Monday, August 12, 2013

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Why SL Marketplace Search is Totally Broken -- and How It Can be Fixed (Comment of the Week)

Rose Mackie on SL Marketplace

Responding to Iris' post about the problem with Second Life Marketplace features, NWN reader and SL blogger Rose Mackie highlighted all the problems with SL Marketplace's search function in a very detailed analysis worth reading in full:

"Marketplace does need a lot of fixing up. The Search engine is totally borked. Much of the blame goes to merchants who:

  • Use special characters in item and store names so that their items list first;
  • Place items in the totally wrong category either out of ignorance of what they are selling or in an attempt to snare the unwary;
  • Keyword stuffing;
  • Neglect to maintain their storefronts with current information, Urls, and Slurls. Merchants who know they are leaving SL or who are going to be temporarily away should note that in their store info or profiles.

"Let us keep in mind that when the Marketplace was initiated, Linden Lab repeatedly told merchants that item names and descriptions would be excluded from search criteria, so correct keywords were extremely important. This ideal would appear to be an epic fail. Some things I would like to see are:

  • The ability to exclude certain terms, i.e. “-demo” to exclude demo items from search results
  • A quote mark function that actually works (@ Drayke Newall ~ doesn’t work reliably when I use it)
  • Excluding merchant and store names from item keyword search results as @Softpaw Sommer
  • The ability for merchants to list the same item in multiple categories.
  • The ability for merchants to temporarily close their stores, much like Etsy merchants who are away from their businesses temporarily.
  • A review system for merchants, not just individual items, so the buyer doesn’t have to wade through 96 items to find a review (not just a star) that says “this merchant will not respond” or “this merchant is really great”.
  • A review system for items on the Marketplace that one has purchased inworld so the buyer can give feedback. (One of the reasons I try to buy on Marketplace, even if I’ve gone to the in-world store is so I can leave feedback. It’s annoying.)
  • An integrated, sortable, customizable wishlist/favorite function for both buyer and seller. Treasuries and collections would be much easier to integrate.

"Linden Lab's Marketplace needs a marketing manager and team to keep the site usable. Until LL gets behind marketing and until a manager who is really knowledgeable and excited about virtual world goods is on board, I think we will just have to muddle along with our stopgap measures to find things that are new, exciting, and of quality."

All very well put. Maybe you should read more on Ms. Mackie's blog (from when this picture above came).

Please share this post with people who use SL Marketplace:

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Pussycat Catnap

Wasn't paying attention and missed the original article. But yeah... agree.

But not too upset. Because I feel very strongly that inworld shopping needs to be pushed over out of world shopping. But that's another topic - see my comments in various 'why is land disappearing' blogs...


If you wanted to improve marketplace, it would need more ability to contextualize.

That means, as you note: user curated collections. Heck, mix it with 'my.secondlife.com' as a new profile tag: my Marketplace watch lists'

- Note the plural.

You get to make up to 3 separate lists and give each a SINGLE word (no spaces allowed) as its category that you have to type in (no list to choose from).

I could then search either my.secondlife.com OR on marketplace for user lists...

(And here is why I went single word: forces people to get smart about word choice).

- Results are ranked by how often the person shops on MP, how often people buy something they saw on that list, and how active they are on my.secondlife.com. In other words: alts made to just promote your products... don't show up... unless you start using them a LOT and they end up being real accounts...

(and I know a LOT of people don't use my.secondlife.com, but its the only unbiased metric of user activity/engagement available.)

- But also by being a 5th tab of a profile, I could just go manually view the lists of people of interest to me.

Inside of Marketplace itself... There should be some ability to quickly rank products based on category compliance to a search result.

That preview page grid... Imagine a 'drag / drop' feature that let me manually resort the list, and had a box off to the left where I could drag any search entry to 'trash it'. Doing so would rank words used on the titles and first 150 characters in description of those products up/down for that search term.

BUT NOT the individual products...

Individual products would not get flagged by this system - but the words used in them would get greater or lesser association.

In other words... training the search AI.

And by effecting the words rather than the individual products, griefing would not be as effective at hurting individual items.

This kind of 'build me a list of associations and synonyms' training is more or less how the search engine companies handle things internally in their QA departments. Cubicle farms of temp employees who move results up or down, and the AI taking that re-ranking info back and using it to re-rank critical words in the results.

joker

volume not quality rules the nest.

Pussycat Catnap

@joker: pretty much. And its because their "relevancy" formula is not relevant... :)

My two suggestions were just ways to improve search relevancy. I'm sure others have other suggestions. I've worked in SEO from both sides of the table (yes, I have worked on a major search engine's team - not as a coder, but in a position where I observed their work-process) so my ideas came from that kind of thinking.

ANY idea though... even having random drunk mice throw darts at a list of products from MP... would be an improvement...

Emperor Norton

Gaming _any_ search engine seems to be a major obsession for most SL residents so this was no surprise.

Rose Mackie

Thank you WJA for your kind words and featuring my post.

It wasn't meant to be all inclusive or exclusive, but a wishlist as resident, shopper, shopper, and programmer (yes, from back in the days when we "programmed" computers).

And Pussycat ~ I love the phrase "random drunk mice throw darts" ~ I'm gonna borrow it sometime.

Josh Susanto

The Marketplace is not exactly broken. It was created with the purpose of working badly, and everything that has been done to it so far has deliberately made it worse. The mere existence of XStreet was a problem for someone. Getting rid of it outright would be too transparent, and wouldn't open the door for disgruntled ex-Lindens to secretly get their fingers back into the pie. Simply replacing it with something that doesn't work at all would still be too transparent and also would not provide enough user data for the shadow entity that has agreed to fund the Marketplace in exchange for said data. So the solution has been to replace Xstreet with something that works nominally, but which can be gradually made more and more useless as the economy it is supposed to support comes closer and closer to being bought out by the very person driving its value down. To put it more clearly: Things that stand to be accomplished by gradually crippling the deliberately clumsy Marketplace system include 1) Forcing merchants and customers to mostly return to in-world venues where land has to be paid for in order for business to be conducted is great, long-term for whoever is buying up the land while the economy continues to be artificially slowed down. 2) Gradually sucking the life out of the SL economy (as a whole) drives down LL revenues and reducing the price that Cory Ondrejka will have to pay in order to get the company away ("back"?) from Philip Rosedale. 3) To gradually produce and maintain a pool of commerce users so accustomed to constant system f-ups that they won't notice that the "Commerce Team" (actually an outside group - quite possibly NSA puppets) is gradually robbing them in more and more shameless ways ironically kills 2 birds with one stone; by both reducing available system currency, and by providing money with which to buy the almost completely crippled company at a massive artificial discount. Paranoid? Yeah. I was called paranoid when I got kicked off the Merchants forum after saying I believed the NSA was using SL to spy on people. Yeah. That could NEVER happen.

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