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There’s a prevailing attitude among Second Life users that Linden Lab should, essentially, “Figure out what the customer wants, and then figure out how to provide that profitably” to paraphrase Wayfinder Wishbringer talking about Blue Mars, and 3D virtual environments generally. It neatly sums up how many – or perhaps most of us feel about how 3D virtual environments and how they’re designed and operated.

However, it isn’t as simple as that. Nothing ever really is, it seems.

What does the customer want? That’s actually a lot harder to figure out than you might think. There’s actually a number of reasons that many companies work to limit customer input to just a few focus groups.

Cost and time are huge factors in market research, for one. The more responses you get, the more time and money it requires to obtain and process them. That’s money that isn’t being directly spent on the product or service itself, and only winds up being beneficial to the product/service if it actually bears some fruit.

Another issue is that… well, the more people you ask, the broader the responses become, particularly if your audience is spread across many diverse demographics, as is common in 3D virtual environments. Also, not everyone is really clued up on what is hard, what is easy, what is cheap, what is expensive, what simply isn’t technically possible, or what impact some change might have on other customers.

For almost every response suggesting that the respondent would like, for example, X thing to be done, there’s one or more respondents who will say that X is a terrible idea and should be avoided at all costs.

Heck, look at the Linden Dollar/US Dollar exchange rate. It doesn’t actually matter which direction that exchange rate shifts, but that there are people who think it is good and people who think it is bad (and of course, some people who would like to do away with the Linden Dollar entirely).

Who do you think the operator should listen to? Well, you obviously, and not those other folks who have different ideas, right?

And therein lies the problem.

Now, here’s a practical exercise.

According to Lab COO Bob Komin: Linden Lab’s new CEO, Rod Humble will be joining the Lab for his first day tomorrow morning (Tuesday, 18 January, US Pacific time). Now, today Rod probably doesn’t know much more about Linden Lab than you or I, being that he’s still an outsider. He’s got a lot to learn, and we’re probably talking weeks rather than days.

Nevertheless, try to ignore any comments below and sit and think for a minute about what announcement you think Rod Humble should make for the betterment of Second Life for his first fully-informed act as CEO. Submit it as a comment, and only then read through what responses others made, and see how they compare to yours. Rod himself might end up seeing them as well. There are certainly a disproportionately large number of Linden Lab staff who are regular readers.

So, what have you got to lose – aside from the respect of your peers, I mean… in which case feel free to email me your comment to post anonymously on your behalf – what should Rod Humble’s first announcement for Second Life be as Linden Lab’s new up-to-speed CEO?

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