April 2020 Web User Group: Name Changes et al

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, April 1st, 2020. These meetings are held monthly, generally on the first Wednesdays of the month, with dates and details of the meetings available via the Web User Group wiki page.

When reading these notes, please keep in mind:

  • This is not intended as a chronological transcript of the meeting. Items are drawn together by topic, although they may have been discussed at different points in the meeting.
  • Similarly, and if included, any audio extracts appearing in these summaries are presented by topic heading, rather than any chronological order in which they may have been raised during the meeting (e.g. if “topic X” is mentioned early in a meeting and then again half-way through a meeting, any audio comments related to that topic that might be included in these reports will be concatenated into a single audio extract).

Name Changes

  • Deployment of the Name Changes capability is now “really, really close”.
  • As of the meeting, all of the major elements for Name Changes are with the Lab’s QA team for testing.
  • IF no significant issues / showstoppers or the like are uncovered by QA, it is probable that Name Changes will launch before the end of April.

Premium Plus

  • All of the required / update workflows for managing Premium Plus are in place, and the various web pages that will need to be refreshed with updated information have been prepared ready for the eventual Premium Plus launch.
  • All of the back-end work is in place.
  • LL are still “sitting on” all of the various values (fee, benefits, etc.), that are associated with Premium Plus.
  • No release date but said to be be “closer” – however, as I’ve previously noted, it will not come until some time after Name Changes have been made available.

Marketplace

  • Keywords and unlisting: if an item is unlisted from the MP for keyword use issues, the merchant will now get an automated e-mail notification.
  • Further improvements to the keyword system will be made over time.
  • There have been multiple fixes to the Marketplace, including:
    • Corrections for translations for non-English languages and alternate language descriptions on listings being incorrect or not displaying correctly.
    • Fixes for issues with the transaction e-mail settings.
    • Correcting the issue of some listings failing to appear in search results on Merchant’s Manage Listings pages.
    • Cleaned up the behaviour of received items.
    • Single sign-on session handling between the viewer and the Marketplace has been improved to prevent the system getting confused between which account a user was using to make a MP purchase if they were logged-in and using the MP from two accounts.

SL Marketing

  • Work has been put into refreshing a lot of the Second Life landing pages as a part of promoting Second Life.
  • This work includes the development of the enterprise / business micro-site, including the new explore page for the (at present) seven turnkey solutions.
    • I’m currently discussing with LL a possible article on this aspect of Second Life that will present a walk-through of the micro site and how interested parties can use it to engage with LL and progress through to using one of the region types.
    • The global MuseWeb 2020 conference is in progress at the time of writing, and has moved to an entirely on-line status as a result of the current pandemic. Portions of this event are being presented in or relayed through Second Life, using one of the enterprise turnkey solutions – see: MuseWeb: utilising Second Life in support of a global conference).
  • Internally to the Lab, one of the new consumer campaigns (yet to launch at the time of writing) is called the Comfort Campaign, promoting Second Life as a virtual social environment where people can meet, share times, enjoy the company of others (pretty much in keeping with the ideal of “stay safe, stay virtual”) during the current crisis, whilst at the same time avoiding the appearance of being in any way exploitative.

Two-Factor Authentication

  • Still being worked on.
  • First step will likely be sending out an e-mail notification when an attempt to log-in to a Second Life service is made from an unrecognised device.
  • More robust 2FA controls will be added, and will initially be opt-in before eventually becoming required.

It’s a very serious topic that we are working on in parallel to AWS work. Which means it made the cut of “what can we stop working on to make AWS go faster.

– Ekim Linden

In Brief

  • Website polls. People visiting Second Life web properties such as secondlife.com and the Marketplace may have noticed a pop-up poll appearing when they do so, asking if they would recommend SL to others.
    • Apparently, those responding at largely indicating they would (although obviously saying and doing aren’t the same).
    • At the same time, the poll also received a lot of negative feedback due to the annoyance factor (it would keep popping up on a user logging into any Second Life web property until responded to), and so has been turned off.
    • However, there are more such polls being planned, although how they are being presented might be reconsidered.
  • Web profiles and legacy profiles viewer: there are further fixes awaiting before this profile can roll forward, and these are queued behind other work at present.
  • Forum spamming. There has been an upturn in new accounts spamming the forums. It is possible that if this continues and gets worse, LL may consider some form of throttling / limits on the volume of posts that can be made by an individual account at a given time.

