Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mystery Multiple Cross-Hairs

I've heard reports about of certain avatars giving off multiple look at cross-hairs.  Sometimes as many as ten different ones, all gray or white.

Some people are freaking out thinking this to be an instance of copybotting.  That is not the case.  There are only a few viewers capable of copybot and none of them display multiple look at cross-hairs when copybotting.

Several people have looked at this and the consensus seems to be that the mystery multiple cross-hairs come from people using the METAbolt text based viewer as an unintended byproduct of how the viewer functions.

Since a lot of people use Metabolt for camping or shopping bots, you may often see these avatars at info hubs or welcome areas because they are forwarded there when the sim they were in restarts or crashes.

There seems to be nothing malicious at all about the multiple cross-hairs.  It's just a glitch in the way METAbolt was written.

Rumors and Wins

RUMORS:  You'll hear lots of buzz going around about Microsoft buying out Linden Labs.  This appears to be a joke/hoax.  As jokes go, it's mildly amusing and a not-so-bad way to pass a few minutes.

UPDATE: Apparently the rumor is growing credibility.  LL has issued a "can neither confirm nor deny" statement on it.  I'm not willing to call it likely yet, although I have speculated before that LL is probably for sale.  The question is whether Microsoft would be interested.

WINS:  The Happy Hate Blog blinked last week when they set their comments to "invitation only", now they appear in full retreat having set the blog to read by invitation only.  So long and thanks for all the fish.  I hope you enjoy talking to yourself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Goin' To The Mall

When Phillip created SecondLife he thought it'd be something really science fiction cool or some kind of art colony.

While there's some of that, mostly what he got was a mall.  To give credit where it's due, it's a big mall, one of the largest malls in the world, but a mall none-the-less.

For the most part, the Linden's job is pretty quiet.  They maintain the infrastructure for the tenants and occasionally put on mall-wide sales or photo sessions with Santa.

Mall developers never take into account the bored adolescents that accumulate in the mall courts being a pain in the ass.  The Lindens didn't either at first, but just like real mall developers, they soon had to employ a staff of mall cops to chase the kids around when one of them tips over the Orange Julius machine just to watch it splash.

Just like mall cops, the Lindens occasionally "ban" particularly irritating kids from ever entering the mall agian, and of course they return within 30 minutes with a new sweater.  The real cops aren't much help.  They're dealing with murderers and crack dealers and really have no time or interest in jolly pranksters being a pain in the ass.

New kids are told "don't go to the South Court, that's where mean Sally hangs out.  Mean Sally has been a sophamore since 1987 when she's not in reform school, and you don't want to mess with her."

The mall cops never catch Mean Sally at anything so they tip their cap to her when they go by and she gives them an Eddy Haskell greeting "Afternoon officer!"

Sally's ally is Tim the Nihilist.  Tim's from the wrong side of town and smokes lucky strikes and wears sunglasses inside.  He quit school in 1987 and his parents have no idea where he is most of the time, since his room in the basement has it's own exit door.

Tim lives to attack everyone's life style and make the pretty girls cry for spending money on their hair or buying sweaters from the gap.

Most of the people who come to the mall are unaware of these daily dramas except in passing, and they pass on to the store of their choice pretty quickly.

Second Life could be a science fiction art colony like the original vision, the Lindens are certainly capable of hosting it, but the people who come through the door, they want a mall, so a mall they get.  Just don't mess around with Mean Sally.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Talking to Mrs Jesus

The Zoo was recently featured in the SL destination guide and we've been mobbed.

With the crowds came lots of lag, so I've been running around trying to snip bits of scripts here and there to lessen the server load and I noticed this guy who'd been sitting in the Zoo literally all day.

I figured he'd gone afk so I sent him home to help lower the lag.  A moment later I got an IM

Starborn Destiny: is there a no loitering rule here or are you just a dickhead

Boyd Doghouse: oh sorry
Boyd Doghouse: you'd been there for hours and it was getting pretty laggy
Boyd Doghouse: so I figured you had just walked away from your computer

Starborn Destiny: this should make for an interesting blog
Starborn Destiny: and i was going to bring all kinds of rich girls here who love donating to places like this
Starborn Destiny: to bad your an asshole though

Boyd Doghouse: lol sorry I was just trying to cut down the lag for the people who were coming in

Starborn Destiny: was just sitting there having a conversation with the sophia but wouldn't expect a low life like you to understand what that means

Boyd Doghouse: sorry no clue who sophia is

Starborn Destiny: wouldn't have thought you would
Starborn Destiny: The Sophia
Starborn Destiny: google it

Boyd Doghouse: all I get is sophia yates

Starborn Destiny:

Boyd Doghouse: you were talking to a book?

