The 20th edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, April 3rd at 10:00 SLT (18:00 UK; 19:00 CET). For those who have not seen the official blog post about it, the segment will feature members of the Second Life Engineering team: Oz Linden, April Linden and Ekim Linden.
Oz Linden is the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering and a member of the company’s management team. Together with Grumpity Linden and Patch Linden, he is responsible for SL’s technical and operational directions. He specifically overseas the Lab’s engineering teams to manage all aspects of the Lab’s server environment (hardware and software) and the teams engaged in all aspects of viewer development and testing.
April Linden has become familiar to many SL residents for her honest and informative blog posts explaining what happened and how things were fixed when Second Life suffers a significant system upset and / or outage. As the Lab’s Systems Engineering Manager, she particularly coordinates and manages all aspects of the Lab’s server operations, including dealing with the third-party teams who physically care for the Lab’s hardware at its data co-location centre.
Ekim Linden is the Lab’s Director of Web Engineering, as manages the engineering team directly responsible for the Lab’s web properties (such as the Marketplace, the secondlife.com website, etc).
All three are responsible for managing and coordinating the extensive work in transitioning all of the Lab’s services from their dedicated hardware and infrastructure and to recognised cloud services operated by Amazon (AWS) and Google. As such, they are appearing on Lab Gab to talk about this work – which the Lab refers to as the Cloud Uplift – although doubtless, other subjects will come up for discussion.
If you have a question you’d like to put to Oz, April or Ekim (or all of them), particularly on the uplift, make sure you submit it via the Lab Gab Google form.
As usual, the programme will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.
The 19th edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, March 27th at 10:00 SLT (17:00 UK; 18:00 CET). The segment will feature Ebbe Linden (aka Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg) and Brett Linden, Senior Director of Marketing, two recent guests on the show (see here and here for summaries of their prior interviews). They are returning to address, as the official blog post states:
Discussing how Linden Lab is responding to the public health crisis to ensure uninterrupted Second Life operations, as well as how the company is offering new remote turnkey solutions for conferences, events, or classes.
This is once more a segment during which questions from Second Life users will be put to Ebbe and Brett, so if you have anything you’d like to ask – particularly in relation to the SARS novel-coronavirus pandemic and Second Life / Linden Lab operations, although not necessarily restricted to that topic – be sure to submit them via the Lab Gab Episode 19 Questions form. Not all the questions may be asked / answered, but if you don’t try, there’s a greater chance your question may not be asked anyway!
The programmed will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.
On Friday, June 28th, 2019 at the SL16B celebrations, the last of five Meet the Lindens sessions took place at the SL16B Auditorium. This was a special session, featuring as it did members of the Linden Department of Public Works – aka, the Moles.
A veritable host of Moles surfaced for the session, along with Patch Linden, comprising Abnor Mole, Naughty Mole, Squeaky Mole, Missy Mole and Alotta Mole, all of who can be heard in the video. They were joined by Glowing Mole, Quartz Mole, Spiffy Mole, Lost Mole, Squishy Mole, Glamorous Mole, Ancient Mole, Garden Mole, Paranor Mole, Shimmy Mole and Magic Mole.
The nature of the event, with so many people available to answer questions makes producing a summary a little difficult; instead, I offer an outline of what the Moles are, and the feedback of the key speakers on how they became Moles, and notes based both on comments during the session and the LDPW wiki page on how to become a Mole. For the rest, I recommend watching the video in full!
Who or What the Moles?
As surprising as it may seem, lot of SL users are not aware of what or who the Moles are.
Officially called the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) the Moles are SL residents from all over the world who have either applied to the Lab, or have been asked by the Lab, to work as paid freelance contractors. The LDPW is specifically geared towards enhancing the Mainland, as noted in the official wiki page, but they actually do a lot more than this.
The Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) is a programme focused on improvements related to the experience of living on, or visiting the Linden Mainland. The LDPW will organize teams of Resident builders, artists, and scripters (the Moles!) to create new content on Linden Lab’s behalf and to the benefit of all.
