Welcome to Kitely

Hi! My name is Oren Hurvitz, and I’m the Co-Founder and VP R&D of Kitely. My Co-Founder and CEO Ilan Tochner and myself have launched the service just under 4 weeks ago, but we only got around to creating this blog now. It’s been hectic.

We’ve released a major update to the service today. Our focus in this update (and in the near future) is on making the service more robust and manageable. This means most of the changes aren’t visible on the surface, but that doesn’t make them less important! Here’s what we’ve been working on:

Improved Communications

We’ve added this blog. Until now our main channels of communication with the community have been our support site [Edit: in Jan 2013 we moved support to our self-hosted user forums], Twitter account and commenting on other people’s blogs. While we’ll continue to use these options, a blog is a better way to communicate some things — such as this post, which describes what’s new in Kitely.

We’ve added a Contact Us page so you can get in touch with us more easily.

We now have the ability to post short announcements that appear at the top of the website. This will enable us to let you know about important updates: e.g., if we release a new version of the Kitely Plugin.

We can also broadcast messages to every user that is currently connected to any of the Kitely virtual worlds. We’ll use this feature to warn you before we update the system, so that you and the other people visiting your worlds can exit our service cleanly. Until now we’ve used Twitter for these announcements, but sadly not everyone follows our account.

Content Protection

We’ve added two online forms to allow you to lodge complaints about other users:

  • You can now use the Abuse Report form to report a violation of our Terms of Service.
  • You now have easy access to a DMCA Takedown Notice to report cases of copyright infringement.

When these forms are submitted we receive an email, and we’ll quickly follow up to determine the appropriate way to respond to what you reported.

If we decide that a violation has indeed taken place, then we’ll first contact the offending user and ask them to fix the violation without delay. If they don’t do so quickly, then we now have the ability to suspend their account in several ways, depending on the severity of the violation:

  • We can suspend access to a world. The World Page will still appear, but it will not be possible to enter the world. In the specific case of a copyright violation, we do allow the world’s owner (and only the owner) to enter the world for a short period of time. This is necessary so that the world owner can remove the offending material.
  • We can hide the world page entirely. This sanction may be required if the World Page itself contains copyrighted material or violates our Terms of Service.
  • Finally we can suspend access to the user’s entire account so they will not be able to login.

User-Visible Features

In addition to the management features, we’ve also added a few features that should now be visible to you:

You can now set the access control of a world to “My Friends” so that only your Facebook friends will be able to enter that world. This feature saves you the hassle of managing a Facebook group when all you want is just to have a private place that you and your friends can access.

The site now works with Internet Explorer 9 so you can use Microsoft’s latest browser with Kitely if you wish.

Bug Fixes

We fixed many bugs, and improved performance in several areas.

Here’s one specific problem that we fixed, which is more user-visible than other problems: in the past, you may have seen messages in the browser status bar such as: “Waiting for notif1.kitely.com…”. These messages were a side effect of the mechanism that we used to update the site dynamically (e.g., have the number of Active Users change immediately when users enter or exit a world). We are now implementing this feature in a different way, so these messages will no longer appear.

We found and fixed a major bug that unfortunately caused a few worlds to be deleted. This happened when a networking error temporarily prevented the OpenSim server from communicating with the main server. Here’s what happened: when a world becomes idle, we save the world state to a file in the cloud (in the Amazon S3 service). This networking error caused the OpenSim server to tell the main server to save the file to the cloud twice. The first request was handled correctly, but the second request, which was unexpected, caused the file to be deleted. We fixed the problem by having the server recognize when it’s getting duplicate requests and ignore them.

This problem only occurred in a very small number of worlds, but that is no comfort to the users who were affected. To them, we offer our humblest apologies! Unfortunately, as a one-month-old service which is still in the testing phase, some bugs are inevitable. We take this extremely seriously, we have fixed the problem, and we will continue to focus on robustness ahead of other features.

Although this particular bug has been fixed, we recommend using the “Copy” button to create backup copies of any worlds which you’ve invested a lot of work in. When you create a copy of a world, the copy is entirely separate from the original world, and is not affected by anything that happens to it. This is also useful for keeping different versions of the world, e.g. in order to try out new things, but be able to revert to the previous version if desired.

Coming Soon

We (or rather, our lawyers) have been working on finishing the Terms of Service. We now have a draft that is very close to being complete, so we expect to be able to post the TOS soon.

Some users have had problems using the Kitely Plugin because it isn’t digitally signed. We are in the process of getting a digital certificate from Thawte, which will allow us to sign the plugin. Thawte are very assiduous about verifying that we’re a real company (good for them), but we expect this to be finished soon.

That’s it for now. Please continue using Kitely, and let us know what works for you, and what doesn’t. May all your virtual worlds bloom!