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Friday, July 13, 2012


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shockwave yareach

A company which does not understand what its product is used for, nor understands its customers, is doomed to failure.

Consider the fate of Raxx Hasmatics Interplanetary spaceships of the early 40th century. Except for the odd airlock malfunction, they were the best spaceship manufacturer of their day. Of course, that's only because they were the only manufacturer of their day. Which led to their efforts to escape from the small sales numbers of the outer Saggitarius arm of the galaxy and try to make sales anywhere else and to anyone else.

Which led them to the water worlds which had no need for interplanetary travels. And to the business planets of Rigel, where one was not permitted to even urinate without a business plan for the act. Then there was the disaster in flying the Celephrate corporate leadership in one of their ships as a demonstration, totally forgetting that the Celephrate were mostly combustable paper-like matter and the ships' atmospheres were primarily oxygen (after which, cigars became classified as lethal weapons on Celephrate.)

After trying to get rid of its current customer base of Terra to free up ships for all the future customers they were unable to find, the manufactures of Raxx Hasmatics returned to Earth somewhat bitter about their experience. And upon realizing that their previously lower than desired sales figures were even lower than ever, set out on a new business plan. They decided that they'd begin printing "choose your own adventure" books instead of updating the fleet any further.

There is no record of what became of the executive board of Raxx Hasmatics after that. The records were lost in the worldwide revolution that followed. Some say that the board of Raxx Hasmatics were the first against the wall that terrible year, but nobody really knows for certain.

-- Lex Manticore, "101 things you probably don't know about running a company"

Dartagan Shepherd

I think both are true, in your title.

The quality, stability and feature richness of the platform didn't stand up to expectations and thus didn't meet the needs of the users.

Many types of customers went elsewhere, tried to go elsewhere or just left. An overwhelming vibe that if there were a better alternative a substantial percentage of users would be gone in a heartbeat.

Which also says that they didn't want customers that expected more than they were willing or able to produce.

Personally I think it's naive not to realize that they're seeking not expansion through their other products, but rather replacement products and revenue. After that, why keep such a difficult beast alive when you can do so much more for so much less?

LL isn't exactly known for its prowess in spending.

While they do want heavily addicted users, it's also true that they want more, and more of a better demographic.

What's not true in your title is the part that they NEED so many more. No, they didn't and don't. They were and are profitable. And they would have grown bigger if they didn't over monetize and weren't so greedy.

Their inability to produce game level software and pro tools is a joke and that's what keeps them from gaining the numbers they want.

Keep harping on the fact that they're in eternal startup mode. And that's fine, but I've not seen a company so clueless about what to do with it after the startup is done to date.

So now they're moving on with new startups. With something less complicated than a virtual world, maybe they'll be able to figure out how to grow up as a professional, non experimental company.

It's all about the price and the product. It just never measured up.

Thaiis Thei

shockwave, that is THE most awesome post to grace these pages for a very long time.

Thaiis Thei

Seven Overdrive

I haven't felt like their preferred type of customer since about 2006 when they raised tier on private islands.

I am not a customer that can throw away 300 dollars per month on a hobby, nor am I a customer satisfied with living in a basic cookie cutter home and just spending money dressing up my avatar to watch it dance for hours in a club.

I was a hardcore user until I had nothing to be hardcore about.

Ferd Frederix

I have to agree with Thaiis Thei that shockwave's post is awesome!


Companies are conversations. Memos passed back and forth before being filed away as gospel. Meetings held in boardrooms and around water coolers. Policies and procedures created and executed.

When the conversation changes, the company changes. Only the name remains the same.

In my opinion, you *were* the customers Linden Lab wanted.

But that was the Linden Lab that *was*.


/me bows in shockwave's direction, then passes along a virtual martini from some future virtual world where we can taste the liquor.


"But being as large as Facebook means learning to work with Facebook"

I disagree.

What's the #2 social network behind Facebook? YouTube.

How much of YouTube's success is owed to having a Facebook fan page? I'd say about as much as Facebook's success is owed to having a YouTube channel.

How much of YouTube's success is owed to YouTube links being shared all the time on Facebook? Maybe a lot.

