December 2019 Web User Group summary

© and ™ Linden Lab

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, December 4th, 2019. These meetings are held monthly, 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 when 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, the audio comments will be concatenated into a single audio extract for that topic).

Premium

Winter Promotion

  • As many have already seen, the winter Premium promotion is currently open through until the end of the month.
  • For the first time, the promotion applies to Annual plans (previously, any discount on Premium subscriptions have only applied to Monthly and Quarterly plans), with an offer of 10% off of the cost of the annual subscription (normally US $99) when an account is upgraded to Premium.
  • It is likely that, as with the mid-year Premium fee increase, there will be an opportunity for Premium users to pre-pay a further year’s annual premium membership “locked in” at the discounted price.

Other Premium Notes

  • There is no further news on Premium Plus or its benefits.
  • There are no plans at this point to add other levels of Premium either “above” or “below” the current Premium + benefits. This might change at some point in the more distant future.

Legacy Profiles Viewer

  • The Legacy profiles viewer has cleared the last issue blocking it from update, so a new version of the viewer should be appearing soon. This update will include the profile feed embedded in the viewer.
  • Once this viewer reaches release status, the web profiles are to be retired.
  • The removal of the web-based profiles means that things like the privacy settings (which only worked for the web anyway), will no longer be available. However (and if I was understanding Grumpity correctly), at some point the profile viewer will include the ability for a user to determine what information within their viewer profile is visible to others who view it.

Marketplace

  • Store De-Listings:
    • The Lab is work to fix the issue of Marketplace stores being de-listed as a result of using banned keywords.
    • It was re-iterated that, for a number of reasons – including people attempting to game it – the banned keyword list will not be made public.
    • Instead, the Lab has been working to make the algorithm used to scan for keywords is being made “smarter”, so it more correctly identifies banned words, which will hopefully reduce the number of unlistings occurring. There is still more work to be done on on this.
  • Improvements to the Marketplace search (demo items, gachas, etc), is now “very, very close” to being ready for release.
  • BUG-9984 “blank folder names” (in inventory) is another issue that has been looked into a number of times, but again, the Lab has been unable to determine the cause. However, they will give it a further pass in an attempt to find a cause or provide a workaround.
  • Feature requests BUG-227919 “Marketplace Sales Function” and BUG-227072 “Ability to give specific marketplace customers discounts” are both being considered by the Lab (but no commitment at this point in time that they will be implemented or when).
  • Overall, the Lab feel that the last 12-18 months have seen significant improvements to the Marketplace when compared to prior years.

In Brief

  • The last blocker for an update to the legacy profile project viewer has been cleared, and an update to the viewer, which will include support for the profile feed within it, should be surfaced for users to test Soon™.
  • As noted in my November summary, user-to-user land auctions will remain on hold for the time being, as the Lab is focused on other web-based work.
  • BUG-11555 “Setting certain characters in Display Name results in DN changing twice within minutes and resulting DN changes to Korean.” is a long-standing issue, and while it has been looked at, the Lab has yet to work out how to fix it.

November 2019 Web User Group: Premium Plus & Events

© and ™ Linden Lab

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, November 13th, 2019. These meetings are held monthly, 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 when 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, the audio comments will be concatenated into a single audio extract for that topic).

Premium Plus

  • Premium Plus is now to be the official name for the upcoming new Premium subscription level, this having changed from “Elite” following feedback from users.
  • It will not be ready for deployment until after Name Changes has been deployed, and the Lab is currently aiming for “early 2020”.
  • Full benefits for Premium Plus subscriptions have not been disclosed, however it has been indicated that:
    • “A lot” of the current Premium benefits are going to be “even better” for Premium Plus.
    • There will also be benefits that are obviously exclusive to Premium Plus.
    • There will be Marketplace benefits available to merchants upgrading to Premium Plus – but again, what these are has not been disclosed.
  • Despite a rumour being dropped into a public meeting that the new subscription will be “three times” the current Premium subscription, no official word on the pricing for Premium Plus has been given, other than it will be available on a monthly or annual subscription basis (see: 2019 Web User Group week #40: Name Changes and new Premium option).

Events

  • The Second Life Events service is being overhauled.
  • The first pass of this work is to clean-up the service to prevent event spamming.
    • This will involve levying a fee for events to be listed.
    • The fee will be in Linden Dollars. However, it will not be “prohibitive”, but rather enough to “incentivise better event content”.
    • The fee will be lower for Premium accounts compared to Basic accounts.
  • The follow-on work will include providing the means for Premium account holders to set recurring events.
  • Beyond this, there is a much larger tranche of work to overhaul what events look like and the events functionality, which is targeted for an early 2020 deployment.

