2018 SL project updates week 33/1: Simulator User Group – Animesh in viewer RC

Cloudbreak; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrCloudbreak blog post

Server Deployments

as always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest update.

  • The Main (SLS) channel was updated on Tuesday, August 14th with server maintenance package 18.07.20.518086, previously deployed to the RC channels and containing internal fixes.
  • On Wednesday, august 15th, all three RCs should be updated with server maintenance packager 18#18.08.10.518612. This comprises an update to the HTTP delivery of off-line IMs and notifications that should ensure group notices and Friend requests are correctly delivered.

SL Viewer

Animesh RC Viewer

The Animesh release candidate viewer arrived on August 13th, with the release of version 6.0.0.518579. For those not familiar with Animesh (anyone?) please see the viewer release notes and the links within them, or check my updates on Animesh, provided as a part of my Content Creation User Group meeting summaries.

Remaining Pipelines

Outside of the Animesh update, at the time of writing, the remaining SL viewer pipelines remain unchanged from the end of week #32:

  • Current Release version 5.1.7.517973, dated July 30th, promoted August 3rd. Formerly the Quinquina Maintenance RC viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version 5.1.8.518305, August 7th. This viewer is functionally identical to the current release viewer, but uses BugSplat for crash reporting, rather than the Lab’s own Breakpad based crash reporting tools.
    • Second Life Voice RC viewer, version 5.1.8.518310, August 7th.
  • Project viewers:
    • EAM project viewer, version 5.2.0.518362, August 9th – improved region access control tools; see my overview for more.
    • Bakes on Mesh project viewer, version 5.1.7.518013 August 3rd.
    • 360 snapshot viewer, version 5.1.6.515934, June 6th.
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17th, 2017 and  offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8th, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Region Crossings

Region crossing have been somewhat rougher recently than had been the case of late. Simon Linden had been poking at the code in the hope of making some updates, but has been diverted but other working, and is hoping to get back to things soon.

I know the viewer has very similar messaging code as the simulator and there are tweaks I want to make to that which  should help crossing issues caused by packet loss … it doesn’t always recover when a crossing goes bad, as we all know. We’re looking at that from two ways … ideally fix things so it doesn’t go bad. But if it fails, be more graceful about it … and there’s a certain amount of hope that the way we force the error is actually what happens in the random normal case.

Part of it now is even having the 2 regions and the viewer agreeing on what happens and how to deal with it … where an AV and vehicle end up and confirming all parties know the same state… I’m hoping this can at least get better if the target region can at least report to the viewer and 1st region a status for how it works out.

Simon Linden discussing region crossings at the Simulator User Group meeting, August 14th, 2018

The question was asked if part of a multiple region crossing (e.g. from the corner of one region to another, passing through the corner of a region adjacent to both) could result in the viewer talking to the “wrong” simulator, to which Simon replied, “I haven’t seen it have issues with talking to the wrong simulator, but then I’m not looking yet at the issue of a corner crossing that might quickly move to a 3rd region.”

So, no changes for the present, but the problem is still getting attention at the Lab, and there is an appetite for trying to improve things from the server-side of the equation, with Simon also noting, “It’s also a classic case of working on SL … we always want to fix things with a minimum disruption. Being able to make something better only by touching the server is a lot better than requiring a viewer update.”

 

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A return to Kekeland – Bardeco in Second Life

Kekeland - Bardeco; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrKekeland – Bardeco – click any image for full size

It’s been nigh-on a year since our first visit to Kekeland – Bardeco, and while the titular bar served as an inspiration of me to remodel Caitinara Bar, after we visited the in the latter half of 2017,  we hadn’t been aware of any move or make-over in the design – until, that is, Shakespeare dropped a new LM on me. Intrigued, we hopped over to have a look, to discover Kekeland – Bardeco has moved from a Homestead to Full region, and undergone a make-over in the process.

