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.
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.
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?
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.
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.