2018 SL project updates 2/1

D o X; Inara Pey, December 2017, on FlickrD o Xblog post

Update, January 10th: Subsequent to this post being published, the deployment plans for the RC channels were revised, and details have been add below to reflect this. My thanks to Kyouko for drawing my attention to the updated server deployment thread.

Server Deployments

As always, please refer to the server deployment thread for the latest news and updates.

There are no planned deployments for 2018 week #2. All channels remain on the same server release 17# However, the Main (SLS) channel was restarted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018.

There was no deployment to the SLS Main channel on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018, leaving it on  server release 17# The channel was, however, restarted.

Following the original publication of this update, the server deployment thread was updated to indicate there would be a deployment to the major RC channels on Wenesday, January 10th: server maintenance package 18#, comprising internal logging improvements.

SL Viewer

The Alex Ivy RC viewer was updated to version on January 9th, 2018. All other viewers currently remain as per the end of week #1:

No Copy Exploits Update

An area of concern / upset for content creators has been the use of server exploits to generate copies of No Copy items. While a long-standing problem, the issue has gained a lot more coverage of late due to the frequency with people have been using various exploits to illegal copy and then sell gacha items. In November, the Lab closed one exploit used in generating No Copy items, and reported this, and the steps they put in place to help recognise when someone might be attempting to use it (see: Exciting Improvements to SL Fee Updates to Enable Even More).

Since then the Lab has continued to work on issues (see my SL project update from 2017 week #47). However, there have been mistaken claims that the Lab stated it had resolved “the” exploit, which is not the case – see the Lab’s blog post above), which Oz and Simon sought to correct in the meeting, with Oz Linden stating:

We never said we were sure we’d fixed all possible exploits, and we won’t say that because we might not know about them all.

Simon then added:

I know that statement and we deliberately and clearly said it wasn’t done. There was more work but we were making progress. I know a lot of people reading it probably wanted it to say (and mean) we fixed everything. We know we haven’t.

In terms of what more is being done, Oz said:

If I were to tell you now that we’re working on “method X” for object copying, I’d be letting people who might not know about it that it existed, and telling those who know how to use it to hurry up while the getting is good.

Other Items

  • New Linden: the Simulator User Group meeting on Tuesday, January 9th was joined by Bugsly Linden. A new member of LL’s QA team, he joined the Lab around a month ago – and is a former Second Life resident.
  • Group chat issues: there has been a noted uptick in group chat issues. Commenting on this, Simon Linden said, “We looked into group chat recently and did a few things that should have helped. [In the meantime] for group chat lag problems, please send in a support ticket – the group name is crucial as its most likely a specific server needs attention. Also [give the] time it happens, and the region you’re on. Sometimes it’s the region’s issue.”

Sansar thoughts: don’t ignore the power of a community platform

A Sansar Christmas – but what might 2018 and beyond hold for the platform

It is five months since the Sansar public Creator Beta opened. At the time it did I, along with many others, felt that maybe – from a “consumer” user perspective – the opening was perhaps a little premature: there was (and remains) little for general visitors to the platform to do – particularly those accessing platform via Desktop Mode – who would likely be in the majority. Of course, the aim of the Creator Beta was to … encourage more creators to the platform, rather than growing the platform’s user base.

In the five months since that launch, there have been developments and improvements to the platform – and I have remained interested in seeing how the platform builds out. The Desktop Mode – the means by which, frankly, the vast majority of people are liable to use for access Sansar for the foreseeable future – in particular has seen some important improvements, although there is still a long way to go.

Identifying other avatars in Desktop Mode was added to Sansar in the October / November Friends release. Just one of the updates Sansar has seen to improve usability

However, recently the Lab has indicated that in 2018 they’d like to start addressing issues of generally user attraction and retention – which is fair enough. What has surprised me, however, is the idea – floated at a recent Sansar Community Meet-up –  that some kind of “consumer launch” (consumer = non-creator user) is being considered for the platform in 2018.

This actually surprises me; there is still so much that needs to be put in place on a technical level alone which is needed to help encourage usability. There’s the whole permissions / licensing system – vital in allowing creators offer their goods on more flexible terms (e.g. modifiable); providing the means for avatars to interact – dance, sit, etc; offering a customisable avatar, and so on. The Lab has indicated much of this is complex work, and proving difficult to implement. Should this continue to be the case, then trying to push the platform to a broader consumer user base before the end on 2018 seems to be a tad optimistic at best; at worst, it could be self-defeating should people find that while Sansar looks good, there is really little for them to do.

Nor, I’d also suggest, are there just technical issues to be faced when considering drawing in a broader audience. Two things in particular have been on my mind for some time now.

The first is Sansar’s blog / forum / knowledge base environment. Currently, this is based on ZenDesk – which is singularly unsuited to the task to which it has been put. As I noted in a recently Product Meeting, the Lab has now recognised this in is looking at options, including possibly using the platform and tools used to build the Second Life “community platform”. This is actually good news, although as I noted in those Product Meeting notes:

Frankly, I’m still stunned that this wasn’t the route taken from the start given the Lab have the tools and the experience to use them, which could have been easily leveraged, rather than going for a tool entirely unsuited to the task and which presents information in a very unfriendly – and dare I say amateur – manner.

Simply put, the Lab has an ample investment in the SL community platform tools in terms of time, effort and development experience. That they apparently opted to ignore all of that to try to reinvent the wheel using a tool evidently unsuited to the task seems nothing short of an exercise in disconnected thinking.

Sansar needs and deserves a descent community environment. Yes, there is Discord, and yes, it is more ideal to have user-to-user interactions within Sansar experiences, rather than by people sitting in forums, etc. But the fact is, forums, blogs, a structured knowledge base, all supported by a decent search engine do far more than “just” provide a space for users to interact: the forum a core aspect of news and information dissemination, as such their value simply shouldn’t be under-estimated or dismissed as something to consider somewhere down the road.

There’s something more here as well. Not only can a decent community platform form the backbone for communications (via outwards blog posts, through forums discussions, the provision of documentation, etc), it can do much to help boost ta platform’s web presence and attractiveness to potential users. Again, right now Sansar’s website – beyond the initial splash screen – is both simplistic and confusing – and not a little bland. Surfacing blogs, forums, etc., immediately adds depth to Sansar’s website and presents the opportunity to draw people in to the platform – if done right.

There have been improvements to the Atlas – but frankly, finding experiences of interest / value is still less than easy

The second thing I’d like to see the Lab address when considering encouraging more “consumer” users into Sansar,  is that of the Atlas.

Again, we’ve already seen some improvements here: the ability search listed experiences and to list those offered by friends, and we have the promise of indicators for how many people are in any given experience. Even so, with over 700 experiences already listed, finding those which relate to a specific interest is hard. Of course, the idea with Sansar is for experience creators to be able to direct an audience to their experiences through their own web presence – and this will be more than enough for some of the markets the Lab hope (/ are?) attempting to attract to Sansar.

However, for the broader audience of potential users who may well come to the platform by way of the web, providing the means for creators to categorise their experiences and for users to group / select experiences based on those categories would be of and undeniable benefit – even with the complexities involved in defining / managing suitable categories. Additionally, providing a means for people to directly “bookmark” experiences that interest them within the Atlas would also be of enormous benefit.

I admit to remaining unconvinced that Sansar is really ready for a “consumer” audience. However, if the Lab is determined to move in that direction, I at least hope that things like updating the forums / blog environment and making the Atlas more amenable for users to locate / record the kind of experience they’d like to visit, is given as much attention as issues of presenting improved “in scene / experience” capabilities.