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Linden Lab's New CEO

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BK Linden

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I’m happy to announce some very exciting news today: Rod Humble is Linden Lab’s new CEO. Our press release is here. You’ll hear from Rod himself after he starts in mid-January, but in the meantime, we wanted to share a brief introduction.

Rod has an impressive depth of experience in developing and leading fun, immersive entertainment experiences that have been great successes. As a 20-year veteran of game development, he’s worked on more than 200 games, and last year, the gaming magazine Edge named him #2 on their annual list of Hot 100 Game Developers. Rod is coming to Linden Lab from Electronic Arts, where he was Executive Vice President and led EA Play, including the best-selling PC game franchise of all time, The Sims. Prior to EA, he was a VP of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment, where he led the EverQuest Studio.

Rod has a deep appreciation for what makes Second Life special. He’s already been exploring and experimenting inworld to familiarize himself with the pluses and minuses of our product and the successes and challenges faced by our Residents. He’ll officially start at the Lab in mid-January, and I’m excited for us to begin 2011 with fresh perspective, renewed energy, and creativity.

To give you a sense for Rod’s creativity, personality, and perspective, here are few links to his personal creations and a couple of press interviews he’s given:

Art games Rod has created in his ‘spare’ time:

Press interviews with Rod:

Happy holidays to you all from Linden Lab! We wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year -- it’s going to be a great one for Second Life!

Rod's bio:

Rod Humble is Chief Executive Officer at Linden Lab, and he leads the company’s strategy and the development of Second Life. Humble’s 20-year career in the game development industry has included work on more than 200 games. He joined Linden Lab from Electronic Arts, where, in his role as Executive Vice President, he led the EA Play label, which includes the best-selling PC game franchise of all time, The Sims. In 2009, he was ranked #2 on the annual list of the Hot 100 Game Developers from gaming publication Edge. Prior to his work at Electronic Arts, Humble served as Vice President of Product Development at Sony Online Entertainment for the massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) EverQuest.
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Jan 13, 2011 12:46 AM Kathrine Wirtanen  says: 

Welcome Rod,

Hopefully from having a game background you will start pushing some Avatar upgrades for SL, like a decent mesh and better Animations system, even if it means breaking 2003 based content, it is something many people recognise SL by, it's dated avatar appearance. Our economy needs some decent change regularly.

Yep the avatars are pretty cartoony and the mesh between the legs and under the arms is just woeful.

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Welcome Rod! Nice to see more Devs and MMORPG Business people comming in house.

Here is exactly what you will be meeting: Technical and artistic genius fettered by mediocrity and hobbled by lacluster Western organizational culture.

Job one would be intercept the failures to compute that are in evidence by such things as this example:

https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/WEB-2734

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I see your point and observations there but i believe the minds running sl realise you will never keep on top of stuff like that if you wish to make a profit and thus are focusing the business more on an in and out door model where there are just as many trying out sl as are leaving it. They will always be advertising and recruiting those in the right age groups to keep a stream of people coming in to keep up with the stream going out.Keeps the enthusiasm levels up in the general population of sl users too.

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At the risk of going SLIGHTLY off topic, I'd like to add one more suggestion to the literally hundreds of comments addressed to Rod Humble, the new LL CEO (generally addressed in a spirit of hope, which we hope is not vain), by copying here my comment made elsewhere, about the serious problems we see with SL Marketplace ... which seems to have been yet another case of "fixing" something that was not really broken, by replacing it with something more broken.  (Shades of Viewer 2 ...)

(The specific problem is addressed here:  https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/WEB-2920?focusedCommentId=235262#comment-235262)

"I would like to make a suggestion, something that should have been  obvious from the start.  PROGRAMMERS WHO WORK ON SL MARKETPLACE SHOULD  UNDERSTAND ACCOUNTING. I have been a professional programmer for 40  years, and the biggest problem I see is programmers who don't have a  clue about the process they're trying to automate.  You can't write,  much less design,  a decent accounting program if you don't have  knowledge and experience in accounting.  Clearly the programmers in this  case did not; their work is entirely unacceptable.

