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The great white hope

New Linden Lab CEO, Rod Humble, is at present broadly viewed as “the great white hope”* for many thousands of entrenched Second Life customers.

* The phrase itself is an odd one, deriving from a famous stage play (and later film) about segregation and racism in the early 20th century, but by the latter half of the century had been co-opted by the popular media to refer to any much-longed-for agent-of-change, regardless of actual race or creed.

Right now, we’re in the honeymoon period, where everyone’s waiting to see which way the frog is going to jump, what measures he will take, how effective they will be, and how well-communicated. For the moment, Humble is accepted as, in potentia, the agent of change, or saviour of Second Life that the majority of Second Life users seem to be longing for.

It seems as if everyone is holding their collective breath waiting for him to make good, or wash out.

It reminds me of the honeymoon period often granted to incoming Presidents of the United States of America, from whom people expect great change, despite the office having no formal legislative powers (beyond vetoing bills passed by Congress).

As Linden Lab CEO, however, Humble may have considerable strategic and tactical power within the Lab – if such has been granted to him by the board. Corporate boards can go either way on this. Some do not allow a CEO any control over products or services, but only partial control over the way the business itself operates. It can be very hard to tell quite where a CEO falls along that spectrum.

Nevertheless, it is starting to feel like make-or-break period for Second Life. I don’t think the user-base will tolerate another change of CEO at the Lab without first seeing substantial service improvements. Quite how long that period is going to extend, I’m not sure.

Something that Humble has in common with almost every President of the United States, a move that is perceived as wrong – at this time – could gut Second Life of support of its users and send content-creators and businesses packing, along with the economy and user-ecosystem surrounding them.

Everyone expects greatness, and hardly anyone can agree on what that greatness actually consists of – even more so than usual … but hey, no pressure, right?

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