My Take on the Firestorm-Phoenix Q&A Video

If you read the announcement of the Firestorm-Phoenix (FS-PH) Q & A, you know there was a reason for having the secession. Jessica Lyon, the voice for the FS-PH Team, said the reason was anger and frustration in the community. So, what is the anger and frustration about and where is it coming from?

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You probably know Third Party Viewers (TPV) developers are leaving, KirstenLee and Kirstens Viewer, and new ones are appearing, Cinder and Milkshake Viewer. We also know Linden Lab is advancing their viewer at a blistering pace. In general we see things moving forward and new technology is adopted. A Neilson report shows that Second Life has almost doubled market share (New World Notes) in the last few months.

The Second Life Mesh Statistics show mesh is being adopted. Sales of mesh objects doubled in the last week. We see viewer developers adding mesh support. Developers are being asked for mesh support and supposedly anticipating desire for the feature. Now that Phoenix is supporting mesh render we may find 80% of residents are mesh ready. It would seem this is a good thing.

Linden Lab is adding features to Second Life and that requires changes in the viewers. Mesh is the big recent addition. The Mesh Deformer Project is proceeding. Direct Delivery is coming. It is already a quarter late. But, we are anticipating its arrival in the first half of 2012. New tools are coming from the Linden Realms Project. All these things look positive for Second Life.

What is there to be upset about?

What is mostly hidden is how users are handling the changes. It seems the Phoenix team was/is taking heat for allowing the Phoenix Viewer to phase out and being accused of killing the viewer. The charge was the first item addressed in the recent Q & A. Where do people get these ideas?

Ideas come from our perception of events and the world around us. Primitives once sacrificed humans to solar and lunar eclipses so they would end or in some way make the gods happy. Their lack of knowledge leads to their beliefs. Something they did not like was happening, there was nothing they could do about it, and they made up something to do so they could feel better. It certainly did not speed up the eclipse.  The same is true today.

It is difficult to know what SL residents are thinking or how many have similar thoughts. We have user groups and forums where we can hear what some users are thinking. There is no way to know how many are of a like mind or not. It is a little easier to know what users are actually doing, like buying mesh. We have statistics and such to help with the doing.

Within the forum I can see the anger and frustration being vented toward various people and groups in SL. The only consistent factor in the threads is a lack of knowledge on the part of the frustrated. Many, if not most, people in SL have no clue what is going on or why. So, they do what humans have done from the beginning of time. They allow their mind to jump to a conclusion and make up a villain to off load their fear and anger on. Both TPV Developers and the Lindens take a lot of heat and abuse from these people.

Keeping things in perspective is no simple task. Imagine being a viewer developer or a viewer support person and having to deal with a daily stream of abuse and anger… Sound like fun? Think your perspective of users might start to shift?

It is the anger and frustration that Jessica and the FS-PH Team hoped to reduce by having the Q & A and getting information out. Whether it will work and make a noticeable difference, I don’t know.

Last I looked, about 900 people had watched the 2.5 hour video at YouTube. I wonder how many of the 900 watched the whole video. I had a hard time making it through it. I was so wishing they would laser responses and stop saying ‘huh’. (They did a good job. While I don’t like the huh’s and rambles I appreciate how hard it is to adlib answers in a live on camera meeting. I am not criticizing Jessica or Nigma, I am making a point about it being hard to hang in with the video to the end.)

The meeting location was at the corner of 4 regions with 3 regions accessible for attendees. That suggests a maximum of 240 or so attendees. So, say 1,200 of the 400,000 people that download FS-PH viewers or about 0.3% of the user base.

Lets consider the video Q & A and see what we see. I agree and disagree with points made in the video. I’ll provide my take and sense of the issues. I’ve included time marks so you can find the sections in the video, if you want to get the actual feel and wording. My wording is paraphrasing more than quoting. Avoid attributing what I write to participants in the video unless I add quote marks.

The video is two hours and 30 minutes long… I found it really long and tiring. Props to Jessica for hanging in and handling all the questions. I mean ‘all’ in the sense that many questions were repeats condensed into one. Also, Nigma deliberately dropped questions that were abusive or rude.

