August 2022 Web User Group summary: Search

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes cover the key points from the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022.

These meetings are generally held in-world on the first Wednesday of the month, with dates and venue details available via the SL public calendar. They are usually chaired by Reed Linden, who is the Lab’s Product Manager for the Second Life front-end web properties (Marketplace, secondlife.com, the sign-up pages, the Lab’s corporate pages, etc.).

A video of the meeting, courtesy of Pantera, can be found embedded at the end of this article (my thanks to her as always!), and subject timestamps to the relevant points in the video are provided. Again, the following is a summary of key topics / discussions, not a full transcript of everything mentioned.

Forum Policy Changes

[Video: 1:48-17:12]

Note: Forum governance (and governance & policy topics in general do not fall under the remit of the web team, and so are usually not a part of discussions at the Web User Group. However, an exception was made at this meeting, to allow Keira Linden to discuss the recent policy and moderation changes made to the SL forums.

As her comments and the feedback from some attending the meeting have no bearing on the Lab’s Web properties per se, I have separated them into a separate article, Forum changes: Keira Linden speaks, and I refer those interested to that summary (video included). This article will focus pure on the discussions concerned the Lab’s web projects.

Premium Plus and Name Changes

[Video: 17:38-23:15]

  • Features continue to be added, and tweaks made to the service.
  • Most recently, Name Changes were added to Premium Plus for a fee of US $14.99, with the Premium price lowered, and the service extended to Basic accounts as well – see: SL Name Change fees updated & service extended to Basic accounts for more.
  • In addition, the one-time price reduction for those joining Premium Plus on the monthly payment plan (so $24.99 for the first month instead of $29.99) has been extended through to Monday, August 8th, 2022 – see Premium Plus sale last chance (via linden Lab) for more.
  • [Video 51:40-51:53] An upcoming feature for Premium Plus is “VIP Regions”.
    • The grid infrastructure to support these is now in place.
    • Exactly how these will be used was not specified.

Search Relevance

[Video: 23:34-31:15]

Note: the following refers the web Search and the in-viewer Search, it does not currently apply to the Marketplace.

  • As a part of (continuing) work to improve web Search, LL implemented a “search relevance engine” machine learning tool, designed to observe how Search performs and gradually improving the relevancy of results.
  • This tool has now been in use for a couple of months or so, and LL is now has some meaningful results from it.
  • Prior to the tool being implemented, it was possible:
    • To search for the same term using different case sensitivities (e.g. “apple” and “APPLE”) and get completely different search results.
    • To search for a precise brand name (e.g. “Maitreya”), but have to scroll through multiple result before finding the brand store itself.
  • With the new tool, issues such as these are gradually being identified and corrected (based on searches users are making) by the tool itself, without the need for human intervention.
  • As more searches are made and recorded by the tool, so it is anticipated that more users should start seeing the relevance of their search results improve.
  • In addition:
    • More data is being gathered on users’ search behaviours (e.g. how often do people click on items on the first page of a set of search results as opposed to scrolling down the list), so this information can also be fed back into the search relevance engine.
    • The Search team is starting to work on fuzzy matching, which it is hoped will assist those who have typing issues, or form whom English is a second language, so so may mis-spell terms / names.
  • TPV developers repeated a request for an API to be provided, so the updated search capabilities can be leveraged by legacy search capabilities used by TPVs.

Marketplace

[Video: 31:20]

  • Work on Marketplace variances – now called Styles – is progressing, with al the required infrastructure now in place.
  • The remaining work for this is front-end related, and is targeted for completion later in the year.
  • The Marketplace rebuild (see my June 2022 and July 2022 summaries) is targeted as a 2023 project.

