Searching for ‘Fun’ in Second Life

Looking for ‘Fun’ in all the wrong placesSecond Life is an interesting, challenging, unique environment. At least, that’s what I try and tell my friends, game-devs and some journalists I know. But what do they actually see in-world? Porn, shops, fetishists and casinos. Where’s all the potential of an alternate universe? Where’s the joy of creative human creativity unleashed and without limits? And I’m not talking collars, chains and whips!

Frankly, I find the casinos, clubs and porn of Second Life tedious and dull and I know there’s better content out there, if only I could find it! But the simple fact is that finding anything interesting, stimulating or challenging in Second Life is very, very hard. Hell, just searching for something ‘funny’ can produce some fairly odd results. Click the picture to the left to see an example from Second Life of the search results for the ‘funny’ search. Note, ‘mature content’ is not ticked! I have had to censor the picture to make it moderately safe for work!

Fun with ‘mature’ ticked in Second LifeNow, I know there’s great content in Second Life, the kind that inspires, makes you laugh, smile, or makes you admire the creator’s genius, I’ve enjoyed it over the years (mostly through stumbling across it by accident) but where is it? The search function in Second Life is so pointless as to be almost a waste of time, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I’ve scattered some pictures through the post to show just how largely pointless using search is in SL unless you know exactly the person or property you’re looking for.

Searching for Roleplaying in Second Life is dangerous if you leave the ‘mature’ box tickedIn the past I’ve blogged about searching in Second Life and provided tips and further ideas for making sure your land could be found by users, and while these tips are still valid and help land get found, the fundamental problem of search in Second Life, that it has become spammed and pointless, has not been addressed. The core of the problem stems from the fact that search results are based on popularity only, not on the quality of the result or the relation between results, something all modern search engines try to capture. Let me explain…

The user selected picks tab in the profileDo you remember the Internet before search engines? Before Yahoo and AltaVista and Google? The only way to find good content was to follow the bookmarks of other people and every web site had a page of dozens of links to the author’s favourite content. It was the only way you could get around, and it was painful. When searching for content in Second Life you are far more likely to find an interesting place to visit from someone’s personal recommendations in their profile (see the example to the left) than you are by fiddling with search. In this sense, Second Life, a child of the modern web, is still stuck in search and browsing habits of the 1990s.

Searching for “Free Stuff” in Second LifeThe problem is how search works in SL. Second Life search works through simply matching key words in a property’s description to your search results and then ranking the results by the popularity of the land, how many bodies have been idling there over time. That’s why the many sample search results in this post show property descriptions which are just strings of hot keywords and the properties tend to be clubs and casinos where users are often paid to hang around. The land owners know how important it is to get traffic, and they ensure they get traffic by loading up their property descriptions with words they think their customers are likely to search for and tipping their visitors.

Searching for games produces boredomInternet searching used to be dominated by sites deploying keyword strategies like this, but very quickly the search engine companies learned that they were being gamed by eCommerce companies who had realised that search results led to page views, and page views led to dollars. Many eCommerce companies started loading their pages with keywords to try and generate more traffic. It wasn’t uncommon to see hidden text stuffed full of random ‘hot’ words, and title bars contained long strings of enticing phrases.

Search engine users trying to do any form of simple search found themselves spammed with nothing but porn sites whose owners had loaded the most popular terms of the day into their site’s code. Searching for a celebrity of the day or a hot news item was an exercise in frustration as you dodged the kind of sites you wouldn’t want your Mum to see you browsing. For a period this severely curtailed the usefulness of search engines and a solution had to be found lest people think the internet was nothing but porn, casinos and dodgy eCommerce sites.

Sound familiar?

The solutions search engines developed were complex, with Google coming to the table first with the PageRank mechanism whereby a site would appear higher in the rankings if it was linked from other sites. Especially if those other sites were also well linked and well ranked themselves. Sites trying to game Google were penalised PageRank. Overnight web search was changed and while there are issues with PageRank, it tends to produce far better results than the older approaches. Of course, there were other tweaks and mechanisms to improve results for users that are not worth covering here. The point is that Google focused on delivering to users search results that meant something, that answered the users needs.