What's the difference though between a company focusing on things like a Facebook fan page, authentication via Connect, 'Like' buttons everywhere and simply letting their product users decide whether or not they're going to post a link on Facebook?

There's a big difference between the company itself depending on Facebook and the company's users depending on Facebook.

YouTube does nothing to integrate with Facebook. It's a self-contained ecosystem with its own logins, own profiles, own messaging capabilities, etc. Yes, as mentioned above users of both Facebook and YouTube ensure a strong link between the two, and as far as I know Facebook's domain might be the top referrer link in YouTube's server logs and vice-versa, but it doesn't change the fact YouTube got to where it is today by developing YouTube rather than Facebook hooks and integration.

There's more Second Life can learn from YouTube than the thousands of unremarkable products clamoring to add Facebook hooks and integration. YouTube like Second Life is built entirely around user-created (and stolen) media. YouTube's media happens to be music and video of dozens of different genres each. Second Life's media 3D, ranging from education and simulation to games and performances. But both are in the business of shared creativity.

YouTube also, like Second Life and unlike Facebook, embraces pseudonymity and exhibits how powerful pseudonymity can be by allowing multiple accounts and multiple channels of any name.

So, Second Life's growth and attraction problem didn't have anything to do with not hooking into Facebook enough. That wasn't the problem before and it won't be a problem in the future. Linden Lab can and should ignore Facebook as much as YouTube does, and instead focus on bringing its core product of creation and sharing to a level comparable with YouTube.

It costs YouTube users nothing but a click of a link to experience creations. Second Life is similar if not for a clunky, buggy, slow viewer.

It costs YouTube's creators nothing to create and share, in fact YouTube offers creators partnership and revenue sharing based on how well their content does.

Yes, I know Second Life is different. Streaming 3D content isn't streaming video, but, does anyone thinks it's cheap for YouTube to accept a 1 gig upload, process it, and then serve it forever through millions of views without ever slapping a pay wall infront of sharing creativity? No. But the people behind YouTube recognized sharing creativity is of utmost importance and so they invent and change business models as they have to in order to protect the core product: shared creativity.

In short, Second Life should be more like YouTube, not Facebook. Both Facebook and YouTube make their money off advertising but Facebook does so by selling a guarantee of real identities to advertisers, which means hostility towards pseudonyms. And when a company like Zynga accounts for 20% of revenue, that means exclusive agreements and hostility towards smaller companies in the one creative outlet Facebook has.

YouTube on the other hand sells ads contextual to the subject of wide ranges of videos, and that range comes from creativity and everything important to creativity like pseudonymity and absence of large paywalls for creators and viewers. And so YouTube manages to be really friendly to creators of all sizes.

Blame Second Life's slow, unreliable software and unclever, expensive, creativity-gauging business model for it not being as big as YouTube or Facebook.

Feline Slade

I'm surprised and flattered to find my dashed-off blog post linked here, so I should probably clear up a thing or two.

First, I have read your book, Hamlet. I own a hardcover copy, purchased in 2008 (you're welcome). Unfortunately, I don't carry it with me at all times, so it wasn't on hand for reference when I was writing that post, so I paraphrased. I now see that on page 32, you wrote "'We came to work,' Harper remembers, 'and there on the top of a hill, she had built a cabin with smoke coming out of the chimney, and next to it, a beanstalk that grew right up into the clouds.'" Forgive my aging synapses on the cabin/house summation. I won't refer to you without my reference materials handy in the future.

The point I was trying to make is probably better illustrated with something else that you wrote in your book. You wrote that the early Linden World developers were more interested in creating a game out of their destructive avatars and rock-eating birds, but they realized that during a meeting, the board members' eyes were drawn to the image onscreen of a giant, evil snowman that one staffer was building, with little snowmen being built gathered around to worship the big one. Even from that early development, the Lab was building something for a different customer base than the one that the platform appealed to. In that case, changes were made to accommodate the situation. (After all, the meeting you referenced in your book was for the investors, and that's one test audience best not to ignore!) In later days, adapting for the customer base hasn't always been as apparent.

