VWBPE 2021: Grumpity and Brett Linden

VWBPE 2021

On Saturday, March 20th, 2021, the final of three sessions featuring Linden Lab staff took place at the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference. Whilst the the third session overall, this was actually the second of a double series entitled Reconnaissance with the Lab, and featured Grumpity Linden, VP of Product and Brett Linden, VP of Marketing, the first having been held on Friday, March 19th, which saw Patch Linden, VP of Product Operations and Madori Linden, Product Specialist (Land Operations) joining Grumpity and Brett.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session. however, as some discussion points followed directly on from the Friday March 19th, discussion, it should be read in reference to my summary of that meeting as well.

As always, time stamps are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.

The Attendees

Grumpity Linden

Grumpity Linden heads up Second Life Product, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach.

Prior to working for Linden Lab (first joining as a contractor in 2009 and then full-time in 2014), she was involved in a number of industries, including technology, higher education, and oil & gas. She enjoys exploring worlds both virtual and physical and takes pride in building bridges – personal and professional.

Grumpity holds a Master’s in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s from same in Computer Science & Psychology, both from Johns Hopkins University. She finds leading the Second Life product a joy because it allows her to draw on both areas of study.

As VP of marketing, Brett Linden manages the team responsible for developing media campaigns and strategic content partnerships for Second Life. Together they focus on both the acquisition of new users and the retention of existing users for the virtual world.

Brett Linden

In the past decade, he has produced numerous virtual and “mixed reality” events and panels on various academic topics with an emphasis on legitimising and better surfacing the many cultures and communities within virtual environments.

From Rolling Stone to Billboard, Brett has also written for major publications and managed multimedia initiatives for Amazon.com and RealNetworks. He has co-founded numerous media sites on-line, including the Second Life Destination Guide and Rolling Stone Radio. As a co-founding editor at Billboard.com, he interviewed Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Shania Twain, and Bjork.

Dealing with Griefing

[Video: 10:04-19:09]

  • Grumpity:
    • The Governance User Group offers a monthly forum in-world for region / estate holders (and general users) to discuss matters of security, griefing, abuse reporting, etc. Meetings are held monthly on the third Tuesday of the month at 13:00 SLT (at the time of writing).
    • Specific issues can also be raised through the Support channel, or can be passed to Madori Linden, who will in turn pass them on to the Governance and Land teams.
    • For specialised environments, such as regions operated by educators, non-profits, business organisations, etc., the best way to secure a region or estate is via the RegAPI [see below for more on this].
    • With regards to griefing via voice – specifically things like voice channel hijacking – LL has worked extensively with the Voice API provider, Vivox, to prevent / eliminate such issues a lot more readily.

What is the RegAPI?

[Video 11:48-17:21]

  • RegAPI is a means for organisations that need to to provide dedicated, controlled access to Second Life to their users.
  • Organisations are assigned a keycode by the Lab. This can used in conjunction with the Second Life registration form (web page) the organisation designs to connect to the Second Life account registration process and then, and as required:
    • Define: the group new-sign-ups are assigned to.
    • Limit created accounts to only accessing the defined region / estate, and block them from teleporting away from it.
    • Control the avatar options available to new-sign-ups.
    • Control access to associated services within the viewer such as the voice stream.
  • The sign-up form can be hosted directly by the organisation concerned within their own environment (thus controlling access to it).
  • The process can also lock access to the defined region / estate from being accessed by accounts not created using the organisation’s dedicated key.
  • Linden Lab does not directly provide turnkey registration forms for clients, but can provide more general assistance where required.

Accessibility – Those with Disabilities & for whom English is a Second Language

[Video: 19:22-25:37]

  • Grumpity:
    • LL is constantly trying to improve accessibility.
    • Now the majority of the work in moving SL to AWS has been completed, there is potential scope to further address accessibility, including looking at some of the available third-party tools that can be integrated into the SL product – previously, the Lab has attempted to provide dedicated solutions for some issues, but then maintenance and upkeep became problematic, so third-party tools are now seen a preferable way forward.
    • There is no definitive road map as to what may be tried / addressed at present, but the Product team is now far better placed to look at potential options in discussion with involved communities within SL (e.g. educators, Virtual Ability, etc.).
    • In general, LL are very aware that there are many different uses and needs that can be addressed by Second Life by many different individuals and communities, many of who may have specific access requirements, so accessibility is very much a part of thinking at the lab.