"Consequently I will  be reluctant to use SL Marketplace myself, except perhaps for small  purchases where I can tolerate losing a few Lindens.  And I certainly  will not stake the reputation of my in-world businesses on a system  which does not work."

(And I might add that one of the very BEST ways to alienate your customers is to make mistakes with their money.)

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It's cheaper, and more profitable, to keep existing loyal customers happy, than to spend money constantly recruiting replacements.

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You know what would be great is to get someone in customer support to actually do something and unsuspend my account for using a texture i bought off marketplace, better yet get them to answer my support ticket, it sure would be nice to get rid of the Nazi style rule that is customer support.

 

My account was suspended for a product i released and used the texture from another merchant who sells it from makrtplace and my business is suffering because im unable to get online, but who cares about the individual right?

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WEB-2734 is, indeed, testimony to LL's serious problems providing anything remotely approaching adequate support for SL residents, particularly business owners, particularly those who have lost REAL MONEY in SL.

Perhaps, to give LL the benefit of the doubt, we should not regard this as deliberate arrogance, insensitivity, and/or biting the hand that feeds them -- but rather that the (present) business model really will not support customer support, and we should all take our losses and stop whining about it, rather than see SL go down the tubes entirely.  Or perhaps we should be willing pay a surcharge, to get decent service.

Clearly LL does not take their paying customers seriously -- but perhaps they simply cannot afford to, given their shaky financial condition.  (Cf. recent major layoffs.)  So far, they haven't admitted this.  Perhaps we'd be more sympathetic if they did, and LL and residents alike could pull together to weather the storm, and solve the problem somehow.

In any case, on Jan. 15, 2011, resident FrankLee Anatra added a bit of good news to the thread for WEB-2734, which suggests a way to get around the month-long waits for "service", which might work at least until everyone finds out about it.

"I suggest you all do what I did. I went to the Better Business Bureau's  site and filed an official customer service complaint against LL. They  became a registered member of the BBB in September of last year and have  an undeserved A rating for customer service. About a day after the BBB  contacted LL I got my trouble ticket seen to."

Shazaam.  (Captain Marvel, 1940, invoking The Good Wizard.)  And here I used to think that BBB was ineffectual.

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Thank you for the tips everyone,

 

Today I filed a grievance with the BBB as suggested and as of this date Linden Labs still has yet to reply to my support ticket. What amazes me the most is that when trying to log into marketplace, I am greeted with a phone number that says call us so we may assist you and after 4 attempts, each employee at Linden Lbas offers no solution or resolution and every single one of them reading from the same response book like a telemarketer informed me they have no way of helping me, but when it comes time for tier, or when it comes time to pay listing fees or when it comes time to take each linden out for any sales i produce, they are right on top of it.

 

Sorry to dullard the announcement of the grand new CEO, but new CEO's are a thing of the past for this company and each announcement comes with the same standard practices for Linden Labs, they will answer support tickets for someone who can't adjust a friggen prim dress but when it comes to a business owner who has put in 1000's of hours to create a unique, individual product that supports the Linden Lbas Economy, we are left in the dark?

As you can see, I'm very frustrated to not be able to give my custoners the support they need and something needs to change and fast. I pride myself on creating my own individuality here in second life and i do give Linden Labs credit for allowing me to create my products, but to thwart me from conducting business when the original complaint is not justified, nor was proof of the original complaint given, leads me to believe that Linden Labs is broken far beyond its own capabilities and responsible builders and scripters such as myself should have some sort of fair grievance system than having to cry on an open blog.

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What LL needs is a resident run griefence board to resolve in world business disputs because they sure as hell don't have a handle on the situation nor their own Jira system.  Putting issues in the hands of a random set of users to decide what is fair between disputing parties; seems to me the only way to resolve many of our issues. 

More so there should be a reward system in place for those that participate.  $L100 is nothing yet it is a sign of good faith from LL to a very unhappy user/player base.

IMO I would like to see the residents in a leadership position where there is some fairness in the policy decisions because as it stands today everything Second Life; seems to favor LL.

