1/3 Linden Employees are FIC, Cory Confirms

by Alphaville Herald on 29/10/05 at 7:39 am

by Dow Jonas

In a shocking revelation published on the prestigious virtual world studies blog Terra Nova, Cory Ondrejka, Vice President of Product Development for Linden Lab, acknowledged that by his rough count, as many as one third of Linden Lab’s estimated 60 employees came from the ranks of existing residents of the growing online world.

Responding to a challenge from controversial SL virtual estate magnate Prokofy Neva, in a blog discussion with academics and game devs, Ondrejka said, “least 1/3 of LL’s employees were hired after we met them in Second Life, which is about as many as have been hired based on employee referrals.” Given that current Linden Lab employees, themselves drawn from the player base, are likely to refer friends they met either in SL or other online worlds, the figure of game-networkers-turned-employees could thus be much higher.

The frank admission seemed to lend credence to Neva’s outspoken critique of SL, described by some observers as biased conspiracy theory. Elsewhere, Cory has discounted the notion that a small clique of beta-testers and other old players dubbed “the Feted Inner Core” or FIC had the ear of Linden game developers and influenced their decision-making process about new features on the platform.

Yet when so many Linden staff members were drawn from people who gained recognition from the Lindens through their creativity in SL, comments Neva on Terra Nova, “It explains the feeling I sometimes get from some activities in SL that make it seem like a 3-D junior game dev resume and not erm…the ‘monetarized socializing platform’ as David Linden tells us to call it, that we all know it to be.” Citing various high-profile building contests and other competitions to design new gaming software, Neva claimed “in SL you often have the feeling of [it] being not about creating ‘your world’ with ‘your imagination’ but about getting ‘your job’ with ‘your favourite game company.’ At press time, Ondrejka had not responded.

The debate was sparked by a post from Thomas Malaby, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee anthropologist, a new author recently introduced to the Terra Nova audience, who quoted a recent comment by Cory Linden that the widely popular and hugely populated World of Warcraft is becoming ”the new golf.” The suburban socializing ritual and class marker was likened to some virtual games, i.e. a place where academics and game devs met to compare notes — and where eager young programmers stalked them in search of a job.

Noting that beyond the 1/3, the remainder of Linden employers came from “the usual mix of recruiters, random meetings, Game Initiative ‘Breaking In’ conferences, and random resume submissions,” Cory Linden said, “To my knowledge, none have been hired based on encounters in MMORPGs.” Linden Lab has taken pains to distinguish Second Life, which it calls variously “a platform” or “a service” from other online virtual worlds with goal-oriented games.

Instead of killing orcs and mining gold, wannabee game devs might do better brushing up on CAD and going to building classes in SL where they can learn to make prefabs for the booming population of some 70,000 now clamoring for land and housing. Meanwhile, other game spaces like Wow or Eve are likely to remain as elite watering-holes of sorts, Terra Nova posters worry. “Extending this idea leads directly to a perhaps troubling outcome: the appearance of something like country clubs in our VW future,” says Malaby, a development he called “worrisome.”

24 Responses to “1/3 Linden Employees are FIC, Cory Confirms”

  1. Tony Walsh

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Excellent report, Dow. Clear, succinct, and well-constructed. I haven’t noticed your name in a Herald byline before, is this your first filing?

  2. One Song/Mr Fairplay

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Hard to even come up with words.

    All I can say that trully sickens me.

  3. whatever

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Tell us something we didn’t already know.

  4. Antje

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Uhhh, folks, those jobs are open to all SLers. LL has never made any claim that they didn’t hire form their playerbase. In fact, they’ve made it known since the early stages that they wished to do so. It wasn’t and isn’t a secret, to any one who cared to make it their business. It’s all over the SL forums, and is spoken about often in world as well.

    I work part-time as a bartender in RL.

    Guess what? My friends and I were customers of that establishment before I got the job. Do my friends who still hang out there while I work benefit from it? Nope. I am more careful with respect to them than other customers. The management made it VERY clear, in no uncertain terms, that I would be scrutinized to that end. Do my friends piss and moan about me having been hired for the job? Nope. Why not? Because they realize that I got off my ass and went for it. It was either not what they wanted to do, or they lacked the motivation to go talk to the management. And they hardly sat there after the fact crying favoritism.

    There are countless examples of this in RL and online – first person shooter dev companies have been hiring adept players for years now.

    Let’s say you own a McDonalds. Let’s say you have two people apply for a job opening you have there. One is a regular customer who knows your menu, how the food tastes, and some of your staff. The other is a guy who does data-entry. Who do you hire? Someone who is knowledgeable and obviously enthusiastic about your product, or the data-entry guy?

    Hmm… Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    Welcome to real life.

  5. Dow Jonas

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Antje, I’m not sure how widely known it is that Linden liaisons and office employees are drawn in such large numbers directly from the resident population.

    Re: “I am more careful with respect to them than other customers. The management made it VERY clear, in no uncertain terms, that I would be scrutinized to that end.”

    Do you know how Linden Lab makes it known to its employees that they should behave more carefully in this fashion? Is this published anywhere?

