Second Life group list changes explained

A note of explanation. I first published on this update on Thursday, June 4th, PDT. However, that post was withdrawn out of respect of a request from Linden Lab that I not blog on the change at that time. Subsequent discussions with the Lab led to an agreement that I could blog in full on the matter once the change had been deployed across the grid. Hence this post.

Until now, it has been possible to open the details for any Second Life group you have joined and display all the information relating to that group, including the list of members.

However, with the new update, groups with 5,000 or more members will no longer display the list of members unless:

  • You are assigned the Owner or Officer role within the group
  • You are assigned an ability within the group which requires the members list to be displayed (e.g. you are able to assign members to assigners roles, or are able to eject / ban people from the group, etc.).

Instead, and until corresponding changes are made to the viewer, all you will see on opening the members list as a message stating “Retrieving member list (0 / XXXXX)” – where XXXXX is the total number of members in a the group, as shown in the images below.

The back-end cange currently on the server RC channels means that group member lists will not load (or may be truncated until the change is fully deployed) for those groups wil more than 5,000 members
The change to the logic on accessing group member lists for large (5,000+ members) groups means that the members list will no longer display for members of the group, unless they are assigned either the owner or officer role, or an ability that requires they can view the list.  Instead, and for the time being, the above message (illustrated using both the LL and Firestorm viewers) is displayed – click for full size

This update has been made for a number of reasons, including:

  • Where very large groups are concerned, the full list of members has rarely completely loaded into the viewer – it has only seemed that the list has loaded
  • Tests have shown that in order for very large groups (e.g. tens of thousands of members) to load can take on the order of 10 or more minutes, during which time no other activities within the viewer can be carried out
  • Opening the members group list for large groups can result in performance impacts elsewhere (notably in group chat, as we’ve seen with changes made to that service recently).

In particular, the update is related to additional changes the Lab intends to make to the viewer-side code for group management, as Oz Linden, the Lab’s Technical Director for Second Life, explains:

It turns out – and this was one of the reasons we made the change on the RC channel – because we weren’t really sure what it would affect. But it turns out there are a bunch of places in the viewer, where the viewer triggers these requests for all the members of a group where it’s not even going to use the data … So some of those requests are kind-of bogus and not helpful, and we’re going to be making a set of changes to take those out, and replace them with something more focused.

Do note, however, that this change is not in any way connected to the recent increase in the number of groups Premium members can join, and it is believe that around 600-700 groups are affected by the change.

The initial deployment of the update on the server RC channels on Wednesday, June 3rd gave rise to some concern, notably:

  • The message currently displayed by the viewer suggests that rather than the member’s list being prevented from loading, it has simply stalled or perhaps timed-out, which could result in elevated support calls
  • The change breaks a lot of ways in which a group’s members list is used – see BUG-9393
  • In particular, the change means that people unable to see the members list can no longer ascertain which owners / officers are on-line and in a position to assist with any group-related issues which might occur.

Acknowledging some of these points during the Server Beta User Group meeting on Thursday, June 4th, Oz said:

 There are some things we need to do in the viewer to make some of these changes clearer… those changes will be made as soon as we can … In the mean time, if large groups want their officers to be reachable, they may want to put something in the description to help with that.

Further to this, and in relation to making information on group owners / officer visible to all members of an affected group, and on improving the currently-displayed message in the viewer, Oz further stated during the TPV Developer meeting on Friday, June 5th:

We will find a way to make that information available in the fullness of time [owners / officers], but it probably won’t be real quick … We’re going to fix the problems, but it’s going to require building some new interfaces for things like, “show me who the officers are”.

There are certainly going to be some bug fixes for the viewer coming quite quickly, quite probably in the next maintenance viewer, not the one that will get released next week [week #24]  but the next one, that will clean-up how things look. You’ll actually get a positive indication that you can’t see this list, or whatever. But we’re still fiddling with that.

Thus, while the changes to large groups may initially seem a little confusing, they are part of a larger attempt to improve group management functions within the viewer, and the Lab does recognise that more needs to be done to make key information within groups clearer to members.

In the meantime, please remember this change only affects those groups with 5,000 or more members, and does not prevent those assigned roles / abilities that require them to be able to see the group’s member list. Groups with less than 5,000 members remain unaffected by the change, and all members will continue to be able to see the group members lists for these when viewing a group’s information.

Lab announce Premium members meet-up

The next meet-up with the Lindens will be a Premium members affair and a beach party
The next meet-up with the Lindens will be a Premium members affair and a beach party

In the run-up to the 12 anniversary celebrations for Second Life, the Lab has announced the next meet-up between staff and users will be a special Premium membership affair, and an opportunity for those attending to grab a copy of the the 12th anniversary avatar.

The meet-up is set to be a part of various activities the Lab is planning to help celebrate SL’s 12th birthday, which will be available for all SL users, and doubtless announced through the official blog.

The blog post announcing the Premium meet-up reads in part:

Splish Splash – it’s a Tiki Beach Bash!
Premium members – this one is just for you, so be sure to save the date! We’ve lit the tiki torches and brushed up on our fruity drink-mixing skills to host a casual gathering with the added bonus of early access to our Official Second Life 12th Birthday commemorative avatar.