New Users: On-Boarding and Experience

[Video: 26:23-37:07]

  • Grumpity:
    • The Lab is working on a new on-boarding experience, but it is not yet ready for deployment.
    • This has been developed not only as a means of updating the new user experience, but also looking at what people actually need to have a successful initial experience with Second Life.
      • So rather than focusing on the basics, like avatar movement, which most people with even a basic exposure to playing games can likely work out for themselves, the focus is more on social interactions – starting a conversation, for example.
    • Connected to this new on-boarding experience are:
      • A cleaning-up the viewer UI, allowing the more essential elements to be better identified and more logical.
      • An overhauling the avatar customisation process to make it easier for incoming users to create a basic look they are happy with.
    • An overall aim of all of this work is to reduce some of the multiple ways in which certain common tasks can be completed, in order to help flatten the curve of Second Life being “complicated” to learn.
    • There is also the Community Gateway programme as well, which provides an important means of bringing users into SL Life, and which Linden Lab monitors and takes lessons from, as well as carrying out testing within their own on-boarding process.

Questions Arising

Is there effort to create a browser-capable grid to flatten the learning curve?

  • Grumpity:
    • LL is working towards a possible partnership that will allow for a streaming solution  for Second Life. This is not something that can be discussed in detail at present, but would love to talk more about it Soon™.
    • In terms of mobile devices, the nature of SL means than any dedicated experience via a ‘phone is going to be less than ideal – ideally a keyboard and mouse are required, but it is being explored. [Again, the Lab has an active project to bring Second Life to both iOS and Android, initially as a basic communications tool.]
  • Brett: streaming is an area that has expanded over the last 12+ months, with multiple companies moving into the space, allowing dialogues to take place. Among other things, the Lab recognises the need to be on more lightweight client systems (such as Chromebook) when addressing areas such as education.

Why are there no up-to-date videos on how to do things in Second Life and on the communities,  etc?

  • Brett: there is a series of New User tutorials by Strawberry Linden that are just over a year old, and which are available in multiple languages. These will likely be refreshed every 18-24 months.

How Can the Education Community Help with Marketing SL?

[Video: 38:45-44:39]

  • Brett:
    • Anyone with ideas, comments or constructive critique about SL marketing are invited to contact the Marketing team.
    • There is also the potential for in-world meetings between community leaders and members of the Marketing team to discuss ideas and options, etc.
    • There is a lot going on in marketing: this year will see a new general consumer campaign to reinvigorate the SL brand. Some of this has started to roll out,  such as developing new social media partnerships and other outreach efforts.
    • Further community exposure can be obtained by being a part of stories the Lab either pitch to the media, or are approached about by the media to provide. In  particularly, success stories about how SL is being used, innovative or novel ways in which the platform is made use of, are of particular interest.
    • Now is actually a good time for such stories, as the pandemic has lead to and increased / renewed media interest in the platform and its potential.
    • In terms of marketing within SL, there are multiple options to help promote work / use / events, from the Destination Guide through to the Lab Gab live stream sessions.
  • Grumpity [49:40-50:10]: in terms of general liaison between the Lab and the educational community, there has been discussion about establishing a dedicated Discord channel, and feedback from educators (via Madori Linden) is sought.

Costs and Pricing

[Video: 45:57-48:45]

  • Grumpity:
    • It was “misguided” to have removed the non-profit  / educational discount [June 2011], and equally very important to see it returned [in 2013] as soon as the Lab could do so.
    • In  March 2020, a flat monthly fee of $99 was introduced for educational and non-profit  organisations, and the Lab has no plans to increase this.
    • However, the narrative that has circulated that costs to the Lab would be reduced as a result of the move to AWS, isn’t accurate; while it removes the high level of capital expenditure LL must make in new hardware every several years, it does not reduce the basic operating costs for the service as a whole. Ergo, there are no plans to reduce prices.

A birthday, wars, a dark mystery and a Jedi in Second Life

Seanchai Library

It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home in Nowhereville, unless otherwise indicated. Note that the schedule below may be subject to change during the week, please refer to the Seanchai Library website for the latest information through the week.

