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Q Linden

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In the Snowstorm Product Backlog Office Hour Wednesday, I commented that "I think options are bad for users and bad for code quality". If you read that whole transcript, you can probably see that it was interpreted badly. The most extreme variant, reported by someone who was watching in-world chat afterward, held that Linden Lab wanted to remove all options from the Viewer. Let me start by saying that is not the case and never would be, nor is it something that I or anyone at Linden Lab has ever seriously contemplated.

However, I still stand by my original comment -- options are problematic for lots of reasons.

Let's see why:

First, every option has to have a way to control it. In many cases, you have to have multiple ways to control it. From a user interface design point of view, that means creating option interfaces. For the SL Viewer, those are a) the preferences dialog, b) the debug settings, c) checkable menu items, and d) options within dialogs that control other features.

You'd normally like to put options with the things they affect, but screen space is always at a premium and many options are only changed infrequently. So instead, we group options together in a preferences dialog. But there are enough of them that it becomes necessary to create some means of organizing prefs into a hierarchical structure, such as tabs.

But as soon as you do that, you find that you have trouble because not everyone agrees on what the hierarchy should be. What tabs should you have? Where does each option go? When you get too many options for one tab, how should you split them up?

There's no one answer and there's rarely a right answer.

And then, once you have a place to put them, you have to decide what to call each option and what the default is. And if those decisions were easy there wouldn't be a need for an option!

Second, options add complexity to the interface. Every time you add an option, you add a decision for the user to make. In many cases, someone might not even know what the option controls or whether it's important. Too many options might leave someone feeling that the product is too complex to use.

Third, options add complexity to the code. Every option requires code to support all of the branches of the decision tree. If there are multiple options affecting the same feature, all of the combinations must be supported, and tested. Option code is often one of the biggest sources of bugs in a product. The number of options in the Second Life Viewer renderer, which interact not only with each other but with device drivers and different computers, make it literally impossible for us to exhaustively test the renderer. We have to do a probability-based sampling test.

You could say that it's our problem to deal with that complexity, and you'd be right, but every additional bit of complexity slows down development and testing and makes it harder for us to deliver meaningful functionality.

Fourth, options that are 50-50 probably do need to exist. Options that are 90-10 are addressing an advanced (and possibly important) use case. Having them in the preferences interface promotes them to a primacy they probably don't deserve.

Finally, adding options has a snowball effect. Having a small number of options is good, but having too many options is definitely bad for the product and for the customers trying to use it. Sure, advanced uses need advanced features, but we don't have to make everyone confront all of the complexity.

Add all of this up, and I think it becomes clearer why I said I didn't like options and would prefer to find alternatives.

So why have options at all, then? Because different people legitimately have different needs. Advanced users vs novices, or landowners vs shoppers. We get it. But it's also often an indication of a design that needs work.

There are alternatives to putting more checkboxes on the preferences screen:

a) Allow entire user interfaces to be "plugged in". This requires a major architectural change to the software. Although we've talked about it, it's going to be a while yet before we get there.
b) Allow options to be controlled close to the point of use. As I said above, this can clutter the interface but can be effective.
c) Make an interface that covers all use cases. This is the hardest of all, requiring real understanding and design, but is usually the right answer.

In short, I often consider adding a preference to the prefs panel to be the wrong answer to a real question. It's not that we don't consider different use cases, it's that we're trying to cover them in a better way.

So this has been my attempt to explain the thinking behind a statement like "options bad". I hope it's helped -- has it? Tell me in the comments.

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Viewer 2 was explicitly launched with the ultimate option:

"If you don't like it, you can use a third party viewer."

This concept worked, until Philip announced the viewer should be popular. The viewer is currently so unpopular, because it lacks basic functionality, like chatbar focus. Now we have Project Snowstorm, to involve residents in the process of  improving the viewer, that's great!

=======

You have to break some eggs to make an omelette. Let's use the eggs for making omelettes, and not as a facial mask. Let's not waste precious office hour time by bickering about trivial things like "too many options are bad". At the meeting, Oz said that chatbar focus will be figured out in the next sprint, with a minimum amount of options. Now that's productive! Just next time, say so as soon as the topic comes up.

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There will always be "newbies" and there will always be "power users", and serving both with the same piece of software is *DIFFICULT*.

Newbies want something simple, easy to learn, intuitively placed functions and, more than anything they don't want to spend all their time learning, they want to DO something.

Power users want hot-keys so they can quickly access the functions they want to use without having to navigate down two sub-menus over and over.

Options ARE important, everything from relative UI interface size to default camera behaviors, because our ability to interact with the world is vastly different.  Some people have smaller lower-rez screens or poor eyesight, others have massive monitors running at very high resolution.  The UI must be customizeable to suit our different situations.

Many of us use other applications with different chat behaviors... and have trouble going back and forth between them.  Having the option to close-chat-after-enter is as important to some people as having it NOT set is to others, just so they don't go crazy while attempting to control the interface.

