Rod Humble Leaves Second Life

This came as a surprise. I am a bit behind on things Second Life. There has been a death in my extended family. That Rod Humble has left is another loss I’ll grieve.

I see the announcement in Jo Yardley’s blog: Rod Humble leaves Linden Lab. There is also a thread in the SL Forum: Rod Humble leaving Linden Lab. I suppose this is about as official as it gets without an official announcement from the Lab.

Hamlet on New World Notes has confirmed it: Rod Humble Leaving Linden Lab CEO Role to Start New Art/Entertainment Company, Reports Rod Humble

The Forum

The forum is a mix of complimentary and derogative posts about Rod. I didn’t do a count. I think are a more supportive posts than the others. But, there are not that many posts. I did notice as I read through that most of the derogatory comments came from people that made it obvious they know little about what goes on in SL or business in general.

I have to remember as Jo Yardley points out that some of the improvements she remembers as important to her use of Second Life may not be so important to others and thus less memorable. (Reference)

What did Rod get done?

If your memory is faulty and you can’t think of anything, try this: Second Life 2013 in Review.

Remember he has been in charge for 3 years. So you may need to read through the 2012 review too: Looking Back at Second Life 2012.

It was 2011 was when he arrived.

It was during his time at the Lab that server updating and viewer updating moved to run parallel RC channels speeding up fixes, exploit patches, and the addition of new features to the viewer and servers. Direct Delivery was implemented. The Linden Realms regions came into being to help engineers figure out what was needed to make SL more useful. Bake fail was tackled and huge amounts of the system were revised. That ongoing Server Side Appearance thing continues as now the bottleneck is in the inventory system and network protocols.

Open source contributions and third party viewer cooperation was improved. The Experience Tools project was started and continues, but that team is bashful so we hear little of what is being done now. The last news on Experience Tools was server side infrastructure changes that were added about 2 months back.

Go back and listen to Rod’s speech at the last SLCC meeting: Second Life Rod Humble 2011 Keynote. It is surprising how many of those things he has accomplished. People expecting all those things to be done in a year was unrealistic. It has taken 3 years and several items are still incomplete but in progress.

All in all a lot has been accomplished in the last 3 years. That people do not remember or notice says more about the people speaking than about Rod’s accomplishments.

Communication

It is highly debatable whether communication between the Lab and users has improved or deteriorated. From an official announcements point of view I consider it mixed. Reviewing the SL Blog some things are better and some worse.

On the topic of general information flow the communication has changed and I think can most accurately be described as narrowing. Some Lindens handle user groups very well. Others are horrible at communicating. The Server engineers are good at telling us what is happening near term and listening to user problems. Long term planning is a dead silence. The last update was 2011, Rod’s keynote.

The coming-next-week or next-month communication is excellent at user groups. But, that is the narrowing I mention. The information I get from those group meetings is detailed and accurate. There is a steady stream of information.

The feedback from users well received at user groups. But, only the really interested users participate in them, typically less than 20 people at any given meeting. The Third Party Viewer meetings are announced to a small group of knowledgeable people, generally developers in the open source group. The information exchange between the Lab and developers in that meeting is productive.

The result is the poorly informed are eliminated and have little opportunity to waste meeting time. But, anyone can be informed and does have the opportunity to attend any of the meetings. It isn’t like the Lindens lock people out. The publish most meeting times in the wiki.

Communication Problem

The real problem in communication comes from users that remain uninformed by lack of effort on their part and complain they are not told everything they want to know. They seem to think everyone wants to know the same things and that all Lindens know everything and have the time to chase every user down and explain things to them. If that sounds a bit ignorant and arrogant on their part…

The Lindens learned that in general people do not listen or pay attention to any of the communication channels the Lab has available. A well read forum announcement is lucky to get 3,000 views. The various SL Mailing lists do little. The knowledge base has answers to questions that are repeatedly asked each week. The stats on the Knowledge Base are week. The JIRA intended for bug reporting and technical discussion of problems turned into a flaming debate forum… which is why it was restricted to people that respected the purpose of the JIRA and the Lab’s employee’s time.

In general SL users have little idea of how to communicate with the Lab and think they are entitled to know everything about the Lab and what it plans to do or is doing. Any time the Lab deviates from what a user thinks the Lab should do or what they want from the Lab, they often flame the Lab from a place of total ignorance of RL limitations and realities.

The Lab has moved to limiting most of their communication to the more computer and virtual tech knowledgeable people, the narrowing. They have restricted communication with general users. I would have to do some research to see if they make more announcements now or in the pre-Rod past. Without a good count, I think it has increased, but that is my subjective opinion.

Concurrency

Some on the SL Forum thread consider the concurrency metric a measure of failure. We really don’t know if that is a good measure of Rod’s success or failure or even of SL’s health. The change that mesh has brought to SL is that more people participating in SL are spending time building in Blender, 3DMax, or Maya.

Mesh is a turning point in the way SL is used an participated in. Comparing stats before and after the addition of mesh is misleading.

Help Islands

This is an issue most current SL users know little about. Prior to Rod the Lab studied the use of help islands and user volunteers to man them. Surprisingly they found people using those resources were less likely to stay in SL. Soon after those resources were being dropped.

