Announcing Le Cirque de la Nuit 2020 in Second Life

Idle Rogue Le Cirque de la Nuit

April is upon us, and with it comes a variety of events across Second Life, including Idle Rogue’s Le Cirque de Nuit. Now something of an annual tradition – the first presentation having been in 2014 – this hour-long programme features award-winning animated dance performances based around Erin Morgenstern’s novel, The Night Circus.

So you think you have seen Idle Rogue Productions annual steampunk circus in black and white, “Le Cirque de la Nuit”? Think again! No two editions of “Cirque” are exactly alike, and reservations for this year’s open Monday, April 6th at Noon for the limited six performances. Advanced Reservations are required.

– From the Idle Rogue press release for 2020’s Le Cirque de Nuit.

One of Idle Rogue’s most popular productions, Le Cirque de Nuit will for 2020 offer two rounds of shows over the weekends of Friday, April 10th through Sunday, April 12th and Friday, April 17th through Sunday, April 19th, with individual performances as follows (all times SLT):

  • Friday, April 10th, 22:00.
  • Saturday, April 11th, 19:00.
  • Sunday, April 12th, 15:00.
  • Friday, April 17th, 22:00.
  • Saturday, April 18th, 15:00.
  • Sunday, April 19th, 17:00.

Given their popularity, seats for all performances must be booked in advance. Reservations can be made by contacting Saturday Melody in-world on or after 15:00 SLT on Monday, April 6th. All seats per show will be offered first cone, first serve.

Bloggers wishing to preview the show should contact chryblnd Scribe in-world for information on the Preview performance that is planned for Wednesday, April 8th (time tba at the time this article was written).

Le Cirque de la Nuit: Dax Dover. Credit: Idle Rogue

Directed by Blaze DeVivre,the show might be described as “a steampunk circus in black and white”. It uses Morgenstern’s novel as a background  to present stories of magic, circus and illusion as dance entertainment within an environment created by Gloriana Maertens.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazement. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

– Cover copy of The Night Circus

This year, the show features an introductory act, narrated by the storytellers of  Seanchai Library, with all of the acts interspersed by displays of colourful fantastical art installations, including pieces by Bryn Oh, Cica Ghost, and equestrian designer H0ney Heart.

Note that should you book seats for a performance, guests attending the show are requested to:

  • Arrive no later than an hour prior to the stated start time of a performance. Music will be provided for entertainment.
  • Use an up-to-date viewer, with Advanced Lighting enabled so that the full effect of ambient and projected lighting can be seen.
  • Keep their complexity level low, and minimise their script load (including by removing HUDs ad well as worn scripted attachments) for the benefit of all the audience and the performers.
Le Cirque de la Nuit: Meegan Danitz. Credit: Idle Rogue

Further information can be obtained via e-mail to idlerogue-at-gmail.com.

Additional Links

Lab Gab 20 summary: Second Life cloud uplift & more

via Linden Lab

The 20th edition of Lab Gab live streamed on Friday, April 3rd, featuring Oz Linden, the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering and a member of the company’s management team, and April Linden, the Lab’s Systems Engineering Manager. They were appearing to primarily discuss the work in transitioning Second Life to commercial cloud environments. Ekim Linden had also been scheduled to appear, but was unable to do so.

The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions asked. Note that the first half of the video is related to the cloud uplift, and the second half to broader engineering-related questions.

April Linden has some 20 years of experience in systems engineering, and is genuinely passionate about Second Life. She first became involved in the platform in 2006 as a resident (and is still extremely active as a resident). She joined the Lab in 2013. She worked within the systems engineering team, and was promoted to her current position of Systems Engineering Manager, Operations, some 18 months ago. For her, the great attraction of the platform has been, and remains, the empowerment it gives people to express themselves positively.

Oz Linden joined the company in 2010 specifically to take on the role of managing the open-source aspects of the Second Life viewer and managing the relationship with third-party viewers, a role that fully engaged him during the first two years of his time at the Lab. His role then started expanding to encompass more and more of the engineering side of Second Life, leading to his currently senior position within the company.

