It was good to hear Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s new CEO, speak at the Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education 2014 Conference in Second Life today.
Ebbe addressed a number of pain points with the educator community in Second Life and brought some healthy visibility into how he sees things moving forward on a number of technical levels. I really appreciated the time and effort he spent in addressing educators.
But I have some constructive criticism.
Cultivating any community requires a lot more than just understanding its technical requirements for a particular piece of software or to be “listening to needs.” Communities are organic and constantly evolving entities with complex interdependencies that are often far from intuitive. And when you give communities new technological tools, they typically use these tools in very unpredictable ways.
In other words, it’s not just about collecting technical requirements and reading submitted feedback when you have the time. It’s about taking the time to actively investigate and participate in a community so you can cultivate its success and identify completely new market opportunities in the future.
There’s a reason people dedicated to sociology and cultural anthropology and community development exist. This stuff is important and hard and requires focus.
It’s the same reason why companies that focus solely on engineering goals while ignoring complex sociological factors tend to find themselves perpetually running after a community rather than leading it into the brightest possible future.