So why haven’t Linden Labs learned the same lessons and applied them to Second Life? I don’t know, but I know that to the casual observer the inability to find great content is killing the interesting, creative and unique stuff that does appear in Second Life. Not only do they not get support, but their lack of profile makes Second Life look like a phenomenally shallow experience. How will the cool robot toys of Deevyde Maelstrom, or the chilling schizophrenia experiment be found by brave Second Life explorers when search results produce the most banal, popular and base Second Life content? It’s as if you opened up the TV Guide and ads for American Idol and Oprah were on every single page. No “The Office”, no “Heroes”, no BBC America, nothing interesting or fresh.

What is the solution to the inability to find great stuff in Second Life? Well, a few users are already trying to come up with their own attempts to solve the problem. The first that springs to mind is SLateIt, which allows users wearing a hud to click a button to vote to SLate or Hate an object they are looking at. It’s essentially Digg for Second Life, but it looks like it’s not widely used so far, and it works primarily with items, not a whole build. Great start though!

The next clever solution is Slicr, which allows users to mark locations with keyword tags, and again, a special hud is involved. The tags are searchable and it’s easy to find a list of tagged properties that might be interesting. The service works much the same as tagging in flickr does, and flickr is a great tool to emulate. The only downside to Slicr is is that, again, it’s not widely used.

In an ideal world Linden Labs would look at what the users are coming up with and simply buy out those projects and produce something built into the client available to all users. Here’s a few ideas I think they should look at:

  • Consider creating a directory service like Yahoo Directory where users submit their properties to an appropriate category. Users would then be able to navigate through the directory to the sort of content they were interested in and know it had been sanity checked by a human and was a valid entry. That’s the downside of a directory service, it does require a human to (at least once) confirm the listing. Directories are old news on the web, but they work. Check the listing in the Second Life section of the Yahoo directory, it’s a great sample of some of the more useful Second Life web sites.
  • Blend the best of the recommendation services that exist already, add in a healthy dose of Digg-style networked recommendations and comment, and then build it all into an interface in the client. Let everyone see what’s cool in a variety of categories, let people discuss the builds, let the hot lists change quickly over time so what’s hot and what’s not is always shifting and there’s always new content to explore.
  • Data mine player’s “picks” tab in the users profile to produce a Second Life version of PageRank to influence search results. Alternately, slice and dice the picks page into something players can search and monitor. Let users see what’s the most popular pick and read the user-written descriptions of why. Players will only bookmark a site to their picks tab if they are really keen on it so there’s merit in letting others see what their peers think is cool. One potential problem is that people might simply pick a property because they are paid to do so, but that issue could be reduced by weighting the picks of experienced members over those of newbies and other appropriate weighting measures.

I believe it’s vital that Linden Labs consider the search problem quickly. Second Life is supposed to be techy, innovative and cool, but people will only drink the cool-aid for so long before they actually wander around in game and see nothing but bondage, sex skyboxes, shopping, casinos and clubs and start to think Second Life hype is nothing but spin.

Help us get to the great content, Linden Labs, and we’ll help you by staying in-game, engaged and enthusiastic.

More post to come on events,
supporting content and Second Life

Thanks to Tedd Tigereye for help with images

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14 Comments

  1. Tedd

     /  May 19, 2007

    Very nice work Peter. Everything you have said is true. It is a shame the direction SL has turned to these days. There is too much emphasis on, “Porn, shops, fetishists and casinos.” This creativity could be used on greater projects/developments. It’s too bad Linden Labs does not support large scale projects such as Darklife or we would most likally see great things accomplished.

  2. RedDawn Bade

     /  May 19, 2007

    I’m not sure what the right solution is, Peter, but I do agree the search system is not up to par with basic user expectations and is hampering the user enjoyment of SL.

    I finally took the plunge and joined SL about a month ago, and quickly began wondering if I’d ever find anything other than a club or sex site, or clothes for my avie that didn’t make me look like Barbie gone bad.

    It was only when I went “out of world” and used Google to find user sites and blogs that I started finding places to see and things to do so that I could really enjoy SL. That and getting landmarks form friends, along with grabbing recommendations off profiles (though a lot of people don’t have profiles).

    I think whatever LL does, they must scrap the current popularity based rankings that are gamed by “camping” and such, and find ways to integrate with existing technologies like Google. Most people joining today are going to have a difficult time with the SL learning curve (I’m struggling through it right now), and are likely to give up if they can’t easily find things other than sex and casinos.

  3. JL

     /  May 19, 2007

    The thing is, Linden Labs is just not as sophisticated as Google or even Yahoo. The pagerank mechanism, while sounding simple and straightforward, is the result of quite a few PhD papers, and Yahoo’s Directory was built on years of data collection. Even something like Digg requires a reader population probably two or three times of Second Life right now.