Both are genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about Second Life and its users.

The bunny and the wizard who bring us Second Life: April Linden (Systems Engineering Manager, Operations) and Oz Linden (Vice President, Second Life Engineering)

The Cloud Uplift

What is It?

[5:40-9:45]

  • Cloud Uplift is the term Linden Lab use for transitioning all of Second Life’s server-based operations and services from their own proprietary systems and services housed within a single co-location data centre in Tucson, Arizona, to  commercial cloud services provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google.
  • The process of moving individual services to the cloud is called “lift and shift” – take each element of software, making the required adjustments so it can run within a cloud computing environment, then relocate it to cloud infrastructure and hardware in a manner that allows it to keep running and avoids disruptions that may impact users, and continues to run exactly as it did prior to the transfer.
  • The current plan is to have all of this work – up to an including moving all of the SL region simulators – to cloud services by the end of 2020.
  • Numerous services have been transitioned to date.
    • The Lab generally prefers not to discussion which specific services have been moved, to prevent users seeing the move as a placebo reason for issues they may be encountering, thus biasing their bug reports.
    • However, one service that is known to have moved is the inventory (asset) database, so that all users’ inventories are obtained via the cloud, and not from a dedicated asset cluster within the Lab’s co-lo facility.
  • With the services that have moved, the Lab has seen noticeable improvements in performance, partially as a result of cloud services using more recently / more powerful hardware configurations than the Lab can run without making a major new capital expenditure in equipment (which the uplift is intended to avoid).
  • A practical advantage of cloud operations is the ability for LL to scale services to meet demand.  The recent increase in users logging-in to SL, for example, placed a strain on the services that feed the CDNs that in turn deliver the majority of asset data to users (mesh data, textures, sounds, gestures, clothing, etc.). These services we then able to dynamically scale to an increased number of nodes to handle the load, something LL would not have been able to do without first sourcing, installing ans configuring the required hardware.
Oz and April with Strawberry Linden (c)

What Improvements Might Users See from the Uplift?

[9:48-14:42]

  • Between now and the end of 2020, no appreciable different should be observable to users.
  • The move is initially being made to a single AWS centre, so things like ping times to regions (once they are moved) shouldn’t change.
  • In terms of reducing simulator-side lag, the answer is unclear, as simulators have yet to be tested – this is due to start with simulators internal to the Lab Soon™. This will enable the Lab to begin to get real numbers in terms of simulator performance.
    • It is believed that simply moving simulators to the more recent, more powerful hardware used by cloud services should on its own result in a modest improvement in simulator performance.
    • That said, the outcome of performance adjustments in distributed environments is “really, really hard to predict”.
  • Longer-term, as the Lab is able to start exploiting the advantages of being in the cloud, there is confidence performance will improved in various areas.
    • For example, if simulators can be distributed in accordance with the geographical locations of their primary audiences (e.g. simulators that tend to get the majority of their audience from South America being located in South America), then this could reduce network time in connecting to them for those audiences, and so help boost performance as seen by those users.
    • While this is a longer-term goal for the cloud migration (it’s not going to be there from “day 1”), it is a part of the motivation to make the transition.

How will the Lab Handle Costs?

[14:45-18:40]

Sidebar note: cloud services typically bill based on demand and usage. This has given rise in some quarters to concerns / beliefs that LL could find themselves facing unexpected large bills for hosting.

  • Two answers: the first is nothing is ever certain.
  • The second is, the Lab, with April and Ekim in particular leading the effort, put a lot of work into modelling their likely operations and costs when using cloud services and infrastructure.
    • This work involved a lot of assumptions on how LL anticipated their costs would look based on how the planned to operate SL in a the cloud.
    • This model was then put to both AWS and to an independent, outside consultancy with expertise in advising clients on the use of cloud-base service provisioning, both of who gave positive feedback on the approach the Lab would be taking and the likely costs involved.
  • Further, the fact that SL isn’t a service that dynamically expands under use. All of its services are operating 24/7, so the costs can be readily calculated and pretty much consistent, therefore, the dynamic surges that can lead to high service bills don’t actually apply.
  • While there are some back-end services that can leverage dynamic hardware use in times of heavy load, these are in the minority (all of SL’s back-end services account for only 15% of its server fleet), so again, dynamic increases in hardware use for those services that can leverage it, are not going to be massively excessive.
  • As such, and allowing for answer (1), the Lab isn’t overly concerned about costs spiralling.