I'd probably stop using LL's viewers permanently if I couldn't turn off mini-map rotation, I hate it that much. =)

Anyway... yes, extra options are a pain to regression test in production, but you serve us better by being more inclusive than by saying "only 2% of SL using this feature... we're gonna just bury it in the debug settings and forget about it" =)

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Just to add one more voice to the cacaphony...

One reason you're getting requests for options, Q, is that Lindens have made clear that changing the current default behavior is not something you're willing to entertain.  We need an option to eliminate the sidebar because, it seems to us, when we say "eliminate the sidebar" you stick your fingers in your ears and go "la la la."  When we say "the colors are too dark and give me eyestrain," or "this strobing gives me a headache," we're told that we must be wrong.  Since the One True Interface has been found and anything we propose is received as inferior, we are forced to ask for the option to have things work for us, rather than having it work for us by default.

If this is not how you want to be perceived, you're going to have to demonstrate, over time, that you are listening and willing to make fundamental changes in response to resident requirements.  This is not something the Lindens have managed to do in my few years in Second Life.  Indeed, the perception in my SL social circle is that Second Life succeeds despite Linden Lab, not because of it.  We are used to seeing you as part of the problem, not as part of the solution.

Snowstorm is changing that perception, at least for me.  It's only a start, but a promising one.  But until the major issues – chat focus, interface sprawl, and the infernal sidebar – your credibility is going to be slightly less than that of the Iraqi Information Minister.  We've been burned too many times.

There will be different use cases, and they will necessitate different options.  When I'm scripting, I want every llDialog call to go through and I don't want to receive any IMs or group chat requests.  When I'm in the public sandboxes, I want llDialog spam protection, and I want to receive IMs only from friends and certain groups.  When I'm being sociable, I want IMs and group chat working at full speed – and I don't even want to see script errors.  For the web, I'd use four or five different pieces of software for that, not one viewer.

I personally use three different TPV viewers on a regular basis in part so that I can keep my options tweaked to the three different use cases I have.  On the UI side of the problem, perhaps what's needed is a use case manager interface, with the actual choices less accessible (as a preference list or the current debug options), but the summary ("scripting", "clubbing", "patroling", plus "supported" for dealing with support) higher up.  This does not address code complexity, of course.

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But until the major issues – chat focus, interface sprawl, and the infernal sidebar – your credibility is going to be slightly less than that of the Iraqi Information Minister.  We've been burned too many times.

 


Actually, i believe all three of these things are currently in some development stage or another, within Snowstorm. I know they have already mentioned that the sidebar is being addressed (detachment of some sort, if i remember correctly), i'm sure there was something for being able to rearrange the buttons on the bottom, along with more button options i think. In my opinion, you're right to look forward to all that Snowstorm proves to be. Take time to read the backlog, it's delicious!

 

ETA: And chat focus, i'm pretty sure that one is somewhere in the pot as well. I forget to what degree though. But that's a good place for an option (And for the setting. Have it right inside the chat box.), just a simple "Close chat when hitting Enter." statement with a checkbox. Maybe a couple other options?

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Let's start with the facts that are often denied: The open source movement in SL has not brought benefits, but has brought only destruction (libsl copybot, Emerald/Onyx/CDS griefing, extortion, etc.). None of the costs have been overweighed by any benefits like ostensible "bug finding".

Now let's look at that office hour you were in, Q -- toxic, extreme, off the rails, like so many, where you more moderate Lindens face extremist Stallmanites that are stealthily applauded and aided and abetted later on the JIRA.

And the proposition is a misleading one -- too many preferences or too much toggling and too much variation *along what decision path to where?" If the decision tree is about "groups" that's one story. But if it's about "more and more exotic and unused use cases for builders" then it can't be endlessly supplied. There has to be a weighted curve of usage -- those facing the burden of the most clicks to their goal -- i.e. their offered option on a decision tree -- simply have to be those who have the least-used use cases.

For example we're always hearing about the builder or merchant who has to set perms on boxes of 88 or 444 things and is full of resentment at not being able to do this swiftly with one click or with a few easy clicks en masse. But...That's an exotic use case. There are perhaps at most 10 people doing that kind of bullk merchandising per concurrency -- well, perhaps we might even find 50. It's not rational to supply WASD and the solving the focus loss issue just for that tiny use case.

A key problem ensuing from options clutter and confusion is the failure to use parallel construction in the SL user interface narrative. This is one main points of dissonance in the story of SL. Did you ever learn parallel construction in English class or study literature, or did you only study coding?

What this means is that to perform one function, you use a pie menu (now a list); to perform another function you check or uncheck a box or a line; to perform yet another function you scroll down a list look for a selection off a menu; for still another function you type something in and it saves (search places ad or land description or title or avatar) but for other functions you have to type in AND perform a "SAVE" click as if it were a Word document...sometimes you right-click; other times you left click. You are constantly fighting with this interface because it can't make up its mind HOW to do things in a consistent way.

