Scott Jennings argues that Linden Lab needs to do a better job communicating with its customers and the marketplace in order to stop its inevitable death. (Via Wagner James Au.)
Linden Lab needs to even reach out to — rather than ignoring — perpetually angry customers, Jennings says.
But the loudest complainers aren’t killing Second Life. They have too much invested in hating Linden Lab to leave. They spend hours and hours writing vitriolic screeds about LL conspiracy theories. What would they do with that time if they left SL?
The people killing SL are folks like me, who start logging in to SL less and less and one day realize we’re not really logging in at all.
I had a brief spike in Second Life activity after I announced a couple of week ago that I hardly ever log in anymore. That was predictable: Thinking about it brought it back to the center of my attention, and the post had been triggered by a RL friend’s request for a Second Life tour. However, now I’m back to ignoring Second Life again. I’ve shunted all my email group announcements to a folder that I haven’t checked in several days.
What would bring me, and I think other disaffected Second Life users, back to Second Life is not better communications by Linden Lab — it’s something interesting to do in there. That’s all. If I hear about some kind of compelling speaker or event, I’ll go back. There’s one or two clubs I occasionally like to visit. But I’ve been busy lately with the new job and this blog and other projects, and haven’t felt like I wanted to invest the time in SL.
But I keep reading Second Life blogs, and SL Twitter feeds, and even writing about it (as I do now). Why? Because I enjoy it. I like the blogs. Two new discoveries among my favorites: Girl Wonder Speaks, by Tymmerie Thorne, and Second Life of My Dreams, by Chestnut Rau.
Also, Second Life’s decline leaves a hole in my social media life that hasn’t been filled by anything else. Doug Thompson, aka Dusan Writer, addressed this point. I said that Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are superior to SL because they can be used with short bursts of attention, even partial attention, whereas SL requires continuous, full focus for a long time (a half-hour or more at a stretch). But that’s not SL’s weakness, it’s one of SL’s biggest strengths, it’s immersive, like a great movie or book. It takes you out of your day-to-day life for a while.
By the way: I have enormous respect and affection for Wagner James Au, but I’m baffled by his continuing hammering of Facebook integration and point-to-move as needed to save Second Life. Are those features useful? Probably. Important? Maybe.
But, you know, painting a ship’s hull is important to maintenance. It keeps the ship from getting rusty and covered with barnacles and vastly improves the usable life of the ship.
However, painting the ship’s hull is not important when the ship is actively sinking.
Au argues that Second Life’s core customers bizarrely “hate and fear” change.
I simply don’t think that’s the case. I think it is more the case that SL’s customers have zero faith in Linden Lab. They believe that if Linden Lab changes something in Second Life, that thing will break, and be worse than it was before. They don’t want flashy new features while the service is still so buggy and difficult to use that most people don’t bother trying.
Jennings nails what’s really going on in a metaphor that is both perfect, and likely to be offensive to some people:
In fact, recent mishaps by Linden Lab (Second Life’s owner/maintainer) which I documented here essentially have turned the Second Life community into a battered spouse. “Just *stop hitting us* already! Leave us alone and let us do our thing, OK?”
I recall encountering this exact sentiment in interviews with women who have been seriously battered by their husbands, who have been sent to emergency rooms multiple times by spousal violence. They no longer wish for love from their husbands, or affection, or financial support, or help raising the kids or running the home. And these women know their husbands won’t leave them, or allow them to leave. They just want to be left alone.
And that’s the attitude of the remaining Second Life residents. They’ve given up any hope that Linden Lab will prove to be a competently managed company, they just want Linden Lab to keep the servers running, and not try to change things.
Somebody, somebody’s going to write a fascinating history about how Linden Lab created something as absolutely wonderful as Second Life, and then proceeded to screw it up. How can the same company be so brilliant and so stupid?
Despite all this gloom, I’m seeing some signs for cautious optimism. No, even that is phrasing it too strongly. Let’s just say that amidst all the gloom, I’m seeing parts that aren’t gloomy. New CEO Rod Humble seems to know what he’s doing (but then again I also liked former CEO Mark Kingdon). The new SL Viewer with Basic Mode is a step in the direction of allowing potential new users to come in and check out an event without having to spend an hour having to learn to use SL. And this week, Linden Lab hired a new VP of engineering.