VWBPE 2021: Grumpity and Brett Linden

VWBPE 2021

On Saturday, March 20th, 2021, the final of three sessions featuring Linden Lab staff took place at the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference. Whilst the the third session overall, this was actually the second of a double series entitled Reconnaissance with the Lab, and featured Grumpity Linden, VP of Product and Brett Linden, VP of Marketing, the first having been held on Friday, March 19th, which saw Patch Linden, VP of Product Operations and Madori Linden, Product Specialist (Land Operations) joining Grumpity and Brett.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session. however, as some discussion points followed directly on from the Friday March 19th, discussion, it should be read in reference to my summary of that meeting as well.

As always, time stamps are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.

The Attendees

Grumpity Linden

Grumpity Linden heads up Second Life Product, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach.

Prior to working for Linden Lab (first joining as a contractor in 2009 and then full-time in 2014), she was involved in a number of industries, including technology, higher education, and oil & gas. She enjoys exploring worlds both virtual and physical and takes pride in building bridges – personal and professional.

Grumpity holds a Master’s in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s from same in Computer Science & Psychology, both from Johns Hopkins University. She finds leading the Second Life product a joy because it allows her to draw on both areas of study.

As VP of marketing, Brett Linden manages the team responsible for developing media campaigns and strategic content partnerships for Second Life. Together they focus on both the acquisition of new users and the retention of existing users for the virtual world.

Brett Linden

In the past decade, he has produced numerous virtual and “mixed reality” events and panels on various academic topics with an emphasis on legitimising and better surfacing the many cultures and communities within virtual environments.

From Rolling Stone to Billboard, Brett has also written for major publications and managed multimedia initiatives for Amazon.com and RealNetworks. He has co-founded numerous media sites on-line, including the Second Life Destination Guide and Rolling Stone Radio. As a co-founding editor at Billboard.com, he interviewed Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Shania Twain, and Bjork.

Dealing with Griefing

[Video: 10:04-19:09]

  • Grumpity:
    • The Governance User Group offers a monthly forum in-world for region / estate holders (and general users) to discuss matters of security, griefing, abuse reporting, etc. Meetings are held monthly on the third Tuesday of the month at 13:00 SLT (at the time of writing).
    • Specific issues can also be raised through the Support channel, or can be passed to Madori Linden, who will in turn pass them on to the Governance and Land teams.
    • For specialised environments, such as regions operated by educators, non-profits, business organisations, etc., the best way to secure a region or estate is via the RegAPI [see below for more on this].
    • With regards to griefing via voice – specifically things like voice channel hijacking – LL has worked extensively with the Voice API provider, Vivox, to prevent / eliminate such issues a lot more readily.

What is the RegAPI?

[Video 11:48-17:21]

  • RegAPI is a means for organisations that need to to provide dedicated, controlled access to Second Life to their users.
  • Organisations are assigned a keycode by the Lab. This can used in conjunction with the Second Life registration form (web page) the organisation designs to connect to the Second Life account registration process and then, and as required:
    • Define: the group new-sign-ups are assigned to.
    • Limit created accounts to only accessing the defined region / estate, and block them from teleporting away from it.
    • Control the avatar options available to new-sign-ups.
    • Control access to associated services within the viewer such as the voice stream.
  • The sign-up form can be hosted directly by the organisation concerned within their own environment (thus controlling access to it).
  • The process can also lock access to the defined region / estate from being accessed by accounts not created using the organisation’s dedicated key.
  • Linden Lab does not directly provide turnkey registration forms for clients, but can provide more general assistance where required.

Accessibility – Those with Disabilities & for whom English is a Second Language

[Video: 19:22-25:37]

  • Grumpity:
    • LL is constantly trying to improve accessibility.
    • Now the majority of the work in moving SL to AWS has been completed, there is potential scope to further address accessibility, including looking at some of the available third-party tools that can be integrated into the SL product – previously, the Lab has attempted to provide dedicated solutions for some issues, but then maintenance and upkeep became problematic, so third-party tools are now seen a preferable way forward.
    • There is no definitive road map as to what may be tried / addressed at present, but the Product team is now far better placed to look at potential options in discussion with involved communities within SL (e.g. educators, Virtual Ability, etc.).
    • In general, LL are very aware that there are many different uses and needs that can be addressed by Second Life by many different individuals and communities, many of who may have specific access requirements, so accessibility is very much a part of thinking at the lab.

