At Second Life's 7th Birthday celebrations, Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale (aka Philip Linden) made two speeches: one on 2010-06-21 and another on 2010-06-23 when LL CEO Mark Kingdon (aka M Linden) couldn't attend due to an emergency.
Text transcript of Philip's 1st speech
Transcribed by Torley, delightfully polished by Samantha Poindexter (thanks!).
Philip Linden: Okay everyone! I realize not that everyone there can hear me and I'm sorry for that, but I've got until 11:30 this morning and then I've got a drop-off at summer school to do, so I absolutely have to leave. So I just wanted to get started and again, I'm sure somebody will — maybe if we're lucky here — will do the favor of recording and translating me. I can't type as quickly as I can talk, so I'm not going to try to. I'm just gonna speak a little bit here and then let everybody — well, let's get on with the experience of celebrating Second Life's 7th Birthday this week!
It's amazing for me personally looking back. I sat and thought about this 7th year of operation — you know, for me, it is, of course more than 10 years. I started the company in 1999, so in fact I've been at this for 10 or 11 years now. In fact for me personally, my 30s were basically spent building an experience — experiencing and growing alongside Second Life. It's remarkable that entire decade of my life has basically been dedicated to Second Life. This year, I will turn 42. (Laughs.) So it's an amazing thing looking back and looking at the troubles we're having even just being here together today. I would say that those 10 years have been incredibly hard. They've had incredible moments of frustration. But they've also been incredibly rewarding and inspiring and I wouldn't take back any of it or even do anything differently. And I think that's something that not a lot of people are lucky enough to say.
You know, you might jump up and say, "Hey Philip, of course there's so many things you could've easily done differently that in these last 10 years that would've made things better — or executed better — but you know, changing history has the risk that you might have done something that broke everything in some way, and I wouldn't toy with that. I think what we've achieved here is a magnificent accomplishment together — all of us, the Lindens, the Residents, the Lindens that aren't with us anymore — we've all worked together to build something just incredible. And I wouldn't even take any chance at anything that might mess it up, it's unbelievable what we've achieved.
I was thinking about this — what to say today and what to talk about — and I had a thought. I wanna try something. I wanna read you guys just a quick list that I made this morning, so bear with me and let me read you a list of stuff here:
Our financial fraud detection systems; the systems we use to transfer assets from the Teen Grid; the central databases; our dark fiber backbone; our asset servers which have about 450 terabytes of data; the 40,000 simulator cores in the system; the group chat system; the LindeX Market placement and fulfillment systems; the physics core; the visual rendering system; the scripting engines; the ability to transfer and move land; the region conductor that manages all the sims coming online; the map servers; the inventory servers; the client UI; the content takedown tools; the monetary policy, processes and systems we use; the customer support tools; the Department of Public Works; our international payment systems; our backup systems; Linden Homes; the Welcome Islands; the Infohubs; the grid monitoring tools; the localization systems; the private regions; our land auction systems; forums; search appliances; the Support Portal; metrics dashboards; our Phoenix, Dallas, and Washington, D.C. data centers; our 3rd-party Viewer directory, open source repositories and programs, and our internal build systems.
So I'm just gonna pause there. That is an incomplete list of major components that make up Second Life that I was able to just sit and kind of bring up from memory this morning while I was thinking about us. Now, the reason that I read off a list like that is to kind of — looking back — to sort of beg everyone's forgiveness and explain that this is an incredibly complicated system. And we have been building all of these different systems, these core components — they're all part of the Second Life experience, they all hold it up — together. Over all these years, this team of Lindens, and for some of these things, the Residents as well. They're all important parts of the experience. Probably in the years to come, some of the things I just said will become whole companies in their own right. As Second Life in this experience grows another order of magnitude or two, these things that I just mentioned are probably standalone companies, some of them.
So this is — so Second Life is an incredibly complicated system. We face an enormous set of parallel challenges and I just wanted to take a moment to remind everybody of that. Again, it's a magnificent accomplishment, but the sheer length of that list is one of the challenges that we, as a company, have faced historically, and we very much face it even moreso today.
You know, overall, I would say that our fault as Lindens has been to be overly enthusiastic. We have tried, as a company — because we've been so excited about virtual reality, about we've already accomplished together, what we've seen everyone do, what we've seen you guys do — it's been so exciting that we have tried to fix it all at once. We've tried to make everything better at the same time. I think one of the nicest things about the company is that it's all done out of enthusiasm, it's done out of excitement, it's done out of love for the world. And everything and everyone that's in it. But I think the challenge we've had is that over and over again, we've been this small, smallish company trying to work on something that is just unbelievably complicated and figuring out how to restrict and serialize and sequence and prioritize all of these different pieces has been a huge problem and frankly, one that we've done our best — we haven't done as well, I think, as we could — but it is just a huge list.
I wanted to speak for a couple of minutes and touch a little bit — obviously — on the layoffs we just did. We sadly reduced the size of the company by about a third — by about 100 people a week ago, and that's a big deal and a huge change. But I wanted to say that standing here today in the midst of such a rich world and such continued creative — and for some people, financial — success that's here makes me realize that, that choice is the right choice and one that though it is hard to make, is definitely correct and obvious. We're never going to — as a company — risk the world and the businesses and the livelihoods of the thousands of people who make money working here by growing too quickly ahead of profits. By doing the difficult process of restructuring the company and making layoffs, we'll return ourselves to solid, very solid levels of profitability.
