Viewer-managed Marketplace feedback meeting: video, audio and Q&A transcript

On Friday, December 12th, Brooke Linden chaired a meeting on the Aditi grid to discuss the upcoming Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) changes, which are currently undergoing beta testing on that grid. With her were core members of the Viewer-managed Marketplace development team, comprising:

  • Baker Linden has been working on the back-end of the web service for the project
  • Merov has been working on the viewer updates
  • Sklar Linden has been working on the updates to the SL marketplace itself
  • Steeltoe linden is one of the Lab’s user experience designers

Also in attendance from the Lab were Xiola Linden, lead community manager, Jeremy Linden, who is responsible for the VMM Knowledge Base documentation, and Kurt Linden from the Lab’s QA team.

The meeting was intended to gather feedback from TPV developers and merchants on the existing status of the VMM changes, as they are presented on Aditi and through the VMM project viewer. However, and for whatever reasons, attendance was somewhat low (and I plead guilty to this myself, being unable to attend), with the majority of non-Lab people attending being from TPV and viewer code development and support.

The meeting was recorded by Chakat Northspring, while Baker Linden produced an audio recording of the meeting as well.

I have embedded the video below for reference  – my thanks as always to North for providing it. It is followed by a summary of the core areas of discussion as shown in the recording, with particular emphasis on the Q&A session. Time stamps are provided so that comments can be heard in full for those preferring to read rather than listen, but do keep in mind the first part of this article is a summary, not a transcript.

Also, please note that there was a region disconnect issue at around the 32:40 mark which lasted a number of minutes. during that time the video (and voice) kept running until people re-logged, after which there was a very brief discussion. As the meeting disbanded shortly after the required relog from the disconnect, with the exception of a brief note on accessing the Aditi test regions, coverage of the meeting in this article ends at the time the disconnect occurred.

VMM Overview

The first half of the meeting [04:57 onwards] deals with how VMM will function from the user’s perspective. Most of what is discussed is covered in my overview of the VMM beta and the VMM project viewer. as well s the Lab’s VMM Knowledge Base article. However, as a very brief summary of key points:

The Marketplace listing panel is the viewer-side hub of the new VMM functionality
The Marketplace listing panel is the viewer-side hub of the new VMM functionality
  • VMM doesn’t replace the marketplace, but improves aspects of managing inventory and Marketplace listings
  • With it, items can be delivered to customers directly from a merchant’s inventory (including items which are No Copy to the merchant), eliminating the need to upload items to the Marketplace servers or use Magic Boxes in-world
  • VMM allows basic listing operations to be performed from within the viewer: creating a listing, assigning a new or updated item to a listing, amend listings, remove items from a listing, and unlist goods entirely
  • VMM does this by replacing the Merchant Outbox with a new panel, the Marketplace Listing Panel (a hidden system folder within inventory)
  • Merchants can easily “migrate” existing Marketplace listings with items to be delivered by VMM in a simple 3-step process.

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SL project updates week 49/3: TPV Developer meeting and VMM

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, December 5th, as shown in the video below. Where relevant, timestamps are included in the article to allow for referencing to the video. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

[00:30] The Benchmark viewer RC, containing the fix for the crash-on-start-up issue (see BUG-7776, BUG-7783), version 3.7.22.297128, was promoted to the de facto release viewer on Friday, December 5th – release notes.

[21:15] One change that has come from the move away from the GPU table to benchmarking is that GPUs that may have been previously blocked (e.g. because they simply aren’t supported) are no longer blocked. This is because the Lab is no longer attempting to spend time on identifying GPUs that don’t work with SL. Instead, best efforts are made on the basis of the data obtained from testing a system’s GPU and applying the Lab’s own heuristics, but if a card doesn’t work with SL, the view being taken is that – it doesn’t work. A suggestion has been made where this is the case to provide some kind of feedback to the user informing them that their GPU cannot support SL.

[01:10] Data from the HTTP Pipelining RC, version 3.7.21.296736, is still being being studied; however, it may not progress to release status. Whether this means further updates may be made or not prior to the viewer progressing further, isn’t clear.

[01:30] The Attachments RC, version 3.7.21.296904, was withdrawn from the release channel on Wednesday, December 3rd, after being merged with the Maintenance release RC, 3.7.22.297131. However, the repository for the viewer which contains just the attachment fixes is being kept open for the time being to allow those TPVDs who wish to cherry-pick the fixes and incorporate them into their viewers.

