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Yoz
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Botgirl said: "Without knowing the goals of the organization, their financial situation, the state of the platform (as far as what it would cost to make various improvements), etc. it's really impossible to make a valid judgement about their business decisions." +1000
What Yoz says reflects Yoz's point of view ONLY. Working at Linden Lab for six years does not automatically make him an expert on how to save Second Life (or not). More importantly, it's been nearly two years since he left; the company's changed a great deal since then, and the new CEO (who seems like a good and smart chap from what little Yoz knows of him) will likely change it a great deal more. So overall, one should take Yoz's opinions with a large chunk of salt, especially since he's now spent two paragraphs referring to himself in the third person. *cough* There are loads of good and interesting responses to what I wrote, for which I am grateful and humbled, and they are all taking my words far more seriously than they deserve given how hurriedly they were dashed off. Part of me wants to write a proper long version of the bits related to SL, and another part of me wants to stay the hell away and focus on things more relevant to feeding my family. These, however, are the two main points to note: Firstly, I wasn't clear enough about Second Life. Many people (understandably) interpreted my words as meaning that SL cannot possibly be turned into a commercial success worthy of being Linden Lab's primary focus. But I don't think it's impossible, merely very very hard and deeply risky, especially if one of the requirements is to make the existing customer base happier. (The key word in my original comment is "guarantee".) What I meant by "fixing SL" was "making safe improvements to the quality of the existing service that would be acceptable to pretty much everyone". Nope, I don't think that's enough. In the "radical new projects" I mentioned (note: PROJECTS, not PRODUCTS) I would include major overhauls one could make to SL that would make it much more commercially viable. The thing to bear in mind is that these overhauls would still be both a giant risk and likely to alienate the existing customers, as huge overhauls tend to do. (This all requires much greater explanation, but this comment box is too small to contain it.) Secondly, I managed to totally bury the lede in that comment. My main motivation for all that typing was sadness and anger at Versu's fate. Taking down the product is understandable: if it's not commercially viable, it's of little use to a for-profit enterprise. But it's of clear value to academia and the large IF community. The burial of this revolutionary work, even if there is a good reason, is hard to swallow. In short: don't type angry.
Hey Hamlet (and everyone else), I'd like to make a couple of corrections to what I originally wrote. Any chance you could update the article above (while, obviously, making it clear that the text *has* changed)? I wrote: Unfortunately, during my entire time on the project, the people who told us to build Dio never gave us a consistent explanation of what it was for, or who it was aimed at. The last time I looked at it, they seemed to be pushing it as a photo sharing system. And in retrospect, this is more accurate: Unfortunately, during my entire time on the project, we didn't maintain a consistent vision of what it was for, nor who it was aimed at. The last time I looked, it had morphed into a photo sharing system. I bashed that comment out far more quickly than I should have, and a reader would understandably infer from my comment that I'm blaming specific people (in particular, people who are not me). Placing blame in that way is neither fair nor accurate. As usual, the problem is more complex and widely-spread than that, and to be honest, some of it was just bad luck. So I humbly apologise to anyone, especially LL folks, who felt targeted by my comments.
I worked on Dio for the last of my six years at Linden Lab. It was the most satisfying engineering experience I ever had there, with a completely awesome team: a smart and talented game designer, eager devs doing good peer review and test coverage, really good QA people, all working remarkably well together under a decent agile process. Unfortunately, during my entire time on the project, the people who told us to build Dio never gave us a consistent explanation of what it was for, or who it was aimed at. The last time I looked at it, they seemed to be pushing it as a photo sharing system. (It's a product evolution that sounds ridiculous, until you remember that Flickr came about almost exactly the same way. I don't think you can do it twice, though.) If you don't have a good product vision, even the best implementation in the world won't save you. Or, as a very rich and now very dead man once said, "Design isn't what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Versu was different. I was lucky enough to spend time with Emily & Richard when they first arrived at the Lab, and I honestly can't praise them or their work highly enough. I'm too used to seeing supposedly innovative platforms created from just throwing stuff together until it just about works; the LTP engine, on the other hand, is an audacious, brilliant technical design with a new kind of programming environment to support character-based IF. I find it highly unlikely that LL is hanging onto it for anything other than financial reasons, but hey, maybe they'll find a way to glue it onto SL or some future incarnation. (I never saw Blood & Laurels, but given Emily's unmatched talents, I'm certain this is a huge loss to the IF world.) Overall, I don't think all the acquisitions and new projects were necessarily a bad idea. If LL were simply to focus on "fixing" SL, improving the experience, and getting it to a place where all its current users were something approximating "happy", then it *still* wouldn't be enough to guarantee the company's future. You have to try radical new projects, you have to get them out to the public to see if they work, and even then it's almost certain that most of those projects will fail. You learn from those necessary failures and you do something better next time. Occasionally, one happens to succeed. (In this case, Blocksworld.)
"It's basically chat with avatars - entirely social." 1. Yeah, but WoW is basically MUD with graphics. 2. Yeah, and entirely social apps never take off, do they? Like email, or SMS, or MySpace... The thing about Second Life that makes it special is the extent to which it allows its users to build within it: not just the creation of objects, but the coding of behaviour into those objects, to the point where you can entirely new social tools and experiences using the system as a platform. I haven't seen WoW do that. I'm not saying that SL really will beat WoW, but you are *seriously* underestimating its potential.
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You're conflating two different arguments here. Mike is not arguing anything about ownership, purely about the factors that drive him to contribute. As Stewart said, you have to leave behind the fact that Kevin Rose was basically talking drivel. People contribute to Digg without any expectations of love, ownership or democracy. It's about the various kinds of satisfaction gained from taking part. Ownership doesn't have to be a factor here; sure, it can help, but I'm pretty sure that the Digg userbase is under no illusions about who owns what, irrelevant of Rose's wistful hyperbole. Despite this, they are still there. While I'm definitely in favour of people being owners of the work they contribute, I don't think it puts Digg in a position of being exploitative capitalists. Spending half an hour on Digg every day to post links and spout opinions is not comparable to an eight-hour shift at the plant to feed your family; for one thing, it's risk-free and almost frictionless to pick up and move to a different site. Link aggregation is not exactly a rare commodity. If anything, the site owners are more in need of their community than the other way around - this is why Calacanis made his pitch in the first place. It's not about a just reward, it's about desperation.
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