Lab releases new Log Theme Linden Homes

The Linden Log Homes: the Lincoln (l), Overlook (c) and Grand View (r)

On April 1st Linden Lab released the latest Linden Homes theme for Premium members. The Log Homes (a terms that sounds somewhat odd to me, so I’ve tended to call them lodge homes), were unveiled in February during the Home and Garden Expo for Relay for Life of Second Life – see: Previewing the Linden Home Log theme in Second Life.

Since that time, the Moles have been busy dropping a new bunch of regions off to the east of Bellisseria  – a location I’d previously mused as being the most likely direction for expansion now that Bellisseria directly abuts Sansara to the north and Joegeot to the south (see: Linden Homes: recent expansions, future thoughts). And when I say “a few” I men an area of regions pretty comparable in size to the original Bellisseria continent that first opened to the public back in April 2019.

The linden Log Homes and landscaping

Within these regions, the initial release of Log Home saw a staggering 4,828 unit made available as a single – many of which were promptly jumped on by existing Linden Home owners deserting their original offering.

As I noted in my preview for the theme, the houses come in for styles, any of which can be selected by the occupant of a house parcel. However, at the time of that previews, the styles hadn’t been given names, so’s here a quick recap of each:

  • Lincoln (formerly “Log 1”): 2 front aspect entrances, 3 open-plan ground floor rooms, one overlooked by the galleried upper floor that forms the bedroom area, complete with a balcony recessed into the roof and offering a side aspect view.
  • Grand View (formerly “Log 2”: semi A-frame, with full height picture window to the front aspect, and a porch running across the front under the A-frame roof, and part-way down one side to the front door. Three rooms on the ground floor, the front room overlooked by the galleried upper floor bedroom.
  • Overlook (formerly “Log 3”): full length front porch, 1/2 length rear porch. Three rooms on the ground floor, 2 open-plan, with one of the latter overlooked by a galleried landing providing access to two bedrooms.
  • Mountaineer (formerly “Log 4”): 2 entrances to the front aspect, 3 ground floor rooms, 2 open-plan, stairs to upper floor with two bedrooms, one with en-suite bathroom; further stairs up to an attic space with windows to all four aspects.
The Linden Log Homes: the Lincoln

In keeping with their theme, these are houses with a good proportion of open space within them and opportunities (if the house is facing the right way) to enjoy vista-like views through the picture windows and / or the balcony that feature in a couple of the designs.

The regions containing the houses are – again as may have been seen with the H&G Expo preview set-up – designed as rolling, open country, crossed by tracks a-la the Campers and Trailers homes, with open woodland – including redwood style trees – populating the landscape, while the tracks are marked by lamps, stone walls and wooden fences. Rivers appear to be sparse, water apparently restricted to moderate to small lakes, while somewhere buried within their midsts is a new community centre build. I’ll be seeking that out when I get a chance to explore more of the regions on horseback.

I have to admit, these are the first batch of new Linden Homes that have almost had me upping stakes and trying to claim one (throwing over my houseboat in the process). But, I like messing about on the water and so will hold out in case LL and the Moles work out an option that gives people the option to have a house on land with some degree of direct water access.

In the meantime, once this batch has been gobbled up, expect releases of the Log Homes to slot into the rolling schedule of smaller releases (officially) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (although some releases have come pretty much daily).

Previewing the Linden Home Log theme in Second Life

The new Linden Home Log / Lodge theme with the Log 2 to the right, Log 3 to the left and log 4 partially visible to the left

The fifth in the 1024 sq metre Linden Homes that are available to Premium members, was unveiled on Friday, February 28th at a special region sitting adjacent to the main American Cancer Society (ACS) region in Second Life. The site was selected as a combined result of ACS home the 2020 Home And Garden Expo in support of Relay for Life, and in recognition of the strong ties between ACS Relay for Life and Second Life / Linden Lab.

