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Linden Lab's New CEO

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BK Linden

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I’m happy to announce some very exciting news today: Rod Humble is Linden Lab’s new CEO. Our press release is here. You’ll hear from Rod himself after he starts in mid-January, but in the meantime, we wanted to share a brief introduction.

Rod has an impressive depth of experience in developing and leading fun, immersive entertainment experiences that have been great successes. As a 20-year veteran of game development, he’s worked on more than 200 games, and last year, the gaming magazine Edge named him #2 on their annual list of Hot 100 Game Developers. Rod is coming to Linden Lab from Electronic Arts, where he was Executive Vice President and led EA Play, including the best-selling PC game franchise of all time, The Sims. Prior to EA, he was a VP of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment, where he led the EverQuest Studio.

Rod has a deep appreciation for what makes Second Life special. He’s already been exploring and experimenting inworld to familiarize himself with the pluses and minuses of our product and the successes and challenges faced by our Residents. He’ll officially start at the Lab in mid-January, and I’m excited for us to begin 2011 with fresh perspective, renewed energy, and creativity.

To give you a sense for Rod’s creativity, personality, and perspective, here are few links to his personal creations and a couple of press interviews he’s given:

Art games Rod has created in his ‘spare’ time:

Press interviews with Rod:

Happy holidays to you all from Linden Lab! We wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year -- it’s going to be a great one for Second Life!

Rod's bio:

Rod Humble is Chief Executive Officer at Linden Lab, and he leads the company’s strategy and the development of Second Life. Humble’s 20-year career in the game development industry has included work on more than 200 games. He joined Linden Lab from Electronic Arts, where, in his role as Executive Vice President, he led the EA Play label, which includes the best-selling PC game franchise of all time, The Sims. In 2009, he was ranked #2 on the annual list of the Hot 100 Game Developers from gaming publication Edge. Prior to his work at Electronic Arts, Humble served as Vice President of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment for the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) EverQuest.
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Welcome, Rod, hopefully a game developer pro will bring LL back on track.

Now please trash the trash nemed "Viewer 2" and make these guys fix the mono bug which stalls entire SL.

Good Luck and I wish you all the best!

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Dear Rod,

Welcome to the world of Second Life – the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly, but also the always-quirky.

I’m glad you’re spending time in-world (incognito, presumably) to get a handle on the strengths and weaknesses here. There is much to laud when it comes to Second Life (although far too many of us, as users / residents tend to forget the good things while rending garments and gnashing teeth), and much that is weak (and in many cases justifies the aforementioned rending and gnashing).

It would be so easy to list out all of the latter and point fingers here and there (as some already have); but by-and-large, I’d like to avoid all of that and simply ask that you do one thing as you explore and move closer to officially starting: please take time to look at the forums (official and otherwise) and ponder the manner in which the Teen Grid / Main Grid merger is being handled.

Now, before any eye rolling occurs – let me say that I’ve nothing against the merger; in difference to many of the doom-laden posts, I actually think it will not cause the kind of upheavals and issues many are predicting.

However, what it is doing, as with other policies of a similar nature that came before it – notably the Adult Policy changes that saw the creation of the Adult Continent, Zindra – is exacerbating a growing rift between Linden Research and its community of users – a rift that one might say is already alarmingly wide.

While fears of Abuse Reports, over-anxious mothers climbing the wall over things “little Timmy” or “little Janey” might see on-screen and so forth may well be over-egging the mix – it cannot be denied that the decision within Linden Research to continue to mix both “G” and “M” (for mature) sims in single Mainland environments *is* a cause of major consternation among users – particularly because what is and is not allowed under the terms of use of each of these sim types is so disparate.

These issues could be so easily resolved through the formation of a “G” rated continent. Indeed, this is something Linden Lab's own users have been requesting for a very long time – dig down a little and you’ll see it even pre-dates the Adult Policy Change / Zindra farrago that severely damaged the company’s relationship with a large proportion of its user base (and not just those forced to move to Zindra).