In Brief

  • There are a “lot of struggles” going on around a mobile / web client, and is “not a straightforward product”.
    • Some of these “struggles” revolve around whether the Lab should being its own solution or partner with a third-party (perhaps one already providing a solution for mobile / browser access to SL) to develop a solution.
    • In this, LL has been working with the Speedlight team, but there is nothing that should be currently perceived as a formal partnership between the two.
  • TPVs representatives also requested:
    • LL give serious thought to a long-promised Events API to allow TPVs to pull events from the web events lists and promote them through the viewer (e.g. via the Splash screen).
    • BUG-231714 “[WEB] Please make Linden Lab splash screen data public in documented XML or JSON files” be given greater consideration.
  • Access to real-time traffic data (avatars within a region / parcel) was again been requested in relation to search results (so when you search for a place you can see how many are there).
    • This is described as difficult to provide, as simulators would have to be polled every single time a location on them is searched – which could be multiple times, with search having to be frequently re-indexed to reflect the updated traffic figures.
    • Search indexing rates are being increased, but they are not at a point where that indexing is frequent enough to support real-time traffic data.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: no further progress since extending it to the viewer. However, the Lab still hopes to move away from a wholly third-party app based approach, although there are no time frames for when this might be achieved.
  • There is a (non-Web) discussion on the “secret sauce” of SL, the complexities of the viewer, questions around splitting the viewer into two modes (as seen with the Basic and Full viewer, circa 2010-11), none of which is particularly relevant to this summary, but can be video in the video.

Next Meeting

  • Wednesday, September 7th, 2022. Venue and time per top of this summary.

Forum changes: Keira Linden speaks

via Linden Lab

There have recently been a number of changes make the the Second Life Forums. Some of these are physical (layout, requiring an additional log-in to view some topics, and so on, while on July 29th, 2022, the Lab rolled out new Policy and Participation Guidelines for all of the major forum Topics.

Most of these Guidelines are relative innocuous (e.g. no advertising products, no solicitation, etc.), and each set has been tailored to define the function of the Topic to which it relates and (particularly) was is / is not permissible in terms of discussions / thread within the Topic.

However, some of the new Guidelines – such as the General Discussion Policy and Participation Guidelines and those that relate to Topics that might be seen as allowing discussion of non-Second Life specific subjects – have been worded in such a way so as to generate an understandable amount of concern, as has what has been seen as a sudden, and at time apparently heavy-handed, increase in forum moderation by the Lab.

Because of the latter, Keira Linden – who, as the Support Operations Manager, now has Governance directly under her management – attended the August Web User Group meeting to try to provide insight into the reasoning behind the policy changes and their implementation.

The meeting was recorded by Pantera Północy, and will be subject to one of my usual Web User Group summaries. However, for the benefit for forum users who prefer to read notes rather than watch video, I am using this article to offer a summary of the comments and feedback from the WUG meeting, together with a relevant extract from the video.

When reading the points below, please note:

  • I have attempted to organise the comments made and feedback given into some form of logical order, so this summary may not reflect the order of discussion in the video.
  • This is intended as an objective summary of comments made at the meeting devoid of subjective feedback from me, so that those most affected by the changes can directly digest the comments and feedback for themselves.

Keira’s Comments

  • LL believes it has always had a fairly “open-door” policy towards discussion on the forums: so long as threads and comments adhere to the Lab’s Terms of Service, Second Life Terms and Conditions and Community Standards, they have – in general – been allowed.
  • However, in the last few years there has been a lot going on in the world which has generated an increasing amount of “hot button” topics within the forums which have no direct relationship with / bearing on Second Life per se, but which have significantly complicated matters of moderation.
  • As a result, and after internal discussions, etc., the decision was taken to implement the new Topic-specific Policy and Participation Guidelines.
  • It is understood that some of these new Guidelines are proving unpopular, as people do see them as impinging on their ability to discuss subjects that are of import to them as a global community – but it was felt that approaching matters in this way was the most direct means of encouraging the core aim of maintain the focus of threads and discussions within the forum on Second Life, and not on world affairs.
    • As a result, moderation (and the potential locking) of threads deemed to be “inappropriate” will now be more stringent going forward.
    • However, due to their “historic” significance some threads and discussions will remain “as is”.
  • While this has been a change driven entirely out of the Lab with little in the way of forewarning to users, Keira is open to hearing feedback on the changes, and people can e-mail her via keira-at-lindenlab.com with their feedback / opinions / suggestions for alternate approaches.

