Archive for the ‘New World Notes’ Tag

NWN: Linden Lab’s Concurrency Map to Be Made Available to Residents in Future

Mercy, today seems to be a big day for news.  New World Notes reports that the lovely animated globe map Hamlet Au saw while visiting Linden Lab’s offices back in June, a map that reports concurrency of users, is being worked on for availability to Residents.  Rod Humble mentioned this to Daniel Voyager, according to Ham’s article.

Speculation on my part:  I wonder if this will replace the concurrency statistics that were originally on the viewer’s splash page, before the current change made to it in the most recent update, but are no longer there?

Microsoft Purchase Rumors Potentially Debunked

Instead, it appears that the eminent Mr. Ballmer in Redmond has purchased Vivaty, another virtual world.  Hamlet Au speculates that this might be the source of the rumors which shot through the Plitterverse (that’s both Twitter and Plurk) a few days ago that Microsoft was bidding for the purchase of Linden Lab.

So, it appears that Philip Rosedale’s hair and codpiece are safe from getting emblazoned with a Windows logo, I guess.  Who knows, though?  Steve Ballmer might have made him get a haircut and a suit, finally (grin).

Hwaet! Hear of the Tale of Philip of Linden…

…bright-bladed Philip, colorful of codpiece
Maker of worlds, defender from doom
Far did he ride on his steed, fine and furry
Smiting the emerald-green beast….

(snort, start, glancing down at the copy of Beowulf in my hands)

Wow, what a dream….  Well, I wonder what Ham Au has to say lately…?

(snapping on computer, bringing up New World Notes; going fall-down laughing)


Philip Rosedale Returns to Linden Lab CEO Position

Philip Rosedale. (Photo by James Duncan Davidson/O'Reilly Media, Inc., CC Generic 2.0 license)

We’ve had about a day to mull over the news that Mark Kingdon has been given the axe as CEO of Linden Lab, and that Philip Rosedale has resumed the direct control of his brainchild, at least for the interim.  (New World Notes article; Rosedale statement)  As of publishing time, a New World Notes open poll suggests strongly that Residents are in favor of this move — even if we will have to put up with Philip’s spiky hair, Rocky Horror T-shirt and codpiece again:

Poll results as of 6:15 SLT, June 25, 2010. Poll courtesy of New World Notes

I’m one of the more optimistic, for the record.  I’m uncertain how much acceptance Mark has had from the Resident community over his tenure; and many of the Lab’s moves during that time have been controversial, to say the least.  Of course, for all we know, things could have smoothed out at the Lab with his continued presence.  Only the future knows this, and the future has just been rewritten.

The thing that Rosedale has going for him, besides a (presumably) intimate nuts-and-bolts knowledge of how Second Life works, is that his is the vision that created this real incarnation of a concept only in books for the most part, until his company was formed.  Anyone who was brought in from outside to take over would not be part of the Linden Lab culture — an admittedly kooky one at times, but they would not have the same “heart” for it that Philip has.  Many of us felt that way when Kingdon was named CEO in May 2008.  Philip was the creator; Mark was a businessman first and foremost, and I wonder if he tended to see Second Life mainly in that model, as a place for facilitating business.  There were speculations, of course, that Kingdon was brought in to help pave the way for an initial public offering of stock in Linden Lab; a more business-0riented CEO would be considered essential for such a move, and Mark’s tenure as CEO of Organic, a digital-advertising agency.

But a virtual-world business is a hairier operation to run.  You not only have the business aspect to manage; you must also deal with the client base that is the raison d’être for the business’s existence.  Second Life had business presences before, though more of an attempt to advertise their Real Life products in world.  Many of these left during the Great Hype Meltdown of 2008-09, and Kingdon attempted to bring in more business for meeting-type situations with his Second Life Enterprise initiative over the past six months.  Many feel that focus was given to this move, at the expense of Grid stability and Resident satisfaction, as well as other decisions that, according to Gwyneth Llewelyn, intended to pave the way for increased business activity.  (Read her thorough analysis of the situation from June 10.)  The failure of many of these business moves are what led to Kingdon’s dismissal.

