Second Life

Choose Your Channel: Linden Lab Blog Changes and Finding Your Love

Linden Lab announced that it was killing the single channel blog and replacing it with a new and improved version this coming week: one that will stream blog postings into individual ‘channels’, include ‘members only’ streams for things like educators and solution providers, and give Torley some space back.

I can’t help feeling an odd sense of loss. Maybe it’s on the heels of Robin Linden’s departure from the Lab (and here’s hoping she is true to her word and we see her, um, new her on the Grid). I was really touched today to see the number of people who showed up for her going away party. Even Philip showed up - and said some really kind words, and was inspiring, telling a few anecdotes, reminding everyone of what it was like when you really knew the folks from the Lab to see them. I constantly regret that I wasn’t there in those early days, I guess - I felt like I was standing amongst legends - the people who built the Grid from a bunch of wire and dreams.

That’s me in the back with unrezzed hair as usual. Photo, Ciaran, Flickr.

M at the Helm
It’s starting to seem like we’re seeing the results of Mark Kingdon’s efforts - you know, the ones unrelated to hiring a bunch of VPs with seemingly redundant job titles. (I wonder if the Alphabet Cabinet was vetted and whether they’ve all paid their taxes or properly declared their domestic help, but I digress).

The blog has had a tough time of it over the past year or so - or maybe longer, who knows, I’m not old enough. What was once a pile-on of technical updates, Grid status reports, and open comments that went on forever (with vocal residents talking about lag in the post about SLCC or other unrelated topics) seemed to grind to a stand-still when M arrived, focused primarily on feel good posts that may have had a better home over in the press section.

It always seemed to me that the blog was the one place where you could try to read the tea leaves: there was often just enough technical stuff, or policy stuff, or fire fighting to try to get a sense of future developments, priority areas, or plans without having to wander over to all kinds of office hours.

So the blog, which was once a pile on, at least gave you a place to try to get a sense of direction. In the absence of road maps, a clear strategic vision, or timetables for new features it’s very hard to hitch your wagon to Second Life in any serious way: what you build today could become void tomorrow. Sculptys come to mind in this department, if you’re a content developer. Or the long promised improvements to group management, if you’re into mass marketing or social media. Or how about estate level Windlight, just because???

But M has been nothing if not consistent. In case you missed it: stability and the first hour. Stability and the first hour.

The First Hour Refined
And I believe that the Lab has actually moved past what we typically think of the first hour and has recognized that the first hour is about a lot more than being able to move or change clothes: the absolutely critical thing in the first hour is a) wanting to be there in the first place and b) finding stuff once you arrive.

On the ‘wanting to be there’ part, I was impressed with the latest hint of the Web site changes. The launch of a “What is Second Life” page is crisp, clean, and a well-designed at-a-glance overview of why a new user might want to come on in for a look around.

second life what is web page linden lab

The changes to the blog and forum aren’t just about improving a communication channel, they’re about reorganizing how the Lab itself aggregates and distributes content for the purposes of streaming people to the stuff that will make them stay. The purchase on OnRez and XLStreet were part of the same plan: it’s not just about taking a slice of the content revenue, or about making it easier for creators to sell their stuff, it’s about having access to data, and the ability to search that data, and the ability to aggregate it so that people have a reason to be there.

The Valentine’s Day announcements from XLStreet are a perfect example: it’s kind of like those special events in Warcraft or something - and is also an early example of how the content can be aggregated and distributed across channels: e-mail, blog, log-in screen, search.

As the Grid grows, it’s not such a bad thing to channel users into interest areas. To try to make it easier to find information while avoiding the pile-ons. But I can’t help feeling that there’s a risk we lose that human touch, that personal culture.

The one where Philip can talk about going for drinks with folks from the Lab as a going away party for Robin and where the people listening have maybe known each other for years, before there was prim hair and sculpted cake. Where Valentine’s day is a cheesy bear you made out of prims and library textures, and love wasn’t packaged and delivered through XLStreet.

But then again - I crashed right in the middle of it, along with half those attending. Which is part of that same culture, maybe, and gave us all something to joke and talk about….but might not be what we intend for the years to come.


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