SL19B MTL – the Moles (new starter avatars + Linden Homes)

via Linden Lab

Friday, June 24th, 2022 saw the final Meet the Lindens special events take place for the SL19B(irthday) celebrations, featuring Patch Linden and the Moles of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).

Unlike previous articles in this series, this is not a detailed summary of the session, but focuses on information relating to the New User eXperience (NUX) and the upcoming new Starter Avatars, and on plans for Linden Homes for Premium Plus and Premium accounts. Also provided is information on who the Moles are, and how to apply to become one, if you believe your skill sets are suitable.

New User Experience / Starter Avatar Project

[Video: 12:27-20:56]

  • NUX is a multi-phase, multi-faceted project that is fairly constantly in motion.
  • Currently, the focus is on the new user starter avatars, given the current avatars are a mix of the original system body and mesh attachments.
  • This project is intended to replace all of the starter avatars with fully mesh offerings. These will utilise the Bento skeleton and sliders, support Bakes on Mesh (BoM) and be an all-in-one, head-to-toes avatar, complete with new animation overrides.
A preview version of the new, single mesh (head-to-toe) avatar, which will use by mesh clothing and Bakes on Mesh, and be open for creators to design clothing and accessories
  • These avatars:
    • Will be provided with an “array” of outfits/looks/ethnicities from which new users can choose during the sign-up process, with everything being an unisex as possible, so as to work across the full gender spectrum and the avatars themselves also available through the system Library.
    • Won’t necessarily be as robust and extensible as some of the “best-in-class” bodies and heads, but are seen as a means to help those coming into SL get started and ease them into the wider creative ecosphere.
    • Will be supported by developer kits so that creators can produce clothing and accessories for them, and again further encourage new users into the broader commercial ecosystem.
A closer view of the preview avatar head / face. Note this is not necessarily indicative of the final versions of these avatars; the project is a work-in-progress.
  • The work is still very much at a pre-release status, with the preview shown at the event not necessarily represent the finished product; there is a lot more to come with the project before it is ready for release.

Linden Homes – Premium Plus and Premium

[Video: 36:31-44:55]

  • At the time of the Moles MTL, 34,845 Premium Linden Homes had been made available and 1,913 regions released, with a further 172 “under construction”.
  • Premium Plus Linden Homes:
    • Entirely new “ground up” themes with a new approach to implementation.
    • The “ranch” theme Patch mentions at his MTL session [video ; blog summary], is one under consideration, although exact style, etc., is still TBA.
    • The fact that ideas are still in development is why Premium Plus Linden Homes will not be appearing until the end of 2022 “at the earliest”.
    • The increased land offering (2048 sq m) means more opportunities to use different parcel sizes.
  • Premium Linden Homes:
    • Both the Traditional and Victorian theme will be getting a refresh with “open-plan” variants on their styles.
    • Houseboats to get four new floor plans.
    • Updates will include a pass to bring the control panels up-to-date with the most recent home releases.
    • All of this will be rolled out before the end of 2022.
  • New large-scale community centres for Bellisseria are also in the works.
  • No plans at this time for a “city style” theme with apartments and the like.

About the Moles

Who or What are the Moles?

  • Officially called the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW), originally formed in 2008, Moles are residents from all over the world hired by Linden Lab as independent contractors to undertake specific tasks.
  • Their work was originally focused on the Mainland, adding the infrastructure – road, bridges, etc., and the landscaping, as noted in the official LDPW wiki page, although they actually do a lot more than this.
  • Notable major projects carried out by the Moles include:
    • The infrastructure within Nautilus City.
    • The development of Bay City.
    • The Linden Homes continent of Bellisseria (including all topography, flora, infrastructure and housing).
    • The facilities for events like Shop & Hop, the Second Life Birthday, town hall events, the turn-key regions available for businesses, starter avatars, etc.
    • 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.
  • They also provide support / input for / to technical projects (e.g. Project Bento and the avatar skeleton extension), and work with marketing, QA and other LL teams.
  • In keeping with their name, Moles were originally given a mole avatar, complete with hard hat. However, over the years, most have moved to having a more individual and personal look, although some say with their Mole look.
  • As well as being paid for the work they do, Moles also receive and allowance from the Lab, which is primarily intended to go towards the cost of uploads (texture, animations, mesh objects, etc)., but which can also be put towards developing their individual looks.

How to Become a Mole

  • Positions in the LDPW are open to application by residents who believe they are qualified to work in the team, and the team may also approach specific residents and ask if they would consider joining them.
  • Applications are made by dropping a résumé (note card or email) of qualifications / experience (including links SLurls, Flickr, You Tube, etc.) to Derrick Linden (derrick.linden-at-lindenlab.com) or to Patch Linden (patch.linden-at-lindenlab.com).
  • Applicants have to go through a former interview process.
  • Successful applicants get to pretty much choose their hours of work – providing agreed tasks are completed on time.
  • As they are from around the world, this can allow some projects to move forward on almost a round-the-clock basis.
  • Those who are more fully-rounded in skill sets  – content creation, scripting, etc., – are encouraged to apply, but LL will also take on specialists.
  • Motivated, outgoing, communicative people with a passion for SL and willing to self-teach themselves new skill sets are particularly considered.

SL19B MTL: Grumpity and Mojo Linden – summary with videos

 

via Linden Lab
Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 saw the fourth in the SL19B Meet the Lindens events, this one featuring Grumpity Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product and Mojo Linden, the Vice President of Engineering.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The full video is located at the end of this article.

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

Table of Contents

Also, information given in braces ([ and ]), has been provided by myself and does not form a part of the conversation.

The TL;DR Summary

  • Platform Improvements and the Roadmap:
    • Viewer performance: Graphics team working to overhaul the viewer’s graphics performance, with updates already released (Performance Improvements viewer) and more (at the time of writing) on the way (Performance Improvements Floater viewer).
    • SL environmental work in development / testing: reflection probes; glTF materials support; moving towards “full” PBR support [progress on this work available via my CCUG meeting summaries].
    • Managing technical debt: dealing with long-term issues; re-visiting features; under-the-hood improvements.
    • The Marketplace: recent small-scale improvements; the Styles project to add variances(e.g. colour options) to listings; future considerations.
    • Event regions update: new products released with revised pricing – see: Lab announces updated Event and Event Elite Regions + pricing
    • Roadmap: search relevance overhaul; Group Chat.
  • New User eXperience: overview of new starter avatars and hopes, but see the Meet the Moles session for more details.
  • Mobile Update: not a lot to report; LL still has mobile / web ambitions; a streaming solution is in development.
  • Second Life and the “Metaverse”: being a part of the discussions of “the metaverse”; being aware of the challenges;
  • thoughts on joining the Metaverse Standard Forum.

A Little Background

[Video: 0:00-4:00]

Grumpity Linden

  • Heads up Second Life Product team, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach.
  • Originally came to Linden Lab while working for The Product Engine, a company providing end-to-end consulting and software development services, and which supports viewer development at the Lab, and she was initially involved in the development and viewer 2 (as designed by 80/20 Studio).
  • She became a “full-time Linden” in 2014. Her current position involves coordinating the various teams involved in bringing features and updates to Second Life (e.g. Engineering and QA), liaising with legal, financial and compliance to ensure features and capabilities meet any specific requirements in those areas, etc. This work can involve looking at specifics within various elements of the overall SL product, such as UI design and layout, etc.
  • Prior to working for Linden Lab, she was involved in a number of industries, including technology, higher education, and oil & gas. She enjoys exploring worlds both virtual and physical and takes pride in building bridges – personal and professional.
  • Holds a Master’s in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s from same in Computer Science & Psychology, both from Johns Hopkins University. She finds leading the Second Life product a joy because it allows her to draw on both areas of study.

