Linden Lab announces Town Hall series for Second Life

Courtesy of Linden Lab

To mark Second Life’s fifteenth anniversary, Linden Lab has announced a series of Town Hall meetings at which Second Life users can hear members of Linden Lab and well-known groups within SL talk about the platform, their work, and answer questions offered by users.

The announced sessions will comprise:

  • Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg.
  • Members of the Firestom team.
  • Residents of Bay City.
  • The Designing Worlds team.

The first of these town hall meetings will feature Ebbe Altberg in a double session on Friday, April 20th, at the following times:

  • 09:30 SLT.
  • 13:00 SLT.

User are invited to offer questions for Ebbe via the forum thread A Conversation with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg. Questions will be selected from those submitted, and as many as possible will be answered within the time frame set for the meetings.

Users can attend the meetings by teleporting to one of the three following landing points at Town Hall Island:

Not: none of the above SLurl may be open to the public prior to the day of the event. 

Other Town Hall meetings, to be “held in the coming months”, will be announced in due course.

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2018 SL project updates 11/2: TPVD meeting with Ebbe Altberg

Realm Of Light; Inara Pey, February 2018, on Flickr Realm Of Lightblog post

Update: the 43-bit viewer KDU issues has been updated based on feedback from Ansariel Hiller.

The following notes are taken from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, March 16th 2018. A video of the TPVD meeting is embedded below, my thanks as always to North for recording and providing it. Time stamps in the text below will open the video in a new tab at the relevant point of discussion.

This meeting was somewhat extended  – lasting 1 hour 30 minutes – as a result of the presence of Ebbe Altberg, Linden Lab’s CEO, who commented on some of the item of discussion that came up at his session at VWBPE 2018 (see my notes and transcript here), as well as more broadly discussing Second Life and Sansar.

SL Viewers

[0:17-2:20] There have been no further updates to the current release, RC and project viewers in week #11, leaving the pipeline as follows:

  • Current Release version 5.1.2.512803, dated February 23, promoted March 1 – formerly the Nalewka Maintenance RC – No change
  • Release channel cohorts :
  • Project viewers:
  • Linux Spur viewer, version 5.0.9.329906, dated November 17, 2017 and promoted to release status 29 November – offered pending a Linux version of the Alex Ivy viewer code.
  • Obsolete platform viewer, version 3.7.28.300847, May 8, 2015 – provided for users on Windows XP and OS X versions below 10.7.

General Notes

  • The Media Update RC viewer is unlikely to be promoted to release status in the immediate future, as it has some Windows 7 update issues which need to be resolved.
  • The Love Me Render viewer is making good progress, although it also has the Windows 7 problem.
    • [7:30-8:30] This viewer also has a KDU issue which can cause the 32-bit version of the viewer to crash when uploading textures larger than 512×512. One workaround for this until fix is obtained – depending on how long that takes – is for an older version of KDU to be used for 32-bit viewer versions.
  • Despite the issues with it (see my update here), the 360-snapshot project viewer is not getting a lot of attention.
  • Animesh project viewer is getting close to a possible RC release and the Animesh project close to a move to the main grid.
  • The Bakes on Mesh viewer has cleared LL’s QA, so a Bakes on Mesh project viewer for use on Aditi should be appearing soon.

New Viewer Caps

[3:51-7:04] The lab is introducing two new viewer caps they’d like TPVs to adopt quickly:

  • One will be used when the viewer first logs-in to read all of the deferred IMs received while the user was off-line, which are being moved from UDP delivery to HTTP in an attempt to overcome issues of off-line IMs failing to show.
  • The second is to read the correct set of abuse report categories from the server, so only valid categories are displayed within the viewer, allowing users to more correctly file ARs, rather than using invalid categories held viewer-side.

 

General Discussion with Ebbe

Highlights only – refer to the video for the full discussion.

