Archive for February, 2012

Join us at 2pm SLT today, Monday 27th February, at our beautiful studio in Garden of Dreams, as we pay a visit to London in Second Life.

Second Life London

Second Life London

There are several version of London in Second Life, but the one created by Debs Regent (Debs Butler in real life) is the oldest and has rather special associations for a number of Second Life residents, especially those involved with Second Life media – including Saffia and Elrik!

We’ll be exploring London and talking to Debs, one of her business partners Neil Nielson (Neil Riley in real life) and to Terry Wumpole, who shows Saffia the beautiful home that he and his husband Mike have created in London, with infinite style and a modest number of prims!

We will be screening this show in our studio, designed by Kayle Matzerath, on our new location in Garden of Dreams. Do come and join us there at 2pm.

Or – if you can’t attend in person – tune in at 2pm SLT on Monday for the live show on http://treet.tv/live – where you can now chat with other audience members and even some of the participants during the show – or catch it later in the week on our shows page on the Treet.tv web site at http://treet.tv/shows/designingworlds– our very own version of the iPlayer!

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I’ve been aware for a long time now that Linden Lab, creators and maintainers of the Second Life grid, are completely unaware of large swathes of what happens here and – perhaps more significantly – what is important to residents to maintain their businesses (and cause them to grow), and what is largely irrelevant or – at best – peripheral.

For me, a classic example of this came when Jack Linden was on the Designing Worlds show and, as we chatted before the show, he mentioned casually that as part of the introduction of mesh, prims would be increasing in size from the standard 10×10 to 64×64.

“I hope you’ll announce that on the show!” I said.

“Why?” he said, and he seemed genuinely puzzled. “Will people here be interested?”

Jack Linden and Dusan Writer on Designing Worlds: photograph by Wildstar Beaumont

Jack Linden and Dusan Writer on Designing Worlds: photograph by Wildstar Beaumont

Of course, when he did announce it on the show, the auditorium, packed with designers, exploded with excitement at the possibilities (and the realization that here would be a form of solid megaprims that would be highly unlikely to be deleted by some careless Linden, unaware that s/he was removing a significant proportion of heritage builds across the grid, (to say nothing of the resident homes that would lose a wall or a roof).

I was reminded of this the other day when the messages I routinely send to notify people about treet shows suddenly failed.  The reason was rapidly apparent – the Lab had decided – without any warning – to impose a ‘choke’ on the number of messages that could be sent by one avatar from one sim over a limited space of time.

For those of us who run businesses, it’s common to use some messenger service.  The most efficient way to message people within Second Life is through the Groups messaging system; using this, messages and items (landmarks, notecards, gifts) are delivered almost instantly.  But there are drawbacks.  People are only allowed a certain number of groups – currently 42, it was originally 25, which filled very rapidly for active residents between special event groups (like RFL, SL Birthdays), land management groups (in order to set out prims in your home), groups for interests (like roleplay, medical support groups), favourite stores which give lovely gifts and favourite musicians who send notice of concerts.  Joining groups could also be a little hit and miss – for stores that had steady locations, setting out a group joiner was relatively straightforward, but not mainly people were likely to visit a magazine HQ just because they like the magazine – you just had to hope they would read the magazine, like it, and check out the group list – not the most efficient of marketing methods.

So an alternative system of gaining members was devised by enterprising residents – the subscriber system.  Residents liked it because it set no limit on the number of groups you could join.  Stores liked it because it offered a variety of stats about group members (some let you see where and when people subscribed, for example, others were configured so you can see dormant subscribers and periodically remove them).  There were – and are – some systems that allow you to subscribe people yourself, but many were designed – like the group system – to be subscriber driven.  That means that someone has to touch the kiosk to subscribe (and unsubscribe).

For many people, this was a great way of getting round the group limitations. For Prim Perfect (and Designing Worlds and The Primgraph) it was a huge blessing.  Previously, we had had kiosks set out in stores across the grid, which meant that if people were in stores, they could pick up the magazine – but even if they liked it, it would depend on their being in a store that carried a kiosk the following month as to whether they got the next issue, unless they started buying it on the Marketplace or reading it on the web. And in order to set out the kiosks (which were originally non-transferable) someone had to go to the store, join the land group and set it out.  It was all rather haphazard – and caused endless problems if a store owner moved locations.

With the new subscribers  kiosks, we could hand the kiosks to store owners to place where they wanted, move, delete whatever.  They came in a range of styles too.  It’s a system that serves us well.  The only downside is that when you gain a lot of subscribers, the rate at which messages are sent out slows down. It can take five hours to deliver a message to all the Prim Perfect readers whereas the Linden Lab group system delivers instantly (on a good day!).

