November executive town hall: summary and audio

Xiola (l) with Oz, Patch and Grumpity Linden
On Thursday, November 15th, 2018 Linden Lab hosted a further Town Hall meeting at which questions were put to three of the Lab’s senior staff: Oz Linden, Grumpity Linden and Patch Linden.

Those wishing to ask questions were asked to submit them via a Town Hall meeting forum thread (now locked from having further questions added, but remains available for viewing). The following is a summary of the answers to questions asked during the Town Hall session, audio extracts and video time stamps provided as reference. The video is embedded at the end of the article.

Table of Contents

When reading this summary, please note:

  • It is not a full transcript; rather replies to questions have been bullet-pointed for ease of reading.
  • Responses to questions have been grouped by topic, and are not necessarily in the order discussed at the meeting.
  • Some questions were very generic in form and as a result lacked any structured answer (e.g. Q: will Linden Lab be improving Groups? A: what would you like to see improved?). I have not included such questions in this summary, but have focused on those questions that yielded replies that offer insight on Second Life and Linden Lab’s thinking about the platform.
  • Audio extracts are provided. These have been cleaned-up in places to remove repetition or pauses, etc.
  • Both topic and audio extracts may concatenate comments  / responses to topics asked at different points in the meeting.

Specifically because of this last point, I’ve included time links to the points in the official video (also embedded at the end of this article) for those who wish to listen to the questions, comments and replies as they were recorded.

Also note that not all of the questions raised in the forum could be addressed at the meeting, so some may be addressed from within the forum linked to above by Linden Lab in the coming days.

Introducing Oz, Grumpity and Patch

Oz Linden

Oz is the Technical Director for Second Life, having joined in 2010 with initial responsibility managing the viewer open-source project and rebuild what had become a fractious relationship with TPVs, with his role expanding over time to encompass more and more of the engineering side of Second Life.

As work on Sansar started to progress in earnest, he pro-actively campaigned within the Lab for the role of Technical Director of SL, building a team of people around him who specifically wanted to remain solely focused on Second Life and developing it. His team works closely with the product and operations team to ensure SL constantly evolves without (as far as is possible) breaking anything – a process he refers to as rebuilding the railway from a moving train.

Grumpity Linden

Grumpity is the Director of Product for Second Life. She originally came to Linden Lab while working for The Product Engine, a company providing end-to-end consulting and software development services, and which supports viewer development at the Lab. Grumpity was initially involved in the development and viewer 2 (as designed by 80/20 Studio).

She became a “full-time Linden” in 2014. Her current position involves coordinating the various teams involved in bringing features and updates to Second Life (e.g. Engineering and QA), liaising with legal, financial and compliance to ensure features and capabilities meet any specific requirements in those areas, etc. This work can involve looking at specifics within various elements of the overall SL product, such as UI design and layout, etc.

Grumpity jokingly refers to herself, Patch and Oz as the troika, responsible for the development and direction of all aspects of Second Life.

Patch Linden

Patch is the Senior Director of Product Operations at Linden Lab. Originally a Second Life resident, he joined linden Lab in 2007, after being invited to apply to the company as a result of his work as a community leader and mentor from 2004 through until the invitation was extended.

His role is the only one of the three here that also encompasses Sansar, as he manages the respective support teams for both platforms. In this regard, he recently established a support centre in Atlanta, Georgia. For Second Life, his work also involves overseeing the content development teams, the Mainland Land Team, the Linden Department of Public Works – LDPW, aka The Moles, and managing the account support team.

The view from the stage as the audience arrives

Opening Comments: The Fifteen Reasons To Celebrate Blog Post

Elements Already Delivered

Grumpity Linden started with a review of what has been delivered:

  • Mainland costs: as has been stated at previous Town Hall and Meet the Linden events in 2018, Mainland tiers costs were revised in March 2018, together with a doubling of “free” tier size.
    • The Lab continues to be pleased with the response.
    • Mainland ownership is at levels not seen in some time.
    • Response continues to be positive.
  • Animesh: Animesh officially reached release status on November 14th, 2018.
  • Marketplace:
  • Games and Experiences (via Patch):
    • Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches has been enhanced.
    • A new version of Linden Realms has been deployed.
    • Further updates and ideas are in progress, notably for winter 2018 / 2019.

