Little did I know how prophetic my blog post this past Friday was going to be about the stability of the infrastructure of Second Life. Over the weekend we lost one of our three islands, this was then followed on Monday by another island disappearing into the sea (I was actually watching one of my sons online when it blinked out).
Bridges to Nowhere
We are now down to just the Modesto Island being online and usable on the grid. The few bridges that still exist from our summer activity with Kyoto now go into empty ocean instead of the Kyoto Island. Yesterday our one island that was online was completely unstable and slower than I’ve ever seen it. Trying (and that is the operative word here) to fly from one side of the island to the other felt as if I were dragging the entire island behind me.
My calls to the Concierge at Linden Lab have netted very little information or help. Yesterday I had the person on the other end of the phone tell me that they were on the Kyoto Island, they could see me floating above the Modesto Island, and that all was fine from their perspective. I asked them to fly towards me, as I could not see them. I then heard “Oh, there seems to be a problem, we’ll get it fixed and you’ll be up within the hour.” The hour came and went and the island never rose from the depths again. That was yesterday.
I looked at the blog this morning upon arriving at work and there was good news, the nagging grid problems have all been resolved. I logged into Second Life to find that our islands were still offline. I picked up the phone and called the Concierge again. They told me that they knew what the problem is, and that they will move us to new servers and have us back up within the hour. That was about 45 minutes ago. We’ll see if they actually get them online today (I’ll update this post later today).
And therein lies the problem, the stability of the platform is such that it is very difficult to schedule lab time or class assignments without having these types of issues popping up and preventing the students from completing their projects. We have a scheduled event between Kyoto Gakuen and Modesto City Schools next Tuesday (November 27th). The Kyoto students are putting on a virtual version of the annual Kyoto celebration of the Festival of Ages. The Kyoto students were making period outfits and displays (along with floats) for this event. It was going to be tight for them to get it all done by Tuesday. We started experiencing login problems last Wednesday, and have not been able to use the islands since then. The students have lost five days in the lab now with their projects. Now, here in the US, we have the long Thanksgiving weekend ahead (less lab time).
The frustration level among our teachers trying to use Second Life in their classes, and the uncertainty of our own staff in trying to determine if the problems were in-house or at Linden Lab has been very high this past week. The few messages posted to the Second Life blog have been light on details and not very helpful, espeically in estimating when the problems might be resolved. Linden Lab really needs to work on their communication channels with their customers (especially the paying customers calling into the Concierge). We are paying close to $1,500/month for our three islands, and are about to add another to the project. I expect a higher level of support, and a whole lot more information when calling into the Concierge with downed islands.
And to restate my point from last week, Second Life is definitely not ready for “prime time“. At best, the platform is in a semi-stable late BETA phase after five years of commercial availability. These kinds of issues would not be tolerated in other commercial virtual platforms and MMO’s. It’s lucky for Linden Lab that most of the residents, especially the educators, still consider Second Life as a work in progress. I have to wonder when we will hit a tipping point and start to have people demanding the same stability out of Second Life as they expect in their other platforms?