Chicken little for the big time?

Colour me gobsmacked.

Is the grid so laggy that April 1st has JUST arrived at Linden Lab’s offices? I’ve just read this, and I’m utterly floored.

Don’t get me wrong….I think the Linden Prize is a great thing. For those of you perhaps not familiar with it, the Prize is an annual award LL give (to the tune of $10,000 USD which is given to the “Second Life Resident or team for an innovative inworld project that improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world” [emphasis mine, for reasons that will become clear].

The listed finalists include very worthy projects such as AIDS / HIV awareness; NASA’s Colab educational facility; the Open University (potentially the world’s foremost distance-learning university, with a global student intake of over 200,000), Virtual Helping Hands, that links volunteers who help individuals with disabilities, various education-based projects…

…and Sion Chickens….

You read that correctly. Sion Chickens. Yes. Those chickens. The ones people (allegedly) love to kill – or more particularly, the ones that eat up sim resources faster than a politician can simultaneously kiss a baby and steal its lollypop.

Now, it may well be that “raising”, “feeding” and “breeding” virtual chickens could well be a fun thing to do (even if it does see your estate “owner” suddenly ignoring you entreaties for help, or your neighbours looking at you peculiarly while holding knives or handguns or large blunt object-shaped prims….). But come on!!! Are we really supposed to believe that this sim-screwing, resource-gobbling, lag-spewing pyramid scheme actually, improves the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world??

Well…yes, if by “improve” Linden Lab means the potential for those suffering from the impact of said chickens conspiring via real life to locate those owning them, pay them a visit and casually persuade them as to the error of their ways*- then I suppose there might be some logic to including Sion Chickens in the list.

However, the only reason I can find for the inclusion of the Chickens among the finalists is because they apparently stimulated the SL economy in 2009, encouraging an alleged 60K of “new users” to participate in the economy by buying the chickens and their associated, um, goods.

Again, I’m not against stimulating the economy (I’m a content creator, after all). It’s a good thing; it’s healthy to see more people get involved in SL: and if they buy chickens, what else might they buy / rent? Land (they’re going to need somewhere to put their chickens); a house (where they can sit and watch over their chickens); furniture (so they can have something to sit on while watching their chickens)….

But this isn’t the (alleged reason the Linden Prize was founded. Period. End of discussion. As such, for the Lindens to place it in the final 10 is nothing short of cynical, promoting as it does the view that making money (for yourself and LL) is as merited improving the way people work, learn and communicate in their daily lives outside of the virtual world. What is worse is that if, but some godforsaken chance  M and his gang actually declare the chickens their winner (or even a joint winner), then they will have undermined any credibility the Prize currently holds among residents.

If not actually reduce it to outright farce.

*aka “beat seven bells out of them”

1.23.5 – the long goodbye starts

I admit this one slipped past me (I blame my cold, etc., from earlier in the week…again…).

Hello everyone,

Today, the Second Life Viewer 1.23.5 Release Candidate was deprecated.  It is important to note that this deprecation impacts only the Release Candidate version of Viewer 1.23.5, and that we will continue to support the official Viewer 1.23.5 Release.  If you are still running the 1.23.5 release Candidate, you will see the ‘Viewer  Update Required’ splash on your login screen.  If you click ‘Login’ before the login screen fully loads, then you will be prompted to complete the required update during the login process.  Both of these paths will take you to the official Viewer 1.23.5 release.

During the development of Second Life Viewer 2, you may have noticed that we made a small change to the way early releases were handled.  Instead of calling the Viewer 2 early releases “Release Candidates,” as was done with the 1.xx Viewers, we began using the term “Beta” to more accurately  represent these early releases.  If you were among those who installed  and tested one or more Viewer 2Betas, then you might have noticed that we did not  release a Viewer 2 Release Candidate; Viewer 2 stayed in the Beta channel all the way up to the final release.  Now, in keeping with the Viewer Support policy stated in T’s March 9th, 2009 blog post, we’re now supporting the last two official Viewer releases (2.0.1 and 1.23.5) and the most recent Viewer 2.0.1 Beta.  Also in line with Linden Lab’s stated policy, we will be deprecating Viewer 1.22.11 on June 1.

We are always grateful for your help testing upcoming releases, whether they be Release Candidates or Betas.  Keep up the great work and we look forward to working with you on Viewer 2.1!

Kindest Regards,

Dessie  Linden

As posted on the technology blog. So this is now it…the beginning of the end for official support of 1.23.5.

