Tag Archives: Second Life

Lab: share a Valentine’s vision and help promote SL

secondlifeWith Valentine’s Day roughly a month away, the Lab is inviting residents to share what that special day means to them by means of a photograph – and gain the opportunity to be a part of the Lab’s advertising campaigns for Second Life.

The post reads in part:

Valentine’s Day is just on the horizon and will be here before you can get through a handful of heart candies! We’re looking for some great Second Life pictures from the community to feature in upcoming email and banner campaigns – with credit to the photographer – of course!

In a snapshot, let us know what Valentine’s Day means to you in Second Life.

Share your story in a picture and on our Official Flickr Page with the tag “SLVday2016” so that we can see all of your amazing works. You may submit as many as you like between now and January 29, 2016.

We’ll showcase the chosen image(s) in an email to Residents, as well as in some banner campaigns. We’ll let the chosen image creators know via Flickr and ask for an avatar name for the credits.

The submission guidelines are fairly straightforward:

  • Images must be at least 2048×1207 in size
  • Avatars must be shown in-world,and suitably lit so they can be seen
  • All images must be free of additional text or logos, and must be appropriate for all audiences.
  • Images that tell a story are going to make an impression.

As noted in the Lab’s blog post text, the closing date for submissions is Friday, January 29th, 2016.


Lab explains Second Life’s weekend woes

secondlifeWe’re all used to Second Life misbehaving itself at the weekend, but it with rezzing or rendering or region crossings and so on. However, Saturday, January 9th, and Sunday January 10th proved to be a lot rougher than most weekend in recent memory, with Sunday in particular affecting a lot of SL users.

When situations like this arise, it’s easy to shake a verbal fist at “the Lab” and bemoan the situation whilst forgetting we’re not the only one being impacted. Issues and outages bring disruption to the Lab as well, and often aren’t as easy to resolve as we might think. Hence why it is always good to hear back from the Lab when things do go topsy-turvy – and such is the case with the weekend of the 9th / 10th January.

Posting to the Tools and Technology blog on Monday, January 11th, April Linden, a member of the Operations Team (although she calls herself a “gridbun” on account of her purple bunny avatar), offered a concise explanation as to what happened from the perspective of someone at the sharp end of things.

April starts her account with a description of the first issue to hit the platform:

Shortly after midnight Pacific time on January 9th (Saturday) we had the master node of one of the central databases crash. The central database that happened to go down was one the most  used databases in Second Life. Without it Residents are unable to log in, or do, well, a lot of important things.

While the Lab is prepared for such issues, it does take time to deal with them (in this case around 90 minutes), with services having to be shut-down and then restarted in a controlled manner so as not to overwhelm the affected database. Hence why, when things like this do happen, we often see notices on the Grid Status Page warning us then log-ins may be suspended and /  or to avoid carrying out certain activities.

Sadly, this wasn’t the end of matters; on Sunday an issue with one of the Lab’s providers had a major impact on in-world asset loading (while April doesn’t specifically point at which provider, I’m assuming from her description it may have been one of the CDN providers). While the Lab is versed in working with their providers to analyse the root cause of problems and rectify them, this particular issue appears to have had a knock-on effect in a quite unexpected way, impacting the avatar baking service.

This is the mechanism by which avatar appearances are managed and shared (and is also known as Sever-Side Appearance and / or Server-Side Baking). Designed to overcome limitations with using the viewer / simulator to handle the process, it was cautiously deployed in 2013 after very extensive testing, and it has largely operated pretty reliably since its introduction. As such, the fact that it was so negatively impacted at the weekend appears to have caught the Lab off-guard, with April noting:

One of the things I like about my job is that Second Life is a totally unique and fun environment! (The infrastructure of a virtual world is amazing to me!) This is both good and bad. It’s good because we’re often challenged to come up with a solution to a problem that’s new and unique, but the flip side of this is that sometimes things can break in unexpected ways because we’re doing things that no one else does.

