|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:
|Table of Contents
This article is part of a set of summaries for the five sessions, and focuses on the conversations with Xiola and Brett Linden. Please use the links in the table contents to jump to topics of interest or any of the other sessions in this series. 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.
Is the Community liaison for Second Life, although for a period of time she was heavily involved in community building in Sansar (a role now taken by Eliot, and Xiola back full-time on Second Life).
- She’s now into her seventh year at Linden Lab, and will celebrate her seventh anniversary with the company in November 2018. All of that time has been involved in community relations within the marketing team.
- This work includes helping to put together events like Meet the Lindens, running the Second Life social media accounts, working on marketing projects,
- Born and raised in California’s silicon valley, she naturally immersed her career in technology, working for the likes of Yahoo, with a particular interest in creative communities.
- Became involved in SL as a resident in 2006, following an invitation from a friend.
- When she first joined SL, she thought people had to walk everywhere in-world; it was not until late into her first week in-world; it was not until her friend sent a request that she discovered teleporting!
- She kept an eye on the Lab’s official career page and when a community related post to opened, she applied and was recruited.
- The first major SL event for which she was involved in putting information together and in helping to organise was the platform’s tenth anniversary, which she regards as her SL event organisation boot camp.
- She does have land in the Linden Village regions, but hasn’t built it out.
- One of the things she’d like to do is involve Lindens in-world in more casual social events to give more people the chance to meet and chat with staff.
On Working At Linden Lab
- Regards the company has one of the most diverse and inclusive organisations she has come across.
- Felt a sense of “being with her people” on joining the Lab – a feeling which extends to Second Life users as a whole.
What She Enjoys in SL
- Shopping! – And being in-world and visiting events is a part of her job.
- Particularly likes to hear people’s origin stories – how and why people came to Second Life and what keeps them involved; many of which can by moving.
- Has always recognised the therapeutic power in the platform, and sees it as one of the powerful attributes of Second Life.
What She Finds Challenging About SL
- Trying to include all the different communities and groups in Second Life when trying to promote the platform to potential new users / audiences.
- Trying to balance expectations – such as when advertising SL and managing the sometimes negative feedback from the user base.
- Notes that the SL user base can be resistant to change, with frequent claims that the “sky is falling”.
- Understands the reaction is likely due to the long and sometimes variable relationship that has existed between users and the Lab.
- But that the same time, is also aware that whenever new features and capabilities are introduced, there is an incredible creative vein within the user base ready and able to make use of it in the most incredible ways.
- Spends a lot of time thinking about this latter point, and appreciates when people might fear change while loving the way the push features and capabilities further than the Lab could imagine.
About Her Non-Linden Account
- Yes, her original account and uses it daily.
- Runs her own little business through the account.
- Spends as much time keeping that account up-to-date as her official account.
- Spends a lot of time enjoying shopping events.
- Estimates she spends around L$15-20,000 per month on her alt account, which she describes as burning through any profit her business makes.
Finding Out About Linden Organised Events
- Events are generally posted on the Second Life blogs at www.secondlife.com.
- They are also announced through the Second Life social media channels – Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Plurk, Tumblr and Google+.
- Discord has been requested (there are resident-run Discord channels). The idea is being given consideration, however a Discord channel would require almost constant moderation, and could be problematic to manage given all of the diverse interests in SL.
Advertising Events and Activities
- There is a Community Resources Portal on the wiki that might provide assistance.
- People can submit their events and locations to the Destination Guide.
- Events can be listed in the Second Life website Events section.
- E-mails and note cards can be used to notify the Lab of locations and events (e.g. email@example.com).
Why Were the SL15B Regions All General?
- To have the widest possible level of inclusion.
- Nothing against Moderate or Adult content; Lab actually appreciative of those markets and what they bring to the economy.
The Second Life Community Conference (SLCC)
- There has been some conversations around the idea.
- It is a resource-intensive undertaking, and the Lab currently doesn’t have the resources to commit to organising such an event.
- Would be something the Lab might consider if the user base would take a lead in organising.
