Is spyware the root cause of this data leak?

Linden Lab published this yesterday to remind people about basic internet security.   In a roundabout way it is very forcefully reaffirming Linden Lab’s position that these spam emails are as a result of user machines being compromised.  Unfortunately it ignores what is being said by those who have been affected.  The thread where this is still being discussed is here.

Once I am convinced that this was due to spyware I’ll remove these posts and replace them with a background piece and the actual cause.  At the moment I’m not at a level of comfort to be able to accept the Linden Lab position.

Without knowing how local payments work, what data is required and if you need to access the Dragonfish site to do this rather than via the Second Life web pages (and there’s no way I’m going to test it out), my problems with blindly accepting Linden Lab’s position are:

  • If an email address is used for Second Life only, the last time it was probably entered anywhere was when the email account on the Second Life website was updated – assuming people pull their emails down to an email client or it will be used to log into the mail provider if accessed via the web.  Although, web access does increase the chance that spyware could capture it.
  • Those who have identified the spam emails claim their machines are spyware free.  Although none have yet said if they run scheduled checks and if they’ve reviewed the logs down the last few months to see if anything has been picked up.
  • If it is spyware, then I would expect their non Second Life accounts to be receiving spam as well, I doubt there is anyone who only uses their second life email address, yet I’ve not seen any reports of this.
  • Whilst there is a chance that somehow this spyware is clever and targetted enough to only recognise second life accounts and wait until it has the card holder name from a transaction against a Second Life account to send the data to the data collector to enable the email to be sent out, I wouldn’t consider it likely.

I’m still not convinced this can be brushed aside as user carelessness and I would certainly be asking Dragonfish to explain. As Linden Lab are so publicly committed to protecting our data, I would have expected them to contact those who are currently claiming that spyware is not the cause of this to ask them for the emails, to check their logs to see if any spyware has been removed in the last few months and to ask them where they use the email addresses in question. Just brushing this aside as user carelessness without even going through the motions of due diligence doesn’t impress me. Just saying “contact us” in what looks like a peripherally relevant post isn’t what I would expect of a company who is so committed to protecting our data and believes in good customer relations but of course the only recent Linden Lab employee who publicly demonstrated that commitment and understanding of the basics recently ceased working for the company.

Linden Lab are extremely lucky with their user base, the user base is extremely tolerant of errors, it’s extremely rare that people ever exercise their right to complain to external authorities and they’re easily distracted.  Given another week this will have passed from most memories and this will have been just another blip on the horizon.

However, since I’m not feeling enough confidence in the Lab over this, I’ll stick to avoiding local payments and keep these posts here.

Advertisements

The rumour mill says Linden Lab will file for bankruptcy. It’s probably more true than not.

I was just finishing off a post explaining just why the rumour I read yesterday that Linden Lab was about to file for bankruptcy was unhelpful and untrue speculation – despite the reduction in support and all the other things that have been going on with Linden Lab that have given the impression that the company is going out of business..  then I saw this.

Why does Linden Lab constantly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?  From the deluge of users they cavalierly despised and ignored back in 2006, viewer 2, xstreet to slm migration, zindra, homesteads, AU, the approach to reducing the number of smaller estate owners via the deluge of around 500 regions via the Atlas programme and finally kissing goodbye to all but the most passionate and monied educators and non profits with the tier increase next year..  I’ve always despaired at how totally wrong LL seems to get things.  Now it looks like it’s all coming home to roost.

I desperately hope I’m wrong but the signs aren’t good.  I thought we might have another 12 months left but perhaps my original thought that they wouldn’t last until Christmas really was more accurate.

This is completely down to poor judgement on Linden Lab’s part.  I really could give them a slapping.

Linden Lab indirectly endorses possible federal criminals – who would have thought it?