Second Life is a for-profit business, and they need to make their numbers to provide return to their investors. To do this, they need to bring in new customers. In an attempt capture new customers, I have observed time and again that they chase the elusive next customer while seemingly taking for granted that the current customer will remain loyal.

It makes logical sense that the Lab wants hardcore SL users. Without them to spend money on tier, to purchase and maintain private islands, and to trade on the LindeX, the lights aren't going to stay on for very long. But the Lab expends a ton of apparent time and energy on customer acquisition while making obvious choices not to put resources into customer retention.

That's what my original post was really saying, in a hurried, ranty way. From the perspective of the seemingly taken-for-granted customer who sees SLCC cancelled and views it as further deprioritization of customer retention, it's discouraging.

It's interesting to see all the feedback here from the wider audience. Thanks for sharing it.


Many of the issues that make people feel they are not wanted by Linden Labs are due to the arbitrary dictatorial rules and absurd limitations inflicted by Lindens upon SL users vis-a-vis: building limits, script limits, interaction limits, interface limits, viewer limits.

Hitomi Tiponi

I do find it odd that when LL were moving Second Life closer to real world business (during the Kingdom era) they removed the possibility of using real names by switching to single name logins. That seemed an odd step and prevented a true link with Facebook ids (which some users would like) - clearly Cloud Party have learnt from that.

Connie Arida

I would not worry that a company that develops a tech is surprised that the users turn it into something unexpected. Ask the persons that invented TCP/IP if they thought their work to make a distributed network impervious to nuclear exchange would be used to enable the myriad of uses today and you would come away with the same look of surprise.
Go with the flow LL.


Not the hero we wanted.. batman batman?!
Where's he going dad?
With Philip to the beach, we'll hunt him there.

Hamlet Au

Thanks for reading the book, Feline, and your additional commentary!


SL has seen it's heyday come and go. It is no longer The Golden Era of 06/07 (the years most lamented by folks who have been in world since then or before in my experiences)

It's time to just move on. Accept the fact it's never going to be anymore than what it is now and maybe that is by design. Pontificating until blue in the face about it is a fruitless endeavor. It is what it is.

foneco zuzu

I wonder how many will feel when the roll out already started on Blue steel will be fully deployed on the rest of the grid.
LL don't have a clue about who and what are their users!

foneco zuzu

(Mesh ground), yes that's what i'm talking about, but well, LL thinks all use sky boxes and only chat, so why the need to make ground level useful to ride or enjoy?

Arcadia Codesmith

I like Ezra's comparison to YouTube. If content is easy and free to create, upload and share, you get a rich bounty of it. Every barrier to that (lack of tools, charges to upload, tier/rental fees) is a funnel that reduces content flow. And virtual reality is an industry that lives or dies by content.

Emperor Norton

How can the Lindens not be concerned about SL? It's their *only* revenue stream until their new games come out. *If* their are L:ndens bleating how awful their customers are, then maybe its time to move on?

I've got say one part of me is peeved off they are using my tier to pay for new products and not the product I am paying for. On the other hand the possibility that one of these new games may give me exactly kind of game I want is intriguing.

foneco zuzu

I pay for a service, not for what that company does with my money, but to provide me a service i enjoy, NOW!
So far, what i see:
Personal contact via direct chat support. fast and helpful!
Contact in world, unknown!
Improvements, taking a lot more to implement then should be expected from a online service (Only now, it seems cross sims are being solved, 9 years after SL birh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Support for the community, completely ignored!
A knowledge they are not thew only ones on the Business, Ignored as well!
And greed that is the mirror of the company owners spreading all over the users as well!
Not a Paradise any could hope or expect, still a lot of good, be on the users side, with an amazing community, despite the lack of support from the company big shots, cause the common Linden workers, seems proud and helpful as they can!

shockwave yareach

Some greed is good -- you dont' bust butt for no reward. But greed should be your reward for accomplishment, and too many companies operate as if the world owes them money for no reason whatsoever.

LLs' problems are not technological, but managerial. There are technological FIXES to SOME of the problems we face in SL. But the heart of the problem is executives that want to make profits without fixing their infrastructure to ensure future profits keep on coming. Not to mention the dictatorial attitude towards the customers with its tomes of commandments; something that could be greatly simplified.

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