|Meet the Lindens is now a regular part of the Second Life anniversary landscape.
Over the course of the week of the Second Life anniversary celebrations, it gives Second Life users the chance to find out more about the people working at Linden Lab, find out about projects and plans, and the work being carried out on Second Life and Sansar, ask questions about matters of interest / concern to them.
For Meet the Lindens 2018, Saffia Widdershins sat down with six members of the Second Life team, as well as with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg:
|Table of Contents
This article is part of a set of summaries for the five sessions, and focuses on the conversation with Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (aka Ebbe Linden). Please note that it is not intended as a full transcript of the given session; because some topics came up more than once through the week, I have tried to focus each summary on subjects that were answered in the greatest detail within each individual session.
Use the links in the table contents to jump to topics of interest or any of the other sessions in this series. Note that audio extracts are included with each summary. These have been edited to remove pauses, repetitions, etc., with care taken to maintain the overall context of comments and answers.
All of the sessions were recorded as a part of the overall video record for the SL15B celebrations by SL4Live. For completeness, the video of each session has been embedded at the end of each summary. The timestamps provided here and in the other summary articles will open the relevant video in a separate browser tab, so you can here the question and reply as given during the conversations.
About Ebbe Altberg
Additional information can also be found in my brief profile of Ebbe Altberg, written following the announcement of his appointment as Linden Lab CEO in 2014 – and which includes notes from Ebbe himself!
- Swedish by birth and trained as a ski racer at the Tärnaby Skidhem. After completing his mandatory military service, he crossed the Atlantic to study in Vermont, USA.
At Middlebury I got a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Applications…hopped between art studios and coding in the computer lab…left brain right brain…
Ebbe Altberg commenting on his US studies in this blog
- In 1988 he started working for Microsoft, where he was involved in products such as Word, Office, Mac Office, and multimedia products for 12 years.
- Moved to the Bay area of San Francisco in 2000, working for Internet and Telecommunications company Ingenio, which offered him his first involvement in a platform specialising in user-to-user transactions. While there, he also served as the company’s interim CEO.
When AT&T acquired Ingenio, in 2008, he moved on to Yahoo! as Vice President, Head of Audience for the company’s EMEA division, based in Rolle, Switzerland and London, UK, for three years before moving back to the USA as Senior Vice President of Media Products, again based in San Francisco.
- After Yahoo! he took a little time out to be with his family and play golf for several months prior joining the start-up BranchOut, based in San Francisco, as Chief Operations Officer, in 2012. While initially successful, BranchOut ultimately ran into problems, resulting in a return of investors funding.
- As this was happening, he was asked to meet with Linden Lab – a company that he was already familiar with through his son’s involvement in the Second Life teen grid as a young entrepreneur / creator, and via Philip Rosedale and board member Jed Smith.
- Aleks Altberg, his son, was very involved in the Teen Grid, and has since joined Linden Lab, where he works on Sansar.
- He joined the company at the start of 2014.
- He is genuinely fascinated by the breadth and depth of creative, social, entrepreneurial and educational opportunities presented by Second Life, and four years into his tenure as CEO, he is still as happy with being a part of the company as when he first joined./a>
- Sees the complexity of Second Life as its biggest challenge, both technically for the Lab and in terms of new users trying to understand it.
- He has played with prims in-world, but is not a builder per se. Rather (and like may in SL) he is more of a consumer/creator than original content creator – he brings together goods made by others and assemble them into a personal space – just as many experience creators in SL and Sansar do.
On the Challenges of His Role
- Overall, finds working at Linden Lab more satisfying than challenging, simply because of the motivation of the staff and their support of the products.
- Of the challenges he does / has faced, he would point to the work involved in bringing Sansar to market and trying to find a market “fit” for it and placing it where it can solve a lot of use-cases for users.
- He also feels that the work put into the Lab’s fiscal compliance has been challenging but ultimately worthwhile, ensuring the company’s platforms adhere to required financial regulations and requirements. Most of this work is now done, and he is extremely proud of the team responsible, and the work they have done.
Diversity at Linden Lab
- Linden Lab has a diverse workforce in terms of gender, sex, race, etc., – something the company is proud of.
- The focus is on recruiting the right people for the work, regardless of background.
- Would still like it to be more diverse.
- It’s not something that just happens – proactive steps are required, and at the Lab it is regarded as important because of the richly diverse nature of the user community and the reasons they use SL.
On the Second Life Roadmap
[25:28-31:10] See also On The Infographic from my transcript of the May 2018 Designing Worlds conversation with Ebbe Altberg.
- On course to get “a lot” of the things mentioned in the 15 great Things blog post completed. Given the ambitious nature of the blog post, there is a chance that one or two items might slip beyond the end of 2018.
- However, a number of the items listed should be surfacing over the next few months.
- The Mainland pricing restructure has been extremely well received.
- Continuing to add value to Premium and pleased to see Premium subscriptions are increasing.
- Work continues on developing themed learning islands to acquire new users by interest.
- Work also continues on returning last names to Second Life.
- See also On the Return of Last Names, May 2018 DW conversation transcript.
- The new Mainland land auctions process is close to being deployed.
