Friday, June 11, 2010

A View of the Lab: The Future of Linden Lab and Second Life

Is the virtual sky falling? Is Second Life dying? Is Linden Lab failing?

As the CEO and founder of Literature Alive! in Second Life, I have invested countless hours developing, building, and shelling out serious personal clams to work in an environment rich with educational possibilities.

I have very mixed feelings about the direction LL is taking, but I am not sure these feelings can be articulated in any meaningful way.

Long ago, I decided that I could not have a personal gaming life and a professional educational presence in Second Life. The work of Literature Alive! was more important to me than my personal (read not funded) research on gender communication in virtual worlds. I cut off most personal relationships on the grid that did not deal with education (Adrian, Aerolite). My little band of personal friends (Eloise, Lilly, and Daliah) were invested in Literature Alive! Fellow members of the FIC ("fettered Inner Core" - a term devised by Prokovy Neva to categorize folks invited to San Fran through the SL Views program) are still among the people I love to chat with in the odd chance I am inworld. All of the Lindens I knew and loved (Philip, Chadrick, Blue, Iridium, Everett, Jeska, Claudia, Glenn) have walked or been given walking papers.

The LL that exists today is not the one I loved 3 years ago. I blame this on M. I don't know if it is a good thing or bad thing for LL and SL, but it feels a whole lot more like an insurance company than a progressive and stunning environment.

But, I knew this was coming. When LL took away the land they donated for Dante's Inferno with some kind of lame excuse (we only promised it for 2 weeks...really? Where was I when you mentioned that??), I knew the cards were stacked. The work of the truly creative was less important, and the work of the money makers was more important.

Ok, they are a business and not a charity. I get it.

So, I am sitting here and thinking about what bugs me about all these changes. Aside from some terribly creative souls getting the heave ho, something is eating away at me. And then, while scooping sugar by the truck load into my coffee cup, it dawned on me. The glory days are over.

I have always been that girl that missed the glory days by 1 year. Either they happened before I got there or after I left. The "hey day" or "hay day" has always passed me. I realized, a the coffee pot, that I have been part of the "hey-hay day" of LL and SL. Finally! But, sadly, it is called that because it ends. "Back in the day" means that it survives...but isn't the same.

I can do exactly what I did 3 years ago in SL. Nothing has changed for me. I still use SL to build immersive literary builds for my literature students. Since I never made money, I am not losing any money. Since I can build my own stuff with the dear help of Elo, I don't pay out as much. I stopped asking for land donations a long time ago.

So, for Literature Alive!, Second Life is what it has been for the past three is an excellent tool for imagining literature. My social life happens on the SLED list or on Facebook where my virtual farm and garden need tending.

I suspect that LL will keep kicking, and if they are smart, they will try to focus on what has made SL great. Prok got his wish; the FIC is dead. They hey-hay day is over. It is all business from here.

Image by Mickey


eurominuteman said...

Heavy layoffs hit Second Life parent company\

Bad press today in Germany too about Second Life.
The German press concludes more worse than the English press,
they put SL on death row...\

1. The user numbers are pointing in the wrong direction,
that is evidently happening.
2. Major IT service management glitches are happening.
Viewer 2 rollout 2010 without Windows 7 2009 support is such
a major glitch, no one does that in the IT industry.
3. Open source viewers managed to make Viewer 1 obsolete
4. Now SL must catch up with 3d browser-based and mobile
competitor solutions

I think the wakeup call has reached the eyes and ears of many now.
I see many positive management actions now, even it means a paradigm
change and a pain for some.

Unfortunately, many are simply blind to the question of sustainability, quality
management, and industrial principles.

And how to address the out-world mass market newbie (marketing).
Mediocre FarmVille on Facebook grew 20 times faster than SL in
10 months. Its a shame, but its a benchmark for SL.

And how to address technological progess, like grid computing
and the innovation speed of open source

Closing those gaps are also an opportunity...

Maria Korolov said...

Beth --

What's keeping you in Second Life (as opposed to OpenSim)?

Is your company still finding value in having the Second Life community to draw on? Is it the availability of a large variety of content? Is there something else?

I'm very interested in this decision-making process. How do groups and companies decide what platforms to be on? What's the inflection point -- the last straw -- that makes them leave?



Kickaha said...

Beth writes: "Ok, they are a business and not a charity. I get it."
True - but what's happening seems to be panic measures rather than considered strategy. Only weeks ago Linden were hiring staff for their Brighton office. Now I hear it's been closed altogether. That's reactive.
IMO the Viewer 2 fiasco is a large part of it. The put all their faith in a beautiful new viewer, which Mr Avatar and his wife have almost unanimously given a big thumbs-down, due it its emphasis on aesthetics at the expense of usability. Perhaps the ill-conceived viewer was the gift wrapping for a planned company sell-off and has now backfired. Result: Announcements of, er, a new, er, Alpha viewer with, erm (quick someone!) er, voice effects and stuff. And let's also announce that we are looking into getting SL working through standard web browsers. All this smacks of a desperate attempt to recover from the gaff that is Viewer 2.

eurominuteman said...

1. Beth wrote: "its emphasis on aesthetics at the expense of usability"

I disagree here, Viewer 1 is the clunky version.

My impression is that the core click processes are organized horizontally compared to vertically as in Viewer 1.

This reduces the number of clicks needed to achieve a functional response. This improves the process mastering of clicking, and fits to the known way of using a browser.

The browser focus will lead to a SAAS style browser that can be adapted to cloud computing and mobile computing.

2. Next to the things mentioned in my first posting.

I would like to point out that the lack of out-world newbie focus and mass market growth is also a result of the Resident's attitude to draw a boundary line around a "mere in-world domestic system".

Mixed reality and approaches to address the out-world newbie at his bus stop remain to be denied, denounced, or simply not recognized.

This belly-button kind of system viewing is not sustainable quality management on the part of the Residents.

Is Literature Alive! in Facebook? I checked, the answer is NO...

The out-world networking success of mediocre Farmville in Facebook is a benchmark for SL.

"Since its launch in June 2009,[3] FarmVille has become the most popular game application on Facebook, with over 82.4 million active users and over 23.9 million Facebook application fans in May 2010.[4] The total FarmVille users are over 20% of the users of Facebook and over 1% of the population of the world."

This benchmark is a shame for SL and its Residents, in my view.

eurominuteman said...

under 1. Oops not Beth said, it was Kickaha :-)

These are the questions of an Out-would Newbie...

SL AND its Residents are just not addressing this guy... No wonder the mass market takes no notice of the value-add and benefits of SL...

Beth Ritter-Guth said...

Thanks forbthe comments. We should be clear, though. Literature Alive! Is not a business. LA is an educational program for virtual worlds.

eurominuteman said...

It should be clear that such doesn't except you from picking up the Out-World Newbie at his bus stop, if you want to achieve Sustainability.

Sustainability and Quality Management pair together for any cause.

Even the Red Cross, Greeenpeace and Amnesty PROMOTE, EXPOSE, and REACH OUT their social causes to those standing at those out-world bus stops.

Social Marketing

Ford I said: "If you want to sell a Dollar for 50 cents, you have to tell someone about it", thus in our Second Life case study that means communication via mixed reality, at least.

The Farmville case in Facebook makes it evident that very mediocre causes succeed 20-fold. So industrial blindness of this Farmville process is questionable.