Sunday, March 16, 2008

Philip Rosedale Linden Leaving Linden Lab

Apparently, in the world of hot start up companies, the CEO lifts off and leaves after the honeymoon period. As the blogosphere will tell you, Philip Rosedale Linden is no different...he is just following the prescribed path.

The flood of articles range from "OMG! The Sky is Falling! Run Now!!!" to "Yup - this is what happens" to "You'll will be BETTER now."

Seeing as I don't know the future, and I have no way to predict how this will go, I can only read the articles of reputable publications. The problem is...many of them hated Second Life to begin they are doing the whole "told ya so" dance. The Wall Street Journal, for example, says that businesses have scaled back because of "pranksters." Um...maybe they scaled back because they missed the WHOLE point of virtual worlds? Maybe they realized that people wouldn't just pop over to virtual space to read URLs out to web space?? Ack. Don't get me started...

Look. Second Life ain't dead.

Jeremy Kemp, in a great post to the educator listerserve, listed all the reasons why education isn't gonna die any time soon in SL. In fact, it may just pick up...many of us wrote grants that are JUST coming in we have commitments for at least 2 years. In many ways, educators are really suited for this type of change in helm, as we often experience change of administrators in our daily lives. Our colleges have not yet closed, and we change chiefs a LOT.

But, there are more than businesses and educators to worry about here. What about the residents? They do, in fact, make up the rest of the world. Anshe Chung, the amazing woman behind the millions, is not going to pack it in because Philip is stepping down. She will continue to make money because new people will still want their own slice of the land pie.

Additionally, there will always be people in Second Life that make it what it is...a great social space. Prokovy Neva, also a land holder, is the King of Drama in SL. His blog is, whether you love him or hate him, one of the best out there. He coined phrases like "fettered inner core" or "FIC" to refer to the people who, evidently, attend SL Views or get special preferential treatment by Linden Lab employees (note to self...I attended SL Views, and I don't get special fact, I am fairly confident I am not even on the radar to receive even a free tee shirt). Anywho. Prok has invested a lot into his SL work (as a writer, as a gossip hack, as a land owner), so I don't see him leaving either.

Will things change? Well...sure. The changing of the guard always But, it may be BETTER. Maybe someone will come in and say "fix the damn lag." I am not sure it is possible with the bajillions of UUIDs floating in the space, but, hey, you never know.

So, am I jumping ship? Will Literature Alive! step down?

Not a chance.

For starters, my best friends in the entire world live in virtual space. While I can certainly IM Eloise Pasteur in GChat, I would not be able to build Dante's Paradiso with her there. or go to the Job exhibit at Sea Turtle Island. Daliah Carter and I would not be able to go Lucky Chair hopping in real life. I would never have met any of the people that I hold near and dear...Brainwave, PipSqueak, Hiro, Horace, Lorelei, Intellagirl, LauraMaria, Adrian, Bryan, Jeremy, Butch, CDB, Larry, Fleet, HappyHolly, Marius, Crash, Gus, and the list goes on and on and on....

And... students and I could certainly NOT have a watermelon massacre in real life.

Secondly, students LEARN better in virtual worlds. The students building Spoon River hate me and Second Life right about now (their projects being due in less than 26 hours). But, if I call them in 10 years, the chances that they remember something about Spoon River will be significantly higher than if I just gave them some paper to write.

Finally, there is much to be done. Now that we have all figured out that we shouldn't just build what exists in real life (one article called it "a boring place to be"), there is much to do! I am STILL looking for a full sim to place Dante's Inferno (and Purgatorio and Paradiso). Walden Farm is just being built! The World of Wartime Journalism Project will take place this summer...and there is rumor that there might even be a home for the Underground Railroad/Tribute to African American authors build. Eloise, Daliah, and I are VERY busy - no matter WHO takes the helm at LL.

Second Life has never been about the employees at LL. Second Life has always been about us...the content creators. Whether we are educators building that interactive Testes...or land owners like Anshe...or writers like Prok....WE, the collective, have made the place great. Since WE haven't resigned, we have nothing to worry about!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This idea that there is a prescribed path like this belongs to Silicon Valley and California start-ups, but it isn't like this everywhere.

All over America (not to mention, oh, Asia) there isn't a custom of hiring a CEO and then killing him off after a few years. If anything, in a family business, a small business, a medium business, even in a large enterprise, a CEO isn't something you change like gloves after a few years, as social capital, you might nurture him for a long time. Wendy's didn't kill off Dave -- Dave didn't even die after he died.

So the idea that it "has to be this way" is just a tech meme. Do university presidents change automatically ever so many years?

It's not a good sign for Philip to be doing this now, in a number of ways, I've laid out in my blog. Not identifying who is the next CEO, and announcing the Philip is moving displays very curious vulnerability and disarray. A normal company wouldn't do that.

I have no intention of jumping ship over what Linden Lab does with arranging its staff or board, but in part, that's because I am done with the Lindens. I don't think they are fit to manage this software they have created. I don't think changing Philip will help. I don't think buying it out will help. I could have 50 things I'd do to fix it to make it worth my while to engage with all their weird little levers for engaging, but it's too time-consuming and game-like. The hope of Linden Lab is that people will be able to use their software even without them. But they do get in the way a lot.

Your notion of SL Views seems very literalist. You can make a caricature out of the idea that it gives you some sort of special perk by saying "I've gotten nothing out of it" as were supposed to get free land or a special bejewelled necklace with the hand and eye. Please. You're not getting it.

SL Views *itself* is the privilege. And it's wrong. You shouldn't run a society by having unaccountable rulers hand-pick who they are willing to talk to. The system of selecting only these "high-merited interlocutors" is very elitist and Snowcrashian and Kremlin-like. It's wrong.

There are 100 professors who have just as much to say about Second Life as you do -- why can't the existing tools of Second Life be improved and made to work democratically? (Start by having a "no" vote on the JIRA and protecting proposals from premature closure and vote freezes!).

Why does the company have to go *outside the tools* to speak to its special friends like this? It can't have 50 focus groups *in world* using the same amount of staff time and financial expenditures that they spend bring you all, all-expense-paid across the country to SF?!

As for the businesses giving SL a pass due to pranksters. WSJ is right. CNET allowed this attack on Anshe to happen in the first place, then did little to remedy it, and blamed the victim. They set the stage for a long time to come to keep mature businesses out, and to ensure only insolent snarky types like their tech journos culturally would come in -- if at all (though even they left because they couldn't get how to use social media in any other way than the elitist way they're used to handling the public as it is).

If you have a two-year grant, great. But you won't get another one unless the mainstream media will cover SL more positively and fairly. And you can't get old media to lie about tech the way you can get new media to lie about tech.

Fortunately for us all, the New York Times has decided it likes Second Life, and has covered it fairly and positively, but without excessive hype, enabling plenty of critical blog comments to be made and interviewing critics. The tech press should be more open-minded like old media is.

The idea that students learn better is really not proven. You as an intellectual in a science of some sort should know better than to make non-scholarly statements like that until you have a double-bind, peer-reviewed experimental result to show us pubilshed in a scientific journal.

Prokofy Neva