Bark of the Dragon

December 6, 2006

Second Life search still broken

Filed under: Second Life — tomashausdorff @ 11:58 am

It has been a week since the last update, and during that entire span of time search has not worked properly.  Even some of what they say is “fixed” is really only partially fixed, with the restored functionality being limited in the extreme.   So their list of “hot issues of the moment” is actually missing some rather critical considerations. 

The one that really bothers me is somewhat summarized in this quote from the blog entry in the first link above:

[Dec. 6 @ 10:32 AM PST] Some of you have asked about: (1) being able to search Classifieds fully again, meaning not just the title but the description too <…> We know the current behavior is limited, and “the old way” is more useful. Pending further testing, I’m sorry I don’t have an update on this situation yet. I’ll post when it comes.

Let me give you a bit of context so you can better understand what this means.  Second Life consists of over 3,000 “sims” (simulators), each being roughly equivalent to 16 acres of space.  Tens of thousands of places to find and buy items exist within this space, interspersed randomly with houses, parks, clubs, and other things. 

Finding what you want is almost entirely dependent on being able to search through small advertisements (classifieds) created by and paid for by business owners.  You create a small advertisement with some descriptive text and a title: perhaps you include the words “furniture”, or “men’s clothes”.  And people can seek out what they want by using the search tools to do keyword scans through the classifieds.

Or at least this is what they used to be able to do.  Currently they can do nothing of the sort: the search function has basically been reduced to almost total uselessness.  A search now strictly looks at the title of the listing, which is generally the name of your store and is limited to a half dozen words or so (a single line) in any case.

This is the best they can do after an entire week of effort.  In essence, the only way to sell things now is to hope someone remembers where your store is (improbable) or stumbles across it randomly.  Or to be so incredibly large and popular (the top 1%) that folks just know where to locate you, or so wealthy that you buy an entire sim and name it after your business.  Or to spend even more money to take out more classified advertisements with a few keywords each.

Calling this “limited” is a bit like calling a hurricane “slightly inclement weather”.  I don’t intend to denigrate the undoubtedly herculean effort that has gone into getting even this far.  But it appears that things are so fundamentally broken in the underlying database / data server architecture that no amount of cobbled-on effort will make it whole again.

I’d suggest that perhaps it is time for Linden Lab to begin establishing a structured development process, beginning with an architectural review and leading through a well-defined roadmap consisting of commitments for completion of long promised changes and improvements.  Fixing the problems with Second Life will require hard work by serious programmers, not random experimentation and fun features.  This isn’t to say that the work can not be fun, but it may not be exactly the “fun” the developers currently want to have.

December 2, 2006

Hydrogen and Stupidity…

Filed under: Law,Second Life,Stupidity — tomashausdorff @ 8:24 pm

 I was reading Second Life Insider today, and encountered a posting from one of my favorite Second Live residents, Tateru Nino.  

Tateru was directing us to inspect a press release from Lawfuel.com talking about “video games”.   The author of the piece starts off with a few opinions about how video gamers have lost sight of real life and draws supporting material from the recent release of the Playstation 3.  Everything goes down hill from there.

I’ll disect a couple of quotes…

Dr. Rudolph G. Briggs, whose web site indicates he’s a member of the Department of Psychotechnology at SUNY-Albany (http://library.albany.edu/briggs/addiction.html), defines Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) as, “characterized by seven basic diagnostic criteria, among them increasing tolerance of long online hours, withdrawal, and unsuccessful efforts to control Internet use.”

Interesting reference, but this is talking about Internet addition, not video game addition.  His study is talking about people who spend too much time looking at websites, many of which contain poorly written and ignorant prattle like the article in question.  A little bit of research would have turned up several references to video game addiction as well.  Why did the author chose this study?  Probably because it was the first one they found, and they have little or no concept of the difference between the Internet, video games, computer games, or much of anything else, really.

In my book — for those who can recall the word “book” — all these saps are losers. Among the winners are college kids who are majoring in video game development. I kid you not. A handful of colleges and universities now offer an opportunity to major in video gaming.

