• 31Aug

    I’ve been plotting and scheming and laboring for the past month on a new project. Those of you who have heard me hinting darkly of a grand manifesto and giggling maniacally in the dead of the night — now you’ll find out why.

    From the Imprudence Blog:

    Imprudence is (or rather, will be) a major fork of the open source Second Life Viewer. Our aim is to greatly improve the usability of the Viewer through community involvement, thoughtful design, modern development methods, and a pro-change atmosphere.

    Why are we doing this? Because we, the Second Life Residents, need a better Viewer, and Linden Lab isn’t getting it done — not fast enough, anyway.

    I’m sure they’re trying. They have made some modest improvement. But they are faced with intractable obstacles that block them from making real progress: a lack of resources, an overloaded QA process, and a large established user base who are, on the whole, sullenly content with the way things are — and tend to resist any change.

    Those are tough problems, and I don’t foresee Linden Lab being able to get past them any time soon. Rather than continue to push against these obstacles with little to show for it, I’ve decided to carve another path. A community project has its own obstacles, but they are obstacles that we can overcome. They are obstacles we can act against for ourselves, instead of sitting on our hands waiting for someone else to act for us.

    Go on and read the full post and our manifesto.

    I have high hopes for this project. It has been a long time coming, and there are a lot of people dissatisfied with the current viewer. If you’re one of them, get involved in the project and help us make it better!

  • 30Aug

    Virtual Ability Island

    I had the opportunity to attend a presentation today by Louise Later, who demonstrated two scripted objects, still in development, designed to help people with limited or no vision enjoy Second Life. Given that many sighted people find Second Life challenging to use, one can only imagine the unique difficulties of using it without visual feedback!

    The objects — your choice of mobility cane or guide dog — use repurposed sensor and warp scripts to let users navigate and learn about their Second Life surroundings without any visual feedback. The sensor script can scan the surroundings for objects and avatars and output their names into your chat history, where EVA (an SL-specific screen reader) will then read them aloud to you, allowing you to hear a list of everything around you. The warp script can move you to an object or person, or move you through a series of locations (e.g. orientation displays). It can also continuously follow another avatar, perfect for getting a tour of the world from a sighted friend!

    Louise told us that a core team of seven programmers, many of them blind* themselves, have developed the scripts, supported by Virtual Ability. They’re looking for additional help (especially more scripters) so if you’re interested in volunteering a bit of your time to a worthwhile and rather interesting cause, send an IM to Louise Later in SL!

    * Update 2008-09-07: Louise informs me that only one programmer is totally blind, while she herself is legally blind. But, almost everyone in the group is disabled in some way.

    The cane and guide dog objects are available for free at Wheelies. Virtual Ability runs Virtual Ability island, a beautiful tropical island sim with a thorough SL orientation tutorial (with both written signs and audio information!), and the famous Heron Sanctuary.

  • 22Jul

    IYan Writer made an interesting post about (among other things) the lack of a mythos of Second Life.

    In the days of my newbiehood, I heard tell of the legend of Gridnor and the coming of Lagnarok. But even in those days, the old stories were all but forgotten, and only the elders spoke of them.

    In those days, the Linden gods stopped walking freely among us. The most ungrateful Residents would spurn the Linden gods and curse their names, just as they do today. Only the stalwart Liasons — who were half god, half mortal — mingled among us.

    But those days were the days of legend, of the rise of new heroes and villains!

    Starax the magician and his wand of infinite wonder, who left our world but was reborn. Anshe the merchant-queen, shrewd and cunning, with an unquenchable thirst for riches. Tateru the goddess and overseer, who even now walks among us, bestowing her wisdom on all who will listen. Gene Replacement the trickster, who stole from the gods the gift of megaprims, but paid for his sins with eternal banishment. Ordinal the inventor, who then, as now, crafted marvels for the delight of young and old.

    There are many, many others legends; too many to recall every one. IYan refers you to the book of Hamlet for more stories of the old days. (Hamlet himself being one of the legends of those and earlier days.)

    But, just as with the legends of Gridnor and Lagnarok, these stories now fade into history. The elders move on to other worlds without ceremony, and the young remain ignorant of our heritage. The old heroes are no longer revered, and the new heroes are too often missed, being but tiny gemstones in a vast desert of sand.

    Or perhaps I have merely become one of the elders, who speak in longful whispers of the legends of their youth, being set in our ways and unable to see the next generation of legends unfolding beneath our very noses.

  • 30Jun

    I’ve submitted my entry to Dusan’s interface contest, so now I want to take the opportunity to open it up for discussion, feedback, and critique.

    Concept image for the overall user interface.

    My design proposes:

    • Reworking the bottom toolbar to be collapsible and customizable, and to feature chat, IM, voice, and friends list more prominently.
    • Reorganizing the main menus to be less intimidating and more logically-grouped.
    • Several enhancements to the Inventory floater:
      • “Favorites” and “Worn” item tabs.
      • Quick filter selection box to easily filter items by type.
      • Various enhancements to the right click menu.

    The design document is available online, with purty pictures for your enjoyment.

    Feedback and critique about the design are welcome!

