Editorial: Sansar, Sovietology, and Reading the Tea Leaves

In the days of the old Cold War, American spies, historians, and Sovietologists would spend hours poring over published pictures of Communist party gatherings (such as the annual May Day parade rostrums) with magnifying glasses, trying to figure out who was in and out of favour among the ruling class: who was a new and rising star, and who had fallen from power, perhaps even banished to the Gulag.

And, given how Linden Lab has refused to comment publicly on their most recent round of layoffs, bloggers like Inara Pey and I rely on not dissimilar techniques to read the tea leaves, and figure out who’s in and out at LL. (For example, Inara has pointed out that Landon McDowell, Linden Lab’s Chief Product Officer, seems to have survived the layoffs, as she could still find his Second Life account. Yes, such are the straws we are currently clutching at. Of course, until such time as Landon actually pops up to say something, we’re just guessing.)

A tried-and-true tactic (used to parse previous Linden Lab layoffs in the past) has been to check the ratings and stories of recently-laid-off employees posted to the Glassdoor website. One such review, posted Oct. 31st, 2019, states:

I worked at Linden Lab full-time for more than 5 years

Pros: Some hard working people who were trying to do the right thing and ship a compelling project.

Cons: Exec leadership is inept beyond belief. No clue about the product they’re in charge of or the industry they’re a part of. Sansar had a chance to shine, but leaders who were too scared to make important decisions, constant pivots, and wasting too much time building unnecessary tech spelled it’s doom. CEO was an old friend of the chairman of the board who got the job due to nepotism. CPO was useless.

Advice to Management: Fire yourselves.

Yee-ouch! Well, if I were suddenly and unexpectedly laid off, I would be probably be that bitter too. But the overarching complaint here is one that is often lobbed at Linden Lab: that the company has had great difficulty explaining exactly what purpose Sansar was intended to fill.

(Also a note: of course the board of directors is going to rely on their existing social network to find and hire a CEO! That is hardly a crime. And overall, Ebbe Altberg seems to have done a much better job as CEO of Linden Lab than many of his predecessors, as far as I can tell.)

So, all the hue and cry is pretty much over now, and the people who have been let go have packed their boxes and left the premises. Now what?

Well, now that the marketing people (as opposed to the engineers) are firmly in control of the Good Ship Sansar, I think that we can expect what we were clearly told at the Friday Product Meetup: the new focus will be on live events, with a secondary focus on socialization and communication tools, and providing a better on-boarding experience to new users. Anything that does not support those primary and secondary foci, such as further avatar customization and gamification/questing options, will likely be pushed back, or taken off the software development roadmap completely.

Frankly, a new focus on live events is a pretty canny move for Linden Lab. It also helps define more clearly the purpose of the platform (which, as I have said above, is a core problem Sansar has had from the very beginning).

And Linden Lab wouldn’t have to look very far afield to find talent; it is right under their noses in Second Life! SL has been a fantastic incubator for countless musical performers, some of whom have gone on to achieve real-life success, stepping out from behind their avatar.

If I were Sheri Bryant, I would set up a formal program to try and encourage many of the talented live performers who entertain audiences in various venues in Second Life, to consider using Sansar as a new platform to attract a whole new audience. We have already seen this happen to a limited degree with events that Alfy and others have organized in Sansar; why not pull out all the stops and take it a step further?

Of course, I expect there will also be a big push to bring in small, medium, and big-name artists from the real world. Sansar was already off to a good start in that department; I’m quite sure they already have plans in the works for many future concerts and events.

And, as I have said before, I expect that Linden Lab will continue to cultivate selected social media influencers in an effort to get the word out. It’s the best bang for their advertising dollar in this digital age, in my opinion. Like it or hate it, social media is here to stay, and influencers have power.

So, what do you think will happen next? What do you see in the tea leaves for Sansar? Please feel free to leave a comment on this blogpost. Also, there’s the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the world’s first cross-worlds discussion forum! I’d like to extend an invitation to have you join us and participate in the many discussions and debates that take place there.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: The Queen of Frost

It’s definitely winter here now in Winnipeg. The snow is already blowing around, and it’s chilly outside! We’re settling in for another one of our usual long, cold Canadian Prairie winters. And it’s time for another winter-themed Second Life avatar!

I wanted to share a couple of free hunt gifts that I combined to style an avatar I call the Queen of Frost. The base avatar is the same Altamura Juliet full-body mesh avatar with Bakes on Mesh enabled, which I described here: the Snow Queen. But the hair and dress are new, free prizes from two different hunts.

The mesh hair is a style called Frozen by KMH, which comes in the white-and-blue shown here, or completely blue. It is one of the free hunt gifts of the fall Paripi Hunt, part of the After Paripi Fair (here’s a SLURL):

You are looking for coconuts dressed as people. Here’s a hint to find the Frozen hairstyle: try looking around the fountain in the centre of the park.

And the completely over-the-top Queen of Frost dress is a free hunt gift from BlueMoon Enterprise in the Womenstuff Hunt (here’s the SLURL). You are looking for a brightly-coloured, striped T shirt. Here’s a hint: check the area around the group gifts carefully.

This outfit is more versatile than it looks at first glance. You can take off the skirt and you will still have a very workable minidress for that holiday party! (The sleeves are also a separate, removable piece.)

For shoes to match this frosty outfit, I relied on a pair of free white flats, which are part of a free sample pack of Slink-compatible shoes from Garbaggio, available on the SL Marketplace; Altamura mesh bodies have Slink-compatible feet.

Happy hunting!