Video: 4:49-7:40

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Elements In Progress

  • Environmental Enhancement Project (EEP):
    • Progressing rapidly, almost on a daily basis.
    • Lab keen to bring EEP out as whole, rather than bit-by-bit.
  • Land Auctions:
    • The updated land auctions were launched in July 2018.
    • There have been issues, which the Lab has been working to address, but this is taking time to fix as the auction system does involve people’s L$.
    • Resident-to-resident auctions are still coming, but probably won’t be deployed until early 2019.
  • Themed Learning Islands:
    • The Lab deployed the first of the themed learning islands in August 2018, and this is an ongoing programme.
    • The results have been “interesting” and provided a lot of ideas on what to provide next.
    • Because the Lab wants to have “clean” results from the work, this is not something that can be openly discussed in-depth.  However, Lab remains committed to improving the on-boarding experience.
  • Bakes On Mesh (via Oz Linden):
    • The last infrastructure updates (Bake Service) have been deployed.
    • Updates to the viewer should be appearing soon.
    • Its anticipated there will be further simulator / server deploys as well as viewer updates.
    • Users are encouraged to test the viewer as it moves forward and to provide feedback (see the Alternate Viewers wiki page).
  • Performance Improvements:
    • There have been a number of projects to improve performance, and more are on the way.
    • The viewer’s texture cache is being overhauled and improved.
    • The rendering system is being improved.
    • Region crossings have been touched, and more work in this area may be forthcoming in the future.
    • Performance is something the Lab is always working on.

Video: 7:45-13:00

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Still To Come

  • Linden Homes:
    • Working is running a little late, but progressing.
    • There have been some teaser images.
    • May be more news to come before the end of 2018.
    • Deployment liable to be in the early New Year.
Patch Linden has been offering teases of the new Linden Homes. Credit: Patch Linden
  • More Value for Premium Members:
    • Several projects are in progress to improve the value of Premium memberships.
    • Some of these may roll out little by little, and these will likely be followed by a “large chunk” of updates.
    • Some of the Premium benefits will be very specific – such as some focused on creators.
  • Return of Last Names:
    • Still being worked on.
    • There are a lot of back-end systems that have to be updated in order to correctly support last names.
    • Probably won’t be ready for deployment until Q2 2019 – but this should not be taken as a commitment to deliver by then.
    • Not all questions on how last names will work can be answered because aspects may well change between now and the deployment date, simply due to the nature of what needs to be done & how it can be done.
    • The cost is described as likely to be “on the order of a few months of Premium membership.
    • This is regarded as “not impossible, but not throw-away money.”
  • Grid-wide Experiences:
    • The difference between grid-wide experiences and current experiences is that the former will be automatically enabled on all land (rather than the land holder have to expressly allow an experience (instead, land holders can block experiences on their land, if they wish / need to).
    • Users will still have to explicitly join a grid-wide experience in order to participate.
    • There are already some grid-wide experiences from the Lab (e.g. Tyrah and the Curse of the Magical Glytches).
    • Grid-wide experiences will probably become available in 2019, around the time the updates to Premium membership are deployed.
  • Migration to the Cloud:
    • Progress has been made building the necessary infrastructure to support SL operating from the cloud.
    • However, very few user-visible aspects of Second Life are currently cloud based – so essentially, if user note issues with SL, it currently is not as a result of them being moved to the cloud.
    • The goal for the coming year is to get systems migrated to the cloud one at a time,without users being able to tell which services have been moved.
    • The focus will be on moving services “as is”, and not to make any changes to the way in which things work.
    • Once all of SL has been safely migrated, the Lab will start to look at how they can exploit the things being on a cloud infrastructure might allow them to do.

Video: 13:00-21:00

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Q&A Session

Last Names

Will people be able to change their name and then change back to an “old” name they have previously used?

  • LL hope that people will be careful about changing names, and not do it frequently, as unlike Display Names it will take a lot longer for name changes to propagate across all of SL’s services.
  • Currently, the hope is that people will be able to go back to a name they have previously used. However, this may change before the last name capability is deployed.
  • Obviously, the cost noted above will apply, and that is up to users to determine whether they want to meet it or not – again a reason to be cautious in making name changes.
  • As has been previously stated, name changes will be a Premium membership perk.

Will people be able to suggest last name options to be added to the list of available names?

  • Yes. How they can do so will be announced nearer the time.

Video: 22:00-24:11

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Region Crossings

Is anything being done to improve region crossings?

  • Engineers are frequently working to improve region crossings.
  • Region crossings involve a complex 3-day exchange of a lot of information between the viewer, the region an avatar is leaving and the region the avatar is joining – and this can be even worse when crossing region corners so that three regions are involved.
  • A major effort was made to reduce the issues of attachment loss / ghosting earlier in 2018 – from the data the Lab is able together on region crossings, they believe to led to significant improvements in how attachments are handled.
  • The Lab has not finished with region crossings and will continue to make them as robust as possible, and the overall experience a lot better for users.