Yes, I know that the missive says it is because “Release Candidate” is no longer the correct term…but don’t expect to see a 1.23.6 Beta slipping out of the LL gates any time soon. We have the shiny new toy – flaws and all – so the push has started to end support for 1.23.5 through official channels.

I’m actually pretty sanguine over this: I’m not really a fan of Viewer 2.0; few of the whizzy things in it raise more than a “meh,” in me: I’m no media guru, so media-on-a-prim doesn’t excite me overly much. Let’s face it, if I want to watch something on You Tube, I’ll, um, open my browser (and yes, I know that’s a gross over-simplification of Grandad’s new trousers, but it’s about as excited as I can personally get over it). The potential (and pointed-out security vulnerabilities around it also leave me somewhat cool towards it. Similarly, alpha masks don’t excite me greatly (they pretty much strike me as nice, in a missed opportunity kind of way). I certainly don’t like elements of the Viewer 2.0 interface, as I’ve previously noted. BUT…the flipside is, as I’ve also said, I really like KirstenLee Cinquetti’s S20 Viewer which genuinely shows what could be achieved with the new Viewer (and it is interesting to see than many of her innovations are pushing (directly or otherwise) Viewer 2.0 in something of the right direction. If 2.1 and beyond continue in the same manner, I could be persuaded to make the jump in the future.

But, for 1.23.5 lovers, we’re now at the stage where everyone is going to have to climb into the boats provided by third party developers if they wish to enjoy the same levels of functionality afforded to users of Viewer 2 and its derivatives /hybrids.

But even this isn’t without issues. Again, I really enjoy using Emerald, and have yet to see a single negative claim made against the Viewer in terms of data scraping, ToS violations and whatnot actually demonstrated to be fact. I mean, the code is out there to review yet, (and leaving aside the cry of “well the source you see may not be the code used to compile the .EXE you install”), I’ve yet to see a single claim made against Emerald supported by a slice of code, rather than the more common innuendo.

BUT…the Viewer aside, it cannot be denied that there is much that whiffs somewhat unpleasantly over at the Emerald Point sim (and other sims run by the more notorious “Emerald devs”) ad well as, it appears, within the Oynx project itself. While it cannot be denied that some posting in these SLU threads have themselves one or more axes to grind where Modular Systems are concerned, as other are far from being white hats themselves…the fact remains that as long as the more reputable members of the Emerald Viewer development team retain their association with Modular Systems, the more they run the risk of crippling their own credibility.

This is one reason why I’m genuinely pleased to see the likes of Imprudence return to supporting SL and continuing to develop a 1.23.5-based Viewer. They’ve incorporated many of the positive features contained in Emerald while avoiding the more intrusive tools (such as being able to see if someone on your Friend’s list is hiding their online status from you). There are one or two more features I’d like to see added – a wider choice of skins, the inclusion of MU and OOC indicators; a direct double-click tp function (a wonderful boon when hoping around a sim looking after things)…but the current release is very much a breath of fresh air compared to the increasingly vitriolic / smug name-calling that surrounds Emerald.

Personally, I’d like to see a few more 1.23.5-based TPVs out there. I doubt whether it will happen; those who matter seem to be determined to continue down the road of cutting their noses to spite their faces.

In the meantime, those of you currently using the official 1.23.5 might want to start savouring the time you have left with it. 1.22 is now gone, support-wise, alongside the 1.23.5 RC – doubtless someone at LL has a date firmly ringed whereupon the official 1.23.5 will be officially tossed aside to age gracelessly.

Moving house

The House at sunrise

Yep…another day, another move!

Well, actually, this happened about two weeks or so ago, but I’ve neglected posting on it until now. Blame it on my toes, shoulder or the stinking rotten cold that refuses the eviction notices I keep sending it in the form of vitamin C pills and Lemsip….

I’ve not actually moved that far, to be honest: just from the north side of QE over to the West. The move was prompted by a number of things:

  • I adore sunsets in SL – and having an uninterrupted view over water of them
  • Two adjoining parcels became available on the west side of the sim
  • I got somewhat fed up with the number of visitors to the skyborne “club” a couple of parcels over who would invariably fall off / out of the club and pancake themselves on the roof of the house….then get booted home by the security system (an event that occurred around 3 times a night on the twice-weekly “party nights”)
  • I adore sunsets in SL – and having an uninterrupted view over water of them.

As a part of the move, I played around with the house itself and was somewhat pleased with the results of my tinkering: recouping over 100 prims without losing any of the capabilities the house has (internal lighting system, curtains, etc.). Part of this is down to the new LSL commands allowing me to do things a little more efficiently, and it is something I now plan to carry over to the commercial versions of the house and incorporate into several other builds.