Starborn Destiny: she's christ wife dude

Boyd Doghouse: and you were talking to her?

Starborn Destiny: of course i was
Starborn Destiny: i am christ dumbass

Boyd Doghouse: oh
Boyd Doghouse: I would have thought jesus would dress better

Starborn Destiny: what he should dress like the phantom of the opera
Starborn Destiny: if i was you i'd hide in a cave to

Boyd Doghouse: to hide from jesus?

Starborn Destiny: yeah you prbly should
Starborn Destiny: he doesn't like you very much

Boyd Doghouse: okie dokie
Boyd Doghouse: have you taken  your meds today?

Starborn Destiny: yep
Starborn Destiny: been smoking pot all day long
Starborn Destiny: anything else clever to say or you done

Boyd Doghouse: smoking pot and talking to the wife of jesus?

Starborn Destiny: i'm copying this for the blog about dickhead zoo monkeyfuckers

Boyd Doghouse: coolio
Boyd Doghouse: lol you might appear in mine too

Starborn Destiny: don't be redundant dumbass

Boyd Doghouse: umm ok
Boyd Doghouse: I think my readers might get a chuckle out of this conversation

Starborn Destiny: they will

Boyd Doghouse: lol I think they will too

Starborn Destiny: send me a copy if theres any replies to it please

Boyd Doghouse: okie dokie

Starborn Destiny: thanx dick

The Return

It was a pretty quiet day.  Caidence and I were having an admittedly not-that-interesting conversation about some parcels in Parktown Jeju when a message came up:

Glurp Gurbux is online

There's a scene in the Odyssey where the hero returns after many years lost at sea and nobody recognizes him except an old dog and an old man.  I don't know if I was the dog or the old man but I sent an IM:

2010/09/25 16:03]  Boyd Doghouse: is that you?
[2010/09/25 16:03]  Glurp Gurbux: uhm  . . . . is that a real question
[2010/09/25 16:04]  Boyd Doghouse: lol actually yeah

It was indeed the genuine article.  The alien had returned.  A few moments later I saw:

shazz Larnia is online

Soon our little empty plot in Jeju was full of people.  "No way!" someone said, but it was real.

It turns out Bourne appealed to King Mole Michael Linden and Michael was able to unravel the bureaucratic mess surrounding the green man's account and resolve it pretty quickly.  What it took was some human being to examine the ticket rather than trying to resolve it using the company's automated service routines.

The return of these two friends made several people really happy that day.  I don't know if the little green man and the tall leggy blonde will be in world as much as they used to, but they are again citizens of SecondLife.

Now if we can get the other accounts caught in the same bureaucratic trap straightened out...

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Retraction

Earlier this week, I wrote that the Linden Labs Governence Team was out of control.  I'd like to retract that.

The G-Team is just a bunch of regular people doing a job.  From what I can tell and from what I've heard, they do it pretty well.

Sometimes the policies and procedures they're asked to enforce are illogical or ineffective, or just a pain in the ass, but that's not the team's fault.

One would think people in that position might suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, but I haven't seen or heard this to be the case.  It doesn't help that we customers want them to act like a lightning bolt when it's real griefers and trolls, but a chaplain when it's a dispute between users.

The only thing I would remind them is that customer service is so backed up right now it can takes weeks to straighten out a ban stemming from a false AR, and step cautiously on some issues.

It's not their fault it can take weeks to work out these issues, but it would help if they could keep it in mind before swinging the ban hammer.

I don't know what the Lindens do to keep these guys from getting power drunk.  It certainly didn't work on the mentors, even though they had no real power to get drunk over.

