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PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:25 pm 
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While Cyan is waiting for iMyst to be approved by Apple, I wanted to present what I've learned about open source projects from a leading example: the Second Life Viewer.

The viewer source code was made available on January 2008 [1]; however, it was presented in a read-only format. It was a mirror of Linden Lab's internal repository. People could suggest changes via their bug tracking system [2]. Once they've been recommended by enough members of the community, the LL developers put these changes into maintenance branches. Once QA determines the changes are good, these are merged into the release branch - and eventually merged into the internal viewer code [3].

But the time between a community-provided feature is submitted to seeing it in a released viewer executable was painfully slow - especially if it was a major change. Also, the work on the actual viewer occurred internally, hidden from public view. Some tried creating their own external repositories in order to add their features and make releases available to everyone. However, the nuances of the GNU Public License [4] under which the viewer falls made this difficult to do properly. Many community developers were discouraged by this, and the contributions slackened [5].

Then, at the end of March of this year, one of the LL developers (Philip Linden) posted an announcement of "a new version of the Second Life client in a public repository where we will allow direct committing from community members alongside our own daily work." This viewer will be available for download alongside the 'official' client, once it is made stable [6].

Philip outlined a short term release cycle for this viewer, targeting this June for its first release [7]. He also solicited requests on the SL developer lists for items to include on this new code branch [8]. The response was positive - many popular fixes and features currently stuck in QA purgatory were recommended for inclusion.

Hopefully, Cyan can glean some useful information from this. In the meantime, does anyone else have any lessons they've learned from other open source projects?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:29 pm 
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I'm having trouble understanding why the GPL made it difficult for people to create and share their own versions of the code. The whole purpose of the GPL is to ensure that this is possible.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 9:01 pm 
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Kenguin wrote:
I'm having trouble understanding why the GPL made it difficult for people to create and share their own versions of the code. The whole purpose of the GPL is to ensure that this is possible.



According to the cited source ( http://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2009/01/kirste ... iewer.html ) there was one author in particular who was not complying with the requirement to supply the source behind any changes made. She claims to have deleted the source and was therefore unable to comply with the license. She complains about the requirement to keep an archive of the source for three years.

Personally, it sounds pretty whiny to me. The GPL is a harsh license, but those particular terms are both essential and simple. I'm not sure why she wasn't just using a public repository (such as Sourceforge or one of many others) which would have negated her personal storage issues.

Reading that article and her quotes, it comes across like she just wasn't interested in keeping and/or releasing her source, and then became (understandably) irate when GPL supporters began nagging her about her non-compliance.

Hard to say what really happened for sure just from that article though. Anyway, what it comes down to was not an issue with Linden Labs, or even the GPL specifically, but a solo independent developer. It doesn't sound like this was a widespread issue.



Update: Looking into it further, it appears she is still working on the viewer and does have a Sourceforge project set up as well. ( http://kirstenleecinquetti.blogspot.com/ ) So I guess everything's been straightened out...

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:38 am 
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Update: The first public version of "Snowglobe", the community-built client for Second Life, was released yesterday.

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Release ... elease/1.0

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:32 am 
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So is this the Official open client? Fascinating. I'll probably check this out. I don't get around to visiting SL much these days.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 27, 2009 5:06 am 
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I'm not impressed with the Snowglobe viewer. I've been testing other viewers and Emerald and Gemini are better viewers IMO. I've blogged about several (Myst-Uru-Second Life) There are a lot changes out in 3rd party viewers. Many of them share the same OS code.

I think the Gemini Viewer and Greenlife Emerald Viewer both give better examples of what open source can do. Gemini was made for RP'ers playing in Insilico a dark environment (low light) cyberpunk RPG. Land of NoR a favorite of mine is also dark (low light). Gemini has charcoal grey dialogs where most viewers have bright blue. It is like trying to look past the headlights of an on-coming car. So, the color change is a big deal.

Several other communities have viewers out for their special needs. Many have nifty little features.

While the Lindens are interested in improving their viewer, they also have a strong need to keep it simple for new users. Special groups are free to add numerous features for experienced users. So, we see a proliferation of viewers. In the past those creating and updating the viewers have gotten tired of LL not adopting their fixes and additions. Many viewers only fixed memory leaks so the viewer would not crash every couple of hours. One would at least expect those to be adopted. But even when making the fixes available to LL the fixes were not implemented. We will have to see if that changes. That lack of cooperation and apparent snubbing of those programmers has lead to some hard feelings and discouragement. Some nice viewers are no longer kept up now because of that.

I think this shows what happens when fan effort is ignored when there are proprietary and open source interests co-existing. I think a dominant effort and minor efforts would experience the same problems.

So... the lesson... if the interests and goals are not the same... things tend to branch more often.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:35 pm 
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Natales: you'll note in the OP that the genesis of this code branch comes out of the frustration by the developer community that their changes take such a long time to propagate into the main viewer code. This new viewer (Snowglobe, with 1.0 being the first 'official' release) contains a number of user-submitted patches. Linden Labs even goes so far as to credit each user-developer in the release notes (see the link in my previous post). The most noticeable feature is the faster texture fetching mechanism.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 12:23 pm 
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UPDATE: A branch of SnowGlobe, the open-source SecondLife viewer, now features automatic translation of other people's speech into your own language. Philip Linden posted a download link yesterday for folks to try it out. This particular feature was implemented after Linden Labs posted a request on rentacoder.com.

I noted this because (1) it would be great to have this feature in the open source Myst Online and (2) it demonstrates the success of outsourcing feature requests.

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