    LL’s not doing anything to “improve” second life search and navigation because they simply don’t know how to. However, Google and Yahoo might make a move someday, and monetize search inside of second life.

  4. Thanks for the comments. Yes, Google type technology wouldn’t be easy, but a Yahoo directory would. Relatively speaking, directories are pretty simple. RedDawn, you’re not alone, a lot of people who have tried SL have had very similar experiences to you, but most are not persistent enough to go Google up interesting content! Sadly, I can’t even recommend the SL Games Wiki any more as it crashed and lost its database at the new host a couple of weeks ago.

  5. I couldn’t disagree with you more violently and vehemently. Seriously. It really makes me troubled how much people are in the grip of old Web 1.0 ideology (OMGODZORS you’re repeating the 1990s and that’s evil!) and the usual tekkie strangulation on a topic, purveyed by Lindens and their coterie.

    And you are about to see how *wrong* you are, and how in fact what comes next, when traffic is removed, will in fact REALLY be this “most popular” and be even worse than the camped places in the first few slots.

    Search works perfectly fine. It works to find everything from “library” to “news” to “info” to “science fiction” to “steampunk” to — pick a term, instead of something idiotic like “funny”. My God, that’s lame. Go on, pick something you are really interested in. Orchids? Cars? Linux? All of them are perfectly findable with search. Perfectly findable, with no gamed slots even showing. Come on, you didn’t really spend any serious effort on this.

    You, like many superficial students of the search-places-issue see that the very first slots on some key words like “clubs” are “bought” by campchairs. So? Everyone simply cursors down to the next ones in the list. There aren’t more than 100 or so of these camp-chair emporiums gluing people to their lots to make the traffic meters rise. That’s out of some 8000 sims. With all kinds of stuff going on.

    I use search a thousand times a week — I put my available rentals in them and search for all kinds of products and activities and ideas using search. And it works fine. It is not broken. It does not need fixing, especially ideological fixing.

    Search plus traffic makes for most of the sales in the world. Classified is a limited piece of eyed real estate and very costly. Search plus traffic creates freedom for newbies to enter the economy at a low level and compete more fairly.

    What will come in its place? We don’t know. The Lindens are very likely merely to put in some Google-like thing and not put too much time on it. They’re eager to get rid of the camp-chairs and sex-palaces, understandably, they give bad press and they use up resources on sims with the avatars parked. And given their die-hard laissez fair attitude toward never zoning or commenting on content in an effort to make SL at least have the minimum, they wind up hacking away even more severely and the world and the imagination of the residents who have carefully used traffic as an important feedback indicator to constantly improve their content and bring visitors genuinely. That entire ecosystem is about to be destroyed. It’s really tragic and makes me really angry.

    They will not be putting in any of those things you indicate — they will say it’s for residents to build those on third-party websites.

    The search that you see coming will be the results of how Google, meant for a vast and free Internet, becomes (it’s already bad enough) when used in a tiny hot-house pond (which SL still is, with some 40,000 people logged on at any time, and no more than 300,000 spending more than a dollar each month).
    We are about to see the awfulness of the concentration of Google ideology.

    So how will people search? They will pick out of the air the same mindshare terms that existed before, which will be 10 times more aggressive now buying classifieds, filling up events and the forums and using ugly grief-extortionist signs in world and all kinds of contests and gimmicks. The Lindens long years of steering some inner circle types (the FIC) will yield now as the people who already have mindshare get clicked on…i.e. searched and teleported to — and then are rewarded in true Google fashion with even more self-perpetuating searches and even more clicks and p2ps that lead to even *more*. It’s a far worse system than a basic simple market plan that bought eyeballs — paying newbies to buy their first products and create traffic so that vendors’ items would sell. We will see Google bombing become the paid activity that camp-chairing used to be. You have no idea.

    Camp-chairs, whatever the highbrows’ hatred of them, has frankly been the starter fluid that Philip Linden thought he could remove from this economy, but which is still sorely needed because of the great disparities between rich and poor and lack of granularity in activities and types of entry-level jobs.

    You cannot edit the world. You cannot airbrush it out. If people make porn and casinos, you can’t pretend it isn’t there by ideologically controlling the search. Don’t burn down bad content. Build your own good content.

    The only solution is to make better content and better roads to it through customized touring, search HUDS, etc. and most importantly, groups, which are the lifeblood of the world, and events.

