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Peering Inside

Peering Inside: Disconnected advantages

Opinion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

It seems likely that inter-grid teleportation will become a commonly-available and trivially-usable feature within the next twelve months. While there are efforts underway to establish and implement underlying supporting protocols, it really doesn't much matter if those efforts go ahead or not. Functional inter-grid teleportation can be implemented solely in the Second Life viewer with or without the cooperation of the servers -- if not by Linden Lab, then by a third-party. That makes the lingering promise of a broad range of other relatively ubiquitous virtual environments seem tantalizingly within reach.

While Opensimulator currently offers hobby-level performance rather than the sort of heavy-duty production-level performance that many are looking for, the ability of Opensimulator to handle server-side tasks is still not to be lightly dismissed. Simple to set up and configure, and modest on hardware requirements, anyone capable of installing and configuring a simple network would be skilled and knowledgeable enough to install the software and set up a simulator or two or twelve. Even Microsoft is jumping on that bandwagon, working on integrating a number of features that don't necessarily advantage the platform.

Whether we're talking integrated grids, or micro-grids (groups of simulators running as a standalone group), Linden Lab believes that the basic limitations of transport to external grids (no connection to Second Life assets or inventory, and no connection to the Linden Dollar) will keep 99% or more users on the Second Life grid. It seems quite possible that somewhere among future business models, Linden Lab is planning to monetize interconnection fees, to bring third-party simulators within the main-grid fold under the Linden Dollar and the provenance of main grid asset and inventory servers.

However, for many users, communities and organizations the disconnection from that currency and those services is an attractive advantage, and we believe that the number of users and organizations who might partially or wholly migrate from the main Second Life grid may be much, much larger.

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Peering Inside: A media campaign

Opinion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside, Lively

While the announcement of the Google Lively public beta may have taken many by surprise, apparently it did not take Linden Lab unawares -- their Second Life messages were already lined up and ready to go.

Indeed considering that information about Lively's launch was available to a number of people who were close to Linden Lab, either as partners or ex-staffers, it seems silly to suggest that Linden Lab might not have known Lively's public beta launch date, unless those contacts were aflame with considerable, searing resentment.

Wheezing, clanking and dripping oil from dark and unnameable apertures, one of Linden Lab's most neglected subsystems -- the marketing machine -- arose from it's years-long slumber and went about it's ponderous, mechanical business.

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Peering Inside: Rewards and recognition

Culture, Economy, Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Over the years, Linden Lab has put a lot of effort into attempting to reward, or to give recognition to (another kind of reward, really) Second Life users who made positive contributions to the overall user-experience. The Lab staff used to refer to it as a mandate or as a part of "their charter."

So far, almost all of these efforts have fallen a bit flat. By flat, we mean flat at the bottom of a deep hole. A deep hole full of explosives.

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Peering Inside: The Second Life year in review

Economy, Opinion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Second Life, and we thought we'd take advantage of the day to round up some of the significant happenings in this most well-known of current-generation virtual worlds over the last twelve months.

We can by no means be comprehensive, of course, there's so much going on in Second Life on a daily basis that it would be infeasible of us to cover everything of import that took place over the last twelve months. Instead, we've picked through and tried to hit the most notable items of the last year, and break them down by sections, then analyzed it all at the end. Seeing it all like this helps give a sense of perspective that might otherwise be absent.

It is still a monster list, though, and while we've broken it down into categories, you might see a couple of items twice, where they clearly fit in more than once place.

[Read on]: Stability and bugs

Peering Inside: A cautionary tale

Economy, Opinion, Second Life, Legal, Peering Inside

Meet Jay. Jay started in Second Life in April this year and was interested and involved enough to get himself some Linden Dollars via a currency exchange. A lot of Linden Dollars.

Unfortunately, Jay is now out-of-pocket by US$110, and is being told conflicting stories.

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Peering Inside: Transparency and opacity

Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Linden Lab is very proud of its transparency, both as a business and as a workplace. Openness and transparency are enshrined in the Tao of Linden.

Unfortunately much of that transparency only seems to pass internally. Sure, Linden Lab publishes lots of interesting and useful statistics and makes various kinds of data accessible -- but while that's very nice, that's not transparency.

In fact, when it comes to business transparency, Linden Lab tends to put the foot down and push back.

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Peering Inside: Pleading the fifth

Opinion, Second Life, Legal, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

As you are probably already aware, Linden Lab have suddenly decided to take an active role in the Second Life fifth anniversary this year, overriding the organizing committee and excluding a number of the invited communities from presentation this year.

Decisions, ultimately, get made because they seem like the best of the available options at the time. Nobody sits down and thinks, "Hey, this is my second best option. I should go with that!" -- they only go with the worse options when nothing better seems to be possible.