The thing is that Mark was right in his broad vision, if not necessarily in his execution.  Second Life — and Linden Lab — cannot survive forever on Residential accounts alone, and definitely not on free accounts.  While some may disagree with the Linden Homes move (Gwyneth believes that this put the Guvnah in direct competition with existing landowners), Linden Lab should encourage conversion of free to Premium accounts.  Additionally, business needs wooing, focusing on the core advantages that Second Life has already offered to huge corporations such as IBM — the hosting and abetment of meetings without the expense and waste of travel for substantial numbers of people.  As much as many of us may not like it, Big Business must be courted in, and must become part of the Grid.

The key will be to find a new CEO that can balance both sides, and deliver continued and improved performance of the virtual platforms.  Rosedale possesses the vision, but he doesn’t seem to possess the business chops, which is why he handed off to Kingdon two years ago.  Philip’s return (dare we call it a resurrection? [grin]) will help restore the balance.  Now we need someone to push the dream forward — on all fronts.  Second Life cannot survive, let alone thrive, without both the yin and yang of the equation.

State of Linden Lab — Critical, Serious, or Healthy?

This discussion is based upon reports from Hamlet Au at New World Notes.

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I haven’t touched the recent news from Linden Lab until now, mainly because I haven’t been sure what to think about the entire thing.  I’m still not sure yet, even after the passage of a week of time.  But it’s part of the mission of this blog to report on the news affecting the Grid, and offer my own opinions on it, and it’s time I weighed in.  We’ll see which way my thoughts move as I write….

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How is Linden Lab actually doing right now?  That is the very thing that is hard to determine unless — perhaps — you’re one of the 30% of Lab employees that were laid off last week.  That group includes many long-term veterans and beloved Lindens, such as T (Tom Hale).  Concern for these folks has been so high among residents that SLeleb CodeBastard Redgrave built a “graveyard” of headstones for the now avocationally-challenged, which has been frequented by Residents leaving flowers, occasionally dancing on the “graves” (a tasteless thing, even for the terminally dissatisfied among the SL population), or simply contemplating whether this event is an omen auguring the future of the Lab.

The Linden Memorial at Rouge, http://slurl.com/secondlife/Rouge/165/72/22

That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 people, based on employment figures mentioned elsewhere.  Not the same as, say, a plant closing somewhere; but to these folks it still means they’re learning the difference between “recession” and “depression.”

But is this an omen that Linden Lab is in financial trouble?  Mark Kingdon insists no, in the original press release, the Big Blog announcement, and in a talk with Hamlet Au.  According to M, the Lab’s in fine shape, and this isn’t a retrenchment dictated by falling revenues.  The problem with this:  especially as a Michigan girl, living in areas where plant layoffs were all too common in bad economic times, I find it hard to believe entirely.  Labor is always among the top 3 or 5 items in company costs, if not the prime item.  This makes it very easy to target employees when you need to balance the books in hard times.  What I would love is to see the actual balance sheet of Linden Research, Inc.  Being a privately-held company, of course, this won’t happen any time soon.

Hamlet’s (admittedly unscientific) poll suggests that readers of New World Notes are overwhelmingly pessimistic about Second Life’s future following the layoff announcement.  Part of this could be from actual fear of the company having revenue problems.  And, with a free-to-join customer base, this can be understood.  Actual revenue, as I understand the Lab’s business model, comes from Premium memberships (which they’ve been pushing on recently, as you’ll note from their frequent message encouraging upgrading to Premium as you log in); sales of land and regions (including tier payments); and, hypothetically, investment return from sales of Linden dollars purchased by Residents or spent as fees (such as upload fees) — in other words, they take the money paid to them and invest for collection of interest.

The following is speculation on my part, but consider it. Based on charts at Tateru Nino’s Dwell On It, user concurrency has been trending downward throughout 2010, although the decline may be leveling off based on early indications, which suggests to me that regular user numbers are going down due to the economy; in other words, a declining pool of potential or current Premium customers, and (extrapolating from this), fewer people interested in purchasing land or paying corresponding tier for it.  The in-world economy itself has proved resilient, suggested by the user-to-user transaction numbers; but how much of this is coming from existing bank accounts, and how much from purchased lindens, such as I normally do to buy my goodies?  Mark, if you’re reading this, how close am I to the mark, and would you be willing to share your actual financial statements to help back up your position?

