On Wednesday July 2nd, 2014, the Firestorm team hosted a special question and answers session to discuss the future of Second Life. The event was held to try to disperse some of the concerns and misinformation circulating about SL’s future in the light of the news that Linden Lab is developing an additional virtual worlds platform which is being planned to run alongside Second Life.
Attending the session from Linden Lab were Oz Linden, in his capacity as Technical Director for Second Life and Pete Linden, the Lab’s Director of Global Communications.
The session took the form of an initial discussion between host Jessica Lyon and Oz and Pete Linden, which sought to address some of the core concerns which have been raised and address some of the broader misconceptions which have resulted (such as Second Life no longer being developed and / or no longer having the staff needed to support it). This was then followed by a Q&A session led by Lette Ponnier, who posed questions which had been left on the Firestorm blog post announcing the meeting or directly to her via IM during the session or relayed to her from the live stream audience.
As always, Chakat Northspring recorded the entire event, and her video is embedded here – my thanks as always to North.
In addition, the audio from the meeting has been broken down into a number of individual topic areas, and placed throughout this transcript to allow people to listen to the audio whilst reading, if preferred, and to save on scrolling up and down between text and video.
When reading / listening, please remember:
- This is not a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. While all quotes given are as they are spoken in the recording and the audio files, to assist in readability and maintain the flow of conversation, not all asides, jokes, interruptions, etc., have been included in the text presented here
- If there are any sizeable gaps in comments from a speaker which resulted from asides, repetition, or where a speaker started to make a comment and then re-phrased what they were saying, etc, these are indicated by the use of “…”
- The audio files have been slightly edited to remove lengthy pauses in order to assist the flow of the conversations when also reading the text.
The following links can be used to quickly jump to individual sections of the transcript:
- Introduction and on Second life Not Being Shut Down
- On the Size of the Team Working on SL and Available Resources for SL Development
- On SL and the Next Generation Platform being Separate Products to be Operated in Parallel
- On Current Technical Projects Underway in SL and Future Work
- Open Q&A Session
- Graphics memory issues
- Raising the group limit
- Virtual Landmarks
- Skill gaming
- Child avatars
- In-world search improvements
- Return of assigned last names
- Helping to spead the word about SL’s future
- Griefing and ToS infringements
- Continued rate of viewer / simulator updates / open-sourcing the simulator code
- Closing remarks
Introduction and on Second life Not Being Shut Down
[0:0 /0:0] Jessica Lyon: Welcome everybody to a very special Q&A, somewhat unprecedented in fact. We’re in company today with Oz Linden, who is Technical Director now, Oz is that right?
Oz Linden (OL): Yup, that’s my official new title.
JL And we’re accompanied by Pete Linden, who is Global Communications Director, is that right?
Pete Linden (PL): That’s right.
JL: wonderful. Thank you guys. Thank you both very much for agreeing to do this. So there has been … a lot of concern about the future of Second Life and there’s been a lot of negative reaction and fears among Second Life people. so I’m hoping that today we’ll be able to resolved and assure some folks that Second Life still has a bright future, as Linden Lab has continued to insist is true.
And we’re going to have a lot of questions today, so I’m going to get right started. Pete, I’m going to start with you, if that’s all right.
[01:11 / 01:09] JL: And I’m going to start out with a blunt question: does Linden Lab have plans, either near or far, to shut down Second Life? Has Linden Lab discussed, planned strategized on how they’re going to shut down Second Life or even if there is any intention of shutting down Second Life? Does Linden Lab intend to shut down Second Life?
PL: No. Absolutely not. And in fact, as I think we’ll get into discussing today, we have plans to continue to improve it. no plans to shut it down, it’s not going away, and we have quite big plans to continue to make Second Life better and better.
JL: Wonderful. So there you have it, folks! That’s it for today, thank you all for coming! [laughter] Linden Lab has no plans.
JL: OK, let me just say Pete, you’re [the] Communications Director, your credibility is your biggest asset. I mean, if you didn’t have credibility, it would be basically career suicide, is that right?
PL: That’s absolutely correct.
JL: So I think it fair to say that Pete is not lying. and so for all the people who have these huge fears that Second Life is going to die: you’re heard it from the horse’s mouth. Second Life is not being shut down, Linden Lab has no plans to do such a thing.
[02:40 / 02:31] JL: Peter … I’d like to give you the opportunity to provide a message to the community.