The LDPW initially formed in 2008, and so is now in its eleventh year, and many of those involved in the programme today were recruited back then. The team is managed be Derrick Linden, the Product Operations Manager for Second Life, who reports into Patch Linden, and the team includes a number of Linden staff as well, including Guy Linden, Madori Linden, Kona Linden and Izzy Linden.
Within the Mainland, the Moles are probably best known for their infrastructure work – the roads, the railway lines, general continent layout, and all the many elements thereto. There have also been responsible for the development on Mainland projects such as the infrastructure within Nautilus City and, perhaps more particularly, the development of Bay City – which in their honour hosts an annual Mole Day festival.
Most recently, the Moles have been responsible for – and perhaps most visible with – the new Linden Homes continent, Bellisseria. They also produce the infrastructure for Lab-led events, including SL16B, the Lab-run shopping events, the town hall meeting spaces. But they also do far more than this, and work in many different areas, for example – and as a short list:
They produce content such as the Premium gifts.
The build and script the Lab-provided games such as Linden Realms, Paleoquest, Horizons and the grid-wide Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches – all accessible via the Portal Parks.
Their work is often used as an example of what can be achieved in SL, particularly with regards new functions and capabilities.
They work with multiple teams at Linden Lab, such as Marketing and the engineering team (Moles participated in projects such as Bento, for example, producing test content used in the development of Bento capabilities and in testing the Bento skeleton).
Helping with QA activities.
As residents, how much time Moles spend on their resident / personal accounts understandably varies in accordance with the work they’re engaged in. Some of the longer-serving Moles perhaps tend to focus predominantly on their Moles accounts / personas, while those who have more recently joined the team might spend more time split between their personal accounts and Mole accounts.
As freelance contractors, Moles also get to pretty much choose their hours of work – providing tasks are completed on time. An advantage here is that as the Moles are based around the world, some projects can at times move forward on something of a round-the-clock basis.
Over the years, the Moles have to deal with a with a lot, starting with selecting their Mole name. For this, they have to put forward three preferences, and either are award the one that’s available, or get to pick from those that are available – although there can be opportunities for them to change their names. They also have to deal with the more unusual in Second Life, as Abnor Mole explained:
With the games, we’ve had a lot of people who try to find a lot of creative ways not to play the game as you’re supposed to … In the Paleoquest game [in which tasks must be completed against the clock] … at the end, where you’re supposed to take a giant swab and you have to go and find the dino DNA, and you do that with the giant cotton swab … we found that somebody was going around and they would always find the “good poop” to swab the very first time, and we were, “how are they doing this?” And we’re looking and we’re looking and we’re looking, and finally we realised there was a time stamp on the creation of the object that was a little bit different on the “good” ones … they had gone that deeply into it to tell that that was how to do it [find the right item and complete the task]!
– Abnor Mole on one of the weird things Moles sometimes have to deal with
How Did You Become A Mole?
Abnor Mole: read about the formation of the LPDW in 2008, put in an application – back then this could be done via the Second Life website (and later the wiki), was interviewed by Michael Linden, who at that time managed the LPDW, and was accepted – so has been a Mole for 11 years. Among his many roles as a part of the team, he produces some of the videos associated with the like of the Paleoquest game.
Naughty Mole: was approached by Jack Linden (who used to manage the SL land team) as the LPDW was being formed with the aim of improving the Mainland, and he asked her if she’d like to join. One of the first projects she worked on was Barney’s Bay.
Squeaky Mole: is one of the “youngest” Moles, having joined the LDPW just over a year ago. He was “discovered” as a result of exhibiting at SLB, and the Lindens visited his region after which he received an invitation from Patch to become a Mole – and initially thought it was a joke!
Missy Mole: is also one of the “younger” moles, having joined the LDPW on June 28th, 2018. Also like Squeaky, she was approach by Patch to join the team, specifically in taking photos in support of Marketing work. She and Squeaky are two of the Moles who have done a lot of the work on SL16B.