User Feedback at the Meeting

  • As implemented, the changes are still allowing some of the issues they were designed to prevent – such as political derailment of threads – to persist, whilst giving users the impression that they can no longer engage in general banter or any discussion of “real life” for fear of receiving a warning.
    • Keira indicated that the Lab is still trying to be flexible in its approach to issues of derailment: where it happens but the topic / thread “self rights” to get back on topic, than there is an attempt to recognise this and not use blunt force moderation.
  • Other critiques of the changes voiced at the meeting included:
    • While there is a large LGBTQ+ community in SL, few engage in the forums, as they already feel unsafe because of the more virulent political commentary, and some of the new Guidelines do little to make them feel any safer.
    • Those who lurk in the forums reading rather than posting, feel less sure about engaging in threads due to what appears to be unevenness in response to posts by the moderators single the guidelines came into force.
    • The changes appear to be predicated on the idea that Second Life “is separate” from matters occurring in the physical world – yet Linden Lab itself raises political and other discourse through its support of physical world issues such as gender equality and BLM, its public stand against transphobia and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, etc. In this, it was further noted:
      • That the specific clause within some of the new Guidelines marking “Social Justice Issues” as being “not allowed” ignores the fact that these issues which exist within Second Life, and have thus formed a part of forum discussions.
      • Trying to place a fence between Second Life and “real life” within the forums is damaging, because for many SL users, the platform is an extension of their “real lives”, not something entirely separate.
    • Even the wording of the moderation warning being send out for “casual banter” appears to be overly aggressive [“Additional violations could result in your forum access being revoked, or additional action taken on your account”] and potentially discouraging users for continuing to use the forums.
  • In response to these critiques, Keira noted:
    • The Lab does try to look at threads, content and comments on a case-by-case basis and in context, rather than immediately turning to moderation / warnings, etc., the set wording of warnings notwithstanding.
    • In terms of written warning, she acknowledged that things can be adjusted where required, and is willing to discuss specific cases with those involved.
    • The Lab is not trying to force any form of separation between “SL” and “RL”, but is rather trying to address / remove complications of forum moderation and management that have notably increased over the last few years, noting that some forum discussions could better handled through other channels – including discussing them in-world – rather than using the forums.
    • She also noted that the intention is not to preclude elements of “RL” discussions from the forums:
      • So long as such discussions / threads pertain to, or reflect on, people’s SL activities / lives (or on Linden Lab / Tilia) in a reasonable way and reflect the TOS / CS, then they shouldn’t be a problem.
      • The Lab would just prefer not to have to moderate / manage forum threads on topics that have absolutely no bearing on / relationship to Second Life [e.g. “post your RL pet pictures here!”].
  • With regards to Keira’s comments on moving the discussion of some topics in-world, Reed Linden reiterated that insofar as in-world discussions and conversations, Linden Lab has always been, and remains, committed to the individual’s right of positive expression. Thus, there is no reason why topics such as transphobia, BLM, etc., cannot be openly discussed in-world.

Footnotes

  • While general comments are always welcome on this blog, please note that if you have specific feedback / suggestions on the above that you wish Linden Lab to read, please ensure that you forward them to Keira Linden via e-mail (keira-at-lindenlab.com) – or perhaps via in-world note card if you prefer not to use e-mail. While this blog is read by the Lab, there is no guarantee that ides and suggestions posted here will be read & recorded by Lab staff.
  • My thanks to Pantera for recording the meeting and making the video available via her You Tube channel.
  • Please note that the extract was set-up to play the relevant part of the meeting video (from 1:48 through 17:12). However, it appears You Tube may have nerfed the use of both a start and end time stamp in the same iframe code (preferring the use of only one OR the other). So, if the video plays on beyond the 17:12 mark, feel free to tell it to shut up 🙂 – the rest of its contents, as they pertain to the Web User Group meeting can be found in my summary of the rest of the meeting.