Once again, these are speculations on my part.  Kingdon may be giving us the straight dope on Linden Lab’s financial conditions.  The thing that makes me wonder is that businessmen tend to paint the rosiest picture possible in their press statements and annual reports.  Warren Buffet, the master of Berkshire Hathaway, is one of the few people who will admit flat out to his investors when his company is stinking, instead of trying to put a positive spin on the numbers.  While I choose to reserve my worries for now, I would like more provable information as to how things are, and whether the largest and (still to me) the best virtual world offering will still be around in 2011.

New Machinima by Sam Lowry

Thanks to Hamlet Au and New World Notes….

Sam Lowry, a French Resident of Second Life, did the above machinima, which I discovered at Ham Au’s article.  (There’s an excellent stream of comments going on there currently.)

Sam celebrates some of the nicer builds on the Grid, such as Omega Point.  (Again, if your interested, see  the New World Notes article for SLurls to the sites.)  However, the opening of the film contends how, over seven years, the original creativity of the Grid’s Resident founders has given way to such things as the lust for lucre and the Drama Llama.  And there is some sense in this.

New, semi-Utopian societies such as Second Life — yes, there is a degree of cultural cohesiveness to us avatars, and Philip Rosedale started the concept with a very Utopian vision of what it could be — frequently go through a progression that can be charted on a graph as a declining asymptotic curve.  In other words, the line starts out at a high peak, drops in a very steep descent as time advances, then flattens out as it approaches the base line, but never quite reaches zero.  Real World attempts at Utopia — and, by extension and Lowry’s argument, Second Life — follow this same path:  the initial converts enter with a high degree of enthusiasm.  Mighty, puissant works arise from this opening energy.  Then, as more and more people come into the society, they begin to mostly float on the surface without contribution by themselves, for whatever reason.  True Believers will still arrive periodically; but, as time wears on, they become a smaller and smaller percentage of the population.  It never quite reaches zero, but it becomes a fraction of what the society started out with.

This is what has happened in Second Life.  The initial Residents of Linden World had to be creative, because there was almost nothing there.  Those avatars are the ones that forged the Grid out of white-hot prims, fresh from the foundry and the blacksmiths’ anvils.  As time passed, however, and more people joined Second Life, the population trend skewed away from the creative side to the commercial side.  Now it’s getting gradually to the people who are just turistas, ones who don’t want to do anything besides walk about and soak it in.  They look on the Grid more as the game that many contend it is, and have no great desire to do anything creative with it.  Others may have the creative spark, but lack the time, ambition, or resources (financial or otherwise) to pursue their dreams.  This majority, incidentally, are the ones who shape the cultural norms in many ways, and do so by importing their RL sensibilities and foibles onto the Grid.  There, by the magic of computers, they get multiplied and accelerated a thousand fold (grin), and thus you have the appearance of that thespian quadruped mentioned above, as well as the search for Instant Riches from Second Life!

This is not dissimilar to the Real World, if you think of it.  Consider, just in the United States:  out of a population of over 300 million souls, what percentage are actively in any of the creative arts?  And what percentage out of that subgroup are successful at it, in terms of making a steady, reliable income at it?  Expand that out to the world population as a whole, and you’ll find similar numbers.  In any society, you’ll find the extreme minority who offer the creativity.  Some would call them an elite, especially since they are often the ones who contribute the most original and daring ideas, but I shy away from that concept.  Any road, the creatives never disappear, but they become only a fraction of the overall population as the population increases.  The majority by far are content with the status quo, and simply schlep through (for lack of a better term).

Is Second Life then doomed to descend into decadence and decay?  Is this a terrible thing?  Is the Imminent Death of the Grid Predicted?  Only time will tell for sure, but I don’t think so.  This is simply a normal progression; and, while not necessarily desirable from a creative viewpoint, is inevitable as long as avatars are not lifeforms in themselves.  On the day that avatars “wake up”…well, then we may have other things to worry about, like What Is The Matrix.

M Linden Replies to NWN Article on Discovery Island Building Tutorial Problem

In my article last week, I noted how the comment of a reader of the New World Notes article on the new “first hour” experience for newcomers to Second Life sent me to check the place out.  I found it to be the fact:  no mention of building, and no basic tutorial on the subject at all.

Hamlet Au went deeper on the subject and asked Linden Lab about the matter.  Petra Linden replied that the Lab is planning to add an area for build basics in the future; and, in a comment to the story, Mark Kingdon (M Linden) adds that, since the design of the islands is modular, more areas can be added while keeping the “natural flow” of the concept in place.