- See also On The New Land Auctions, May 2018 DW conversation transcript.
- According to Oz Linden at the June 29th TPV Developer meeting, the new system should enter use in week #28 (commencing Monday, July 9th, 2018), initially for Linden held Mainland parcels, and will hopefully be expanded to include users’ parcels by the end of July 2018.
- Animesh is now on test on the Main (SLS) grid.
- Bakes on Mesh is available for testing on Aditi (the beta grid).
- The Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) will have a project viewer available soon.
- The transition to the cloud is progressing, but this is a huge task still in the early stages and well continue well beyond the end of the year.
- See also On Transitioning Second Life to the Cloud, DW conversation transcript.
Private Region Price Restructuring
Please refer to Linden Lab announces major SL private region pricing restructure.
The Second Life Mentor Programme
- The Lab has carried out A/B testing on their Learning Islands, putting greeters on some but not on others.
- The results showed no real improvement in new user retention for islands with greeters compared to those without.
- Doesn’t necessarily mean greeters / mentors not have value. It can work for community gateways.
- Was done a few years ago using the generic welcome islands.
- Might produce better results when tried on a themed welcome area -testing is currently in progress, but results currently not obvious either way.
- Lab has also tried bringing people to SL directly from the web, by streaming Second Life directly to a web browser.
- It was an attempt to see if retention went up if people could use SL through the web prior to either subscribing to a streaming service or downloading the viewer in order to continue.
- Again, this did not result in any increase in user retention.
- See also On Themed Learning Islands and Community Gateways, May 2018 DW conversation transcript.
Resolving Abuse Reports
- No simple answer to how long it generally takes, as a lot of factors might be at work, and what might appear to be a straightforward matter to a user may not be to the Lab.
- One issue can be whether or not a particular behaviour is actual abuse or simply someone being annoying – the two are not necessarily the same.
- The quality of some reports – information provided, etc. – can impact how long it takes to deal with a particular report.
- The lab doesn’t reveal the outcome of investigations – often because they cannot, due to the nature of the report / investigation.
- [More on Abuse Reports can be found in Raising Abuse Reports in Second Life.]
- Ideally would like to see products reflect the physical world, with people of all ages able to meet and interact.
- Ultimately, a product tends to generate its own demographic, so the work becomes more focus to meeting the requirements of that demographic.
- Blocksworld clearly intended for a younger demographic. Even so, some of the most successful Blocksworld content creators are adults participating in the platform.
- Blocksworld has also been an interesting exercise in developing content creation tools and UI for use on mobile devices.
- Some safeguards must obviously be in place to prevent inappropriate content being seen by minors.
- For Sansar, the minimum age being 13, so there are currently no plans to support content of an adult nature [or full body nudity].
- The Lab’s overarching aim is to create environments in which people can create content, enjoy social interactions through the content they create, and allow content creators to earn from their creations.
Second Life Mobile Solution / Streaming/ Web Solution
- There are ongoing discussions at the Lab about this.
- There are already mobile solutions offering a range of capabilities. [popular examples: Lumiya (reviews in this blog) and Mobile Grid Client (review) for Android; MetaChat for iOS.]
- Lab is seeking the right approach for investment in a mobile solution, as there are a range of options, e.g:
- “Companion” style apps that allow business owners to manage their business and users to keep in contact with one another, receive group notifications, etc.
- A fully fledged option presenting the complete in-world experience.
- Attempting to offer a fully fledged option rendering the 3D world raises further questions:
- Should the rendering be performed on the device [the approach taken by Lumiya], potentially limiting the render quality and in-world look?
- Should the rendering be handled server-side and streamed to the mobile device [as with Bright Canopy via Frame], which requires charging a fee to cover the cost of providing the rendering / streaming servers
- Also there’s question of whether a mobile application should be offered in support of existing users, or could it be a tool to acquire and retain new “mobile” users?
- LL has experience from seeing SL run through the SL GO product and from streaming SL to a web browser (per notes above).
- SL GO offered the viewer overlaid with an additional UI – not the best; better to have a truly mobile experience than simply ported the SL UI.
- There is confidence a path will be found and a product will be delivered, but it remains to be seen what it will be.
- See also SL mobile / in a browser from the Grumpity / Oz session.
- There are no plans for the Lab to start spinning-down regions that do not have any avatars in them; the expectation of SL is 24/7 region availability, and that’s what users pay for.
- However, following the move to a cloud infrastructure, the ability to have a region spun-down (become “on-demand”) might be something the Lab will consider.
- But again, how much such a product would cost to users, where it would sit in the Lab’s priorities to develop, etc., hasn’t been decided.
Increasing Region Agent Limits (Concurrency)
- In everyone’s interest to have higher concurrency.
- As the Lab continues to improve SL – performance, infrastructure, etc., to allow limits to be increased, then they should be increased. It’s a matter of finding the right performance / quality of experience / concurrency balance.
- Transitioning to the cloud might also offer opportunities – there are a lot more servers available with more performance capabilities which might offer the opportunity to offer a broader range of region products and different price points and offering different concurrency levels.
