Monday, January 27, 2014

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As We Wait for Linden Lab to Speak About Rod Humble, Let Us Speak About What Rod Humble Did for Linden Lab

Rod Humble Linden Lab

I haven't received any official word from Linden Lab about the departure of their CEO Rod Humble (who announced his departure on his Facebook page last Friday afternoon), but my guess is we're about to get such a word (along with even larger news, perhaps), very soon. Until then, here's just a few of the news items for features Rod Humble added to Second Life and Linden Lab in the last couple years. First, from 2012:

And from 2013:

Just an abbreviated list from recent history - what Humble highlights stand out for you (if humbly so)?

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Vanadis Falconer

As i wrote in my blog yesterday you dont need to be a first class Kremlinologists to understand that Rod Humble was fired by the board of Linden Lab
We have had many firsts in Second Life but we have also had many technical problems for end users. Linden Lab does not need another creator. What Linden Lab need is a technologist and business leader who can tighten up and make it all work as it is supposed to.
Today's young players / users are not patient. Does not a game work perfect immediately they logged in, they close and choose another new game and never return to Second Life.

Masami

Most people blame Second Life's decline on any of the following things: unresolved technical issues, a steep learning curve, or a general failure of the average Joe/Jane to grasp what virtual worlds are all about. If only Linden Lab had a CEO who understood the company's product and customers, made SL easier to use and fixed the lag, it would be all good, right?

I doubt it would.

If you look at the history of events, you'll find that Second Life started to decline around the time when Linden Lab abandoned their plan to release the server code and establish SL as some sort of 3D web open standard. That was the moment when SL stopped being The Next Big Thing and started being a mere game with out-of-date graphics and no goal. It was the moment when all the naysayers were proven right.

Unfortunately there is no way back. Linden Lab as an innovator lost all credibility, and no future CEO can fix that. It's all downhill from here. Rod Humble's attempts at diversification were an embarrassment, an admission that the company itself no longer believes in its own flagship product. Now SL is all about milking its customers as long as possible before shutting the whole thing down. At least that's what it looks like from the outside. Few people feel inclined to catch the falling knife and invest serious money into what appears to be a dying platform with no plan B.

Now if you look around at SL blogs and forums, what you'll see is mostly denial. You'll see people who have invested a lot in SL, now trying hard to justify and/or protect their investments by encouraging each other, emphasizing how SL is "still fun" or "still profitable" and therefore unlikely to suddenly vanish the way Cloud Party just did. Others keep talking about their own more or less covert attempts at diversification (Hi Desmond!) to hedge against SL's impending collapse. And then you have Drax, who appears to be on a mission to do all of LL's marketing for them, trying hard to keep the dream alive.

Meanwhile, the recent growth of SL's stepchild OpenSim is met mostly with contempt. For example, SL blogger Nalates recently felt compelled to claim that OpenSim land is actually more expensive than SL land if you divide its cost by the number of potential consumers. As if the whole point of owning virtual land was to run a shop to offset the cost of virtual land.

I think the reason for this growing hostility is the fact that OpenSim is about to complete the work that Linden Lab started. With its ability to teleport avatars and content and instant messages from one grid to another, it is becoming exactly that distributed 3D world wide web which Philip Rosedale once sold (and is now trying to sell again) but never delivered.

Forget Blue Mars, Unity 3D, Cloud Party, Second Life and High Fidelity. The next big thing (or, if you will, the "last grid standing") is OpenSim. If you still care about virtual worlds after all the other attempts have failed, that's where we'll meet.

Saffia Widdershins

And we want to attract young players because ... ?

Why not accept that virtual worlds may appeal to an older demographic? That demographic will be refilled as people age, just as much as there will always be teenagers coming up. And as people age their tastes, thank heavens! change too. Yes, I still think Martha and the Muffins 'Echo Beach' was the greatest pop song ever, but nowadays, I don't want to dance to it all night long.

Cloud Party missed a trick by trying to head for the young and hip on Facebook. Facebook really exploded in size when they got out of catering for the college kids and let the moms and dads and grandparents in too.

