Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Second Life Search

If you read CNET's article in February or if you've spent any time in world trying to actually, you know *find* something in the vastness of Second Life, you know that search is, well .. "She's dead, Jim".

Cracking the search code is a critical component within the virtual world arena and the challenge within Second Life is fraught with the usual issues about privacy, ownership, etc. A few early entrants including Second 411 have struggled to develop a significant user base in part because, well no one can find them either, and quite possibly because they chose the opt-in path which requires action on the part of the searchee. An opt-in service is difficult to get going, but it is commonly considered more community friendly than something like the real world Do Not Call Registry, but now there's a new spider in town.

On April 7th, a new avatar was brought forth into the grid, and they called it's name Grid Shepherd. Grid is a automated scan bot or spider, developed by the Electric Sheep Company (ESC) as lauded by 3pointD.com, was unleashed on Monday to scour the Second Life grid once every 24 hours, gathering publicly accessible data on items that were marked for sale.

There is the predictable community rebuff, with some angst around performance, a generally community unfriendly deployment, privacy and the requirement to opt out rather than opt in. As is often the case, some of the more intriguing arguments (i.e. there is something to be learned here) are about *how* the bot was deployed, and not *that* the bot was out and about. In general, bots are a touchy subject in Second Life, if you aren't aware, catch up on the Copy Bot and the Land Scanners.

Opt Out for You, Opt In for Me?
The ESC service is an opt-out service and to do so, you need to get up and visit Sheep headquarters, find search.sheeps.com sign and change your privacy settings. I hope it works better that the Do Not Call Registry.

Ironically, the ESC Labs Terms Of Service require that automated querying of Grid's output is not allowed without expressed permission or an "opt in" by ESC.

For a first start, I'd say this was a fine effort technically although a bit of a blundered deployment. Too often, we technologists adopt the "shoot, shoot, look" rules of engagement and in the new renaissance, we really must consider many more perspectives about not only what we do, but how we do it.

Now I am off to modify the metadata of my for sale items to optimize those blasted bot results.
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