Flirting with disaster…?

Colossus Linden resurfaces as the dust of the lay-off settles, to announce that the Marketplace Beta is apparently on-track.

Given the amount of speculation that followed the news that Pink had gone, any news on the new Marketplace is worth flagging. However, the information is scarce and merely announces that the Marketplace will be entering “beta” at the end of the month.

Now, “beta”, when used in conjunction with a Linden blog post,  is a word that is liable to have people reaching for tin hats, crawling under desks or looking to their basements for comfort. Viewer 2 and the entire Search mess are still very fresh in people’s minds; so much so that the idea that the Lab will (to quote Grant Linden in the follow-up discussion) continue to interate and improve the Marketplace after launch is hardly a solid foundation for confidence in the new system (Marketplace 1.0.1, anyone? Marketplace 2.0?).

Nor is the fact that, once again, it would seem that Linden Lab have determined a course of action, and nothing, but nothing, will sway them from their chosen path, no matter how rational or considered the concerns raised may be – or the fact that said concerns are being raised by those who potentially have far greater understanding of how to gain the best from the current XStreet environment than possibly anyone within Linden lab as a whole – let alone the commerce team.

This is most clearly demonstrated by the refusal to reconsider what amount to punitive limitations being placed on new listings – specifically the banning of animated gifs, the removal of BB code and the limit of 2,000 characters per description.

While LL may well consider such restrictions will make the new Marketplace more “professional” in its looks, all three demonstrate that, once again, LL simply have no idea of just how damaging these restrictions could be.

Let’s take the 2,000 character limit for a start: this is fine when you are describing an item of apparel, or perhaps a simple chair or light or a basic road vehicle.  2,000 characters, spaces included, tops-out at several hundred words. BUT when it comes to describing a more complex product, it is barely enough. Many products within SL are feature-rich nowadays, and limiting the description of them to just 2,000 characters is crippling. It encourages the use of lists. But wait! BB code is to be eliminated, so any lists stand a good risk of appearing somewhat less than pleasing to the eye – and a good several paces away from “professional” in looks.

And what of those creators who specialise in the creation of animated textures? The banning of animated gifs potentially eliminates their ability to use the new marketplace effectively.

Time and again, these three issues have be raised as points of concern among merchants  – and LL have simply chosen to ignore them. Even now, in the discussion thread, the same three concerns go completely unaddressed by Grant, for want of having to “go check”.

Now, granted (no pun intended), it is unreasonable to expect someone to have all the answers at their fingertips – but for heaven’s sake! Pulling together the basic information and preparing oneself to deal with the likely questions that could crop up in a discussion thread is hardly rocket science!

So why it is that the poor sod thrown into the firing line once again appears to have been ill-briefed and either hasn’t (or hasn’t been given the time to) consult with those working on the project ahead of time and checked the JIRA for anything related to the project in order to at least get a feel for the history to date in the matter?

It just doesn’t bode well for the Marketplace roll-out.

Nor does the level of confusion prevalent in the blog post and Grant’s comments in the discussion thread. On the one hand, we’re being told the beta will be the period in which merchants can get a look at their migrated listings and confirm everything is in good order before the Marketplace goes live, implying the beta will be “open” to all merchants; then in the same breath we’re told it will effectively be a “closed” beta, only available to those that apply via e-mail…

We’re also told that the beta will be for merchants “only” – but both the blog post and the associated e-mail go out to the community as a whole; on top of this, we’re told that the “beta” will co-exist with XStreet until such time as it goes “live” and XStreet will be switched off.  Both of these latter statements would suggest that more than just merchants will be accessing the “beta” Marketplace from the off…

Like so much else that goes on, it appears that, having extracted their left foot from the smelly morass surrounding the premature release of Viewer 2 and the epic brokenness of the new search,  there are those within LL fully content to immediately slam their right foot down in more-or-less the same pongy mess when it comes to the Marketplace.

Mind, you, that said, I do admire Grant Linden for actually inviting people to e-mail him personally to be a part of the Marketplace beta. With something like 10,000 merchants on XStreet as it stands, there is a chance he’ll not tunnel his way out from under the mountain of e-mails much before June 30th, poor sod.