Adeon Writer

Second Life is not ready for Steam. I believe Linden realized this and that's why it's not there yet. Second Life would only get floods of trolls from Steam if SL appeared on their list.

Why? SL's reputation proceeds it, and graphically SL is not on par with modern games.

Oink

SL Forum 03-27-2006...

Question: What would make a good competitor for Second Life?

Answer: I say Garry's Mod... GMod already gives you the ability to run your own sim, with the server option. It lets visitors come by your sim. It lets you build inside your sim; you can both save what you build and save the state of your sim; and best of all it's very possible to both import and export objects to-and-from GMod.

[That was 2006, now we have GMod13 in 2013!!]

Oink

How to step into 3rd Life cinema platforms + get Garry's Mod 13 for one-time 20 Euros, no tiers...
http://ht.ly/nii0Y

Dartagan Shepherd

Rods job as CEO was to increase revenue. It didn't work. He's gone.

Not interested in bullet points for a memorial plaque.

The product managers responsible for the new products that aren't performing may be next in line. Some of those responsible are listed on the corporate site.

It wasn't a bad move to purge the company after Kingdon in order to scale back spending and regroup.

That wouldn't be a bad move this time either, because if they do decide to hire a new CEO it's going to take money and perks to acquire him and a budget to allow him to implement his direction.

2014

As a CEO, I couldn't tell you a good or bad thing he did during his tenure. SL is about what it was when I joined 5+ years ago, not a lot has changed other than the addition of mesh.

Pussycat Catnap

"Forget Blue Mars, Unity 3D, Cloud Party, Second Life and High Fidelity. The next big thing (or, if you will, the "last grid standing") is OpenSim."


Lol...

Get above a few dozen users in concurrency and then we can talk. Try getting to at least 40,000, a tad under SL - but to be viable in the 'big real world' you'd want 100,000.

OpenSim basically is SL with the serial numbers filed off. The same old dated technology. Its future is always going to be as the place SL users who can't tolerate something about SL go.

SL has an unusual number of Libertarians - so some OpenSims could lure some of them away with the promise of their own Ayn Rand Aryan private universe...

But otherwise - its brightest possible moment might be capturing a significant portion of SL's population. Which itself would require a marketing shift to "we have even better community than they do" - SL's community wouldn't be hard to top, but only if the competitor actually had a community focus and mindset (like perhaps Everquest Landmark - but the content creation tools of that will be too themed I suspect to allow the kind of avatar originality we see in SL).

OpenSim is just to SL what Margarine is to butter. A substitute for people who want to get close to the real thing but cannot have it for one reason or another. You've got to want SL first to even want OpenSim. And then from there you have to be unwilling or unable to have the real thing.

If OpenSim wasn't SL code - I might hold out more hope. Because then with the right vision it might at least be something new. But its not - its just the same old MMO, on private servers...

Pussycat Catnap

"Why not accept that virtual worlds may appeal to an older demographic? That demographic will be refilled as people age"
*****
It doesn't work that way anymore than "as people age, they all naturally begin listening to the Big Bands of the 1940s."

Just because one generation had a fad, does not mean that when future generations get old they will pick up that same fad... I never grew up to protest the Vietnam War - it was over and done with before I was 5...

Virtual Worlds need to keep appealing to each new demographic or they will fade into the same place as Big Bands and protesting Vietnam - no longer fashionable or a moot point.

But I don't think there's any risk of that. Sometime in 2014 or 2015 we'll see the launch of Everquest Next, and I suspect that will herald in the new concept of a virtual world - a hybrid between MMORPG and MUSH.

It will then face competitors that either mostly challenge the game side, or a select few who look at the world creation and building tools and become the new replacements for things like SL.

- Or somebody might try to continue the more ambitious idea of doing both, but both better.

Pussycat Catnap

As far as Rod goes...

I posted my list in the older topic - but posted it yesterday.

In general I see a lot of major improvements that center around around Viewer 3, mesh, stability, faster rendering.

I then see a failure to undo past mistakes (marketplace over-presence, last names, unreasonable tier for what it gives).

I see the absolute fiasco of breaking off communication - this is the only social media platform I am aware of who's employees do not engage with their users or the public. A lack of engagement with unmanaged community solves nothing and creates an endless stream of problems.

