Linden Lab raise group limit to 60 for Premium accounts

secondlifeOn Thursday, May 28th, Linden Lab announced that with immediate effect, Premium Members can now join up to 60 groups – raising the limit for them from the previous 42.

This increase is only, for now, a pilot programme, for reasons explained below. However, all things being equal, it will hopefully become a fixture of the Premium account package.

The news came via an official blog post, which reads in part:

Today we’re thrilled to be rolling out another perk for Premium members: now you can be a member of 60 groups! Groups have been a consistently popular feature among the Residents of Second Life. It may not be obvious, but group membership can have an impact on the performance of a number of systems. That’s why in Second Life’s early days, Residents could only join a maximum of 10 groups. Over the years, we’ve made improvements that enabled us to raise the group limit to a maximum of 42, but we know that for some power users, even that isn’t quite enough, and today we’re happy to raise the bar for Premium subscribers.  We must make sure that the recent gains in group performance are not jeopardized, so for now the new limit is a pilot program. If there are no problems, we will look forward to raising the limit further (stay tuned!).

Simon Linden:his work on group chat has contributed directly to the announcement on group limits being raised for Premium members
Simon Linden:his work on group chat has contributed directly to the announcement on group limits being raised for Premium members

The “gains in group performance” referred to in the quote above are related to the recent improvements made to the Group Chat service. These have been going on for almost a year now, spearheaded by Simon Linden, who has been working hard to bring about significant improvements to the entire group chat service, front-to-back.

One of the key aspects of these changes relates to how  various “update” messages, created every time someone logged-in or out of SL, etc., and which required updates to be sent to every group of which they were a member, could actually interfere with the group chat system sending and displaying actually messages being members.

At the time Simon was working on these changes, it was indicated that the Lab might consider raising the limit on the number of groups people can join if the work proved successful – so kudos to Simon here for all his hard work – and kudos as well, to the Lab for approaching things cautiously, and recognising that should the new limit prove detrimental to the performance gains that have been achieved with group chat, they are prepared to roll them back.

There is also news in the post for those who take advantage of the increase in the group limit, and then subsequently opt to downgrade their membership to Basic:

Premium members can immediately take advantage of the new limit. Downgrading from Premium membership will not remove you from any of your groups, but it will mean that you cannot join any new groups until you remove yourself from enough groups to get below the Basic account limit, which remains at 42.

This is a further change to the Premium account package that sees things continue to pivot away from the idea of quarterly “gifts” and the like, and towards offering options and abilities that users are more likely to find of use and thus appreciate more. Again, as the official blog post states, expect further updates to the Premium account offering that continue to move in this direction.

Ego as art in Second Life

Ego - Being Your Own Muse
Ego – Being Your Own Muse

Saturday, May 23rd, saw the opening of a new exhibition at the CBK Art Gallery, operated by Ceakay (CK) Ballyhoo. I was sadly unable to attend the event due to other commitments, so hopped over at the start of the week to have a look at the exhibition.

Ego – Being Your Own Muse features the work of a number of SL artists, who were all challenged to offer images featuring themselves as the models / subjects – hence the title of the exhibit. The participating artists are Whimsical Aristocrat, Seductive Dreamscape, AngelinaKnox, Coober Galicia, Daallee and Owl Dragonash of The Living Room fame, and CK herself.

Ego - Being Your Own Muse - Coober Gallicia
Ego – Being Your Own Muse – Coober Galicia

The resulting works are all offered for display in a garden-like environment, with each artist having his or her own summer house in which their pictures are displayed. This not only gives an inviting and relaxed environment for the exhibition as one wanders through the garden under a suitable windlight setting, it also means that each artist’s works can be studied without the temptation to directly compare one artist with another by checking back and forth and getting caught up in technique, approach, etc.

As a result of this, the visitor is free to focus on how each artists views their own avatar; and it is surprising as to just how much can be revealed through the images that are offered. While little in the way of criteria was offered, other than asking the artists to use themselves as their model / inspirations, it is interesting as to the number of nude / semi-nude pictures are are offered (which make this exhibit perhaps a little NSFW, although all the pieces are very artistic in nature).

Ego - Being Your Own Muse - Owl Dragonash
Ego – Being Your Own Muse – Owl Dragonash

I commented on this to CK, who replied, “Well, I think most people in here like the way they have shaped their own bodies, and they’re best to be viewed naked. I myself am very keen on how my ass looks for example!”

That is a fair and accurate assessment. In many respects our avatars can be a huge statement of self and self-image, and we often do invest considerable time, effort and money in how they look, so why not show them at nature’s best. There’s also something strongly emotional about nude and semi-nude images which can express far more than might be the case were the model to be fully clothed, and this is also captured within the images on display here.