The principal ideas behind the development of a “G”-rated continent have never been deniable – although they have always been dismissed in what has always seemed to be an entirely offhanded manner by Linden Lab. However, with the merger now underway, and with you embarking on your journey as the new CEO, I would suggest that the time to openly and honestly review the idea once more has never been better, and if you do nothing else during the first few weeks of your tenure, you'll give free and full consideration to the major benefits of establishing a G rated Continent:

  • It removes all of the angst that residents (rightly or wrongly) feel about the current situation wherein G and M sims are “OK” to be located side-by-side within the Mainland
  • It offers teen users a far more enjoyable SL experience, as they can benefit from a contiguous land mass that will enable them to do everything that helps to make Second Life a fun place: they can race cars, they can enjoy large, urban environments, they can ride trains, they can fly aircraft, they can race boats, they can wander and explore well beyond the limitations of “single” 256x256m sims without having to rely on teleporting
  • It provides a “cushioned” environment in which those graduating from the “sponsored” sims operated for 13-15 year-olds can find like-minds friends and continue their growth within SL
  • It provides a unique (dare I say "captive"?) marketplace for those content creators wishing to specialise in “teen-oriented” goods and services
  • It allows for overall better marketing of Second Life to teens, presenting them with a “world” of their own in which they can create  - and at the risk of repeating myself – is somewhat better than a hodgepodge of “isolated” sims bordered by lands they see, but to which they are denied access.

There are many other benefits to developing a G-rated continent beyond these. A big issue for Linden Research over the last two years has been the desire to make Second Life a “better, more predictable user experience” – and yet, if one is brutally honest, the company’s repeated and continued refusal to openly consider the merits of a purely G-rated continent has actually done much to undermine this stated goal, and indeed continues to do so.

Right now, with the merger, the nexus of a purely “G” rated continent already exists: the former (or soon-to-be former) Teen Grid. Using this as a basis, Linden Lab has the means to develop a “better, more predictable user experience” for adults and teens alike; not only for the reasons stated above, but also because it does nothing that will hinder the healthy and proper interaction between teens and adults on a daily basis within Second Life.

I appreciate that time is short: the merger is underway: the Teen Grid is closing in January – but the mark of a good CEO is a willingness to hold up a hand and say, “hang on a mo’, I’d like to review this before we go too far,” and I sincerely hope you’ll take a long, hard and unbiased look at the idea, and bear in mind that - with due respect to all at Battery Street – sometimes users *do* have good ideas, and equally, users *can* have a better intuitive understanding of a platform’s needs than those that developed it. There is much to be gained from the idea – and next to nothing to lose.

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I like the Viewer 2 - I'd like more realistic clothing that "hangs" or "drapes", and is not just stuck on the skin.

 

I love SL, am  a paying subscriber and spend Lindens inworld.

 

Good luck!!

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I echo Esparanza's comment on using SL for education.  Virtual worlds, like SL, has the potential to become a valuable business and education tool, yet sadly is lacking some very essential aspects from LL's business model to functionality.  At this point I am beginning to loose hope that LL be the first ones to meet these needs.

I am a 30 year Enterprise level, IT veteran, IT Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves as well as working on my PhD in software engineering to become a full time professor of computer science when I retire from my "day job" in charge of emerging technologies for State transportation.  One of my future projects is to create a "virtual State" to be used across the state to include, but not limited to, "virtual tourism", disaster planning, construction planning, and of course education. I recently left a State Education Cabinet where I was ordered to learn SecondLife for use as an education platform and my final report was to wait to see which group got their act together with the right policies, platform and tools to meet the education and business needs.  Currently LL is NOT moving in the right direction.

Three biggest mistakes I have seen made in the IT industry (which LL is not alone):

1) Making Geeks into Managers

2) Allowing NonGeeks to make technology decisions.

3) Not including key (and qualified) representatives from their paying customers in the decision making process.

A successfully IT Leader needs to have a very strong business and organizational foundation with equally strong IT experience who understands the needs of their paying customers and brings them to reality.  My question is do we now have a CEO with these skills?