Mojo Linden

  • Joined Linden Lab in August 2021.
  • Has overall responsibility for managing both the viewer and the simulator engineering teams at the Lab.
  • Holds a degree in Computer engineering from the University of Washington.
  • Has over 20 years experience within the games industry, and he has worked on iconic franchises such as Halo, Forza, Motorsport, Fable, Crackdown, and Wheel of fortune.
  • His expertise extends across multiple platforms: PC, console, mobile, cloud and web.
  • Prior to joining Linden Lab, held senior positions at Level EX, Zume, Doubledown Interactive, IGT, and Microsoft.
  • Since joining the Lab, he has demonstrated an intuitive understanding of the platform and the viewer, and has sought to make himself available at in-world user groups such as the Content Creation User Group, the Simulator User Group and the Third Party Viewer Developer’s group.
  • Loves being a part of Linden Lab, finds the users “dynamic” and enjoys working with his colleagues.
  • Is grateful the the move to AWS was largely completed before he joined, as it has opened a lot of opportunities.

Back to top

Platform Improvements and the Roadmap

Viewer Performance Improvements

[Video: 4:11-5:39] – Mojo:

  • Performance has always been important to him as an engineer, and is aware of how poor performance can spoil an immersive experience.
  • The Graphics team has been working on performance improvements over the last six months, with Runitai Linden’s work in particular leading to a near doubling of FPS on the official viewer [see: Looking at the SL Performance Improvements Viewer).
  • Further viewer-side changes to come include: performance auto-tuning [within the Performance Improvements Floater RC viewer], texture streaming improvements; and using all available video memory.
  • [Note: several of these improvements are covered in my CCUG meeting summaries.]

Environmental and Lighting Improvements

[Video: 9:51-15:11]

  • Mojo:
    • Global illumination / bounced lighting [a form of radiosity lighting]  is “on our minds”.
    • Currently in development is support for reflection probes, which could be used to approximate global illumination and bounced lighting.
      • [In short: reflection probes will exist / can be added to a scene or build, and used to generate a cube map of a defined area, and the cube map used for generating illuminations / reflections on other surfaces within the specified volume. ]
    • Reflection probes are an adjunction to implementing support for physically based rendering (PBR)
      • [The first phase of this work is to allow the import of materials to Second Life as inventory assets which can be applied to object faces. This work is following the giTF 2.0 specification – specifically metallic roughness; and will go on to provide better support for tools such as Substance Painter (aka Adobe Substance 3D)].
    • This work is being carried out in direct collaboration with members of the Second Life creator community and developers working on TPVs to ensure as many use cases as possible are considered.
    • This might be seen as a step towards mirrors in Second Life.
  • Grumpity:
    • In terms of weather effects, points out the the Environment Enhancement Project (EEP) carried general environment rendering in SL significantly forward, but at a resource / time to implement [it also moved SL further away from the Windlight baseline code].
    • As such, “weather” is something that is going to have to wait whilst the focus is on other aspects of the platform.

Back to top

Dealing with Technical Debt – Bugs, and “Incomplete” Features

[Video: 16:15-20:09]

  • Technical debt does get constantly addressed; however there are constraints on what can be done, due to both legacy code and legacy content + the risk of breakage.
  • A lot of what is addressed is not necessarily user-visible: updating to more modern code languages and libraries to run systems and services and the viewer, updating to more capable database systems, etc., all of which directly benefit users.
  • In terms of users providing input on bugs and ideas for improvements, there are the following options:

Back to top

The Marketplace

[Video: 27:32-29:30] – Grumpity:

  • Marketplace improvements tend to be rolling over time. Recent small-scale improvements include:
    • The ability to sort by orders you’ve reviewed.
    • Some initial improvements to search results and improvements to the back-end of MP search, with more to come.
    • Improvements to the speed of order recipients search.
    • Major project to implement “Styles” (e.g. thing like colour variance in products) to product listings. The back-end work is now done and the front-end work should become visible “in a few cycles”.
  • Still thinking hard about the Marketplace, up to and including a potential complete re-build, which will be “quite a project”.
  • [Note: on-going work on the Marketplace are reported via my Web User Group summaries.]

Back to top

Event Regions Update

[Video: 31:45-37:08] – Grumpity:

  • LL have noted that while Event regions tend to run best in a “standalone” mode, rather than connected to other regions (particularly other event regions), where child agents¹ can become an issue. This has yet to be resolved, and is being worked on.
  • In the interim, the tier tier of Event product are being made available – Event Regions Pro (at US $449/mo) and Event Region Elite (and US $599/mo) with no set-up fees for either.
  • LL believe the revised product offering and pricing will “hit the spot”.
  • [Please also refer to  Event Regions: New Pricing and Offerings – Linden Lab and Lab announces updated Event and Event Elite Regions + pricing – this blog.]

Back to top

The Product Roadmap

[Video: 20:40-26:38]

  • Grujmpity:
    • A lot that has been on the roadmap has been, and is being rolled-out, including Premium Plus; Event regions; performance improvements (with more to come, as this is a constant focus).
    • Further work encompasses the New User eXperience (NUX), with a current focus on Starter Avatars and customising avatars – with discussion of this to be found in the Meet the Moles session [+brief notes below].
    • Web properties [the secondlife.com dashboard, the various SL Pages, the Marketplace, etc.] are a focus of update and improvement.
      • Land ownership – buying regions, obtaining Mainland, choosing a Linden Home, etc.,  is the next major focus for this.
  • Mojo:
    • Group Chat is a current area focus (responsiveness and reliability).
      • This is something that has been complicated by the raising of Group limits for Premium Plus, so more people are liable to be in more Groups, which places a great load on the Group Chat service.
      • LL recognise the importance of Group Chat, so it will continue to be an area of focus and improvement.
    • Search relevance: a major project to overall search (web, Marketplace, etc.) in terms of relevance and accuracy.
      • This includes work to track search results so that if a result that appears will down a list is the one the vast majority of people go to, it will be moved up to the top of the list.
      • At the time of writing, this project is still in progress so it will take time to be fully deployed to properties like the Marketplace.
  • [Note: on-going work on projects such as search relevance, land ownership, Marketplace improvements and updates, etc., are reported via my Web User Group summaries.]

Back to top

NUX – New User eXperience

[Video: 30:02-31:10]

  • Mojo:
    • Making it easier to on-board new users.
    • Major current focus, easing the process for new users to customise their avatars. This includes a new body type and clothing that “just works”.
    • Hope that there will be an opportunity for creators to test their clothing against this new body type.
    • Wants to encourage creators to cater for the new body type and sell good for it to new users.
  • Grumpity:
    • More details in the Meet the Moles session.

Back to top

Mobile Update

[Video: 40:08-42:09]

  • Mojo:
    • LL was working on a chat app [initially iOS] but has “shifted gears”.
    • Appreciates third-party solutions such as Speedlight “filling the gap”.
    • LL still has ambitions in the mobile / app environment, but is not ready to discuss everything as yet, but there are initiatives being examined, including using web functionality in the mobile space.
    • Wants to be able to give users the power to managed inventory, shop, find things to do, manage their accounts, etc., via mobile and on the web.
  • [Video: 47:47-48:34] Grumpity:
    • Also working on a streaming solution (again).
    • Believe LL has found a sweet spot for a streaming solution in terms of pricing.
    • This cannot be free as it is running on some server, somewhere.
    • May offer a better option for 3D viewing of Second Life on mobile devices than dedicated apps.

