Friday, May 6th saw the third in the Lab Chat series take place in-world, featuring guests Oz Linden, the Director of Second Life Engineering, Troy Linden, a Senior Producer of Second Life and of course, Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg, in his alter-ego of Ebbe Linden.
The session focused on a mix of questions submitted to an official forum thread ahead of the event, and questions taken directly from the audience, and this transcripts offers a breakdown of the questions asked and answers given.
Please note that in places the audio presented has been edited to remove asides, repetition or removed inaudible elements, and so may differ in length and content to the official recordings made of the session. However, no attempt has been made to alter the content or context of the answers supplied by Ebbe, Oz and Troy.
For ease of reference, the session has been split into two parts, and the following Quick links will take readers to any specific topics of interest to them, and further topics can be navigated to by either returning to this page, or using the Quick Links summaries provided within the Bento / Second Life and Project Sansar pages.
On Wednesday, March 9th 2016, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg appeared at the 2016 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference, where he gave a brief overview of matters pertaining to Second Life and Project Sansar over the course of the year since the last VWBPE conference, and to answer questions about either platform asked by the audience.
The following is a transcript of his session at VWBPE 2016, complete with audio extracts. Note that note all items are given in the order they are discussed in the video of the session. For ease of reference, I’ve split comments and questions between those specific to Second Life and those focused on Project Sansar. Also, where more than one question was asked on a specific topic, I’ve grouped the questions / responses together under a single topic.
Click on the links below to go to the relevant section.
Thank you so much. Great to be here again; it’s an awesome event, I hope you’ve all have had great sessions and more sessions to come. I will just spend a little bit of time and just talk about what I am and what we here at Linden Lab are really excited about, and what we’re working on a little bit. Then as usual, very happy to spend most of the time actually talking to you with regards to your questions that you may have.
So, first of all, wow! What an incredible year it’s been. The virtual reality market that we’re sort-of been waiting for is actually in the process of happening. We’re now seeing incredible investments from a very large number of companies, whether it’s hardware, software, platforms tools, that I’m sure many of you are very excited to get your hands on very soon.
We in the Lab have been playing a lot with the latest hardware that’s going to hit the consumer market soon, over the next few months, and doing a lot of work to integrate those into project Sansar, but there’s also work to get some integration of that into Second Life.
So we feel very fortunate to be having all this incredible experience, together with you all, of running Second Life. Having the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t work, what works really well and what is not working at all, and what it takes to run a platform like Second Life. What makes creators successful, what makes businesses successful, because our primary goal here is to make creators of experiences as successful as they can possibly be, and share their success.
Second Life Overview
Second Life has made a lot of good strides over the last year since we last met. Performance is continually improving, and we have some more performance improvements in the pipeline to come out soon. Quality is improving, stability is improving, and we’ve also managed to roll out some nice improvements. New avatars, and you have the new, better web control or media on prim, that’s now a really modern browser technology, which hopefully will be really helpful for educators.
New Registration API
We also have a lot of interesting things coming in the pipeline. [An] improved registration API, so that it will be easier for institutions to bring on their customers or clients or students in a more pre-configured way: choosing what avatars they can select from, getting them set-up in the proper groups, and taking them through a whole custom on-board experience.
We’ve also done a huge amount of work in what seems boring but is very, very, important to us, and even though you might not realise it, very important to you all as well, which is around compliance, and making sure that all the things we do fiscally within the Second Life virtual economy, and what it takes for people to redeem to fiat currency, US dollars or whichever currency you prefer around the world. We’re doing a huge amount of work to improve all the tools and fraud controls, etc., to make sure we’re running a clean, tight ship where there’s no money laundering or anything of that sort.
We’ve gotten far enough that we’ll be able to soon improve the time it takes for people to redeem money, so we can do that in hopefully just a day or two for most people. We’ve blogged about that, so you might already know about that.
