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Friday, March 18, 2011


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Wiz Nordberg

Maybe there are doing just what you suggest... reaching out to the majority of their users.

Two days ago I got an extensive survey from them that asked the "Right Questions" and had sensible choices. It was well designed and solicited both structured as well as unstructured feedback on some of the most vital points not only the "vocal minority" but to any user. Since it asked if I had a premium account, I can only assume it went out to a random (and hopefully significant) sampling of Second Life users.

For some reason that I just can't articulate I have almost zero confidence that they will "do the right thing" based upon those surveys.

And when I say "do the right thing" I don't necessarily mean what the vocal minority wants. Perhaps it is true that there are hundreds of thousands of truly satisfied customers, or at least "not dissatisfied customers". If so, the Lab is right to pay attention to the numbers, even if it means upsetting the minorities who have special interest needs.

But, this is where communication comes in. I think most people can handle being a minority, and probably know deep down that no company can design a product "just for them". If it's true that the Lab is actually on track for most people, they should find some tactful way of sharing that information with those who have special and extraordinary commitments to their product. It might help smooth out some of the bumps.

But, I'm not even keeping my fingers crossed at this point. They really need to hunker down now and make their actions both apparent and effective. I wish them luck.

Melissa Yeuxdoux

I sincerely hope that LL is doing just what you suggest. Ignore the Joe Pynes and Francis E. Decs of SL, and ask the people who only try Second Life once or twice--what did we do, or not do, that made you not want to come back?

Dartagan Shepherd

I don't think the problem is communication, it's a problem of perception and that can't be healed by communication. More accurately, it can't be healed by two-way communication.

This can only be healed by the doing, a little distance, and frequent announcements. SL will never be "buddies" with the user base, unless they nix the troll element.

My signature (Heinlein) quote on the forums is: "In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it."

And that's what's happened here. The user base has become so entrenched (whether justified or not) in bad habits and trained reactions that I can write the script on what the responses will be to any given topic including pre-predictions on a given topic.

The lyrics may change, but the song remains the same.

The general "us and them" mentality will not change anytime soon, nor will those few vocals who are rarely effected by issues, but harboring insecurity, resentment or the desire to build a reputation from making most of the arguments for "everyone elses good".

There are tons of sincere gripes, but SL can't make a statement about anything, no matter how mundane or boring without it turning into a bit of drama by some of these folks that have become expert at bending reality to show how LL/SL is going to die and how dire of a situation it is.

The best communication is one that is at least being attempted now, which is some form of moderation, but that needs to be backed up by a one-way communication that proves that efforts are being made.

Case in point, Rod Humble's blog post today. It's short, sweet, it shows his short term thinking and gives some facts along with some clues about what directions he thinks are important by what he's heard from the userbase. They happen to be very solid moves so far, so many people are hopeful, but they don't need handholding and two-way communication, they just want to know about changes and see results to issues that have already had volumes of feedback.

And best of all ... comments are CLOSED.

So the best communication? Give the space to banter, User Groups to break it up into interests, don't neglect those efforts to solicit feedback (agree from non vocals as well), and then announce updates and progress in a one-way communication.

The best-run communities aren't engaging in "freedom of speech" and "communication", they practice good parenting and focus on getting the job done.

But this prediction of slow death is also one of those learned, old bad habits I think. A company like SL shouldn't, and need not go through constant hype cycles. It's profitable, stable, mild decline at most. That it needs a booster to get back on a climbing curve is about as "fail" as it gets. Especially with less viable competitors in the space. (I don't count OpenSim until they manage to draw in non-SL users, otherwise they're just part of a symbiosis, not a venture that knows how to attract outside users).

Does the job need to get done better? Yes. Does that require feeback? Yes. Should two-way communication be limited to only highly constructive and focused communication? Yes!

Why would you waste your time communicating with people who are already convinced it's a failure and who aren't changing their mind? Do you really think those people are going to change their mind because they were asked more questions? Do you think a fraction of that feedback can be implemented, starting from today, in a timeframe that meets those expectations? No, the attempt can be made, the communication can be there and you'll still have folks expecting bigger, better, faster, more somewhere.

Not against good communication including two-way, but without breaking some horribly bad habits, there are people standing in line waiting to prove how that communication is false, stupid and probably not worth believing.