PL: Great! Well, I think the main message that I’d love to get across here is largely what I’ve just said, which is … Oz and I wanted to come this morning to reiterate what we’ve said in e-mails and in comments directly to questions, and Ebbe has been saying in the forums a number of times, and that is again: not only is Second Life not going to go away, but we’re going to continue to improve it, it has a long future ahead of it. After eleven years as the most successful virtual world created by everyone who’s here today and all of the creators in Second Life. We have no intention of abandoning them or of giving up on this wonderful platform. We have a lot coming. but again, the basic message I’d love to get across is just “it’s not going away. More improvements are coming.”
JL: So keep calm, carry on, more-or-less.
PL: Essentially, yes!
[03:54 / 03:46] JL: That really applies in this case. Something that’s interesting in the reaction we’ve had from the community – something i just want to point out … the Firestorm team … we’re sometimes criticised because we have a private development chat, whereas everything else we do is transparent. And the reason we do that, though, is because, from time-to-time we have disagreements and arguments … in the same way that families have arguments, and you don’t want your neighbours to hear you arguing and fighting … and we do have arguments and disputes. and in many ways, though, I think that’s an indicator that we’re on the right track. It means that if people are getting angry about something, it means that they care.
And so one of the things I want to point out is that the fact that there has been such an angry reaction from the community is actually indicative that Second Life has a very strong, dedicated customer user base. And so in that way, although there’s been a lot of conjecture and upset people, if you look at it from that direction, it means that there are a lot of people in Second Life who really care about Second Life. that should say something to Linden Lab and all of us here, that Second Life is still alive and strong. It is the residents who keep things firm and going.
[05:34 / 05:22] OL: Actually, I’d like to second that. you know, I take all of the indications of distress and even the criticism as something very, very positive. People wouldn’t bother to criticise us for what they see as our flaws, and we can all either agree or disagree with whether or not individual issues are a big deal, and that’s a conversation I’m looking forward to. But they wouldn’t be bothering to criticise us if they didn’t think Second Life was worth having and worth improving.
That’s a conversation we’d love to continue to have. We’ll try to improve the things we can improve, we will try to respond to the things we can respond to, and we appreciate the connection with the users that we’ve got here.
JL: I actually get worried when, in our development processes on the Firestorm project … we have periods when there’s no fighting, because that makes me think, uh-oh [laughs] … people aren’t caring now. In many ways, the fighting and the drama, like you say, is indicative of people caring. I think if nothing else, it proves that as far as the customer base is concerned, we’re all here to stay.
On the Size of the Team Working on SL and Available Resources for SL Development
[07:10 / 0:0] JL: I wanted to point out … and this almost crosses the line, but hear me through, Oz, and Pete. It hasn’t gone unnoticed in the past year or so that there’s been fewer Linden code commits to the code base [for the viewer], and Oz you can attest I’ve asked you a time or two in the past while … “where is everybody at?” What are you guys working on? Are you just going to suddenly drop us a whole big crap load of code that we have to try to merge, and you’ve not been able to give me any hints to that … My point being that it hasn’t gone unnoticed that there have been fewer resources put towards Second Life. Is that true, first of all?
[08:09 / 0:55] OL: Well, without getting into numbers, we have over the last months begun transitioning developers on to doing things for the new platform. We still very much have a very active set of developers doing things on Second Life, and I think some of the things we’re working on right now are some of the most important problems in Second Life.
[08:36 / 01:23] JL: This is where I wanted to bring up my point, because there’s been a lot of concern among the community that Linden lab has moved all the resources away from Second Life, and so Second Life is not going to get any kind-of real innovation and fixes and whatnot. and the point I’m trying to make, folks, is that if Linden Lab has already moved resources over to the new platform, they’ve still managed to bring us materials and fitted mesh and Project Sunshine and all huge innovations that have come out of Linden Lab recently. They’ve managed to do that despite having fewer dedicated resources on Second Life.
So for the people who are concerned about, “Ohmygosh! Linden Lab has moved all the resources away so nothing’s going to happen!” I say it’s already been proven to us in the past year, even the past six months, that is not the case, and in fact Linden Lab is still more than capable of continuing to improve and develop Second Life.
[09:40 / 02:27] OL: And I’d add a couple of things to that. One is that the fact that we have a somewhat smaller team engaged in doing things, we are in the process right now of going through an exercise that we do pretty regularly of looking at all the possible project ideas, all the things that we could fix, things that we could add, things that we could change in a variety of ways.
