Op/Ed: The First-Hour Experience Before The First Hour

by Alphaville Herald on 06/07/10 at 4:55 am

by Gwyneth Llewelyn

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Unconfirmed rumours claim that Mark Kingdon’s "stepping down" might have been caused by a failure to address the goals he had set for himself and for Linden Lab in two years. Of course we don’t know all the goals, but, besides the creation Enterprise division, we know of two others: introducing a new viewer and enhancing the first-hour experience.

Only Linden Lab knows how many residents use each version when logging in. Allegedly, SL Viewer 2.X users are less than 10% — and less than the number of Emerald users. So it seems that people are not willing to switch as quickly as Kingdon hoped they would. If we think rationally about it, we shouldn’t be very surprised. Users hate to change interfaces. After all, Windows XP is still the most used version of Windows — after a decade of having been launched. SL 1.X is almost a decade old as well. In general, people only change interfaces with reluctance, unless they’re forced to do so, and that didn’t happen with Second Life. On the other hand, the extra nifty features of Emerald, combined with its patching to make it more robust, continues to outpace LL’s own efforts at "viewer stability", and it’s no small wonder Emerald users — or builders, who are totally frustrated by the weirdness of the building interface in SL 2.X — are unwilling to change to something less stable, way more different, quirky, and… missing all the nifty features they’re used to.

However, all new users logging in to SL for the first time use SL Viewer 2.1. And, guess what — they’re not staying around longer. I don’t have any idea if, on average, they stay less time around than they used to stay with 1.23. I would wildly guess that the difference is statistically irrelevant. The first-hour experience is as bad under 2.1 as under 1.23, and this hasn’t changed — kicking Mentors out, getting rid of the Orientation Islands, and pretty much reducing the impact of the Community Gateways has made little difference, either.

As a matter of fact, nothing that LL does seems to make any difference to the dreadful first-hour experience. Why?

I’d say that the consultant that answers that to LL should be paid their weight in gold.

Just take a look on how other online social thingies work. These days, they all are pretty much the same. You have a sign-up box, and, nowadays, you won’t even need to type all your data. You just put in your account data for Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo, Gmail, Live, or OpenID. The system just connects to your existing account on any of those services, and, based on the privacy settings, it just retrieves all the data. You don’t need to type long-winded profiles. Everything is pulled from your existing profiles. Even a picture. Even your preferred nickname. And when you log in, you’ll just need to use one of your existing IDs, you don’t need to remember a different sign-in login and password.

gwyneth and philip
Gwyneth asks: will Philip Linden will play the social computing card once he is done rezzin?

You’d think that this takes a lot of development time. Not at all. You just need one or two lines of code from Janrain Engage and you can get instant login access to any of those online social networking tools. These days, integration with those social networking sites and identity providers is very simple to do.

So the ideal Second Life registration page should just have one box: "Click to select your existing account". Only in the extreme case of someone who does not have any account on a social online network (and how many of those are potential SL users, anyway?) one would need to offer to fill in some profile data. But these will be extremely rare cases.

But that’s just the first step. The next step is to figure out, among your friends on any of those social tools, who is already registered on Second Life. Click a checkbox, and hey presto! All your friends are automatically added to your avatar’s friend list. (Of course I’m assuming that this would require a few new privacy settings — but how much development time does it take to add a checkbox on the Account section — "click here to allow your friends to check you up" — compared to designing a whole new viewer?)

Then, of course, after adding all the friends already on SL, the registration system would search through their groups and pick lists, and allow you to join any of the (open) groups where you already have friends. And perhaps the pick list from your friends would become a new folder of Landmarks ("Landmarks from Friends"). Cool! Now when you log in to SL, you already get a list of friends, groups, and places to visit. And you know that your friends already love them.

And let’s go further. Social sites like Facebook allow you to join groups and tell friends about hobbies and interests; other tools might just list tags and keywords. Well, that’s all you need to do a personalised search. You could immediately get a list of places (with landmarks), groups, and events related to the preferences you list on your favourite social networking site. These landmarks could come from the Destination Guide. These days, you can already share locations using AddThis and "like" them on Facebook; but simple things like tags are strangely lacking from the Destination Guide. There is so much more that could be done with this. As "veteran" residents, we might shun the Guide, but for brand new users, it might be a powerful tool to aid them on their first steps in SL.

Linden Lab could even be more creative. They could also immediately add a list of links for all sorts of feeds, perhaps even tied to one’s profile. Imagine having RSS feeds for the official blog (like many third-party viewers already do on their login page), links to Twitter, even perhaps feeds from some third-party organisations, like education blogs — but make them selective. Did you list "fashion" in your preferences? Then you’d get links to fashion feeds.

And obviously if you have linked your account with Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and so forth, all this information would be on your profile, and on your friends’ profiles. If you have a Yahoo account, your photostream would be displayed on your profile; if you have a Google account, your Picasa stream; if Facebook, your Photos; and so forth. Make the in-world snapshot tool send pictures to all these accounts automatically, with proper crosslinking and extra information, and the pictures might even be clickable for landmarks (it’s not hard to do! Even Snapzilla works like that, and that has been developed eons ago without any help from the ‘Lab whatsoever), and possibly get the keywords from the parcel

So what would happen next? Instead of being dropped at a random spot inside the grid, all alone, without a clue on what to do next, you’d have a wealth of information about things that interest you directly. You might just look at the friends list and see who among your friends is currently online, and send them an IM begging for help. Or take a look at the list of landmarks and see if they catch your attention. Watch the RSS feeds for articles that might give you an idea of what’s going on and what to visit.

