Dear Rod Humble…

Dear Rod Humble,

It is now some ten months since I last wrote to your company regarding its apparent inability to keep customers informed as to issues and problems impacting the service it provides. And while it may appear presumptuous of me to do so, I feel compelled to now write to you directly.

In that missive, I made mention of the fact that once upon a time, whenever there were problems, or when maintenance – planned or otherwise – was about to commence, Linden Lab would push out an in-world notice. As I said at the time:

It was informative; it was helpful; it was reassuring to know you guys were out there, keeping an eye on things and letting us know what was going on. It gave us a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside. In short, it was communicative.

And then one day it stopped, leaving us with no option but to find out about Things Going Wrong or that planned maintenance had started by experiencing it the hard way: through teleports failing or transactions going astray or No Copy items poofing into the ether, never to be seen again.

I’m not alone in feeling the in-world notifications need to be re-instated, and I drew your attention to this fact at the time of my initial letter:

At the same time we have seen what amounts to something of an erosion in the use of the Grid Status page. Once, matters pertaining to the grid were displayed directly on the Viewer splash screen, up in the top right corner with other useful information. For some reason never really clarified, they were removed. I commented on this to you directly about this on a couple of occasions, specifically with regards to the “new” log-in splash screen introduced around the time of SLCC2011. While your initial response was non-committal…

…You did seem to respond more positively when I raised the issue later in 2011:

Yet here we sit, almost a year on from my original letter and our exchanges, and nothing has changed. This fact was brought sharply into focus by the outage which occurred on the 26th April 2012, and the terse explanation that was eventually given for it happening.

The matter appears to have been the result of “unscheduled maintenance” – although the subsequent explanation released on the 27th suggests that the risk of it causing problems may have been anticipated. To me, the use of the term “Triggered a bug” – rather than say, “Resulted in a bug” – suggests there was a known issue / risk here, even before the maintenance commenced. Was this perhaps the cause for the maintenance in the first place? But I digress into speculation. Whether or not the potential for issues arising from the work was anticipated ahead of time, the fact remains that even as unscheduled maintenance, there was an opportunity to inform users of what was about to happen ahead of time.

Indeed, can you not see how much better it would have been if there had been an in-world broadcast that the work was about to commence? While such a broadcast would not have prevented the subsequent outage, it would have given fair warning to those already in-world and encouraged them to proceed with care, rather than people suddenly and unceremoniously booted out of SL and bewildered as to why. Of course, you did provide the log-in warning for people attempting to log back in to SL – but really, that was pretty much akin to saying to someone, “This may hurt,” after you’ve suddenly kicked them in the shin.

It is hard to fathom why Linden Lab appears determined not to re-implement such warnings – and I can only take it as a determination on your part, given that a) it’s almost a year since the idea was mooted both personally with you and with the likes of Viale Linden and despite the positive feedback, nothing further has happened; and – more particularly and relevantly – b) it appears that the JIRA (VWR-20081) from Marianne McCann remains unassigned. Further, given the lack of feedback following Oz’s comment from May 2011, it would appear that “support and ops” simply weren’t interested enough in the idea to warrant any such feedback; which in itself could be seen to speak volumes.

There can’t be any technical issues as to why in-world notices cannot be re-implemented; after all, they are used to give warning during the weekly server roll-outs. This being the case, one can only assume that in-world notices are not used is down to a complete lack of interest / concern on the Lab’s part, and the same holds true for providing links to the Grid Status page on the Viewer’s splash screen.

I know that from our direct exchanges that you feel you have, as CEO, been far more communicative than your predecessors at Linden Lab – and I’m not about to deny the fact that you have. But reaching out on Twitter or Plurk  – as welcome as it is – is no substitute for ensuring your company is fully and properly engaged in the process of communicating with its users through the channels that are most likely to reach the majority of said users.