We kind-of keep a big list of those around, and we’re constantly adding to it and periodically, we go through the exercise of saying, “OK, what’s the most important stuff now?” We’re finishing-up something, we’re going to have to pick what the next thing to do is, so let’s sort the list by what we think the priorities are right now, so that we’re launching the right next thing.
The fact that we have a little bit smaller team now, has really helped to focus that discussion. We can no longer afford to say, “let’s just do a lot of different stuff”. We have to look at what are the things we can do that will have the biggest impact, that will affect the most users in the most positive ways. And I think that’s been kind-of helpful, to have that extra focus.
[11:13 / 03:58] And one other thing about having a smaller team. first of all, it’s not yet a lot smaller. We still have a significant number of people very actively engaged on working on Second Life. We’re not going to get into number, about what percentage that is or what the absolute number of people are.
For one thing, it’s just sort-of company policy not to do that, but more importantly, any number i could give you today would be wrong by next week, and would be different again a few months after that. We have people that are moving back and forth. We have a very firm commitment from the people who are managing the new platform effort, that when we have a good need for the expertise of the people who have shifted their primary attention to the new platform, in order to accomplish something important in Second Life, we can call on their expertise, we can call on their time and we can get them to do stuff.
And in fact that’s already happening, it’s already working. so, we’ll pull people back, there are people who are working on the new platform now that the plan is for them to finish the thing that they’re doing for the new platform, and then move back to being a Second Life core developer and focus primarily on Second Life.
And there are people who are working primarily on Second Life now, who the plan is that they will move to the new platform in the future. So it’s a set of numbers that’s going to be constantly in flux, and it will both go up and go down over time, as our needs dictate.
[13:10 / 05:58] JL: So basically, it’s a fluid situation, because a lot of people got the impression through Ebbe’s words that they’ve just taken a knife and cut the team into a fraction and moved everybody statically onto the new project. but in fact what you’re saying is it’s dynamic and always changing, so that if you needed somebody from, say the server team , to do something that needs to be done in order to continue to improve Second Life, they can still be reassigned to that temporarily, or even jut have that added to their “to do” list?
OL: Absolutely. And one other thing about that. I went through kind-of a process with Linden Lab management to try to get the new position I’m in now. This is something I wanted. I wanted this. This was not some kind of booby prize that was handed me. I got a couple of IMs from residents, I’m sure they were mostly kidding and mostly all in fun, but saying, “Oh, poor Oz. He got left behind.”
Poor Oz did not get left behind. Lucky Oz got exactly the job he was looking for.
[14:21 / 07:08] JL: So you are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, convinced by taking on the lead of this position, that you have a very bright future ahead of you?
OL: Absolutely! Absolutely!
JL: And with that, Second Life.
OL: This was exactly the job i was looking for, for quite some time, and I’m really delighted to have it. and more importantly than that, is that it’s also true that when I took on this job, and we were internally having the discussions about how many people we could move on to which project and so forth, i got asked by management, “how many people do you need to be effective continuing to build and improve Second Life?” And I came up with a number, and I’ve got that number.
[15:15 / 08:02] JL: Was it a generous number?
OL: It was the number I wanted. I kind-of like smaller teams, frankly, but it was the number I was after , it was the number i thought I would need to be effective at the new job, and I’m really happy with the set of individuals that I got. And that’s another thing we’re not really going to get into; those of you who interact a lot with Lindens will eventually be able to see who some of them are from commits on the viewer and so forth; of course, you don’t get to see the commits on the simulator side. But the number one criteria for me in choosing that team and in recruiting that team was i wanted people who were enthusiastic about remaining focused on Second Life. That was what they wanted to do, just as it’s what I want to do.
And that’s what I got. I had people come to me who said, “you know what? the new thing may be a great new thing, but Second Life is what i came here to work on, Second Life is what I’m into, and i want to stay on Second Life. I want to make Second Life better. Everybody on my team said that to me.
JL: That’s awesome. That says a lot right there.
[16:44 / 09:30] OL: I’ve had a pretty long and happy career in programming and I have in the course of that career built on a bunch of very successful things, successful companies producing successful products that had good user engagement and were making money. and I’ve also had some phases of my career where things I was working on turned out not to work out so well, and / or companies that were in one way or another in the process of failing.
Let me tell you, it is a whole lot more fun to work on things that are successful! It is just much better. and Second Life is just way up high on the list of very successful things I’ve worked on, and I’m really delighted with that.. and i want to keep that true, because it’s more fun to work on things that are working.
