What you can do to help with metaverse stats

Journalists know that the best ways to get the public’s attention are sex, money, violence — and rankings.

This is why when there’s an important story to be covered that the public needs to know about, but it doesn’t involve any of the first three topics, rankings come into play.

Take political races, as boring a subject as anything on the planet. But add surveys and polls, a little bit of horserace coverage, handicapping, election predictions — and suddenly it gets interesting. We start caring about the candidates, and, in the process learn that one of them is in favor of the death penalty for overdue library books and the other one believes that a giant spaghetti monster created the universe and now wants him to make meatballs out of illegal immigrants.

Yes, Pastafarianism is a real religion, though most of its adherents are non-violent.

Yes, Pastafarianism is a real religion, though most of its adherents are non-violent.

That’s the main reason why I care about OpenSim statistics. Because it makes OpenSim interesting. And, until we get some sex, money or violence on the grids, that’s the only thing we’ve got going.

Which reminds me: why hasn’t anyone launched a grid yet where they charge people a lot of money to be whipped while naked?

Avalonia Estate — where the women are dressed and the men are naked. I had such high hopes for this grid.

But stats serve practical purposes, as well.

For example, when a newcomer looks at all the OpenSim grids out there, it can get overwhelming. But if there’s a ranking, they might say, oh, look, this grid is the most popular. And this grid is the cheapest. And this grid is the biggest.

It makes it easier to get into OpenSim in the first place.

And, once they’ve gotten over that first hurdle of creating a new user account, and configuring the viewer, they’re more likely to explore other OpenSim grids until they finally find one that’s a perfect fit.

Merchants and performers might also want to start out on the grids that get the most traffic.

Most public grids currently report three statistics — total number of regions, total registered users, and active 30-day users. I collect these and either I or an assistant spend two or three full days every month putting them into a report.

The stats page for Japan's TUIS OpenGrid. I usually use Google Translate to get these numbers.

The stats page for Japan’s TUIS OpenGrid. I usually use Google Translate to get these numbers.

It’s a lot of work and it gets worse each month. We’ve got more and more grids. And the stats are hidden in all sorts of places on websites, in all possible languages and phrasings, making automated scraping very difficult. If anyone is listening — if you have one of those sites, please, please create a simple stats page with the data in English and send me the link! I would be so ever grateful!

But one thing that we don’t have, at all, is good hypergrid stats.

Here are some possible solutions:

Fix Hyperica

I know, I know, I’m working on this. All the gates in the Hyperica hyperport are broken. Each time the region restarts, everything gets re-generated and we wind up with gates on top of gates on top of gates. We need to clear everything out and start from scratch, with new gates, and new scripts.

Once we do, we can start tracking what the popular destinations are — at least, on Hyperica.

Automate hypergrid stats collection via scripts or bots

There are OpenSim scripting commands that you can use to find out whether a particular region on another grid is up or not.

In theory, I can use this to create a database of all the regions on all the grids and track their uptime percentage. This would be very useful for hypergrid travelers, and would also be a great way to double-check grid size statistics.

There’s an outfit called GridSurvey that does just that for Second Life. They also have a bot that visits each region once or twice a month.

My question is, how do you get the list of regions in the first place? Does anyone have any suggestions?

Login screen for Japan Open Grid.

Login screen for Japan Open Grid.

Some grids publish them on their websites or on their login screens, such as Japan Open Grid, above. But most grids don’t.

Does anyone have any ideas about how GridSurvey does it?

Collect stats with OpenSim module

Another approach is to create an OpenSim module that grid owners would install and run that collects and reports stats. For example, when queried, it could report the total number of regions, or the total number of users currently logged on, or current traffic numbers — which regions have avatars on them, and how many.

To reduce workload the module could, say, update its stats once and hour and publish them in XML format for anyone to grab, or for authorized users to grab.

2013 and 2014 active user numbers on the seven most popular grids.

2013 and 2014 active user numbers on the seven most popular grids.

By distributing the module in pre-compiled form, grid owners wouldn’t be able to modify it and mess with the numbers, so the stats would be reasonably trustworthy.

The downside, of course, is that grid owners would have to go out and install this module, something smaller grids aren’t likely to do because they just don’t have the time or technical skills, and large grids might not want to do because they might not want to disclose that data.

In-world scripted objects

Google Analytics works by giving site owners a little snippet of code that they can add to their webpages.

The same approach can be used with in-world scripted objects.

For example, grid owners could put up little Hypergrid Business traffic counters on their regions. The counters would track unique avatar names and generate traffic reports for the object owners and, with permission, for Hypergrid Business.

2013 and 2014 region counts on seven major grids.

2013 and 2014 region counts on seven major grids.

This method depends completely on the good will of the region owners, however. If they don’t want to have a counter, they don’t have to have one. And, in fact, if they have to go out of their way to get one and install it, the vast majority aren’t likely to do it.

A modest proposal

I’m thinking of a three-prong approach to tracking hypergrid growth.

