Firestorm Q&A on #SecondLife’s Future

Wednesday morning at 7AM PDT at the Firestorm Auditorium a Q&A meeting was held. Oz Linden and Peter Gray were answering questions. For most of the meeting Jessica was asking questions I think she took from previously submitted ones and that she or she thought the community was interested in.

And I’ll be proofing this after it is posted… so…

Toward the end they opened it up to audience questions.

The meeting was recorded so you can see it at several places; SLArtists, YouTube, and other places… sound is better on the SLArtists video, but it is hard to jump around in that player.

As always I am paraphrasing and not quoting.

Index

00:00 – Introductions – Jessica Lyon, Firestorm project manager. Oz Linden, SL Technical Director. Peter Gray, Global Communications Director.

01:30 – Any plans for shutting down Second Life? Pete: No. No Plans. Plans are to make SL better.

Jessica points out the importance of Peter maintaining his cred with users. So, there is no chance he’ll walk out and lie to use.

I’ll point out that we see spokes people in politics blatantly lying to us, so we may be a bit jaded. But, politicians are into CONTROL, with words or guns. Corporation must entice us to do the things they want us to do. So, don’t assume Peter Gray is like Jay Carney.

03:00 – Peter’s message to users: Not only is SL not going away, they plan to make it better.

04:00 – Jessica in a round-about way points out that the anger is because people care. Oz and Jessica discuss this aspect of life in SL.

07:30 – Jessica  points out that less code has been released over the last year or so. So, it looks like there are less resources devoted to Second Life. Is that true?

If you follow my blog you know that I’ve been noticing and hinting at the lack of information coming out on new projects. Several people have been asking what is Linden Lab working on?

08:23 – Oz Linden responds. Without being willing to talk numbers, the Lab has been transitioning engineers over to working on the new platform for the past months. Oz says they are still very active working on SL.  Oz thnks they are working on some of the most important aspects of SL now.

08:54 – Jessica presses on with her point: During that time the Lab has still released a number of innovations; Materials, Fitted Mesh, Sunshine-Avatar Bake, Interest List, and more. So, even with fewer resources SL was moving ahead at a good rate.

09:57 – Oz adds to that. He says with a “somewhat smaller” team they are doing the regular ‘what next triage’ of things to do. They have a big list of things to do. They add to it. This current process is sorting that list to what will have the most benefit for SL. So, the smaller team, which is not significantly smaller (in his words) has much sharper focus.

Another point is that the team is not limited to a specific group. If an employee that has transitioned to the new team is needed, they can still come over hand help out. That has already happened. (12:40)

Oz says there are people currently assigned to the new world that they plan to assign to SL once their current project is completed. Others currently assigned to SL are planned to move to the new world. From what Oz says this seems to be a rather dynamic staffing situation based on talents needed at any given moment.

13:30 – Jessica restates the situation.

14:00 – Oz Linden tells us about his actively seeking his current position. Oz DID NOT get left behind. He says, “Lucky Oz exactly the job he wanted.” He is delighted to have the job.

15:15 – Oz says management asked him how many people he needed to be effective developing SL. Oz says while he likes smaller teams, he came up with a number and he got that number of people.

Listen to this couple of minutes of video if you listen to no other part. Oz picked his people to get the ones most interested in Second Life. Several came up to him and said the new world is great, but I came here to work on Second Life. So, Oz feels he has a dedicate and enthusiastic team.

18:00 – Jessica talking about a smaller team; easier quicker…

18:30 – Changes to Peter to ask about keeping a profitable product? Peter agrees businesses do. Peter considers SL to be the most successful virtual worlds ever.

19:50 – Assume the new world is a success will the Lab run both platforms? Peter says yes. The current plan is to have 2 virtual world products. The Lab is a multi-product company.

21:00 – What would you say to those leaving the grid and saying I’m not going to spend any ore money in SL? Peter responds, the new product is far off. He expects alpha users/tester won’t make it into the new world until next year. So, SL is not going way. So, no reason to leave.

23:00 – Jessica asks, so essentially nothing has changed in SL? Peter, yes. The change is Linden Lab has become more transparent in regard to SL.

24:00 – Jessica gets Oz talking about what is coming to SL.

A bunch of things are in development that will be coming out soon. The Experience Keys Beta (formerly Advanced Experience Tools) will be coming out today. See: Seeking Creators for the Experience Keys Beta. (‎2014-07-02 10:01 AM post time – 3 hours after Q&A)

Oz says this will make things easier and more accountable.

