The 19th edition of Lab Gab was live streamed on Friday, March 27th, featuring Brett Linden, the Lab’s Senior Director of Marketing, and linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, who were invited to discuss the Lab’s response to the SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and talk about Second life in general.
The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions. Note that the last 15 minutes of the video is something of an advert for the Linden Lab sponsored Mankind Tracer concert being held on Sunday, March 29th, which is not a part of this summary.
- The decision to sell Sansar came, at least in part, from the recognition that as a platform, Sansar is at a very different stage of its evolution compared to Second Life, requiring different investment and resourcing.
- Some 30 of the original team have received offers to join the new entity running Sansar (Wookey Project Corp), and “a bunch of them” are already back at work.
- It appears that the focus for the platform will potentially remain on it being a platform for large scale virtual events in the music / entertainment sectors, utilising the platform’s ability to instance events for “many thousands” of attendees. Also, desktop and VR support will both likely be maintained.
- However, the overall strategy and focus for developing Sansar is now obviously up to the new owners.
- Linden Lab will remain a “partner”, inasmuch as Tilia will continue to be used for Sansar Dollar transactions and fiat money payouts, with Tilia also due to gain more customers in the near future..
Dealing with the Virus
[3:00-7:48] plus as timestamped below.
- On a set of personal notes,Ebbe, Brett and Lab Gab’s host, Strawberry Linden have thus far avoided infection (like the rest of the Lab’s staff they are working from home), but obviously, they do have concerns about the virus and its potential to impact family and friends.
- Linden Lab is fortunate that it is exceptionally well geared towards remote working (many staff worked from home as a matter of course well before the current pandemic, and that’s been the way since the company’s formation).
- It is not anticipated that Second Life should experience significant service interruptions due to the current health situation.
- A comment that has been used among LL staff during calls and virtual meetings has been, “stay safe, stay virtual”.
- [14:53-17:04] Users can help ease unnecessary stress on SL / LL staff by avoiding squabbles and upsets that can result in unnecessary abuse reports, etc., and by providing help to one another to lighten calls to support staff, as well showing support / friendliness to new users.
- [27:55-29:33] All LL offices are closed. The co-lo data centre is open for access, if required, but all co-lo work is actually outsourced.
Usage and Concurrency
- The last several weeks has seen a resurgence in the number of returning users (those who have not logged-in to SL for some time) as well as a rise in new users accessing the service.
- New registrations are up by some 60%, with a rise in concurrency of around 10% overall.
- These rises particularly correspond with cities, regions and countries where a lock-down is ordered.
- Established users are encouraged to be kind and support incoming new and returning users, given they are likely trying to deal with the anxieties of the current situation.
Absolutely. We’re seeing quite [an] interesting resurgence of returning users, as well as new users coming in to explore Second Life. We see registrations up over 60% and concurrency’s up north of 10%, and we’re just a week or so into people being locked up. We can actually see countries and states that imposed strict stay-home policies, we see a corresponding jump in people in those markets jumping into Second Life.
– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th
- LL is not focusing any new features / activities specifically for those coming into SL as an alternative to watching television, playing games, etc. They are constantly working to increase registrations and user retention outside of any crisis.
- The company is heavily committed to the the cloud uplift to AWS / Google through until the end of the year, so there is not a lot of available resource to take on major new initiatives. This work will likely take the majority of the Lab’s technical resources through until the end of the year (see below as well).
Region Owners Impacted by the Virus & Assistance from the Lab
- Contact support – see also: Region owners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged to contact LL.
- LL has no wish to see regions go under because holders are experiencing hardship as a result of result income at this time. however, the company also cannot afford to just give across-the-board reductions in tier.
- Where cases can be explained / discussed / explored, Linden Lab will try to do what they can and is taking a “human, compassionate” approach to people’s needs”.
Supporting Businesses and Education
- Linden Lab has been “inundated” with requests from educators, businesses, etc., on whether Second Life can provide support for them.