I realize the company is in a big period of flux right now as Phillip tries to re-wire everything away from M's vision to the Fast Easy Fun goal.  In times like these, it really pays to think ahead about how your job impacts the people in the next department and the next and ultimately the customer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Losing Friends and Influencing People

In a disturbing trend, more people I know are losing access to their SecondLife account due to what I consider clerical or bureaucratic error.

Three were pulled for what I'm now calling the "Age Verification Grief".  There was no mistaken identity here or anything of that sort, they were reported by people who knew there were of age, but were mad at them and knew that it's a pain in the behind to re-age verify your account and it takes forever.

There's no reason to pull these people off the grid when all you have to do is limit their access to mature and adult areas, or even just adult areas.  If the process of re-verification is gonna take weeks as it sometimes does now, people will be a lot less angry with Linden Labs if they can still access their account during the wait.

The other problem I see cropping up more and more is people who had premium accounts, but don't have land or anything think they can just let their premium account expire if they don't want to renew it.  That would be logical, but it's not the way things are set up at Linden Labs.

You must go into the website and change your account from premium to basic before your premium membership expires or Linden Labs will consider you in arrears if you do not pay  to re-up your premium account and restrict your access to your account.

This too is a bass-ackwards way to do things.  For people who don't owe tiers, all Linden Labs has to do is switch the account to basic when their paid premium time runs out.  How hard is that?

With the flow of new members still slow, Linden Labs needs to focus on the matter of retaining the customers they have, and the time to focus on keeping people, is before they start to leave.

From their perspective, I think the problem is two-fold.

One, they spend a lot of time putting in provisions and stops and checks to prevent people from abusing the system.  Even though less than one percent of the members abuse the system, those that do cause havoc so they get a lot of attention.  This story about one guy exploiting the password recovery system is a good example of what I mean.  If the password recovery system soon becomes a much bigger pain in the ass, that guy's responsible.  Thanks a lot, asshole. 

The Second is it seems the company's main focus is the cooler technical aspects of rendering stuff in 3-D and all the stuff that makes SecondLife work, and the relatively mundane work of basic customer service gets ignored.

Phillip announced that the company is "getting back to basics" and working to be Fast, Easy and Fun.  Well, basic customer service, although boring, is a huge part of fast, easy and fun and if it's true that most people never make it past the first hour in SL, then it would seem logical to treat those that do stick around like gold.

UPDATE: Another friend has lost their account.  This time from a false report of them copybotting.  I don't know how LL came to the conclusion that she was guilty, except that maybe she had copybotted items in her inventory.  What they fail to realize is that most people have copybotted items in their inventory because it's fairly impossible to tell if you have them.  You get a pack of free items as a noob, and many of the items are copied and there's little to no way you can tell.

One way to resolve this would be to look at the individual items and see if the person reported was the creator.  Otherwise, just blacklist the item and leave the person alone.

SecondLife is going to have a problem if they keep banning people who shouldn't be.  For a company who was so concerned about customer retention they spent millions developing viewer two, they sure aren't paying much attention to the out of control governance team decimating the population.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Really Nice Guy

I must say, Pumpkin Tripsa of Chakra Nova is the nicest guy.

I built an elephant house for the elephant exhibit at the zoo.  It was something I remembered as a child and always stuck in my memory.  What I learned later was that as part of the WPA during the Depression, our government paid for building zoos all over the country, and one of the exhibits they often built was for elephants and as the program often re-used designs, there were several nearly exact copies of the elephant house at our zoo all over the country.  They're quite old now and nearly all have been retired from use in keeping elephants.  At our zoo, the elephant house was converted to a restaurant, after a very, very through cleaning to get rid of the elephant smell.

So I built this elephant house for the Parktown Zoo, but it was missing a key decorative element.  I knew what I wanted and contacted Tripsa because I had already purchased his beautiful elephant fountain and hoped he would sell me the sculpted elephant head from the fountain.  Instead of selling it to me, he just said "here" and gave me the head full perms for my elephant house. 

He didn't have to do that, but I think it made a pretty big difference as the finishing touch on the structure.  Now it really looks like the elephant house I remember as a child.

I Hate Fake Voices

I've just about decided that, at least on the internet, the twenties are an age perhaps more awkward than the teens.

Like teens, twenties on SecondLife tend to copy each other, and a trait they've copied from each other that drives me bananas is this godforsaken monotonic voice where they let their words trail off at the end like a balloon with a slow leak gradually deflating.

