Friday, August 06, 2010

The Calculus of Mesh in Second Life

I've been wandering aimlessly in the fields of off-grid Second Life conversations over the last two days and found myself nearly strangled by the overgrowth of outrage regarding a Linden Lab employee action  - specifically the release of independent contractor Qarl Linden.

The story played out publicly on Qarl's personal blog and then subsequently around, and around, and around our virtual campfires with various WTF-esque outcries, protests of burning sculpted prims (Qarl helped bring sculpted prims to the grid), a petition to rehire Qarl, and one lingering but repetitive question "But what about mesh?!?" (Qarl was working on mesh). Make no mistake, Qarl was loved and admired.

Putting aside legalities and technicalities of employee actions, and choosing to ignore the intriguing cultural undertones of protests and petitions, what's left to discuss are questions about strategic direction and tactics. Such is the question: What about mesh?

But don't we already know the answer to that question? I think we do.

The answers are in the back of the Book of Rosedale

That is, unless you missed the lengthy and comprehensive talk Philip delivered to the Second Life Residents on July 30th. This was the talk where he laid out precisely how and what the Lab was going to do in terms of getting back to basics by focusing on universal and core user experiences - those things like lag and crashing and the overall experience that are true for everyone regardless of who they are or how they "use" Second Life.

That means you also missed how everything the Lab does will be focused on maximizing the success of the meta-economy by optimizing the way people "find, try, buy and use or experience" the content such as 1) fixing search in a way that is balanced for content creators, merchants and consumers while maximizing the economy, 2) making the process/action of getting to content and using it trivial and 3) shifting the way new users enter the world so that entry points, or links, go directly to content, people or events without going through the current user registration, welcome and training areas.

That's a lot to miss. Fortunately, you can still watch or listen to the entire talk.

No really, go listen to Philip lay out The Plan to increase the overall success of the world builders by driving toward the concept of the "biggest economy", optimizing the overall user experience and adopting a fundamental mechanism to evaluate new capabilities (like mesh) through the lens, or filter, of that success. Or, in his words:
So that's the plan, on everything whether it be the economy, getting back to basics and/or winning back the technology lead. What we are doing now is we're applying it across the board as a filter on everything that we're doing. 
We are asking the question "Does this fit with this plan? Does its priority bubble up to enough points in this plan where we should be working on it now and not later?
So we are applying this to everything we're doing.
I think everything here means that the Linden team will re-evaluate all new features and extensions - promised, anticipated or otherwise - including everything from Second Life Enterprise (highlighted as an example) to mesh.

No seriously, what about mesh?

So maybe the subtlety of the new Linden economic decision model hasn't resolved itself so clearly.  That's okay, Philip answered the question about mesh directly during his talk.
We're very excited about the potential impact of mesh as on the economy, on quality of the user experience on the sort of general things that people want to do inside virtual worlds We're very excited about it. 
Applying the filter of what we're thinking about right now? We're being careful to make sure that there's a way to implement mesh so that it has a huge impact, but that the impact on rez time and frame rate is either neutral or positive. 
And so there's a bunch of calculus that we're doing, some of it in concert with the beta users of this capability, to make that we're not going to increase lag or slow down the experience. But that is where we are on mesh.
Based on this statement and the enormity of the economic, user experience and back to basics backlog the Lab is already facing, I'd conclude that the calculus of mesh says that over a short term, the changes required to integrate mesh rapidly approach zero. Where, when and even if, the curve shifts to positive is a matter for the market to determine.

But then again, both my calculus and economics classes usually collided with the best surf times.

(And Qarl, best wishes rendering your next adventure. Hopefully we will see you again.)
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