Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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New World Newsfeed: CTO Cory Linden Leaves

Avatar_cory

Recent SL-related dispatches from the outside world...

Update, 12/17:  Ex-Lindens and Philip Linden offer their perspectives in this post here.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster has left the world.  Moo Money of Massively.com reported the rumor first, the rumor was further strengthened, then over at CNET, was confirmed yet again: citing irreconcilable differences in the technical development of Second Life, Chief Technical Officer Cory Linden has left the company. It's difficult to know what to make of this move, and for now at least, I won't even attempt to interview Cory about it on record-- first of all, because he's a friend, and second, as a former US Navy officer who served aboard a nuclear submarine, I suspect he'll not divulge a whit of relevant info, anyway. 

But whatever happens, it's almost certain that the effects of his departure will be deep and subterranean.  Creator of Linden Script Language (for good and ill), leading architect of the Linden Dollar monetary policies, he was also a strong force behind the initiative to open source the viewer code, and ultimately, to open source the servers that comprise the world's fabric.  More than that, though, was the sense of anarchic fun he brought to Second Life, and you can see that in the avatar he made for himself: the Flying Spaghetti Monster, itself an Internet-based satire on "intelligent design"-- that is to say, satirizing the belief that life was the product of a rational, omniscient creator.  As opposed to what scientists suggested life was: the upshot of an imperfect, bottom-up evolution that was always in flux.  Which is also true, more or less, of Second Life itself.  So it was a double irony to see Cory Linden unobtrusively hovering above the world he did so much to create, in the guise of godly noodles.

Two more stories of Cory from my Linden days, the first from my upcoming book:

In the first couple years, it was commonplace to find Linden staffers in-world playing with their subscribers. The programmers regularly challenged residents to laser tag and other games; Rosedale himself went in to build prototype content like chimes, or improved the motion of his trees, when pushed by the wind. Cory Ondrejka was perhaps the most puckish: on a lark, for instance, he once turned his avatar into a Betty Boop-worthy cartoon sun with a grinning face, then humming loudly while his development staff team roared with laughter behind him, floated above a clueless new user, following just behind like her pet sunbeam.

Cory_at_thomas_barnett_presentation
Cory at a public policy talk by ex-Pentagon policy strategist Thomas P.M. Barnett

Another memory from that era, even more emblematic:

In 2004 or thereabouts, I happened by Cory's desk, and since it was getting late (I think around 9pm), I was curious to see why he was still in the office working.  Instead of pouring through code, however, he was in Second Life... building.  And building something fantastic: he'd turned his avatar into a sleek, supersonic jet, all silvery curves.  But that was only the start.  At a button's touch, the jet's wings and fuselage collapsed in on itself, then rotated outward, and within seconds, the jet had converted into a chrome robot.  It was the first Transformer-style avatar I'd seen in the world, so naturally I was excited.

"I've got to blog this," I said.

"Nah," he grunted, and didn't stop building.

I had to press.  "But this is totally cool."

"I'm not a Resident."

"Why's that matter, this is still cool."

I don't quite recall the next thing he said, exactly, but it was something like this:

"This is just me having fun, and it's not fair to give me any attention.  That'll just take focus away from what the Residents do with the tools." 

The same cannot be said of his departure, for it leaves too many questions in his absence; now all the attention goes to what happens next.

 

Top screenshot of Cory Linden's avatar Copyright 2007, Linden Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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» Cory (Linden) Ondrejka Departs LindenLab from Around the Grid with Harper
I was not really planning on doing so much news coverage as is showing up here, but events are conspiring against me. Any road, reports are confirmed that Cory Ondrejka, the Chief Tech Officer of Linden Lab, is departing and apparently under di... [Read More]

Comments

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Patchouli Woollahra

That second story was touching. In the end, what LL did in creating Second Life was indeed for the good of its residents.

RightAsRain Rimbaud

er...gulp! "Irreconcilable differences"! Wonder how long it will take for a statement from Linden Labs on this?

Anyway...thanks Cory--my guess is that all of SL is gonna miss you! See you in the metaverse somewhere soon no doubt...all the best from Rezzable team

Iconoclasm

Wow.

Best of luck Corey.

If you ever want to build something cool, try and find me.

Take it easy.

Iris Ophelia

Aww those are great stories. It sort of serves as a reminder that it's not "just a job" for many/most(/all?) Lindens. Cory's energy and presence really will be missed.

Cyn Vandeverre

His Flying Spaghetti Monster was an inspiration to me; I saw a picture of it, and came up with an idea for my own nonhuman avatar. It is a giant potted daffodil, and I have a lot of fun with it.

Harper

I hope they will come out with a statement, and one that's more than boilerplate. As I said in my own article, I don't really know about any of the issues here, but full disclosure is always most refreshing.

Kenan

He'll be back...right? Hopefully he realizes that he's created something bigger than just one person and we're all in this together. Or he's got a bigger idea. Which could be great for all of us.

ActionJackson

One of the key questions on the future of Linden Labs involves both technology and the user community and how one serves the other.

The word is that Linden technical staff most often can work on what interests them most. Under the best of circumstances, their predilections coincide with the priorities of large groups of residents. But they don't have to.

If accurate, then if Linden Labs is to grow and thrive the culture must change to be even more user-centric. While open sourcing is one great way to get more resources working to improve and enhance the technology, those resources are even more inclined to work on what interests them most.

Don't get me wrong - I think Second Life is a very good service and that Cory is clearly an amazingly bright and talented individual. I just wonder if part of the divergence with Philip Rosedale is over evolving culture and business priorities.

Devi Jankowicz

Well, in all of this one's looking for goodies and baddies; hoping that the one who is committed to improving the platform, rather than ignoring all the bugs that are turning SL into a rip-off, is the one who is staying.
I must say, though, that the following quote from your feature does make out Cory as some sort of prat (UK English 'prat' = US English 'jerk'):
'Cory Ondrejka was perhaps the most puckish: on a lark, for instance, he once turned his avatar into a Betty Boop-worthy cartoon sun with a grinning face, then humming loudly while his development staff team roared with laughter behind him, floated above a clueless new user, following just behind like her pet sunbeam.'
'On a lark', indeed! Hmmm. No-one, but NO-ONE, worthy of respect makes fun of newbies. The development staff team shoiuld be utterly ashamed of their sycophancy if this tale is true.
(Indeed, lowering the learning curve on SL is surely a major priority).

His Noodliness

I find there not enough noodles in the rendering of His Noodliness, the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, to do him justice. One can not even see through the divinely thick mesh of holy pasta

His Noodliness

*One should not even be able to see through His Noodliness's Bleesed Appendages.
Thank you, and may His Noodliness bless.

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