|On Tuesday, June 254th, 2019 at the SL16B celebrations, the second of five Meet the Lindens sessions was held in the SL16B Auditorium. It featured the Lab’s Senior Director, Second Life Engineering, Oz Linden and April Linden, Systems Engineering Manager, Operations.
The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised, with audio extracts where relevant.
Note that there are three videos of this event that I’m aware of:
|Table of Contents
- The SL4Live – TV part 1 (9 mins and part 2 (core).
- An audio only recording via the official Second Life YouTube channel.
- A recording by Pantera Północy.
When reading this summary, please note:
- It is not a full transcript:
- Discussion points have been grouped by topic, and not necessarily in the order raised during the session.
- I have focused on those topics liable to be of the most interest to readers / generated the most informative answers, so this is not a summary of all comments. etc.,
- Topics are give as bullet-point highlights for ease of reference.
- Audio extracts are provided.
- Timestamps to the part 2 of the SL4Live – TV video are provided for those who would prefer to listen to comments “in the raw”. This video is also embedded at the end of this article.
About April and Oz Linden
April has some 20 years of experience in systems engineering, and is genuinely passionate about Second Life. She first became involved in the platform in 2006, and is still extreme active as a resident.
I actually own a couple of regions, and I’m in-world probably way more as a resident than I am as a Linden. At the end of the day, I leave the Lab, go home, have some dinner and then log-in as a different account and spend my time in Second Life.
– April Linden, Meet the Lindens, June 25th, 2019
In this, April is one of a large number – in difference to the hoary old claim that “Lindens don’t understand SL” because they’ve “never been residents” or they’re “never in-world” – of Lab employees who have joined the company from the ranks of SL users (in fact if you look at the list of those Lindens who have attended Meet the Lindens over the years, the many are former residents who have not only joined the company, but have also risen to senior positions within LL.
Joining the company in 2013, April worked within the systems engineering team, and was promoted to her current position of Systems Engineering Manager, Operations, some 18 months ago. For her, the great attraction of the platform has been, and remains, the empowerment it gives people to express themselves positively.
I come from a background – well, I’ll just be frank, where LGBT issues were not to be discussed, and it was through Second Life that gave me the power and the anonymity and the courage, really, to learn more about myself. And Second Life gave me the power to make my life so much better … This platform is so important to me, I work here to keep it going; It gave me the courage to be more than I was, and I really appreciate Second Life for that.
Oz is the Technical Director for Second Life. He joined the company in 2010 specifically to take on the role of managing the open-source aspects of the Second Life viewer and managing the relationship with third-party viewers. In his previous role, he had been responsible for leading the company his was working for in taking their product from closed-source to open-source and then managing the technical side of the product as a open-source project for a number of years.
Over the first two years of his time at the Lab, he was primarily focused on the open-source viewer work and in refining the overall viewer maintenance process, before his role started expanding to encompass more and more of the engineering side of Second Life. When work on Sansar started in earnest, he pro-actively campaigned within the Lab for the role he has now, with responsibility for managing all of the engineering side of the Second Life platform.
He came to Linden Lab out of a desire to do something “fun” after working in the telecommunication arena, notably with voice over IP systems (VOIP), which he defines as being “really interesting technology with some really fascinating challenges”, but in terms of it being fun, it really didn’t do what I wanted it to do.” He had actually signed-up to Second Life around three years prior to joining Linden Lab, but wouldn’t classify himself as a resident at that time as he didn’t have a particularly good computer and so couldn’t really do that much – although interestingly, he did use his SL account for around half of his interviews with the Lab, all of which were conducted in-world.
He classifies the attraction to working with Second Life as perhaps falling into three core areas: through the open-source nature of the viewer, he is directly involved with how SL users are using the viewer and what they do with it – which can often times take the Lab entirely by surprise; through the fact that the Second Life offers the challenge of trying to implement new technologies alongside of (rather than simply replacing) older technologies; and working with the operations team and others to ensure SL constantly evolves without (as far as is possible) breaking anything – a process he refers to and rebuilding the railway in front of a moving train.
On Working at the Lab
- Induction at the Lab is referred to as “drinking from the fire hose”, in that all new starters have an enormous amount to learn (although those who come from the ranks of residents may have it a little easier due to their familiarity with the platform as users).
- Part of this used to include a series of Jira-based tasks new starters would be given, which they then had to come in-world and do.
- Most employees at the Lab refer to it as a “fun” place to work – and most are there a long time.
- One of the appeals of working with Second Life is that it is a constant surprise: users make use of the platform and its capabilities in so many (often unique / unintended) ways, that seeing / hearing about how the platform is used is something of a daily voyage of discovery.
- Most rewarding aspects of the work:
- Hearing about the positive impact Second Life can have on people’s physical lives.
- Being able to run the platform and help / be with users.
- Most challenging:
- Oz: trying to introduce new features while maintaining backward compatibility, be it the way a function used to work, how it’s anticipated SL should work, how SL looks, or making it harder for people on older systems to use SL, and how user content works within SL.
- April: trying to keep all of the SL services (not just the simulators, they are just a part of the story) running without interruption, be it from issues developing internally, or for outside influences such as DDoS attacks.
- This complexity is increased at SL has continued to grow technically over 16+ years, so systems and subsystems can all behave differently to one another, which means root causes of issues can often be found in unlikely places.
- Given SL is intended to run 24/7, it is not as if those working in the Ops team today can take a system down, figure out how it works and put it back together – they often have to do that as a part of trying to fix an issue.
- Much of the work April’s team carries out is invisible to users: they are often in and fixing issues before the problems rise to the point of impacting users.
- As a resident, April believes it’s important for users to understand what has happened when things go sideways, hence her honest (and appreciated) post-mortem blog posts on outages.