More so this thread alone should tell LL and their new CEO all is most certainly not well. No matter what type of spin they try to put on things, ppl are no longer buying it.  It's time for some positive change that benifits the customers or they will most certainly continue to walk out the door.  Bad press is trumped by bad word of mouth when it comes to the internets,  believe that.

Cat Cotton

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Well Rod. Middle of January is here!

What would be really very welcome, in my opinion, would be if you were to put your stamp on SL from day one in a totally positive way.

Send us all a 'Hey. I'm here, and I promise you all now that things will be very different from this day on!'.

Give us some good news, such as that mesh will be introduced without equivocation on a certain date. Advise that the viewer 2 interface will be changed to the user friendly interface type that we are all familiar with. Inform us that tier pricing will be dropped, and that a greater variety of tiers with better prim allocations will be put in place. Tell us that it is a priority for you that customer service will be substantially improved.

Take charge Rod and let us know that a better world is coming for all. If you do that we will all love you for it. We need hope Rod. Hope of a better sl future, and hope of a LL that listens and treats us as equals, and as fellow team members. Are you the man to give us that hope? I HOPE you are!

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Be our man Rod.

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I hope you take into consideration what is written here in this replies... Im not english or american so be patient with my wrote..

btw im in sl since march 2007, long time passed since that period of beautiful discovering, my peculiarity was art in sl and what is concerned to art and culture. Nowadays sl is a desolate land in comparison to what i found there since 2 years ago.. Culture has gone, all the hope has gone, and people interested on tech, art and culture has gone massively. what is good is that some OS worlds have given the possibility of choosing, and a lot of thematic worlds are happening to grow up facing all the tech difficluties and solving them day by day.So no return the way have been designed and you have to face it, becouse the future is coming very quickly and the os organisation is makig good progress day by day. Im sorry ,who has gone is very disappointed with LL becouse what is very clear is that there was not even a sip of interest about this in the LL Company. The disorganisation LL faced was supported by residents that had to afford the absurd encreasing of prices, and the educational were forced to go away. This is a real shame.

Another point is the gap between the newbee and the active residents, you know what i mean, is very boring try to learn for a newbee and very boring trying to teach them, so there must be a LL lack in this...

third point is the inventory, OS and the Stargates allow you to travel in other worlds with your inventory and buy something there also... Sl is a total jail.-

So dear mr Ceo good luck, for now you have lost a lot of good people.

Luce

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Now wait just a minute.

A lot of us have been asking for mesh, and for a very long time.  In order to remain competitive, SL needs mesh support.  This is probably something he's realized when experimenting with the SL build tools.

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No one needs mesh. Mesh Imports only favors a tiny, but extremely vocal minority which is either rich enough to spend 5,000 US dollars on recommended Autodesk software and the necessary high end hardware - or is able to spend a tremendous time and afford on learning something like Blender. Within SL it contradicts "competition" agressively, in fact, for it raises the bars for every newbie to get an - even smallest - share in higher quality content creation. The only reason for the mesh crowd to call for Mesh Imports is the dollar sign blinging in their inner eye. A pity that LL listened.

Second Life as a whole does not compete with well crafted games. It cannot, not technically and not by content. And it never did. Complex imported meshes and outstanding looks are NOT what made Second Life successful - and are  NOT what makes a Virtual Reality a Virtual Reality. Comparable venues, like Blue Mars, which exclusively used Mesh, just failed miserably. Anshe allows mesh imports, but extremely restricted, revised and licensed only, same for IMVU. They KNOW why.

The decision to develop a mesh renderer certainly was not a bad one. But allowing almost unrestricted mesh uploads for a not really headache causing price - while burdening the environment with another potential showstopper, while refusing  progress on the much more desired and used in-world tools, is just plain idiocy. A waste of time and one of Linden labs more deadly sins.

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I agree with you there is no massive and immediate need for mesh at the moment, and as your rightfully point out, the learning curve and cost is rather steep. I'd rather see a better avatar mesh first and better animation of the avatar (like fingers/hands).