[02:15] It is anticipated the the Experience Tools project viewer (currently version 3.7.16.293901) and the Viewer-managed Marketplace viewer (currently version 3.7.21.296858) will both be moving to release candidate  status “soon”.

Tool Chain Update

[13:24] The Lab is now “very close” to being able to build on both Mac (e.g. Xcode 6.1. with clang on Yosemite) and Windows (e.g. Visual Studio 2103) with the new Autobuild process “cleanly and with all the right stuff”.

[16:26] Linux is lagging well behind Windows and Mac in terms of the new tool chain, and the Lab welcomes any help TPV developers are willing to provide to help get it updated. In the meantime, it looks likely that the Windows and Mac versions of the viewer built using the new tools and process will start to be deployed once everything is ready, rather than being held-up while the Linux version of the viewer is brought up to speed.

CDN Update

[02:45] The Lab is continuing to “play with” how the CDN is working, making tweaks and changes, some of which have helped Highwinds make improvements to the service, and monitoring of the service is continuing. Thanks is again expressed to all those users who have helped the Lab pin-down issues.

Viewer-managed Marketplace

If you're a merchant or creator using the SL Marketplace, and haven't already done so, you might want to check-out the Viewer-managed Marketplace beta
If you’re a merchant or creator using the SL Marketplace, and haven’t already done so, you might want to check-out the Viewer-managed Marketplace beta

[03:20] Testing of the new Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) functionality is continuing on Aditi.

Various issues have been logged against the project, and the Lab has been addressing them. The testing facilities on Aditi will remain available through the holiday season to January – although, as noted above, the viewer may move from project to RC status in that time.

Beta testing is still very open to anyone with an interest in trying VMM out for themselves – particularly content creators and merchants who use the SL Marketplace, obviously. If you haven’t already availed yourself of the opportunity, the Lab encourages you to do so over the holiday period. Note that you must have the VMM project viewer and be on the VMM regions on Aditi in order to do so – see my VMM beta test and viewer overview.

In-world Meeting

Also, merchants and content creators should note that the Commerce Team is liable to hold a meeting to discuss VMM in the near future. This will mostly likely be held on Aditi, and Brooke Linden is organising it. So please watch for notice of the meeting via the forums, blogs, etc.

Avatar Z-offset Height Adjustment

[11:11] No major news here, other than “work is continuing”.

Other Items

Wiki Editing

[14:27] In October, the SL Wiki was made read-only (editable by LL staff only) while it underwent maintenance, and has remained that way since. However, updates are now being tested, and it is hoped that the wiki will be unlocked to allow users to edit (where applicable) soon.

Viewer Stats and GPU Frame Rates

[17:24] Some stats on viewers are being to be produced for TPVs once more, related to operating systems, and some have been produced (for the SL viewer) by GPU. This led to a request for the Lab to update an old Frame Rates by GPU table (bear in mind the table shown is very old, and doesn’t take into consideration a lot of more recent updates to SL which affect frame rates). This also came up at a recent Open-source development meeting, and Oz has passed a request onwards within the Lab to see if an updated for of the table could be produced.

Firestorm Release

The next Firestorm release is scheduled for 18:00 SLT on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014. This release will, among other things, include the group ban capability. I’ll have my usual review available when the viewer is issued.

SL project updates week 47/2: TPV Developer meeting

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, November 21st, as shown in the video below, and from the Server Beta Meeting held on Thursday November 20th. Where relevant, timestamps are included in the article to allow for referencing to the video. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

[01:10] RC and project viewers are starting to stack-up once more, and further viewers are on their way. The release channel currently has four RC viewers in it: HTTP Pipeline 3.7.21.296736; Snowstorm 3.7.21.296724; Maintenance 3.7.21.296734, and Attachments 3.7.21.296729.

HTTP Pipeline RC and Texture and Mesh Fetching

The HTTP Pipeline viewer appears to be performing better with the CDN than the current pipeline code for those encountering problems. However, further updates to the RC are likely before it reaches a release status.

[05:23] In general, texture and mesh fetching via the CDN continues to work well for most people, although the Lab are still investigating why it is not working so well for some. The hope is that further improvements will be forthcoming, but at the moment the work is still very much in progress.

Attachments RC Viewer

[07:55] Vir Linden has some further updates for the Attachments RC, which should help improve the predictability of getting the right appearance as you’re going through outfit changes. This work has been tested in a closed test viewer and the results are such that Vir hopes to pull them into the RC version of the viewer as soon as possible.