In short, nothing works like anything else. Some things tear off and push around; others don't. There is constant cognative dissonance and it tires the eye and mind.

What is it so hard to put parallel construction into this viewer?!

I'd love for you coding Lindens for once in your lives to meet with a group of 20 people who *aren't* the geeks. Who *aren't* the hacker freaks. Who *aren't* the JIRA lifers. Who aren't there to goof around with you, impress you, talk shop with you, suck up to you, or bond with you in tribal opensource ecstasy, but who are just there to tell you very, very simple stuff about how the viewer as it is now *hobbles commerce*. That's all. How it *destroys business*. By people who actually use these tools all day in their full glory, unlike you all, who use only pieces of them, and only usually to obsess on one piece of them or break them (Sorry, but Esbee telling us she shops and jetskis and all the rest doesn't cut it, because she doesn't *run a business all day* with group tools, land tools, communications tools, etc. Let her even do something fairly small like I do, running groups with 500 or 700 people in their and half a million meters of land on dozens of different sims with all the group permissions and issues, and then tell me the UI isn't broken.)

It would be a very different conversation. I challenge you to do this. And no fair having land barons or merchants who double as JIRA obsessives i.e. weapons sellers. You know who you are.

As for your premise, I support your general thesis that we don't need to have endless fungibility and endless flexibility. At a certain point, you make a decision and a decision tree, and you have to stick with it. You can hide some menus out of the way (debug) or make some functions less obtrusive (build) but the functionalties you've particularly broken in Viewer 2 are all about group permissions, notecard giving, communications -- the stuff that is even more basic than building and scripting that need create and debug.

The breaking of functionality happened due to ideology about trees, and ideology uninformed with real *business* use for *inworld business* (something the Lindens have essentially neglected for 7 years, chasing after outworld enterprise, educators, etc.)

I'd accept your premise IF the decision tree that flowed from that *led to real business functionality*. But...it doesn't.

For example, arguing for 45 minutes about WASD is untethered from reality. Gamers are in the wrong place if they are in SL looking for WASD.

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An honest and full poll would show most people do not use the mini map at all.

That a small sector of mainly male geeks use the mini map, and most other people either don't use it, or only rarely use it, i.e. if they have lost an object and need to see the lighted item on the map.

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Prokofy Neva wrote:

I'd love for you coding Lindens for once in your lives to meet with a group of 20 people who *aren't* the geeks. Who *aren't* the hacker freaks. Who *aren't* the JIRA lifers. Who aren't there to goof around with you, impress you, talk shop with you, suck up to you, or bond with you in tribal opensource ecstasy, but who are just there to tell you very, very simple stuff about how the viewer as it is now *hobbles commerce*. That's all. How it *destroys business*. By people who actually use these tools all day in their full glory, unlike you all, who use only pieces of them, and only usually to obsess on one piece of them or break them (Sorry, but Esbee telling us she shops and jetskis and all the rest doesn't cut it, because she doesn't *run a business all day* with group tools, land tools, communications tools, etc. Let her even do something fairly small like I do, running groups with 500 or 700 people in their and half a million meters of land on dozens of different sims with all the group permissions and issues, and then tell me the UI isn't broken.)

I am not sure how this has become the order of the day at the Lab, but it seems like they are under the impression they can evolve the product without their content providers and premium account holders, of which they in fact are 100% reliant on. There are many small witnesses to this fact, but the main evidence is in viewer 2 and the new marketplace. Both, in different ways, have removed or suppressed core functionality that is vital to anyone trying to run an efficient business or community group in-world.

The sensible way for the Lab to handle this is to start having developer conferences which focus on the core needs of these groups of users in combination with presentation of development and business plans, so both the Lab and developers work towards a common goal.

We see how this has been very successful in the case of the iPhone and the App store. Apple is holding a firm hand on the development of the platform (hardware, operating system, development tools and overall marketing), but at the same time (despite some hauling) encourage developers to create just about any content you can imagine (the exception being porn and malware.)

In doing so, do they stomp on the developers? Do they limit options?

Yes, they limit some options that will serve to compromise the platform. But on the other hand, in iOS 4 alone, they added over 1500 new APIs, largely as a result of developer feedback. In addition hundreds of new user and UI enhancements.

Did you see any Apple rep complaining in office meetings or blog posts that this was hard to program, or added to their testing burden? Of course not!

Yes, it is hard to program, yes it is hard to test, but you add to your capabilities and refine your product to move forward and create a bigger market.

A mentality shift is in order for the Lab, in particular when it comes to covering the needs of the developers they rely 100% on for their continued success.

When it comes to the specifics on what to do with the viewer, you can read my posts further up if you are interested.

PS. The open source process can be very useful to drive product development forward provided you have a development target, and firm product management and feature prioritization. I am not a big believer in scrum for this kind of development. Nokia has used in extensively, and they have consistently poured out crappy user interfaces and functions on their phones.

