Content in peril at one-man shops

One-man — and one-woman — shops are putting content in danger across the metaverse. Documentation, code, virtual content, even entire grids are at risk when it’s just one person running the project.

Radegast, METAbolt and LibOpenMetaverse

One of the key foundations of OpenSim is LibOpenMetaverse — originally LibSecondLife — which is the library of messages grids and regions send to and receive from viewers.

Volunteer developers deciphered these messages and were able to create bots. This dates back to before the viewers were open sourced.

Then this same collection of messages was used to build OpenSim. Although it’s a common misunderstanding that OpenSim was made possible by Linden Lab releasing its viewer code, OpenSim developers were actually prohibited from working on or even looking at the viewers because of incompatible license terms. Instead, they built everything from scratch, using LibOpenMetaverse to reverse-engineer virtual world that looks a lot like Second Life on the surface — but it dramatically different under the hood.

The actual LibOpenMetaverse code library is collected on github, a popular site for sharing open source software. But the documentation for it was on a separate website, openmetaverse.org — and that website has just disappeared, replaced but what seems to be a temporary filler site.

The disappearance is already causing problems for OpenSim developers.

“I’ve been playing for many years with bots using LibOpenMetaverse and was just now looking for the docs so I could update my custom bot and port it to OpenSim,” said Fred Beckhusen, also known as Ferd Frederix in-world. “I want have a bunch of my animals to follow my troll around. Cows, sheep, dragons, fairies, or nubile whatevers. It would be good for parties, as I could fill a dance floor anywhere with cows.”

Beckhusen runs the Outworldz site, which is an amazing and huge collection of scripts, tutorials, meshes, textures, tools, and other content for Second Life and OpenSim. He is particularly well-known for his animated animals.

Beckhunsen's  free NPC shark bends and flexes and attacks anyone who gets near.

Beckhusen’s free NPC shark bends and flexes and attacks anyone who gets near.

“Now lib.openmetaverse.org appears to be gone entirely,” he told Hypergrid Business. “I’ll try and reconstruct what I can from the Wayback machine, but copyright issues may make this difficult.”

Beckhusen said he’s also worried about the Radegast and METAbolt viewer projects.

Latif Khalifa, the author of Radegast and maintainer of LibOpenMetaverse, is quite ill,” he said. “Latif has been a wonderful and important developer for many years, and has made many useful tools. His site Primsearch for megaprims, no longer answers.   Another  key piece Latif made for Second Life and OpenSim infrastructure is the Grid URL Persister,  which is very useful for HTTP-In scripts.  And like any paid-for web site, even on Google App Engine, I fear it may go down some day.”

Another one-man project is the text-only METAbolt viewer, originally created by Legolas Luke.

“I have used METAbolt for years,” said Beckhusen. “The source and docs are there — for now — but the author has refused to allow it to be further developed under that name.”

CasperTech, the company that took over METAbolt development last year, recently announced that they will no longer be working on the METAbolt project, but will be developing a new viewer based on Radegast, instead.

Linda Kellie and OpenSim Creations

The OpenSim community has also seen two major content sites vanish recently.

Linda Kellie had a site where she posted all her content — and giant and incredibly useful collection of a very broad variety of content, all licensed CC0 for any use whatsoever on any grid.

Linda Kellie's clothing is available via IAR file on Zadaroo.com.

Linda Kellie’s clothing is available via IAR file on Zadaroo.com.

Fortunately, when she left virtual worlds and took the site down, Zetamex stepped in and provided hosting for the entire repository at Zadaroo.com. Her OAR region files — as well as many others — are also available on the Outworldz site.

OpenSim Creations wasn’t as lucky. When the site went down last fall, most of the content was lost.

The old OpenSim Creations home page.

The old OpenSim Creations home page.

One-man grids

The most … notorious … example of what can happen when a single person is in charge of a grid is the story of AviWorlds.

The grid is so closely associated with its founder, Alexsandro Pomposelli, that anything that personally affects him has the possibility of shutting down the entire grid. If he’s stressed and overworked, the grid goes down. If he has a dispute with a partner or hosting company, the grid goes down.

Pomposelli's AviWorlds.us.

