On Friday, May 1st, Brooke Linden chaired a Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM) feedback meeting to address any issues so far uncovered during the current beta testing and answer questions from Merchants.
The meeting was recorded by Chakat Northspring, and the video is embedded below, with a transcript of the Q&A session. My thanks, as always, to North for providing the video. The transcript picks-up after Brooke has made her opening comments thanking people for their attendance, etc. Questions / comments from attendees are show in italics, timestamps are provided at the start of replies so that those interested can jump to the relevant part of the video and list to the answers directly.
Note that during the meeting, there were some questions which were returned to as a result of additional comments. Where this is is the case, either: a) the question is given in the transcript at the point at which the major discussion on the subject took place, or b) subsequent comments and replies have been listed at the point at which the main answer to the question was given.
[01:34] Brooke Linden (BL): So I’m going to go over a little bit of how it works, and talk to you about some of the decision-making process and then I’d mainly like to focus on people who have experienced VMM and get feedback from them on the process and how it’s working for them, and then we can deal with high-level concerns.
So, what we had been doing with Direct Delivery is having people put items into a Merchant Outbox, which sent inventory items to the Marketplace, and then Merchants would then list those items, and those items would get delivered to their customers in-world. With Viewer-Managed Marketplace, we are getting rid of an extra step … and we are allowing deliveries to occur directly from the Merchant’s inventory.
Many of the Merchants we talked to are storing copies of the items they’re selling in the Marketplace in their inventory. Some of them are doing this in box form due to concerns over inventory sizes; and one of the things we did do is we spent a lot of time talking to out internal groups that have worked on and maintained large inventories for some of our customers to evaluate whether or not there was risk involved in increasing the size of some existing inventories.
The feedback we got from them is that the problems aren’t necessarily with large inventories, they are with situations where somebody has 10,000 folders or objects at the root of another folder [aka a “flat” inventory structure]. Now there are a handful of people on the Marketplace who have this many listings, and we’ll be working with them to help make sure that their old listings that are no longer in use get deleted.
One of the things that we changed with Direct Delivery is that we made it much easier to delete listings; so now if you want to delete a Direct Delivery listing, it will put your inventory back into your unassociated items folder, so you can return it to yourself in world … One additional thing we did as a part of Viewer-Managed Marketplace as a result of feedback … is that when an item runs out of stock [No copy items], it needs to be removed from the Marketplace … so we have changed the behaviour in Viewer-Managed Marketplace to unlist items that run out of stock.
We basically tried to fit-in related issues that made sense with the change to VMM. And one of the things we also did was to meet with some Merchants to talk about versions, and how they want to manage those versions, and how they typically manage them in their inventory. and we worked to create a hierarchy in the viewer-Managed Marketplace to support the ability to store more than one version under a listing and choose which one is the current active one.
So that’s a high-level overview with some of the thinking and some of the problems we tried to address while we were working on Viewer-Managed Marketplace. So, those of you who have tired Viewer-Managed Marketplace, are there questions or concerns or feedback that you have for us?
Why the sudden change when the Merchant Outbox is working fine?
[07:39] BL: The merchant Outbox isn’t working fine for everybody, and the Merchant Outbox also does not support the group of Merchants who sell items that they do not have Copy rights on … in order to sell those, we had to make some changes to the way that Direct Delivery worked, and because we were going in to do this, we looked at the problems and feedback that we had received on Direct Delivery, and made some improvements there.
Overall, the number of times you move something between systems or people, the greater the risk of there being some kind of problem. And so we really wanted to minimise that. There are come people who have had their Merchant Outboxes stuck in initialising, and haven’t been able to put things on the Marketplace, and that’s something out support team is able to help with, but this is the kind of thing that we wanted to address.
Can you confirm the exact time line before auto migration starts so that we know how long we have to migrate ourselves if we wish?
[09:23] BL: We’re trying not to give exact dates, because one of the things we want to do is make sure that we have time to address any bugs or issues that come up before we start moving everybody.
So we will not be officially launching into production until the viewer is the released viewer. We’re planning to put the viewer into the release process hopefully in the next week or two [the viewer is currently a project viewer]. We’re working on getting the updates localised. So however long that takes – and you all know it can take a month or so to get a new viewer out.
So at that point, will will have launched to production, and we’re planning to have users in production for probably about a month, to give them a chance to start moving things over manually if they would like to. We are going to be getting some volunteers who will let us migrate them early-on, and we might even want to migrate a couple of them during the beta period. We’ve already started testing migrations for some of our internal test accounts.
Once we’ve done those tests and dealt with any issues that come up, then we’ll begin the automated migration process.
[11:04] For very large stores [with] a few thousand or more listings, and if people are Premium members, we’re going to be allowing them to work with us to schedule a night where we can do the migration work. We’re going to do most of the migrations overnight Pacific Time, because that’s when our lowest traffic is on the Marketplace.
Other people who aren’t scheduled will get an e-mail at the start of the migration with an estimate of how long it will take for your store [to be migrated], we’re trying to be conservative, and then an e-mail at the end of the migration, letting you know that the migration is complete.
During the migration process your stores will not be available because there’s just so much risk for things to get messed-up. We expect it to be milliseconds per listing, 500 milliseconds at the most So hopefully that answered that question.
While transferring from the old system the new listings don’t automatically activate. They have to be listed even though it says “active”.
Kurt Linden (via chat): We are aware of this issue and working on a fix.
Will it be possible to allow customers to get updated versions of a product they have already bought?
