The new Linden Lab communication practice

22 03 2007

So over the last past months Linden Lab seems to have been changing a little bit in their communication efforts. To the better. As I don’t just want to post the bad things I might I do a little praise here πŸ™‚
So there have been many things going on in order to fill the gap between Linden Lab and the residents again (I just assume that in the early days it was naturally somewhat closer). And it makes sense because sometime ago it really felt as Linden Lab was very much disconnected in deciding stuff which resulted in many surprises for residents and in turn in many demonstrations which eventually surprised Linden Lab (remember opening up the registration).

So what has changed? For one thing the Second Life blog was initiated which IMHO serves a better purpose of communicating one-to-many than a forum (while still incorporating the discussion in form of comments). Also more and more Lindens have been posting to the blog and not only announcements but also technical details for those interested or just asking for discussion.

The other thing is the creation of the Linden Village around sims like Ambleside or Grasmere. Along with that office hours have been established which is another great way of participating in the conversation with the Linden folks. And it’s not only about policy but also about the hard technical details (with Zero Linden) or discussions about how to bring the open source project forward.

And another great thing is that Linden Lab is also more open regarding the underlying technology. This seems to be one of the consequences of being open source now. Not that many secrets are left then and in general it does not make that much sense to hide them anyway.

So all in all LL feels more connected (to me at least) to their SL inhabitants and the discussions are more about how to do things together instead of Linden Lab dictating what has to happen. Of course there are some business decisions which are unlikely to be decided by the residents (such as voice) or which are still secret. But in general it is a big step forward.

So what does get discussed at those office hours? Let me give some examples in some brainstormed way πŸ˜‰

  • Zero Linden was telling us that they put up a testgrid which just is based on LLSD messages. This is the new protocol Linden Lab wants to do client-server communication with and is part of the longtime plan to make SL more stable and extensible.
  • Robin Linden was telling us that there are 3 projects underway for getting Second Life more stable:
  1. led by Xylor Linden, is to fix the immediate bug problems, such as the group IM problem. this is to try to minimize the worst pain points (going on every day)
  2. led by Doug Linden, is to improve the scalability of the existing system, by refactoring some of the code and improving efficiency (takes place over the year)
  3. led by Zero Linden is to redesign the entire thing and to address in particular the orthogonal scaling problems of land and agents (takes place over 2 years)
  • Rob Linden was discussing how to best open up the subversion repository to make development of LL devs and open source devs a lot easier (right now the process is a bit cumbersome, I might explain this someday in another post)

So these just as an example. There are office hours by other Lindens (such as Torley, Jeska, Pathfinder and others), too and if you are interested make sure to visit them.

(ok, I know that I now will receive some comments on being an LL fanboy πŸ˜‰ But let me tell you that there are still things that could be better πŸ˜‰ (otoh they all usually need time).

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12 responses

23 03 2007
Prokofy Neva

Oh, dear God, Takashi, you really are *dreadful* and truly *are* a fanboy.

You cite all kinds of obscure tekkie-wiki things that a few of the more code-bound Lindens are doing to stabilize the platform, and accept that as “communication”. You are completely out of touch — as they are.

There was never a good reason for closing the forums. The Lindens must always and everywhere be excoriated for closing the forums, which any community in any normal, civilized place will have. They shirk their civic duty here merely for one simple reason: they created a monster with their FIC, and couldn’t rein them in. They couldn’t provide robust, balanced, fair, policing of their own TOS against their own pets, who reigned supreme, lording it over newbies and lesser castes, and made it a beastly place. A few key disciplinary actions; a few framed essays that tell some of the vulgar bullies to knock it off, and it might have had a completely different atmosphere. Instead, people with legitimate criticism of the cliques and the claques and the residents-turned-Lindens were driven away, wrongfully branded like witches as “trolls” and shunned from “the community” (a fiction in their imagination).

It could have been so different; it *was* so different until they decided to take sides. This conscious feting, picking of a select group to groom to go on to greater glory as metaversal consultants was one of their greatest failings — after all it was supposed to be everybody’s world and everybody’s imagination, not just the handful at the pinnacle with superior photoshop and coding skills. Except…not.

