2021 SUG meeting week #25 summary – updated

IMAGOLand, April 2021 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting.

Another party week, so not a lot of practical discussion.

Server Deployments

See the server deployment thread for any most recent updates / changes.

  • There was no deployment to the SLS Main channel on Tuesday, June 22nd.
  • Wednesday, June 23rd should see server update 560618 deployed to the RC channels. This includes the required server-side support to complete a fix for BUG-202864 “Change Mesh Uploader to preserve Scene File object names when a full linkset is uploaded”. This release was rolled back as a result of issues – see BUG230881 – “llHttpRequest(): HTTP_CUSTOM_HEADER flag is ignored”.

SL Viewer

The Fernet Maintenance RC updated to version on Tuesday, June 22nd.

The rest of the official viewer pipelines remain unchanged at the time of writing:

  • Release viewer: LMR 5 viewer, version, dated May 27, promoted June 7 – No change.
  • Release channel cohorts (please see my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
  • Project viewers:
    • Legacy Profiles viewer, version, dated October 26.
    • Copy / Paste viewer, version, dated December 9, 2019.
    • Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer, version, dated November 22, 2019.
    • 360 Snapshot project viewer, version, dated July 16, 2019.

In Brief

  • BUG-230589 “Issue with region restart taking over an hour while the majority of the time showing status of “starting”” has been a sporadic issue with individual mainland regions. Initially thought to have been a hang-over due to infrastructure maintenance during an April rolling re-start, it has been acknowledged as a potential issue. Anyone coming across regions exhibiting the same behaviour are asked to comment on the Jira, providing dates of the region, time, date, etc.

SL18B Meet the Lindens: Lab Gab special 2: Leadership Team – summary

SL18B Meet the Lindens will focus on the leadership team of Brett, Grumpity and Patch
On Monday, June 21st Lab Gab and Strawberry Linden hosted a special Meet the Lindens show as a part of the SL18B celebrations.

This is the second of two summaries of the show, and focuses on the discussion with the Second Life leadership team of Grumpity Linden (VP or Product), Brett Linden (VP of Marketing) and Patch Linden (VP of Product Operations).

Table of Contents

The first part of the show, featuring board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) can be found here.

Note that this is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.

The TL;DR List of Key Points

  • Decision making: The leadership team will continue to be making core product decisions for SL, as they have been doing for the last few years.
  • Immediate technical focus: the new New User Experience, covering both the viewer and the entire on-boarding process. A second focus is on overall performance improvements, and a longer-term project (yet to commence) is to overhaul the viewer’s rendering pipe.
  • SL Mobile: public beta for iOS “Soon™”.
  • Premium: no plans to change anything at this point in time or to introduce Premium Plus, although this is still on the future radar.
  • Land products + tier:
    • New region options, ways of offering regions for events, possibility for de-coupling Homestead purchase from Full region ownership, etc., all under consideration for the future. But no actual plans or options that can be discussed.
    • No immediate plans to change tier – although LL is constantly reviewing options.
    • Unlikely to see changes to region sizes beyond the current 256×256 sq m, as this is too thoroughly baked-in to the SL software architecture.
  • Marketing:
    • 2021 the “year of experimentation” examining and testing methods to acquire and retain new users, and in bringing back former users who have not logged-in to SL for some time.
    • Experimenting with the Second life video ad.
    • Developing external partnerships (e.g. NFL Alumni, Titmouse) to extend SL’s reach into new potential user acquisition spaces.
    • Looking towards acquiring users across all age ranges.

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On the Loss of Ebbe

All three spoke to the recent passing of CEO Ebbe Altberg. Rather than paraphrase their words, I’ll simply include an audio reference here, which as also at the start of the video extract at the end of this summary. The comments start with Grumpity, and then go to Patch and then Brett .

As a reminder, those wishing to pay their respect to Ebbe can do so at his in-world memorial (see also: Paying respects to Ebbe Altberg in Second Life).

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How Will Key Business Decisions Be Made Moving Forward and What’s Next for SL?