Solicit, implement, announce. That's all the communication needed. Focus groups if it can be kept civil and constructive.

Aman Duh

Here's how I take care of communication.



Technically, Bartle wrote the book on creating online worlds. Scott's was about playing them, really. :)

Dartagan Shepherd

Heheh, Bartle is debatable. While he veered toward design, those early codebases branched from his realm (from controlled story and hack 'n' slash) to open ended architectures like MUSH/MUCK/LambdaMOO.

Back then I was working with a team on a project that was an early Second Life if you will. A then Chaco Communications developed a client called Pueblo and various MUD codebases were patched to work with it, bringing VRML into play. With NeonMUCK we were the first to support Pueblo.

So Bartle was heading on the fast track to 60 hours of gameplay in a box, and we couldn't pitch things like a customizable 3D world with user generated content to save our lives, no one got it back then. At all. Thankfully Phil (and probably Mitch, had he been thinking along those lines) knew the time wasn't right, and so here we are with SL today.

Agree that Bartle has more under his belt, but I don't think Bartle gets Second Life ;) I think he said as much in an interview here on Metanomics. In between talking about the 4 D's of something or other.

Alberik Rotaru

LL advocates really need a better bromide than 'It's a communication problem'. Companies that insist their products are great but their communication is poor are generally companies offering inferior products.

A number of decisions, right back to the openspace mess, were said to be communication problems. Someone in LL needs to give a little thought to whether the impact of decisions like the openspace price rise was what the company believed or what the critics predicted.

Most companies would welcome a customer base as passionate as LL has now and would be working to harness that passion. LL needs to learn something about a bird in the hand and stop coming up with elegant, if deeply unpersuasive, analogies about the giant flock of birds out there in the bush.

Rin Tae

Indeed, communication is the key. Both to the vocal ones and in trying to reach those who stay away from the usual blogs and forums.
After all, the more silence and one way communication from the lab, the bigger the anger becomes because while at first people suggest and try to give advice, after some time of feeling ignored, they start to scream. It is natural development and now LL faces the problem of those people to be loud and vocal and doing a better job on educating new users about the problems, then LL on educating about the changes and advancments and the general greatness of what SL can be.

LL faces the problem of being at a point where it is simply not trusted anymore and where any announcment of change is met with sceptisism and the expectation of failure. All based on how this has been in the past.

At the same time I see a community eager to help and to communicate in every way possible. The passion and vision for SL is unbroken and many times when I read about why people leave SL it is all about how they tried to help over and over again but never felt valued or thought that they are ignored.
There is, and always has been, so much feedback and ideas and suggestions floating around in the blogosphere and forums around SL that any LL just need ot reach out to it and they would never ever have to spend one dollar on advertisement (they don't seem to spend much on it right now too, but that is a different discussion).

And I am sure, that the moment LL steps out of it's shell and gives the residents the feeling that they are listeend too, when they respond and proactively engage in a discussion about issues before they becoem a problem and explain the 'why' and 'how' of changes and policy decissions, then the mood and nature of almsot every single blog and forum will turn 180°.

I still say, that the residents want to work and communicate with the lab and, even after all those years where this has been handeled miserably by the lab, still wait and hope for the signal that there is someone on the other side who is willing to step up take part in the communication offered.

Ann Otoole InSL

We have no idea what LL is doing until intrepid OS devs like Opensource Obscure spill the beans in the OS mailing list.

LL has work to do. On how they communicate. The coding they are doing it right on.

Ciaran Laval

Lindens do communicate with residents, I was at a meeting last night and I think there were six or seven residents and three Lindens, that's three Lindens providing time to communicate but very little response from the community to engage with them.

However maybe the communication issue is that not enough residents are aware that such meetings take place.

On the vocal minority front, it's somewhat misleading as the vocal ones are the ones who read the blogs and forums to see what's happening, I would wager that the vast majority of SL residents don't read the blogs.

Eric Ries of IMVU made an excellent blog post back in September 2009:


Vivienne Daguerre

Thanks for posting that link! It is a great article with important insight.

Rin Tae

However maybe the communication issue is that not enough residents are aware that such meetings take place.
I would wager that the vast majority of SL residents don't read the blogs.

