Saturday Jessica Lyon, representing the Firestorm development team and support groups, spoke at the first Phoenix Hour since March 2012. This meeting was to announce the coming end of support for the Phoenix Viewer. That announcement could have been a sentence on the blog. So, why have a Phoenix Hour meeting to make the announcement?
Part of human nature is people having personality and beliefs. The nature of Jessica, the leader of the development team, is such that she is a volunteer. That says something, good I think, about Jessica. So, Jessica was doing her best to explain why they have chosen to end support for the Phoenix Viewer.
I’m going to explain what she said using my words and analogies. Others will be paraphrasing her and repeating previously used analogies. I think so far those analogies lack clarity for the less geeky.
The primary reason the development team developed Phoenix was for fun and to be of service. If you have never volunteered for service projects, I doubt I can convey the sense of reward they provide. Suffice to say the developers write computer code because they enjoy it and they receive a reward that works for them.
Jessica pointed out that the team does have an income from the web sites that pays for the sites, the Kakadu JPEG2000 software license, and some other miscellaneous costs. They do NOT make a profit. It is a deliberate choice to avoid turning the viewer into a money making deal. So, they provide free viewers because they enjoy doing so.
Now writing the Phoenix Viewer code is no longer fun. It has become a chore. It is like work. It isn’t something that developers want to do. As Jessica pointed out, when volunteers are repeatedly made to do things they don’t like doing, they stop volunteering. That is human nature. There are no longer developers that want to work on Phoenix.
Why So Hard?
If you’re not a geek, you probably wonder what the difference is between writing code for Phoenix and Firestorm. It is a fair question. It’s hard to explain to someone not writing computer software. So, we use analogies.
Imagine writing a book that is a story. You and 10 or 15 friends are going to write it. You may know that only two people usually write collaborative books. There is a reason for that. Think about how the 10 of you will write a story. How will you keep track of characters? How will each of know what the other characters have done and when?
As you try to bring each person’s writing together into a single document, you’ll find problems. One writer has Sally as a 20-year old. Another has done their part with her a 40-year old. Parts of one writers work have to change for the story to work or the story has to change to account for time.
Now imagine the story you have all worked on takes place in the past, say 1920’s. Now the other 5 of the fifteen bring out an exciting story that is SciFi based in 2100’s. It is way more fun, new, exciting, and taking advantage of story plots not possible in the 1920’s. The characters can grow in ways not possible in the 1920’s.
Now imagine having to go back and revise all the work the 10 were doing and try to make that 1920’s story stuff work as part of a 2100 era SciFi story. Fixing stuff is nowhere near as fun as creating new stuff. People tend to want to abandon the old stuff and move on to the fun new stuff.
Imaging a fight on a train. As the characters fight one falls off the train due to the engine smoke and the other sees something, may be a sign, at just that moment so it makes a connection which is key to the plot. Now translate that to a spaceship. Start to see the problems?
This is why the developers are working on Firestorm rather then Phoenix. It is possible to continue development on Phoenix. But, no volunteers on the team are volunteering to do that. Working on Firestorm is easier and more fun.
A similar thing is happening with the support volunteers. Imagine you are a Phoenix user and you love using Phoenix. Are you going to volunteer to to provide support for those using the SL Viewer? Probably not. Most Phoenix support volunteers have moved on to Firestorm and REALLY dislike going back to Phoenix.
I tend to only answer questions about a viewer I am currently running. I limit my self because I often need to run through a menu or check a setting in the viewer before answering a question about it. Basically I have to use the viewer I am answering questions about. It seems that is true of the Firestorm-Phoenix support team people too.
Fewer and fewer people are willing to volunteer to support Phoenix users. So, Jessica is not going to try to force them to do something they don’t have their heart in.
User Self Help Starts
All is not lost. If you want the Phoenix Viewer to continue on, get a copy of the code, it is open source, and continue the development yourself… or pray you find a saint that will do it for you. I suppose you could start a Kickstart project and pay someone to develop it.
In the mean time user support is going to come from a group of Phoenix users in a new group named: Phoenix Viewer Self Help Group. If you are a Phoenix user, join that group now.
The reason this end comes now is because of changes coming to Second Life. Inara and a few others have covered the recent announcement, Friday, that the Lab has set a date for delivery of the Avatar Baking Service. We are probably 60 to 90 days from the full roll out of this change to Second Life.
I covered the details of the new service back in September 2012. See: Server Side Avatar Baking. That article explains how avatar appearance baking works now and how it will eventually work. This change is to solve the avatar appearance problems we’ve had; blurry, gray, different clothes, no clothes, etc.
