Bugs And Unstable Code Threaten Second Life's Future

Second Life business owners and users want Linden Lab to fix the service's egregious bugs and instability before the whole thing comes crashing down.

Instant-message communication breaks down, especially the Second Life-to-Internet gateway that sends IMs to e-mail when a user is offline.

And residents are complaining of failures in one of the most popular tools for people to get together in-world: Groups. Residents can form groups of common interests -- for example, InformationWeek has a group for its readers and friends in Second Life -- and send out group notices, own server space (known as "land") in common, and have group affiliations displayed on their profiles. Diaz tried to form an Open Letter group in Second Life to discuss the petition, but found he couldn't invite residents to the group, or send out notices to members.

Linden Lab has shut down two-way avenues of communication as the service has grown, Diaz said. They shut down their forums, and transferred discussions to a blog with comments, and frequently delete comments that are critical of Second Life. E-mail to customer support often goes unanswered.

Ondrejka's blog post Wednesday addresses the concerns. He says the inventory problems are related to the distributed MySQL databases in which inventory is stored, and bugs in rebalancing scripts for those databases. Those bugs have been resolved, and other possible causes of inventory problems -- as well as other bugs -- are being investigated.

Linden Lab posted a transcript of the Town Hall meeting Thursday afternoon.

One of the biggest challenges the company faces is "testing without full load" -- testing new software before it's subjected to the traffic demands of Second Life, Ondrejka said in the chat. Linden Lab is working on improving its "synthetic testing" tools and several times in the meeting he urged attendees to go to the beta area in Second Life and report bugs.

Linden Lab runs Second Life on data centers in New York and Dallas, and hopes to open data centers overseas to help manage the load. Ondrejka said in the chat: "We have an architectural quirk in how we talk to the [databases] -- a layer of single-threaded data servers -- that would suffer in situations with greater ping latency, so we need to fix that problem first, which is being worked on. Once that is fixed, we will begin international deployments. This is critical since over 65% of our use is from outside the US."

Second Life now supports only a limited range of graphic cards on client PCs; Linden Lab is working on improving that range, Ondrejka said.

The session concluded with a question from resident "Radslns Hutchence," who said: "As residents invested in making SL work, what can we do, in addition to being patient, to help with any of these initiatives?"

Ondrejka responded:

Patience obviously helps, but more than that, please help the community build the pieces it needs to make SL a better place...
If you are a programmer, contribute to the open source project or come work for us...
If you have bugs and can repro them, add data into the public [bugs database].
Help with the wiki and documentation...
Spend time helping out in the welcome areas and help island...
As bill and ted would say, be excellent to each other.