Different servers in the Prim Perfect Headquarters

Different servers in the Prim Perfect Headquarters

There are a range of subscription systems – Subscribe-o-Matic, Hippo Groups, Artizan Mailbox and Fred Allendale’s Subscriber Kiosk are amongst the best known.  Artizan Mailbox allows you to compile your own mailing list – I use it to send out Christmas presents and invitations to the annual Prim Perfect birthday.  Technically, mailings like this could be seen as spamming – but I suspect many people use them similarly.  FRom the magazines and the TV shows, the mailing lists are opt in – people have had to touch a kiosk to subscribe and they are told to touch again if they want out – both in a system message and in a sign on the front of the kiosk.

Nevertheless, once or twice a month I get an angry IM about this.  Not a “Help – I want to unsubscribe and I can’t find a kiosk – can you do it for me?” which I’m always very happy to do.  No, these are aggressive – “You’re spamming me and I’m reporting you to the Lab for abuse!”

My response to them is to unsubscribe them immediately and to send them a polite note pointing out that they chose to subscribe to us.  I give them the data I have of where and when they subscribed, wish them a nice day and there the correspondence usually ends. A couple have decided at this point that they want to re-subscribe; I gently dissuade them.  Anyone who doesn’t understand the basics of the subscriber system is more trouble than they’re worth.  A few still try to pin the blame on me. “I subscribed there? I haven’t been there for years!” they cry, as though the fact that they palpably were there in 2009 and subscribed to a magazine they’ve been receiving ever since is completely irrelevant.

But they are a small drop in the ocean of people who happily receive the magazine and notices of the TV shows.

However, one of the comments on the Jira by Kelly Linden regarding the throttling of messages (causing the system to silently fail) gave me pause in the same way that Jack Linden’s remark gave me pause:

Unfortunately some mailing list and product updaters may break or need to be updated. To stop a griefing mode that has effects on the entire grid’s back end infrastructure a throttle was added to llGiveInventory. This throttle matches (but is separate from) the existing throttle on llInstantMessage and exists for nearly identical reasons. That throttle is 5k per hour per owner per region; the maximum burst is 2.5k. It is impossible to hit this limit with a single script, but systems designed to spam very large amounts very rapidly may hit it and need to be adjusted. We will be monitoring the effect of this throttle to adjust it as we can if needed.

Eh? Spamming? I can imagine that griefers might use some of these tools – but Kelly was casually referring to all the messages sent as spamming – which displays a profound mis-understanding of the ways in which residents have evolved inworld mailing lists to meet an important business need.  She goes on:

Security issues like this, especially of this grid wide severity, require that we act swiftly and without significant prior notice, for which we do apologize.

This suggests either that a system that has been operated very happily for five or five years by a very large number of Second Life businesses has suddenly become the target of griefers (but I haven’t heard of any mailing list spam – have you?) or that Linden Lab have suddenly become aware of the system through abuse reports, such as the ones that have been threatened against me by people who have subscribed and then forgotten all about it. Rather than realising it’s something they did that triggered this, their default response is a complaint to the Lab who have reacted.

It may be that we’re seeing another aspect of this with the Third Party Viewer policy.  Even the alterations that seem rather sensible can have the effect of breaking systems – the online/offline status that will break information systems in clubs and estate management offices, for example.

The problem, as I see it, is not that Linden Lab are setting out deliberately to break things – the problem is that they are trying to manage a system of such inordinate complexity that it is impossible for them to keep pace.  In correcting or improving one area, they are, frequently inadvertently, breaking something else that might be absolutely key to a whole raft of the grid – because they don’t know.

Again and again, the creativity and ingenuity have taken them by surprise.  It might even underlie the Homestead debacle, which was a major turning point in relations between the Lab and the residents.  It may be that they seriously under-estimated the capacity of people to build feverishly with the prims they were given.  It’s also present in the way that the adaption of mesh is going. “You can use this for building … ” “Clothes don’t fit properly.” “Yes, but we meant you to use it for … ” “Don’t you hear me? Clothes don’t fit properly!!” “But we never thought you’d use it to … ” “Oh for goodness sake. Another half-assed Lab release. Fix It Now.”

And, believe me, creators have barely scratched the surface of the potential for mesh to seriously screw with the Lab.  I am cornering the market in virtual popcorn for this one.