Will There Be Cost Saving that Can Be Passed to Users?

[18:41-19:54]

  • Unfortunately, the engineering teams are not responsible for determining fees charged to users.
  • More practically, it is not going to be possible to make any informed judgements on costs to users until the Lab has had the opportunity to see how actual operating costs compare with their predicted costs model.
  • Further, it is not anticipated that any cost savings will be made in the first 1-2 years of cloud uplift, so any decisions on if and where to reduce costs to users won’t be made for a a while to come, and those involved in making such decisions are not in the engineering teams.

MuseWeb: utilising Second Life in support of a global conference

MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

MuseWeb is a global organisation offering members a range of professional learning opportunities – plenary sessions, conference sessions, informal networking, debates, how-to sessions, lightning talks, etc., – together with multiple practical activities such as demonstrations, exhibitions, and so on, which can be applicable across a range of professional sectors and disciplines.

The organisation has, since 1997, held an annual conference in North America or Asia, featuring speakers, workshops, demonstrations, social events and more. Theses conferences have produced 1,350 papers and videos which are made available to MuseWeb members on-line, offering “an unparalleled resource” for museum workers, technologists, students and researchers that grows every year. Attendees at the conference / conference sessions include educators, curators, librarians, designers, senior staff (CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, CMOs, directors, etc.) of businesses an organisations, scholars, consultants, IT programmers and analysts, publishers and developers from museums, galleries, libraries, science centres, etc.

This year, the MuseWeb 2020 conference – MW20 – had been scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California, between March 31st and April 4th, with the core programme of presentations and keynotes taking place between Thursday, April 2nd and Saturday, April 4th 2020.

However, due to the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, the conference has shifted entirely on-line – and thanks to Linden Lab and Virtual Ability Inc, both of whom are acting as conference partners, the MuseWeb organisers are utilising Second Life for the social aspects of the conference, as well as several sessions.

MuseWeb 2020 Auditorium.

To achieve this, MuseWeb has been provisioned with a 4-region location in-world that is based on one of the seven turnkey region solutions Linden Lab has developed for businesses and conferences. The auditorium can cater for up to 350 avatars – although the core of the conference sessions are being presented on-line through Microsoft Teams – Microsoft being the conference’s global sponsor, with Google Arts and Culture also a notable sponsor – although I have been given to understand some sessions from Thursday through Saturday will also be shown in the in-world auditorium.

Aspects that have, and will, involve Second Life include:

  • In-world tours of Virtual Ability, Health Info Island and a range of SL museums, coordinated and hosted by Virtual Ability Inc.
  • “Linden Lunches” with representatives from the Lab, Virtual Ability, etc.
  • Closing plenary session.

The MuseWeb regions are publicly accessible to Second Life users, although sessions that are not relayed in-world require a log-in through the conference web pages. You can view the full schedule here, and the web pages include membership fees for interested professionals.

Dr Nettrice Gaskins: algorithmic art using Deep Dream, on display at MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

An important aspect of the conference’s in-world presence is an exhibition of art by Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, who is also presenting the conference’s keynote address alongside of Cory Doctorow.

Dr. Gaskins has taught multimedia, computational media, visual art, and advanced placement computer science principles, and has earned a BFA in Computer Graphics with Honours and an MFA in Art and Technology, and she received a doctorate in Digital Media from Georgia Tech in 2014. As an artist, she explore the use of technology in art, and the pieces offered for display at the MuseWeb auditorium is a unique exploration in using the Deep Dream neural network AI, a convolutional neural network to find and enhance patterns in images to produce over-processed, dream-like (almost hallucinogenic) finished images that are utterly startling in their complexity and depth.