Alotta Mole: like Missy, was approached by Patch as a result of his in-world photography, and joined the LDPW initially in support of Marketing work.
What Does It Take To Become A Mole?
Drop your resume (note card) on Derrick Linden or in-world or to Patch Linden. Include your areas of expertise and any links you have where the Lab can see examples of your work (in-world, Flickr, You Tube, etc).
Fully rounded content creators are encouraged to apply, but the Lab will also accept specialists.
Be outgoing, communicative, willing to work within a team.
Have a genuine passion for SL.
Remember, it is an actual paid job, and is treated as such. You will be interviewed, you’ll be expected to have a résumé (c.v.), and be able to demonstrate your SL-related work.
Everyone on the team has their specialities, what they’re strong with … we do have Moles who specifically do scripting; we have moles who specifically so mesh content work and texturing or just texturing; we have Moles who do texturing and photography; we have Moles who do sound work, animation work. So, if you can think of each thing, or each area you can do content creation work for Second Life and in Second Life – we pretty much have to cover every single one of those areas, and in some of those areas we need more than one person.
There’s folk that specialise in terraforming, folks that do region décor work [trees, road, etc] … people who have got an eye for putting that stuff together and out there, being good with Land Impact … maybe they don’t have a lot of capability in making that stuff, but the other people in the team that make that content do that for them, and then they’re the ones that carry through that next step.
On Thursday, June 26th, 2019 at the SL16B celebrations, the fourth of five Meet the Lindens sessions was held at the SL16B Auditorium. It featured Xiola Linden, Lead Community Manager and Strawberry Linden, Marketing Content Specialist.
The SL4Live TV video of the event is embedded below, with a couple of brief biographies on Xiola and Strawberry, based on comments they made during the session and in Xiola’s case, at past events.
Xiola is the Lead Community Manager at Linden Lab. she originally came to Second Life in 2006, and joined the Lab in 2011. Her role is broad-ranging, including elements of customer support, through blogging and social media output for the Lab, to organising events such as the in-world get-togethers. For a period of time she was also responsible for community management work on Sansar, but has been back working full-time on Second Life for around 18 months. She will celebrate her eighth anniversary with the company in November 2018.
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. It was a friend’s invitation that she try Second Life that got her started on the platform, and she remains active in-world on her personal account. Her engagement in the platform led to an interest in joining the Lab as an employee, so she started keeping an eye on the Lab’s career page and when a community related post to opened, she applied and was recruited.
Also known as Strawberry Singh, she is one of the more high profile lab recruits to come from the ranks of Second Life residents, thanks to her work in building her own brand – blogging, vlogging, fashion tips, tutorials, etc., – that has been hugely popular among Second Life users, particularly those with a focus / involvement on the fashion aspects of the platform.
It is her personal brand that played a role in her decision to carry her fist name over from resident to Linden in becoming Strawberry Linden – although she notes that she had advice from Patch Linden and others to keep her Linden persona separate from her personal SL persona and admits to perhaps regretting not heeding it!
As a Marketing Content Specialist, she is focused on Second Life (no involvement in Sansar), her current focus is on tutorial videos to help incoming new users, starting with the basics: signing-up, walking around in-world, etc. From here she plans to move onto more intermediate subjects and onwards to more advanced topics, covering a broad range of subjects: buying Linden dollars, editing the avatar shape, dressing, use mesh avatars and mesh heads, etc., with videos aimed at more established users, rather than being purely for newcomers.
She had no major preconceptions about working at the Lab prior to joining, but has been impacted by the degree of love staff have towards the platform. She also loves the fact she can continue with a lot of what she did as a resident: dress avatars, create looks, take photos and make videos, and hopes to be able to carry over her blog challenges to the Lab.
Note: the following is taken from both Ebbe’s comments and my own research into his background, carried out when he joined Linden Lab in 2014, and which also included input from Ebbe.