New Users: On-Boarding and Experience

[Video: 26:23-37:07]

  • Grumpity:
    • The Lab is working on a new on-boarding experience, but it is not yet ready for deployment.
    • This has been developed not only as a means of updating the new user experience, but also looking at what people actually need to have a successful initial experience with Second Life.
      • So rather than focusing on the basics, like avatar movement, which most people with even a basic exposure to playing games can likely work out for themselves, the focus is more on social interactions – starting a conversation, for example.
    • Connected to this new on-boarding experience are:
      • A cleaning-up the viewer UI, allowing the more essential elements to be better identified and more logical.
      • An overhauling the avatar customisation process to make it easier for incoming users to create a basic look they are happy with.
    • An overall aim of all of this work is to reduce some of the multiple ways in which certain common tasks can be completed, in order to help flatten the curve of Second Life being “complicated” to learn.
    • There is also the Community Gateway programme as well, which provides an important means of bringing users into SL Life, and which Linden Lab monitors and takes lessons from, as well as carrying out testing within their own on-boarding process.

Questions Arising

Is there effort to create a browser-capable grid to flatten the learning curve?

  • Grumpity:
    • LL is working towards a possible partnership that will allow for a streaming solution  for Second Life. This is not something that can be discussed in detail at present, but would love to talk more about it Soon™.
    • In terms of mobile devices, the nature of SL means than any dedicated experience via a ‘phone is going to be less than ideal – ideally a keyboard and mouse are required, but it is being explored. [Again, the Lab has an active project to bring Second Life to both iOS and Android, initially as a basic communications tool.]
  • Brett: streaming is an area that has expanded over the last 12+ months, with multiple companies moving into the space, allowing dialogues to take place. Among other things, the Lab recognises the need to be on more lightweight client systems (such as Chromebook) when addressing areas such as education.

Why are there no up-to-date videos on how to do things in Second Life and on the communities,  etc?

  • Brett: there is a series of New User tutorials by Strawberry Linden that are just over a year old, and which are available in multiple languages. These will likely be refreshed every 18-24 months.

How Can the Education Community Help with Marketing SL?

[Video: 38:45-44:39]

  • Brett:
    • Anyone with ideas, comments or constructive critique about SL marketing are invited to contact the Marketing team.
    • There is also the potential for in-world meetings between community leaders and members of the Marketing team to discuss ideas and options, etc.
    • There is a lot going on in marketing: this year will see a new general consumer campaign to reinvigorate the SL brand. Some of this has started to roll out,  such as developing new social media partnerships and other outreach efforts.
    • Further community exposure can be obtained by being a part of stories the Lab either pitch to the media, or are approached about by the media to provide. In  particularly, success stories about how SL is being used, innovative or novel ways in which the platform is made use of, are of particular interest.
    • Now is actually a good time for such stories, as the pandemic has lead to and increased / renewed media interest in the platform and its potential.
    • In terms of marketing within SL, there are multiple options to help promote work / use / events, from the Destination Guide through to the Lab Gab live stream sessions.
  • Grumpity [49:40-50:10]: in terms of general liaison between the Lab and the educational community, there has been discussion about establishing a dedicated Discord channel, and feedback from educators (via Madori Linden) is sought.

Costs and Pricing

[Video: 45:57-48:45]

  • Grumpity:
    • It was “misguided” to have removed the non-profit  / educational discount [June 2011], and equally very important to see it returned [in 2013] as soon as the Lab could do so.
    • In  March 2020, a flat monthly fee of $99 was introduced for educational and non-profit  organisations, and the Lab has no plans to increase this.
    • However, the narrative that has circulated that costs to the Lab would be reduced as a result of the move to AWS, isn’t accurate; while it removes the high level of capital expenditure LL must make in new hardware every several years, it does not reduce the basic operating costs for the service as a whole. Ergo, there are no plans to reduce prices.

