The folks at Linden Lab are an interesting and varied lot. I’ve had considerable experience with many of them as individuals in various capacities. I’ve been hired by the Lab – in various capacities – on no less than three occasions (and there was one other offer where I declined), as well as having known a number of them from before their time at the Lab.
As individuals – in my experience – they’re good people, smart, stolid, thoughtful and caring. Yes, there’ve been a couple of duds that made my skin itch, but aside from those rare exceptions, the folks who work at Linden Lab are as nice, honest, decent, witty, intelligent and dedicated a bunch of people as you might care to number among your friends and co-workers.
As individuals, they earn my admiration, affection and respect – they’re worth it. Things start to go downhill a little from there, though.
The Lab is an excellent example that you can put a bunch of these clever, ethical, deeply-caring and well-intentioned people together as a group and – as a company – lose almost every single one of those qualities.
My father used to say “One wise man is a blessing. Twenty wise men are a riot.”
In short, left undirected good, well-meaning, ethical, clever and deeply-caring people can become little more than a mob. The organisation in which they function must be organised, otherwise their talents are wasted and their gifts and contributions are squandered.
What you get is organisational mediocrity.
And that’s terrible and sad. It might function. It might turn a profit, but heavens what a waste!
Labbers had all sorts of good qualities largely in common. Unfortunately, it was the inevitable less-good qualities that formed political factions, power blocs and an entire ad-hoc structure that had little to do with the overall org chart (such as it was).
Groups that should have worked smoothly with each-other sometimes chose to obstruct. Issues like megaprims caused deep divisions between those who supported them and those who wished to see them eliminated. Dozens – perhaps hundreds – of issues created divisiveness and obstruction in the absence of any firm structures to smooth and resolve them.
Work on key issues was depleted by the Achievements and Objectives system which encouraged focus on low-hanging fruit – progress on short, easily completed items that didn’t always fit into long-term strategic thinking – and prejudiced against longer-term, integrated planning.
Stronger organisational structures came along later, but by that time the Lab was already of an unwieldy size (several times larger than it should have been at the time those efforts began in earnest), and the moves towards that organisation was resisted by the staff themselves, and often by the people in the most position to benefit from the internal corporatisation.
That’s how I – and some others – saw things from our little corners of the scheme of things.
The Labbers are – with few exceptions – great people. The sort of people you’d love to have on your team for almost any enterprise, but the company operates like a complex train-wreck, modelled with Havok physics on an overloaded server. It’s easy to love the Labbers, but it’s harder to love the Lab.