We tried to recreate a quiet, sunny and peaceful fishermen place, inspired by an Italian village. You will find a little harbour and a coloured village, and hillsides of vines, with camping and mountains.

– Dandy Warhloll (terry Fotherington) and Belle des Champs (Bridget Genna)

Kekeland - Bardeco; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrKekeland – Bardeco

As recreations go, the “new” design for Kekeland is impressive, and succeeds in imparting the feeling of being within the kind of setting that inspired it; but the success might come at s slight cost to some visitors: this is a place where there is a lot going on, particularly with textures, so some adjustment to viewer settings might be required to compensate.But this should put you off visiting; after all, that’s what graphic presets are for!

The harbour described in the land description sits on the south side of the region, a walk down through the streets of the town surrounding it on two sides. Protected from the sea by a breakwater and watched over by a lighthouse, it is fairly bustling with boats: sailing boats, yachts, motorboats, RHIBs – so much so that the fishing boats tied-up at the wharves must have to fight their way out to the freedom of the sea in order to ply their trade each morning!

Kekeland - Bardeco; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrKekeland – Bardeco

These fishing boats are tied-up on the east side of the harbour, which is clearly the “working” side: a busy waterfront road where a lot is going on. Behind it, and climbing the stepped cliffs, tall, modern-looking apartment blocks vie with  an ancient fort that once commanded a strategic view over the bay, to claim the skyline as theirs.

The town continues round to the north where, set back from the harbour is a plaza – surprisingly overgrown and with more tower blocks and houses climbing up the inland slope behind it. Along the plaza the predominant business appears to be entertainment and refreshment. The coffee houses, bars, boutiques and open-air music area, together with the more modern apartment houses up on the cliff-top, suggest why the harbour is so chock-full of boats: once a working coastal village, this place has now become a holiday destination.

Kekeland - Bardeco; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrKekeland – Bardeco

A further attraction lies on the west of the harbour. Here, sitting atop a rough table of rock, sits Bardeco. The last time we saw this (also the occasion of our first visit to a region design by Belle and Dandy), it was imaginatively placed at the foot of of the region’s cliffs and built back into them, offering an entirely “covert”, so to speak, setting that was both part of yet separate from the rural setting above. Seeing it out in the open in this “new” location did take a little getting used to, I admit, but it has not lost any of its shabby-chic appeal.

North of Bardeco, beyond the slip of water and beach dividing it from the town, the buildings quickly give way to open, rugged land. Here can be found trails, old ruins and signs that not all the locals have been driven away by the maddening crowd on the waterfront. Goats are being reared and grape vines cultivated on some of the lower northern steps of the island, while old farmhouses hide among the trees or sit aloof from the trails on their own shoulders of rock. There’s also the ruins of a much grander property sitting forlorn and alone, whatever story of times past lying within its broken walls fading slowly as nature takes up a greater and greater residence.

Kekeland - Bardeco; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrKekeland – Bardeco

In its Homestead iteration, Kekeland – Bardeco offered a wonderful sense of rural living, complete with its discrete and neatly tucked away bar. With its move to a Full region simulator, it presents a more urban setting, and marries these with some of the feeling on open spaces that made the “original” so appealing. It is very different to the “old” design, but sports a unique look and charm nevertheless.

SLurl Details

Kokua update, MetaChat issues and Firestorm version block

A quick round-up of news relating to a handful of viewers and clients.

Kokua

Kokua 64 bit (Windows, Mac and Linux) updated both the RLV (5.1.7.43693) and non-RLV (5.1.6.43692) flavours of the viewer on Sunday, August 11th. I’ve not had time to drive the update – and my not be able to, due to other commitments. However, the core of the update brings the viewer to parity with the SL viewer 5.1.7 code base, and offers some updates from the Kokua team, described in the release notes as follows:

In addition the options for configuring the chat range rings and colours move from the Kokua General preferences tab to Kokua Chat which as well as being more logical also frees up space needed in the RLV version for a new option on the General tab.

