On Monday December 9th, 2019 Linden Lab blogged about filing DMCA complaints with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Refresh!
The blog post comes with a warning the what it contains should not be construed as legal advice, and reminds SL content creators have the right to file a complaint against those violating their intellectual property. Specifically, it points to their Intellectual Property On-line Web Form, as well as reminding content creators of the Lab’s Intellectual Property Infringement Notification Policy, which provides core and important information about filing DMCA complaints with the Lab, and provides a link to the on-line form.
To be honest, I am a little surprised by the Lab is only now blogging about the on-line DMCA form – which has actually been available since June, 2019 – indeed I blogged about it on June 25th, see: Lab release on-line DMCA complaint form for SL, and I don’t remember seeing a prior post from the Lab on the subject. However, that they are blogging now should be taken as a worthwhile reminder of both their DMCA policy and the new form.
As always, it is recommended that the official blog post is read in full, particularly the notes at the end of the post in reference of filing complaints.
Such discount offers aren’t new to Second Life – they’ve been rolled out regularly for the last few years. However, the December discount is different in that it is offering 10% off the US $99.00 cost of Annual membership – the first time that the Annual plan has been included in a Premium membership discount offer (Monthly or Quarterly have been the subjects of past offers).
I noted in my December 4th Web User Group meeting summary, the Lab would “soon” be offering that same 10% discount for existing Premium members wishing to take advantage of the offer, and extend their membership by a further year for US $89.
Well, “soon” turned out to be sooner than I’d anticipated, as hours after that summary was published, the Lab announced the Premium pre-pay is now available for existing members. In short:
Premium members can pre-pay for another year’s membership beyond the end of their current subscription period, using the Annual plan at the 10% discount, providing they do so before January 2nd, 2020, when the current Premium promotion ends.
Existing Premium members on either the Monthly or Quarterly plans will have to “upgrade” to Annual.
For those in EU countries subject to VAT who are on either the Monthly or Quarterly plans, note that the Annual is additionally offered VAT-free (VAT was re-introduced on Monthly and Quarterly plans in July 2019).
How well this offer suits you will depend on your existing plan / circumstance. Given the overall pricing differential between Annual and Monthly or Quarterly, it’s hard to see how this offer cannot have appeal for those who are in a position to take advantage of it. For those already on Annual, however, it comes down to how the offer period falls compared for your usual renewal period (sadly, for me, the timing is not that favourable, but ho hum). For those who do find it favourable and are in a position to take advantage of it, I can only say, “go for it!”
With typical timing, I’m taking time off from the blog to enjoy an evening at the theatre (seeing Jonathan Pie, aka comedian Tom Walker, in case you’re interested!), when Linden Lab blogs about Name Changes, the updates to events I’ve mentioned in my Web User Group updates, and on Marketplace updates!
Linden Lab is working to make Name Changes “available by the end of January”.
As per my previous reporting on the subject, Name Changes will be an Premium (and Premium Plus – see below) benefit.
Changes will incur a fee (yet to be disclosed) which will be levied as a single transaction for “one or both of your First and Last Name.”
Last Names will be be list-selectable, and users can help LL curate the list.
Between December 16th, 2019 and January 15th, 2020, the Lab will hold a Last Name competition for SL users (Basic and Premium) to suggest suitable last names to add to the first list of names to be made available. Five will be selected, and those submitting them will be able to change their names completely free of charge. Details to follow in a later Lab blog post.
Note that in addition the to official blog post above, Linden Lab have also indicated that:
Those signing-up to Second Life will not be required to pick a last name, but will continue to have “resident” appended to their name until such time as the opt to go Premium or after they have completed the sign-up process, if they opt to go directly to Premium when setting up their account.
The fee applied to Name Changes will likely be in US dollars, and will be at a lower rate for Premium Plus (once available) than for Premium.
For further information on these latter points, please refer to:
Events are being overhauled to present more functionality, such as the ability to set an alert on an event you want to attend, to follow your favourite events hosts, share event calendars, and more.
This work will include a new look for events (see the concept art below, courtesy of Linden Lab).
The updates will be accompanied by the introduction of event listing fees, at the rate of L$50 er event for Basic members, and L$10 per event for Premium members, who will – as a follow-up update to these initially changes – be able to schedule recurring events.
The Marketplace sales commission will increase to 10% of the item price.
This marks the first fee increase on the Marketplace in a decade.
It is seen as a means of off-setting the cost of on-going improvements and enhancements to the MP.
Marketplace Product Listing Enhancement fees will be reduced by 10%.
The blog post also points out further Marketplace enhancement that are close to being ready to be deployed, or are in development, including:
The ability to filter limited quantity and demo items (close to being ready for deployment).
Improved navigating shopping and order history for shoppers.
A means to prevent limited-quantity item redelivery for the Merchants.
Longer-term, the Lab is working on Mobile-friendly layouts for the Marketplace and planning both a complete facelift for the Marketplace and on a vendor system “that better connects in-world sales and tracking with Marketplace transactions”.
I’ll continue to report on all of the above as news surfaces on them via in-world meetings and / or official blog and forum posts.
On November 4th, some users on the Marketplace who accessed their account page ended up seeing some account details for another user currently logged-in to the Marketplace at the same time.
The user account page gives a user’s SL account name, L$ balance, a small portion of their activity on the Marketplace activity, their wish lists, received gifts list, and the obfuscated version of their e-mail address (e.g. i****@g****.com, designed to provide the user with enough information to identify their own e-mail address without revealing it to others).