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Prok-

Curb the hate, eh?   I'm not asking LL to rip out the things you like about SL, so leave the things I like alone, eh?

Geez.

You'd think a geek ran over your puppy or something.

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Gavin, you can't compare Apple with Linden Lab, that's like comparing McDonald to your local diner.

They don't have the same ressources, money, amount of employees, etc...

 

Like Prokovfy said, we have to remember that in fact builders and the like are only a very small community compared to the rest of the users. When you look at it this way, LL is already giving us a lot of attention, and we're getting more and more of it.

I see a lot of people complaining about not being listen to, but how many of you participate to the different open office hours and forums that LL is having weekly?

Linden Lab explicitly said viewer2 had been designed mainly for new users, and even if some may argue that was a bad decision, it however explains why viewer2 is so different than 1.23 and why it's not suited best for content creators.

Yet, like I said, LL is doing some efforts right now to listen to us, so let's not blow this chance by just ranting and complaining on how they should have done this and that, but let's focus on the future. What can be done now? How can we help?

Let's be constructive

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Gavin, you can't compare Apple with Linden Lab, that's like comparing McDonald to your local diner.

They don't have the same ressources, money, amount of employees, etc...

No, but they can have the same attitude to market development and their developers. The scrambling to fix fundamental flaws in their viewer 2 design is far more costly. As is alienating their current users. ;-)

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There are alternatives to putting more checkboxes on the preferences screen:

Allow entire user interfaces to be "plugged in". This  requires a major architectural change to the software. Although we've talked about it,  it's going to be a while yet before we get there.

This is what you should be focusing on, making the Veiwer modular.
Look at World of Warcraft, people create addons and extent the UI because
Blizzard gave them the tools to do so. If you had created the veiwer to allow
plugins, no one would have created 3rd party veiwers. Yes, you going to need
to reengineer stuff but making the veiwer modular and improving LSL
(honestly, just drop LSL and use LUA like other companies are doing and add
LUA API to control SL stuff) but once you do, you can leverage your community
instead of fighting them.

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And more comments about grand and unlikely schemes, separating the UI from the engine, making the viewer modular, these are side issues.

The big question is why "we don't want to add options" is a reasonable response to a request that an option that previously existed, and that a large part of the user base (both gamers and chatters) depended on, can't be returned to Viewer 2. This is not simply a blithe request that some new functionality that never existed before be added as an option, but that a fundamental part of the user experience that has been maintained for years (and, previously, repaired when it had been broken) be retained.

Why is THIS PARTICULAR option the cause of so much angst from Linden Lab?

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"Like Prokovfy said, we have to remember that in fact builders and the like are only a very small community compared to the rest of the users. When you look at it this way, LL is already giving us a lot of attention, and we're getting more and more of it." -- Snippy

"Professional content creators" are relatively few in number... yes.  They are not the only people that use build tools.  We all use them, to some degree or another.  And if the tools suck, we all suffer.

What makes SL unique is the fact that everyone can create.

Every other strength that SL has there's another type of MMO out there that has something similar, from land ownership, to content sales, to music sharing and socializing, ...

It is this "Everyone can create" thing that sets the SL type of MMO apart.

And the tools we have for content creation are STALE.  We need mesh, we need windlight finished, and we need a viewer UI that is less baffling spacially and semantically.

If SL continues to lag behind other Networked Recreational Immersive platforms... people like Prok will have only a small fraction of their customer base to worry about within 2 years.

And the only people hanging around to kvetch about group chat problems and broken search... will be die-hard oldbies like me paying for our land out of pocket.

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And more comments about grand and unlikely schemes, separating the UI from the engine, making the viewer modular, these are side issues.

The big question is why "we don't want to add options" is a reasonable response to a request that an option that previously existed, and that a large part of the user base (both gamers and chatters) depended on, can't be returned to Viewer 2. This is not simply a blithe request that some new functionality that never existed before be added as an option, but that a fundamental part of the user experience that has been maintained for years (and, previously, repaired when it had been broken) be retained.

Why is THIS PARTICULAR option the cause of so much angst from Linden Lab?

Strictly speaking, the blog post is not about that particular chat functionality, but about the design philosophy of the viewer more generally.

That said, if I understand this "trigger issue" correctly, in the new viewer, I'll have to explicitly enable the chat bar for every single line I want to write? -That would absolutely drive me insane, but, well... having no intention of using V2-as-is over my current third party viewer anyway, it is a non-issue for me in the first place, which in itself speaks volumes.

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Jopsy: "Newbies  want something simple, easy to learn, intuitively placed functions and,  more than anything they don't want to spend all their time learning,  they want to DO something... Power users want hot-keys so they can  quickly access the functions they want to use without having to navigate  down two sub-menus over and over... but you  serve us better by being more inclusive than by saying "only 2% of SL  using this feature... we're gonna just bury it in the debug settings and  forget about it" =)"


Hi Jopsy.  Yeah, I know I said I was going to avoid these blogs, but that's difficult to do.  We're addicts. LOL

Anyhow, I agree.  You make simply-stated and valid points.  In the field of psychology, 2% is considered "significant".  2% is enough to make a savvy marketing company change their marketing plan.  2% of 10 million people is 200,000.  Companies should not ignore minorities just becaue they're minorities.