VWBPE 2021: Grumpity, Patch, Brett and Madori Linden

VWBPE 2021

On Friday, March 19th, 2021 , the second of three sessions featuring Linden Lab staff took place at the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference. Whilst the second session overall, this was actually the first of a double series entitled Reconnaissance with the Lab and took the shape of a round table discussion with from members of Linden Lab’s staff: Grumpity Linden, VP of Product, Brett Linden, VP of Marketing, Patch Linden, VP of Product Operations and Madori Linden, Product Specialist (Land Operations).

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of this article. Time stamps are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.

The focal point for the session were four questions, which form the topic headings in this summary:

  • What is Linden Lab excited about that will be of interest to educators and VWBPE community members?
  • What is the greatest concern about education in virtual environments like Second Life right now?
  • How can educators and the VWBPE community work with Linden Lab in creating and supporting vibrant and engaging learning environments?
  • What can educators and the VWBPE community look forward to in the next year?

Note: the second of these Reconnaissance discussions is summarised here.

The Attendees

Grumpity Linden heads up Second Life Product, where she has overseen a shift to growth, a stronger, more balanced economy, movement towards better community cohesion, and an overall forward-looking approach.

Prior to working for Linden Lab (first joining as a contractor in 2009 and then full-time in 2014), she was involved in a number of industries, including technology, higher education, and oil & gas. She enjoys exploring worlds both virtual and physical and takes pride in building bridges – personal and professional.

Grumpity holds a Master’s in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s from same in Computer Science & Psychology. She finds leading the Second Life product a joy because it allows her to draw on both areas of study.

Patch Linden is Vice President of Product Operations at Linden Lab where he works to bring the best of product and support decisions on a daily operational basis to the virtual world platform for Second Life. He also maintains oversight on how all of the various teams within Linden Lab can best work together for the highest good of the Residents and the business.

Patch started as a Resident in 2004 before joining Linden Lab in 2007. Prior to joining Linden Lab, he held leadership roles focused on customer service and product development where he always maintained a customer-first focus while striving to deliver best-in-class products and services. He has a deep passion for creativity and uses that to bring enjoyment to others. He continues to evolve his skills to include virtual worlds, 3D Design, 3D printing, modelling, photography and videography.

Grumpity, Patch, Brett and Madori (individual images via Linden Lab)

As VP of marketing, Brett Linden manages the team responsible for developing media campaigns and strategic content partnerships for Second Life. Together they focus on both the acquisition of new users and the retention of existing users for the virtual world. In the past decade, he has produced numerous virtual and “mixed reality” events and panels on various academic topics with an emphasis on legitimising and better surfacing the many cultures and communities within virtual environments.

From Rolling Stone to Billboard, Brett has also written for major publications and managed multimedia initiatives for Amazon.com and RealNetworks. He has co-founded numerous media sites on-line, including the Second Life Destination Guide and Rolling Stone Radio. As a co-founding editor at Billboard.com, he interviewed Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Shania Twain, and Bjork.

Madori Linden is a product specialist on the Land Operations team. Among other things , she works with educators and various types of specialty regions; from their inception and development to maintenance and support.

Her LBL (Life Before Linden) was a winding path to Second Life. She studied Socio Cultural Anthropology with a specialisation in fringe societies within techoology. The contacts made there led to a career in marketing and being the co-owner of an event production company Having children brought her back full circle to education. Second Life was the vehicle for all of those passions to merge.

She works towards making sure that #AVVILEARNING (avatar virtual learning) won’t be just an idea, but part of the future of learning.

What is Linden Lab excited about that will be of interest to educators and VWBPE community members?

[Video: 6:10-24:23]

  • Patch: the new energy the new ownership is putting in the platform and the investment on the table to take Second Life to new heights.
  • Grumpity:
    • Excited by completing the transition to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the continuing work to optimise Second Life in it new environment.
    • Also the potential for the AWS environment to perhaps offer new products as the company moves forward.
    • The transition took several years to complete, consuming a lot of engineering effort, and it offers the potential to enhance the longevity of Second Life using the best hardware and infrastructure available.
  • Brett:
    • Also excited by the energy within LL that is being driven by the new board. Especially impressed by the way Brad Oberwager (board member and Executive Chairman) frames his thinking in a very customer-centric way (“Hows does this benefit the users? How does it benefit SL?”).
    • The ability to stream content into Second Life, as originally demonstrated in the Adult Swim streaming of episodes from The Shivering Truth in May 2020. This is a capability that has meaningful enterprise and educational applications
  • Madori: not so much excited by given the circumstances, but pleased in the way people have seen Second Life as a means to maintain contact while socially distanced. In this, the incoming new owners with their drive to grow the platform has been fortuitous.

