New grid owners association seeks your input

Over the years, OpenSimulator has grown to be a widely used platform, serving as the virtual world server for many communities ranging in size, specialization and languages. due to the platforms open source nature, community contribution to its code base over the years has made OpenSimulator a formidable choice for avatar driven 3D environments and their applications in business, education and socially driven entertainment.

However, the success of the platform also creates a number of growing pains and an outburst of new user requests to the platform. This asks for new solutions to keep the development and maintenance of the platform manageable for developers and in alignment with the wishes of the users of the platform.

opensim united logo under constructionThe owners of grids are expressing more often the wish to unite and solve the issues that are delaying wide spread adoption of the platform. Although most grid owners will happily pay to have features developed, this raises questions about the IP and ownership of the created code. Most grid owners would like to contribute back to the community, but they also have the question of the private investment in development they have done, as well as owning exclusivity of a feature leading to a competitive edge they would rather not share. This conflict of interests is slowing down expenditure on development.

Individual and collective sponsorship of requested features has in the past led to some great results, a notable one being the implementation of Non Player Characters in OpenSimulator. If properly organised, and with respect to all the involved parties perspectives, it is possible to formulate projects, have them crowdfunded and implemented into the platforms open source software.

We propose to initiate a not for profit organisation to support — at least — this crowdfunding engine for requested developments. This organisation would periodically establish the most required features, consult with developers and formulate projects from the top required features, run crowdfunding rounds for selected projects and oversee the delivery of the agreed project from paid developer.

Beyond serving development funding needs, the organization could fulfil other functions the community has expressed it would like from the organization. So far these have included items like a common approach to griefers, hosting forums for cross grid discussion, and analysing and improving OpenSimulator’s marketing position.

One of the presentation areas at the OpenSim Community Conference grid. (Image courtesy AvaCon.)

One of the presentation areas at the OpenSim Community Conference grid. (Image courtesy AvaCon.)

To formulate this organization, a group of enthusiasts have formed an kickoff team. They include myself as well as MetaPundit blogger Alan Tupper, Digital Worlds Group CEO Mark Wiseman, and Hypergrid Business editor Maria Korolov. Our goal is to guide the formation of the organization in collaboration with the OpenSimulator community. The kickoff team will be present at the OpenSimulator Community Conference 2014 for a panel discussion on the proposal. We invite you to join in on saturday at 2:30 p.m. Pacific at the Community Track region and give us your feedback and input.

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For now, the kickoff team would like to hear your opinions and questions on the proposed association of OpenSimulator users. We have created a short questionnaire and would love to see your responses. We project closing this first round of input at the end of November to subsequently formulate a first formation plan based on your feedback.

If you would like to find out more as we progress, or start contributing your ideas and wishes you can visit and join up at our temporary website at www.opensimunited.com.

OpenSim United website

 

And, again, the questionnaire is here.

Terry Ford

Terry Ford is the founder of 3RD Rock Grid, one of the oldest OpenSim grids. He is also known as Butch Arnold in-world.

  • It should be inclusive, not limited to only OpenSim grid owners

    • Mark John Wiseman

      Hi Sarge, that is exactly the intention at current: an all inclusive platform.

      the article title here may be a bit misleading, but probably due to the fact that this discussion started off a week ago from a grid owners perspective. As we have not even settled on a name (which I would like to see to be community choosen), we may be communicating a bit clumsily on that level.

  • nextreality

    I still don’t think the developers will listen to opinions and suggestions. They will still do what they want to do without consulting grid owners first. We have seen it happen in the past. If this association help to prevent it happening then it will be a good idea.

    • I think the new organization should include our developers as well.
      The developers are a great source of knowledge and potential partners in this organization as they too have much to gain.

      If we are successful at bringing a “Crowd Funding” element into the community to pay for bug fixes, extensions of features, or new features then the current developers may be more interested in completing the “Paying” projects. We may also be able to attract more developers to our platform if there is a monetary reward for them to participate.