Both are very much true. The communication chanells actualyl used by LL are often not promoted strongly enough and it is also very difficult to provide enough of such meetings so that the international audience of SL can take part.
I don't know yet as to how much the new office hour system will play out in the long run but it might be a good development provided the times and places of where those are happening are advertised and visible to everyone. After all the second part of the post I have quoted is a problem too.
Compared with the entire SL population, the number of peopel active on blogs and forums is comperatively small. The number of people reading them without ever responding or taking part however is much bigger. But there is still a large number of peopel who are mostly unaware of what is being spoken about here.

Reaching those people is a very big problem and not one LL could solve easily. I don't think, that any online company has ever solved it so a good first step would be to bring the vocal ones on LLs side first and reach out to them so that this unhealthy antagonism of 'us vs. them' is broken up and made history. Then is will be easier to reach the rest of the residents too.

Robert Graf

Two main reasons why LL is losing customers - price and corruption. No one in their everloving right mind is going to invest in SL any longer. LL attempted to milk their land and land tier business to the point where thousands of folks simply gave up on them. LL gave their friends and allies inworld reduced tier fees, grandfathered tier, and lower land purchase costs. Folks like me whao were paying full price for everything got wise to the situation and abandoned SL for greener pastures - OpenSim.

LL continues to be run by arrogant, know it all, self-lovers who have no concept of how to run a business. They assume SL'rs will keep drinking their kool-aid forever. ;)

Paathfinder Lester

It is essential to have a combination of good strategy and good tactics around communication. Having *both* is key.

And in my experience, many people often misunderstand the critical differences between strategy and tactics. Or worse, they delude themselves into believing their tactics are their strategy.

Strategy without tactics is the slowest path to victory.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

Sinead McMillan


Bubblesort Triskaidekaphobia

I'm so tired of hearing this "not everybody is a content creator" or that "we're trying to reach out to new users, not old users", as if there is some meaningful distinction between current and prospective users or content creators and consumers. There are a lot of things that everybody wants and LL refuses to give these things to us because they want to chase some ridiculously over-specific demographic that may or may not even exist. LL isn't stupid, they know what we want. They refuse to give us what we want.

As far as communication: The forums are a joke and in-world office hours are ridiculous. I used to try to go to them every now and then. I would estimate that about 75% of the hours I went to resulted in the linden not showing up at all. Of the ones where they did show up they were usually late and they never once gave me any real information. They usually just sat there and gave vague, flippant answers to serious questions when they even acknowledged my questions. If I take time out of my day to talk to a company I need to know that I'm not wasting my time. Lindens don't give that impression.

LL wants to act like they are a utility company but they are actually in the service business. The sooner they wrap their heads around that the better.

Rin Tae

@Sinead McMillan

This is interesting! So the actual people working at the Lab are saying the very same things I see expressed on all the blogs and forums.

Senban Babii

"Not the 150,000 or so Second Life users who are responsible for nearly 90% of total monthly SL user hours (who are the ones most likely complaining loudest online when they're not in-world.) No. Instead, Linden should be reaching out to the 650,000 or so who log into Second Life 50 hours or considerably less a month. (Or even more precisely, the 425,000 or so who only log in for less than 3 hours.)"

I went from the first type a few years ago to the last type in the last twelve months or so. So here's why I personally don't log in anymore.

I no longer trust LL.

I can't make legitimate remote backups of things I've legitimately bought.

Privacy and security is a joke. The Lab are unbelievably slow to respond to resident concerns about privacy and security.

Lack of rights for consumers, everything's tilted in favour of content creators.

There's no practical way to make money inworld without being a content creator or spreading your legs. And that means I have to spend actual money that in the current economy, most people simply don't have. LL have to realise that if people can't afford to do anything once they've rezzed, they'll quickly leave.

LL seems determined to take SL in a direction that simply holds no real interest for me. Thus I'm loathe to invest any time or money in the platform.

Just my thoughts.

Nalates Urriah

"I don't think the problem is communication, it's a problem of perception and that can't be healed by communication. More accurately, it can't be healed by two-way communication." - Dartagan Shepherd

I agree there is a perception problem. But, perception is changed by communication. The example of how that works is politics. Political debate is all about two-way communication changing people’s perceptions. Propaganda is an arrogant use of communication that expects to change perception by assuming people will not think about what they hear. But, propaganda works… so, people continue to use it and will until the gullible leave the planet.

