The upcoming changes to the Marketplace – specifically, replacing the traditional in-world boxes with a Direct Delivery system is causing a lot of concern. Beta testing for the new system has begun – or is due to begin – shortly. However, even that isn’t without its problems, with people being asked – yet again – to sign-up “blind” to an NDA.
These changes to the Marketplace environment are part and parcel of a wider programme that used to go via the acronym AIS – the Avatar Inventory System. Now known as the Inventory API, this is an on-going series of improvements that are specifically targeting how inventory is handled between the Viewer, the Asset Server(s) that “store” your “inventory” (i.e. hold the “master” data for inventory items) and the simulator servers themselves. The idea appears to be to develop an extensible system that allows for better, more focused tweaking of the inventory handling code that, among other things, should allow Linden Lab to more readily identify and fix problems related to inventory management as well as making the inventory system more scalable and robust overall than is currently the case. Hopefully, this will provide:
- A more stable inventory management environment, one that can comfortably handle active inventories of 60K+ per avatar without the current issues and frustrations people experience on hitting these levels (inexplicable inventory losses, inventory failing to load or constantly having to box-up “unused” inventory simply to get the damned inventory “list” to download to the Viewer in a reasonable space of time, etc.)
- A more robust means of ensuring Viewer, simulator and asset server remain synchronised in terms of inventory asset data, leading to fewer user-experienced problems when moving around the grid in terms of object rezzing failures, etc.
Overall, the changes being planned are all to the good; one of the biggest banes of comfortable Second Life living is problems associated with inventory; as many are all too aware, when problems occur with inventory vanishing, 98% of the time users are effectively left to suck-it-and-see in attempts to resolve the problem using a variety of care-worn techniques such a manual cache clearing in the Viewer, frequent relogging, frequent sim hops and inventory loads – with (sadly and most irritatingly) an almost “well, t’ain’t our problem,” attitude from LL’s own help desk.
However, the new system is not going to be all plain sailing. In order to work effectively, the new system apparently requires your inventory to be reasonably-well ordered and structured. In particular, Merchants using the new Direct Delivery system will have to have their goods specifically arranged and ordered, while there will be a limit as to the number of individual items that can be placed in a single folder (rumoured to be around the 650 mark).
Some have seen these requirements as being negative points against the new system; I have to say that personally, I find it hard to understand why. While it is true that many don’t manage their inventories that well, the fact of the matter is that we’re actually provided with a basic system of default – and protected – folders for inventory items by Linden Lab themselves (Body Parts, Clothing, Objects, etc.), which can be readily used to create a well-ordered inventory system, providing one applies a little discipline.
I also suspect that the majority of merchants are like me, and already have a well-defined folder structure for their goods. While such systems more than likely won’t meet the requirements that the new Direct Delivery system, they do mean that merchants already have the necessary self-discipline to get their products sorted and ready for the new system. For others, many people already use the #RLV “shared folders” system – and not necessarily for BDSM-related items (although this is obviously its primary use); so again the concept of a well-ordered inventory may not be so alien to people as some may think.
Whether the new system will require an complete overhaul of a person’s inventory remains unclear; we’ve had the Client-side code in both Viewer 2.x and Viewer 1.x for night-on two years now with it impacting on everyday inventory manage, so again, undue critique of AIS / Inventory API in the widest sense may be a little premature. And even if the new system doesn’t require widespread changes, for those that tend to leave everything in the top level of their inventory after unpacking (i.e. in folders directly under MY INVENTORY), the fact that Linden Lab are taking steps to try and make the inventory management system more robust might be seen as a reason to perhaps get things sorted.
If nothing else, the default folders provided by the Lab have a big advantage over user-created folders: they cannot be accidentally deleted. Ergo, moving, say, all of one’s clothing folders under CLOTHING, gives one (albeit small) measure of protection against accidentally right-clicking on a top level folder and deleting it and then purging it from Trash before you’ve taken stock of what you’ve done. Furthermore, and while I admittedly have no first-hand experience of this (I’ve always kept a very well-ordered inventory), there is much anecdotal evident that ordering your inventory within the default folders provided by LL decreases the chances of items becoming lost or vanishing.
Yes, there are issues around some of elements of the AIS / Inventory API – such as the Direct Delivery system – in terms of the impact they’ll have elsewhere in Second Life (such as the impact on in-world stores on a variety of levels, some of which I touched on in my post on Direct Delivery itself. However, I’d respectfully suggest that such concerns are more a part of a wider dialogue that is required about the Marketplace in general, and its potential impact on in-world revenue streams – including LL’s tier-derived income – rather than restricting them to discussions on AIS / Inventory API in and of itself.
At the end of the day we’ve all suffered from inventory issues at one time or another. Given the woeful track record from LL in terms of helping people deal with the issues they encounter – such as frustratingly being able to see a portion of their inventory but be unable to use it, simply because the current system has “moved” folders up to the same level as MY INVENTORY, and thus made them inaccessible – then I’d tend to take the attitude that anything that comes along that decreases the chances of such errors occurring in future and which more readily enable LL to rectify inventory errors is to be welcomed; any additional effort required on our part to help get the system working more efficiently notwithstanding.