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Welcome Rod,

When I read the Post title I was both pleased yet anxious as I clicked on the link to read, it not knowing if this announcement would be a disappointment or something positive.  I am so thrilled to have read you are now CEO.  Congratulations!  Your previous work, work experience and, most notably, your views and the passion you still hold (that is conveyed in interviews) is the breath of fresh air that can take SL back to the dream we all know it can be!

It will be intresting to sit back and watch what your focus will be and I look forward to what is to come! Again, welcome and congratulations!

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edge ranked this guy ahead of hideo kojima! TRAVISTY! but this rod guy should be ok. everybody thinks im playin the sims anyways hehehehehe. though why not shoot for the moon and hire edge's #1 guy  from rockstar games. now THAT would liven things up around hur. or hideo kojima. HE would turn everyday of second life into a MASTERPIECE! but i know i know Linden Lab aint got no monies like that heheheheh. Hideo papered up high up inna sky! with YEN whi' ya bsin!

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Welcome Rod.  Good fortune in your new role at Linden Lab.

It's no surprise that LL has hired a gaming-oriented CEO.  There is clearly a ton of money to be made on games.

There is a ton of competition in the MMORPG space.  Does LL  think SL can really go head to head with the Top 10 MMORPG Games?

Rob has great experience with the SIMs.  Perhaps we'll finally see LL implement shrink-wrapped starter kits and expansion packs for SL!  I've suggested this, along with contests to reward content creators, who create best-of-class virtual designs, with inclusiion and co-op advertising in the shink-wrapped content CDs.  Note:  All of this content could/should be digitally watermarked, to prevent it from being re-labled / resold on the grid!

I just fired off a cover letter and updated PowerPoint presentation, that I previously forwarded to the former CEOs, detailing how LL  can/should develop a VAR channel to target the SMB (Small to  Medium-size Business) community, including SMG (GOV), Technical  Training, JITE (Just In Time Education), Continuing Education and  Association prospects.  I continue to believe that a truly immersive  virtual experience, coupled with appropriate levels of support &  training, can be a valuable business tool for many organizations.

Linden Lab should hedge their bets by creating an offering for the  SMB market that is at LEAST as competitive as Teleplace.  However, without a channel  distribution model, with appropriate marketing, sales and support to the  channel by LL, it will never happen.

Throwing the baby (business) out with the bathwater (Enterprise) is a  knee jerk overreaction to bad management, marketing and execution.  If  Linden Lab puts all its eggs in one basket (gaming) again and throws all its  efforts into yet another highly competitive, high cost of penetration  market and fails, SL will be gone forever!

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Welcome to SL.  I am optimistic that with your experience you will have a positive influence on SL. ( impressive resume btw)

That being said, I want to reiterate what many others have said.  SL is not a game or a toy.  I hope that this excerpt of a quote from you will not pertain to your philosophy for SL.

".... any element I could remove that got in the way of the game itself I did."

Please dont remove any elements in an attempt to make SL a game on the order of the sims.  I dont want to have restrictions of having to eat, go to the bathroom , work at a make believe job etc.

Do however remove the items such as a failed new viewer, poor or non existent premium chat services, general lack of regard for user input. or a poorly functioning search ( or I should say improve many of these ilo of remove)

As another note:

Again, dont think of SL as a game. In your previous jobs it sounds like you were involved in creating games.  A better analogy would be that you (LL) provide a space for  freelance game programmers to create their own "games" or entertainment only providing them with the tools to do so.  Keep in mind LL is the service provider that basically rents out servers and provides software and tools. SL being the software that provides those tools. Your customers are the developers. Your customers are providing the entertainment or experience for their own customer base in SL.  ( dont eliminate the economy and ability for your customers to make money here )

To reiterate.....LL only provides the service and tools to allow the freedom of each "resident" customer to provide the entertainment or business models used within SL.

As a former CFO, I have been responsible for serveral divisions of a company.  It would be my strategy to think of the different markets of SL or the different areas each as a separate market/division.  So my strategy for the general rated areas would be entirely different from the mature or adult rated areas or... You could try segmenting your strategies based on the uses of the SL residents from the creator side, the business model side , the entertainment side, the social interaction side, the educational side etc.