All in Mesh: Dress by Tres Beau; Hair by Truth; Boots by Gos

All in Mesh on Inis Caiseal: Dress by Tres Beau; Hair by Truth; Boots by Gos

Earlier, I commented on the Sand Castle Studio blog about Third Party Viewers and I said this:

But I’m coming to believe that a key problem for the Lab (and for the Second Life users) is simply that the organism is so vast that the people maintaining it don’t understand what is done with it. Like a doctor treating someone for bunions, they don’t realise (without being told) that the patient will be going out on stage that night and performing pirouettes, so some courses of treatment just won’t work. Even worse, this is a doctor who has never seen the ballet and so fails to understand what a pirouette is …

Gianna Borgnine pointed out that if a doctor listens carefully to a patient, then it shouldn’t be necessary to know the ballet in order to understand them problem.  But are Linden Lab able to listen? Because, what are they actually listening to? From their side, a cacophony of voices with a hundred different ideas and views on Any. Single. Issue.  From our side, a failure to have channels that allow our voices to be heard – and in the resultant silence frustration grows, until it is replaced by the more deadly despair.

Because that was what struck me about the Jira for the mailing lists.  There was some anger that a major system in Second Life that hundreds of businesses depended on had suddenly, silently failed – without any prior warning from the Lab.  But overall, there was a kind of “Stay Calm and Carry On” Blitz spirit about this.  Yes, Jerry has flattened our street, but there’s temporary accommodation in the church hall, and the WVS are providing tea and sandwiches from their little wagon parked on the corner in the midst of the rubble, for all those who are out there clearing up the mess.

But surely we can do better than this? Surely we should be doing better than this?

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Prim Perfect Headquarters: photograph by PJ Trenton

Prim Perfect Headquarters: photograph by PJ Trenton

Wednesday 29th February is a whole extra day for us to enjoy -so we thought we’d do it at the Prim Perfect Headquarters in Costa Rica with a party!

Prim Perfect's Home is Where the Heart

Prim Perfect's Home is Where the Heart

And there’ll be a rather special announcement at the party too – we’ll be holding the draw for the lucky winner of the Prim Perfect Hunt Quest. Were you the lucky avatar who won L$10,000? Come to the party and find out!

And we’ll have an exciting announcement about future events too … so don’t miss it!

Prim Perfect Leap Day Party: 2pm – 4.30pm SLT, Wednesday 29th February

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The Blarney Stone in Second Life Dublin

The Blarney Stone in Second Life Dublin

We’re looking for readers’ favourite Irish-themed locations on the grid!

Do you know a special pub or club that has an Irish theme, or a special way of celebrating St Patrick’s Day? Or perhaps you know a friendly Irish community, or a place that has beautiful Irish- themed landscapes? Would you like to share your perfect St Patrick’s Day location with Prim Perfect readers? Here’s your chance!

O'Hare's Gap

O'Hare's Gap

Fill in this form, send a picture to primperfect@gmail.com (or point us at a Flickr picture we can have permission to use) and we will include it in our Patrick’s Day blog postings!

The sims can be in any virtual world – it doesn’t need to be Second Life.

Rural Ireland on Empress and Hierophant

Rural Ireland on Empress and Hierophant

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This week, Saffia and Elrik further explore the extensive railway tracks that spread across the continents of the Second Life mainland, in the company of Marianne McCann and Moundsa Mayo of the Virtual Railways Consortium.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In addition to seeing some amazing locos, riding the rails and visiting numerous locations along the way, we learn about the history, organisations and technologies that lie behind the railways of Second Life.

The Wolf of Badenoch locomotive, photographed by Wildstar Beaumont

The Wolf of Badenoch locomotive, photographed by Wildstar Beaumont

And we took with us the brilliant photographer Wildstar Beaumont – who feel in love with the trains just as much as we did – and here’s a wonderful slideshow to prove it (you can see it full size here).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wildstar’s Railroads on Flickr, posted with vodpod

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Welcome to the second weekend of the February SUYS event! This month’s theme is ‘Bad Romance’!

Our designers for this week’s SUYS are:

Ambiance Designs [SLurl]
La’Licious Designs [SLurl]
MudHoney [SLurl]
Organica [SLurl]
Second Spaces [SLurl]
Trompe Loeil [SLurl]

Remember – everything released for SUYS is just $150L or less, but only for this weekend!

You can see pics of all the SUYS items over on our Flickr page and be sure to join the in-world Spruce Up Your Space group to get the SUYS notices, LMs, etc!

It officially starts at 9AM SLT this morning, February 25 – enjoy!