Sunday, March 21st,19:00: Seanchai at 13 Years

Seanchai staff gather to share stories that look back and forward, celebrating thirteen years of stories and poems presented live. Join us in The Glen.

Seanchai celebrates 13 years

Monday, March 22nd: 19:00 Leviathan

In 1914, the world is divided into Darwinists and Clankers. The Darwinists have evolved genetics to make animals more useful to humans. The Clankers have built their society on machinery technology.

Prince Aleksandar Ferdinand, the would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne and part of the Clankers, has spent his life facing an uncertain future: because his mother was of common blood, he has been barred from taking his father’s title in the fullness of time.

But when his father and mother survive Gavrilo Princip’s assassination attempt in Sarajevo only to be poisoned later the same day, Aleksandar finds himself the centre of intrigue. Despite the fact that he has no legitimate claim to the throne, the Germans are intent on neutralising him, fearful that he might nevertheless unite the people behind him, possibly fracturing the alliance of nations forming the Clankers.

Forced on the run aboard a battle-torn war machine crewed by a handful of men loyal to his late father, Aleks encounters Deryn Sharp, a young woman who has disguised herself as a boy to serve aboard British Air Service Leviathan, a living whale flying ship.

Despite their differences, and with the inevitability of war darkening every horizon, Aleks and Deryn embark on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Join Gyro Muggins as he dives into Scott Westerfield’s 2009 novel of an alternate past.

Tuesday, March 23rd

12:00 Noon: Russell Eponym, Live in the Glen

Music, poetry, and stories.

19:00: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

When the Jones family move into a Victorian house that has been converted into a set of flats, and her parents always busy and wrapped in their work, young Coraline sets out to discover all she can about her new home.

Along the way, she meets a pair of retired actress sisters, an old man trying to train a mouse orchestra, and a door that, unlike all the others that lead somewhere, oddly opens onto a brick wall.

Until the day it doesn’t, and instead opens onto a hallway leading to another world.

It’s a world just like her own, but also very different. The flat she enters looks just like her own, the neighbours are just like those she has met – but oddly younger – and the mother and father she finds within her home dote on her: marvellous toys, magical books and wonderful food.

This other home and the parents within it are all that Coraline has ever wanted – until her other mother tells her she can stay and live forever – if she will have buttons sewn into her eyes. Scared by the request, Coraline returns to her real home, only to find her parents now gone. Realising they have been taken by her “other mother”, she realises she must return along the hallway and risk her future in order to rescue them.

With Willow Moonfire.

Wednesday, March 24th, 19:00: The Guns of Avalon

Across the worlds of Shadow, Corwin, prince of blood royal, heir to the throne of Amber, gathers his forces for an assault that will yield up to him the crown that is rightfully his.

But, a growing darkness of his own doing threatens his plans, an evil that stretches to the heart of the perfect kingdom itself where the demonic forces of Chaos mass to annihilate Amber and all who would rule there.

One of the most revered names in sf and fantasy, the incomparable Roger Zelazny was honoured with numerous prizes—including six Hugo and three Nebula Awards—over the course of his legendary career. Among his more than fifty books, arguably Zelazny’s most popular literary creations were his extraordinary Amber novels. The Guns of Avalon is the second book of The Chronicles of Amber.

With Corwyn Allen.

Thursday, March 25th:

19:00: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker

So, where were you in 1977?  Do you remember the first time you saw the first film?  The first 25 times you saw the first film?  Maybe you have never seen it at all.  Join Shandon Loring and Caledonia Skytower to enjoy for the first time (or re-live the joy) of those first adventures from an edition penned by Director George Lucas himself!

21:00 Seanchai Late Night

Finn Zeddmore presents contemporary Sci-Fi-Fantasy from such on-line sources as Light SpeedEscape PodClarkesworld Magazine, and more.

Discovering disc golf in Second Life

Disc Golf, The Raven’s Nest, March 2021

I’ve written about golf in Second life in these pages a number of times; whilst hardly a fan of the game in the physical world – I tend to be firmly in the Arthur Myers camp that “to play golf is to spoil an otherwise enjoyable walk” (Lawn Tennis At Home & Abroad, 1903, and often quite apocryphally attributed to Mark Twain as “golf is a good walk spoiled”), I do enjoy the occasional round with Caitlyn in-world. So, when Kali Rose recently invited me to pay a visit to The Raven’s Nest and try a round of something called disc golf – which I confess I’d never actually heard of before – it seemed like I should hop over hop over and try things out.