Marketplace

  • A range of fixes and general code clean-up.
  • New notifications options now available via Marketplace → Account → Notification Options.
    • The options displayed are split between Shopping and Merchant notifications, with the latter obviously only available to those actually selling through the Marketplace.
The new notifications (shown side-by-side for convenience). Note the Merchant options will only be displayed for those selling through the MP. Click for larger size, if required.
  • The Place Order button has been moved to the top of the advert listing page when ordering L$0 items, to make completing the order quicker.
  • Filters for removing demo and / or limited items / gachas from Marketplace searches are very close to being ready for deployment.
    • This work is part of an overall refactoring of the Marketplace search that will continue to see incremental changes and improvements to the search functionality.

In Brief

User-to-User Land Auctions

  • User-to-user land auctions have been suspended due to instances of “abuse” (no specifics provided) that require the Lab to make changes to the system.
  • There is no indication as to when user-to-user auctions will be re-opened, as the Lab has to consider how best to change the system to prevent similar misuse in the future.

Other Notes

  • There has been a general clean-up of the secondlife.com pages.
    • For example: the Account → Contact page has been removed from users’ dashboards as it provided redundant information (your own user name and e-mail address) – this does not impact the Change Password option.
  • Recent general work on all SL web properties has included updating the servers to a new operating system and installing a new site defender that can respond faster to attacks.
  • Release notes for updates to the web services (similar to those for simulator and viewer release notes) are in the works, and could be ready for deploy before year-end.
  • The official viewer log-in splash screen now includes a section for the SL Blogger Network, as well as now displaying the current Second Life time.

October 2019 Web User Group: Name Changes and new Premium option

© and ™ Linden Lab

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019. These meetings are held monthly. Dates and details of the meetings can be obtained through the Web User Group wiki page.

When reading these notes, please keep in mind:

  • The topics below are ordered in their likely interest to users / depth of discussion at the meeting, with some comments drawn together from different points in the meeting. This is not intended as a chronological set of meeting notes.
  • Audio extracts are taken from my recording of the meeting, but have again been grouped by topic. In addition, the audio relating to Premium and “Elite” subscriptions may sound fractured tin tone, as it is a grouping of verbal replies to questions asked in local chat at the meeting.

Summary

The TL;DR summary (items expanded upon in the sections below):

  • On Monday, September 30th, the Lab issued a blog post update on the web team’s work, and this was referenced during the meeting (see also my coverage of the blog post – Lab blogs on the SL Web Team’s work, including “last names”). Similar blog posts will likely be released ahead of each monthly WUG meeting, to both remind users of the meeting and to act as an informal agenda.
  • Web services have been a major focus of transitioning Second Life services to the cloud.
  • Name Changes: are getting closer to release but are not imminent. The feature will be Premium only, fees have not been finalised.
  • Premium options: work is progressing with the new “super Premium” option, but this will not be ready until after Name Changes have been deployed. The new level is – at present – likely to be called “Elite”. It will cost more than the current Premium subscriptions.
  • Search is being worked on across all of the SL web properties, including the Marketplace – but no time frames as to when improvements might be deployed.

Cloud Transition

  • As noted in the Monday Sept. 30th blog post, many of the Lab’s web services have been transitioned to running on Amazon AWS cloud services.
  • Other services previously operated on a third-party basis have (and are) being moved in-house or decoupled to standalone status, in readiness to be transitioned to the cloud where possible.
  • All of this work has been achieved without any significant disruption to services or – more particularly – without users actually being aware the services had been moved.
  • Specific benefits of the moves made to date are:
    • Future changes, updates and responses to issues can be handled a lot faster.
    • Due to the nature of AWS services, LL have been able to achieve almost 100% up time in running those services that have been transitioned.

Name Changes

  • As previously noted, Name Changes involve users being able to select any first name, and a last name via a list.
  • The capability will be Premium only.
  • Name changes will be subject to fee (still TBA) per change.
    • The fee charged will be less for “Elite” accounts than for Premium (see below for more on “Elite” and Premium).
  • The rough window for deployment is between 1 and 3 months, with a margin of error of around two months.
    • There is still more work to be done on the back-end systems.
    • The actual viewer UI in which name changes are made has yet to be implemented.
  • As an aside (not mentioned in the meeting, but indicated elsewhere): new users signing-up to Second Life will still be given the default name of “Resident” – they will be able to change names should they upgrade to Premium, as with all Basic account users.