JL: We can certainly attest to that! And also with Firestorm, just to speak quickly to working on a smaller team … one of the advantages third-party viewers have, working on a smaller team is there’s less gears that need to be turned, whereas in a corporation, there’s a big long process; you know the phrase: “the corporate gears turn slowly”, and with a smaller team, there’s less [of] a load on that, and things tend to roll a bit quicker.
On SL and the Next Generation Platform being Separate Products Operated in Parallel
[My apologies for the music interrupt at the 02:08 mark in this segment of the recording. an error on my part, and not part of the Q&A session.]
[18:12 / 0:0] JL: Peter, I want to talk quickly to you … on Oz’s topic, in fact, about Second Life being very successful. One of the things I pointed out at the SL11B talk that I did with Saffia … I come from a business background, and from a business perspective, a company that has a profitable product does not get rid of that profitable product. Is that sound advice.
PL: I’d say that’s certainly true as far as we’re concerned … I don’t come from a business background, I come from a marketing and PR background, but that’s certainly my understanding. and with Second Life. As Oz was saying, it being successful, and as I mentioned, it being the most successful user-created virtual world ever, as you may have seen Ebbe speaking about to the press recently … Second Life’s success is certainly one of the reasons why everyone can be confident that, yes it will continue.
[19:31 / 01:08] JL: Is it safe to say, and I know some of this will have to be speculation, but let’s assume that the new platform is a great success. Is it safe to say that Linden Lab will still market both platforms?
PL: Yes. I think that question has been posed to Ebbe a number of times in the forums, and what he’s said both there and what he’s said to the press has been very clear. The intention is that even once the new platform starts opening to the real world, the idea is to have these two platforms running in parallel.
JL: So effectively two products.
PL: Right. and as I think most folks here are probably aware, Linden has actually been a multi-product company for some time. But I think the main difference would be that this new platform that Ebbe’s just started speaking about publicly now would be … obviously in the spirit of Second Life and a very close fit for our core competency as a company.
JL: So Second Life, better. But the main message is that Second Life will still be Second Life. It’s not going anywhere.
PL: That’s correct.
[20:44 / 02:30] JL: What would you say to people, as you know there have been a lot of people who are even leaving Second Life to start on a new grid, which I think is ridiculous, because they’re effectively doing what they’re afraid they’re going to have to do.
But there are a lot of people who are, “I’m not going to buy land any more, I’m not going to spend my money in Second Life, it’s just a waste.” Would you have any message to those people?
PL: I’ve seen a few comments to that effect, and I think there’s a few things I’d note in response. One is this new platform, this new project that’s underway, is quite far off … which is kind-of why it’s too early for us to talk about it much in detail, but it’s so far off in terms of getting people … starting to get the first alpha and beta users into it; that is unlikely to happen before next year.
So one is, it’s a very long ways off. Two, again, Second Life is not going away. So in terms of … getting the value that we all do from virtual worlds today … I’ll still get the value from Second life I get today, tomorrow, and next year and so on, because it’s going to be here. So as I’ve said, there isn’t a plan to shut it down, there isn’t a cliff that it’s suddenly going to drop off of.
…So Second Life is not going away, this new platform that we’re working on is quite a ways off before we start being ready for users. And because they’ll run in parallel, one of the points that Ebbe’s made, is that they’ll be running in parallel; there will be a lot of time for every Second Life user to go and check out this new platform and see if it fits what they’re interested in, what they need and what they want. And if it’s not, maybe they’ll stay in Second Life.
[02:58 / 04:44] JL: So in the end, though, for all intents and purposes, as far as Second Life is concerned and as far as the users in Second life, nothing has changed.
PL: I think that for all intents and purposes, that’s exactly true. I mean really, all that’s changed from this week versus a couple of weeks ago is that we as a company have taken an additional step to be more transparent about here’s what we’re working on, here’s what’s coming so that all of our users can know what to expect, or at least have an understanding that some time in the future, this new thing is coming.
On Current Technical Projects Underway in SL & Future Work
[23:40 / 0:0] JL: That’s a good segue. Oz, what’s coming to Second Life? What are you guys working on?
OL: Yeah, that was a good segue, nicely done!
[23:52 / 0:12] OL: Well, we’ve got a bunch of things in development right now, and a lot of those will be coming out in a form you can use quickly. We’ll have an announcement of the beginning of the Experience Keys beta later today; it’s still very early California time, and those things happen for California, so we’ve got to give them time to have their coffee and get organised, but you’ll be seeing more on that later today.
