The Phoenix-Firestorm Survey

The Phoenix hour is a bi-weekly show facilitated by Phaylen Fairchild (the nosey heifer – hilarious inside joke – see 52:00±). In the video Jessica Lyon is speaking for the Firestorm/Phoenix team. This week’s meeting is mostly about the recent survey on five features in the viewer, which the Firestorm team ran. The following is a summary of the meeting. The times are HH:MM:SS or just MM:SS and they are approximate. The words here are my paraphrasing of the video not a transcript. So, my take may be different than yours was or would be or than what Jessica intended. Simply it is what I took from what they were saying.

The Phoenix Hour

If you watch the video be warned that while the video starts at 00:00:00 the sound failed until about time mark 07:00±. So, you can skip into the video without missing anything. Also, the video is mostly just talking heads. So, if you listen without watching, you won’t miss anything. The only URL presented I give as a link below.

MetaMixTV.com is the studio where the video is made. You can visit the studio and be present for The Phoenix Hour and watch live streaming video. Plus the shows are archived on the MetaMixTV.com site (follow the TPH link).

If you like the video and want them to continue, get down to the studio and donate a few Linden. Donations support the region, which has a studio dedicated to The Phoenix Hour. They are way below their goal.

Video Start…….

There are now about 26,000 people using the Firestorm Beta Viewer. That makes it the 4th most used viewer in Second Life. This is pretty impress considering it is marked beta and only been available since June 14.

There will be another Firestorm Beta in a couple of weeks. While these viewers are labeled Beta, they have been tested by a couple of hundred users prior to release. So, while these Beta versions will have bugs, all viewers do, they are safe to use. That doesn’t mean they won’t crash. Just that they are as safe as any SL viewer. The label is more about influencing expectations.

Jessica says the Phoenix Viewer is the most used viewer in SL. I suppose they have hard data to back that up. I haven’t seen any viewer usage stats published by the Lab recently, so I can’t say one way or another. My personal experience does not support that claim. But, my experience is an empirical evaluation based on a limited set of users. I am sure it is the most used Third Party Viewer. And it has a really low crash rate, a big plus.

The current build of Firestorm does not have all the Build Tools. The reason they are not yet included is because of licensing. The Firestorm team is getting licensing straightened out. It is currently expected the Build Tools will be in the next release. They are being tested now. So, the code is in the viewer.

For many the Build Tools are the deal breaker. Once the Build Tools are in a released version I would expect the number of users to increase significantly. Until then many are staying with Phoenix.

10:00 The next Firestorm beta is expected in a week or two, so say the 1st week of July. That release will have all build tools. One exception is the ability to set the default texture for a newly rezzed prim.

The team expects there to be one more beta after this coming one. So, three Betas are likely. Then a Firestorm Final Release will be next. Don’t read too much into the word final. That just means a finished version, one that will have a version number. More versions are coming.

12:00 The Pie Menu is made with code that has a licensing problem, so the team has written new pie menu code from scratch. Which is why the Pie Menu in Firestorm looks different.

13:50 At this point Jessica begins to talk about the Survey on Viewer Features. Phaylen make the point, several times that the developers of Phoenix/Firestorm are open to user ideas and preferences.

I know that some SL users think otherwise and that ignored feeling is not targeted only at Phoenix/Firestorm. I follow a lot of what viewer developers are doing. I read lots of what is said in Office Hour meetings and on the forums. I’ll say that ALL third party viewer developers are interested in what users want and prefer. The Phoenix/Firestorm team has the goal of improving the users experience in SL as primary. They appear to honestly be devoted to achieving that goal.

Other developers have other goals. Kirsten’s is to give the best render and lead in viewer technology. Do not take technology to mean user interface or features. I’m sure those are included, but render quality and speed seems to be Kirsten’s prime goal.

That does not mean Kirsten and other developers are not user oriented. The Linden Lab team has many goals with which to contend. So, a single goal in the Lab’s eyes is always somewhat diluted, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Expect Firestorm to be a power user’s viewer. Expect Kirsten’s to be photographer’s dream. Linden Lab is concentrating on a novice user’s and general purpose viewer for the best noob experience. If SL is to survive, player retention has to improve and that seems to be the Lab’s direction. Depending on your interests, time in SL, and preferences you are probably ignored by one of more development teams.

There were 2,363 responses to the survey. The survey results are posted HERE. There is also a PDF and spreadsheet (xls = Excel format). The survey is used by the team to decide what is important not what will or won’t be in viewer. As you begin to hear Jessica talk about the purpose of the survey you may get the idea that the survey is more about opening up discussion on these issues to avoid future drama than to get a feel of user preferences. The team does need to get a sense of user preference as even they have not been able to come to consensus on some features. But, this survey is much more about opening discussion and educating people on the issues than it is about decision making. Be sure to read comments to get sense of the passions that are in play.

18:00 Begin discussing the survey item by item.  – Referred to: Jessica’s prepared statement. Jessica wrote this and read it in the meeting. She preapared it to avoid leaving any thoughts out.

Always Fly – The FS team has hidden this feature in the Advanced Menu. It is a per-use feature by secession. You can turn it on, but it will be turned off when you next login and that is by design. In V2 the setting is in Debug and I think one can still use a key press to turn it on. The key combination is not in Firestorm, AFAIK.