While it is true one cannot satisfy all the people all time, LL could strive to do their best... which is all anyone expects.  As we both know (and I think as I mentioned before above, dunno, they all run together)... there are established computer standards for accoplishing these things.  For example a few standards are:

* The same menu system, but start people out in a "Beginner" mode, with advanced options only showing up if they intentionally press the "Startup Menus" button.  That is a very clear and available button that when pressed, toggles between beginner and advanced menus.  That way people can easily toggle back and forth between the two.

* They can put a ? info button on EVERY SINGLE MENU CHOICE, without exception, so people can click that button if they don't know what that item does.

* They could make every menu option "floatable", not only within its own menu but transferrable to other menus.  Click, drag, drop, viola-- new location!  Users might even be given the option of right-clicking and RENAMING a menu option to better suit them... and those changes retained in user settings (like with inventory) so they don't have to redo it every time they install a new viewer.

Want one of the deep-hidden DEBUG options right out there on a main menu?  No proble.  Drag, drop, done.

The only disadvantage to the last option is that it makes it more difficult to service users who have "hacked" their menus.  But that's the decision they make... and the responsibility they individually bear if they decide to make such changes.

The advantages:  if I want my DRAW DISTANCE renamed to DISTANCE and in the VIEW menu instead of the WORLD menu, I can easily do so.  It's difficult for people to complain when they have that kind of operational versatility.  We might even have the ability to change the name of the ME menu to something less goofy.  Now there is an idea. : D

The thing about this is that these are very intuitive easily-recognizable concepts, and they are relatively easy to impliment.   So why don't they just DO that?

Now, the option to that, and one that makes equal sense, is to keep a set menu layout and re-design the menus in a common sense manner.  But let's be honest here... and no insult intended (just plain fact)... Linden Lab historically is no good at all at common sense.   I would bet a pizza that they couldn't design a user-beneficial menu system if their very lives depended on it.  I honestly think they just don't know how.  Viewer 2 is very blatant evidence of that.   They're not out here in the trenches enough to know what we need and how we use the system... and like someone back there said, they shouldn't even imagine at this point that they know what their customers want.  It's very obvious they don't.

Since that is the case, and since they aren't all that good at asking customers what we want, and since they tend to ignore what we say when we tell them, and since when they do listen to someone at all, it's usually someone from the "FIC" who has their own agenda (and thus ignores the 98% of other people with different needs)... Linden Lab would do well to simply make their menu system as versatile, informative, and user-modifiable as possible... so we can get back down to business and stop messing with Linden Lab constantly throwing gravel in our wheelworks.

 

Because Linden Lab, we want you to undertand our user experience and why people have been so very angry and outspoken on the blogs lately:

* You sold us $4 million worth of "OpenSpace" sims, then pulled a bait and switch con game that forced us to shut down more than 5,000 of those.

* You took a completely functional and operational XstreetSL and are throwing a new SL Marketplace at us... something (to my knowledge) no merchant has asked for, no merchant wanted, and most merchants very much dislike.

* You're foisting DISPLAY.NAMES on the grid, something experienced users have over and over told you will have considerable negative consequences. (And yet... you're doing it anyway... just like always.)

* You've created NEW BUGS such as entire sims lagging to a standstill whenever someone teleports (something that is seriously damaging popular areas), whenever someone changes clothes, whenever someone rezzes a mono item.  You created those bugs, relatively recently. 

* After all these years, chat still doesn't work, group notices still aren't sent out, and despite recent announcements, textures still aren't loading properly.

So let's see... a social network based on 3D graphics-- and textures, chat and notices don't work.  I mean, geez...

* You changed the forums and blogs to a format far less viable... against the outspoken wishes of your customers, and given us THIS.  Seriously.

... and these things are just the tip of the iceberg.  Linden Lab is consistently coming up with some new hairball scheme or concept that has to come out of some blue-sky marketing department... rather than just getting down to earth and making the platform work.  This has been going on for years.  You are under the delusion that to make SL more popular you need to become Facebook or Twitter-- instead of what is really needed:  an affordable, stable, customer-friendly system  that will attract new members simply because it actually works.

So if the company wants to know why people are upset, and why they're posting angry hate posts on the blogs and forums, why people are leaving SL and why sims are actually closing down rather than sim sales increasing... these reasons would be why... as well as dozens of others.

So again, we will say: Wake up to reality.  The company is on the wrong path.  Listen to what your customers are saying.

If Linden Lab doesn't start listening, then when the offal strikes the rotary oscillator, we'll have no choice but to sit back and watch and say "We tried to tell you."

