Sansar Product Meetings week #8: communication

Sansar: Treehouse Overlook

The following notes are taken from the Sansar Product Meetings for 2018 week #8,  held at 14:00 PST on Tuesday, February 20th. Unfortunately, illness kept me from attending the second meeting on socialisation, held on Thursday, February 22nd.

These weekly Product Meetings are open to anyone to attend, are a mix of voice (primarily) and text chat. Dates and times are currently floating, so check the Meet-up Announcements and the Sansar Atlas events sections each week. Official notes, when published can be found here.

Communications – Ideas from the Lab

The following is a list of some of the communications elements the Lab is actively investigating for Sansar. Note none of the following currently has a delivery time frame associated with it.

  • Group chat: somewhat similar in nature of SL conference calls: starting an IM with someone and then inviting others into it, to allow a select number of people to jointly converse together privately in Sansar as a whole (e.g. when in an experience or browsing the Atlas or working in LookBook).
  • Multiple instance communications: currently, users can only converse with one another in open chat if they are all in the same instance of an experience. The Lab would like to broaden this to allow some form of open chat between users in different instances of the same experience.
  • Broadcasting: the ability of nominated people in one instance of an experience to “broadcast” out to all other instances of that experience. This is being developed specifically for events such as presentations, concerts, etc.
  • Chat App improvements: including time stamps, and hopefully copy / paste – the problem being here that at the moment, the Chat App UI can break if trying to copy a large swathe of text. Hence why the option was disabled.

Ideas that are not currently being pursued, but may be considered in time include:

  • The ability to see where friends are in Sansar and teleport to them.
  • The ability to send a teleport invitation to friends to have them join you in an experience.
  • The ability for users to engage in private, one-to-one Voice conversations (Voice IMs, so to speak).

Voice Chat

A number of issues have been identified with Voice chat:

  • Audio occlusion: this does not always work as expected, allowing shows from part of an experience to bleed into a neighbouring part, even if the two are separated by a solid wall.
  • Voice roll-off: it’s been noticed that recent changes mean that where there was a clear break between different voice chat sessions scattered over an experience, there can now be times when multiple conversation overlap, potentially confusing the listener as they move around.
  • There needs to be a quick, effective means to focus in on someone talking in a group, which can be applied to both Desktop and VR modes.
  • there needs to be a more granular approach to being able to adjust the volume at which a users hears those around them talking.

Text Chat in VR

The Lab is looking at ways to surface text chat in VR mode, so that VR users can read what is going on in text and respond to it via Voice. This alone would be a huge improvement, given that in groups are VR dominant, anyone using Desktop text chat is essentially ostracised, as one of the VR users can see what they have typed.

User Profiles

Spanning both communication and socialisation is the user profile. Familiar to everyone in Second Life, it has been lacking any kind of implementation in Sansar. However, this is now changing.  Being prepared for a future release is the first iteration of a Sansar user profile. This will initially include:

  • The user name and an avatar head shot (obtained via the LookBook).
  • A field in which a short biography can be added.
  • And option to friend others through their profiles.

Additional options such as instant messaging, recording an avatar’s rez date and having a field in which notes on an avatar can be recorded.


Melusina’s minimalism in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

Less is More is the title of an exhibition of Second Life photography by Melusina Parkin, featured at the basement Womb exhibition space at DiXmiX Gallery and which opened on February 20th, 2018.

As an aphorism, the phrase is most readily associated with the German-America architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, regarded as one of the pioneers of 20th Century modernist architecture, although he appears to have lifted the expression from Robert Browning’s 1855 poem Andrea del Sarto  (also called The Faultless Painter). Van der Rohe used the term to define a form of architecture with a minimal structural framework that could suggest free-flowing open spaces, and which could explore the relationship between people, shelter, and nature.  Given Melu’s own unique approach to photography which very much encompasses the refined, minimalist use of structure balanced against the idea of natural,open space, the aphorism is an ideal title under which to exhibit some of her work. 

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

In all, 18 photographs are displayed in the Womb’s three halls – you can find it by entering the main DiXmiX gallery and making your way to the Black Gallery, where the entrance to the Womb resides. Primarily rendered in soft tones, all of the pieces perfectly exemplify the idea of minimal structure, both in terms of framing – most of the pictures carry an intentional off-centre focus – and in terms of content – the physical structures within the images are minimally presented against a broader backdrop suggestive of open space, whether offered by open water, cloudy sky or a blank wall. 

Also evident in these images, and in keeping with van der Rohe, is another of the architect’s adopted aphorisms: God is in the details. Yes, the over-arching aim of this type of photography is to present something that carries within in minimal structure and balances that structure against the use of space; however, this is something that just “happens”. It requires a measured eye and a flair for making what is actually a painstaking study of places and environments look so naturally easy.

