Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The sky is falling... again

It's been pretty lively on the message boards and forums since the Emerald viewer debacle at the weekend.  It seems that a lot of SL residents are returning from holiday and playing catch-up because of the number of changes and announcements that have been made over the last few weeks.  So, in case you've been off on a round-the-world trip, or in a cave with the troglodytes, here's a summary of what's happened over the last few weeks:

Linden Lab laid off about 30% of their workforce.  It seemed initially that maybe they were slimming down the community Lindens in order to get ready for take-over or merger or public offering (theories varied) but then people began to notice that it wasn't just the people who give support who were being booted, but also the coders and programmers who knew all about mono/sculpties/flexis like Pastrami and Qarl and others.

Initially it seemed that things were going to plan.  The residents held a wake for the Lindens who died, virtually-speaking, and awaited the next move with baited breath.  Then, all of a sudden, M Linden didn't turn up to the SLB7 celebrations and Philip Linden was back and did.  The king is dead... long live the reincarnation of the last king.  Er, what?

Since the recrowning of King Philip, things have gone a bit bonkers.  Among the announcements is one that the teen grid is going to be amalgamating with the main grid.  It seems that the residents of the main grid were touchingly convinced that the teen grid had successfully rounded up all the under-18s and put them in a safe place where their underwear was nailed on and they weren't given any sharp things that they could hurt themselves with.  Thus, they are panicking at the prospect of the 16 years and over teens joining the main grid.

Actually, SL main grid is teeming with under 18s and has been since the beginning.  The only difference that the new policy will make is that the 16-18s  are more likely to be accurately labelled.  The under 16s will still be pretending to be adults though.

Linden Lab announced the "display names" change.  Residents think this is a cynical move to allow them to link SL with social networks like Facebook.  Possible it is, but it is also the case that some residents would like to be able to use their real life name when that is appropriate:  ie when you are at a conference or business meeting and want people to know who you are.  Not when you have discovered a predilection for furry sex in the bushes... you prolly want to use an SL name for that, preferably one belonging to someone else.  Oh look, you can.  And that's the main problem that long-time residents see with the name changing thing:  the possibility for spoofing someone else's identity.

No official announcement has been made afaik, but  one of the Ontyne support staff posted to SLU that ther jobs are disappearing and LL is subcontracting them out to an American company.  I don't know how far this going to go, and whether the remaining Linden Liaisons are going to be contracted out is anyone's guess.

Linden Lab announced the ending of the Community Gateways project, with no advance warning to their partners in the Community Gateway project, and its replacement with a selection of handpicked landmarks.  Thus, instead of being put into an educational sim whether they liked it or not, and having to learn enough to leave and explore the rest of the grid, newbies will now suddenly find themselves in the middle of Bare Rose or similar, and have to work out how to leave, without the benefit of the tutorials/mentors/educational events they were previously getting in the hubs and gateways of the previous system.  Even the shopowners of the places which have won listing on the newbies places list, don't know how they came to be chosen.

The companies and institutions who have spent considerable sums in setting up newbie reception points, are understandably a bit miffled about suddenly losing their supply of newbies, although some places, like Caledon, report an almost uninterrupted supply of newbies due to their having got onto the List.

Talking of newbies, LL introduced a new viewer v2 some months ago, with a view to increasing retention rates, apparently.  It is alleged that the new viewer is more newbie-friendly and easy to use than the old one.  I don't honestly know if that is true - or how you would ever quantify it, because everyone can only use one viewer as their first viewer - but for oldbies it is a total nightmare.  Things you have used all the time, like the current location and position information which used to be at the top of the screen... have gone.

Many people reverted to the old viewer, or looked to the list of the alternative viewers, and from thence has come the drahma which unfolded over the weekend, over the Emerald viewer.  It seems that over the past few months, Emerald has become the viewer of choice to anything from 20 to 50% of the residents of Second Life.  It's hard enough to get figures on how many people there are in SL, let alone what proportion of them are using a particular viewer.

Rumours have abounded about the dodgy backgrounds and behaviour of some of the developers working on the Emerald project.  Some of the people said to have previously developed so-called "black-hat" viewers, which enabled people to do things like export objects which don't belong to them, were working on Emerald.

There's been some acrimony between the Emerald developers and others, which seems to have developed into a full-blown hate, in which one of the Emerald developers inserted code on the login page which hijacked the users computer to download data from the other developer's website.  There is dispute over whether this constitutes a distributed denial of services attach, or DDoS, mainly because it was unsuccessful at bringing down the website.

Linden Lab has removed the viewer from the list of approved third party viewers, Emerald have had a lot of staff changes, with people resigning, being asked to resign, returning to post, rearranging themselves...they seem to have put most of their effort into sending out PR bots to troll the lists and reassure everyone that Emerald is a safe and trusted viewer.  Which it is not, not any more, sadly. 

So, there you are, you should be more or less up to date with things in Second Life.  I'm making no promises though.  Things change quickly, and it's often all smoke and mirrors: I suggest you put on full body armour and mosey on over to SL Universe if you want to keep up.

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