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Linden Lab have announced their new viewer development model as promised, which is also their new open source development strategy.

I’ll start by quoting Oz Linden directly:

What’s Next For The Second Life Viewer?

Linden Lab spent the better part of the last two years revamping the Second Life Viewer to create Viewer 2. Some of the changes were important new features, and some were controversial – some were both. The bulk of the design and engineering work was done with only limited, indirect participation from the open source and resident communities, which has left many in those communities feeling alienated and disenfranchised.

In recent months we have released both Viewer 2 and a 2.1 update; Linden Lab has also been through a major reorganization. We are now evaluating the results of all of this work, and we are making significant changes to the way we design and build the viewer.

Introducing Snowstorm

Linden Lab has created a new team whose goal is to develop the Second Life Viewer in the open and in response to the needs of our Residents. Here are our goals:

  • Show Residents continuous visible progress
    • Work in the open by sharing not only our code, but our process publicly — this includes our backlog and our discussion about it.
    • Engage with the open source community and aggressively accept good work the community does into our product.
    • Release new ‘Development’ Viewers frequently — our initial target is bi-weekly.  All builds from the ‘Development’ branch are visible and available for testing.
  • Improve the user experience
    • Make continuous improvements to the design and implementation of the Viewer’s user interface.
    • Import desirable patches and features from Snowglobe and other Third Party Viewers.
    • Add small features and fixes that have high value and low cost, while still remaining consistent with an overall product vision.
  • Renew and deepen our relationship with the community
    • Integrate community work directly into our main line Viewer rather than routing it through Snowglobe first.
    • Demonstrate rapid responsiveness to feedback and patches from community.
    • Engage continuously with the community to develop new project proposals and provide resources that open source developers need to be effective.

How Snowstorm Works

  • Viewer development has moved to a single open source model
  • There are no longer internal ‘private’ and external ‘public’ versions. Viewer source (with the exception of one wrapper library we cannot legally release), is now in public Mercurial source repositories. All viewer integration is happening in the Development repository at ‘http://hg.secondlife.com/viewer-development’. It is used by all Linden Lab viewer development teams, and open source developers are encouraged to pull from that repository and submit changes for integration to it.
  • Code in the Development repository is now released under version 2 of the GNU LGPL

This allows community developers greater freedom to use the viewer code, including incorporating it into products that also include closed source.

  • Accepted contributions go directly into the official Second Life Viewer

There is no longer a two-step process of contributing to Snowglobe and then hoping that the contribution is imported to the Linden viewer. Viewer development efforts within Linden Lab go through the same integration queue and into the same repository that open source contributions use.

  • Innovations from Snowglobe are being imported to this new viewer
  • Some changes may be left behind or modified in order to fit into Viewer 2; Linden Lab will work with open source contributors to harmonize contributions with the product goals of the Linden viewer. The plan is to import as much as possible of the excellent work that has been done in Snowglobe as quickly as possible (this rate does depend on help from you).
  • Snowstorm team plans and priorities are open

We publish both what we’re working on (in public Jira issues and on our Sprint Backlog) and the projects we’d like to do (our Product Backlog). These projects are available for open source contributors to take on, and the Snowstorm team coordinates getting access to any Linden review and collaboration resources that are needed. Community members are encouraged to propose additions to the Product Backlog.

Who Is Building The Viewer?

Within Linden Lab, many different groups are doing Viewer development; the Snowstorm team manages the Development branch, coordinates contributions from open source, and does rapid small feature development itself.
Snowstorm is:

  • Q Linden – Tech Lead, Team Lead
  • Esbee Linden – Product/Business Lead
  • Oz Linden – Open Source Lead
  • Merov, Aimee, Tofu, and three external contract developers
  • and, crucially, the open source community.

Where Are The Details?

Snowstorm operates in the open; the home page of the Snowstorm team is on the public wiki at
it has pointers to our various communications channels, processes, and contact information.
The Snowstorm Team leads will be at the Second Life Community Convention on Aug 15, and will hold an open in-world meeting Aug 16 at the Hippotropolis Theater from Noon to 2PM SLT:

Let’s see. That’s exactly nine viewer developers. Wow. Where’d they all go?

Oh, wait. Now I remember.

Aside from that, I need to think on this some more before forming an opinion either positive or negative (or perhaps both) about this.

But I bet you’ve all got some already. Okay, actually, I’ve got one: ‘Snowstorm’ is a really unfortunate name.

Got a news tip or a press-release? Send it to news@taterunino.net.
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