Kelly's beach front home

So here we are…and I’ve finally been able to make good on my promise to Kelly, long-time friend and “little sister” in SL and build her a home down on the ground once more (she’s been stuck up in the air ever since I sold Scorpius Myth).

Kelly’s house is a slightly customised version of my Tahoma beach house – a design I’m rather partial to, if I say so myself. More importantly, Kelly likes it, and she’s now got a great ocean-front view alongside of us.

Who could ask for more?

Mything the Mark

I thought I’d flip the topic around, Mark Kingdon opened when giving a keynote address (via MetaMeets TV) to the MetaMeet conference being held in Dublin, The topic being ‘Old Myths and New Realities’, and talk about some of the new myths that are forming about Second Life today and some of them are new myths that I’ve been helping create; and since I’m helping to create these new myths, I’d like to try and debunk some of those new myths…

What follows is a 22-minute insight into the future of Second Life directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

And it is both a fascinating and worrying insight into how those at the top see SL developing over the next year or so.

On the fascinating / welcome side of things Kingdon is candid in his view that while the core emphasis of his tenure to date at LL has been a drive to bring in new users, he is well aware that this is not enough to ensure the continued growth of the platform. Indeed, he openly states both consumers (“new users”) and creators are vital gears in the engine of SL’s economy, and both need to be supported. He then goes on to point to shared media as being a prime example of supporting creativity in SL and the forthcoming (i.e. end-of-year) arrival of mesh imports.

But then things start to get a bit worrying, as Kingdon intrinsically links “creativity” in SL with “art” and the Linden Endowment of the Arts (LEA). The LEA is a hand-picked group M and his colleagues have determined to be the “thought leaders” in the SL arts community to set a direction and curate submissions which we can display in our new arts centre. so Linden Lab’s contribution to this venture is going to be to contribute land…and lot of sims…maybe 70 sims…

BOING!!!

SEVENTY sims? Pardon me, but that is one BIG land mass. Now, art in SL is not a new thing – as Kingdon notes – and much of it is currently supported out of the artist’s own pocket (in terms of tier payments) or- more pertinently – by sim owners themselves who lease & run arts-related sims entirely out of their own pocket. If nothing else, the prospect of having to compete with up to seventy sims being provided (apparently) gratis to the arts community is something of a slap in the face with a large, wet fish for those who have supported arts and artistry for so long and so altruistically.

And it isn’t even as if this new facility is going to by open to any and all artists within SL: the selection of whom gets to display what on these sims is to be left in the hands of what amounts to an appointed quango.

Now, obviously, when setting up something like this, there needs to be a filtering of content to some degree – but one cannot help but wonder just how the filtering of submissions to this new “art continent” will be skewed by the “thought leaders” appointed to the LEA – and how many are simply going to find themselves excluded from participation on grounds that have less to do with the quality of their artistry and more with how the LEA’s own perceptions of what constitutes both “art” – be it visual or performance – and the “artist” making the submission.

Another niggling concern that tickled my mind on listening to Kingdon arose as I casually flipped through recent e-mails…and found one advertising LL’s latest “competition”: the chance to win L$50K in return for hoping your way through the Destination Guide.

Ciaran Laval is my hero on the call to arms over Search. He’s been unremitting on his calls to get Search fixed – and rightly so; and LL are promising “incremental improvements”. But…one cannot help but look upon a sudden and incentivised (to the tune of L$50K) drive to get people to use the Destinations Guide as perhaps being indicative of something deeper: could it be that LL want people to use the DG in preference to the borked-up Places in search? If so, then one cannot help be feel concerned for those that try to maintain private art-related sims; if they are reliant on getting listed on the Destination Guide to attract visitors…they are liable to be very small voices crying out against the background “noise” of LEA-approved offerings…

Another worry that crossed my mind while listening to M on this, was whither goeth the mesh creators? He seems to strongly align “art” and “content” as being one-in-the-same. Questions have already been raised on the subject of mesh and its potential to impact the economy (and creativity) within Second Life – by both myself and others. Tom Hale himself admits that the concerns need to be addressed….are we going to see the LEA somehow involved in this as well? Combined with some new “Gold Content Providers Program”?

If so…whither then for the “amateur” content creator?