New Premium Subscription

  • The idea of having additional levels of Premium subscription was first publicly mentioned in detail in 2018. See:
  • Since that time, it has been decided to just have a single additional Premium level, sitting “above” the current Premium level.
    • However, the new system is being structured such that if there is a need / opportunity for further subscription levels, they can be added in the future.
  • Currently the proposed name for the new subscription level is “Elite” – but this may still change.
    • There will be clear differentiators between Premium and “Elite”, including, as noted above, a lower fee applied to “Elite” users when changing their name.
    • There will be no requirement for merchants to have to upgrade to “Elite”, although some of the benefits of “Elite” might apply to Merchants.
  • Subscription rates:
    • Premium subscription rates will not change.
    • “Elite” upgrades will be offered on a monthly / annual basis.
    • As per my article Lab opts to temporarily continue Quarterly Premium plan for new sign-ups, relating to the Premium subscription fee changes announced earlier in 2019:
      • Quarterly subscriptions will be discontinued for those upgrading to Premium / Elite when the latter is launched.
      • However, quarterly payments will continue to be honoured for users already on the Premium quarterly payment plan.
    • Fees for “Elite” to be revealed when launched, but obviously, they will be higher than the current Premium rates.
    • Premium members upgrading to “Elite” will pay the difference between their current Premium fee and the “Elite” fee to which they decide to upgrade, and there may be a prorate option for qualifying users when upgrading.
  • “Elite” subscriptions will not be ready for introduction until at least a month after the deployment of Name Changes.

Profile Changes

  • The discontinuing of web profiles was first publicly raised in February 2019 (see: 2019 SL User Groups 7/3: TPV Developer Meeting), when it was indicated profile information would be moving back into the viewer.
  • One of the reasons for this change appears to be related to the transitioning services to the cloud as much as with the pain of provisioning the web-based profiles.
  • An initial Legacy Profile project viewer appeared in June (see: SL Legacy Profiles project viewer).
  • The Legacy Profile viewer will be updated over time, with one of the updates to come being a new tab to profile feeds, allowing users to see people’s feed updates through the viewer.
    • TPVs will still be able to use the option to point to profile feeds on the web, if they prefer.
  • It is hoped that the Legacy Profiles viewer will move to release candidate status Soon™ and promoted to release status “really soon after that”.
The new Legacy Profiles Project viewer replaces the current web-based profile panel (left), with an “old-style” profile floater panel (right)

In Brief

Web Services Release Notes

  • The web team is working “really hard” to implement formal release notes for updates to the various SL web services.
  • These will likely be in a similar format to the revamped server and viewer release notes, which can be reached via the recently implemented web-based Release Notes home page.
  • There is currently no date as to when this will be surfaced, but there are “a couple” web engineers working on this (when not working on more user-facing projects).

Marketplace, Search, Events

  • In-world purchase notifications for store owners:
    • As per my article on this, this system will be opt-in, initially on an entire store basis. It might be extended to individual items in the future, if feasible / if there is a demand for this.
    • The notification will provide details on item purchased, amount received and who made the purchase.
When released, the in-world purchase notifications option will appear in a re-named settings page (e-mail notifications)
  • Work is proceeding on Marketplace improvements beyond those mentioned, but LL is not yet in a position to state what the next updates for deployment might be.
  • Search is being worked on right across the SL web properties. This is liable to see improved filtering of searches and (particularly useful for Marketplace searches) the use of exclusions.
  • Work is proceeding with the overhaul of the events system. This comprises short-term updates that are being carried out alongside a much larger, long-term project to completely overhaul the events system.

Related Links

Lab blogs on the SL Web Team’s work, including “last names”

(Copyright Linden Lab)

Early on October 1st, 2019, Linden Lab blogged a update on the work of the Second Life web team and to act as a reminder of the monthly Second Life Web User Group meeting.

The update – Web User Group And Updates! – provides insight into some of the major areas of work the Lab’s SL web team are involved in. The most visible element of this work – possibly the most visible of all of LL’s web services – is the Marketplace (MP). However, the team are involved in all aspects of Linden Lab’s Second Life web properties and services – and this includes the work to move them to AWS cloud services and preparing the ground from the re-implementation of Last Names.

To take the updates given in the official blog post in reverse order:

SL Marketplace

In terms of the Marketplace, the blog post offers a round-up of recent Marketplace changes – notably the introduction of MP Store Manager functionality (see: SL Marketplace: store managers introduced), that is currently being further refined based on feedback from store holders.