All this takes perhaps a week of development for an experienced Linden developer, and even for a recent employee, it shouldn’t take more than a month. Well, perhaps a bit longer. To get it working right, there is one hard task to accomplish: privacy.

privacy could be a consideration
Second Life viral marketing via Facebook is appealing, but privacy is a consideration

I’m sure that many of you were in a state of shock after reading the first paragraph :) Most of the active residents — not all, but definitely a huge majority of the ones that log in to Second Life every day, and have done so for several years — do not want that their friends know they’re in SL. They do not even want to expose their email addresses, much less inform others that they are somehow connected to Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Gmail, or any of the other "identity" providers or social networking sites.

And that has definitely to be respected, and some thought put into it. For instance, if someone’s privacy settings are set to "don’t reveal anything", the automatic information retrieval mechanism might simply ignore that user — or just anonymously retrieve suggestions for landmarks, groups and events, but don’t tell the new user where that information came from. Similarly, if your Facebook settings have disabled the profile to be shown to your Facebook friends, you might still connect your SL account to your Facebook one, but SL will not search for any of your Facebook friends. It might still retrieve information related to interests displayed on your on profile — if that information was made public. Getting this right might obviously take some serious thinking to programme it properly.

On the other hand, many users already publish a ton of information on those social networking sites and see Second Life as just a way to do the same, and for them, sharing information so that their friends find them easily is a good idea. An automated mechanism that searches through the whole of SL periodically and says "we have found a new friend of yours who just logged in to SL, do you want to add him/her?" would be a nice touch. You would always have the option to click on "no".

Some people have interpreted Linden Lab’s intention of "doing things with Facebook" as somehow posting your avatar name on Facebook’s profile, telling on your Wall where in SL you are, and copying chat transcripts automatically from SL to Facebook. That’s plain silly to do; I would be hard-pressed to believe that anyone would like that kind of privacy intrusion! I prefer to think on the other end of SL-Facebook integration: pulling information from Facebook so that new users in SL can meet their Facebook friends in-world, too. That’s a way more reasonable thing to do, if LL is still planning any kind of SL-Facebook integration. But why stop at Facebook? There are so many other social networking sites and identity providers. I would use them all, and use Janrain’s software to do that integration quickly. And there might be special uses too. LinkedIn and Plaxo are better for business-related interests; there are already several LinkedIn groups specifically for SL, targeting business or education. A business user or an educator might wish to immediately connect to in-world groups or go to in-world locations related to their interests, and pulling that information and presenting it to new users would be a great step towards making that first-hour experience as way more useful and less painful.

After all, the only thing that LL ever connected with (besides Avatars United which they bought) was Eventful. They certainly can do much better than that!

66 Responses to “Op/Ed: The First-Hour Experience Before The First Hour”

  1. Devon Alderton

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Thanks for a thoughtful treatment of this.

    Letting the privacy options always fail *closed* would be crucial to getting this adopted by those who wish for more integration and would leave everyone else to their immersive privacy. If it can’t be done so that there are never ever any Facebook-style unanticipated reveals, it shouldn’t be done.

    Linking new residents up with folks they know who are willing to be found would get people out of the Discovery Islands and answer their question: “What do I do now?”

  2. furryfox

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Good thing that the son of a bitch Mark Kingdon is gone. Now fix logins,teleport,sim crossings,make megaprims legal,fix search,get rid of bots,and advertise sl on forums and tv.

  3. Devon Alderton

    Jul 6th, 2010

    P.S. They’d have to solve the 25-group limit problem, too.

  4. Tinsel Silvera

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I have both a Facebook and Twitter account yet whenever I am offered a sign-in with these I always decline. I prefer to do the linking up myself rather than it being done for me and then down the road I have to try and unlink for whatever reason. I do agree with that being an option for easier login since it is becoming the norm for most sites. I am not sure why all the whining everyone does about the first hour being so difficult. All the Gateways and Linden points have signage that clearly explain how to operate. I mean how difficult is it to press the arrow keys to move around. Of course if someone is coming in-world and wants to instantly start building and designing clothes, then sure, there is a learning curve. But to do the basics like chat, IM and moving about is pretty easy. People need to read a bit more and quit expecting so much to be handed to them. You want to see a difficult UI with little explanation and making even less sense then go to Entropia. You will never complain about Second Life again. I too would like to see some kind of link up with more professional sites like LinkedIn. I do not think the first hour has as much bearing on the retention rate as everyone thinks. Rather it boils down to some people get Second Life, some people do not. And they know it within the first hour or so. Therefore some people stay, some people do not.

  5. IntLibber Brautigan

    Jul 6th, 2010

    You make far too much sense for Linden Lab to pay any attention.

  6. At0m0 Beerbaum

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Reason people arent sticking around is because they log in, they lag to death, realize that better games run flawlessly on the same hardware, with much better graphics, while this crap runs as if it’s 1998 all over again, etc.