I don't know if this spawned in SecondLife or the gaming culture or real world hipsterism (although they all vehemently deny any hipster influence, they, of course, are all precisely hipster.)

You hear it in the voices of awkward twenties from all over the world, but it's all the same.  With few other cultural clues evident on the internet, the sound of one's voice becomes a key factor in displaying your membership in the "cool kid" clique.  Why not just wear a big button saying "I'm so unique that I'm just like all my friends"?

I suppose the purpose is to show you're unaffected by the trolling and the lemon party photos and the fart jokes and the rest of the junk that accompanies this awkward stage of life in certain circles, but all it really shows is that they're so concerned with fitting in with their peers that they're willing to change their voice to express some desire for inclusion.

I don't know at what age one gathers the confidence to go through life without trying to mimic their peers.  I suppose some never get there.  On SecondLife though, I'd be more than happy to inject some with said confidence so I never have to listen to that damn trailing, failing, trolling, labored effeminate, hippie hipster affected voice again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New At The Zoo!

New at the zoo! Animals but Aussie animal maker Jon Haskell.


Black Bears

Elephant Statue

Ascent Viewer

In the aftermath of Emeraldgate, some people are still out trying other viewers.

One you see mentioned occasionally is the Ascent Viewer, which recently made the TPV list by Linden Labs.

Ascent has many of the same features as Emerald/Phoenix, plus some new gadgets including "destroy" as a pie menu option, which apparantly only works on your own stuff by de-linking all the pieces.and making them physical, which is kind of fun, but only two more clicks if you do it from the edit menu.

Despite making the TPV list, I don't know that I would download Ascent because it's a fork of the Intertia client made by Hazim Gazov.  Gazov, you may remember, was the target of the DDOS attack by the Emerald browser.  Gazov is also associated with the Patriotic Nigras, and at one point hosted downloads for their notorious shoopedlife viewer.  Gazov isn't listed as one of the Ascent developers, and says he isn't associated with the project, other than providing the source code for Inertia.

I'm not sure why Linden Labs decided to approve Ascent.  Although the current developers seem like pretty straight up people, I can't imagine a worse pedigree for a viewer.  It may be great and harmless and all that, but I'm going to choose not to download it just to avoid any possible future script kiddie drama.

Crashing Violet

I was in Violet this weekend, and Gaston showed up to sing.  If  you've ever encountered one of these impromptu performances then  you know he's not very good, but he makes up for it with enthusiasm (sort of), and there's little you can do to stop him. 

He's learned to sit so no one can brash kick him and mute sounds so nobody can talk over him and sing his little heart out.

When I first encountered this, I kicked him around pretty good, only to learn that it's wasted effort.  He's going to finish  his song and there's nothing you can do, so you might as well enjoy it -- although, I admit I generally turn him down to the point of being barely audible.

Gaston is just part of the weirdness that is the welcome area experience in SecondLife, and I've come to appreciate him, and even enjoy him, (although not at full volume).

He's not even that hard to figure out.  He wants to be a Broadway diva.  He wants to sing, to be heard, even if nobody actually listens, just being there make it seem like he has an adoring audience, and that's enough for him, and enough for me.

In Violet that day was Chapel and some of the other W-Hat spin-offs, and I guess they hadn't encountered Gaston before, because once he started singing they started wailing and they came to the same conclusion I did, nothing you did or said was going to stop him.

At that point, the course of action is fairly clear, you mute him or turn him down or enjoy the ride: those are your choices.  Those weren't enough choices for the W-tards though, not accepting defeat, they decided to impose their own choice and crash the sim.

I don't much care if people want to argue with Gaston.  He makes noise, they make noise.  They brash punch him, he sits down.  Both sides are equal and neither can do any real harm to the other and if people don't like the caucophony, they can mute both sides and it's like they don't exist.

I like it when things are equal.  You can argue and argue and argue and as long as both sides have basically the same tools, nobody gets hurt.  You hear all sorts of stories about how I use listeners and trackers and god-knows-what-all, and it's all pretty crazy because those things make SecondLife unequal and that spoils the experience for me too. 

Crashing the sim makes things very unequal.  It also makes it impossible for other parties to ignore the situation at hand.