Pomposelli’s AviWorlds.us.

Most other grids of any significant size are able to put a management team together, so that they are not dependent on what happens to any single person.

AviWorlds is a case study of what happens otherwise.

Survival tips

If you are an individual in control of a large amount of content — especially content that’s partly or fully created by the broader community — then you should start thinking of ways to protect that content in case something happens to you.

Hyperica is a a grid with an in-world hyperport as well as an online directory of destinations.

Hyperica is a a grid with an in-world hyperport as well as an online directory of destinations.

I, myself, am guilty of forgetting to do this. Both Hyperica and Hypergrid Business are vulnerable in case something happens to me. And while I am the author of many of the articles on this site, more than 140 other writers and hundreds of companies have contributed content as well.

Some tips:

  • Succession planning — Have at least one other person ready to step in and take over if anything happens to you. This is also handy if, say, you ever want to take a vacation.
  • Pay ahead — If you can, pay a year or two ahead for hosting and domain registration, so that if there’s a temporary emergency, everything will at least continue to stay up.
  • Make and test backups — If you don’t have an automated mechanism to create backups of everything, do it now. If you have a system, go and check to make sure it’s working, and set up a schedule so that the backups get checked on a regular basis.
  • Have an exit strategy — What happens if you just decide to leave? Will you donate your content to the community? Sell it? Hand it over to your successor?
  • Create an emergency kit — If you’re hit by a bus, where are all the logins and passwords? Where are the backups kept? If you expect a family member to step in and help, make sure that they know what to do with your virtual world stuff. For example, you might have a file with instructions and passwords that they could send to your successor if something happens to you if the successor doesn’t already have all this information.
  • Include copyrights in your will — If your kids are anything like my own, they aren’t going to care a bit about your virtual world stuff. If you have a will, leave the content to someone who will care about it, or donate it to a community group. If you leave some money that can be used for temporary hosting or migration, that would be nice, as well.
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.

  • Cinder Biscuits

    Nobody seems to know who controlled openmetaverse.org. I have my assumptions, but at this point, there’s little that can be done. the libopenmetaverse jira is gone now too, along with Radegast’s. I submitted a pull request to update libopenmetaverse to the latest changes to lludp from Linden Lab to add the recent AppearanceHover message, but so far, that has either overlooked or ignored by those with commit access.

    • Shy Robbiani

      Latif is back, I’ve seen him around on the Freenode #opensim-dev IRC channel. Like you I see the mess with libomv and I hope Opensimulator.org will get more involved and hopefully even take over control of it. I’m less concerned regarding Radegast as I have the latest changes. Latif clearly said that Radegast is Open Source and any interested party can take and use it. Personally I would be willing to contribute to a continuation of Radegast, but I will not do it alone.

  • Alex Ferraris

    wow, again. ..AviWorlds never shut down due to my personal life.
    Our shut downs happened due to other than my peronal life problems.
    I have a team and I have a tech. Now considering Aviworlds has only been online again for 3 weeks we cannot expect me to spend millions on a tech team.
    At the same tine Maria always is on the side of EVERYTHING FREE which really again goes against what she is saying on this article. How can a grid offering 5 dollars regions afford all that Maria has said regarding a well structured team and techs to do the work.
    Again; AviWorlds is once again being attacked by a bunch of ifs and donts.
    The grid is now with 223 uniques with only 3 weeks being online.
    I guess that upsets people.

    • Alex —

      I think there have been a couple of times when you’ve said that you had personal issues and had to shut down the grid. Like December 2013: http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2013/12/aviworlds-grid-down-yet-again/

      And here: http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2013/12/top-40-grids-pass-30000-regions/

      Meanwhile, a succession plan has nothing to do with profitability. Whether or not you can figure out a way to make money with $5 regions — or whether you’re a non-profit, or just doing something as a hobby — if people are depending on you, and trusting their content with you, then I believe you have a moral obligation (though not necessarily a legal one) to do the best you can to protect their content.

      So, say, for example, you end up in the hospital with appendicitis.

