Friday, October 7, 2011

Viewer Snobbery

The latest gripe fest on the Phoenix Viewer blog demonstrates just how out of touch the development team is with reality.  Now, don't get me wrong; I prefer Phoenix, which is still much more stable than, say Singularity, even though I believe Singularity will eventually supplant Phoenix as that development team ceases to update their viewer.  But the attitude coming from Jessica Lyon and her supporters is downright puzzling, not to mention irritating.

Lyon and her supporters are making the argument that trying to backport Viewer 2 and Viewer 3 features into Viewer 1 interface is like "taking a diesel engine from a school bus and fitting it into a ford pinto".  But Henri Beauchamp, the developer of Cool VL Viewer and whose code the Phoenix team used to bring mesh capability to Phoenix, cleared up a number of exaggerated claims by Lyon.  Far from taking "many" months of work, it only took Beauchamp two, two and a half at most, albeit with him working overtime in his spare hours to get the work done.  And contrary to the diesel engine metaphor, Beauchamp stated on his forum, "It's more like replacing the battery and alternator of the car engine with newer, more powerful ones (ll* libraries), replacing the mechanical injection with an electronic one to make for the increased mechanical power demand from the alternator (v2 classes in the viewer code) then adding air conditioning to the car (mesh renderer). Nothing that would make the poor car into a weird hybrid vehicle."

So it really isn't that difficult to backport the Viewer 2-Viewer 3 code into the Viewer 1 interface, contrary to what Jessica Lyon and her supporters claim.

I get the impression that the Phoenix Development Team decided to follow Linden Lab's lead and go with the crappy, bug-ridden, crashtastic, user-unfriendly, outsourced viewer that most Second Life users can't stand and would prefer not to use.  That's why so many people refuse to use the default SL viewer, and instead go with third party viewers such as Phoenix, Singularity, Cool VL, Rainbow, and others.  That's bad enough.  Literally adding insult to injury, however, was the condescending dismissal of legitimate criticisms that Viewer 2 and its clones (including Firestorm) are highly unstable, have a tendency to gobble inventory -- say goodbye to no-copy items forever -- eat up loads and loads of memory even on newer computers, and tend to crash said computers when the viewers alone aren't crashing, by telling disgruntled users to buy new computers instead of the decade-old ones we're allegedly clinging to.

This is a false assumption on the part of the Phoenix Development team, for many if not most users are not on ten-year-old computers.  I, for example, am on a computer that is less than a year old, has a monster graphics card, and is built for gaming purposes.  Yet the Viewer 2 and Firestorm beta I tried kept crashing on me, and often crash my computer altogether (even Phoenix and Singularity crash my comp).  Another dismissive claim is that users only tried Firestorm for a few minutes before giving up on it, despite people complaining that they spent hours on Firestorm only to have the same problems.  Simply put, people don't like the user interface no matter how much the Phoenix team tries to gussy it up, and the viewer itself is a bug-infested resource hog just like Viewer 2.  It's not a matter of people clinging to old technology, rather, they simply don't like the craptastic interface of a product that messes up their newer computers.

I think what's really driving the outright hostility coming from the Phoenix team and its supporters is simple snobbery.  They hopped on board a product that someone told them was the latest rage, and they genuinely don't seem to accept the legitimate reasons most people don't like it.  What if Coca Cola had stubbornly stuck by its "New Coke" product even after the massive customer backlash?  That company would now be out of business.  Instead, Coca Cola wised up, came out with "Classic Coke", and remained competitive with Pepsi, its closest competitor.  That was honest of them to do, and they survived by accepting and acknowledging their business mistake and correcting it.  If Phoenix developers want their viewer to remain the preferred one used by SL members, they will have to accept and acknowledge their mistakes, make the necessary apologies for their attitudes, and keep working to correct their mistake by continuing support for Phoenix Viewer.  it's what more of their user base seem to want anyway, and it makes better business sense.

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