Monday, January 31, 2011

The Jekyll and Hyde of Linden Lab

by Cummere Mayo

In the time spent as a volunteer at Linden Lab one thing that has been constant is Linden Lab's lack of consistency. The teen grid, attempts to turn SL into a social networking site, taking marketplace live before it was ready, mixing the SL with RL, all things sworn by LL not to do, then done. Then there are the things like Adult content scandal, the homestead sims, the new search, display names, web profiles where vastly unpopular things were rammed down the community, often with severe consequences for the community, and in turn Linden Lab. These things helped contribute in a drop from concurrency of over 120,000 to well under 60,000 on the average day.

Yet throughout all of this Linden Lab keeps saying that they listen to the community, accept feedback, and want more community involvement in policy making. This is both Linden Lab's biggest truth, and their biggest lie.

Much if not most of the community seems to feel these statements are a lie. For those that don't, sometimes reconciling all this is hard. Sometimes, very hard.

Here's the deal: Linden Lab is bipolar; it always has been, at least in the three and a half years I've been active in Second Life. To drastically over simplify things there's two camps at Linden Lab. The part that desires community involvement and the part that just feels they know what the community needs more then the community does and this split has had drastic consequences for both Second Life and for Linden Lab themselves.

From the time I joined Second Life there were those like CG, Nyx, Andrew, Bambers, and many, many others, that opened their offices and sent a great deal of time explaining changes coming to Second Life, projects they hoped to see happen, and things they were working on. At the same time they collected feedback from the residents they could which sometimes changed things, and sometimes didn't but at least these lindens were visible, listened and explained their reasoning.

At the same time we had the Jacks and Fredriks of Linden Lab. Those who pushed through things because it was what they saw as good for Linden Lab and/or Second Life and to hell with the thoughts and needs of those that actually use Second Life, even those that make their livings though Second Life.

Many of these decisions forced to a feeling that is best described by one of my merchant friends: "We succeed despite Linden Lab, not because of them." Many of fled Second Life and many new users aren't sticking around. Other grids have been watching the past two years and pounced on their chance to take away business from Second Life. As a result two of these grids have concurrencies that are almost as high as Second Life and will probably surpass them by the end of this year.

Currently, there's hope that some of that can be reversed. Snowstorm and the Mesh team are not only incredibly open to feedback but actually have used much of that feedback in the decision making. Today Gez stated at one of the open source user group meetings that he wants tvp devs, heavy chat users, and chat mods to join a user group he intends to start in order to get feedback and help coordinate the transition to a better group chat system within Second Life.

Snowstorm and Mesh have shown their way is better. They are far more productive, and while users don't agree with every decision made, the discussion is open, and users at least understand the reasoning leaving for a much happier user base and a better, more respectful kind of interaction, even with some of the most passionate of disagreements.

This is the kind of thing that will save Linden Lab and Second Life. I truly hope Mr. Humble will recognize that fact and push those at Linden Lab that still opt for closed doors and "we know whats better for you then you do" kind of approach to work with the community or find work elsewhere.

It will take allot of work for Linden Lab to turn Second Life (and both its and Linden Lab's reputations) around. One of the first steps would be to temporarily shut down the new profiles and force the Social and Marketplace teams to adopt approaches much more like Snowstorm. The next is to get these new user group meetings going within the next two weeks and then to have those groups spend the next two weeks actively listening to the Second Life community. Maybe more.

Allot of those in favor of keeping the users in the dark seem to rationalize it with "We can't please everyone," "The users don't know what they really want. They can't even agree with each other," or my personal favorite, "We need to do this for new features we have planned."

My experience in Snowstorm shows that while you can't please everyone you can please most users, that the community can often come up with great compromises on its own, and where it can't, having options wherever possible does, and that by being open about your ultimate goal, you often can get there faster and with less friction by listening to the community and working with them instead of against them. While it can delay things initially to get user feedback and have community involvement, often that time is a better investment, because often later on things go faster because there's less to rewrite or change, and because there's far less damage control to do afterwords. Furthermore, dev time is far cheaper then PR time, and it takes allot more PR time to get back in good graces then to just take the time to communicate in the first place.

I have a huge investment in Second Life, although at times it really has hurt my real life, especially thanks to the privacy disaster with the new profiles. I don't want to see Second Life fail, and I am working very hard to do what little I can to make Second Life a much better place.

So now I am calling upon Mr. Humble and all the Lindens that truly understand that Second Life cannot exist without the vast diverse community to step up to the plate. Its time for those who have been working with the community to not only suggest but to demand their coworkers do the same. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, for Linden Lab to bury its Mr. Hyde.

ps: Crossposted to another blog.

SecondLife "More Breaking News" Phoenix FireStorm" "First Screen Shots Here"

By Avatar JayR Cela

     Ok, here we go some initial screen shots of the New Phoenix FireStorm SL Viewer.