The feature overrides the land owner’s setting. There are reasons to allow the override and there are reasons not to override. The team is leaving it up to the user whether or not to use the feature.

Some game developers do not like the feature as it allows people to cheat. Whether the feature is built into the viewer or not does not prevent this particular cheat. An attachment with a script can defeat the region setting and allow one to fly. So, after some consideration and debate the team has decided to include it in Firestorm.

21:00 Online Status Feature – This is a particularly sticky subject with lots of drama. The feature allows one to see if someone is online. It overrides whatever setting the person may have set in their friends list. It allows one person to stalk another. It has other uses, but it is handy for griefing. FS gets the user status through the viewer’s bridge via script.

In SL it is not possible to hide your online status from a script. LSL can be used to find your status whether you have it set to be hidden or not. This is a LL problem and they will have to change the servers for a true hide-status to work. See JIRA: SVC-4823 – There 4,000+ related JIRA items. Remember. Votes are not counted. Use Watch to influence the Lindens.

This feature is an undecided feature. From the team’s perspective most use-cases do not provide a better experience. But, there are some valid use-cases.

24:00 Show When Friend has Hidden Their Online Status from you (there are two similar features) – Several examples show how this feature just causes drama. A big part of the energy on this feature comes form the name FRIENDS list.

Since the teams goal is to improve user experience this is a controversial feature. The LL system allows anyone to figure out if another has hidden their status from you. However, while no decision to include the feature or not has been made, it does not seem to improve the user experience and I suspect it probably won’t be included or if included will be hidden away.

25:55 There is a feature that tells you when someone else dissolves a friendship with you. It is discussed here. Does this feature improve one’s experience? Probably not. But, there are situations where the SL system looses friends… or so claim several of us… and that’s our story and were sticking to it.

27:05 The feature to allow Firestorm users’ IM sessions to be encrypted and hidden from Linden Lab. This is known as OTR – Off The Record. The feature encrypts chat. This is bad for abuse situations and LL is probably not thrilled by it. It is good for businesses where people need to have private conversations. There has already been loads of drama around whether Lindens were helping or favoring businesses by listening to competitors’ plans.  OTR will be in the viewer. It is an opt in feature. As best the team can tell it does not have a negative effect on anyone.

This is one of the items that has an interesting if predictable comments section.

The Firestorm team now consists of 53 people and they all vote on including or excluding viewer features.

About 31.00 the survey discussion ends. Break. Returns at 33:33

34:00 Is LL putting pressure on the team to include or exclude features? LL said they would provide a list of features they did not want in viewers. When the list arrived it was not a list but an admonishment to adopt a philosophy to use common sense and be grown up about what is included. O.O

36:00 Discussion on what people want, how does one know, who is the FS team to decide what people want, … the comments in the survey reveal much more about what people want and why, more so than just the numbers. The team is endeavoring to be open minded and attentive to users and fit things within the frame work of improving the user experience.

38:45 More discussion about the Always-Fly feature and Double-Click-TP.

40:00 More discussion on Privacy – online status issues.

42:30 Here several good ideas are presented for handling online status. These are all permission things and ownership stuff for limiting what scripts can do in regard to online status.

46:30 Comments on what will be in Firestorm, IF online status is not an included as a feature. I suspect it may be an omitted feature, in which case the team plans to put a pop up notice that one can’t REALLY hide status.

47:30 Will the next FS be able to see mesh? The plan is; yes. FS is currently merging V2.6.x code which is pre-mesh. The V2.7.x versions are rapidly changing and it is not all that productive to try and merge those versions into FS. The FS team is skeptical that an August roll out for mesh is possible. Having mesh visible with FS is a high priority goal of the team’s.

48:50 More discussion on True Online status. The FS team is definitely still deciding. No consensus in team. A team vote at some point will decide.

50:00 Barrier to cameras – The viewer Interest List is explained as a way to control the camera and what can be seen. A possible new setting for Land Parcels would be private and that has come up in some office hour discussions. Using it avatars would only be visible to avatars within a parcel set to private. They would not be visible to those outside the parcel. This is the funny part of the video.

54:30 Asks to re-state positive reasons for de-friend notice…

55:37 Will there be an ability to block spam in Firestorm chat? Yes. It won’t make it into Beta 2 but it is on the list of features being added.

55:55 How long is it going to take to get the full FS viewer ready? Forever. In my worlds Jessica tells us there will be a final version this year. I take that to mean a version that can replace Phoenix and which most Phoenix users will be happy to switch to. But FS will never be complete. They will be adding new features from LL as LL develops them. Plus once FS is caught up to LL’s viewer they have some big features the team wants to add to FS. So, FS is going to forever advance with the goal of providing the best user experience.

00:58:40 Presents a negative case for always fly. Discussed to end of show at 1:01:26

End Video Summary – – – – –

Summary

One can learn a lot about the Firestorm team and the development directions they are taking. I am convinced that once the Build Tools are added to Firestorm it will be the most popular Third Party Viewer in SL.

Remember to drop by the MetaMixTV region and donate to keep The Phoenix Hour on air.

 

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