SLCC: Social Life and Communities – highlights

Speaker

  • Mark Viale (Viale Linden), Integrated Marketing Team Manager
  • E-mail: community@lindenlab.com

General

To provide an update on community strategy and community tools, and examine the social experience within Second Life – where it is today and where it could go.

  • LL having a change in its community philosophy; LL used to push a lot of events and activities – newsletters, “kiss a Linden”, etc., but now want to focus on bringing the community forward & work with sustainable communities in-world
  • LL want this to be “organic”, so LL will be “Going out there and finding stuff that exists and then bringing it forward” in terms of promotion. Cited examples:
    • Event: Relay for Life
    • Product: Meeroos
    • Community: The Zen retreat within Second Life
    • Activity: Month of Machinima
  • LL want to work to promote “organic communities” by working with in-world groups and residents and harness what people have and promote it through the channels they have available (e.g. Destination Guide and the new Viewer 2 log-in screen)
  • Community Resources Portal: presents a series of resources people can use to help their community “come forward”
SL wiki: Community Resource Portal – http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Community_Resources_Portal
  • The portal provides a range of links to further information within the wiki (such as how to suggest a location for inclusion in the Destination Guide) and links to social media resources that can both be used for promotional purposes and for getting on LL’s radar:
    • SL Facebook wall: used by LL as a means by which LL can identify movements that are happening within SL which they can then promote
    • YouTube channel: subscribers can suggest videos that can be added to the channel, promoting both machinima and the events / destinations to which they relate
    • Twitter: those on Twitter can follow @SecondLife & get followed back; LL actively monitor Twitter for news and information
    • Flickr: users can join the SL Flickr group which is used to source the “picture of the day” on the In-world section of the official blog
  • Community Gateways have not “gone away”, but have been folded into the “new resident resources” within the Destination Guide
  • LL operate an Affiliate Programme for communities to bring people in to Second Life and get paid for doing so this is enabled through:
  • User Groups offer the opportunity for users to bring matters to LL and discuss a range of topics and provide feedback – venues and dates for UG meetings in the User Groups link of the Portal’s Second Life Resources

Social Profiles

  • Social Profiles seen as a means for users to keep abreast of all that is happening (via information appearing on their feed) and to inform others (by posting to their feed)
  • Can be used to promote places / tell people where you are and what you’re doing through the “Add your location” icon in the Feed Share Something box
  • LL see the Social Profiles as enabling users to express who they really are because there is no tie to real world links. This is also viewed as a powerful tool over the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+
  • LL looking at means of enabling a “follow” function so users can follow one another, rather than having to Friend one another / have feeds totally public in order to make / receive comments
  • The feed will become “more robust” allowing greater potential flexibility of use
  • LL looking at ways of introducing the ability to create “groups” or “circles” within the feed capability so people can focus on information they want
  • LL look on SL as the only social platform “out there” with unlimited self-expression (within the ToS!), and see the additional of the feeds, etc., as a means of complementing people’s ability to express themselves howsoever they choose

Q&A Session

  • LL “thinking about” ways of making Friends list more granular (so business contacts can be grouped aside from social contacts, etc)
  • Suggested that the “love” option in the feed could be used in a yelp.com manner to help recommend places in-world, although admitted this needs to be “figured out” to prevent gaming
  • LL not going to promote communities “willy-nilly”: LL will seek to get behind communities that are sustainable (e.g. ACS / Relay For Life), i.e. can function without support from LL, so initial effort needs to come from those behind the community
  • New log-in screen may be personalised in the future, so that a new user would have more help & resources (e.g. newcomer-friendly island to check-out)
  • Reporting back to owners of communities / venues / events on things like click-throughs from Destination Guide, etc., may be looked at

 

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SLCC: Destination Guide – highlights

Speaker

  • Brett Attwood (Brett Linden), Managing Editor, Linden Lab
  • Contact e-mail: editor@lindenlab.com

Focus

The Destination Guide – what it is, how it works, how to be a part of it. Note this is not intended to be a full transcripts Brett’s presentation.