    Re: “Data mine player’s “picks” tab in the users profile to produce a Second Life version of PageRank to influence search results. Alternately, slice and dice the picks page into something players can search and monitor. Let users see what’s the most popular pick and read the user-written descriptions of why. Players will only bookmark a site to their picks tab if they are really keen on it so there’s merit in letting others see what their peers think is cool. One potential problem is that people might simply pick a property because they are paid to do so, but that issue could be reduced by weighting the picks of experienced members over those of newbies and other appropriate weighting measures.”

    This was my idea submitted some time ago (and since you’ve taken it nearly word for word from my writings, and also included my caveats about the buying of it, it might have been nice to give a credit). And yes, I realize that here and there people noted that the picks were worth mining, but I am the only who really publicized and pushed this idea. I convinced Philip Linden to actually do a data search on it. You can read about it here:
    http://www.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2006/04/picking_the_pic.html
    and here:
    http://blog.secondlife.com/2006/04/16/top-of-picks/
    and in numerous articles on my blog.

    The other ideas you have like directories and such have also been tried, but they lurch between waiting to be populated and going piece by piece through clearances like at Cristiano Midnight’s directory, or being scraped without permission like the Sheep’s search. Directories should be opt-in, but they should be automated and have the clearance come of people, rather than each single one of their picks.

    I’m not a “Luddite” and not “filled with FUD” and not “resistant to change”. In fact, what’s happening is that the coders are resistant to change. They don’t see that people made their own very delicate but intricate and functioning navigation system of SL made up of picks, socializing, groups, p2p, lists in notecards, etc. etc. It takes time.

    A few visible people like yourself who claim they couldn’t get past the sex palaces (how hard did you try?!) aren’t persuasive and your celebration for the sake of your own narrow cultural interests is ultimately destructive, if unconsciously so.

    What we are about to see is a huge blow to the world — an ideologically-motivated and cruel blow to the world, removing the one thing that made search work, which was traffic. It’s going to have untold consequences. It’s really going to depress or even ruin sales for some, and make them go out of business.

    JL is absolutely on the money. You can’t port concepts like DIGG into this small pond. DIGG itself is subject to all kinds of waves of fads and vindictive and hysterical freakouts sometimes or huge popularity contests that just meme and virally spread. Dug stuff isn’t necessarily better. The velocity with which crowd picks get made in social media often mitigates the picks being coherent and *good*. Everybody is told to bomb up somebody’s stupid movie on YouTube and it is bombed up.

    Once again I IMPLORE — simply IMPLORE — all of you to LOOK at these search functions inworld with a variety of words and study the restuls. Use lots more search words than you are using. Ignore the Popular Places — that could simply be shut down — or what I’d advocate — expanded to 100 or even 1000 or even “all places” to rank all.

    I implore you to *look* at how the system works. It is not “gamed” past the first few entries. Seriously. Try any term you like and you will see that underneath the camping establishment — if any! — there are many more parcels with genuine traffic honestly achieved. All that work is now going to go down the drain because of a tiny coterie of Lindens and FIC and blogogentsia who are snobs about low culture. Look, look, look underneath that superficial take on SL and find what people have made.

    I only ask you to be witnesses of what is happening now, because the Lindens are going to be changing this soon — and wrecking it. Better at least to have witnesses to this wreckage — that might help them put it right again some day.

  6. >How will the cool robot toys of Deevyde Maelstrom, or the chilling schizophrenia experiment be found by brave Second Life explorers when search results produce the most banal, popular and base Second Life content? It’s as if you opened up the TV Guide and ads for American Idol and Oprah were on every single page. No “The Office”, no “Heroes”, no BBC America, nothing interesting or fresh.

    See, this comment merely indicates the cultural blinders you have on, and your belief that if the world doesn’t all look like a BBC America or an NPR, it must be filled with crap. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

    More to the point, did you try searching on the word “robot” or “schizophrenia”? Oh, you expect that search should just bring those up under the word “fun” if you never heard of them and didn’t know to search for them?!

    But…Google and the Internet don’t work that way. The yellow pages don’t work that way. You can’t expect either Google or the yellow pages in real life to answer your question: “What’s fun and interesting and high-brow and intellectual for me to do in New York?” That would be silly. You’d have to know at least to punch in the word “cafe” or “poetry” or “Art Deco”.

    For activities, you’d have to know to go to the Village Voice or Zagat or some other *directory* or media offering or “what’s going on” sort of page — you wouldn’t expect the vasty deeps of the internet to fetch up what you need for your particular vetebrae on the long tail.