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by Saffia Widdershins and Lette Ponnier

Linden Lab have today announced some changes in their Third Party Viewer Policy.

You may remember that the Policy was originally initiated in response to the “rogue” viewers that were causing enormous problems on the grid.  Developed by various people, they were widely used by griefers to violate intellectual property rights on an industrial scale.  There were also problems with the Emerald viewer, one of whose developers launched a denial of service attack on someone he disliked, using the Emerald viewer capabilities. At this point the Lab banned some people, laid down strict policy guidelines (which some of us had been begging for) and general took a proactive stance that led to the development of Phoenix, Firestorm, Dolphin and the other viewers that people know and love.

Today, Linden Lab have announced changes to the policy.  The changes are as follows:

2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.
2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.
2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.

This changes relate to privacy and address problems that people have identified with some of the TPVs.  For example, some will tell you what viewer other people are using.  Some people find this intensely annoying; others find it useful. When we’re trying to set up the TV shows, it’s useful to use to quickly identify which viewer our guests are using so that we can advise them how to get voice working – so we’re definitely in the finding it useful camp!  But … you know, no biggie.

However, the final item is the real problem.

2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.

This is potentially the dealbreaker.  It appears to means that any TPV working to bring in new features would either have to develop them in conjunction with the Lab, or risk having the viewer disabled.

But the whole part of the TPVs is that they lead the way in adding new features that viewers vote for with their mouseclicks.  They’ve been responsible for introducing and testing a range of new features, some of which have gone on to be a major part of residents’ Second Life experience, and some of which have sunk without trace.  Different viewers have been enthusiastically adopted by different groups within the community; photographers adore Kristen’s, with its use of shadows and depth of field; builders love Firestorm; Exodus (which is actually NOT a Linden Lab approved viewer) was developed initially for the roleplay communities etc.

Now this ability is to be removed and only elements that are provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer will be permitted – which rather kills the ability of the TPVs to create and test the features that residents really love.

The press release from the Lab continues:
We encourage Third Party Developers to continue innovating with unique user interfaces, niche features, and ways of interacting with the virtual world, and we look forward to working in partnership with developers on ideas they have for new or improved shared experiences for all of Second Life. We want to incorporate more innovative new features into Second Life to improve the experience for all users, and we encourage TPV developers to submit proposals through our standard process.

However, one of the features that users of the TPVs love is their ability to respond and develop with flexibility (as we saw with the AngusGraham Ceawlin case). Long term residents have voted with their feet, and headed for new viewers, partly because the universal dislike there was for the original Viewer 2, which gave a massive impetus to the development of TPVs.

One viewer that might have looked likely to be significantly affected is the RLV (Restrained Life Viewer), a viewer that is popular in BDSM communities as it allows one person to control another’s viewing experience.  In addition to the BDSM communities, it has other applications for gamers, who have developed applications for the viewer (whose key features have been developed as an add on in other viewers such as Firestorm and Imprudence) for games that have no sexual connotations whatsoever.  It would have been ironic if this feature were to be removed at a point at which the Lab is pushing gaming development so heavily – but it seems that because RLV is specifically opt-in (the person chooses to have their viewer controlled, and who it will be controlled by), it will be unaffected by the policy change.

Although this will doubtless affect the future of TPV development and the introduction of new features, Oz Linden reassured developers at the TPV meeting that  they would not have to release newly modified viewers in a hurry to remain in compliance with the new policy. Some of the features that will be affected, such as Phoenix’s true online status and the viewer tag system used by the majority of TPVs, will be disabled server-side in the near future. Those that are not controlled from the server end, such as the text tags used in Phoenix/Firestorm’s inworld support groups to display a chatter’s viewer and version, will need to come into compliance with the viewers’ next releases, whenever those might be.

Why announce these changes now? Perhaps it’s been decided – belatedly – to tighten up and make sure that a situation like the Emerald problem never occurs again.  Perhaps it’s actually a slightly ham-fisted invitation to TPV developers not to forget that they can work more closely with the Lab.

Or perhaps this is part of a movement towards viewer strandardisation to work with the new tools/games that the Lab is developing,

Time will tell.

Some of the other posts that have come out on this issue:
Linden Lab’s Official Announcement
Inara Prey’s Living in a Modem World
Dwell On It
The Tigress’ Second Den
Phoenix Viewer
Second Life News
Nalates’ Things & Stuff
Andromeda Media Group
Daniel Voyager’s Blog
Sand Castle Studios
Second Thoughts
Salome says

and, of course, Second Lie is having a field day!

We’ll add more as they come in.

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