What is the greatest concern about education in virtual environments like Second Life right now?

[Video: 14:13-22:11]

  • Patch: safety. Fortunately, SL has a lot of capabilities to help with this and keeping students safe. The foremost is the RegAPI capabilities, which can be used to create a dedicated on-boarding experience. This allows for elements such as custom name accounts, making identification easier, limiting the number of accounts an organisation is bringing into SL, deliver users directly to a defined in-world location. There’s also the ability to lock regions from being accessed by others and to prevent students leaving the learning spaces, etc.
  • Brett: not a concern, but what has been noticed is that some educators have noted that using second Life as a medium is less intrusive than expecting parents to put heir young children in front of a camera for remote schooling.
  • Grumpity: echoes Brett’s comments, noting that teenagers as well can feel exposed in having to face a camera and be observed by others in close details, whereas SL embodies a freer sense of presence, one that is perhaps more familiar to teenagers today, who have a lot more exposure to have an on-line presence, whilst also maintaining a sense of distance / privacy that can be important.

Questions Arising

Will there be a renewed push, with allocated staff support, for growth in Community Gateways featuring direct SL registration?

  • Madori: the support is already there. In fact, there is a new community gateway that started on Friday, March 19th.

Any thoughts to bring back something like TEEN Grid – where there was more protection for young folks?

  • Grumpity: Teen Grid doesn’t provide the same level of protection and unique features as found in the RegAPI capability.

Many students are using Chromebook and similar, which cannot easily run SL. Is this being addressed?

  • Grumpity: this is understood, and LL are looking to find a potential partner who can help achieve this [streaming solution], as well as internal efforts to being SL to mobile devices [e.g. tablets with keyboard input for a fuller educational experience]

How can educators and the VWBPE community work with Linden Lab in creating and supporting vibrant and engaging learning environments?

[Video: 24:38-36:42]

  • Madori: if you have specific ideas that may benefit SL – reach out to the Lab; it may be something that is feasible and could benefit the community as a whole. LL can better visualise needs by hearing about them.
  • Brett:
    • From a Marketing and communications aspect, is extremely interested in hearing about case studies, success stories and innovative uses of the platform that can both help promote the community concerned and demonstrate the relevance of SL.
    • Lab Gab is a potential opportunity for educators to tell their stories to the wider SL audience.
  • Grumpity:
    • Would be every interested in finding out more about the learning management tools educators use and what they are looking for in learning platforms and tools – although the volume that were suggested by the audience illustrates the problems in trying to offer a solution that will satisfy all needs.
    • Also wanted to mention the turnkey solutions LL have developed specifically for educators. These can be found at Explore Second Life.

Continue reading “VWBPE 2021: Grumpity, Patch, Brett and Madori Linden”

VWBPE 2021: Patch Linden – the board, Second Life, and more

VWBPE 2021

On Thursday, March 18th, 2021 Patch Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Product Operations and a member of the company’s management team, attended the 2021 Virtual Worlds Best Practice in Education (VWBPE) conference in the first of three special events featuring representative from Linden Lab.

The following is a summary of the session covering the core topics raised. The notes provided have been taken directly from the official video of the session, which is embedded at the end of this article. Time stamps to the video are also provided to the relevant points in the video for those who wish to listen to specific comments.

Notes:

  • This is a summary, not a full transcript, and items have been grouped by topic, so may not be presented chronologically when compared to the video.
  • In places, information that is supplementary to Patch’s comments is provided in square braces (i.e. [ and ]) are used in the body text below to indicate where this is the case.