1. Figure out a way to get the names of active regions on a grid, and track whether those regions are up or not. No idea how this would work with Kitely-style on-demand regions, of course, but otherwise it would give a good sense of the size of the hypergrid.

2. Offer region owners a simple visitor counter that they can install if they want their destinations to be on our most popular hypergrid locations list.

3. Track users on the Hyperica grid and website to learn which destinations, grids, and content hypergrid travelers are searching for.

Any thoughts? Suggestions?

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • #2 may be the easiest and fastest to implement. Post the script in various places for people to copy and use. Also, create an object and make it available for download from such places as OpenSim Creations and FleepGrid Shop.

    • Can you have an object for download that has scripts inside?

      • As an IAR you can 🙂

      • nara_malone

        Can’t you zip a text file of the script in with the object?

  • “Which reminds me: why hasn’t anyone launched a grid yet where they charge people a lot of money to be whipped while naked?” um……

    • Merrie Schonbach

      Well I know of one grid that does that but they don’t pay there Masters or Mistresses hee..

      • If this is the grid I’m thinking about, they don’t have an in-world economy… but *are* on the hypergrid. This means a potential market for folks to sell really high-end, expensive BDSM equipment over Kitely Market to them. After all, who wants to use someone’s stained, nasty freebie hand-me-down equipment? You want nice, shiny, clean, brand-new things.
        I would assume.

        — Maria

        • helluva assumption…lol

        • Merrie Schonbach

          Yes it is the grid your thinking about and yes they are Freebie based *laughs*

  • Arielle

    Since http://thehypergates.com already opensourced their scripts to do that sort of thing for them, it strikes me that it should be a simple matter to modify the scripts to send stats to whomever wants to receive them. Another potential idea would be to talk to the owner of the site and maybe discuss sharing of the data that is already being harvested.

    There is also http://www.idreamsnet.com doing the same thing on a smaller scale. It just seems to me that the more being duplicated with separate scripts, the less people will add them.

    Be more convenient imo if the scripts were harvesting the stats through the robust server then through the region since that way it doesn’t have to be added to each individually.

  • Fred Beckhusen

    I agree with Sarge. A script and Object. Open, and voluntary.

    I run some LSL code on a half dozen places that reports to a high speed Plack server that counts avatars per minute, and produces pretty maps and some stats.

    http://www.outworldz.com/stats

    Handling a setup with tens of thousands of avatars would require running multiple Plack processes, and running Apache as a load balancing proxy to keep up with the number of hits per second. There are issues with scale involved here that are pretty hefty. In order to put that on even a portion of 20K+ regions, you would need to really think hard about how much data was collected, and how often.

    It could be based on something that collects stats automatically by just being used. Something popular, so people would actually want to use it and thus fill up the database. Like a translator, or a landmark collection and rating database. I have been working on a landmark collection system that lets you thumbs up and down and rate a landmark, and search them, for a ( too long ) time. Sort of a StumbleUpon for the Hypergrid. I’ll get it published eventually. Such a database of landmarks made by people as they travel would be rather easy to check with bots. I’ve often wondered if you could pull landmarks from the cache. That would make it easy!

    I used to run a bunch of bots around SL and collect stats on neighboring sims before Gridsurvey took it over. It helped you find those neighbors sharing the same server IP so you could reboot and move away from a laggy sim that was sharing (or hogging) the CPU and disk. It built the database of destinations from users of my free translator (I had about 140K avatars with those in SL), seeding it by flying around the map, looking into neighbor sims, and then a set of libopenmetaverse bots was dispatched to tp into each sim. Some sims would never be visited by people, so these were scraped off the map or located as a neighbor. I used a modified Metabolt client then, but now I would just use the libopenmetverse test client. A single bot could make a run of 30K sims in about two weeks. Gathering sim FPS and frame rates is slow. More than half the sims in SL had Really Shockingly Bad Performance – half with server cycles below 40 fps.

    This would not work on the hypergrid unless you had a list of destination already and all it would tell you is which ones were not online and which ones were online, on average. It would be horribly slow in Kitely on-demand regions due to the very long spin up delays. I averaged about 1 sim per 15 seconds on SL.

  • While I understand you wishing to hang on to doing the statistics, and even understand why, the fact is that grid numbers are really an artifice of the old commercial business model.

    I expect before year end you will see that the reporting will need to be changed at least in some regards in order to keep up with the quickly changing tech.

    With the advent of such things varregions and Kitely’s HG delivery systems [which are also likely to have copy attempts in some regards], and the use of the megaregions, stats have only little probative value, and really only in commercial respects as a marketing tool…and even that marketing tool has less and less value to them, and is subject to all sorts of interpretations and padding, as other conversations here have noted.

    As the old tech continues to take a backseat to the greater open Meta, such things will become more obviously passé, even for those who like such things.