That’s going to be very exciting. I actually think that Experience Keys … Experience Tools in general, is something that’s going to take some time for people to appreciate how to use it well, and I’m sure that over time, we’re going to find ways to improve it and expand its scope. But it’s going to make creating richer experiences much smoother and much better, and more accountable, by the way, in Second Life. I think that will be really valuable.
[25:11 / 01:29] Just to answer the question in chat … Experience Keys is a way of aggregating all the permissions that scripts need to manipulate your avatar into just one permission that’s easily traceable back to the creator of those scripts, and it eliminates the constant pop-ups of scripts asking permission to do things and is even stable across sessions. It’s going to be very, very cool, and the details will be announced later today. [See this blog post for more information.]
JL: Going to be a Torley vid?
OL: There is, in fact, a Torley vid, so for all of the Torley fans out there, be watching for that.
PL: It’s a good one.
OL: And there’ll be documentation and a blog post and all the usual goodies, and in fact I think they’re in very, very good shape. and we’ll have a project viewer coming out that people can use to try things, and it’s going to be cool. Watch for the blog post.
So that’s coming, and I expect there’ll be ongoing development with that for a time. That will inspire new projects, that we don’t even know what they’d be yet, because users always surprise us with their ways of using what we do, and that’s a great thing, by the way. It makes life interesting and dynamic.
[26:50 / 03:07] OL: Everybody’s favourite problem, group chat. we have been, for some time now, working hard on group chat. We have been looking much more deeply into why the problems exist than we ever have before. We’ve added a lot of instrumentation to the way it’s implemented, and we have learnt a lot from that.
We’ve begun making some changes, and some of those changes are having measureable effects. They’re not yet dramatic, and I’m not sure that any given change we make over the period of the next few months is going to be “the” dramatic change; maybe, but maybe not. It may well be that we have to do some fundamental restructuring, and then if that’s true, we’re liable to have lots to discuss at out Third-party Viewer meetings to make sure that everybody can take advantage of new ways of doing things.
We’re going to be upgrading the hardware that the group chat servers run on, I believe this week or possibly next. We won’t announce when that is, because it would be bad science to tell anybody when it’s happened. We want to watch the stats, we now have very good visibility to what performance and failure rates are. So we have the way to measure what’s going on, we actually don’t need subjective people doing the measuring.
It’s very laggy, and we know in painful detail how laggy it is, and we’re going to keep working on it until we make it better. hopefully a lot better. With any performance problem, it’s very difficult in advance to be able to say, “here’s the specific thing we can achieve in a specific time frame”. We’re just going to keep iterating on it, and I think the team is making great progress. so that’s a piece of what our SL developers are focused on today.
[29:12 / 05:30] We’ve got another part of the team focused right now on improving the web framework in the viewer. Right now the viewer uses something called Webkit, which is an older set of web support software that doesn’t appear to have much of a future; that project has kind-of gone stale, and in the web world has been supplanted by a better implementation that came out of Google called the Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF). We are working on moving the viewer from Webkit to Chrome Embedded Framework, which we think will solve a bunch of media on a prim (MOAP) problems that a lot of people have; make it work better, and certainly give us a better future platform to work on.
And in fact, that project illustrates something that I think reinforces our message that we’re continuing to invest in Second Life. That’s the kind of project that if we were planning on shutting Second Life down, or de-emphasising it, or letting it go, or putting it into maintenance mode – it’s a hard project. It’s complicated. It’s a lot of work, it’s taking a very focused and intense effort from a bunch of people. It’s going to involve touching a lot of software. It would not be worth doing at all if we were planning on shutting this thing down. We would never do it. We’d say, “we’ll limp along on the cruddy old stuff we’ve got.”
The fact that we’re not doing that, that we’re investing in the actively maintained, continuing to grow way of doing things … is really speaking to what we’re trying to achieve here.
[31:20 / 07:37] JL: And in fact, because this new platform, we get the impression, has been in the works for a long time, and yet Linden Lab has invested a lot of money in the last year or two just in trying to improve Second Life. Project Sunshine, and the new inventory protocols and network protocols and all that stuff.
OL: Yeah … So … the CEF project is also an example of something else. That got looked at first as the solution for other platforms within the company that we were looking at, including the new virtual world platform. and after looking at it for those other projects and platforms, we said this is something we can leverage in Second Life. We’re going to take advantage of what other teams have done, and leverage it back into Second Life. And that’s something we’re going to do wherever the new platform and other project teams have made progress we can take advantage of.
