Saturday, February 1, 2014

Does Anyone Really Want to Run Second Life?


Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

Oscar Wilde

          There’ll be a break from my regularly scheduled writings about Second Life (SL) this week because of events in Real Life (RL) which affect SL.  (No, it’s neither American politics nor the Superbowl.  Nor has Significant Other banned me from going inworld.) 
          What I’m about to write about is probably no surprise to anyone who is even faintly familiar with SL. 
          Rod Humble, the wunderkind brought in about three years ago to turn Linden Lab and SL, around resigned last week to pursue his own projects. 
          This began as a near rumor when I saw Frau Jo Yardley’s post and quickly became a fait accompli.  (My parents would be so proud to see how I’m using their investment in my learning French.) Rod’s gone.  A replacement has not been named as of this writing.  The world goes on. Justin Bieber gets more ink than does this story. 
          I have to ask myself (Because Significant Other’s eyes just roll when I bring up this topic.) why did this happen?  Being a scarred and wearied veteran myself of American corporate politics I never for one moment ever believe the line about leaving to pursue one’s own interests.  (Not unless there’s a simultaneous winning of a Lotto Super Jackpot announced somewhere.)  But, scant information is available so I’m left to my own thoughts.  (Notwithstanding Significant Other’s claim that this is a scary place to be avoided by the unwary.) 
          Did the board of directors finally grow impatient with the lack of results?  Sorry friends, in the harsh world of venture capital this means financial results which are continually improving.  Could the terms of service (ToS) brouhaha have led to Rod’s demise?  Did Rod just get fed up with trying to make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear and really did leave to pursue his own interests?
          Or, could it be all of the above?   
          Me?  I never believe in simple solutions and silver bullets.  The real reasons for Rod’s leaving are probably some combination of the above and a couple of things my overactive imagination hasn’t thought of yet. 
          Which then leads to the next question.  Just what does all this mean for those of us who reside in SL?
          Well, so far, there is no heir apparent.  The RL media doesn’t really seem to have done much with this story other than a few desultory mentions.  Inworld, things seem to be business as usual.  So far. 
          Who should replace Rod?  Frau Jo Yardley has, I believe, come up with the most practical solution of an outsider, and she’s supplied a short list, advised by a council comprised of different types of residents.  Of course, since this is a very logical recommendation and with her being an outsider, LL won’t listen to her.
          Who do I think should get the job?
          My question is who would want it?  I don’t recall reading of anyone stepping forward on the Titanic to take command once they hit the iceberg.  The damage has been done and all we’re talking about now is extrication with the minimal number of casualties (i.e., losses of investors’ monies). 
          Any type of turnaround at SL will require significant capital investments.  Who will invest in an aging infrastructure? 
          Whoever takes the job, and someone will, will tell us a lot about what the board of directors expects.  An investment banker type means shutdown or sell off to someone like Microsoft (which might not be the worst thing).  A visionary, turnaround specialist with a proven track record means hope.  Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see a Steve Jobs type riding to the rescue to save his beloved company. 
          SL has issues.  Dated technology, an aging resident population which is barely at replacement levels with new members, and stalled growth.  One is almost tempted to ask does it really matter anymore? After a run of ten years is SL showing its age?
          At the risk of sounding like I can’t make up my own mind, I’ll say it does.  SL residents have made considerable investments in time, emotion, and money (RL money that is) to create wondrous builds and form tight knit communities.  Maybe these don’t figure on LL’s balance sheet but they have to count for something.  SL is not a child’s board game that can be folded up and put away to be taken out years later when one’s own grandchildren drop by. 
          For now, we must wait and see.  (Significant Other wants to know if SL will go the way of the dodo bird.)  The old soldiers’ adage of “Hurry up and wait.” applies here now.  Somewhere in San Francisco, a group of people who probably have never been inworld themselves, or if they have, not for very long, will make decisions which will affect all of us and our inworld lives.
          I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m not too crazy about this. 
          As for Rod, he did many things while he was among us (I’d hoped for an interview this year, that won’t be happening!) and I wish him well in his future endeavors!  Time and history will judge his impact.  Godspeed Rodvik Linden!
My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.    
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