So, I feel really good about the Second Life team. Just a few weeks ago we had the whole team together in Seattle. We keep switching spots; sometimes we do it in Boston and this time we did it near the offices in Seattle. And it’s a very tight group, they are very passionate about Second Life, with Oz heading-up on the engineering side, and just a great, tight crew who really just want the absolute best for Second Life and for you all. So I feel very good with what that team has been able to do over the last year, and what they’ll be able to do in the coming years.
Some cool things coming in addition to the registration API. We have a way for, institutions that have had interruptions of viewer updates when it wasn’t something they were completely prepared for can now sign-up to be on an EDU channel, where we can better manage viewer updates.
We’re working on an update to get the current Oculus viewer working with Second Life, and we’re also working on this Quick Graphics viewer (version 126.96.36.1991103 a the time of writing), so that you can manage when people show up in your regions with way too much clothing or too heavy of an avatar and still get good frame rates within your regions if there are avatars that are too heavy.1 Those will all roll out over the next weeks and months.
Update Wednesday, January 27th: The official Lab Chat #2 video is now on-line, and is embedded at the end of this article.
Thursday, January 21st saw the second in a series of discussions called Lab Chat, billed as “an opportunity for you to ask Lindens your questions during a live taping that will be recorded and archived for everyone to view.”
As with the first show, the session featured the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg in his alter ego of Ebbe Linden. In preparation for the recording, Second Life users were invited to ask questions about the Lab, Second Life, “Project Sansar”, etc on a forum thread.
Over 80 questions were asked, all of which were reviewed by the Lab Chat production team, and from which the list of question to put to Ebbe was drawn. The questions select were those the production team thought would be of most interest to the attending audience, or represented those questions which were asked multiple times by different people.
The following pages offer a transcript of the show’s recording session, which has been split into three parts:
Those questions and answers those related to Second Life
Those focused more on Project Sansar
Additional questions & audience Q&A.
The first two sections are presented in chronological order – as the questions were asked during the recording of the show. The additional questions have been grouped together (where possible) by subject matter, for ease of reference.
The Quick Links below will take you directly to each of these three sections, or to any of the individual discussion points within them. Each question / answer includes an audio extract of that question and response for those who wish to listen rather than read.
Note: this is not a transcript of the entire recording session. The focus is on the questions asked and responses given. Also, the audio extracts are from a recording which was cleaned-up following the show to remove repetitions, pauses, trailing comments which otherwise break the flow / context of replies. However, no attempt has been made to editorialise or in any way alter the context of any response given to questions.
Thursday, November 19th saw the launch of what is hoped will become a new series of monthly discussions. Lab Chat is billed as “an opportunity for you to ask Lindens your questions during a live taping that will be recorded and archived for everyone to view.”
The first show featured the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg in his alter ego of Ebbe Linden. In preparation for the recording, Second Life users were invited to ask questions about the Lab, Second Life, “Project Sansar”, etc on a forum thread.
Over 40 questions were asked, and members of the production crew selected seven questions they thought would be of most interest to the attending audience, to be asked during the show, whist also leaving time for further questions from the audience itself. Discussions are under way with the Lab to try to ensure those questions from the forum thread which weren’t asked as a part of the recording do get addressed in some manner.
The following pages present a transcript of Ebbe Altberg’s replies to both the seven core questions selected by the Lab Chat team, together with any additional follow-ups or observations from show hosts Saffia Widdershins (SW) and Jo Yardley (JY), and the answers given to those questions raised during the open Q&A session.
Note that this is not a full transcript of the entire recording, the focus is very much on the answers given to questions and any relevant comments. For ease of reference, the transcript is split into three parts, each with its own navigation and links, and links to all of the questions:
Those questions and answers those related to Second Life
Those focused more on Project Sansar
The general Q&A session.
Each question / answer includes an audio extract of that question and answer for those who wish to listen rather than read, or in addition to reading, the transcript text.
The Quick Links section below will take you directly to each of these three sections, or to any of the individual discussion points within them.
Those wishing to watch the official video, can see the three parts here, here, and here.
On Friday, June 26th, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg faced questions from Saffia Widdershins, Jo Yardley and the audience in the last of the Meet the Lindens series sponsored by Prim Perfect.