Back to top

Looking Ahead – Aspirational Aims

[Video: 42:19-48:34]

These are not things that are about to be shipped; they are “R&D projects”, some of which may be in progress.

  • Grumpity
    • Puppetry [aka “Avatar expressiveness”]
      • Controlling an avatar via wbecam – e.g. so if you use a webcam and roll your head, the avatar mimic by rolling it’s head; if you smile, your avatar smiles, etc.
      • Sees this as an a alternate, more cost-effective means of bringing emotional expression to avatars than using VR headsets.
      • A future step is to put a demo of this work together and present it for input from the community.
    • “Chat Roulette”: improving the ways in which people can meet, converse, find answers to questions and generally feel a greater sense of engagement.

  • Mojo:
    • Performance improvements, notably in the area of fidelity.
    • Increasing a sense of presence within SL by removing / overcoming the limitation of draw distance in being able to see vast open spaces like on Mainland, when exploring or whilst flying.

Back to top

Second Life and the “Metaverse”

[Video: 5:43-9:35] – Grumpity:

  • The hype  / interest has allowed her to represent Linden Lab / Second Life through various mediums – printed, television, etc., and to participate in various discussion and panels (e.g. the “metaverse” and the law, hosted by Stanford University with the likes of Lawrence Lessig).
  • Thinks it is “fantastic” to see this resurgence of interest in virtual worlds, although there is a lot to consider carefully.
  • Notes that a lot of the discussions around the “metaverse” – inhabiting digital selves, engaging in digital transactions – are things that have been occurring in Second Life for almost two decades, allowing the Lab to be a strong player in such conversations.
  • In terms of business models for “metaverse” platforms:
    • Reiterates that LL is “very proud” that it does not monetise users’ personal data, in keeping with comments from Brad Oberwager and Philip Linden [video here and my summary here],
    • Notes that LL believe that moving an adverts-based monetised model from the 2D social spaces into immersive environments could be “dangerous”, even though it does allow the virtual world to be “free” in terms of direct cost to users.
  •  It has presented LL with the opportunity to innovate, notably with the initiatives noted above.

LL and the Metaverse Standards Forum

[Video: 1:02:47-1:04:15] – Mojo

  • LL has started a discussion to join.
  • Feels that as the OG among virtual worlds, it makes sense for LL to be in the forum.
  • Believes it will be interesting to see if common standards can be developed in terms of information exchange, presence exchange (possibly even avatar exchange), etc., so could be beneficial in having a seat at the table.

Back to top

General Questions

This section covers the majority of questions that were responded to in some detail. Note that questions specific to the topics given above are included under those topic headings.

  • [Video: 26:56] Will users get more Picks options in their in-world Profiles? It’s possible, but not being worked on at the moment. It may, however, be a Premium feature.
  • [Video: 56:11-57:30] What is the status of VR support in SL? Re-visiting VR headset support has been discussed, but there should not be an expectations of anything being released in the foreseeable future, and it sits behind a number of other things in the “aspirational aims” pile.
  • [Video: 58:01-59:31] What is the status of any move towards using the Vulkan API for graphics?
    • It is definitely on the docket for work, and is contained in the overall bucket of performance improvements, but no direct work has as yet started.
    • There is also a matter of timing to be considered – how much further can SL move along the OpenGL in respect of Apple’s plan to deprecate OpenGL support.
    • Also the concern as to how many PC users in SL can run Vulkan.
  • [Video 59:42-1:00:57] What does the future support of Mac OS look like? There is “every plan” to continue to support Mac OS, including investment in a graphics API to move beyond OpenGL.
  • [Video: 1:01:21-1:02:14] Would it be possible to have “lightweight” Groups, purely for notices? Interesting idea; would point out that Group issues are not so much the chat itself, but the presence updates (reporting to all other members when Group members log-in / out); so this is one of the possibilities that can be turned to.
  • [Video: 1:04:25-1:06:22] Would it be possible to access and organise inventory via the web and without having to log-into the viewer?
    • This is a “passion project” for a Linden, and discussions have been held on how it might be achieved.
    • However, there are many caveats  / concerns about any implementation (e.g. risk of account hacking); so if done likely to be gated by multi-factor authentication; what happens if you make near-simultaneous changes to inventory from both the web and when in-world?
    • Even so, is something LL would like to provide.
  • [Video: 1:06:37-1:10:21] Are there plans to improve the in-world building tools? Believes in-world, collaborative building is a core aspect of Second Life. Some ideas are being discussed internally, but would love to have user feedback on improvements and ideas [Feature Requests via the Second Life Jira].
  • [Video: 1:10:49-1:11:40] What is the status of official Linux support in the viewer? Recognises there is an application for Linux support, and some TPVs do support it. However, from an official LL standpoint, it’s not something the company has been investing its time.
  • [Video: 1:11:56-1:13:05] Will SL support the nVidia ray tracing functionality? If there is a demand, and it can be done without impacting performance or degrading the experience – possibly.
  • [Video: 1:13:12-1:14:07] Can an updated FAQ on “lag” and ways to mitigate it be produced? It will be considered as will a possible Second Life University video on the subject.
  • [Video: 1:14:15-1:15:37] Will SL move to a more off-the-shelf graphics engine? LL is currently investing in improvements to the existing engine (e.g. the updates noted above. Which is not to say they are unaware of engines such as Unity or Unreal; there are no current plans to move to a commercial engine.
  • [Video: 1:16:14-1:17:12] Will sound in SL see any improvement? There have been discussions; there’s also the potential for improvement audio / spatial audio via High Fidelity, so again – Feature Request Jiras.
  • [Video: 1:17:22-1:20:28] How is the Meta platform regarded? Meta has considerable resources to throw tat their platform, particularly as grasping at the “metaverse” concept is something of a Hail Mary for them. As such, it is the elephant in the room for virtual worlds.
  • [Video:1:20:50-1:22:09] Will it be possible to “tag” inventory items for easier categorisation (clothes furniture, etc)? This has been a subject of discussion at LL. However, it is not easy to implement due to the impact on things like database schema, etc. As such, it is not as yet on the roadmap.
  • [Video: 1:23:22-1:24:41] Will there be improvements to region crossings? There is a lot of complexity involved in both teleports between regions and physical region crossing (one foot or on a vehicle). LL has been, is continues to work on getting a deeper understanding of the complexities and making improvements.
  • [Video: 1:25:05-1:26:56] When will there be a fix for regions removed from the grid still showing up on the world map? And when will the Mainland default EEP be brightened? The first is awaiting improvements to the map generation service, and a resource has been assigned to look at that service as a whole. The EEP issue is a LDPW issue.
  • [Video: 1:27:29-1:27:57] Will residents be able to add graphics to the world map tiles in the same manner as seen with the SL19B regions? LL can do this, but it’s not clear if this is something that would be opened to users – but “maybe”.
The SL19B logo added to the world map below the SL19B regions, courtesy of Simon Linden

Back to top

Footnotes

  1. Simply put, a Child Agent refers to a secondary agent (avatar) presence associated with your own, then can exist in regions physically adjoining to the one you are currently in, allowing you to “see” into a connected regions (and have it render in your viewer).

Child agents are not physically rendered avatars but a simulator resource, as such they can directly influence region performance.

SL19B MTL: Brad Oberwager and Philip Rosedale – summary

via Linden Lab

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022 saw the second in the SL19B Meet the Lindens events, Featuring Linden Lab board member and Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden), together with Linden Lab founder (and now Second Life Strategic Advisor) Philip Rosedale.