 


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2. Go back to 1.23, add all the really kewl features (such as invisible skins and tattoo layers and the other goodies)... and simply re-arrange menus so they are more intutitive (I covered that in my previous message).  Add the really kewl features people like with Emerald and Imprudence and Hippo.  The code is already written... all you have to do is double-check it and plug it in.  Isn't that why you made this code open source in the first place?

Because LL uses a dual license, allowing them to sell the viewer for closed-source use, they cannot use the 3rd party patches unless the 3rd party explicitly hands over all rights to the code to LL, something most understandably have been reluctant to do.

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Jack: "Since  the One True Interface has been found and anything we propose is  received as inferior..."

LOL.  "One True Interface". Luv it.  : D

 

"we are forced to ask for the option to have things  work for us, rather than having it work for us by default."

So very true.

 

"We are used to seeing you as part of the problem, not as part of the solution."

Well said, Jack.  That's hitting the nail on the head. In truth there is a semi-joke that is often heard on external grids:  "Why do we like such-and-such grid?  Becaue it's not Linden Lab."  No matter what is wrong with the grid, how laggy, how bug-ridden, at least the users don't have to deal with LL attitude, total lack of support, and "monkey wrench" decision making.

When the company itself becomes a major detriment to a product, it just might be time for that company to consider changing their attitude and decision-making methods.  You are quite right, and "funny" as it is to say it, the biggest detriment to Second Life... is Linden Lab.  That is a customer-perceived reality they need to take very seriously.

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Jopsy, I am not a builder, but I use the build tools every day anyway, to place and adjust houses, to make little things that are simple like decks, etc. So I'm as annoyed as anyone when I can no longer right-click on the ground and start the "create" process, but have to scroll through a menu selecting two or three options. That's what happened in the first iteration of viewer 2.0 in the name of "think of the children" (making it easier for newbies).

That happened because the Lindens didn't seem to realize how much casual use there was of build. But in the name of de-cluttering the menu, they could justify the removal of the "build" button. I don't *have* to have the build button on the front page taking up scarce real estate, I can access it through some other layer of menus, or, if "right click on the ground" is retained, get it that way. I don't have to have "grid" imposed on me every time I build if I'm not a professional builder; that could be accessed through an extra click. And so on. That's the kind of mentality I mean -- framing the viewer so that it is not destroying functionality for those who need it but not imposing hobbles for those that don't.

What keeps happening in SL is that the Lindens keep claiming they're going to make things easier for newbies but instead, they keep catering to a small faction of extreme coders and aggressive designers and builders who keep pulling the blanket on themselves through the "tyranny of who shows up" at office hours or through the politics of the JIRA. And the Lindens keep blessing this clique as "the community" and keep thinking this is "user feedback" and it isn't. They then claim that they do have all kinds of feedback from testers and commentators outside the office hour regulars, but the outcome never seems to show that.

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Strictly speaking, the blog post is not about that particular chat functionality, but about the design philosophy of the viewer more generally.

That's because Linden Lab keeps turning the discussion about this problem into a discussion about the design philosophy of the viewer every time it comes up. On mailing lists. In JIRA. In chat. And now on the blog. After a while it seems like they have some other objection to fixing it, and t6his is just an excuse.


That said, if I understand this "trigger issue" correctly, in the new viewer, I'll have to explicitly enable the chat bar for every single line I want to write? -That would absolutely drive me insane, but, well... having no intention of using V2-as-is over my current third party viewer anyway, it is a non-issue for me in the first place, which in itself speaks volumes.

You don't have to explicitly enable the chat bar for every line you want to write. Just every time you do anything that puts the focus anywhere else. Like, clicking on something in-world. You may have to enable it multiple times for one line, then go three or four lines without a problem.

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But Prok is right in basic concept... it caused a whole lot of majorly serious problems, not the least of which was CopyBot.

Um, what? How the hell did open sourcing the viewer cause CopyBot, when CopyBot came out well before the viewer was open-sourced?

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I wanted to preface this with a statement:  folks who know me and who know Prok know we seldom agree and usually don't even get along.  So... when folks like Prok and I both start telling Linden Lab the same thing... and others are adding their voices in the same direction... that's when to start listening.

Prok: "I'd love  for you coding Lindens for once in your lives to meet with a group of 20  people who *aren't* the geeks. Who *aren't* the hacker freaks. Who  *aren't* the JIRA lifers. Who aren't there to goof around with you,  impress you, talk shop with you, suck up to you, or bond with you in  tribal opensource ecstasy, but who are just there to tell you very, very  simple stuff about how the viewer as it is now *hobbles commerce*.  That's all. How it *destroys business*."

Well-said Prok.  I've told LL that for so very long.  It all boils down to, "Why don't they ever ask us... the experienced users who have used this system on a daily basis for years, and who know what works and doesn't work.   They need to ask not only the heavy-duty merchants but those of us who have to balance merchanting with runnign sims, managing a group, terraforming, designing, building, scripting, and much more.  But the truth is, they don't ask us, by their own admission.

