Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Second Life Search ... Smile, You're On The Web

For those just now recovering from the tryptophan coma, the latest release from Linden Lab - Second Life 1.18.5 (3) - is upon us and it includes the premier new feature - Search BETA.

I've been unhappy with the search feature of Second Life since my virtual arrival as it appeared to lack any semblance of relevance and it seemed tipped to far toward search rather than find. I'm not sure convinced Search BETA is all that and a bag of chips, but I wanted a share a few observations in two parts: first, a few basic mechanics about a few things you should know and second, a subtlety or two. Trust me, you will want to read this entire post .. don't tl/dr this time.

Got Search?
Let's cover a few basics. To get the new search, you have to download release 1.8.5 (3) which is available here. Once you get back on the grid, you'll notice that your dropped packets and bandwidth meters (in the top right hand corner) have been unceremoniously replaced with the Search box. You can type in your search terms, hit return and the new search window will launch with results loaded.

Yes, I know it feels creepy typing in the top right hand corner of the viewer, so if you can't stomach it, you can alternatively use CTRL-F. Search BETA launches a new "All" tab to the far right that displays search results. The old All tab is still there and works as it did before the new All tab took it's place in line (just in case you were attached to it). The new ALL tab searches Second Life for people, places, groups and items for sale and it also includes a mash of classifieds seemingly added in a moment of design breakdown. I'm assuming this will be fixed later, right now it's simply a miserable interface.

Arguably, results are sorted by "relevance", a definition for which I am still searching. I see a whole new "Second Life SEO" market emerging.

Opt What?
You might have heard some rumblings around a phrase called "opt-in" or "opt-out". Opt-in and opt-out are terms used to describe the options you have to participate in a service or offering. Opt-in usually means that you have proactively chosen to participate, and is preferred over an opt-out option which means you have to take action to not participate.

The National Do Not Call Registry is an example of an opt-out provision; you have to tell them not to call you rather than give them permission to call you. The dreaded search bots that scour the grid collecting information are also opt-out services, however the Search BETA is an opt-in service, after which you can opt-out.

How to stuff Search BETA with your stuff
If you want to know what that means in practical terms, then watch Torley's video tutorial (note: this is old, the features Torley is demonstrating are available in the current release). Pay special attention to this nuance: if you want your items to show up for sale, then you must opt in for the object *AND* the place must be listed in search which will cost you L$30 per week and reindexing will take about 2-3 days from the time you make changes.

Full court "press" doesn't impress
Linden hosted an inaugural in-world presser about the Search BETA on Nov 26th which I sadly missed, I mean not invited. I don't even know how the event was announced, or not announced, which is becoming more completely in line with Lindenesque communication - nonetheless, the resultant coverage was abysmal for a 50 "reporter" turn out. If you want to read about the press event, read Prokofy's post at Second Thoughts or SL Reports which were the only two outlets I could find that were invited and actually covered the event.

The subtle privacy BLUR - what was in, is out
So much for the pragmatic, what else is interesting about Search BETA? Well, to me the most interesting thing is that if you chose to be visible or searchable in world, you have also chosen to be visible on the web. By selecting "show in search" on your profile, your identity is indexed and searchable by any routine search engine. Your profile picture, description and your top picks are now available for the world to view outside the confines of Second Life.

To see what I mean, go to Search BETA and find a profile of someone that has opted-in to show their profile in search. Scroll to the bottom, and you will see a link like this one: Copy/paste that link into a browser and see what you get.

Do you feel like your privacy has been violated just a little? You might think that's ok as long as the only way you can get that information is from in world, but it's in the wild and it's being indexed as you read this post and furthermore, clever developers are off building search tools to exploit that fact.

Islab - is what?
If you think that Search BETA is limited to Linden Lab sites or capabilities, think again. I stumbled across Guus van den Brekel's blog and found the Islab Second Life Search that appears to be in full working order now. This is an external search site and toolbar for Firefox, IE and Netvibes that allows you to search inside Second Life from outside maintained by an organization called Islab.

According to the site, the mission of Islab is to help users better learn and experience the 3D internet, and to promote 3D Internet related open and open source development. Islab goals are:
  • To help users learn to use 3D Internet, 3D website and scripting design, Open source Projects etc, and related documentations and help resources. To build a Mutual Learning, Sharing, Collaborating and Open Platform.
  • To build a high efficient and decentralized development platform, our team can collaboratively develop 3D internet-based open source software.
  • Translate, Writie 3D Internet Help, Development related articles. Based on Islab Community Forum, to build Islab Knowleagebase (sic).
  • As a bridge between chinese communnity (sic) and outside world.

There are a few privacy implications associated with Search BETA that are not making headlines, press meetings or the Linden blog. The Linden Lab/Second Life Privacy Policy states that:

Information Displayed to Other Users: Information about your account is displayed to other users in your Second Life profile, and this same information may be available through automated script calls and application program interfaces. This information includes your account name, account type, the date your account was established, whether or not you are currently online, user rating information, group and partner information, and whether or not you have established a payment account or transaction history with Linden Lab.
Given the current changes, this should be changed to reflect the new search results - that includes your profile picture, description, and by manner of association several other elements of your Second Life Identity now fully available to everyone, not just other Second Life users.

Happy Searching.

Have some feedback on Search BETA?

Send an email to

Share Some Grace:

blog comments powered by Disqus