It’s been about two and a half years now since Rod Humble – Rodvik Linden, inworld – took the helm at Linden Lab, but if i’m completely honest – it’s only been in the past few months that i’ve really started to take any notice of the guy.
In the early days, i had real doubts about whether he was the man for the job – there was always the nagging doubt that he’d see sl as some sort of extension to The Sims franchise or, just as worrying, consider sl to be past its best and a candidate for early retirement. As time went on, he seemed willing to engage with the sl community, but surprisingly inept when it came to demonstrating an understanding of where they were coming from – graphically demonstrated by the furore that blew up over the removal of second names, at the climax of which, Rodvik appeared to pull the public relations plug and disappear into the background, becoming completely incommunicado; followed, it seemed by the whole Lab, none of whom appeared to want to talk to us.
‘The Big Quiet’ seemed to usher in a new age for the Lab, whilst we all wondered what might be going on behind the scenes – only to be met by stony silence – the winds of change were blowing pretty strongly through the corridors of the Lab. Eventually, the odd announcement crept out… Linden Lab was diversifying into other ‘shared creative spaces’ – new platforms and games that drew on the technical know-how of sl, but were vastly different in format and focus. The ‘sl is doomed’ bandwagon gained new impetus, with the pixellated prophets of doom foreseeing the deprecation of sl in favour of the new, shiny Linden kids on the block.
Then – without fanfare – the Lab started talking to us again. Suddenly the official blog began to be regularly updated with announcements, hints and tips, ‘must see’ destinations and the promise of a bright future for sl. Just as surprisingly, Rodvik crawled back out of his shell, and now he seems to be popping up everywhere. You’ll find him extolling the virtues of sl in everything from videos to interviews and, wherever you run across him you’ll find that he very much sees the potential for sl to continue to grow and develop: indeed, he appears to have an enthusiasm for this virtual world that many of his detractors seem to have missed entirely. Recently, i’ve found myself reflecting on what Rod has done for sl and considering exactly what has been going on behind the scenes at Linden Lab.
We all love to slag off the Lindens, but is that really deserved of late? Compared to the sl of two years ago, our virtual world is now more stable and better configured. More new features – features that bring added value to sl residents – have been introduced within that short space of time than we saw in a much longer period before Rod took over. The Lab itself has diversified, no longer putting all its digital eggs into the sl basket and, now that the Lindens are talking to us again, it seems to me that they’ve become more focussed and purposeful than the Lab of the past – they may not be the cheery, slap you on the back and join in with jolly inworld japes Lindens that we all knew and loved, but they do seem to be showing a more coherent and cohesive approach to running sl than we’ve seen before. When it comes down to the wire, what would we prefer – to see Lindens inworld, having fun and mixing with residents, or an efficient, businesslike crew who spend their office hours working on code, bug fixes and new tools for us to use?
As it is, i get the impression that Rod spends a lot more time inworld than we tend to give him credit for – whatever we think about his understanding of sl, many of the new shiny toys that he’s giving us demonstrate that someone is making decisions that really do show an appreciation of what the inworld experience is all about.
Don’t misunderstand me – there’s still a lot about sl that could be much better, and Mr Humble still has a long way to go before i’ll start singing his praises as the saviour of the virtual world, but i’m beginning to find myself intrigued by the business and technical acumen of the man and – for the first time – i’m starting to think that maybe the Lab made the right decision in giving him the job… there are, i have to say, the first stirrings of excitement about the future of sl that i’ve not felt since my early days in the virtual world.
Maybe it’s just me, but i get the impression that there’s more to the Lab these days – thanks to Rodvik – than simple technical expertise, and a new businesslike approach. It’s not that they’ve lost some of the bumbling about and hopelessness that we’d grown so used to – no, what seems to be different to me is that we’re seeing a restoration of the Labbies’ pride in what they’re doing – no longer indifference, intolerance and frustration with a product and a company with a lost sense of direction, but people who are proud of their business and their flagship product and want to see it succeed.
Perhaps i’m wrong… i hope i’m not!
Does life cut you down to size?
Does it open up your eyes?
Because they all have found their way
As you struggle through your maze
Lagwagon – Angry Days