Linden Lab’s New Board

[Video: 4:04-10:55]

[For additional information on the new board members, please also see: Meet Linden Lab’s new board of directors (January 9th, 2021) and Linden Lab’s board of directors: snippets of news (February 4th, 2021).]

Linden Lab’s board of directors (l to r): Brad Oberwager, J. Randall Waterfield and Raj Date
  • New ownership team is a “joy to work with”.
  • Brad Oberwager is particularly active, and has the avatar name Oberwolf Linden  and is described as “a lot of fun” to be around and to work with. [He is both on the board and serves as Executive Chairman on the management team.]
Brad Oberwager has joined the Lab’s management team as Executive Chairman, and his long-time colleague, Cammy Bergren serving as Chief of Staff
  • As Executive Chairman Brad Oberwager’s aim is to see Second life set as the “largest and best” virtual world,  and has a genuine love for the platform.
  • Both J. Randal Waterfield and Raj Date (particularly) appear to lean more towards the Tilia Pay side of things, with Brad Oberwager more “in the middle”. However, this doesn’t mean there is a dichotomy. Tilia is a key component of Second Life (it runs the entire Linden Dollar eosystem), and Tilia’s own success and growth will benefit SL.
    • [Tilia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Research (Linden Lab). It’s board comprises two members of the Linden Research Board: Brad Oberwager and Raj Date), together with Aston Waldman, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Linden Lab. The management team comprises: members of the the Lab’s management team: Aston Waldman, David Kim, Ray Johnson, Emily Stonehouse and Brett Attwood.]
    • The two entities enjoy a symbiotic relationship: Tilia is owned by Linden Research with Linden Research also a primary customer. However, day-to-day operations are carried out by two separate  teams.
  • [48:48-49:59] The new owners are bringing a tremendous new energy to Linden Lab, and are “super enthusiastic” about growing Second Life, including its educational use. What gets to be invested in the platform will only benefit everyone.
    • The key question Brad Oberwager asks and prompts people to ask is, “How will it benefit the residents, and how will it benefit Second Life?”

SL Short-Term and Longer Term

Priorities for the Second Life Team in the Next 12 Months

[Video: 10:57-16:02]

  • Immediate priority is to increase the Second Life active user base. This is very much being driven as a goal by Brad Oberwager, and includes:
    • “Drilling down into” the new user experience.
    • Refactoring the on-boarding process and orientation islands.
    • The work will include viewer-side changes that are intended to “smooth out a lot of the bumps in the road”.
    • The will will be built on two years of active study and A/B testing to try to determine what the on-boarding path should look like, together with learning from users returning to Second life as a a result of the SARS-CoV-2 impact.
    • It is hoped this work will both help LL improve user retention and also feed through to the community gateways, particularly with regards to the upcoming changes which will be made to the viewer.
    • No specifics provided, but the viewer changes are described as:
      • “New UIs”
      • Refreshed looks.
      • Easier to find information.
  • There is also the need to complete the work of transitioning to AWS – fixing the current issues directly related to the move and also on-going work to properly leverage the AWS environment for the benefit of the platform.
    • [29:24-30:00] This work includes a  lot of under-the-hood simulator performance improvements that will be continuing throughout the year.

Second Life in Five Years Time

[Video: 16:04-19:33]

  • The company would like to at least double the active user population over the next 3-5 years.
  • This is seen as a realistic goal in light of the shift in emphasis seen within business, education, etc., from purely physical world interactions towards more digitally-based interactions / hybrid opportunities that mix various formats [e.g. digital + virtual + remote working / learning].
  • AWS offers the potential for regions to be geographically located around the world, potentially bringing them closer to their core audience.
    • This could allow educational regions, for example, to be hosted much closer to the schools / colleges / students they serve, making them more responsive.
    • This approach could potentially start to be used towards the end of 2021.
  • Further out, geolocating regions could potentially offer the ability for the Lab to offer white label grids to specific customers / groups.
  • [24:00-28:25] White label grids present the opportunity for the Lab to better meet specific client requests to remove features and capabilities from the viewer – and also take features an capabilities required for a specific environment and potentially make them available across the entire Second Life product.
    • Two examples of the latter already exists: the new extended chat range feature available to region owners, and the Chrome Embedded Framework updates that allow video to be streamed into Second Life, as originally demonstrated in the Adult Swim streaming of episodes from The Shivering Truth in May 2020.

