Saturday, February 14, 2009

Zero Point Disaster

[reprinted from the old blog site 7/21/08, with comments]

Yesterday's front page article on the disappearance of Sabine Stonebender's Zero Point stimulated a lot of response. Zero Point was one of the best known and artistically influential builds in the virtual world of Second Life®. Many residents were incredulous about its disappearance and concerned about the impact of this on every aspect of the virtual world's economy.

This one from an institutional leader summed up the sentiments very well:
... stuck on a plane at LAX and saw this on my treo. ugh. why couldn't linden do a rollback or other recovery? if not possible to recover from things like this, SL can never be a place for serious business. Also makes me wonder about the sanity of my own research investment in SL if this can happen. Linden really can't afford this type of publicity if SL is to be taken seriously! Hoping to hear a solution will be found and very sorry to learn of this.
This morning I wrote to Pathfinder Linden, who has been exceptionally supportive of the arts, asking why they have not done a rollback, and asked "What can I say to the readers--artists, collectors, gallery owners, curators, writers, business owners and institutional leaders--who now doubt whether they should continue creating, collecting and investing in a virtual world where years of work can disappear irrecoverably?" If I receive an answer I will post it.

1 comment:

  1. Posted by ArtWorld Market at 2:58 AM


    Prokofy said...

    Your article is not clear. Was this installation removed because of some content violation? Or is this just a build loss due to a rolling restart, which happens constantly -- I usually have it happen at least twice a month on my sims.

    Have you tried doing the normal thing we all have to do and simply file a normal support ticket on the website asking for a rollback and explaining an entire build was lost?

    If you have a whole item, you're entitle to support service at the Concierge level, and you can even reach them live with this request, but you'll still have to put a ticket into the queue with the sim name. Calling Pathfinder is irrelevant as he is not a Linden responsible for land and technical issues.

    Or perhaps you'd just prefer to fulminate and make a drama out of all this?

    July 21, 2008 6:47 AM

    Garret Bakalava said...

    I too fail to see an overarching problem. For one thing, what is the "billing error."?

    Two weeks ago, I was in the red to LL for 2 USD cents without realizing it. I don't know why LL didn't come in and take a couple of my L dollars to cover it but they didn't. Instead they closed my log in. Had I owned land on mainland, they would have seized that too, I reckon.

    While it was a small hassle for me, not a big deal. How else is LL going to attempt to collect on an account that owes money?

    I spend a lot of money in SL as I pay a large staff. Did I expect special treatement or for LL to spend time and man hours to look at my account and decide, heck no, let's not suspend Garret Bakalava.... No, I don't. Likewise, I don't expect LL to go to each plot of land they are going to reclaim and look to see what is on that land and decide based on that whether to reclaim it or not.

    I would take Prok's advice here: File a ticket. See if the sim can be rolled back. This could create problems and an inconvenience for any other land holder on that sim, however, which is why sim restarts need to be asked for immediately.

    July 21, 2008 7:15 AM

    ArtWorld Market said...

    prokofy and garret:
    Thank you for your comments. I will add some content to the article. If you had followed the link there to Sabine's blog then you would have seen why this is an issue. The Lindens were kind and supportive to her, for which she thanks them, but she was told (this from a personal interview as well) that the sim could not be rolled back.

    July 21, 2008 8:37 AM

    AldoManutio said...

    Ooookaaay. How utterly and ironically timely. Welcome to my world and dealing with the ephemera which is the proliferation of digital cultural heritage materials.

    In one of my SL incarnations, I have been engaged in conversations with Filthy Fluno and DanCoyote Antonelli about the issues of documenting and making backups of the art in SL ... this story needs to be repeated and hammered home to every single artist, gallery owner, archivist, curator or librarian that dabbles in SL.

    The very idea of trying to create a "market" in an environment that continues to be as intrinsically ephemeral as SL is simply beyond my comprehension.

    July 22, 2008 11:45 AM

    ArtWorld Market said...

    Aldo has a good point, and that is addressed is a new SLART Business Feature on How to Protect Your Investment in Second Life®. Today's article suggests using Rez-Foo or a similar tool to control and save large builds, and also suggests giving copies to another account to avert inventory loss disasters.

    I received a communication from Pathfinder Linden about this, who could not give details about why the rollback was not possible, but did say

    "I do know that all the items on the plot were returned to Sabine, so at least nothing should have been lost.

    I think it's great you're sharing ideas with your readers about how to save positional data for large builds with products like Rez-Foo. Nice work. :)


    As you may know from the article, the issue was not whether the items were lost, but the difficulty in reassembling what became a jigsaw puzzle. Using a large build utility will help solve that problem by enabling you to save a backup copy.

    Pathfinder also directed me to another Linden for more information. If I learn anything new and useful I will let you know.

    July 23, 2008 8:28 AM

    Professor said...

