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An open letter to Phil Linden

A very well written little thing, originally written by Marx Dudek on her blog. Such a shame that Phil won’t see it. Needs to be reposted on every source possible.

Dear Philip,

You indicated that your return to the helm would result in a return to transparency. While many of us have been waiting and hoping for this, it seems that we have the same opacity we learned to endure under Mark Kingdon.

If you want to instill confidence in us, Philip, you’re not going to do it with a quick Tweet that “SL is growing, not failing.” This is not communication, this is PR. If Second Life is indeed growing, tell us how it is doing so, something that gives us the confidence that you’re still genuinely connected with what’s happening in the grid. Because, Philip, the global economic catastrophes of the past few years have conditioned us to be deeply suspicious of voices that declare “Relax, everything’s just fine!”

At the present time, there is absolutely no reason for us to believe that Second Life is growing. The mainland is pockmarked with large swaths of abandoned parcels and plots of land are selling for as low as a L$0.5 per m2. We’ve just seen massive Lab layoffs, and the Lindens we relied upon to help us have been replaced with temps equipped with problem-solving laminate cards and no apparent sense of the grid. Mark Kingdon was fired in the middle of SL7B and no explanation was given. The Community Gateway Program was closed. The Teen Grid is being shut down. European offices that were just opened have been shuttered. Avatars United has been closed. And now the announcement that discounts for non-profits and education are being eliminated at the end of the year. Oh, let’s not forget Burning Life has been stripped of its Lab affiliation – as well as its name.

This is not to say that all of these decisions are terrible. Avatars United was a bad acquisition idea from the outset, and I hope that Mark didn’t spend too much money on it. I get the feeling, though, that Mark burned through a significant amount of the Lab’s money on his blind vision for the company.

As we enter into Second Life’s seventh year, the company seems – to many of us who are kept on the outside – to be forestalling bankruptcy for as long as possible.

The grid is starting to feel like Iceland.

We realize that Second Life beats with the heart of a corporation, not a democracy. We agree to Terms of Service, rather than forging Constitutions. We don’t get a vote – except for the money we spend on premium memberships, land auctions, estate purchases, tier, classified ad fees, show-in-search fees, and Marketplace commissions. Yet that money is truly the lifeblood of Second Life. For a very long time, I’ve tried not to become overly cynical about it all, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain positive. I look at my Linden Dollar balance and I wonder if now is a good time to cash out everything but the essentials, and I know that I’m not alone. Money talks, and lately, it seems that our money is the only voice that we have left in our little vitual world.

Second Life is wonderful, and there’s no other grid out there that can touch it. That does not, however, mean that Second Life can’t fail. One need only look at the demise of Blockbuster Video this year – a company that roared over the competition by early innovation, and yet died because management seemed deaf to changes in customer needs and choices.

Second Life is wonderful, but for most of us, it is not a necessity by any means. Any more than a daily Starbucks double-espresso cappucino is a necessity. Life in a virtual world truly is a luxury hobby.

Second Life is wonderful, but our concerns falling on deaf ears time and time again … isn’t.

Let’s face it, to the majority of the aware online community outside of our world, Second Life is a joke. But to several hundred thousand of us, it is worthy of a grand swath of our free time, our social time, and our creativity. The larger online world doesn’t “get it” – but we do. We bring our friends in and we show them around and we take them shopping and we ease them through the various rites of passage and we help them become the next wave of enthusiastic residents.

We are the evangelists. But like all evangelists, we need a message. We need vision. We need to feel as though we still belong. That we still matter. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” And right now, there seem to be a lot of promises and a lot of reassurances, but no vision.

Your only Twitter post since SLCC is a seemingly-terse response to a comment from someone who stated their opinion that SL was failing because you don’t pay attention to social networking. Your response was “Oh yes I do! Plus, SL is growing, not failing.” If Second Life, at the end of 2010 – in the wake of massive layoffs, firings, cutbacks, closures, rate increases, and resident attrition – is indeed growing, then you need to explain to us how this growth is occuring. You seem to forget that we no longer trust that a company means what it says when it doesn’t provide evidence to back up irrationally exuberant claims of growth and stability. Stable, growing companies do not need to assure anyone that they’re stable and growing – its self-evident.

When communication fails, guessing and rumor and misinformation step in. Case in point, the Microsoft buyout rumor. I doubt I’m not alone in speculating that Linden Lab is seeking a buyer – perhaps somewhat desperately. Which leads us to ask, “Who might that buyer be, and how will it impact us?” And the flip side of the question, “What if Second Life is selling, but there’s no buyer – what then? Just how dire are things on Battery Street right now? And what happens if the time comes when we’re told that Second Life is indeed going dark? Will we be given the time necessary to back up years of memories?”

These are questions that are being asked, Philip. If our fears are unfounded, then you need to talk to us – and soon. But more importantly, you need to listen to us, and prove that you’re listening to us by having a conversation with us. And not just one token Tweet, but regular and substantive conversations with your residents. Because we are so much more than customers.

Or at least we like to think so.

Show me you’re listening.

Please respond.

Best Wishes,

The Avatar Known as Marx Dudek

PS: Give us back our identity. We are not “Residents in the Second Life™ Virtual World”. We are Second Life.

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2 thoughts on “An open letter to Phil Linden

  1. Observation shows your thoughts are not your own, but shared by many (myself included). I hope it passes the eyes of its intended target, you would have to be in-human to ignore such logic.

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