This is where the wheels completely fall off on this article.   Let me offer a couple of clues to help the author.  I’ll identify myself with the target the author is pointing at: I spend a lot of time on the Internet, I play computer games (not “video” games, but I’ll concede that is common error), and play Second Life (we’ll get to that part of the article shortly).  I also read on average 500 pages of old fashioned novel-length books per week, plus several hundred pages of technical documents.  Yes, I know what a book is.   I’d argue that, given how much mis-information exists within this article, I’m probably a much better read person than the author.

Another clue for the author.  There is a difference between computer / video game development and video gaming itself.  Game development is a very, very big business, currently in the same league as the movie industry in terms of annual revenues.  Game development involves many of the same skills as movie production.  Writers and designers, graphic artists, motion capture specialists, sound and music production, marketing.  The one major “unique” to game development is application coding itself, but since much of the movie industry is based on computer graphics these days, even that point is arguable.  All of this is complex, highly skilled work: computer games involve teams of dozens or hundreds, budgets in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, and revenues to match.  The schools that teach video game development do so in much the same way that schools teaching movie and video related specializations do.  And yes, some very large universities are involved, because students who work in these specialized, skilled professions need robust educations.

Video game meets Internet at the cutting edge in Linden City, the virtual capitol of Second Life (http://secondlife.com/). As this column was written, Second Life counted 1,755,704 residents of Linden City. In the past 60 days more than 700,000 of these folks had visited the virtual city, i.e., logged onto the site.

Here the author starts to reveal the incredible shallowness of their “research”.  There is no such thing as Linden City.  And logging in to the site doesn’t count as “visiting” Second Life: there is a virtual world…thus the whole thing about downloading the virtual world client.

A link directed me to a “jobs page.” I’m not positive, but I think the jobs were for real. I wished I had the ability to become the “Italian-speaking Liaison.” I guess getting a job like that would make me one of the winners of the video game world.

Here again we see that the author has no concept of the difference between the game and the development/support of the game.   The links in question are real world jobs with Linden Lab supporting Second Life.   Since the author “wasn’t positive”, they obviously have a rather low reading comprehension skill.   Oh, and by the way: if the author had read a couple of articles on Second Life, they would know that it is also possible for the “gamers” (residents) to run businesses within the “game” (virtual world).  Some have even been rather successful at it

An hour of research could have revealed these facts to the author: but apparently that would have been too much effort.  Reading and comprehending is tough work, especially when you have a deadline to produce a “press release”.  Don’t let facts stand in your way, and to hell with intelligent discourse.  Why bother forming a cogent argument when confused, inaccurate babble will be sufficient for most of the audience?

What is really pathetic…actually rather scary…is the fact that this “press release” appears in a web service provider that claims to provide news for legal professionals.  I sincerely hope that this isn’t indicative of the kind of research the legal profession performs these days.

December 1, 2006

“Consider the database load issue resolved…” NOT! :)

Filed under: Second Life,Updates — tomashausdorff @ 2:33 pm

I logged in briefly an hour or so after it was announced in the Linden Lab blog that the majority of the post-update database-related problems in Second Life had been resolved.

Initially, things looked good: search seemed to be working again, and I was able to teleport back to my home sim.  I then went to take a snapshot and send it as a postcard.  Unfortunately, the user interface failed to fill in my return address.  That particular field is uneditable: its supposed to be automatically generated by the client application.  Helpfully, the SL client told me that I hadn’t entered my return address..uhm, gee, thanks, but since I’m not actually permitted to edit that field, maybe that’s *your* fault?   I bug reported it, and then decided to see if perhaps it was something that only occurred immediately after teleporting.  So I logged off and logged back in…

Hmmm.   I’m not standing where I loggeded off at.  I’ve been “bumped” to another locale, back to a place I was at one step earlier in this saga.  And it seems that my clothing is missing…well, actually, my entire body- all I am is a floating head and some legs.  Okay, that kind of thing happens now and then- let’s see if we can teleport back home…nope.  Perhaps my sim is down- that happens too, sometimes.  How about that snapshot?  What with my body being invisible and all, it might be sort of comical.  Nope, same error when I try to send it as a post card.  Let’s see if we can find any land for sale…oopsie, the search interface is down again.