The office hour thing was something I, too, at first greeted and even wrote positively about on the Herald. But you rapidly see that they are merely using these occasions to manipulate public opinion once again, praising some, reprimanding others, grooming, pushing, evading, ducking, affirming — it’s kinda creepy, really. They never publicize the transcripts of these meetings, so it’s one more set of ‘regulars’ in a kind of rolling SL Views cabal. Publishing the transcripts might partly undo the damage, but they never do that.

Tao: not a single substantive philosophical, political, or social policy or think piece has gone on the Linden blog in like 120 days. Go check. Not a single one. They have shuttered the doors of the talk house, and gone and hidden in their Lab, where they only take calls from people like some an over-eager theorist fanboy in Ashcroft’s local governance group.

There is no discussion on the blog, Tao, you are smoking weed here. It’s the worst kind of one-to-many I’ve ever seen. A trail of 100 comments come on with nary a Linden in sight, or one comes on and then makes some bland or incomplete comment. It’s awful to watch. Some people try to respond to the sychophants, but then they’re berated as trolls or even completely removed from the blog — as I was permbanned for posts that still remain visible, that attracted all kinds of supportive commentary, and were questions that even Cory Linden answered in the town hall. Go figure. That’s the worst kind of controlling sectarianism there is by this elite that “manages” the community. Ugh. And you call this a conversation? Have you lost your mind?!

There was never a single town hall, group discussion, meeting inworld about whether or not to have voice. It was just a fait accompli. A tiny handful voted for it on the voting machine — that was merely a placebo. The Lindens had their reasons for doing this, and steamrollered it in, end of story. So much for the concept of community.

There isn’t a single feature that has come about because people in large numbers wished for it. Completely oddball stuff like flexiprims comes instead. Only with massive and disruptive protest, like the stores closing over copybot, is there a lame and wimpy response with a tepid TOS change; only with a massive media uproar over the islands insider dealing is there a delay in the deadline — it takes those kind of angry movements to get even a dent in the Lab’s policies. And it shouldn’t be that way. There should be way larger groups of friendly and collaborative people wanting to work with the Lindens — but there aren’t, because they really aren’t interested in the larger democratic project, they just want to do their thing and put up the fig leaf of “participatory media”.

People paying 80 percent of the Lindens’ bottom line with their tier shouldn’t be so disenfranchised, boxed out, silenced, scrubbed, filtered, airbrushed out. They shouldn’t have to be told by arrogant tekkies that if they don’t like it, they can leave and use the outmoded geek exit clause concept. They shouldn’t have Lindens just never answer even when demonstratively called in the Concierge group.

We cannot even vote “no” on the existing voting machine; the new one they make is even worse, as it also has no “no,” and they’ve not only said they can’t put in “no” but that we’d have to get Jira to do a plug-in — and I’ve contacted Jira and they say, with the same chilling geeky “no no vote” philosophy hardwired into their brains, that only if a proposal to make this rises up with enough yeses on their forums can they consider it. This is the totalitarian future-in-the-making staring us in the face, and it is not pretty.

>o all in all LL feels more connected (to me at least) to their SL inhabitants and the discussions are more about how to do things together instead of Linden Lab dictating what has to happen.

I’m glad you have that cosy, warm, special, geeky, media-star feeling that comes from being in-like-Finn with the Lindens.

However, many of us *don’t* have that warm fuzzy feeling. We’re not placated, as you are, by Rob Linden sending out a memo about some super geeky thing about how you post bugs. And frankly, you as the tekkie you are, need to actually go study his email list closely and see that there are some really deep philosophical battles raging where quite a few people on both sides of the aisle are quite outspoken. I don’t think they’ve even worked out yet how you post new viewers or new proposed features or fixed boxes, or the means by which they’ll be taken and used in the official client, and how to solve certain copyright problems that persist despite all the “information wants to be free” zealotry going on there — and frankly THAT’s the kind of thing that should have been ironed out BEFORE they gave a mass casting call to come do open source.