It's not that hard to admit Gaston has outwitted you.  It's not like you have to listen to his song.  All you have to do is admit defeat and hit "mute" and it's over.  I had to do it and it's just not that bad to take a loss now and again, especially if you don't have to actually listen to the song.

Some people can't take a loss though, they're going to win at all costs, even if it means crashing the very sim they're in.  You see that a lot in SecondLife, sort of like how Phox decided to scuttle Emerald rather than accepting defeat and leaving the team, or how some people send in false abuse reports on somebody's partner just because they wanted to be their partner instead.

I guess the moral of the story is: take the loss once in a while.  Admit defeat and hit "mute".  It's better than having to hear the song and it's lots better than crashing the sim.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Sermon That No One Will Hear

Sometimes, I sit very quiet in SecondLife, and besides the cacophony, the trolling and the drama and the techno-babble, do you know what I see?

I look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been
     Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
     Who is it for?

All the lonely people
     Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
     Where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
     No one comes near.
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
     What does he care?

All the lonely people
     Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
     Where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the lonely people
Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
     Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
     No one was saved

It's not that SecondLife people are more lonely than the rest of the world--you could even say they're the lucky ones who have the means and make the effort to do something about it, sitting alone in their rooms, they turn on a box and try to break the barrier that surrounds each of us and discover kindred species, only to find there are none, we are all unique and unfathomable and  unreachable.  No man is an island, we are all lonely planets spinning in space, trying to glean some comfort from the light reflected by our neighbors, despite the great void between us.

All the lonely people
     Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
     Where do they all belong?

 When you see the trolls, think of Father McKenzie writing a sermon of nihilism and race and video games that no one will here, and Eleanor Ribgy, the SecondLife fashionista wearing the face she keeps in the folder in her inventory, who is it for?

All the lonely people
     Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
     Where do they all belong?

Ends of the Spectrum

In terms of what's a reasonable position among people writing about SecondLife, the spectrum is pretty broad, but fairly well defined with Prokofy Neva's Second Thoughts on one end and The Alphaville Herald on the other and most reasonable, rational people somewhere in-between..

Both are fairly in love with the metaverse, and obviously spend a great deal of time thinking and writing about it, but both also do their best to express the position that they are entirely too cool for it.

Although they would each certainly like to eliminate the other, it's probably a very good thing both exist as they keep each other in check and the churning and pushing of these opposite forces keep the culture moving forward, sort of like how the U.S. boils all the world's political parties down into two uber-parties, both bent on each other's destruction, but to an outside observer, probably not very much different one from the other.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Latest Server Build Eats Avatars

The latest server roll-out seems to be eating avatars.  First it was Pie and Samael and now it seems to be eating Sabre as well.

Symptoms include appearing to be online when you're not and not being able to get online once you're ghosted.

Fixes might include trying to log onto the beta grid using veiwer 2.0 or 2.1, but most of all file a ticket with customer support so they'll know this is happening.

If you used emerald but now use emergence or phoenix try uninstalling emerald and phoenix and doing a clean install.  the Phoenix devs swear this shouldn't be an issue, but a clean install is never a bad idea, especially with a program that uses so many bridges.

Collada Mesh Update

Jack Linden releases this update on collada mesh support in second life, including these videos made by their beta testers. 

Nothing particularly new here so I suspect the announcement was just to keep the buzz going.

A lot of people have said they weren't that excited about collada mesh because the new meshes will have to be made outside of secondlife and imported in world,  it detracts from the very novice friendly building tools available in world. 

I understand their concerns, but point out there are many of these off-world programs are also very novice friendly and free, like Google Sketchup.   Here is a video of someone creating a mailbox in sketch up and importing it into SL to give you an idea how easy it is..

While some collada meshes can add to download lag on one end, they render faster on most machines so they will reduce lag on that end, and many prim-built objects have unnecessary vertices that would be eliminated by the importing of meshes also speeding up processing and reducing lag.

Some things, like hair, which is now made using dozens and dozens of small prims will be replaced by a single mesh, which will render much faster and automatically adjust to any size head.

One tool I've thought about to bring collada creation inworld would be a system that took your linked set of prims and gave you an optimized collada mesh back.  There are already similar programs like Sculpt Crafter that take your prims and give you a sculptie map in return so it shouldn't be very hard to do the same with collada.  It might even be easier.