Taking this to be the case, it doubtless took the Lab a while to figure-out how best to deal with the situation, which likely also contributed to the time taken for things to be rectified to the point where people weren’t being so massively impacted. Hopefully, what did occur at the weekend will help the Lab better assess circumstances where such problems – unique as they may be – occur, and determine courses of action to mitigate them in the future.

In the meantime, April’s post, like Landon Linden’s update on the extended issues of May 2014, help remind us of just what a hugely complex beast of systems and services Second Life is, and that how even after 13 years of operations, it can still go wrong in ways that not only frustrate users, but also take the Lab by surprise, despite their best efforts. Kudos to April for presenting the explanation and for apologising for the situation. I hope you and all involved have had time to catch-up on your sleep!

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Lab offers a review of their Second Life year

secondlifeThe end of the year always brings with it reviews of what’s happened during the unfolding 12 months. Some can be lengthy (*coughs at her own 3-part series of late), others brief.

The Lab is no exception to the rule, and in Second Life 2015 Mix – A Greatest Hits Compilation, they offer a thumbnail sketch of some of the more positive developments and events within SL which have marked the year.

Starting with the Project Bento announcement (a project I’ve been able to observe and will be bringing more background on in the future as well as tracking developments through regular project updates), the post provides a grab bag of technical changes to the platform.

These include the arrival of the Viewer-Managed Marketplace, which had its initial main grid beta launch back in April, following a long lead-in over 2014 / early 2015,  with full migration starting in July, in one of the more successful Marketplace updates Second Life has seen. Also getting a mention are the arrival of Chromium Embedded Framework, through the CEF viewer, the notifications updates, and Hover Height, both of which were viewer updates suggested by users. Mention is also made of the 28 simulator updates made through the year,

Away from the technical updates, The blog post refers to the new “Classic” starter avatars, which were introduced in November.

PaleoQuest; Inara Pey, July 2015, on FlickrPaleoQuest, the Lab’s dino-ish adventure game gets a mention in the official look back at the year, which i admit to rather enjoying

2015 saw a change in Premium membership perks, as they gradually turned away from the usual (and often basic) gifts and more towards more practical offerings, as the Lab’s blog post mentions. These have included things like the increase in the group membership allowance, and the removal of VAT on membership fees, which gave rise to speculation on what was going on to allow it.

Also getting a mention are the recent changes in land set-up and transfer fees, although how effective this will be is perhaps debatable, as I commented at the time, and also – with regards to grandfathered fees, seemed to have a slight edge of giving with one hand, taking back with the other.

Ending with a look at the Lab’s on-going engagement with the community through in-world meet-ups and other events, and giving a mention to forthcoming capabilities designed to help improve the user experience, such as Avatar Complexity, this may seem a lightweight look back at the year; however, it does constitute a fair round-up of the positives SL has seen internally through 2015.  In the meantime, I’ll be offering my own more extensive review of things – SL, Sansar, VR, et al, as reported through these pages through the year, over the Christmas and New Year period.

Ebbe Altberg discusses “Sansar” and Second Life with TNW

Second Life: "almost as diverse as the physical world we live in" - Ebbe Altberg

Second Life: “almost as diverse as the physical world we live in” – Ebbe Altberg

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-Large at The Next Web caught up with Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg, in Dublin at the start of November, where they had both been attending the 2015 Web summit conference.

During a 10-minute audio interview, Mr. Bryant offers a series of questions which, while they may not reveal anything new to those engaged in Second Life or following the unfolding news about “Project Sansar”, nevertheless cover interesting ground and offer food for thought on a number of fronts.

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-large for The Next Web, discusses SL and "Project Sansar" with Ebbe Altberg

Martin Bryant, Editor-at-large for The Next Web

The recording is prefaced with a series of useful bullet points under the title Think Second Life died? It has a higher GDP than some countries, itself is an eye-catching title, which help put some perspective on just what Second Life has actually managed to achieve over 12 years, and sets the stage for the broader discussion.

