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The Tao of Linden: how did that work out?


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This whole TAO is not so bad, in my opinion. There is nothing wrong with people working together, choosing their own jobs, being transparent and making progress. Those are not the weak points.  It's all about the desired culture on the work floor, and that is in my opinion not the problem from Linden Lab.

The true problem is: the vision about the product is too vague.
"To expand the human experience by building an online world allowing people to interact, communicate, and collaborate in a revolutionary way."

Half of the vision is marketing talk, when you leave that away the vision is:  building an online world allowing people to interact, communicate, and collaborate. That world is there, for quiet a while now, they did what they planned to do, and people do interact and collaborate in this world. And now? What way are we going?

It's like a they have build a ship, invited people to join for a trip on the ocean, a wild revolutionary experience, to discover once aboard actually nobody is sailing the ship. There is a crew, to prevend the ship from sinking, polish it all the time and to add new bells and whisles, and nobody seems to care that we are out on the ocean without a compass or even an idea in which direction to go. As long as the water carries the ship all is fine.

And those paying passengers on that ship? Does it matter if they are satisfied, angry or worried?

Not according to the TAO Linden Lab has for its residents:
- Avoid residents at all costs
- Act like they don't exist
- Never, ever listen to them
- Ignore them

 

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My only other work experience besides my SL business is public school, so that is what I was imagining applying the TOL to. The result would be not unlike the apparent chaos of LL.  If I got to choose my work, it would not have included grading papers. 

If I only chose the work I wanted to do in my SL business there would be quite a few things that would never get done, like listing stuff on the marketplace or updating products or boxing things up. 

 

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Ceera Murakami wrote:

Interesting to note that there is absoultely no mention of the customer in that. No customer satisfaction, no customer feedback, not even a committment to giving good value for money received.

My sentiments, exactly, Ceera.  When I first saw "transparency" I thought - "Well, they blew that one!" then read on to see it meant transparencey within the company, not necessarily to customers.

"...Linden Lab has, in 6 years, had almost zero employee turnover..." Ummmmm...ok.  So what about the 1/3 of the company that was cut awhile back?  Perhaps Philip is counting employees who left voluntarily vs. being fired.  Parsed up and down, I still call this "turnover," especially when new employees are hired after said "laying off/firing."

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Pamela Galli wrote:

My only other work experience besides my SL business is public school, so that is what I was imagining applying the TOL to. The result would be not unlike the apparent chaos of LL.  If I got to choose my work, it would not have included grading papers. 

If I only chose the work I wanted to do in my SL business there would be quite a few things that would never get done, like listing stuff on the marketplace or updating products or boxing things up. 

 

But Pamela, you choose to do the dull stuff for your business. You do'nt have to pack boxes or list your stuff on the marketplace. But you choose to do so, because you want your business to succeed. Your passion that drives you to do so might be the creative part of the job and the motivation of an income to feed your family, but you do see the need to take care of the whole proces. 

Would that be very different for someone who is driven by the passion of coding? Aren't it all grown-ups at het lab who can take responsibility, and that take the less attractive part of the job as well, next to the more exciting part?

 

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Welcome to the burnout school of business.

Agree that all of these things are internally facing (and obviously a sales pitch, Phil after all, uses crowd sourcing to build a product and strategies that he attempts to sell other companies on, and uses the televangelism bits to gain media attention. "Changing the world" has always been part of any televangelists pitch to sell a product that doesn't sell itself).

It focuses on creating an internal culture that milks employee creativity, putting them into positions that they're not particularly good at or experienced in, rather than the more expensive route of seasoned management, control and heavily performance based analysis..

While I have absolutely no sympathy for a company that charges $300/month and fails to deliver $300 worth of quality product and support, I do feel a bit of sympathy that employees are suckered into the same type of "your world, your imagination" mantra on the inside that we are on the outside. They are nowhere near properly supported and guided by the company.

Their employees are beyond their skill sets (although paid well), but set against each other using a reverse-politics system as love machine (employees decide bonuses for each other). Because Phil thinks that well, management deciding on bonuses is a problem, among other things. Seasoned management has absolutely no problem with bonuses, it's a valuable part of managing employees. Managing bonuses is one of the easiest parts of running a company.

Laying off a third of employees and the various cuts afterward seems to have eluded Phil's memory, as have the loss of most of the founding employees.

If I were an LL employee I'd be spending my off time job hunting.

The rest of the world, particularly outside of tech are judged on performance of their service and product. In the tech industry measurements of what works and what doesn't becomes skewed.

SL the "product" is horrible and dated and offers continually less hardware resources as time goes by. Service is worse. Competency compared to other similar ventures (mostly gaming where the tech is the same, regardless of SL not being a game) has long passed SL by in leaps and bounds.

Agree with others, none of this does the customer any favors, you would think anyone with half a brain would start at the top when analyzing why a company is declining. Even among knowledgable tech companies there would be board changes, structural changes, policy changes. Not so here at LL, we're too busy changing our declining world while we sit in denial.

All so Phil can hopefully land that really big next startup trying to pitch something that is a proven failure in terms of product and customer satisfaction or dollar for dollar worth.

If I were completely on the outside it would be amusing to watch, because I know where it will be 10 years from now. In the meantime I continue to deal with the hundreds of companies in many cities that do more volume, earn more revenue and produce better product without making claims to be changing the world (except in the occassional hokey ad copy).

The real deal is about can or can't, do or don't. This can't and doesn't. A Tao and ramped up employees can't function as a substitute for the lack in a product offering or good business management forever.

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Dartagan Shepherd wrote:

 

Laying off a third of employees and the various cuts afterward seems to have eluded Phil's memory, as have the loss of most of the founding employees.