The session lasted just over the hour, after initial teething problems in getting everything working, in which he addressed a wide range of question on both Second Life and Sansar, and offered-up some information of his own.
The following is a transcript of the event, based on a video by Chakat Northspring, which is embedded at the end of this article. My thanks, as always, to North. The official video will be available in due course via the Prim Perfect website.
Are there any things that have changed since you’ve been in charge that you are especially proud about?
[0:01:04] There’s a number of things. I think primarily it’s the relationship between the Lab and residents., I think is much better today. It was a little bit tense, I would say, the relationship, when I came on board; and it seems to be much more casual and fun and collaborative. And I think many of you have seen more of us than you had for a while previously.
I’m also proud of the quality of the product. The performance, we’ve made lots of strides, the quality; [group] chat had lots of issues. So we’ve made a lot of progress on just making it a more stable product, a better performing product.
And I’m also proud of the focus we have at the Lab. When I came aboard, there were quite a few projects sprinkled about, and today I feel we have what I call four very strong focus areas with really good drive across each of them. So it feels like a healthier environment, not just between us and residents, but also amongst us Lindens, and a better quality product, and a better focused organisation. So I’m pleased with the progress.
Can you tell us what those four areas of concentration are?
[0:02:56] Obviously, continued to improve Second Life is something that we do. And you guys often hear from Oz and Danger on our progress there. We have Blocksworld; a fairly small team working on this neat little app for a younger audience to be able to build virtual experiences on the iPad. We have obviously a very huge investment in Project Sansar, our next generation experience platform, and we’ve worked really hard for over a year now, and we’ll start to get some external customers on-board in just a month or so. Just a few, but it’s great progress.
And the forth one, I would say, is compliance; making sure we run a tight ship when it comes to the linden dollar and who can cash out, and just running a tight ship when it comes to compliance … whether that’s fraud controls, identity controls – a number of things we need to do to make sure we and banks are comfortable with the business that takes place in Second Life.
So those are the four areas of focus.
The last thing you said about cashing out. You’ve said before that you want to speed that up. [do you have] any idea when this is going to happen, or how is the progress to that?
[0:04:39] The progress is good. We’ve now managed to automate a lot of things so that we can see what percentage we would be willing to pay out rapidly in an automated fashion. We’re still tuning the rules as to who we would trust to pay out; to make sure that we’re 100% certain that people who would be paid out should be paid out. And we continue to increase that percentage by continuing to dial the rules and make tweaks,
When we get to a significant enough percentage, then we should be able to start automating the process as well. not just the data saying we could, but we actually will pay out. I don’t have a date for exactly when we can turn that on; but it’s our goal for the vast majority of people that we have a trusted relationship with, to be able to pay within 24 hours or something.
I mean, there’s obviously external processes a well, that we’re not 100% in control of; but on our end, when someone clicks the button that says, “I want to be paid out”, we hope to, within 24 hours, to be able to automatically say, “start the process”, and then like I say, there’s actually some external dependencies for how quickly that actually takes place.
I think it’s interesting that you’ve given on compliance an equal status with the other three projects.
[0:06:14] Well, I wouldn’t say they’re all equal; but it’s a focus area, and it’s very important for us to run a trusted, large-scale business, to make sure that fraud cannot take place. For the sake of us as a business, as well as for the sake of you not having bad things go on. So it is an important aspect.
Danger Linden was actually saying that it’s one of Linden Lab’s advantages coming into Sansar, because all the new virtual worlds that are planning to come on-line, and you’ve got to get this right, and you have a head start.
[0:06:59] Yeah, we are pretty much alone in having had a virtual currency with a floating exchange with cash-out and all these capabilities. There’s no-one else like it. so yes, we have a pretty significant leg-up compared to others if your intent is to have a virtual economy as we do. I mean, there are other business models that one could apply, but the way we are doing it, there’s no-one else really doing it as well as we do. And so that’s something we’ll certainly leverage; both operational experience and [the] technology, as we move forward with Sansar.