Video: 24:48-26:50

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Linden Homes

Will the new Linden Homes provide on / under water options, and will people be able to choose locations, so as to be near friends?

  • There will be a range of different themes for housing to choose from – around a dozen. These will be available across the new Linden Home continent, and parcels will present a number of house styles in keeping with the local neighbourhood theme.
  • Parcels will come in different sizes  – not just 1024 sq m.
  • The houses available within a parcel will be presented to the user in a rezzing system, similar to that used for the Horizons project (video: 1:11:44-1:12:30).

Note: while it was not specifically confirmed in the meeting, the SSP continent (SSP meaning Super Secret Project, which is official – video 46:36-47:11), would appear to be the new Linden Homes continent.

Video: 27:08-29:27 ; 1:11:44-1:12:30

Marketplace

Will it be possible for Marketplace store owners to assign a “manager” to help them with listings maintenance, etc?

  • This is actually  being worked on, and could be rolled out soon.
  • Grumpity’s answer included a reference to Jira feature requests – see below for specifics on this.

What is the status of the Marketplace clean-up?

  • Note: subsequent to this question being asked in the forum thread, a Marketplace update was posted, indicating that the clean-up had started, and giving specifics.
  • In short, the unlisting of items from the Marketplace only applies to merchants who have not logged in for five years, and who have items which have not sold within two years.
  • Thus far, there has not been any negative response to this clean-up.
  • The Lab plan to adjust the criteria little by little in an attempt to  “de-clutter” the Marketplace without affecting goods that are still selling.

Will it be possible to add filters to the Marketplace for things like limited quantity items, or to the MP search to avoid things like spam terms (“demo”, “gacha”, etc.) ?

  • Gacha items now have their own Marketplace category, which may help lessen the need for keyword tagging on items.
  • The best way to exclude items from a search is to use the boolean search options. This is not always optimal, but is still the preferred method.
  • Boolean operators are more than NOT and AND, and those needing help with the available options can click on the “?” above the Keyword search box and got to the Marketplace  Shopping knowledge base article, which includes a breakdown of the available boolean operators.
Follow the Help (“?”) link for assistance on boolean operators available with Marketplace search
  • Grumpity’s answer on ideas for filters, etc., included a reference to Jira feature requests – see below for specifics on this.

Will Bakes on Mesh give a reason to pause the MP clean-up, given it could make older system layer clothing popular again?

  • No. if the Merchants has not logged-in to SL or the Marketplace in 5 years, and has goods that have not sold in two years, those items will be removed, including system layer clothing.
  • There is always the risk that an item of value may at some point be removed, however, nothing is being deleted: the clean up is a simple unlisting of items that meet the criteria; if a Merchant wants to return a popular item unlisted in error to active status, they need only log-in and re-list it.

Video: 30:07-31:01 ; 33:29-35:35 ; 36:25-39:02 ; 1:10:14-1:11:29

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Premium Membership

Could more group slots over the current 60 be offered as either a “paid” option for Premium members, or as a perk in a specific tier of Premium membership?

  • LL are looking at a range of additional features for Premium members, and are very aware of the interest in having more group slots.
  • How any further additional group slots might be supplied will be described in due course.
  • Adding group slots is complex, as Groups encompass a lot of capabilities, all of which have to be factored into things (e.g. the Group chat service, the Group notifications service, etc.)
  • There is a restructuring to Premium membership that will be coming (as mentioned above) in 2019, more on Groups might be announced then.

Could previous Premium vehicle gifts be made available as demo vehicles at the various Premium-only vehicle themed regions (e.g. Racer Gulch)?

  •   Has not been considered, but thought will be given to the idea (video: 1:12:41-1:13:24).

Video: 43:52-46:19 ; 1:12:41-1:13:24)

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Mainland and Land

There is a lot of land-locked abandoned mainland that is not connected to transportation systems – roads, railways, waterways – are there plans to renew these to make them more appealing to potential purchasers (e.g. better textures, etc.)?

  • The Land team and the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) are always making tweaks to Mainland.
  • There is a major project under consideration for 2019 is to renew the Mainland ground textures.

Will there be more Mainland parcels fronting roads / water? Will the Mainland transport infrastructure be improved?

  • Mainland infrastructure is always being tweaked and improved
  • Road / water infrastructure is a major element with the new Linden Homes project.
  • There is now a dedicated LDPW resource focused on the Second Life Rail Road (SLRR) across various Mainland continents (and also looks at roads as well).
  • One of the “near-term” things Patch has on the “long-term” roadmap is a complete overall of the SLRR. This may include complete re-scripting, unifying how trains operate across all tracks, whilst maintaining as much backward compatibility as possible.

