Yesterday (Nov 29) Linden Lab released the version 1.13 of Second Life.

Another upgrade, another mess.

I logged on last night when the upgrade finally completed, several hours late, to find that my account was showing no money, my avatar was ‘Ruthed’ (see the bottom of the page), and when my avatar stood still, his legs were at a peculiar angle, and his feet sank into the ground. The SL website itself was completely inaccessible (please, please don’t tell me that the web-site is hosted on the same server network as the main SL Grid).

It’s not as if this was unexpected — every recent upgrade has gone wrong, sometimes seriously wrong, and Linden Lab have had to spend the next few days fire-fighting all the issues.

What’s going on? Can they really not manage to do an upgrade without breaking things?

I’m a professional programmer (I’m not sure if that is a boast or an apology!), and I recognise the symptoms. Let me make my own educated guess as to what is happening.

Second Life as it now stands was never designed. Instead, it has gradually evolved over the years. New features have been grafted into the old code, no doubt accompanied by little hacks and work-arounds. Over time, these fixes to make the new code work with the old have become more and more complicated and hard to understand and analyse for problems. As a result, the system has been increasingly difficult to make changes to without breaking things.

What needs to happen is for Linden Lab to stop developing new features, and instead to spend some months tidying and cleaning the existing code, refactoring and restructuring it to make it easier and safer to amend in future.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that Linden Lab has an ethos that allows that kind of thing to happen. Instead, we are likely to be faced with increasingly fragile upgrades.

Ruthed? Every avatar in Second Life has a body shape, which you can alter using the ‘Change Appearance’ options. You can even buy new body shapes. Second Life comes with default body shapes, both male and female. The female one is known as Ruth. Occasionally something will go wrong, and your avatar will revert to the Ruth body shape. It’s colloquially known as being ‘Ruthed’.