Maybe this has been revealed before, but it was news to me. Some electronic detective work has uncovered what might be the future for Linden Lab’s community strategy. We’ve all heard complaints about the existing Second Life forums. We’ve also heard rumors of something new coming to replace them. Last October, Robin Linden posted a report on this topic, where she said:
I’m happy to report that we have some great things ahead for the Linden Lab Blog. We are on track with a multi-stage process of upgrading our Web presence, including both the Blog and the Forums. Our goal? To improve the information you get about Second Life and enhance our dialogue with you.
But what could it be? Every time something twitches in the existing forums we all ask, “is that the change?” and “can’t they do better than that?”
Well, perhaps they can.
There is evidence that Linden Lab is or has been evaluating Jive Software’s Clearspace community software product. For those who are not familiar with Clearspace, it’s a very sophisticated integrated community system that includes not only forum, but blog, wiki and document features as well. And it’s all integrated in a very clean fashion that is quite easy to use. If you want to try it, you can sign up for a free demonstration on Jive Software’s test site right here.
If you try it, you’ll soon realize how powerful Clearspace can be. It’s striking to imagine the kind of community that could emerge should Linden Lab actually use Clearspace.
Wait a moment, you ask, “what evidence do you have of this?” Consider the following forum post on Jive Software’s support forum dated October 2008, from a rather familiar friendly Linden:
There’s another similar post right here.
A re-read of Robin’s post lists several features that one would find in Clearspace, including clustering, plugins, etc.
Does this mean we’re going to see Clearspace soon? Clearly, Linden Lab was in fact evaluating Clearspace at that time. Further digging turns up some trails suggesting they had at one time a private Clearspace evaluation area. This testing may still be underway, but we can’t tell since it is private, after all.
Searches for Clearspace don’t reveal much after this date, which could indicate that Linden Lab has ceased their evaluation. Therefore I would not place any serious bets on this particular outcome. I suspect their evaluation showed that Clearspace had too much functionality for their needs. If I were them, I’d also be examining various Open Source alternatives such as Drupal or Joomla as well.
However, the evidence does tell us something important: Linden Lab is serious about revamping their community operations, to the point where they are evaluating some pretty amp’d tooling. We’ve seen their homepage undergo some serious surgery recently, and we should expect to see something to emerge on blogs, forums and wikis one of these days, too.