Facebook and contests: the Lab comments

Following this and other blogs picking-up on the SL11B photo contest the Lab announced yesterday and the fact that it may be off-putting to some SL users (see: Lab launches SL11B L$10,000 photo contest), Pete Linden (Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications) posted the following comment on why Facebook has been used (which he also posted to Ciaran Laval’s blog):

 We realize that a number of Second Life users have reservations about using Facebook and other platforms. In this case, we chose to run the contest through our Facebook page simply because we have a tool on our page that facilitates running a contest with all of the legal stuff (technical term) we need in place to run something like this, and we thought it would be of interest to the more than 366,000 followers of the official Second Life page. Our aim certainly isn’t to discourage participation, and we’ll certainly explore alternative ways to run similar contests in the future.

The issue of “the legal stuff” is actually something I mentioned in my original post when ruminating on using alternatives such as Flickr, pointing out that “ensuring T&Cs are read might be a little harder.”

Given that the Facebook approach requires that people at least click-through the T&Cs prior to entering a contest does make the Lab’s position somewhat understandable. It doesn’t matter if people read them, the fact that they’ve clicked through them absolves the Lab of a degree of potential nastiness after the fact if someone decided to get severely upset (probably unlikely, but the kind of thing lawyers are paid to worry about and mitigate). Truth be told, a link on a Flickr group doesn’t provide the same level of in-your-face immediacy.

I did also flippantly mention the visibility aspect as well – particularly if a fair proportion of those 366,000 followers on Facebook aren’t active SL users. I’ve actually no problem with this; if the contest increases SL’s visibility among non-SL users, then so much the better. Particularly as we’re all pretty much agreed that SL needs more positive advertising, and a fun-looking competition among users does look and feel positive.

Nevertheless, it would be nice to see competitions like this, which are not constrained by external considerations (as was the case with last year’s Dell Alienware competitions), to be put forward in a way that encourages SL user participation, rather than potentially discouraging it. In this, it is pleasing to hear that the Lab is taking the feedback onboard and will seek alternatives for the future.

My thanks to Pete for providing the feedback.

Fallingwater joins Seanchai Library

Fallingwater as it appeared as a standalone region on Kitely
Fallingwater as it appeared as a standalone region on Kitely (click for full size)

Regular readers here will be only too aware of my obsession with Frank Lloyd Wright’s building designs, and in particular that of Fallingwater, which I’ve used as a model for no fewer than three builds over the years: two in Second Life (both now gone, but one safely packed away) and one in Kitely, where it has had a full region to itself for the last two years.

As I’m rarely in Kitely nowadays, the model there hasn’t really seen that much use. So, to rectify this, and as a result of conversations between myself and Caledonia Skytower and Shandon Loring at Seanchai Library, Fallingwater (Kitely) has been relocated to the Seanchai core world, where it will be used as an additional set of venues for Seanchai’s storytelling in voice.

The Great Room at Fallingwater Kitely will soon be a venue for stories in voice!
The Great Room at Fallingwater Kitely will soon be a venue for stories in voice!

The idea of relocating an entire region – buildings, furnishings, plants, tree, flowers and the rest on your own, and without having to pay for it to be done for you, is something liable to fill SL users with a feeling of foreboding. Fortunately, OpenSim users can make use of the OpenSim ARchive (OAR) capability to export and entire region / simulator’s contents to a local hard drive, subject to any permission protections used on their OpenSim grid.

A slight complication with Kitely is that it is not possible to target a single region within a group of regions  – “world” as Kitely call them – without also overwriting the others. As our aim was to make Fallingwater a part of the 4-region core Seanchai “world”, simply exporting it to OAR and then importing it into the Seanchai world would leave the other three regions replaced by default flat terrain.

There is a way around this, but it requires a small amount of fiddling, and the use of something like New World Studio (NWS) or  Sim-on-a-Stick (there are also user-offered services for those wishing to do something similar and who don’t have access to either). Using NWS (which ‘ve previously reviewed)  made the work of combining Fallingwater with Seanchai a simple 6-step process.

Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 1: my 2x2 region on my self-hosted New World Studio
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 1: my 2×2 region on my self-hosted New World Studio
  • First, I created a 4-region (2×2) set-up with New World Studio.
  • Second, using the OAR format, I exported Fallingwater from Kitely and Shandon exported the Seanchai 4-region world, which he passed to me as an OAR file
  • Third, I uploaded the Seanchai world to my 2×2 New World Studio set-up
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 2: importing Seanchai's core 2x2 world
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 2: importing Seanchai’s core 2×2 world in NWS
  • Fourth, I selected the region Fallingwater was to overwritten and imported Fallingwater
  • Fifth, I exported the updated 2×2 set-up to an OAR file and passed it back to Shandon
  • Finally, Shandon uploaded the revised OAR into Kitely.
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai's core 2x2 world on Kitely 3: replacing one of the Seanchai regions with Fallingwater
Combining Fallingwater with Seanchai’s core 2×2 world on Kitely 3: replacing one of the Seanchai regions with Fallingwater

The entire process of creating the New World Studio environment, exporting the OARs, uploading and merging them and then exporting the updated world literally took around 5 minutes. Granted, Shandon had some additional work to sort-out some items in the Seanchai world which were non-exportable due to permissions, but overall, the longest time in the process was sharing the OAR files via Google docs!

