19 March 2015

LL says "we know what's best for you!"

Inara Pey posted a very good rundown of Ebbe Altberg's comments on SL:TNG at VWBPE 2015. There's nothing really new there, but Altberg did come flat out and say what LL had danced around before:
We have stated that we’re not planning for our client, at least for the beginning – and possibly never, but never say never -, but we’re not starting with it being open-source.
I can certainly understand why they're doing it, but it doesn't speak well for their openness to NIH ("not invented here") ideas on the new platform. Basically, they're saying "we know what's best for you, so shut up and eat your Brussels sprouts".

We've been here before. Remember Viewer 2? Yeah, me too. There's a reason that Firestorm has the overwhelming majority of users on Second Life, and Viewer 3 (the descendant of Viewer 2) is in third place: LL's viewer does not fail to suck. Users told LL all about that, loud and long - and LL didn't back off and didn't listen.

I'm sure LL has a vision for SL:TNG. I'm sure it's great stuff, working equally well on platforms from the iPhone to the Nexus 9 to the PC/Mac to Oculus Rift to...you name it. I'm equally sure it, like every software system, is designed with a specific usage style in mind. Programmers develop software with a mental model of how it is supposed to work and how users are expected to use it. No matter how hard they try not to, they can't help it.

Those mental models are very difficult for a programmer - or a system architect - to overcome as he works, and yet they're the first thing to go by the wayside when actual users start to use the system. Just like no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, no software system survives contact with users intact. This is the way of the software world. A wise system architect takes that into account, and designs systems with maximum flexibility for different usage styles and patterns and needs.

LL's track record in this regard, not to put too fine a point on it, sucks rancid pond water. Why? Because they have a terrible record when it comes to listening to what their users have to tell them.

In an ideal world, there would be little need for a Firestorm, let alone room for it to demonstrably become users' favorite viewer. That's because, in an ideal world, LL would implement the capabilities of the viewer that users want and need themselves.

As I said, I can understand LL's hostility to the idea of SL:TNG being open source. When it comes to SL, LL is in a very unenviable position for a business: they do not control their own platform. They can't make significant changes to it without getting viewer developers - a bunch of unpaid volunteers who have other things to be doing with their time - to line up behind changes. No business wants to be in that position, and most businesses can't afford to be there for very long. In fairness, the only way LL was going to regain control of their platform was to do exactly what they're doing.

This is the nightmare scenario that LL, at least in their own minds, cannot afford to repeat with SL:TNG. If I trusted them to actually listen to their users when we tell LL what we want and need, it wouldn't bother me very much. The problem is that I don't and neither does anyone else. Can you see LL doing the equivalent of RLV in SL:TNG? Me either.

And that's the problem. They don't understand that there are people whose use cases for the platform do not match what their intentions are for it. Yeah, they'll probably accommodate furry avatars. (And the folks who can get in early with good stuff will do well. But Maya, LL? A 3D modeling program that's hideously expensive and has a reputation of being even harder to use than Blender?! Forget about user-created content...) But the adult BDSM community, for example, can go whistle.

Make no mistake, there's lots to like about what Ebbe laid out for SL:TNG. A new avatar skeleton and base that fails to suck is a welcome advance. C# as a scripting language is a sensible choice, if not the choice I'd make. (I'm a Python bigot.) (And to the guy who claimed on Inara's blog that LSL is a functional, fourth generation language: What are you smoking and where can I get some?) An emphasis on new user discoverability is a good thing, to draw people in and keep them. Scalability is immensely important. And the change in emphasis in revenue generation from tier to sales taxes is imperative.

Still, there's a big gaping hole in LL's plans, labeled "user direction for the platform". LL's not going to hand over control to outsiders. But there has to be a happy medium there somewhere. I'm disappointed they're not even trying to find it.

1 comment:

  1. Well in the opensource world you do not like it then change it. No one owns you.
    I could spend weeks picking apart firestorm but why. I could hale kokua as a true 64 rebuild of the linden lab libraries but why. So Tonya when you all going to get FS to build with the latest boost. And why did you all suck up to the USESYSTEMLIB it only broke everyones fork. Thanks. Anything else like libpng 16 or how about actually fixing your boost on on on. hey Firestorm good stuff but the last release is a pig so bad that. That I had to do the fixes and merges from snow storm so it would not grind to a hault. C# is a crap language it always will be. Oh but that's my opinion. Is there any other LL you want to complain about.

    That said your work on the 64 bit firestorm has been wonderful. And I have watched your wonderful giving of the viewer. But why did you not follow what Monty linden was doing omg he laid it out simple as could be. Thats why your 64 bit build is broken . And you want to explain why your webkit in the 32 bit build does not match the LL prebuilt even when your autobuild.xml says it is. I guess FS just stuffs what ever it wants into the viewer and says something else. How about rebuilding your libraries like Kokua did and fix your boost build and bring that mixed up viewer up to par.
    FS has some of the best tools no doubt I mean that xml pig is a nightmare to merge and maintain. And if you know anything about machine language you would know C is much better than C# That's a proven fact.
    As for OZ and LL they never did want the user to have it there way they want it LL way. Fired most of them the first year I started reading client request. Put his butt right back with his little MIT twirps.
    But to say the Snowstorm is not a good viewer your wrong snowstorm is a stable work horse and you all use it everyday and with out it you would have had nothing.
    You want to look at a nightmare look at how well you all did with keeping up with snowglobe that was a joke. The only reason phenoix or firestorm viewers have users is because you all listen it sure is not stability.
    Now your opensim work has been the best and right now it seems to do
    oh but that is my build not FS build