    The graphics are out of date, the viewer is still sluggish, even on insanely powerful hardware, when I played my quadcore AMD with 8 GB of ram eventually slowed down because of SL.

    Then on top of it, all of the perks about even wanting to play this crap have been taken away, not to mention that the bubble burst 2 years ago.

    It’s dying, people realize now that this is a dated slow, and boring game, and are not sticking around. LL refuses to move forward, blame their technically inept company’s downfalls on the customer, and push things on the customer that *THEY* want, rather than what the customer wants, very rarely will they give into the customer.

    LL is going to go the way of activeworlds.

  7. Espresso Saarinen

    Jul 6th, 2010

    SL is all about user generated content. LL has not done jack squat to make it easier to generate better content for four+ years. the second generation creators, christiano, torrid, … are long gone, burned by the ‘bring the big companies in’ smoke and mirrors, and few stand up to replace them. SL has become as stale as last night’s cigar smoke.

  8. V

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Who are you and what are you doing here?

  9. Skye D.

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I despise networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. This is why *I* don’t use viewer 2.x…because it’s trying to turn SL into a similar concept. Not to mention, as you stated, the build interface sucks…if you can find it.

    I’m sticking with view 1.x until I’m forced to switch. And if I switch to anything, it’ll probably be Emerald.

  10. Pappy Enoch

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Miss Gwyneth, will you marry me? It are plain as the nose on the side o’ my head that you is smart, and I needs somebody smart to figure out a way to git me out o’ jail.

  11. It's Unfixable

    Jul 6th, 2010

    @At0m0: Agreed, the software sucks. Part of the reason it’s so slow is that it’s impossible to optimize the content to fit the engine, something other online games are able to do but SL can’t, because the publishers don’t create or control the content (much). BTW, “the sky is falling” is a tired old meme. The sky is not falling.

  12. Jessica Holyoke

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I’m just pleasantly surprised to see Gwyneth post here. Welcome!

  13. Simon Newstead

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Adding FB connect ~ yup, right on – a few developer weeks to add after coding and testing etc, although its longer if you really pay attention to all the small details you need to. Eg- making sure you don’t log out facebook when you log out the service, knowing when you should prompt for wall updates, being able to delink and relink, handling email gathering etc (we still have several little things missing in our implementation)

    But right now at least, seems majority of users joining virtual worlds don’t want to use Facebook to create an account. In our case less than 20% of new members use it. Main reason: “want to keep real world and virtual world separate”. Second reason: “don’t understand what Facebook login means, don’t get the different between FB login and page on FB”

    I think if it’s an app withing Facebook it would be different having set a different expectation, but as a standalone site/client, it’s viewed positively as separate.. “ie escape to an online-world” etc

    Will be interesting to see how this changes over time..

  14. V

    Jul 6th, 2010

    V, stop pretending to be me. If you don’t know who Gwyn is, you should reconsider your understanding of the landscape of Who’s Who in virtual worlds.

  15. V

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I never claimed knowledge of the landscape, I’m just shocked by the strange woman in the picture. Who is Gwyn anyway?

  16. Darien Caldwell

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Unfortunately, the Second Life Gwyn describes would be very boring, worthless, and unappealing.

    Auto joining groups? Auto linking to your RL self? Why would anyone want this?

    The biggest draw of Second Life is the ability to be someone else, other than your RL self. The last thing most people want is to make their SL a little carbon copy of their RL.

    RL needs to stay out of SL as much as possible. It’s apparent Gwyn suffers from this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3d_fqDcN1s

  17. Persephone Bolero

    Jul 6th, 2010

    @ “RL needs to stay out of SL as much as possible.”

    Are you saying that LL should conform to one standard for all SL users? What not make it possible to link to RL social networking for those of us that would find it appealing, while still maintaining the option to keep the two entirely separate for those that want their SL privacy?

  18. Darien Caldwell

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I guess you don’t grasp the concept of ‘automatic’. Us people who don’t want RL wouldn’t have a choice either. Of course the solution lies somewhere in the middle. But that doesn’t sound anything like what Gwen is proposing.

  19. Persephone Bolero

    Jul 6th, 2010

    @Darrien “Of course the solution lies somewhere in the middle.”

    So, the answer to my first question is “no.” And the answer to my second question is that it would be possible to make both options available.


  20. Metacam Oh

    Jul 6th, 2010

    To be honest I’m sick of having to cater to the people who keep crying about privacy and RL invading their SL. Its not going to happen, like Gwenyth said *IF* they ever do this, you would have options to not be included. To pretend like no one would want this is absolutely short sided and close minded. SL population compared to total web users is like a needle in a haystack, for SL to thrive it needs new people coming in, not the same oldbies who keep crying about privacy like there ever has been a threat against your privacy.

    SL Needs to fix the grid issues first however, people are not going to stay and normal users are not going to understand SL’s limitations. The grid needs to be able to hold a lot of people, and it needs to hold a lot of people in one area, THEN facebook connect, THEN Guest accounts… and SL in a browser. Not before. All the millions that may come from facebook etc will walk right out the door the minute they see grey everywhere.

  21. Judge Joker

    Jul 6th, 2010

    I didn’t read the article, guess I know what needs to be said anyway because I have been trying to scream it at various corporations for the last year or more.

