What to do .. What to do?

Not that long ago the position of CEO of Linden Lab was vacated by Rod Humble then shortly afterward filled by Ebbe Altberg. Mr. Altberg has done a number of good things as he began his tenure, but there are a stupidly large number of things that need doing. Really the issue with his choices is not so much the size of the task ahead of him, but the sheer number of things that need to be done. Second Life is faltering as Linden Lab’s flagship product and it needs some direct and focused attention in order to regain its footing. So what exactly should Ebbe do in order to assure a positive trend to his leadership of the Lab?

BTW: I feel it necessary to mention something that Ebbe did pretty much straight away upon assuming the CEO position; he reopened the JIRA. If you’re a devoted reader of my blog, you’ll know how vehemently I objected to the closing of the JIRA, so much so that I predicted the death of Second Life as a result. I am very pleased to point out that the JIRA has been reopened and can once again be used to post true issues with the SL Platform, discuss them openly and constructively, and work WITH Linden Lab to resolve them rapidly. Kudos to you Mr. Altberg .. and thank you.

Picking The Path

One of the toughest things that Ebbe has ahead of him is deciding which of the myriad tasks he should address first. Those tasks that have been suggested (demanded?) by the Residents and Customers of Second Life range in complexity and necessity across the entire range of possibilities. Some of them could quite rightly be seen as life-critical; for example the reopening of the JIRA. Others are not so much critical but would go a long way toward fixing one of the biggest problems in Second Life .. the Relationship between Linden Lab and us, its Customers. So how should Ebbe choose?

Issue Number One

Above all else, the issue of Communication is IMO the biggest of them all. I can confidently point to failures in communication as the aggravating factor in virtually every faux pas committed by Linden Lab for as long as I have been “alive”. When the Lab either refuses to listen to us, or for some reason fails to hear us, the outcome of their actions almost always results in more anger, more resistance, and a decrease in participation. When the Customers of any online product decrease their participation, the income for the owning company also decreases.

For whatever reason, Linden Lab has for a long time seemed to act with a “don’t give a sh*t” attitude regarding Customer Reaction to their actions and edicts. This perceived attitude has further eroded the relationship between the Lab and the Residents. This has at times resulted in a self-feeding negative spiral that has now become so entrenched in the pathos of Second Life that when someone at Linden Lab actually listens to us, it takes us a few days of WTF?!? stumbling around before we can truly recognize and respond appropriately.

Open The Floodgates

So here’s my suggestion Mr. Altberg: Begin a write-in campaign that invites your Customers to write you an email. In that email they get to say anything they want, but it is suggested that they use the opportunity to tell you what issues they see as most important and that they want fixed. They are urged to be open and honest, but constructive and positive, and to do their best to offer ideas that will improve Second Life. (And by “improve” I mean not just in a technical sense, but also in a player retention, community participation, creativity and educational, sharing and enjoying way.)

Yes, I realize it will result in a veritable tsunami of emails. I also realize that it will result in a giant pile of “FU” messages that can be immediately discarded. But that’s the negative perspective. I also believe it will result in a much larger and much more useful heap of emails from those of us that use and truly want to enjoy Second Life. It will result in piles and piles of emails with honest, heartfelt, positive suggestions that come from some of the most creative, inventive and genuine people around. It will open the ears and eyes of the new CEO in a way that has been needed for a long long time.

Swimming Lessons

And then, Mr. Altberg, you and your staff need to sit down with those piles and piles, heaps and heaps, and read them. Use junior staff members to triage them, weed out the crap and wasted flames, distill the flood down to an Amazon River’s worth of real contributions. Read them, listen to them, get a sense of what the ENTIRE community of Second Life feels and wants and needs and thinks.

And then start doing some of the best ideas that come out of that torrent. Honestly? I believe it will be the first day of the Rescue of Second Life.

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