That’s right – come to the SL12B Premium Meetup on Thursday June 11th from 10:30 to 11:30 AM SLT, hang out with us, and be one of the first to glimpse and grab the celebratory 12th anniversary avatar. The nature of this particular avatar required us to select a remote island for our gathering as well as implement a strict quarantine on the subject, so you’re going to have to drop by our tropical jungle destination to find out what it is.

The bar is ready ...
The bar is ready …

For those unable to attend the event itself, the post also notes:

While we hope you can make it to the meetup, we understand that schedules, timezones, and such make it impossible for everyone to make every meetup. With this in mind, the avatar kiosk will be available until midnight SLT on June 12th for you to stop by and pick up your prerelease avatar. That means, even if you can’t come to the Tiki party, you can still get early access to the avatar.

Speculation is already running as to what the avatar will be, with some speculating it will be a dinosaur, given the hint of Isla Nublar about the official blog post. However, the only way to find out ahead of the rest is to attend the gathering.

So, Premium members, get your swimsuits on, make sure you all know where your towels are, and get ready to meet a few Lindens on the beach…

The passing of places in Second Life

Venexia; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Venexia (Flickr) – click and image for full size

News is spreading that two long-running role-play regions in Second Life are to close later this month.

Goatswood (first opened in 2012) and Venexia (first opened in 2011), are the work of Baal Zobel and Kora Zenovka. Both are exquisitely beautiful builds with a stunning attention to detail; Gostswood presenting a small, Victorian-era rural town, and Venexia a Venice-like city of rich and inspiring architecture divided by narrow canals.

While highly photogenic, both regions were created, as noted, for role-play first and foremost, and a huge amount of effort was put into establishing them as such, with extensive back stories to both of them (Goatswood in particular has had a very immersive storyline running through it, in which the town itself is very much a character), scripting and combat focused on the SGS system.

Goatswood; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Goatswood (Flickr)

However, it would appear the more recently, activities within both have declined somewhat, as tends to be the way with role-play environments in SL as people’s interests ebb and flow. This has made meeting tier costs for both regions increasingly difficult; hence the decision to close them. News of this first came  via a group notice from Kora and Baal, which reads in part:

We would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have over the years contributed so much time and creativity towards the great success of these projects. They have provided us with  many lasting memories, and we have derived  immense enjoyment from seeing them brought to life by those who have spent time playing there.

Goatswood; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Goatswood (Flickr)

As a result of this decision, Venexia will cease operations on Saturday, June 13th and the last train from Goatswood station will depart on Friday, June 19th. The third SGS-based role-play region operated by Baal and Kora, Kingdom of Sand, will remain in operation for the foreseeable future, as it is still generating a good flow of traffic and interest.

The beauty of Goatswood (which I admit to being my favourite, having visited a number of times, but never with the confidence to do it justice with photographs) and Venexia cannot be overstated, nor can the care which has gone into their development and curation. This can be seen right from the moment you arrive in either, from the manner in which information is presented to you, through to the very means of teleporting from the arrival areas high over each region, down to ground level.

Venexia; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Venexia (Flickr)

What I’ve always particularly enjoyed about Goatswood, other the the manner in which it reminds me of the Cotswolds here in England, is the take-your-time approach presented to those who have considered joining the role-play there. Rather than presenting people with rules and a pile of notes relating to backstory and character development, the approach has always been, “come in! take your time and explore, discover the nature of the town and the role-play here, learn about what goes on by visiting and interacting!”

To encourage this, visitors are provided with a 3-day pass, and little red mushrooms scattered through the town and points of interest in the outlying areas, provide additional notes and information in a narrative style which does much to further set the tone of the place.

Venexia; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Venexia (Flickr)

Venexia, with a focus on lycan / vampire interplay is different in tone and setting, but the build is no less breathtaking in scope and design. Wandering allionf the streets, it is easy to imagine yourself transported to some dark and mysterious Venice of an age past; there is a beauty to the city which is laced with an edge of menace and danger that is quite atmospheric.

While both Venexia and Goatswood are closing, this is not actually the end of the road for Baal and Zora. They  are currently engaged in developing an OpenSim environment  called NeverworldX (being the name of the sim on which Goatsworld is located in SL).

Venexia; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Venexia (Flickr)

This new environment, currently available for pre-registration, will present “a free-form role play/story telling ‘game’ set in a series of themed virtual fantasy environments. These environments usually consist of one or more virtual islands depicting a fully functioning role play Scenario Players create Avatar characters and develop these characters and their stories over time by interaction with other player characters, and by participation in the various events and scenarios that occur within their chosen Fantasy Scenario.” It’ll be interesting to see how this develops.

In the meantime, should you wish to visit either Goatswood or Venexia prior to their respective closures in Second Life, you are free to do so. Just make sure you obtain an OOC tag and 3-day pass from the vendors in the respective arrivals areas and wear it prior to boarding the gondola  / train for the ground levels.

Goatswood; Inara Pey, June 2015, on Flickr Goatswood (Flickr) – click and image for full size

SLurl Details

With thanks to Miya and Thinkerer Melville for the pointers.