Notes:

  • This was a pre-recorded interview, with no opportunity to ask questions directly of the participants.

 

Table of Contents

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

A Little Background

Brad Oberwager

[Video: 0:00-5:30]

Brad Oberwager is one of the three investors who acquired Linden Lab in 2020, together with J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield and Raj Date. Since the acquisition closed, he has been very hands-on at Linden Lab, working alongside members of the management team, and he has also brought-in long-time business associate Cammy Bergren as the company’s Chief of Staff.

His biography, as supplied by the Lab reads as follows:

Brad Oberwager has spent his entire career in technology and consumer focused companies as an entrepreneur and board member.
Currently, he sits on the board of two public companies, Asure Software (NASDAQ: ASUR) and Better World (NASDAQ: BWACU). He is the chairman of two companies he founded, Jyve and Sundia and is also on the board of TEGSCO (aka AutoReturn). He owned Bare Snacks, acquired by PepsiCo in 2018.
Brad was Vice-chair of YPO International, a global organization of 25,000 CEOs [where he met and became friends with J. Randall Waterfield, another of the Lab’s owners / board member].
Brad received his BS from Georgetown University, his MBA from the Wharton School and lives in San Francisco.

Philip Rosedale

Philip Rosedale earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and computer science from the University of California, San Diego, and in 1985 he created a video conferencing product called “FreeVue”, which was ultimately purchased by Real Networks, for whom he went to work, rising to the positions vice president and chief technology officer.

Departing Real Networks at the end of the 1990s, he founded Linden Research Inc (functioning as Linden Lab), and commenced work on trying to develop both the hardware and software for an immersive virtual reality system. The company switched to focusing on the software – which it called Linden World -, launching it as a publicly-accessible platform under the name Second Life in 2003. As founder and CEO, Rosedale steered the company through until 2008, when he stepped back from the role of CEO to become chair of the board of directors.

In 2009, he founded LoveMachine Inc., with  Ryan Downe, which later evolved into Coffer and Power (2011), with Rosedale briefly returning to Linden Lab in 2010 as interim CEO. After two years developing a mobile application called Workclub that helped bring contractors and those seeking them together, he and Downe announced Coffee & Power would become a new company, High Fidelity Inc. (2013), focused on building a fully decentralised virtual reality environments, and the required supporting applications / services. In 2019, High Fidelity ceased working on this platform to focus on one of the key supporting services: spatial audio, with their product subsequently being licensed by a number of companies.

In 2021, High Fidelity invested in Linden Research, brining in both staff and patents that might be used with the platform, and while High Fidelity still very much operates as an independent entity, Rosedale took the part-time position of Strategic Advisor to Linden Lab.

Back to top

Questions Specific to Brad Oberwager

Spending Time In-world

[Video: 7:36-9:12]

  • Has been 18 months since taking over Linden Lab.
  • Does spend a “tremendous” amount of time “on Second Life” – it is his primary business focus, and he is constantly working to ensure the resources needed to improve and grow the platform and its products and available.
  • However, as a result, does not get to spend much time within Second Life as an avatar.

What Drew Him to Second Life, and How Does He Feel 18 Months On?

[Video: 15:00-21:31]

  • Has known Philip for more than a decade and they are close friends, so has always been aware of SL.
  • This awareness included knowing that the former investors – as venture capitalists – had reached a point where they wanted to sell LL as a going concern and move on. However, due to the complexities in running the platform as both a social experiment and an open-ended, creative platform for its users where they can engage in direct commerce with one another, make it it hard to find a buyer.
  • After one opportunity fell through, Brad decided to get involved and make an offer to buy the company. As expertise on the financial side would be required, he contacted J. Randal Waterfield, and together they worked out a deal by which they could acquire Second Life and Tilia (the company’s money service business) and continue to move both forward
  • 18 months on, feels that the acquisition of Linden Lab is more exciting. In purely monetary terms, sees running a business as having three options by which to add monetary value:
    • By increasing revenue whilst keeping expenses the same.
    • By keeping revenue the same and decreasing expenses.
    • By increasing expenses [/outlay] in order to drive revenue higher, and try to ensure the latter outpaces the former – which tends to be the hardest, but most interesting, of the three options.
  • Second Life is proving that it is capable of the third option: it is possible to invest (increase expenses) and grow revenue.
  • Within the company, the mantra is, “give two dollars of value, but only charge a dollar” – the idea being LL might lose money as a result of something they introduce, but over time, that loss will be recoups and turned into a revenue gain.
    • An example of this has been Linden Homes and Bellisseria, what have, and continue to cost LL to develop and maintain, but which has generated considerable excitement for users and a social investment that is hope to grow an eventual return on the investment made in the development.
  • This is the core idea behind Premium Plus – to offer greater value to those wishing to use the capabilities offered, but at an overall lower cost than might be the case with raising Premium fees to cover the same, whilst still allowing those who do not wish to go Premium Plus to still have Premium.

Back to top

Questions Specific to Philip Rosedale

What Pleases Him the Most about Second Life?

[Video: 5:36-7:30]

  • In the early days, felt it was the collaborative nature of design and building and the escalating designs.
  • Has always appreciated travelling in SL and seeing the diverse region designs and all of the art and creativity.
  • What he particularly appreciates about the platform today is that, despite the state of the physical world, it remains a place of hope in the way it brings people together who engage and communicate with one another, build communities, all in generally positive ways .
  • Would love to see this positivity, love, and engagement transferred somehow into the physical world.

Back to top

What Drew Him Back to Virtual Reality?

[Video: 9:15-14:22]

  • Opening the means for people to communicate and engage with one another through the use of technology / on-line has always been one of his driving passions.
  • FreeVue was revolutionary in it time – if limited by the technology. By the time of SL, the technology allowed the ball to be moved much further forward.
  • High Fidelity (HiFi) came about as a result of him purchasing one of the gyroscopic chips now used within VR headsets, experimenting with it and realising the potential it represented for VR – although admits he was wrong in his belief of how fast head-mounted displays (HMDs) would “change the world”.
  • Ten years on from that point, recognises that HMDs have yet to reach that tipping-point, and understands that connecting people is harder than the technology alone.
  • Does believe [as I’ve actually always stated as a layperson – please pardon the horn tooting] there are specific vertical markets for HMDs. One such vertical is education – which is also a market where Second Life has long proved its value, and is a market that will only grow as technologies such as HMDs mature.