I see the strange attempts to diversify beyond SL - but in directions that looked haphazard and fad driven. The products all looked like "oh, here is the popular thing online, we should do the exact same thing and ride its coattails, and over there is a tiny copycat - lets buy them and brand it."
- That is a business strategy of trying to be number 2... but in fads, number 2 is basically a position of too late and dead last...

Metacam Oh

I think Masami hit the nail on the head, although I'm not 100% sure Open Sim is the answer, mostly because it's not easy to maintain. The Open Sim people have done nothing to make maintaining and running a grid easier. If I have to go into console mode and run 4 exe's and mess with port settings and mysql databases this is not gonna take off as is I hate to say it.

And anyway the big reason SL fails is the name.

"Second Life, the place people go if they don't have a first life." - Stephen Colbert

Obviously that's not true but who is going to argue with that with a name like Second Life?

Ciaran Laval

Personally I feel Rod Humble did a good job in difficult circumstances and he was right to try and bring new products to the Linden Lab portfolio. Some will work, some won't, that's the deal for most software companies but Linden Lab as a company desperately needed to move on from only having Second Life on their CV.

Masami

Pussycat Catnap wrote:

You've got to want SL first to even want OpenSim. And then from there you have to be unwilling or unable to have the real thing.

Correct, but you seem confused about what the "real thing" is.

In 2007, The Guardian published an interview with Philip Rosedale, titled:

Today Second Life, tomorrow the world

The founder of the virtual world Second Life believes that his company, Linden Lab, is at the forefront of the internet's next big revolution - the 3D web

Here's an excerpt from that interview:

The Guardian: What do you think about the idea that an avatar built in SL could move off Second Life and wander the web?

Philip Rosedale: We are building the backend to support that. We believe the concept of identity through your avatar will span the web. We are going to seek to enable that. Technology-wise, it's only about 18 months away. I do think we will see some interconnected virtual worlds and I think we can lead by being as open as possible. If you are open and you are dominant, you win, forever.

OpenSim is delivering exactly what Philip Rosedale promised in 2007. Second Life is merely a prototype that never left the closed beta stage. OpenSim is the real thing: an open platform running multiple independent but interconnected virtual worlds.

So why doesn't OpenSim have 40,000 concurrent users yet, you ask? I could explain the reason myself, but I'd rather let someone else do it:

Even if HiFi will be faster, better and CHEAPER, it will still take a lot of convincing for me to move to that world unless they make it VERY easy for me to transport my entire sim, my avatar, my inventory and many of my settings with just a few clicks. The notion of having to start from scratch is making my brain cry.

-- Jo Yardley, creator of "1920's Berlin" in Second Life

If you hesitate to choose the faster, better and cheaper product -- if the mere thought of doing so makes your brain cry -- then you are a victim of an effect known as "vendor lock-in". For Second Life, that lock-in effect is caused by the fact that people cannot take their inventories elsewhere. The Lab owns the content and can delete it at any time. People like Jo (and there are many like her) are unlikely to establish a permanent presence in any virtual world other than Second Life any time soon. That is the uphill battle that OpenSim is facing.

However, it's inevitable that OpenSim will still be around when Second Life is gone because all of its vital components are open source. It's just like Philip said:

"If you are open and you are dominant, you win, forever."
Oink

Immersive Worlds Plus - for technology opportunities in and out of immersive worlds, where immersive worlds are part of a greater value-add chain - thus, where new system boundaries evolve (e.g. Out-of-Box Alienworlds, 3D + 4D Printing, Kinematics, and Holographic Technologies etc.).

How will New Virtual Worlds plus emerging "Out-of-Box Alienworld" Opportunities contribute to Sustainability in new Immersive World Value-Add Chains?

https://www.facebook.com/groups/immersiveworlds.plus/

Oink

3D Holographic Power Point Presentation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLavoahAfv8

Oink

US Army - Value-add Re-structure
In-the-box #Virtualworlds + Out-of-box #Alienworlds

Army to expand use of virtual tools, augmented reality for training
http://ht.ly/t1lHk

Masami

Metacam Oh wrote:

I'm not 100% sure Open Sim is the answer, mostly because it's not easy to maintain. The Open Sim people have done nothing to make maintaining and running a grid easier. If I have to go into console mode and run 4 exe's and mess with port settings and mysql databases this is not gonna take off as is I hate to say it.

