Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Centric Virtual - plus the Cory Story

It seems like ages since I last blogged about a Dutch site in Second Life, yet once upon a time I couldn't move without stumbling across a new one. Tonight, however, it is time to redress the balance, with a trip to Centric Virtual. Many folks will associate the word "Centric" with the American marketing agency that specialises in social media and virtual worlds. However, this particular Centric is a Dutch IT firm.

In fact, the company employs around 8,500 in a number of European countries: The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Norway and Switzerland. It offers a comprehensive range of services: consultancy; IT solutions; software engineering; e-business; systems integration; managed ICT services and training. The main feature of their Second Life presence, however, is their Centric Melodies offering. I will need to rely on my pal, VeeJay, to tell me what this is all about, but from what I can make of it, it seems to be a middleware solution, connecting web user and other clients with back-office systems. If you are a Dutch speaker you can find out more in this brochure (pdf).

The Centric Virtual island looks to be under construction. In fact it only has 2 major structures - a Centric Melodies stage and an R&D building, where there appears to be some building experimentation going on. A rudimentary network of paths connects the 2 structures. If your Dutch is up to it, there appears to be a Centric Melodies test system you can try out. A couple of loungers in the stage area will accept chat input and (I'm joining the dots furiously here, you understand!) convey this to a back-office help system.

I took a few snaps:

As you can see, the island is quite bare at the moment, but I assume Centric thought it had enough content to make it worthwhile making it available to the general public. If so, I'm not sure they are right. There is too little to really get much from the site, although I suppose it did introduce me to an IT company I did not know previously... and resulted in this blog post. Hmmm...


The Cory Story
Since every blogger and his/her dog seems to be blogging about the departure of Cory Ondrejka from his post as CTO for Linden Lab I thought I'd add my tuppence-worth. Cory was the 4th employee of Linden Lab, joining back in November, 2000. Prior to this, according to the Linden Lab website, he'd "served as Project Leader and Lead Programmer for Pacific Coast Power and Light. At PCP&L, he brought the 'Road Rash' franchise to the Nintendo for the first time with 'Road Rash 64' and built the core technology teams that completed multiple products for Nintendo and Sony console."

According to a leaked internal email from CEO Phil Rosedale: "As it grows, the needs of our company are changing, and the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved. Therefore, Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions. During Cory's tenure the engineering team has grown tremendously, and given the breadth and depth of our technical expertise, we do not foresee any impact on our development plans. Together, we've produced great things in the development of Second Life, and I know Cory will go on to achieve excellence in his chosen field."

While here's a snippet of an internal email that Moo Money posted: "Cory and I have differences in how we think Linden should be run, differences that in the past few months have become irreconcilable... as we change and grow as a company, I feel that we need a different set of strengths in engineering leadership." The full text is here.

As a friend of mine put it, small companies need uber-hackers - they ignite the process, build innovative solutions and get you up and running quickly. I may be doing Cory a disservice, but it seems to me he fits into this category. However, once you have a large (and largely successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery. The skills for this sort of role are quite different, and this may be where Rosedale has identified a key weakness. God knows, most of us are aware that this has been a key weakness!

Whether this is the role of a CTO is another matter, but if I were in Rosedale's shoes I would be looking to achieve a stable environment (after implementing Windlight and Havok 4!). Next year is going to be tough going for virtual world companies - mainly due to the sheer number that will be available. Second Life needs to get itself fit to fight its corner - and getting a consistent QoS level is a vital part of this. Sharing a common vision is, of course, another.

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