The Failure Called “Full Ownership”

Try this simple test: Put on a blindfold and sit down in the passenger seat of your car. Now have someone you trust take you for a short but decidedly “edgy” car ride. It should include bouncing you up and down, tossing you from side to side, and a fairly high number of moments with negative and positive High-G’s. When the ride is done, you can grade yourself using one of two methods. Either count the number of seconds it took before you ripped off the blindfold and screamed “ENOUGH!”; higher numbers are better. Alternatively you can weigh the amount of poop in your shorts; lower numbers are better.

total panicAre You A Control Maniac?

The point of the test is to determine your need for control. By selecting someone you trust to take the wheel (and presumably keep their eyes open while driving), you relinquish control of your destiny, perhaps even your life, to someone else. If you cannot get through the entire ride without removing the blindfold or contributing to your final “Poop Score” then congratulations, you qualify as a possible candidate for CEO of many modern high-tech companies.

Unfortunately a very high number of today’s corporations are headed by fellow Control Maniacs. What does that mean, and more importantly, what does it mean for you specifically? Well stay tuned and I’ll explain. But first it’s time for a little trip down Darrius’ Memory Lane. (Barf bags not required .. probably.)

Self-Immolation Via Control Mania

Years ago, more than half my lifetime in fact, I met a man that we shall call “Nibor”. (That’s not his real name, honest!) Nibor was a brilliant thinker, full of excellent ideas. He also had a magical talent for not only talking TO the upper-echelon elite in a town, but he could talk them OUT of their money. Yes indeed, Nibor could romance stuffed-shirt, snob-to-the-max financial types so completely that usually he would have them writing him personal checks within days of their first meeting.

If you have ever been involved with start-ups and especially high-tech companies founded by “Kids” (we were all under the age of 28) then you are intimately familiar with how tough it can be to find any money whatsoever. Now picture yourself going into business alongside a “Kid” that can get 50- and 60-year old fat cats to loan him amounts of money with 5 digits .. and more!

Keep in mind that this is the early 80’s, so $50,000.00 is a massive inrush of capital. With 3 or maybe 4 people drawing from that pile, plus expenses for computers, office stuff, rent, etc., that money can last a good long while. Now factor into that the fact that a lot of the “stuff” we needed to operate was donated or invested by other fat cats. Even the rent and office equipment was pretty much provided free and clear. Can you begin to see how truly magical and potentially massively successful this is gonna be? Yeah, me too.

Blazing InfernoFlick! Flick! Faa-WHOOOMPFFF!

So why am I not typing on a computer so expensive that most third-world countries haven’t got enough money to buy one? Why am I living basically hand-to-mouth, just like 85% of everyone else in the USA? Because Nibor had a completely self-destructive personal trait called “Control Mania”.

The Other Shoe … Is Aimed At Your Head

I’m not the type to give up on someone if they fall down once. Hell, I’m not even the type to give up on them if they fall down four times. With Nibor, I gave him more chances to get it right than I have fingers on one hand. Every single time we tried, we failed, miserably .. in spectacular fashion. Every single one of our efforts launched with phenomenal promise and achieved initial success. And yet every single one of them imploded in a flaming corporate disaster because Nibor insisted on cutting out everyone else lest they exert even the slightest measure of their own control.

I don’t mean just outsiders either. I mean those of us on his own team! I mean us fellow trailblazers that took almost no income, went weeks and months existing on an old jar of peanut butter and 3 stale Fritos. I mean we PARTNERS that he selected from the start to help put the whole thing together and make it work. Nibor had this incredibly self-destructive NEED to cast his most important supporters into the lake of fire .. usually at the most inopportune point in time!

A Hole In My HeadThe Rotten Nugget In Nibor’s Head

But why? Why would someone that exhibited such excellent business acumen, that could so easily convince people to work under near starvation conditions .. why would Nibor insist on sabotaging the whole enterprise? Because he NEEDED to have “Full Ownership”.

His emotional need to create and maintain such complete levels of control were directly responsible for him making some of the biggest mistakes anyone in management has ever made. Even when a situation would arise that was exactly the same as a previous one, and even when he would quite properly realize he was facing the same challenges as before .. EVEN WHEN Nibor knew full well that he had to make a different decision this time in order to survive ..

He quite happily tossed the whole enterprise into the dumper.