Economic Model

[9:20-14:35]

  • The Lab is looking to try to pivot the SL economic model away from a heavy reliance on land fees, and then in time hopefully reduce the cost of land.
  • This will see a shift from land to revenue generation through fees in other areas.
  • The Lab cannot simply drop land fees and raise fees elsewhere, the two have to be balanced, so while the Lab is hoping to “aggressively” tackle pivoting revenue generation, they will also be cautious in making changes.
    • The hope of reducing land fees can be seen in the reduction in Mainland fees.
    • [10:50 via Oz and Linden] The Mainland price reduction has already seen a significant uptick in interest for abandoned Mainland, with support being “overwhelmed” with requests.
  • There is currently nothing planned for Private region fees, simply because the Lab has to be cautious around revenue.
    • It might be a case of (a) fee increase(s) elsewhere first, followed after a time by consideration of what can be done with Private region fees.
    • It is however, something the Lab would like to do.
    • The steps must be measured not only to safeguard LL’s revenue stream, but also so as not to upset the SL economy.
    • For this reason, the Lab will take a little time to measure the Mainland restructuring before they make other changes, so that they can more accurately measure cause and effect between different types of change.
  • These ideas were also discussed that the VWBPE session with Ebbe – see my transcript notes (with audio from that session) for more.

Sansar

[15:39-18:36] A general overview of Sansar – which is still is  Creator Beta – including the drive this year to gain an audience for Sansar, plus improvements to the VR aspect of the platform. Most of this is covered in my weekly Sansar updates. For Ebbe in particular, the Sansar team is at a point where he feels comfortable pivoting attention away from that platform and back to Second Life, including spending more time in-world.

Sansar and SL

[18:38-22:09]

  • A re-iteration that Sansar was never intended to be a replacement for Second Life.
  • Both products now have completely separate teams working on them
    • At VWBPE 2018, Ebbe indicated that the core SL team – engineering, development, operations, support – is “close to” 100 in number.
  • There is an area of overlap between the two products, but there are also very clear differentiators.
  • Proof that Sansar isn’t a replacement for Sl is the level and speed with which LL has continued to invest in SL (overhauling the viewer and simulator build mechanisms, bringing more performance and stability to the platform) and to add new capabilities (Bento, Animesh, Bakes on Mesh, EEP, rendering enhancements, etc.).

Moving SL to the Cloud

[22:09-32:00]

  • Progress is being made.
  • Experimental regions have been run in the cloud, and they worked.
    • There are a lot of functional limitations that must be addressed before regions users can access can be run in the cloud.
    • The regions did achieve a reasonably high concurrency level (precise number not given).
  • Much of what SL does natively – dynamically spinning-up a new set  of inventory management servers or a new set of log-in services, etc. – is similar in nature to a lot of what cloud service providers do, so a lot of the back-end work involved in moving to the cloud is taking what the Lab have, and adapting it to run within the infrastructure of the cloud.
  • It is a massive engineering undertaking that will take time.
  • Once completed, it is hoped operating SL in the cloud will allow LL to offer benefits to users, which might potentially include:
    • Reduced costs for regions that are spun-down and stored to disk when no-one is using them, should this be explored for Second Life
    • Ability for simulators and services to be more geographically based (e.g. simulators used largely by an audience in South America could be hosted in facilities in South America)
    • Ability to potentially have a broader cross-section of land product based on server types, with a broader range of performance / pricing.
  • It is hoped that, for the most part, users won’t be aware of services being switched from the Lab’s dedicated infrastructure to running within a cloud infrastructure
    • Some non-user facing services are already running in the cloud.
    • The work will be done progressively, and not a “flipping of the switch” for “everything”.
    • There is not end-date for the work. The Lab is approaching it as aggressively as possible, but there are a lot of technical hurdles to be cleared along the way, some of which will only become apparent as attempt are made to shift things and put them into production via the cloud.
    • To deal with potential issues / hurdles, it is possible that further ahead, there is a simulator RC channel “in the cloud”, while others are still running on the Lab’s own infrastructure.
  • Also see Ebbe’s comments from VWBPE 2018.

Upcoming New User Experience

[1:01:23-1:07:11] The Product Team is doing a lot of work with the new user flow, and are getting close to where they can start experimenting with ideas.

Part of this work involves a themed learning island reached via a new user clicking a themed ad which takes them to a themed landing page on the SL website, where they can sign-up, obtain an avatar in keeping with the theme, and are delivered to a learning island that also follows the theme.

This approach will be tested alongside the current on-boarding routes.

Interesting tidbits:

  • The lab spent over a year building a “fairly sophisticated” tracking system to gather data on new users and see how they are doing, i order to try to learn more about on-boarding / retention.
  • The Lab’s data / testing suggests new user retention is no better in welcome areas with greeters, than for those without greeters.
  • A test the Lab carried out using a (non-public) browser-based means of accessing Second Life from sign-up (no need to download the viewer) also did not achieve better retention than the “traditional” sign-up and download route.