  • The Editorial Team at Linden Lab comprises Brett (four years at the Lab), Gabrielle Linden (relative newcomer) and the inimitable and beloved Torley Linden
    • The team collaborates in helping and supporting Linden Lab initiatives and the community in getting news and information out about venues, events, etc.
    • Specifically focused on the Destination Guide, but also do support for messaging and the secondlife.com website,  producing the Lab’s own promotional videos and touches on the blog and social networking
    • Showcase (click to enlarge)

      Highlighted the various promotional opportunities for users, not all of which are the remit of the Editorial Team, but which include the Destination Guide, Events Calendar, Classifieds, SL Groups, my.secondlife.com, the SL YouTube channel, blogs, forum and social networks

    • Reviewed the origins of the Destination Guide in terms of the old Showcase feature (right), which itself arose from the 2006 machinima of the making of Suzanne Vega’s guitar (see below)
      • Video seen as a demonstration of the power of SL, which LL should be doing more to promote
      • Showcase performed two functions: providing a means for users to find things to do & places to visit, and also offered LL the means to showcase SL activities simply and quickly to the web at large
      • The showcase feed and data is still available for viewing at http://secondlife.com/app/showcase, while the new Search is also available directly on the web at Search.secondlife.com

  • One of the aims of the Editorial Team is to have new destinations highlighted in the Guide daily, including looking at real-world current affairs (used the example of the Middle East situation as an example, when related destinations in-world were refreshed and highlighted)
  • Destination Guide comprises one master feed of data, which can be broken down and used – third-party use included – to provide multiple channels of delivery:
    • Secondlife.com
    • Viewer 2 log-in screen
    • Inside the SL Viewer, both Basic and Advanced modes
    • TPVs
    • Maps.secondlife.com links
    • Widgets and RSS feeds
  • A significant portion of the Destination Guide audience comes directly from the web – seen as potential new users, and thought is given to how LL can inspire / tell a story in order to get people to sign-up (something that has been a focus of mine in the recent past)
  • LL aware of the mixed viewers from users on the inclusion of the Facebook “like” button on web pages Destination Guide. LL do not view the button as being about Facebook integration; rather it is seen as a means for peer-to-peer promotion outside of SL of venues as people opt to “like” entries
  • Alongside Facebook, indicated that the Guide could be integrated with new Profiles at my.secondlife.com “but that’s something we want to hear from you about”
  • As a part of the channel delivery concept for the Destination Guide, it is now available via the Viewer 2 Search, where it can be presented in multiple ways
One feed – multiple channels
  •  A “hot” icon (flames) indicating how popular a location is in terms of avatar presence has been added to destination listings
    • No flame = not many visiting; deep red flame  = very popular
    • Coded so that very busy sims are not over-prioritised in the listing to help throttle the number of visitors
  • Destination Guide central to the Basic Viewer mode to encourage people to explore & recognise the experiences available in SL, and where it uses a “newcomer friendly” channel
  • Destination Guide seen as a means of supporting high-impact events (such as SLCC), through the creation of limited-time categories within the Guide that contain relevant information (locations, etc.)
  • Create Ad Widget

    For those with entries in the Destination Guide there is a Create Ad Widget – this allows the code and image for the entry to be displayed and edited or taken for embedding to a website or blog elsewhere

  • The Destination Guide within the Viewer 2 log-in screen is “version 1” and will be subject to revision, with feeds a mix of editorially-managed and automated
    • The What’s Hot section operates so that id a sim exceeds 40 avatars, the entry “goes away”
    • The idea is to connect people quickly through the log-in process
    • LL want feedback from users on this approach
  • Venues, etc., can get on to the Destination Guide in a number of ways:
    • Via user recommendation using the on-line Destination Guide form
    • E-mailing the Team at editor@lindenlab.com
    • Being involved in the official blogs
    • The team also actively monitor user’s blogs, social media (Twitter, Facebook, my.secondlife.com, etc.), YouTube, etc., in order to identify what is catching attention
  • There are pros and problems to getting noticed and addressed (below)
Destination guide – getting noticed pros and problems – remember, Destination Guide is not a classified ads page!
  •  The Team monitor Destination Guide both on the web and its in-Viewer use to see which categories are popular month-by-month
  • The Destination Guide is a non-paid, editorially-moderated tool and should not be confused with classified ads
  • In addition to the Destination Guide, the Editorial Team are engaged on promoting SL machinima via the SL YouTube channel and into locations such as the website log-in page, as machinima recognised as a valuable tool for SL promotion in turn (something else I wrote about some time back)

Further information

SLCC: The Future of SL – Highlights

On Sunday 14th August, as a part of SLCC 2011, members of Linden Lab gave a presentation “The Future of Second Life” as a part of four keynote addresses at the convention.

The panel itself comprised John Laurence (Durian Linden), who has only recently joined Linden Lab, but has worked previously with both Rod Humble and Jeff Peterson (Bagman Linden); Sarah Kuehnle (Esbee Linden), who recently made a popular return to Linden Lab (and who brought a prim with her to the presentation!); and Michael Gesner (Gez Linden).