Offering Different Regions Sizes
- Some investigations carried out for larger regions sizes. However, the basic 256×256 region size is deeply baked into the current SL infrastructure.
- Trying to change the expected region size is like peeling back the layers of an onion – you keep going and going.
- No guarantees [at this point in time] there will be new region size products with a new pricing structure.
- It’s not clear to the Lab as to how great (or sustained) the demand for any new regions sizes would be [and perhaps even what they should be].
- See Also Patch Linden’s comments and feedback from Oz Linden.
Community Gateways and Attracting New Users
[1:24:07-1:30:49] Community Gateways provide a strong means for new users to understand the viewer and SL once they are in-world; however, is there a way for the Lab and Gateways to work together to strengthen the external “lures” – web pages, etc., – which might attract new users.
See also On Themed Learning Islands and Community Gateways, May 2018 DW conversation transcript.
- Linden Lab cannot reach all potential audiences that might be attracted to SL for many reasons: language, the diversity of opportunities / activities in SL, etc.
- Community Gateways were reintroduced as a part of helping communities inside SL to reach audiences and attract new users.
- However, reaching an audience is more than just developing a Gateway experience; it can require outreach, marketing, partnerships, engagement, etc., in order to reach an external audience.
- These activities require different skill sets to building experiences and providing in-world assistance; they might require financial outlay.
- Linden Lab attempts to achieve this in a variety of broad-based ways:
- Through their own marketing [e.g. targeted landing pages aimed at specific audience types – role-players – or markets – education -, etc.].
- In the past by partnering with those with the muscle to attract an audience.
- By running incentive programmes that effectively pay” for successfully acquired users through a variety of networks / channels of opportunity (e.g. Google).
- It might be possible to expand an incentive programme paying for successfully acquired users to include Community Gateways and those putting the effort into attracting their own audiences into SL.
- Would require an assessment of what could be paid in return for successful new user acquisition.
- Would also need some assessment of how effective it would be to expand the programme, develop the tools, etc., to include the likes of Community Gateways prior to any such programme being developed.
- But – also might encourage new partners to come forward who could potentially attract new users at scale.
- New user acquisition also not restricted to Community Gateways. Those building experiences, etc., within Second Life often have a clear idea of the audience they’d like to attract.Hence why LL:
- Provide things like SLurls that can be used within dedicated web pages external to SL communities and groups might build to reach their audience.
- Have been developing Place Pages.
- LL’s user acquisition will, by necessity always be fairly generic – they can encourage people to come visit the “country” – but communities and groups are better placed to bring people directly to their experience / place within the “country”.
Advertising Second Life
[1:32:38-1:34:59] Could LL use similar advertising as employed when SL was being publicly launched?
- When SL was first launched, things were very different – just the idea of being in a virtual world was enough to spark interest.
- Today it is different – there are many virtual environments people know of. Advertising therefore needs to be far more focused in nature.
- Lab uses a sophisticated user acquisition process most users simply don’t get to see – testing different messages and different approaches to attracting different audiences around the world.
- Even so, if there are particular campaigns / ideas the Lab could try, they are open to ideas / proposals.
Adult Content in SL
[1:38:50-1:41:29] What is the Lab’s view towards adult content in Second Life? Will there be a direct liaison for the Adult community?
- Within Second Life, the Lab has no issue with adult content – the view is that if you can encounter it in the physical world, it shouldn’t be excluded from a virtual world. It’s freedom of expression.
- However, this does bring certain issues with it. Partners – banks, money processing companies, brands, etc., may not be comfortable with the idea of supporting adult activities / content.
- The Lab therefore has to be careful in how much they directly invest in their own support of adult content and activities, because of the “external” complications it can cause.
- No plans for a direct liaison for the Adult community.
[1:48:02-1:52:22] How does the Lab view child avatars in Second Life?
- The Lab would like to have avatars of all sizes and representative of all interests.
- However, there are those who will try to abuse situations / live-out fantasies which are not in keeping with the law.
- Lab doesn’t want to be draconian and prevent child avatars or stop family communities, but must be sensitive to the potential stigma caused by bad actors, etc.
- Those who do engage in untoward activities will be banned, and the hope is that innocent communities will not be tarnished, but it is a complicated matter to deal with.
- Where there are cases of people clearly abusing the platform [age-play, etc.] the request is for users helping the Lab to help them [e.g. by filing ARs].
US Supreme Court / Sports Betting
[41:08-43:19] In May 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down federal law that had prohibited most states from authorising sports betting, clearing the way for all states to make their own decisions about legalising sports betting.
- States still have to determine what they need to do, so the Lab’s Terms of Service and policies remain unchanged.
- It is unlikely the Lab will make any changes until such time as enough US states have determined a position to allow the Lab to (hopefully) make a uniform change to policy without having to deal with things on a state-by-state basis.
- Overall, if it is legal, and subject to the Lab’s legal team makes a determination on the subject.
Will Changes to Net Neutrality Affect Second Life?
- Impact more likely to be upstream than directly with SL services; the quality / reliability / cost / performance of Internet access as charged by local ISPs / major carriers, etc.
- The Lab is against moves to remove net neutrality, but there is nothing that directly impacts their plans for Second Life.