Beyond this, M did lay to rest one welcome ghost: that LL are trying to “out” everyone. The paranoid androids of the blogrum have been rattling on about this every time words such as “face”, “book”, “tweet” and “plurk” have ended up strung together in sentences uttered / printed by LL. So much so, that this isn’t the first time Kingdon has sought to slay this particular beast – but this doesn’t make his clarifications here any the less welcome. And, to be honest, while I am no “social networking” fan (I don’t facebook, I’m no Twit and I still think “plurking” to be the kind of sound a man makes after a particularly filling meal) – but I can see the value in making tools available that make broadening the social reach people can enjoy while using SL as being potentially beneficial.

Another welcome point Kingdon made was around the subject of third-party development and the recognition – at least around the Viewer – that LL cannot possibly meet the demands of every single segment of the user community in terms of wanted / needed Viewer functionality. As such, M was at pains to point out that LL in fact need TPV developers if the needs of the more experienced users are to be met, and that Viewer development is very much a symbiotic relationship – with the given caveat that LL must gate keep the safety and security of the SL environment.

If there was anything here I would really liked to have heard, it would have been that the TPV policy itself is not the end of the process: there is much going on around SL that is causing concern due to a lack of some transparency that really needs to have LL themselves to be more forthright about. While I am not suggesting that there is anything remotely nefarious about these “private sector” programmes, one cannot help but feel that much of the FUD, misinformation and outright angst that they are causing could be done away with were LL to issue guidelines to help govern such activities.

Perhaps the most fascinating element of the presentation was in Kingdon’s “look ahead”, which formed both a part of his address and an answer to a question from the “floor”. I’m not sure I go along entirely with all of the ideas and memes he set up at this end of the presentation, but there can be no denying he has a deep-seated belief in what he perceives as being the future for SL and the Internet as a whole. But that said, I’ll leave you to listen and judge for yourselves in this aspect of things.

This is the second such “free talk” event at which I’ve hard Mark Kingdon speak – and, as with the first time at his February “meet’n’greet“, I was impressed by his sincere passion for SL, although I remain genuinely concerned for the future of arts in SL. This whole LEA thing, while it has been on the cards for a while now, smacks unpleasantly of a further effort to control, define and promote by proxy, and one that if “successful” could well (like Linden Homes) see further sims thrown at it “magnanimously” by LL – to the death of “art” anywhere else in SL.

Hot under the collar

With the ripples from the recent forum phishing scam still, well, rippling (PMs remain disabled on the blogrum), people seem to be returning to their own pet peeves.

Chief among these is a return to the popular game of “Emerald bashing“.  Let’s be clear on this: I’m actually very uncomfortable around some of the activities being undertaken by those involved in Modular Systems. My take on Lonely Bluebird (one of several alts within the “Emerald dev” group that is operated by one of that group’s more conspicuous members) handing out Viewer-crashing prims in the name of “anti-copybotting” activities being a case in point.

I’m also less than sanguine about the likes of CDS and Oynx, both of which smack of vigilantism to some degree – especially in the light of the continued obfuscation put out by those involved in Emerald / Modular Systems / Oynx / CDS. I’m certainly not sold on the idea that they need to be secretive because otherwise the “bad guys” will be able to bypass the “security” tools like Oynx and CDS supposedly give.

But that said, the blatant witch hunting that goes on around anything that even faintly smacks of being Emerald-related stinks at least as much as (and in some cases more so than) any whiff of unpleasantness arising from Oynx / CDS.

In a recent  round robin on the Oynx bots currently threading their way through the grid, any opportunity to engage in reasoned discussion was quickly overturned by those more interested in relying on fear and innuendo. That some of this seemed driven more by one Viewer developer’s  – dare I say it – envy over Emerald’s continued success more than any genuine concern or attempt to give factual information on subject was unfortunate. That another over-the-top forum poster saw it as a means of (again) demonstrating her self-promoted “skill” at wordplay simply drove the entire thread into the realms of pointlessness.

Which is a shame, as there are questions that need to be legitimately asked – and honestly answered – around the subject of Oynx in particular. Dragging matters down into games of wordplay or Viewer envy tend to kill the opportunities to ask such questions stone dead.

To be sure those at Modular Systems are not entirely free from blame here. They’ve been challenged some in the SL blogs and forums such as SL Universe, and rather than give direct answers, they’ve opted for wordplay and obfuscation of their own. Many attribute this to the fact that they have “something to hide”. Personally, having been witness to the behaviour of some of the individuals involved in Modular Systems, I have to say I think their repeated attempts at “wit”, etc., is actually down to juvenile flippancy more than any desire to “hide” things; that is to say that some of them enjoy spreading confusion simply because it does upset the very people it  is aimed at, rather than being any attempt at deviousness. While it is true that some of them have, in the past, demonstrated a capacity for maliciousness, I for one would still rather look upon them with an attitude of “innocent until proven [emphasis deliberate] guilty” – whereas others out in the virtual world seem to believe that democratic due process proceeds from “guilty even if proven to be innocent”.

