I have a mix of items about Linden Lab’s virtual world, Second Life, for today’s post. First let me emphasize how much I enjoy Second Life. Time in Second Life for me is excitement and delight, interacting with people from around the globe, the opportunity to practice my foreign language skills, learn about other cultures and beliefs, history and couture, computing and technology, human nature and music. I have a wonderful there.
In early June, Linden Research reduced head count by 30%, and shuttered its business-targeted (enterprise) program. Shortly after, then-CEO Mark Kingdon announced his departure from Linden Lab. Phillip Rosedale, the original creative force of Second Life, returned as the interim CEO. The story was covered by The Wall Street Journal, “Digits” blog. I was dismayed by the abrupt corporate reorganization. Sustained existence on “the bleeding edge” is not appealing to me. I wrote this as a comment on Another surprise at Second Life – Founder is CEO Again (WSJ Digits, 24 June 2010):
Mr. Rosedale has the charisma of an innovator. And Linden Lab corporate culture resembles many start-up’s: employees are enthusiastic, energetic advocates of something bold and new and wonderful. Which Second Life is, and somewhat continues to be. It really is unfortunate that things didn’t work out with Mr. Kingdon, as Mr. Rosedale seemed more suited to the excitement associated with the conceptual aspects of his company. However, that excitement cannot be sustained day in and day out. Operating and maintaining the Second Life Grid, responding to customer service tickets and tending the online payment processing of a going concern is probably not thrilling for visionary types. If Linden Lab were a publicly held company, it would have been a very sensible move for Mr. Rosedale to focus on other endeavors. Mr. Kingdon should’ve been a good choice. He should have the pragmatism and efficiency and savvy of a Wharton Business School graduate and experienced business man, which is what he is. If that had been the case, the Second Life platform would have been upgraded. A focused effort would have been made to retain the many users of Second Life, including corporate users, that were genuine advocates of virtual worlds AND paying customers generating stable revenue streams. The bizarrely dysfunctional Second Life blog and forum sites would be redesigned. That was not to be. Now Mr. Rosedale is back.
*Actually, the JIRA for technical problem reporting is almost a social media vehicle for Second Life, which speaks volumes about the dedication to make things work RIGHT in Second Life, by users and Linden Lab employees.
Behind the scenes: An insider’s view
Next, I wanted to share an excellent article from Conde Nast’s Ars Technica about the scalability challenges of web applications such as the Second Life grid. This lengthy and technically detailed piece was written by a former employee of Linden Lab, Ian Wilkes. It’s a long read, 5+ dense pages, but worthwhile. The comments are good reading too.