It might even be wise for SecondLife to seek partnership with a program like Google Sketchup which is based on the collada format.  Such a partnership could be good for both companies.  Sketchup users would have the opportunity to see avatars interact with their creations in real time and Secondlife users would have the opportunity to learn this great free tool.  SecondLife already has a relationship with Google for their maps, so maybe this is an avenue to explore.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dumpster Diving

Here's a fun little gadget.  Made by Jeaniesing Trilling, you click on it and your avatar goes dumpster diving.  When it's done, you're rewarded with a crappy free gift (what'd you expect out of the garbage?)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rachel Breaker Gates at Hoof Manor

I decided Hoof Manor needed something.  That something turned out to be these great wrought iron gates from Rachel Breaker.

Emeraldgate Aftermath and Conspiracy Theory

Even though the Emeraldgate scandal played out, pretty much before our eyes, conspiracy theories about what "really happened" already abound, spread, not surprisingly, by the Emerald team themselves.

To hear Arabella Steadham tell it, none of the stuff they did really mattered, Linden Labs shut down Emerald because it was too popular, and they wanted more users to switch to their own viewer two.

What really happened here is actually fairly obvious, and it's something we're going to have to work out somehow as the metaverse grows.  Where issues of trust are concerned, like "what's in this encoded bit of software you're sending me", we have a problem in a culture where everybody except the hosting company is basically anonymous. 

Linden Labs decided that, as the most popular viewer in SecondLife, the Emerald team had to be above reproach, and because of their track record, certain members had to go.  Emerald responded by saying "screw you, I do what I want!" and from there the collision course was pretty much unavoidable.

In a way, I understand how Phox and Arabella feel.  They made Emerald and have been with it since the beginning and to have it taken away from them must have been very painful.  Their enemies at Woodbury got to do a little happy dance, which sucks, but guys: that's how the game is played.

In her farewell letter, Arabella talks about how Linden Labs doesn't understand what "a team" is, but her attitude and her letter make it pretty clear to me she never actually played team sports in her life.

In team sports, if one member of the team commits a foul, the whole team is penalized, and if that foul is bad enough, that member of the team is ejected from the game and the remainder of the team must finish the match, even if their best players were the ones ejected.

Football is pretty poplar in her culture, and in football (soccer) getting a red card means you're out of the game.  In this game, Phox, Skills, and Discrete all got red cards.  Skills and Discrete chose to honor the rules of the game and leave the field of play, but Phox decided he would not and certain other members of the team decided it was better to have the whole team ejected from the game, which is exactly what happened.

To make matters worse, Phox decided to slip a poison pill into the final release of Emerald (2600) as a last attempt to circumvent the Linden Labs terms of service by allowing users to employ Emerald on the SecondLife grid secretly.  God knows what else he slipped into the code before compiling it.  Considering the build number (2600) it could be anything

Jessica Lyon, on the other hand, must have played team sports somewhere along the way because she did what you're supposed to do in situations like this: she gathered what members of the team she could, took the penalty for the foul and continue playing the rest of the game, by the rules, the best she could with the Phoenix viewer.

Some people, no doubt, will prefer the conspiracy theory spun by Arabella and the rest over the real story.  It's more dramatic and it's full of all those good underdog vs "the man" type memes we all love so.  It's not, however, true in any sense of the word.  Viewer 2.1 is not the most popular viewer on SecondLife, Phoenix is, and so it goes.

Update: Apparently Arabella got a red card too.   Although she blames it on her conspiracy theory post on the emerald blog, I suspect it has more to do with the video showing her apparently complacent with Phox adding channel spoofing into the last build of Emerald.  Phox (Lonely Bluebird) got one as well.  I can't stress how important it is not to attempt to use the channel spoofing feature built in the 2600 build of Emerald, although apparently it doesn't work.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Emerald Blocked From Logging In - Phoenix Approved

As expected, Linden Labs today announced their intentions from permitting people to log into SecondLife using the Emerald Viewer.

