If you want the full kit and caboodle on the Designing Worlds 250th episode, which features an interview with Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, then head over to Inara Pey’s blog post on the subject. Whereas I will embed the video at the end of this post, Inara also has the transcript in text form. I’m not going to cover anywhere near all of the interview, so for even more commentary, head over to Inara Pey’s commentary on the subject!
The interview itself was conducted by Elrik Merlin and Saffia Widdershins and was held on Mantanzas, a sim owned by Skate Foss. The interview has a lot of meat on its bones and covers a wide array of subjects, including, but not limited to, communities, group chat, Terms Of Service, The next generation virtual world, marketing and much much more.
Ebbe talks a lot and appears to be extremely enthusiastic about his work at Linden Lab. This makes for a largely positive interview although it does have some stumbling blocks for me on a personal level, the most glaring being the terms of service which briefly gets touched upon with Ebbe responding to a question from Saffia regarding the use of user groups to try and avoid issues such as the terms of service :
I don’t know if you could have avoided the Terms of Service – and there was quite a bit of engagement, and a lot of voices heard. I wasn’t here, but I think the way it was rolled-out created more complications than what the change actually was. But obviously, being in touch with the community, understanding the needs of the community is critical, and that is something we cannot do just by watching, But sometimes for us just looking at the metrics might be more efficient for us to get to answers rather than talking to individuals.
Later in the interview Ebbe says :
OK, but we’re trying to make it clear to people that the content is yours, and we just need to have sufficient protections to protect ourselves. But again, it’s obviously not in our interest to make a mess for content creators by ourselves stepping in and starting to be part of the problem, rather than the solution with regards to IP protection.
They really could have done the terms of service differently and the first step there would have been to actually recognise what the issue with the terms of service is and why it still exists today. Linden Lab have never ever made that move and it remains a very disappointing element of Ebbe Altberg’s reign. Ebbe’s words here also don’t encourage me that Linden Lab have much interest in addressing or understanding the terms of service issue from the other side of the fence.
However that aside, I found this to be a vibrant interview. Ebbe talks of opening the Jira back up, how he was quite shocked about the level of engagement between Linden Lab and their community when he arrived and how Linden Lab have made strides towards better community engagement. This has certainly been exemplified by Linden Lab taking a far more active role in their blog postings and therefore leading the conversation.
Ebbe recognises the importance of communities in Second Life and the importance of getting the new user experience right. Ebbe hints that the idea of community portals coming back to Second Life might be on the agenda in a part of the discussion regarding onboarding new users :
I don’t know exactly when we’ll have time to give it sufficient energy to really get it off the ground. We’re working on a number of other initiatives right now that are ahead of it … and it’s one of those things that’s near the top of priorities for Second Life to bring back the idea of the community portals or something like that, where it’s easy for experience creators to attract users directly into their experience from the outside world.
Because ultimately, there are too many experiences in something like Second Life that we can’t mass market to all of these niche experiences that exist. we don’t even understand them all or know that they even exist. Whereas the creators of that experience have a very clear idea of who they’re trying to be useful to and attract an audience. And so we need to give people the tools so they can attract their own audiences into their experiences.
This is positive to read because Ebbe is right, there are lots of experiences within Second Life. A one size fits all new user experience probably isn’t ideal and wider community engagement could be useful here but let’s wait and see what transpires.
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