Marketplace Beta Search: Better?

I am one that has bitched about ‘search’ in Second Life™ for years. The results have always been a confusing mix of items related and unrelated to the search target/term. Now the Lab is making the new search, Marketplace Beta Search, easier to find and use.

Marketplace Beta Search Link

Marketplace Beta Search Link

In November 2015 Linden Lab posted an article about the Beta Marketplace Search. See: Introducing Marketplace Search Beta. They updated it later the same month. Now they seemed to have moved to broader testing and have placed a link to the new search on the landing/home page of the current Marketplace or I’m just noticing it. 

Old and New Search Comparison

Old and New Search Comparison

A good test of the two searches is to search on ‘steampunk’ (NSFW – provided you have Adult content enabled). The results are strikingly different. One would think searching on ‘steampunk’ would be safe for work. On the old search it isn’t.

On the first page of the current search I cannot find any item I would consider related to ‘steampunk’. That makes no sense to me. The new search provides results that make sense. No penises… and do those come in steampunk versions?

Opinions

The Lindens asked for feedback. They currently have 19 pages of it. See: Marketplace Search Beta Now Available. There are lots of opinions in the thread and a number of problems have been pointed out.

In late November the Lab responded to the feedback and posted their take on it. See: Marketplace Beta Search – New Information. At that time the adjustments made were:

  • The addition of boolean search (utilizing “AND, OR, NOT” for more specific searches)
  • Removal of merchant name from “relevance” results
  • Updated the formula to take prior sales data into account*
  • Stores are now sorted by Best Selling by default

* An important feature in Beta Search is a learning algorithm that, for example, adjusts ranking based on conversions – which means search results will improve over time with real sales data in a more consistent way than sales rank provided in the past.

The Lindens point out there are some suggestions/requests that they cannot implement in the current project. Those are:

  • Demo listings as a separate category
  • Grouping similar listings in different colors
  • Allowing merchants to organize order of items as it is seen in their store
  • Keywords field size

This updated thread now includes 8 pages of feedback. Whirly Fizzle has comments here and there explaining how the then current system could be used to achieve some of the things people were asking for. One such is to find items that are mesh or not mesh. Use a search term like:

Candle* NOT mesh

Candle* AND mesh

An interesting aside in the feedback is from those thinking mesh adds more lag than prims do. We obviously have an education problem in Second Life technology.

Then there is the debate over Demo Items. Should these be a separate category? Should they be excluded from search?

Think about it. I don’t want to have to search for a demo of an item I want to try. I also don’t want two copies of everything with a mesh demo in my results. What I want is the retail product in my results and as many ‘different’ but similar items in the results. Showing the demo duplicate just reduces the number of items I can see.

The product listing should have a link to its demo. If the merchant won’t provide that for me I likely just won’t buy.

Obviously the Lindens have to provide some way for merchants to designate which listing is for a demo and which for the retail product. Oz Linden says (reference) while they can’t immediately add that feature they have it on their list of things to do. So, at some point this is going to get handled.

How it is going to be handled is unclear… or perhaps undecided is more accurate. Consider the problem of rankings. The new engine uses ‘sales’ to determine search result ranking. Those items that sell best come up first.

Google uses linking text from other sites as a significant factor in deciding which pages are most pertinent to the search term and where they should be in the results. That tactic is not useful in the SL Marketplace. So, the Lindens are looking for some metric that the merchant cannot spam and provides relavant results.

Polysail explains the problem (reference) with eliminating DEMO’s and using sales for ranking. If you sell a dress in 6 colors and all the colors use the same DEMO version of the dress, a popular dress will draw lots of downloads/purchases of the DEMO. So, sales stats will look like:

  • PopularDress – DEMO Sales: 60 units – good
  • PopularDress – Red Sales: 10 – weak
  • PopularDress – Blue Sales: 10 – weak
  • PopularDress – Green Sales: 10 – weak
  • PopularDress – Red Plaid Sales: 10 – weak
  • PopularDress – Blue Plaid Sales: 10 – weak
  • PopularDress – Green Plat Sales: 10 – weak

The dress is going to have much lower ranking in search results because it comes in 6 colors. The DEMO version is more representative of the dress’ popularity and its real search ranking. Of course I could spam the measure by putting all my demos in a single package. I’ve seen some doing that. I don’t know how the problem is solved, but I do understand the problem.