Jessica starts with a monologue about the charge that the FS-PH Team is deliberately killing Phoenix. She says if anyone is killing Viewer 1 and Phoenix, it is Linden Lab. I think that is unfortunate phrasing. No one is killing the V1 viewers. They are dying a natural death as Second Life advances and technology improves. It is simply too laborious to update the old V1 code. A major reason for V2 was to get a fresh start and get away from the old computer code and all the patches and band-aids. As code is changed, patched, and added to for years it eventually becomes unmanageable. The old code is a minefield for programmers. To get new stuff the old code had to go, thus Viewer 2.

Also, the Lab is making the new API’s available to developers. The viewer uses an API to ask for data from the asset server, names server, map servers, inventory servers, and others. Any developer can change out the old API calls to the new API calls. So, theoretically V1 viewers do not have to break as the older services are turned off.

Much later in the video at 01:28:00 Jessica provides what I consider a more realistic and positive explanation of why and how Linden Lab will eventually bury V1 viewers, at least the SL Viewer 1.23.

Linden Lab is running services that only support the V1 code based viewers using old API’s. The resources could be better used to support the newer faster systems.

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14 thoughts on “My Take on the Firestorm-Phoenix Q&A Video

  1. Good “summation” Nalates. I too watched the whole thing and you seem to have hit the important points.
    One off-hand comment Jessica made about Viewer1 caught my attention; right now LL is running 2 versions of the inventory loading program on the servers. When the day comes that they remove the old one, V1 will still “work” but without your inventory.
    People need to bite the bullet and learn to use a V2 viewer. They are, after all not still running Windows 97. Changing SL viewer is far less traumatic than changing OS 🙂

    • Thank you. 🙂

      Thinking of two inventory systems can be misleading. Jessica usually doesn’t go too techie. But, the lack of technical understanding by residents is leading to some of the frustration and spin, imo.

      Inventory is a list of items that reside in a database. The list itself is data in a database too. Having two inventory systems is not a matter of having two databases. It is having two API’s (Application Programming Interface). The servers that handout asset information (e.g., the stuff that makes up a sexy top) have new coding to handle newer faster ways to find and handout asset information. There is new code to process the inventory lists too. That new code has a function name that is somewhat like a phone number, which makes up the API. We can see functions in the Linden Scripting Language (LSL) to see what that looks like. They look like: llSetPrimParams( [instructions here]). We now have a new one llSetPrimParamsFast([similar but diff instructions here]).

      Basically your viewer is programmed (by using either llSPP() or llSPPF() ) to call either the new code or the old code. Eventually the old code will be removed from the system and no longer work. It is kinda geeky semantics and I think irrelevant to most of us whether the new and old code live in the same or different servers. Also, how one thinks of the meaning of ‘system’ in this context can shift one’s meaning.

      Talking with Oz Linden in the Open Source Meeting he pointed out that all the new API’s have been made available to TPV Dev’s. So, it is possible for the TPV Dev’s working with V1 to update their viewers and keep them working. How difficult that will be I don’t know.

      The Lab will not be updating SLV 1.23.x. That viewer is doomed. They think making the changes to keep it working is too much work. They decided to focus on new things. Linden Lab is NOT focused on killing V1 viewers. They don’t care about V1’s, as best I can tell. They are abandoning THEIR 1.23 viewer. They are still providing lots of information so others can maintain the TPV1’s.

      Jessica sees a business need for the Lab to kill off all V1’s. I don’t. I think the Lab is just moving on and V1’s have very little financial impact on LL.

      In a nuanced situation with many complexities, Jessica is pointing at the Lab as the reason Phoenix is going to be discontinued. The FS-PH Team may truly perceive the situation that way. I don’t. I think the FS-Ph Team is making the same decision the Lab made. I think they have made it clear they think working on Phoenix is too much trouble, counterproductive, and they want to move on to the new stuff.

      If I were making free viewers, I would make whatever I wanted to make and use personally, which may be what Milkshake is. I would probably provide free copies to friends. Whether anyone else wanted to use it or not, would not matter to me. I would have no reason to care. Anyone that yelled at me about MY viewer would be blocked from downloads. I don’t want the aggravation.

  2. Wow. Excellent post. I haven’t seen the relevant video (and have no intention of wasting my time on it as the LL viewer works fine and I don’t bother with others) but I’ve heard about it of course. Personally my reaction would be the same as your final comment; all whiners would just be blocked, not appeased.

