Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Oz Linden at the SL12B

By Bixyl Shuftan

On Monday at 1PM SL time, Oz Linden spoke to an audience at the SL12B Auditorium about his experiences in Second Life. He was interviewed by Saffia Widdershins of "Designing Worlds," and Jessica Lyon, the head of Team Firestorm, Saffia asking most of the questions.

When asked bout what he did before Second Life, Oz answered that he did a number of jobs related to communications and the Internet, hs last job doing "voice-overs" for IP Phone systems. which he called educational, but not as much fun as Second Life. When asked if it was less challenging, Oz remarked "that depends" as with the voice-over, he could just do things with a phone call while with Second Life, not always, "Here I get to do things, people get to create all kinds of crazy ... unpredictable things."

He described his coming to Second Life as he was interested in a fun set of challenges and a fun environment to work in. Asking someone at the Lab if there was anything interesting going on, as it turned out, Linden Lab's Vice President of Engineering was trying to get someone in a certain position at the Lab, and he was hired. He described his role as having "evolved" from there, eventually ending up where he is now, "Mostly I manage what's going on."

When his job was compared to "herding cats," Oz laughed, saying he'd probably have more control over cats, "actually, I have a terrific team." He explained the engineers were there because they wanted to work in Second Life and found the work challenging, "It's a great team to work with."

Jessica commented it must be a challenge balancing new features that work across all platforms. Oz responded, "That's definatley an issue." He commented people sometimes give him ideas that they feel would work well, but it turns out they would only for about five percent of the residents and degrade the expereince for everyone else. When commented that everything done has an impact, Oz answered, "That's certainly true. Anything we do, we can count on some people liking it, many people being indiferent, and some people disliking it." Oz commented the number of complements and complaints was a motivation, "their level of intensity means they care about the product we're working on ... it's no fun to build something no one cares about." Oz was happy to be working on Second Life, and couldn't imagine working on anything else.

Oz mentioned that "We'll be bringing out some terrific nre features and changes that the users are really going to like." Jessica commented from her experiences earlier as a Third Party viewer developer that it could sometimes be hit or miss in what features would be popular for users. She asked Oz if the Lindens get discouraged when they come out with a new feature and the response is flat? Oz answered, "No, I don't think so." He did acknowledge that it could be a challenge for the residents to understand why the Lindens do what they do, "I don't think there have been any ... early in my tenure at he Lab that have been very unpopular, except for those that cause a performance problem."

It was about this point that Oz crashed, getting a few chuckles from the audience about the seemingly all powerful Lindens crashing like everyone else. But he soon came back. Oz remarked that this was one thing that he found very challenging, having come from a field "where if you only have 99.999 reliability, your product is junk." Whereas in Second Life, while people complained about the crashes, they were more or less accepted as part of the Second Life experience, "I've always worked in worlds where crashing 1% of the time is disastrous, and here I am in a world where the best crash rates are much higher. It's very challenging." The Lindens themselves, Oz explained, were not taking this acceptance as a reason not to improve the crash rate, "none of us thinks it's okay just because the viewers ... " Someone suggested that the tolerance was because many Second Life residents had memories of the dial-up days of the Internet in which getting on and getting anywhere could sometimes take a while. Oz commented, "That's an interesting theory."

Of the projects he's worked on, Oz felt one of his favorites were the Windlight settings. He commented in the official viewer, the default was to use region settings, "I've got quite a list of things that ought to be part of ... settings." When asked if they could get the light differently at different levels in a sim, such as sunrise on the ground and Midnight in the skybox, Oz didn't think they would be doing that, at least not anytime soon. He stated there were several reasons for that. When asked if the day and night cycle could be made into a 24 hour one instead of about every four hours, Oz answered "Maybe," but he couldn't say when, saying the cycles were currernly "bakes in." He did say it would make things easier for him in some ways, bringing up inworld meetings, "I would like it whenever I hold it to be daytime."

"I run the development team," Oz stated, "beneath and around us is the operations team. They're the ones who really keep it going. We're the ones who change it every now and then." The operations team had to take care of "thousands and thousands" of simulators, "they do an amazing job." He talked about "just the other day" when they were rolling in new software on a rack of servers when there was a "catastrophic failure. ... a whole rack of stuff went down, and Second Life users did not notice." Jessica commented things had changed a lot since the old days when the Grid had to be taken offline when there was an update.

When asked if he used a non-Linden avatar, Oz stated almost all the time he spent inworld was as Oz Linden. He went on to say that employees of Linden Lab besides the Linden avatar also get a premium one, but he had forgotten the password to it. But he did have an ordinary one from "a few years" before he joined the company, "I use that one for testing when I need another avatar." He commented when he started, he seemed to get more anxious responses from the residents than he does now. He wasn't sure if that meant a change in the population, or if residents were more relaxed. He had been going around "as Brad Pitt with a flak jacket," and these days people are generally excited to see him.

When asked about any hobbies, Oz Linden did say that he had tried the Linden Realms game. He had also tried some one the games that the residents had come up with, though didn't say which ones. He did say he didn't have any building skills, adding when he was setting up his account, he handled the appearance part of the process to his son, "make this somewhat like me."

When asked about if there was anything upcoming he was looking forward to, he commented, "I'm going to leave most of the leaking to Ebbe, he seems to enjoy it." He stated there would be some experiences handed out that people should enjoy, though it would take some time. There were also other projects, "genuinely new stuff for Second Life. ... I'm not giving any hints though, we are working with some residents."

When asked if he had anything to do with the new grid in development, Oz commented he has a tendency "to ignore what foes on Project Sansar ... unless it's an all hands company meeting," saying they generally have some announcement about it then.

When asked if he intended to stay in his "current role," Oz commented, "I have no plans to change, I love my current role." He stated he wasn't much of a job hopper, but also, "this one's the most fun I've had in a long time."

Following that were some questions from the audience. These included the new Grid, "We'll see if in the end they manage to outdo everything we have in Second Life." Issues with Windows, such as support for XP discontinued after Microsoft no longer would, and testing Windows 10 for eventually support for that later, as the official viewer was "not officially supporting it just yet." When asked if the official viewer would soon have a 64 bit option,

Oz answered "at some point, I will try to carve out some resources. He did have one bit of advice for residents. He commented better memory for graphics would be better for the Second Life experience than a graphics card. It was at this point Oz crashed again, "You jinxed him Jess."

After Oz came back, he was asked if Linden Lab was working on it's own streaming version of Second Life with SL Go discontinued. Oz answered, "actually when SL go was shutting now, we had some discussions about whether we could pick up a streaming interface." But as one or two more companies seemed to be "making a go at it," they decided to wait and see. It was his observation that although this was intended for tablets, those who used SL Go to improve the performance on older computers, "that was the real loyal audience."

It was soon after that it was time for the discussion to end. "Thank you Oz for joining us," Saffia told him. Oz answered, "It was a lot of fun."

Chakat Northspring of Team Firestorm would later upload a video of the event. As of the writing of this article, no transcript was available.

(Click here if the video fails to play)

Bixyl Shuftan

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