Multiple bug reports on the issue were raised with Linden Lab, and at least one forum thread was raised on the subject, with some pointing to the Marketplace maintenance that was in progress as a possible cause – and they were right, as the Lab’s Second Life Operations Manager has revealed in a blog post (Report on the Recent Marketplace Issue), that reads in part:
We’ve been working to make the Second Life Marketplace more robust and handle higher numbers of page views at once. Due to a change made this morning, the user account page got cached when we didn’t mean for it to be. Once we realised what had happened, we rolled back the changes immediately and deleted all of our caches. No other parts of Second Life were impacted.
Our engineering teams are now working with our QA (quality assurance) team to make sure we develop better testing for this in the future. We want to make sure we catch something like this long before it makes it out into the hands of Residents.
We’d like to extend a really big thank you to everyone who reported the issue to us the moment they saw it! Because of your vigilance we were able to react really quickly and limit the time that this misconfiguration was live. (Seriously, y’all rock! 💜)
We’re sorry this issue happened this morning. We’re working to make sure it never happens again, and developing better test procedures for use in the future.
While the error was unfortunate, and might have been a little discomforting for some who encountered it, the Lab estimates that no more than 500 users visited the account page during the time the issue could occur, and not all of them were given the wrong page to view.
Where the issue did occur, April notes that it did so at random, and randomly selected the incorrect page to be displayed, so it was impossible for a user to “pick” another user’s information and intentionally view it. She also notes that it was not possible to either make purchases via an incorrect account page, or to make any changes to the page.
As always, details in full in April’s blog post – and many thanks to her again for providing an explanation of the issue and what is being done to hopefully avoid future repetitions.
Back at the start of October, Beth MacBain pointed out on the forums that Patch Linden had received a promotion, to Vice President of Programme Operations.
At the time, I dropped Patch a line asking about his expended role – although as I didn’t hear back – and I did a quick check to see if his promotion had been reflected on the Lab’s official Management Team page.
Back then, the answer was no – possibly because I was a little quick on the draw. However, since then it has been updated – and it reveals that Patch is one of three senior staff with a specific focus on Second Life to gain a promotion to Vice President and join the Lab’s management team.
The other two – who have worked alongside Patch for some time as “the troika” (as Grumpity Linden puts it) who determine much of the product and feature direction for Second Life: Grumpity herself, who is now Vice President of Product (Second Life); and Oz Linden, who is now Vice President of Second Life Operations.
Given this, I’d like to offer belated congratulations to Patch, Grumpity and Oz on their new positions. All three have contributed significantly to Second Life’s development over the years, and genuinely have the platform’s best interests at heart. If you’re unfamiliar with their backgrounds and their roles at the Lab, just hop over to the Lab’s Management Team page and click on their photos there (just scroll down the page to view them).
The October 2019 update to the Management Team page also reveals that the Lab’s General Council, Kelly Conway departed the company during the month.
Having been at the Lab since May 2013, Kelly was also a founding Director of Tilia Inc., where she oversaw the team responsible for regulatory compliance policies and procedures, including related to anti-fraud and anti-money laundering (AML) measures. She has now moved to Manticore Games, to take over the role of General Council there. I had some indirect dealings with Kelly over the years (mostly the results of assorted requests put to the Lab through Pete and Brett Linden that touched on Tilia, the Terms of Service, etc.), and would like to offer best wishes to her in her new role and company.
The period of Thursday, October 24th through Sunday 27th October, 2019 saw Second Life encounter a rolling set of issues which finally came to a head on Sunday, October 27th. The issues affected many Second Life users and services from logging-in through to inventory / asset handling.
As has become the case with these matters, April Linden, the Second Life Operations Manager, has provided a post-mortem blog post on the issue and her team’s work in addressing the problems. And as always, her post provides insight into the complexities in keeping a platform such as Second Life running.
In short, the root cause of the weekend’s upsets lay not with and of the Second Life services but with one of the Lab’s network providers – and was exacerbated by the fact the first couple of times it happened – Thursday and Friday – it appeared to correct itself on both occasions before the Lab could fully identify the root cause.
On Sunday, the problems started up again, but fortunately April’s team were able to pin down the issue and commence work with their provider – which obviously meant getting Second Life back on an even keel was pretty much in the hands of a third-party rather than being fully under the Lab’s control.
Our stuff was (and still is) working just fine, but we were getting intermittent errors and delays on traffic that was routed through one of our providers. We quickly opened a ticket with the network provider and started engaging with them. That’s never a fun thing to do because these are times when we’re waiting on hold on the phone with a vendor while Second Life isn’t running as well as it usually does.
After several hours trying to troubleshoot with the vendor, we decided to swing a bigger hammer and adjust our Internet routing. It took a few attempts, but we finally got it, and we were able to route around the problematic network. We’re still trying to troubleshoot with the vendor, but Second Life is back to normal again.
– Extract from April Linden’s blog post
As a result of the problems April’s team is working on moving some of the Lab’s services to make Second Life more resilient to similar incidents.
During the issues, some speculated if the problems were a result of the power outages being experienced in California at the time. As April notes, this was not the case – while Linden Lab’s head office is in San Francisco, the core servers and services are located in Arizona. However, resolving the issues from California were affected by the outages, again as April notes in her post.
It’s something I’ve note before, and will likely state again: feedback like this from April, laying out what happened when SL encounters problems are always an educational / invaluable read, not only explaining the issue itself, but in also providing worthwhile insight into the complexities of Second Life.