    So why expect this of SL, where there isn’t an effective tagging system inworld?

    it’s especially silly to stress something that is meant to find *places* and *objects* and *avatars* to turn up “that fun thing that will be interesting for me to do or look at”. You couldn’t get anything in real life to do that for you — why expect it out of SL? Actually, there are no shortage of RL books, inworld guides, tour agencies, etc. all over the place trying to guide people, so it’s really not the wasteland you imagine.

    I’m hoping that if the functions that are now put in (and not used yet) to check off our avatars and our land to be in a search page of the Lindens’ making on their main page of http://www.secondlife.com that this will help. For that, they need to fix what was broken for a time inworld regarding proximity of terms.

  7. Prok, as quick reply, I’ve not read your previous posts on the matter, so if stuff came across as similar to previous writings, it’s coincidence.

    As for my post, I stand by it, mostly because I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been disappointed with Second Life. Perhaps they were expecting too much, perhaps I expect too much of it, but right now it is hard to find interesting, entertaining content. I’ll stand by that, as the experiences of dozens, and the retention rate of SL, shows it to be true.

  8. Tedd

     /  May 22, 2007

    You talk/argue too much prok. You should use the energy you waste blabbering in more productive ways. Go take a chill pill hombre 🙂

  9. Prok, your comment deserves a longer reply, so here I go.

    First, if what comes after popularity is worse than the system we’ve got now, well, I’ll be complaining about that system as well. I just think that there is room for something that works.

    As for the searches I worked on, I was trying to search for content in a way that someone new might. So, searches for fun, games, roleplaying, help. Most of the searches resulted in exploited dead ends. Those that don’t, well, in time they will be gamed, it’s the nature of the current system. As for looking at the listing, the samples for ‘games’ produce about 90% casinos or clubs. I’m hardly looking at the top ten. Sure, if I had something specific in my mind I would be able to find it, but generic searches produce bad results. And if there are only 100 camp chair emporiums, well, why do they keep coming up? They massively distort what appears to be the majority of content in SL. The newby user only sees them.

    Sure, you can use search well use, good on you, an experienced user knows their way through the system. But I’ve talked to plenty of newbies who tried LOL’d and left. They left because they couldn’t find anything interesting. To most folks, intarweb casinos and clubs are not entertaining.

    I don’t see how search + traffic results help newbies. The system as it stands now helps newbies no more or less than a decent system which highlights interesting content over camped content, and a new system would be functionally better in many other ways. I would argue that the current system, if it rewards any sort of newby, rewards the newbies for producing a certain kind of content and willing to engage in a certain style of marketing behavior. I say, bugger that, lets do something different and more interesting. Newbies will still find a place, it will just bit a bit different.

    I don’t think that arguing that LL could cock it up is a reason to say “don’t do anything”. I’m being idealistic when I say I hope they do a decent job with a new system. As for the current ecosystem, screw it, it will evolve and become better. Endless hours of bodies on seats is no measure of interesting or cool, and that’s what I think LL should be trying to highlight. Right now they measure sitting around. Neither measure is perfect, but I know which one I prefer. And yeah, sure, they might not put any effort in to helping us get to the good stuff, but more fool them if that’s their approach. SL will continue on its path to becoming a visual R-Rated IRC channel. Shame.

    As for people searching, I agree, any of the suggested abominations would be terrible. I don’t expect LL to drop the ball so horribly. As for the potential for Google-bombing, I do have an idea having worked for a Search Engine Optimization company for six months. And of course, the potential for popular-to-breed-popular is always an issue with Google (though less than the current system you seem to think is so great). There are ways around this, the first, I’d suggest, is to have a number of different ways of cutting what is popular and cool, and what is not. Mix pick systems, Digg type systems and Google type systems. Show them all easily via the main interface. People can see the established cool, or the up-coming cool, or the networked cool. It would be fun!

    Awesome picks list! My memory of sites a year ago shows that you and Philip were on to a good thing. The picks list is far more interesting than any other top popularity lists I’ve seen. I applaud your effort to get some new ways to cut up content, and I’m sorry that LL seemed to have not bothered to follow it up. And your comments are bang on about directories. Opt in directories managed by a few staff would work. But one of your points there is that people have developed their own complex responses to the current search system, one that involves picks, notecards, lists and whatnot, but this system does not work if you’re new. You won’t have friends, lists, groups, notecards. All you have is search.

