Town Hall with Chris and Karen Linden
Topic: Development and Project Management
Jeska Linden: I'd also like to ask those who have joined us here in person to please hold down the noise and offers of friendship until after the meeting as it can be distracting.
Jeska Linden: We will start with some questions previously posted in the forums and then move to a general Q and A -when you will be able to send questions over to me!
Jeska Linden: Chris, go head!
Chris Linden: Thanks Jeska!
Chris Linden: HI Everyone!,
Chris Linden: Before we begin answering questions, I would like to explain briefly what our new development methodology is.
Chris Linden: As most of you know, our development team is larger than it has ever been.
Chris Linden: This larger size actually caused us to have significant problems with the 1.7 publish, because everyone’s features were interacting with each other. Another problem was scheduling
Chris Linden: Features would be finished at different times; a developer would be tempted to start on another feature while waiting for his peers to finish theirs. This just increased the complexity of when to start testing and therefore publishing 1.7
Chris Linden: The goal of changing or development method is to get back to the speed and agility inherent in 3 to 4 developers working closely on a single feature or project.
Chris Linden: To achieve this goal, we decided to move towards a team-based development approach. A team is comprised of roughly from 2 to 5 employees, including mostly developers but also compromised of testers, content, community, marketing folks.
Chris Linden: Each team is tasked with working on a single feature. A feature that the team completes, merges with the current production code, tests, and releases independently of all other teams.
Chris Linden: The code is released when everyone, developers, testers, and project manager are confident that it is functioning as designed with no major or critical issues. Our first team operating under this method is almost ready to go out the door.
Chris Linden: As most of you know now, the upcoming 1.8 release, otherwise known as the P2P release, will be the first major release using this new development method. Our development method is why 1.8 contains only one major feature.
Chris Linden: Thanks for your patience, now to the questions!
Oerbewustzijn Archer: thx
Jeska Linden: Send your questions over to me (Jeska Linden) in IM please!
Jeska Linden: Travis Lambert: Q: Any plans to work on expanded "Mute" functions - such as to stop rendering on all objects owned by a specifc AV, or muting chat on a parcel level? 1.8 maybe?
Karen Linden: I can answer that question
Karen Linden: As Chris just mentioned, we are not going to be putting much more into 1.8 than P2P
Karen Linden: (and of course new ripple water!)
Karen Linden: so the answer is really no to that. HOWEVER, During the first quarter of 2006, we will be working on several ways to add tools for land owners of all types to improve the Second Life experience.
Karen Linden: We know there there are lots of things that land owners want, and we're working on a way to deliver that functionality
Karen Linden: so, Travis, look for changes coming soon
Karen Linden: we will be expanding our support for land owners of all type. It may be that parcel changes come later than whole-estate changes, though.
Karen Linden: but we have these issues in mind specifically to be addressed by those projects.
Chris Linden: Jeffrey Gomez asks Is there a particular science to how new features are assigned and prioritized? I ask this because there's been much speculation on just "how important" areas like Feature Suggestions, voting, and the General forum are in terms of get
Jeska Linden: Please be sure to keep it down everyone, we're discussing projct management at LL.
Chris Linden: Good question, as it goes to the very heart of how we operate as a company. In general, we use a loose collection of associations to determine a projects priority.
Chris Linden: Included in those associations are (in no particular order): how critical an issue is to the continued operation of Second Life, the projects affect on our revenues,
Chris Linden: how many people within Linden Lab think it’s a critical project, the complexity and length of a project, and how many residents have voted on an issue.
Chris Linden: I probably missed a few other qualitative areas as well. So essentially we throw all these things into the proverbial pot and pull out what we all believe is a rational sort order.
Chris Linden: When some of us disagree, we debate it until a majority agree on the sort order.
Chris Linden: 2. Furthermore, how do changes happen in terms of the Preview Grid/Patching process? When talking with Andrew over a collision problem, he had mentioned "he had put in a request, but it didn't get into the main dev trunk." I'm curious what he meant by th
Chris Linden: I’m not sure what exactly what issue your describing, but using the process above, the issue in question was probably out prioritized by a number of other issues.
Chris Linden: Therefore, it wasn’t deemed to be in the current set of issues we are trying to resolve.
Chris Linden: Dyne Talamasca asks: In the face of the increased frequency of updates you mentioned, would it be possible to change the SL client update system to a true patcher, one that only downloads what it needs to alter in situ, and only for the files that have a
Chris Linden: actually changed?
Chris Linden: Almost anything is possible.
Chris Linden: We’ve spoken about this a number of times; however, given the relatively small download (compared to some 600+ games demo downloads) this isn’t currently a priority.