Right now, the lead group working on that is the Second Life core development team, but that’s not actually where it started.
[32:56 / 09:14] OL: There is one other one, which is continuing to improve texture and mesh loading speeds, and I think we’re going to make some very dramatic changes there.
JL: Is that through project interesting or is that through network?
OL: No, this is actually the last phase of the HTTP improvements part of Project Shining. I’m an HTTP geek from way back, so this is something that’s near and dear to my heart, and it’s something that I’ve been advocating for, for many years. Literally since weeks after I got to the company over four years ago now. It’s really exciting and the early test results of the least improvements are extremely encouraging.
[33:55 / 10:12] JL: So these are things, because there’s going to be people saying, “oh sure. You’re just finishing-up the things you’ve been working on”. But I understand you guys have a big to-do list … that once you’ve done these things, you’ve got more coming. Is that right?
OL: It’s difficult to tell you today what the next set of projects will be. I mean the things I’ve talked about are the things we’re actively engaged in, right this minute. In parallel with that, we’ve been doing a quite wide-ranging effort to look at all the possibilities for what me might do next. And we’re in the process of sorting that list and picking out the high value items off the top. And I’m happy to say that many of the things the development team has suggested have been coming out pretty well in that sorting process.
but that process isn’t finished, and we haven’t really picked out what the next things are. That’s OK because what we’re doing right now is going to keep everybody for a little bit longer; we’ve got time to think about it, do it carefully, consider feedback from the community. And we’ll be talking about those things as we launch projects.
One of the things we intend to do is talk about what we’re doing earlier in the process and more interactively with the community over time.
JL: So exciting things. Pete, Linden Lab has … every intention to fund these things, correct?
Open Q&A Session
[35:52 / 0:0] There were some brief comments from Jessica and Lette Ponnier (LP) on monitoring chat and the live stream for questions, the limited time for questions and re-stating questions wholly focused on the new platform would be ignored. Lette then acted as moderator for the Q&A session, asking questions previously noted on the Firestorm blog or sent to her directly via IM by the audience or relayed to her from the live stream audience. where multiple questions on a single topic had been asked, she attempted to group them together.
[35:52 / 01:08] The first set of questions was on tier: that LL “badly” need to lower the cost of regions, would they consider new types of region offerings & altering the tier costs accordingly, as LL have “cut development costs substantially” will customer fees be cut substantially as well, and if not, why not, or if yes, how. If LL is investing time and money in a new platform, will costs be “drastically reduced” in the “old one”.
PL: Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this will be a very unpopular answer, but the short answer for this morning is that we haven’t announced any pricing changes [and] I can’t say that any would be coming. We’re definitely aware of the frequent conversations around this, and it’s certainly something that if we were to have changes to announce, you can bet you’d be hearing a lot more from me and pretty much every other Linden on it, but at this point we don’t have any news to share on that.
[38:38 / 02:43] What are Oz and the team going to do about texture memory errors (ATi cards)?
OL: We’ve actually got two changes – I didn’t talk about them as things we’re working on right now because they are actually things that are mostly finished – but they’re in QA internally… and it may take a little time for them to get out; this is the kind of project that you do very carefully, because you have the potential to mess up people really badly., so it’s worth trying really hard not to do that.
But we’ve got one set of changes that eliminates using the GPU card name as a means of recognising what it’s capable of. Those of you who have had the frustrating experience of buying the latest and greatest brand new GPU card and then having Second life decide it doesn’t know what it is, and therefore you get basic graphics. We’re going to do better than that in the future; we’re going to do a much more dynamic thing where we’re not going to rely on the GPU name. And that will improve things, I think in one set of ways.
And the other thing we’re going to be fixing is, many of you will have noticed that we don’t use all of the video memory on your video cards. It turns out that’s because of a very old bug that plagued us a long time ago and we sort-of arbitrarily, in order to avoid tickling the bug, we capped how much memory we would ever use. We are now in the process of fixing that so it now measures how much memory is there, and we use what we think is a reasonable share of that memory.
It turns out it’s not a good idea for Second Life or any application to try to use all the video memory on the card, because that in fact will cause the rest of the system to get screwed-up. But the people who really understand that sort of thing are doing a focused effort to try to get that squared away. Development on that is primarily done, and it is in QA now. Of course, it may get tossed back to the developers if big problems are discovered. so, we’re making progress on that; whether or not that will completely solve texture memory errors is anybody’s guess right now. But that’s something we’re going to continue to spend a lot of time and effort on, because of course, if you can’t see the world, then what good is it to have a virtual world?
