Second Life

Inside Linden Lab: The Abridged Version

Thomas Malaby has written a thoughtful, intellectual and engaging book that takes us inside Linden Lab and examines how their work culture influenced development decisions, and the community of Second Life Residents.

And while I fully intend to attempt a thoughtful, intellectual response, for today I’m going to forget all that and give you juicy, gossipy and entirely out-of-context quotes from the book that are unfair to a book that has far more weight than tidbits. But hey - Malaby is appearing on Metanomics this afternoon at 1:00 pm PST, so consider this advance back chat.

(P.S. Highlights in the text below are my own).

On “Cool Stuff”
On how coders chose projects to work on, how their ideas were received, and what motivated them:

“Of course, it bears mentioning that it can matter WHO labels something cool - such an assessment from Rosedale or Ondrejka carried a great deal of weight. The importance of possibly catching Rosedale’s attention and therefore his support with a “cool” idea was widely noted to me…One Linden put it to me as follows” “Phillip will get very excited about something without really seeing it through to its logical end.” Another Linden was more concise…”For Philip, it’s, ‘Look, something shiny!’ The company’s forward orientation, toward an uncertain future, grounded their guesswork in such aesthetic appeals, supplementing the other appeals to tools and to games.”

On Second Life as a Social Space

“In considering this early history, a number of things stand out. In Rosedale’s initial idea for what became Second Life, he did not anticipate how the space would become a social space. I asked in our interview whether they thought they were building a society. (Rosedale responds):

‘Given my background there was always a tendency to focus a little bit on the technical because I found the technical problems to be so fascinating involved with creating this. But I think as a person who had a lot of passion for the idea, I was always struck by the expressive and not so much societal elements, although I have to say: I think that a lot of the enthusiasm I have now for the kind of social change or societal change…to where it matters….I didn’t go in feeling like we’re going to make people’s lives better.’

On Being Creative & Consumers

“Content seems in Second Life particularly vulnerable to commodification, and the emerging distinction between content creators and consumers seems to stand in rather marked contrast to the exaltation of collaborative, technically skilled creativity that underwrites Second Life’s public face. Consumers are nonetheless obviously a boon to Second Life, and this was recognized around Linden Lab. Their purchasing of stuff…is the ongoing engine of Second Life’s economy. But there was little readiness to see this kind of action by users in Second Life as “creative” around Linden Lab, and there is a parallel here to a class of Linden Lab activity that, while essential and ongoing, could not qualify as creative. This speaks to the parallel range of jobs at the Lab and how they were viewed on a mostly unspoken scale from the very creative to the not creative at all and the ways employees felt they were judged based on their place in this classification system.”

OK….so more to come when I do a more thorough, thoughtful review - in the meantime, see you at Metanomics!


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