Second Life still gets some negative feedback in the media, although it seems like it’s become a lot less recently … but which kind of negative feedback do you pick-up [on], both in the media and form people in second Life themselves, that annoys you the most.
[0:08:15] Well, it’s not that much that annoys me … I’ve only had the opportunity to hear negativity for about a year … but I hear very little of it. whomever I talk to, it’s mostly … surprise that it’s still around, or more neutral. It’s very rarely that I’ll run into people that start off with the negative. So that’s a very small percentage of the population. Usually the negative people tend to be quite loud, but it’s not something I stress about.
I guess my biggest annoyance is people intolerance for various types of content. and when you look at the content in the real world, and people’s tolerance for that content in the real world. Then suddenly, when it’s in a virtual space, then it’s, “Oh my God!” Then there’s like a different level of acceptance for all kinds of content for some reason.
And that annoys me. So whatever the subject matter is, I can always draw a parallel to how it’s always “so much worse”, or it has just as much interesting stuff going on in the real world as in Second Life, whether it’s art, whether it’s sex, whether it’s whatever it is, all of this stuff is all around us in the real world, so why would it not be completely reasonable and acceptable to also have it in a virtual world. That’s maybe the most annoying part; when people don’t get that.
I know that your family have come into Second Life as well, and you actually have a family home here in Second Life and have actually had that for some time before you became CEO. So presumably, they get Second Life as well. But when you talk to friends … when they’re new to it, how do you explain what your job is?
[0:10:31] Well, it sort-of depends a little bit on the context of whom I’m trying to explaining it to; and it also really depends on their experience with various things. Bit generic when I explain that we’re trying to create a three-dimensional canvas that users can chose how to fill it, and how to populate it with what type of experiences, and that we want to create as much freedom as possible to allow people to create as much stuff as they can imagine.
So, kind-of suggesting that in something like Second Life, you can be whatever you want and do whatever you want and create whatever you want, as long as it’s legal and as long as it’s somewhat appropriate for the rest of us.
But then you can go into the incredible breadth of things that are really already working so well in Second Life; whether it’s education, health, art, role-playing. There’s almost as much variety of hobbies and interests and creations and experiences in something like Second Life like people can enjoy in their real lives.
So yeah, sometimes it’s tricky because it’s so broad. It’s so many different things to so many different people. So usually in a conversation, you usually have to figure-out what is of interest to the other person and figure-out how to relate to them with subject matter that they can get into or understand. And that’s part of the challenge of trying to explain something that’s so broad, because it’s obviously easier to explain a product that is narrow in its application or focus. So it’s usually a bit of dialogue that usually makes it easier than just a simple statement; it’s hard to think of a simply statement that sort-of captures it all for everybody.
Have you had a chance to Look around SL12B yet?
[0:12:50] I was around, I think it was two days ago. I was probably in there about half an hour or so; so I didn’t get too deep into too many things. but I really enjoyed some techno music over in the corner somewhere for a while. saw some fascinating art and creations, all kinds of interesting music, but not really enough time to have a chance to see all of it.
On Wednesday, March 18th, Ebbe Altberg gave the keynote presentation at the 8th annual Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education conference, which runs through until Saturday, March 21st inclusive, in both Second Life and OpenSimulator.
His key address lasted a little over an hour, in which he outlined the Lab’s approach to education and non-profits, provided some insight into what Lab’s future plans, and discussed further information on the Next Generation platform. Following this, he entered into a Q&A session, which ran beyond the main session time, switching from voice to text chat in the process.
The following is a transcript of his initial comments and review of the Lab’s relationship with the education sector, his overview of Second Life as it is today, a look to the future, and his concluding comments. I have produced a separate transcript dealing with his comments on the next generation platform.
As well as including the official video, embedded below, I’ve included audio playback of each part of Ebbe’s talk for those who prefer to listen while reading. Timestamps to both the audio segments and the video are provided.
