A Rewarder Experience

Saturday, May 30, 2009 Saturday, May 30, 2009

This week I happened to listen to an unusual podcast in which Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale was interviewed by tech maven Jon Udell in his wonderful series “Interviews with Innovators”. Philip spoke on his ideas for managing a software company, and in particular some of the very unusual people management techniques he’s pioneered at Linden Lab. 

Everyone knows Philip is a visionary and technical whiz, but after hearing him speak during the 44 minute podcast, it’s quite clear that he knows a lot more than simply the technical aspects. He has some intriguing ideas for motivating people that I had not heard previously.

Philip describes an internal system known as the “Rewarder” used to award monetary bonuses to deserving staff. Here’s how it apparently works:
  • An unspecified portion of the Lab’s profits are set aside each quarter (and yes, Philip indicates that Linden Lab is quite profitable today, unlike some other companies like Twitter, for example)
  • Every quarter each employee is awarded a fixed and standard quantity of “points” in the rewarder system that they can award to other employees they feel has done great work
  • The points cannot be kept for themselves, and must be awarded to others
  • Points can be assigned all to one individual or split up among many in varying amounts, with no restrictions other than staying within the assigned quantity of total points
  • Points can be awarded to a “proxy” who can award them on the individuals behalf (for example, if a project was successful, you could award points to the project’s manager to split them up among the project’s team members)
  • The profit allocation is then split up among all staff based on the point totals awarded to each participant at the end of each quarter

This is a very different scheme for motivating the staff; most companies have a traditional bonus system where managers go into a smoky back room and do battle over their favorite employees’ bonuses. Usually this approach is not particularly accurate or welcomed by staff - although I'm certain staff enjoy any money received. But Linden Lab’s Rewarder approach is very innovative and places the responsibility for determining bonuses directly in the hands of the staff themselves, not in management’s control.

It’s reminiscent of Second Life itself, where the content is managed by the users. At Linden Lab, bonuses are apparently managed by the staff, too. Who can argue with that?

If you’d like to hear the entire podcast (and be aware it’s 44 minutes in length), you can find it at IT Conversations right here.

KIssing Booth: The Aftermath, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009 Monday, May 25, 2009

I survived. And had fun, too. This year’s Kissing Booth event was a total success, raising approximately $30,000L for the Relay for Life charity! Can you guess which booth was mine in the image above?
The large donation was the making of those who spent an equally large amount of time making all the arrangements. Shawna Montgomery provided the venue and RFL vendors, Amber DeCuir organized, Natassia Nightfire provided amazing Trek Tunes and party mastermind Haley Salomon made certain it all got done just right.

There were a great many visitors, and it was hard to tell how many in total as many came to do the rounds of the kissing booths and then left. 

Many notable SL’rs were present in the Kissing Booths, including blogger and punster Tymmerie Thorne above. Modest prevents us from publishing any image of her engaging in her feminine charity duties, lest she get in trouble with you-know-who.

Ultra-reporter Hamlet Au graced the venue with his periodic randy taunts at the clientele. After a confusing encounter with a four-headed monster (“which mouth do I kiss?”, and “do you pay once per mouth?”) Hamlet was clearly exhausted.
Mitch Wagner, host of Copper Robot came in a Star Trek outfit, as everyone did - but Mitch did it with a twist. Experienced trekkies will know that any crew member in a red uniform, well, kinda doesn’t make it safely to the end of the episode. Red equals expendable. As you can see, Mitch is partway there, having suffered some brutal damage during ACT 1 of today’s episode. 

Delinda Dyrssen of Tonight Live was so enthralled with my amorous attention that she actually fainted and fell onto the floor. Actually, she did that after kissing anyone!


Podcast Emperor Stuart Warf took a turn in a booth, wearing a very snappy blue uniform.


The mysterious Twitter comedian SecondLie took a turn in a booth. Here we see him puckering up to administer to Gabby Panacek. Watch out for paper cuts, Gabby!

Some of the visitors, including GoSpeed Racer above, enjoyed the Star Trek displays, including a rather amazing transporter that dropped you right into the middle of a perfect replica of the Enterprise’s command bridge. Not surprisingly, every one who teleported into the bridge just had to sit in the captain’s chair.  


And me? Well, I did my duty to all comers. And among the many who partook in the festivities was Codebastard Redgrave


Can you guess who this is? It’s none other than designer Callie Cline. Note how the kiss caused her scarf to rise! It was that good!

Thanks again to all who came by!

