Introducing T Linden (aka Tom Hale)

Hi there, Tom Hale aka T Linden here, the new(ish) Chief Product Officer.

That’s a mighty lofty title, especially considering that my avie is a rather short, very cute green frog. It’s a bit like the Michelin Man and Keroppi had a love child. Chalk it up to “Frog” being my childhood nickname.

From a software genetics point of view, I come from the graphics and multimedia space and spent most of my career at Macromedia, and later at Adobe.

I started in image editing, did a stint in 3D (remember Extreme3D? No? You are not alone), worked on web tools like Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, helped to make Flash a platform for applications, voice and video, then built a collaboration and training application, called Breeze, on that platform. Along the way I learned a lot about how to involve communities in the development of the software they use.

I joined Macromedia when it was roughly the same size as Linden Lab, and being here feels a bit like coming home to a new house that feels strangely familiar.

It’s been an eventful 40 days since I got here – Openspaces, a global economic meltdown, strong Q3 growth numbers for Linden Lab and a fun and fascinating deep dive into Second Life.

M said my goal here is to bring a product focus to Linden Lab and to Second Life. What does “bring a product focus” really mean? IMHO:

  • Listening to the market. Cluetrain says all markets are conversations, and this is probably more true for Second Life.  Understanding the needs of our current Residents and the people we’d like to be future Residents is necessary to tailor the product to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse audiences. Second Life is enormously rich, so we need more than a one size fits all experience. Today, we have many channels of feedback from Residents in the pJiras, forums, SL Views, and inworld, and as we make our way forward, we’ll be looking for new ways for us to interact.
  • Striving for delight.  Driving for a level of simplicity, consistency, and quality that will result in a great user experience. Software ergonomics, fit and finish, design and interaction models in the viewer and the web experience will make a tangible difference to the way Residents interact with Second Life. Think Mac OS X versus Windows 3.1.
  • Developing our foresight. Predicting the future is a dicey proposition, and Second Life is as complex and unpredictable as, well, Real Life (if not more so). I can’t predict the future, but one way to predict the future is to invent it.  In order to do that, we need to develop our ability to plan and invest over a longer time horizon to make revolutionary as well as evolutionary leaps.
  • Thinking holistically. When we think about the quote unquote product experience we will start to segment the wonderful complexity of Second Life into component parts. We’ll have to think about these components as part of a cohesive whole, one that extends well beyond the screen into every place that noobies, teachers, land barons, currency traders, fashion designers, socializers, office workers, Residents of the world (virtual and otherwise) touch Second Life and Linden Lab.
  • Balancing priorities.  Tradeoffs are hard, that’s why they are called tradeoffs. The business has needs. Residents have needs. There are laws of physics that come into play in terms of resources and schedules.  Wonderful people and wonderful products can lead to great businesses (as measured by two consequences of user delight, growth and profit), but it takes lots of heavy lifting to make sure that both Second Life businesses (ours and yours) are successful enough to enable investment for the future.

Of course, I am not alone in this. Designing and building and delivering and supporting and participating in the “product(s)” and businesses of Second Life is what all Lindens do.

And of course, it’s an undertaking that we will do in concert with you, gentle reader and passionate Resident. In future blog posts, we’ll share our ideas and directions, and look to you for feedback and answers to help us choose what path to take.

So let’s start with this. One of our products, the premium subscription, is ripe for improvement. It’s been neglected and there have been many conversations, forum threads, pJiras, surveys and plans to improve it, leading to some great ideas. It’s even been the topic of a Massively post by Tateru Nino who speculated about what we might do if we were going to improve the product or make smart business decisions. But what could make a premium subscription truly premium? What would make the experience a delight for you? Let us know in the forums.

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