- [SLCC involved user-led organisation and support, notably through AvaCon].
- Some communities, notably the music community do organise informal get-togethers.
- Even if there isn’t a return of SLCC, there may be ways in which LL can help promote get-togethers organised by those in the user communities.
Brett Linden heads-up Marketing for Second Life as a part of the Lab’s marketing team.
- He has been with Linden Lab for 10 years, making him probably the longest-serving member of the marketing department.
- He’s based out of the Lab’s Seattle, Washington, office.
- Over the years he’s been responsible for various aspects of the platform – not just marketing, but also things like curating the Destination Guide.
- Prior to joining the Lab he worked at a number of music and technical publications – including Billboard Magazine in the case of the former, gradually moving towards covering technology in the music industry.
- During the course of this work, he got to interview Philip Rosedale (then still at Real Networks), and as a result, joined that company.
- From Real Networks, he eventually moved across to join Linden Lab.
- He is from a family of educators, and so as well as working at Linden Lab, he also teaches as a local university in Washington State, covering journalism, social media persuasion, etc., and while he has never specifically presented courses on virtual worlds, he has included Second Life in some of his teaching.
- This has included organising and hosting the Virtual Journalism Summit around 8-9 years ago, bringing together journalists to discuss the convergence of journalism and virtual spaces.
- He feels his background in education gives him a lean towards the educational community in Second Life.
- Particularly enjoys the creativity surrounding Second Life – creating marketing campaigns that can reflect the broad range of capabilities and uses for the platform.
- This is also what he sees as perhaps the biggest challenge with Second Life: reflecting the sheer diversity of creativity within the platform, the many communities and activities to be found in-world.
- He is sensitive to the perception that Linden Lab “doesn’t understand” Second Life or how to promote it, or that the marketing team “doesn’t time in-world”, pointing out that (like many Linden staffers), he is in-world both on his official account and on personal accounts (the latter allowing him to be engaged within the community with being identified as a Linden).
Working on the Destination Guide
- Brett was responsible for establishing the Destination Guide (originally called the SL Showcase).
- It initially accounted for around 80% of his time, but his involvement in it is now much reduced, the work now carried out by others, including the Lab’s interns.
- The Destination Guide really has two functions:
- To surface destinations and events to other Second Life users
- To raise the profile of Second Life within search engines – all of the DG web pages are indexed, and so can be surfaced in casual web searches, which can help drive people to Second Life organically, rather than purely by paid means.
What Makes a Good Destination for Him?
- He is very attached to the arts, so new works by “name” artists, new installations at the Linden Endowment for the Arts; museum exhibits.
- For promotion in the Destination Guide, there is an awareness that not everyone is a super-capable builder / designer.
- However, things like build quality, the correct categorisation within an actual submission, how well any social component works, play a role in selection submissions for special promotion, etc.
- SL blogs are also monitored to see what might be available that hasn’t been submitted and if there are events / destinations that should be manually added.
- Information on the Destination Guide and making submissions is available in the Knowledge Base.
- Users can help as well by promoting destinations / events through their social media channels.
- This can help bring focus to Second Life from non-SL users interested in learning about the specific experiences they read about.
- Promoting through social media can bring things to the attention of the Lab’s community team, who might then re-tweet / plurk / etc., to further promote.
His Role in the SL Roadmap
- Marketing is particularly involved with the themed learning islands, which are currently in test, and designed to help bring new users into Second Life and deliver them to whatever experience may have caught their attention through advertising, etc.
- See also: On Themed Learning Islands and Community Gateways, May 2018, DW conversation transcript.
- Also involved in developing the Weekly Gift Grab, running for 15 weeks from the SL15B celebration week.
- This is aimed at encouraging people to log in at least once a week and receive a reward, with a special prize in the final week if they have collected the 14 previous gifts.
- First time the Lab has attempted something like this.
- [see here for more.]
- Is also working on the “ambitious” programme to grow the user base and increase the monthly average users (MAU) logging-in to Second Life [more below].
Community Gateways and Attracting New Users
- The Community Gateway Programme has its own Destination Guide category for internal promotion among SL users.