From the SecondLife main blog:

Posted by Joe Linden on Sep 7, 2010 11:04:13 AM

As of 10am PT Wednesday, September 8, the Emerald Viewer will be blocked from logging in to Second Life as a result of violations of our Policy on Third Party Viewers. Residents who have been using any version of the Emerald Viewer will need to use a different Viewer to access Second Life. You can download the official Second Life Viewer, developed by Linden Lab, here. Or you can learn more about alternative Viewers, developed by third parties, here. There are several new Viewers listed in the TPV Directory, so there are many alternatives available to you.

We take Residents’ privacy, safety, and security very seriously and will take action to enforce the policies that help protect it. As our CEO, Philip Rosedale, has blogged about, we recently removed the Emerald Viewer from our Third-Party Viewer Directory due to violations of our Policy on Third-Party Viewers.

Since then, we have been in communication with the Emerald development team and have requested several changes in order to remedy violations of our policy, including changes necessary to meet our privacy requirements, and to address GPL license violations. Unfortunately, the team was unable to comply within a stipulated time frame. As a result, we have decided to block logins from the Emerald Viewer in order to protect our Residents. All versions of the Emerald Viewer will be blocked from logging in to Second Life as of tomorrow at 10am. Please be aware that attempting to circumvent our blocking to access Second Life with a banned Viewer is a violation of the Policy on Third-Party Viewers and may result in the loss of one's account.

At the same time, they updated the Approved Third Party Viewer list, and included Phoenix.

Monday, September 6, 2010

False Abuse Reports

For the third time this Summer, someone I know has been taken off the grid because of someone falsely accusing them of being under age.  What should be a simple process of verification is a tedious, fumbling comedy of errors once this occurs and it can take weeks to straighten out.

Apparently, if you're angry at someone, this is the most effective dirty trick to spoil their SecondLife experience.

I have sympathy for the people on the Linden Labs' Governance Team.  It's probably the most thankless, miserable job in the whole company.  That being said, there is no excuse for the sloppy handling of this particular part of the process, and with the teen grid closing, I fear it's only going to get worse.

With slow growth among new members, Linden Labs can hardly afford to lose existing users like this.

Obviously, word has gotten out that this is an effective way to hurt somebody online and members of the governance team find themselves unwittingly an accomplice to in-world drama, with the false Abuse Report fastly becoming the most effective griefing tool on the grid.

Here are some recommendations:

  1. Allow people to log into the website to file tickets, even if they are banned from the grid.  This will speed up the process of clearing up false Abuse Reports
  2. Make filing false Abuse Reports itself a violation of the TOS and give it some teeth
  3. Streamline the age verification process, and once an account is age verified make it immune from future age related Abuse Reports.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Phoenix Viewer to Replace Emerald

I just got this announcement from Jessica Lyons: 

From the ashes... the Phoenix has risen.

My name is Jessica Lyon. My goal during my time with the Emerald Project, was always to give the users what they want. That goal has never and will never change. I'm very happy to announce, it continues...

A few days ago, I assembled a team of developers to work on a new viewer. Some who were originally Emerald developers, some who were not. All are respected reputable residents in the SecondLife Community. The goal was simple, to provide users with what they want and do it transparently.

I'm am very proud to announce the launch of the Phoenix Viewer. This project, has started off simple, with it's initial release of a safe clone of the Emerald viewer. Users want Emerald features, you shall have them. We have big plans to expand to the Snowstorm project as well. We have already applied for the TPVD, to which we have no doubt we will be accepted in a timely fashion. We have already started making in world groups for support, (Phoenix Viewer Support), beta testing etc. There is much more to do... however...

This Viewer is ready for use by you, right now!

For this project, I insist on, and everyone on this team insists on 100% public transparency in EVERYTHING we do. We have already established a public IRC Dev chat, public repo and are working on much much more.

Our developers are; (in alphabetical order), Dakun Flux, Dimentox Travanti, Jessica Lyon, Kitty Barnett, LordGregGreg Back, Techwolf Lupindo, Tonya Souther, Vortex Saito, Wickman Gibbs, with more to come.

Our Lead Developers are: Dimentox Travanti, LordGregGreg Back, Techwolf Lupindo, Tonya Souther.

