by some hasty and somewhat inaccurate tweeting of his comments sans proper context) – which would require numerous repeats by both Ebbe and other at the Lab that the new platform did not mean “the end” for Second Life, but the company was committed to both.

In this latter regard, he fully supported the team that came together under Oz Linden to continue to build-out and improve SL and make it more accessible to people, whilst always stepping forward and facing the ire of users over perceived wrong-doings and working to further build / re-build confidence in company and product.

Nor was his enthusiasm constrained to platform and users – he faced the media head-on on numerous occasions in the US and international, proud to talk-up Second Life, Linden Lab, virtual worlds and the potential of VR, a technology to which he became an ardent convert. He also had the foresight to spin-out the lab’s expertise in virtual tokens into a subsidiary, Tilia Pay, presenting linden Lab with a further means of generating business for itself.

Ebbe Latberg (l) with entrepreneur Ken Bretschneider and Sophie Charara (Wired UK) discussing virtual environments at the December 2015 Web Summit, Dublin

Prior to joining Linden Lab, his career have been wide-ranging, encompassing both major global corporations such as Yahoo and Microsoft, much of which I covered in a brief profile I was able to put together on him just appear he officially joined LL, and I was pleased to note that he and I had shared interests in both Formula 1 racing and space exploration, which allow for some early conversations between us.

The precise cause of Ebbe’s passing has not been made public, but it was clear to many through various sources that he appeared to be affected by a long-term illness, and over the last 12 months in particular, his presence had been somewhat conspicuous by its absence (I believe that perhaps his last public appearance as CEO was the occasion of Oz Linden’s retirement earlier in 2021).

However, it is clear that illness did not in any way blunt his determination to ensure Linden Lab and Second Life in a much stronger and better position than when he joined the company – a determination that included the hard choice of letting go of Sansar, and guiding the company through the difficult waters of acquisition and bringing into the fold investors who have the vision and willingness to move both company and platform forward.

Given this, and despite the shadow cast by the announcement of his passing, I’ve little doubt that he could be justifiably proud of all that he achieved at Linden Research Inc., and because of his dedication and enthusiasm, both the platform and the company are much better and stronger today than perhaps they’ve ever been.

My deepest and sincerest condolences to Ebbe’s family and all at Linden Lab at this time. I can honestly say that for all of us who have been invested in Second Life, he was more than just a CEO, he was a fellow resident an adventurer on the virtual frontier. He shall be greatly missed.

Rest in peace, Ebbe. And thank you.