      You could:

      * Have emergency instructions with your emergency contact to leave an update on your grid’s Facebook page (pretty much anyone should be able to do this, even if your emergency contact is your grandma)
      * Set up auto-pay and auto-renew for crtical services such as domain name registrations, website hosting, etc…
      * Have a trusted resident or volunteer or community leader ready to step in to make any decisions that need to be made — and let people know ahead of time that they will be in charge temporarily in case something happens to you
      * Set up a way for your residents to redeem their currency balances or get their OAR files from your hosting company (waiving the OAR download fee, if there is one)
      * If it looks like you’ll be coming back, have your emergency contact post a note with an update, and an approximate date of return

      • Alex Ferraris

        Maria when that happened I did find a replacement.
        But this time AviWords is currently backed up by Ibackup and google drive.
        OARS are given when requested and we have been giving oars to our region creators.
        Now I do think it is kind of unffair to aim the gun only at AviWorlds.
        It does cost money to maintain back ups and have a safe structure and the 5 dollars regions do not pay.
        As I have said. 5 dollars regions are sandboxes with no power and anyone interested can use one of AviWorlds many sandboxes for free!

        • You’re right — it is unfair to pick on AviWorlds. After all, plenty of other one-man or one-woman grids have disappeared. They disappear every month.

          But when I tried to remember the names of any of them, AviWorlds is the only one that came to mind!

          • Alex Ferraris

            LoL!Yes AviWorlds has possesed your mind!

          • Maria is possessed?? heck, that makes an awful lot of sense now!!!

  • AlanTupper

    I’m really shocked to learn about the loss of the libomv documentation especially when considering how pivotal it is to the ongoing development of Opensim.

  • Fly Man

    To address all the things mentioned in this post:

    – The Openmetaverse page is a placeholder because someone wanted to redesign the homepage. I have no clue who’s the current maintainer of the website but my guess is the Overte Foundation or Lkalif still.

    – Most of the documentation on the OMV site was old and hadn’t been updated since the release of 0.9.2 which was Februari 2014. But a handy person is able to export the API list and place it onto a Wiki without hard labour.

    – Radegast and MetaBolt are both on Github, in the original edition and the extended edition (in case of MetaBolt) so any developer can pick up the source there. Radegast was mainly made by Lkalif but there’s still some developers around that are able to “update” it. Metabolt itself has a silent developer so those 2 projects won’t disappear that easy.

    – Most of the OpenSimCreations content was already in the Google+ and it’s being rebuild with the content that some people still have on their hard disks. It won’t be a complete site anymore but many people share their content now in the Google+

    And last but not least, the current maintainers for the LibOMV is JustinCC and the Overte Foundation. The last commits that have been made to the LibOMV Github page have been from mainly Opensim developers.

    I do want to say that some of the open pull requests that are made on the Github page have already been integrated into another repository for those people that want to use it: https://github.com/WhiteCoreSim/Whitecore-LibOMV/commits/master

    Ending this post with the mentioning that even when some people are unable to contribute anymore, there’s always a backup of most of the things somewhere on the Internet. As a gatekeeper of around 50 repositories from virtual world viewers, LSL scripts and programs that have to do with Virtual Worlds, just ask and I might have a backup of it somewhere.

  • Nathan Adored

    Shortly after OpensimCreations went poof, someone popped up saying they’d been planning to start an independent, mirror site copy of THAT but hadn’t gotten it set up before the site unexpectedly went away. That should have been a wake up call for people about the other opensim-related info and content places we rely so much on. All of these sites really needed to have independent mirror sites created, just in case they later DID go poof.

    Has there been any more word on what happened to these other places? Surely the site owners of ONE of them has backups they might provide to someone else willing to run the place if they can’t afford to anymore. oO

  • Mark John Wiseman

    So in one line: Organise like a business, not a hobby if you are going to be acting like a business online.

    • Or: if people are trusting you to take care of their content — whether on a commercial grid or a non-profit website — respect them and make provisions to protect that content.

