Monday, December 11, 2006

Second Life Update and Product Management

The next update to Second Life is scheduled to be released this Wednesday, December 13th and the mere mention of it has caused uproar among the community. Uproar from the Second Life residents these days has become routine; nearly every bit of information - arguably good, bad or otherwise - is met with some fervent and derogatory remarks. But I think there is more here than just the usual riff.

I appreciated Gwyneth Llewelyn's latest post to explain what it means to manage an inherently complex piece of software, but I am certain will land not on deaf ears per se, but on those ears that neither know nor care what the man behind the curtain is doing. (confirmed by comments to the New World Notes post about same).

So what does this really mean? The comments tell a story beyond the normal moans and groans of an active community - they indicate that the platform has reached the proverbial tipping point, far outpacing the reach and moderation of the few early adopters and archetypes.

That means it's time for some serious Product Management at Linden Lab. Right now it seems they have marketing and technical planning, but the real essence of Product Management is to not only understand the technical aspects as Gwyneth outlined, but also must be able to translate a meaningful plan to the residents, in a way that everyone can appreciate.

A Product Manager would have ensured that Jeska Linden's release announcement was explicit and more transparent, something to the effect: "We are working hard to resolve the bugs introduced by the last release. This is what we think is most important, and why."

Product Management would help focus the development efforts toward what is most needed - in balance - between the adoption of the platform by the residents (what need is SL filling?) and the LL need to maintain technical and architectural viability - scalability, stability and extensibility.

Given the recent population explosion, this must be industrial strength Product Management if the platform is to grow during what will feel like an unbearable drought of release planning, road mapping and inevitable second guessing.
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