To be more succinct: when it comes to keeping people informed of matters of import that may impact the Second Life platform, the most appropriate place for Linden Lab to communicate with its users is through the platform – Viewer and website. Everything else should be seen as a secondary or back-up means of getting the word out.

So again, why oh why do you, as a company, refuse to accept this?

No-one expects Linden Lab to handle everything perfectly; there will always been times when the unpredictable and/or the unexpected happens. There will be times with the best will in the world, the sky falls in or SL simply blows a raspberry at everyone and disappears up its own left nostril. We don’t expect you to be superhuman in your efforts to communicate.

But we do ask that the company communicates, and does so through the channels most likely to reach the majority of your users. When it comes to notifying us of the need for grid maintenance – whether it is scheduled or not – or in informing us of issues that may impact our use of the platform, then the channel most likely to reach the majority of your users is in-world notifications. As such, it’s hard not to interpret the ongoing refusal to make any attempt to do so as anything less than a cavalier disregard as to how users might be affected by either the need for immediate maintenance or by known issues.

And frankly, we deserve better than that.

Yours sincerely,

Inara Pey.

Brilliant video: the architecture of Fantasy Faire

The following is a stunning machinima from Fantasy Faire by Marx Catteneo, which magnificently capatures the architecture of the various regions of the Faire. So much so that I had to share it here.

Important Note: due to the service outage on Thursday 26th April, Fantasy Faire has been extended by one day

Teleports

Images from Fantasy Faire 7: Devil’s Locket

Important Note: due to the service outage on Thursday 26th April, Fantasy Faire has been extended by one day

Devil’s Locket is a build by Lauren Thibaud that is a little hard to describe. It brings together a mix of influences in the form of an tropical-like environment, complete with volcanoes, a lagoon-like body of water and whitewashed stone buildings.

Sponsored by Maxwell Graf and Rustica, the sim features a wide range of stores in its oddly exotic setting, where some things are not always obvious to the eye – particularly in the “lagoon”, where a strange metal structure rising from the waters gives a hint that there is more to be found…

You can read an interview with Lauren Thibaud and one with Max Graf about their respective involvements with Fantasy Faire on the Faire’s website.

Devil’s Locket
The imposing facade of the Rustica store
Maxwell’s Magnificent Mesh Mansion
Looking towards the volcanoes
Mechanical elephant – the teleport point
Street view

Thursday’s downtime: network bug; more downtime to follow

The rumour mills (serious and highly humorous – the latter particularly on Twitter) churned mightily yesterday, Thursday April 26th, after SL log-ins were blocked. Users attempting to log-in to SL were treated to something of a dire message, rarely seen in recent years, prompting me to tweet at the time:

The outage certainly brought back memories for many, particularly of the old Black Wednesdays, when the Main grid would be down for anything up to eight hours (the rule of thumb being six) for weekly maintenance.

Yesterday’s outage brought with it memories of the “good old days”

A Grid Status update posted on April 27th later revealed that the cause of the fault to be a core network upgrade going awry, impacting both the Main grid and the SL website at secondlife.com. The Grid Status update also warns of further maintenance work that will take place on Monday April 30th as a result of the issue. The update reads in full:

[UPDATED] Scheduled Maintenance Monday, April 30, 2012

[UPDATED 2:30pm PDT, 27 April 2012] On April 26, 2012, the Second Life engineering team was performing an upgrade to the core network. The upgrade triggered a bug that led to downtime and instability throughout the day. The maintenance described in this post is scheduled for Monday, April 30 at 6am PT in order to correct the bug and may result in additional service interruption. We apologize for the service disruption and appreciate everyone’s patience.

[POSTED 1:00pm PDT, 27 April 2012] We will be performing scheduled maintenance Monday April 30, 2012 beginning at 6:00am until approximately 9:00am. Please save all builds and refrain from rezzing no copy objects or making inworld L$ transactions. Some residents may experience delays logging inworld. Please follow this blog for any updated information.