      • Alex Ferraris

        Once again I say this. Hypergrid Travel needs to be kept within home based grids and free open borders grids like OSGRID.
        If you want to create a commercial type grid it is then necessary to close hypergrid travels. I dont care what you say about your content filters because there is a way to take things out anyway.Plus the creators mind set is what it is. They dont feel safe just by the grid being based on opensim.
        I say this because I am experiencing this first hand. Another problem is the mind set that everything needs to be CHEAP and FREE.
        You want something free go and do it yourself but if you want a strong grid with powerful regions , a community,security,grid masters,back ups and an economy where your virtual business can thrive YOU MUST BE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT. Because the grid is generating a COST in order to give you all that.

        • Alex — You can complain about this all you want. But if you measure a grid’s success by how much land it sells, Kitely is currently the most successful commercial grid. And it’s hypergrid enabled.

          Right now, there are only three cases in which having a closed grid makes sense:

          1. You’re a school or a business or government agency or another private community, and you don’t want to have any outsiders on your grid at all, and you don’t want your users to take their school or work avatars to other grids. Examples of other private communities include gay and lesbian groups in repressive countries, dissident groups, or other persecuted minorities for whom privacy and security are vital.

          2. You have a unique game or other proprietary content that requires users to create a new character to play it, and you don’t want outside content coming in. Say, for example, you have a medieval game, and you don’t want people bringing in tanks and missiles. (Most major successful commercial games are closed platforms.)

          3. You are the leading social grid.

          Since the first two are obvious, let me explain — again.

          There is only room for one closed general-purpose social grid because maintaining multiple avatars is too much work. And if you’re only going to have one avatar, you want it to be on the grid where most of your friends are, and where most content is.

          And maintaining stores on multiple closed grids is too much work. Merchants will pick the one with the most users.

          Everybody wants to be the next InWorldz. But there is ALREADY an InWorldz, and there is no room for any others. Avination is closest other grid, and it’s gone from more than 8,000 active users at its peak to just around 1,300 today. AND they’re working on improving export permissions and have stated in the past that they plan to enable hypergrid once the bugs are worked out.

          So, say AviWorlds is able to return to its previous peak of around 500 active users. That’s not enough to attract merchants — InWorldz has more than 8,000 actives. And if a merchant DID want to have a presence on more than one grid in OpenSim, there are a bunch of other grids they’d go to first — like Avination, Island Oasis, and Virtual Highway. And YrGrid, which has been growing like gangbusters thanks to its gambling, Bitcoins, and an aggressive marketing campaign.

          Meanwhile, there are 17,000 users on the hypergrid, and merchants can target ALL of them with the Kitely market. And with 17,000 users, on 250 or so grids, there’s a lot of potential friends out there — all accessible with a single avatar.

          And if you don’t think that merchants like the hypergrid, just look at the Kitely Market growth stats. The merchants have a choice — and all the growth is in the exportable products. Because that’s where they’re making money.

          So if your merchants are telling you that they don’t want to open stores on your grid because of hypergrid, maybe they’re just being polite. Maybe they don’t want to come out and say it, but putting a store on AviWorlds is a lot of work — work that the user base doesn’t justify. And work that would all be wasted if the grid went down again and they had to re-upload all their content.

          • Alex Ferraris

            Wrong Maria. I have the creators and they are creating and appreciate the fact that we are a closed comercial grid.
            One other big problem is that no one will create nothing if they see the residents bringing in items from outside.
            And also copy boted items, A commercial grid needs to combat it.
            I already sold 15 regions Maria and I can tell you and others that AviWorlds will have money to invest in development and security because of this trend.
            Something a freebo grid wont have.

  • There are also person dependencies in the OpenSim software itself that makes it vulnerable. The entire ecosystem is not particularly robust unfortunately.

    • Fly Man

      @geirnklebye:disqus In each project there’s people. The difference is that a project should just “disappear” from the radar when 1 of the people isn’t there to take care of it anymore.

      For many of the projects I work on, there’s always a second/third person with the same rights as me in case either one of us is no longer able to help the project. In case of OpenMetaVerse, I know that some of the OpenSim Core contributors have rights to update and maintain the LibOMV Github, why there hasn’t been an update even when there’s some pull requests waiting … is a question that I am unable to answer.

      • Frozen because of DMCA takedown request?

        • Fly Man

          No, I haven’t heard anything about a DMCA against LibOMV. I think it mostly has to do with no enough people taking the time to read the pull requests and applying them to the already known source