Swedish by birth and still by nationality – he is still working in the US on a green card -, Ebbe graduated fromTärnabySkidhem in 1983. His time there was focused on skiing, as he wanted to be a ski racer, with his eyes on the Swedish national team and the world cup. Unfortunately, a back injury stopped him pursuing that particular career option, and so he crossed the Atlantic to study Middlebury College, Vermont, USA.
Founded in 1800, Middlebury is regarded as one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States. While there, he “spent a lot of time in the art studio and the computer lab in an extreme left brain / right brain type of education”, before graduating with a degree in Fine Arts and a concentration in Computer Applications.
From Middlebury, and with the clock ticking down on his visa, Ebbe “slipped into Microsoft on a random banana peel”, where he spent twelve years. Joining in the pre-Windows era, he was particularly involved with the Office products (Word, Mac Office, etc) and multimedia products.
In March 2000, he moved on to Ingenio, a company that created marketplaces for people to buy and sell information over the phone. While there he was responsible for managing the engineering, program management, operations, and quality teams, and served as the company’s interim CEO before taking on the mantle of the Chief Product Officer. And while he doesn’t often mention it due to not being a huge fan of the patent system, he “racked up quite a few patents there.”
After Ingenio, Ebbe joined Yahoo! n February 2008, filling out a number of senior roles, including Vice President, Head of Audience for the company’s EMEA division, being based in Rolle, Switzerland, managing some 180 people and multiple products across six countries. During this period he also served on the board of Yahoo! SARL (Société à responsabilité limitée) – think the equivalent of a Pvt Ltd company in the UK or a limited liability partnership in the USA, before returning to the United States to become the Senior Vice President for Media Engineering at Yahoo! with global responsibly for Media Engineering, a position that involved managing an organisation of more than 600 engineers, architects, program managers and quality engineering staff, as well as having dotted-line oversight of some 150 product managers and designers.
Following Yahoo!, he took up the challenge of turning around a small tech company called BranchOut, based in San Francisco. Around two years old at the time of his joining, BranchOut had been through a roller-coaster ride with its product, a Facebook oriented application designed for finding jobs, networking professionally, and recruiting employees. Seven months before Ebbe joined the company, the app boasted 25 million users across 60 countries – but by the time he came on board, the user base had shrunk to just 3 million. Under his guidance, the company pivoted the BranchOut app into a new workplace messaging application called Talk.co, launched in October 2013.
Ebbe was actually aware of Second life – and had experienced it first hand – a long time before joining Linden Lab in 2014. His son Aleks, had been heavily involved in SL, starting with the Teen Grid, making content and then moving to developing a successful in-world business there (Aleks is now an Lab Employee, working on Sansar, where he is a regular at in-world community meet-ups and product meetings).
More particularly, Ebbe has had a long-standing friendship with the Chair of the Lab’s board of directors, Jed Smith. LL was one of Smith’s first investments when he became a venture capitalist, and through Jed Ebbe gained an awareness of the Lab, its product, and met Philip Rosedale.
So I fell in love with the idea, and understood what Philip and Second Life was trying to achieve, but it wasn’t until many, many, many years later – well, five years ago now – that it came up that they were looking for someone, and it was the right time and place for both the Lab and me to hook up and see how I could help keep things going here.
I have not regretted that decision for a second, it’s been absolutely fantastic; it’s an incredible group of people I get to work with. Having the Second Life team is just an absolute privilege … Everyone is just incredibly passionate about the product … that’s just been a very, very enjoyable ride for me so far.
– Ebbe Altberg, Meet the Lindens, June 26th, 2019
One of the greatest rewards he sees in being with the company is diversity, be it within the people working the Lab or using Second Life, or the equally rich diversity of uses people find for Second Life – be it as a means of expression or as a platform for business, as tool for health improvement or an aid education, and so on, and the multiple ways Second Life can benefit those who engage with the platform.