What Lessons has LL Learned due to the Pandemic?

[Video: 20:31-24:00]

  • The pandemic, particularly as a result of attempts to leverage the platform for education, business and similar use by organisations and groups, reinforced the fact that the new user experience needs to the overhauled.
  • It has also underlined the fact that people’s usage habits have changed.
  • The Land Team in particular has learned a lot about business, etc., needs of clients – the team deals directly with such requests as they come in to the Lab, and so have been dealing first-hand with understanding client requirements, determining the best for of assistance (e.g. providing one of the Lab’s turn-key solutions or brokering contact between the client and a solution provider who can meet their requirements.

Pricing and Options

[Video: 30:27-34:17]

  • Nothing on the roadmap related to pricing; land costs should remain untouched through the rest of the year.
  • There is the potential for AWS to allow the Lab to develop new region products; this is something that may start to be looked at 12-24 months hence.
  • AWS might also allow for on-demand spin-up of regions, initially building on the idea of Homestead holders being able to take a temporary upgrade to a Full region to run a specific event, then downsizing back to a Homestead.

Competition and Experimentation

[Video: 34:39-45:58]

  • Competition helps drive innovation.
  • There is no Lab-based group specifically tasked with investigation competitive platforms, but staff tend to try them out through their own interest.
  • Attention is paid to how other platforms adopt newer technologies and the challenges encountered in such adoptions.
  • There is still no real, direct competitor to Second Life in terms of size, flexibility of use, or in having an in-built content creation tool set.
  • LL don’t regard users as beta testers per se. However, major new features do require trialling / testing, which can involve selected users / tried at scale to determine feasibility / performance, etc. Sometimes the result is a capability has to be withdrawn as it is not performant enough (e.g. the VR headset viewer) and / or negatively impacts the user experience.

Oz Linden’s Departure

[Video: 46:09-46:56]

  • Oz was a fabulous colleague to work with. His retirement leaves a “gaping chasm” at the Lab.

VWBPE 2020: Above the Book with Ebbe and Patch – summary

via vwbpe.org

The following is a summary of the VWBPE Above the Book session held on Thursday, March 26th. The session featured as guests, Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Linden Lab and Patch Linden, Vice President, Product Operations and a member of the Lab’s management team.

The video of the session is available on You Tube and is embedded at the end of this article, while the following is a summary of the discussion’s key points, with time stamps to the relevant points in the video for reference.

Notes:

  • Ebbe Altberg had a significant viewer issue that precluded his participation in the first half of the discussion, as such the majority of the summary points below are based on Patch Linden’s responses to questions etc. Where they are based on a reply or comment made by Ebbe, they are preceded by “[EA]”.
  • Time stamps commence at the 18-minute mark because there is a significant blank lead-in to the video.

Educational Discount and Work Opportunities in SL

Educational Discount

[18:48-19:45]

  • On March 13th, 2020 linden Lab introduced a limited time offer for education and non-profit organisations to to obtain full regions in Second Life / reduce their current full region tier to US $99.00 per month.
  • Once granted the fee reduction will remain applicable “as long as their [the organisation’s  / individual’s] invoicing is current.”
  • The reduction is something that had been under consideration by the Lab prior to the SARS-Cov-2 / Covid-19 situation, but it seemed that given the situation with learning centres around the globe being closed around the world, now was the time to introduce the offer in order to help organisations find a place where they can continue to offer lessons / services alongside of other options they might be exploring.

Business / Work Opportunities

[20:14-24:17]

  • Alongside of the educational / non-profit discount, Linden Lab also created a micro-website and an accompanying updated FAQ promoting Second life as a working environment.
  • This is designed to appeal / apply to to broad range of potential use-cases: educational, business, etc.
  • It is being actively used by LL to coordinate responses to the needs of those making enquiries and correspond with applicants / interested parties.
  • Connected to this work, the Lab has offered a set of seven turn-key solutions for interested parties.
    • Comprising single and multi-region facilities, which see a clever re-purposing of existing designs (e.g, the Horizons hub area, the Bellisseria Campwich lodge, the SL16B auditorium, part of the Paleoquest regions), as well as the 4-region Linden Town Hall facilities.
  • The single region facilities have been intentionally optimised such that they can comfortably and consistently handle 75 avatars apiece without becoming stressed.