  Well, hopefully you seen em here first. I don't really have enough time for a full review at the moment. But stop back by tomorrow for a complete exploration of this newest version of Viewer2

JayR Cela :_)

What is Storm-2?

Written by Cummere Mayo

Meow its been a busy couple weeks with allot of news. Firestorm code to be integrated into Snowstorm, teleport and region crossing compression, interest list changes, major changes coming in Group chat, and so much more. Its more then a poor sweet neko can juggle keeping track of in her paws! But today I want to address something hinted at a couple of weeks ago in this blog: Storm-2.

What is Storm-2? Well Storm-2 is the unofficial designation of the second jira officially assigned to Snowstorm. This jira deals with the first part of making a ui that can fully store and remember custom layouts and preferences for rapid saving, shifting, and recall. Storm-2 is also the unofficial designation of the developer build built to both test what has been coded so far as well as demonstrate the concept and allow for planning of where to go next.

So far the functionality is VERY basic. It saves and stores the locations, dock states, and even number of instances of some floaters and many sidebar tabs. Floaters and tabs currently able to be saved and recalled include the profile and inventory tabs.
There are some issues though. the Build floater is not saved or recalled, and the sidebar state isn't yet saved and recalled. Nor are search strings or the specific profiles inside those panels saved yet. The former are on the road map and the later are still being discussed. I personally would like to see some of the preferences saved and recalled too, at least the graphics settings!

That's really about it so far. But this project isn't done yet, and it is meant to be the start of a larger project to make the viewer much more customizable and usable. Don't be expecting to see Storm-2 in an official viewer anytime soon though. It is a very big project and at times can't be included in sprints because of other important issues and projects. Still, its a sign of great things to come.


SecondLife "Breaking News" Phoenix FireStorm Preview Relase Available for Down Load NOW !!"

By Avatar JayR Cela

    Ahh, the day I have been waiting for. Phoenix FireStorm was just released and is available for download as of  9:02am Eastern Standard Time today. Here are the links

Linux : Ubuntu :
Linux : Debian :

 However I can not stress one thing enough. "This is a PREVIEW Release !!" 

A direct quote from the Phoenix Blog states.
"Do understand! The Firestorm Preview build should be considered Pre Alpha! Not beta,, not Release Candidate.. it is pre alpha and as such it has a lot of bugs that still need to be worked out."

    I'll be back sometime later today or early tomorrow with full reviews for the Windows and Linux platforms.

See ya then !

JayR Cela :_)

SecondLife "The Dolphin 2.4 Viewer Revisited" "Severe Avatar Loading Problems" "Being Ruth'ed Returns"

By Avatar JayR Cela

    Recently I reviewed the Dolphin 2.4 Viewer and complained of Anti Aliasing issues. I said I would take another look when a new version was available. This is Dolphin, and that problem I am happy to report has been eliminated.

    However this new version seem's to have acquired another old problem ( bug ) The dreaded Avatar lot loading ( cloud ) and being "Ruth'ed" (  scrunched - squished avatar body shape ) in the process of the upgrade. ( I did not notice this during the previous review ) In order to demonstrate the severity, I decided to take numerous screen shots, and as a last resort asked a friend to TP over and take a couple of pictures as well.

                  After waiting a while I decided to change outfits. This as usual solved the problem.

    I decided to re-log and my avatar was a cloud again. I waited, and waited, and waited. Re-baked, still nothing. So I waited some more, approximately 20 minutes or more.  

                    Fooled around with some menu option's,  And waited some more.

   Teleported to my home location, still nothing.

                         Finally I asked a friend over to take some pictures.

     As you can see from her view I was not a cloud, but I was "Ruth'ed". Since I was unable to click on my cloud avatar in order to go into appearance mode, opening the Appearance floater did solve the problem, on her screen and mine.

    The point I am trying to make here is, an experience user would be able to solve this issue with little problem, in short order. An inexperienced, or SL noob would probably pull their hair out, and just give up. I think it's safe to say that this issue is not strictly related to the Dolphin Viewer, as it is based on LL's official V2.4 code. My SL partner Cathy use's 2.4 and I have seen the same problem arise whit her. But she in an experienced SL user since 2004, so it is no big deal to resolve.

Fast, Easy, Fun ? Not in my opinion.

JayR Cela :_(

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SecondLife "Oz Linden Announces Collaboration with Phoenix FireStorm's Jessica Lyon and Team"

By Avatar JayR Cela

     This one came as a real shock to me. Three times last week, once during the the Wednesday SnowStorm daily Scrum meeting, again at the former Esbee Lindens's office hour, and then again at Oz Linden's office hour. (As a matter of fact Jessica was in attendance for the later and confirmed, Oz's statements) SnowStorm will soon be integrating some of FireStorms code base, beginning soon after FireStorm2
( Storm2 ) moves into the Beta channel.