So -- why did Linden Lab make this one?

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Peering Inside: Trafficking in meaning

Game Mechanics, Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Linden Lab is having a second stab at reworking the Second Life dwell (also known as traffic, but dwell is a more accurate name since traffic is not actually what is described) algorithm based on user-feedback. Last year, at Linden in-world office hours assorted feedback was gathered from users, and it appeared as though Linden Lab had settled on a new algorithm as a result.

This year however, Linden Lab is having another go at getting user-input for a new dwell algorithm, so we presume that something must have blocked progress on the previous attempt.

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Peering Inside: The silence of the lab

Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Two weeks ago it became widespread knowledge that upper-constraints on Second Life prim creation size were relaxed or disabled during a recent update. Initially, it appeared to most people to be an intentional move in-line with previously stated plans that Linden Lab had for Megaprim-Liberation.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the change was the result of a bug, and didn't represent an intentional policy change, and the prim-creation constraints were reinstated in a subsequent server-update. Under better circumstances, it would have presented a relatively minor disappointment for the builder community. Accidents, after all, do happen.

Linden Lab however, did about the worst thing it could do with the situation. It remained silent in the face of all queries and discussion.

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Peering Inside: Linden Lab's new billing provider

Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Some of you may have noticed that your billing for Second Life is no longer being done out of the United Kingdom but is now being done from the USA. Since there was no announcement of a change, we asked Linden Lab about that, back in the first week of January -- especially as it seemed that some users were still being billed from the UK, and others from the USA (and a few users with multiple accounts, from both countries). There seemed to be little consistency.

Within a week, we had a basic answer. Linden Lab's John Zdanowksi (Zee Linden) responded, "There was shift in billing, though the change only happened for new customers or existing customers who re-entered their billing information, so that there would be no chance of disruption."

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Peering Inside: PG or not PG?

Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Some unknown number of Second Life simulators are designated PG, though we've asked Linden Lab and received no reply, we believe that the number is under 2% of the total. The rest of the simulators are designated as Mature.

PG vs Mature. No problem, right? Unfortunately, Linden Lab's description of those ratings is inherently contradictory.

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Peering Inside: How many bots?

Opinion, Second Life, Peering Inside

Nobody, not even Linden Lab, is able to determine how many bots there might be operating on the Second Life grid. Not without intensive and potentially disruptive per-account data analysis, and even then the results are likely to be flawed. A bot can indicate to Linden Lab at login that it is a bot, but it doesn't have to. It might choose to appear to be a more normal user.

We've seen bots with first-life profiles, and Second Life profiles, and picks (people and places), groups, group titles, partner, payment information, prim wigs, custom clothes and skins, and in every way indistinguishable from the avatar of an actual user. While we may not be able to say with any certainty which accounts are definitely bots, which are campers, and which are merely idle, we think we can give you a pretty good estimate of how many bots and campers there actually are.

The short answer is around 10,000 of them.

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Peering Inside: Disorienting experiences

Opinion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to introduce a friend to Second Life. We'll call her Susan. That meant a run through the current orientation system. The whole process was an eye-opener, especially the part where Susan tried to beat me to death with her keyboard.

The last time I saw a Linden Lab orientation island it was one of the old ones (2005/2006). The new ones, though (2007/2008) - well, it's surprising that the retention is as high as ten percent.

The absolute highlight of the experience was a nude avatar by the name of Adam Neal, who ran around in circles for ten minutes or so yelling "ADAM NEAL CANNOT BE STOPPED!" -- no, really. That was one of the good bits, actually. The rest was worse.

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Peering Inside: Linden Lab, the DMCA, and content

Opinion, Second Life, Legal, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

Linden Lab reports that it is putting more 'resources' on to DMCA duty to deal with improper duplication of content in Second Life.

This would be a significant improvement over reports of one person, not even performing the DMCA processing full-time. We don't think the new people will be full-time either, but more person-hours either way. Well, that's all assuming that 'resources' means people. Maybe it means the rumored part-time DMCA processor is now full-time.

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Peering Inside: Whither avatar puppeteering?

Opinion, Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Peering Inside

Avatar Puppeteering (also known as Expressive Puppeteering) was shown off at Linden Lab's inaugural Second Life Views session back in 2006. Since then the project has presented the occasional teaser, though the news was handed down in September last year that the puppeteering project was on hold while the focus was on bug-fixing. We asked again in the new year and we were told that it was still 'on hold'.

With recent teasers from Jeffrey Ventrella, the mastermind behind this project (and behind flexi-prims we understand), we did a bit more investigation, and we think that 'on hold' is something of an understatement.

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