Sort Order Choices

Sort Order Choices

The idea people are complaining about is that related products appear to be at some kind of disadvantage. That may just be a fact of life or an imagined slight. Every merchant has the same disadvantage or advantage, depending on your thinking. So, I am not sure that this is a problem that has to be fixed. I just don’t want to see my search results filled with duplicate items.

There are nice features in search. One is the ability to select the Best Selling of the results. I personally really like this choice. It is available in the current and new search. It works the same. The general results in the two searches are different when using the Relevance sort. They both provide an identical first page of results when using Best Selling.

Again it is Polysail that explains some problems in the best selling results (reference). Check her post to understand. She explains some more problems that come up when one uses the Boolean operators (AND, NOT, etc). The relevant sort falls apart. (reference)

Marketplace Beta Search is not a completed project. Work is on going. But, I think the new Beta search is much better even with the problems it has.

2 thoughts on “Marketplace Beta Search: Better?

  1. “The dress is going to have much lower ranking in search results because it comes in 6 colors.”

    Y’know… I’m kind of okay with this. Kinda. There are flaws, but at least it might possibly put a hamper on people selling so many variations of items that are just tinted and made no mod. The whole “no mod as a default” attitude of rigged mesh items has put a serious hamper on my expressions of creativity on items in SL.

    When I inquire about this I get a couple different answers. Either they do it because of copybotting reasons, or they do it because rigged items can’t be resized. I get that people want to stop copybotting, which is a common excuse I’ve heard for making everything they can no mod, but it doesn’t stop people ripping textures. Those that believe that to be the case are horribly misinformed. It does is stop people from applying textures to your items, legitimate or not. They still have to get the textures from somewhere. So the only situation it stops as far as I can tell is when two people buy your outfit in two separate colours, and then rip and share the texture from each with each other. I imagine that is a rare enough occurrence that people shouldn’t really be worried about it.

    As for the resized reason… resizing is not the only modification one can make to outfits and body parts! Many of my outfits I like to add spec or bump maps too. Some I put scripts in to create texture effects. Some I like to tint slightly (HUDs are not an acceptable alternative to this, as they just create lag and are still limited in their capabilities). I imagine people must be hiding something when they say this because, well, if they thought resizing was the only thing that was modifiable when you tick the little “modify” box, then why not just leave it modifiable? It’s not like that would break anything to leave it that way… They make it seem like there’s no reason to go through the effort of making it modifiable if it can’t be resized, but that doesn’t add up at all. I forget the default, if next owner permissions default to no modify or not, but all it takes is either a single click, or not clicking a box. Not a whole lot of effort!

    The only third reason I can think of, and this one hasn’t been stated by anybody to me, but I imagine that’s just because of the greed involved… is that they make it no modify so that they can just colour tint things and hopefully make more sales from those people that want it in more than one colour, or by selling fat packs (in which case, why not make the fat packs modify?). This is… kinda dumb. But people are gonna be greedy. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but at least if people would say so I’d feel like the problem could be addressed better.

    That’s what would be nice if the lower sales for small variations in outfits curbed. But I’m not sure it’ll have enough of an impact. It’d be nice though!

    P.S. I just remember two other reasons I’ve been told. One is that they don’t want people to break an item and then complain to them, which is probably kind of rare but also just leads to a dumber SL populace as a whole, and we don’t need that. The second is that outfit sellers don’t want people to remove the textures on their items and put their own on it. I get that, I do. People have a specific idea in mind when they create an item and put it out there. But it also really really hampers the creativity of the users. And the glorious thing about SL is how it fosters creativity. We don’t need things to be less creative than in real life, where I can buy something and do whatever I want to it if I have the skill to do so. We need it to continue being more creative and awesome!

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