Wednesday, April 23, 2008

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New World Newsfeed: The ClickZ Writings of Mark Kingdon, Linden Lab's New CEO


Author Archive of Mark Kingdon - ClickZ

"[W]atching an episode of Lost is very different from understanding what it really feels like to create an avatar and navigate around and interact with others in Second Life," Mark Kingdon wrote in late 2006. "Believe me, I've been lost in Second Life."

I actually think it's a promising sign that Linden Lab's newly appointed CEO once confessed to being lost in Second Life.  As I wrote last January, it's a world and a software cursed by knowledge, and only an outsider who grasps its potential but is totally confounded by its interface and user experience stands a chance to better remake it.  Kingdon now finds himself Second Life's CEO, inaugurated thus by Philip Linden, in an announcement that'll surprise many insiders. 

Chatting with metaverse developers and Residents at SXSW in Austin and the Virtual Worlds Conference in New York earlier this month, most expected Linden Lab to select a technologist like Philip, or even someone from the game industry.  Instead, they've hired the former CEO of Organic, one of the very first web development agencies to ride the dot com Internet boom of the 90s (though he assumed the role in 2001, after the bust), and before that, a partner at auditor/professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.  More recently, however, he was a regular columnist for ClickZ, a large Internet business/marketing site, and it's a glimpse into his thought process, hinting at policies and directions to come.

Not just in the widely-cited article, "Advertisers Can Find Second Life in Metaverses", since he now acknowledges it was perhaps "the right place but definitely the wrong time for most big brands".  (Then again, Kingdon cites me in that piece, and I'm even more spectacularly wrong, predicting that Second Life will have more user than World of Warcraft by 2008.  Retention fail.) Glancing through his archive, there's a lot of smart insights on Web 2.0 Internet culture, albeit from a marketer's point of view. I'll be reading it in closer detail in coming weeks. What patterns do you see, and what do you think they suggest for his future management of the Linden ship?


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roland legrand

Reading the first reactions and news about Kingdon, I guess he will focus on:
* Improving the user experience, ease of use and the stability and reliability of Second Life.(ok, no big surprise here)
* International expansion, with offices in many locations. (Rosedale announcing)
* No immediate plan to get back the big brands who left the world.(Reuters interview)
* Companies can do something in Second Life, but “participating in the organic growth”.(Reuters interview)

I think he recognizes the importance of the inworld culture and economy, and he is smart enough to tell companies to work in that context if they want to have any results at all, at least as far as marketing is concerned.

Laetizia Coronet

Of course they say he is going to focus on stability instead of new features. Residents have been screaming for that ever since I was 'born' in november of 06. But is it true? Mono is in the works and so is Dazzle. We'll see.
The marketing background is no surprise, really. Maybe he's the man who is going to oversee the, what was that abbreviation you used, the first steps onto the stock market.
He is obviously not one of the more artistically gifted Labbers... "M Linden"? What an imagination...


LOL I love your comment that only a CEO who is confounded by SL could do a great job. The interface isn't intuitive, granted. I wish him every luck and best wishes.

Ann Otoole

Whatever his background I hope he herds the cats at LL well so we can get some positive consistency in place for a change.

I haven't seen anything to tell me he has run a successful business inside sl so I have my doubts that he enters with a solid feel for why the lack of a real transactions manager system is killing secondlife. shinies are nice. i like windlight. but what sl really needs is engineers that are not so arrogant that they think they know better than anyone else and who know how critical the database system is to the survivability of secondlife. if a L$ transaction encounters errors it needs to be rolled back. It is as simple as that. And the error needs to be logged. And when the number of errors crosses a threshold then a message needs to be automatically sent out warning users to not do anything in sl except chat in a big 3D chatroom until the issue is fixed. (that is what sl is rapidly becoming) Of course this means there will be a strong engineering staff on 24*7 duty at LL forever. Maybe what "M" needs to do is give the order to bring in an extra slate of serious engineers and object/data architects to go clean room wrtie sl v2.

I wish "M" luck. I can tell he likes a challenge. Otherwise he would have stayed far away from SL.

Luce Imaginary

@Laetizia Coronet:

just so you know, Mono is key to long term stability. And it's hardly a new feature. They've been working to transition to it for years.

Arcadian Vanalten

I wish M the best of luck. Should be interesting to get a new perspective on things in the house. I think we're all gonna be watching with fascination. As far as making any predictions about what he's gonna do, or how well he's gonna do it, I refuse to get into any game of Armchair Quarterbacking or waving my Crystal Ball o' Doom. God knows we've got enough of those running around the boards anyway ;). I'm just going to watch carefully and see how it goes and give him the benefit of a fair shot to inspire my opinion of him based on what he actually does now.

Sophrosyne Stenvaag

I'm pleased by M's background - someone firmly rooted in marketing and consulting could be well poised to turn LL around.

After grid stability - maybe even *before* grid stability - LL needs to fix its corporate communications, which are astonishingly bad.

Had LL not done such a thorough job of insulting, alienating and generally annoying its most devoted and vocal Residents over the past year or so, we'd be much more forgiving now of grid problems - and there might well be a lot more of us to do that forgiving.

If M can get LL to start treating us as clients rather than a nuisance - from there, everything can change. I wish him well!

Pappy Enoch

I wishes King Mark awl the luck in the (fake) wirld.

Ya'll reckon that my perfeck kermand o' Inglish doomed mah effurts tu bekum the LL CEO? I even used me a new pencil on my applerkashun.

I promised tu give free Moonshine tu all the kustumers--thataway they'd not know if'n sum'fin was busted in the fake wirld or not.

An' I gots years o' egg-sperience runnin' a still--sorta like runnin' LL.

Renmiri Writer

Let's hope this CEO doesn't put down the SL Residents like Phillip Linden just did.

Can someone tell Phillip that Chicago is not the boondocks and that not all SL residents have no life ?


Hamlet Au

I think I know what quote you're referring to and I'm fairly sure it was taken out of context; he was referring to the fact that the most active users tend to be from small cities and rural areas, and has speculated they're looking for a big city-style experience they can't practically get where they live IRL.


Pfffeww.... Was pretty insulting.

Odd tough. In my experience most of my SL friends are from big cities in US and Europe, like Chicago, London, Amsterdam.... SL is a good refuge from urban violence and from all the traffic to go downtown ^^

Hamlet Au

Remniri, check out the link on this post. I'm sure the demographic spread has changed since 2006, but at that point, the top SL users by locale were:

1 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida
2 - Newark, New Jersey
3 - Santa Rosa, California
4 - Akron, Ohio
5 - Austin-San Marcos, Texas
6 - Salem, Oregon
7 - Portland/Vancouver, Oregon-Washington
8 - Ann Arbor, Michigan
9 - Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
10 - Daytona Beach, Flordia
11 - Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Washington
12 - Vallejo-Fairfield-Napa, California
13 - Boise City, Idaho
14 - Bakersfield, California
15 - Nashville, Tennessee
16 - Washington DC area
17 - Spokane, Washington
18 - San Francisco Bay Area, California
19 - Rochester, New York
20 - Oklahoma, Oklahoma

Renmiri Writer

Yeah, I can bet it changed a lot, with more international users. I meet a lot of Londoners here, enjoying a chav free region ;)

In Chicago gangs aren't that bad but it seems in Rio de Janeiro, London and some other areas it is getting pretty rough! SL is a nice respite from it.

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