So, Linden Lab has a new CEO, and i’m sure you’re expecting me to employ my considerable powers of insight and commercial acumen to predict what sort of a leader Ebbe Altberg is going to be, and – more to the point – how the face and fate of the Lab, and sl in particular, might change with him at the helm. Well, i’m afraid that you’re going to be disappointed, since i’m very much in the same position as everybody else… i don’t know the guy and there’s little in the way of helpful information i can lay my hands on that might point me in the right direction. As for his competence to lead Linden Lab into a bright and successful future – i haven’t a clue, and neither it seems, has anybody else.
That – of course – doesn’t mean i have nothing to say on the matter, mainly because Altberg’s appointment has – quite predictably – propelled the metaverse into a state of extreme agitation and launched a whole new cycle of doom. As that bloke in the bible said, ‘there is nothing new under the sun’, and i have to say that i’m starting to lose my patience with all the knobheads and naysayers, (many of whom haven’t even set a pixellated foot inside sl for donkey’s years), for whom any event of any magnitude at the Lab is taken as a sign of immanent apocalypse.
Absolutely anything can provide an excuse for these bores to prematurely hammer their last nails of ire into the virtual coffin: The old boss quits?… sl is going down the toilet!; New boss starts?… sl will be dead and buried before the year is out!; New product in the Lab’s portfolio?… The servers will be switched off any day now!; Torley spills a cup of tea over his desk?… The virtual world is coming to a sudden end. Absolutely anything, and i do mean anything, is an excuse for the doom-mongers to gather – in fact, most of the time they don’t even need an excuse.
It really is terribly depressing to see all this nonsense being farted out all over again. Just because something changes there’s no need to assume it’s going to trigger a Worst Case Scenario. Logic, reason and experience lean heavily towards that not happening. Is Micro$oft going to go belly-up because Satya Nadella has just been appointed the new CEO? Of course it’s not, and neither is Linden Lab heading for the great de-gausser in the sky, just because Altberg has been appointed top dog. Yes, he will inevitably bring changes to the way the company conducts its business – that’s only to be expected – but speaking from personal experience, that’s hardly the end of the world scenario that so many pundits seem to think it is. In my own world, i’ve survived a number of changes of bosses, board and business priorities – and, guess what… the business goes on as usual. If every company went bust, or dumped their prime money-spinning products, every time a new CEO was appointed, the business world would be a very odd place indeed!
A number of ‘knowledgeable’ commentators point to Altberg’s previous tenures of businesses that have performed less than prodigiously – this is, (of course), indisputable ‘evidence’ that sl is about to catastrophically fail, or else be quietly shut down so that the Lab can concentrate on a full scale marketing campaign for Blocksworld. Well, if that’s what you want to believe, please don’t let me stop you from jumping ship right now – but no whinging about it when you’re proven hopelessly and categorically wrong.
Much wringing of hands has also taken place because the new boss is neither a gamer, nor apparently does he have any experience of virtual worlds. Some even wonder whether we’ll even see him inworld at all. Well, sorry to disappoint, boys and girls, but he has indeed already taken his first trip into sl although, unhappily, his first experience was – as for so many noobs – a bit of a letdown, (all avatars, it seems, are indeed created equal!).
Is it reasonable to be cautious about someone who has no experience of the kind we might consider relevant? Possibly – but don’t forget that Linden Lab have over 10 years’ experience of building, maintaining and running a virtual world – no matter who the person in charge might be – and to date, they’ve done so extraordinarily well. They pretty much know what they’re doing on that front, (no matter what the critics might say), and i doubt very much they need somebody in charge who has that sort of expertise. Where the Lab do fall down rather badly though is in the areas of communication and marketing and it’s essentially these things that are holding them back. It’s entirely likely that Altberg has a whole new set of skills that the Lab desperately needs from a CEO – a non-gamer, non-virtual worlder in the driving seat doesn’t mean sl is doomed by any means; it could mean the opposite.
Let’s not forget that Ebbe Altberg is running Linden Lab, not Second Life. It’s a business he’s been recruited to manage, not a product, and there is a big difference between the two. It’s a distinction that we, happy in our virtual world, rarely make, but it’s a significant and important one that is crucial to our understanding of the CEO role.
And, if he turns out to be crap… he can always be fired!
Personally, i don’t know what to expect, but the guy can’t be all that bad, if he likes The Who!
Welcome, Ebbe! You’re joining a distinguished line of people that sl residents love to hate, but it’s not all bad, and if ever we bump into each other inworld, how’s about an exclusive interview? (And i’ll show you my bear, if you show me yours!).
His eyes are the eyes that
Transmit all they know.
Sparkle warm crystalline glances to show
That he is your leader
And he is your guide
On the amazing journey together you’ll ride.
The Who – Amazing Journey