    Second Life society is like all the little living things in a pool of muddy poisonous water. Sure, they evolve in response to their environment, but wouldn’t they do so much better with a puddle of clean, sustaining water? It would be a shock to the system, but the end result is a stronger environment, more alive.

    You have a good point that purely making an SL Google wouldn’t work. I’m the first to agree with you there, there does need to be a range of systems to find content. I think if there were three different in-game systems we’d have a pretty dynamic and vibrant search world. A Digg system would show what were the hot parties of the moment, or the cool, quirky ideas of the day. Combine directories where you can dig down into games, roleplaying, poetry clubs, sci-fi geeks, whatever. Directories direct you to well planned, decent content. In addition to those mechanisms, add a more effective general search, much as you outlined, with items, avatars and builds all searchable and ranked in a way different to popularity.

    One system on its own wouldn’t work, but a few options would. They would satisfy those looking for specific content (directory search for, say, sci fi –> star trek –> roleplaying clubs), those looking for something specific, eg a replica AK-47 (SL Google-type functionality), or those just looking for the-cool-of-the-day (a digg style system).

    This vanilla flavored content list that is SL search is a boring, monotonous monoculture that doesn’t foster new or cool content, regardless of your tastes. It merely popularizes the most banal and basic. It’s no so much that NPR and BBC is where I want SL to be (though for my tastes it would be a vast improvement), it’s that there’s not even the chance of minority cool content being easily located by the majority of new SL users. This results in a perpetual cycle of the same-old-same-old and SL’s current low retention rate.

  10. Well, frankly, I think you did read my posts either on SLOG or Sheepblogs or a dozen other places, I have been hammering everywhere with this idea for probably a year.

    I think the retention problems are more about the lack of a good DSL connection and high-end graffics card and inability to quickly get a job more than anything else. Neither of those problems are ones that LL is interested in solving.

    But the exponential growth and the enormous press coverage simply gives the lie to the claim by the intelligentsia that there’s nothing to do and it’s all low-brow entertainment for the masses — the masses with of course DSL and high-end graphic cards, which are more masses than most people are prepared to believe in fact.

    To which I can only say: don’t burn down the content of the masses, build your own.

    And find your own, not by putting in witless things like “games” in a place that is NOT a game write large, and where games are going to turn up casinos. If you want games, you are in the wrong pew; go to World of Warcraft.

    I’m also boggled at the idea of expecting anything, anywhere, in the known universe or Metaverse to give you anything meaningful by typing in the word “fun”. “Roleplay” is slightly better, but also too large a category. Of course page one will be filled with gamed parcels with 40,000 traffic.

    Have you heard of clicking to the next page, use the arrow at the bottom of the page. Most people really searching and living in SL have long ago learned to screen out those gamed first slots or first pages.

    Then you start to easily find:

    “NOT FINISHED YET!Rosewood City and estate. Medieval roleplay with kings, knight, dames and wars. Feel free to join!”

    ( Zone Roleplay francophone ) – Une vieille batisse oubliee et mysterieuse aux abords d’une immense foret. ( Jeu de role )

    1890’s Wildwestern Roleplay.Tombstone Arizona -Oriental-Cowboys, win Lindens.

    Rift City is a city on the nexus of other worlds. Strange creatures from other worlds often arrive here. (Roleplay Area)

    Turn-based animated battle arena, PVP and vs. AI, weapon shop, RPG / roleplay friendly hangout in progress

    All of these are low traffic however. And that’s exactly WHAT WE NEED TRAFFIC FOR!!!!. We need to sort between the highs that are gamed and the very low that tells us their owner is offline, not logging on, and not caring about his parcel, and people aren’t really using it.

    So within 30 seconds of being able to ignore the very high traffic, because we don’t want orgies, and weed out the low traffic which may not be very good content, we find something like this:

    Avilion Isle: Medieval, Fantasy, Role Play, Community
    Non-Gor/Gorean, Roleplay, Combat/Magic,Battleground,Tournament,Human,High Elf/Elven,Drow,Dragon,Fairy — Rules Apply
    TRAFFIC 6235

    6235 lets you know this is a very decent place with brisk business but no camp chairs. Perfect.

    All of that ability to screen and analyze is being demolished because people like you are screaming to have the news of traffic removed from the entire world, just because of the limited misuse of it by those who wind up in the top slots.

