Spreading the Love at Linden Lab: Eeeeewwwww…

by Alphaville Herald on 23/03/06 at 9:50 am

Is Second Life a platform, a game, a country, a virtual world, a corporate application, something in between? We were tossing these ideas around last night on SecondCast (new episodes now available, btw), but we never settled on the real truth, as revealed in this blog post from Yahoo! technologist Bradley Horowitz: Second Life is nothing other than a Love Machine.

Horowitz relates the tale of giving SL creator and CEO Philip Linden (nee Rosedale) a ride back to San Francisco from a Benchmark Capital party in California. (Benchmark are investors in Linden Lab.) As Horowitz puts it: “I asked Philip what ground-breaking unconventional management techniques he applied at Linden Lab. . . . The first is ‘The Love Machine.’ The Love Machine is a simple way for Linden employees to give and receive ‘love.’ “

The Love Machine is apparently Linden Lab’s own in-house version of the deeply borked ratings system that was once part of Second Life, in which residents could rate each other favorably or unfavorably and receive increased weekly stipends as a result. At LL, apparently, employees can do the same, and receive a variable cash bonus based on how much “love” they’ve received over a given period.

The idea that LL has its own in-house ratings system would seem to do much to explain the philosophy behind the development of new features for the world. Are the employees whose projects get more “love” given higher priority on the development agenda? Has the Love Machine created its own little FIC within Linden Lab? Can a hivemind really guide the development of a complex piece of software like Second Life?

According to Horowitz, “Philip also talked about ‘Taskzilla’, a mod of Bugzilla that basically allows for transparency and collective prioritization around the company’s focus.” That “collective prioritization” is also revealing, and certainly does make the company sound like some kind of utopian cooperative venture. Both mechanisms raise an important question: Is there any strong vision at all behind the development of Second Life? Or are things being implemented because a bunch of people at LL think Project X is cool one week, and Project Y is cool the next? Is that the best way to build a platform-game-country-VW-app? Does SL need a stronger hand at the helm? We’re hoping to get Philip on a future SecondCast, when we’ll be sure to put these questions to him. If they garner enough “love” between now and then, that is.

18 Responses to “Spreading the Love at Linden Lab: Eeeeewwwww…”

  1. Tequila Jimador

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    I need to find some love exploit, hack or something to have more Lindens working in the Linux Alpha LOL? :D

  2. Cocoanut

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    Add to that this, taken from an Andrew Linden on the SL forums, under a thread called “Open Letter to LL”:

    “The elimination of public land wasn’t driven by Philip or any of the VP’s. It was a feature request from the Customer Service group. The reason they entered that item on the Big List Of Things To Do (BLOTTD) is because they were spending a significant amount of time responding to complaints of people accidentally realeasing their land having it promptly grabbed by public land recyclers…

    “The feature request went onto the pile along with a number of other items relating to public land. During my stint on the maintenance team I was browsing the BLOTTD, sorting by priority and votes [votes from employees, he means], and I found a bunch of high ranking items relating to public land and auctions. ‘Hrm. These three items are related and probably not that hard to do. They have lots of votes, and they are mildly interesting (I’d get to do some more python scripting) — I;ll take ‘em” I thought…

    “This is a typical case study on how some (not all) things get done at LL. Anyone can add an entry in the BLOTTD and anyone is free to accept things off the list. Everybody is free to vote on, edit, change priority, accept the items, or close as ‘Won’t finish.’ This means that quite a bit gets done without the VP’s ever being involved. Also, the workplace is realatively flatter and more dynamic when it comes to responsibility.”

    So as you can see, Philip doesn’t even have to be there.

    As for the Spreading the Love thing, I thought that was pretty hokey when I first heard about it, but harmless. But it’s tied to cash bonuses? Now I consider it evil. Just imagine the politics and FIC’ing and butt-kissing this leads to.


  3. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    Imagine how they game the system like we used to do in SL clubs! You and your alts and your posse rate me; I rate you and your alts and your posse; together we all get a fat Tuesday stipend!

    http://secondthoughts.typepad.com — I’ve been blogging about all this in depth. I find this a fascinating topic.

    Now imagine this: customers unhappy with the driving of this or that big-rig Linden could negrate them, and that would debit down their sweety-pie there at the Love-In.

    It’s only a matter of time before some wit creates a scripted box ingame on a lot somewhere that gives you the opportunity to rate Lindens.

  4. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    Re: “It was a feature request from the Customer Service group. The reason they entered that item on the Big List Of Things To Do (BLOTTD) is because they were spending a significant amount of time responding to complaints of people accidentally realeasing their land having it promptly grabbed by public land recyclers…”

    Note that the soi-disant Customer Service Group takes into account the interests of SOME customers at the expense of others, based on their own internal exigencies of wanting to do less hard-slog work and do the more “fun” stuff. Obviously, they found dealing with those people who accidently released their land really unpleasant, and didn’t want to think about the time their dev team had ALREADY spent completely nerfing and clogging up the land UI with help and error menus to prevent just this sort of stupid error.

