Linden Lab Press ‘Tech Talk’ Media Conference – Aussie Second Life servers still likely.

Today at 3pm SL time (10am Saturday 26th January AEDT) Linden Lab held a media conference entitled ‘Tech Talk’ that featured Linden Lab’s VP of Platform and Technology Development Joe Miller, VP of Systems Engineering Ian Wilkes and Software Developer / Havok 4 ‘Guru’ Andrew Meadows.

Each member of the media present was allowed one question with one follow-up. For me, there was an obvious one I wanted to ask and the glitchiness of the audio experienced by a proportion of those gathered confirmed the need for it to be asked again. And as luck would have it I was first cab off the rank:

(Any dialogue from Linden Lab or attendees that came over voice is shown in brackets and are my summaries, not their exact words)

[15:08] Lowell Cremorne: “Joe you mentioned in the podcast that you’d like 2008 to be the year where true collaboration could occur in Second Life. The technical changes coming up should help a little but is Linden Lab truly committed to increased usability outside of the USA through increased server placement outside the USA?”

Joe and Ian Linden: (We’re in the test phases of servers in different countries. Still not happy with how some aspects are going and want to get that right before announcing anything further)

(Note: I attempted to ask my follow-up question on whether Telstra and Linden Lab were in negotiations to house servers in Australia but response was “we don’t comment on rumours”.)

[15:12] Reporter Hotshot: Adult Video News media Network: As I’ve toured SL with an eye toward the adult use in the space, what I see is a broad swath of varied uses in sexual activities. Both private and commercial. In the past year, there has been a considerable amount of media attention regarding the adult product copyright violations of SL Powerhouses like Strokers Toys. So much so, that the top adult industry publication, AVN, has put me “in-world” as an “embedded reporter” for them. The three hundred pound gorilla in the room seems to be how very much Sl is being used by most citizens for sexual explorations, and how very little anyone at the company wants to talk about it. How do the Lindens feel about this, and do they support it? and the follow up question, why, or why not?

Catherine Linden: (not relevant to subject of media conference)

[15:13] Lexa Dryke: Joe – not directly related to your immediate subject matter – can you tell us if there is a technical reason to limit the number of groups per avie (avatar) to 25?

Joe Linden: (It’s essentially a resource thing – we’re looking at it but if we increase options there it may affect resources available for other in-world activities.)

llmediajan2008.jpg

[15:18] Dizzy Banjo: Following the recent survey LL have taken out. What is the current strategy for the development of voice ( recording / voicefonts / voice to text etc ) ? Did the survey results provide anything you hadn’t expected ?

Joe Linden: (Survey results not tabulated yet, group voice chat moderation facilities on the way. We’re aware people want to be able to design their own voice and are working on voicing morphing – look for beta testing of that in coming months)

[15:19] Babu Writer: In a recent article in Technology Review, i read that Cory Ondrejka was testing Metaplace, which could one day allow folks to travel from virtual world to virtual world like one surfs the web today. I read that Metaplace would be released more broadly in April. Will Linden be doing something that allows its avatars to travel from virtual world to world outside of the “game.”

Joe Linden: (Active dialogue occurring with other virtual worlds – working on common protocols to allow avatars to carry themselves and goods between worlds but at a very early stage)

[15:24] Katier Reitveld: I do motor racing as a side in SL and the physics engine currently causes a lot of issuies. Lag, cars going throught he track, sticking togethe rand freezing mid track when they collide.How much of an improvement with the upgrade to Havoc be liekly to improve this?

Andrew Linden: (Aware there are still issues, working on improving the physics of vehicles. Will continue to hold ‘vehicle sessions’ to allow residents to provide feedback / look at issues.)

Joe Linden: (The commitments made on stability and usability for 2008 very much apply to vehicles. Havok 4 will free up cycles to process other things which will improve experience.)

[15:28] VirtualWorldsNews Writer: You mentioned a lot of projects that seem to be building on the experience for existing users–stability, performance, etc. That’s great, but what is being done on development side specifically aimed at new business, consumers, etc.?

