So, according to Bob Kumin, or BK Linden as LL’s CFO / COO is known “in-world” (I use the latter term lightly, as I believe he’s actually been in-world um, once since his arrival at LL, and even then had very little to say), Rod Humble – potentially to be called Rodvik Linden, according to some – arrived at Battery Street yesterday. This has prompted some (going on the in-world traffic I was privy to yesterday) to start demanding “where is he?” and “Typical…no announcement from him”, etc.
Well…hang on! Give the poor sod a chance.
There has been lots of “free” advice handed out to Mr. Humble since the announcement of his appointment last month. When you push aside all the (inevitable) bitching about this and that, there is to be sure, a lot of sage advice contained within the responses to the announcement.
Similarly, Profoky Neva started a nice little thread in the blogs, urging three-word recommendations for Rodvik to consider. Sadly, I cannot link to the same any more, as it has, in the mysterious ways of the official forums, been deleted for some reason. Again, while there was much hoo-ing and ha-ing among the posts there, there were many replies that had more than a ring of validity about them.
But – and here’s the rub – the fact that both the comments posted to the announcement and Prokofy’s own thread did contain so much in the way of contradicting viewpoints (“Ditch Viewer 2!” vs. “Viewer 2 is great!”; “Forget Mesh!” vs. “SL needs Mesh!”; “Stop making SL inaccessible to older computers!” vs. “SL needs to keep up with technology!” and so on) that, even without the vitriol, one can see the problem Rod(vik) faces even if he merely glances at the replies.
…listening to the users isn’t actually always the best thing…
We’ve all – myself included – repeatedly called for LL to “listen” to its user base (well, I’ll actually redefine that slightly – I’ve been calling for LL to engage and communicate with us – both of which, dare I say, are somewhat more involved (on both sides!), than simply “listening”). But, what exactly does this mean, and how should LL go about it?
As Tateru Nino points out so well, users themselves have such widely varied views on things, that seeking broad-ranging input from them can – whether we like it or not – lead to as much confusion, angst and anger from said users when the outcome is announced, as simply not seeking input in the first place.
Take, for example, two of the most common cries in the responses to Rod Humble’s appointment as CEO. On the one hand people are loudly shouting for the “trashing” of Viewer 2; on the other, people are praising it. Similarly, and more vociferously, we have people loudly proclaiming that Mesh “isn’t needed”, and other citing very valid reasons why it is.
How do you reconcile such entrenched, widely differing views without pissing off at least 50% of your audience?
Of course these two examples are extremes, and to be fair, a large proportion of the “anti” lobby in both comes down to a simple unwillingness to change on the part of those voicing the objections. For example, many of those denouncing Viewer 2 do so on the basis of “having tried it for 10 minutes” before giving up – yet I wonder, when they first joined SL, how long it took them to get to grips with Viewer 1.x? Longer than 10 minutes, I’ll warrant; so why the impatience now?
But leaving aside the extreme position of these views, it does demonstrate the tightrope Humble has to walk, just where the users are concerned – and as Tateru amply demonstrates in her column with a simple little exercise.
Of course, there are “obvious” things that need to be done: stability, performance in general, smoothing out sim boundary crossings, etc., – but these are “easy” as we all see and feel them. What about the more complex? How does LL make SL more attractive, immersive, engaging, exciting – fun – for the “lay” user?
The answers here are far more difficult: ask ten people and get 10 different replies. Add to this the fact that Rod Humble isn’t just “answerable” to the users – he is in his post at the leisure of a Board that at times seems both remote from the realities of Second Life and somewhat hostile towards the user base. As such, he is responsible for heeding their collective will and turning their whims into realities – making any potential balancing act on his part, that much harder (the needs of the few (the Board) will always outweigh the needs of the many, if I might be permitted to paraphrase a certain Vulcan).
All this being the case, I’m not surprised that he hasn’t suddenly bounced into the official blogs announcing this, that and the other. Anyone with any common sense, whether they have been looking around in-world or not, whether they’ve been hopping in and out of the Battery Street offices over the last few weeks or not, whether they’ve been involved at all with the inner machinations of LL or not even from arm’s length – is going to need time to get into the office, settle down and take a studied look at what is going on and how things really work.
If nothing else, the legacy of Mark Kingdon would encourage anyone entering the role to do so with some caution. After all, he was trumpeted in by the likes of Philip Rosedale, who went on to talk about him in glowing terms – sharing the same pod, being of the same mind, etc., etc., - and look how that finished up (and don’t go blaming Kingdon purely for the way things went).
Given all of the above, I’m actually not that surprised nothing has been heard of from Mr. Humble as yet (and that’s taking it for granted that he did arrive OK yesterday as the new CEO); he’s going to need time to get properly to grips with things before (one would hope) he starts making massive pronouncements on just about anything.
But, that said, it would be nice just to get a quick “hello!” from him, coupled with a short statement confirming he’s “here” and perhaps asking for our understanding while he does get settled at his desk and takes time to settle in.