After introductions, Esbee recapped on some of LL’s recent user-facing activities over the last six months, including:

  • The arrival of new avatar selections as a part of the sign-up process, stating more are to be added
  • The new log-in screen for Viewer 2 (/3), which will be further iterated in the future
  • The new Search, described as being faster and with better relevance

She also made mention of the Basic mode of the Viewer, the new region & estate settings, dynamic shadows & deferred rendering … and mesh.

Learning Experience

The core of the presentation revolved around demonstrating a new game developed within Second Life by Lab employees as a learning experience because, Durian Linden explained:

“As Rod was a newbie and certainly I was new to Second Life as well, one of the first things we wanted to do was to make something in the world…We wanted to try and challenge ourselves as Lindens, to use our toolset to make an experience…basically for new users to be able to have fun using the Basic Viewer without a lot of the advanced functions and with just a very simple style of UI.

“So we gave ourselves about two weeks to pull this together, working with a team of in-world builders. We wanted to see really first-hand what the limitations are and then how we can try to overcome those limitations.”

The Linden-developed game…

The game uses the Basic Viewer’s point-and-click approach (although it may be re-visited to make use of click-and-drag as well) to guide an avatar through a setting, collecting and placing various objects, which avoiding hazards and traps. It is specifically designed to see what can be achieved within Second Life while avoiding the need to have to navigate inventory or gain familiarity with both the concept and use of things like HUDs – or indeed without having to rely on on-screen pop-ups or delivered notecards for assistance.

Using point-and-click to achieve goals

During the process of building the game, the team encountered a number of problems not found in “traditional” game development: their monsters would chase them through the sim while they were building, and guns sitting on build platforms overhead waiting to be placed within the game would also open fire on those below!

Gez viewed the development and construction of the experience as being valuable to understanding the power of Second Life as well as some of the limitations and issues. He also, later in the presentation, emphasised that the game is not intended to replace the new user experience – or even be released in its current state; it is a prototype for learning within Linden Lab. However, he did acknowledge the wider potential value such an approach may have for users:

“I do think that there is some value in creating an experience which is simpler, it’s more guided, it gives you prompts, it gives you almost quests or achievements, things that tell you what you need to do next to learn how to use Second Life, but I will completely agree with the fact that Second Life itself is not a game.  However, you can make some great games inside of Second Life, and you can use game mechanics, and game tutorials, and game systems to help people become more engaged and comfortable in Second Life.”

Some have angry birds. The Lindens have angry boxes!

Product Team

Following the presentation, Durian expended on the role of the product team, stating things had been broadly divided into two main areas:

  • Usability, designed to answer such questions as is SL the kind of product a reasonably-intelligent person can come along and start to use; can they operate an avatar or the camera, can they use the basic functions in order to meet others, have fun, etc. As a part of addressing this the team have been, and are, looking at:
    • Avatar rezzing time and rezzing priorities (i.e. giving avatars a higher rezzing priority)
    • Improved access to the Viewer’s avatar customisation tools
    • Basic / advanced Viewer integration to bring together tools from both and ease the transition for new users from the basic tools to the more advanced tools (interestingly, as a part of this, the team are looking at the issue of what to do with the Sidebar in terms of improving / changing it)
    • Developing Direct Delivery from the Marketplace (due to go live in a couple of months)
    • Improving overall inventory management, especially for making inventory easier to understand from a new user perspective
  • Engagement, defined as answering the question of how do people find the things they want to do & how can LL provide better tools to content creators, both of which are aimed at keeping users engaged with SL. As parts of this element he pointed to:
    • The new Viewer 2 log-in screen with the destination guide options
    • Mesh as a means of encouraging new content and content developers
    • Prims themselves, as a “directed experience” and means of getting people engaged with building within Second Life and the collaborative aspects of content creation, both  for pleasure and for profit
    • Scripted non-player characters that can be used to populate areas and enhance the experience of visiting such areas

As the focal point for all development, working with the rest of Linden Lab, the product team has divided itself into specific Subject Matter Experts in order to fully understand various aspects of SL use:

  • Durian – art
  • Gez – gaming and breedables
  • Esbee – role-play
  • Charlar Linden- Adult
  • Geo Linden – Education
  • Nya Linden – Music
  •  Cassandra Linden – Fashion

These roles will not replace the normal community relations channels, but will accept input from the user community.  Hamlet Au suggests means of contacting the team.

SLCC: The Future of Mesh

Speakers

  • Charlar Linden
  • Runitai Linden

Historical context given by Runitai

“So before mesh, the only way to build anything in Second Life was to use prims. If you’re a builder, you’re familiar with the prim system and how difficult it was to cobble together anything that didn’t look like it was made out of Legos.

“To combat that, with as small a platform change as possible, we introduced sculpted prims a few years ago, which sort-of let you use a very loss-y compression mode of making a deformed sphere-mapped mesh. A sculpt is basically a mesh with very little artistic control over what actually goes into it.