  • 18Jun

    I received an interesting comment from someone last night. He said that his first impression of me, from reading this blog, was that I was an “angry SL pessimist”. You know the type: no matter what happens in SL, they’ll bitch and moan about it.

    Thankfully, he said that further reading had improved his impression, and I explained to him that the reason many of my posts are critical of LL, is because the things that get me riled up enough to write about are often things LL has done which I strongly disagree with. So, my blog only reflects the extremes; the other stuff doesn’t get blogged.

    In an interesting and related occurance, my friend Goldie Katsu tweeted a link to an article by Louis Gray, The Five Stages of Early Adopter Behavior. (You might want to go read it now, or at least skim the bold headings.)

    Continue reading »

  • 06Jun

    Comparison of Blender and SL poses

    It’s done! I am pleased to present to you, SL Animation for Blender Newbs. It’s 6 pages long, with pictures. It might take you maybe 30 minutes or so to follow along, I’m guessing. If you have any feedback (e.g. suggestions or praise), leave a comment on any of the pages.


    Tags: , ,

  • 02Jun

    Comparison of Blender and SL poses

    A new revision (2008-06-02) of the Animation Exporter is available. This revision is mostly UI changes to improve usability, especially for new users who have not mastered Blender’s UI yet. The new layout will also scale better to different screen sizes.

    [Update Dec 15: PLEASE NOTE: If you get an error about a missing pickle, you will need to install Python.]

    Here’s the revision log:

    • Changed window layout to be grouped more logically.
    • Panel headers are now at the top, as is standard in most UIs.
    • Moved the button toolbar to the Tweaking screen (Ctrl-Right).
    • Minor UI tweaks to the exporter script.
    • Auto-key is enabled by default. [Edit: Apparently this setting doesn't save with the file, so you'll have to enable it yourself.]
    • Removed mesh UV maps and materials to reduce file size.

    And a snapshot of the main view. Click to enlarge:

    Screenshot of the default view when the scene is loaded in Blender.


    P.S. I still deny that I’m maintaining this thing, despite all evidence. :P


  • 01Jun

    I don’t envy Linden Lab’s situation. Try to dodge the self-serving politicians and reporters nipping at your heels, and the Residents bring out the pitchforks and torches. It’s an impossible job, so it’s no wonder they’re doing so poorly at it. I’d have plenty of sympathy for Linden Lab. I really would.

    Except that they put themselves in this situation.

    Second Life is under external pressure because of a number of misconceptions (some more misconceived than others) that exist among the general public — the misconceptions perpetuated by the commercial media because they sell well: Sex. Weird sex! Lots of weird, kinky sex online! And kids?! What’s going on in this sick, perverted online haven of creeps and pedophiles?! Read all about it! Throw in a few politicians eager to prove that they’re “thinking of the children” on an election year, and you’ve got a lot of (self-)important people with a professional interest in painting an exaggerated, sordid picture of Second Life.

    The natural alliance here would be between Linden Lab and the Residents, based on the common interest in making sure Second Life survives, against the external forces that threaten it. Linden and the Resident, hand in hand, making a better, freer world, in the face of opposition. A beautiful image, no?

    Would that it were so. But Linden Lab, it seems, doesn’t want its Residents anymore. It doesn’t want a free, open, creative world. It wants a sanitized, media-friendly world, that universities and big corps won’t think twice about making major investments in. LL’s message for Residents now is: Thanks for making us so popular, but go away now. You’re embarrassing us in front of the cool kids.

    Continue reading »

  • 30May

    Just when the trademark issue started to fade away from public consciousness, Linden Lab has provided us with an even bigger fish. Continuing Linden Lab’s campaign to strangle your inner child, it seems from all evidence that Dusty, Everett, and/or other Lindens are stepping in and barring the SL Kids community from participating in, and possibly even attending, Second Life’s 5th Birthday celebration.

    For the uninitiated, the SL Kids are RL adults who express their inner child in Second Life, donning a child-like avatar, laughing, playing, and letting the worries and cares of adult life slip away.

    For some reason, some people find it disturbing that a grown adult might find it enjoyable to relive their childhood. Even more strangely, many of the people who decry child-like play have no objection to adults (or even actual children) pretending to shoot each other, chop each others’ heads off, run each other over, or any of the other themes that are so prevalent in video games and movies these days.

    Rampant violence? That’s fine. Hopscotch? My god, we have to put a stop to that!

    Continue reading »

  • 03May

    Background: Linden Lab has announced that they are planning to implement a system where search results can be flagged as mature, prohibited, spam, or worthy of being showcased.

    I’m quite glad to see that some of the Lindens have started to give some heads up about their plans. The “surprise announcements” on the blog come off as arrogant and aloof (“Feedback? We don’t need your stinking feedback!”), and the suddenness of the announcements also triggers an instinctive opposition to change, the gut feeling people get when suddenly presented with something they don’t have the time or information to understand.

    So, these advance notices are a step in the right direction. However — and this makes me quite sad — very few of the pre-announced systems undergo any significant changes before they are rolled out, even in the face of legitimate criticism (setting aside the usual wall of bitching and moaning).

    Continue reading »

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