Applications and Tools, Collaboration, Second Life, Virtual World Platforms

How Many Lindens Will It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Linden Lab today announced the appointment of Howard Look as Senior Vice President of Customer Applications and in so doing, Mark Kingdon is upping the ante further with his promise to focus on the “consumer experience” noting as he did recently that “80% of our investment and focus is on our core platform and our core consumer user. We are building enterprise and we are improving the consumer experience.”

Now, I have no idea what Howard was really doing over at Pixar, or Tivo…the Lab says he held ‘executive positions’ but then again I’ve watched movies, and at the end there’s the executive producer, and the senior executive producer, and the executive producer’s executrix and a bunch of people with the same last name as the producers, and for all I know Spot is someone’s dog but he was given a producer’s credit – the only one I really care about behind the camera is the director, everything else is done in post-production anyways where some poor sap fixes all the mistakes made by having too many producers around.

Judging by the general yawns and stifled grimaces elsewhere, folks who are currently USING Second Life don’t really care: they feel burned, many of them, they feel unloved, they want a little of that old magic back and maybe it hasn’t been as easy to find lately.

And balancing development – balancing enterprise use, and consumer investments, and the first hour, and worrying about Rivers Run Red and their folks off behind the firewall, and meanwhile the poor Teen Grid never gets ANYONE’S attention – well, let’s face it, sometimes it feels like the current residents are lost in the shuffle.

But I have to admit to feeling a kind of positive, though maybe distant, drum beat in the face of the relentless wave of new appointments with names like Pixar and Macromedia and AOL floating around on all the new CVs being spit out from the Lab.

The question is: can they deliver? And what are they PROMISING to deliver? Because we’re no longer in “under promise over deliver” territory here, we’re in “magic land”. M Linden is promising JOY after all: “One of our key goals is to make Second Life more accessible to more people by making it easier to use, more intuitive, more joyful.”

Joy is a tall order. And if the new members of the team can leverage the work of those who came before (I mean, let’s not forget all the other Little Lindens who Have Full Names Instead of Initials) then wonderful – because I’m more concerned in the long-term if they can bring back a little of the magic, enough to reaffirm the faith of the folks who live there already, but what would be even better is if we could see a new wave of immigration, of new residents who come because Second Life has been given a Second Look.

And that, I suppose, is where I’m holding out just a little more faith. Because in M Linden’s blog post today, he also made passing reference to the work on the new viewer, and there was something hidden in there which could be deeply significant when he said:

“We’ve landed on a new look and feel for the viewer that I am very excited about. Now we begin the hard work of redesigning the menu structures and tool layouts and modularizing the code base so that it can accommodate the design changes we are making.”

And the part that’s significant is the possible implication of modularizing the code base. Because what that COULD mean is a potential architecture for the Second Life viewer that will allow easier integration of plug & play features and tools (very similar to Rheta’s winning UI entry, above). Currently, the SL viewer runs off of code that’s a big amorphous mess. By modularizing the code, this opens the potential for a base viewer to which modules can be added and removed: imagine something like an advanced HUD, built into the viewer, with one for say scripting particles, or one for advanced building or prim animation. A modular code structure would make this far easier to achieve (although of course I’ll leave it to the coder types to shoot me down) and could open a new front of innovation in addition to a more intuitive interface.

I’ll head off to the forums and see if folks will clarify, but hidden in that little gem amongst all the others is a potential future where the tool sets that content creators and residents have access to are more flexible, expandable, customizable – and that’s an idea that should see light.

Oh – and of course, the photo and blog title is a riff off of the famous Pixar light bulb film which launched them as a force in the industry. Any other interpretation of what I meant was probably your own. :P


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