So Fallingwater has a new home on Kitely. However, the work isn’t finished. As well as the house, the plan now is to incorporate additional venues for stories and to blend the Fallingwater region more smoothly in with the existing Seanchai regions. I’ll post images of this as the work progresses!

Lab launches SL11B L$10,000 photo contest

SL11B contest
(image courtesy of Linden Lab)

On Tuesday June 17th, in the run-up to the SL11B events across the grid, the Lab has launched a birthday themed photo contest.

The blog post announcing the contest reads in full:

Starting today, you’re invited to take part in the Second Life: Celebrating Your Second Life Snapshot Contest, in honor of 11th Birthday of Second Life.

Participation is easy – submit your celebratory snapshots from inworld to the contest page on our Official Second Life Facebook Page. Click the contest tab, review the contest information and rules and start sharing. This year you will be able to submit up to one snapshot a day for the duration of the contest. Full rules, submission and voting dates, and details are all on the Facebook page.

Looking for some inspiration for pics? Then drop by Hairy Hippo Fun Land to grab your Limited Edition SL11B Robot Avatar. You can also get your free avatar off the Marketplace.

Browse the SL11B category on the destination guide to see what the community has planned to mark the event inworld.

Don’t forget that the Resident-driven Second Life 11th Birthday Community Celebration starts this coming Sunday the 22nd. Visit their website for the latest information.

You only turn 11 once, and we can’t wait to see what kind of celebrations and fun you create and share!

It is a shame that the Lab once again opt to use Facebook as the medium for a contest; doing so effectively slams the door on the contest for many who might otherwise take part, but who have no wish to be a part of the great Facebook machine.

Given other options are available which are not so controversial, it’s a shame that the Lab doesn’t give thought to them when running contests of this kind. Flickr, for example, would seem to be a suitable alternative. It already has a very large SL community, and establishing a group for competition entries isn’t exactly labour intensive, although ensuring T&Cs are read might be a little harder. People might also be more inclined to sign-up to Flickr if they don’t already have an account.

Of course, Flickr probably doesn’t get the same kind of visibility among non Second Life users that the SL Facebook page gets, but for the sake of encouraging more users to take part in something of this nature, does that really matter?

Lab announce Project Shining complete

On Monday June 16th, Linden Lab issued a blog post stating Project Shining is now complete. This is a major milestone for the Lab, with Shining representing some 2 years of effort and has involved significant work in three key areas:

  • Avatar baking (Nyx Linden) – also referred to as server-side baking or server-side appearance (SSA), which comprised a major project to shift the heavy lifting of avatar baking / appearance from the viewer to dedicated baking servers. for those need to know more, I offer the post I wrote back at the end of December 2012 as the project saw the release of its first viewer. Further information can be found under the Server-side Appearance tag
  • Interest List and Object Caching (Andrew Linden) – a project to improve how scene rendering is handled by both the server and the viewer, and improving the viewer to retain more information on regions in its cache and re-use that information more intelligently by the viewer
  • HTTP updates (Monty Linden) – a major update to SL’s communications infrastructure to make more and better use of HTTP in order to improve viewer / server communications and increase their reliability and their efficiency.
The state of play with some of the HTTP work in May 2013
The state of play with some of the HTTP work in May 2013

Each of these sub-projects have comprised various stages and releases. Interest List and Object Caching, for example went through several rounds of updates alternating between server-side work and viewer-side work, with the final round of work, focused on improving how the viewer caches and reuses information, reaching a release status in May 2014.

The Project Interesting video released by the Lab in May 2014

The reason for the Lab’s announcement about project Shining is that Monday June 16th saw the release of the final set of Project Sunshine viewer-side updates in the form of the new de facto release viewer, version:, which also includes significant inventory updates and improvements which have been referred to as AIS v3 (Advanced Inventory Service version 3, although this requires additional deployment of server-side updates across the grid). This viewer also includes a number of viewer memory leak fixes as well.

While the implementation and deployment of some elements of the work did experience some hiccups, overall, each element of Project Sunshine was implemented very successfully and with little or no disruption noticeable to users. Each has already yielded significant improvements to both the overall service and in the user experience, and the Lab are to be congratulated in bringing all three of the Project Sunshine activities to a successful conclusion. Here’s to the next round of projects – such a HTTP pipelining!