    Do you want to fix Second Life and see the future? do you have an imagination? then read on I will be blunt I don’t have time to explain everything here, I’m working on a blog post to include it all but so far it’s longer than a Prokofy rant and gives me a head ache.

    First don’t promote or push for anyone to be the next CEO who’s not from the industry, don’t pick EX-Lindens or M Linden clones you will just end up running whats left of SL into the ground.

    I’m aware some of you here would wish that to happen, but I don’t so if you do at least give me the Justice of my idea’s not being trolled by people with no imagination or brain to be able to fill in the blanks, if you can’t understand what I’m talking about ignore it and move on.

    Linden Labs needs to bring community’s back together, and provide free HUBS like on the Main land but for private sim owners to congregate around.

    Fix the search to focus people around community’s and community HUBS run by the community’s.

    Furries, Goths, Steampunks, artists, e.t.c not in a spider web formation but the feeling of a spider web for search the effect being everything comes from the center out, that would mean moving sims around to categorize them but would be worth it, it’s no longer about competing with other land owners I feel it’s now about survival.

    The industry is 3D software and content vs social network aka a virtual world and there’s only one company with a clean and impeccable reputation and with the support experience in this field, one company who’s supported and helped develop worlds like the new Blue Mars.

    Get Chris Creek the founding partner from DAZ3D to be the next CEO read why here > http://steambunjie.livejournal.com/10323.html

    Fact. Dan Farr current DAZ3D CEO is in world on and off testing mesh, I can’t say anything else other than that because it’s under a Linden Labs NDA.

    Second go take a look at .tel the TLD that stores data within the DNS server, and can be viewed by mobile/web this is your start point.

  22. Judge Joker

    Jul 6th, 2010

    These where designed to be contact cards for either business or personal use and for directory’s, they come with Oath the one point login, and are still under development, they need more themes e.t.c.

    This is how I use mine http://second-life.furry.tel they ain’t pretty to look at yet but you can see a mock up of a cleaner version I presented to Telnic here.

    http://images.furry.se/promo/Telnic-Theme-logo.png and if you know what Jira is please vote for this here http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/WEB-2052

    ” A Legal reclaim on the secondlife.tel and second-life.tel TLD domains, and populated with contact data for residents to quickly alternately navigate parts of the website.”

    This is badly needed for the MOBILE apps and yes Linden Labs is making an iPhone app and has no mobile compatible website as far as I am aware, and it’s needed for people with disability’s and there are many inSl so please login to Jira with your Second Life name and click the vote at the side.

  23. Judge Joker

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Third go back and look at DAZ3D who have just absorbed another company and taken gizmoz, why is that important?

    Because they now own Digimi a Leading Personalized Avatar-generator and Library of Creative Assets for Game and Virtual World Development; New EULA Makes Renowned Figures and Content Available to Developers.

    As far as I am aware you can turn a photo of you into a full high quality 3D mesh, you will have to dig though the site to get to that part. http://www.digimi.com/newsite/presite/home.jsp it might be on the merger press release.


    My point is simple, DAZ3D make a iPhone app that allows you to take a photo of yourself on your MOBILE which then turns you into a 3D mesh which you can store under your .tel name like prokofy.tel.

    You use the .tel to log in to Second Life or an Opensim, or another compatible Virtual World like Blue Mars which takes the locations of the files from a hidden sub domain. e.g. _av.prokofy.tel on a DAZ3D or registrar server.

    So it loads them up onto your avatar in the virtual world, as well as populating your profile with data from your .tel, I believe it could be done especially if Linden Labs is moving to a more web type world, go look at Electric Sheeps website world to get an idea of whats possible, which is nothing like the stupid idea people have been touting as Sadville.

    So what do you end up with? you end up with one log in that you can go almost any where you want without Linden Labs owning all your content, so even if Second Life was to shut down you would still have and own all your avatar data for as long as you own your online name.

  24. hobo kelly

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Wellsum there sure were a lot o’ words in that thar story. All the irrational exuberance kinda put me off though I reckon. Social anything is a dangerous waste of time. People ain’t nothin’ but trouble. And when you start playin around online pushin yer pea brain around like youall know what yer talkin’ about, well sure its fun ta sit back an watch fer a while, from an elevated viewpoint, an mebbe even mildly amusing ta passive-agressively start a few fights amonst them thar factions fer the lulz, but after that thar boredom kicks in, and the Social curdles, you will always be happy that ya kept yer nose outta them snotnosed little kiddies Social Nightmares, and tended to your own solitary work for yourself and mebbe yer family. Social anything is bad mojo. You wait an see…

  25. Judge Joker

    Jul 6th, 2010

    This would even allow you to login to websites for shopping and have a 3D version of you displayed for trying on clothes, or just a 3D you on a real world changing room screen why get undressed ever again?.

    Wave your card over and there you are!

    A real you or a fake you who knows point is it would work and can work and solves the problem of people wanting to copybot their avatar stuff to take to other virtual worlds because it would all be bought though that system while giving each virtual world a % cut.

    This site lost most of my comment with it’s stupid spam protection, get a better on please we can’t post anything! correctly.

  26. JustMe

    Jul 6th, 2010



    We don’t need connections to other social networking.
    We don’t need fancier sunsets.
    We don’t need reorganization of Viewer buttons.

    We need stability and speed. Enuf said.