The interview starts from the position that the media have tended to get Second Life wrong, noting that far from having failed or gone away, it is still operating, still engaged some 900,000 active users every month, just 200,000 a month down from when it hit a peak of around 1.1 million 7+ years ago. Not only do these figures tend to highlight Second Life’s (albeit very niche) ability to attract and hold an audience, they also put oft-repeated claims that people are somehow leaving Second Life en masse into perspective. The outward trickle of active users is there, but it’s hardly a the deluge all too often portrayed. And those who remain are still capable of powering an economy with a GDP of some US $500 million.

From here, the conversations travels by way of the kind of virtual goods on offer inside Second Life to arrive at a question about the “typical” Second Life user, which generates a well-rounded reply.

Well, it’s a huge variety … there’s no typical about it. It’s like asking, “what’s a typical person from Ireland?” There are educators, there are students, there are health professionals, there are patients, there are fashion fashionistas, there’s partiers, gamers, role-players. People just socialise around pretty much anything you can think of. It’s almost as diverse as the physical world we live in.

Further into the conversation, there is a re-emphasis that even with “Project Sansar” coming along, there are no plans on the part of the Lab to discontinue Second Life, with Ebbe again demonstrating a pragmatic view on the amount of investment users of Second Life have made in the platform.

Second Life will continue. We have no plans to shut down Second life or forcibly migrate users from one to the other. So users can ultimate choose where they want to spend their time. And there are probably so users that have spent so much time creating incredible communities around all kinds of interesting subject matter that might just fine it too much effort to do it all over again on a new platform. so they can stay in Second Life, that’s fine.

Obviously, if the vast majority of users in Second Life opt to make a full transition to “Project Sansar”, then it will call into question how long SL can remain a commercially viable platform – but is this likely to happen overnight? Probably not  (which is not to say it won’t, at some point happen) over time). The transition is liable to be gradual, simply because it is going to take “Project Sansar” to grow to a level of sophistication offered by SL: as the Lab has made clear throughout 2015, everything isn’t simply going to be in place when the open alpha commences in early 2016 – that’s why they’re calling it an “alpha”.

An image from the Project Sansar: looking to the future of VR

An image from the Project Sansar: looking to the future of VR

The more detailed discussion of  “Project Sansar” starts with a reiteration that it is being specifically – but not exclusively – developed to operate with coming plethora of VR HMDs and other devices, and that it will be “consumable” (i.e. accessed via) computers (initially PCs) and mobile devices. It is here that mention is made of something that may have been missed in broader discussions about the new platform: there will be no “one-size-fits all” client / viewer.

Instead, client functionality will be determined by client device capability. If you’re on a PC platform, you’ll have access to the full range of capabilities to both “consume” (that is, access, use and participate in) “Project Sansar” experiences and you’ll have access to the tools to enable the creation of those experiences. If you’re using a mobile device, you’ll be able to “consume” experiences, but not the tools to build them. Which makes sense.

Ebbe Altberg: talking Second Life, "Project Sansar" and virtual currency compliance with TNW's Martin Bryant

Ebbe Altberg: offering a good perspective on LL, SL and “Project Sansar” for TNW readers / listeners

In discussing the likely impact of VR, Ebbe takes the pragmatic view that things aren’t going to happen overnight, just because the first generation of high-end headsets are going to appear in a few months; it’s going to take time for the market to grow, and there is still much more to be sorted out.

This is a view I hold myself, so no argument from me. However, where I do perhaps hold a differing view on things is to just how important avatar based virtual experiences are actually going to be outside of some very niche environments.

Even if VR isn’t overhauled by AR in terms of practical ease-of-use, widespread practical applications, convenience, and appeal, I also cannot help but feel consumer-focused VR might offer such incredible opportunities for immersion, entertainment, training, etc., that it will see the use of avatar focused virtual environments remain somewhat marginalised in terms of acceptance with the greater VR community, just as Second Life has been marginalised with the greater on-line social community.

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