27:00 – Other things, Group Chat. Oz says they have been working on Group Chat. They have done much deeper study of the problems. Some changes are in place and having an effect. Nothing dramatic is apparent yet. Nor will any single change likely make a dramic change.

This week or next week the hardware that runs group chat will be upgraded. They won’t say when. They want to watch the uninfluenced reactions.

Oz thinks they are making good progress.

29:30 – another team is working on web page display in the viewer. We know it as WebKit. Now they are working on moving the viewer from WebKit to Chrome Embedded framework (CEF). That should make MAOP (Media On A Prim) better and improve how a number of panels in the viewer work, think Profile, Search, etc.

This project illustrates that the Lab is developing and investing in Second Life. The CEF feature was researched for the new world. Once CEF was decide on then the decision was made to implement it in SL.

30:45 – Oz explains that the change from WebKit to CEF is a large project touching many parts of the SL system. It will requires lots of people and lots of work. If the Lab were going to put SL into maintenance mode or planning to shut SL down then this project would never be started. It would be too much to invest in a short life product.

32:00 – CEF was researched for other products. Then that work was taken to SL. And taking advantage of what is learned on other products is going to be a part of life at the Lab.

33:00 – Oz says they continue to work on improving texture and mesh loading speeds. Oz thinks there will be some dramatic improvements in the last stage of the HTTP improvements, HTTP pipelining.

Oz is an HTTP geek. He has been advocating going to HTTP pipelining since his hire, 4 years ago. The latest testing and metrics are very encouraging.

34:30 – It is hard to say what is coming next because they are looking at possibilities for what they can do next.

36:00 – Jessic asks if the Lab will be funding this work? Peter, yes.

37:00 Q&A Starts

Tier? No answers, no plans for a change. – I told you… still it was the most asked question.

39:00 – Texture memory errors. Oz shays there are 2 changes for that in QA. It is a change that can mess people up so it is being very carefully tested.

Video card names as the key to what your card can do is bing changed. I recall something about this from a few weeks back. Some feature in OpenGL is being used to request video card capabilities. So, those will the newest video card won’t have to wait for the name list to update to be able to use those hot features.

40:15 – Video card memory has been limited due to a very old bug in the video section of SL. The quick work-around for the Lab was to cap memory to avoid reaching the bug. That is being fixed so the viewer can use the video memory (VRAM) your video card has available.

The development work is done and the change is in QA. So, unless there is a big problem that sends it back to the developers, we should see this in a viewer near you soon.

Fixing texture memory and improving it is a continuing project the team will continue working on.

42:10 – Will group size limits increase to more than 42? Oz says they will look at it. The number of groups one is in is a factor in group chat lag. The team is looking at how to reduce the impact of group membership on chat lag.

For now there is no plan to change the number. Depending on what they can do with chat lag, they will come back and look at group limits.

As it is now, if you are in a region and chatting in small groups from a region without anyone in a large group being there (and I think having the group active) then group chat works pretty well.

43:30 – Virtual Landmarks – It is on the list. All the Lab staff says it is a good idea. But, they haven’t set priorities for items on the list.

44:15 – Gaming/Gambling – Peter says no news. Does not expect the policy to change.

44:45 – Child avatars – Peter says no policy changes anticipated.

45:54 – Any plans to improve the in-world search engine? Oz says he doesn’t have anyting they can tell people to look forward to. The issue is on the potential projects list.

Oz does not expect there will be a big bang project to fix it. It will more likely be a series of small fixes to improve search. This leaves me wondering if the new world team is considering search issues for the new world or if this will be a point they overlook until late in development.

It is well up on the list of important problems.

47:40 – Last names – Peter says they do not have an answer. Ebbe is thinking about it, but Peter cannot give a yes answer.

48:30 – Is there anything we can do to benefit SL growth? The Lab will be adding new projects and talking about them early on.

What can SL users do? Peter, keep doing what we have done for 11 years. Keep logging in, talking, shopping, tell your friends about SL. Jessica, keep enjoying SL.

52:30 – In-world security – anything planned to stop griefing? Any plan to more sharply focus on griefing?

Oz says governance, the Abuse Reports and enforcement is kept separate from the development staff. So, Oz and can’t speak to that.

But, griefers that can exploit a flaw in the software are the problem the development deals with. The staff considers a griefing problem a high priority interrupt process. So, it is an ongoing high priority arms race.