The Emerald viewer is one of the Third Party Viewers (TPVs) registered with Linden Lab and allowed to connect to Second Life.  Down the last 12 months the developers of this viewer have sullied their reputations through unauthorised data collection of user login details, activities that would breach most consumer protection laws, unauthorised collections of data inworld and a few other activities that generally leave a bad taste in the mouth.  They brag and they sneer about it to anyone who points out their unacceptable behaviour and generally behave in a manner which reflects what they are – immature and dangerous kids.

No matter what these developers have done (including apparently originally creating a copybot viewer and at least one of the developers entering the 18+ grid when they were under age and with LLs knowledge and consent) Linden Lab have turned a blind eye.  Each time Linden Lab ignores the poor behaviour of the Emerald developers and each time the behaviour is worse.

This time they went a little too far – they used the Emerald viewer to commit what is apparently a US federal crime using by using the computers of all those who logged into Second Life during the period 8-17 Aug 2010 using Emerald to undertake a denial of service attack (DDoS) on a website that one of the Emerald developers had taken a dislike to.  This is no small number, 70% of the current SL userbase apparently uses Emerald as their access point to Second Life – a number supposedly confirmed by Google Analytics.

Modular Systems (the company who owns Emerald) called it “shenanigans”.  I call it a breach of trust and unauthorised use of a computer to commit a crime.  None of those users of the viewer during that period are probably even aware they are effectively accomplices to the crime and sadly even if they did know they probably didn’t care.  Even if they did care, LL has removed the link on their TPV page to report unacceptable activities of a registered viewer.  Do LL really think that by closing their eyes and putting their hands over their ears this will go away??  They can try to distance themselves as much as they like but they allow the continued registration of a viewer that has been identified previously as breaching the ToS (along with the developers as individuals), I just don’t understand why Linden Lab refuse to acknowledge how their reputation is damaged by this.

So, for those of you who use emerald and logged in between 8-17 Aug, be aware you are in theory an unwitting accomplice in a Federal crime.  Also remember they have some of your login details from earlier this year, I’ll lay bets they didn’t dispose of those details once they noticed the “oversight” that lead to the data capture and storage.

Philip Linden has said Linden Lab has an objective of bringing the majority of the userbase back to using a Linden Lab provided viewer – he wants to do this so they can roll out new features.  I’d say that it’s more imperative to do it to protect the users of Second Life who are unaware of the criminal activities of the Modular Systems developers and to protect the reputation of Second Life.

Although the chances are slim – Linden Lab has never felt a need to protect any of its users from the less ethical elements that are drawn to SL and I doubt that is ever going to change.

for more information go here.  I’m not going to link to the Modular Systems blog post nor to the site attacked, but I will link to this post, where the site owner talks about what some Modular Systems developers have been doing to harass him.  Also note that he mentions that the viewer user details were being disclosed – pretty serious stuff.

Suffice to say, if you do use Emerald then you should seriously reconsider your choice of viewer.  Imprudence and Rainbow are good alternatives – they have the majority of Emerald features (right down to the jiggly boobs) and I certainly believe Boy Lane (the creator of the Rainbow viewer) is above reproach.

Or of course you can look at other platforms.  Inworldz is coming along quite nicely. Yes, it’s still rough around the edges but of all of them it has the best chance of success and a lot of the Second Life content creators have moved or are in the process of moving in.

Am I the only person who is tired of Linden Lab luring people into Second Life and knowingly allowing others to take advantage of them?

Simplicity, Speed, Elegance aka Fast, Easy, Fun.

I’ve finally had a chance to listen to the audio and it was interesting to see what Philip didn’t talk about – like customer service, where the Q2 report is and timescales.  That aside, the talking points for me were:

Simplicity, Speed, Elegance aka Fast, Easy, Fun

I must say the first sent shivers down my spine..  That’s a promise I’d love to see made a reality.  The second is more achievable and I think it’s a noble aim.  Perhaps I might have used other words since it’s open to reinterpretation but as long as the aim is to make SL meet that goal rather than the company using it as a replacement for the Tao then I can live with the sniggers.

Changing their approach and providing users a choice of viewer.

