Second Life CEO Meets Residents

Friday 2/4, Rod Humble, CEO and known as Rodvik Linden in SL, along with Pete Linden held a by-invitation-only meeting to talk with selected residents. One of those invited was Chestnut Rau, author of the blog Second Life of my Dreams and writer for New World Notes. Chestnut posted a transcript of the meeting for those that want to read it, link later. Following is my summary and comments on the things I found interesting.

After introductions and a statement of the meetings purpose, not a press conference for Q&A (a later description of the meeting by Garmin Kawaguich is ‘an exchange of courtesies’), Pete as the meeting facilitator setup Rodvik’s initial talking point, ‘what has Rodvik found most exciting about SL.’ The answer:

“..I fell in love the open ended creativity of SL from when I was first approached about the opportunity. I found it amazing all the things you could make. Immediately I felt this was a natural fit for my interests.. Add on top of that the fact that the world is not only entirely user made but shared by other live people, figuring out new ways to interact was fascinating to me.”

Following the brief statement, Pete started a round of introductions of the people participating in the meeting asking each what they found exciting about SL: (Note: I have edited most of the introductions as some were a bit long.)

  • Tox (toxic.menges) – SL machinimatographer and Community Manager for LL – the possibilities excite Tox.
  • Garmin Kawaguich Spoke for Surfaqua Oh (a Swiss citizen) and his self. I suspect that was to avoid translation issues. Surfaqua is the editorial director for Le Canard Virtuel, a publication for the French speaking residents.
  • Emiley Tomsen – staff writer with Krypton Radio, a Superhero themed current events/news site and radio station – finds ‘…Second Life a very exciting place to develop communities and friendships like no other.’
  • Rai Fargis – is involved with radio FM4, Austrian Broadcasting Corp, doing shows about politics and IT. Also occasionally writes for print magazines. Is a musician. Rai is fascinated by SL’s complexity.
  • Bevan Whitfield – is an International Business Analyst, living in the USA and France, does marketing for Metanomics, Rockcliffe University and Nokia in SL (plus others), is a 3D Internet proselytizer and a non-stop micro-blogger, and loves to meet SL people in RL.
  • GoSpeed (gospeed.racer) – is an active virtual world blogger (SL, Blue Mars, & EVE Online), active “photographer” posting to Flickr and running several SL related photo pools, helps run KONA Stream, an SL based radio station. GoSpeed is impressed by the adaptability of the residents and the flexibility of the platform.
  • Mal Burns (malburns.writer) – runs a metaverse/newslinks feed from twiiter.com/malburns and TV/video aggregation at http://mbtv.live.nu. Inspired by the unique creative and collaboration possibilities here, the global nature of the platform as a communication tools.
  • Saffia Widdershins – produces Prim Perfect magazine and Quest for the Golden Prim, a steampunk web comic using SL as the canvas and avatars as characters, on treet.tv Saffia is a co-host and exec producer of Designing Worlds. Saffia loves the amazing communities that have formed in SL.
  • Poptart Lilliehook – hosts an in-world press group, a fashion marketing company … compressing a couple of paragraphs of ‘excitement’ I get fashion and creative artists in SL.
  • Chestnut Rau – former events writer for New World Notes and a blogger. Chestnut  is inspired by SL’s potential for creative engagement with people from all over the world. (She provided a meeting transcript)
  • Angie Mornington – has her own tv show Fabulous Fashion broadcast on Treet TV,is part of the Treet TV Management team, currently working on marketing and rebuilding TreetTV’s two sims.
  • Draxtor Despres –  makes machinima, reporting on social and political issues and how “real life” intersects with virtual worlds. Draxtor’s latest documentary was the “Kansas To Cairo” Project for the US State Department. Is excited by the possibilities to “change the world”.
  • AquilaDellaNotte Kondor – founded a magazine a year ago, Virtual Worlds Magazine (European languages), with the goal to provide coverage of the ‘good’ things happening in Second Life.
  • Pooky Amsterdam – has an award winning machinima company using real time animation, develops live in-world game shows with a live audience, a science quiz show on treet.tv called The 1st Question, the Dating Casino…
  • Xon Emoto – filled in for Holger Gilruth of Vienna Freebies – started the “Hamburg 3D” initiative late 2006, the Campus Hamburg project in 2007, in conjunction with the University of Hamburg, HAW, HafenCity University for urban planning, Media School, and TÜV NORD Group. Loves the chance to create a better way of learning and sharing knowledge in SL.
  • Pixeleen Mistral – runs the Alphaville Herald. Is interested in taking a critical look at how the various online communities, factions, militias, and vigilantes interact, along with game god governance. Most importantly shopping for shoes.
  • Barbarella ??? – (Display Names lag strikes) – stumbled into SL over 3 yrs ago because of the SIMS.

