Linden Lab CEO Rosedale at SLCC: No Further Layoffs Over the Next Year Teen Second Life to Be Shut Down
BOSTON/Back Bay - After announcing his appearance on short notice, Linden Lab founder and CEO Philip Rosedale addressed over 300 attendees - all of whom are active participants in the Second Life virtual world - at the morning plenary session of the Second Life Community Convention at the Park Plaza Hotel on Saturday.
Rosedale's talk touched on a number of issues. Some technical. Most related to calming the rumors that Linden Lab - and Second Life itself - are in trouble in the wake of the layoff of 30 percent of their staff in June. Just before his return to the company's leadership.
When asked if he expected any more layoffs over the next year, Rosedale was succinct, "No. We don't. We're profitable right now and we think we're staffed right for what we're doing. So, no, we don't expect to have additional rounds of layoffs."
As regards whether he expected his company to open direct connections to other virtual worlds like OpenSim in the near to medium term, Rosedale said, "As I said today, no. We're focusing on the basic utility and success of what we're doing on the main grid and our main system first. We don't have any specific product plans about how we interact and connect to other grids, but as I said we do very much support their existence. We're just not doing the work to make those connections now. We're going to do it later. When we see the rules better worked out for how to exchange content."
But the hot topic among convention attendees was Rosedale's announcement that Linden Lab would be phasing out Teen Second Life - their virtual world for 13-17 year olds (16 and 17 year olds will be allowed to join the adult Second Life virtual world, and 13-15 year olds will eventually be accommodated on some new and as-yet non-existent teen virtual world). Many members of his keynote's audience were educators who have put a great deal of time and effort into building the "Teen Grid" - as it is also called.
Peggy Sheehy, a teacher from the Suffern Middle School in Suffern, NY, was the first to question the move during the open discussion session following the morning plenary, and later expanded on her ideas at length at an afternoon workshop session for educators, "I'm a teacher. First and foremost, I'm in a middle school with the kids every day and serve as a media specialist, and I support my teachers, but primarily I'm all about the kids. And we established the first middle school on the Teen Grid in 2006. We've had 2400 student accounts. I've trained 45 teachers and that's just in my school. I began consulting about 4 years ago. And I've brought hundreds of schools into the Teen Grid. I know that there's thousands of teachers who've fought the good fight to get this accepted as a sound and substantial pedagogical approach to learning.
"But more importantly, I've seen the magic when a kid's face lights up. I've seen the magic when a student functions as an avatar. But you know that good fight that we fought all along was really about lending this credibility. It was about coming up with examples of this being something real and fertile for learning. For engagement. A really true substantial pedagogy. And we had the hurdles to fight. We had the hurdles of the hype. Unfortunately when the media got ahold of Second Life it was all about sex and rock'n'roll. You know, they totally overlooked the presence of places like NOA and the American Library Association and you know so that was the word we had to get out there. And frankly we were doing it alone.
"We were getting very little help and support from the powers that did have a public relations office - whether they be Linden Lab or these bigger organizations - for getting the word out there. It was really the educators. It was me running around to conferences like a crazy person. And other colleagues of mine doing the same thing. And really on a one-to-one basis in small groups such as this one and in auditoriums giving answers to questions after, it was really addressing all those issues that people had about "well this is what I've heard about Second Life" and "why would you want kids in there?" And we've really I think, really done an excellent job. And the proof of that is if you were to look at the internet right now and talk to people who are in schools, who are using Second Life, and look at the actual growth that is going on just in my observation and my circle of awareness there are schools buying islands constantly. All the time now. Because they want to do this.
Sheehy concluded, "Now, the conversation is ongoing and I'm very happy they've included myself and some other educators in this conversation. What I really feel - and I'm on my soapbox now - what I really feel needs to be addressed though is are we dealing with corporate-speak here? And are you just letting us down gently and there's the Teen Grid gone forever? In which case, we're educators, we'll do what we have to do to go and do what we have to do. And you know if I'm forced to go to another grid I will, but my loyalty from day one has been with Linden Lab because they were the first. They were the best. They were the most stable. Believe it or not. And actually in my dealings with the Concierge and with Linden Lab's education team, they really did everything they could possibly do within the realms of what their legal department allowed to facilitate education.
Rosedale attended the educators workshop and responded directly to the concerns of Sheehy and other Teen Second Life community leaders - focusing most of his remarks on concerns that Linden Lab will simply delete all existing Teen Grid content, " ... Teen Grid isn't growing because parents and educators basically are not allowed to join the kids there. So, that's basically the problem, we actually aren't growing fast enough. Good stuff is happening there, can't grow quickly enough. So we've got to change something to make it grow faster. With respect to the content, the content can be saved out and I think we're looking at whether there are cases where we can move whole regions onto the main grid.
"So we're not going to delete content. I mean people can put it into their inventory as well and we're going to bulk transfer accounts over to the main grid. So we're not nuking a bunch of content. I mean it could come down to that if somebody didn't want to renew, didn't want to pay whatever. But certainly in every case where folks that are educators want to move content, it won't be a problem at all.
The discussion and debate over the Teen Second Life shutdown continued for the rest of the weekend, and have since spilled out into blogs and forums throughout the Second Life online community.
Second Life educators plan to continue to engage with Linden Lab and are asking for the shutdown process to include students active in the Teen Grid.