Some in the forum think Rod failed because he did not resort to using helpers that seem to drive people out of SL…

ToS

This is a touchy point with me. But, it is not getting much play in the forum thread. A few blame Rod for the ToS. I don’t. I suspect Rod’s part in the ToS was to direct the attorneys to write something that worked with SL and the new games the Lab is releasing. I blame the attorneys and their lack of understanding the virtual world for the mess.

Also, if Rod was planning to leave, and starting up a new company at this level is not likely a snap decision, that planning started some time ago. So, he may not have been that into reading a boring ToS. But, he, in the end, did likely approve it.

One person thought Rod was leaving because he refused to sign the new ToS… now there is a thought.

Last Names

Surprisingly… or may be not so surprisingly, some blame Rod for the loss of last names and the use of Resident where last names still appear. Obviously they do not know that happened before he came to SL. Nor do they remember he looked at bringing them back.

High Fidelity

Some are speculating he is going to High Fidelity. I doubt that. But may be. I expect Rod is making a game company that will be going a different direction.

CEO Not Necessary

I am not too surprised that some think a company of 200± employees can get by without a CEO. People seem to have less and less education and knowledge about how free market principals work.

That no CEO thing simply won’t work. Organization by committee is always a disaster. All for profit organizations that have tried it have perished. Governments are a disaster and tend to accomplish the opposite of their goals because of it. Since they are not-for-profit organizations governments waste massive sums of money. Something a private company cannot do.

One person suggests they get a ‘board of directors’… really. They have no clue that Rod answers… answered to a board of directors.

Next

We have no idea who the next CEO will be. I have no doubt the board of directors is deciding. There has no doubt been some type of recruitment process in progress for some time. But, not knowing can be scary.

6 thoughts on “Rod Humble Leaves Second Life

  1. Well, I don’t blame Rod for leaving because… it’s already obvious that Second Life doesn’t really have much long to survive at this rate. It’s best to save his career by leaving before things really start to fall apart.

    Yeah yeah, I know… Doomsayer I became… sigh.

    These “next gen” consoles is on the way to demand more graphic heavy games, trying to reign over PC platforms. Which I know they won’t succeed but this means PC will able to shine their true gaming performance when game dev knowledge it. Even with graphic enchantment for WoW came around recently, that’s a sign of a great game improvement bound to happen across all platforms. Second Life is STILL using OpenGL and unable to catch up. There’s no hope for improvement at this rate, unless they blow all their savings to invest a new crew to develop a new engine, a new world, a new platform. …Which this should sounds familiar.

    Yeah… don’t get too attached to Second Life. I’m sure Rod is making a smart choice for himself and I don’t blame him for it. I would’ve bailed out too.

  2. I think Rod was good for SL, espeically compared to his predecessor, M Linden. Arent Advanced Lighting and Mesh also things that happend under Rods CEOship ?

  3. I’m sorry to hear about your family’s loss, Nalates, please accept my condolence.

    As for Rod, I must say I have been positively surprised with his actions and the new impulse he gave to the coders at LL. As you point out, a LOT of positive technical changes occurred in SL: not so much SSA, that I personally consider a half-failure, but mainly on server-side software (remember the TPs slowness and failing rate, the increasing lag every day after the last rolling restart (probably due to memory leaks), and compare with today’s… or have a look, too, at the large number of new LSL functions that got implemented), server to viewer communications and even viewer stability (crash rates are definitely much lower today, despite the 32bits virtual memory barrier more and more users are hitting).

    My only regrets are that:
    – The communication of the Lab stayed just as poor and sterile as before Rod’s era (Lindens still got their mouth full of \Resident\, but they don’t even consider us \Residents\ as what we actually are: paying customers who should be granted *proper* customer services and consideration). In my view, there was no improvement at all in this field… but no degradation either.

    – Collaboration with the OpenSource community didn’t improve a single bit and involved Lindens are still, for the large majority, still as arrogant and clueless (I wish Rod had fired a bunch of them !), incapable of making SL benefiting from the true and full horse-power that OpenSource developers could bring to them (and to the whole SL community).

    – Some policies that went into force proved just as negative as many others before Rod’s arrival. One of the worst is probably the new TOS that makes everything *you* make in SL LL’s very own property (since they can resell it as they wish and for whatever purpose they deem appropriate), and other, catastrophic policies (such as the avatar naming with that stupid \Resident\ second name, when all OpenSim grids give you the choice on your avatar’s family name) were not abrogated (Rod did consider restoring the family name choice but let himself impressed with irrelevant \signup rate\ numbers when the actual and *only* relevant number is the user retention percentage: how could you expect a new user to come back in SL if they can’t even be patient enough to fill up the family name field of their avatar in the registration form ? LOGIC, guys !…. Just use pure LOGIC !!!).

    As a conclusion, I’d say that Rod was far from a bad CEO: he did a pretty good job, even if that job leaves, in the end, much to be desired.

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  5. All in all Rod had a productive tenure at LL. I am still astounded that after laying out a perceptive argument for returning to last names, he never the less decided not to make the change back to what worked because it would be difficult and any fix would not please everyone; a total lack of leadership in my opinion.
    Path finding, which he seemed very proud of, is for most of us a total waste of resources.

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