 

SL Name Change fees updated & service extended to Basic accounts

via Linden Lab

On Wednesday, August 3rd, Linden Lab announced a significant update to the Second Life Name Change service, previously only available to Premium Accounts.

Name Changes as a service was launched in April 2020, at a cost of $39.99 (+VAT, where applicable) for changing a either an avatar’s first name, last name – or both.

As most know, first names are free-format (choose whatever you’d like – within reason!), with last names selectable from a pre-defined list that is updated semi-regularly (e.g. with general or “themed” names to mark a time or year, SL or physical world event, etc).

With the deployment of the new Premium Plus subscription option in June 2002 (see: Second Life Premium Plus launches + some notes; updated), it was indicated a new lower fee level for Name Changes would be one of the follow-on benefits for Premium Plus subscribers, to be introduced some time after its initial launch.

With the August 3rd, 2022 announcement, the Lab not only provided details on this Premium Plus fee, they also revealed Premium members would see their fee lowered, and the service is now extended for all account types – Basic, Premium and Premium Plus.

With this announcement, Name Change fees are as follows:

  • Basic: US $49.99.
  • Premium: US $34.99 (reduced from US $39.99).
  • Premium Plus: $14.99.

Basic members who are not familiar with Name Changes can find out more via the following links:

The art of Suzanne Graves and AL in Second Life

Selen’s Gallery: Suzanne Graves

I’m a little behind in my art blogging (and blogging in general), so I’m getting to this article a little later than intended, having originally hoped to get it out over the last weekend in July because it is something of special event in Second Life, featuring as it does the 3D work of Suzanne Graves, with a special exhibition of 2D art by Selen’s father, AL.

Having opened at the ground level on Selen’s Gallery, operated and curated by Selen Love (Selen Minotaur), this untitled installation features the 3D piece by Suzanne Graves, whose work has been featured in exhibitions at such august institutions as the University of Western Australia and Linden Endowments for the Arts and at arts hubs such as Sinful Retreat.

Selen’s Gallery: Suzanne Graves

Here, Suzanne presents a series of 3D sculptures with a lean towards the surreal. Some are static, others are animated with either moving parts or shifting colours – and in some cases, both.

Created entirely using prims, sliced, cut, twisted to create almost organic forms, these pieces are a remarkable celebration of natural form and the richness of geometry, bound together in an expressive environment created by Selen. However, to see them at their best, it is strongly recommended that you do so with the viewer’s Advanced Lighting Model enabled (Preferences → Graphics) is enabled, and you utilise the environment settings Selen has created for the gallery space (World → Environment → Use Shared Environment).

Set one side of the Suzanne’s pieces is the glass pavilion where AL’s artwork is displayed.

A physical world artist, AL works in oil acrylics, and the 15 pieces presented here have been selected by Suzanne, who encouraged him to consider Second Life as a further means to show his work – and this exhibition represents the first time he has done so.

AL’s primary inspiration in terms of genres is that of surrealism – and that is certainly to be found within these pieces, as are touches of abstractionism. He is also an experimentalist, sometimes using paint pouring to produce pieces.

As the name suggests, this is a technique – or rather, a series of techniques – primarily used with acrylics, where the paint is “poured” onto the canvas, rather than by using a brush. However, it is not simply a case of taking the paint and just tipping on to suitable medium (e.g. canvas or paper); not only do the paints require different approaches to how they are diluted in order to alter their viscosity and the degree to which the will flow, it also involves a range of techniques to assist in how they are blended and mixed, either as a part of the pouring process, or before they have dried, to develop a finished result.

Selen’s Gallery: AL

These mixing techniques are many and varied – pouring a batch of colours into a single container with one or more outlets, and letting them pour through as the container is gently swirled to mix them, or pouring them individually either directly onto a surface or a base colour / tone and then using assorted tools (such as a hairdryer!) to mix them / form patterns within them, and so on.

Several examples of the technique sit among the pieces presented within the exhibition at Selen’s Gallery, some of which are combined with more direct surrealist over-painting to produce the most richly colours and engaging pieces. Other pieces are more “traditionally” produced, folding in both surrealist elements and  / or abstract painting.