The RLV version gains an option on the Kokua General tab which allows @standtp to be disabled. This has been added because @standtp tends to operate in various counter-intuitive ways despite operating as intended.

Here’s one scenario that illustrates the problem:-

  • @standtp is applied to the avatar.
  • The avatar hitches to (sits on) a cart.
  • The avatar pulls the cart from location A to location B.
  • The avatar is unhitched from the cart (stands up).
  • At that point @standtp teleports them back to location A.

Links

MetaChat

MetaChat the iOS client  is having problems courtesy of Apple. The app was removed from the iStore on August 9th, as part of a purge by Apple on “gambling apps”.

Enquiries have been lodged with Apple on when / if the app will be allowed to re-list, but thus far, no response has been given.

In the meantime, versions already downloaded  / downloaded and installed will still work, this move by Apple only affects the client’s listing on the iStore.

iOS / MetChat users can read more on the MetaChat blog, where updates will also be posted.

Firestorm Version Block

A reminder to Firestorm users, Firestorm 5.0.1.52150 (released December, 2016) will be blocked from Tuesday, August 14th, in keeping with the Firestorm team’s policy of only allowing the current, and the two version immediately prior to it.

This means that if you are still used Firestorm 5.0.1, you need to update to a more recent version: 5.0.7, 5.011 or the current 5.1.7 release.

To find out more about why Firestorm versions are blocked, please read this blog post from the Firestorm team.

Second Life new user experience: themed Learning Islands

The Sci-Fi themed Learning Island

Over the past few months, several mentions on the idea of themed Learning Islands have cropped up in various public discussions featuring staff from Linden Lab – notably CEO Ebbe Altberg.

The idea is that rather than a user signing-up for Second Life via an advert and / or  landing page that delivers them to a “generic” learning island and then leaving them to discover things for themselves, incoming users will have a “path of interest” as it were, that leads them from an advert through the sign-up process and then delivers them in-world to a location in keeping with the theme of the ad that originally appealed to them.

– Ebbe Altberg discussing the themed Learning Islands idea in May 2018.

Broadly speaking, things run like this:

  • The Lab runs a web advertising campaign featuring a specific theme – such as “science fiction”.
  • Those clicking on an ad are taken to a Second Life landing page that matches the ad’s theme (example shown below).
  • A Play Now button allows people to sign-up to SL and which, when they log-in for the first time with the viewer, will deliver them to a Learning Island in keeping with the theme of the advert and landing page, where they can get started with using the viewer, etc.
  • As well as lessons / opportunities to learn, this themed Learning Island includes one (or more) portals which allow incoming users to reach the destinations appearing on the landing pages (and others like them).
Part of the Sci-Fi landing page, an example of the themed landing pages used in conjunction with the themed Learning Islands

The first of these campaigns / themed Learning Islands has been in testing for the last couple of months, and the next is about to be rotated into testing, as Brett Linden, head of Marketing for Second Life, informed me.

Linden Lab is still in the early weeks of testing the concept of Themed Learning Islands. The initiative began quietly a month or so ago with a Romance-themed island test that is not currently active. Next up is a Sci-Fi-themed learning island that we’ll begin testing very soon. We’re also looking at several other themes for future tests, [and] it is also possible that we’ll revise the Romance and Sci-Fi themes as we gather more data on them.

– Brett Linden, head of Second Life Marketing, Linden Lab,
discussing the new themed Learning Islands

The Romance Learning Island presents a wooded island with trails and climbs, with a central “quick learn” starting point covering the essentials of movement

Of course, putting an ad campaign backed by a sign-up process, etc., is only part of the story. There needs to be some means of assessing just how well (or otherwise) it is performing. Such assessment is very much core to all of the Lab’s user acquisition and retention efforts, with A/B testing being one of the primary methodologies they employ. This is the case  with these themed campaigns / islands as well, which will be tested from a number of perspectives.