If you want there to be an element of gaming attached to the LL company , fine but make it a separate division of its own separate from SL itself. You may even want to partner with some of the very creative SL customers who have developed some very ingenious entertainment models here or contract them to create stand alone games which could generate a separate revenue stream for LL.  As a side note I realize the new TOS says LL can pretty much use the creator content as it wishes but if customer ideas are used without their permission or compensation, you will lose the creative types here) As well, SL is a great tool on which to train 3D artists. I have met many students who use SL as a testing and building tool for their RL projects.

I personally dont like the "games" such as the sims, What attracted me to SL was the ability to meet people from all over the world, to create my own world and have the ability to create my own micro business model thereby generating my own income, ( albeit a small revenue lol)

In closing, I hope you will enjoy being a part of SL as much as most of us do.  Experience the platform fully before making any major decisions, listen to your customers and again welcome

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Welcome to the virtual world called Second Life, Rod Humble. I sincerely hope that you will be the decisive leader that Linden Lab needs at the helm, and not just a puppet and yes-man for the venture capital people and managers here. In spite of investing money in SL or working in SL management for many years, the venture capital people and the managers that are pulling the strings and making the major decisions that affect the course of the future of Second Life seem completely detached from what this virtual world is, and don't have a clue how their customers use this product.

Can you imagine what it would have been like at EA, if the people making the decisions didn't know, or even care, how any of the games were actually played, or what they were capable of? If, for example, they tried to make The Sims Online into a banking application, or into a business conferencing system? If they ignored what users of the game could do and did do with the product, and made all their decisions based on some marketing person's fantasy of what future users might use the product for, if only they signed up for accounts, and if only the product was changed into something completely different, to accommodate that radically different use? If they made these decisions regardless of harmful impact on how the current user base used the product, and regardless of overwhelmingly negative customer reactions to those plans and decisions?

Sadly, that is what the past several years of Linden Lab management have been like. The Lab's management has consistently ignored the majority of the feedback that they get from their current customers, and has made their most critical strategic decisions in a vacuum, without seeking customer feedback or investigating how customers use the aspects of the product that a new plan will change. Then they launch the changes without being at all prepared for the pitfalls that are blatantly obvious to active users of the product, even though we tell them, quite loudly, where those pitfalls are, and what can be done to resolve them. They stumble along and halfway fix what they broke, and call it 'good enough', and move on to the next shiny new plan that some manager dangles before them. The only reason they get away with it at all is that this virtual world is unique. There is no other alternative that offers similar capabilities, and also has anything remotely close to the volume of customers and resources that are here right now.

There is a major policy shift in the works right now that is misguided and being implemented without due precautions being taken for the consequences. I am talking about the merger of the 16 and 17 year old teen grid members with the main grid. As long as there are G-rated sims side by side with Mature and even Adult rated sims, there is no way that the G-rated sims are suitable for 16 and 17 year olds to access. This needs to be halted in its tracks until the problems with the merger have actually been addressed, and before LL gets sued for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or worse.

Would you have allowed an "18+ adults only" area to exist in The Sims Online, with simulated sex acts and almost any kink and perversion imaginable being allowed in those areas, and then permit those areas to exists side by side with the rest of TSO, viewable by all the under-18 users? Can you even imagine what it would be like if the TSO grid had been 18+ adult content from its inception, and you were introducing a "teen friendly" set of regions side-by side with all that porn? The current LL management seems to have no problem with that. They are going to allow 16 and 17 years old minors to access G-rated regions that are side by side with regions that permit XXX Adult sex acts to be depicted in them. And they are changing the access the teen accounts have without informing the parents of these minors, or getting their permission to allow the minors access to adult content.

If the minors must be allowed on the main grid, they need a special region maturity rating, called "Teen", that is what the G-rated sims are supposed to offer, but which is not permitted if there are any contiguous regions attached that are of Mature or Adult ratings. The G/PG rated Mainland areas need to all be re-rated as Mature, because it is nonsense to have a G/PG region located side by side with a Mature region where the people in the G-rated area can look across the border and view any imaginable sex act.