    I really see no value or relationship to using stats pertaining to the greater free Meta now, other than some kind of totals. I know Metropolis could care less about stats, and I am pretty sure Craft and Francogrid could care either.

    And as noted, it hardly pertains to the Kitely model either. The paradigm is changing, and quickly.

    The only internal use is to add servers if needed and keep the special access OS updated.

    Anywho, time will tell, and in this year.

    • The stats aren’t there to benefit any grid in particular (though it probably doesn’t hurt InWorldz much to be known as the most popular grid).

      They’re to make OpenSim more accessible to newcomers. I understand a lot of grid owners aren’t particularly concerned about this, especially the non-profit ones who have to scramble to support the users they already have. Or the small, personal, educational or company grids.

      Meanwhile, internally, commercial grids need different kinds of stats. They need stats about conversions, retention, traffic flows, etc… There aren’t any good tools for that, either, actually. The website part can be tracked with Google Analytics and similar products, but then you’d manually have to track conversions — signups, activations, first friends, repeat visits, land purchases, etc…

      • Yes, like I said, I understand why you want to do them. But it is obvious that they are not a complete nor entirely accurate picture of things going on.

        Up to you though, of course, it’s not my blog, I just live here…lol

      • KeithSelmes

        I think the idea of stats making OpenSim more accessible may work for people seeking region hosting, and being able and willing to deal with technical jargon. But we probably are at a stage where we can expect newcomers who will primarily want to access worlds without necessarily knowing they’re using OpenSim, and where they probably don’t need to. Perhaps we need to think about what we mean by newcomer ?

        • Joe Builder

          96% of the newcomers are explorers from SL looking to see what advancements or the hoop la is about in opensims.

          • KeithSelmes

            That’s a very precise figure – where’d it come from ?

          • Joe Builder

            Owning a grid for 1, Owning a couple stores in SL, Been talking to as many people as possible in my search for what Opensim needs to bring in people. Just basically doing a lot of homework and averaging out the common answers. Mass majority are creators who want something different, Programmers’ and testers and a lot of people with a SL grudge for 1 reason or another.

          • KeithSelmes

            That’s not too surprising.

            However my experience has changed in the last year or so.

            Previously I was surrounded by many IT and academic people most days, who all knew something about SL.

            Now, I meet fewer people, and with little or no knwledge of SL. Nonetheless they take an interest in “that game” Keith is “playing”. What they want to know is simply what can you do with it, what does it cost, and how do you get started.

            I’ve learned to keep it non technical, and probably not even mention SL or OS.

            That seems feasible now, which it didn’t a year or two ago.

            The big drawback is still the need for a suitable computer and graphics card. However if a person now is looking for something to relax with, or explore, or they have a practical use for it, the cost of a used PC and a new graphics card is not that much, and a lot of people have pretty good broadband already.

            This is a very small sample and not at all conclusive, however it does suggest there’s a potential for many more people to benefit from this technology, if it is presented to them in a way that really is more accessible.

          • @Keith…”However my experience has changed in the last year or so.”

            I like to call it an “evolving” perspective, laced with increasing knowledge-))

            Those intent on keeping people unaware or filling them with mis and dis-information do not want people to evolve their perspectives as it does not line their own pockets.

  • nara_malone

    I have yet to find any sort of traffic tool that correctly counts hypergrid users. I get a fairly decent count of my own grid users from the traffic counters, but there are plenty of times I have a user standing right there next to me and the counter doesn’t see them. The user stats on the login page are fairly accurate, It gives me a count of users online (not NPC but does count avatar ghosts) and active users which is where I draw my hypergrid stat, deducting my user count from the total gives me an idea how many are from hypergrid. I think we get 2/3 of our users as hypergrid visits.

    There was an object someone scripted that shows a region online and how many people are on the grid displayed on a website. It counted NPCs too.

    On the naked whippings…hmmm… perhaps we can script an NPC to provide that service. Should we send you a monthly whipping stat?

  • AviWorlds

    The tool would be one that sees each avatars IP origin.You track by the avatar. Whete its coming from. So also by a group he or she has created in their homeland.

  • Joe Builder

    I think if any grid that has issues or don’t know what actual used regions mean, They should refrain from posting any stats that bring questions.

  • hack13

    It is funny you are writing this article, we are actually working on such a system and have even purchased one of the new vanity domains for it http://opensim.directory/ which is set to launch soon. It will be a module grids can install to be a part of the statistical counting, the module will be PHP based and will require very little effort to install. It intergrates and scans the grid’s database and then pushes the statisics via JSON to our servers which then collect every 12 to 24 hours to grab everything from region names, grid login statistics, and more.

    I am looking at possibly adding an LSL version to have the ability to have better region tracking, and for those who do not own a grid or a part of a grid that hasn’t decided to fully participate.

    Remember at Zetamex we are pushing the envolope to make new and better things for the metaverse because we care and want to see better and more accurate statistics.

    • Excellent! The more information, the better, I always say.

    • uumm what? did i miss a meeting? xD