    Campchairs will massively distort if you can’t use on SL’s search what you’d have the wits to use on Google. Use “sciencefiction” or “steampunk” or something for God’s sake.

    Hell, use PIRATES.

    Uh, I’m sorry, but the rap on me that I’m too old to remember what it’s like to be a newbie is silly, since I have to deal with streaming newbies 24/7 in my rentals business and constantly strive to find ways to help them search better. I have refined and refined not only my own offices and various forms of public content but the infohub in Ross, check it out.

    >To most folks, intarweb casinos and clubs are not entertaining.

    No, I’m sorry, but while you are an elite, technical type might believe that, and turn up your nose at such content, the masses of MOST people coming into SL *do* want both casinos and clubs. If you remove the camp chairs, they’d all still have traffic. It’s where people go to meet other people and get money. You as a tekkie, and your clan, have not figured out how to make a world to facilitate getting of jobs and meeting people, and you also can’t breed out of people the desire to meet people and make money *easily and without too much effort*. Hence, clubs and casinos.

    >I don’t see how search + traffic results help newbies. The system as it stands now helps newbies no more or less than a decent system which highlights interesting content over camped content, and a new system would be functionally better in many other ways.

    Newbies can type “dress” and “shopping” and “golf” into the search engine apparently better than you can. After all, they aren’t idiots, they tend to be people with at least enough education to operate a computer and they will know Google. There is actually a fairly serious percentage of people who don’t know how to search on Google, I run across them all the time, but they get it better than you think. Otherwise, I’d have no customers either renting or even selling stuff in their first week, nor would any of the other gadzillion rentals agents out there.

    You have this touching belief in this “functionality” coming. Oh? Where? What? How? We don’t have any reason whatsoever to expect that of the Lindens, given their statements, their past performance, and their constraints.

    > would argue that the current system, if it rewards any sort of newby, rewards the newbies for producing a certain kind of content and willing to engage in a certain style of marketing behavior. I say, bugger that, lets do something different and more interesting. Newbies will still find a place, it will just bit a bit different.

    You are romanticizing and fantasizing as if the *Lindens will do this*. They won’t. And in the interrim, while various companies stampede to scrape data and push their own commercial interests, we will see a morass of even more hyping and crap. And the indigenous networks for navigation will be desroyed in the meantime for ideological reasons.

    >People can see the established cool, or the up-coming cool, or the networked cool. It would be fun!

    There is not enough literal real estate on the user face to get fancy like that. Seriously. It’s a box. A small box. LL will rely on outside companies to put this sort of more refined searching a la directories and “Hot and Cool Places to Visit” on third-party sites. Let them. Meanwhile let the search plus traffic go on working as it does in the world. it is not broken. It only seems useless to you, because you are of a very limited and ideological class of people, elites who find the content unappealing and can’t figure out how to make the content you like yourself or find others who made it already.

    one that involves picks, notecards, lists and whatnot, but this system does not work if you’re new. You won’t have friends, lists, groups, notecards. All you have is search.

    No, I’m sorry, but I’ll be blunt: you are simply ignorant of all the newbie paths. You and a few friends are extrapolating from your limited class’ experience.

    Groups are clubs. Clubs are groups. You land as a newbie, somebody working the WA or OI invites you to a club group, you join. You go there. You get its messages. You go to places like the Shelter, the NCI becuase you start seeing ads. You type “newbies” into the search list — imagine! Why? Because everybody in the OI and WE tells you to try that to find all the freebies and contests and dances. If you have a more highbrow search like “Svarga” or “artificial intelligence” or “Moebius strip” you get one lesson in the WA about the SEARCH PLACES and you are off. You are picking up notecards constantly.

    There is indeed a hard core of newbies who refuse even to use search. It just doesn’t work for them and they can’t find the comfort level. So they fly around or they respond to teleportations to clubs or events or live music. A greater percentage than you think figure out how to type LIVE MUSIC or NORWEGIAN or whatever to find their fellow countrymen. A lot of the most giant clubs and activities now roping in thousands of people are run by Dutch, German, French, Russian — you just aren’t seeing this.

    Far faster than you think is possible, people start making picks. They often put their boyfriends or RL children or pets in the picks. If someone did a database search on the special moments that people put in their picks like “my first house” or “my boyfriend” or “this is my chill spot” they will find a pretty good percentage of them are in Ravenglass, Dreamland, Azure — in people’s rentals — and thousands of people manage to figure out how to go and do this by searching.