Chris Linden: Gwyneth Llewelyn asks: Are you willing to provide us with a rough timeline of what features are planned in store for upcoming releases?
Chris Linden: No, as I mentioned, we release features when they are ready.
Chris Linden: I am willing to share with you what we are working on: The largest group of developers is working on making sure all these new residents don’t cause the grid to fail
Chris Linden: another group is just finishing P2P and will be going back onto Havok2 after that is done.
Chris Linden: We have other groups working on trying to improve the land buying experience, HTML, Mono, client and server stability
Chris Linden: Lastly, and most importantly, we have a rotating group working on Second Life maintenance: bug fixing and small incremental improvements.
Chris Linden: Ferran Brodsky asks My question is, as seems to be happening with P2P and possible permission changes, will future feature changes be driven by how loudly people demand the change, or is there an overall plan which balances enacting changes with positive
Chris Linden: positive/negative impact on usability?
Chris Linden: All changes we make are made because we believe they will have positive impact on usability or improving Second Life.
Chris Linden: As I mentioned previously, demand from our residents is only one vector by which we decided how to move forward.
Chris Linden: User requests alone, unsupported by any other reason or logic, would not be sufficient for us to implement a feature.
Chris Linden: Generally speaking however, user request are normally quite good, and thus are seriously considered.
Chris Linden: Alan Kiesler asks: Would it be possible to have LL post a 'project status' page available to Residents, at minimum for the higher visibility ones like Havok 2 or HTML?
Chris Linden: There is no need to be specific in dates or some such, just giving out even some details of what's holding the project would be useful.
Chris Linden: An example of this actually is Babbage's weblog posts on Mono. Finding that quite useful, and making me feel hopeful for that project as well.
Chris Linden: At the core of your request is to have more visibility into what is going on inside Linden Lab.
Chris Linden: That is only natural and understandable.
Chris Linden: I’m not sure we realistically and logistically have the resources to do as you requested.
Chris Linden: However, the project management team is trying to work more closely to community to get updates on our activies out on a more regular, such as this town hall!
Jeska Linden: Wagahai Oddfellow: Regarding development, at one point it appeared that a mini-instant messenger version of SL was going to be available, any update on this? (ie: PDA/phone or even a thin-client IM-only for machines that can't get the graphical interface
Chris Linden: We have no current plans to implement a mini version of SL.
Robin Linden: Chavo Raven: What can script writers expect in the near future. We've been hearing about the change to Mono for a long time now?
Robin Linden: Also, what is planned for content creators ? Things like fixing the bugs when uploading animations ?
Chris Linden: Script writers shouldn't expect any majors changes in the near future
Chris Linden: Our plan with the first stage of mono is to have it run alongside LSL
Chris Linden: Providing a nice easy path for migration
Chris Linden: next question please
Robin Linden: nimrod Yaffle: Is there any possibilty of adding an invisible AV feature within 1.8? Or even in a certian timeline? nimrod Yaffle: (Such as showing them offline, making them untrackable, etc.)
Chris Linden: 1.8 is more or less locked and loadd. it isn't getting anymore features. Furthermore, invisible AV's have all sorts of privacy issues.
Robin Linden: Phoenix McGann: I would like a go backwards through previous locations option. A bit like in explorer using backspace
Robin Linden: fuzzy Gorilla: i have a question can u guys make a way if u dont wana b bothered can u make the ppl on your list not b able 2 map u if u then u can let them map u again latter
Karen Linden: I understand that the idea of a "back" button for SL locations is appealling
Robin Linden: Gabriel Sullivan: Alright third time lucky. I am curious if there are any plans to allow for grouping friends and then being able to show as unavailable to a specific group if desired. The intent would be to cut down on IM spam for popular folk in thier
Chris Linden: More presense options are currently in design. We understand the desire for such features. thank you for your suggestion.
Karen Linden: that sounds like a good idea for a feature voting proposition, but I can't respond to that here, unfortunately.
Chris Linden: Next question please
Karen Linden: Pyrii: you are referring to Havok2 updates?
Karen Linden: of course, we always strive to improve performance!