    What does this mean for users? Well my guess is pretty close to what Phillip Rosedale predicted last year. That Viewer2 would eventually lead to, a basic easy to use, fast and fun SL client geared towards casual and new users. And a more sophisticated version designed for more complex needs. ( Content Creators ) And this still leaves a good bit of leeway for other variations of V2 by various TPV's.

    All in all, only time will tell.

JayR Cela :_)

SecondLife "Phoenix FireStorm Preview Release Download Available January 31"

By Avatar JayR Cela

    Well this is a day I have been anxiously awaiting. Tomorrow Jan. 31 2011, may well go down in SL Viewer2 history, a much improved UI, and extra features not currently included in the official V2.

     However I can not stress one thing enough. "This is a PREVIEW Release !!" 

A direct quote from the Phoenix Blog states.
"Do understand! The Firestorm Preview build should be considered Pre Alpha! Not beta,, not Release Candidate.. it is pre alpha and as such it has a lot of bugs that still need to be worked out."

   That much having been said, I highly recommend you view these two video's.
    You may also want to visit the official Phoenix Viewer Blog at

    I hope to have a full review late Monday, or early Tuesday.

JayR Cela :_)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Second Life Profiles to the web. Privacy issues

Selby Evans/Thinkerer Melville
Thanks to Cummere Mayo for pointing some of the risks (particularly about partners) involved in posting SL profiles to the web.  See this post:
That post led me to a prompt post on my blog: 
I only got one comment about that.  Not on my blog, but in response to my notice on Facebook.  It dismissed my warning on the grounds that a significant other could not find the profile without knowing the avatar name. There is no adequate protection for that level of naivety.
Regarding privacy
I don't argue that privacy is an outdated concept.  But I don't think personal responsibility is outdated either. And I do argue that if you put something out in a public place, you have given up privacy on that something.  That will be LL's defense if they are sued over events that result from putting the profiles on the web:
'The profiles were accessible to anyone in the public if they who joined Second Life..."
In sum, I think privacy is a matter of personal responsibility.  I do think Linden Lab failed its responsibility to keep its users informed.about what it was doing.   And yes, I do think such things should be opt-in.  
BTW: I did try to see what was called for under "profile completeness,"  but I could not find the bar.
Comments in the Second Life blogs about the profile/Facebook matter:
Regarding Facebook and virtual worlds
I have not seen evidence of Facebook's hostility toward Second Life. Second Life is an advertiser there.  If you post a slurl in facebook (as some of us regularly do to promote events), Facebook may add an advertizing badge.  If someone clicks on the badge, joins Second Life, and becomes a premium member. Facebook gets paid.  Hostility should be made of sterner stuff.
As to the terms of service in Facebook, here is what New World Notes has to say:
"... Facebook does technically forbid accounts that are pseudonymous avatar names, but as a Facebook rep told me a couple years ago, the vast majority of the "fake" accounts which Facebook actually bans are reported by other users, not from active policing by the social network. Which probably explains why Facebook has so many accounts which are actually avatar names. (The official Second Life page has over 107,000 members, many or most or whom are avatars.)"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

SecondLife Viewer2 "SnowStorm Nightly Build" "WOW" "I can Actually Use This While Building"

By Avatar JayR Cela

    I try to attend as many meetings as possible in regards to LL's Project SnowStorm, the people involved are working very hard to make improvement's. And finally there is quite a bit of discussion about the User Interface. Don't expect to see much in this area until SnowStorm2, but at least all aspect's are on the table. One very exciting proposed feature, is a User Customizable Interface with the ability to save your multiple configurations. I mentioned this last week in a previous post. There is a Jira on it, my first post listed 12 votes, this morning the number sat at 25. If this future feature interests you, please take the time to cast your vote here.

    In the mean time I'm going to post some screen shots of yesterdays SnowStorm build. And I am happy to say, besides a few minor 5 or 6 second screen freeze up's, I can actually do some building with this release.

     One of my biggest complaint's with V2 has been that it is not builder friendly, thus rendering it totally worthless for my needs. Especially a camera control, that seemed as if possessed, with a mind of its own. Well that problem has been fixed ! There are still a number of building issues I would hope to see addressed, but this in my opinion is a huge major step forward. I'm really looking forward to reporting on future progress and the release of SnowStorm2 ( Storm2 )
 Disable Camera Constraints and Limit Select Distance. ( these should be off by default ) Oh Well ya cant have everything, minor annoyance.

I logged out and back in, my camera control was still in place, right exactly where I left it. I dropped a few prims, linked, stretched, rotated. Perfect, it works flawlessly.

Bravo!  to "The SnowStorm Team"

JayR Cela :_)