Linden Lab remove CEO: Rosedale returns

As mentioned briefly last night, the rumours were flying about a change in CEO at Linden Lab. The reality has eventuated with Mark Kingdon departing and Philip Rosedale returning as interim CEO.

Some obvious questions arise from this:

1. Was Kingdon aware he was soon to depart when overseeing the recent layoffs?

2. Was Kingdon even really in the loop when the restructuring was undertaken?

3. How does one claim things will improve when the now interim CEO stepped down to allow Mark Kingdon to bring a more commercial focus to the organisation? No-one is claiming such improvement at this stage, but it’s a fair assumption that the aim is for things to go up. Unless it’s part of a scale-down for buyout of course.

All that said – the change could be a good thing. At the very least it’s a temporary thing until the Lab or other future controlling influence determines what the next step is. What remains certain is uncertainty – which can’t help Linden Lab in the short-term but with luck it will assist in the all-important longer term.

Merged realities – events and issues for virtual worlds

1. The US-based Global Kids are holding a Winter 2010 Roundtable on Virtual Worlds and Nonprofits on Monday April 12, from 12-1pm PST (7-8am on Tuesday 13th AET) on MacArthur Island in Second Life.

The purpose is presentations from six nonprofit organisations on “their initial explorations of Second Life and other virtual worlds, and how they are thinking of integrating these virtual tools into their organizations’ respective missions”. Those organisations presenting are: Child Welfare League of America, Health Consumers Alliance of South Australia, Hip-Hop Education Center, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, Inc and V.O.I.C.E. Community Development Corp.”

2. As covered last week, the M Linden Art Show hit the University of Western Australia in Second Life and on UWA’s physical campus as well. There’s a great round-up here. There’s also a machinima of the launch by Chantal Harvey that you can view:

3. Linden Lab have announced a significant upgrade to their new user orientation experience. There’s some in-opinion on it here and here to name two. If you want to see it for yourself, you’ll need to register yourself a new avatar.

4. Terra Nova has a great piece on where social worlds like Farmville fit into the scheme of things.

5. Our Metaverse Reader iPhone app now has a userbase numbering in the hundreds. Version 2 is about to be submitted for approval and it contains some big enhancements, and we’ve already added a couple more sites to the app. Why not check it out for yourself?

Linden Lab CEO’s art show in Second Life: UWA scores again

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon / M Linden isn’t the sort of guy associated heavily with Second Life’s burgeoning art scene. So it’s a little surprising to find out he’s about to have his first art exhibition.

What’s less surprising, at least to me, is that the exhibition will be occurring as part of the University of Western Australia’s presence in Second Life. I’ve said previously that the ongoing art and machinima competitions there are some of the best anywhere, so it’s a deserved location for exhibitions like these.

The momentum that has been generated and maintained by the UWA team has been nothing short of astounding, and things only seem to be growing further. Back to M Linden, here’s how he describes his history as an artist:

From the time I was 6 years old until I was 20, I had planned to be a painter. As I was contemplating graduating from college with a fine arts degree and all that being an artist entails, I decided to make a hard left turn and follow a radically different path. I changed my major to economics, graduated and went on to business school to get a graduate degree. I doodle to focus my mind and I can do it for hours. But, I prefer doodles that I can complete in one short sitting. I gravitate to repetitive constructs of unbroken intersecting lines or interconnected parallelograms…you could call them “dynamic connected systems.” I guess my art and my interest in economics shared this “connected systems” construct.

Drawing in 3D in Second Life wonderful. I can think bigger and do more in Second Life. It’s changed the way I think about art. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said it best: “Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions.

The Exhibition is called Doodle Art and its opening is on Saturday 27th March at 3pm SLT (9am Sunday morning AEDT), at the UWA’s Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. You can get a glimpse in Larkworthy Antfarm’s machinima here:

There’s also real world event taking place at the University this Friday, hosted by artist Len Zuks – contact Jayjay Zifanwe in-world if you’re interested in attending that.

Credits for the exhibition as supplied by Jayjay Zifanwe:

The Curator: White Lebed
UWA Owner & Co-Host: JayJay Zifanwe
The Gallery builders: The Slingshot, Nyx Breen
Logo by: Miso Susanowa
Promotional Machinimas: Chantal Harvery and Larkworthy Antfarm
RL Host at UWA: Len Zuks

Again, congrats to the UWA team for their work. Whether you like M Linden’s art or not, it’s certainly an acknowledgement of the work done by UWA to date and hopefully a good indicator of ongoing success.

Linden Lab CEO: more staff to improve usability

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon updated the masses on a new appointment to the team. Howard Look is a former VP, Software at Pixar and has been charged with improving the “customer-facing part of the Second Life experience”.

There’s certainly been no shortage of recruitment announcements from Linden Lab – what’s yet to come is the benefits of the increased staffing. I think most Second Life residents have given up on 2008 showing significant usability improvements. 2009 looks a little more promising.

Linden Lab CEO: hey I’m in London!

On the rarely updated Linden Lab blog, CEO Mark Kingdon has posted that he’s arrived in London for the Virtual Worlds London shindig.

