Michael Blum, known for a well over a decade by Second Life users by his avatar name "Michael Linden", left Linden Lab last week. Word of this is starting to matriculate to the shocked and saddened SL community, because Michael has been a customer-facing employee for nearly 14 years - starting in tech support and going on to become manager of the Linden Department of Public Works -- busy creators of virtual civic spaces, whose avatars (like his own) often looked like moles. (SL blogger Daniel Voyager has a good career summary here.)
Reasons for his departure haven't been disclosed, but Michael tells me he plans to remain a member of the Second Life community: "Oh, I'll be busier in SL on my alt account," as he put it. "Be nice to the Moles!"
Michael joined Linden Lab shortly after I started my 3 year stint as official embedded journalist in 2003 -- a sweet, gentle giant of a man with a basso profundo voice that would boom through the office just about any time he talked, with a habit of coming to work dressed in 19th century, steampunk-inflected finery. (As Yoz Linden's photo here will attest.)
Among fellow Linden Lab alumni, Michael is particularly famous for his incredible proposal a new office for the company, when the startup was looking for a larger space. SLers who know Michael for his public works projects will love this:
A ferry boat. Yes: In 2005 or so, he stood up in front of the entire company with diagrams and maps and laid out plans for moving the entire Linden Lab operation onto a discontinued ferry boat, which would be docked somewhere in a Bay Area harbor. This wasn't just some vague, fanciful idea -- no, Michael had even found a specific ferry boat or two which could be purchased (I believe from a Seattle-based ferry operation), and had also thought through the logistics of connecting our servers and computers from the ship to the land.
"And then when we want to have company parties," he added, "we can undock, and have it in the Bay!"
Everyone at Linden Lab, of course, fricking loved the idea. Not sure why it didn't happen, but I guess the office they ultimately chose was pretty cool. No doubt Michael will have equally grand dreams wherever he goes next.
Update, 2:45pm: Michael just gave me more backstory on The Ferry Pitch:
"Philip Rosedale had mused a few months before about his dream of having an office on a boat; 'but of course that's impossible' (or words to that effect). The ferry pitch was to prove that it was possible, and cheaper in the short term than owning an office in SF. However, insurance, drydocking, etc. would make it pretty expensive as time went by. The ferry was on the east coast of Canada, but we found rates for towing, etc."
Mole avatar pic courtesy Michael