Benchmark Viewer RC

[02:33] A new Benchmark viewer (removal of the GPU table) should hopefully be released on Monday, November 24th (or shortly thereafter). This includes:

  • Further improvements to how the viewer initials sets graphics preferences for some GPU types
  • Address the crash-on-start-up issue which some users are encountering in the current release viewer (3.7.20.296094), and which appears to be related to the benchmark update.

Those wishing to try a pre-RC release can do so by downloading from here.

Viewer Build Tools

[30:19] The Lab is making progress with compiling the viewer using the new build tool chains. The performance issues that resulted when building the Mac viewer (again, see my week 43 report), appear to have been resolved.

The work to build the windows version of the viewer using Visual Studio (VS) 2013 is going “really well”, with the Lab having almost all the packages ready to go – so much so that Oz believes that the Lab will have a version of the viewer built using VS2013 in week 48 (week commencing Monday, November 24th) – although this doesn’t necessarily mean said viewer will be publicly available.

As Microsoft have just issued Visual Studio Community 2013, which allows developers to create applications for free, so long as they are not intended for commercial gain (and TPVs aren’t built to be sold), it is hoped at TPV developers will in future be able to builder their viewers with exactly the same software as the Lab.

In addition, the Lab is working on an internal wiki page for building with VS2103, which will likely go public when finished to sit alongside the existing wiki page on the new autobuild process.

Viewer-managed Marketplace

The Viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) project viewer, version 3.7.21.296858, was released on Friday, November 21st, together with information on the open beta testing for VMM on Aditi. I have provided coverage of this via a separate article in this blog, see:Viewer-managed Marketplace: beta testing and a look at the project viewer.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 47/2: TPV Developer meeting”

Viewer-managed Marketplace: beta testing and a look at the project viewer

In October 2014, I reported on the viewer-managed Marketplace (VMM) project, which the lab has been developing for several months.

The aim of the project is to enable merchants to manage the creation and management of Marketplace product listing through the viewer, bypassing the need to use the Merchant Outbox (and have copies of items stored on the Marketplace inventory servers) or using Magic Boxes.

VMM does this by adding a new Marketplace Listing panel to to viewer, of which more below.

On Friday, November 21st, the Lab announced that wider beta testing of VMM is now ready to start on Aditi (the Beta grid). and is inviting merchants to download a new VMM project viewer they can use to test creating and managing product listing through the viewer.

Alongside of the announcement, the Lab also made available:

If you are a merchant and wish to test the VMM functionality, you’ll need to download and install the project viewer, and use one of the following three test regions on Aditi: ACME D; ACME E and ACME F. Using the viewer anywhere else can generate error messages when first logging-in (designed to indicate VMM is not available, and which will not interfere with using the viewer for other activities).

If you’ve never logged-into Aditi, please refer to the instructions on how to do so on the beta grid wiki page.

You may also wish to be logged-in to the Aditi Marketplace place.

When testing VMM, remember that it is not intended to enable all Marketplace-related activities through the viewer. Rather, it is intended to allow merchants to create new Marketplace listings with inventory, associate inventory with an existing Marketplace listing, remove items from a listing and unlist goods entirely. All other Marketplace activities will still have to be carried out within the Marketplace itself.

Also note that at present there is a bug within the Aditi Marketplace that will cause purchases to fail. The Lab is working to address this, and it shouldn’t interfere with testing VMM to create and modify product listings.

The following notes are intended to get you started with the project viewer and beta testing, please refer to the Lab’s VMM FAQ for other pertinent information.

The Marketplace Listings Panel

An active Marketplace Listings panel showing the four tabs used to manage inventory
An active Marketplace Listings panel showing the four tabs used to manage inventory

The heart of the viewer-managed Marketplace is the new new Marketplace Listing panel within the viewer. This will eventually replace the Merchant Outbox,  although both are provided in the project viewer.

The Marketplace Listing panel allows a merchant to carry out a number of Marketplace tasks from within the viewer, such as:  create a new product listing, modify a listing, change the items associated with a listing, etc.

It does this by enabling merchants to directly associate products in their inventory with product item listings on the Marketplace, eliminating the need to either upload copies of products to the Marketplace inventory servers via the Merchant Outbox or, in the case of limited stock items that are No Copy for the merchant, having them stored in-world in a Magic Box. When a customer purchases an item listed via VMM, it is delivered to them directly from the Lab’s asset servers.