I agree with the idea in Dartagan’s comment that the Lab must DO things that demonstrate their heads and hearts are in the right place. We’ve heard the business PR (a type of propaganda) and many of us are not impressed. However, since the Rosedale speech about fun and easy and better communication we have seen improving communication. There are flaws and weak spots but it is better.

Also, I think it is silly to think of the residents as a homogeneous group. We aren’t. People write and comment as if the residents are. The residents are an aggregate of different nationalities and political views. Socialists and capitalists see the requirements for running successful businesses as completely different. There are those that want to change everything, there are those that want no change, there are those that fight any change and then complain about the lack of change… Anyone that tries to speak for the group is clueless.

Categorizing SL is pretty much impossible, much less the residents.

Mitch Wagner

The loudest complainers aren't killing Second Life. They have too much invested in hating Linden Lab to leave. They spend hours and hours writing vitriolic screeds about LL conspiracy theories. What would they do with that time if they left SL?

The people killing SL are folks like me, who start logging in to SL less and less and one day realize we're not really logging in at all anymore.



Why do you post an article every day that SL is dying?

I am going to recommend that you take your mind off SL and write about something different.

Everyone reaches a point in his/her life where they sometimes have to move on from a relationship or a job. I think you have reached that point with SL.

Please find the courage to move on and focus on something new.

Hamlet Au

I write about a lot of stuff besides Second Life: Minecraft, Kinect, iPhone games, etc. etc. But I really want to keep writing about Second Life for the rest of my writing career. And that means writing about how important the next year or two will be for its survival.

Simeon Beresford

nods you pointed to a generally good article, Though any one who thinks you can productively engage with Proc obviously does not have a complete grip on the situation.

Now if only LL would listen to him stop making negative changes. But what can you say to a company that removed Paypal from its payment options to replace it with something called click and buy.

Arcadia Codesmith

"Instead, Linden should be reaching out to the 650,000 or so who log into Second Life 50 hours or considerably less a month."

No. You're wrong.

There is no "instead" here. The Lab needs to reach out to ALL customer segments and find ways to please ALL of them.

If you ignore what the 150,000 are saying, you're already dead, you just haven't fallen over yet. Those are your disciples. Those are your life.

Before you do anything else, focus in tight on that core group. Don't just listen to what they're saying; listen to what they're not saying. Ask leading questions. Find out what you're doing right, what you're doing better than anybody else, why they are so deeply invested, why they are disillusioned, how you can make it right.

Act on it. Make the best possible world for the people who already love your world, and they will grow it for you. A glowing review to friends is a treasure beyond price. (Fix the damned alpha bug).

Once your feet are firmly on that path, THEN you can start reaching out to other segments and making things better for them as well, without compromising your responsibilities to your base.

It's like advice I was given long ago for auditions -- when a director asks you to try something else, you don't replace what you're doing (if you do that, they'll make a little note on your sheet that says, "can't take direction"). You add what the director is saying to what you're already doing, because what you're already doing is what got you the callback in the first place.

And I think Rod understands all this. The biggest problem with a long-running franchise with The Sims is how to keep it fresh and interesting for new players without alienating the fans that propelled the series to the top and kept it there for years and years.

We face much the same dilemma with Second Life, but the second part of that equation is more important than the first.


Some talk too much without saying anything! at least here I find what looks so clear and precise...
horoscope amour, Tarot Marseille

Seren Seraph

I don't think the problem is communication. I think the problem is that SL is long of tooth and not improving and/or remaining as competitive. In SL I pay nearyl $300/month for a full region that I can get and get 3x the prims in various OpenSim dependable hosting forms for $70. Granted OpenSim grids don't have the user base and such. Yet there I see features roll out as fast as in SL and with more openness. There I have build tools that allow me to create prims up to the 256 m if I wish to instead of the silly patch and blend BS in SL where you can actually do what you want at all without sophisticated unnecessary hackery. SL, if it is to survive needs a much better revenue model than charging those who actually want to build out dearly for the privilege. The latest SL viewers are less performant than the beta mesh supporting Firestorm Phoenix. And they have less features. Regardless of the numbers being posted I note that when I am in world on average 1/10th the number of friends that used to be online at any time are present. This cannot be a good trend.

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