So spot-on Prok!  In the general industry such are called "research and test groups"... getting together with the everyday people... and even paying them... to find out what they think about the platform.  If they want the real skinny... they could ask the ones that are known "dissidents", the ones who are not afraid to speak their minds and say, "Look folks, here's how I believe it needs to be done."  Then they can combine and filter all that to get an accurate picture... if they are able to do so (sorry to be blunt, but I don't have a lot of faith in LL's ability to sift out information and come to a realistic conclusion).  But yeah Prok, your statement is right on the button.

Prok: "Let's  start with the facts that are often denied: The open source movement in  SL has not brought benefits, but has brought only destruction (libsl  copybot, Emerald/Onyx/CDS griefing, extortion, etc.). None of the costs  have been overweighed by any benefits like ostensible "bug finding"."

I hate to have to agree, but Prok is right here.  Now, I'm all for them open sourcing the viewer (I think from a corporate standpoint it was a really really stupid idea) but it has brought some benefits to the community at large (mainly, helping to put LL's competition on the map. LOL.).   But Prok is right in basic concept... it caused a whole lot of majorly serious problems, not the least of which was CopyBot.

 

Prok: "For  example, arguing for 45 minutes about WASD is untethered from reality.  Gamers are in the wrong place if they are in SL looking for WASD."

I can't agree.  I'm not a "gamer"... and I use WASD aaallll the time.

 

Prok: "An honest and full poll would show most people do not use the mini map at all."

I strongly disagree.  Well, not disagree, but... "most people"... where is that demographic posted? ; )

I use the mini-map all the time.  There is no better tool for finding where a friend walked or flew off to.  It's on my screen all the time.  IMO, it might be better to have it up on the top menu bar on constant display.  That method is used by many, many systems.  That mini map is a tool that I and my friends use regularly.  Which is why Linden Lab has to realize Prok: there is a diversity of use out here. I respect you don't use your mini map and that you believe "most people" don't either.  I think most people do.  Who is right?  Who knows.  But obviously there is a diversity of use there... and the system needs to meet both needs.

 

Prok: "They  then claim that they do have all kinds of feedback from testers and  commentators outside the office hour regulars, but the outcome never  seems to show that."

I agree with that entire post Prok.  Linden Lab seems to have long had the impression that those who show up at Office Hours, or the "huge merchants" are a typical representation of SL populace.  No, those huge merchants are in it for themselves.  That's how they make a living.  As far as the masses that show up at "office hours"... quite often those take the form of "lobbyists" for special concerns, not the everyday guy who happens to be working at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.   The ones they really need to talk to:  the sim owners (not the land barons... SIM OWNERS)... group managers, the smaller merchants who are just trying to eek out a few L$ so they can enjoy the game... the "oldies" who have been around a long time and are still here... even though being livid angry with Linden Lab.  Get those people to speak their minds... and LL will have a good idea what's going on with Second Life.

 

Gavin: "A  mentality shift is in order for the Lab, in particular when it comes to  covering the needs of the developers they rely 100% on for their  continued success."

Good point. : )

 

Snippy:  "Gavin, you can't compare Apple with Linden Lab, that's like comparing McDonald to your local diner."

Sure you can Snippy.  Why not?  And why can't you compare McDonalds to your local diner?  They are both competing for the same market:   the "eat out" segment.  That eat out segment sometimes wants fine dining, other times quick fast food.  But both restaurants have to follow the same rules:  tasty food, clean food, proper service, reasonable prices, etc.   It's quite easy to compare Linden Lab to Apple or even Micro$oft.  It's also easy to compare it to World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, Quake and Unreal.  Sure, they are different.  That doesn't mean they aren't swimming in the same lake.

 

Snippy: "LL is already giving us a lot of attention, and we're getting more and more of it."

IMO Snippy, they're giving us attention because more and more people are pulling the plug, and becoming more vocal about it.  To fail to pay attention at this point would be to slice their own throats.   The question here is: are they listening... or is it just the same-ol' "yeah yeah yeah" and then they do whatever they flat well want to.

 

Snippy: "I see a  lot of people complaining about not being listen to, but how many of you  participate to the different open office hours and forums that LL is  having weekly?"

More of the "It's the customer's fault!" nonsense. Snippy, we are not paid to serve Lidnen Lab.  It's the other way around.  Are you trying to present that people aren't using the forums and blogs?  Or that we should adjust our busy RL schedules to attend limited LL "office hours"... which have a reputation for being a royal waste of time?  That's not our responsibility Snippy.  It is Linden Labs responsibilty to listen to what we are already saying... wherever we say it.  They surely have no shortage of customer feedback.

 

Snippy: "Yet,  like I said, LL is doing some efforts right now to listen to us, so  let's not blow this chance by just ranting and complaining on how they  should have done this and that, but let's focus on the future. What can  be done now? How can we help? Let's be constructive."