[Video: 43:32-50:36]

  • There shouldn’t be too much change in terms of platform / product, as the leadership team has been pretty much managing things for some time [Grumpity, Patch and Oz until the latter’s retirement, now Grumpity, Patch and Brett].
    • Disagreements between the team are rare, and there is a huge amount of mutual respect between the three, so things should continue pretty much as they were.
    • The hope is that the resident community can see the continuity of leadership through the team.
    • What is missing is Ebbe’s mentorship / oversight.
  • The major focus at the moment is on the new New User Experience. This involves:
    • UI changes to the viewer, some of which can be seen in the Project UI RC viewer, other of which can only be seen when visiting the new user social and learning islands.
    • A complete overhaul of the user on-boarding process and experience, which will be deployed “really soon”.
  • Other on-going work relates to performance improvements.
  • A future project the Lab is currently gearing up for is extensive work on the rendering pipeline. This will take some time to complete.
  • In general terms, a further viewer UI update that will be forthcoming to allow users to more easily adjust settings to help with their viewer performance. While this is recognised as only being a cosmetic fix when compared to the work noted above, it is hoped it will help people more easily adjust settings in keeping with the ability of their hardware.
  • [55:05-55:53] Group limits: the Lab would like to raises caps (including group limits) wherever possible, but the key factor in doing so is performance – so when it is felt there has been suitable overall performance enhancement for users, this is something that would likely be considered .
  • [1:12:48-1;13:15] Will the basic SL avatar system ever be updated? This is something that has been thought about, and it is likely that moves in that direction will be made at some point, but it is for the future, and not something being addressed right now beyond internal discussions.

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Mac OSX Support

  • LL do not plan to stop supporting Mac systems.
  • Part of the graphics work mentioned above will be to allow support for more modern APIs than just OpenGL (currently due to be completely deprecated by Apple), including Metal for OS  X (and most likely Vulkan for Windows).
    • In the case of OS X / Metal, there are questions over backward compatibility that need to be addressed.
  • Issues with the Space Navigator 3D mouse are more to do with changes within OS X more than anything the Lab has done, and it is not clear if LL can do anything to alleviate the problems Mac users are experiencing when using the device.

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SL Mobile

[Video: 50:37-51:54]

  • Currently, SL mobile development focus is iOS.
  • It is initially a communications tool.
  • It has had some problems passing Apple’s testing and requirements but the hope is to have a public beta available through Apple “really soon”.
  • It was also pointed out that the Speedlight third-party client is available for all browsers and iOS and Android (see here for Speedlight coverage in this blog).

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Premium Membership

[Video: 52:11-54:04]

  • No plans at present to increase the weekly stipend.
  • Premium Plus was put on hold in 2020  due to both the need to focus on the AWS migration and the fact that the pandemic was impacting people’s disposable income. It currently remains on hold.
  • LL aware that many users are interested in multiple levels of service / subscription, and so Premium Plus (or similar) is still in the plans.
  • One thing that is unlikely to return is resident-to-resident mainland auctions (first introduced in March 2019), but which failed to gain significant traction and proved problematic in deployment.

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Possible Future Land Products and Tier

[Video 54:05-55:02 and 55:59-1:02:29]

  • With the AWS migration complete and a broader base of hardware / infrastructure available, new land product offerings are something the Lab is starting to consider.
    • No details are available yet in terms of type of product, pricing, etc., but the Lab’s thinking is around providing better performance around hosting events, etc.,   but the hope is to have more information on this “soon”.
  • It is possible that a some point in the future, the requirement that Homestead regions can only be purchased by those already holding at least one Full region may be decoupled, so that homesteads become an independent product.
  • Tier prices are always being looked at, in conjunction with how the markets has responded to past tier reductions. It is something the Lab would like to do again in the future, but no commitments on when this may happen.
    • Care has to be particularly taken with regards to tier simply because it can easily have a negative impact. So changes, should they come, will be cautious.
  • While larger region sizes is often requested, post-AWS migration a members of the simulator engineering team looked at the issue again, and the fact is the 256×256 size is too baked-in to the SL software architecture makes larger region sizes extremely unlikely.
    • The focus instead will be to continue to try to improve and optimise region crossings .
  • Can residents use Lab spaces for events & temporarily re-decorate them? Some facilities – around 2 dozen in all, including the Bellisseria Fairgrounds and the SS Galaxy – do actually support this. If there are other locations residents would like to see added to the list, then names should be passed to the land team.
    • The point-of-contact for booking these facilities is Mischievous Mole.

