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Friday, January 15, 2010


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Adric Antfarm

Look, if the Open Sim power user base wants it, I say it's important since all five people agree.

Sure, getting the casual users to come with for a quorum of seven is great, but simply impractical due to scale.

Galatea Gynoid

Sorry, but you're making a spurious argument. Anyone who wants to work on improving the user-friendliness of viewers is perfectly able to do so. If other people choose to work on something else, that doesn't stop you from working on that. If someone else chooses to spend their time shopping, this in no way holds you back from spending your time programming.

Working on those "power user" features in no way holds back development on those other things. This would only be true if these was some sort of assigned quota on developers, e.g. only 10 people can work on the project, and their tasks are assigned rather than self-directed, then obviously when you assign people to one task, you're starving other tasks of developers. But in an open-source world where any number of developers can contribute and can choose what they want to work on, no matter how many people work on one particular feature, it in no way at all whatsoever holds back development on other features.

Anyone who wants to work on usability features can work on them. If they aren't getting worked on so much, that's because there aren't as many people interested in working on them. What else they are or aren't working on isn't a particularly relevant issue. You could just as easily (and invalidly) argue that iPhone development is holding back OpenSim, with the same bad argument: since they're working on iPhone apps, they're not working on opensim usability. True, but there's no particular reason to think they would be in any case. If they were interested, they'd work on it...

Maria Korolov

Galatea --

I completely agree with you. And that's the great thing about open source projects -- if you want something done, step up and get cracking.

I want to see more business-focused folks step forward and get involved with creating a simple viewer. I believe this is the single biggest obstacle holding back mass adoption of SL/OpenSim.

I've been following viewer developments since last spring, anxiously waiting first for Xenki, and now for the 3Di OpenViewer, but progress has been very slow -- especially compared to the huge strides being made on the OpenSim server side, with hypergrid teleports, stability, backups, megaregions and other super goodies (which I am extremely grateful for -- don't get me wrong!).

What I'm thinking is that the commercialization of SL/OpenSim requires a new company, one focused specifically on the user experience -- kind of the way that Nescape made the Web popular.

- Maria

Vax Sirnah

I don't buy the "Iron Grip of the Oligarchy" argument, either for OpenSim or Second Life.

For Second Life, my limited view of things is that very few of the pet issues of the power users seem to be a focus of the Lindens. They seem to have their own agenda of expanding into the enterprise space - not a power user goal.

For OpenSim, the strength of an open source project is in what it can provide that a commercial solution cannot. The fact is that SL is NOT a developer friendly platform, any more than it is a newbie friendly platform. Developing a more robust, flexible and interoperative back end is what is going to be needed to make OpenSim competitive with one of SL's main strengths - the fact that everyone is there already. UI development has to happen too. But you need developers to provide content, and it's these backend changes that will provide those options.

Pavig Lok

It's quite true that opensim development has stayed away from user experience stuff. This is a shame, as even now the experience for builders (who create much of the physical framework of community) is very poor.

Development in opensim has largely focussed on things of a highly technical nature, and there is a lot of interesting opportunities that this creates. Megaregions, Mini Region Modules, improved physics and vehicles etc will soon outclass SL in terms of features. This will put opensim closer to Blue Mars from a user perspective - you'll be able to play a reasonable game of golf for instance. Opensim can move faster than SL in this respect - and does so, because these are interesting projects for it's developers.

Boring projects however, such as basic user experience stuff - undo when building for instance - are still lagging well behind. Opensim is losing the greatest advantage SL has as a platform: that is, in SL (unlike just about every other virtual world) there are plenty of resources for mid-skilled creators to produce content.

Google Lively was the canonical example of a virtual world with this problem. Residents could easily create (decorate their space with objects, patch in pictures and youtube clips etc)... the next level of creativity however meant a year of college to learn to operate a 4 grand piece of software. That lack of middle ground for creators kept lively fairly sterile. Opensim, unless it gets it's act together with mid-level creator tools and user experience stuff (to match SL) faces the same problems. Blue Mars seems to have similar same issues.

On meshes: some argue that ease of use and meshes are mutually exclusive, as I may have implied above. I don't believe this is true, as sculpties in SL have proven. Many upper-mid skilled builders have taught themselves to sculpt with no previous 3D modelling experience. They started out like the rest of us unboxing freebies, then learning prims, then as their skills grew learning to sculpt. Sculpts contrary to what you may imagine are actually harder to make than meshes (which one can produce in simple programs like google sketchup.)

So I do believe there is a problem with the focus of opensim development. The most highly technical elements of opensim are getting the most attention. That middle ground that helps creators mature and build the 3d environments that culture thrives in is largely ignored. (If you don't believe me go look at the opensim.org issue tracking system and compare it to secondlife's jira, where the user experience focus is much more self-evident.)

Just my two cents as per usual. - Pav

Robward Antwerp

I see a lot of posts here and while I am late to the party, I thought I would chime in. I agree with some of what has been said…

All communities go thru the social dynamic where those with the most invested drive the discussion and direction within the community.