Selen’s Gallery: AL

All of the pieces by AL are for sale, but rather than being offered at a fixed price, they are offered on the basis of “pay what you will” by means of a tip jar just outside the entrance to the gallery pavilion (the pieces themselves are offered at L$0), and Selen will ensure gratuities are passed to her father.

Visually captivating, demonstrating both the power of prims in artistic expression and also offering a view of physical world painting techniques which may be unfamiliar to many, this is a exhibition not to be missed. And while visiting, don’t miss the teleport point just outside the pavilion to reach Selen’s gallery on a sky platform, home to her own art.

For those curious about paint pouring, check the video below.

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2022 SUG meetings week #31 summary

Golden Hair, June 2022 – blog post

The following notes were taken from the Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022 Simulator User Group (SUG) meeting. They form a summary of the items discussed and is not intended to be a full transcript. A video of the entire meeting is embedded at the end of the article for those wishing to review the meeting in full – my thanks to Pantera for recording it.

Server Deployments

No deployment plan notes were available on the forums at this time of writing this update.

  • On Tuesday, August 2nd, the simhosts on the Main SLS channel were restarted without any deployment, leaving them running simulator version 573176, comprising infrastructure updates.
  • On Wednesday, August, 3rd, all RC channels will be restarted, also with no deployment, also leaving them on simulator version 573176.

This means that the anticipated new scripting items (llSetEnvironment and llReplaceEnvironment and a new flag STATUS_DIE_AT_NO_ENTRY will now not be deployed until week #32.

Available Official Viewers

  • On Monday, August 1st, 2022, the Maintenance Optimisations RC viewer updated to version 6.6.2.573023.

The remaining official viewer pipelines remain as:

  • Release viewer: version 6.6.1.572458 – formerly the Maintenance M(akgeolli) RC viewer, promoted June 29 – 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:
    • Love Me Render (LMR) 6 graphics improvements project viewer 6.6.2.573263, July 21.
    • Performance Floater project viewer, version 6.5.4.571296, May 10.
    • Mesh Optimizer project viewer, version 6.5.2.566858, dated January 5, issued after January 10.
    • Copy / Paste project viewer, version 6.3.5.533365, dated December 9, 2019.

In Brief

  • There was a general discussion on chat relays and the means to deliver chat to all avatars in a large parcel (e.g. such as those attending a presentation) that adheres to parcel boundaries in a way that current scripted chat extenders do not, and in lieu of the server-side chat range extension being generally available. Please refer to the video for details and:
  • Simon Linden has been working on Group Chat to try to further improve it. In discussing the work, he indicated that the Group Chat server cluster is now running with 4x the servers it had previously.
    • His work is currently focused on a disparity between the viewer and the group chat servers, where the viewer believes it is part of a Group Chat, but the controlling server for the chat doesn’t believe the viewer is connected to it.
    • He also noted the issues users have where the are suddenly disconnected from a Group Chat Session but not reconnected without manually closing / reopening the Group Chat session, or where a log-log fails to re-connect to a Group chat.
    • Part of the problem with Group Chat and other services is that while they run on server clusters separate to the simulators running regions, the simulator is currently the *only* connection point between the viewer and the rest of SL, so it has to act as a form of “relay”, and this can be unreliable (due to TP disconnects, etc.).
    • What would be preferable is a more reliable form of connection – such as the log-in service – which could monitor the viewer more so that when it re-connects to SL after a crash / disconnect, the service “orders” the viewer to re-connect to the additional services like the Group Chat servers it had previously been using.
    • This is something Simon indicated he’d personally like to see, but it would require considerable work.
  • For the rest of the meeting, please refer to the video.

A Dance Of The Crows in Second Life

Krayentanz, August 2022

For her latest 80 Days region builds, Camila (Camila Runo) carries us from Italy and the town of Ars Vivendi (see: A touch of Italy for photographers in Second Life), to her native Germany and a place of the imagination called Krayentanz, which once again presents a picturesque setting well deserved of a visit by SL explorers.