    There is a lot of childish, uninformed behavior in SL (for example, people screaming at someone who is using particles — one of the most useful and beautiful things in SL — telling them to “quit lagging me!” when all they have to do is turn down the particle count in their own viewer), but in my opinion the so-called “viewer wars” are the most assinine. ALL software morphs over time as the programmers gain more knowledge/experience and the technology improves. The obsession with an old interface and refusal to move forward is laughable, and the vitriol directed at the official LL viewer is ridiculous. Personally I think LL should make the use of their viewer mandatory. The use of other viewers dilutes the input stream to the programmers of the LL viewer and it wastes the time of support staff being hammered at to fix problems that are 3rd-party viewer related and not their concern.

    And anyone who had the thought “If they take away my [insert name of TPV here] then I’m leaving SL!! I’ll show THEM!!” please see my remark regarding childish behavior above.

    • Unfortunately the behavior is not limited to SL…

      Snap judgments and jumping to conclusions are typical human behavior. Add to that the entitlement mentality now being encouraged by many political systems is filtering into other parts of life. So, it is becoming your duty to stop using particles because they can’t be bothered to change their settings or have yet to figure out what is going on.

      Enough whining on my part….

      As to other viewers… they do have some fun stuff in them. The Linden Lab viewer is sort of the mid-range Ford Explorer. TPV’s range from a little Volkswagon or a work truck to a Ferrari. Or may be a gadget rich Volvo.

      TPV’s are not about ‘need’ so much a fun. Some of the first TPV’s were identical to the SL Viewer but with more bug fixes, they just worked better.

    • I watched the full video and I only use the official viewer. Its still a good watch. Very informative on goings on and kinda shows how the whole ‘FIC’ thing really works (some people get into the favored crowd merely because they show up when others don’t). 🙂

      It gave me a lot more sympathy for the Firestorm / Phoenix devs than I had before. 🙂

      Some of the questions were downright irrational. Some people asked the same question others had asked many times already, insisting no one had asked it and that no answer had been given – demonstrating that they really don’t want an answer, they just want to vent and blame. Which is sad.

      People are very upset at their cheese being moved. The rational option is to learn how to handle the new location of one’s cheese, because it won’t move back. But they’re being emotional instead – as if anger would cause their cheese to come back to them.

  3. You can bad mouth Cool Viewer and v1 viewers all you want, but as long as they continue to get higher frame rates and better performance then v2 and v3 viewers then people will keep using them. Perhaps LL should spend a short period of time on code efficiency in order to bring v2 and v3 up to standards.

    • I’m not seeing where anyone is bad mouthing Cool Viewer. Henri has made a good viewer and is showing that V1’s can continue to be upgraded and work.

      Also your ‘should’ shows you are not aware that is what the Lab has been working on for the last few weeks. The Shining Project has been optimizing and fixing problems in the new render pipeline and OpenGL compatibility. The latest 3.2.6 is quite a bit faster.

  4. Thanks for your post Nalates; English is my second (rusty) language, it would take me two days decode the two hour video, your summary and your good judgment is a great help.

    Last year i was a reticent Emerald and official v1.23 viewer user. I was comfortable with those viewers and i didnt want to change.. but some day i decided test v2.3 (or something near). I dont remember exactly what version it was, but was the faster viewer i ever had. I could have sharders activated even in cowled placed (my system have like 10 years old today, so that was a great improvement to me). Due to economics reason i am still stucked to this oldie PC, i had to learn get along good with lag and less than 10 fps everywhere, but furthermore since v3.0 i freeze like crazy in every new viewer out there.. its unusable for me so i had to return back to v1, Singularity is my viewer now. I miss a lot of things of the last releases, but this is the only way i can logging SL today. Hopefully, i expect have a new computer in few months, but now i feel a little relieved knowing that LL is not interested in turn off v1 platform in short. I’m grateful with every developer out there for help grow our little universe, and i am completely at the mercy of Henri in particular for let me enjoy the magic of mesh these days. Kirstenlee departure is for sure a sad notice, and even though couldnt install her viewer, i feel that a part of SL go with her.