This does mean that care must be taken when handing product items in inventory in order to avoid occidentally deleting items associated with Marketplace listings. To help with this, the folder associated with the Marketplace Listing panel remain hidden from view (as far as is possible) when working directly in the inventory .

Google Form

The first time you open the Marketplace Listing panel, it may display the following message:

This feature is currently in beta. Please add you name to this Google form if you would like to participate

If this happens, it is likely because you logged-in to a non-VMM region and then teleported to the test regions. To correct, simply log-in directly to one of the three ACME test regions (ACME D; ACME E and ACME F). The Marketplace Listing panel should open correctly; if you haven’t already created an Aditi Marketplace store, it will display a message requesting you do so, with a link to the Marketplace.

Continue reading “Viewer-managed Marketplace: beta testing and a look at the project viewer”

SL project updates week 43/3: TPV dev meeting, inc. viewer-managed Marketplace

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday, October 24th, and shown in the video above. Time stamps, where relevant, have been included for ease of reference to the video. Note that items are listed according to subject matter, rather than chronologically, so time stamps may appear out-of-sequence in places. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

[00:10] There have been a couple of end-of-week viewer updates:

  • The HTTP Pipelining viewer was updated on October 24th to version 3.7.19.295700, incorporating the most recent viewer releases
  • The Benchmarking viewer (which removes dependencies on the GPU table) was also updated on October 24th, to version 3.7.19.295759, incorporating the most recent viewer updates.

Both of these viewers have performed well both in the RC role (HTTP Pipelining) and project viewer (in the case of the Benchmark viewer), and it is likely one or the other will be promoted in week 44 (week commencing Monday, October 27th), although the promotion may not occur until later in the week, depending on how these new releases perform.

[01:58] The Experience Keys project viewer is in the “final throes” of bug fixing. However, it is unlikely to appear as an RC viewer until after the next set of server-side Experience Keys have been deployed. When this will be is unclear. It is not “imminent”, but by the same measure, it is not “distant”.

[02:33] The Oculus Rift work continues, but again, this is unlikely to move beyond being a project viewer until such time as the Oculus hardware is more generally available. The Lab will continue to keep the viewer code base current with releases, and will doubtless continue to test and refine as further SDK updates appear (such as the just-released 0.4.3).

Viewer-managed Marketplace

[03:16] Progress is continuing to be made with the viewer-managed Marketplace updates (VMM). There is now a technical wiki page for the web API available, and Skylar Linden was on-hand to provide and overview of the page, which by his own admission, is “pretty dry stuff”, but includes things like:

  • Figuring out if a user is a merchant or not, and how the system will respond (loading the correct page or not)
  • A data dictionary that gets transmitted back and forth between the viewer and the Marketplace
  • Links to obtain listings, create listings, modify listings, associate inventory with listings, and delete listings (which are the Marketplace functions specific to the new capability).

[08:40] The ability to delete listings is a feature that is new to the Marketplace as a result of VMM, although it is somewhat confusing in that  – as Brooke Linden explained in the meeting – it doesn’t actually delete anything, but gives a means for merchants to remove listing information by making it unavailable. As such, listings deleted in this way will be non-recoverable.

VMM Testing

[10:03]  The Lab is now “very close” to getting the VMM updates available on Aditi’s Marketplace. When this happens, testing will initially be with a “small group” of merchants and TPV devs using a project viewer, the code for which will be made available as the testing starts in order to allow TPVs to integrate it into test versions of their viewers. If all goes according to plan, this initial test could start in the next couple of weeks, with the aim of getting initial feedback.

Once this has been done, testing will by opened-up to allow wider involvement. This is expected to happen “within the next couple of months”, and will be aimed at allowing anyone who would like to try VMM. There will be a beta testing application form made available for those interested.

Group Chat

[13:45] The Lab have been continuing to roll changes to group chat, and the thinking is that the results of the changes are “pretty good”, and the Firestorm support team are reporting they’ve seen an improvement as well. As noted in part 2 of this week’s update, the work isn’t finished – Simon is looking at the possibility to improve code elsewhere in the system; there is also liable to be a round of code clean-up as well. However, Oz cautioned that the Lab may have implemented the changes which may have the biggest noticeable impact in terms of improving the group chat experience.