Dr Nettrice Gaskins: algorithmic art using Deep Dream, on display at MuseWeb 2020 in Second Life.

Just how stunning these images are can be seen on the inner walls of the auditorium, where a total of 12 of her pieces are offered for appreciation – marking the first time Dr. Gaskins has exhibited in Second Life since 2010. Certainly, they make a visit a visit to the MuseWeb island.

More to the point, shifting the conference – apparently at short notice –  to leverage on-line communications and presentation means and o make use of Second Life to help maintain the more social aspects of such an event, potentially demonstrates the benefits of 3D and virtual environments to a global audience. Kudos to Linden Lab and Virtual Ability Inc., – who are also fielding greeters and conference assistance in–world, as well as helping with the facilities – for enabling the conference to have a presence in Second Life.

Previewing Lab Gab 20: cloud uplift and engineering

via Linden Lab

The 20th edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, April 3rd at 10:00 SLT (18:00 UK; 19:00 CET). For those who have not seen the official blog post about it, the segment will feature members of the Second Life Engineering team: Oz Linden, April Linden and Ekim Linden.

Oz Linden is the Lab’s Vice President of Engineering and a member of the company’s management team. Together with Grumpity Linden and Patch Linden, he is responsible for SL’s technical and operational directions. He specifically overseas the Lab’s engineering teams to manage all aspects of the Lab’s server environment (hardware and software) and the teams engaged in all aspects of viewer development and testing.

April Linden has become familiar to many SL residents for her honest and informative blog posts explaining what happened and how things were fixed when Second Life suffers a significant system upset and / or outage. As the Lab’s Systems Engineering Manager, she particularly coordinates and manages all aspects of the Lab’s server operations, including dealing with the third-party teams who physically care for the Lab’s hardware at its data co-location centre.

Ekim Linden is the Lab’s Director of Web Engineering, as manages the engineering team directly responsible for the Lab’s web properties (such as the Marketplace, the secondlife.com website, etc).

Ekim Linden (l), Oz Linden and April Linden (r) on the Lab Gab set. Credit: Linden Lab

All three are responsible for managing and coordinating the extensive work in transitioning all of the Lab’s services from their dedicated hardware and infrastructure and to recognised cloud services operated by Amazon (AWS) and Google. As such, they are appearing on Lab Gab to talk about this work – which the Lab refers to as the Cloud Uplift – although doubtless, other subjects will come up for discussion.

If you have a question you’d like to put to Oz, April or Ekim (or all of them), particularly on the uplift, make sure you submit it via the Lab Gab Google form.

As usual, the programme will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.

Lab Gab 19 summary: Ebbe & Brett; LL, SL, Sansar & more

via Linden Lab

The 19th edition of Lab Gab was live streamed on Friday, March 27th, featuring Brett Linden, the Lab’s Senior Director of Marketing, and linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, who were invited to discuss the Lab’s response to the SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic and talk about Second life in general.

The official video of the segment is available via You Tube, and is embedded at the end of this article. The following is a summary of the key topics discussed and responses to questions. Note that the last 15 minutes of the video is something of an advert for the Linden Lab sponsored Mankind Tracer concert being held on Sunday, March 29th, which is not a part of this summary.

Sansar Summary

[0:40-3:00]

  • The decision to sell Sansar came, at least in part, from the recognition that as a platform, Sansar is at a very different stage of its evolution compared to Second Life, requiring different investment and resourcing.
  • Some 30 of the original team have received offers to join the new entity running Sansar (Wookey Project Corp), and “a bunch of them” are already back at work.
  • It appears that the focus for the platform will potentially remain on it being a platform for large scale virtual events in the music / entertainment sectors, utilising the platform’s ability to instance events for “many thousands” of attendees. Also, desktop and VR support will both likely be maintained.
    • However, the overall strategy and focus for developing Sansar is now obviously up to the new owners.
  • Linden Lab will remain a “partner”, inasmuch as Tilia will continue to be used for Sansar Dollar transactions and fiat money payouts, with Tilia also due to gain more customers in the near future..