OpenSim is not a desktop application. It is designed to run 24/7 on a dedicated server or virtual machine, preferably hosted in a data center, with a static IP address and a 100/100 Mbps WAN link. These hosted servers are available in the free market, usually for a few bucks per month, and they typically run some flavor of Linux without a graphical user interface. This is the option I chose for myself because it is the most cost-efficient. The number of regions you can run on such a machine depends on its RAM size and the amount of content that is simulated. Empty regions take up almost no space at all, so you can add plenty of water around your island, for example.

If DIY is not your cup of tea, there is at least one company (I won't drop any names here) offering hosted OpenSim regions for US$15 per month. That company also offers a web marketplace where you can sell things that you create.

If you want to host your regions at home, there are one-click installers available (Sim-on-a-stick, New World Studio). However, unless you have a static IP address and plenty of upstream bandwidth, this makes sense only for local testing. Also, if you consider the cost of running your desktop or laptop computer 24/7, you will find that external hosting is actually cheaper (and more reliable as well).

Pussycat Catnap

@Masami: The Real thing is the one with traction. Users. Concurrency.

That is all that matters.

Everything else is wistfulness.

Metacam Oh

Masami, I know all about it, I've set it up on external servers and on my home pc so I know about the process. I've been able to do it because I've been using computers since I was a kid on DOS so I know how to do it, but for ease of use it's garbage. You know how easy it is to fire up a Minecraft server? That's the way firing up an Open Sim should be.

Informer

As Pussycat says Masami, OpenSim's PR officer, is ignoring that independent grids are, well, unpopular. I am a store owner and have investigated these grids... there's nothing for me there. Concurrency is staggeringly low so even if I do get a cheap sim, profits are unlikely. Even with the obscene $295-per-month cost for a sim in Second Life, I still, most months anyway, scrape a profit.

Masami

Pussycat wrote:

The Real thing is the one with traction. Users. Concurrency.

Concurrency is a liability, not an asset. What Linden Lab needs is more land owners, not more freeloaders.

Last year, while OpenSim gained 10,000 more regions, Second Life lost another 8% of its private estates, its main revenue engine. Now even the pilot has left the plane with a parachute. Do you think Linden Airlines can defy gravity forever?

The only thing that high concurrency will give them at this point is a more spectacular crash.

Informer wrote:

Even with the obscene $295-per-month cost for a sim in Second Life, I still, most months anyway, scrape a profit.

This is the proverbial whistling in the dark. The metrics show that estate owners are bailing left and right, but Informer hasn't hit the bottom yet, so it can't be all bad.

I file this under "denial". At least you agree that the cost is obscene. Let's talk again a few months down the road, shall we?

By the way, if independent grids aren't popular, who's paying for those 30,000+ regions, and why?

Masami

Metacam wrote:

You know how easy it is to fire up a Minecraft server? That's the way firing up an Open Sim should be.

I looked at the official Minecraft server setup tutorial and didn't find it trivial at all. It involves installing a runtime environment (Java), editing configuration files, setting up port forwarding in the router, creating accounts and managing permissions, and learning a list of console commands for server administration.

How is that easier than running OpenSim?

I don't consider myself exceptionally smart, but I do have my own hypergrid sim online. If I can do that, anyone can.

Metacam Oh

Masami, all you have to do set up a minecraft server is configure the port forwarding in a router and installing an EXE. editing config files is only needed for further customization which is a text file that any imbecile could figure out. To purchase minecraft you get an account so users are not involved in account creation etc. Trust me when I say, there is no comparison between setting up Open Sim and setting up Minecraft.

Masami

Metacam wrote:

Trust me when I say, there is no comparison between setting up Open Sim and setting up Minecraft.

To get OpenSim up and running, all you need to do is launch OpenSim.exe and enter a region name, an avatar name, and a password.

How this could be simplified any further is beyond me. I'm looking forward to your suggestions.

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