The new theme is referred to a the Log Home theme – or if you prefer, lodge theme, a further distinctly rural theme well suited to woodlands, lakes, mountains and remote spots, joining with the Campers and Trailers theme to offer such a rural opportunity. As such they stand apart for the more urban styles of the Traditional and Victorian homes, whilst also offering a chance to blend the the Houseboat type.

The Log 1 style of Linden Home, showing the recessed balcony

As per usual, four styles of the new home are available for Premium users to choose from, all four selectable from the wooden mailbox that accompanies each parcel. The four styles, as shown at the preview, didn’t have individual names, but were called simply, Log 1, Log 2, Log 3 and Loge 4, with each featuring:

  • Log 1: 2 front aspect entrances, 3 open-plan ground floor rooms, one overlooked by the galleried upper floor that forms the bedroom area, complete with a balcony recessed into the roof and offering a side aspect view.
  • Log 2: semi A-frame, with full height picture window to the front aspect, and a porch running across the front under the A-frame roof, and part-way down one side to the front door. Three rooms on the ground floor, the front room overlooked by the galleried upper floor bedroom.
The Log 3 Linden Home
  • Log 3: full length front porch, 1/2 length rear porch. Three rooms on the ground floor, 2 open-plan, with one of the latter overlooked by a galleried landing providing access to two bedrooms.
  • Log 4: 2 entrances to the front aspect, 3 ground floor rooms, 2 open-plan, stairs to upper floor with two bedrooms, one with en-suite bathroom; further stairs up to an attic space with windows to all four aspects.

The preview region featuring the houses offers a feel for how they will look when in situ in Bellisseria, once they become available. Like the Campers and Trailers theme, the landscaping features open spaces, trees, water and dirt tracks. As all parcels are, in keeping with the Linden Home house builds, 1024 sq m (Campers and Trailers are currently 512 sq m), individual footprints for the 4 styles of home offer plenty of scope for outdoor options as well – and these homes would appear especially well suited to those wishing to have somewhere to place a small stables and fencing and provide a home for their horse.

The Log 4 Linden Home

The preview region will be available for viewing through until the end of the Home and Garden Expo on Tuesday, March 3rd. Currently, I do not have a date as to when the new theme will be available in Bellisseria.

SLurl for the Preview

American Cancer Society (rated: General) – follow the signs

February 2020 Web User Group: Name Changes, MP updates and 2FA

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, February 5th, 2020. These meetings are held monthly, generally on the first Wednesdays of the month, with dates and details of the meetings available via the Web User Group wiki page.

When reading these notes, please keep in mind:

  • This is not intended as a chronological transcript of the meeting. Items are drawn together by topic, although they may have been discussed at different points in the meeting.
  • Similarly, and if included, any audio extracts appearing in these summaries are presented by topic heading, rather than any chronological order in which they may have been raised during the meeting (e.g. if “topic X” is mentioned early in a meeting and then again half-way through a meeting, any audio comments related to that topic that might be included in these reports will be concatenated into a single audio extract).

Cloud Uplift

  • The work transitioning SL services to the cloud is very much a daily task for the Web Team, who appear to be the focus at the moment in the drive to get SL-related web properties and services transitioned to provisioning by AWS.
  • This work is also impacting a lot of cycles of QA and engineering work.
  • It is believed that the initial benefit for SL web services following their transitioning will be in performance.
  • It was reiterated that the focus of the work is just on making the transition to AWS provisioning; and other work (such as possible regional localisation of servers where it makes sense to do so) will not come until much later.

Name Changes

  • Still no confirmation of likely deployment date. However, and as per my week #6 Simulator Group summary, the necessary server-side support for Name Changes is being deployed to the grid.
  • The final tally of entrants in the Last Names competition is 2,300, with the majority all entering their allowed three choices, so somewhere in the region of 6,900 suggestions (some of which might be duplicates of one another).
    • Work is in-hand to select the winners that will be included in the first batch of available last names.
  • Some additional blockers have been encountered that are delaying the deployment of the capability.

