Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Study reports virtual worlds as fun, but frivolous

A newly released report by Strategy Analytics found that Second Life is perceived to be less useful than the web for both information gathering and shopping. Here are a couple of features I think would help close the gap:
  • Usefully ranked search results. Finding what you’re looking for is a total crapshoot with Second Life's existing search capability. There seems to be no qualitative ranking beyond popularity. Popularity is rigged by camping. I imagine there is some logical basis for the order of listings in classified search results, but I can’t figure out what it might be. For a web-quality user experience, Second Life needs a Google-quality search capability.
  • Search and locate within sims. The first problem is that it’s hard to find what you’re looking for in search. The next problem is finding any particular item listed in a search result after you teleport to it from the listing. Is it just me, or has anyone else flown fruitlessly around and around a large store trying to find an item from a search. How about adding a capability to search within an area, view a 2D flickr-like image listing and then be teleported exactly to the right spot with a click? How hard could that be?


Keltin Alexander said...

The search listing (to my knowledge) is totally driven by the traffic of the lot in question. More traffic = higher in the listing (though that can be changed after initial search results are returned). Thus, people's begging for people to increase traffic.

I completely agree with the view on search and locate. Their current map viewing and location is a laugh riot, not to mention objects not being showed in the correct spots.

IYan Writer said...

I think it's comparing apples and oranges.

VWs are a different medium, used for different things. I use a phone to order a pizza, not email; and I use the web to find information and purchase RL products, not Second Life.

Botgirl Questi said...

keltin: Since that post, I learned of a metaverse ink, a search engine that does a lot of what I asked for.

iyan: I totally agree that VWs make up a unique medium and shouldn't be judged by how well they perform 2D web tasks. That said, I think that better search capabilities within SL would significantly improve user experience.

Unknown said...

You repeat the same thoughtless memes of other geeks before you, and their unconscious followers, about traffic.

The traffic system in SL is a creation of genius. In fact it does order sites and in fact it does do a very good job of helping people find what they want. The fact that a few slots at the top of some key words are gamed is no different than the ads and the gaming of Google (do you really think Wikipedia deserves to be on top for every single search return in the universe, for example?!).

In using the SL search, you are doing two things unconsciously, so please become aware of them:

o you are likely using SEARCH ALL, returning a grab bag of nonsense, some of which are gamed and camped, and then declaring that search is "broken"

o what is "broken" is not search, but you using search all, which is good for some things (finding odd things in shopping malls) and bad for others (finding what you want). Like going to, if you want a coherent search return, you must use the tabs -- places, people, groups. Search/places gives a much more satisfying result because it contains the places people are bothering to pay $30 a week to be in, and organize the naming of better

o In using Google, you try many times, you follow links, you screen out the AOL ads and the many other kinds of pushed ads all around you. So your behaviour in SL is different...why?

You expect perfect after one return...why? You expect not to screen out the ads (the gamed first slots)...why?

Because your expectations of a virtual world are hugely higher than they are for RL.

o Did you realize that in fact the Lindens *are using Google*? lol This is something many people don't realize, even as they aren't willing to face what's wrong with Google when they use Google (their habits in making many repeat searches and screening out ads remain unexamined). Read up on the Lindens' blog about their revision of search, still in the works

o This is social media, not a telephone book. So look at people. The picks on the avatars' profiles contain a lot of curated, selected information. When you go to interesting events you find by filtering search/events/discussion or search/events/art (use the tab, use the tabs!), you look on the backs of avatars, you find more groups/sites/events.

I used to ask the Lindens to base the popular places not on camping, but on picks, which are less gamed (gameable, but *less* gamed). They want to control the world, and don't like when it becomes too democratic. The picks aren't the picks they'd like to see. Popular places they leave in merely because they themselves don't know how to manage newbies and find them entries into the economy usefully.

If gamed sites harm your eyeballs, keep clicking, as you do when AOL comes up on Google. Don't look at the Popular Places. Put in better key words.

Prokofy Neva

Botgirl Questi said...

Hi dyerbrookME

Thanks for your comment and the reminder to optimize key words within the appropriate tab. That's actually my usual search strategy.

As I commented, I think metaverse ink came up with a good strategy that leverages information design to improve the usability of search results.

I still think it is possible to come up with a way to return more accurate qualitatively ranked results, perhaps by using multiple methods to screen out gaming.