[41:56 / 05:56] Will there be any changes to the number of groups that people can join? will it be increased past 42?
OL: That’s the sort of thing that we’ll look at. We’re not actively looking at that right this minute. It does turn out that the number of groups people are in is an important aspect of the chat lag problems; it’s one of the problems we’ve learned about.
JL: So the more group, the more chat lag?
OL: It’s a strong contributor, yes. and we’re trying to figure out how we can ameliorate that; make that not such a big contributor to the performance issues. So if we’re able to reduce the impact that has on chat lag, then we might be able to increase that limit someday, but right now the focus is on getting chat working better, and then we’ll see. but we don’t have any plans to change that number right now.
OL: That’s one of the projects that’s on the list of things that we’re sorting right now. It’s done pretty well in the sorting process … How soon it will reach the top of the list, I don’t know; there hasn’t been anybody who’s said it’s a bad idea, in fact everybody has said it’s a good idea. So …. I’m optimistic about that one; I think it’s a good idea, but as I said, we haven’t really picked what the next projects will be and until we’ve picked them, I can’t predict when they’ll happen.
[44:05 / 08:08] Could you ask about the future of skill gaming in Second Life? Will it continue to be allowed, or is Linden Lab looking to make changes to its wagering policy?
JL: Oh, gaming. Pete, that would probably be to you.
PL: I don’t think I have any news to share on that this morning. Our policy of allowing games of chance certainly wouldn’t be changing, though. (Added in text: To be sure I’m clear, by “games of chance, I meant gambling, which isn’t allowed in SL.)
[44:37 / 08:38] Any plans that might affect child avatars in SL? It’s good to see Linden Lab stepping up with bannings with age-play and taking a good stance on cleaning the place up and shutting down the “all ages” beach sims, but the person is also concerned about phasing-out child avatars.
JL: That’s an unusual question. Pete?
[45:30 / 0:0] Any plans to improve the in-world search engine?
JL: Oz, maybe that would go to you. There’s been a lot of complaints about … the web search through the viewer returns a lot of irrelevant results.
OL: There’s been discussion about it. It’s not clear what the right approach to improving search is. It’s something we’re very much aware is a source of distress, and I’m not sure what the right answer to that is going to turn out to be. There are a couple of small projects that are on our potential projects list that are relevant to that.
That’s such a wide-ranging issue that my guess is that it’s not the sort of thing we’re going to end up having a big bang project to address. It would be too large and too nebulous to get going on. So what I’m hoping we can do is to discover a series of small improvements that we can make that will contribute to a larger solution over time. But I don’t really have anything that we can talk about yet that I can tell people to look forward to. It’s well up there on the list of things we know are problems, and are therefore looking to solutions to.
JL: The “to do” list.
[47:20 / 01:38] Are there plans to ever bring back assigned last names to new residents?
PL: I’m afraid I don’t have a firm answer on that. I know that’s an issue that’s been raised to Ebbe, and I know it’s something that I think he’s thought about, but i don’t think we can commit to a “yes” on that at this point.
[47:56 / 02:08] A series of questions about helping overcome fears, etc., about the new platform, e.g. what can we do to settle people’s nerves? What will help SL growth the best, keeping new visitors or encouraging more spending by current residents? How would someone who might be interested in assisting in the continued growth of Second Life community become more involved?
OL: Well, let’s see. I think I can provide a quick answer to the first one., what can we do to reassure people. We’re doing it, right now. We can talk about what we’re doing, we can talk about the improvements we’re in the process of making, and we’re going to keep on doing that. As we continue to add new projects, and new capabilities, we’ll start talking about them as early as we can. And I think that we’ve all seen a big change in the last few months in how open Linden Lab is being. I mean the fact that we’ve talked about the new platform is itself a part of that openness, so I think you can count on us continuing to do that.
JL: There’s been a big change in communications from the Lab, since Ebbe, really. That’s going to continue to improve, I presume?
OL: I certainly don’t think it’s going to regress. I hope that it’s going to continue to operate as well as it has been lately, and I fully intend to be part of that.
JL: Does that answer the bulk of the question, Lette?
LP: I think these folks are concerned about what they can personally would be able to do and what [the] actions on the part of SL users are going to be most beneficial to keep SL growing.
JL: What can Second Life users do to keep Second Life going?