    Very troubling and thought provoking. A few thoughts and questions:

    1) WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? This is still not clear. Can we get the specific details? SLART quotes Sabine saying "a billing error liquidated zero's land." Sabine's blog states "an error in the system caused the land to revert to a for sale state." The cause of the problem is vaguely stated. It is important to know exactly what happened - was this user error or Linden error? Not knowing the exact cause creates further anxiety, as we wonder, "could I be next?"

    2) ROLLBACK. Zero Point is a 22K mainland parcel. Was a rollback requested immediately or not - what was the timeline? What was Linden's response to the rollback request? Obviously, rollbacks on mainland parcels are problematic if not executed immediately. As you note in your article "How to Preserve Large Builds", recent changes to neighboring parcels will be affected by a rollback. However, given that Sabine has two years of work on the one hand, and there is possibly a day or two of changes to neighboring parcels on the other hand, maybe there would be consensus among all of the land owners involved that a rollback would be for the common good?

    In my own university research project, I've requested a rollback because of errors made on my side during land parceling. These errors caused some parts of the build to be returned to inventory, prim by prim. In my case, the build is a two island estate, and Linden rolled back the affected island within an hour and all was fine. I recall going back and forth when planning my build between whether to purchase mainland or estate property. From the perspective of rollbacks, owning an estate appears to offer significant advantages.

    However, for those who own or lease individual mainland or estate parcels, rollbacks will affect more than the individual's parcel. You comment in your "Large Builds" article that "we are not aware of the technical reasons, if any, why the code for a single parcel cannot be copied from the backup and pasted into the current simulation." It would be good to know if this is technically possible. If so, Linden could certainly offer data-recovery services at an hourly rate, even though Linden's TOS offers no guarantees. One would think Linden would be open to new revenue generating opportunities such as data-recovery services. Of course, whether Linden charges to restore a build should really depend upon whether the cause was user or Linden error.

    3) LINDEN HELPFULNESS. Your original article says that "Sabine praises the Lindens for their efforts." Perhaps I missed something, but while I do see that Sabine, in her blog, acknowledges the "support from kind folks within Second Life" - I interpreted this as the support of Second Life residents, and not Lindens. What were the efforts of Lindens that she praised?

    4) PROTECTING OUR INVESTMENT. I very much appreciated the information on Rez-Foo, and am extremely interested in learning about other approaches SL users can proactively take to back up complex builds. As with so many other things the lesson seems to be "buyer (or builder) beware!"

    July 23, 2008 10:29 AM

    AldoManutio said...

    I call "BS" on the Linden response ... the point is that the context of the work has been destroyed and CANNOT be restored, even if the pieces are there. That's why it's call INSTALLATION art.

    Rez-Foo and similar tools will atleast allow inworld documentation of a work; what we need now is to be able to access the work when the whole sim goes poof ... in other words, wen we decide to move the assets to an OpenGrid/Open Sim situation.

    And we need to be thinking, and ACTING, on this NOW.

    July 23, 2008 6:38 PM

    Nebulosus Severine / CM Pauluh said...

    The disappearance of Sabine's Zero Point is definitely a huge loss and will be missed; that goes without saying.

    However, in virtual worlds as well as in the "real" world, nothing is ever permanent.

    [I am in no way making excuses for Linden Labs; they should make every effort to restore what was lost; and to take measures to prevent these sort of things from happening in the first place, of course.]

    A lot of people have expressed sentiments to the tune of, "Why should I create/buy anything in SL when it could disappear tomorrow because of technical issues?"

    In that sense, why do anything in RL either? Why paint a picture, or make a sculpture, or build an installation, or knit a sweater, or make a sandcastle, or buy a home, or collect stamps, or do anything? Anything you create or own can be broken, burned down, washed away, torn, used up, worn out, stolen, lost, destroyed...

    There is ALWAYS the risk. Second Life is no different from First Life in that sense.

    Take precautions to preserve what's valuable to you, certainly; but NOTHING lasts forever; enjoy it while you can. Part of what makes ANYTHING valuable, in ANY life, is its impermanence.

    July 24, 2008 12:02 PM

    Professor said...

    It is not really a fair comparison to say that since objects can be lost or destroyed in real life, one should expect the same misfortune in Second Life. It is tempting to draw parallels. But in this case drawing parallels between SL and RL diverts attention from the basic fact that Second Life is a Web environment, not the real world. As such, one would expect the standard user-controlled backup and restore procedures that are available in other Web environments.

    What business would run a Web site if its existence were subject to the same risks of destruction as builds in Second Life?

    The current lack of user-controlled backup and restore creates serious problems for those using SL for serious academeic research purposes. While I myself have developed two islands for a university research project, I've put my plans for buying and developing two additional islands on hold because of incidents like this. I can't afford to have my own research projects, as well projects of colleagues of mine who I collaborate with, destroyed without recourse or compensation because of billing errors or system glitches.

    I will continue my research efforts in Second Life because there really is nothing else like it from the perspective of an involved user base and established communities. However, at the same time I am making plans to divert much of the future resources I was originally going to put into Second Life into the OpenSimulator project.

    August 6, 2008 5:29 PM