I’m glad Xylor Linden is dispatched to fix group messages. But this isn’t something you praise people for. That’s their job. Group messages should work. If they could understand this is a show-stopper, and that all their other little pet projects like putting in Voice, which the majority didn’t wait for, should go in behind fixing *text* for God’s sake in a *group* for God’s sake, then maybe that would help get it fixed faster. Sure, they can multi-task, but the stuff they pick to juggle isn’t relevant to most people.

And why do people even need so many group notices? Because “the game” is always broken. Because people constantly have to be explained that it isn’t just them, but all of us experiencing no teleports, empty L$, no rezzing of objects, etc. etc.

And what about some really nasty whacks they made lately? Making the unilateral and uninformed decisions, like removing the accounts from inworld. My God, this literally cost me US dollars in lost business because for days, their web accounts weren’t updating in real time, and that persists as a problem. It’s like being made blind and crippled — all of a sudden, you have no ability to respond to floods of people making you payments, and provide them the service they are paying you for. It’s an awful experience.

They took something that was half pointless (the pointless “spread sheets” that totalled up meaningless balances of “gifts” and “unknown transactions” without tagging) and then destroyed the entire thing, even though line transactions in real time were vital for inworld business to serve clients, do refunds, discounts, customer service — well, you wouldn’t know about something like that would you Tao, as you don’t attempt to run an inworld business with microtransactions.

Then there’s the worst — the fact that Lindens are no longer visible online at all — because that feature was removed and because they couldn’t override it for themselves. That means they don’t exist anymore for all practical purposes. Calling on Live Help has a slim chance of turning up a Linden or even someone sufficiently old enough and versed enough in problems to solve them or refer on them.

The frustration with Lindens for some of us has reached absolutely paralyzing, epic proportions lately. It’s so clear to some of us that they are going about the eradication of inworld business with a kind of grim determination and making the way smooth for big business, big old media, and big education to run bulk numbers of sims so they don’t have to think about them.

Oh…and the worst is yet to come. Their mucking around with the governance concept — here there are any number of “delights” in store — they are floating the idea of giving the discredited and ineffective Volunteers/Mentors system the right to ban/eject people from Linden Land; and they are praising Ban-Link and thinking how to GOM it.

Despite all these really difficult hardships and despite that Wall of Silence and Indifference that some people — obviously not you and your fanboy friends inside the Winnebagos — feel, people like me do continue on. Second Life is bigger than Linden Lab and you FIC types. Perhaps there is hope for it yet.

24 03 2007

It’s amazing. I’ve been online for over a decade right now already, and it’s always the same: when someone or something becomes successful, there will be always at least one person around, who will be only criticizing all of the companies (whatever) doing, perhaps giving a little praise from time to time, but mostly a big critic at all and mostly boring the audience to death so that many people are not taking him for a decent human being anymore after a short while in that kind of matter, so that (s)he becomes the laughing stock for all.

Then again, all critics aside, there must be then still something about IT, that draws him/her so much to the whole thing, that he/she cannot seem to move on and let the rest of the people live in peace the way they want to? Why cannot bear you the meaning of Tao, that the world is not only black and white and that he had some good experiences with the customer support lately, without using insults in your commentary? You are for sure not really convinced on yourself, otherwise you were not using insults at all.

You, Sir, are a Rebel without a clue! I don’t know what went wrong in your life, but you’re reminding me much of Fox Mulder. Yes, they are out there! The FIC is alive! Yeah! And even if there’s no evidence at all available for it, well, even then this is evidence enough, because only the FIC is interested in wiping out those evidences at all and only the FIC members’ are doing it!

So that’s about it.

Barth Gallacher, FIC-Member since back then 2003, co-founder of the Funnel-Church of Kilimanjaro University, 3rd lodge of Tiberia and Magnus of Magyria prime, all-around nice ass.

26 03 2007

come come now–are you kidding? prok is flame warrior loopy, one hundred percent.

27 03 2007
Gwyneth Llewelyn

As a notorious LL fangirl, I’m obviously suspect of posting anything, but… I think that Prokofy is missing a point here. It’s not LL’s 50 people and the 50,000 users who managed to “keep in touch with Lindens” any more. It’s LL’s 250 people (most of them Liasons anyway) and keeping in touch with 5 millions. The world has grown hundred times in three years, and it’s obvious that LL cannot keep up with everything.

