Friday, April 23, 2010

The Axe Falls on Woodbury, thanks to... Emerald?!

The news about the massive banfest against Woodbury members has been getting major discussion over at SLUniverse and on Prok's blog, and it turns out what did them in was that they decided to grief the wrong griefers. Allegedly, Tizzy Teardrop put a bounty on taking down Emerald's beloved CDS, which got the ball rolling. But what most likely pushed the Emerald devs into throwing WU under the bus was the recent video made by Cam Scientist, a Woodbury member who publicly outed the fact that Fractured Crystal should not be anywhere near SL according to the TOS, starting from the first time he got an account banned and also that Onyx is a griefer/copybot viewer.

This, of course, embarrassed the Emerald devs and even put a few holes in their perceived reputation. So they obviously decided to offer up Woodbury as a condition(or leverage) to get on the third-party viewer directory. It's definitely no coincidence both events happened nearly on the same day.

My personal opinion on this is, "I don't really care". I have no sympathy whatsoever for the banned Woodbury griefers, and this doesn't change my opinion of the Emerald devs one bit. It's just a classic case of no honor amongst thieves.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Second TPV developer brown-bag meeting: Wow, what a difference!

As noted in the previous blog post, the second brown-bag meeting between third-party viewer developers and Linden Lab has happened earlier today and from reading the transcripts, this time around it went way better. No griefing, sim crashing or voice problems, and the consensus is pretty much that the policy is much more agreeable as a whole.

What was discussed this time around is more "small stuff", like issues with the policy and content import and export. While Section 2(b) hasn't really changed at all, Joe Linden did recognize that there is a genuine need for extended metadata to help address legal uses of non-creator export, but the policy won't change until that happens. Fair enough, in my opinion. There are ways for creators of permissive content to get around it(host it outside of SL, collaborative builders can export their parts of builds and share it with their collaborators until the build is completed).

Also, Joe specifically wanted to address the Imprudence team about their plans to drop support for SL. This is a very positive sign for me personally, as I do prefer Imprudence not just for the viewer itself, but because I find the developer team to be very professional and upfront. It's also a positive sign for SL in general as well, as it shows the Lindens do not want to see a mass exodus of development support to OpenSim-based grids(although they have inadvertently strengthened OpenSim viewer support).

The only thing about the meeting that didn't change, sadly, was that again it seems no developers who are already listed in the TPV directory were in attendance. Maybe some of them didn't want to attend out of fear they would get the third degree, although it seems that given the policy changes it's just water under the bridge now and their input would be welcomed.

All in all, though, it's a 180% turnaround from last week's debacle and the first positive change I've seen from the Lab in a long while. I feel like doing a headbob:

The New Third-Party Viewer Policy: A Thing of Beauty and A Joy Forever

As noted in the previous blog post, the Lindens have quietly changed their third-party viewer policy. The changes, unlike the previous revision which amounted to nothing, address the majority of the issues raised by TPV developers and results in a more clear and simpler read for those who it's intended for.

The single biggest change is in Section 7(d), which now reads: "You assume all risks, expenses, and defects of any Third-Party Viewers that you use. Linden Lab shall not be responsible or liable for any Third-Party Viewers" Previously, the first sentence had ", develop or distribute" tacked on at the end, which put the sort of legal liability that LL themselves disclaim onto third-party developers. The new wording now makes it clear that was not the actual intent of the clause.

So with this change, for most legit TPV developers, there's nothing to fear from this policy anymore and it may even be totally okay to go for self-certification into the viewer directory(IANAL, of course, but that's my personal opinion).

There may be a few nagging issues left, such as Section 2(b) which restricts content export capability to creator-only. However, that merely applies to when on the SL grid. So it's possible to either simply have creators host permissive content outside of SL, or just have full-perm content export disabled only when on the SL grid. However for non-SL content exporting, I'd strongly recommend some sort of mechanism to convey usage beyond SL's crude C/M/T checkboxes.

Of course, certain folks who are against third-party viewers as a whole will be decrying the changes as "LL caving in to TPV developers" and "they're giving the store away to the copybotters". Reading through the policy, it's clear that's not what happened. The policy now more clearly delineates the difference between a compliant viewer and a malicious viewer(see Sections 2 and 7) and the enforcement terms(Section 8) have not changed(not counting the addition of 8(f), which merely makes clear the policy isn't intended to screw with the GPL).

Given these changes, I may not have to close down my store in SL after all. But I will continue with my current plan of opening up on other grids. It's a happy day for me :)

Update: BTW, the second brown-bag meeting has happened today. The transcript of the meeting can be found here(big thanks to Latha Serevi for the transcripts!).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Updates on the Third-Party Viewer Policy debacle

Joe Linden recently hosted a brown-bag meeting for third-party developers to discuss the TPV policy. Unfortunately the meeting accomplished very little in terms of reconciliation or possible policy revision. This was due to griefers at the meeting teleporting around and crashing the sim(those griefers sadly being some of the people attending the meeting), and expected major problems with voice.

What was interesting about this meeting is that as far as I can tell there were absolutely no third-party developers in attendance who were listed in the Lindens' third-party viewer directory. That left Joe with virtually no solid support on his side. Also there were a few people there who weren't developers at all: Wut Moorlord of Woodbury/w-hat(a known griefer) and Angela Talamasca, who basically represents anti-open source folks like Prok. Then there's the shady trio of "ex-griefer" Emerald developers Discrete Dreamscape, Fractured Crystal and Lonely Bluebird. So with that unique blend of folks there, it's no wonder it came out a disaster for both sides.

What I took away from the meeting transcripts, however, is that the Emerald devs are going to do exactly what I theorized to several friends: that the Emerald developers are going to secretly negotiate a deal with the Lindens to become the only allowed general use third-party viewer on the directory(KirstenLee's viewer doesn't count as it's meant as a specialist viewer for photographers and machinima creators), with a side deal that Onyx(the copybot/griefer client the Emerald devs use amongst themselves) will be exempt from the policy, making it a Linden-blessed copybot/griefer client under the veil of "penetration testing for the Lab". Meanwhile all of the honest devs of general use third-party viewers will get bullied out of SL to appease the Lindens and their Emerald buddies. I have very little hope that the next meeting will be anything different or produce anything positive.

So in a nutshell, for general SL use it's either the still-craptacular Viewer 2.0, Snowglobe or risk your data and privacy with the Emerald devs in exchange for jiggle boobs, fancy selection beams and lag-inducing extra attachment points. Ugh.

Update: Regarding Emerald, Prok has a new blog post up which connects almost all of the dots about these folks who, in all honesty, should have been perma-banned from the first TOS/CS violation they committed(feel free to skip her usual open source=evil BS, of course). What Prok misses, however, is the connection between Onyx and Gemini CDS. Yes, CDS will ban all copybot viewers detected, except Onyx since it's an Emerald "project". Combined with the TPV policy going into effect, the Emerald devs can run roughshod over SL with no one the wiser, with only the above choices left for SL residents.

Update 2: Surprisingly, the Lindens have quietly amended the TPV policy. From what I'm reading of it, the changes are precisely what the TPV developer community asked for. I guess that blows apart the piece of my theory of Emerald colluding with Lindens to run all the other legit TPVs out of town. However that doesn't change the likelihood of CDS and Onyx collusion.