#SL News Update Week 34

First… there will be no MetaReality podcasts until September 24th, due to RL problems and RL work load. So, I doubt we will see an update on the Mesh Defomer before then. :-(

SL Support

If you use a Third Party Viewer (TPV), Second Life™ support can be really annoying. There are viewer problems and server side problems. If it is a server side problem, it really doesn’t matter which viewer you are using. Support should help out and get the problem fixed regardless of the viewer being used. That idea is taking root at the Lab.

Scripting-Server UG August 2012

Now that the MAJORITY of viewers in use are TPV’s, this problem is a significant pain. A process is starting to change that and hopefully reduce the problem. BUT… and this is a big butt… er but… first level support people have a hard time figuring out what are viewer and server side problems. So, some work is going into developing processes to help them decide.

To understand what is happening and what to expect one has to understand the problems support people face. One problem is the Lab’s support people are not trained in how to use or help with TPV’s. That would drive the support training costs and time requirements beyond anything reasonable. If only some TPV’s were supported to reduce cost and time required, there would be a load of drama about which viewers were selected. So, that means an all or nothing approach. It is going to come down on the nothing side.

Support is not going to refuse support to those using TPV’s… but listen well. One of the first troubleshooting steps is going to be can you reproduce the problem using the Linden Lab Release Viewer. If you can then support knows they have a chance of helping solve the problem. If not, they need to get you to the TPV Support that can help you.

The TPV developers and support teams know their product far better than the Lab’s support people ever will. So, if a problem disappears when switching to the Linden viewer that means the best chance of getting a meaningful answer is going to come from TPV Support not the Lab. The Lab will refer people to the TPV support source on file. As best I know, they currently leave a user to find that support group on their own. So, when implemented this should be a welcome change.

In this regard, TPV Dev’s are being asked to update their contact information in the TPV Directory and to include wiki, forum, and in-world contact points they may have. This information is going to be provided to the Lab’s support people so they can direct people to the correct places.

Grey Areas

There is no perfect solution for support for the mix of viewers and server problems. But, the training program for support peeps is being changed to improve that. Still there will be grey areas like inventory problems. Has something been lost or is a bad connection interfering with the list download or is the viewer just not displaying the item? It is really hard to know.

Since many users are computer novices this problem is likely to remain until someone figures out a good way for novice users to tell where a problem originates, which I think is unlikely. Until then a support person has to try and figure out what is wrong from what they hear on the phone or in an email.

The first troubleshooting step is always going to be to see if the same problem happens in the SL Viewer. So, save yourself some time and try it in the SL Viewer before calling support. If the problem is only in the TPV, contact the viewer’s developer or support people.

The Lab and TPV Developers are working to figure out which types of things can be handled by the Lab and which should be deferred to TPV’s support people.

Diagnostic Advice

We never know if a user is going to contact a TPV’s support people or the Lab first. So, TPV support people should be making the same first request, can you reproduce the problem in the SL viewer? This gives them the first big deciding factor of whether it is a problem for the Lab or not and they can refer accordingly or not.

TPV support people should consider and treat the Lab’s support person’s requests to try reproducing a problem in the SL Viewer as requests to actually troubleshoot so they can help. Currently TPV support people often class this request as a refusal to help. It is not. It is a troubleshooting step.

I’ve been guilty of saying the Lab is not going to help if you use a third party viewer. That is no longer going to be the case and how the Lab’s support people handle the problem, mostly what they say, will change to more accurately reflect what they are trying to do, troubleshoot. We’ll have to see how well that works out.

Of course many of the various viewer users are providing ad hoc support via the viewer’s public in-world support group. Some of those people are blatantly hostel toward the Lab. In some measure that hate breeds more hate. So, TPV Development groups have some challenges raining in such people. They have to get those hostel people understanding what is a refusal and what is a troubleshooting step. If they can reach some of those people, it will probably cut down on some drama.

Feedback

When a user contacts support it is supposed to generate a support event, which means the user will get an email that is a user experience survey. A Linden, a real Linden – meaning a Lab employee in the Lab’s facility, reads… every… single… returned… survey. So tell people to fill these surveys out. If people put problems with support in there, management can do something to resolve the problem.

If a support person miss defines a problem or refuses support for some inappropriate reason then put that in the form. That is the only way they can figure out where the support process is going wrong, change the training process, and correct the problem.

Abuse Reports

AR’s go to a different group than tech support. Feedback from AR’s is limited. Somewhere there used to be some published stats on how many AR’s were filed, the number of suspensions, and bans. Other than some generic stats we are never going to see much feedback.

I suspect AR’s are going to remain frustrating because we can’t see a one-to-one relationship between the report and a result.

Note

Don’t get the idea that you can call support today and get improved TPV support. This plan has to be completed, implemented, and people trained. It is going to take some time, may be months. But, the Lab is adjusting to the fact of SL Life that the majority of users are in a TPV and even while they are using a TPV they are using a Lab product, SL, and need support. Some of that support can only be provided by the Lab.

While I am writing about the Lab doing better TPV support, the Lab cannot offer TPV support. Not because they don’t want to but because they won’t be able to provide the quality of support needed. They CAN’T know TPV’s like the users of TPV’s can. The Lab is trying to get people the best support they can. So, referring problems to the best source for answers is the new plan and probably the best all around solution.