    @Caliburn: On my point of view make the official viewer the only option is a very bad idea. To me they are not only a fun.. but a useful think to everybody, even if you are not gonna use them. TPV developers help to fix an important amount of common bugs (and they have their own jira system to fix the bugs of their viewers), give useful feedback to LL and release new features that could be in the official viewer.. or not: and i am not talking just about the “Show Look At” that everybody feel like essential… Ligthing and Shadows, RLV, RLVa.. the nice Collapse button that i always miss on my official viewers!…
    Its nice if you like official viewer.. really.. i would use the developer viewer if i could, and i completely agree when you refer to the those intransigent users that all they do is complaint about everything.. after more than year reading people growling about UIs, i think that if i hear someone telling that FUI sucks my head will explode in hundred of tiny pieces of slimy brain.

    I would say that its a bit childish of your part too complaint about people using TPVs. The more options the better and the richer SL is, because what works for you maybe dont works for me, because what you like maybe is not of my taste.

    About the particles matter… yeah its very pretty, i use them often in my creations, but being a mentor on a sandbox i can tell you that it can be very very very disturbing. Certainly, i know the shortcut to turn it off when it disturb me, but i am responsible of keep an appropriate atmosphere in order to build in peace, and sometimes (always) is better and faster ask politely turn off the particles emiter to the resident/griefer than try teach every newbie in the sandbox on to turn it off in their Preferences… and you know… maybe what you like could be not what i like or what other person likes, we live in a community ^^

  5. Thanks for that summation Nalates – and sitting through 2 and a half hours for the rest of us:). I do agree with your thoughts on part of the Phoenix user-base – I think they inherited them from the Emerald days.

    Incidentally Cinder does not believe Milkshake is ready for wider release (just ask her) – it was created for herself and a few friends, though hopefully she may develop it further in the future.

  6. I’m getting tired about the “v1 vs v2” stuff and people who are not even true programmers and pretend that “v1” TPVs will die or be soon unable to function properly on the grid. Like I wrote in details on my forum (http://sldev.free.fr/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=584), “v1” viewers are not v1 any more (all the underlying ll* libraries, most major viewer classes and even the whole rendering pipeline are in fact v2/3 ones in the Cool VL Viewer, Singularity and now even Phoenix since it reused all my patches to implement mesh).

    No, “v1” TPVs (and more exactly TPVs with teh v1 UI) will NOT die any time soon ! Stop the FUD !

    • Thanks Henri. It is hard for people to know what developers are doing without reading through the development repositories. Also, without understanding how the viewer code is constructed, it is hard to read about viewers and take away the correct impressions and nuances.

      The idea many of us take away when a developer says their viewer is based on V1 or Snowglobe code is that new code is being changed to work with older code. If the old code is being modified to work with new code, then I suspect few of us are thinking in that frame.

      I keep expecting a developer to break the viewer render engine and user interface into separate modules. I also expect the viewer code to become more and more modular. But, we don’t hear about those details.

      I would think someone would be developing an app for SL to run on tablets and smart phones. I suspect that development would be kept secret by LL and anyone else developing it. But, the financial rewards could be enormous. With 400,000 downloads of FS/PH I would assume an app would sell maybe 200,000 apps. While it would probably require a subscription to go with the app, people are thinking along that line as Hamlet’s poll shows.

  7. One thing you should know Nalates:
    There is a *free* implementation of the Havok Physics engine SDK available for those who want to develop games which cost $10 or less.

    Read here: http://www.havok.com/sales

    • There seems to be a gotcha in the licensing details. For development of a game there is no cost. As long as the game distributed for less than US$10 there is no license required to distribute it.

      A viewer is only part of the SL ‘game’ that has a premium retail value of US$9.95/month or about a $120/year or $72 per year on an annual basis. It becomes a point of interpretation of the Havok license as to whether a viewer qualities for the free, basic, or pro license. Since most TPV Dev’s are much more into the licensing than I am and are not using the free Havok, I’m guessing the license is in fact a problem. The same can be said for OpenSim.

      • I think you have it backwards, Nalates. As a sometimes-dev (not of viewers), if I have to care about the license, I won’t use a thing for a personal project. I leave it to my employers’ lawyers when its and issue for them. I’d avoid Havok, because I couldn’t afford the lawsuit if I’m wrong and am not lawyer enough to be confident I’m right.

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