It must have been a bit of a shock when Linden Lab looked at the figures and saw that 70% of users have moved away from the Linden Lab provided viewer to Emerald.  The remaining 30% is shared by Rainbow, Imprudence,  restrained life, all the other third-party viewers/plugins, the official v1.23 and v2.n.  I don’t think Linden Lab thought the policy of only providing a new user viewer through initially and I suspect they didn’t expect just how many people would move away from them.   That blind arrogance is at the heart of a lot of the issues we’ve seen here down the years.

For me the best news about this is reducing the dependence on Emerald.  There are many reasons I won’t be sorry to see the decline of Emerald viewer usage and this is despite having to use it because it provides the best functionality for the type of content creation I do.  1.23 forced me to use a tpv because 1.23 was so poor in so many areas, Linden Lab then came out and acknowledged this as a policy and left us at the mercy of a teenager who had been on the maingrid while underage and with Linden Lab’s knowledge and consent, who was harvesting user login data, who used their position to sell an item that not only didn’t do as claimed but also because of its poor quality negatively impacted on the lives of residents inworld and by the look of it breached European data collection rules.

That was win for Linden Lab huh?  I wouldn’t want those kinds of wins if I was a company that wanted to be credible but then LL has never seemed to care about that.  Even now I don’t think this is about protecting us from those who demonstrate a lack of integrity and more about how bad it looks that so many people fled the LL offering.  It’s hard to claim to be pushing the boundaries of virtual worlds when you’re out classed by a kid in a basement.

I think the approach is a very good one and I like the idea of viewer plugins/viewer type choices to enable sub groups to easily optimise it.  If they deliver I’ll be happy to ditch Emerald as my main viewer and stick to the official for most creation and Rainbow for when I need the features that Linden Lab will not provide.

Easier box unpacking

Making it easy for people to get at their purchases would be a boon.  For the first 6 months I didn’t know about the open function and used to create a folder in my inventory, edit the box and drag the items in that way.  It was a revelation when I discovered open  lol.  

The only way I can see this working is if either boxed items are automatically opened and dumped into a folder on delivery or if there is going to be the ability to unpack a box directly in the inventory. It will be interesting to see how they’re going to deploy it.  A lot of the blame for the difficulty newbies face with this is the direct fault of the shops selling the items.  There’s no reason apart from being cheap and lazy to have anything other than an unscripted one prim vendor.  Unfortunately people insist on using scripted and scripted/network vendors which require items to be boxed and also some people box up their products before putting them in the one prim vendors. Other retails don’t even have a basic understanding of how to turn a prim into a vendor – too many times I’ve seen vendors set to sell a copy rather than contents.  Usually because of ignorance.  

What I do want to see is guaranteed deliveries.  This was first mooted almost 12 months ago.  This would reduce the customer service load to a manageable proportion.  One of the things that grinds me down in here is having to deal with people telling me items weren’t delivered.  I have no control over the carrier (Linden Lab) and getting information of them is like getting blood out of a stone and leaves us open to all manner of scammers.

HTML on a prim

Sounds good but it looks like Linden Lab still has the policy in place of trying to make its users vulnerable to malevolent forces.  I really wish they’d get it through their thick skulls that the viewer isn’t like Firefox where you can install all manner of plugins to repel the data collectors, identify phishing and generally protect yourself from unpleasantness.  It doesn’t even have the basic protections of IE for identifying malevolent sites.  Why LL doesn’t understand that facilitating unauthorised data collection and worse really is not a good business look is beyond me, but then this is the company that for a long time couldn’t see why people were upset about copybot. 

SCRUM

This made me grimace.  Whilst it should generate some improvements, it isn’t going to deliver anything major.  Scrum is a development methodology, you still need to manage the delivery of products.  Those little things like being on time, to budget and to specification.  