Back to top

Second Life and “the Metaverse”

On SL and Upcoming “Metaverse Platforms”

[Video: 31:04-40:35]

  • Philip Rosedale:
    • Notes the origins of the term “metaverse” in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snowcrash, and notes that what we’re seeing now is the latest resurgence of interest in the idea.
    • Believes this resurgence has been spurred by three things: COVID and the need for social isolation; the general rise in noise around crypto and web 3.0; and Facebook throwing a Hail Mary in trying to claim the “Meta” verse to recapture HMD hype.
    • Notes that much of the noise around crypto and NFTs actually echoes what has been available in Second Life since its earliest days. However:
      • Within Second Life, the concept of “the metaverse” was empowering people to create things together within a single space. This is what spurred everything else – you needed an economy not for “currency” speculation, but to enable people to engage in commerce.
      • Much of the current thinking about “the metaverse” runs contrary to this, as it starts with exploitation: obtaining data from people in order to push them into consumer-based activities.
    • Very much hopes SL can continue to grow as an example of what “the metaverse” can more positively be, and encourage others to move in the same direction.
    • Does worry that the term “the metaverse” is being used to promote ideas very different to those found in SL, ideas that see personal data as the “currency”.
  • Brad Oberwager:
    • In terms of Meta and the rest, they have had zero impact on Second Life; Zuckerberg may try to usurp the term “metaverse” but the residents of Second Life just carry on.
    • Where there is a broader impact, it is in consideration of where and what to invest in within Second Life, particularly in terms of rising above those environments that are being built around the crypto-currency / advertising model which could have the advantage of offering experiences for “free” where they’d have to be charged for within SL.
    • However, LL is steadfastly against direct advertising intrusion as a means of leveraging “payment” for services to users. This means the focus is liable to remain on the precepts of creativity and social engagement, and trying to encourage social groups into the platform by offering unique opportunities and experiences.
    • Touches on TOSL – The Office of Second Life and the management team of Grumpity, Mojo, Brett and Patch Linden, who are responsible for running the day-to-day Second Life operations – and their focus on attempting to bring richer, deeper experiences into Second Life.
    • Notes that the resurgence interest in “the metaverse” from other companies offers LL the potential to pick and choose who they might want to partner / collaborate with in order to bring new experiences to SL residents.

Back to top

On SL’s Longevity Compared to Other Platforms?

[Video 40:39-46:00]

  • Philip Rosedale::
    • Again, the collaborating, creative elements.
    • A common critique of Second Life in the early years was the lack of polish to the viewer UI, and predictions that once “professional” designs stated work on a competitor, virtual worlds will take off. However, this wasn’t the case and polish to the UI wasn’t the key.
    • Another point is that today, the big audience pullers of the world – Fortnite, Roblox, etc., – tend to cater to a younger demographic; but the reality is still that there is nothing that caters for “grown up” sensibilities and creativity in a manner that matches SL, and none of the alternatives – VR Chat, etc, – are close to offering the broad range of creative freedom or the audience reach to be seriously considered a core part of “the metaverse”.
    • This ability to capture a more adult demographic is potentially the “secret sauce” any platform needs to feed it if is to grow to fulfil a vision of “the metaverse” – and it is something that is hard to find .
    • Also feels that there are a lot of governance, technology and management hurdles that need to be cleared – and that’s going to take a lot of time for others to sort out and SL continue to build upon.

Back to top

Continue reading “SL19B MTL: Brad Oberwager and Philip Rosedale – summary”

SL19B MTL – Patch Linden: Premium Plus and more + video

via Linden Lab
Monday, June 20th, 2022 saw the first in the SL19B Meet the Lindens events, this one featuring Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with selected audio extracts. The full video is located at the end of this article.

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

Table of Contents

The TL;DR Summary

  • Premium Plus:
    • Launches June 23rd, 2022.
    • Offers a new subscription package for users, with benefits over and above those of Premium membership.
    • Priced at US $29.99 per month (or an introductory US $24.99, available for the first 30 days after launch) or US $249 annually.
    • Existing Premium members may / will receive some form of pro-rata upgrade path.
    • Does not replace either Free accounts or Premium subscriptions, but exists alongside them.
  • Event Regions: will now be priced at US $599 a month, with no set-up fee.
  • Linden Homes: further new themes; re-visits to existing themes to update them; new large-scale community centres; first Premium Plus theme possibly towards the end of 2022; retirement of old Linden Homes regions to be revisited with a view to starting that process.
  • General Discussion:  a series of questions, arranged by topic and with short answers: most significant changes to SL; the overall effect of the COVID-19 situation on SL use; SL and the metaverse; improvements to Mainland.

Back to top

About Patch Linden

  • Originally a Second Life resident and business owner who joined the platform in 2004, and became a Linden in September 2007.
  • Initially worked as a support agent and then as a support liaison. From there he moved to the Concierge team, eventually becoming that team’s manager.
  • Shifted focus to the role of Operations Support Manager for a year, then moved to the Product group, the team responsible for defining the features, etc., found within Second Life.
  • At Product he developed the Land Operations team, which includes the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).
  • In 2018, he established the company’s support office in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 2020 he oversaw the move to larger office space in Atlanta, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2019 he was promoted to Vice President, Product Operations, and joined the Lab’s management team alongside Grumpity and former VP of Engineering Oz Linden (see: Linden Lab’s management team expands: congrats to Grumpity, Patch and Oz).
  • Together with Grumpity and (now Mojo Linden and Brett Linden(, he forms the leadership team overseeing Second Life’s continued development.
  • In his management team role, Patch continues to oversee all of the Lab’s user support operations (some 5 teams), including the LDPW.
  • Despite his longevity at the Lab, his is not the longest-serving Linden, nor is he the “oldest” resident-turned-Linden.
  • Sees the most significant changes to SL during his time being: the arrival of voice (2007), Mesh (2010), Pathfinding (2011), Experience Keys (initially 2015, fully in 2019/2020), Bento  (2016/17), Animesh (2018/19) and EEP (2018/19), and Bakes on Mesh (2019).

Back to top

Premium Plus

[Video: 22:49-41:23]

Outline

  • Premium Plus is a new subscription package that has been in development for some 18 months. As the name suggests, it offers additional / increased benefits in comparison to the Premium membership package.
  • It is in addition to, not a replacement of, Premium membership, which will continue, as will the free Basic account.
  • Full details of the Premium Plus offering will be presented in a forthcoming official blog post. The following is a summary of the specifics mentioned by Patch.

Benefits “Above” Premium – In Brief

  • Sign-up bonus and stipend:
    • The sign-up bonus for Premium Plus will be L$3,000
    • The weekly stipend will be L$650.
  • Land: 2048 sq m of “free tier”.
    • This can be split between Mainland parcels and a Linden Home, as per Premium.
  • Linden Homes:
    • Still only one Linden Home per account
    • Premium Plus members will be able to go via Land Support to request they are given a specific Linden Home parcel this is not currently part of the automatic Linden Home assignment system (i.e. being handled by the Linden Homes ordering web page).
      • Any existing Linden Home must be abandoned first.
      • Such requests will generally be filled in 24 hours, but only if the requested parcel does move into the automatic Linden Home assignment system in the interim.
    • Future Linden Home options for Premium Plus:
      • Homes specifically designed for 2048 sq m parcels.
      • Premium Plus Linden Home parcels may be given the ability to have house styles from the 512/1024 sq m Premium themes, allowing those who want more land with their Linden Home to have it.
    • [Video 51:23-51:42] The first Premium Plus Linden Homes theme might be released towards the end of 2022.
  • Upgraded capabilities:
    • Group count doubles over Premium to 140.
    • Off-line message cap doubles of Premium to 160.
    • Animesh attachments will apparently increase (Patch said from 1 to 2, but Premium members already get 2 Animesh attachments, so it is unclear if Patch was just referencing Premium Plus with Basic accounts here).
    • Premium Plus members will be able to create two land Experiences (rather than just one, as per Premium).
  • Fees:
    • No upload fees for textures, animations, sounds.
    • No fees for event listings.
    • Mesh / Animesh upload fees will change for Premium Plus will be adjusted in the future.
    • Group creation fee reduced to L$10
  • Special support ‘phone line, with a toll-free 800 number, with international users able to use this via the likes of Skype without incurring international call fees.
  • Premium Plus sandbox access.
  • Premium Plus gifts.
  • [Video: 1:09:12-1:09:21] Potential for early access to Lab-run events (e.g. Shop and Hop events).