JIRA Update

There is a rumor an update is coming to the JIRA system. No one seems to know any real facts about that. Atlassian, the company that created the JIRA software, has a new version out as of July 12. So, it is probably likely an update for the SL JIRA is in the works.

For most SL users this makes no difference. But, for those of us filing feature requests and bug reports it is a little interesting… you can tell which group I fall into. For the Lindens that have their work guided by the JIRA it is probably a big deal.

Steam

Rumor is a promotional video is being made for presentation on Steam. I haven’t seen it and as best I can tell only people inside the Lab have seen it. I am wondering if Torley is involved. If anyone can convey the wonder that is SL I think he is the person.

Part of the rumor is the video does not hold SL up as a game, but as a virtual world. I’m not sure what that means or how it will come across to Steam members.

Word is: Steam registration and playing SL via Steam creates an SL account… somehow. No one knows how names will work when an account is created from Steam, but there WILL BE NO LAST NAME thing. Last names are NOT coming back with Steam.

We may see some TPV’s appearing on Steam too. That is one of those things that had me thinking: hummmm. This could allow one to target landing points in SL and could bring new users in on a TPV, which would be an interesting experiment. Is that why the Firestorm Team designed their support island (which opens today 8/25) as they did?

HTTP Library

The new HTTP Library that handles SL downloads and communication is progressing through QA. There is no official ETA.

Results with the experimental viewers using the HTTP Library have people saying they are running much better and even getting better frame rates.

Avatar Baking

No Avatar Bake progress news. Work in progress.

VWR-14703

VWR-14703Allow Modification of Animation Settings Post-Upload. This is a feature request that was discussed in the Scripting-Server UG. It is about some wanting to have modifiable settings in an animation, like speed of play back, priority, or pelvis location.

The big problem is how to have settings that change viewer side and yet are reflected to other players. So, if you play an animation twice normal speed, how does my viewer know to play the animation faster? Well, your viewer has to tell the region server and it has to tell me. That gets to be a lot of talking in a crowd of avatars.

I don’t expect to see any action on the request any time soon.

Trivia

The discussion revealed some of the things Lindens have looked at. An in-world animation creating and editing tool was looked at. It is on the self as a someday project.

An in-world clothes painting/making tool was looked at.

An in-world mesh editor was looked at.

These tools would require that entire programs be added to the SL viewer, which is already complex enough. For clothes editing and creation something like Photoshop Elements would need to be added. For mesh something like Blender would need to be added. Those would be huge projects and people would still want to use Photoshop and Blender for more powerful editing and better tools. So, that someday is probably out past the end of time.

Summary

There is quite a bit going on behind the scenes in SL. We are not seeing lots work impacting the user this week or probably even weeks down the road. But, things are in the pipeline.

6 thoughts on “#SL News Update Week 34

  1. Thanks, as always, for the update, Nalates.

    I was particularly interested in the news about support, because, way back when, the last time I contacted Live Chat for viewer support, a long time ago, that was exactly what they told me to do, and why.

    This was just after V2 had first been launched and I was using Emerald, but tried V2, and found half my inventory had seemingly vanished, I knew had to be an issue at my end because, at the time, I was running both Linux and Windows on the same machine, and my inventory was there in Linux but not in Windows, and explained this to Support.

    They took me through exactly those steps, explaining they weren’t trained to support Emerald and that, in any case, we needed to see if I could replicate the problem with their viewer. If we could (which we did) then they could help me with recover my inventory, which we did, and they then said that they advised me to set up a separate cache for Emerald (which I did) and if the problem persisted with Emerald but not V2, to take it up with the Emerald devs.

    So, in effect, they’re reverting to what they used to do. Indeed, I hadn’t realised they’d ever stopped doing it that way.

  2. I still think mesh creation by boolean operations on prims (possibly a simplified set of prims with less polygons) would be an easy way to get us far when it comes to inworld building tools.

    • Not sure what you mean by boolean operations on prims, I suppose Difference, Unions, etc. That might reduce poly count. But, I’m not sure it would be enough to be worth the effort.

      • Yes, exactly that type of operations. My point is that it would be relatively simple to include in the viewer, without having to have full vertex manipulation, and help bridge the gap between “play around inworld” and “full 3D modeling in an external program”.

        Whether it would be worth the effort is an open question, but I feel it is worth thinking along the lines of preventing a sudden, showstopping jump in the learning curve.

        With such tools, you could cut holes for windows, angle corners and similar without having to learn Blender.

        And if the viewer included a bump-to-normal-map conversion option, it would be relatively simple to add additional details to such objects, using the easier-to-draw-manually bump maps.

        I think it would be possible to leverage the new technologies (mesh and normal mapping) that way, and let some of that power “trickle down” .

        • The “relatively simple” may be misleading. Currently we design the various LoD’s (Level of Detail) in Blender so that we have control. I’m not at all sure editing mesh in-world is going to allow an understandable process for controlling LoD. The automatic LoD creation used by the uploader shows the problems of computer generated LoD. It is very hard for the computer to maintain the overall shape.

          However, adding the editing tool would be a viewer side change that I suspect would NOT require any server side changes. So, anyone is free to add the mesh editing feature.

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