It’s good to know that the Lab is taking note of this so quickly.  As I said in my own comment to the article:  “Without something to let the newcomer know distinctly that building [is] possible, and to let them experiment at least briefly with it, at least some percentage will never know what that Build item on the menu bar is all about. Without new content creators — and new creators’ ideas to keep the pool fresh — Second Life builds would eventually stagnate.”

New Welcome and Discovery Islands Missing Important Things for New Avatars

I’m one of several Residents that went exploring yesterday.  After reading Ham Au’s article on his visit to the new Welcome and Discovery Islands for new avatars, I went ahead and created an alt account to investigate on my own.  (You can see pictures of some of the six areas at New World Notes.)

The whole idea of revamping the welcome regions is to give the newcomer training and tools to get going in Second Life, and to retain them — the great problem.  It goes hand in hand with the reworking of the viewer to version 2, another move to get and hold new accounts.  And, to a certain degree, the job gets done, especially when the new experience is compared to the jungle and game settings on some of the old Orientation Islands.  (I came in through a Scholar’s Island myself, and so didn’t have all those distractions.)  With a little practice, you can pick up the basic functions of movement, flying, chatting and camera control — all the main things that a newcomer needs to know to function in avatar society.  And apparently, according to Pete Linden (in Ham’s article), retention rates improved during testing.

But I also went into my mentoring shtick without announcing who I am — not that I’m exactly an SL celebrity, or would want to be; and, of course, these newbies wouldn’t know jack about me or this blog.  And I discovered, as Marianne McCann had noted in her comment to Ham’s article, that there was no visible mention of how to build content.  I also found no notes of how to change appearance and clothes or wear attachments, and no explanation of the Linden dollar economy.  Ham says that there are videos with tutorials about the Discovery Islands, but they did not seem very obvious as things that played, and I never got one going.  (In the Lab’s defense there, I think I need to update QuickTime on my computer.)  I didn’t even find a mention about sandboxes; and you cannot rezz up anything on the ground there — not even packaged gifts from the Lindens themselves.  And I found just as many questions from newcomers as I ever have seen.

I’m not sure that this new welcome system works.  Yeah, the old official welcome islands had descended into hell on wheels with griefers and spammers thick on the ground.  But my first impression (and probably my only, depending on a chance for return) is that a newbie gets less information here than they did before.  I’d rather direct them to jump in at someplace like the Trinity College orientation ground in Dublin region, at least at the moment.  That, plus maybe a corps of greeters who can answer newbie questions consistently and in a friendly manner.  I think this would do a lot more for retention in the long run.  I plan on dropping in again, if I can teleport onto one of the islands as a “well-aged” avatar, and see what happens then.

Time, of course, and apparently increased concurrency, as well as a growing Grid economy, will tell the final tale of whether this new system works well.  In the meantime, I’m getting ready to answer a lot of newcomer questions….

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Go Read New World Notes!

Hamlet Au of New World Notes has been a busy boy the past few days.  He’s got a mess of fantastic articles in his blog since Friday, and you should go and read them.  Attend:

  • A link to a piece by Peter Stindberg on why transaction deliveries fail
  • A link to a new exhibition of war poets, especially from World War I
  • A comment, with link to the original story, on the BBC’s Web piece on “What happened to Second Life?”  I’ve glanced through the original piece, and I agree with Ham:  not only is the Beeb a little late in joining the bandwagon of media defection, but they’re completely off the mark with current events in world.

No, I don’t shill for Ham Au; I just think he’s one of the best reporters we have in world, and his blog is one of the most valuable, accurate news sites there is.  Go forth, and be enlightened!

Posted November 21, 2009 by Harper Ganesvoort in News

Tagged with , , ,

Octegenarian Bluesman in Second Life

Check out New World Notes for a story on Charles Bristol of North Carolina, a bluesman of the Old School.  Why do we mention Mr. Bristol?  Because he plays active gigs in Second Life, of course.  His avatar is named CharlesEBristol Xi, and he teams up with Etherian Kamaboko to tear the house down.  Read Hamlet Au’s article for more, including a video of Charles and Etherian in world at a gig.

As Hamlet notes, by the way, Charles is going to turn 88 years old on September 22.  I don’t know if that makes him the oldest Resident in RL years, but he’s definitely up there in competition.  I don’t know if birthday notecards from ~50,000 strangers is appropriate, but I intend to send him one.

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