Other Items

  • [32:10-34:07] Mirrors in SL: the inevitable discussion – and no, mirrors aren’t in Sansar!
  • [34:08-37:08] SL and VR: re-cap of why the VR viewer was dropped from Second Life – unable to maintain the comfort-level VR frame rates (90 fps). Also segues into a discussion of the Sansar / SL Edit mode differences (also see Ebbe’s comments from VWBPE 2018).
    • [37:10-37:40] Sansar benefits to SL: Oz confirms that some of the rendering work with the atmospheric shaders to improve SL’s appearance is leveraging lessons learned with Sansar.
  • [38:35-43:50] Texture caching: the project to improve the viewer’s texture caching is still very active, and once completed, the Lab plain to look at other aspects of how the viewer caches data.
  • [44:17-47:09] Linux Viewer: no real change from my last update.
    • TPV have the same problem as LL re: Linux developers.
    • LL would like to see more from the Linux community get involved.
    • Suggestion is for Linux users to try running the Windows viewer under Wine.
  • [47:10-49:25] OpenGL and GPU/CPU divide: discussion on updating SL’s OpenGL version, which is already under consideration at the Lab. Broadens into a discussion of modifying SL’s rendering capabilities to make more use of more GPU shader capabilities for calculation (rather than being reliant on the CPU), and the risks (to users) this entails (as many SL users don’t use more modern hardware with GPUs capable of taking the load).
  • [51:58-59:58] Community Gateways: Discussion on the Community Gateway programme and attracting users. Includes mention of partners, Place Pages, etc. Ideas raised seen as something that could be put to the SL Marketing team under Brett Linden.
  • [1:12:52-1:14:14] Feature Requests: when filing a Feature Request JIRA, it is better to keep the request focused on a single idea which can be easily digested. Multiple ideas should be submitted via separate JIRAs so that meaning don’t become confused / the JIRA becomes to complicated to understand, etc. Multiple JIRAs around related ideas can also be related via identifier.

Ebbe Altberg at VWBPE 2018: video, transcript and audio

VWBPE 2018 banner. Courtesy of VWBPE

On Thursday, March 15th, 2018, Linden Lab CEO met with a group of invited participant for the Above the Book events at VWBPE 2018. Lasting some 80 minutes, the conversational  Q&A session was livestreamed for its first hour to the main auditorium at the conference. Also in attendance at the event was  Brett Atwood (Brett Linden), Senior Manager for Marketing at Linden Lab, was also in attendance.

The full transcript of the session, including a number of “after stream” questions not in the official video is available here. When reading, please note:

  • The transcript notes don’t follow the chronological flow of the session, as I’ve attempted to group subjects by topic for more concise reference.
  • Audio of responses to questions are provided for each section of the transcript.
  • Questions are given in bold.
  • Comments from Ebbe Altberg are prefixed EA; comments from Brett Atwood are prefixed BA.

The video of the session is embedded at the end of this piece for reference and for those who would prefer to watch it. My thanks to the VWBPE stream team for providing it.

The Short Form

For those who prefer,the following is a bullet-point list of the core questions asked, gathered into the same topic headings as the transcript notes. Links are given to the relevant part of the full transcript for those who would prefer to read / listen to the complete answers / comments.

Note: due to the nature of WordPress internal text anchors and scrolling, you may have to scroll up a little after jumping to a specific topic, in order to see the question.

The Lab and Education

  • Education is, and remains, an important element of the lab’s thinking, both with Second Life and with Sansar. Jump to topic.
  • For educators interested in engaging with the Lab, the best way to do so is by reaching out to Brett Linden, who himself is an educator with 15 years experience (and who currently teaches a course as Washington State University) and who sees himself as a advocate for virtual worlds in education.
  • To help educators promote their endeavours, Brett suggests looking at SL Place Pages as a means to self-curate a web presence for in-world activities. Jump to topic.
  • The Lab is willing to work with educators on putting together documents / information addressing the value proposition, safety, security, etc., of using virtual space in education which can be used by educators to help inform their administrators and IT experts. Jump to topic.
  • The Lab is also willing to consider ways to make SL more attractive to the education market, preferably with a list of prioritised ideas from the education community, which can be compared with other requests for features / improvements, evaluated (technically and in terms of value / ROI, etc). Jump to topic.
  • It’s unlikely that LL will, in the near future, provide a dedicated resource to the educational / non-profile community. However, the recent re-alignment of the Second Life and Sansar team structures means there is now a dedicated SL marketing resource, lead by Brett, to help and support SL communities such as the educational / non-profit community. Jump to topic.
  • What has been the educational uptake with Sansar?