Coronavirus Related

Dealing with the Virus

[3:00-7:48] plus as timestamped below.

  • On a set of personal notes,Ebbe, Brett and Lab Gab’s host, Strawberry Linden have thus far avoided infection (like the rest of the Lab’s staff they are working from home), but obviously, they do have concerns about the virus and its potential to impact family and friends.
  • Linden Lab is fortunate that it is exceptionally well geared towards remote working (many staff worked from home as a matter of course well before the current pandemic, and that’s been the way since the company’s formation).
  • It is not anticipated that Second Life should experience significant service interruptions due to the current health situation.
  • A comment that has been used among LL staff during calls and virtual meetings has been, “stay safe, stay virtual”.
  • [14:53-17:04] Users can help ease unnecessary stress on SL / LL staff by avoiding squabbles and upsets that can result in unnecessary abuse reports, etc., and by providing help to one another to lighten calls to support staff, as well showing support / friendliness to new users.
  • [27:55-29:33] All LL offices are closed. The co-lo data centre is open for access, if required, but all co-lo work is actually outsourced.

Usage and Concurrency

[7:48-11:09]

  • The last several weeks has seen a resurgence in the number of returning users (those who have not logged-in to SL for some time) as well as a rise in new users accessing the service.
  • New registrations are up by some 60%, with a rise in concurrency of around 10% overall.
  • These rises particularly correspond with cities, regions and countries where a lock-down is ordered.
  • Established users are encouraged to be kind and support incoming new and returning users, given they are likely trying to deal with the anxieties of the current situation.

Absolutely. We’re seeing quite [an] interesting resurgence of returning users, as well as new users coming in to explore Second Life. We see registrations up over 60% and concurrency’s up north of 10%, and we’re just a week or so into people being locked up. We can actually see countries and states that imposed strict stay-home policies, we see a corresponding jump in people in those markets jumping into Second Life.

– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th

  • LL is not focusing any new features / activities specifically for those coming into SL as an alternative to watching television, playing games, etc. They are constantly working to increase registrations and user retention outside of any crisis.
  • The company is heavily committed to the the cloud uplift to AWS  / Google through until the end of the year, so there is not a lot of available resource to take on major new initiatives. This work will likely take the majority of the Lab’s technical resources through until the end of the year (see below as well).

Region Owners Impacted by the Virus & Assistance from the Lab

[17:10-18:54]

  • Contact support – see also: Region owners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged to contact LL.
  • LL has no wish to see regions go under because holders are experiencing hardship as a result of result income at this time. however, the company also cannot afford to just give across-the-board reductions in tier.
  • Where cases can be explained  / discussed / explored, Linden Lab will try to do what they can and is taking a “human, compassionate” approach to people’s needs”.

Supporting Businesses and Education

[18:59-27:50]

  • Linden Lab has been “inundated” with requests from educators, businesses, etc., on whether Second Life can provide support for them.
  • The volume has been such that LL has had to re-assign resources to help deal with the incoming requests. There has also bee a certain amount of media attention on what Second Life can offer – the UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a paywalled article on SL and remote working on March 26th, for example)
  • It takes time to bring organisations in: understanding their requirements, getting them into SL, ensuring they have the required in-world facilities, etc.
  • In addition, LL have been carefully crafting a media campaign to raise awareness of SL as a place for socialisation and discovery. These have been garnering high rates of click-through that may be contributing to the upswing in registrations.
  • For the business side  – remote working, conferences, meetings, etc.,  – the Lab launched a micro-website and an accompanying updated FAQ promoting Second life as a working environment (see also: Second Life: support for remote working & reduced education / non-profit fees – updated, March 16th). This provides access to a series of seven turnkey region solutions for business use, comprising single and multi-region settings, capable of handling up to 350 avatars, with individual regions intentionally optimised such that they can comfortably and consistently handle 75 avatars apiece without becoming stressed.

The seven new turnkey business/ meeting environments provided by Linden Lab.

