Dazzling you senseless

So it is finally out of the closet (err, I mean dark recesses of LL development. Anybody noticed how much of that stuff actually surfaces since Cory is no longer CTO ?) : Dazzle is here to improve your interface!.

Quoting the official Linden blog :

Seemingly small changes make a big difference. A simple psychological exercise: think about eating a steak in a prison cell with harsh fluorescent lights. Then, think about eating that very same steak in a posh restaurant by candlelight. Which experience would you prefer? And which would you regard as the higher quality?

In a similar way, even if actual inworld content looks the same (like the steak), if the environment you use to experience it — the user interface — looks awful, you’re likely going to feel uncomfortable and annoyed, even if you can’t describe exactly why.

I’m not going to comment on how the Lindens try to spin the fact that their take on the much needed interface rework amounts to a pretty modest skinning effort. But the two screen shots LL are publishing here did start a furious, megalomaniac itch to tell them to look at my interface rant.

Then I thought : They must be kidding, right ?

Until I read the User Interface Roadmap.

Sigh.

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Amuse-gueule

I have to apologise. No, not for me, though I am the one unable to post the grand thoughts my numerous fans are clamouring for, but for my typist. My operator. Whatever you want to call her. Until a few days ago, I have been calling her my atomic me, but we have had, well, you might call it a spat.

The reason, you ask ? She has a new love. No, not a man, nor a woman. Worse. A machine. She has been stroking it, toying with it, and, honestly, drooling all over it in a disgusting way for days.

Poor Rheta, of course, only got the crumbs. A perfunctory « well, SL Y-K-W is in the app folder, now get off my back while I set up [oh yeah, right] things » was all I got for three days. When I finally got the run of the thing, it turned out even worse than expected. I mean, before, I had a very cosy little off-world home in the barren wasteland of Windows called Firefox. it was snug, fitted with everything I needed (Google Mail, Google Reader, Open ID identification, my Notefish notes, j’en passe et des meilleures). She said she had relocated it, and that I would miss nothing. But when I went to visit, finally, and after having had to listen to her waxing lyrical about how pretty it is, how polished everything is, how —well, you get the idea — imagine my dismay when I found out the one thing butt ugly was my home. The horror.

She promised to improve it. She had me try something called Fluid, saying « your mileage may vary ». Vary it did indeed, to the point Google Reader was about the only usable thing on it. And whenever I turned to her, she said not to pester her. All the while my news, mails and other things kept piling up. I would feel like crying just looking at my inbox. Insupportable.

Tonight, we had words. It was ugly. We were at each other like harpies. She said she would not spend more money for stuff only I would use. I yelled she’d spent enough already, and I that I was fed up getting the scraps from her ladyship’s table, and what the hell did she mean by « only » me anyway ? True to the law of opposite motions, tempers went up and things went downwards from there.

I have won. I think, at least : I now have a small budget to buy a new home. Strange names — Mailplane, Twitterific, gSync, PixelMator — are going through my head. I feel giddy.

And her ? I don’t know yet. She’s in a huff with me, but I don’t care. We will make up, that much is certain. After all, we are inseparable. But you, my dears, will have to be patient, just for a little while longer, until I get my home nice and cosy again. Things will be better after that, I promise. Stay tuned.

Plus ça change…

If I was vanitous enough to believe I have the slightest impact on things happening, I’d believe in the theory that writing eulogies on people leaving SL Y-K-W in my blog is a good way of bringing them back into the fray.

As it stands, Katharine Berry has reopened her fabulous AjaxLife and resumed its development, even un-cancelling her account on the Teen Grid for the purpose. As I wrote in an addendum to Age and Treachery revisited, that does not make all well that ends well :

It seems Katharine has eventually listened to all the people telling her how much her work on AjaxLife is appreciated, and how much she will be missed. She has un-cancelled her account, as she mentions en passant on her blog. The point I made in my Age and Treachery entry still stands, though : confining a talent like Katharine’s to the stifling atmosphere of the Teen Ghetto for the next three years hardly qualifies as good policy.

Still : good to have you back, Katharine. I hope you hang on there until better times.

And « Mad Patcher » Nicholaz Beresford doesn’t seem able to leave the mess the Lindens call their viewer code alone either. Though he has kept away from patching release candidates at an insane pace, he has taken on the « megalomaniac » (his own words) task of freeing SL Y-K-W users of the « ass-tachment» plague instead. I guess my blog entry on him should be re-titled Sysiphus gives up goes hobbyist. Do I have to say it’s great to see you back, too, Nic ?

