Ebbe Altberg: For the People

“We’re here, we’re willing to listen. We’re willing to engage in dialog and have conversations about what is the future and how do we get there. And that the doors are open now, again, and we want to talk to you, we want to understand you, we want to understand how to make you successful, whichever way you feel is required to make that happen. So that’s it. I’m here, I’m happy to talk to all of you, I’m gonna learn and listen and most of all, I want to make you successful, because that’s how we all can become successful.” ~ Ebbe Altberg, April 9. 2014

At a recent in-world conference for VWBPE (Virtual World Best Practices in Education), one of the keynote speakers was Linden Lab’s new CEO, Ebbe Altberg. This was a wonderful opportunity to really get to hear from Ebbe since he was installed as CEO of Linden Labs in February of 2014. You can see the video of Ebbe’s entire address here.

During his 84 minute keynote address, Ebbe touched on his thoughts for the future, gave updates, and answered questions from the audience. He addressed not only issues within the educational community, but also in SL and virtual worlds as a whole.

First of all, Ebbe feels that education is a very important partner with Second Life. He has already reinstated better pricing for educational organizations and nonprofits. He wants to reconnect with the education community and feels it is an important part of the virtual world experience. He is looking forward to education being an important part of SL from this point forward.

Another priority is working with the legal department regarding revamping the TOS (Terms Of Service) regarding content creation in order to mitigate the rumors that Linden Labs is into stealing the rights to user created content and selling it to benefit themselves. They are working to change the wording to reassure creators so they will feel confident that Linden Labs won’t steal their unique user created content, and wants to make it very clear that content creators are owners of their own creations. He is very interested in ensuring that creators can get their content both in and out of SL. Linden Labs is not trying to lock them in to SL only and wants to ensure people can export their items to the metaverse and open sim. Ebbe wants to see users getting the most out of SL.

Ebbe spoke about LL’s position regarding the metaverse and open sim. He feels that he’s glad that others, such as Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity, are exploring this area, and that it is important for growth going forward. However, Ebbe feels that we need to get SL right first, and that we still have a long way to go. He feels that SL is too difficult for most people, and the learning curve is really steep. Ebbie states that he wants to make SL more user friendly and easier for people to use who are new to virtual worlds. Second Life needs to be easier to use and that we need to make improvements to the user experience. Linden Labs is working on this and they have developed some short-term goals, but most changes are long-term and will take time to develop.

A great deal of progress has been made over the last two years and most of these changes have been behind the scenes, such as a huge improvement to avatars and the ability to have lots of avatars on a sim without crashing. Change comes to SL like a slow drip — they’re constantly improving in small increments.

Future Technology
Ebbie touched on the fact that Linden Labs is actively in development on new technologies — specifically Occulus (a beta viewer has already been released, and an update is coming soon). One of the issues being worked on is how to interact in world without a keyboard and mouse.

Ebbe has received many inquiries about whether or not the in-world Community Liaison between Linden Labs (LL) and SL users will be reintroduced, and the answer is “not at this time.” However, a very big priority of Ebbe’s is to reopen the dialogue between educators and Linden Labs, and to make sure that talk turns into action. Linden Labs wants to develop priorities and work on them to make progres towards those goals.

He is also encouraging employees of LL to go in-world as Lindens. He has lifted the rule against LL employees going in-world as Lindens, and wants to encourage them to get out there and interact with end users and really see what is going on in SL.

There is a perception that SL is nothing but a venue for gratuitous sex. Ebbe feels that there is a need to try and market SL better, so that we can improve the reputation and help people understand the breadth and depth of all that SL has to offer. The good and wonderful things in SL aren’t being seen outside the walls of SL, and that needs to change.

Strategy Going Forward
Some of the things that are in Ebbe’s top priorities in the immediate future include:

• Taking Linden dollars as a currency outside of SL. This is a massive undertaking, and getting RL bankers and so forth to go along with it is huge. They have to ensure transactions are safe and there is controls in place to avoid fraud and money laundering. It needs to be safe, legal and compliant. Ebbe compared this project to Bit Coin.

• Make SL and the viewer more intuitive and easier to use: There was an attempt by LL to simplify the viewer, and it didn’t work. Ebbe says that he is looking into why this didn’t work, because once again, SL’s learning curve is so steep it often chases off potential new residents before they can even get started.

• HiFi in SL: Linden Labs is working on making a richer avatar experience by bringing emotions to avatars. They’re in the early stages of development, but they want to make it so you can interact with avatars and be able to see their emotions, as well as hearing it in voices or emoting it in type. He wants to move avatars to beyond just being “dolls” and actually being able to see expressions of surprise, anger, happiness and have that transmitted visually.

Audience Questions:

• Will LL be working on the ability to export content out of SL?
Currently, Linden Labs isn’t actively preventing this from happening. Perhaps what is happening is that the way to export isn’t simple enough, or isn’t being communicated, but people currently do export content. Perhaps they are using a work-around, but LL isn’t actively preventing this. Which brings up another problem, where creators need to be the original creator of every single piece of the item in order to export it, and so if you’ve added a script or other component created by someone else, then you cannot export the item. And the reasons for this are simple: We need to make sure people can’t pirate your work by exporting it out of SL and into other platforms, but clearly LL needs to work out how to allow creators to export items with other user-created content and still make it so that your content cannot be pirated.

• There is a problem with schools and other groups in Japan, Australia and New Zealand having issues connecting to SL. Will it be possible for people in New Zealand to be able to connect to SL servers using their high speed network? And what can they do to expedite communications with SL more effectively?

Linden Labs is attempting to partner with companies in Asia to help understand what their issues are and how to fix this problem. How do we distribute hardware globally, and there will always be some users who are going to be far away from hardware and thus unable to connect to SL without some latency. The long-term goal is to invest in more hardware and distribute it globally as much as is feasible.

• How is Linden Labs addressing some concerns that educators have with allowing K-12 children onto the grid and still ensure their security and safety?

Linden Labs is attempting to make the main grid better, safer, and cleaner without restricting what adults can do, and then expand it to include children. LL is not currently planning on resurrecting the teen grid because it’s not worth it and it’s not a priority and it takes up too many resources for limited content. Right now, LL’s priorities are solving the problem of ease of use, solving quality issues, making technology more flexible. Then, down the road, we can offer more dedicated special interest audiences like that in a safe manner. But it’s not currently a top priority.

• Community Development — We want to see LL office hours in world back and more visible Lindens in-world.

Once again, the restrictions against allowing staff to go in-world as Lindens has been lifted. Staff need to interact with users, and find out what their issues are. LL would like to have meetings but there needs to be ground rules, such as keeping it calm, make sure actionable items come out of the meetings, and that they are not simply gripe sessions. Perhaps a good way to connect with special interest groups, such as E-sports, the bar association, music groups, machinima groups, etc. would be to create an area where these groups can post the dates and times of their meetings and informational get-togethers. Then LL staff can go there, find something they’d like to attend, and then be able to go there. Ebbe stated that he would like to be involved in that, too. Linden Labs is working towards more transparency, and they want to repair that communication. Special interest groups are welcomed and encouraged to invite LL staff to participate in their events and meetings.

In conclusion, Ebbe stated that he is excited to be here and being part of the cutting edge of this type of technology. The possibilities are endless. Advances need to continue to happen, and LL should be at the forefront of these advancements.

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers
ZoHa Islands Social Media Manager