I also think it must be very clear in the mind of everyone that SecondLife is not a game. If you fall into that crack, you will quickly start making fatal errors. So hopefully the new CEO will be deaf on that ear, regardless of his background.

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Please, please, please make owning land less expensive.  Help those who create in SL make it in SL.  We all thank you for making SL a world we can shape as we wish but I have seen to many wonderful worlds created in SL go away because of the high cost of keeping it going.

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I was not going to say anything more in this thread but I just have to!  It just keeps piling up and piling up!!  I own 1 sim and it takes all I can manage to pay the tier for that one, yesterday it kept going down for no apparent reason certainly wasn't sim overload cause I was the only one there all day.  Called Chat support;  first thing they asked was the name of the sim second thing they asked was did the owner know about the problem I am the owner!  Long pause then he said we will restart your sim in 5 mins and if it keeps happening file a ticket.  The last time I filed a ticket it took 6 weeks for any kind of a response!  I pointed that out and all he could do was to repeat to file a ticket.  Last time I called Chat support they insisted on blaming a third party viewer for what was obviously a glitch problem that lasted one day but managed to create 2 days worth of work for me to fix  .And I won't even mention the problems with Market Place here that is on a whole other thread somewhere else!

Mesh!  well I decided to give it a try; joined the beta testing.  Gave that up in frustration too,  cause my 3D programs do not support the one and only format that is allowed.  What I had to do was to transfer my creations into Blender and change the format there then upload to SL.  It worked one out of 10 times and would not bring any of the original textures with it,  came as a grey object only.  I don't have the time to learn blender and I certainly do not have the cash to buy one of those programs that does support the format for.  So yes this mesh thing is going to become very exlusive as only a handful of creators are going to benefit from it!  Second Life is becoming more and more a have and have not community!  NO wonder folks are leaving!!  I definitely have one foot out the door!

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I'm a part of the crowd calling for mesh, and you know why I do?  It's not "dollar signs" that are "blinging in my eyes".  It's because I, and my colleagues, are being held back from creating a wide variety of amazing, fantastic content that will give people a reason to come see and play in SL.

Prims are too expensive.  Prims have always been too expensive.  Prims will probably always be too expensive to build anything of competitive geometric complexity.

Prims are pretty useful, though.  We love sketching out things in a shared environment with them, and they're relatively versatile.  But prims are not enough, and they're overpriced.

