Canary customers

I’ve been thinking some more and reading some of your own thoughts about the position that Linden Lab is advertising for a Senior Client Manager.

Well, after some reflection I think that there’s definitely a strong case for doing this (though admittedly, there’s probably an even stronger case for doing it four or five years ago).

The largest Second Life customer that I am aware of holds upwards of 1,500 sims. Let’s assume the unthinkable, that decisions that the Lab makes moves things sufficiently away from that customer’s business model that the customer decides to close up shop.


That would really hurt the Lab – and hurt it in ways that would hurt all of Second Life and its users.

Even if the customer were to scale back to any significant degree.

And there’s a number of quite big customers whose departure or scaling-back would injure Second Life grievously by drastically reducing the funds (both directly and indirectly) that the Lab spends on Second Life.

So, let me pull a completely unsubstantiated number out of the air and say that there’s about 13,000 landholders. A very few of those landholders provide a disproportionately large amount of revenue.

Trying to listen to 13,000 people (few of whom have much in common and cannot appear to agree about a terrible lot) and make them all happy is folly, certainly.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” (attributed to Bill Cosby)

So, the smarter option is to monitor those few key customers whose contribution to Second Life and to revenue is vital to the Lab, and treat them like a miner’s canary. If it stops singing or falls off of its perch, there’s serious trouble.

Those customers are big financial successes – so they’re obviously doing something right and have a sense about what might or might not damage that business.

A tricky part of the job would be to prevent these key customers from holding the Lab hostage to their particular whims. There’s always that possibility. It’s certainly something that will have to be handled with quite extraordinary care.

I imagine that if you’re running an operation that’s North of 50 simulators or so, you’d be a candidate canary-customer. Quite where the Lab would set that threshold is uncertain, though. 50? 100? 1000? It’s hard to say.

Wherever the threshold is set, I think the Lab would be foolish to ignore the feedback from the highly-successful customers that meet it. And we’d probably be foolish to tell them that it’s a bad idea. Oh, the Lab could still screw it up, but defending key revenue streams has got to be a priority.

The last thing most of us wants is for the Lab to cause itself an injury that causes it to bleed out.

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