CDN Progress

[14:49] Again, as noted in part 2 of this week’s report, the CDN is now supporting all the primary Server RC channels. so far, the results have been “excellent”, but the Lab is waiting to see how things fair over the weekend, when the grid is liable to see its heaviest use in terms of numbers of users on-line since the RC deployment was completed this week.

The load on the sim host Apache services is described as “way, way, way, down”, which is a good thing, as it means that all the other things the Apache services have to do (such as participating in region crossings) are no longer being impacted by the simulators handing the texture and mesh fetching loads.

One offshoot of the CDN work is that the Lab is likely to spend time validating whether the viewer cache is working as well as it could be, even allowing for the interest list updates. There are apparently differences in how well the cache works across different code-bases, so this is something that TPVs may well be involved in as well.

Z-offset height Adjustment

There has been no further progress on this since the last TPV meeting.

Continue reading “SL project updates week 43/3: TPV dev meeting, inc. viewer-managed Marketplace”

SL project updates week 41/3: TPV Developer meeting

The following notes are drawn from the TPV Developer meeting held on Friday October 10th, and shown in the video above. Time stamps, where relevant, have been included for ease of reference to the video. Note that items are listed according to subject matter, rather than chronologically, so time stamps may appear out-of-sequence in places. My thanks as always to North for the recording.

SL Viewer

HTTP Pipeline Viewer

[0:26:35] As noted in part 2 of this week’s report, the HTTP pipelining viewer was looking close to being ready for deployment as an RC viewer, possibly in the next week. However, it hit a final QA snag, and in Oz’s words, “Monty is busily correcting the problem and getting it back in the queue.” Or as Monty put it in chat “:(“. Apparently a workaround for a CURL bug “tends to disable pipelining”.

Benchmark and Experience Tools Viewers

[0:27:20] It is hoped that these two project viewers will be updating and moving into the viewer release channel as release candidates “pretty soon”.

Viewer Build Tool Chain

[0:41:51] The tools upgrade project for building the viewer has been subject to a few delays. Currently, the Lab has just about finished putting together all the build prerequisites for building the Mac version of the viewer directly on OS X 10.9, and are about to commence test builds of the viewer using the new tool chain. This has also led to some progress being made on updating the Linux build process as well. The windows environment will require further work, so it will be a little longer before things are fully in place.

Group Chat

[0:28:58] Again, as noted in part 2 of this week’s report, the latest updates for group chat are being deployed to various back-end chat servers by the Lab, and may be deployed to all of the chat servers in the next week.

While investigating group chat, the Lab has noticed that in general it is “unbelievably spikey”, with chat sessions having peaks of really good performance followed by troughs of really bad performance regardless as to whether the groups are regarded as being “good” or “bad” in handling group chat. There is no real pattern to these peaks and troughs, other than the larger the group, the more it seems to swing between the two extremes, and nothing to correlate them with anything in particular beyond the bad times occurring when a lot of people in a group are online.

Z-offet height Adjustment

[0:31:52] Work is continuing on the z-offset height proposal, which Vir Linden has been engaged upon. However, it appears the Lab has encountered some issues which have made it “a little more complicated” than had initially be thought. hopefully, these will be overcome, and they won’t bring the work to a halt.

CDN

[0:32:28] As noted in part 2 of this week’s report the number of regions on Snack and utilising  the Highwinds CDN for mesh and texture data servicing had reached around the 270 mark, but has since come down a little as a result of the Lab overloading the Snack sim hosts with regions running high volumes of users.

Metrics gathered by the Lab have been positive, and even though the Snack sim hosts were initially overloaded, the Lab feel they performed significantly better thanks to texture and mesh fetching being off-loaded to the CDN than would have been the case had the “old” method of texture / mesh fetching still been in use.

One aspect of the move to using the CDN is that until now, the sim host Apache service was being used for texture and mesh data handling and “lots” of other things which are timing critical to operations such as region crossings. With the move to the CDN, much (if not all) of the texture and mesh data handling is removed from the Apache service, making it easier for it to better handle time-critical activities.

If all goes according to plan, the CDN support will be expanded to the BlueSteel release candidate channel in week 42 (commencing Monday October 13th). This will allow the Lab to gain data on performance using the CDN support which can be directly compared with historical data available for region / sim host performance in BlueSteel. Those regions already running on Snack will continue to do so alongside of BlueSteel, so that around 5% of the main grid will be using the CDN service.

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