The response on the blog from Second Life residents has been… lukewarm to say the least. I’m sure VW London’s organisers would have liked the announcement from Mr Kingdon more than 12 hours before he’s due to speak on “many of the initiatives I’ve spoken about in this space including our focus on improving overall stability, further tailoring the platform for our core audiences and enhancing the first hour experience for new Residents.”

Some predictions on the speech itself: it will cover the promise of virtual worlds, the improvements in usability to date, some veiled references to future developments and the announcement of SL servers on all continents by the end of 2008. Ok scratch that last one – do we really need SL servers in Antarctica?

Disclosure: we’re a media partner for Virtual Worlds London.

Update: a summary of the keynote can be found here.

Second Life immaturity – bell curve bungling.

Second Life is going through a troubling phase. It has entered young adulthood, but is still acting like a teenager – occasionally like a teething two-year-old in a tantrum. Unfortunately, Linden Lab has a very different view about where the Second Life product stands with regards to its consumers: they believe that they are providing a frontier product to the disorganized nomads of the virtual worlds. I believe this is far from the case, and that in fact the frontiersfolk have long since passed into obscurity and myth, and that this rustic product is now being peddled to a bunch of sophisticated townsfolk.

Second Life‘s frontiersfolk, the early adopters of the adoption bell curve of Kapor’s speech, have been leaving Second Life to become the early adopters of other technologies since mid-2005. The townsfolk or pragmatists have long since taken over; and though there are still hopefully many more of them to come, the townsfolk now represent a majority. It’s possible that Kapor managed to alienate both the frontiersfolk and the townfolk when he said, in essence, from the town square, “See here, all you woodsy hicks, y’all have to move over and make way for the townsfolk who’ll be moving in.”

So here we all are, a bunch of townies, doing our best with hides and stone knives to build a comfortable living for ourselves. It’s not easy, but despite the tools we’ve been given, we’re making our way nicely, thank you. We’ve workarounds galore to overcome limitations in the product (insufficient personal profile and group tools, etc), although there are still many problems that we must simply endure – an ongoing lack of stability, a poor permissions system for functional collaboration, a set of tools that are feature-rich for individuals and feature-poor for groups, and many, many others that simply make life less easy (feet sinking through terrain, poor Search functionality, the list goes on).

Microsoft, for all their other failings, did a good job of matching their product maturity to the adoption curve. Linden Lab is failing to do this. Windows versions up to 3.0 were for the innovators and early adopters. Increased stability and an increased feature-set were designed to encourage the pragmatists to buy and use their 3.1 version, and so on down the line. Linden Lab is still throwing version 1.0 grade features at customers who are expecting 3.1 quality. They are ramping up to pave the way for their 3.1-quality product targeted to attract new customers, however many of these people are already using it or have already tried and failed.

The townies are crying out for quality and beauty in their town. We like our solid buildings and manicured gardens, and a sign saying “Welcome To Our Town”. How does this translate? Aside from addressing the problems from above, two things come to mind: more social networking tools and superior orientation. If Second Life is to be truly hailed as a social networking haven, it needs the tools to support that boast, instead of people finding that they can work around the restrictions of the system. For Second Life to be welcoming, the whole orientation system needs to be addressed. Right now, no orientation at all would be better than what is currently available.

If Kapor, Kingdon and the rest of the team up at Linden Lab still think that we’re just passing out of the early adoption phase, we need to be prepared for a continuing disconnect between the Linden Lab view of the product and the consumer’s view – that is, how the product is actually being used.

Linden Lab CEO: my first two months

Linden Lab’s CEO, Mark Kingdon , has detailed his perceptions of his first two months at the helm on the official Linden Lab blog.

He makes five key points:

1. Second Life users are more mainstream than many assume.

2. The diversity of use cases in Second Life is mind-boggling.

3. Second Life has an enviable business model.

4. Second Life’s killer apps are just beginning to evolve.

5. Second Life is leading the industry toward interoperability.

It’s an lengthy read but my overall impression is it was similar to a pitch a CEO might make for a second or third round of venture capital funding.

What do you think? Do you see a new CEO with a vision for Second Life’s future or someone pitching for more time to pull things together?

“Hey. we’ve done some brilliant stuff here and the best is yet to come” is the overall message. The excitement shown toward Second Life as a meeting application is insular to say the least – some of the upcoming mirror worlds are likely to gain significant traction in this space as they demonstrate superior interfaces, easier setup and better performance.

A promise is made on a separate announcement on usability – to me this remains the number one challenge for a virtual world ground-breaker at risk of being run over by the convoy of tractors coming up behind with some tempting crops to plant.

Linden Lab’s new CEO speaks

Well, he writes a few paragraphs at least, on the Official Linden Blog. It’s a fairly lucid description of his first week, with the standout line for me being:

“Inworld collaboration is going to be a killer application”

Yes indeed it is – when it’s working and even then it’s not so killer when you’re living so far away from the SL servers – that’s an issue I’m hoping is on the radar.

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