Have a look at my product lineup.  (In-world)  My flagship product is a sculpted battlecarrier starship.  It's 150 meters long, but it's only around 1,500 prims.  Despite the low primcount, it still looks amazing.  You know how I did that?  Megaprims and sculpts.  Megasculpts, in fact.  Megaprims and sculpts are the ONLY reason it was economically viable.  It blows the pants off of people I show IRL.  I tell them "this is what Second Life is capable of," and they now have a reason to take the platform seriously.  When I show them the old 2006-2007 stuff, they think it's a shoddy platform with shoddy graphics that isn't capable of anything interesting.
But sculpts are not enough:
* Sculpts use far too many vertices for most shapes that are represented by them, making them render-inefficient.
* Sculpts have a 1-1 correllation between faces and texture detail.  This means a number of things, including that in order to get sufficient detail, textures must be larger than they would otherwise be; that textures get unreasonably distorted; and that textures cannot effectively be repeating on most sculpts (again, larger textures, longer loading times.)
* Sculpts LoD barely controllably.  This leads to "spiderweb" effects and other LoD visual failures that you've no doubt seen.
* Sculpts require invisible prim collision skeletons for a wide variety of uses, such as my aforementioned battlecarrier.
Sculpts are harder to render.  Sculpts take longer to load.  Sculpts are wasteful for a great many uses, but they are the ONLY way we have to represent complex geometry right now without blowing the prim budget and making the product economically non-viable.
Sculpts enable us to make some seriously cool stuff, but we can do better and we know it.
How about newbies competing in the scripts market?  Well, let me tell you, I and my team are doing things that push the boundaries of what's possible in the platform, and our customers LOVE IT.  I have a *real pathfinding* algorithm automatically moving the fighter docking pads on my starship.  We have external libraries.  We have distributed version control systems.  New to programming?  You probably won't figure that out.  Are we to smash down and limit the complexity allowed in LSL so that new players who have never programmed before can compete with trained software developers with established codebases?  I don't think so.  I think that's the sort of crazy idea that would be like shooting the platform in the foot with a shotgun.
I was a newbie to programming, once.  I was when I came here.  This virtual world is what changed the trajectory of my very life!  I didn't want to be constrained by nasty limits and did everything I could to break through them (without causing lag, of course).  I didn't want to be held back so that those who couldn't understand, or didn't have the time to learn, how to think algorithmically, could succeed.  I went out and I scripted things that hadn't been done before in Second Life, or hadn't been done well before in Second Life.  It took a long time before I broke even, but I could not suppress the raw urge to create.
Look at the current markets in Second Life.  Most of them are already saturated.  To compete in those markets, you already need to know how to sculpt, or need someone on your team that can sculpt.  You need the ability to create custom textures.  Newbies, for the most part, already can't compete in most major Second Life markets.  They have to create or join new or emerging markets.
I joined an emerging market.  That's what it takes if you want to make decent cash via content creation on SL.
If you're a serious business threat in a market that contains builds, you have already learned, or are in the process of learning, to sculpt.
If you haven't yet and you're still managing to be a decent competitor, then you probably have the time to learn how to sculpt.
(There are a few reasons you might still not be able to.  One of my co-workers has a Mac and Blender 2.4x just wasn't ported well for Mac.  But Blender 2.54 fixes that nicely!)
However, if you can already compete by sculpting, you can already do mesh.  Why?
I'm going to let you in on a secret.  Meshing is *easier*, substantially, than sculpting.
Why?
Imagine you are instructed to construct a model of the Eiffel Tower.  You are given two options: balloon animal-style balloons, or clay.
Sculpting is like working with balloons.  Each sculpt is of limited length, and you must pinch it to create the illusion of two separate pieces with a single piece of material.  It's harder to texture it once you've got your model.  Skilled SL sculptors would be like using rubber bands to bind the balloons and exactly the right size of balloon for each piece.
Meshing is more like working with clay.  You add, you subtract.  You can merge things together.  It is much easier to texture, just as it would be easier to paint on clay than on balloons!
So, suppose that you have someone who has been trained with neither clay nor balloons.  Which one would be easier?
I would most definitely say that clay is easier for a newbie because it's more intuitive.  You add, you subtract.
So, which of these will help newbies more easily compete in a saturated market?  Which of these already has faaar, far more tutorials than the other?  Which of these has fewer arbitrary rules?  Which of these is more intuitive to create with, and thus easier to learn?
Mesh, mesh, mesh, mesh.  Coming from sculpting, mesh is very empowering.
Have you even tried Blender 2.54?  It's far, far easier than Blender 2.4x.  And now, with the Machinimatrix.org video tutorials that have been out for many months, almost anyone that is willing to can learn to use Blender.
Now, let's talk a bit about why Blue Mars hasn't been as successful:
* Heavy engine.  This is the single biggest weakness of the entire Blue Mars platform.  I have a decent PC, and it was just chugging.  I couldn't even bring the other members of my team there because their hardware is pretty old.  This severely limits the number of possible players, which leads it to get utterly wallopped by the next one:
* Network Effect.  SL has significantly more content and users already here, with emotional or financial commitments.
* No in-world build tools.  Thus, no easy ability for users to tweak creations and make them more their own.  Let me tell you, I am a big believer in users being able to tweak their creations.  I sell all products mod-on-prims.
* Awkward UI.  Maybe this changed, but I felt constrained in the Blue Mars world by the UI.
* Low agent update rate makes physics-based play either expensive (host own server) or practically impossible.
* Windows only.  Two of my team are on Macs.  Deal breaker.
* LL released mesh beta.  Previously, one of the key competitive advantages of Blue Mars over SL was that Blue Mars actually believed in industry-standard dev tools and that SL seemed like it never, ever would.  My team and I forsaw a long, slow, overpriced death as the platform lost momentum due to dramatic dev feature stagnation.  That, and the turbulence from the CEO thing, were why we were considering Blue Mars in the first place!  Well, LL wised up and changed the equation.  We see that they're now committed to actually improving and advancing the dev abilities on the platform.
Second Life as a whole *does* compete with well crafted games, because those compete for SL users' time.  So, graphics matter.  Scripted abilities matter.  Limits *matter*.
As a result, development tools matter.  LL cannot afford to implement powerful mesh direct manipulation tools in the client.  But they can do something that allows them to take advantage of *years* of software development along that angle by others.  They can support mesh import.  They can put Second Life on a competitive graphics footing with more modern environments.  It doesn't have to support normal maps, specular maps, et cetera.  But it *does* have to show that SL is a serious platform that supports serious tools, not just limited proprietary stuff.
The Mesh beta shows that.  It shows me that the platform is /not/ stagnant, that my chains /will/ be unbound, and that overpriced, render-wasteful stuff that kills client FPS while users and developers lose interest and leave is not the fate we are all doomed to.