Instead, they have to do the same as everybody else who is paying close attention to the SLogosphere β€” ask people πŸ™‚ “People” (and not tools) are the best way to keep yourself informed… and people talk to people… and so on. But you have to start “somewhere”, right? And that’s the problem: how can LL avoid to talk to the “same” people all the time β€” the ones that have supported them for ages and ages β€” and bring in some “new” people? Well, the suggestion was “office hours”.

It’s hard to do something to “get noticed” these days. SL is just huge right now, and it will grow and grow. It’s impossible to continue to believe that they will be able to listen to everybody or know about all the issues. When all they has was the forums, it was easy; now, with dozens of forums, thousands upon thousands of blogs, and dozens of e-sites β€” as well as hundreds of thousands of in-world groups β€” who should they listen to?

The answer seems to be simple: listen to the same people that advised them in the past.

Well, Barth, there might not be a “FIC”, but information has to come from somewhere. And it’s definitely true that Linden Lab gets customer feedback from “a few”. Yes, “a few thousand” β€” but still “a few”. Not “all”, because that’s next to impossible.

Unlike Prokofy, I don’t think that the solution is having the Lindens listening more β€” God knows they do that all the time, and it’s still not enough. They would need to have just some 5,000 people to listen to everybody in Second Life, and then at least 5 people committed full-time to coordinate that whole team. Clearly that’s impossible. So I’d say that things should work the other way round: people organising themselves into groups, defending their views and positions, and coming up to Linden Lab to discuss their views with them. Call them “pressure groups”, or, more politically correct, “special interest groups”. And have Lindens attend those meetings regularly.

With such a structure, we’ll see several things happening:

1) First, that most people don’t really care. How many, for instance, spare their time posting angered comments on the Official Linden Blog? A thousand? So what, are they representative of anything?

2) Secondly, that these “special interest groups” will be mostly very small. A few dozen people on most cases; a few hundred in some; perhaps a thousand on the largest groups. Will they make a difference? Not in a world with 5 million accounts. Even a thousand people do not raise a sufficiently large interest to catch LL’s attention.

3) Thirdly, who would organise those groups? Linden Lab? But then they would be easily subverted, ie. in the sense that LL will pick only the groups that they like. So it had to be residents with “grassroot” movements creating their own groups. Well, many such groups exist, of course β€” but people lead their organisation for a few weeks, then silently disappear, never to return.

To organise anything, it takes commitment and time. As a general rule of thumb, I see all those groups come and go. If they survive over three months, and have over a hundred users, and regularly sponsor meetings, open discussion, and publish their acts and meeting transcripts, well, then they are worth joining. I have been very unlucky so far. After two years and a half, most of the groups I saw disbanded. Except for business, it’s hard to keep a group going on for several months, with organisation, and enough strength to draw people’s attention.

At the end of the day, we’ll find out that, among the resident’s population, the natural unit of a group is one resident… and we can’t all queue in front of LL’s HQs and ask for an audience with Philip.

So let’s be honest here. What would you do if you were in charge of the Linden Feedback Department?

Reinstate the forums? But what for? They’re read by a few thousands of users… why should these be more represented than the remaining millions?

Read all blogs? And who would have the task of reading thousands upon thousands of messages, posted by thousands of users? Again, which should be considered significant, which should be discarded? How will the non-bloggers be represented? Or are they voiceless?

Participate in all group discussions? There are millions of groups in SL. Which ones should have “Linden attendance”? Also, they will have, at most, 30-40 people discussing at some point. What about the remaining millions of users? Shouldn’t they also be heard?

Wander around the grid and talk to all residents? Well, and at what hours? California time? When only 10% of the users are on PST, does that make any sense? Or have Lindens spread around the globe, and try to get in touch with everybody that logs in?

Recreate the Feature Voting Tool? Well, we seem to have two of those now β€” one is here, the other is here. The former might disappear. Again, how many people use those tools anyway? Why should a “referendum” to introduce a feature, and which gathers the support of 200 people (or even 2000) be even considered?

