Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What's Phasing Grace?

UPDATE: A few hours (literally) after I published this post, M Linden (mentioned below) posted"A Letter to Second Life Residents" to the Second Life blog. It provides some insight into the Linden lab short term priorities including another redesign of the interface:

.. recognizing that new users don’t need such a dizzying array of features, and experienced users, land and business owners and content creators need better tools that are more thoughtfully designed and organized for their needs. Everyone needs better inventory management and search is due for an overhaul. We hear you. We’re on it.

Original post follows.

I took a hiatus; I admit it. The last time I said I'd hang a "Gone Fishing" sign, but this time I didn't really intend to be gone for more than a few days. I have been blogging elsewhere which has consumed a good part of my time, but ultimately a few things in world "phased" me and I've found it's at those moments that it's best to spend more time looking inwardly than speaking outwardly. So here is a summary, in order of my recent phase transitions.

So long, Soj

The first was the loss of The Sojourner - a Second Life friend, a true leader and role model. If you didn't know Soj, there's really nothing I can write here that will help you understand or appreciate her any more than what you can find at the memorial wiki for her. Losing Soj made me realize that while in the midst of strife, stress and attendant turmoil something brews inside these spaces far more important than inventory loss, a failed teleport request or a temporary outage. This is a place to make a difference, but that requires less bark and more wag. No technology - no matter how perfect - can deliver us from our own shortcomings as humans, nor can it raise it above our limitations of geography, financial, physical or mental constraints, and/or religious or political views without the people who have the selflessness, passion and determination to take a chance and make a difference, like Soj did every day.

Call me M, short for Missing

The next thing that tweaked me was the Second Life 5th Birthday (SL5B) celebration. I had my own set of frustrations with the leadership and execution of this event, but it was something more subtle and admittedly less spiritual - I have come to call it "Call me M, short for Missing".

On April 22, I read Philip's "Announcing our New CEO" post on the Second Life blog with some enthusiasm.

"I said a month ago that I was looking for a new CEO to lead Linden Lab, and we’ve found one! His name is Mark Kingdon, and his Second Life name is “M Linden”.
...He is a well-loved people leader who is fearless and can weather challenges and change."

I often take things far too literally, so naturally I hung on the promise of that last sentence. The phrase "people leader" rang in my ears with resonance of community, communication and engagement. I know I promised to give M Linden some time, but in the eleven (11) weeks since the announcement and I had not seen or heard much from him so I made sure to go to the opening keynote for SL5B.

Admittedly I crashed 2-3 times but despite that normality, M's comments left me listless. I wasn't sure why so I took M's keynote transcript and pushed it through the delightful tool called "Wordle" to retrieve a word cloud.

mlindenSuddenly, my listlessness became clear. In 891 words, the new CEO tells us he thinks things are REALLY CREATIVE INTERESTING GREAT and EXCITING. I wanted to write one of those "open letters" to M.

Dear M Linden,

Welcome to your world, our imagination. We are glad you are here, and wanted to point out that in your new role we're going to need you to be really CREATIVE, and do something INTERESTING that makes us say things like "whoa, this is GREAT" and "OMG, that is REALLY EXCITING." and we need that pretty soon given the trough of disillusionment we might find ourselves in shortly. Like totally, dude.


We're on a mission, Charlie ...

Mitch Kapor, entrepreneur and Linden Lab board member, provided the closing keynote address for SL5B and again I made sure I could attend. Arriving early, I had the pleasure of meeting Dusan Writer in the pixel. An odd thing really, as we had only previously met in person at the last VW conference and online via the occasional blog banter, but I digress.

I'm not going to talk about Mitch's keynote word cloud. There were 4,452 words but Mitch had one primary point to make, echoing the altruistic vision for the platform. In summary, to "improve the human condition", but in Mitch's words:

My first point, you know when we experience, when we create and participate in a new technology ecosystem like Second Life, we bring all of ourselves to it. We bring the good, the bad, and the ugly. And so what we choose to do with the possibilities is extremely important. <lots of words>

And what do we do with all this power to imagine and actually create a world. For all the fascination we have with the power of technology, I have come to believe ultimately it is what is in our hearts that determines the uses and the impact. And so this is my point, it is really a choice to work to make things better, just as it is a choice to do things which have a negative impact. And so I want to encourage all of us to see the opportunities and to raise above kind of pettiness and personal complaint and to reach for the best and highest within ourselves in making what we can of this opportunity, which brings me to my next point.

If you have not recently read Philip's 2006 post entitled "The Mission of Linden Lab" I encourage you to grab a hot beverage and do that .. go ahead, I'll wait while I refresh my own memory.

.. my best definition of our mission is that we are working to create an online world having the exceptional property that it advances the capabilities of the many people that use it, and by doing so affects and transforms them in a positive way. More specifically, since there are so many possible definitions of ‘online world’, we are trying to create a close reproduction of the actual physical world we live in – one that will be easily comprehensible and useful to us because it will so closely resemble ours. The ability to simulate our world on computers means that we can make it different in ways that empower us, allowing us to do things that in the physical world we can imagine but are incapable of. Largest among the new capabilities we seek to create through this simulation are: Improvements to our ability to communicate quickly and accurately with each other, and the ability to rapidly express our thoughts or intentions as shared artifacts within this new world.

Welcome back. We left off right as Mitch Kapor was making the highly anticipated "big announcement", the institution of The Linden Prize. From the transcript (which by the way, does not match Mitch's spoken words, you can listen to the keynote here):

Linden is going to establish an annual award for superlative achievement that exemplifies the mission of any human condition to using Second Life. And any Resident or institution or organization using Second Life as an innovative disruptive technology is going to be eligible. This is going to be an annual prize. The prize amount is going to be US$10,000 paid in Linden dollars and the judges are going to come from a broad cross-section of participants including Residents and there will be lots of details coming out about this in the blog and the website.

So that was it, the climatic announcement was a monetary prize paid in non-recognized currency for improving the public image of the platform?

I am disappointed that Linden Lab used a big announcement hype machine to generate buzz for SL5B at a time the Residents really just need to hear a clear plan of action toward meaningful improvements, and to be reassured that what Philip said in 2006 in the context of "the mission" (emphasis mine) is really true:

Beyond the details of financial performance, we will have been successful in this mission if we, in the smallest amount of time and capital, make Second Life work as well as possible given the limits of the underlying computer technology, and reach the largest number of people. You should expect to see the great majority of our efforts directed toward a balance of those two goals.

Balance, now there's a mission worth pursuing.

Zemanta Pixie

Share Some Grace:

blog comments powered by Disqus