Product Accessibility and Ease-of-Use

  • Access for the disabled:
    • Sansar is too early in its development to offer much in the way of ease-of-access for the disabled.
    • The Lab would like to hear of specific instances where more could be done to help with accessing Second Life by those with disabilities.
    • Jump to topic.
  • What is the Lab’s position on speech-to-text, text-to-speech?
    • There are 3rd party tool already available, which the Lab might not look to directly integrate into their platforms.
    • However, major players like Microsoft, Google and apple are developing capabilities which the Lab might look towards integrating in the future.
    • Jump to topic.
  • Providing a plug-in architecture for SL / Sansar to allow third-party extensions (text-to-speech, etc.), has been suggested.
    • Not n the current roadmap, as SL client already provides a lot of open-source extensibility.
    • Possibly something TPVs could implement / contribute.
    • For some services, would have an associated cost involved, adding complexity, simply because third-parties charge for their services.
    • Jump to topic.
  • More broadly, Sansar has offered accessibility for people to be able to create and publish their own VR experience to the world without the need to develop their own platforms on which to run them. Jump to topic.
  • Will Sansar have easier access to content tools? Jump to topic.

Second Life: Development, Land Cost and Fees

  • The Second Life team numbers just under 100 people (engineering, support, operations, customer services, and not including finance, compliance, etc.). Jump to topic.
  • Key focuses for SL are: enhancing the platform, growing  the user base and trying to re-balance the economic model away from a reliance on land fees.
    • Costs of involvement in Second Life remain a concern for the Lab, which is taking a high-level look at trying to pivot revenues away from the land model potentially towards more of a transaction-based model, while at the same time trying to reduce at least some of the burden of land costs (e.g. the 2016 private region buy-down offer and more recently, the Mainland price restructuring).
    • Jump to topic
  • In time it is hoped that transitioning revenue away from land might lead to a further reduction in land costs to educators. Jump to topic.
  • Other areas of focus include making SL more scalable, secure and performant. Jump to topic.
  • The Lab will soon be publishing a roadmap announcement of improvements / enhancements to Second Life. Jump to topic.

Developing Second Life and Sansar

  • Linden Lab has more clearly split the Sansar and Second Life teams; there are no longer people “floating” between the two and working on both.
  • The Lab see a lot of overlap between the two products, with customers potential using both for different purposes.
  • However, each has its own potential markets / its own selling points for those markets, allowing them to co-exist.
  • The Lab believes that with 15 years of SL notwithstanding, the potential of virtual spaces has only been scratched, and both second Life and Sansar can do so much more.
  • Jump to Topic.

Second Life and the Cloud

  • Huge engineering effort, still in early stages, which will take “all of this year and then some” just to get transitioned and working.
  • Benefits to the Lab:
    • Reduced capital investment and maintenance costs.
    • Potential to dynamically scale consumption, rather than having simulator servers always on.
  • Potential benefits to users:
    • Potentially more flexibility in products and tiers, possibly defined by a mix of region use and use-case (e.g. high-powered, high capacity servers for popular events; more moderate, lower-cost servers for residential use).
    • Might add the ability to geographically locate simulators closer to dedicated audiences (e.g. regions serving South American communities could have their simulators running out of cloud locations in South America, reducing issues like latency for customers).
    • Not something that will happen immediately, as the Lab will need to transition services and then refine operations and investigate option.
  • Jump to topic.

Second Life and VR / Browsers

  • VR remains a challenge to implement in Second Life due to the high run-time frame rates required. As such, it is not something the Lab plans to pursue or re-deploy.
  • Streaming Second Life to a browser / mobile devices has been tried by third-parties (OnLive with SL Go and Bright Canopy from FRAME).
    • It’s not something the Lab is actively pursuing at present, so they are leaving it to third parties.
    • As the cost of cloud-base GPU technologies come down it might be something the Lab re-examines in the future.
  • Jump to topic.