  • Education is still very much a factor in Second Life as well, with the platform again seeing an uptick in interest from educational organisations.
    • Various schools and universities can be found in the Destination Guide, and some have been active in SL for over a decade.
    • More are not publicly visible as they operate gated access for staff and students only.
  • Organisations such as CNDG are using Second Life for teaching / simulations in what is referred to as an “ambitious long-lasting run in SL”, with up to 10,000 students involved with Second Life experiential teaching modules.
  • Training also forms a part of learning in SL. For example, many nurses and medial staff have received simulation training within Second Life.
  • LL is committed to continuing to support educational use cases and make it easier for educational organisations and students to take advantage of what SL can offer.
  • Second life is also the focal point for the annual Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference.

Other Topics

Book Club and Showcase Streams

[11:10-14:43]

  • Despite the cloud uplift work, Linden Lab did announce two new two new initiatives on the marketing side:
    • The Second Life Book Club will launch on April 8th and a monthly event. A spin-off from the Draxtor Book Club hosted on Sansar, the Second Life Book Club will feature Draxtor Despres in conversation with authors from around the world, with the first instalment featuring Matt Ruff, Ken Liu, SL Huang, CB Lee, and a possible additional guest.
    • Showcase Streams will be a series of spontaneous “drop in” video streams that will aim to spotlight the many music, art and cultural events in Second Life.
  • Outside of the current pandemic, a reason for implementing initiatives like these is that the Lab has seen an uptick in interest in second Life as a result of the their social media engagement and the success of formats like Lab Gab in capturing non-SL users’ interest.

Name Changes

[29:41-30:52]

  • Most recently subjected to an internal pile-on test (stress test with mass use of a capability, in this case by LL staff) to uncover any previously missed bugs or issues.
  • Could now be just “a very few weeks” away from launching.

iOS Mobile Companion

[30:58-33:11]

  • Lots of activity.
  • Must be understood this will primarily be a communications tool (e.g. IMs, group messaging, etc., but not local chat or in-world presence / 3D view initially).
  • Now very close to Alpha status, which may only be for internal testing, and the path from that to initial release isn’t currently clear (iOS apps are subject to Apple strictures, among other things).
  • Work has now started on the Android version of this companion app as well, and the hope is this will quickly catch-up with the iOS version.

Future Plans / Updates

[36:10-39:27]

  • For 2020, the cloud uplift. This is occurring on a service-by-service basis on the back end (e.g. log-in service, web services, group services, etc.).
  • Transitioning the simulators will be a huge undertaking.
  • Some services have seen significant performance improvements following their transition, just because services a moving to more up-to-date hardware and newer infrastructure.
  • Because of this, 2020 will not be a major SL feature release year beyond what is already stated as being in the works (e.g. EEP, Name Changes, Premium Plus, mobile companion). Anything else will be subject to resources being available.
  • Note that more on SL tech and the uplift will be featured in the April 3rd Lab Gab which will feature Oz Linden, VP of engineering and members of his teams.

Advanced notice for Lab Gab 19: how the Lab is dealing with the health crisis

via Linden Lab

The 19th edition of Lab Gab will be live streamed on Friday, March 27th at 10:00 SLT (17:00 UK; 18:00 CET). The segment will feature Ebbe Linden (aka Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg) and Brett Linden, Senior Director of Marketing, two recent guests on the show (see here and here for summaries of their prior interviews). They are returning to address, as the official blog post states:

Discussing how Linden Lab is responding to the public health crisis to ensure uninterrupted Second Life operations, as well as how the company is offering new remote turnkey solutions for conferences, events, or classes.

This is once more a segment during which questions from Second Life users will be put to Ebbe and Brett, so if you have anything you’d like to ask  – particularly in relation to the SARS novel-coronavirus pandemic and Second Life / Linden Lab operations, although not necessarily restricted to that topic – be sure to submit them via the Lab Gab Episode 19 Questions form. Not all the questions may be asked / answered, but if you don’t try, there’s a greater chance your question may not be asked anyway!

The programmed will be streamed via YouTube, Facebook, Mixer, or Periscope, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll have a summary of the video (and the video itself) available soon after the the broadcast, for those unable to watch live.