Marketplace

  • End-to-end Localisation of Marketplace pages is continuing, with the side bar now being shown in Spanish for users selecting that language, and with all the categories, etc., displaying correctly.
  • Landmarks can once again be included in land sale listings.
  • Ongoing back-end work to support the upcoming new Premium Plus subscription option.
  • It has been noted that the new search filters (demos and limited items) has highlighted a large number of demo items on the MP that are not linked to actual products – which is against the listing guidelines. Those coming across such items are asked to flag the items, and if no action is seen to be taken after a period of time, to raise a support ticket.
  • There are reports that some who have items de-listed from the MP are not receiving an advisory e-mail that their items have been de-listed.
    • Should it be noted that this is the case, make sure the any supplied e-mail address you use with Second Life has been correctly verified (see Important: verifying your e-mail address with Second life).
    • If the e-mail is apparently verified, the advice is to contact support, who will try to help determine why e-mails are not being received.
    • Additionally, the Web Team are going to follow this up to see if there are any reasons which the notifications are not being sent from their end.
  • There has been an issue of items No Copy items being wrongfully obtained / re-sold via the Marketplace. Accounts found to be doing this are held for assessment, but it is hard for LL to arrange the return of the items to the original creators, as very often the items are moved between multiple accounts, requiring extensive and time-consuming back-tracking through MP listings, etc.
    • However, it is acknowledged that the assessment process is unfair to merchants using the MP, and the process is under view with the aim of the Lab trying to “do better” for merchants hit by these issues.

Two-Factor Authentication

  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) – this has oft been requested for Second Life log-in processes, and it is on the road map. However, there are “many hurdles” in implementing such a system, which LL are trying to overcome.
    • For those unfamiliar with the concept of 2FA, it is a method of confirming users’ claimed identities by using a combination of two different factors, e.g. something they know, something they have, or something they are. For example, using a bank card (something a person has) and a PIN number (something they know) to withdraw money from an ATM¹.
  • Whilst the complications of 2FA are being investigated / addressed, the Lab may implemented additional account security safeguards in the nearer-term road map, which are seen as easier to achieve
    • An example of this might be a user receiving a notification if a log-in to their account is made from a new location or from a different device / computer.
  • It is expected that when initially introduced, any 2FA process is introduced for Second Life will be opt-in by users.

In Brief

  • Details of the Premium Plus offering are unlikely to be made available until such time as Linden Lab is ready to make it available, and this will not be until some time after Name Changes has been deployed.
  • Recurring Events has seen good take-up among Premium users, and further updates are in development.
    • Adding the ability to include events in your personal on-line calendar (e.g. Outlook, Google, etc.), is currently targeted for a Q2 (April – June) or Q3 (July-September) deployment.
  • Password Reset Changes  – whenever a user changes their SL password, they will now get a full notification e-mail about the change.
  • The site defender used to protect Second Life web properties was updated during January 2020. A side benefit of this work is that various web pages from the Lab – notably those on the Marketplace – load faster. The Web Team estimate the performance gain to be at least 11%.
  • There is no date for when resident-to-resident Mainland land auctions will be returning. These were suspended in 2019 fulling the system being abused.
  • Linden Homes:
    • The “collection page” (the page seen when you have selected a Linden Home through the web and which provides the SLurl to the house) has been updated to obfuscate the personal e-mail address, which had been previously exposed in full. This is part of a on-going effort to prevent user’s personal data from being exposed in the event of someone else accessing their account.
    • The “next batch” (presumably a new type, given all current variations are now part of the weekly “rolling” deployments) of Linden Homes is being targeted for the end of Q1 (so late March), barring any unforeseen issues.
  • Windows 7 has been removed from the Second Life System Requirements page, following the official ending of support of that version of Windows by Microsoft on January 14th, 2020.
    • As I noted in Linden Lab announce end of support for Windows 7, users can still use systems running Windows 7 to access Second Life if they so choose, but will not receive any support from the Lab for issues directly related to that version of the OS.