      The truth is, OpenSim has gotten as far as it has thus far on the backs of the current and previous contributors which have created what we have so far for free. We are all enjoying the fruits of their FREE labor.

      All segments of the OpenSim community stand to benefit from such an organization, Devs, Grid Owners, Users, and Vendors.

      If we can organize ourselves in such a way to create “Bounties” for popular, sought after features and bug fixes, someone, somewhere will come to claim it.

      I really think the current and future developers can benefit from this as well.
      Remember, if one person or a grid asks for a new feature, they are essentially asking a current developer, or a group of developers to collaborate on adding the new feature – meaning with our current system, we are counting on one or more developers to donate his/her time to develop the feature, test the feature, etc. for free.
      We all know money talks in most cases.
      If we ask for a new feature in our current system, the developers get $0 for his/her efforts.
      If we crowd fund something and collect $5000 for a new feature then surely one of the developers would be more than willing to take on the project for the bounty.

      Doing crowd funding could work well for us as our community is now large enough to make this work, and the best thing is… we all will benefit from better code, less bugs, faster fixes, more users to our platform as it will become more attractive, etc.
      The more users, developers, grid owners, and vendors we can attract to our platform, the better off we’ll all be.
      The developers might be able to start earning some income from their efforts, the grid owners get a better “Out of the Box” product on which to build their customizations, the users get to enjoy a better performing, less buggy platform with more features, the vendors have more people to serve, etc.

      I can “Almost” see a “Team” of developers being formed right now for the sole purpose of collecting the bounties we as a community put out there.

      There are so many things that a $5 donation from 1000 people would fix… or a $10 donation from 500 people, etc.
      With all the money we are all saving by not paying LL, surely we can all “Step up to the plate” and pitch in a bit to get things done.

      The OpenSim community is full of very talented, hard working people who can make these things happen.

  • Geir Nøklebye

    You need to fix the survey link. It has ttps:// and not https://

  • shawnkmaloney .
  • Dot

    Maybe update the lower screenshot to get rid of the typo in the headline? “Enthousiast” doesn’t give a very good impression. It’s been corrected on the site.

  • Frank Corsi

    This is a very good project, for the growth and development of the opensim community.

  • Michelle Argus

    In the past I also have funded some bug fixing myself and would do it again. But, the way I see it at the moment is, that opensim ist just one huge pile of code mess filled with thousands of bugs, unfinished code, badly implemented code and core developers which themselves dictate what bugs they want implemented and what bugfixed should never make its way into opensim.

    Making suggestions and proposing patches with realy good inprovements are often blocked and as a result many small developers simply do their own private things instead of making their work public. At hesame time new addon modules manage their way into core even though those addons only get used by an absolute minority… bur who cares if the core code is full of unused code, its a mess anyway.

    So what we realy need at the moment is, a simple, structured, working opensim core version without all the rubbish, which works without hickups. With a good code structure developers already have 70% of their current work done and do not need to waist time searching for the errors that are implemented in some strange undefinable code. Aurora Sim failed on this(more due to incompatibility) and ArribaSim currently is on the right path but struggling to clean up the mess and stay compatibly at the same time.

    So, as long as none of the available SIM versions are cleaned up,each new feature is a step in the wrong direction. Each new feature currently is just making the code mess grow and bugfixing becomes even more difficult…

    • lmpierce

      That sounds ideal… so who would do this? Who would pay for it? What are the tangible rewards?

      It seems to me the open source community minded nature of the software will always lead to messy code. Even companies that are propriety often find that the troublesome legacy code in their products is a perennial and inevitable challenge. The OpenSim developers have worked primarily as volunteers. Where in that is their obligation to fulfill specific outside requests? But putting aside all that, there has been long-term conflict over the priority of suggestions. Again, the target audience is diverse. Where does one begin to decide what goes in, what comes out, what stays the same? Even proprietary software companies with deep pockets have to make hard choices on features because no software does it all, and if they fail to make good choices, they are out of business, so this is never easy to work out.

