A Tale of Two Talks

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the final day of VWBPE 2014 (Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education), but the big events have already come and gone: Wednesday’s keynote speech from Linden Lab/Second Life founder and former CEO, Philip Rosedale, and Friday’s keynote speech from newly-appointed Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg.

Philip Rosedaleimage

Philip Rosedale‘s talk was all about his new virtual world venture, High Fidelity, and his vision of the limitless future of virtual worlds. His presentation was inspiring, informative, and no doubt something else that begins with an “i”, as well. But at least six times in during his speech, I found myself stopping and thinking, “I don’t think he understand how difficult that’s going to be.”

But that’s what Rosedale’s best at. Aiming for the future, whether he hits it or not. Listening to him talk about High Fidelity and the research they are doing there made me think how mind-numbingly boring he must have found his last several years at Linden Lab. I’m amazed he stayed as long as he did. Managing improvements in sim border crossings and inventory loading must have been excruciating when what he really wanted to do was work on a virtual world for the year 2020 that bypassed all that crap.

Ebbe Altbergimage

On the other hand, current Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, seemed completely in his element dealing with Second Life as it exists now in 2014. I found it interesting that that he wasn’t afraid to say “I don’t know” and “we could do [thing lots of people would like] but it would be more trouble than its worth”. VWBPE’s audience of educators have been as badly burned by Linden Lab in the past as any group in SL, and would not have been receptive to bullshit or happy talk.

One astonishing thing that came out of Altberg’s talk was the revelation that a few days ago, there had been a rule at Linden Lab (presumably enacted by previous CEO Rod Humble) forbidding Linden employees from coming in world with their “First_Name Linden” avatars. (Which explains why they had been so scarce the last year or so.) Altberg shared the crowd’s amazement that such an insane rule had ever been put into place and announced that he had ended it and was encouraging Linden Lab employees to go in-world once more.

I was able to get in one of the first questions of the afternoon:

There are a number of communities inside Second Life that have been self-supporting, and quite often most of them don’t get any money, they don’t get tier reduction. Groups like Caledon Oxbridge, the Builder’s Brewery group, the New Citizens Incorporated, these kind of groups. And then we’ve also had informal groups, like the SL Mentors that used to get a lot of support from Linden Lab in terms of the type of work that they were doing … they were getting support when we had community liaisons, but that seems to have disappeared, and a lot of these groups have broken-up. Is the Lab going to encourage these things to come back, and is there an opportunity for groups like NCI and other groups that are out there to be also able to participate in things like the tier breaks that educationals and non-profits are receiving?

(That’s a paraphrase of my original question by Phelan Corrimal, who was announcing all this on the fly from various IMs and notecards and chat questions he was being bombarded with.)

Ebbe Altberg answered (courtesy of Inara Pey’s complete transcript):

“I don’t know exactly, because I don’t know any of these groups and exactly what they were trying to do. but if there are groups in there that are trying to do work in the educational space but they’re not for some reason qualified according to our current rules for what is an educational institution, what is not; is there a grey area there of some that sort-of belong to that community but they don’t have the credentials to say that they really are. I don’t know; maybe there’s an area there we can explore where there are people we could put in the bucket of the educational sector, even though they don’t have those explicit credentials to prove that they are, so to speak.

And that can become sort-of a tricky issue for us; who’s in, who’s out, who qualifies, who doesn’t. but if there are people there working for education, with the intent of supporting education but don’t necessarily work at an educational institution, then maybe there’s something we could do there.

But it could be a lot of work for us, with everybody trying to say that they are, but they aren’t. But I’m happy to look at how that current definition is set, and whether there’s some flexibility in letting more people in at those rates.”

I was both encouraged and discouraged to hear that his main issue was that he had never heard of any of us. Unlike not caring, ignorance can be easily fixed. And he did seem open to offering some sort of tier Linden Lab support to these community organized and funded groups. We will see.

Also, thanks to the people who commented during the discussion, including:

Ambergris Baphomet: Go Oxbridge and NCI!

Beth Ghostraven: Go Caledon Oxbridge U!!!

Aevalle Galicia: Oxbridge! 😀

Riven Homewood: Oh my – just the fact that you don’t know about these groups says a whole lot.

Serene Jewell: Ebbe should take tours of Caledon Oxbridge, NCI, Builder’s Brewery, etc.

Riven Homewood: Some – Caledon Oxbridge, for example – were created in connection with LL.

Ambergris Baphomet: YES!! inworld Educators need love too!

I’m sure they were more, but I could only hear the people with in nineteen meters of me. I hope Ebbe Altberg heard some of them, too.

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