- Programme does have certain criteria that must be met by those applying to join it.
- [The relevant wiki page is marked “out of date”, hence no link here.]
- Outward facing Community Gateways can be a powerful means of bringing users into a community / into Second Life.
- The power of referral / word-of-mouth can play a crucial role – promoting Gateways through social media – just as for promoting destinations and events.
- In terms of supporting communities in SL, the Lab will from time-to-time partner with a community to promote it / events related to it.
- A recent example of that is working with the organisers of SL Pride during Pride Week to reach out to the LGBTQ community through social media, through a dedicated marketing campaign which include paid ads and a dedicated SL landing page that delivered incoming new users directly to the SL Pride event.
- Such arrangements are very much case-by-case.
- For those outside of the Community Gateway Programme, the Second Life Place Pages could offer a means of outreach / promotion [although many of these have yet to be properly indexed by search engines].
- Still in development.
- Allow land holders to set-up a basic web page for their locations.
- Can include images, text, video, events, link to parcels.
- [See Creating Second Life Place Pages for more.]
- Generates a URL that can be used in web sites or handed out.
- The Join buttons effectively make these pages landing pages.
- [36:39-41:06] User retention also a matter of that initial experience a new user receives wherever they are.
- Are they in fact getting to the thing that interested them and brought them into SL – hence the Lab’s experiments with themed on-boarding / welcome islands.
- Brett’s own experience reflects the confusion that can occur: came into SL to learn more about how media companies were using SL, but arrived on a welcome island with no idea on how to find CNN, Reuters, etc., to learn about their work.
- Are they receiving a friendly welcome – something where greeters could be a positive influence.
- All established users can play a role in helping newcomers wherever they are.
- Helping people have an awareness of the Destination Guide and how to find places beyond the gateways / welcome islands, etc., is also part of this.
- Are they in fact getting to the thing that interested them and brought them into SL – hence the Lab’s experiments with themed on-boarding / welcome islands.
- For many, the social interactions within Second Life offer an incentive to stay – but there are those who come to SL for other reasons, and don’t necessarily want to have the social interactions.
- [45:43-48:45] One of the reasons the SL Pride event was focused on for outreach / promotion by the Lab is the recognition that the LGBTQ community is very active within Second Life.
- It is not the only community campaign [most of us are probably familiar with the vampire campaign] and there will be more.
- At the time of Brett’s session, the Lab was working on a campaign and landing page built around the virtual family community.
- Campaigns can be driven by paid acquisition programmes.
- One of the reasons the Lab has used things like the “romance” campaign is being analytics from paid acquisition programmes have shown these to be extremely popular.
- However, these are not the only campaigns the Lab might consider running, and Brett is always pleased to receive feedback on communities that could be used / beneficial to a marketing campaign.
Approach to Growing the User Base
- Following the media hype cycle (2006-2008), the number of active SL users reached a peak in around 2008-2009. Since then it has been in a slow decline.
- The Lab is now working to slow this decline and even reverse it.
- The Second Life marketing team is the largest it has ever been, and finance is being directed towards a range of campaigns to both attract new users and to re-engage with users who have stopped using SL.
- The re-balancing of the SL economy and how LL generates revenue overlaps into this strategy.
- Marketing look out outside of the platform to attract new users.
- LL looking at the platform to make it more attractive to users – features, capabilities, options, price restructuring, etc.
- Brett is confident that Second Life will see user growth as a result of these various strategies.
Applying to Work at Linden Lab
- Firstly, watch the positions being advertised via the Linden Lab corporate site.
- This lists all positions available at the Lab across all platforms /areas (Second Life, Sansar, Blocksworld / engineering, development, marketing, etc.
- Types of position obviously vary over time
- Lab recently hired a new digital marketing specialist – Darcy Linden – who formerly worked with the various GAP Inc, brands – Banana Republic, etc., – on performance marketing and customer acquisition.
- [Note: at the time of the session, the Lab was not hiring specifically for SL; as Brett noted, this can “change on a dime” and since then a number of SL-related positions are being advertised.]