There was a little time for questions.

Pete answered Chestnut Rau’s, ‘How often do you expect you will engage this group? Will there be formal press conferences?’ Pete said, “I’m hoping to use the SL Press Corps group more this year, and yes, we likely will periodically do proper press conferences.”

Questions were popping quickly, so I’ll drop trying to match the question’s author with the answer.

Rodvik Linden:

Firstly to have more people come and enjoy the world you have all built, I would say empowering our current residents to enable easier creativity and better creativity… addressing lag and other fundamental issues that kind of take you out of the experience… and address in a very significant way the usability mountain new customers have. SL is a very very deep experience and many new users are overwhelmed by UI [User Interface] issues. In general those are the areas I would think about. Obviously the hard bit is in the details of how each area is approached. As for regularity of communications. Not sure. I enjoy talking with customers, I feel SL is blessed that we have customers who are willing to take the time to help us by pointing out new actions to take. (end)

Rodvik Linden:

For international customers, I need to understand the technical issues, but for sure we intend to support fully customers worldwide. (end)

Rodvik Linden:

My costume was meant to be a Greek philosopher looking robe. It ended up a hair too grand. 🙂 (end)

Analysis

Since we do not have the ability to see inside the heads of the Lindens putting the meeting together their motives for the meeting and the list of those invited will be fodder for the speculators. Opinion will vary depending on the speculators’ mindset, whether they see the Lab as an evil capitalist business that ignores residents and tries to manipulate them or a benign socialistic team that supports the goals of the residents… neither of which views I think reveal the heart and soul of the Lab and its staff. I am a believer in such viewpoints revealing the heart of the speculator.

It appears this was a chance for Rodvik to meet some of the movers and shakers in the Second Life world. Since introductions were the body of the meeting and Q & A such a small part, I assume this meeting was to help Rodvik with getting a sense of the people and their interests. He is going to be dealing with many of there people, or at least their interests, in some way.

I noticed that most of the introductions contained lots of information about what the ‘introductee’ was doing and participating in. I expect that to influence how Rodvik will see residents. I have edited lots of the stuff out of the introductions, so don’t form you opinion in that regard based on what I’ve chosen to include.

Exciting?

I was seriously curious what people would say was exciting. Most of the answers were not that explicit in regard to exciting. I find even Rodvik’s answer passed on exciting. There are things that people have fallen in love with, things they enjoy, things they obviously feel they can make money from, lots of things they find interesting, but almost none mention anything exciting.

Possibilities were mentioned twice as exciting. The possibilities mentioned are to develop communities and to change world. I find it hard to convey excitement about possibilities. Often excitement is lost in the written word. But, I don’t expect many people to be interested in building communities. May be if framed as building a game’s player base… or may be I just don’t see it. Changing the world… idealistic… not really part of what most analysts consider a significant feature of successful games or socially networked games.

What do you find exciting? Anything? How would you convey the excitement? Leave me a comment.

Player Retention or Promoting Second Life

Those that have been around more than a year or two know there is no single silver bullet fix for player retention problems. Rodvik’s answer touches most of the points I believe Phillip saw and addressed. So, I suspect there will be no radical direction changes as the Lab tries to improve the Second Life experience, which is been a concern of mine. Rodvik sees what I consider one of the most significant problems Second Life has in regard to player retention; “the usability mountain new customers have”. I’m not sure where he places that in the list of priorities. I hope it is high on the list.

Viewer Experience

Also, I suspect Rodvik has started his serious SL use using a SLV2 viewer. Since the TPV’s are just now starting to come out with a few SLV2 style user interfaces, I expect any of his experience with TPV’s is similar to a new resident’s experience with TPV’s as rather awkward and very different than most residents’. Older residents know the SLV1 UI, so we see TPV’s differently. But Rodvik is like to move forward from a SLV2 perspective.

I may not matter which viewpoint he has. If he can reduce the learning curve coming into SL, I think he will have removed a huge obstacle that new players have to overcome. Its removal should improve player retention. My hope is that as soon as the player retention rates climb to some reasonably acceptable level the Lab will began more advertising campaigns, IMVU style stuff.

I suspect Rodvik will shape viewer development. I think many people have not understood the direction of SLV2 or how the Snowstorm is limited. Often before the Snowstorm Team can change the user interface, they must wait for the web team to; change the sites (think profiles), the server team to add support in the server software, the scripting language to get support of new features, and to figure out how to make the changes available via open source. To reduce chaos many of the new features and directions are only revealed under Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). This effectively hides the specific strategic directions the viewer is taking.

So, I suspect it is going to be hard to know how much Rodvik shapes actual viewer design.

Summary

The few answers we got from Rodvik Linden give me hope we are continuing on an improving path to a better Second Life. I am more confident that the new openness of the Lab is becoming a permanent part of the Linden culture.

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