DiXmiX Gallery: Melusina Parkin

Thus, while they might all look effortless in execution, considered study of each of them reveals the care and thought that went into bringing each of them to life. Even the way they have been paired within the three sets of images: views, interiors and bodies, should be considered; Melusina’s attention to detail is evident through this exhibition.So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t help but wonder if with some of the selected images, she’s not also offering a tip of the hat directly to van der Rohe. Looking at two of the images in Bodies (centre image of this article), I found myself thinking about his Farnsworth House design, and its original occupant, Dr. Edith Farnsworth.

Another excellent exhibition from one of my favourite artists in Second Life.

SLurl Details

Bjørn Laurin departs Linden Lab for HTC Vive

Courtesy of Linden Lab

Bjørn Laurin, the former Vice President of Product at Linden Lab, has departed the company to join HTC Vive, where he is involved with Viveport, the company’s app store for Virtual Reality experiences.

Bjørn joined Linden Lab in March 2015 – although it passed almost unnoticed at the time. I personally didn’t catch it until a passing comment from Don Laabs (Danger Linden), at that time the Lab’s Senior Director of Product, whilst he was being interviewed at SL12B that year. That led me to provide a very quick outline biography for Bjørn.

Whilst his remit as VP of Product covered all three of the Lab’s platforms and applications – Second Life, Sansar and Blocksworld – over the course of his roughly two-and-a-half years at Linden Lab, Bjørn perhaps became most closely identified with Sansar. He was generally present at physical world events where the Lab sought to promote the platform. He was also, for a time, one of the “regulars” from the Lab who would hop into Sansar to join community  meet-ups and product meetings there.

Bjørn Lauren, the Lab’s former Vice President of Product (l), and fellow Swede, Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, in the basement of the Lab’s San Francisco office. Credit Dean Takahashi

In this latter capacity, he became one of the popular Lab reps (alongside Ebbe Altberg and Jason Gholston (Widely Linden)) for his willingness to offer broad-ranging views and comments on Sansar’s direction, upcoming releases and ideas being discussed for the platform back at the Lab.

Nor was his time restricted to meeting people in Sansar. Ahead of the launch of the platform’s open Creator Beta at the end of July 2017, Bjørn, together with  Jason (Widely Linden), sat down with Sansar and SL users to discuss the new platform and explain some of the thinking behind its evolution, as well as looking a little further down the road. It’s also not unfair to say that he has been an enthusiastic adopter of consumer-focused VR, something which tended to become very evident in even brief conversations with him, so his move to HTC Vive would appear to be a good fit.

I actually first became curious about Bjørn’s status at the Lab in mid-January, 2018, when I noticed his biographical notes had been removed from the Lab’s corporate website shortly after Peter Gray had dropped me a line to say he would be departing the Lab for pastures new.  At the time, I reached out to the Lab through various channels to try to ascertain whether Bjørn had left the company, but without success (someone – and my apologies to them as I forget who – had pinged me in late 2017 to ask if I knew whether or not he was still with that Lab – as there was no change in his status on the Lab’s corporate pages at the time, I took it to mean he was still with the company back then). According to LinkedIn, Bjørn took up his new position at HTC Vive some time around the end of January / beginning of February 2018.

Currently, there has been no nomination to the role of VP of Product at the Lab. However, it might be that Paul Chen, who has been with the company since the end of 2014, may have inherited Bjørn’s role. He is now listed on the Lab’s management page as Head of Product and Business operations – a role he moved to in October 2017, and which he describes in part as being, “Building and operating the next generation of virtual worlds, overseeing the development, planning and execution of Sansar.

Linden Lab’s senior management team, February 2018

While I didn’t know him particularly well, Bjørn always came over as very personable, friendly and with something of a wry sense of humour. He was always hugely enthusiastic about Sansar’s potential and Second Life’s future. I wish him all the best for his new role at HTC Vive.


2018 SL project updates 8/1: server, viewer

Flying Coyote River; Inara Pey, January 2018, on Flickr Flying Coyote Riverblog post

Server Deployments

As usual, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest updates.

There was no deployment to the Main (SLS) channel on Tuesday, February 20th, again leaving it on the same server release as weeks #6 and #7: 18# as the channel was restarted in week #7, there was no rolling restart this week.

All three of the major RC channels should receive a new server maintenance package on Wednesday, February 21st. Release 18# should hopefully improve (if not resolve) an odd viewer crash situation some users have experienced. At the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, February 20th, Simon Linden described it thus:

The server is doing some better checking on update data it sends to the viewer. We saw a very odd situation a week or two ago where the region was sending odd data and viewers would crash immediately. It went away after we restarted the region, and we think it was some memory corruption … FWIW, the server was sending a value of zero for a prim-code … which is totally invalid … There were also some other invalid data (like a zero’ed UUID) so my theory was memory corruption.