  27. Pappy Enoch

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Hobo Kelly done gone and said:

    “All the irrational exuberance kinda put me off though I reckon. Social anything is a dangerous waste of time. ”

    Hobo, I reckon you been a-hangin’ wif ol’ Alan Greasepan who done went and run the Fed. He went and tried to warn us about them there irregular protuberances too. And look what happened.

    Well, where I comes from, “social” am usually in front of “disease” so I reckon I’ll steer clear o’ that.

  28. ra ra rasputin

    Jul 6th, 2010

    i would go a step further, make two kinds of accounts.

    “Real life” (what ever that is) accounts for all the fakebook, twitter and so on users that do what you thought is good (it may be good for you). Heck there they can even used their Real name. Makeing “custom realistic” AVs would become a good business, trust me.

    “Fantasy” these accounts don’t carry any information, except what you type in (like its now).

    As an option you can create an alt in the fatasy category, and interchange “notrans” stuff between real and fantasy. (The fantasy is hard tied to your RL-AV)

    But thats only the Cherry on the top. First call is on FIXES!, FIXES, FIXES.

    IF thats finally done i got a nice idea – client-side running Scripts (in python preferable, so one can use that power instead of shitty LSL) (think Firefox extensions), finding double entrys in the Inventory could be solved. the UI could change in the way people will like it more, lots of HUDs could be transferred to the client side (think of the lag-balance improvement)

  29. Darien Caldwell

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Judge Joker, you make some really compelling arguments. As a former Renderosity junkie, I’m pretty familiar with DAZ and their rise from obscurity. And you’re quite right, they do know a lot about building communities and already have a lot of knowledge about 3D, the Web, and integrating them together. Their latest purchase is very interesting.

    I have never heard of .tel until your post. Fascinating. Much food for thought here.

  30. Lalo Telling

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Might be a good idea, overall, for those who want it. There’s a big hurdle, though: Facebook will have to be persuaded to change their ToS to allow pseudonymous accounts — that is, avatar names.

  31. Zombie Wexler

    Jul 6th, 2010

    “If you don’t know who Gwyn is, you should reconsider your understanding of the landscape of Who’s Who in virtual worlds.”

    Yes, because this is IMPORTANT KNOWLEDGE TO HAVE. Like knowing the names of all the smurfs or memorizing baseball stats.

  32. Zombie Wexler

    Jul 6th, 2010

    Also, what’s with the pictures included in this article? They do nothing in service of the words, unless a picture of a girl smelling the back of her hand is a metaphor for the first hour experience (which kind of makes sense now that I think about it).

  33. [...] Alphaville Herald, but Pixeleen Mistral has been pestering me (in the good sense of the word!) to write an Op/Ed article related to the latest changes at Linden Lab and what we can hope to expect from [...]

  34. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Heh. Thanks for all the comments :) @V & @Zombie, no wonder you don’t know me, since my last article on the Harold is from three years ago, and I’m definitely not a regular contributor here — thanks to Pixeleen Mistral, who insisted (for a long time, actually!) that I should write something again. So, with luck, you won’t see me here again before 2013 ;)

    As for the rest of the comments, I should emphasise — again! — the keywors optional and privacy. Stamp them on your forehead. No, wait — tattoo them there. We all know how easily Facebook “leaks” private information “by mistake”. Shielding future SL users from Facebook “glitches” is going to be LL’s hugest nightmare, if they’re serious at all about the cross-integration.

    Then I suppose I should remind Darien, hobo, and all the other anti-social commenters here that Second Life has long left the stage where it was a playground for adults to play with prims and scripts. It still is that — for some. The number of builders, scripters, and non-socialisers is still growing from year to year. But they pale in comparison to the socialisers. Sorry guys, but there is a whole world out there which you’re missing — and it’s made of people, not just prims and scripts. It’s for them that the connection with social networking sites is so important. Not for you. That’s why it has to be optional.

    @JustMe: “We don’t need connections to other social networking.” Who is this “we”? Do you have any idea what people actually do in SL? Be shocked; over 90% are just in it to socialise (and yes, that includes dating, viewing art galleries, and attending live music events). They are the ones that want connections to social networking tools — and they are the ones that are in the vast majority. What you meant on your comment was “I don’t need connections to other social networking”. That’s fine! That’s why any of these connections have to be optional and private (did you get your tattoo done?) for the tiny minority that doesn’t want them.

    @Judge Joker, I see your point… actually, I had in mind that Linden Lab should buy DAZ3D and Unity3D, perhaps by raising additional funding :) Those two companies are just too good to be kept around independently for longer — and any of their CEOs would be good CEOs for LL as well.

    There is just a big “but” here. A CEO from DAZ3D or Unity3D would be good at providing a technology-oriented leadership. Philip, speaking both as Chairman of the Board and interim CEO, is pointing towards community as the goal. Now I’m sure that the community around DAZ3D is great (it’s been a few years since I last participated actively there — but I still get the DAZ3D newsletters every week :) ), but I’m also quite sure that it’s completely unlike any of SL’s communities. So I’m afraid that if Philip was serious about the commitment to the residential customers, it won’t be easy to get a CEO completely outside SL (or LL) that “gets” SL at all. After all, they tried that and failed; M Linden simply couldn’t absorb the sheer vitality of SL’s communities in the few months that he actively explored the virtual world. At this stage, it really takes a lot to explore it — and I don’t mean travelling across sims, but talking to people, reading the SLogosphere, participating in all the events, meetings, and discussions around SL. That takes way more than simply an MBA.

