Friday, June 25, 2010

Philip's second speech 23-6-2010

While Mark Kingdon was scheduled to speak, Philip Rosedale was suprisingly filling in for Mark, because of a emergency at the Lab. We know that the next day the official word came out that Mark 'stepped down' and Philip replaced him as interim CEO.

As with the first speech I attempted to record a machinima, but even though I could hear Philip he only rezzed for me at the last second, when he was saying goodbye. Thanks to Torley we a have podcast and a transcript.

Text transcript of Philip's second speech:
Transcribed by Torley, delightfully polished by Samantha Poindexter (thanks again!).

Yay! I've got a dot, I'm very happy. I hope everyone can hear me alright. Well, I guess if you can't, maybe — ha-ha! — as before, well, we'll do our best. Somebody can be kind enough to transcript me. Hey, as I said, so welcome to Second Life's 7th Birthday! If it feels like Groundhog Day and you're seeing me again, well, you are. We had an emergency and I am filling in for M right now. So I'm "virtual M". So welcome to the birthday celebrations, I hope the last days have been great for everybody.

I hung out and heard some great — I heard a great DJ in here in the evening, Monday evening, and it was totally inspiring to have the avatar count and everything kind of down to a point where I could sit in the audience at this stage and watch a great performance — I know for me that was really just inspiring to just be able to kinda sit in the crowd and enjoy some live music — it was amazing. It also really inspired me in thinking about how live music as an example, is something that can get better if we refocus our efforts and do the things we're trying to do right now at the Lab, to just kind of back up and make Second Life just work. Work better for everybody. I think live music is just a super example of that, we're so close, there's a a few things that work — I should say there's many things that work in Second Life, and then there's a few things that still don't work quite right. And if you look at something like live music, you can just imagine how if we could just take away a couple of the barriers — for example, broadcasting a stream is pretty difficult with live music, and of course, having a bunch of people — having there be 20 people sitting at your event and [echo begins at this point] have to tell their friends, and try to bring another 50 people into the event is something that today in Second Life, just doesn't work very well, that max crowd of people that shows up and shuts off the servers. I'm hearing an echo here — who else is hearing that? — it'd be great if somebody turns that [echo stops] off. I'm a pretty good public speaker but it's very difficult to do with a two-second delay on my own voice.

Hey, so I could tell you I see a nice avatar out there in the audience. Let me take a second and turn my memory back a little bit as I did on Monday. Many of you probably don't know I actually started the company in 1999, so that means as I said on Monday, that this has been more than 10 years as a project. And for me it was basically my 30s, I'm turning 42 this year so I spent my 30s working on Second Life which is pretty lucky. I mean, I think to have been in that really productive — I guess, as an engineer and as an innovator, your 30s, what a wonderful decade where I was able to put all my creative energy into something as amazing as this and so, thank you to everybody. Thank you to all the Lindens. Look at the world that's grown up around us in those 10 years. I was saying on Monday that I can't imagine anything I would change because I wouldn't want the precious and wonderful things that have happened and that we've built here to not have worked out the way they did. In other words, even the tiniest sort of changes that you could imagine in the past might've screwed things up and not brought us at least as far as we are today.

So yeah, when I look back on this 10-year project now, I was mentioning my avatar — my avatar was a construction on the afternoon of some day in 2002 when I, we all challenged ourselves. There were about 30 Lindens at the time and we all challenged ourselves to build, like, the coolest avatar. And whoever built the coolest avatar was gonna — we were all gonna buy him dinner. And I knew I was gonna lose, 'cuz I'm just not much of an artist, and a bunch of the people, a bunch of the engineers, and a bunch of the folks at Second Life were formidable artists so you knew that in their hands, the avatars they were gonna create were gonna be pretty astonishing. So I kinda figured I wasn't gonna make it but I could at least do something fun and quick and I remember getting a pair of jeans and going into Photoshop — somebody had this pair of jeans that I'm wearing right now, and I went into Photoshop and painted out the crotch of the jeans so they became chaps and, I thought that was a pretty funny idea. That was about the depth of my creative contribution that day, and my avatar did not win. I wasn't the most popular Linden Lab avatar. I believe, for the sake of history, that was Andrew — or Leviathan Linden at the time as his name was — but yeah, nevertheless, I've never taken these jeans off and they've become something of an icon for that 3 or 4 minutes that I spent Photoshopping.