That change will break any viewer that is not updated to use the new service. Phoenix will not be updated. After the service goes into affect, any one using Phoenix will be a gray avatar to anyone that sees them and all avatars they see will be gray.
This change to improve the SL experience will effectively end the use of old viewers. Only viewers that update to the new Baking code will work.
The announcement of the end of support could have been a couple of paragraphs on the Phoenix blog. Instead the announcement was a 90 minute meeting. Why?
I gather from several things Jessica has said, speaking at the Phoenix Hour is not her first choice of things to do. So, this announcement was obviously something she felt strongly about and saw as a necessity.
I see the necessity as coming from the abusers and self-center people that use the Phoenix Viewer. The Phoenix-users are generally great people. They are grateful for what the development team and support personal do… and for free. But, there is a minority that is vocal and vile.
I think much of the necessity Jessica saw was to mitigate the problems the support staff will have to handle from an abusive and self-centered minority. The self-centered haters are a problem for us all.
I have a theory. My experience so far is the most hateful people are also the least knowledgeable people. They are the least educated about the problem they are complaining about. In less PC terms: the most hateful are the most ignorant.
Go to the Phoenix blog and start reading comments. It is amazing what people say to those providing them a free product and services. The arrogance and stupidity is exceedingly well done.
The Cost of Haters
I just wrote From #SL Griefing to Extortion. Aspects of that come into play here too. Also, we have seen the Lindens progressively withdraw from community communications. Since I’ve come to SL the number of Office Hours and User Groups has steadily decreased. Others and I have written several times about how the community is driving the Lindens away by their behavior.
The JIRA Change is an example of the Lindens getting tired of dealing with the drama. They have effectively locked it out of the JIRA so they can avoid it.
Oskar Linden was, as best I can tell, banning people from user group meetings and the forum threads to reduce drama. Something in the way he did that got him fired… I doubt that but, no one knows.
We are seeing some of that response to abusers with the Firestorm team in friday’s announcement. My take is Jessica is doing her best to mitigate the heat the support people have to handle. But, it is taking its toll on her and the teams. They are learning, to some extent, what it is like to be a Linden.
What to Do?
There are no simple answers. But, there is a lot to consider.
This week in America we are dealing with a tragedy. In Connecticut a 20-year old killed his mother and 27 others, mostly kindergarten children. (Reference) Speaking about it is the only time we have ever seen Pres. Obama start to break up on air.
Many think guns and lack of laws are the problem. Connecticut has the strictest gun laws and they already made it illegal for this killer to have weapons. What puts this in perspective is that on the same day in China a man used a knife to attack 23 people in an elementary school. (Reference) The problem is psychology not weapons. Israel, a country with more weapons per capita than the USA, does not have these types of killings.
What is it that caused this young man to so hate his mother so much that he killed her and destroyed her life’s work? If you don’t know, the children killed were her students. As time goes by we will learn more. AS is typical in these cases we will learn about the warning signs that were ignored by far too many people that may have prevented the deaths.
The FBI in a January 2011 Violence Prevention report concluded:
Research has shown that many of these situations are over in minutes and law enforcement may not arrive in time. As a result, employees have to become stakeholders in their own safety and security and develop a survival mind-set comprised of awareness, preparation, and rehearsal. Vigorous prevention programs, timely intervention, and appropriate responses by organizations and their employees will contribute significantly to a safe and secure work environment. (Reference)
There is nothing anyone can do for us to stop violence and abuse or protect us from the insane. This is something that we must be doing for ourselves. Tolerance of abusive behavior has to be addressed as such and dealt with. The Connecticut killer did not just out of the blue decide to off his mom and kill innocent kids. I see behavioral connections between all haters. Reacting to acts of violence doesn’t prevent the problem. Preparation does mitigate the scope of the problem. Sane, rational people need to be able to protect their selves, family, friends and co-workers. But more importantly, we need to be looking at how to prevent and avoid the violence.
In conversation after the Phoenix Hour meeting some were talking about the hope that the more abusive Phoenix users would move on to Singularity or Cool VL Viewer and not be a problem for the Firestorm teams. Wow! Does that say something?
I see that as kicking the can down the road not starting to solve the social problems. It is just passing the problem on. I think we need to be dealing head-to-head with the problems.
So, tell idiots they are idiots and haters they are haters and the ungrateful how out of line they are.
While you are at it, drop by the Firestorm forum or groups and say thanks for the work they do.