Date of Next Meeting

The next Web User Group meeting will be on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020, commencing at 14:00 SLT.

¹ Note that this example should not be taken to mean it is how any form of 2FA implemented by the Lab will be implemented; it is purely an easy-to-understand illustrative case. 

Linden Homes: recent expansions, future thoughts

Welcome to Bellisseria

Since their introduction in April 2019, Linden Lab have released more than 10,000 new Linden Homes across Bellisseria, including the southern extension to the continent and southwards towards the Mainland continent of Jeogeot. They represent an extensive mix of themes: “traditional” homes, houseboats, campers & trailers and Victorian, all of which have proven very popular – as evidenced by the speed with which releases have tended to be snapped up.

The more recent updates have seen the southern section of Bellisseria that arrived with the release of the Victorian type of home directly connected with the northern, and additional off-shore expansions that place Linden Homes in the waters off the north-west coast of Jeogeot. The latter do so by offering what might be seen as the first “cookie cutter” element of the new Linden Homes, duplicating as it does the original houseboat expansion, together with a couple of the sand bar layouts from elsewhere around the continent.

Victorian Houses and the railway in the southern extension to Bellisseria

These extensions fulfil Patch’s promise that the new continent for Linden Homes would directly connect Jeogeot with Sansara to the north, providing water access (including the coastal waters of Bellisseria) between the two, and which goes well beyond the narrow corridor of water originally linking Jeogeot to Bellisseria.

In addition, the extensions close to Jeogeot also encompass one of the earliest Mole builds – Pyri Peaks. It was designed to offer anearly attempt at an interactive adventure involving a storyline, a fun fair and a network of underground tunnels and chambers. It is a setting I wrote about in 2013  with Pyri Peaks: the mystery of the lost Moles (2013), and whilst it is perhaps a little long in the tooth by today’s building / design standards, it is good to see it folded-in to the new Linden Homes in a move that might encourage interest in this part of SL history.

Pyri Peaks: home of the Pyri Fun Fair and now within sight / reach of Linden Homes

Whilst there are still houses within Bellisseria yet to be released, just where any future new locations for the homes might go raises an interesting point to ponder. One doesn’t have to look too far west of Bellisseria to note the number of private regions lying in that direction, together with the likes of the recently-arrived SS Galaxy, the QA versions of the Shop’n’Hop regions as well as the actual shopping event regions.

While these latter regions might be relocated to provide a little more western room to expansion, it would seem the the eastern side offers a far better opportunity, although this runs the risk of sliding into the open space to the east of Jeogeot, which might eventually lead to that continent looking crowded-in and limit expansion somewhat. So, might the Linden seek to offer a new continent elsewhere at some point in 2020? If so, will it see further home types?

Campers and Trailers in the Linden Homes regions extension just off the coast of Jeogeot

Offering new styles of Linden Home certainly helps maintain interest – but it comes with a potential risk: new houses could encourage those with Linden Homes to vacate and rotate from type to type, making it difficult  / frustrating for others who have yet to claim a home and who want to get one of the newer styles (something that has already been the case).

That said, were I to be asked, and given the potential for a more “offshore” style development alongside Bellisseria, I’d love to see something along the lines of houses built along a network of canals, with each house having a modest boat house or mooring space within the parcel and suitable for a small boat or two. Admittedly, it would require careful design to provide a mix of houses, waterways and footpaths (rather than roads) to connect everything together (and likely require a fair number of bridges), but such a design could generate interest and provide something more unique in terms of layout and options.

There are still regions in Bellisseria awaiting release to user, such as this area of Traditional Homes, sitting in the hills overlooking the southern extension to the continent

I’m pretty sure others have ideas for what they’d like to see, if there are to be further Linden Home types – feel free to comment with ideas! I’m also sure the Lab has plans of their own in terms of house types, if more are to be offered. In the meantime, as noted, there are still numerous regions in Bellisseria and the southern extension still to be finished, and the LDPW are once again back at work to get them finished and available as part of the weekly release cycles.