Age and Treachery revisited

Katharine Berry’s love story with Second Life You-Know-Where ends today on a sad, personal note. Shamelessly, I will quote my own comment on her blog :

Dear Katharine,

we have never met, our worlds lying far apart as I have come to realize, but I would like you to believe that your achievement with AjaxLife (alas the only sample of your skill I had an opportunity to profit from) outshines what most of us will ever be able to achieve — whatever our age (how the eternal « for someone your age » must hurt ; why can’t they just shut the f*** up ?). At 32, I bow to you. And I sympathize. I’m not old enough to get away from the fact how unjust and arbitrary people can be, not jaded enough to not understand your anger and not feel sympathy for the rejection you feel.

It is easy to tell you not to give in to it, but that is just insinuating that we, your elders, know better. I will not do that, because we don’t, even if we don’t like to admit it. So all I will tell you is that you and your stupendous mind will be missed by many people you do not even know, because you made our world a bit richer and no one can afford to lose somebody like you.

So long, Katharine Berry. If the grids you know where ever merge, I hope to meet you there.

I will not comment the flame war accompanying her farewell. Talent should buy you a modicum of leeway when it comes to rashness and occasional lack of social graces, but then, that is just me speaking. To those saying it was her peers and her own age driving her out, all I can say is : had the Teen Grid you know where not been such a thinly disguised excuse for the real thing, people like Katharine (and her antagonists) might be less frustrated, choice and a more rewarding experience replacing the often stifling closeness of such a tiny peer group. We are all at fault.

Farewell, Katharine Berry.

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Wild, wild west 2.0 continued

Sometimes, you just stumble over something and think « my thoughts exactly ». Now I admit this happens rarely to me, as I am a chronic dissenter, but Doug McMahon’s statement « Why » he is developing a Constitution for the Metaverse (while admitting to not using Second Life You-Know-Where actively, fancy that) strikes me as the straight continuation of my own thoughts in « Wild, wild west 2.0 ».

The question of why I would seek to draft a constitution for the metaverse, and why I think it might need one, is an obvious one. I genuinely believe that any online world in which users seek some kind of autonomy from the real world cannot function satisfactorily without one. To this you might reply that Second Life You-Know-Where, the leading metaverse, seems to be doing just fine. But I would question whether the benevolent dictator model for metaverses is really sustainable. All the power in Second Life You-Know-Where is concentrated in the hands of Linden Labs, they are the archetypal judge, jury and executioner with the added twist that they are also the law makers and the executive in the world. I am by no means accusing Linden Labs of anything underhand in this, I recognise the efficacy of this for their business model and that without it the world may not exist, but I am questioning whether this is a system under which one would or should chose to live.

The fundamental goal of a constitution is to distribute power in such a way that it allows for a fully functioning society whilst protecting the individual from the state. The goal is the rule of law – power under law, not under men. To those who resist the introduction of law into the metaverse I say this: first, it need not look like the law of the real world, indeed it should not look like the law of the real world; second, law is already pervasive in the metaverse, in the form of the ToS document, copyright and contract law, law suits brought in the real world concerning metaverse events. The only way to restrict the impact of laws not suited to the metaverse is for the metaverse to have its own.

I think we might have to watch this one…

Sysiphus gives up

Nicholaz Beresford has declared Bug Hunting Season over. If you don’t know Nicholaz, well, you missed a good opportunity to radically improve your Second Life experience. For quite some time now, Nicholaz has been building patched, bug ridden versions of the Second Life You-Know-Where viewer, rooting through its source to hunt the elusive critters with a dedication and perseverance matched by none. I have been wondering at each new Linden viewer release how anybody could keep this up, each iteration breaking most of what Nicholaz did (and this despite him making his patches available to the Lindens) besides introducing a plethora of new bugs. Nicholaz just groaned and started to integrate his patches all over again, then rooted out the new bugs until his viewer, much unlike the official one, ran smoothly, did not leak memory all over the carpet and generally abstained from the nastiness the official viewer seems prone to.

Well, at last, Nicholaz has decided this is not worth neglecting his first life. As sorry as I am from the very egoistical point of view of the happy « Nicholaz Edition » viewer user, I have to applaud his decision. If Sisyphus had let the damn stone just lie, and gone home, he couldn’t have felt as relieved as Nicholaz must feel. The last version of his viewer, running quite smoothly, is still available here. Go and grab it while it’s still there (editions for Mac OS X and Linux to be found here).

Nicholaz, we will miss your work, but we won’t begrudge you your life. Thank you for everything ; you’ll forever be on my list of unsung heroes.