Lab Gab with Grumpity and Patch – summary notes

via Linden Lab
On Friday, October 21st, Linden Lab streamed a special session of Lab Gab featuring Vice President of Product, Grumpity Linden and VP of Product Operations, Patch Linden.

The session was built around questions submitted by users in the wake of the announcement of the session, together with those asked via You Tube chat during the live stream.

Notes:

  • The following is a summary, not a full transcript of everything said.
  • A glitch during streaming meant the session extends over two videos. Both are embedded in this summary.
  • Timestamps to each video are included within each topic / sub-topic.

 

Table of Contents

A Little Background

Grumpity Linden

  • Heads up Second Life Product team, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach.
  • 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, and she 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.
  • Prior to working for Linden Lab, 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.
  • 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.

About Patch Linden

  • Originally a Second Life resident and business owner who joined the platform in 2004, and became a Linden in September 2007.
  • Initially worked as a support agent and then as a support liaison. From there he moved to the Concierge team, eventually becoming that team’s manager.
  • Shifted focus to the role of Operations Support Manager for a year, then moved to the Product group, the team responsible for defining the features, etc., found within Second Life.
  • At Product he developed the Land Operations team, which includes the Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW).
  • In 2018, he established the company’s support office in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 2020 he oversaw the move to larger office space in Atlanta, interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In 2019 he was promoted to Vice President, Product Operations.
  • Together with Grumpity, Mojo and Brett Linden, he forms the leadership team overseeing Second Life’s continued development.
  • In his management team role, Patch continues to oversee all of the Lab’s user support operations (some 5 teams), including the LDPW.

New Announcements

[Video 1 – 1:13-5:23]

Land Economy and Pricing

  • Lower-priced Premium option to allow more access to Mainland for users.
  • The amounts paid for the different Mainland tiers are to be reviewed with a view to drawer them closer together.
  • Premium Plus will be able to hold a Homestead regions without having to pay for a Full region (so Premium + subscription + $109 a month tier for a Homestead).

European Premium Subscriptions

  • It was hinted that Premium (P+) subscribers in Europe will hopefully get some good news in the near future (removal of VAT from all subscription options?).

These are all to be formally announced in November.

Recent Announcements

[Video 1: 5:35-15:35]

Tilia and JP Morgan Payments

  • As per the official announcement from Tilia, plus my own blog post, Tilia has received a minority investment from JP Morgan Payments.
  • This partnership will allow Tilia to expand its services (again, see my blog post).
  • This does not change the relationship between Tilia and Second Life, and Second Life users’ data remains as secure as before the partnership JP Morgan Payments do not gain access to this data.
  • In the future it may also lead to further benefits to SL users in terms of payment / cash out options for obtaining L$ or processing L$ amount to fiat currencies.

CasperTech Acquisition

  • LL have had a long relationship with CasperTech, and the services and tools offered fit with a lot of the Lab’s needs as well as being heavily relied upon by a lot of users an businesses.
  • The acquisition was therefore seen as both a means to help grow the CasperTech business and ensure its continued longevity and stability.

Premium Plus and Speedlight

  • At the start of October, LL announced Premium Plus members can make use of a special tier of access to the Speedlight Second Life client.
    • This benefit is purely as a result of an agreement reached between LL and the Speedlight team (Speedlight remains a third-party viewer in terms of its definition).
    • Speedlight is not part of the Lab’s own mobile development efforts.
  • Within the own Mobile plans, the Lab is working on an option that gives “as high as” visual fidelity as can be obtained on a desktop system.
    • There may be some in-progress teasing of this option “in early 2023”.

Puppetry Announcement

  • Originally referred to as “avatar expressiveness”, this project is still in the early phases of development.
  • IIt essentially allows a user’s head / arm movements to be captured via webcam and translated into avatar head / arm movements (but not facial expressions at this time), and more capabilities may be added as the protocols and functions are added.
  • The project is in very early development, and is being worked on in concert with user-developers within the Puppetry User Group.
  • Those interested can join the Puppetry User Group meetings or can follow development via my Puppetry Project summaries.

New User Experience (NUX)

[Video 1 – 15:00-19:38]

  • LL ran a survey among users who have joined since 2018 with the aim of getting feedback from a good cross-section of users who have joined and stayed with the platform in more recent years.
  • The feedback from this survey is being used to help guide LL’s thinking WRT the NUX and going forward.
  • A specific question in the survey was (paraphrasing) “what was the one thing that almost saw you walk away from Second Life when you first started?”
    • Performance issues was one of the most frequent responses to this question, and it is hoped that the Performance Improvements recently deployed, and those coming upon the Performance Floater / Auto FPS viewer (at Project status at the time of writing) have and will help overcome these shortfalls.
  • Alongside of this, popular reasons for almost quitting were (presumably in order): avatar customisation, finding things to do and getting to meet people.
  • As a result, LL will soon be rolling out “some big improvements to a first-time avatar customisation process”.