  6. stellsy

    Oct 29th, 2005

    that last poster is lying.
    Its not about who is best qualified for anything.
    Who you know does matter tho or rather . .
    whose ass you decide to pucker up and kiss.
    Its a club of mediocrity where independant thinking, creativity or a moral compass wont get your foot in any doors.
    Unless somehow you can package it in prims and sell it for profit.

  7. Stubblehead

    Oct 29th, 2005

    Oh yeah, more of the feted inner core bullshit.

    This is not only an understandable development, it is a positive development, objections by tiresome cranks like Prokofy Neva notwithstanding and his even more tiresome Amen Chorus up above.

  8. Prokofy Neva

    Oct 29th, 2005

    I’m waiting to see not how the sycophants spin this, but how the Lindens spin it. It doesn’t look so good, because it seems like to get a job, you have to buy your way into it and suck up to the right people.

    But SL isn’t real life, Antje, and they claim they are making a Better World. The jobs aren’t *really* “open to anybody* although technically they are visible to everyone. They are open only to the “excellent”. But here’s a case where they eat entirely too much of their own dogfood. Can we really be sure they are so excellent when they just go by their own tried-and-true insular networks who reinforce each other’s sense of “excellence”? That’s what concerns me.

    It’s not really the balanced, open, and equitable world implied by the concept of “a Better World.” But I’ve long had a sneaking suspicion that BetterWorldism is really about sheltered and cossetted elites in a rigorous apprentice program which makes the rest of us decidedly second-class citizens.

  9. Urizenus

    Oct 29th, 2005

    uh, I’m guessing McDonalds hires the data entry guy/gal. You think they hire the people that eat the most Big Macs????

  10. Antje

    Oct 30th, 2005

    “Lying” Stellsy?

    Hardly. I said that those jobs are open to all who wish to apply to them and are qualified. That doesn’t mean Jane or Dick with no pertinent skills are being fucked over if they don’t get the job. It most likely means that another player who knew graphic design, coding, 3d animation, marketing, economics, what have you, was more qualified.

    I was submitting some ideas. Unlike you and Prokofy, I do not speak in absolutes when I can’t possibly know 100% of what actually occurs.

    Have any of you applied to LL and been turned down, with solid evidence available to reinforce your claims that SL only hires “suck ups”? If not, you’re just speculating. Me thinks you folks would call anyone who simply got off their asses and angled for a position with LL as ‘Suck-ups”. Again, welcome to RL. Prok, don’t tell me it isn’t RL. Working for a game developer IS RL. Angling for jobs through what you folks call “sucking up” is reality. You network, you schmooze, you do your damnedest to present your best facets – it’s “the game of life”. That phrase exists for a reason, you know.

    You folks are peddling 100% speculation based upon some weird, paranoid belief that everything to do with LL/SL is fraught with corruption, good-ole-boy conspiracies, and cognisant exclusionary hiring practices.

    Serious charges indeed, charges which require more than idle speculation to prove.

    Again, who better to hire than those who have hands-on experience with your product?

    The fact that you klaxons (mainly speaking to Prok and Stellsy here) decide to stay in SL pretty much proves to me that YOU don’t really “eat YOUR own dogfood”. Hell, if I believed the way you people did, I would be LONG gone from SL, and I wouldn’t look back.

    So that makes you either disingenuous, wanna-be demagogues, or masochists. You choose.

    Uri, I think you’re off-base, if you were being at all serious. In my 20′s, I was in restaurant management, working my way through college. We were much more apt to hire a loyal customer of ours than some walk-in with no restaurant experience or knowledge of the business. I worked for 3 or 4 restaurants in that period, and it was not totally unheard of.

    Dow, it is widely known to those who listen. I have been listening for some time now, and it is no shock whatsoever to me. I know of at least 6 or 7 customer to employee moves myself.

    As far as scrutiny goes, it’s only common sense that LL, like most employers, would make sure they speak to customers turned employees about favoritism. What business wouldn’t?

  11. Hiro Pendragon

    Oct 30th, 2005

    Gee, why the hell would LL hire from people who are experts in SL, their only product?

  12. stellsy

    Oct 30th, 2005

    Prokofy Neva’s Amen Chorus? yeah right. I think for myself and i have my own opinions. Maybe if you hear so many people sounding like Prokofy its because there is some truth to whats being said by everyone. You dont get to dismiss us. You dont have that power. Only Uri has the power of mute, kthanxbye.

  13. Urizenus

    Oct 30th, 2005

    The problem with hiring loyal customers is that they are people that like the game already, and you are in effect hiring a bunch of yes-bots that will ensure you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. Its like masturbating to a mirror without even having towels and Windex to clean up your mess.

  14. Antje

    Oct 30th, 2005

    “The problem with hiring loyal customers is that they are people that like the game already, and you are in effect hiring a bunch of yes-bots that will ensure you keep making the same mistakes over and over and over. Its like masturbating to a mirror without even having towels and Windex to clean up your mess.”

    Yeah, so why don’t they hire some people who don’t like the game and know nothing about it.

    I think they should hire street sweepers to be astronauts instead of Air Force pilots too.

