The Pros & Cons of Linden Lab's Glass Door Reviews -- Plus My Own "Advice to Senior Management" on Second Life
Job and company review site Glass Door has a page devoted to Linden Lab, which I've debated blogging about for some time. On the one hand, it offers some insights on the inner workings of Linden that SLers will probably find fascinating. On the other, the employees reviews are anonymous, which means they're subject to significant skepticism, since the assertions can't be directly challenged, and the motivations behind these opinions can't be discerned. (For example, an employee who was actually fired for incompetence may have a distorted and unfairly bitter story to tell.)
However, since Linden's Glass Door page keeps getting cited in the SL blogosphere, I should try to separate some of the wheat from the chaff. From reviews posted in the last few months, here are three positive and three negative things written about Linden Lab that I've also heard from at least two or more insiders:
- "Over the past year or so the company has been changing dramatically in the way it does things, it is faster paced and very focused on solid deliverables."
- "The colleagues and friends at LL are what endures. At one point LL attracted industry leading talent to work on the the virtual world revolution. Those people and the strong culture they created through 2007-2009 created an incredibly strong ex-Linden community that lasts to this day."
- "A lot of the most exciting SL projects are engineering driven such as pathfinding and the solid performance improvements. The new projects are web or tablet based which is very current."
- "Management scared to try and tackle big engineering challenges, sticking to tiny iterative changes and expecting to 'move the needle' with tiny often silly 'improvements' (and the charts never change from the slow sad decline despite management desiring them to)."
- "New middle and senior management constantly come and go without listening to longtime employees who understand the product and have seen the same mistakes made over and over again."
- "Things are very top-down now. The front line people have very little say in what they do, and the process of generating cool ideas and getting them into the corporate backlog is very difficult, and likely impossible if you're not seated next to product management or the leadership (sorry, remote offices, you're cogs in the machine). There is simply no space for people to be creative."
Many of these points I've also made in posts before, so they shouldn't seem too controversial or surprising. Some of them are also up for interpretation. For instance, several Lindens have told me the company has strongly improved its production and development schedule under Rod Humble's leadership -- however, that has also required more top-down management. So that's a positive and a negative, depending on your point of view. This illustrates the fact that in a company of some two hundred employees, you'll get multiple perspectives on every particular point, and you should keep that in mind when reading the Glass Door reviews (or for that matter, this very post.)
The Glass Door reviews contain a section called Advice to Senior Management, but none of them contain what I think is the most important advice for SL at this point, so I'll make it here:
Make bold and radical changes to Second Life. You have nothing to lose. As long as the grid keeps running, your existing userbase will not leave -- they never have, even at the worst of times. Now, your survival is all about finding a new audience for SL to join the existing one. But to do that will require brave, dramatic, vastly different approaches to the product than what you are doing now. START MAKING THOSE MOVES BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.