No Snippy, they are CLAIMING to making effors now to listen to us.  That's a far cry from actually doing so.  Actually listening to customers means taking us seriously... not foisting DISPLAY.NAMES on the main grid no matter what your customers say, not foisting Viewer 2 on a grid when 88% of your customers are telling you it sux, not creating SL Marketplace when your merchants are kicking and screaming and telling you that Xstreet works and just needs some minor revisions (such as a better search engine and a couple of features added... not totally re-written).

We've heard it all before Snippy, repeatedly.  This "new" Linden Lab "we're going to start listening to you" IMO is typical corporate propaganda... stuff that we've heard before.  Look at these blogs.  They are not all negative and condemning and "un-helpful".  There are many, many valid, useful suggestions here.  Is Linden Lab really "listening" to these?

I'll say to you, respectfully, the same thing I've said to others of your thinking in the past:  Stop blaming the customers.  Put the blame where it squarely lies:  with the company that has for over 7 years failed to serve its customers.  

Or do you think the angry mob outside the gates is none of Linden Lab's fault?  Why do you think the mob is angry in the first place?  We're tired of Frankenstein creating monsters and loosing them on the community.

 

TO ALL, regarding "add-ons" in general:  I personally am not a fan of "add ons".  First, where do those "add ons" come from and how reliable are they?  Will they contain hacks like Emerald?  Plus, they have to be downloaded and added, which adds complexity to the system.   Instead of dealing with a basic, usable menu system, we wind up having to wade through dozens of pages of "add ons" just to get features that should be in there in the first place.  IMO, add-ons is a 2-edged sword, with the cons far out-weighing the pros.  Better option (in my opinion):  Linden Lab listens to what the community in general needs, listens to special-case requests that may have wide appeal (such as a particular scripting issue of interest only to scripters) and they include that in the main viewer on a common-sense decision basis.  "Will this be valuable, or not?"

But add-ons... for me at least, no thank you.  That's just another thing to go wrong.  Let's get what we already have working first, before we go further mucking up the works with items that have predictable problems.

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Take the majority of user options off of the viewer and put them in the download page. In effect, build a custom viewer for each person at download. You have that now really except it is presented in a disjointed and unorganized way. You have the social viewer (Viewer 2), the builder's viewer (viewer 1.23) and the bleeding edge viewer (Snowglobe). You could take it further with viewers like a Machinima's veiwer (Kristain's Viewer for example) and a furry viewer (one with different morph targets for things like paws and muzzles).

If you could pull out a lot of code out of the viewer, you would reduce the size of the viewer itself, lowering the bandwidth cost per download. Right now a freebie account costs as much as a full premium member's in terms of bandwidth and server time. If you could remove 10meg worth of option functionality and put it on a web page, the cost savings will add up rather quickly when you are talking millions of downlaods.

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I have read so many of these, and so many seem to be on the same track, just not quite the same train, But I wonder. The future of computing is cloud, and the future of the web is apps apps apps....can we go there. The pc as we know it is dead, portable devices and specialized devices are the future, Ipad, netbooks...and apps apps apps, so why not begin to go in that direction, you want to intigrate all those things, twitter, facebook etc, to be able to use SL for portable devices, what you need to do is minimize the actual viewer and make it to fit the necessary access, and do all, and I do mean all else in adoptable modules and then to integrate web apps and plugins...apps apps apps, let interested parties both commercial and private produce applications that use web services and draw business to sl then take part in developing apps to bring sl into the web, and you will be on track to so many of your desired business and development wishes for the future and make it something more people will want to adopt. you see your smart phones every day, get on the wagon. or fall behind, your choice

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Why is THIS PARTICULAR option the cause of so much angst from Linden Lab? -- Argent

... The WASD option reminds me of another thing we lost moving from viewer1x to viewer2x...

http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/VWR-19700 Give focus to search field when opening inventory

Instead of ctrl-i tab tab tab... like it was in viewer2.0, in viewer2.1.1 it's now ctrl-i shift-tab to get your cursor into the inventory search field.  *grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr* fiiiiix ittttt.

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What makes SL unique is the fact that everyone can create.
Every other strength that SL has there's another type of MMO out there that has something similar, from land ownership, to content sales, to music sharing and socializing, ...
It is this "Everyone can create" thing that sets the SL type of MMO apart.
And the tools we have for content creation are STALE.  We need mesh, we need windlight finished, and we need a viewer UI that is less baffling spacially and semantically.

You are right *and* you are wrong.

We need new tools, but *not* at the expense of the old ones.

LL's basic argument is, in order to make room for new tools, that carry new *options*, they must reduce the functionality and reduce the *options* of existing tools.

This is Wrong-Think from the Labs.

It's only natural as you  add new things, new options will come with it. Complexity Grows. It's something that LL and *any company* must contend with. You don't see Microsoft whining they must remove and reduce options in Excel. Their users wouldn't stand for it. And neither will we.

Every option that people rely on,  http://jira.secondlife.com/browse/VWR-19964 for example, is a necessity. It can't just be decided that "we need to make room, so bump, away it goes." That's not even design, that's chaos.

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