“After Livestream” Questions

Note some !after stream” questions and comments are also addressed in the sections above.

  • Will the Lab bring back the Teen Grid as “the Education Grid”?
    • Not at this time, as it doesn’t fit with current plans to move away from dedicated infrastructure and to the cloud.
    • Might be something to be considered after the move to the cloud: presenting grids for unique audiences.
    • Jump to topic.
  • Can educators be given more control over their regions?
    • This would need indication from educators as to what is required (prioritised list again).
    • Jump to topic.

SL13B: Ebbe on the Lab, Second Life, Sansar and more

Jo Yardley, Ebbe Linden and Zander Greene
Jo Yardley, Ebbe Linden and Zander Greene

Update: Pey’s law came into effect. 45 minutes after I published this report, the video of the discussion appeared on YouTube. I’ve therefore embedded it at the foot of this introduction.

Meet the Lindens is a series of conversations / Q&A session with staff from Linden Lab, held as a part of the SL Birthday celebrations in-world. These are opportunities for Second Life users to get to know something about the staff at the Lab: who they are, what they do, what drew them to Second Life and the company, what they do, what they find interesting / inspirational about the platform, and so on.

Tuesday, June 21st saw Zander Greene and Jo Yardley putting audience questions to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, in his persona of Ebbe Linden. The following is a transcript of the session, focusing on the questions and answers, including audio extracts from my own recording of the event.

The discussion started with a brief re-cap of Ebbe’s background prior to his arrival at the Lab in February 2014. You can read my own short profile on him, and also his own feedback on that profile and the comments which followed it.

This transcript picks up with questions around Ebbe’s times at linden Lab, and I’ve attempted to split topics logically between those between Ebbe and linden Lab, Project Sansar and Second Life. As such, the questions in the following sections are not in the order presented during the discussion, and may not reflect any video of the event which is produced.

Please use the links below to jump directly to topics of interest.

Quick Links

Lab Chat #3: transcript and audio

Lab Chat #3: Saffia, Troy, Oz, Ebbe and Jo
Lab Chat #3: Saffia, Troy, Oz, Ebbe and Jo

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.

 

 

Lab Chat #3: May 6th, 2016 – Ebbe, Oz, Troy and Bento

Lab Chat LogoLab Chat is the name of the public Q&A series aimed at providing Second Life users with the opportunity to have their questions put to Lab management and personnel.

The first two sessions in the series took place in November 2015 and January 2016 respectively, with guest Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab. Each event covered both Second Life and Project Sansar and saw Ebbe respond to questions selected from those put forward to a forum thread ahead of each event.

For those who missed the first two shows, you can catch up with them through my transcripts, which include audio from the events and are available below:

The third in the series has now been officially announced, and will once again feature Ebbe Altberg, who will this time be joined by Oz and Troy Linden. The 1-hour event will once again take place at the Linden Endowment for the Arts Theatre,  on Friday, May 6th, starting at 10:30 SLT.

About the Guests

Oz Linden
Oz Linden – Director of Second Life Engineering

Oz Linden is the Director of Second Life Engineering at Linden Lab, and is perhaps most noted for his involvement with viewer development, including contributions from the open-source community and TPVs. He oversees almost all aspects of the technical development of Second Life, both viewer and server, and works closely with his engineers and developers to ensure Second Life continues to be enhanced.

Troy Linden  is a Senior Producer of Second Life at the Lab, and has been involved in bringing numerous high-profile projects within SL to fruition, and is currently engaged in Project Bento, the project to greatly extend the second Life avatar skeleton, which Oz’s team is currently working on together with members of the SL content creation community.

Both Oz and Troy will be at the Lab chat session to directly answer questions on Project Bento, the SL development process and roadmap and on Second Life features, while Ebbe will doubtless cover any questions related to Project Sansar, if they arise (! 🙂 ).

Present Your Questions

The Lab is inviting questions on these topics to be submitted to the official forum thread, no later than Friday, April 29th, 2016. A selection of questions will then be drawn from those submitted and put to Ebbe, Oz and Troy during the recording of the show and before the live audience at the theatre.

In difference to the first two Lab Chat events, the May 6th session will be recorded as audio only. I also hope to be at the event, and will have a full transcript of proceedings available through these pages (with audio extracts) as soon as possible after the show has finished recording.

And to help with Project Bento, here’s the Drax Files World Makers segment introducing the project.