But this aside, resorting to the Alphaville Herald (neither a bastion of honest journalism or a font of unbiased and accurate information) – does little to establish a “case” against Modular Systems; all it actually does is provide further opportunities for wordplay, FUD and temper tantrums.

Elsewhere, people are picking up on the Evans et al suit against Linden Lab following a report (loosely) on the matter posted by CNN.

Although the CNN article doesn’t directly address the ins and outs of the Evans et al case, this hasn’t stopped some in the blogrum from gloating over the potential for LL to be “put to rights” over perceived wrongdoing – while seemingly remaining blissfully unaware that a) the case is less about land ownership and more about potential false advertising on Linden Lab’s part, and b) it seems fairly clear from the way the case has been structured (and by whom: one Justin Archinaco) that the plaintiffs are more likely to be seeking a hoped-for settlement out-of-court, rather than the before jury hearing they are demanding (and it will be interesting to see how they respond should LL call this particular bluff).

Most of all however, I’m again struck by the shallowness of thinking that surrounds those who post gleeful “I own land and I can’t wait for this to get to court…” comments. While I do remain convinced the chances of this case reaching court prior to a settlement being reached are slim, I have to say that those wishing it to go that far show a remarkable lack of comprehension. Have they really not thought through the repercussions that they will face, let alone LL? Anyone who “owns” a sim and then rents out “sells” or otherwise leases land on that sim for profit (i.e. any income over and above tier) could well find themselves liable for tax due on said income – and I seriously doubt many will have placed themselves in a position of being able to write-off their liability to any sizeable degree.

While there does need to be a discussion around the concept and realities of digital ownership, one really shouldn’t be fooled into believing that Evans et al vs. Linden Lab has anything to do with such a discussion.   And those that gloat today may yet find themselves deep in regret tomorrow.

Viewer 2: Getting the message

Esbee Linden posts about the forthcoming Viewer 2.1, and makes something of a ballyhoo over it. 400,000 downloads is a surprising figure. Emerald has been around a while and yet people question the Modular Systems’ claim that in excess of 70,000 have downloaded it. Given Viewer 2 has been with us less than three months, 400K is a very surprising figure. Nevertheless I expect at least one fanboi will be looking through Hubble and praising the figure for all its worth and using it as further “proof” that there is nothing wrong with Viewer 2.0….

Beyond the hype, however, there are some telling statements from Esbee. Most interesting is her list of forthcoming attractions, namely:

  • Adding individual volume controls for Shared Media objects.
  • Customization of the bottom bar, so that you can quickly access the features and functionality that you use most often.
  • Updates to the camera and movement controls, so we can allow you to pan and orbit your view of Second Life at the same time.
  • Adding the ‘Build’ option back to the right-click context menu.
  • Fixing the bug where CTL-ALT-F1 does not hide all the Viewer UI as it should. This fix should solve a lot of problems for our machinimists and photographers.
  • Adding a preference that allows users to control whether the Side Bar opening resizes the world or slides over it.

Frankly, while it is good news that the above are all being added to Viewer 2.0 – the fact remains that they should have been there from Day One. Period. While Viewer 2.0 is primarily aimed at new users who, granted, come into SL with a raft of different expectations than the rest of us, the fact remains that Viewer 2.0 also has to service those of us who have been here a while – and things like the irritating camera controls, restricted build functionality, lack of cohesive access to functions via the taskbar, etc., simply fail to consider, much less address the needs of the experienced user.

Similarly fundamental bugs such as the Sidebar jarring the in-world view to the left, the failure of CTRL-ALT-F1 should have been picked up and addressed long before the Viewer went to public Beta (and I have it on good authority that both of these issues were repeatedly raised during the closed beta testing, so absolutely no excuses here).

Performance issues are something I’m not going to comment on – they’re an accepted pitfall in an environment as dynamic as SL, and something somewhere is likely going to cause issues and problems along the way; as long as LL stay on top of them, that’s all that matters.

The Avatar customisation is also interesting, although potentially it will push Viewer 2.0 further from those wishing to stay with a 1.2x code base for their Viewer and put more of a load on TPV developers as they try to maintain and fix establish 1.2x code and integrate / back-engineer the newer code into their products. Even so, a greater flexibility for clothing layer use is to be welcomed.

Now, if they really could get the new search tool sorted out, then we might be approaching a waypoint to celebrate; but I’ll let Ciaran Laval give you the low-down on the situation there.