We didn’t have any other smoking guns. That region was fine after restarting, or when we tried our own copy. It was one of those mystery bugs, which we sometimes get since SL is so big and complex. We don’t know why it got that way, or how to make it happen again. we ended up making both the region and the viewer more robust. The underlying problem is still there and, assuming it happens again, will still cause problems.

(See also: BUG-214564.)

SL Viewer

There have been no updates to the viewer in the current official pipelines thus far, leaving them as per the end of week #7:

  • Current Release version, dated January 26, promoted February 7 – formerly the Voice Maintenance RC.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • Media Update RC viewer version, February 15.
    • Nalewka Maintenance viewer version, February 14.
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer version, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

Region Crossing Issues Investigation

As noted over the last few weeks, user Joe Magarac (animats) has been digging into the viewer code handling region crossings in an attempt to improve avatar handing  when seated on objects and looking at the “partial unsit” issue (when the avatar becomes visual detached from a vehicle on a region crossing, but acts as if still attached (e.g. appearing seated, with any attempt to stand causing a viewer crash. Information pertaining to his effects can be found at the following location:

He now believes he has an extrapolation fix for unsits at region boundaries, which could be appearing in a future Firestorm release.

In addition, he believes he has now isolated the cause of the “partial unsit” issue as being a network bottleneck issue, and is confident he can recreate the problem simply by “overloading” his network connection by running multiple net-intensive operations in the background (resulting in packets being lost or arriving out-of-order), or by forcing packet loss.

Rather than using RLV(/a) to address this problem as a workaround, he’s now looking at using a “scripted seatbelt” – essentially a scripted attachment which can detect a partial unsit, and teleport the avatar to the last known “good” position for the vehicle, and attempting to deliver the avatar 3m above the vehicle, which might make it possible for the user to then re-sit. It’s not a total solution, particularly if the vehicle has been handed-off OK and is continuing along its path, but as Simon Linden noted, at least it puts the avatar (hopefully) in the vicinity of the vehicle. And as was also acknowledged in the meeting, anything more direct is likely going to require the Lab find resources to bang on the region crossing code in both simulators and in the viewer.

A return to Chamonix City in Second Life

Chamonix City

With the 2018 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games running from February 8th through until February 25th, 2018 at Pyeongchang County, South Korea, a tweet from fellow SL traveller and writer, Erik Mondrian reminded me that Second Life also has its own winter sports venue in the form of six regions centred on Chamonix City on the Full region of Cross Check. It’s a place I last visited back in 2014, so the current games  and Erik’s tweet put me in the mind to hop back and have another look, and see what may have changed.

Chamonix City  – a reference to the location of the first Winter Olympics Games, held in 1924 – encompasses two of the six regions of this winter sports venue – Cross Check and Neutral Zone. They are bracketed by Breakaway to the west and Off Sides to the east, with Empty Net and Blueliner to the north and south respectively. Within these regions, the facilities on offer are extensive, and can be found both on the ground and up in the air. The city itself is dominated by two huge ice hockey arenas – the Brooks Arena on Blueliner, and the impressive Cleary arena, which straddles the northern part of Cross Check and most of Empty Net. Home to the Chamonix Pandas, Cleary arena also offers 10-pin bowling on the lobby area and one of a number of teleport stations which can be used to hop around the facilities scattered across the six regions.  This includes a direct TP to Brooks Area – although the walk across town is pleasant enough, or there is a subway option, with stations just outside of both arenas.

Chamonix City – Caitlyn tries her hand at curling

Directly behind Brooks Arena is the main curling hall, with four ends available for players. To be honest, some instructions would not go amiss – for example: is actually possible to sweep, and if so, how? However, game play is pretty much as per the physical world game – trying to slide your team’s stones as close as possible to the centre of the house, whilst also seeking to block / eliminate your opposition’s stones. When playing, make sure you wear at least one of the coloured brooms from the free pack available at the top house of each end – order of play is based on who is wearing the broom matching the colour (red or yellow) of the first stone to appear before the hacks (chocks). Clicking on the hacks will position the player and place them in Mouselook, then it is a case of taking aim (use the crosshairs HUD if required), then press and hold the left mouse button to deliver the stone – the longer you hold the button, the more momentum is delivered to the stone, and players should be wary of delivering too much momentum and carrying their stones out-of-bounds.