I’ve yet to come across anyone in Linden Lab who seems to manage anything.  There’s supposedly a project management team but I doubt their effectiveness at doing more than collecting their pay at the end of the month.  It’s not really their fault though, if the corporate culture is about doing your own thing then imposing discipline is an anathema – as Linden Lab amply demonstrates.  Philip acknowledged that some projects are abandoned before being fully deployed.  SCRUM isn’t going to change that.

I’ve only come across two people who actually accepted responsibility for the delivery of anything.  They sacked one in the cull and the other is new it seems.  Obviously the second one hasn’t taken that lesson onboard yet.  I’m sure that once the newbie has settled in things will change.

I can remember attending an IBM webcast a few years ago on the results of their move to an agile methodology with self managing teams.  When the presenter was asked about what benefits had been gained, I expected him to talk about reducing delivery times, improving quality, reducing costs, improved customer satisfaction etc but instead all he said was that the developers were happier.  I don’t think I need to say any more.

Welcome Areas

I can’t wait to see how this is implemented.  I dislike welcome areas immensely as they have always attracted pond life bent on trolling, harassing and scamming newbies but newbies do need somewhere to hang out and meet other newbies and they need a home point.  TPing them directly to events and places is good but it’s human interaction that makes or breaks people in here.  A lot of old timers aren’t always happy to see a freshly rezzed newborn who doesn’t understand the basics of how to use the viewer and how to behave.  It’s a tough one.

So, here’s my score:

8/10 for “getting it”

5/10 for the chances of actually improving the inworld experience

2/10 for doing it in a timely, appropriate and cost effective manner.

As always, the proof is in the delivery.  I welcome the new focus but am not at the cautiously optimistic stage yet.  It certainly doesn’t make me want to go inworld and create.  From some of the messages I’ve had overnight it looks like I’m not alone there but then in the great scheme of things I suppose it doesn’t matter if it is too little, too late for us, as there’ll be others along to take our place.

Possibly.

Can Philip save the day? Tune in on Friday for another gripping installment of “The Tao of Linden”

This Friday is the event of the season and not to be missed. Yes gentle readers, our Interim CEO and CFO/CTO are going to address the swine  (that’s us, don’tcha know).  

Now apart from the sheer horror of having a bean counter in charge of technology, this little love-in is going to be interesting for reasons other than for what is said.. and it will (as usual) be in voice but as a sop to those who refuse/can’t use voice, Virtual Ability will be providing a real time translation service. Although LL is proclaiming that it’s only being done for those who are hearing impaired..  like the rest of us don’t exist  lol.

Whatever the reasons,  I hope this isn’t a freebie and for once LL are actually paying for a service provided by one of its customers but being deeply cynical and knowing the good hearts in VA, I bet it’s being done gratis.

So, what is this going to demonstrate?  Well, from a purely functional perspective it should show just how useless SL is for holding live events and mass communication inworld.  

Out of the probably 60,000 people online, the 4 regions they’ll use (I’m assuming 4 to enable the biggest crowd to hear them), the max capacity will be something like 400 avatars and more likely half that.    From a business perspective that’s a pretty poor ROI, paying 1280USD per month for 4 regions to enable you to have a couple of hundred people concurrently at your site is seriously poor value for money.

To overcome this limitation they’ll be using external applications to manage the constraints imposed by the avatar limits.  There’s an inworld TV link that people can view or better still, go out onto the 2d web to watch as there’s better concurrency there and to overcome the lack of robust social media tools available inworld Twitter will be used to garner questions to ask those two who are steering this apparently rudderless ship.

So, after amply demonstrating the limits of the platform for business or social use, we come to the content of the meeting.  The blog post that was published to publicise this meeting says “The overall goal is to open up the conversation with the community about our upcoming plans around the development and future of Second Life.”  ignoring the fact that only a tiny fraction of the Second Life “community” know about this and of those an even tinier fraction of them will be able to attend, this implies they have a plan, which to these tired eyes is welcomed.  