We're safe, the world is safe. As smart as we may think we are, we are not always going to be able to predict Second Life's rate of growth and hiring is something that you tend to do something in a linear way, but the growth that company goes through — especially something as amazing and phenomenal as Second Life — tends to be punctuated, that is, you're gonna have periods. And we've been in one of those periods now for the last year or so, where the world grows very little because we're trying figure out together — you and us — what to do next, how to make it better. The growth, when it comes, is typically non-linear. Growth happens very fast. A company, of course — and we've been through these days as well — reels as it tries to provide a solid service offering for everybody as that growth occurs. And then in other times, you know, you have to hire with the anticipation that there are things you can do that are gonna drive growth. And sometimes that doesn't happen. So I think this combat between linear company growth and sort of non-linear world growth is, again, one of the big problems that we face. And so, to be safe, we have stepped back — reduced the size of the company — and kept everything safe.
Looking ahead as we've talked about, what are we gonna do beyond stepping back? I mean, I think a high-level way to describe it is that we may have sort of two-thirds of the people that we did a couple of weeks ago, but we need to actually do less than two-thirds of the things that we were doing. So the process of restructuring and replanning that the teams are engaged in right now is fundamentally to figure out how to do a lot less a lot better. And also to step back for a moment and readdress our efforts — and refocus our efforts — on simply improving the core product experience that we are having right now, together, as Residents — here. We need to focus on the things that matter most to the people who are here, to ourselves as users of this system. We need to make the basic features and capabilities of Second Life work really well. And so, the planning process that we're going through right now — of retrenching and deciding what's gonna happen next — is one that fundamentally focuses on that, on improving this core experience for everybody.
I think that Second Life — addressing that sort of core experience problem — I still think of Second Life and the past few years as being something like this: Second Life is this wonderful, beautiful city — once you're in it and you're having this amazing immersive experience, you're just totally blown away by it. But the city itself is surrounded by huge walls and a moat. It's like a medieval city. To actually get into it you have to invest an enormous amount of time and energy getting across that moat, and over the walls, and into this amazing new world of people inside that are waiting inside. And I think that in our excitement about the success of Second Life — in its amazing initial growth and the amazing things that you guys have done and that we've done together — we were getting ahead of ourselves a bit as a company and this is what we really talked about in this restructuring. We were building these sort of rickety — we were in many cases building these bridges and scaffoldings that sought to get different types of people across that moat and over those walls, whether we're talking about international Residents, or the community welcome areas, or enterprise or education users — we've been sort of building these little, thin bridges that try and quickly get everybody kind of over that wall and into Second Life. And of course, you can understand why we'd do that, because it's just so fantastic an experience once we can get people there.
But I think what we have to do — what I know is the kind of thinking that's informing our planning process going forward — is ask whether instead we can stop doing those many, many peripheral, highly usage-specific things to get people in here — and instead just take a step back, look at the basic problems that we are all faced by, and by fixing them, fill the moat. Tear down the walls. Stop trying to build over them. We have a product here that can deliver an unbelievable experience to everyone if we simply make the basic pieces of that experience work. Whether we're talking about how many people can stand together in a meeting like this, or how to put clothes on, or manage your inventory, or build basic objects inworld, or how voice works, how parcel media works, live music — all of these basic features are things that are amazing experiences when you can have them, but they're not easy enough yet. They're not — they just in many cases don't completely work, and we — it's so easy to get ahead of ourselves as a company and forget that. So going back to those basics and just trying to make this thing work for all of us is what you can expect to see from us next.
I want to stop because I don't want to run out of time before being able to maybe take a few questions — if the text works. The last thought I had, and it's kind of a thought that always comes back to me in these times: the reality is, slowly but surely, virtual worlds are working. We are still growing. We have grown slowly and steadily over all these years. We may not have a trillion-dollar economy together, but we have a $700-million-dollar economy that is bigger than a lot of countries, continues to grow, people continue to innovate and build amazing things inside it.
So one thing I would say is: looking back and looking forward, let's just keep all working together. Let's keep making this thing easier, more solid, a better experience together. And then, as a final thought, I would say: again, looking back on even the first birthday ceremonies we ever did, that we should all judge ourselves, Residents and Lindens alike, by our actions more than by our words. The actions we've all taken together speak loudest and the wonderful things that we have built together — successfully over these years — nothing can take that away from us together. So let's just keep working together, watch and expect us to keep making the world better for you, and just hang in there and keep going. And I think that every excited statement that I've ever made about VR and about Second Life and about what we're doing together — I believe every one of those — and I think that we may have these funny periods where we have to wait for things to happen. It is all going to happen, and we are going to get everyone in here eventually. So, let me just say again, thank you for all being here, and maybe via text — perhaps we could try via voice — I can take maybe a couple questions before I have to run in about another ten minutes here.
In text chat.
Dousa Dragonash: Is there any truth in the rumour that Second Life is preparing to be bought?
Philip Linden: Dousa.... nope.
Honour McMillan: thank y ou Philip - what is your ongoing involvement?
Philip Linden: Honour.... I am always working closely with Linden, and lately focusing on how I can help with product direction.
Gazanfer Jehangir: people are thinking sl is headed in a direction to end up as a 3d facebook? any enlightenment on this please
Philip Linden: Hmm..... well SL and facebook are very different. But we certainly do need to make it easier as an experience, in manner similar to how easy FB is.
Youri Ashton: Philip: Could you tell us what kind of things you still do with the Lindens, besides your new project
Philip Linden: Youri: I'm active as board member, and am also often at the office.
Zol Link: I am wondering if SL will have any new graphics updates? And will there be a way to reduce lagging and load times during play, I noticed some places lag less and have less Issues then other areas, I would like to see if you could pull off what Eve online and or Entropia Universe has, where over 1k + players could stand in one area with little to no lag
Philip Linden: Zol: The graphics work we've been doing lately is state of the art, in terms of shadows and the like. I agree that 1000 people in one area would be incredibly great. what we need is higher frame rate for the complex builds and avatars in SL
Text transcript of Philip's 2nd 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.