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 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.