New Starter Mesh Avatars

  • These were previewed at SL19B. and are now very close to being released – which may happen “in the next couple of months”.
  • There will be an initial ecosystem of hair, clothing, skins, etc., that will be available when the new avatars are launched.
  • In advance of the release, a developer kit + documentation will likely be made available to creators who also want to get involved in the NUX avatar ecosystem and develop clothing and accessories for the line, which they can sell.
  • These avatars and their accessories might even form a special element within future LL Shop’n’Hop events.

New Viewer and Simulator Capabilities

[Video 1 – 1938-end]

PBR Materials + Reflection Probes

  • This is an in-progress project which I am covering in my CCUG meeting summaries.
  • As noted by Grumpity, this work will include reflection probes, which are not dynamic mirrors in the way that most people will think of mirrors when that word is used.
    • However, it has been suggested that a  future enhancement to the work might be used to provided some limited degree of planar mirrors (i.e. like those you might hang on a wall) – but contrary to the video, this work is not part of the initial PBR / reflection probes work.

Linkset Data

  • See https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/LSL_Linkset_Data.
  • Allows data to be stored within objects within a linkset, which can be read by scripts within that linkset.
  • This could revolutionise create types of in-world object and vastly improve the lives of scripters.
  • The back-end support for this work will hopefully be deployed to RC channel simhosts on Wednesday, October 26th, subject to LL’s QA.
  • I hope to have a special Gust Article explaining this capability in this blog shortly after the RC deployment.

General Topics

Second Life Search

[Video 2 – 1:14-4:21]

  • SL has a number of Search instances:
    • The web search (powered by Elascticsearch) at search.secondlife.com and which appears as the first tab in most viewer search floaters.
    • Marketplace search (also powered by Elasticsearch).
    • People Search.
  • Web search was recently updated, notably with a search relevance engine, with the intent of making returns and results more accurate.
    • Relevance in particular should continue to improve due to the “learning” nature of the AI-driven relevance engine.
    • This work also folded-in adding a full range of Boolean search options.
  • A decision has yet to be made on how often web search should be indexed. This currently occurs twice a day, but more frequent updates would allow more recent additions – stores, etc – in-world, to be recorded.
  • Similar work is now in progress with the Marketplace search, and it is hoped these changes will be deployed before year-end.
  • People Search uses a different back-end system, and there are currently no plans to make changes to this.

Marketplace Updates

[Video 2 – 4:21-4:54]

  • For the latest on Marketplace updates, please refer to my monthly Web User Group summaries, which include current status and promised updates such as listing variances (aka Styles), etc.

Linden Home Updates

[Video 2 – 6:03-7:11]

  • Plans are still “on track” to get new floor plan these released for some of the existing Linden Home designs before the end of the year.
  • The First Premium Plus selection of Linden Homes will be the Ranch theme, and are being targeted for a possible end of 2022 / start of 2023 release.
  • There will be more themes for both premium and Premium Plus.

Mainland

[Video 2 – 7:13-9:33]

  • Improvements and updates to the Mainland roads is part of the on-going general work of the LDPW.
  • Allowing users to provide intersections between LDPW roads and private roads is a good idea – but overseeing / inspecting the work when carried out by residents can take time away form other work, and so is something that may be considered in the future.
  • The LDPW already provides switches, branches and connections between resident-owned rail lines and those of the SLRR. However, these are easier to handle as they are a lot fewer.

HiFi and Second Life

[Video 2 – 11:41-12:21]

  • As I reported at the time, at the start of 2022, High Fidelity Inc. invested in Linden Lab and Second Life.
  • The investment took the form of cash, expertise (several members of the High Fidelity team moves across to Linden Lab) and patients.
  • The latter sparked speculation (including by myself) that some of High Fidelity’s work is full spatial audio could be coming to SL.
  • This is something that has been discussed internally at LL, but would require a lot of changes being made if SL and the viewer are to support the HiFi audio. As such, it is something that is still “under consideration”.

VR Headset Support in SL

[Video 2 – 12:29-14:05]

  • VR has traditionally been limited by the requirement for sustained high frame rates (around 60 fps with modern headsets). This has tended to be problematical for Second Life, although the current and upcoming performance improvements go some way to alleviating the issue.
  • VR headsets are also very much in the minority in terms of general computer use, and their usage still represents a small sub-set of SL users, and headsets are certainly not as ubiquitous as mobile devices.
  • As such, while moves have been made to “bring SL to VR”, it is not a priority at this time and is certainly not an active project.

Closing Comments

[Video 2 -14:20-end]

  • Please refer to the video.

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