He is also drawn to the technical aspects of the platform, including its multiple challenges, and the way it combines so many different capabilities: tools for content creation, options for social engagement, the ability to run a virtual economy, etc., all of which combine with the need to constantly discover / learn new things about the ways in which SL is being used, to continually refresh interest in, and enthusiasm for, managing, improving and expanding the platform.
As a world Second Life has a huge diversity of uses, and there is no single “one size fits all” solution.
Has always and consistently stated a belief that virtual land in SL is too expensive [it has been a major theme from users throughout his tenure as CEO as well, and preceded his arrival at the Lab].
HOWEVER, Land fees generate the majority of the Lab’s inflow of revenue, even if it has been over-monetised by the Lab in order to meet that revenue requirement.
Therefore, if land fees are to be reduced, the Lab must find ways to move its revenue generation from virtual land to other opportunities that have previously perhaps been under-monetised in their ability to generate revenue. These include things like Premium fees and consumer-related revenue generation options.
Also feels there has been an imbalance in the way SL operates, as a merchant without any land can produce goods and sell them (via the Marketplace) without really paying for the opportunity to do so (just 5% commission on sales), and could then cash-out with very little cost to their revenue.
Unfortunately, both trying to broaden LL’s revenue generation options to decrease a reliance on land fee, and trying to correct some of the balance in where fee are obtained to help with that revenue generation, can result in some feeling hurt.
LL are attempting to be careful in how these shifts are made, as there are major risks involved (for both in-world business and the Lab itself), and so are progressing in small steps – the recent Premium and processing fee increases being the latest of those steps.
Believes there are still opportunities to further re-balance things, and to reduce land costs.
Also believes it is fair to say that while things like credit processing fees have been increased, they are still well below what might be regarded as “industry standards” for many digital transactions, which can be 30% and upwards.
Understands that the increases have impacted people, notably creators with very low margins, and who may have to make adjustments to their pricing, etc., and recognises that changes like those now implemented (as of June 24th) might make it tougher for some to survive, but believes the changes are necessary.
Points out that one of the consequences of high tier is that SL so often loses stunning public regions that have been built, and which people miss when they vanish.
On Tuesday, June 254th, 2019 at the SL16B celebrations, the second of five Meet the Lindens sessions was held in the SL16B Auditorium. It featured the Lab’s Senior Director, Second Life Engineering, Oz Linden and April Linden, Systems Engineering Manager, Operations.
The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with audio extracts where relevant.
Note that there are three videos of this event that I’m aware of:
Discussion points have been grouped by topic, and not necessarily in the order raised during the session.
I have focused on those topics liable to be of the most interest to readers / generated the most informative answers, so this is not a summary of all comments. etc.,
Topics are give as bullet-point highlights for ease of reference.
Audio extracts are provided.
These have been cleaned-up in places to remove repetition or pauses, etc.
Audio extracts may concatenate comments on specific subjects that may have been made at different points in the discussion, and so do not always match the chronology of the video.
Timestamps to the part 2 of the SL4Live – TV video are provided for those who would prefer to listen to comments “in the raw”. This video is also embedded at the end of this article.
About April and Oz Linden
April has some 20 years of experience in systems engineering, and is genuinely passionate about Second Life. She first became involved in the platform in 2006, and is still extremely active as a resident.
I actually own a couple of regions, and I’m in-world probably way more as a resident than I am as a Linden. At the end of the day, I leave the Lab, go home, have some dinner and then log-in as a different account and spend my time in Second Life.
– April Linden, Meet the Lindens, June 25th, 2019
In this, April is one of a large number – in difference to the hoary old claim that “Lindens don’t understand SL” because they’ve “never been residents” or they’re “never in-world” – of Lab employees who have joined the company from the ranks of SL users (in fact if you look at the list of those Lindens who have attended Meet the Lindens over the years, the many are former residents who have not only joined the company, but have also risen to senior positions within LL.