In addition, the post indicates a couple of capabilities referenced by Reed Linden, the Product Manager responsible for the Lab’s Second Life web infrastructure mentioned during his appearance on Lab Gab (see: Lab Gab episode 2 with Reed Linden – a summary). These are:

  • In-world purchase notifications: an opt-in system allowing store owners to receive a viewer notification of purchases made through their Marketplace stores.
  • The gifts received listing – allowing users to see the gifts they have received, who sold it, a link to their store, who purchased / sent it, and any accompanying message. Also included is an option to have the item to be redelivered.
Received Gifts (MP → Account Name → My Account Page → Received Gifts) allows users to review details of the gifts they have received, together with the ability (if applicable) to have a gift redelivered (arrowed). Click to enlarge, if required.

Cloud Migration

The work in migrating Second Life services to the cloud is continuing – but as I’ve noted in other reports on this, it is a long-term project; there are a lot of services that need to be translated from operations within the Lab’s dedicated co-location facilities to provisioning via the cloud well before LL reach the point of attempting to transition simulator servers.

Much of the work in moving these back-end services is being carried out by the web team, with the blog post noting multiple web services are now operated through the cloud while others are either being moved from third-party vendors to an in-house implementation or decoupled from their previous dependencies into stand-alone services ready to be migrated to the cloud.

Even so, as Oz and April Linden have indicated recently, there is still some way to go, and the Lab approaching this work from the perspective of not saying too much about which services have been moved, to avoid user reports of issues being swamped by subjective beliefs that problems “must” be the result of X or Y being transitioned or changed.

Names Changes (aka “Last Names”)

The term “last names” really is something of a misnomer for this project, given it offers users the freedom to choose (and change) any first name, and to select (and change) a last name using pre-defined (and routinely updated) lists of names.  Hence why the Lab’s blog post refers to thework as Name Changes

Within the Lab’s blog post, the following comment on the status of the project is offered:

We’re extremely pleased to say that in the last month we’ve made significant progress in laying the foundations for the long-awaited Name Changes feature.  All of our teams have been working hard on preparing the grid and all of our systems to accommodate account name changes, both first and last. We’re not quite ready to release all the details yet, but suffice to say that if you’ve ever wanted to change up your account name for whatever reason (and we know you have!) STAY TUNED.

This would appear to imply the project may be approaching the point where LL are ready to deploy it. In the meantime, those wishing to catch up on the Name Changes project can do so via these links:

Web User Group

The monthly Web User Group (WUG) meetings allow users to meet with members of the Second Life Web Team to discuss the various SL web properties and services, learn about projects related to them, ask questions, etc. The meetings are a combination of the Voice and text (you’ll generally need Voice to hear responses from the Web Team representatives – questions and comments can be made in local chat if preferred).

As noted in the official blog post, the next WUG meeting is on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019 at 14:00 SLT. The meetings are held at Alexa Linden’s barn in SL, and the agenda, if set, is available on the WUG wiki page.

Note: you can also find out about all of the in-world user group meetings via the sidebar on the right of this blog and scrolling down to SL User Groups – hover the mouse over the links for quick information on each of them, or click the link to go to the relevant wiki page.

April 2019 Web User Group: Marketplace Store Managers

April 3rd Web User Group meeting

The following notes are taken from the Web User Group meeting held on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

These meetings are generally held monthly on a Wednesday at 14:00 SLT, and are chaired by Alexa and Grumpity Linden at Alexa’s barn. The focus is the Lab’s web properties, which include the Second Life website (including the blogs, Destination Guide, Maps, Search, the Knowledge base, etc.), Place Pages, Landing Pages (and join flow for sign-ups), the Marketplace, and so on and the Lab’s own website at lindenlab.com.

General Updates

  • Resident-to-Resident Mainland Auctions: user-to-user auctions for Mainland parcels launched on March 26th – see the official blog post and my own report. The response has been exceptionally positive.
  • New Linden Homes: samples of the first types of new Linden Homes due to be released “soon” are currently available to preview through until Sunday, April 7th. The preview is open to Premium and non-Premium account holders (although the houses, once available, will only be available to Premium account holders. You can read more about them, and the preview in my article New Linden Homes Preview.
    • The Lab is currently working on the web site for the homes: the process flow for selecting and obtaining a new Linden Home, etc.
  • SL.com: work has been carried out to fix broken direct SLurls, and work is in progress to further improve the new user flow, including the new starter avatars.
  • Marketplace: it is believed the recent issues with Wish Lists and with gifting have been resolved.
    • The message received by a user blocked by a Merchant has been revised to make the situation clearer.
    • Issues with transaction histories not displaying correctly should be resolved.
    • Work is continuing in preparing the MP for the return of last names / name changes.
    • The most recent blog on Marketplace updates can be found in Second Life Winter Web Work, dated February 28th, 2019.

