Sansar – Is It Second Life V2?

Sansar begins to take offTalk is beginning to heat up around the Grid about Linden Lab’s newest project. Working under the name “Sansar” (which apparently means “World” in Sanskrit), there is lots of debate about what it will be and what it will offer. People are confused and hunting for answers. Which is probably to the liking of the folks at Linden Lab as they are trying to keep things somewhat secret.

Can Second Life Have A Version 2?

Something in the Human Spirit often drives us to make a second attempt at things. People with drive and determination often see the things around them as imperfect or lacking. Combine the two, toss in a CEO with the desire to “do something memorable” … and you get a project like Sansar. Whether the project itself turns out good or bad is yet to be determined. But right now it is heating up the chatter and we’re seeing some positive side-effects in other places as well.

It’s true: #ProjectSansar is the codename/project name of our new virtual experience platform. Final name to be revealed in the future. #VR

The bigger question though is: Do we really need or want another version of Second Life? And if so, is it even possible doable?

The Difference Between Possible and Doable

These two terms, while similar, define massively different concepts. When we call something “Possible”, we mean that given the right collection of people, resources and ideas, that something could actually become reality. The catch of course is the phrase “given the right”. When we say something is “Doable”, we mean that the right stuff is already collected.

Some of those stuffs we need to collect are the right ideas. Ideas that explain and resolve all the little questions that come up in the trek from concept to delivery. Most of those ideas will be invented during the process. That’s why you assemble the right staff at the beginning. But some of those ideas have to be in place before you spend the first penny. Those ideas are what might be called …

The Core Concept

Sansar Core ConceptSecond Life is a rather poorly understood product. I don’t mean misunderstood, I mean directly NOT understood. The people that made and now support it have bits and pieces of understanding. Unfortunately most of the minds that gave birth to it have moved on to other projects.

The people now manning the tiller and gears at Linden Lab are doing their best … at times … but their choice of corporate internal structure (along with other non-technical decisions) have hampered full understanding of their product. That means they aren’t really sure what parts of it should be carried forward into the next version. Oops!

When You’re Not Sure … PUNT!

Linden Lab has stayed pretty far away from nailing down specifics. They have let a few things loose, but primarily their answers about what Sansar will be are vague and without solid substance. Probably a good bit of that is old-fashioned corporate propriety, but I have a suspicion that it’s also due to a lack of solid understanding. Basically they know what they want the final product to do, they just aren’t sure HOW it will do it. (BTW: What they want it to do is make money and save their butts. But that’s another story.)

Perhaps the most worrisome and telling bit of information they have let out is their intention to support and leverage the burgeoning Virtual Reality market. All over the Internet can be found stories and pictures showing off people connected with Linden Lab (formally or otherwise) trying on VR equipment.

“the drax files radio hour (with jo yardley)” – Drax and Sansar and VR

Clearly the use of Virtual Reality gear is something the planners at LL are banking on. From the above linked piece (and many others) it’s also clear that people (read “potential customers”) are also interested and perhaps even excited about the technology. In the techno-geek world, this is known as a “Punt”. It means “we haven’t a clue so we’re gonna dazzle you with neat tech.”

The Good Stuff

It’s not all sour grapes and hopeless dreams (or unwieldy gadgets that give you a headache), there are growing reports and evidence that the Sansar project has rejuvenated the spirit of the people at Linden Lab. This often happens when a team or company is given a fresh charge of money, incentive and purpose. Compared to LL’s other recent ventures, their decision to grow it from inside makes more sense.

What this has led to is a re-dedication of sorts to the task they already have: managing and maintaining Second Life. There are some things (both big and small things) that have been getting more attention lately. In the process of diving into the innards, the staff at LL have also been gaining more experience with the darker corners of the platform. All good things.

A Clear Definition of Sansar

Over the coming months the planners and designers at Linden Lab need to put into stone an absolutely clear definition of Sansar. It doesn’t need to be detailed from a technical perspective, and it doesn’t need a deep discussion of the personality or philosophy of the end product. But it needs to paint a picture of the real goal in a way that others can understand. You might even call it a “Vision Statement” … of sorts.

But remember that “NOT understood” thing I mentioned earlier? Locking a gaggle of thinkers in a room to come up with a Vision Statement is only going to work if they understand what they’re envisioning. The way I see it, there is only one way they will be able to do that fully. They are going to have to open their doors and invite in some experts that can provide the missing bits of their understanding.

Passive vs. Active Listening

There is evidence that the amount of listening going on at Linden Lab has been on the uptick since Ebbe Altberg took over. Unfortunately that evidence is not what legal types would call “dispositive”; it’s just too thin to really count. That’s normal when someone is engaged in Passive Listening. So even though the amount of listening has (probably) been going up, it’s also been only one-way. Linden Lab needs to open the gate the other direction and start listening in an Active manner. They just need a way to take questions, suggestions and desires from existing Virtual World users, filter those and gain insight from them … then participate in back and forth conversations that sprout forth.

Oh! Wait! They have Forum Software for that.

It will of course require some changes in how the conversation is moderated. Instead of being a mostly hands-off affair where the Community (not Staff) do the driving, it will be a Staff-driven tool that looks more like a modern-day Press Conference or live online Q&A. I’m not sure Lithium can handle it today, but I bet it can be made to handle it easily.

Justifying the Cost

Of course I saved the best part for the last: How will the costs be justified? Obviously the suggestions I’ve made here will require extra money. More than likely there is no check sitting on Ebbe’s desk with the amount left blank. To be honest, I don’t have a method of obtaining that extra money. I don’t even have the first glimmer of a clue. But what I do have is a reason to obtain it. Okay, and maybe a small suggestion. Maybe.

Sansar is an important milestone for Linden Lab. It’s no big secret that the last few initiatives by the last couple of CEO’s had less successful outcomes than hoped. The company really needs a win. Having chosen to take their in-house experts and apply them to making a newer better whatever-they-have-now, they’ve made the first right choice. But that’s just the first of many more to come.

Making choices is never easy. (Like .. duh!!) Over my life, I have found that my best decisions come about when I know as much as I can about the situation. As I’ve been saying, Linden Lab still does not really know enough about the situation. Not having enough knowledge will probably lead to the same level of success that their previous projects enjoyed. So instead of just doing the same thing all over again and failing, they need to change their approach a little bit more and undertake my suggestions … and spend the money.

A Money-Saving Idea

As promised, my little idea for how to save some money. Take all those VR headsets, goggles and associated gizmos then dump them on eBay for a decent price. The future descendant of something as powerful, engaging and intoxicating as Second Life will not include the use of gadgets strapped to people’s heads. And if Sansar cannot be proudly claimed as an offspring of SL then what the hell are they doing messing around with it in the FIRST place?

Related Posts:

The following blog posts and articles helped me gain some understanding of Sansar. They may help you as well:

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