Monday, March 31, 2014

Linden Lab CEO: The First 100 Days

Botgirl Questi: Ace Corporate Consultant

I've been ruminating on the future of Second Life in preparation for an upcoming Panel Discussion at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education conference on April 12. After coming at the question from a number of different angles, I decided to put together a short list of foundational steps I'd recommend a new CEO take before jumping into formulating a strategy:

1. Get an independent technical audit of the platform, client, infrastructure and software development processes. This should be done by a third-party with significant expertise in system architecture, software development, user experience, design, hardware infrastructure, etc. Good decisions about the future development of Second Life require a clear grasp of what’s broken and the cost and risks of fixes. In addition to the cost of repairs, I'd want to know what it would take to add native support for mobile devices, a browser-based client, export of inworld objects to 3D printable form and an evaluation of current and emerging standards that could facilitate partnerships and various levels of integration.

2. Do the work needed to understand who my customers are and what life looks like from their perspective. This involves defining key communities of interest and creating detailed user personas through surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews with community leaders. The captured data would be used to define the specific groups, but I was thinking of categories like these:
  • Socializers who spend their time hanging out and meeting new people
  • Artists who create sculptures, images or video using the Second Life platform
  • Fashionistas who enjoy shopping and showing off their looks
  • Role Players who participate in organized games or informal communities
  • Entertainers who play music or participate in theater, dance or comedy performances
  • Educators who use Second Life as an extension of RL classes
  • Patrons of the Arts who visit galleries and art exhibitions, listen to live music, attend theatrical performances, etc
  • SL Merchants who create and sell products or services
  • Land Developers who acquire, improve and rent land
  • Professional and Semi-Professional Content Creators who create and sell products
  • Explorers who spend most of their time visiting new places
  • Bloggers who write about Second Life

    3. Refocus development of the Second Life platform and client based on priorities of key user groups, balanced by the cost/benefit/risk ratio of the changes. I would assign a product manager to represent the voice of key user groups. Using Agile methodology, the software would be developed in short iterations with frequent delivery of small updates.

    Of course, there are many other important areas of considerations, but I see these as three foundational requirements that would be well worth the effort.


    R. said...

    That list of focus groups and sub-communities is nice, but is it really something that should happen on the CEO level?

    I think an important item on that list would be to realize how many people are pleading with the CEO to get important things (to them) done.

    This is a sign of an ineffective or incompetent customer relations team. Probably speaks badly for the management that should be intercepting and handling/prioritizing those requests before they get to the CEO, too.

    It's time that the customer-company relationship was taken care of seriously in a way beyond limited developer usergroups, begging the ceo directly, and file-a-ticket support staff.


    Botgirl Questi said...

    I agree that the CEO himself wouldn't personally manage those items, but they're so critical that he should direct the appropriate management people to make it so.

    Rhianon Jameson said...

    I want the CEO's go-to guy/gal to be called NumberOne Linden. Just for the opportunity to hear, "Make it so, NumberOne."

    R. said...

    @RJ - That assumes that COO Linden is checking with CEO Linden before doing something mundane or trivial or don't-bother-the-ceo-with-y. Which is the problem with LL now, and needs to be handled a rung or two down the ladder.


    Botgirl Questi said...

    Crap: There's a concept in the military called "Commander's Intent." The idea is that if subordinates are clear on the Commander's goals, they can make good decisions in the field, even when not explicitly part of their orders or when the situation changes that make parts of the original plan untenable.

    So one reason for micro-management by executives (if that is what's happening) may be because they haven't articulated the higher level priorities that should drive the lower level decisions.

    Pep said...

    Ebbe's first 100 days have reflected Rod's: loads of bullshit, primarily written by his idiot PR/marketing team, then silence as he realises that he can't control the communications channels, punctuated with the odd attempt to generate interest and credibility which gets shot to pieces immediately.
    Pep (is still waiting for some indication of how Ebbe's supposed belief in transparency and empowerment is to be translated into something at least one microcommunity might benefit from.)

    Vanessa Blaylock said...

    Awesome post Botgirl! Love the indy tech audit! Love the identify user types!

    And, Oh-by-the-way, did CEO Botgirl get a makeover? Love the new look! Drips with power, vision & authority!

    Botgirl Questi said...

    Pep: I have no idea what's been going on behind the scenes within Linden Lab since the new CEO started. I like that he reached out on Twitter for a little while, but engaged CEOs barely have time to answer their business email, little alone be responsive to individual customers on Twitter. Hopefully, his speech at VWBPE will give us some idea of his vision for SL and some of the initiatives he plans to focus on in the coming year.

    Botgirl Questi said...

    Vanessa: Thanks! I've been playing around with updating my seven year old avatar with some advice from Strawberry Singh. This particular look was put together for this post.

    Burhop said...

    Transparency.... For a small company, with (mostly) bright employees,in the market they are in, I've never understood why they have struggled so much with it.

    Will Burns said...

    Personally, I would completely ignore #2 on this list. Catering to the pre-existing culture is why they have the chaotic Attention Deficit results that they do.

    However, *understanding* those use-cases and how to make them better is definitely something to do. But in an agnostic manner which can be applied for contexts outside of those pre-existing scenarios.

    Which essentially boils down to, harden and make the platform more robust so that the agnostic changes implemented can benefit all of the use cases and empower them further, while creating the opportunity to be applied to future looking use-cases just the same.

    Botgirl Questi said...

    Burhop: My guess, and it's just a guess, is that it's overcompensation for their early years when they did wear their hearts and plans on their sleeves.

    Will: We disagree about the value of their current users groups. I think you see them as old baggage LL needs to let go of in order to move forward into the mainstream markets. I believe that current user groups will be the core of their business for the foreseeable future. That said, in parallel I would do a new client design from scratch targeted at neophyte users.

    I agree that about the need to address foundational technical issues that continue to plague the platform like lag.