Premium Plus Fees

  • Monthly: US $29.99 (or $24.99 for the first month, if taken out in the first 30 days after launch).
  • Annually: US $249 (equiv. to US $20.75 a month).

Launch date

  • Thursday, June 23rd, 2022.

Premium Plus Audience Questions

  • [Video: 47:10-48:51] Will Premium Plus subscribers be able to choose their own Last Name, rather than picking from a list?
    • No, thei system isn’t set-up for totally free-form names. But the ability to change your last name for less than the current $49.99 fee is a potential “future add-on” for Premium Plus.
  • [Video: 57:30-58:25] Will those already grandfathered on the L$500 a week stipend, will this be factored into Premium Plus (so their stipend would be L$850 per week)? If they later downgrade back to Premium, will they regain their grandfathered stipend of L$500, rather than dropping to L$300?
    • Needs to be clarified, possibly in the official blog post for Premium Plus, when this is published.
  • [Video: 1:07:17-1:08:12] Could renting a Homestead region from LL be de-coupled from having to own a Full region as well, for Premium Plus?
    • Probably not, given the doubling of land tier already provided in the Premium Plus package, and the fact the breaking the lock between Homestead and Full regions could have widespread economic implications for existing estates.
  • [Video: 1:12:58-1:13:36] Will there be a pro-rata upgrade path for those on Premium to move to Premium Plus?
    • Yes, but does not have specifics [presumably within the official blog post, when published].

Back to top

Event Regions

[Video: 12:45-21:03]

  • LL started tinkering with the idea of flexing the capabilities available through AWS to try to develop a product reflective of those capabilities.
  • The move to provide such a product was born out of a belief that for large-scale events in SL, concurrency matters.
  • In testing, the Lab managed to get a shopping event region running reasonably well with up to 231 avatars (providing users dialled-down some viewer graphics options – DD, complexity, etc., dialled down).
  • Event regions tend to run best in a “standalone” mode, rather than connected to other regions (particularly other event regions), largely due to issues around avatars and child agents¹ on multiple regions. This is why there were issues during the SL19B opening ceremony, as the avatar (175 per region) was set too high for adjoining regions .
  • The “introductory” tier of $599 per month and no set-up fee (which had been due to end on June 6th) will now be the de facto fee for Event regions.
  • Event regions are open to land owners / estate to rent from LL, should they also wish to hire them out to those organising events.

Back to top

Linden Homes

[Video: 49:15-57:18]

  • LL “constantly looking” at ways to improve Linden Homes; this work includes additional house styles within the existing themes.
    • The original Traditional Homes will be seeing “a slate” of improvements.
  • New “grand scale” community centres to match those of the more recent themes (such as Sakura and Fantasy) or those like Campwich Lodge (Log Theme), etc., are being developed for the earlier Linden Home theme environments.
Sakura Linden Homes – Shobu Community Centre, May 2022. More such centres are likely to be coming to Linden Home environments
  • Further new Themes will continue to be deployed, which the next release for 2022 possibly being Premium Plus homes.
    • The idea of having “Premium Plus neighbourhoods” mixed in with Premium Linden Homes has been toyed with, but nothing has been decided either way.
  • Thus far, the most popular themes (in terms of lack of availability due to occupancy) appear to be Traditional Homes, Houseboats and Stilt Homes, following by Log Homes.
  • In terms of increased capabilities / options, the Fantasy theme homes are probably the most popular, followed by Sakura.
  • It is likely that the plan to “wind down” the original Linden Homes and their mini-continents will be looked at again in the near future .
    • This will not simply be a “turning off” of the regions, leaving those still living among them homeless, but will be handled with care and methodically.
    • Some instances of the older home may be preserved in some way, such as under the SLRPS banner, particular those elements that have a story behind them [e.g. Cape Ekim and the mystery of Professor Linden].

Back to top

General Discussion

  • Personal list of most significant changes in Second Life [Video 1:46-4:07]:
    • The 2007 implementation of Windlight + the arrival of voice.
    • The addition of Sculpties, and then mesh import (2010).
    • Pathfinding (2012).
    • Bakes on Mesh (2019).
    • The move to AWS (2019-2021).
    • Feels that SL is still at the forefront of what is being called “the metaverse”.
  • Last two years – COVID and user influx [Video 5:51-7:39]:
    • SL is still “well above” pre-pandemic levels, from economic activity (land, MP, on-world purchases, etc).
    • The sharp uptake in SL has slowed, but there has been no significant falling away of engagement.
  • SL and the “metaverse” [Video: 7:44-9:35]:
    • Believes that all of the interest in “the Metaverse” is good for Second Life.
    • Believes all the virtual worlds will have to work together – at some point in the future – to allow a degree of interoperability if “the metaverse” is to achieve its goals.
  • Mainland [Video: 41:37-45:36]:
    • LL is aware there is a lot of abandoned land on Mainland that could be made available / be improved with new landscaping.
    • However, there are no plans at present to add further mainland coastline to those continents that might otherwise be able to take it, because so much in the way of parcels inland remain available. This include the Zindra Adult continent.
    • The pricing of current coastline areas of Mainland are subject to the same laws of supply and demand as the rest of the Mainland (unless price gauging can be demonstrated).

Q&A Session

[Video: 58:47-end]

A range of general questions, some related to Premium Plus (and which have been listed above), the majority on more general topics. Please refer to the video for these.

Back to top

Footnotes

  1. Simply put, a Child Agent refers to a secondary agent (avatar) presence associated with your own, then can exist in regions physically adjoining to the one you are currently in, allowing you to “see” into a connected regions (and have it render in your viewer).

Child agents are not physically rendered avatars but a simulator resource, as such they can directly influence region performance.

Session Video

SL18B: Meet the Moles of Second Life

Friday, June 25th, 2021 saw the fifth and final Meet the Lindens special events take place for the SL Birthday celebrations, featuring Patch Linden and the Moles of the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).

Unlike previous summaries in this series, this article does note provide a detailed summary of the session, but instead provides some core information on the Moles – who they are, what they do, how to apply to become a Mole, etc., –  before presenting the video recording of the session, which goes into greater detail about the Moles and their work.

Who or What are the Moles?

  • Officially called the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW),  originally formed in 2008. They are managed by Derrick Linden, the Product Operations Manager for Second Life, together with a team of Linden Lab staffers.
  • Moles are residents from all over the world hired by Linden Lab as independent contractors to undertake specific tasks. Their work was originally focused on the Mainland, adding the infrastructure – road, bridges, etc., and the landscaping, as noted in the official LDPW wiki page, although they actually do a lot more than this.
  • Notable major projects carried out by the Moles include:
    • The infrastructure within Nautilus City.
    • The development of Bay City.
    • The Linden Homes continent of Bellisseria (including all topography, flora, infrastructure and housing).
    • The facilities for events like Shop & Hop, the Second Life Birthday, town hall events, the turn-key regions available for businesses, starter avatars, etc.
    • 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.
  • They also provide support / input for / to technical projects (e.g. Project Bento and the avatar skeleton extension), and work with marketing, QA and other LL teams.
  • In keeping with their name, Moles were originally given a mole avatar, complete with hard hat. However, over the years, most have moved to having a more individual and personal look, although some say with the Mole avatar.
  • As well as being paid for the work they do, Moles also receive and allowance from the Lab, which is primarily intended to go towards the cost of uploads (texture, animations, mesh objects, etc)., but which can also be put towards developing their individual looks.

