LL Changes Join Now Page Again

8:51 am last names, policy, software development

((
From the perspective of the SLNameWatch.com script I use to determine if LL has added new last names, it looks like names are being rapidly created and retired. I have a working theory. I think LL might have changed their policy so that only a random subset of the last names appear in the drop-down at a time. Refresh the page, and the list changes, even though nothing has really changed as far as overall name availability. This is really going to confuse the script I use to determine if the name list has changed! I write resilient code, but I have to say this is something i didn’t plan for. I determine last name availability based on this drop-down.

Anyway, the good news is that it looks like after a 137-day dry spell, there are new last names available, even though it is hard for my system to collect them all. According to the last reading, there are 45 new names available, but new ones appear every time my script checks for it. Here is a log of what my avail_name_bot script found over the 8 hours since the name rotation was first detected. Note: In this context, the word “Updated” means “Un-retired”, which is what is happening, as far as the script is concerned. “Deactivated” means “Retired”.

06:00 UTC There are 60 last names available. Added: 45 Updated: 0 Deactivated: 450
Message has been sent.
07:00 UTC Added: 40 Updated: 16 Deactivated: 56
08:00 UTC Added: 44 Updated: 15 Deactivated: 59
09:00 UTC Added: 46 Updated: 13 Deactivated: 59
10:00 UTC Added: 27 Updated: 31 Deactivated: 58
11:00 UTC Added: 34 Updated: 25 Deactivated: 59
12:00 UTC Added: 35 Updated: 22 Deactivated: 57
13:00 UTC Added: 30 Updated: 27 Deactivated: 57

As you can see, even after the 8th reload of the Join Now page, there are names in the list that the SLNameWatch system has never seen before.

I will collect more data over time before deciding what to do. If I do nothing, the alert list will get a false positive in about 6 days. (There is a fail-safe preventing more than one alert in a 7-day period). My goal is to sort it out before then.

Additionally, the “Names last rotated” figure at the top of the SLNameWatch.com home page will always say “0 days ago” until I can make some adjustments. Other small stuff like that might break as a result of this change, but the site should stay up and the usage counts should remain accurate through it all.

LL did this to me once before. Last time, they added a portal to the Join Now page, suggesting that users choose from a random set of “communities”. Strangely, this alternative join now page only appeared some of the time. I needed to change my script so that it automatically “clicked” on the “skip this page” link whenever it appeared. This is what the log looks like every time that happens:

Using server 7
Found alternative join page. Skipping to the real page.
There are 60 last names available.

I fixed that little problem within a few days, but this sudden change seems a little worse. A solution is not immediately apparent.

-Big Adz
))

22 Responses
  1. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 03:00

    Figured out what’s happening, each version of the page has a different subset. Just change the number in the secure-web part and you get a different subset.

    https://secure-web21.secondlife.com/join/index.php/Choose-Name?form%5Baction%5D=Skip+This+Step

  2. Starflower Bracken :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 06:03

    Adz,

    They currently run 0-23 as you have probably noticed.

    https://secure-web0.secondlife.com/join/index.php/Choose-Name
    (etc)
    https://secure-web23.secondlife.com/join/index.php/Choose-Name

    The subsets overlap, so a particular name will appear on several pages. It is kind of hard to keep track of, but it looks like there may be more names than before (?) – anyway, some old names have not been retired, as before. Just in case this helps.

    Cheers,

    Starflower

  3. Adz :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 10:48

    Oh, the list depends on the server number?? That explains alot!
    Okay… this really narrows down the solution to this problem. Thank you Arcane and Starflower.

    Unfortunately I’m going to have to hit the secondlife.com website 24 times an hour (all 24 servers) instead of once per hour (one randomly-selected server). I hope LL doesn’t mind too much. …I imagine that page gets tens of thousands of hits per day other than me.

    Maybe I can talk to LL about a more direct way to access the list.

  4. Adz :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 10:53

    There should be no new information here, really; but for completeness, here is the related SLForums post:
    http://forums.secondlife.com/showthread.php?t=246688

  5. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 12:00

    A nice feature might be to also mention which servers have the name, just looked through all 24 for a name that no longer exists :)

  6. Adz :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 12:52

    Arcane, Great minds think alike 😉 I thought of that immediately after your first suggestion. Unfortunately it would require me to make some structural changes. I will work on it. For now, I have fixed the current problem simply by polling all 24 servers, concatenating the lists, and removing duplicates.
    I have posted a news item on SLNameWatch thanking you for your tip.

