Rod Humble is very much a Q&A man, something I can personally attest to, and which was shown back in June with his Q&A session with Best of Second Life magazine. There are pros and cons to this approach.
On the one hand, and particularly when working across large distances and different time zones, it means that neither side is tied to trying to commit to a day / time (at possibly an ungodly hour) in order to try to hook-up either in-world or by ‘phone or via Skype.
The downside to this is that it prevents a spontaneous conversation from developing, which stifles rapport, perhaps of greater impact from the reporting side of things, it gives the Lab the freedom to dictate the direction of questions / cherry-pick which questions they are willing to answer.
Much has been made of this second point, although from my own experience I can say LL are not the first to “vet” or pick questions to answer within an interview, and I doubt they’ll be the last.
However, perhaps what frustrates me more about the whole Q&A style approach is that can isolate questions from their broader context (unless submitted with reams of explanatory text), which can further dissuade the Lab from responding, when a more face-to-face contact might enable the aforementioned rapport to be established, resulting in a more relaxed exchange in which some answers might be a little more forthcoming.
I’ve no idea how much time Eric Johnson of All Things D got with Rod Humble recently, or how many questions were vetoed ahead of the fifteen that were answered. However, while the resultant interview, which appeared on July 5th, may initially appear to be much the usual mix of things we’ve been hearing about in interviews with the Lab’s CEO in general of late, it is a worthwhile read.
For those eager for Oculus Rift, for example, we find that the Lab is potentially looking at a “late summer” public debut for their support of the headset, and that Humble himself has been able to experience the capabilities.
I’m not actually that intrigued by the arrival of Oculus Rift in SL – although I can fully see the potential in integrating it into SL and the opportunities it may well open for the platform across a range of uses, and am thus fully supportive of the work being done. However, what does intrigue me is how the Lab are going to integrate Oculus Rift with the UI. Are we perhaps going to see the iteration of an entirely new form of viewer to cater for it?
More interesting from my perspective are Humble’s comments around new users. I recently had the opportunity to fire my own questions at Mr. Humble in June, and the issue of new user retention was on my list.
Sadly, it was something he sidestepped somewhat (which is perhaps as much down to the way I asked certain questions as anything else); so it was interesting to read in the All Things D article that of the approximate 400,000 sign-ups a month SL receives, some 80,000 are still logging-in to the platform after about a month (some 20%). As Humble himself notes, that’s a massive drop-off; however it might also be said to be sufficient to ensure the churn is enough to stop the platform hemorrhaging users in quite the way some of the more dour commentators like to present.
We also get to see more of Humble’s thinking behind the direction in which he’s taking the company:
Game makers are always trying to stay one step ahead of content creation, so you get these bigger and bigger budgets, trying to make more and more polished content. Second Life and YouTube are both rewarding their users for what they create. I believe there will be a day when you’ll log in to your social network and see, “Oh, I got five bucks because I posted my silly cat picture.” What I’m trying to do is position our company to take advantage of that and facilitate people being rewarded for the time they put in.
Whether this positioning involves SL in the longer term, particularly as the company does appear to be involved in both investing in new virtual environments (such as High Fidelity, wherever that leads) and perhaps creating a direct successor to Second Life itself, remains to be seen.
For those curious as to why the Lab hasn’t itself pushed SL to the mobile / tablet environment, Humble also provides food for thought, both pointing to TPV work in the area and why the Lab has tended to avoid getting too involved.
Overall, this is another Q&A session which can easily be lambasted for being one-sided and only talking about the things the Lab wants to talk about; however, that’s actually what PR is about – promoting the things you want to promote and generating the interest you want to generate. While the All Things D does at times cover ground ploughed in earlier interviews, it also covers some fresh territory and provides further insight into some of the thinking at the Lab, and that alone makes it worth the time taken to hop over and take a gander for yourself.
- Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble on Second Life’s Tween Years (Q&A) – All Things D
- Taking a peek at the latest new user experience - this blog