Ed Merryman will be leading our support team: Aleia Sapphire, bee Baroque,  Damian Zhaoying, Ed Merryman,  Marybeth Oceanlane,  Mindy Spiritor,  Nisa Maverick, PixelProphet Lane,  Toy LaFollette, Vortex Saito, Whirly Fizzle, Wolfspirit Magic.

Our website is still in progress, however we have up the required links. .

More information here
Downloads. .
Public repo

I am very pleased and excited about this project, and I hope that you will be too.

Jessica Lyon and the Phoenix Viewer Development Team.

My personal blog:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The End of Emerald

What Happened?
The Emerald development team has broken up, which appears to be the end of any future development of the Emerald viewer.  Existing downloads of the viewer still work and Linden Labs have made no attempt nor announced any attempt to block them.

News of the breakup appeared on the Emerald blog when Arabella Steadham announced she was leaving the team and disclosed an argument among the developers.

Since the scandal began, Linden Labs provided a list of demands to the emerald team by which they may continue working and releasing product.  One of the demands, apparently, was the removal of three developers with questionable backgrounds.  The team split over whether to remove those three and continue on or to keep them on the team.  I'm not sure what would have been accomplished by keeping them on the team, since that would almost surely lead to Linden Labs blocking emerald, but there was a tie vote.

Apparantly, at some point, Jessica Lyon, apparently tried to take over the project with other developers willing to comply with Linden Lab's requests, but was unable to.

Lonely Bluebird – a.k.a. _Phox, one of the developers Linden Labs demanded the removal of, responded by releasing part of a conversation with Soft Linden indicating Soft knew of the ability embedded in the EMKDU feature allowing Emerald developers to identify malicious clients, and approved of it.  An interview with Phox as well as the released segment of the conversation with Soft Linden is available at the Alphaville Herald.

What Now?
Despite what you may have heard, Linden Labs have made no announcement to block the use of Emerald.  There have been a number of attempts by the griefer group Woodbury University to make it seem so, but, as of today, Linden Labs has made no such move.  Your current version of Emerald will continue to work and you will still be able to access the grid.  You will not, however receive any updates.

I will attempt to contact Jessica and see if she intends to take a group of the team's developers and start a new project under a new name.

Although I understand Arabella's loyalty to her friends, I don't understand why she wasn't able to see the obvious.  If Linden Labs wanted these guys off the team, that's pretty much final as they hold all the cards.

Users who like emerald but are afraid to use it over security issues can download the emergence-viewer.  Emergence is LordGreGreg's latest build of emerald, cleaned by himself and made available for use.  It is considered by most to be very secure.

Who's To Blame?
Honestly, I blame Woodbury.  Obviously Fractured and Phox had questionable histories on SecondLife, but just as obviously they were trying to go straight and produce something useful to the entire grid.  Their efforts to foil copybot schemes and identify malicious viewers would have dealt a terrible blow to Woodbury and so they kept up a campaign of constant harassment of the Emerald developers.  This harassment lead Fractured to do stupid things like resist necessary security changes to the EMKDU, and most stupidly, the DDOS attack on Hazim's website.

A rag-tag bunch to begin with, Emerald simply wasn't prepared to become the most popular viewer on SecondLife and the scrutiny that came with it. Although people try to say it was the breast physics that made Emerald so popular, they miss the obvious point that Emerald did what Linden Labs did not, they listened to the users and gave them what they wanted, and they gave it to them fairly quickly.

I think everyone has learned from this experience, especially Linden Labs.  Their experience with Emerald and the failure of Viewer 2.0 obviously lead to their current snow storm model of viewer development, which should actually work and produce good things.

Some will say Linden Labs targeted Emerald for destruction because they were "too popular", but I think they acted in the only way they could, under the circumstances.  I'm not surprised they demanded the removal of team members who had previously been banned from the grid.  They'd already given these people a second chance by allowing them back on the grid to work on the project, demanding their removal from the team could be called prudent in many ways.

What Now?
Emerald still works and it's still safe to use so I will continue to use it until something better comes along.  I suspect two groups will come out of the old Emerald team, one with Jessica and one with Arabella.  Of the two, Jessica's team will probably be the one to watch.  Arabella's team is and will probably continue to be bogged down by the Woodbury war and don't show any desire to leave that drama-fest behind.

Other projects like Snowstorm and Imprudence show a great deal of promise, so lets see what they come up with.

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