    Can’t argue with that logic!

  15. Aliasi Stonebender

    Oct 31st, 2005

    OMFG, Linden Lab is hiring people who have a vested interest in making Second Life as great as it can be, STOP THE PRESSES!@#

    This is news?

  16. Urizenus

    Oct 31st, 2005

    No, they are hiring people that have a vested interest in making SL be as they like it to be, which is to say they like it pretty much as it is.

    See, you fail to see that the following two phrases are not, in fact, equivalent.

    “as great as it can be” =/= “how me and my friends like it to be”

  17. Cocoanut

    Oct 31st, 2005

    AND who my friends and I want to get rid of, Uri. Let’s not forget that.

    Some people are on practically a missionaic campaign, in personal ownership of apparently some God-given info on “which players are bad for SL” (or at least, “which players I don’t like”).

    They are determined to rid the game of people they dislike, and this group includes one mentor, at the very least.

    They wish to ban other paying and productive players because – THEY DON’T LIKE THEIR IDEAS.


  18. Antje

    Oct 31st, 2005

    Evidence please Cocoanut?



    Stinging mightily after that forum warning are we Saint Coco?

  19. Cocoanut

    Nov 1st, 2005

    That’s another good question. What makes you think I got a forum warning?


  20. Antje

    Nov 1st, 2005

    Oh, I read it on Prokofy’s blog dear.

    He’s all in a tizzy over it.

    I say it’s about time you got your hand slapped.

  21. Cocoanut

    Nov 1st, 2005

    And for what, Antje, pray tell?


  22. Storyteller

    Nov 1st, 2005

    Once upon a time Neva, One Song, and Stellsy all got together and had THIER OWN idea of how a perfect internet game should be and so they built one. In the early stages they decided they would NOT hire any of their loyal friends, or any excellent skilled in-game players as they progressed through the months in their game development. If they did that–people would whine and cry that they were NOT doing this for the betterment of the game. Their players would scream, ” Neva, One Song, and Stellsy only hired these people cuz they suck up to them and they want to be some cossetted elites and treat everyone like second-class citizens.

    Instead they opted to hire anybody and everybody. They refused to consider friends or skilled players and went straight to the unknown hacks with no skill no talent. They also chose from the pool of whiners and complainers. People who had no proven track record of skill, but a proven track record of bitching.

    Because these three put their foot down when it comes to using the “tried and true” insular networks or reinforcing each others excellence. No you can be sure that their perfect idea of running an internet company is to listen to the ideas of everyone else especially those who bitch and complain the loudest. Now this make take months and years sorting out, debating, arguing, whos idea of the perfect internet game is better— but Ill be damn if Neva, One Song, or Stellsy will EVER be accused of letting players suck up to them or creating an internet game hiring people with like minded ideas. Hell No–not them.

  23. Marsellus Wallace

    Nov 1st, 2005

    I’m confused.. How does One Song or that story apply to Linden Labs hiring methods? Maybe I missed it. I’m too lazy to read all the posts haha

    Marsellus Wallace

    P.S. I e-mailed Phil over at LL and he set me up with one of the original developers for an interview for a job. I did the interview. I met all the qualifications and more with all my experience in MMORPG’s and of course my resume for my work experience which was very technical. Why was I not hired? I was Mafia.

  24. Prokofy Neva

    Nov 1st, 2005

    I can’t speak for One Song and Stellsy, but Neva Games, Inc. simply put straightforward, detailed ads in all the major gaming publications and leading industry journals and also hired a headhunter. He and his staff created job descriptions for the needs of the business, settling on generic criteria for the skills set and the range of personalty/skills types that would be the best fit. These were publicly posted, inworld and on the website, with detailed descriptions. Neva Games also attended job fairs and industry conferences and ran interviews.

    They then interviewed up a storm, taking resumes and leads from all credible sources, in games, outside of games. They paid special attention to the job of forums moderators and community liaisons, where they wanted to have people NOT from the insular ingame networks that would want to settle scores, reinforce bias and prejudice, etc. They winnowed the lists down to 100, then 25, then had the final contestants come through a battery of interviews. All of them had various job-simulation type tests to perform, ingame and out. A mixture of those familiar with the game and completely unfamiliar with the game were chosen, given the steep learning curve and the need for rapport with customers who would be experiencing the exact same thing. A mixture of tekkies and non-tekkies were drawn from the prospective employee pool also because of the need to make a more flexible and open world not only for the technically competent.

    Those hired were put on a 30-day trial period, familiarized with their job descriptions, and the HR person took them through the employee guidelines, which included ethics issues and a company code of behaviour for dealing with the public, the customers, the residents.

    The company also frequently ran focus groups inworld with all kinds of types of customers, hired outside companies to do extensive exit interviews and entrance interviews, invited journalists and sociologists in to study the complex world, and put interactive suggestion boxes and hotlines in world. At least twice a year, they held staff retreats for self-assessment and once every two years hired management consultants to come in and review management styles and employee grievances as well as customer assessment. They made a special effort to also organize outside review of the polite blotter and the disciplinary actions.


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