  7. Starflower Bracken :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 15:31

    hey adz,

    also notice that the other pages for the individual sites have NOT yet been changed over, so the names in the last batch are STILL available – for now. But not obviously on the main page.

    Cheers,

    SB

  8. Adz :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 17:03

    Something is still not quite right, with this. Even after examining all 24 join now pages more than 5 times, the script is still discovering a few new last names every time it checks.
    I hesitate to say that there may be as many as 2000 last names available for selection now.

    I am now validating that each secure-web has its own sub-list. I am not convinced that it does…

  9. Adz :

    Date: March 15, 2008 @ 17:47

    Good News and Bad News

    Good News
    There are at least 1579 different last names to choose from, now. This is 3-4x as many as usual.

    Bad News
    I find no pattern as to which secure-web# each last name will appear in.
    The list on each server changes periodically. The period is somewhere greater than 5 minutes but less than 1 hour. It does not change upon simply reloading the page, as I first thought. But, it does change over time. Wait one hour before reloading the join now page, and you will get a different list.

    I don’t know if LL is TRYING to make it harder to choose a particular name when you join, but that’s certainly the effect of what they have done. It is damn near impossible, now; nevermind the trouble SLNameWatch’s software is having making heads or tails of this.

  10. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 00:35

    All the individual sites now seem to be broken except for CSI, not good.

  11. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 00:50

    Just curious if you’ve considered using the Registration API to retrieve the last names? Might be faster to parse the xml.

  12. Adz :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 01:08

    well, i don’t have a real-world business I’d like to link up to this project, unless you count SLNameWatch. I suppose I could fill out the form and try; maybe SLNameWatch is sufficient. I was under the impression that the RegAPI was only authorized for companies like DreamLand or Ben&Jerry’s.

  13. Adz :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 01:09

    Oh… i thought LL made a promise not to make changes that would break existing 3rd party API’s without warning.
    😉
    Well, sorry to hear that the reg portals have broken. In a way that makes me feel better though. At least it’s not just me.

  14. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 01:50

    Well, they do state that all regAPI is still under beta and likely to change at any time :)

    You can request access to the last name only capability since they give 3rd parties access to only the parts of the API that they need access to.

  15. Adz :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 07:02

    I will try. If they let me have it then I might make it so that users can register through SLNameWatch.com itself. This could help offset some of the costs, incidentally…. maybe even allow for a better webhost.

  16. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 12:19

    And it would give users an all-in-one place to pick a last name that LL doesn’t seem to give anymore :)

    BTW, seen Clawtooth anywhere yet? Got a friend that wants to join my team and it seems to be MIA.

  17. Mercia McMahon :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 15:55

    As a serial alt creator, I notice that the new names (thanks for the email!) are not available via CSI:NY, which is a pain because I love their default avatars.

  18. Adz :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 20:43

    Clawtooth
    I saw it on Join Now #19 at Sun 2008-03-16 22:08 UTC

    Before that, I saw it on Join Now #4 at Sun 2008-03-16 21:38 UTC

    Before that, I saw it on Join Now #22 at Sun 2008-03-16 21:08 UCT

    Before that, I saw it on Join Now #8 at Sun 2008-03-16 20:08.

    You get the idea.

  19. Adz :

    Date: March 16, 2008 @ 22:14

    Arcane,
    You are gonna love this.
    This page tells you the choices on each of the 24 Join Now servers. It is updated once every 15 minutes… 8, 23, 38, and 53 after the hour. But, give it about 30 seconds to generate. Updates completely replace the previous version each time. There is a timestamp at the top of the page.
    SLNameWatch.com — Join Now Page Poll

  20. Arcane Clawtooth :

    Date: March 17, 2008 @ 00:41

    I love that page, great tool! Found Clawtooth quickly! Thanks!

  21. moe :

    Date: April 23, 2008 @ 00:19

    I am hunting for my last name again and it seems it got closed on 7-30-2007, any idea when they reopen these or is it just really random? my fiance wants the same lastname and is not happy she cant get it. we know how women are sometimes (no offence)

  22. Adz :

    Date: September 30, 2008 @ 19:19

    Once closed, last names will never be re-opened. (Unless LL changes or violates their stated policy).

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