PL: I would say two things. One is doing what we’ve all be doing for the last eleven years or whatever portion of it everyone here’s been active in Second Life. That is, keep logging-in, keep creating things, keep talking to each other, interacting, shopping, creating. Everything that we all do, week-in week-out. Continuing on with that is huge. It’s hugely helpful and keeps Second Life this vibrant environment that it is.
Beyond that, as the marketing guy, I’d say, tell you friends! Talk to the folk in your off-line lives in the physical world and encourage them to come check it out. As we’ve been telling the journalists we’ve been speaking with recently, Second Life today is really better than it ever has been in its eleven-year history, thanks to the work of smarter folks than I, like Oz, have been doing, it runs better than it ever has, it’s more stable, the features are more impressive than they ever have been.
So, by all means, not only keep using it yourself, but keep encouraging friends to come check-out this wonderful virtual world.
JL: So basically just keep enjoying Second Life.
PL: That’s exactly what I’m saying, yes, thank you for saying it more succinctly!
[52:07 / 06:13] The next set of questions were related to in-world security& being safe and griefer-free. Does that mean starting to enforce the ToS so that people don’t have to abandon mainland due to pure ugliness? Is there anything you’re planning on doing about harassment by griefers and account hijacking? There were also questions about sim crashing and copybotting. Summary question: are there any plans to focus more on that area of things in SL?
JL: Governance, basically.
OL: There are at least two distinct issue there. There’s the governance aspect, which is something that neither Peter nor I are directly engaged in. We are actually very careful to keep governance activity, that is the responses to ToS problems and responses to abuse reports as a very separate part of our activities within Linden Lab. The rest of us don’t do that so that we can interact normally with people. That’s one thing, and I really don’t think we can speak to any of that right now.
OL: [What] a lot of the activities of people who are deliberately disruptive rely on is problems with the software. If they can lock-up your viewer by exploiting some bug in the viewer or exploiting a problem in the sim to overload it or lag everybody out or whatever it is. Those are very high priority projects. As we discover ways to exploit problems in the software, those always move very close to the top of the list, and aren’t even accounted for in our ongoing list of projects. They’re high-priority interrupts that we try to deal with quickly.
You’ve all seen release notes on a simulator roll that say, “addresses a security problem”. That’s what those are. By-and-large they are introducing some change that makes a griefing mechanism not working any more. Those are high-priority, constant time activities. We do those all the time.
It’s complicated software; Second Life has a marvellously inventive community in every respect, and unfortunately one of those aspects is the people who are trying to be disruptive are, if not as pleasant [then] creative as the rest of the Second Life population. so it’s kind-of a constant arms race. But it is something we are most definitely committed to keeping at the top of our priority list.
[55:28 / 09:32]The final group of questions were server-related. For the past couple of years the development rate for new viewer releases and server updates has been fairly impressive. Will things slow down or remain about the same? Is there any chance for the future of the SL server side code to be open-sourced?
JL: Oz you get the first one, I think, Pete, you get the second. We all know what the second is.
OL: Yeah, I’m not sure whether the user-visible change rate will be all that different. It’s very difficult to say, because while we’re going to have a somewhat smaller group of people doing that development, as I said earlier, we’re going to be choosing our projects for maximum impact and for maximum visibility very carefully. So whether or not the perceived rate of change will be greater or smaller, I invite you to help me measure that over time. I think it will continue to be impressive.
JL: Peter, does Linden Lab have plans to open-source the server code?
PL: No, not at this time.
[57:08 / 11:07] So, I’m afraid we’re out of time, folks, but I wanted to do a quick summary.
Second Life is still going, nothing really has changed in regards to Second Life. to keep Second Life going indefinitely, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Enjoy Second Life, tell your friends; the more people we can get into Second Life the better for all of us, regardless of any of this new news … that’s happening. Second Life just gets better with more people.
Peter, Oz, I want to thank you both very much for coming; and Oz, thank your dog as well! You dog is going to be an Internet meme now, I think! [laughter]
I want to thank everybody else. Those of you on the stream and those of you in the audience, thank you, and the crew of people that are filming the live stream right now, and Pantera who’s doing the recording, and we’ll have the recording up on the website as soon as it’s available. I just want to thank everybody; I just wish we had more time, but maybe we can do this again.
PL: Thank you very much for having us, I really appreciate the opportunity.
JL: Maybe at a better time of day!
OL: This is a fine time of day!
JL: Well, it works for you, not so much for Peter!
OL: Yeah, well, that’s a bit of a struggle with the Californians, what can I tell you? [laughs]
JL: Thank you all, and with that, I think we will sign-out.