Joe Linden: Improving search has been one small step that helps both business and consumers. Additional search capabilities on the way. ‘Dazzle’, a re-skinning of viewer is also on the way.

Prokofy Neva: (what are top 10 reasons for viewer crashes. Will new implementations break thousands of customs scripts created by residents)

Joe Linden: (Work being done on correlating crash reasons well underway. Now have a single dashboard and there will be a direct data feed from viewer to dashboard to help pinpoint tech causes of crashes and what’s occurring most commonly. Reason we believe viewer crashes are so important because it’s a primary reason for people not coming back. Want people to stay long enough to identify the more discreet issues. On custom scripts – it’s a challenge, on the beta grid now and encourage people to execute their scripts there.)

[15:37] Mitch Wagner: Joe, you said a few minutes ago that the Lindens are looking to make it easier for users to find context and people of like mind and like interest in Second Life. Could you please go into more detail on that?

Joe Linden: (the new search functionality is it at present, other stuff in development but not able to disclose at this stage. New developments centred on context and community.)

[15:39] Chizzy Dilley: Could you give me more long term plan, 1, 3 to 5 years, I mean some like road map if you have for viewer, server, and back system, or others. any concern or difficulty for developing with other language? Do you put any team member as international developer?

Joe Linden: (Can’t see that far out. You might have acuity out to 3-6 months. We have a number of international developers – UK, Australia. We’re looking for talent wherever it is. No active development in China at present but developer presence in Japan.)

[15:42] Eric Reuters: anecdotally, I’ve known a lot of people who have tried SL, if no reason other than they heard I was reporting here, and no one ever told me the reason they didn’t stick was the viewer crashing. on what do you base your belief that the reason newbies don’t stick around is the user crash rate? And not, say, the UI?

Joe Linden: (We’re dealing with data that isn’t anecdotal. We reach out broadly to understand their issues and viewer crashes a big one)

[15:43] Tinsel Silvera: There are a lot of Residents with older hardware that does not work well with Windlight. Will Windlight be kept optional or will it be incorporated to a point that those Residents will be forced to upgrade their hardware?

Joe Linden: (Windlight won’t be released generally until it is feasible for most users to access and there is a switch-off capability anyway. Still tweaking settings to make sire we can maintain framerate and improve crash rate on current viewer.)

[15:46] Yabush Yamdev: Now we can’t input Japanese language directly into scripts. Can we use Japanese language and other two-byte characters in scripts in the near future?

Andrew Linden: (Don’t know answer to that – will get back to you)

[15:47] spitfire Hultcrantz: What kind of content or event do you think suitable for Havok4 Second Life world? Or, what kind of change do you want users enjoy in Havok4 world?

Joe Linden: (Primary goal is to create more predictable experience, less lag etc)

Andrew Linden: (All about stability initially but then will be about adding features. Some may allow new content.)

[15:48] Gwyneth Llewelyn: Well, let me just send the congratulations to Babbage & the rest of the Mono team for the fantastic news 🙂 As for my question… what will be the internal status of the “Architecture Work Group” in 2008? 1) A cool community-and-Linden chat group that sometimes has some insight on a few ideas, but that will be slowly phased out; 2) something that did not work at all; 3) the core for a future “Open Second Life Protocol Foundation” which will lead the metaverse industry into adopting protocols, standards, and grid architecture design for the future; or 4) None of the above 🙂

Joe Linden: (fully committed to the working group – actionable projects to put into practice. Encourage visits to Zero Linden’s office hours if interest in this area.)

[15:51] Reporter Hotshot: I have a development related question….are you planning to make APIs available to developers to link “inworld” actions with external user computers….so one might deveope an interactive haptic interface that responds to inworld actions?

Joe Linden: (Encourage you to do it today via open source code plus current scripting language gives some general options as well. That said, more things on the way in that regard.)

Farqot Gustafson: (what are stats on lag / crashes?)

Joe Linden: (performance stats are now published monthly)

Lexa Dryke: (learning curve for SL is steep, does LL have plans to improve that.)