Robin Linden: Tashie Oddfellow: is there a chance that instant messaging can be time stamped and are we going to be able to toggle on/off group chats so we dont have to leave them to not see what's being said
Karen Linden: pyrii -- sorry, technical difficulty here
Karen Linden: Pyriii: we are looking into some issues with viewer FPS drops
Karen Linden: pyrii: I hope to post an update to the Technical Forums with more information on that before the end of the day
Chris Linden: Tashie, sounds like a great proposition for the voting tool
Karen Linden: Pyrii: if you are seeing lots of CPU usage
Karen Linden: that genrally comes from texture decoding
Karen Linden: we use CPU to decode textures that have been doownloaded to the viewer
Karen Linden: if you are in an area with lots of textures, you may find SL using lots of CPU
Karen Linden: we are working on improving texture issues shoon
Karen Linden: *soon
Karen Linden: and I will discuss that in my next Technical Issues forum post
Robin Linden: Prokofy Neva: Q: How can you possibly consider valid a voting system that will not allow people to vote NO against proposals, that allows for alts and for others to sign on accounts, and that is flash-mobbed by vested interests?
Chris Linden: Great question. Unfortunately, no voting system is perfect.
Chris Linden: Between having no voting system at all vs. having a simple one, I think the right answer is to have something.
Chris Linden: The amount of votes indicates to us the general acceptance of a feature.
Chris Linden: Remember, voting alone for a feature alone isn't sufficient to get a feature added. It?s the totality of information around a feature that we use to decide how to proceed.
Robin Linden: Web Page: With P2P, will land owners be able to block their land? Also, will there be any additional privacy features?
Karen Linden: Web Page: We are implementing the abillity for parcel owners to block P2P to their parcels
Karen Linden: Web Page: so yes, we are taking extra steps to help ensure privacy.
Karen Linden: Web Page: however, it will be up to parcel owners to administer this -- P2P will be on by default.
Chris Linden: New accounts are a problem for the grid in so much as our current user number goes up.
Chris Linden: We recently passed four thousand concurrent users and are on track to passing five thousand.
Robin Linden: Please keep in mind that the discussion is about the changes we're making to the development process.
Robin Linden: This will mean smaller, faster releases.
Chris Linden: Unfortunately, while great for second life, this welcome increase in numbers is putting strains on the grid.
Robin Linden: If you have questions about features, we can schedule another meeting
Chris Linden: This just means we have to have a few developers at all times working on the next bottleneck that we have identified.
Jeska Linden shouts: Does anyone else have any question abuot the process of proect management and developer that we use at LL? :)
Chris Linden: Not at this time. Our last major change to attachements was the addtion of the HUD.
Robin Linden: ian Boffin: how is firefox in sl comeing along
Karen Linden: ian: we are working on integrating HTML support into Second Life
Karen Linden: we initially had scheduled that for 1.7, but it was not ready in time
Karen Linden: we needed to go back to Mozilla to get some help on their side for certain issues
Karen Linden: and they have been providing that support for us recently.
Karen Linden: Our developers are working with theirs to get help overcome a few hurdles
Karen Linden: Mozilla integration is one of the projects we are working on for a future release at this time
Chris Linden: I just recently spoke to the havok 2 project team .
Chris Linden: What your describing is the desire to have physics volumes.
Chris Linden: Currently, Second life only has one physics volume, for a straightforward reason: Its much simpler.
Chris Linden: We briefly talked about how complex it is to add multiple non-overlapping physics volumes. Unfortunately, its really non-trivial.
Chris Linden: This feature won't be done anytime soon
Chris Linden: certainly NOT in the havok2 implementation
Jeska Linden: Prokofy Neva: Could you walk us through a typical example of "how a bill becomes a law," i.e. how your idea or a residents idea comes to implementation -- the steps and the factors going into the decision, the percentage of their weight?
Chris Linden: I will try to sum it up as best I can in a town hall format.
Chris Linden: When we start to have holes in the development schedule, typically a month or two out, the developers who are coming off teams begin discussions with the project management team as well as other parts of the company about what is the next priority for SL
Chris Linden: We look at the feature voting tool, our internal project tracking system, company strategic priorities and a few other sources.
Chris Linden: From that, we distil down a feature that the team that is available can execute on.
Chris Linden: Which then enters development when everyone becomes available. Goes through development, testing, merging into the production code more testing.. then out the door!
Chris Linden: That's about it in 5-6 sentences. obviously its quite a bit more complex than that in reality, but its a good snapshot
Robin Linden: Stingray61 Baker: What I would like to see is the ability to create bumpy prims, such as a tool to raise or lower,or distort the prims more effectively, to decrease the amount of prims needed to create more detailed objects. Please pass the idea around.
Karen Linden: Stringray16: While we're not really answering questions about new features here, I can tell you
Karen Linden: that we are investigating the implementation of new ways to render objects
Karen Linden: ways that don't require us to add new geometry
Karen Linden: this will not be happening in the next month or two, but over the course of the first half of next year, maybe
Karen Linden: if you have specific features you'd like to see, please submit a Feature Voting Proposition!