- The volume has been such that LL has had to re-assign resources to help deal with the incoming requests. There has also bee a certain amount of media attention on what Second Life can offer – the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a paywalled article on SL and remote working on March 26th, for example)
- It takes time to bring organisations in: understanding their requirements, getting them into SL, ensuring they have the required in-world facilities, etc.
- In addition, LL have been carefully crafting a media campaign to raise awareness of SL as a place for socialisation and discovery. These have been garnering high rates of click-through that may be contributing to the upswing in registrations.
- For the business side – remote working, conferences, meetings, etc., – the Lab launched a micro-website and an accompanying updated FAQ promoting Second life as a working environment (see also: Second Life: support for remote working & reduced education / non-profit fees – updated, March 16th). This provides access to a series of seven turnkey region solutions for business use, comprising single and multi-region settings, capable of handling up to 350 avatars, with individual regions intentionally optimised such that they can comfortably and consistently handle 75 avatars apiece without becoming stressed.
The seven new turnkey business/ meeting environments provided by Linden Lab.
- Education is still very much a factor in Second Life as well, with the platform again seeing an uptick in interest from educational organisations.
- Various schools and universities can be found in the Destination Guide, and some have been active in SL for over a decade.
- More are not publicly visible as they operate gated access for staff and students only.
- Organisations such as CNDG are using Second Life for teaching / simulations in what is referred to as an “ambitious long-lasting run in SL”, with up to 10,000 students involved with Second Life experiential teaching modules.
- Training also forms a part of learning in SL. For example, many nurses and medial staff have received simulation training within Second Life.
- LL is committed to continuing to support educational use cases and make it easier for educational organisations and students to take advantage of what SL can offer.
- Second life is also the focal point for the annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference.
Book Club and Showcase Streams
- Despite the cloud uplift work, Linden Lab did announce two new two new initiatives on the marketing side:
- The Second Life Book Club will launch on April 8th and a monthly event. A spin-off from the Draxtor Book Club hosted on Sansar, the Second Life Book Club will feature Draxtor Despres in conversation with authors from around the world, with the first instalment featuring Matt Ruff, Ken Liu, SL Huang, CB Lee, and a possible additional guest.
- Showcase Streams will be a series of spontaneous “drop in” video streams that will aim to spotlight the many music, art and cultural events in Second Life.
- Outside of the current pandemic, a reason for implementing initiatives like these is that the Lab has seen an uptick in interest in second Life as a result of the their social media engagement and the success of formats like Lab Gab in capturing non-SL users’ interest.
- Most recently subjected to an internal pile-on test (stress test with mass use of a capability, in this case by LL staff) to uncover any previously missed bugs or issues.
- Could now be just “a very few weeks” away from launching.
iOS Mobile Companion
- Lots of activity.
- Must be understood this will primarily be a communications tool (e.g. IMs, group messaging, etc., but not local chat or in-world presence / 3D view initially).
- Now very close to Alpha status, which may only be for internal testing, and the path from that to initial release isn’t currently clear (iOS apps are subject to Apple strictures, among other things).
- Work has now started on the Android version of this companion app as well, and the hope is this will quickly catch-up with the iOS version.
Future Plans / Updates
- For 2020, the cloud uplift. This is occurring on a service-by-service basis on the back end (e.g. log-in service, web services, group services, etc.).
- Transitioning the simulators will be a huge undertaking.
- Some services have seen significant performance improvements following their transition, just because services a moving to more up-to-date hardware and newer infrastructure.
- Because of this, 2020 will not be a major SL feature release year beyond what is already stated as being in the works (e.g. EEP, Name Changes, Premium Plus, mobile companion). Anything else will be subject to resources being available.
- Note that more on SL tech and the uplift will be featured in the April 3rd Lab Gab which will feature Oz Linden, VP of engineering and members of his teams.