    @rasputin, LL is actively working on client-side scripting. I mean… was. We can only hope that Philip allows that project to go ahead, although the AWGroupies report that they are being stubborn about the unsafe way they’re implementing it. Yes, the model presented by the AWG was Firefox plugins. LL, of course, prefers to reinvent the wheel — and make it square. Nevertheless, they are working on that.

    And finally, I should underline what Philip himself has said, loud and clear, but which so many fail to grasp. Linden Lab’s developers are not uniformly skilled Random Programmers, all with the same experience and know-how. Rather the contrary: they’re a very heterogeneous crowd, with a whole world of differences between each other. What this means is that some of the Linden developers only know about Web-bases applications. They have no clue of how the viewer works, and never saw a line of C# in their lives. And they have no idea how the simulator works. They might not even be able to describe the infrastructure of the central servers, much less understand how it really works. In fact, I’m quite prepared to believe that there is nobody at Linden Lab that understands perfectly and profoundly every aspect of Second Life. Not today. At some point, Philip and Cory certainly knew everything to the last detail; Andrew, as the oldest Linden still around, very likely has a good understanding on the most ancient layers of code (that’s why he is still able to update the physics layer…).

    But you have to understand that from the long list of “building blocks” presented by Philip during his SL7B speech, there are very, very few Linden developers (probably next to zero) who could work on all of them. There are very few who can work on several. This means that Philip, or whomever becomes the next CEO, can’t simply pick the simulator guys, the web application team, the network engineers, and drop them, say, on the viewer and tell them to fix rendering bugs. That’s not how any complex piece of software works! And make no mistake, Second Life is incredibly complex — way more than we all think it is! That’s also why OpenSimulator is pretty much a miracle — even as a reverse-engineered solution, it’s fascinating how the OpenSimulator team actually managed to replicate half of Second Life’s software (the server side) and come up with a pretty reasonable fac-simile. To this day, however, nobody has been able to replicate the SL viewer with all its features, even though all the source code is available. A lot of attempts have been made to implement a subset of the viewer code without actually using any of its code; and at least the protocol details (interconnecting with the grid) are reasonably completely implemented (but not perfectly!) using libOpenMetaverse. Still… nobody managed (yet!) to take an off-the-shelf modern 3D engine (Unity3D, CryEngine, Torque, etc. would be prime candidates, but there are plenty to choose from — every undergraduate student these days seem to publish a new 3D rendering engine on Google Docs every other week or so), backpatch it on top of libOpenMetaverse, and create a completely new viewer that allows a better experience than the LL viewer. No, instead, what we have is just a series of patches and a few extra features (I name them “a few” because even a hundred new features — like Emerald has — pales with the comparison of the immensely vast number of lines of code that actually has been written by LL), which, granted, provide improvements here and there, but they’re not a panacea that will get rid of lag and glitches for once and for ever. No 3rd-party viewer, for instance, ever managed to get a better Inventory working — but retrieving the inventory from the grid is just a line of code in libOpenMetaverse. One would expect it to be simple! But it’s not…

    So, to recap… what LL does is parallel development. The teams developing the new SL Marketplace are web application developers. They have no clue on how the grid works or how the renderer works. Pushing them out of their field of expertise and telling them to fix renderer bugs is not an option. They simply don’t know how to do that, and weren’t hired with those qualifications in mind! Instead, they’re good at doing what they do: web application development. After a project is finished — integration with Avatars United, SL Marketplace, the new website with the new Account backoffice — they will need a new project to work on, one that they can actually do something worthwhile, or, well, they would simply be fired (something LL has done often in the past when projects finished). Integrating the registration page with (optional!!) social networking tools would certainly be a project they could work on. In parallel. While the 3D programming experts continue to fix bugs on the renderer, and the simulator experts continue to work on the server software, and the network engineers keep those nice Internet pipes pumping bits back and fro.

    Imagine a hospital. Every health care employee on a hospital is a highly trained, highly specialised professional. But you can’t simply tell the nurses to start doing brain surgery. You don’t want the ER anaesthetist to drive ambulances. And you certainly wish to keep the general manager (who has an MBA and understands little of medical procedures) doing patient screening. While most hospitals will have their equivalent of Dr. House to provide them with diagnostics on complex cases, the rest of the staff is hyper-specialised and will just be able to work on their assigned tasks.

    Linden Lab’s development division is just like that. A lot of nurses, a lot of doctors for each specialisation, a lot of surgeons (also specialised), and a lot of complex equipment with specialised technicians to maintain and manage. But you can’t shuffle them around and yell: “FIX, FIX, FIX, REPAIR, REPAIR, REPAIR, OPTIMIZE, OPTIMIZE, OPTIMIZE, FIX, FIX, FIX”, because only a few have that ability.

    And, guess what, the ones that are actually excellent at fixing, repairing, and optimising things are not easily available in the job marketplace, and very hard — and expensive! — to replace: that’s why LL has so few of them! There are not many Corys and Babbages out there ready to fill in those vacancies.