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[Video: 1:02:33-1:12:46]

  • This year is being used as the “year of experiments”. Several approaches to promoting and growing SL are being tried, and it is acknowledged some will work and some may not. This overall goal with this is to see what moves the needle in terms of new user registrations and on-going engagement.
  • The most visible of these are the on-going A/B testing with the secondlife.com splash / login-in screen [see: Secondlife.com Splash Screen Gets a Further Tweak and Lab Further Updates SL Splash Screen with Mixed Media Video], which involves swapping in and out different messaging, imagery, etc., in order to see what garners interest / engagement and what doesn’t.
  • The most commented on these tests has been the integration of the video featuring physical world actors intercut with avatar images; [as I noted in the 2nd article linked-to above] this footage comes from a larger professional video shoot the Lab refer to as Children of Creation, and which was shown at the mid-point in this Lab Gab Special.
  • The “win back initiatives” are a drive to encourage past Second Life users who have not logged-in for a time to return to the platform and give it another try. These take several forms, including offering Linden Dollar and other items as awards for logging-in.
  • Partnership drives have also been a focus of experimentation (such as the recent drive with the NFL Alumni Association and the Titmouse partnership which started in 2020, and has seen a number of in-world events).
  • A complexity with marketing Second Life is trying to present it to an audience outside of Second Life and staying clear of any subjective image / cliché it may have, whilst also staying true to the heart and soul of the platform and its users.
    • This is something LL  are acutely aware of – they want to see SL mentioned alongside all the Johnny-come-lately competitors for “the metaverse”, whilst being very aware that a major reason SL has outlasted its would-be competition in the past is down to its existing user base.
  • Overall, the past 12 months have been “good” in terms of metrics for the platform with organic growth likely related to the pandemic, and the aim is now to build on this as the world starts opening-up once more, and trying to maintain the momentum and achieve future growth.
  • Areas of consideration include the Roblox generation, and the idea that as they get older they are going to start looking for alternatives, and also to the older generation of silver surfers ad potential catchment groups for Second Life.

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The Future of SL – Thoughts and Comments

[Video: 1:14:02-1:18:19]

  • Brett: believes the users will have a role to play in the future directions of the platform, as indicated by Brad Oberwager. Would like to see the media would give greater credit to Second Life, which led the way in so many areas – micro-transactions, digital economies, user-generated content and sales, etc., and wants to work towards that. Hopes that the platform does continue to grow and become easier to use.
  • Grumpity: has never been as excited by the opportunities for SL as is the case now, with the platform genuinely poised for a new era of growth and development. Believes that the Lab has the right mix of experience and discipline coupled with free thinking and respect for their user base that many of their potential rivals have yet to attain. Is happy that the world is once again talking about “the metaverse”, and believes SL has a lot to show those who are interested in it.
  • Patch: wants to get to a reality where using Second Life is a matter of simply picking up a tablet and using it, where students on Chrome books can log-in and participate in learning experiences that are globe-spanning in their content / student mix and reach far beyond anything that can be achieved in the traditional classroom / learning space. Wants to see SL grow and expand so that it can fulfil dreams and offer wide-ranging opportunities for engagement.

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Looking at the (award-winning) Second Life video ad

A still from Children of Creation, Linden Lab / Leverage Media

During the Lab Gab special on Monday, June 21st, that featured board member and Executive Chair Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden) and the SL leadership team of Grumpity, Patch and Brett Linden, a “commercial break” was taken to show – I believe for the first time – a complete advertising cut of the video filmed for Second life as a collaborative project between Linden Lab and  Levitate Media.

I’ve extracted the video via timestamps and embedded it at the end of this article so it can be seen without the interviews that come on either side of it, and during the show, Brett linden revealed more about it:

  • The overall project for the video has the internal title at the Lab of The Children of Creation.
  • The version shown (and embedded below) is one of several cuts of the recorded film, and is specifically geared towards teasing out the ideas of freedom of expression and imagination taking flight, hence the emphasis on flying.
  • Other cuts of the video (I believe from Brett’s comments) emphasise Second life in other ways, some offering a “considerable amount” of Second Life footage, and a “directors cut” that does not really show the virtual world, but acts as a teaser.
  • The ad (as seen here) was entered into the 2021 Telly Awards for artistic achievement in video advertising, where it received the following adjudicated awards:
    • Gold Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Visual Effects.
    • Gold Telly winner – People’s Telly General-Online Commercials.
    • Silver Telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Music/Jingle.
    • Silver telly winner – Online Commercials Craft-Directing.
  • The video is regarded as a “concept  ad” and has not as yet been widely deployed as a part of any advertising or other campaign. However, there are plans to discretely test some of the edits (including the “director’s cut”).