For Sale - Again!

Thursday, May 21, 2009 Thursday, May 21, 2009

I swore to myself I would not do it again.

But, I am.

That’s right. This weekend I am for sale. Really! As part of the Relay for Life, I’ve accepted a position in a mysterious device known as a “Kissing Booth” during this weekend’s fund raising Star Trek party. I’ll be accepting Linden Dollars in exchange for.... for, well, you’ll have to find out.

I’m not the only person submitting to the whims of Kissing Booth customers, check out these other SL personalities who will also butter up their lips:

The theme of the party is, of course, Star Trek, and we’re hoping visitors wear Trek outfits or anything spacey. Amazing Star Trek posters wall the party site, and there is even a complete replica of the original Star Trek’s command bridge. You can ride the most realistic trek teleporter right into the bridge and sit in the captain’s chair. After visiting the kissing booths, certainly.

Truthfully, last years episode was a tremendous amount of fun for everyone, as you can see in my report. I’m hoping to have the same effect this year.

You probably want to know when and where the party takes place. It begins at 11:30AM SLT on Sunday, May 24th in Chatrez. When does it end? Hah, how much lip gloss do I have? Here’s the direct SLURL for your convenience. Hope to see you there!

Back to the Moon

Sunday, May 17, 2009 Sunday, May 17, 2009

I received numerous inquiries regarding the secret location of the amazing Saturn V / Apollo simulator this past week, and today I’ve received permission to publicize the not-so-secret location. It's a construction of Wicked Quasimodo, who built it in and above a space-oriented sandbox. 
The launch site may be found in the Space Frontier sim.

If you visit (and I strongly recommend you do), here are your astronaut tips:
  • The rocket launches (meaning “leaves the pad vertically really fast”) at precisely 32 minutes after every hour. You MUST be on board before this happens
  • Be prepared to arrive quite a bit before 32 minutes past the hour, because you’ll want to witness the various preparation activities that take place during the ten minutes or so before the actual launch. You'll see plumbing retracting and locks at the bottom releasing the rocket
  • At the base of the gantry, the “funky computer” on the launch platform gives you a HUD that will broadcast actual Apollo 11 audio tracks at appropriate moments during the simulation
  • Summon the elevator and walk along the gangway that reaches out to the rocket. If the gangway is retracted, you’re too late!
  • Set your world to Midnight. It just isn't the same otherwise
  • Another reason to get there early is to get a seat! There are only four seats in the capsule, get yours early! If you miss out, you'll have to wait another hour for the next ride
  • The door to the capsule doesn’t work, as far as I can tell. To get inside, simply “cam” inside and right-click “sit” on one of the seats
  • Do not under ANY circumstances "stand up" during the flight. You have been warned!
  • Turn your sound up to hear the various announcements that take place, especially during launch
  • Try various camera views, but remember, the rocket travels quite fast and your cam might not keep up
  • Once in orbit, be patient. Things don’t happen right away, so you’ll have to enjoy the amazing view. A Space Navigator is astronomically useful at this point.
  • The last time I visited, there was a garish nightclub floating nearby that kinda disturbed the view. It's a sandbox, after all. Recommend you look in the other direction
And that’s it - I enjoyed the trip immensely, and so can you.

UPDATED - Radar, Haley and I ran through the ride again tonight, and found that the builder has added a LEM landing now! You can move into the Lunar Excursion Module, which detaches and lands on the ground.

The Designer Showcase Network

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Readers may recall my periodic ramblings that tried to sort out revenue fluctuations. One theory suggested Grid-Wide Hunts suck up all the clients, implying you’d better get involved in the hunts if you want to stay in business. I’ve taken up that challenge in the past few months as an experiment by entering a series of Grid Hunts.

So far, I’ve found hunts definitely drive very significant traffic to your shop. Overwhelming traffic at times, and I can’t imagine the crowding at stores a lot smaller than mine (1/4 sim). But the question is, “do these visitors buy anything”? The answer is apparently not, at least at my store. Perhaps they don’t care for particle effects, or maybe they are simply cruising through the landmarks in a nearly endless effort to reach “the end”.

Some say “don’t worry – your gift includes your landmark, so they’ll come back later to visit your store!” Perhaps, but there is scant evidence of this in my statistics. Perhaps they are too busy doing the “next” hunt to worry about looking at the items from the previous hunt?