Animated Group Tags

I’ve covered the use of scripted tools that can make rapid and multiple changes to a user’s group tag display. These actually a) use a function in a way not intended; b) can put significant strain on back-end services (trying to propagate multiple group tag changes from multiple users across the grid).

As noted in my previous notes on this, Linden Lab indicated they would be making back-end changes to reduce this issue, and as per their March 8th blog post on the subject, these updates have been deployed.  As a result, many of these scripted animators have now been removed voluntarily by Merchants. However, those that have not been removed are going to be blocked.

Marketplace Store Managers

A long-standing request that is now just started to be worked on is Marketplace Managers – the ability for Merchants to appoint “managers” to help them run their Marketplace store.  Details are still being finalised, but broadly, speaking:

  • Merchants will be able to assign roles to their “managers” – what they can do, etc. So, for example, a Merchant can upload good to the MP, but assign a manager the ability to create and manage the actual listings for those goods.
  • Actions taken by managers will be logged and fed back to the Merchant, so they can keep track of what is going on with their store.

In Brief

  • Once the current tranche of work on the Marketplace is closed-off, the web team will likely look at Events.
  • This meeting marked the last for Alexa Linden as a Product Manager with direct involvement in the web services. She is going to be focused on the viewer and the server / simulator. Reed Linden will be stepping into her shoes with the Web services.

September 2018 Web User Group Summary

Peace of Mind; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrPeace of Mind  – blog post

The following notes are taken from the Web User Group meeting held on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018.

These meetings are generally held monthly on a Wednesday at 14:00 SLT, and are chaired by Alexa and Grumpity Linden at Alexa’s barn. The focus is the Lab’s web properties, which include the Second Life website (including the blogs, Destination Guide, Maps, Search, the Knowledge base, etc.), Place Pages, Landing Pages (and join flow for sign-ups), the Marketplace, and so on and the Lab’s own website at lindenlab.com.

Marketplace

New Deployment – New Features

A deployment to the SL Marketplace was made on Wednesday, September 26th. However, due to some issues surfacing, it had to be rolled back, causing the grid status report of Marketplace Maintenance.

This is actually the update that includes more of the promises Marketplace updates, including:

  • Wish lists.
  • Follow favourite merchants.
  • A new drop-down of people a user must frequently sends Marketplace gifts to.

It will now be re-scheduled for deployment once the issues have been fixed.

Clean-up

The Lab will shortly be starting a clean-up of the Marketplace. This will most likely be done by running different queries with different criteria, and seeing what the results would be in terms of removed listings / stores.

For example, one query might be run against all users who have not logged-in to Second Life or the Marketplace in (say) 10 years or 6 years, and see how many items might be unlisted as a result. If the outcome is thought to be a manageable amount (i.e. not half the Marketplace potentially vanishing), then the query might be run, and the items unlisted. Then the process will be repeated over a shorter time period (e.g. say not logged in for 8 years of 4 years, depending on the original query). Other criteria, such as number of sales of an item over a number of years, or how frequently an item is flagged etc., might also be added to the mix over time.

This does mean that items that still work in SL, but the creator is no longer active in SL or the Marketplace, will likely vanish. However, as items are only being unlisted, and affected merchants will be contacted and advised where possible. So, they will always have the option to log-in to the Marketplace and re-list their items if they so wish.

Web Updates Release Notes

It is hoped that a location will be established for web property release notes, just as there are pages for release notes on SL wiki.

Automatic Landmark Updating

This is an age-old problem: how to automatically update store (or other) landmarks following a move. In 2012, Toysoldier Thor came up with the concept of the Virtual Landmark (VLM) – see here for the essentials – and which eventually lead to Darrius Gothly developing VLM for Virtual Worlds – see here for the essentials. VLMFVW are not ideal (I have not tested them in five years to confirm whether they still work), but at the time they did assist with the problem.

Unfortunately, having landmarks that can be remotely updated is seen by the Lab as requiring an entire new landmark system and (presumably) and entirely new asset type which would exist entirely independently of existing LMs (and so could cause confusion among users), so this is not something that is likely to happen in the short-to-medium term, if at all.

Date of Next Meeting

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018.