  35. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jul 7th, 2010

    s/Harold/Herald/ lol

    Oh, and actually just the second picture has some relevance to the text: it shows a T-shirt with Philip on it :)

  36. Kaseido Quandry

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Sheer genius – the best thing I’ve read on how to fix both the first hour experience and SL’s marketing.

    And you look terrific in your photos :D

  37. Darien Caldwell

    Jul 7th, 2010

    What?! there are people in SL? I didn’t know that. Neither did the 930 real people in my group, or the hundreds of people on my friends list. None of which, want to be linked to Facebook, by the way. :)

    Just because people don’t want to be on Facebook, doesn’t mean they don’t socialize. It just means they don’t socialize YOUR way. :)

    I know you weren’t trying to be insulting, but you kind of came off that way. Or maybe you were.

  38. Gundel Gaukelei

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Lindenlab keeps trying to mind everything but its own business. While continuously failing at their core business of providing a reliable platform, powerful tools and a sufficient customer support, Lindenlab keeps trying to be everything else, including but not limited to content provider, social network, market place, landlord and super nanny.

    To criticize individual aspects of LLs failure is like giving consumer advise to someone who is coming to you with a foot full of bullets still asking for even more ammunition.

  39. Melissa Yeuxdoux

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Count me among those wanting First and Second Life separate–which means I don’t care about Facebook integration, because of Facebook’s well-known policies. (Who’s willing to buy information about avatars?) Now, if Diaspora is more tolerant of avatars, I might be interested.

    For the rest, the dead hand of backwards compatibility is going to make it very hard, if not impossible, for LL to follow Fred Brooks’s classic advice: “Plan to throw one away. You will, anyhow. The only question is whether you will deliver the throwaway to your customers.”

  40. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jul 7th, 2010

    @Darien, I personally just see Facebook as a great platform for distributing games and worthless for little else. But hey, I happen to know I’m in the vast minority of human beings who have no patience for Facebook. 350 million people think otherwise, even though two-thirds of them are just playing games (some of them are fun!). So what you’re saying is that you and your 930 friends are supposed to “know better” and decide to exclude those potential 350 million people from linking their accounts with SL, based on the sheer stupidity of doing so. Ultimately you may be right, but that wasn’t the point. We can’t “educate” those 350 millions and say that they’re stupid and wasting their time :)

    So I’m not saying that you and your 930 friends are “wrong” and that everybody else in the universe is “right”. Not at all. Just that the 931 of you shouldn’t be a deciding factor in what LL is supposed to be going to do or not. We can’t use ourselves and our limited circle of acquaintances as a reference for the rest of the market, although marketeers tend to do that a lot: it’s even got a name: mother-in-law market research (I know it sounds stupid, and I laughed as well when the concept was presented to me formally :) ) — but that’s hardly the best method of market analysis, because it just provides a biased idea of the market.

    I admit that I hardly “socialise” on Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, or any other of those social networking tools, either; and even when I post a few comments there, I hardly call pressing the “Like” button or doing a retweet a “socialisation”. And a lot of my friends feel the same way — this kind of artificial “electronic socialisation” is simply not fulfilling, either to me, to my close friends — or to you and your 930 friends. But that’s beside the point. So, sure, none of us will ever link our SL accounts to Facebook accounts — either because we don’t want to, or because we don’t have them — but, again, that’s not the point. We’re exceptions to the rule. And we shouldn’t “impose our will” to the vast majority of users that want a way simpler registration procedure and are too lazy to create yet another account on yet another platform.

    That’s the whole point, really. It’s not about us, who are already in SL and couldn’t really bother with anything else. It’s about the rest of the universe who hasn’t joined SL yet, but is happily playing FarmVille on Facebook.

  41. Tali

    Jul 7th, 2010

    It is curious that you should pitch a single-ID linking just as Blizzard is announcing their forced use of Real ID on their forum, to less than enthusiastic reception.
    I realize that you emphasize “optional”, and do point out the problems with various intentional or unintentional leaks.

    But you also say “I would be hard-pressed to believe that anyone would like that kind of privacy intrusion”. Nevertheless, Facebook (and related things like Foursquare) is making it their business to provide such “service”, by trick, force or volunteering. It would be pretty naive to think that policies won’t slowly slide to “leverage” such information once it’s gathered.

  42. Hiro Pendragon

    Jul 7th, 2010

    I’m going to have to disagree with the common sentiment of “Fix what’s broken”. Being a SLr for nearly 7 years now, I can say that SL has gotten enormously more stable.

    What it hasn’t gotten is easy to use.

    However, I think there’s common ground. Things like the 25 group limit are areas where one person calls it ease of use, another might calling it fixing what already exists. I might also say that the interface and orientation of new users are “broken”, and need to be fixed.

    As for the social network issue, I see having something like Avatars United mature not as a new feature, but as a natural fix to a broken profile system. I should be able to access my Second Life profile, that of my friends, and interact, via the web. There’s no reason why it should be accessible only via Second Life. There’s also the larger issue of “If Linden Lab has more users, and hence more money, then it has more resources in which to fix everything”.

    I think social network connections (and I’m not just talking Facebook) are *the* preferred way people spread the word about things online. Connecting to social networks isn’t a matter of a feature, it’s a matter of keeping up with the fundamentals of how people interact and communicate online.