    The well-planned decent content that you imagine exists somewhere doesn’t exist even on Google, for God’s sake. It doesn’t even exist on yourcity.com It exists on some site that you learned to go to like gawkers.com or some local scenester sort of list that you watch, or newspaper. You’re taxing SL to provide you with something that in RL isn’t supplied by Google, the white pages, or even Zagat. You’re expecting all of social media that you’ve already set up as an oldbie social media user with all your special niche feeds and such to be reproduced for you instantly by artificial intelligence as you walk in the door in SL. But SL is no different than Grand Central Station. It does not say “Hi, Pirate, people who bought this book also bought this other book.” It’s not the Internet. It’s a world. And making it the Internet will be part of what kills it or cripples it for a good long time.

    And the reason for this is that SL is a third-place where people go not only to get away from home or work but also from the noise and chatter of social media and the Internet. It’s a friend they make who says “come to my book club” that is the way they find the book, not through aggressive searching in a box. And people need that, and want that.

    >This vanilla flavored content list that is SL search is a boring, monotonous monoculture that doesn’t foster new or cool content, regardless of your tastes. It merely popularizes the most banal and basic.

    Search can only find what people put into it, but you also have to use a little more sense in searching.

    And you cannot expect so much discretion, editing, and delivery to you of a system like SL, that you don’t even get out of tumblr or google feeds or whatever. In RL, editors and journalists in the old-media format of discretionary culling and manual picking put up TODAY’S COOL PICKS

  11. Prok, just call me a liar if you want, but at least check the several posts about search in Second Life I made more than two years ago. I don’t want to bang on about this, but I don’t think there’s a monopoly on good ideas out there. Clearly it’s something we’ve both thought about, on and off.

    I would beg to disagree on the retention issue, mostly because the people I know who have tried universally complain about the same problems; that there’s nothing fun to do. This implies two possible scenarios: One, there’s nothing fun to do in SL (or what they consider fun); Two, they were unable to find fun things to do.

    Now, I’m an optimist so I figure there is fun stuff to do, despite taste or interest, and these people were unable to find the fun stuff in the first 30 minutes when a world/game needs to grab them. The only people who can really tell us their user stats are LL, but last I heard they continued to claim SL had bajillions of happy residents. Exponential growth of sign-up to free accounts, yet earlier you mention far more modest numbers of active residents. Realistically, SL is on about the same par as, say, EVE Online, in other worlds, around 10th in MMO ‘active subscriptions’.

    In terms of content, to me the point of SL is that you can have a wide range of content. If you want to throw out games, well, lets throw out clothes. Go buy those in first life n00b! The point is lets have a range of great content, lets highlight the best of all of it, not a slice, which is what happens now.

    Your point about traffic is also well off. If there was an instruction on the search window “please ignore the top 5 results”, well, maybe new users wouldn’t get so put off. But there isn’t. The only tools most new users have are those on the interface (mod free, HUD adjustment free), and those tools suck. If LL start placing a nice search tutorial at the end of newbyland then maybe we can claim search works. But they don’t, and it doesn’t. You even admit you spend time helping folks find stuff. You shouldn’t need to. Where’s Google’s help desk?

    As for the popularity of current content, great. If it will remain popular with search changes, even better for the property owners, and better for the rest of us looking for new content. And the current popularity of clubs and casinos is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyone not interested in that sort of stuff has quit by now.

    You’re right, LL might not ‘fix’ this problem well. I don’t think it’s my fault that this is possible. The systems would work if LL opened them up for everyone to see the metadata from. You wouldn’t need friends or buddies to see what people’s picks were, or what was the popular place of the day. That’s the point. And while I have limited experience (logically), so do you, and the people I talk to tell me very different stories than those who talk to you I’m guessing. These are people who thought SL sounded cool, logged in and saw nothing but shopping (and recently, virtual hookers trying to find a john) and were unable to find anything to do. They are never going to go straight into content creation, there has to be a hook to bridge them over, and right now, SL provides no hooks other than size 0 avatars in hot pants. Boring.

    In the end, I look at the description of SL on the website and see ideas about creativity, new frontiers, entertainment and commerce and all I see is the commerce; shallow, incessant, unrelenting and often X-Rated. Is it a crime to hope for more?

    …I’m going to close this thread to discussion now, it’s not really the right place and clearly we both feel passionately about this and could discuss it all day and night. If there’s another venue where you’d like to continue this, let me know – peter (aarrtt) tinypirate (dot) com.

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