Corporate Direction By Emotional Needs

I am regaling you with this story to illustrate a mistake that Nibor made; a mistake that is presently being repeated by Rod Humble and the management at Linden Lab. That mistake is to shoot in the back the fellow travelers, the fellow trailblazers, the PARTNERS that have worked tirelessly and with incredibly small amounts of compensation. Linden Lab has for some time, and most recently has repeated in stellar fashion, the corporate predilection to yank control out of the hands of anyone else.

From a purely financial business perspective, this action is counter-productive. Very few MBA’s would recommend sacrificing, or worse purposely damaging, those people that continue to work (nearly uncompensated) in unison to help ensure bilateral success. Yet that is exactly what Linden Lab is doing. So if this is not a wise or rational financial or management decision, what is driving the Management at Linden Lab to make it? The only reason I can support is the same one that controlled Nibor: The EMOTIONAL NEED to be in total control.

Past History and Patterns of Behavior

As many folks will tell you, Linden Lab has a rather solid and respectable history of making decisions that run roughshod over their paying customers. As I’ve mentioned recently, even in those situations where it would obviously be to their benefit to offer up at least a crumb of consideration, they have instead gone out of their way to ensure no such morsels were even visible, let alone available.

Keep in mind that I’m not speaking of the various development groups within the Lab. Some of them do routinely make changes and implement features/services that are specifically geared to help customers. Instead I am speaking specifically of “Corporate Decisions”, moments and choices where Linden Lab could have entered into a cooperative relationship and not only made money for all involved, but cemented a positive impression that would come in handy should they need to inflict a bit of pain later on.

Fr’Instance …

A recent example of this behavior is the Lab’s decisions regarding In-World Search. Whereas those companies that understand how Document Searching works (such minor players as Google and Microsoft) would have used their obvious position of influence to monetize and strengthen their In-World Search tools, Linden Lab charbroiled their in-house experts, discarded their advice, and then purposely nerfed the entire tool so that it is of no use nor interest to anyone any more. In other words, they intentionally threw away perfectly good income, instead preferring to take actions that directly harmed big-name and long-term contributors in the Second Life realm.

Even today, when it is obvious to anyone that bothers to look (and is educated in what to look for) that in-depth information is being collected by Linden Lab. That information could be of incredible value to Customers (Merchants) within Second Life. With that information, they could optimize their marketing efforts, increase their own income and thus cooperatively increase Linden Lab’s income as well. Yet even today, when income seems to be faltering and the Lab is obviously taking panic-inspired measures to try and curtail the bleeding, they refuse to do the simple things that could help them out.

And the only reason I can support for this steadfast refusal to cooperate? Their total maniacal and emotional NEED to CONTROL!

Don't move or the bunny gets it!The Terms of Service Debate

This whole concept of Emotional Self-Destruction was pulled into clarity for me while responding to a fellow forumite in an OOC Conversation. In fact, it came home to roost with such sudden intensity that I’m afraid I may have overloaded my reply with a wee bit too much venom. (Sorry ’bout that, Chief!)

But even though it is obvious to me, and perhaps now that you’ve read this far, it is obvious to you as well .. I doubt Rodvik has either the slightest inkling about what he’s doing or even the slightest concern. In fact, I’d be willing to bet a fair number of Linden Dollars (like maybe .. L$20 or so) that even if he is aware of what he’s doing, he really doesn’t care.

Malfeasance, Ignorance or Willful Act?

What needs to be determined is exactly why Linden Lab has changed the wording of their Umbrella Terms of Service in the manner they have. We are all very clear on the radical change in rights afforded by the new document, but so far we have all been taking potshots in  the dark as to WHY. Linden Lab of course isn’t going to engage us in a game of “Hot or Cold” to help us narrow down their reason(s). Even though there are several groups working on letters and position papers designed to help us determine the cause and rectify the problems, I hold little hope that Rodvik, and by extension anyone on his management staff, will participate in a meaningful way with us.

Thus I am left with the sincere opinion that the reasons are manifold. I believe first and foremost that the incredible breadth of the new language was a purposeful choice, taken with careful consideration. I further believe that no amount of negotiation or conversation will cause Linden Lab to change their position.

My real baseline belief is that Linden Lab is acting, as they have so many times before, in a manner designed to ensure they are the only party left standing on the field when the smoke clears, and that even though they know full well their actions will absolutely cost them dearly, their emotional need to be the ONLY survivor has overridden their sense of decency and business reason .. and will eventually result in a massive decline in the overall value of their products.

But frankly my dear .. they don’t give a damn!

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