My biggest problem with it is the plan itself.  A post on the SLCC website which is publicising another speech of Philips next month says:

In a recent post on the Second Life blogs, Philip talked frankly about addressing Resident’s concerns.  “We need to get back to being the first to invent and deliver the solutions that evolve virtual worlds,” said Rosedale, “We are still at the beginning of a huge market.”

In theory, both speeches will cover the same ground but what ground is that?  It sounds so altruistic that Philip wants to invent things to evolve all worlds but really, I’d rather he put his efforts into making this one better.  What I’m seeing (and have seen for years) is a tacit acknowledgement of failure on Linden Lab’s part.  They seem to have moved from being a virtual world provider to trying to be a 3d website with hefty hardware requirements.  Newsflash!  It won’t work.

A world, by most definitions, is pretty well self-contained.  Almost everything you need should be available through the world and the one thing you shouldn’t have to be doing is having to sign up to some 2d websites, that weren’t even around when SL first arrived on the scene, to use versions of tools which are available inworld but aren’t capable of doing the job they need to. Add the sub standard customer service provided and the focus of the next twelve months should be obvious to the most dimwitted in the Lab.

but let me spell it out.

A lot of the solutions that would improve and further the acceptance of VWs and make Second Life more useful to more people and organisations are already here – they just need refining and improving.

I suppose that’s too hard an ask though.

For those of you who think you’d like to be one of the lagging, milling crowds, you have until 5pm SLT today (28 July) to register your interest and participate in the ballot.  I know the announcement has been met with cynicism and a general weariness about the empty words they spout at us but it is important as it will define our future.  If Philip hasn’t understood what needs to change to retain and increase the customer base and his profitability, then we really will be watching the articulation of the policy for the possible not-so-gradual decline of the platform – and nobody wants that.

Where does it go from here?
Is it down to the lake I fear?

for some reason I have this snippet of a lyric passing through my head..  Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Where is the Linden Lab Second Life Q2 report?

People maligned M, and certainly I didn’t have a lot of time for some of his *ahem* enthusiasms, but one thing I did appreciate was the quarterly report.  Yes, they started out as a work of fiction (does anyone remember the first few where the major fun to be had was picking them apart and demonstrating the inconsistencies and fallacies they indulged in?) but as time went on they were a good indication of just where SL was heading and at least gave some confidence (under all that distracting flannel) that they were managing the decline.

Unfortunately Q2, which by any standards was crucial to understanding the current state of SL, and future quarters, will not be reported on.  It looks like those state of the nation reports have gone the way of M.  To add to this, Tyche Shepherd doesn’t have time to do her version, which I suppose allows LL to opt out and hope we won’t notice.

Anecdotal information indicates even the solution providers are giving up and a lot of content creators are giving up their land.  The decline is feeding the decline – on top of the issues around search, the Xstreet marketplace and all the other things that make people lose heart.  Make no mistake, creators are losing heart – I can name two of the larger creators who would usually be quick to take advantage of anything that would boost their exposure and sales are showing signs of despair and defeat and I never thought I’d see the day that either of them would ever behave like that.  

However, I wouldn’t read too much into the grid size decline.  Those 400+ regions that came online a few months ago distorted the land market and I would have expected the grid to subsequently contract as it’s apparent that the demand wasn’t there for that kind of influx.

The only thing I’m concerned about is who owns the regions going offline.  If the shrinkage is being caused by smaller operators reducing their holdings then the question to be considered is just how much impact that deal with the major land owners has had on the smaller estates.  The potential for that event to be the estate version of the impact of Zindra is real.  For those of you who don’t follow this closely, Zindra demonstrated just how weak SL is – the impact of the adult content landowners trying to sell around 200 regions worth of land (the real number isn’t known because some kept their land, some abandoned it and some sold it) depressed land prices to such an extent that even 12 months later it not only hasn’t recovered but has declined further.  0.05L/sq m is shocking..  I grant you this is for visually unpleasing rocky terrain, but I paid something like 12L/sq m for the same stuff in mid 2007.  Even flat and green can be picked up for around 1L/ sq m – I paid 4.2 for the same type of land in February of last year.