      The other aspect of all this is how virtual worlds as a paradigm still flounders in the world at large. With tepid demand, it’s hard to find investors (time or money) for moving forward. But even if the core idea of virtual worlds has potential, many have suggested that OpenSim is out-of-date relative to current needs and trends. Perhaps a whole new platform that only borrows principles, and not a line of code is called for? Well, I know, that’s unthinkable for many, and hope springs eternal for OpenSim, as if only a few tweaks and fixes could make it perfect. But if the current OpenSim users cannot fund a complete rewrite for the changes they desire, appealing to a wider audience for support is crucial. So the challenge isn’t only cleaning up code, but creating, or rather recreating, a more compelling piece of software, mindful, however, that even that may not be enough – customers (whether they pay or not) are fickle. After all, no virtual world platform has caught and maintained long-term excitement that grows along the lines of Facebook. Obviously the challenge for success is enormous, and depends a lot on popular adoption, something no developer can control.

      I think the most important way to keep and grow OpenSim popularity is the creation of great applications now, today, using the technology as is. Finding key areas of growth and adoption should be the primary goal. For example, using virtual worlds in education has shown great potential. That should be the guidance for a durable funding model applied to product development. For example, I knew a university professor who applied for and received grants for funding a presence for the university in Second Life (OpenSim would today be a much better value). Stop worrying about capitalism versus socialism. Everything takes money, even in communist China!

      We don’t see a tsunami of such great applications because such applications take a lot of time and/or money for development – putting us in the same dilemma as the OpenSim developers. In other words, we need to walk the talk and expect as much of ourselves as we expect of them. And as it turns out, that’s hard to do. In fact, it’s very hard to do.

      But the alternative is that we can go along arguing about this feature or that feature or this bug or that developer’s bias, or whether this association or that association is sufficiently inclusive, and so on, and so on. But down those roads I see a lot of bickering over a dwindling opportunity until it just won’t matter what anyone does.

      Reminds me of the book, The Giving Tree.

      • The new association won’t replace any of the existing development channels. So people can still work on code that interests them personally, or that they think is important to the community, or that they need for their own work, or that a lot of people are waiting for.

        What it would do is expand on one of the channels that already exists — bounties. For example, a couple of years ago, a company offered a small bounty for the development of NPC code, and we got that code. Developers need to eat, too. A bounty allows them to replace some of their external, paying work, with OpenSim projects.

        I would be more than happy to contribute to a pot for bounties for much-needed work such as the Whisper voice system, a Web-based viewer, for bug fixes. I’ll even put in my share towards projects that maybe don’t benefit my grid personally, but would benefit grids in general — and, thus, improve OpenSim as a whole.

  • Gunnar Schwede

    As Maria mentioned a ‘development bounty’ sounds like a good incentive for programmers. I can see something like the ‘Teespring’ concept (a t-shirt company) would work great for this. In short, what they do is propose a tshirt design one can purchase. Once a certain amount of people offer to purchase, the design is printed and sent out to the customers. If the minimum amount of purchases is not reached, the design will not be printed.
    This could work for development code as well. A programmer suggests an enhancement or fix, folks offer to donate, once the goal $ is reached the code is created/implemented. I think the OS community is fairly large so a $5 to $10 purchase price would be acceptable.

  • Han Held

    >So far these have included items like a common approach to griefers,
    WHAT griefers? Seriously -I have yet to log in anywhere in opensim and find lolcubes a-spinning. Y’all are just making mountains out of Jack Marioline.

    >hosting forums for cross grid discussion,
    sluniverse -> forum -> other worlds -> opensim ^_^
    >and analysing and improving OpenSimulator’s marketing position.
    The sound of one hand clapping.