One day Emerald Wynn peeked inside her Second Life account to discover that during her years in SL she had amassed over 100,000 virtual items in her inventory. "Seriously," she begged in this long Plurk thread, "I need help. Don't even know where to start." Helpful friends offer advice, but most of them involve tips for making manual deletion go somewhat faster. The thing is, even if she deleted a 1,000 items a day, it would still take over three months to get through it all.
This phenomenon reminds me of the concept "email bankruptcy", where someone's inbox gets such a massive accretion of valid messages, no amount of time and effort is adequate for the task of replying to them. I'm much less of a power Second Life user than Ms. Wynn, but my own inventory has nearly 4,000 items, and I've pretty much declared inventory bankruptcy long ago. It's one reason I tell people not to send me notecards, because they're likely to disappear unnoticed in the thicket already there.
At heart, this is another example of Second Life's user interface working against its users -- and ironically, against Linden Lab. Since inventory is so difficult to manage and prune, items tend to keep piling up -- and consequently, the Lindens' asset server gets taxed more and more. Trouble is, in a world with user-generated content, you're going to get a lot of, well, content. So the problem of inventory management in Second Life becomes an essential one: How would you tweak the UI so that great content you own is easily accessible, while less important content is stored somewhere in a dusty digital attic out of sight and mind (but still available, if you really need it)?