Please, take the time to really explore the Grid, and talk to Residents. Use both the 1.23.5 Viewer and the 2.4 Viewer, as well as the major third party Viewers, and see for yourself what the difference is in the experience as you try to shop, socialize, build, interact with large groups, or do other common activities. Explore the Zindra continent, with the worst of its depravity, and understand that any inventory item sold there can be taken to any Mature sim and freely be used by any 18+ resident, in full view (or at least by camming through a wall, which is trivial) of the neighboring G/PG sims. Learn how to build a house and make clothes. Go to the Livingtree sim, and see the sweet innocence of 18+ residents like Marianne McCann, who use G-Rated child avatars to roleplay a second childhood, with fireworks shows, and playgrounds, and fishing off a pier, and camp-outs where you toast marshmallows. Try your hand at scripting and making animations. See what the differences are when trying to do those things with different Viewers. Learn, first hand, what SL is and what it can do.  But please, don't just sit on a small parcel in Linden Village, surrounded only by LL employees, walk around and attend LL meetings, and think you understand what SL is and what it can be. It is SO much more than just that limited experience!

Read the forums. Not just these blogs, but also the archived earlier forum system. Read the user feedback threads where the maturity ratings changes for Zindra were discussed. Read about the changes in Homestead and OpenSpace sim policies. Read about the current decisions to merge the teen and adult grids. Read about SL Marketplace, and the issues merchants have there, and the fact that most of the team that is managing that product seem to have been fired or left the company.

Above all, get to know and listen to your current Residents. They are your customers, and a surprisingly large number of them are very experienced in content creation and in how SL actually works, and would be very willing to give you the benefit of their experience, FOR FREE, if only you would seek their input and listen to them.

LL is not a game. It is a virtual world with almost unlimited potential for growth and creativity, if only it had the leadership and vision to acknowledge what it is, and help it to grow. You need to be the President of a country, to run SL, not a banker or a lawyer or a finance manager. This is a community, with residents world-wide. Remember that, and you could thrive here, and turn SL back into something wonderful. Try to turn it into a G-rated game, and you'll kill it.

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good luck  take time to, dance and  talk  to  us please  the SL people  and tell your marketing staff bing is not the same word in sl rl ,the log in page makes me crazy

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I have no idea how much of a free hand the board gives LL's CEOs, but I'm hoping Rod can bring a bit of sense to LL in terms of visual design, immersion and interactivity, not to mention the social side of things. These are areas where LL has been extremely lacking from the start right up to the present.

Someone with a background in videogames might more easily see that, and given enough room to work they could really turn SL's downward slide around and tap into all that potential LL has been studiously ignoring for the past 7-8 years.

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I just wanted to clarify my statement that your customers are the developers, and content creators.  I look at it this way.... Your true customer base consists of those developers/content creators, Those are the ones directly paying the LL tiers, market place commission, upload fees and premium fees.  I would say that 90% or higher of your revenue is generated by this group.

Your basic subscribers only generate revenue for LL indirectly through buying the "true" customers products and services(ie land rentals, item purchases, sim donations etc. ). So they are really your customers' customers.  While some basic users do generate content those would fall into your "true" customer category.

My point is that you need to address the needs of your "true" customers.

My guess is that your current revenue streams are:

1) land tiers

2) marketplace commissions

3) LindenX commissions

4) Premium fees

5) upload fees (ie textures, sound, etc.)

6) marketplace ad fees

All of the above provided by your "true" customers

Revenue streams of your "true" customers include but not limited to:

1) land rentals

2) user created content sales

3) sim donations

4) business or other consultation fees (ie building sims for companies, training assistance etc.)

