Dolls, Couture, Standards & OpenSim – How Are They Connected?

We were going to write about Maria Korolov’s recent OpenSim grid hosting survey, but then we got seriously sidetracked by this highly cool article about drug-running dolls of the American Civil War.  Dolls fascinate us for many reasons, not least of which is the fact we did a stint designing couture doll clothes.  Yes, you read that right, couture doll clothes. (We’ll get back to Maria’s survey in a moment.)

As it happens, vintage and antique dolls have a crying need for pretty frocks, or perhaps we should say that their owners have a crying need for their gorgeous oldies to have pretty frocks.  Now what we found curious is that fitting dolls was as much of a challenge as fitting women and the size standards were just as skewed.  Supposedly a 13” doll was a 13” doll was a 13” doll, but it turned out that depending on the manufacturer, the ‘age’ of the doll (lady doll, baby doll, toddler doll) the chest and waist measurements would be, just like for real people, very different.

Couturing up (we just made this phrase up so don’t go trying to Google it on Wiki) a frock for a lady doll was a wonderful and frustrating experience.  Wonderful because you could let your imagination off the leash and toss all sorts of fabulous couture techniques at this tiny little canvas without driving the prices too astronomically high; frustrating because you had to have the actual doll you were dressing to make sure the frock fit correctly.  Doll owners are very concerned that their dolls have properly fitted clothing.  We aren’t actually being tongue in cheek here; this is a demanding customer base and they wanted their rather pricey purchases to fit correctly on their nonstandard dolls.

Back to the OpenSim survey

So maybe we are back to talking about Maria’s OpenSim survey, since standards are at the heart of so much of the work we do.  Although we are dressing digital dolls these days – avatars and virtual models the same exact issues keep coming up which would be greatly alleviated by having standards.

Flipping through the comments and her blog post was particularly enlightening since so many of them are made from subjective personal experience, not based on any existing standards.

For example we read this comment: “This is an interesting survey– however unreliable. Why do I say unreliable? [sic] Because anyone who states that ANY grid currently out there (including SL) is “pretty stable”, “reliable” or “very stable” is obviously testing California’s new medical products. There is NO grid out there that is even “pretty stable”. Even Second Life® loses inventory, can’t get even simple chat to work, and has a society that is in upheaval. OpenSim? Does it even come CLOSE to stable. Simple reality would indicate that there are either people with agendas manipulating the survey… or folks unable to discern the line between reality and fond wishes. ; )” [an elf named Wayfinder]

We’re back to standards.  Now, by our (Fashion Research Institute’s) standards, OpenSim is far more stable than Second Life.  We maintain a private, corporate grid that is a walled garden; our workers are of course more fashionably dressed than on other grids, since we have about $1,000,000-1,250,000 worth of avatar customization content for them to choose from.  We have close to 100% up time.  We say close, because sometimes even our developers and creators go to bed, and from a pure user perspective, we don’t actually care if the grid isn’t up if we’re asleep when it isn’t.

We don’t have issues with missing objects from the asset database; we don’t get those o-so-annoying ‘cannot locate object in inventory’ notifications, and above all, the grid just plain works.

Now, we’re not in the business of providing hosting services.  We use our private grid for commercial work and as a platform for our applications which run on OpenSim.  We use ScienceSim for our research collaboration with Intel Labs – our area of research with them is content, so that grid takes a licking when we roll a development team in.  Our role is to provide content workloads for the Intel team to analyze and (often) write patches to address performance issues in the OpenSim codebase.

We recognize our ‘standards’ for performance may be a bit different than for the  average retail consumer of OpenSim grid experiences.  At the same time, we are incredibly intolerant of poor performance and we tend to squawk loudly if there is the slightest bit of an issue with any of our work spaces.  We are a lot like the ladies buying expensive doll clothes – we want the experience to fit. And, we are well able to distinguish between what is real and what is ephemeral.

Speaking of what is real, “In the meantime… a little applause and approval for Inworldz for actually accomplishing what OpenSim has been trying to accomplish for years… might not hurt. They are after all, trying to achieve the same thing you’re trying to achieve– a stable, low-cost alternative to the iron-curtain mentality of Second Life.” [the elf again]  OpenSim will be four at the end of January.  During this time, we have been honored to work on a live, changing platform where a very small, dedicated team of developers have moved what was a mere glimmer of an idea in the minds of Adam Frisby and Darren Guard into something stable enough to develop our industrial applications.  We remain impressed at the speed with which the developers out there attack and knock down the challenges in the path of the platform.  It is even more impressive when one understands that for many of the Core, this is their passion, not their day job.  The developers are accomplishing what they set out to do.

We applaud what the commercial grid operators out there are doing, but we do think it is important to point out that their accomplishments with their forks of OpenSim are built ‘on the shoulders of giants’ who have gone before and knocked down the trees in the way.  What these commercial grid operators are doing is ‘couturing up’ a grid that meets (one hopes) the exacting standards of their user base.  That is important, but the supporters of their work should not impugn the very real and hard work that the Core has done to date, nor should these grids be regarded as setting the standard for the industrial strength grids that will be needed in the future.  The research for those sorts of standards is ongoing, and the commercial grid operators should definitely weigh in.  But their unique brand of couture is not likely to be ‘the standard’ for everyone running OpenSim. We need mass market standards, not couture standards, for industrial strength grids.