The UI is not more complicated to a new user, than Photoshop, Blender, GIMP or for that matter Office 07. This does not make it easy, but it is not exceptionally difficult.

I agree that Linden Labs could do more to improve those critical 1st 30 minutes. They are perhaps more painful for the new user than Photoshop, but that is not due to the UI. I believe it is because there is understandable fear on the part of a new user that they will embarrass themselves by doing something foolish or become hopelessly stuck in public. To some degree this is true of other social networking sites, but it is amplified by the real time immediacy and intimacy of ‘messing’ up in front of others in SL.

However there is an aspect of this discussion I’ve not seen mentioned much, it relates to the expectations an average new user might bring to Second Life. In other words; to those people who come into Second Life and say there is nothing to do, I ask what are you looking for? I think there is a fairly obvious answer to why they ask this question. Upon entering Second Life, they notice the lack of an obvious point system… you are not offered incentives for collecting things, there are no explicit puzzles to solve and there appears to be no one available to shoot. All of this IS possible in Second Life - if you look and work to find it, but it will not be immediately apparent. There is no imposed, required or obvious hierarchy of rank. Of course everyone brings these social expectations to second life and obviously Linden Labs imposes an external order; but, I believe part of the appeal of Second Life is the opportunity it provides to make a fresh social start; to be part of creating a community with as much order or lack of order as you or your chosen community desires.

In my opinion, to criticize veteran power users of Second Life as some cliquish oligarchy is disingenuous. I am sure the absence of an obvious ranking system makes some folks uncomfortable (dare I say those more comfortable within our more hierarchical real life). It is criticizing the customers who took the time to figure out how to use the shiny new tool faster than others, and because they want to use, add features and improve the tool. To that criticism; I say, give me a break… have you bothered to check for classes and user groups available within Second Life? If you do, you will find a lot of “oligarchs” sharing their expertise, often freely or in support of a product the user may have purchased.

Lastly there is the infamous “No One Is There – SL Is Empty” criticism. When you go into World of Warcraft, City of Heros or other MMOGs, what is one of the first things you do? You choose a server. How are the servers sorted? Geographically. This does not happen in Second Life and this could mean the users of the region you are exploring may be on the other side of the planet. This explains why in Second Life I have neighbors on one side I rarely see (oddly enough not so different in real life for many)… but why? They are live in France and are asleep when I am on. If a Second Life resident were to look at their list of friends, take a map with time zones… and do a scatter plot; they will find most of their friends will likely have at least these two features in common with them… language and real world locations near their time zone. Another more anecdotal example of what I would call the “more folks than you first notice” phenomena of is the NOAA site.


If you go there you are likely to be the only one there. It is not the most creative site in the world, but it is a well done educational site hosted by the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Agency. Yet their traffic statistics in second life averaged 50 people per day over a year. Many shop keepers would be thrilled by those numbers.



Clearly, a person’s experience in Second life is what they make of it. Of course Linden Labs should tailor their new user experience to be as painless as possible. There are many things they or any company does that irritate the hell out of their customers… and they should fix them. But to suggest that second life is being held back by some elite user base is a very narrow analysis. There are many factors contributing to the growth (some suggest decline or stagnancy) of Second Life.

I know I find myself wondering just what they are being held back from… the mass market adoption, such as that found with the ubiquitous flash applications in Facebook? Perhaps so, I do enjoy goofing around in Farmville a bit myself and I was a beta tester for MetaPlace… but they are (or sadly were in case of MetaPlace) well… too flat… by that I mean not immersive enough. Much of the time I want more than points to accumulate from my virtual world experience (If points were my priority I could get that playing solitaire). What I want from Linden Labs is the continued use (happily paid for) of the immersive creative community that makes Second Life(literally). I want to learn, grow and be challenged by Second Life, Reaction Grid and other OpenSim’s (perhaps even, one day, Blue Mars). If M. Linden and crew decide they would rather emulate Farmville as a profit making model… well good luck. I doubt I would be the only customer who would seek out alternative immersive communities; besides, there is room in the MetaVerse for everyone... if not there then where?

Richard Meiklejohn

There are some very simple things that could be done to make things easier. I'd like to see more command line switches for the viewer, with options in slurls to achieve the same ends - namely configuring the viewer for the use case. For example, turning off the bottom toolbar for people coming fresh into a meeting, never used SL/OpenSim. Or having a set of configurations for the UI which you could choose between, again on command line and slurl. The claim that it takes two hours to get someone into a state where they can use SL for a meeting might mean that the meeting environment is too complex or not supportive enough. In our meeting rooms, people arrive, left click on a chair which seats them and provides them with a switchable set of camera views, one of those views is on a panel preloaded with short help movies on setting up voice and how to chat, content to use in the meeting is automatically brought in onto panels from the CMS where the meeting was launched from. People can be productive very quickly.

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