Saturday, February 8, 2014

So Someone Really Does Want to Run Second Life


Ability is nothing without opportunity.


 Well, it happened.
          No sooner do I start blogging about not having a CEO at Linden Lab to replace the recently and suddenly departed Rod Humble (AKA Rodvik Linden) then the board of directors appoints a new one.
          As usual I find these things out first from Frau Jo Yardley.  (I’m convinced she’s actually a high ranking Linden who’s managed to keep her deep cover for the last ten plus years.  Edward Snowden could learn a lot from her. Or, whomever she is.  This is a joke.  The real Frau Jo would never live in California!)
          The new CEO of Linden Lab and by extension the boss of Second Life (SL) (Kinda makes him sound like Tony Soprano doesn’t it?) is Ebbe Altberg.  A veteran of Microsoft, Yahoo!, and BranchOut, he is Linden Lab’s latest attempt to turn the S.S. Second Life around.
          Inara Pey has done an exceptional job of charting Ebbe’s life and career starting with his place of birth in Sweden, tracking down his academic career, and then his time with the various companies of America’s technology revolution during the latter part of the twentieth century.  (Sounds so long ago now when I say it that way doesn’t it?)  He seems to have been at each employer just at the peak of its particular niche.  Microsoft when PC’s ruled.  Yahoo! when the Internet began to be all the rage.  BranchOut when Facebook and social media were taking off. 
          Ebbe has either the good sense to know when to move or he has been an unfortunate victim of what happens when giants or wannabe’s falter.  (There’s a lot of that going around these days.)  This is not meant to diminish his accomplishments.  (Remember what happened to Steve Jobs?  Anyone really remember Jim Sculley?)  His responsibilities and positions became increasingly important as he rose through the corporate ranks.
          But, now, Ebbe’s at Second Life.
          What’s the deal?
          In my prior blog, I had two possible scenarios for Rod’s replacement.  The first, an investment banker/finance type to figure out how to either shut down the company or sell it off to someone like a Microsoft.  (Hold that thought for a moment.)  The other was to bring in some sort of visionary who would sprinkle pixie dust all over and magically transform the situation.  Note that both of these scenarios involve protecting investors’ monies because I don’t think anyone wants to spend any more of their own money here.
          Where does Ebbe fit in all of this?
          Not sure, but, let’s go back to that Microsoft comment I just made.  If Linden Lab wanted to sell SL to Microsoft, who better than an old Microsoft hand to lead the charge?  (Presumably Bill Gates wasn’t available because he had better things to do.) 
          Let’s do a quick recap of what Ebbe is getting himself into.
          SL is an aging infrastructure which will require significant capital investment (not to mention time) to catch up with the technologies that have grown up in the last decade.  There has been significant turnover with the executive and staff ranks during this time as well.  I suspect that one reason Lindens are never sighted inworld anymore (There, I’ve said it.  Prove me wrong folks, come and meet me!)  is that they’re frightened by the strong expertise and culture that now exists within the SL community.  Real Life (RL) is safer for them.  The bifurcation of residents and Lindens is a major issue in my mind in any attempt to revive SL. 
          All this leads me to my next point.
          What is the strength of SL right now?  Where’s the value proposition?
          I return to the argument that I’ve been making for some time now.  (Significant Other says that I’m a terrible “I told you so.”)  SL’s strength and value comes from its community namely us.
          That’s right, us.  The residents of SL who come in and make things, have social lives, and sometimes spend RL monies in exchange for Lindens to buy things.  The technical, financial term is “intangibles”.
          For someone like a Microsoft, or even Yahoo! let’s not forget that one, SL is an opportunity to acquire an existing, thriving (if somewhat quarrelsome) community and do with us what it wills.  (Think of Britain’s deportations to Australia in the eighteenth century, “Shove off mates and fend for yourselves!  We’ll send a mail packet to check up on you once we’ve invented them.”)
          The SL community can talk about communications with Linden Lab all we want.  The unavoidable fact is that SL will be all about return on investment for the original investors.  Now may be the time for their payoff.  Now may be the only time for their payoff. 
          Only time will tell what happens here.  Ebbe is going to need time to come up to speed.  Let’s see how long until his avatar walks among us if he even walks at all. 
          Expect some minor changes to keep the residents happy because we’re where the money’s at for Linden Lab.  Virtual ghost towns sell about as well as RL ones do.
          I welcome Ebbe and wish him all the best and every success.  As my English friends like to say, he has a sticky wicket here.  (Sorry about the Australia jibe earlier everyone.)  SL is very important to many of its residents and we all win as long as SL continues to go on and thrive. 
          I just don’t think it’s going to be business as usual for very much longer. 
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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1 comment:

Curtis Neil said...

I do not think a Microsoft accusition nor a Yahoo accusyion would be a good thing.