56:15 – Will the viewer/server  release rate continue as in the past ? Oz says difficult to say. The teams are going to be more focused and careful about what they spend time one. So, Oz invites people to say how they perceive the rate changing. Oz expects it to remain impressive.

57:10 – Does the Lab have plans to release the server code to open source? Peter, no.

Summary

This is the most informative news we have had about Second Life in some time. The openness of the Lab is exciting. It is great to know they will be talking about coming improvements. I look forward to seeing what features they pick from the list of potential projects.

Over all this Q&A should provide the information that open minded people need to make decisions about Second Life. It doesn’t tell us much about the new world, but that wasn’t the purpose.

I did not find any surprises in this news. I won’t be changing in how I use SL until after I see the new world.

7 thoughts on “Firestorm Q&A on #SecondLife’s Future

  1. Thank you, this is very interesting and I agree about the Lab openness.
    While I’m reading I have some thoughts too.

    Video Card Memory: I’m very glad that they are going to fix the bug and giving extra breath to our cards, but on the other hand, the root cause of the problem is in the way content creators are using the system. I was experiencing texture trashing with Firestorm inside my home. I checked the furnitures and the items there and I found out that many of them had multiple 1024×1024 textures, even things as small as a teacup. A good designer would use a single smaller texture for the whole item, maybe even a smaller texture, saving a lot of graphic memory
    http://pennycow.blogspot.it/2013/06/building-better-second-life.html

    Maybe it is difficult now to demand that content creators are aware and responsible and create optimized textures. I suspect that many of them just buy a bunch of textures in the marketplace, with maximum available resolution and don’t care/don’t know. Who buys the items is even less aware.
    So I’m wondering if there could be a solution or a workaround.

    – One may be to charge more L$ for higher resolution textures or, but I don’t think it will do much. The uploaders would groan, textures on the MP would cost probably the same.

    – Another idea would be to increase the LI, but now it is probably too late and it would be troublesome (your stuff exceeds the parcel capacity, you paid to buy a 5 LI item and now it is 20, your stuff exceeds the parcel capacity… you would be right to be angry)

    – IMHO a better idea that could help with texture trashing would be to let users doing as they want, the items stay the same, BUT now, when you upload a texture, the system creates a number of reduced resolution versions and associate them to that texture and its key/UUID. E.g. you upload a 1024×1024 texture. The system associates it to a key as usual, plus it creates -in a transparent way- 512×512, 256×256, 128×128, 64×64 versions of it. Now, anytime you access to that texture, either by its key from a script or by adding it to an object, the server choose which version of the texture to serve, depending upon the surface size to cover with the texture.

    This would reduce the impact on our graphic memory significantly (plus the extra breath coming from the bug fix) while freeing the users from the technical stuff, keeping it all user friendly, and retro-compatible as well.

    Groups: if I look at my groups, I realize that only very few of them are actually social groups (i.e. people sharing the same interest and discussing it, a group of friends, people organizing something, etc): many of them are meant or joined mostly for the shop notices or group gifts (although some shops have groups that are quite social ). Some shop offer \subscibos\ as an alternative, but they can’t replace it entirely. Maybe there is a way to create a dedicated channel for shops and keeping the social groups or circles. Of course it would be difficult now, as many people payed L$ to join some groups and there are shops that have thousands of costumers in their groups. So we need a way to discern between the social group and the updates groups, without disbanding them. So let’s say you can have up to 42 social groups as usual (you won’t fill them easily now) and in another tab as many update groups as you want, that use a different system now and less resources. Or something else in this direction.

  2. Pingback: Second Life moving forward. What you should know. « Firestorm Viewer – The Phoenix Firestorm Project Inc.

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  4. Thank you for this post! I sincerely appreciate the time and effort FS and LL went to in order to address SL users concerns. I love SL and would love to see it be here for many, many years. I have invested quite a bit into the SL economy over the years. It is my creative outlet after I come home from my RL job.

    However, to be honest, my concerns have not been alleviated. As an in-world business owner, I would have been heartened to hear greater emphasis being placed on updating/renovating search and marketplace both of which impact are unreliable, unpredictable and clunky. These impact sales and, in turn, the SL economy. I am concerned that the innovations which have captured Oz’ imagination, although way cool, will not improve the merchants’ situation. If true, what will happen to the SL economy and its ability to remain profitable for LL?

    • I don’t have good answers. I too am concerned that the Lindens will never understand the importance of search. That also has implications for SL2.

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