Will Homestead regions see a further  increase in LI capacity?

  • Maybe. It’s the kind of thing LL are often thinking about, but also the kind of thing they don’t announce in advance (video: 51:00-51:25).

Video: 47:28-51:25 and 1:02:49-1:04:04

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Water and Rendering

Will it be possible to improve the rendering of Linden Water, and perhaps even have it as a property that can be added to the face of a prim (or mesh)?

  • It’s not inconceivable something like this might be done.
  • Might not happen quickly, but improving water rendering has been discussed internally.
  • There is currently a lot of rendering work going on (e.g. EEP, Project ARCTan).
  • There is also the need to consider how rendering will be handled on the Mac platform, given Apple’s stated intent to cease OpenGL support.

Video: 58:41-1:00:50

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Linux Viewer

Has there been any progress with Linux viewer support / updates?

  • In April 2015, due to a lack of internal Linux development expertise, the Lab put out a call to the Linux open-source  community to assist in supporting the Linux viewer with contributions (see here). This call was repeated in May 2015 (see here), and put into an official blog post.
  • There have been few contributions made in response to both calls, or further statements from the Lab on how they’d like to maintain a Linux viewer going forward (see here, for example).
  • The Lab still does not have engineering expertise that can be developed to Linux, and so nothing can be promised for the viewer.

Video: 1:15:06-1:16:25

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Assorted Questions

  • Outside of security fixes, why are so many simulator updates given as “internal fixes” in the release notes?
    • For several reasons: they may pertain to changes that are not user visible; they may pertain to updates the Lab is not ready to formally announce; while not specifically security oriented, they may related to aspects of the service LL do not want to have in the public domain (remembering that simulator release notes are visible to anyone, not just SL users).
    • Also a very high percentage of “internal fixes” are security updates, to deal with griefing vectors etc., and as releases are staggered between RC channels and the SLS (main) channel, the release notes are deliberately vague to avoid giving griefers ideas.
    • Video:  51:54-54:55.
  • Can more be done to discourage Group spamming (e.g. a means to directly AR group spam? The Lab is aware of the issue, and is considering ways and means to better address the problem, but do not have anything to announce on this as yet (video: 55:20-56:06).
  • Is it true that the classic system avatar is being phased out by 2020 and everyone will have to use a mesh avatar by then?
    • No, there are no plans to phase out the classic avatar.
    • If anyone says LL are “definitely” going to do something X years from now, it’s not an accurate assessment, or anything that has come from the Lab.
    • Video: 56:25-57:56)
  • Are there plans to add filtering by permission to inventory searches? No, but features like this that may be present in TPVs can always be contributed to the LL viewer by the originator of the code, providing they sign a contribution agreement, and providing the contribution isn’t seen as overly complex, incomplete, etc.  (video: 1:04:35-1:07:05).
  • Can anything be done to improve the log-in time? This is something LL would like to improve, but it’s not clear how. Very large inventories (100s of thousands of items) and / or very “flat” inventory structures (1000s of items in a single folder) can place a heavy load on logging-in, slowing things down, and can be corrected through inventory housekeeping and implementing more nested folders and better use of nested folders to manage their items (video: 1:07:13-1:09:34).
  • Does Linden Lab hire qualified SL residents? yes, refer to the careers page on the Lab’s corporate site (video: 1:21:51-1:22:29).

Jira and Feature Requests

  • The Second Life Jira is the place to go when suggesting ideas for improving Second Life.
  • Many of the current improvements (vis Marketplace, etc.) have come about directly as a result of feature requests.
  • This is preferred to suggestions in the forums, etc., as incoming Jira feature requests are reviewed every week, and offer a formal, searchable means of tracking all such ideas / requests.
  • Acceptance of requests does come down to overall feasibility, and how quickly a request might be implemented after acceptance by the Lab does depend on things like how it fits into the overall roadmap for SL development and improvements.
    • For example, a feature request related to a project in development is more likely to be implemented that a request that may be seen as being part of a project that is being planned, but is not in active development as yet.
  • Jira feature requests can actually affect what is being worked on, or can be used to implement  projects (some examples: graphics presets, and elements of EEP both came out of feature requests).
  • As an aside, and pending feedback from Linden Lab, I hope to have a tutorial on using the Jira, including filing feature requests, available in these pages soon.

Video: 31:08-33:12

 

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