  43. JustMe

    Jul 7th, 2010

    To be a big clearer, .. my original post was a plea for LL to FIX stuff before ADDING stuff. When I said “we don’t need…..etc” , I assumed everyone would understand that is what I meant, based upon my pleas for existing things to be fixed , rather than adding more and more to an already broken product.

  44. Tali

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Having something like Avatars United better integrated with groups, announcements and calendar would seem like a no-brainer, and I really have no idea what LL wanted it for if not for this. But apparently it was enough to just have the domain name to satisfy M’s Facebook envy.

  45. Darien Caldwell

    Jul 7th, 2010

    I’m really glad you clarified your stance Gwen. It makes a whole world of difference. Of course you’re right, a handful of people are not representative of everyone and all use-cases. I just kind of felt you were implying if we weren’t gung-ho about Facebook integration, then all we did was sit alone in a sim playing with scripts and prims. Nothing could be further from the truth. :)

  46. Pepper

    Jul 7th, 2010

    thinks Gwyn is the smartest avatar to make her point with three pics and a nice writeup on the AH in a long time.

  47. Ciaran Laval

    Jul 7th, 2010

    Here’s a novel idea, if you want to tell your Facebook friends you’re in Second Life, post a Facebook update it, Tweet it on Twitter, email, blog and phone your friend, you’d still have your 50/50 and ask the audience.

    This function creep of trying to undermine people’s wish to have some privacy is getting way out of control, people who want to share already have the options, the more underhanded, sneaky and downright dubious ways (See Blizzard for an example) of undermining this choice of privacy, the more it becomes less of an option.

  48. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jul 8th, 2010

    *nods* @Hiro and fully agrees :) Again, so long as it’s optional…

    @JustMe, as said, this won’t work. What should LL do with all the developers that are not qualified to do work on fixing the core functionality of SL? Fire them? Well, that partially explains why so many excellent developers were fired last month. My point (and I’m sorry that you missed it) is that a complex platform like SL requires quite different skills and specialisations, and while the “bug fixing team” is at work, the ones not qualified to fix bugs are idly waiting for the next project to start. My own suggestion comes from the external observation that the Web development team will soon have little else to do (except work on Avatars United) as the major work on the overall site and XStreetSL/SL Marketplace has pretty much come to an end. They’re free to start on something new. Working on a single-sign on solution for SL would be a good idea. Remember: these web developers are not qualified to fix renderer or simulator bugs. They can just work on Web applications.

    @Tali, indeed on Avatars United. And yes, I’m calling for an “optional” single-sign on solution. Even Microsoft Live — that’s the same Microsoft that always reinvents the wheel and believes they are the centre of the universe — allows you to register for Live with a MySpace or Facebook account (all right, the Facebook option makes sense since MS is one of the stakeholders of Facebook, and the ad-selling platform on Facebook was developed by Microsoft…). Keeping away from single-sign on solutions is… backwards.

    @Darien, exactly! Nothing could be further from the truth: what most people do in SL is, indeed, socialising, and, as said, I believe that what we do in SL is a much more engaging experience than clicking on “Like” buttons on Facebook…

    @Ciaran, that’s why I’m personally not proposing that at all, but rather the contrary: single sign-on solutions, using your favourite social networking site ID or identity provider (or, well, use LL’s own if you don’t have any other) :)

    As a matter of fact, you’re right: the question of having SL automatically posting things to Facebook and revealing everything you do in-world automatically does not even require LL to do much: they just need to enable client-site plugins :) Then anyone who wants to install a “Facebook integration plugin” can do that easily enough… LL doesn’t need to do a thing.

  49. Tali

    Jul 8th, 2010

    What bothers me about this single-shared-datablock idea is that the data then *is* there, and at some point, somebody *will* run a join on the tables, or deploy the wrong template which publishes fields you never agreed to in the UI.
    Google Buzz is a good example of data which suddenly appeared, to rather detrimental effect, because it happened to be available, and somebody didn’t think their cunning plan all through. (Or, they did, and didn’t care about the implication until it turned into bad PR).
    The current Real ID leak in WoW where plugins can gain RL information about anybody is another.
    The problem is that this is a one-way street; once the connections are made, they are there, you can never delete them, and practical experience show that there is a *very* high probability that they *will* be exposed at some point, by technical error or Facebook-style ToS changes, deliberately backpedaling on promised privacy policies.

  50. Gwyneth Llewelyn

    Jul 8th, 2010

    Well, Tali, that’s the same argument why banks can be robbed… sooner or later, someone will manage to go through all security and steal your money there.

    But that doesn’t mean that putting it under your mattress and keeping a shotgun nearby is safer. It just seems safer because the way we react towards things we feel we’re in control. It’s the same psychological truth that makes us uncomfortable when flying as opposed to driving — planes are far, far safer than cars, but we’re not “in control”, so we fear planes more than cars (at least, most of us do).

    What does this mean? If LL goes for single sign-on capabilities, besides making it fully optional, they should post a huge warning saying that they did the best of all efforts to keep their end of the transaction code safe, but decline any responsibility of what happens on the 3rd party identity provider’s side. So people would use it at their own risk. For instance, I would never dream of connecting my SL avatar account with Facebook, but I might have no problems using Twitter, Yahoo, or Google, where they’re not insanely paranoid about using accounts under avatar names…

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