It seems to me that all these ideas will ultimately fail, simply because there is no way you can get all residents to participate, and no matter how much you read and discuss, you’ll still only capture a tiny, tiny part of the resident’s minds β€” perhaps less than 1%, perhaps less than 0.1%!

Instead, what LL seems to be doing is the opposite β€” not actively getting in touch with residents, but opening the door to whomever wants to talk to them. But this requires residents to organise in order to make themselves heard. This is actually very coherent with LL’s thoughts: let residents organise, we’ll just give them the tools.

Organisation, anyone? πŸ™‚

6 04 2007
Torley Linden

Thanx for blogging this, Tao. A few things I want to share, both officially + personally (I’ll leave it to the judicious reader to interpret which is which):

* We have way too much Grid Status stuff on the blog to the point that a number of other topics get drowned out, and repeatedly seeing status updates doesn’t necessarily tell us anything new, and I know the attrition causes numbness. It’s tiring to see it on a daily basis. I’d like to see us move to a better mechanism β€” we have some ongoing projects focused on internal metrics like determining rate of teleport failure and other inworld problems. If there was a more automatic way to flag grid status along with brief comments as necessary, like a “traffic light” system, that could be more responsive and not so overwhelming, yet present the important info as-needed.

* Linden Village doing well. Lots of new employees want to move in. We’ve expanded into two new regions, and naturally, we’ve got a Linden Village Flickr album for those who wanna see what’s going on.


* It’s not “Xylor Linden”, it’s “Don Linden”. He’s such a genius and a nice guy. He heads Studio Blacklight, which I’ll hopefully be blogging more about. We’re focused on critical Resident pain points, and we still hope to nail that damned group Notices failing. It’s one of the top issues in the Public Issue Tracker. I’m onboard to help, “representing the customer”. If you got a hot bug with a solid repro that should be looked at, file it in the Issue Tracker and email me, torley at lindenlab dot com.

6 04 2007
Torley Linden

Dangit, Office Hours page link broke for some reason; canya please fix that, Tao? =) It’s:


7 04 2007

For me the Calendar link is working but the wiki link is probably better. Another thing which might be worth a thought is that you include the topic of the Lindens listed there. Not everybody knows what the field of expertise of these Lindens is πŸ™‚

7 04 2007
Torley Linden

^ Yeah, good idea. That can’t ever be obvious enough. I’ll update mine and I’ll leave it to each Linden to list their various expertises, altho when possible, I’ve linked to certain Linden’s wiki page with more info (e.g., Rob’s and Zero’s clearly state what they do in more depth β€” and Zero had the great idea of chat transcripts for historical reference). I wish our inworld profiles could sync to display on the web, or something to that effect.

7 04 2007
Torley Linden

Hrmmmm β€” I started to type out a blurb but it made the bold title look unwieldy. I need a better, terser way to emphasize “see my wiki page for more info”, because it isn’t easy to sum up what I do in a single sentence.

8 04 2007

and thanks for that post, Gwyneth. I also think that the only real chance of getting feedback is by opening these doors. And in fact the office hours are somewhat spread around the clock so everybody should have a chance to attend one of these. Another thing is of course Second Life Views in which they actively search for certain groups of people to discuss various topics with. So it’s actually both they do.

And Torley, the transcripts are certainly good to have, that also was actually discussed after one of the office hours with Robin. Shouldn’t be too hard to do πŸ˜‰

And regarding the inworld/web profile syncing. At Views Yo Brewster reinstated the importance of the Web Profile tab, it sounded as if this would be the solution to everything. It maybe is not but actually this could point to some wiki page with a different layout? (with SLURLs to office hour locations etc.)

8 04 2007

@Tao: While I haven’t overstated it, followup from my Office Hours has shown up on my own blog β€” generally ideas I bring up or inworld places I’ve explored. I was encouraged to blog more about what I’m doing on the job.

Zero’s been using a Perl script to reformat his transcripts, but if there’s an easy web-based one, let me know, that’d be helpful for Lindens and Residents who aren’t so technically inclined.

That’s a great idea of Yo’s… as you may know, I specially formatted the page shown in my Profile > Web tab.

14 05 2007

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