 

Future LL revenue streams might be :

1) additional upload fees for mesh

2) off shoot game creation separate from SL

3) educational training models and consultant fees (on a separate grid)

4) music, conference and other types of venues that require larger numbers of avies on a sim (more than the current limits) on an hourly or event fee basis-- on another grid possibly

5) licensing fees for stand alone grid software ( of course a better viewer would need to be developed for this along with better "tools")

6) development and sales revenue from 3D software such as blender.  Or aquiring a company that already makes such software

7) Tutorial sales for software mentioned above

8) arbitration services

Sorry, the CFO coming out in me lol

I am sure you have already thought of all of the potential revenue streams

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Samuel Geiger  says in response to Whet Snoodle:

IN reply to Whet:

Screw your therapies and wounded soldiers and shady charity collections, etc. First off, I don't think LL's legal team covers malpractice. Secondly, no Linden is certifying any sort of degree or other medical paperwork that the AMA might want you to have to perform your fake therapies. Thirdly, this is secondlife, not virtual therapy. I've got a couple buddies that came back with PTSD and a few holes in 'em, and I'll tell ya that staring at a screen full of cartoon porn and soap opera drama isn't helping them cope any, nor is it helping with their physical therapy. More on topic, though not quite... a game designer turn CEO isn't any more qualified to certify you or anyone else in SL to perform such practices, let alone pour their time and effort into making sure it's an available function.

***************************

In response to Samuel Geiger:

Samuel you have totally missed the point of my suggestion and though you have experience with friends harmed in action you do not understand cognitive disorders not stemming from birth.  The potential for wounded people to work out memory, creativity, organization and method of application as well as communication skills are nearly unlimited and way less costly than many many other forms of treatment currently available.

Gawking at the pixel porn and that form of activity is NOT what I was referring to and is not all that SecondLife is about at all.  I was referring to a private sim along the order of serious therapy not congruent with your sad vision of what a virtual environ has a potential of providing is NOT what I was referring to and I agree with you regarding what is available in a wandering sense in SL but I see you have made bad choices and need to investigate other portions of the Grid.  There are so many wonderful aspects to SecondLife that actually afford people the ability to act out and vent in ways that they are unable to in real life.  Many people as avatars all around the globe are affectionately connected to SL because nowhere in their RL are there as many people that will tell them they are wanted, loved and needed and that they are cared about and this alone is a big therapy for randomly anyone who needs it ... not just a animation parley of sexual encounters.

I feel that the new CEO will bring abilities and knowledge regarding capabilities and function so as to make it an even deeper virtual reality in contrast to what many of us find ourselves locked into in real life and an excellent way to be and become way way more creative and inspiring to others.

I just cannot accept such a negative point of view as you have and care VERY much about people that I will never know that I know can benefit from the SecondLife environ in so many way AND get an education in all manner from wonderful people located in all corners of the earth.

 

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I am sorry that you are too sadly negative to be of any form of help or assistance to anyone and spend a great deal of your time avoiding being termed as a griever in SL.  What do YOU contribute in SecondLife as an avatar/person behind an avatar?

 

That said I also agree with you on the flip side only if anyone seeking the many benefits of a virtual environ are not mislead into the silly things that people love to do there as well instead of what and where serious aspects are conducted.

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Welcome to Second Life! I have been seriously been wanting to give up hope on Second Life for a long time but I think maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Look forward to seeing what you do and hopefully bring second life to the way it should be!

Finally good to see they have got someone as ceo that sounds like they know what they are doing!!!

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Yay..a fellow Brit!

We must be cautious, Rene. A fellow Brit who works for Waitrose of Amazon.co.uk is vastly different from one who works for British Airports Authority or British Gas. Let's just say that good managers are a rare exception in the UK. Also, as you know, 'entrepreneurship' and 'enthusiasm' are still dirty words over here.

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Welcome, I hope your first  order of business is to reverse bad policies. From the teens coming in to  the world. To  AR abuses. To the ridiculous parts of the TOS. SL needs to go back to what worked. How did they gain this mass popularity to begin with, If it worked once it will work again  As far as listening to the residents argument some make. That is how Linden Lab got into this mess. They are trying to  please everyone and you just can't please everyone Hopefully    you will bring back the fun and the frivolity back to SL. Of course it depends on how    much your hands are tied, I hope this is a real CEO and not a puppet CEO.

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On the occasion of your appointment, I'm offering no advice, no complaint, no scoffing or snarking ... just a sincere wish of goodwill for your highest and best success – for the benefit of all.  May you truly enjoy the beauty and possibilities of this world.

Welcome, Mr. Humble!

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