What I would pay attention to is the linden sinks.  When I looked last week at the numbers for July, there was an average decline of 15% of the sink income over June.  This is after factoring frequency of the sink income.  What was remarkable was the decline in those parcels set to show in search – that was around 19% compared to last month.  Now it could just be that not all parcels had their parcel fee collected or it could be that some businesses consolidated their parcels but on those basic numbers I would hope that there’s some kind of alarm bell ringing somewhere.

But then, Linden Lab has never been very good at the financial management side of the business.  You’d like to hope they finally get to grips with the idea that money won’t continue to rain down on them despite their best efforts to stop it but I’m not optimistic.

Second Life: The beginning of the end?

I haven’t posted much this year because for a lot of it all I have seen is failure and there’s enough people out there who have been pointing this out without me adding to it.  The announcement of the redundancy of 30% of the staff at Linden Lab started me reviewing the last 4 years of watching Linden Lab as they’ve thrashed around.  How did a platform that really did have the potential to be a web changer end up like this?  This restructure is the last opportunity for Linden Lab to get Second Life at a stage where it is sustainable for the longer term and at the moment I see the chance of success as problematic.    

All I’ve seen down the years is opportunities wasted and poorly thought out and executed policies. Looking at it objectively they took the mantra of low quality is good enough for the web down to new levels. This, combined with their take it or leave it approach to their customers, has done more harm than good. Linden Lab has never really made an effort to stop treating its customers with disdain – from the April fools MotDs telling us to get a life back in 2007 to M telling us to move aside in 2009 and the general ignoring of customer concerns it’s all added to reducing the goodwill of the customer base.  M wanted us to move aside and for Linden Lab the problem is we have moved aside – so far aside in fact that a lot of us are gone and now Linden Lab is suffering.

So, off the top of my head and just in case Linden Lab ever want to do a Lessons Learnt exercise, here’s a list of some of the more obvious failures. They’re in no particular order as when I looked at them it was apparent the inefficiencies are spread throughout the entire organisation.  It’s not just policy but development, customer relations, customer service, financial controls, quality control – it’s a systemic organisational failure we’re looking at here.

So, here’s my list:

