Admitted, Linden Lab makes all the right moves, bringing the software of Second Life to the open source community. Immediately after the long-anticipated announcement, a splendid wiki is launched, which includes a well-elaborated FAQ section (“How can you prevent malicious programmers from finding flaws in the code to exploit security problems?” and far more important “won’t somebody steal my Linden dollars?”). Also, it features a great portal which links to everything there is to know about the system, ranging from the overall architecture to the actual source code and naming conventions. In essence a very useful example of the way the Internet and Web 2.0 nowadays should be used to support any (repeat: any) development project. With thanks to all the lessons that open source has taught us for the last few years.
All the same, it is definitely something else – the rudimentary style of a wiki – compared to what you typically will find in Second Life. Personally, I think we find very different target audiences in these two environments. And that is despite the claim of Linden Lab that the transition to open source will enable the end-users and developers of Second Life to collaborate much more effectively. Playing a role in Second Life won’t particularly attract programmers. Especially not C++ programmers (I only learned today that Second Life is predominantly developed in C++). Actually, I wouldn’t even have the faintest idea what C++ programmers would be looking for in Second Life. It is sort of difficult to envision them polishing for days on the right chin and nose, the most ravishing hairdo, that nice suit for a virtual marriage ceremony or yet another idyllic feng shui garden with flowering paths, meditation cushions and wind chimes.

A cosy, three-dimensional chat with this population group is probably also out of the question. From own experience I know that most C++ specialists are either frightening silent or will devastate any seriously intended subject while cynically laughing. Also, there are quite a few specimen that can talk enthusiastically for hours in a row without ever conveying the impression to have listened for even a second to the conversation partner.
Second Life, it fails to charm me. Despite everything. I know this makes me a complete dissident among the ranks of trend people and highly-valued colleagues the like. I actually should be gaping night after night at this new, marvellous 3D world which quickly develops itself in the most unexpected directions. Press bureaus, banks, comedian performances, life rock concerts, we’ve seen it all. This week, the only event that raised the eyebrows slightly was the announcement of an undertaker that he was opening a virtual establishment in Second Life. ‘Dead is an integral part of life’ explained the initiator with a soft, sympathizing voice ‘both in our first and second version’.
Can’t argue with that.
No doubt it is due to a congenital defect, but I still fail to warm to this metal pixel feeling of ‘pretending through the computer’. That brilliantly copied, smoky French cafe may be filled with avatars wearing black turtlenecks, there’s only one way to discuss existentialism: while tasting real beer.
Anyway. Will the developers of Second Life from now on descend much more explicitly into their own world? Let’s be honest, with the system being developed further in open source, they’re bound to be public celebrities. Imagine, we could have virtual workshops in Second Life in which end-users and developers would brainstorm the functional specifications for the new version. On the walls there would be carefully crafted, virtual whiteboards, capturing real UML diagrams. Since reality in Second Life always seems a bit – well – more shiny, the bulk of workshop attendees probably would consist of gorgeous blonde women. And during the breaks, the entire team would take a relaxing swim with the dolphins in the backyard lake.
What can possibly go wrong anyway if eventually the entire project will be carried out on the shiny, perfect shores of Second Life? C++ will turn out to be a simple, understandable programming language which enables even uneducated software engineers to produce fluent pieces of code that are 100% bug free. The development team will deliver solid results very much within time and far above customer expectation. And the end-users – whew, these handsome end-users – they will change the colour of their faces during acceptance testing to exhibit their increasing satisfaction.
Our friends within IBM already explored the concept a bit, but now is the time for a serious, business approach. Think I will start a virtual company within Second Life – let’s call it ‘Second Linden Lab’, for convenience – that will develop spectacular, new (but not really existing) software with the working title ‘Third Life’. It’s a virtual role playing game for the bored people of Second Life that they can play on their tiny, virtual computers. I’m foreseeing a meta-metaverse, so to speak. And it will be entirely build by a virtual team of spiritually interested, delicately communicating C++ programmers that all wear long leather coats and dark sunglasses. Also, they carry Nokia 8110 mobile phones: a detail for true connoisseurs.
Just to make sure that things don’t become too abstract or unrealistic, I will accept plain Linden dollars. Obviously.