“Now, with mesh import, you can actually use any industry-standard 3D modelling tool to create 3D content and import it into Second Life….What this means is anybody who is a classically-trained 3D artist can come in and start using the tools of the trade to make content in-world. You’re not limited by any toolset that we provide; Linden Lab doesn’t have to devote resources trying to compete with companies like Autodesk which makes 3D Studio and Maya, and the creative space, therefore, is not bound by the Second Life platform itself, it’s bound by anything that you can imagine and that create with any external programme available to you.”

Main Presentation – Charlar Linden

  • High-level bullet-points for  mesh defined as the abilities to upload them, see them, interact with them (touch, move rotate, link, texture, etc), there are additional Havok physics attributes and 64m prim sizes
  • Re-stated that PE (Prim equivalency) is a measure of the resource-impact a mesh object has on the land that it is on
  • Prim count, which everyone is familiar with, has no relationship to PE “You can have a tortured torus…that counts one prim, but it really doesn’t. It’s really actually much more expensive [resource-wise] than a little 1 x 1 plywood cube – or, for that matter, a fairly elaborate mesh.”
    • Believes it is up to LL to better inform users as to the real cost of objects on land, and that mesh starts to show this
    • Outlined the major resource weights: network bandwidth (how much information is being transmitted and to how many people), server resources (what the server has to do and run (e.g. scripts)), and physics (the impact on the Havok engine, collision detection, etc.)
  • Commented simply visiting 3rd party websites (used Turbosquid as an example) and uploading objects directly from them, saying that while it can be done, the results will be inefficient and “you’re going to get stuff that look really poor, it’s not going to look very good initially, and as you back away from it, LODs go to crap” because the system cannot determine how things are supposed to look without assistance and, “that’s where you guys come in,” as LODs, etc., need to be worked out in order to import successfully &  efficiently into SL
  • SL currently supports COLLADA  1.4.0, but 1.4.1 being worked on (but may already work)
  • No expectation or desire to see prims rendered useless due to unique capabilities, including the in-world collaborative opportunities for building & are central to the creative aspects of SL
  •  Mesh is viewed as better than sculpties in terms of defining custom UVs, LODs, etc; however,  would like to see focus on “filling in the blanks” to improve mesh where sculpties are currently “better” (presumably in terms of usage)
  • Admitted some work on rigged meshes/ avatar-related features  have been deferred from the initial roll-out in order to ship mesh, but LL acknowledge the requests and that they will be dealt with “later”
    • During final Q&A, stated arbitrary skeletons would be “cool” to have, but is not a “small bit of work” so LL “don’t know yet”
  • Re-iterated that mesh isn’t some kind of “tremor” that is going to come through SL and everything is suddenly going to look better; it is a matter of content reaching the marketplace, etc., and people buying things & create experiences
  • For non-professional content creators, suggested trying Wings3D, and commented LL would like to encourage people to try out 3D content creation whether or not they intend to sell it
  • Technically, LL will continue to work on mesh, and there will be “at least one more non-trivially sized set of improvements”, a combination of feedback from Beta testers, discovered bugs and features LL would like to include, to be “released in the very near future.”
    • Indicated it is likely the uploader UI will be changed to make it easier to use and understand, admitting that some people get poor results with uploads because, “We’ve confused the hell out of them with the uploader”
  • Encouraged people to use the mesh forum for questions, feedback, etc.
  • Demonstrated mesh in-world, showing 48-PE vehicle scripted as driveable & with colour-changing options, etc; a 52-PE house with texturing, floors, rooms, windows, working doors; a 3-PE scripted (with animations)highly-detailed rifle;  a 55-PE tree house as well as work by other creators and artists
  • Indicated that ideas around providing marketing / showcase assistance to demonstrate mesh to non-SL 3D artists / creators have been “floated”, but there is sensitivity about being perceived as helping some SL creators and not others, and that such activities are not something LL do well, but will take into consideration
  • Responding to a question on DAE/COLLADA support, Runitai stated the specification is huge, and LL’s focus in on supporting a subset – how applications like Blender, Maya, Wings 3D, 3D Studio and Zebra., export to COLLADA & ensuring the SL importer works with that subset
    • Indicated that Google Sketchup’s exporter does not create content that is efficient for the SL importer
  • Indicated that the upload fees will be increased, but will not be to the L$150 x PE that was discussed during the beta programme. Fee seen as a means of “throttling” uploads
    • Indicated a DD is available for testing as should be used to avoid being repeatedly charged when testing a model
    • Better previewing mechanism is something LL may come back to, depending on how well the DD mechanism works out.