  5. Brace

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    I need a bucket.

  6. Tequila

    Mar 23rd, 2006

    Doctorow’s bitchum stuff like this Love Machine system is so full of flaws and good intentions in the surface, it just gives the delusion of dinamysm and grassroots, but politics always screw in the middle. What LL needs is to hire more ppl, or forget the love and start opensourcing, LOL just kidding.

  7. Urizenus

    Mar 24th, 2006

    This is what comes of too much granola crunching and fattie huffing.

  8. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 24th, 2006

    You really hit the nail on the head with the insight that it’s a delusion, or illusion, of dynamism and livliness and feedback and “grassroots power”. It’s not. It’s an infinite hall of mirrors in a mutual admiration society. I find this stuff pretty nauseating. They have this on Omidyaar net too and other noveau-type social software sites. You join it and people lovebomb you with plus points just because you’re new, just “because you’re you.” You feel like you’re among the Moonies, trapped in an endless re-run of Mr. Roger’s Neighbourhood. There is the ability to negrate…but nobody ever uses it, or so it seems. I’d find any collection of plus points gathered in an uncritical and self-congratulatory atmosphere like that utterly meaningless.

  9. Seth Kanahoe

    Mar 25th, 2006

    And here I was thinking of coming back to SL. This kind of management explains a lot of things that I used to wonder about. It explains why LL’s perspective seems so incestuous and embattled. And why their creative impulses are often linear and reminiscent of committee-think. And why critical analysis and interpretation of the product or the policy isn’t taken as dialogue, but as something more personal. And why the response is usually indirect, subtle, and sometimes nasty. LL is not a business, then. It’s a cult with a corporate structure that demands a certain kind of group loyalty from “officers” and “consumers” alike. Like Mormonism, maybe. Ah, well – Mormonism is a very profitable and successful enterprise. Maybe Philip is on to something. I believe I’ll wait a bit longer….

  10. Prokofy Neva

    Mar 25th, 2006

    Yes, it’s a cult. Once you get that, then you stop fighting it. But hey, don’t drink the Kool-Aid!

    Yes, Second Life is like the sacred Mormon site near Palmyra NY, the Hill Cumorrah, where Joseph Smith, the group’s founder, was given the Book of Mormon by the angel Moroni.

    The embattled stuff becomes especially visible when coming from the loyal fanboyz who are FIC or Linden Acolyte.

    Yes, isn’t it interesting that when Seth says exactly the same things I do and did, it’s the Sage of Second Life, but when I say it, I have a tinfoil hat on my head.

    It’s a shame that minds like Seth Kanahoe and Buster Peel are no longer around SL.

  11. Tequila J

    Mar 25th, 2006

    Hell… im in a cult O_o , with all this love, is king phillip like rajnesh-osho? Sai baba? LOL.

  12. Cocoanut

    Mar 26th, 2006

    Excellent post, Seth.


  13. One Song

    Mar 27th, 2006

    Like I said eons ago to a large number of people, SL is merely Philip Linden’s play box. His world, his imagination. All the players are merely his puppets. Sorry if it sounds harsh but its the truth. And Prokofy is completely right, the sooner you realise that the sooner you will stop fighting it and trying to make it better.
    My only advice is use that postitive energy and spend your valuable time and contribute to an open soruce or such version of a metaverse where you may actually get to vote on and take part the laws and policies of such place.

  14. Zsa Zsa

    Mar 27th, 2006

    Is this the complaint box?

  15. Seth Kanahoe

    Mar 28th, 2006

    Actually, I was speaking slightly tongue-in-cheek, which is to say – truth, garnished with exaggeration spriggs, sprinkled liberally with habanero rhetoric and peppery metaphor-delight, topped off with a dash of salty sarcasm. Grilled over a low flame. Hard on the tongue, easy on the cheek.

    Which may may make a difference as to whether the cook is perceived to be wearing a hat made of white cloth – or tinfoil….

  16. Justizin Austinmer

    May 16th, 2006

    I’m thinking the Love Machine and TaskZilla would be more effective if users had the ability to vote. This type of inherent community involvement in everything LL do is likely to force itself to the surface as they move toward Open-Source. It’s good to have an idea of what LL employees feel is important, easy to implement, etc.. This information is rather useless if it can’t be weighed against user/resident demand, and a good system should be able to split reports to show overall rankings and resident / employee specific rankings.

    Some infrastructure needs will have very low ratings from residents, but be very important, and LL need tools to help make these sort of decisions. Further, linking infrastructure improvements to high or otherwise ranked user / resident requested improvements can help people to understand why certain decisions are made.

  17. [...] Philip was bragging about the Love Machine employee evaluation process at Linden Lab as far back as 2006. Perhaps obsessive gaming of the Lab’s love rating system distracted Second Life staff from [...]

  18. [...] that this CEO might fit in better than ex-CEOs "chainsaw" M Linden and Philip "Love Machine" [...]

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