I say “place of the imagination” because while a visit takes us to Germany, it carries us back in time to offer a view of that nation as it might have appeared in the Middle Ages – a fact reflected in the setting’s name, as Camila explains:

Krayen is a variation of the Middle High German word “kraeje” and means crow. So the meaning of Krayentanz would be Dance of the Crows in English. As Middle High German was spoken from approx. 1050 till 1350 AD, so the build matches the time frame.

– Camila (Camila Runo)

Krayentanz, August 2022

This is very much a setting of three parts, two of which are open the public, and the third, tucked into the north-eastern corner of the region, forms a private home. The latter is neatly hidden by a curtain run of a hill, a richly wooded landscape and the hide side of a table of rock and grass; as such it is very hard to run the risk of trespass – just stay on the village side of the humpbacked curtain of hills or the top of the table of rock and grass.

The latter is home to a sprawling collection of buildings set within a large, enclosed courtyard protected by high walls and a pair of stout gates themselves guarded by defensive towers. Described as a convent, these buildings, with their stone towers, look like they many have previously served another, possibly more war-like purpose, while the floor mosaics within several of the rooms give a suggestion of Romanic influences.

Krayentanz, August 2022

But whatever its past, the place is now given over to holy worship and to the vows of the nuns who live within its walls. And two of these nuns can be found within the courtyard of the cloisters, engaged in conversation with an individual I assume is a visiting Prior or Brother. Behind them, the Blessed Mother holds the baby Christ as she keeps watch on the convent’s gates, whilst beyond the side of the cloisters the nuns are facing, the land rises again to become the seat of a church, reached via stone steps set into the grassy flanks of the hill.

The convent is itself reached via a dusty track the meanders from a small steam that feeds a much large pool of water, and which passes the region’s landing point just as it divides. One arm of the track then continues around the foot of the plateau before finally climbing it to the convent; the other presents a short walk to where a small but apparently prosperous town, given the look and conditions of the buildings and the garb of the locals, sits behind high, protective walls.

Krayentanz, August 2022

The men folk here clearly take the responsibility of protecting the town seriously: the gatehouse under which the road passes is very solidly built and has a strong portcullis which can be dropped to bar access into the town. Further, the walls sweeping away from the gatehouse to enclose the town in their protective arms are in good repair, if a little lacking in defensive positions along their length. Meanwhile, arms for the defenders come by way of the local smithy, conveniently place closed enough the gatehouse so they can be grabbed whilst running to defend it.

Most of the houses and buildings here are furnished in keeping with the period and are open to the public, whilst the town square features a raise stage where, doubtless pronouncements may be made from time-time-time to the gathered inhabitants – although for visitors, it offers the chance to partake of a medieval dance with music provided by the local bard. Music lovers can also find more at the local tavern, sitting on the lower should of an escarpment also within the town’s walls, on the track that leads to a thumb-like knoll rising above the town, and upon which a windmill benignly keeps watch on all that goes on.

Krayentanz, August 2022

As well as the village, stream and pool, the region’s lowlands are home to gentle woodlands to the west, sitting below the plateau of the convent. Here, sunlight slants between leaf-laden boughs to offer pools of light amidst the trees whilst glades open out from between their trunks, and deer wander and graze.

In introducing Krayentanz, Camila offers an apology for having to downsize her work from a Full private region to a Homestead. Personally, I think this is misplaced; this is a setting as richly engaging as any of her previous designs, the greater land capacity afforded by the Full regions they occupied notwithstanding.

Certainly, moving to a homestead has not diminished Camila’s eye for detail, and the manner in which she has seamlessly presented the region within a mesh surround helps enhance the sense that were are somewhere deep within Germany’s borders. This sense of immersion is further enhanced by the soundscape she has created for the setting – so do please make sure you have local sounds enabled when visiting. Finally, those wishing to engage in informal period role-play are apparently welcome to do so, whilst photographers and bloggers will doubtless find a lot to see and appreciate when visiting.

Krayentanz, August 2022

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