How to Become a Mole

  • Positions in the LDPW are open to application by residents who believe they are qualified to work in the team, and the team may also approach specific residents and ask if they would consider joining them.
  • Applications are made by dropping a résumé (note card or email) of qualifications / experience (including links SLurls, Flickr, You Tube, etc.) to Derrick Linden (derrick.linden-at-lindenlab.com) or to Patch Linden (patch.linden-at-lindenlab.com).
  • Applicants have to go through a former interview process.
  • Successful applicants get to pretty much choose their hours of work – providing agreed tasks are completed on time.
  • As they are from around the world, this can allow some projects to move forward on almost a round-the-clock basis.
  • Those who are more fully-rounded in skill sets  – content creation, scripting, etc., – are encouraged to apply, but LL will also take on specialists.
  • Motivated, outgoing, communicative people with a passion for SL and willing to self-teach themselves new skill sets are particularly considered.

SL18B Meet the Lindens: Brett Linden – summary with video

Thursday, June 24th, 2021 saw the fourth in a series of Meet the Lindens events take place for the SL Birthday celebrations, featuring Brett Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Marketing.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with selected audio extracts. The full video is located at the end of this article.

Table of Contents

Also, information given in braces ({ and ]), has been provided by myself and did not form a part of the conversation.

About Brett Linden

  • As VP of marketing, Brett Linden manages the team responsible for developing media campaigns and strategic content partnerships for Second Life. Together, they focus on both the acquisition of new users and the retention of existing users for the virtual world.
  • Has more then 2 decades of marketing and journalism experience.
  • In the past decade, he has produced numerous virtual and “mixed reality” events and panels on various academic topics with an emphasis on legitimising and better surfacing the many cultures and communities within virtual environments.
  • From Rolling Stone to Billboard, Brett has also written for major publications and managed multimedia initiatives for Amazon.com and RealNetworks. He has co-founded numerous media sites on-line, including the Second Life Destination Guide and Rolling Stone Radio. As a co-founding editor at Billboard.com, he interviewed Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Shania Twain, and Bjork.
  • Was drawn to Second Life after trying the platform during its first burst of media exposure in 2006 – specifically trying to find the CNN and Reuters bureaux that were active in SL at that time.
  • At the same time, he received a grant from the McCormick Foundation to run the Virtual Journalism Summit, some of which took place in-world, allowing him to meet Philip Rosedale.
  • He moved from being a resident to being a Linden in 2007.
  • He is as fascinated and intrigued – and sometimes frustrated – but always illuminated by the platform, the residents, the diversity of use and creativity, etc., today, as he was when he started.
  • Did not work on Sansar to a great extent, his focus has always been on Second Life, which is true for the majority of his team.

Back to top

Loss of Ebbe Altberg

[Video: 6:05-9:00]

Brett offered his own words in remembrance of Ebbe Altberg, the Lab’s CEO, who passed away recently. Rather than paraphrase him, I’m including an audio recording of his comments.

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

Back to top

Second life and the Pandemic

[Video: 10:38-15:23]

  • On a personal level, it’s been tough on the entire marketing team in both the mental toll of being in lockdown, and for some being directly impacted by the loss of others through COVID.
  • The pandemic has caused a lot of attention to be focused on “the metaverse” and virtual worlds / spaces.
  • The early months of the pandemic in 2020 saw a significant spike in SL use in terms of new registrations, concurrency and returning “old” users. This has since dropped, but the metrics are still strong.
  • For the Marketing team, it has meant a major acceleration in workload and pivoting plans and activities, with work levels still at a high level.
  • It felt odd that the pandemic turned the spotlight onto virtual spaces and “the metaverse”, with Second life sharing in some of it, and then working to provide the means for people to leverage the platform to  meet their needs.
  • Even now, media enquiries on the state of Second life remain much higher than they were pre-pandemic, thanks to even tangential things such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs),  so media and PR efforts have had to be extended.
  • LL has hired-in Elizabeth Olsen, who was a founding Executive Editor of Game Informer magazine, as a consultant to support media outreach work, working closely with Brett.

Back to top

Marketing Partnerships

[Video: 17:16-25:28]

The NFL Alumni stadium
  • More partnerships coming – possibly in late summer: comics, music, film and graphic novels, etc.
  • All of these are regarded as part of the overall “year of experimenting” for Marketing in an attempt to learn what works / does not work in attracting a new audience.
  • Partnership are not happenstance or based on brand name alone – there is an attempt to build inroads to user engagement where partners have a “fit” with SL and can make active use of the platform.
  • Such partnerships also help with media promotion of SL, allowing LL to point to the partner brands and so generate further media interest.
  • The work is not at the point of bringing in “Triple A” artists, etc., but the partnerships are with well-known entities that are open to using SL to extend their fanbase or their communities.

Back to top

Diversity in Marketing

[Video: 27:45-29:57]

  • LL does try to promote diversity in SL, but acknowledges more could be done. Work is put into promoting community work through Flickr and YouTube.
  • Promotional work through the likes of social media is subject to checking that it is being as inclusive as possible given the broad diversity of Second Life communities.
  • The furry community has recently been a focus, but rather than being self-congratulatory about it, the team notes it is something that has been overdue – and their are other communities that also deserve promotion.

Back to top

Blogs and Social Media Strategy

[Video: 30:22-36:05]

  • Social media is a core element in promoting Second Life – not just through official channels, but because users themselves are prolific in promoting the platform through their channels. Flickr is s good example of this.
  • LL tries to leverage this organic content to help amplify the community and Second Life.
  • YouTube influencers are another means for the Lab to help promote SL.
  • The Lab’s own content includes the likes of the Destination videos that help highlight locations and communities; the Lab Gab series; Second life Book Club; Music Mondays, the newer Showcase Streams – drop-in livestreams of in-world events; picture of the day, etc.
  • All of this is promoted in the official blogs, but is also amplified to broader audiences as well.
  • There’s also the Second Life Blogger Network (SLBN) that showcases users’ blogs, with 660 bloggers already enrolled.

Back to top

External Media Advertising, Paid Ads, and Strategies

[Video: 41:42-48:31]

  • External media advertising is a strategy, and does vary month-by-month due to budget and things like the seasonality of Second Life in terms of balancing ad spend against growth.
  • The Marketing budget also covers general PR for Second Life.
  • A portion of the Marketing budget does go on ad spend / performance marketing (where advertisers pay marketing companies or advertising platforms for results achieved, such as clicks or conversion). This has seen an accelerated return over the last two years, again possible due to the pandemic.
  • A new area the Lab is now looking at is on-line video advertising. This has been taking the form of 30-second clips from the Destination videos produced for LL, which are pushed to various channel for promotion (and are not necessarily seen on the Lab’s main YouTube channel).
  • Another area for advertising is via cord-cutting platforms (essentially people moving away from traditional satellite and cable services and into streaming services, many of which are ad-supported).  This offers enormous potential for ad placement, as is something the Lab is looking at.
  • Most / all of these strategies are developed by Darcy Linden, who is now the Director of Marketing, and who has a wealth of experience in the digital advertising sphere.
  • Another aspect of the Marketing work is the brand refresh and renewing the message of what does Second Life mean to different audiences – and what it could mean to those who have never heard of it.
  • The “win back” campaign is a further spoke in the wheel – trying to win back users who have stopped using SL for whatever reason.
    • [1:23:36-1:26:47] one aspect of this is an incentive (Linden Dollars of varying amounts) and rewards (free virtual gifts) based approach. Such approaches are not uncommon in the US, and the Lab has achieved reasonable success with it.
    • Another approach to to win back former users organically – showing them the value of coming back (e.g. reconnecting with old friends, showing them new opportunities for engagement / discovery, etc.).
    • When handled correctly, such campaigns can be very successful, but they also can be difficult to get right, simply because people can leave a platform for a wide range of reasons; thus there is a lot more to be done in refining the work in this area, but the results have been pleasing.