Ego - Being Your Own Muse
Ego – Being Your Own Muse

Which is not to say all the pictures figure nudes; far from it. Coober Galicia, the only male artist in the exhibition, for example, presents a series of powerful, character-driven images (even if one is admittedly sitting nude in the saddle 🙂 ), which I found myself especially drawn to; while Owl’s images display her delightful whimsy and outgoing nature.

All told, a charming and worth seeing exhibition that will be open through until the end of June. When visiting, do remember to take a walk through the gates on one side of the gallery area and explore the wonderful Mistwood Isle woods CK has created, or take a ride on a floating dandelion seed!

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Mistwood Isle woods
Mistwood Isle woods – through the gates from the gallery space

Into the Abyss and beyond: exploring our world

The Abyss Observatory
The Abyss Observatory

For the last several years, The Abyss Observatory has been a collaborative project formulated by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and involving the support of a number of organisations including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who host the core elements of Abyss Observatory, the Open University in the UK, and the Digital Hollywood University, Tokyo.

At the start of May, Vick Forcella nudged me about Abyss, and the fact that it will be going offline in early June. I actually hopped over to have a look around then, but it has taken me a while to get this article sorted and written. My apologies to Vick and to the organisers of the Abyss that this has been the case.

The Calypso at the Abyss Observatory
The Calypso at the Abyss Observatory

The Observatory grew out of work initially started as the Abyss Museum of Ocean Science, which closed in May 2009, and two follow-on projects. The first of these projects was Vi and Yan’s Undersea Lab, founded by the current co-creator of The Abyss Observatory (August 2009), Yan Lauria from JAMSTEC, and Vianka Scorfield, one of the creators of the exhibits at the Observatory; the second project was the Ocean Observation Museum (November 2009), which saw Rezago Kokorin, one of the creators of the original Abyss museum join the team as co-curator, and Comet Morigi join as Artistic Advisor.

The focus of the Observatory is presenting information on Earth sciences in an immersive, informative manner. As such, it covers multiple levels, extended both under the water and into the skies overhead and is also linked to a number of “external” regions, including a related Earth studies facility located at Farwell.

Finding your way around the facilities can take a little time; I personally recommend starting at the arrival hub, and taking the ground level / underwater walks which can be accessed via the beach, and which will take you under the waves, introducing you to marine life, marine monitoring, conservation and studies.

The Tektite underwater habitat at the Abyss Observatory
The Tektite underwater habitat at the Abyss Observatory

As well as meeting various members of our marine populace, the underwater walks take you through various information areas, with display models, infographics and information boards covering a wide range of subjects, including the unique Tektite Habitat, which in 1969 / 70 was the centre of research into reef ecosystems and human physiology studies related to both saturation diving and possible long-duration space missions.  The Abyss facilities provide an overview of the Tektite studies, together with a cutaway model of the habitat (shown above).

Close to the Tektite habitat, visitors can find models of the bathyscaphe Triseste, which reached a record maximum depth of some 10,911 metres (35,797 ft), in the deepest known part of the ocean,  the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific in 1960. Alongside this sits Jacques Cousteau’s famous yellow underwater “flying saucer”, exploring the deeps while the Calypso is moored nearby. This part of the Observatory also includes a model of Ictineo I, a wooden hulled submarine dating from 1858.

However, the Observatory is not all about ships and submarines – as noted, there is plenty of information on marine life and on marine conservation, and there are skyborne exhibits which offer opportunities to experience very deep sea diving. There’s even the option of relaxing in an underwater bar!

Only One Earth
Only One Earth

The Abyss Earth studies exhibit at Farwell is entitled Only One Earth, and presents the visitor with a tour of the Earth, starting with a basic introduction to the planet on the lowest level, progressing onwards and upwards through a history of the planet measured by the geological ages, which traces the development of life on Earth. This is a fairly interactive exhibit, with information boards, info givers visitors are encouraged to click on (which display information in local chat), and buttons underneath graphics and images that reveal further information – and of course, links to assorted web pages, as with the main Abyss Observatory displays.

The former climate studies exhibit
The former climate studies exhibit

Unfortunately, as I am getting to this write-up a little late, some of the exhibition spaces created for the Abyss Observatory appear to have already been dismantled. The very excellent climate studies are that was once at Farwell (see above) no longer seems to be available, for example; teleports to it simply return the visitor to ground level.

When visiting the Abyss Observatory, it would be easy to dismiss it as being “old school” – the builds are prim, there is little or no mesh in evidence, etc. It’s also true that some sections of the observatory never seem to have been entirely finished. However, this doesn’t mean that the information which is presented is lacking; there is much on offer here. With a final guided tour of the facilities coming up on Saturday, May 30th at 07:30 PDT, I do recommend that anyone with an interest in marine ecology and / or the history of Earth consider paying the Observatory a visit.

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