  • new user experience.  In 2006, user retention was an issue.  It took until 2010 for action to be taken.  There was no real information for new users, no support during the learning curve and no protection from the troublemakers who took great delight in ruining the initial experience.
  • Opensourcing of the viewer. The open sourcing of the viewer was successful as it’s removed some of the pressure on Linden Lab to deliver a viewer that suits all user requirements. (note: this has been changed from the original – see comments below)
  • Script Load:  In 2008 script numbers were beginning to become a problem, March 2009 the first monitoring tool released on platform,  June 2010 – still nothing concrete done.  
  • Viewer v2:  Years too late to catch the wave of new users and obviously unsatisfactory to all but those currently inworld who do more than use it as a social platform. Had Linden Lab actually told people that this viewer was solely aimed at new users they wouldn’t have had so many howls of outrage at the lack of usability.  
  • GSA Search: Deployed in prototype without any apparent understanding of the limitations of the current Second Life infrastructure it was going to be run against nor any great understanding of the data used by GSA. Two months after the last major release of the new search it still has quite serious defects that have not been addressed.  As usual Linden Lab continues to take money from businesses inworld without providing the service paid for and without any acknowledgement or compensation.
  • Removal of images on Xstreet SL and the blog:  They were just unilaterally removed.  Better option would have been to allow images from certain sites while barring the rest.  It effected my Xstreet listing layouts and it’s quite apparent that something is missing from the ads but considering I spent weeks updating them all last September when they first requested we clean up the listings and insert images, I had no intention of doing it again for what was supposed to be a short time frame between the image removal functionality and the deployment of the new site..  Except now we don’t even have a deployment date for that.
  • Despite the malware that was embedded in some websites when the web tab was first released they never took any action to resolve that and with viewer 2.0 web-on-a-prim the same issues can occur and again Linden Lab has not put in any warnings about this and has left the default switched to on. 
  • Viewer memory leak: Fixed early 2009, something like 2 years after it became an issue. I saw a reduction of 60% on usage, which is a huge number, particularly for those countries that have to pay by usage,
  • Traffic bots: Another policy change that took more campaigning efforts by customers than it should have and when implemented was not enforced. They are still being reported and Linden Lab doesn’t take action.
  • Linden Homes: why increase the cost of servicing a premium account for current users?  There were better ways of deploying this idea that would have been more cost effective.
  • Windlight: initial deployment only and feature list never fully deployed. 
  • Mono: initial deployment and no fix for the issues it generated. They’re still working on it by all accounts.
  • Opensims: pricing model incorrect and no load management put in place. 
  • Adult content: A good idea but not really implemented past a policy posting and moving a few businesses to the lands.  Transgressors still being reported and ignored, Adult content providers being charged the same as other landowners but with less features.  Which the land owners were never made aware of during the migration.  All it really did was disadvantage those who supported and complied with the policy, while rewarding those who didn’t.
  • Ad farming: Another policy change that took more campaigning efforts by customers than it should have and when implemented was not enforced.
  • SL blog: released as beta but more of a prototype and no real changes were made in response to user feedback.
  • Xstreet SL login page:  has instructions to web dev still on it!! By the look of it no one ever bothered to check it prior to release and no one has looked at it since.  The quality assurance is indicative of the rest of the LL deployments.
  • Enterprise platforms: Linden Lab have never demonstrated value to business of using Second Life. It would have worked in 2006-7 when there was still apparent potential but by 2009 it was far too late.
  • Event listing issues:  never fixed nor cleaned up to remove the worst transgressors which made it difficult to easily extract information.
  • They have no demonstrable financial controls, not even a customer billing application.
  • Architecture was showing flaws in 2006 – it needed a redesign then.  It’s not going to happen now as it’s too late to justify the cost.
  • Disregard of their own policies when it suits their short term goals (and we’ve seen how successful that hasn’t been in the past) allowing  people who they know are under 18 on the main grid, allowing people who have had accounts previously banned for antisocial behaviour, allowing certain accounts to flagrantly flout policy when Linden Lab have been made aware of it.
  • Taking action against accounts and not providing reasons why.  Doesn’t give the account holder a chance to modify the behaviour as they have no idea what they have done wrong.  So they just come back under another account and carry on.
  • Avatars United.  A great idea which would allow Linden Lab to own the virtual user identity version of Facebook.  Has languished for lack of corporate support and marketing. This is probably the only asset that Linden Lab has left that might be attractive to a buyer – apart from the customer data held.
  • Deliberately alienating the education sector.  That one beggars belief.
  • Lack of action on user to user exploitation: content theft, scams and now unauthorised data collection by third parties – some who shouldn’t even be on the grid anyway because they’ve previously been account banned.

and the list goes on..  

The consistent themes for failure are pretty apparent.  A lack of management control on timeframes for deliverables, a lack of understanding of key objectives, lack of financial controls, lack of acknowledgement of responsibility to customers to deliver something useable and an all round lack of attention to detail and an understanding of their product.  The organisational inefficiencies are pretty breathtaking, the sheer amateurism of Linden Lab as a business is astounding and despite the “restructure” I don’t see that changing any time soon.  There’s no indication of any financial or development discipline being implemented as part of this change so it’s business as usual.

Here are a  few best practice tips:

  • Developing and testing in production is a recipe for disaster,
  • Taking years to deliver something that affects your core business is unacceptable,
  • Ignoring/despising your current cash flow generators is also not a sensible business move, particularly in the current financial climate,
  • Allowing your staff to work on anything they feel like without a business case and a cost/benefit analysis is asking for trouble. In fact allowing any activity to go ahead without them and a RAID is undesirable,
  • You might like to also try some risk/impact analysis sometimes too.