You can list to Brett’s comment on the ad below:

Personal Viewpoint

From a purely personal perspective, I think the advert as shown works pretty well; the images are well-matched to the narration, and the overall impact is the idea of liberation and freedom of expression. The intercuts of changing avatar appearances particularly underscores this, as do more subtle elements (take the still used as the banner image for this article, for example – the person / avatar flying away from the bright “Hive” sign, alluding to escaping humdrum, unified thinking and moving to new horizons). There is also a good sense of mystery to the ad that present the encouragement to go find out more about what it means

However, I have to caveat this by saying the phrase “if you’re travelling beyond this life” perhaps doesn’t sit as well as it might, given that terms like “beyond this life” are often using in reference to people passing on. This and other phrasing in the video might push uninitiated ears towards thinking the add is about some kind of cult or similar, rather than promoting a digital world; perhaps “beyond this world” might have been a better choice of words.

I’d be curious to learn how well the ad (and variations thereof) sit with assorted audiences, and maybe we’ll find out in time. For now, however, here’s the ad as shown during Lab Gab.

Additional Links

SL18B Meet the Lindens: Lab Gab special 1: Brad Oberwager – summary

On Monday, June 21st Lab Gab and Strawberry Linden hosted a special Meet the Lindens show as a part of the SL18B celebrations.

This is the first of two summaries of the show, and focuses on the discussion with board member and Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager (Oberwolf Linden).

Table of Contents

A second summary will follow, focusing on the Leadership team, and a link to it will be added to this summary when available .

Note that this is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.

A Little Background

Brad Oberwager is one of the three investors who acquired Linden Lab in 2020, alongside of  J. Randall (Randy) Waterfield and Raj Date. Since the acquisition closed, he has been very hands-on at Linden Lab, working alongside members of the management team, and he has also brought-in long-time business associate Cammy Bergren as the company’s Chief of Staff.

His biography, as supplied by the Lab reads as follows:

Brad Oberwager has spent his entire career in technology and consumer focused companies as an entrepreneur and board member.
Currently, he sits on the board of two public companies, Asure Software (NASDAQ: ASUR) and Better World (NASDAQ: BWACU). He is the chairman of two companies he founded, Jyve and Sundia and is also on the board of TEGSCO (aka AutoReturn). He owned Bare Snacks, acquired by PepsiCo in 2018.
Brad was Vice-chair of YPO International, a global organization of 25,000 CEOs.
Brad received his BS from Georgetown University, his MBA from the Wharton School and lives in San Francisco.

[Video: 1:13-7:45]

  • He describes himself as a “very, very good friend” of Philip Rosedale – they go to Burning Man together, and he met Philip via Philip’s wife, whom Brad regards as his closest friend.
  • Their two families live 3 blocks away from one another, and they see one another socially around once a week, generally on a Friday. As such, he regards Philip as an unofficial advisor when it comes to decisions around Second Life.
  • Had enormous respect and liking for Ebbe Altberg, and admired Ebbe’s leadership and desire to be inclusive across the board and lead from the front.
  • Saw him as a fiercely loyal and incredibly open character, a gifted mentor and engaging leader.
  • Believes that Ebbe’s approach to Linden Lab and leadership has helped shaped the company, and will continue to do so, as Ebbe’s philosophy and ethos have become a part of the company and the platform.

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On Acquiring Linden Lab

[Video: 8:00-10:47]

  • Really four types of acquisition:
    • Venture capitalists tend to pump money into a company, build it up with the aim of generating very large returns, and are prepared to write the company off if it fails to realise their goal.
    • Private equity firms tend to buy a company with the aim of turning it around / trimming it down in order to sell it on for reasonable return.
    • Purchase by another company – which tends to see the absorption of the purchased entity in terms of culture, products and even brand.
    • Purchase by private investors – who are often involved for a wide variety of reasons, and while financial return tends to be one of them, it is not necessarily the central driver for their involvement.
  • For him, what was interesting about Second Life is the extension it offers to people’s lives and the freedoms it gives creativity and socially. He also admits that in being involved in LL / SL from a business perspective is the first time he’s understands the expression “it’s not just work, it’s fun” – he is enjoying being a part of SL / LL, which he regards as a passion as much as an investment.

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Who Owns Linden Lab and Who Makes the Business and Product Decisions?