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The seven new pre-fabricated business/ meeting environments provided by Linden Lab.

  • There has also been some marketing work alongside of this to help raise awareness of SL’s continued presence as a platform (the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a paywalled article on SL and remote working on March 26th, for example).

SL and Technology Related Questions

  • [24:24-25:33] Cloud Uplift: will sharding / instancing of regions be possible?
    • Potentially, but much further down the road.
    • The focus at the moment is on transitioning the SL infrastructure and getting it to a point where regions can be operated via the cloud.
    • Opportunities for product offerings, etc, will be considered some time after the uplift has been completed and costs, etc., better known.
  • [32:07-34:34] Despite all the talk of VR headsets and immersivity being ” the future”, the fact is virtual worlds already provide a 3D, immersive experience, even if viewed via a 2D screen. Given high frame-rate VR systems are still outside of most people’s pockets / interest, don’t you think worlds like SL are due a renaissance?
    • VR is a fully immersive experience that cannot be matched for its sense of presence.
    • SL has some significant challenges when it comes to that kind of immersive experience it will need to rise to [FPS, optimised content / content management], and / or the VR hardware requirements will need to come down to make VR is SL acceptable. They will likely draw together in time, but that’s not something for SL’s current roadmap.
  • [40:17-42:25] Has the more widespread availability of bandwidth and higher speed connectivity made it easier for people to connect to Second Life?
    • Yes. The ability for ISPs to provide faster connectivity, particularly now with fibre, has helped with SL’s global reach and accessibility.
    • 16-17 years ago, cable DSL was just coming in, and people without it, particularly if far away from the SL data centres, could experience issues with connecting. Over the last decade, the reported incidence of these kinds of issues has decreased to a point where they seem to be rarely heard.
  • [1:10:55-1:11:41] Given the current pandemic and the situation with the Second Norway / Sailors Cove East estates (see Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements), is LL considering providing region holder who are facing financial issues / lack of income due to SARS-Cov-2 some form of relief?
    • Region owners facing such issues are encouraged to approach the Second Life support team.
    • As it is, LL is working specific with Ey Ren, the estate owner for Second Norway / Sailor’s Cove East to try to resolve that situation.

Second Life and the Future

  • [1:02.07-1:07:38] As LL is again a single-product company, what is the vision, looking forward?
    • As already mentioned, the cloud uplift to AWS and Google is a major focus, and will take up most of the Lab’s time and effort throughout 2020, with the goal of completing the work in 2020.
    • It is hoped that the basic transitioning to the cloud will produce meaningful performance improvements.
    • There will not be a significant number of features coming on top of this work outside of those committed to (e.g. EEP, Name Changes, Premium Plus).
    • However, the uplift should position LL / SL for a long-term future, and should be seen as a commitment on LL’s part to the continuance of SL – the investment required in the shift would not have been made if there was a lack of confidence about the platform’s future.
    • LL itself is in a very comfortable position and profitable.
    • Further, the company’s organisational set-up means that it has not been overly impacted by the current pandemic crisis.
    • Second Life is seeing rising engagement and concurrency at present.
    • Overall the company has a very positive view of the future for SL, and very pleased with where they are in terms of the SL product offering.
    • Those interested in learning more about the technical side of SL can tune-in to the April 3rd edition of Lab Gab, which will feature Oz Linden, VP of Engineering and members of his teams.
    • Ebbe himself is now “100% devoted” to Second Life and Tilia.