A faster pace of event can be found in the sky over Breakaway, where the speed skating arena resides.   Slip into a suitably aerodynamic suit, don your skates and then click on one of the speed skating rezzers located around the rink to get started. For those who prefer, there’s an indoor speed skating rink right next door to the outdoor arena. This is smaller and tighter, and requires a certain amount of skill to get around.

Chamonix City Park

Breakaway is also the home of the ski jump and alpine ski run for those who love sports skiing. Comprehensive instructions are given for the ski jump, and skis are available from the rezzer at the back of the jump’ s start. Sadly, the alpine ski rezzer appeared to be out of commission during our visit, so reacquainting myself with that run wasn’t possible.

Offsides, meanwhile, is the home of the snowboarding and bob-sleigh runs. However, at the time of our visit, while the rezzers (boots and board) worked OK for the former, the rezzer for the bob-sleigh also appeared to be out-of-action.

Chamonix City ski jump

At the time of my 2014 visit, there was a practice area in the sky over Neutral Zone, which included a figure skating rink. Since then, things have changed and this sky area is now the home of a go karting track, speedway circle and a Warbugs flying area, offering a set of alternatives to the winter fun across the rest of the regions. I’m not sure if this means the practice area and figure skating rink have been relocated – but I did have (an admittedly fast) hop around and attempt to find them, with no joy – and none of the teleport boards I found and tired led me to them.

A collaborative build, led I believe, by Kacey Rossini, Chamonix City provides a venue rich in winter scenery containing a lot of sports activities which can be enjoyed as a pert of a shared visit, with options as well for exploring the little town centre, having fun flying Warbugs or simply riding the cable cars.

SLurl Details

  • Chamonix City (Cross Check, rated: General, as are all six regions)

The Art Garden Gallery in Second Life

Art Garden Gallery

There are many galleries across Second Life. Some specialise in exhibiting photography and art created within Second Life; others focus on exhibiting the physical world work of artists who have come to Second Life for both social activities and as a means to reach a broader audience for their art. Indeed, such is the number of galleries, that reporting on all of them is a difficult task – but I enjoy hopping around SL looking for the smaller art spaces and discovering the work of artists between new to me and familiar.

One such gallery space, offering ensemble and mixed exhibits is the Art Garden Gallery operated by Fanny FooFoo Miklos (Sloane Cerise) and her partner Thorne Miklos. Located in the sky over the mainland, the gallery is – as its name suggests – presented as a garden environment; in this case a walled garden under a night-time sky.  The landing point is towards the centre of the garden space, with the art displayed on the outer stone walls.

Art Garden Gallery

At the time of my visit, most of the art on display represented physical world pieces by a broad range of artists, including Kaly Iali, Persia Silverblade, Toysoldier Thor, SaraMarie Paul, Shmoo Snook, JudiLynn India, Asmita Duranjaya, Dulcis Taurig, to name a handful. Given such a broad cross-section of artists, it should come as no surprise the art itself was broad in terms of content, style and approach. Some offered studies of flowers, others present landscapes or representations of landscapes, and others are far more abstract in nature. Thus, the gallery offers an eclectic and attractive mix of art for the visitor’s enjoyment.

If I have a complaint at all, is the lack of artist information outside of plaques bearing the name of each piece and the artist’s name. Given that there are so many artists in Second Life, and the ease with which information givers can be set-up, it would be nice to see settings like this do a little more to help inform visitors about the artists behind the works on display; doing so can add further depth to an exhibition.

Art Garden Gallery

At the western end of the gallery space is the Miklos Centre, a smaller space for what appears to be more themed art displays. Again, at the time of my visit, this smaller, enclosed area was home to a display of art and poetry entitled Telephone Walkers. On offer are seven pieces of art and seven poems on the subject of telephone poles. Four of the pictures were produced within Second Life, with the remaining three – by photographer Nils Urqhart and artist David E. Weiner – are of physical world locations. All feature telephone pole – or overhead power lines – either as something of a focal point – as with Ziki Questi’s Bonne Chance 3 and Furillen 1, in orders they are part of the overall image framing, as with In Every Life by Wintergeist and Old Stone Wall by Nordica Torok, while for the rest the poles are almost incidental.

The poems offer a broad range of perspectives on telephone poles,  and combined with the seven images – the numbers are more for balance than any attempt at pairing of specific images with poems – poems and pictures back for a very effective exhibition. I admit to finding Telephone Walkers more engaging than the main gallery space exhibition, partly because it is more contained and focused (and includes work by artists I greatly admire), but also because the poetry draws the visitor into each of the pieces, offering each multiple narratives to be enjoyed.

Art Garden Gallery – Telephone Walkers

I’m not certain how frequently exhibitions change at the rt Garden Gallery, but for those who enjoy visits to smaller, more boutique style galleries which can offer ensemble exhibitions, I recommend a visit.

SLurl Details