Back to top

General Q&A

The following is a selection of the questions that generated fuller answers and / or had a marketing lean.

  • [36:10-41:00] Helping in-world Businesses market themselves: is there a way LL can help in-world business promote themselves and reach a wider audience?
    • First off – full credit to the likes of Seraphim and blogs that do similar work.
    • Also appreciates all the e-zines produced by SL users and made available through the likes of issuu.com.
    • LL wants to support these endeavours and draw attention to them, again through featuring on the SLBN pages, etc.
    • There are also obviously tools such as the Destination Guide, the Marketplace and events listings that can all be leveraged by users, creators and communities.
    • A new service people can sign-up to is the events e-mail list.
    • There’s also the official Message of the Day (MOTD) in the viewer’s log-in screen which can at times be used to promote events [note: some TPVs generate their own MOTD, so this may differ from what is seen in the official viewer].
  • [48:33-53:44] How can SL residents help promote the platform?
    • Word of Mouth. Now more than ever, SL is something to be proud of in the way it enables social connections through situations like this pandemic, and give people the means to reach out, connect and share.
    • Not everyone may be comfortable is talking about their involvement with the platform, but for those who are, the encouragement to do so is there to do so by showing off activities, sharing with friends, etc.
    • Also – be kind to newcomers within the platform; help them with any issues they may be having, be welcoming, etc. As much as the sign-up and New User Experience is for on-boarding, a big slice of whether newcomers stay or not is how the local population respond to them.
  • [1:02:33-1:05:59] What do you think SL will be like when it turns 20?
    • This has been a topic of discussion within the Lab already, simply because it is such a milestone, including the potential for product and feature sets, but these are outside of the Marketing remit to discuss.
    • On a personal perspective, essentially cracking the challenge that ensures incoming users have an experience that matches the promise of whatever ad , etc., than brought them through the door, and where the basics of just on-boarding and customising an avatar are so straightforward, the churn of users arriving and leaving is greatly reduced, and the entire process is much more engaging and encourages people to stay and learn and explore.
  • [1:08:09-1:09:36] Is the Lab entirely US-centric?
    • The Marketing Team is entirely US-centric, and the company by its nature is US-centric [being based in California, etc.]
    • There are contractors (the Moles) who are more global in nature.
  • [1:14:45-1:16:32] Will Mainland be promoted?
    • Mainland is an area where the Marketing team needs to do more.  There are unique characteristics available there – such as the ability to  explore on foot or by vehicles.
    • LL have done a six-part video series on the Second Life Rail Road (SLRR), which covered the Mainland tracks, and more could be done in that vein.
  • [1:18:27-1:22:43] Could LL get Facebook to allow the use of accounts in avatar names?
    • Aware that this has been a problem for many SL / Facebook users, and that some have worked around it by using Facebook pages.
    • It would be good for those wish wish, and who prefer to use their SL identities over their wallet identities to be able to use Facebook, although that’s a policy decision on FB’s part.
    • Equally, is aware that many SL users either do not want to use Facebook, and/or only want their SL identities in the public eye, and so doesn’t want to give the impression either of these choices would be at risk; it is purely in the context of helping those who want to do so, not forcing SL users to use it.
  • [1:27:02-1:31:15] Why doesn’t Twitch allow streaming from SL? Can this be changed?
    • Second Life is currently on the Twitch restricted games list due to SL supporting full freedom of expression, including adult content, which can fall outside of Twitch’s usage guidelines. This is obviously Twitch’s choice
    • There are clearly strategic reasons why LL would like to see Twitch allow streaming from SL; however, LL also don’t want to compromise the integrity of SL and all of its communities by changing the platform purely to allow streaming to Twitch.
    •  As such, there is a dialogue between the two companies that may lead to this being changed,  although it is early days, and nothing can be promised purely from LL’s side on whether Twitch will change their view of SL.
  • [1:31:23-1:36:38] Can LL get rock groups in to SL?
    • LL is looking at entertainment / brand partnerships that are a good fit. Established musicians are among some of those the Lab is talking to. The beauty here is that this is a low-risk, potentially mutually beneficial approach that lets both LL and the partner concerned try something, and explore what works / doesn’t work.
    • Critical aspects to consider (from the potential partner’s perspective) is the the potential audience reach, quality and integrity of the experience, will there been an option to embedded merchandise / e-commerce into the experience,  etc. However, there are brands and artists that LL is is discussion with, and one may be announced in the near future.
    • These initiatives should not been seen as trying to take anything away from SL’s own vibrant music community – live performers and DJs. They are purely about raising the platforms visibility and trying to extend its audience reach,.
    • Virtual cinemas and working with the likes of Titmouse is another approach.
    • [In a somewhat different context, Duran Duran once dabbled in Second Life, and in 2011 there was a competition run in SL on behalf of the group.]
  • [1:42:50-1:45:00] Has LL engaged with the arts community / museums, etc., for Marketing? Have there been successes?
Virtual Peale in Second Life
  • [1:45:51-1:50:02] What is the Lab’s strategy for attracting young adults to the platform?
    • This is an important aspect, given the success of Roblox over the last couple of years. While that audience is predominantly of an age that is too young for SL, they are a potential audience for the future as they start to look for more sophisticated creative outlets. So the question is how can SL be positioned for this, particularly given an audience from something like Roblox will already be well-versed in the concepts of user-generated content and sandbox-style environments.
    • Should Second Life itself seek a younger audience? That’s a tougher question. Yes, it would be nice to have broader, younger engagement if the platform were set-up to support it. However, the platform is mature, does have sophisticated [adult] content, so a lot of capabilities [/safeguards] that are not currently in place would be needed in  order for the platform to accommodation minors;  so how would the platform reach a younger audience without jeopardising what has been achieved would need to be carefully addressed.
    • In addition, the product development teams are developing a roadmap of feature sets that might open up or restrict how SL would be amenable / agreeable to a younger audience.
    • LL  also looks at the senior demographic as well as  an opportunity, but ultimately, what SL does today, and does well, has to be a significant factor in marketing the platform.
  • [1:51:25-1:53:08] Can LL help support those who manage communities in SL – promotion, etc?
    • From a marketing perspective, always want to support those who support SL and a positive user experience, with a particular emphasis on new users coming into the platform who are critical to growth. So in this regard, there is the Community Gateway Programme.
    • If people have a proposal for how LL can help support communities, then please submit it to the leadership team.
  • [1:54:14-End] Will data / metrics on SL use be made more regularly available for journos, etc?
    • Data does play a big role in Marketing [see: The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing], but this does not mean that everything is purely driven by algorithms. There is a combination of analysis and data collection to ensure marketing efforts aren’t skewed in a certain direction.
    • In terms of general metrics, LL does try to be transparent, although there are some data points that are not made public. The stats that are vetted for accuracy and publicly shared include:
      • Total registered accounts: +70 million.
      • Average daily usage: currently 200,000 users across 200 countries.
      • GDP: equivalent to US $600 million.
      • Creator cash-outs in last 12 months: over US $80 million.
    • It may be possible to put these stats on the SL website.

Feedback on Marketing

[Video: 26:00-27:39]

Feedback on marketing campaigns, on ideas, etc., can be given through the following channels:

  • E-mail editor@lindenlab.com.
  • In-world IM.
  • Official forums.