Here’s what I would do on my first day if I were CEO of Linden Lab.
First, kill external marketing and re-allocate the funding to existing resources. Linden Lab needs to say: We’re no longer going to work on bringing in new users, we’re going to focus on satisfying our existing customers and let word-of-mouth drive our external marketing for a while. We can revisit this decision when it seems appropriate.
Second, make customer service a priority, with a particular focus on landowners. Anybody who owns land should get a fast response to problems, and the more land you own, better service you should get. This is just basic business. I know too many people who got out of landowning because they couldn’t get support for LL.
Related to that — discounting the price of land hurts existing, small landowners who were counting on reselling their land to recoup their investment. I know one landlord who left Second Life for precisely that reason. They were paying a couple of thousand dollars a month for server fees. For a middle-class family with four kids, that’s a HUGE amount of money, but that was okay because they had it precisely calibrated to get it back from renting land to tenants (I was one of them), and they counted on selling the islands eventually. They bought a new island, and a short time later Linden Lab discounted the price of islands by a large amount, undercutting my friends’ investment.
Note that these weren’t people trying to make a killing in Second Life. They weren’t speculators. They just wanted to break even.
They left Second Life a few days later, flipping Linden Lab the bird in the rearview mirror. That was three years ago. They haven’t been back.
Third, make a big announcement that they’re planning to BUILD on the TRIUMPH of Viewer 2.0 and use those lessons to build an EVEN AWESOMER VIEWER 3.0. That would be the public announcement. Internally, people who need to know would know the actual story: LL is scrapping Viewer 2.0 entirely and starting over. The goal would be to have Viewer 3.0 finalized by Christmas.
Overall, Linden Lab should not be trying to give Second Life broader appeal, because that involves diluting the experience, watering it down, making it more like Facebook and Twitter. That’s a losing strategy, because Second Life is very different from those two experiences. Second Life needs to do what it has always done when it was at its best; it needs to move in its own direction.
The fourth thing is more of a philosophy: “Let Second Life be Second Life.”
Fans of the TV show The West Wing will get the reference. Forget about growth, forget about replacing the Web, forget about getting bigger than Facebook. Just focus on satisfying customers, the rest will follow.
The fifth thing doesn’t really belong on this list, because it’s more of a feature than a strategic change. But I think it’s a feature that would be appealing to a lot of people, so I’m including it here.
And besides, it’s MY BLOG.
Groups and individuals in Second Life should all be given calendars, with the ability to share events. Right now, if you want to go to a Second Life event, you have to mark it on your calendar and plan ahead of time. Instead, I’d like to be able to subscribe to calendars for venues, groups, and individual performers. That would make it easy to find interesting events when I decide to log in on the spur of the moment; just check my personalized calendar and see which performers, groups, and venues have events going on right now. This would be in addition to Group Notices.
For a guy who all but quit Second Life, I sure have a lot to say about it, don’t I?