The Path to Nirvana

When I first began participating in the Second Life Forums, the one behavior that most infuriated me in the way Linden Lab went about their jobs was to make massive, sometimes world-shaking changes to the Second Life platform seemingly without the least bit of consultation or consideration with the end-user community. They would release massive changes in the customer’s operation of the product, frequently without the least bit of notice or announcement about the changes. People would log on, run into problems or flat-out roadblocks to the way they’d always used SL .. and seldom could they find any explanation about the change anywhere on Linden Lab’s web sites. If there has been an albatross around the Lab’s neck, it has always been that bull-headed habit of doing whatever they damn well please without the least bit of consideration for how it affected the people that use and PAY FOR the Second Life product.

You Can’t Get There From Here

One of the craziest things that the Devs at LL would do was to change the basic operation of a critical function or feature and then steadfastly refuse to either explain why the change was made or make amendments to their changes that would in some small manner restore at least part of the original functionality. Many times the changes forced on Second Life users by the LL Devs not only made no sense, but they often made it totally impossible for anyone to perform the same operations or functions they had established over many months.

It was very common for them to push out a change that suddenly and irrevocably “broke” devices or operations critical to SL Small Businesses .. and sometimes even made it impossible for regular users to enjoy the platform in the same way as they had before. In fact, it was so common for Linden Lab to make changes that totally blocked typical business practices that a large number of possibly successful business people simply closed their doors and left the platform. The number of businesses and customers turned away or disabled by seemingly illogical and unnecessary changes is easily in the 1000’s; the business income lost or destroyed could easily total in the millions of dollars. And yet the Lab continued on in their thick-headed path toward .. who knows where they were going.

A Wisp of Sanity?

There is a basic function of any web site that involves money that allows users to rapidly and easily determine how much they’ve spent, how much they’ve earned and how much they have available at the moment. In Second Life that function is provided by the Transaction History Report. As I said, this is a very critical and universal function of any web site that deals with customer money.

Not long ago, Linden Lab made a massive change to that report .. and summarily dumped it onto the unsuspecting customers without notice, explanation or any form of feedback. It just “Appeared” and that was that. OMFG!! They’re doing it again! So I sat down at my keyboard and wrote a post decrying their once again destructive habit of dumping massive changes on people without any thought or warning. You can read that entry here: Fixing the Unbroken.

But then something magical and totally unexpected happened .. the Linden Lab Devs actually LISTENED to the outcry and suddenly the new report disappeared and was replaced by the original version. Next they began posting in the Forum thread that was started to decry the changes to one of the most critical functions on the web site. They actually started interacting. They even began using a JIRA Issue (a BUG report to be precise) to communicate and interact with the customers of Second Life!

OMFG!! They’re NOT doing it again! They’re doing something new and … and .. USEFUL!!

Is This Nirvana?

In a very short period of time the essentials of the new Transaction History Report were hammered out. Although the Devs were somewhat vague when explaining what their true goal was for the original changes (they alluded to needing to accommodate people that had more than 500 transactions per day), it was quickly worked out that they could meet their goals AND also meet the needs of everyone else that depended on certain features of the original report.

In other words, the LL Devs participated in an Interactive Design and Development conversation with the end-users and succeeded in creating a design goal that met almost everyone’s needs AND they did so without causing an end of the world pandemonium, without uncontrolled Flame Wars between verbal snipers on the various conversation sites, and without spending gobs and gobs of time and emotional capital in reaching the final revision.

In short .. they did something POSITIVE toward their goals and toward the goals of t heir customers. While it may not meet some people’s definition of Nirvana, in my book it comes damn close.

Tomorrow .. and the Day After

Above all else it must be underlined and highlighted that after their initial faux pas of releasing the initial changes without notice or conversation, they stepped back and took a rational, professional and ultimately very beneficial path toward achieving their goals. They proved both to themselves and to the haters and naysayers among the Customer Base that Linden Lab is quite capable of producing end-user functions and features that make sense, result in happiness and improved operation by the end-users, and overall put smiles on people’s faces instead of frowns and angry snarls.

As I have maintained for, well for as long as I’ve been posting on the SL Forums and writing in my own blog, that Linden Lab CAN and SHOULD follow a methodology of putting ideas and goals out among the customers, allow us to chew on them and discuss how these changes will affect our daily and long-entrenched procedures, then feed that back into Linden Lab’s development staff so they can improve the site while bringing the Customers along for the ride. I also maintain that we, The Customers, have proven our ability to react in a mature and productive manner so that our true needs and requirements are properly communicated. We have shown that we CAN and MUST agree to work WITH Linden Lab in updating and improving their web sites, their products and their overall operations.

Together we .. not just Linden Lab and not just the Customers .. but WE worked together to come to a successful conclusion for everyone involved. Now that we’ve proven we can do it once, we need the opportunity to prove it again and again .. and again. Linden Lab, please listen closely, keep using this methodology of putting your goals into our hands, giving us a sample to work from and with, then interacting with us to reach a final product that meets all of your needs and ours.

And if you do that from now on .. Second Life will most likely have a Second Life of growth and improvement .. all over again.


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