Another finding: on Plurk and Twitter, one now hears exhausted hunters dreading “the next hunt”. Yes, there certainly are those who enjoy hunts and are quite good at running them, but there seems to be hunt-burn out occurring too. I am not surprised, as there seems to be several gigantic simultaneous hunts underway each and every month.

As an example, I’m in the SL Discovery hunt this month, which features well over 500 stores strung together by a chain of landmarks hidden in tiny magnifying glasses. How long would it take to traverse that entire chain? For this 30-day hunt, it means you must visit on average 18-20 shops each and every day. How many gifts would you receive? Duh, over 500. How much time would it take to actually investigate those 500+ gifts? Probably over 40 hours at 5 minutes each. And that’s just one hunt for one month. What about the other five hunts also underway this month?

Hunts just don’t seem to scale up very well.

What’s the solution? Rika Watanabe came up with a very intriguing idea during a Plurk discussion several weeks ago. The notion is to automate the hunt process and relieve both the vendor and the hunter of the incredible effort required to setup and run through a grid-hunt.

Instead of actually visiting the participating stores, Rika’s brand new Designer Showcase Network merely asks that you “subscribe” to the service, specifying the type of products they’re interested in (a “channel”). Each day you’ll be gifted a random item from that channel’s many participating stores. The network tracks the gifts to ensure you don’t get any duplicates.

Designers simply purchase and set up a kiosk, and then place a box in it containing a gift and landmark. Hopefully the gifts are of high quality and attract the subscriber to the store. Subscribers can get gifts without having to spend massive amounts of their valuable time chasing through stores.

Of course, this isn’t for everyone. Some avatars hunt simply for the pleasure of finding the hidden objects - it is a treasure hunt, after all. But how many times can you do that?

And that’s it. No fuss. Free gifts. Choice. And exposure to new stores that you might have never heard of. And you can resume your normal activities. You know, the ones you did before hunts erupted?

If you want to find out more about the DSN, check out the website at CleverThings. It includes information for both hunters and vendors. Also, I’m one of the first vendors to set up a DSN Kiosk, why don’t you come by Electric Pixels and try it out?

To The Moon, Almost

Friday, May 8, 2009 Friday, May 08, 2009

We bumped a very interesting build into the other day, which is an astonishing simulation of an Apollo mission to the Moon. Not only do you get to see the life-size rocket launching, but you can also ride along as an astronaut (avanaut? astrotar? cosmatar?).

The build is still being constructed, so it is definitely not complete. The builder has quite a bit done now, but the simulation currently stops at earth orbit. Future stages will likely include a simulation of the journey between Earth and Moon, perhaps including a landing!

The journey begins by climbing the titanic Saturn V launch tower and walking across the gangway to the command module.

The door is actually sealed, so you must cam in and "sit" to take your seat. Best to wear a flight suit, but on this occasion we weren't properly equipped and took a chance that the capsule would remain air-tight during our flight.  

The rocket powers off the pad in an extremely realistic manner automatically every 60 minutes, and performs staging of the Saturn V sections just as the vehicle did in the 1970's. You can see the gangway being retracted, as well as the locking bars at the bottom release the rocket when it hits full power. Here we see the second stage just before it lit up.

Once in orbit, you are presented with simply the most marvelous scene I've ever experienced in SL: a highly realistic Earth, sliding gracefully under the ship as it sails across the planet. Oh, you must set Midnight for this to work properly. If you look closely you can make out continents and even some cities.You can see Africa and the Arabian Peninsula in this view.

The view is absolutely breathtaking, especially if using a SpaceNavigator to fly your camera around outside the ship. Like a real astronaut, I spent a lot of time simply staring out the porthole.

After several minutes spent gawking at the incredible view, the ship suddenly releases the Lunar Excursion module, stored above the third stage.

The Command/Service Module automatically rotates around and slowly docks with the LEM and extracts it from the third stage, which then falls away.

The CSM/LEM combination ship then orbits the earth. At this point the simulation seems to end, but one can imagine the obvious next step: transferring into the LEM, undocking and landing on the Moon's surface.  

I did transfer myself to the LEM, leaving Haley alone to operate the CSM, but I found the LEM incomplete. I hope she knows how to drive!

This wonderful simulation is clearly a work in progress, but I can tell you that this ride will be one of the top destinations for any SL visitor once it's completed. I cannot tell you how amazing this experience was; you just have to see it yourself. Unfortunately, I don't want to disclose its location yet so that the builder can still work on completing this amazing destination without being overrun with visitors. I'm sure it will be completed soon. 

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