[Video: 10:51-15:04]

  • Technically, Linden Research is now owned by a LLC (limited liability company) formed by Brad Oberwager and Randy Waterfield.
    • Randy Waterfield brings a huge amount of financial experience to LL that will be good for Second Life and Tilia.
    • Brad has the entrepreneurial  skillset that is important to the practical growth of Second Life and Tilia.
  • Company direction really comes down to two elements: business and product.
    • The business elements relates to corporate management, marketing, forging partnerships, and the outward facing decisions. These are the remit of the management team as a whole.
    • Product decisions lie with the Leadership Team  Office of Second Life – Grumpity, Patch and Brett – supported by the senior management (the Chief of Staff, Brad himself, the CFO, etc.).
  • He personally plays a role in both overall business direction and on product direction.
  • However, firmly believes that the real decision makers are the residents – simply because nothing works if the resident users don’t agree with it and end up cease or scale back using SL.
    • As such, has sought to feedback from residents at the heart of both the product and the business decision-making process.
    • Not necessarily feedback through forum comments or Jiras or long e-mails (although all have their place), but rather in terms of how users will benefit and whether they become more passionate and engaged and so help grow the platform by encouraging others to get involved either directly or indirectly.

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On Being In-World

[Video: 15:12-19:16]

  • Does go in-world, and actually has at least two accounts – his Oberwolf Linden account, which is uses for “business”, and alt accounts which he uses to engage directly in the platform in a variety of ways.
  • In  order to understand the on-boarding process, he went through it entirely on his own, refusing Lab assistance in order to understand the process and its pain-points and what needs to be addressed if the platform is to grow its user base.
  • Is proud of the fact he was able to work out how to apply a wolf tattoo to his alt and dress it with long hair, etc.
  • When “undercover” with an alt, he is always in character, and has stated he will *not* break character (i.e. reveal who he is) when engaging on the platform through an alt.

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On the Future of Second Life And What May Change / Remain the Same

[Video: 19:16-26:22]

  • Wants the community to be part of this – what are the communal goals for the platform, how can the synergy be developed such that users are a part of the drive to improve and grow the user base.
  • Uses the analogy of a party – an environment where people are having so much fun, they do not want it end, but rather have more people turn up, and taking actions that will encourage them to come along and engage.
  • Does not see change for change sake, but rather changes as a process of natural evolution that, again, grows interest in and engagement with the platform. But change will come over time.
  • Sees the shift to AWS very much a part of this approach: it was not made for purely financial reasons, it was made to allow SL to move into the future and continue to be grown and continue to be of value to users.
  • Currently feels the greatest way users can help shape Second Life is through feedback on and input into overall new user engagement and growing the user base, as this is the real driver for the long-term success of Second Life.
  • Supports the idea of the “four pillars” of decision making at the Lab:
    • What is going to bring in new users?
    • What is going to make existing users happier?
    • What is going to lead to more engagement among users as a whole?
    • What is going to offer the Lab’s personnel happier.
  • Asks residents to look on things the same way.

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On Tilia and Second Life

[Video: 28:03-33:56]

  • Tilia  / Tilia Pay is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab.
  • It is not in competition with Second Life – that is a misguided notion – but actually compliments Second Life.
  • SL is unique in that creators sell directly to users – it does not actually pass through Linden Lab’s own books, and allows in-world tokens to be directly converted to fiat money.
  • Both of these aspects require proper regulation in the United States and internationally (in the US, a company needs to be formally accredited as a money transmitter or money transfer service). This is what Tilia was set-up to be.
  • In effect, Tilia is to Second Life what PayPal was originally to e-bay. Without Paypal, e-bay would not be able to operate without itself going through all the requirements to become an MSB / money transmitter, and this would have been the case for LL.
  • Just as PayPal has grown beyond e-bay to become used by other platforms as a means of money payment / transfer, etc., so Tilia has the potential to become a money transmitter for other companies, thus allowing it to generate income and also help Second Life.
    • Currently ilia has two third-party customers: Sansar (operated by Wookey Technologies) and the virtual real estate game Upland.

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Closing Comments

[Video: 34:13-38:11]

  • Recognises that a change in ownership of LL can lead to fear, anxiety and potentially anger. Anger is something that is more difficult to deal with, an so would rather people do not get to that stage; anxiety is a more immediate response, and one that can be more directly dealt with.
  • Given that there is and has been anxiety among users, wants to stress he is devoted to reducing the anxiety and avoiding anger, and moving people towards a sense of joy, and understand this is not going to be achieved by him simply issuing directives and taking a top-down approach, but rather through engagement and through observing and listening and seeing how users respond.