So anyways, it's been a 10-year journey. It's been an incredible amount of work together. All of us in the world as content creators, as participants, as parts of the community, as consumers of all the magical stuff that's all around us here — and for the company, as product innovators and operators, designers — we've been building this enormous piece of software. I'm not going to do it again but on Monday, I listed off, like, 50 — that is, somebody could probably say here how many it was, maybe it was 42 to the earlier nerd reference there — I listed off a huge number of modular components which are big, freestanding chunks of Second Life that have to be kept working. And it was striking, even when I made the list, how many things there were that have to be kept working for Second Life to stay up and running. And so, that's a — it's proof of, or it's an examination of, why it's such a challenge to keep this project moving forward.

There are so many parts of Second Life and we as designers of the experience — or of the software at Linden Lab — are so enthusiastic about doing everything at the same time, we just don't want to let anybody down. There's literally a million people yelling at us about every different little piece of this system with good reason, and I think the fault that we make sometimes is just an enthusiastic kind of desire because we love the world so much, and we love the community, and we love our participation in it — to do way too much at the same time.

And so, as I said on Monday, we just went through a very difficult process, one we've been through only once before in the company's history, where we laid some people off. We reduced the size of the company by about 30%, that's about 100 people. That's a huge change. And it's a change that you can't take lightly, you're saying goodbye to a bunch of your friends that you work with. But looking forward, that change is consistent with — but not sufficient to capture the sorts of things we need to do next. Not only do we need to be smaller and more focused as a company, we have to do a lot less. In other words, we have to do with 2/3rds of the people — we have to do less than 2/3rds of the things we were doing. We are working on too many things at once. And so as we've said in the various public discussions about this, we really need to fight and work super-hard to focus on simply enabling the basic experience that we're all having here today to be better. We want to refocus ourselves on a smaller set of objectives that address exactly the experience that you as Residents are having today and having right here, right now. We can only have so many people listening right now. If there's too many avatars or too complicated avatars, the framerate slows down to a point where this thing becomes unusable. It's hard to put your clothes on. It's hard to walk around when there's a lot of lag. These are the basic problems that make Second Life difficult to use right now, and probably are the basic reasons that we're not growing faster.

So stepping back and refocusing our efforts on the basic problems that we're seeing with Second Life today and the most obvious, immediate things that we can do that are inspiring, that are creative, that move the product forward — that's what we're going to try and do. And I talked about this on Monday, I guess I'm just gonna take the time here to say it again now: I also made the statement on Monday that I think of Second Life as being like this amazing city, a very beautiful city, filled with all the wonder that we're celebrating today. But it's a city that's surrounded by a fortress wall and a moat. Hah. It's very hard to get in there. It takes a tremendous time commitment, an incredibly good friend, a call to action, the desire to have a job — some very strong reason why you would come and jump into this world. And what I think we've been doing enthusiastically and out of love but a little bit in the wrong direction over the last couple of years is we've been kind of getting ahead of ourselves building bridges and ladders — and rope ladders and scaffoldings — that cross over that fortress wall and get you into the magical city. And we've been sort of doing that for little groups of users, whether you're talking about reaching out to a particular group of international users, or educational users, or enterprise users — we're sort of trying to build a stairway for each of them to kind of climb over this wall.

When maybe, what we need to do is backup, regroup ourselves as we're doing right now, and tear down the wall. And fill in the moat. Make these big changes to the fundamental experience that simply makes it easier, simpler, faster, smoother — for everybody. And I think that if there's a change in strategy that makes sense, it's that one. To regroup, to simplify, and to focus on the things that affect everybody. I just saw the word "basic accessibility" there in text, I think that's a great way of capturing it. The basic accessibility of the world simply needs to be fantastic. And we're not there yet. And it's a huge mission, it's okay that we're not there, I'm absolutely delighted that we have a million or so people in here doing amazing things. We have 450 terabytes of content, we have $700 million a year in US dollars in transactions between people in here. We have livelihoods for several thousand people. One of the things that's happened in these layoffs is return ourselves to strong profitability. Strong profitability means the world is not at risk. We don't think it would be responsible for the decision to hire a small group of people at Linden Lab — it wouldn't be responsible to do that at the risk of the overall economy and the livelihoods of all the people who are having so much success in Second Life. So we respect that, and that's part of why a tough decision like layoffs is the right one.