Education Related Questions

  • [25:45-26:47] Will SL be able to connect to Canvas LMS? A lot of this can be supported through the in-viewer browser and via the viewer’s implementation of Chrome Embedded Framework (CEF).
    • Improvements to media  / web handling in the viewer are being made (notably media and CEF), and there should hopefully be more news on this Soon™.
  • [27:39-28:29] Can more be done to allow people to bring in their “traditional” and familiar 2D means of presentation (e.g. PowerPoint, etc), into SL beyond having to use use things like Media On A Prim (MOAP), etc?
    • The coming updates to media / web handling might have a lot to do with this, particularly in displaying 2D information formats. Essentially, if it is web-based, then you should be able to display it in-world.
    • [EA – 52:49-54:29] SL is perfect for iterative, interactive classroom activities and allowing students to contribute content to the classroom and in experiential education (field trips, learning through directed activities / simulation / training). However, more could be done to make the more traditional teaching tools – blackboards, whiteboards, video presentation, etc., – available / easier to utilise with Second Life.
  • [37:57-38:55] What about screen sharing / desktop sharing with SL?
    • Would be challenging to provide through Second Life, but obviously there are applications that will allow Second Life itself to be shared between screens / desktops.
    • It’s unclear as to what form any path to providing screen / desktop sharing within SL / the viewer might take.
  • [55:25-57:40] Can teaching environments be locked down to only allow students and staff access, and to prevent students teleporting away?
    • Regions do allow levels of privacy (access by group, access list, region / estate-level access blocking, etc.). It is also possible to bring users directly into a specific region / estate, and created accounts can be locked to a specific region / estate.
    • The siloing capability is available in Second Life, and it is made available to educators to use, and are available as a part of the educational / non-profit region fee.
    • [EA – 59:10-1:01:55]:
      • While it is not being considered by the Lab at present, it might be possible, post cloud uplift, to enable separate Second Life grids to be spun-up with completely different user name / account spaces associated with them.
      • If there are specific use cases for access control that aren’t provided by the Lab, or ways in which LL might provision specific market silo support, educators / physical world business users are encouraged to contact Patch and his team to discuss them or send ideas to business-at-lindenlab.com.
  • [1:07:53-1:10:54] Could a controlled space be provided where educators could collaborate to produce material in-world for students?
    • Can already be done.
    • A portal style space showing what is available for education in SL might be possible. One used to be provided, and LL might be interested in partnering with educationals to again provide one. Ideas can again be passed via business-at-lindenlab.com.

Sansar Related Discussion

  • [43:05-49:54] Second Life (and OpenSim) has always offered the ability for real-time content creation, which has been seen as one of the major attractions for it, and it was something lacking in Sansar that may have contributed to its lack of appeal. Do you think there is a long future for Second Life with its ease-of-creation?
    •  Yes.
    • [EA] Nowadays original content creation within SL is rare; most users are more customisers that original asset creators; they purchase items and then lay them out. Clearly, content creation & collaborative design are required in a virtual space, but do they need to be in the run-time environment?
    • [EA] Sansar took the route of separating the design process from the run-time environment to allow the latter to be a more performant environment, allowing everything placed in the design environment to be properly optimised [“baked”] to provide a good run-time experience.
    • [EA] Sadly, LL never got to the point of implementing collaborative design in the editor, or in really giving power to users to design their space without having to have a lot of expertise.
  • [49:55-51:47] On the sale of Sansar  [EA]:
    • Decision was made to sell Sansar and give the team that had been working on it to go and raise funds to try to go it alone with Sansar.
    • Was felt that it was easier for them to raise money as a separate entity from LL, given that Second Life is an established brand and Sansar was effectively a start-up brans within the environment responsible for Second Life.
    • As it is all of the staff who worked on Sansar are getting employment offers from Wookey project Corp., the new owners.
    • Linden Lab remain something of a partner to Sansar, as the platform will continue to use Tilia Inc, the Lab’s micro-payments  / virtual world tokens subsidiary to manage Sansar Dollar payments and payouts. Tilia itself will be growing its customer base with more clients lined-up to join it.

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.

VWBPE 2016: Ebbe Altberg transcript with audio

Ebbe Atlberg, through his alter ego of Ebbe Linden, addresses the VWBPE conference
Ebbe Atlberg, through his alter ego of Ebbe Linden, addresses the VWBPE conference

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.

The Summary

Click on the links below to go to the relevant section.

Opening Comments

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.

VWBPE 2016
VWBPE 2016

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.

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Compliance Work

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.

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The SL Team and Other Things Coming Up

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 4.0.2.311103 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.

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