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Here here!  Great post Agent,  you really lay it all out clearly.  I'm not a mesh developer but everything I've heard about mesh is that it will be a win-win situation for everyone.  Content creators,  game players, and Linden Lab will all benefit.  I think I need to learn to use blender 2.54 !!

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I am not trying to be antagonistic so please do not take this the wrong way. I spend a great deal of time in SL. Searching for land to buy/sell/trade. I make items for my own consumption and to give as gifts. I try to socialize with others when possible. I have entered trouble tickets and had mixed response times but always seem to get the important ones done in short order. So I took a few moments to go to your market. In all fairness to LL, given the recent attacks of sims, increased demand for Linden homes and the priority given to get new members of the population moving, I have to admit that getting your binkie business going for something that may in fact be a problem of your own making, does not sound like a top priority to me. Exactly what kind of support do you need to give some one who bought a binkie? Again, not to be antagonistic, but your blog points sound like you are providing the VW equivelant of pacemakers.

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No offense taken at all but let me tell you what I have accomplished with a "pacifier" here on SL.

 

My Key To My Heart pacifier was number 13 out of 790,000 items on xstreet ( thats what it was called at the time ) on valentimes 2009, my group currently has 1032 loyal customers that will only buy what I produce and I've been paid 10K a pop to produce custom original works.

I build everything myself, I script everything from hand and not meshed up scripts, i created all the animations myself and while a pacifier may not be important to you or anyone else, its the niche I've made here in Second Life and have become respected for the hard work to produce these.

Currently my revision of 5.0 scripts atre over 5000 lines of scripted code all created by me, when i release a product i can crash a sim due to the response and just recently i was paid 70K to produce a custom "Infant Awareness" pacifier to help raise awareness for people who have lost thier children at birth.

This is something I have created and take pride in as a business and to be honest, how I got into it I don't remember, but the Binkeeze branding has become a very popular product in SL and it's something I enjoy creating and just as people are loyal to the products I make, I'm just as loyal to them when it comes to customer service.

Thanks

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That is a masterly and informative post Agent. Well done! Thank you for laying out the case in favour of introducing mesh to Sl out so clearly, and in such detail. I understand the situation much better than I did previously in regard to why it should be implemented.  Sl will clearly be transformed when it arrives. I can't wait to see what designers such as yourself do with it in regards to objects and avatar skins. And by all reports, as it is adopted on a wide scale, it should also considerably improve SL performance. Bring it on!

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LL already knows that we need mesh. They're working on it. You don't have to tell them that we need mesh, they know it.  The real problem is that it's going to be only on viewer 2. That's what you need to complain about, because all the people not using viewer 2 will be unable to see meshes. LL needs to go back to the viewer everyone else is using.

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Sure, they KNOW we need mesh..

They KNEW we need "Viewer 2" (The people KNOW that it is unusable and this shows in numbers),

They knew a LOT of things, all of which caused SL not only to stagnate but shrink. If they proceed with KNOWING what´s best for the sheep the sheep will simply go elswhere, to a place where they are not considered being sheeps, nor rats in a not working test lab.

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