I really feel sorry for the Linden Lab folks.  I imagine many of them have packed up and gone home after 20 or more hours of working on problems, feeling relief that things are working properly again before the weekend.  Just wait until they are awakened from their all too brief but well deserved naps to fix yet another database failure…

Maybe its time to look at some transactional message queuing infrastructure between the databases?   I can only speculate where their current challenges may lie…but keeping all of the data stores in sync may be at the root of the current scalability problems.  Alternately, it could be some horrific database design flaw, or something as simple as inadequate database server performance- memory/disk/network/processor upgrades could possibly fix that.

Update: Quite literally as I was typing this, the LL folks (Torley!) posted an update referring to continuing database problems.  Frustrating for them, no doubt. 

November 30, 2006

Sometimes Virtual Reality is silly…

Filed under: Second Life — tomashausdorff @ 10:05 pm

Akela over at Second Life Insider drew my attention today to something in-world that is just a little bit silly: a virtual telephone that let’s you call up other avatars with the same phone and have a text conversation with them.

As Akela points out, the ability to chat with another avatar is already something of a “feature” of Second Life.  It’s called an Instant Message, or more colloquially, a private chat.  In that light, the phone in question seems rather silly: why do you need it? 

But let’s think about this.  The phone is a virtual object simulating a real world function that is already a feature of the real world Second Life client.   Another “silly” class of object in Second Life is the virtual object that simulates a real world function that has no *purpose* in Second Life, and further isn’t even something particularly glamourous in real life.  For example- a virtual garbage can, or a virtual toilet that actually can be “flushed”. 

Which is actually more silly?  Something that actually has a function (the phone) which already exists in Second Life (chat)?  Or something that has no function whatsoever in Second Life and isn’t even particularly desireable in real life?  Maybe I can subscribe to simulated delivery of virtual utility bills, or perhaps what we need is some sort of faux head cold so that we can stay home and be sick rather than go to our alternate-reality jobs.

Right at the moment, I’m actually finding this whole discussion is beginning to make me dizzy.  I think I’ll go take a theoretical nap…

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Filed under: Christmas,DragonHorde,Second Life,Updates — tomashausdorff @ 5:46 pm

Winter festive season!  Blah, okay, call it what it is- Christmas :)

Second Life was patched yesterday, with a number of new features pertaining to chat and numerous other things.  It has been a rocky ride- the update window ran a couple of hours over the 12:00 PM Pacific “deadline”, and then the grid was, shall we say, unstable.   Over a day later and we are still running in “not quite functional” mode

Despite the problems, I was able to do a few things around the store in Mu.  Our friend and neighbor, IceManiac Shatner, has generously allowed us to display his Chubbo/Chubbalina Christmas snowpeople.  They are incredibly cute!

Christmas Chubbo Snowpeople!

I’ve put some display furniture upstairs in the store, but I haven’t loaded everything into the vendor yet- procrastination is my forte. 

 Furniture

I started building our “garden” as well, where Sydona will ultimately place some of her smallish garden “furniture”: gazebos, trellis benches and the like.  Nothing is set up there yet, but the basic groundwork is done. 

I also added a notice board to the store, Dedric Mauriac’s Message Board.   I’d love it if the thing was networked- I could put one copy in each of our retail locations and change the notices from our home.  Am I lazy, or what?

Message board

October 7, 2006

The login made me do it…

Filed under: Metablogging — tomashausdorff @ 6:17 am

I wasn’t really interested in setting up a blog, but to get an ID for use with the Second Life “official” blog…well, apparently the easiest thing to do was to click on the “Create a blog for me” button, so that’s what I did.

At the moment I can’t think of anything profound to say…perhaps check back here in the future, you never know- I might be inspired to actually make this an active blog

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