So I think that looking forward a bit to the future, I've explained there what I think we need to do: regroup, focus on the basics. I think as we've had over these last 10 years, judge us by our actions — I said this yesterday — let's all work together. Let's make small, measurable steps every day to make Second Life better. Judge us by our actions — and I think this goes for Resident-to-Resident as well as Resident-to-Linden — judge us more by our actions than our words. What matters most is that we continue to make and hopefully accelerate the steady progress that has gotten us to where we are today. This is a big, big project. So let me stop there and, in text, if anyone's got any quick questions, I can take about 5 more minutes and then, I too have to run.

And thank you, thank you all for being here, and again, I'm sorry for being "virtual M" and boring anyone who was there on Monday as well.


[09:32] Jahman Ochs: What will *your* role be, going foreward?

A question there about my role: I've always tried to find the best way to be involved with the company in a way that maximizes my strengths. First and foremost, I'm a designer and an innovator. A lot of the little parts of Second Life over the years have been things that I've been involved in making. I want to keep doing that — that's always where my heart has been around — (voice cut out) — practically speaking, I'm on the board of the company. I'm there all the time, I'm there right now. So I'm still very involved, although as has been the case over the last couple of years, not as formally, and not in the same roles.

[09:33] Youri Ashton: Philip: how will you try to tackle the lag problem? Something we all may like to know :-)

To the question about lag — how will you tackle the lag problem? — the team, and it's a fantastic team in the company now, and a lot of great people here that weren't here two years ago that I'm really proud to see here, but I'm also a lot less worried about our ability to move Second Life forward. We've got a really well-rounded team now that we didn't have before this, just one of the treasures that we have going forward. So that team right now is hard at work thinking about what needs to change and what we're going to do differently with a smaller group and a different focus. So to the question of how we fix lag, that's what they're thinking about right now, but I don't want to second-guess them. Lag isn't a simple problem. Lag is a cluster of 10 or 15 different related areas of impact that slow us down so it's strange because it's this single word that has a whole bunch of actually fairly balanced — that is to say, similarly impacting things behind it — so we need to work on all of those, so I don't want to shortcut an answer like that with, "Hey, we just need to work on avatar rendering" or something like that. It's actually a much bigger problem, but I respect the team we have to figure out a great plan for it. And look for that from us in the weeks to come.

[09:35] Frolic Mills: Philip, what can you say to the many content creators in SL who do make a living from SL ... any words of encouragement about the stability of LL?

So Frolic says, "What about the content creators who make a living? Any words of encouragement about the stability?" Well I think I just said the most important thing, which is: by reducing the size of the company, we return ourselves to strong profitability, meaning that — and that's the most important thing that can be said about the stability of Second Life, when you get right down to cases. We as a company are running a lot of pieces of this infrastructure, and we gotta keep ourselves going, so being profitable — and we're incredibly fortunate and successful as a company to be able to do that, we don't need to borrow money from investors anymore, we are profitable — and that's a wonderful position to be in, and I think that's the biggest thing I can say about the stability.

[09:35] labella Farella: Linden curency dropped , will you see it going back up

Regarding the changes in the currency — which is related to stability — the currency price changed a little bit last week. It's amazing that it is fairly stable again now, though. I think that the monetary policy and the way that money supply is handled in Second Life — although it's certainly a very new experience — we've never had a $700-million economy that existed in a virtual world before. No federal reserve bank has ever had to deal with something like that. (Coughs.) Honestly, I think the way we've managed the economy and its stability has been very impressive. Even if you look at the pricing changes that happened last week, they're very small. I mean, the typical day-to-day fluctuation in pricing is very small, even compared to something like the fluctuation of the dollar against the Euro — which of course in the last year or so has been alarmingly greater than it should be — but even if you go back, Second Life's currency has always been amazingly stable for foreign exchange. I leave that to the statisticians to drill down on, but it's obvious just looking at the graphs.

So to the content creators, what I would say is: we are going to keep trying to make the basic system more capable, easier to use, more inviting to people — which means more customers, more capabilities for you — if we can deal with things like lag, that means that your meeting spaces and your stores and your events are going to be able to have more people in them and run more smoothly. And that, coupled with the great work that you're doing building content, I think, will continue to grow the economy.

I'm going to wrap up at this point. And thank you very much everybody for having me. I hope you all continue to enjoy the birthday celebrations. I know I have. I hear some clapping there, I always love the virtual clapping. It sounds wonderful. (Laughs.) I remember the first time we did that. But yeah, thanks everyone. Let me type that as well. It's been a pleasure to take a minute and see you all this morning, and I hope to see you soon inworld.

(Resident on voice: Thank you, Philip!)

Take care, everybody.

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