Joe Linden: (Yes – first user experience being studied in detail to improve things. If someone wants to bring friends in for a live event they should be able to do so without going through orientation. CSI event was a classic example of that – will see a lot more of that.)

[15:59] Curric Vita: I am Steve Atlas, writer for Metanomics.net. My question is: Which elements of the SL experience do you see as central improvement dimensions in retaining new and experienced users, and in that context, what actions are you taking to ensure that users do not migrate to competitors’ grids as viable alternatives emerge?

Joe Linden: (We’re all quite passionate about that – core of SL is collaboration and other people. Walking around an empty grid is not a very exciting experience. Central improvement is giving people better access to each other and better collaborative tools. Migration to competitors isn’t one that keeps us awake at night. We’re interested in how we engage people rather than making it a technology challenge.)

My take on the whole thing? There’s no doubt Linden Lab from top to bottom are stating their commitment to improving stability and there’s fairly wide acceptance of the sincerity of that claim. Like anything, if progress isn’t perceived to have been made, the next media conference may be a different atmosphere to todays. On the issue of Australia-based servers, I have no doubt they’ll occur but after comments of ‘real soon now’ in May 2007 it doesn’t appear timeframes are any firmer.

Update: the official transcript of the podcast released prior to the media conference is now available.

Comments

  1. Yeah it’s understandable that they don’t want to rush in and open up remote servers, considering the technicalities of SL.

    First of all , there is content and source code that needs to be protected. Putting this is the hands of other service providers around the world would definitely be an issue in privacy, as well as stability for the backend software (rerouting of lots of details). Remember the backend software isn’t open source yet.. So essentially if objects, textures etc. are to be propogated to servers around the globe, they would have to have some sort of regulation over the resources downloaded by the requesting servers with all the asset files… A guarantee that no copying work will take place (remember the copy-bot issue of 2007 or was that 2006..), so there is an issue with trust there and I don’t believe licensing issues in this regard is somethingk that could get knocked over in a fortnight.

    When I first started in SL in 2006 I found stability to be much worse than it is now.. I was running on 500ms lag at best, nowadays it’s something like 150ms lag which is actually very good, considering data is constantly being fed from my home in Brisbane through Australia’s networks all the way to San Fran…

    Secondly the finance systems and details of what exactly a remote server will host is something that needs proper development time… Something which happens to fall to a slightly lower priority than client crashing, teleport problems, inventory problems, friends list issues, things going missing etc. etc.

    I agree with the Linden, that right now, it *is* essentially a rumour that telstra want to maintain their own servers, there has been no official mentions…

    I’ve got much faith in 2008 being a year of good progress technical wise… am looking forward to new front end clients and the concept of being able to invite outsiders easily to particular events sounds fantastic.

  2. Yeah it’s understandable that they don’t want to rush in and open up remote servers, considering the technicalities of SL.

    First of all , there is content and source code that needs to be protected. Putting this is the hands of other service providers around the world would definitely be an issue in privacy, as well as stability for the backend software (rerouting of lots of details). Remember the backend software isn’t open source yet.. So essentially if objects, textures etc. are to be propogated to servers around the globe, they would have to have some sort of regulation over the resources downloaded by the requesting servers with all the asset files… A guarantee that no copying work will take place (remember the copy-bot issue of 2007 or was that 2006..), so there is an issue with trust there and I don’t believe licensing issues in this regard is somethingk that could get knocked over in a fortnight.

    When I first started in SL in 2006 I found stability to be much worse than it is now.. I was running on 500ms lag at best, nowadays it’s something like 150ms lag which is actually very good, considering data is constantly being fed from my home in Brisbane through Australia’s networks all the way to San Fran…

    Secondly the finance systems and details of what exactly a remote server will host is something that needs proper development time… Something which happens to fall to a slightly lower priority than client crashing, teleport problems, inventory problems, friends list issues, things going missing etc. etc.

    I agree with the Linden, that right now, it *is* essentially a rumour that telstra want to maintain their own servers, there has been no official mentions…

    I’ve got much faith in 2008 being a year of good progress technical wise… am looking forward to new front end clients and the concept of being able to invite outsiders easily to particular events sounds fantastic.

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