Joining the company in 2013, April worked within the systems engineering team, and was promoted to her current position of Systems Engineering Manager, Operations, some 18 months ago. For her, the great attraction of the platform has been, and remains, the empowerment it gives people to express themselves positively.
I come from a background – well, I’ll just be frank, where LGBT issues were not to be discussed, and it was through Second Life that gave me the power and the anonymity and the courage, really, to learn more about myself. And Second Life gave me the power to make my life so much better … This platform is so important to me, I work here to keep it going; It gave me the courage to be more than I was, and I really appreciate Second Life for that.
– April Linden, Meet the Lindens, June 25th, 2019
Oz is the Technical Director for Second Life. He joined the company in 2010 specifically to take on the role of managing the open-source aspects of the Second Life viewer and managing the relationship with third-party viewers. In his previous role, he had been responsible for leading the company his was working for in taking their product from closed-source to open-source and then managing the technical side of the product as a open-source project for a number of years.
Over the first two years of his time at the Lab, he was primarily focused on the open-source viewer work and in refining the overall viewer maintenance process, before his role started expanding to encompass more and more of the engineering side of Second Life. When work on Sansar started in earnest, he pro-actively campaigned within the Lab for the role he has now, with responsibility for managing all of the engineering side of the Second Life platform.
He came to Linden Lab out of a desire to do something “fun” after working in the telecommunication arena, notably with voice over IP systems (VOIP), which he defines as being “really interesting technology with some really fascinating challenges”, but in terms of it being fun, it really didn’t do what I wanted it to do.” He had actually signed-up to Second Life around three years prior to joining Linden Lab, but wouldn’t classify himself as a resident at that time as he didn’t have a particularly good computer and so couldn’t really do that much – although interestingly, he did use his SL account for around half of his interviews with the Lab, all of which were conducted in-world.
He classifies the attraction to working with Second Life as perhaps falling into three core areas: through the open-source nature of the viewer, he is directly involved with how SL users are using the viewer and what they do with it – which can often times take the Lab entirely by surprise; through the fact that the Second Life offers the challenge of trying to implement new technologies alongside of (rather than simply replacing) older technologies; and working with the operations team and others to ensure SL constantly evolves without (as far as is possible) breaking anything – a process he refers to and rebuilding the railway in front of a moving train.
Induction at the Lab is referred to as “drinking from the fire hose”, in that all new starters have an enormous amount to learn (although those who come from the ranks of residents may have it a little easier due to their familiarity with the platform as users).
Part of this used to include a series of Jira-based tasks new starters would be given, which they then had to come in-world and do.
Most employees at the Lab refer to it as a “fun” place to work – and most are there a long time.
One of the appeals of working with Second Life is that it is a constant surprise: users make use of the platform and its capabilities in so many (often unique / unintended) ways, that seeing / hearing about how the platform is used is something of a daily voyage of discovery.
Most rewarding aspects of the work:
Hearing about the positive impact Second Life can have on people’s physical lives.
Being able to run the platform and help / be with users.
Oz: trying to introduce new features while maintaining backward compatibility, be it the way a function used to work, how it’s anticipated SL should work, how SL looks, or making it harder for people on older systems to use SL, and how user content works within SL.
April: trying to keep all of the SL services (not just the simulators, they are just a part of the story) running without interruption, be it from issues developing internally, or for outside influences such as DDoS attacks.
This complexity is increased at SL has continued to grow technically over 16+ years, so systems and subsystems can all behave differently to one another, which means root causes of issues can often be found in unlikely places.
Given SL is intended to run 24/7, it is not as if those working in the Ops team today can take a system down, figure out how it works and put it back together – they often have to do that as a part of trying to fix an issue.
Much of the work April’s team carries out is invisible to users: they are often in and fixing issues before the problems rise to the point of impacting users.
As a resident, April believes it’s important for users to understand what has happened when things go sideways, hence her honest (and appreciated) post-mortem blog posts on outages.