A full region utilising the 30K private region bonus, The Raven’s Nest is home to the Rose family (private residences are located on the south and west sides of the region, so do please keep that in mind if you visit) and also to Her GeekSpot brand and store, which has been rather neatly as a film studio lot. The disc golf course takes up the majority of the region, offering a good means to explore.

The Raven’s Nest, March 2021

Disc golf is essentially “regular” in-world golf, but with the club and ball replaced by a Frisbee-style disc and the hole by a basket you try to throw your disc “into”. Like golf, it can be played over 9 or 18 “holes”, with The Raven’s Nest offering the full 18.

The landing point for the course is the clubhouse on the east side of the region. Here, those wishing to play can join the local group (required, and needs a free in-world group slot). Once the group has been joined, players can obtain a disc and control HUD from the game vendor, and if they wish, a scorecard and game notes from the neighbouring givers. The HUD provides the means to play the game and also personalise both your disc and gameplay elements; however, if you prefer, it can be ignored and the game enjoyed directly through the disc itself.

Disc Golf: get your Frisbee into the basket

Note that once received, the disc must be worn while in close proximity to the vendor in order to activate it. Discs will remain valid for 24 hours after activation, so if you get interrupted in the middle of a round and as long as you return within that time, you can continue playing without having to re-start.

Each tee takes the form of a square, grey base,  the number of the hole on one side, indicating the direction towards the basket.The first tee is located on the deck at the back of the clubhouse. Baskets are quite low and can be a little hard to locate from a distance – so you may need to cam a little to spot some as you continue around the course.

Once at the tee for a hole, walk onto it and select your required club (generally the driver)  via the HUD (or by clicking your disc and selecting it from the dialogue). This will trigger a particle wind speed indicator alongside your avatar together with a direction of throw indicator itself.

Winding up for a throw

You can adjust your direction of throw to compensate for the wind by using the LEFT / RIGHT cursor keys (or A/D if you prefer); when you are ready to “throw” move the mouse pointer over the terrain or the tee base and press and hold down the left mouse button.

This will cause you avatar to prepare to throw your disc, and display a power indicator – the higher this gets, the more power will be applied to your “throw”. When you are ready, release the mouse button to “throw” your disc.

The flight of a disc is indicated by a line. By default, this is white, but you can use the colour button on  the HUD to select a preferred colour for it, your disc and the landing marker (handy if you part playing with friends).

The landing marker, a large arrow, indicates – as if the name doesn’t give it away 🙂 – where your disc landed. If you hover the mouse pointer over it, a teleport sit icon will be displayed, indicating you can teleport directly to the marker. Also, the colour button on the HUD allows you to toggle whether or not the marker, wind direction indicator, etc., are displayed.

Additional strokes are played the same way, with the ability to use the wedge for “chipping” up towards a basket when reasonably close to a basket and the putter when particularly close to it. Throughout it all your scorecard will track your shots and keep score, and when you’ve completed a round, you can return to the clubhouse and see if you’ve set a new course record.

My disc heads towards the basket (to the right of the tree, atop the old well)

Whilst playing, and if you use use an over-the-shoulder camera view by default, you might want to centre your camera up when playing to get an more accurate view of the ground pointer. Also, if you have double-click to teleport enabled, you might want to turn it off – an accidental click will have you routed back to the clubhouse – and be sure to avoid the local train (when it is running), which winds its way through the course!

I do have a couple of minor niggles: the holes are all par 3, no matter what their difficulty – which appears to be baked into the game;, unfortunately. Where this course is concerned, some of the signage could be clearer (it’s not obvious where the first tee is,  for example). However, this doesn’t overly interfere with things.

Playing a round of disc golf lets you discover the rest of The Raven’s Nest

Golf games are fairly common across SL, but disc golf is just that little bit different, and The aven’s Nest offering an interesting means to get to know the game, offering as it does the opportunity to explore the region whilst playing, maybe try out a little fishing afterwards, or simply sit and relax at the water’s edge. My thanks to Kali for the invitation.

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