Firstly, the themed campaigns and themed islands are operating alongside the Lab’s various other user acquisition campaigns and in-world learning islands. This allows the Lab to assess the overall effectiveness of each themed campaign compared to existing methods of acquisition / retention that take a more “non-themed” approach. Secondly, the themed Landing Islands within each campaign are being directly compared with their non-themed counterparts to assess their effectiveness in retaining a specific target audience, again as Brett informed me.

There is indeed an A/B test happening — where there are two equal themed landing pages with everything being identical in design/content — except for the Join URL. On the “A” version of the landing page, a click on Play Now will take you [via the sign-up process] to the non-themed learning island (currently used for most new users outside this test). The “B” version of this page contains the Join link that will direct [again via the sign-up process] the new user to the Themed Learning Island as their first login destination. In our paid ads that accompany this campaign, we’re distributing both the A and B versions of the landing page equally so that volume to each location will be equal.

– Brett Linden, head of Second Life Marketing, Linden Lab
on some of the Learning Island A/B testing

The Romance Learning Island presents core information on using the viewer to move, communicate and interact, and provides more general information on using Second Life

As a third level of testing, the Lab is using different approaches to the information provided within each type of Learning Island, again to assess what might be more or less effective in encouraging engagement and retention.

For example, the “Romance” themed Learning Island included what might be termed minimal user guidance beyond the basics of using the viewer to walk, jump, fly, communicate and interact. By contrast, the Sci-Fi island is far more hands-on with the user, with “main” and “advanced” tutorial areas, far more ways to impart information: info boards, local chat, links to external SL resources, etc.  In the future, other means of providing incoming users with information and to help them understand to basics of the viewer, etc., will be tested in specific theme types.

Thus it is possible for the Lab to investigate what works and what doesn’t in terms of information presented to an incoming user: is it too little or too much? Where might the balance between the two lie? Does a relaxed approach that lets the user learn on their own as the explore work, or is something more “formal” in layout better? Is it better to employ one approach to passing on information, or multiple means – text, boards, videos, web links?

The Sci-Fi themed Island provides a much broader learning experience, covering many more aspects of viewer use, with subject matter split between “Main” and “Advanced” tutorial areas

When not being tested, some of the themed Learning Islands may be opened to broader access from within Second Life. However, during testing, the islands are not publicly offered up for general access. The reasons for this are fairly clear if you stop to think about them, and Patch Linden summed them up succinctly.

We actually want to discourage public access to the islands while in testing so that our statistics, measuring and data-gathering don’t get influenced by having the islands inundated with established users coming into them and possibly preventing new users from naturally proceeding through the anticipated test flow. That way, we can gather as accurate information as possible on what’s happening in terms of acquisition and retention against everything else. 

Patch Linden, Senior Director of Product Operations, on why information
on the themed islands isn’t being generally announced

Also, once initial core testing with a specific themed island has finished, the Lab plan to add it to the broader Learning Island rotation. This allows a further level of comparison: does a themed Learning Island perform better with retention of users delivered to it outside of any related advertising campaign than is the case with non-themed islands, or does it not perform as well? Is there a difference? And so on.

Elements common to the “non-themed” learning islands can also be found in some of the themed islands, such as this guide to the SL viewer’s default toolbar buttons, again allowing for wider testing of approaches

One thing that struck me in talking to Keira, Brett and Patch about this programme is just what is going into user acquisition and attempts to improve user retention, when it is perhaps a little to easy to assume the Lab is just “tinkering without understanding”. Considerable thought is being put into trying to increase new user engagement and retention, and it does involve a lot of number crunching, analysis, and trying to build on what is shown to work, as well as trying entirely new approaches.

Overall, this themed approach to advertising / new user experience comes across as a good idea to try. Whether it actually works or not, and how well it works and with which themes, will only become clear over time; I do admit to being a little edgy around the Sci-Fi Island, which is very different in looks to the “hard sci-fi” images presented in the landing page – leading me to wonder if the contrast might have an impact on the new users who come through it.