[00:00 / 02:55] First off, I’m really, really happy to be back at the VWBPE. Last year, I was pretty much brand new at Linden Lab, and we’ve had a year since then, and a lot of good and interesting things have happened that we’ll talk about. Like you heard in the introduction, we’re going to leave plenty of time at the end for Q&A so that we can talk about all [the] things that are on your minds.
Changes at the Lab
[00:38 / 03:34] So, since last year there have been a lot of changes at the Lab, We have simplified the portfolio of products that we are working on. Since I was here last year, we’ve discontinued work on six products [actually five (that were known about): Creatorverse, dio, and versu, and Patterns and Desura].
[01:02 / 04:00] So we have a much more focused company now, and we’re focused on things that are all relevant to user generated content, either through Second Life, or blocksworld, or through this next generation platform you have yet to see but we’re working on very, very hard to bring to you all.
[01:21 / 04:30] So focus has greatly improved. The other thing I wanted to talk about is some of the improvements made in Second Life. Performance and quality has greatly improved over the course of the last year, with the CDN work and the HTTP pipelining work some of you may have heard of, which should make access to worlds snappier than it used to be. i still feel we still have a lot to do to make it even more performant, but we’ve made great strides in that area.
[02:04 / 05:01] We also brought you the ability to experience Second life with the Oculus, so you can get sort-of an introduction to virtual reality if you have a chance to get your hands on an Oculus device.
The Lab’s Relationship with Users
[02:19 / 05:18] And we’ve also, I think, made a lot of improvements in how we market ourselves, how we’re connecting with you and many other customers and different audiences. I would say that when I showed up here a year ago, the relationship between the Lab and customers and partner was not great; and I think that’s improved greatly. We’ve spent quite a bit of effort, particularly Pete and myself, but also many other Lindens, socialising with you all, talking to you about what we can do better, how we can do things differently, better understand what you’re trying to accomplish. and so I think today, the relationships between us and you are much improved.
The Media, SL and VR
[03:19 / 06:18] We’ve spent quite a bit [of time] talking to the press; Pete and I have spoken to many. I would say a year ago, that was a difficult thing to do; Second Life was seen as old and not particularly relevant. Since the, we’ve had a tremendous boom and boost in all things virtual reality. It sort-of kicked-off with the big acquisition Facebook did when they acquired Oculus for two billion, and when the world started to realise that virtual reality was something that could be achievable much sooner than people [who] had been working in this area had previously thought. So there has been a massive acceleration in people’s mind of what virtual reality can and will do.
[04:16 / 07:15] So now it’s pretty easy to find people who want to talk to us, whether partners or press, about what we’re doing, and people are realising that our experience running Second Life is actually extremely valuable now that virtual reality and virtual worlds are all a sort-of hot topic again. So it’s very exciting for all of us to have the rest of the world sort-of get re-introduced and re-energised by what’s possible in virtual reality.
The Lab and the Education Community
[04:50 / 07:50] We’ve also spent quite a bit of time focusing and understanding education specifically in the context of Second Life, and also understanding it so that we can do a better job with our next generation platform to meet your needs in even better ways. And it’s absolutely clear that the capabilities of 3D and virtual experiences such as visualisation and simulation, and the ability to interact within those environments is an extremely strong component of how we can improve learning and teaching.
[05:33 / 08:32] We see evidence over and over again of how it’s proven that people can more quickly understand subject matter, content and experiences much better and much faster with much better retention of information, if they can experience something in a virtual context where they can do things, not just read or watch.
300+ Organisations and Success Stories
[06:00 / 08:58] We have well over 300 organisations that are taking advantage of our discount programme for educators and non-profits. I think there used to be more than that in the past, and we’re looking forward to making that grow back as we do a better job of meeting your needs.
[06:26 / 09:24] And we continue to hear over and over again just great stories from the community of educators about what they’re doing in Second Life, the success they’re having in Second Life to teach and learn all kinds of subjects from languages to chemistry to economics to health. The stories just keep going and going, and that’s really motivating for us to hear these success stories.
