You Are the Customers Linden Lab Wanted (It's Just That They Need So Many, Many More)
Feline Slade thinks SLers like her are not the customers that Linden Lab wanted, an assertion I see many SLers make, and because that's the case, let me speak as a former Linden, and say: That's largely not true. It is understandable why she might think so, especially in recent years, when even the leading Lindens have little or no contact with their existing community. So I don't blame her for feeling this way, even though, as I say, it's largely not the case. But first a factual correction to what Ms. Slade says:
We are not the customers the Lab wants, and we never have been. In the earliest days of alpha (long before I was an avatar), tales tell of early users given with build tools and left to experiment. They built houses. The Lindens were surprised. They expected exotic things, I guess, but the customer wanted something less exotic and more like a reflection of their own world. That disconnect between Lab and end user never seems to have left. They weren’t the forward-thinking customers the Lab wanted.
At the risk of sounding peevish by saying "read my book", read my book. For actually, in the earliest days of Alpha, the first item of user generated content was a giant beanstalk. Similar leaps of fancy followed in those early days. I devote a whole chapter to the wild wargamers of Jessie, and another chapter to Nexus Prime, the cyberpunk city built by one of SL's first groups. However, Felina Slade isn't entirely inaccurate:
It is true that us Lindens were surprised when so many SLers also started building beach houses and more conventional (if cool) things, but that was happening in tandem with the more quirky and non-mainstream coolness. Which taught us an important lesson: There's no typical SLer, and to say an SLer has any particular identity or expectation is to make a categorical mistake. (For instance, there's a large segment of casual/social gamers who enjoy SL, see SL as a game, and would probably enjoy if SL were more explicitly a game -- a move that other SLers would equally resist.) Which brings us to another claim that Ms. Slade tries to make:
As the years went on, we were told time and again we weren’t the customers the Lab wanted. [Former CEO Mark Kingdon] told us how great it was going to be when we all connected with Facebook. We tried to explain, in dismay, that Facebook didn’t want avatars as customers and that was why we were here in the first place.
Again, a categorical mistake. In fact, as I often say, the largest online group of Second Life users is on Facebook itself. (261,000 and still growing.) Many SLers don't like Facebook, it's true. But factually speaking, many are provably just fine with Facebook, at least fine enough to join SL's Facebook group. Which finally brings me to the point I put in the title of the post:
You, hardcore SLers, are the customers Linden Lab wanted. That has always been the case, even when, in recent years, the management has come to be dominated by people who clearly don't care for SL, at least not in the same way the founding Lindens did. But here's the thing: Lindens have always wanted many more than just the early, hardcore user base. They wanted SL to be as large as Facebook itself, not just to become massively profitable, but also, because they believed it would change the world, and for the better. But being as large as Facebook means learning to work with Facebook -- and for established SLers, learning to realize, even if you personally don't like Facebook as a connection option, many current and potential SLers likely would. And not only that, it means learning that SL cannot survive on its existing userbase alone, and needs a larger audience wherever it can be found. But that's another topic for another post.