Names Changes: rounding-up what’s known ahead of any launch

Name Changes – the ability for Premium subscribers to be able to choose their own first and last names – is due to be deployed in 2020, possibly as soon as February. I’ve provided two prior summary updates on what has been released about the capability already.

However, while much of what is already known is unlikely yo e news to many, I thought that now we’re almost on the cusp of the capability being made available, I’d pull all of what is known from those updates and via more recent Lab-led meetings to offer what is (I hope) a reasonably complete, one-stop summary of what is known, and what might be surmised fee-wise.

The Basics

  • Name Changes will be a Premium-only benefit.
  • Qualifying users will be able to change their first and / or last name as often as they like.
  • First names will be entirely free-form.
  • Last names will be selectable from a list (see below for more).
  • Both first and last names can be up to 31 characters each.
  • Combinations of first name + last name must be unique, and can never be used by any other user.
  • Subject to final confirmation, it should be possible for a user to change back to a first name / last name they have previously used.
  • There will be a USD fee payable for each name change (see below for more).
  • The ability for Premium members to change their first / last names will be via an option on their secondlife.com dashboard, not an in-viewer option.
  • Names Changes will not be replacing Display Names, which will remain available for any user wishing to use it.

Last Names

  • The list of last names will likely be around 20-30 names, and subject to periodic update.
  • Generally speaking, Previously used last names will not be made publicly available for re-use, but users will be able to re-use names they’ve previously had, per above.
  • Suggestions from users for possible last names may be taken by Linden Lab.
    • A Name Changes competition that saw the submission of 6,000 names closed on January 6th.
  • Two possible means for rotating names in the list that the Lab are considering are:
    • Replacing popular names from the list as they reach a certain number of people selecting them.
    • Replacing “unpopular” names if they fail to achieve a certain threshold of use over a period of time.

Fees

  • While it has yet to be officially confirmed, the fee for using Name Changes will likely be US $39.99 (based on Section 5 of the rules for the recent Last Names competition).
  • The fee will be charged whether changing only a first or last name, or both the first and last name.
  • When launched (at a date still to be determined) the new Premium Plus subscription will offer Name Changes at a lower fee (still TBA) than Premium membership.
  • The fee is being levied primarily to discourage users from making frequent changes to their user name, due to the potential impact on SL services (as everywhere a user name appears must be updated when a change is made).

Availability

  • It is hoped that Name Changes will be available in February 2020.
  • However, at the January 8th, 2020 Web User Group meeting, it was indicated that final deployment is dependent on the Lab finishing all remaining work on the capability and then testing it.

General Points

  • Name changes will be reflected across all of Second Life. This includes things like:
    • Other people’s Friends lists.
    • The Creator and Owner fields of the Edit / Build floater.
    • Group member lists.
    • Marketplace listings.
    • Chat and IM.
    • Plus anywhere else a “live” record of a user name is held.
  • Previous names should be retained by the system, so if you can remember someone’s previous name, you can search on that name and get their current name.
  • At the time of writing, it was still not clear whether a change of name will trigger a notification to those on a user’s Friends list or not.
  • It has taken a long time to implement because Second Life was never designed to support users changing their account name, and as the account name touches every aspects of the platform, the Lab had to go through all the places the user name touches and make sure that any updates correctly reach them without being missed / causing an adverse impact.
  • Incoming users will not be able to pick a last name when signing-up.
    • They will receive the default last name of “Resident”.
    • It they upgrade to Premium as part of the sing-up process, they will be able to change their name via their secondlife.com dashboard, just like other Premium subscribers.
    • Last name choice is not included in the sign-up process because a) it is a Premium benefit; b) it has been found to be a major blocker to users completing the sign-up process (which was a major reason last names were originally abandoned).
  • When using scripts to handle account / avatar-specific information, creators and scripts are strongly advised to use the Agent Key (avatar UUID) as their reference point, not the account name.

References