[06:56 / 09:54] And we started a thread on our forum, and I know there’s quite a few stories elsewhere out there, especially on [the] VWBPE.org site. so please continue to share these stories and successes with us; it helps motivate people, it energises us, and also helps us learn what we can do to help you be even more successful.
Collaborating with the Community and Prioritising Needs
[07:25 / 10:24] Like I said, we’ve spent quite a bit of time collaborating and communicating with various groups in the educational community in Second Life, and that’s absolutely great. It’s a great group of people to interact with, and often times I’ve asked these groups to work together to come up with the things that they find [as] the most important things for us to work on.
[07:54 / 10:53] Sometimes it can be difficult for us to filter all of the ideas and wishes and needs from a community as large as yours, and when you take the time to collaborate among yourselves to further refine priorities and needs for us, it helps a lot. We have to do less guesswork to understand what really matters to you all.
[08:19 / 11:17] I’d particularly like to thank Serenek Timeless, Aldo Stern, JJ Drinkwater Lorelei Juno who, at the end of last year took that request to heart and talked to … more than 60 educators to come up with a sort-of prioritised list of issues and concerns and opportunities for us to think about and focus on to help you all. so I’ll speak to some of these, and what I don’t speak to, obviously feel free to ask questions about afterwards in the Q&A session.
Platform Pricing and Discounts
[08:57 / 11:56] One thing that comes up quite frequently, and probably because we’ve made mistakes in the past, is the question about pricing. I just want to make it very clear that we have absolutely no intention of repeating the mistake we did in the past of removing the discount or increasing the pricing.
[09:17 / 12:15] So we have absolutely nointention whatsoever to make it more costly for you.
[09:22 / 12:21] We spend no time thinking how to make it more costly for you. We spend actually quite a bit of time thinking about how we can make it less costly for you; and it might be difficult to do in the context of Second Life, but we will try. But as we think about the next generation platform, this is something that’s thought about from the beginning, about how we can make it more economically feasible for more people to participate.
Content Creation and Creators
[09:51 / 12:49] Another thing that comes up is the ability to easily create content. you know, simplified building and scripting capabilities so that all users can create something.
[10:07 /13:06] We do think of creators in sort-of three categories of users that we believe we have to meet the needs of. You have the sort-of artisan or professional people that can create some really high-end experiences. We have the hobbyist, which I would say is where there’s a lot of them in Second life, who don’t necessarily have a formal background in 3D or animation or CGI, but are able to use Second life to create incredible things.
[10:43 / 13:41] And then we have the vast majority of people, who we call “customisers”; they don’t necessarily create original content, but they take bits and pieces by shopping or finding or being given items that they can then place, whether it’s to get dressed or to make their space laid-out just as they like it. So they don’t necessarily make the chair, but they put the chair where they want it. It’s sort-of like real life; most of us don’t build the clothes and cars and homes that we live in and use every day. We’re customisers, most of us; we get dressed in clothes that others make, and that’s probably how it’s going to be in the virtual space as well.
[11:30 / 14:28] We do want to make it as easy as possible for people to create content and contribute content. and I don’t expect there to be huge changes in Second life in this area, although we are working to improve the ability to import content from the outside world.
[11:50 / 14:48] As we think about the next generation platform, which I will talk about more later on, we’ll make a number of difference I’ll speak about then. But the scripting language will change, support for third-party will be very important to us; but I’ll talk about that in a bit.
New User Experience (1)
[12:08 / 15:06] Another thing [is] an improved and customisable new user experience, including entry points. This is something I’ve spoken about before. We feel it’s important to make it very easy for the creators of an experience to be able to attract an audience to come directly to that experience without the need of having to go through some generic front door to get going.
[12:39 / 15:37] And so we will continue to think about that in the context of Second Life, of how can we bring back notions we’ve had in the past of community portals or some such, and also how SL URLs, or SLurls, can be optimised to be [a] more efficient way of bringing users directly into a particular place. I would say the SLurl today is kind-of a crooked path to come on-board from from the outside world.
[13:10 / 16:09] So we want to improve all these things, so it is easier for all of you to bring users into the experiences you want them to come into.