But, concerns like that aside, it’s clear from talking to Brett, Keira and Patch that the Lab is pouring a lot of effort into this approach, as well as looking at other avenues of user acquisition and retention. Certainly, as this particular programme evolves I hope to be able to return to it in the future and offer updates and perhaps insights. In the meantime, I’d like to extend my thanks to Keira Linden, Patch Linden and Brett Linden for extending their time and input to this article.

Hypnopompia in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hypnopomia

Now open at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by curated by Dido Haas, is Hypnopompia, as exhibition by Cat Boucher. The title refers to the state of consciousness leading out of sleep (and not to be confused with hypnagogic state. The latter is associated with moving from wakefulness to sleep, and is referred to as a rational waking cognitive state).

Hypnopomia is more an emotional state of credulous dreaming, influenced by almost anything around us: noises, scents, touch, which on waking can lead to confusion, dissociation from our surroundings and confused (to others) speaking. The hypnopompic state is sometimes accompanied by lingering vivid imagery, and some of the creative insights attributed to dreams actually happen in this moment of awakening.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hypnopomia

All of this is richly reflected in Cat’s images, which are quite stunning in their range. Among the 14 pieces on offer are monochrome images – perhaps reflective of the state experienced by around 12% of people, who only dream in black-and-white (a percentage, interestingly enough that has changed over the last 60-ish years: dreaming in colour was once a rarity reported by adults, and according to some researchers, the shift from “monochrome dreaming” to “colour dreaming” appears to be associated with the arrival and rise in popularity of colour television broadcasting).

Other images in this selection are presented in deep, vivid colours, perhaps reflective of the more vivid influence our surrounding can have on us as we move through hypnopomia to full wakefulness. Most, reflect not a scene, but a moment in time: bones of a fish; a face caught in sharp focus; a figure with legs curls and entwined, but seemingly without a body. In this they mirror how we so often recall our dreams – not as a continuous narrative, but as flashes of images and colour that we can only recall as a single, brief frozen moment, there rest having been lost as another stimuli causes the mind to discard the imagery and move on.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hypnopomia

There would appear to be some plays here on the state of dreaming; one image seems to reflect an erotic dream – but whether it is brought about as a result of the brain processing actual events or simply the hypnopomic reaction of something, I leave to you to decide. There’s also an echo of the sepia tone so often loved by Hollywood directors when portraying dreams, while the clever use of vignetting can be said to both also reflect the Hollywood use of pinhole focus to convey dreaming and also, as noted above, as a metaphor for the way in which certain images in our dreams come into crystalline clarity and sharpness, imprinting themselves so strongly on our emotions, that the remain with us through our waking hours.

Evocative and captivating whether considered individually or as a part of the exhibition’s theme, these are stunning images – and all the more so given none are post processed; all Cat uses to achieve her completed images in the SL camera floater, within its colour and filter options, and suitable windlights.

SLurl Details

2018 viewer release summaries: week #32

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates for the week ending Sunday, August 12th

This summary is generally published on every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
  • Note that test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version 5.1.7.517973, dated July 30th, promoted August 3rd. Formerly the Quinquina Maintenance RC viewer.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • BugSplat RC viewer, version 5.1.8.518305, August 7. This viewer is functionally identical to the current release viewer, but uses BugSplat for crash reporting, rather than the Lab’s own Breakpad based crash reporting tools.
    • Second Life Voice RC viewer, version 5.1.8.518310, August 7.
  • Project viewers:
    • EAM project viewer, version 5.2.0.518362, August 9 – improved region access control tools; see my overview for more.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V5-style

  • Kokua 64-bit updated to version 5.1.7.43692 (RLV and 5.1.7.43693 (No RLV) on August 11th – release notes.

V1-style

Mobile / Other Clients

  • MetaChat – Apple has (hopefully temporarily) removed the app from the iStore as part of a purge of “gambling” applications – read the MetaChat blog post for more. D/loaded + installed version s still work.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links