Which reminds me - errrrmmm, has anyone seen Tory Linden lately?  He single-handedly did a LOT for promoting SL in his inimitable manner and really helped people learn various SL skills while having fun with his vidtuts.


Dartagan Shepherd wrote:

SL the "product" is horrible and dated and offers continually less hardware resources as time goes by. Service is worse. Competency compared to other similar ventures (mostly gaming where the tech is the same, regardless of SL not being a game) has long passed SL by in leaps and bounds.

So true.  The only MMORPGs I have played were 7 years in EQ and during all that time I never had to contact support.  (Well once when I was EQ "married" to have my surname changed...but that is another topic altogether. ;)  Even then, though, a GM appeared almost instanteously after I put in the request.

More recently I played WoW a bit.  Again no issues with anything not working, etc. but I had one problem concerning part of a quest.  I kept getting what I felt was a run-around and by my 5th exchange with their customer service, I admit I was getting a bit verbally irked.  Then I discovered via the WoW forums (after posting about my irritation) that I was mistaken about the quest issue and WoW had indeed been giving the correct answer to me - multiple times - and were always very gracious in their responses.  I immediately sent a mea culpa correspondence to them as well as correspondence to the customer service manager to let them know how well I was treated.

VS

Having a bona fide MP issue a few months ago with SL (which basically still exists) and receive a "This has been addressed" reply from a "Scout" and my ticket closed.  I did eventually get to the person who could help...well...as much as help can be currently, but I had to keep re-opening tickets to do so.

 

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Czari Zenovka wrote:

Which reminds me - errrrmmm, has anyone seen Tory Linden lately?  He single-handedly did a LOT for promoting SL in his inimitable manner and really helped people learn various SL skills while having fun with his vidtuts.

Torley hangs out on the feeds.  He posts there quite often. 

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Apparently not doing very well judging from the slow unstoppable bleed off of concurrency, the failure to adapt their business model when revenue streams are shown to be composed entirely of unsustainable nonrenewables. The teeming infestations of bugs that are never exterminated because those jobs are too hard.

Also a failure judging from the predictable slow motion trainwrecks which typically result: that complete bungling of major projects that take way too long to 'complete', consume way too much company resources & still go horribly horribly wrong in the end & are left crippled, half-implemented never finished or abandoned.

Agree with the other comment. Nothing about customers on there. That was error one :catmad:

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LL took the fun out of SL. It really is that simple.

I would way rather go back to the days of the floating **bleep**, the crashed sim, the Anshe bashing etc. At least back then it was still fun, new, exciting. LL took a gamble on the direction of SL and failed.

The world is dead compared to 3-4 years ago.

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Oh I think SL is still great fun, even though I spend all my time in it working.  It is a fun place to work!

 

But I do think that when ppl were deciding what work they wanted to do, no one picked, say, documentation, so documents are outdated or non existent.  And there are hundreds of JIRAs, some pretty important, that failed to strike anyone's fancy, so we keep working around all the bugs. 

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They definitely need to scrap that Tao and get a new one.

It's a slap in the face to talk about transparency when that transparency doesn't include us, the customers.  Why should we care if Linden A tells Linden B everything? How would anything be different for us if they didn't?

What I see in that Tao of Linden is that customer service and communication with customers were missing from the very start - the founders didn't think to even scribble the word "customers" on the list.

Phillip Linden has the right to be nostalgic, sure. But if he wants to be relevant, he needs better material.

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Attention to the customers does need to be included on the Tao, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the philosophy IF you have the right mix of workers. 

As someone else noted some really important areas seem to appeal to no one currently working at LL, so they don't get addressed.  LL needs to find someone (or two or three) who adore various aspects of customer service and find it fun and rewarding to improve those services.  I am certain such people exist.

If the company is full of coders who want to go on to the next cool thing they are lacking the folks who are bug killing experts.  Folks who take joy in uncovering and repairing flawed code. 

When folks are allowed to persue their own strengths and interests it is management's job to ensure that there is a good mix of strengths and interests among the employees.   If you hire nothing but visionary coders who are looking for the next cool feature, you will certainly have a growing body of buggy code.  

And when you do get around to hiring exterminators, and those with other interests, it is management's job to ensure that everyone understands the symbiotic relationship among employees.  Bug killers need to be celebrated for making visionary code better rather than despised for finding flaws in other peoples' work.  And the bug killers need to celebrate the coders who give them code worth debugging. 

Most of those doing the work they love do not need to have specific concern for the customer.  If management hires the right mix of people who all do what they love, the symbiosis will result in a superior customer experience. 

Consider a small bakery with 3 people working there.  If all are skilled bakers, who love what they do, but grumble every time their baking is interrupted to wait on a customer, the shop will soon be full of baked goods and no customers.  The bakery goes out of business.  

Now add one sales person to the mix (fire one of the bakers or add a 4th person, I don't care).  Someone who loves selling baked goods to people.  Someone who not only understands good customer service, but enjoys providing it.  Now the bakery flourishes and grows.  The bakers get to continue doing what they love, the sales person does what they love, and the customers are happy. 

With the right mix of people all doing what they love, the Tao gives a superior customer experience.  With the wrong mix of people, the company folds. 

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I agree with the comment by a CG Linden on there that the no politics rule was a mistake. I'd wager a near fatal mistake.

You need to have the space to debate - or at that person noted first in wins, and any challenger gets fired. Well not exactly - it really ends up being the Dilbert boss rule; rank always wins with no discussion or analysis - and complete blindness to that reality.

There is no politics where DIlbert works - as a result, there is nothing BUT politics.

 

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There is some interesting material in Thomas Malaby's book, "Making Virtual Worlds" which is , basically, an ethnographic study of LL and how this relates to SL. It is 3 or so years old, but still relevant.

Maybe someone at LL should read it?

 

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