[13:40] BL: It’s a really great idea, and we would love to be able to support something like this, but it is not anywhere on the horizon for what we can do for Marketplace right now. As people have mentioned, we have quite a few issues that we’re still working to address on the Marketplace so that there aren’t errors with search results or being able to list something on the Marketplace. So those issues have been prioritised much higher; once we get through the list of those kinds of items, then we’ll be evaluating if it makes sense to add features like that. But it is a really great idea.
Will manual migration has to be done 1 item at the time ? It’s what I’ve understood from Torley Linden video.
[15:50] BL: Manual migration will have to be done one item at a time, unfortunately. Part of it is because of the way Magic Boxes are set-up. We will be automatically migrating all Direct Delivery listings unless you have migrated them first.
Did you say I can contact someone in support regarding the Outbox being stuck on initialising? Because I have some items I would like to put on the Marketplace and can’t do so.
[16:12] BL: Yes, please file a support ticket if your Outbox is stuck initialising. We’ve been monitoring the forums and pushing any stuck boxes seen on the forums to support as well.
Along the line of thinking with versioning ~ Will there ever be a feature for automated redelivery of items with Next Owner Copy permissions to all customers who own an older version of that item?
[16:42] BL: It’s a great idea to support the update of versions, but we are not there yet.
[17:00] BL: Allowing customer self-redelivery is something we’ve heard a lot from users, and that is on the list of things that we’re considering in the future.
Just allowing customer self redelivery would be a major step forward. Database look-up on the product page. “have I bought this item before?” If yes, send product. How hard can it be?
[17:59] BL: Definitely on the list.
Doesn’t it make their own folders when it migrates?
[18:47] BL: When do you move something in the Viewer-Managed Marketplace, it’s going to automatically create some folders for you. It will create a listing folder and then a version folder, and if you have any No copy items to you, the Merchant, it’s going to create a stock folder with all the stock items underneath.
We tried to be smart about folder names, but you are more than welcome to create your own hierarchy and move it over, as long as it matches the one that we’re using.
Do merchants require in their inventory folders (with contents) that match the folder names on the Marketplace
[21:35] BL: You don’t need to create all the folders yourself. If you just want to move items into VMM, it will create the correct folder hierarchy for you. But if you want control over what those folders are and already have some naming convention set-up that you want to make sure you keep, you can create them yourself.
What plans to you have to prevent abuse of this new system? Abuse: list some really cool no copy item – then when you run out of stock, just fill up the folder with garbage and keep selling
[19:52] BL: Yes, we do have some checks in place to prevent this, but we can’t do much more than what’s already been done with Magic Boxes. So it’s something we’re still going to be somewhat dependent upon customers to report and help us police.
You ask customers to help to police but then LL so often just responds that this is a user to user issue and won’t get involved, could you revisit your answer from a few moments ago and state what is different?
[24:57] BL: To some degree that is the case. We do try our best to help resolve situations like that; but in some cases, we are limited in what we can do. If there are specific cases that are problematic, a specific scenario that you have, perhaps there’s something that we missed in a case; but it’s basically the way we have set-up our system to do the best for the customers and for the Merchants.
Will there be a better way of reporting scammers that get dealt with faster? such as the empty box scams?
[27:22] BL: We have not looked at that; perhaps this is an opportunity where we need to take a another look at that.
It needs to be looked at every Friday its happening, and Monday they are gone.
[28:27] BL: That’s some good feedback; I can follow-up on that.
Is there any risk of switching over to VMM stock at the moment? I shifted over some of my less frequently purchased items ~ but my main stock I’m still using DD. Everything seems a bit glitchy~ do you feel that the system even in it’s current state is stable enough to safely migrate our stock now?
[20:40] BL: Yes. The reason we’re calling this a beta is that there may be some corner cases with respect to user experience on the Merchant side that maybe we haven’t caught; maybe some errors we’re not throwing correctly. We thoroughly tested delivery and stock unit counts, etc., before doing this. Honestly, part of the reason its taken a while to get this out is because we really wanted to make sure we had our stock unit accounting correct.
What is the major advantage of VMM?
[22:17] BL: the major advantage is that we will now be able to get rid of Magic Boxes which, for those Merchants that still use them, have over their lifetime just been performing less and less well. Part of the problem with creating a system that doesn’t have an easy way to access internal APIs, etc., is that it’s just going to be a little bit less stable. And so we’re moving forward with that.
The other aspect of it that’s very helpful is that the architecture means that there are going to be fewer moves of inventory between users [systems] , and this is better for everyone. Every time you move something between inventory accounts, you’re increasing the risk of a mistake. So we’ve removed one of those hops and that will make it better for everyone.
Is the version control similar to Git in a sense? Where the customer can access multiple version?
[23:47] BL: If you want to think of it in that way it is; it’s really up to you [as to] how you use it. So you can have a listing with multiple version folders under it or not; you can just keep the most current version folder under it. If you have more than one version folder under it, it’s really easy to swap back and forth between them.
If a new version is added, will previous customers receive the new version automatically?
[27:08] BL: Unfortunately, no.
I’m new to having a store on marketplace. should I wait until the migration happens to set up my mp shop ….. stick to in-world sales for now?
[24:17] BL: If you’re new to having a store on the Marketplace, I would suggest you just start using Viewer-Managed Marketplace and don’t worry about learning Direct Delivery.
Do I need to be in the beta test group to start my MP shop with VMM?
[28:07] BL: Right now you do. We’re going to be doing a Marketplace release soon, and we will be opening it up to everybody. That’s probably going to be next week, or the following week.
I think the main issue for most merchants isn’t inventory management but listing management. Do you have any plans of making improvements in that field too?
[26:29] BL: We did make some listing management improvements, but not significant ones. We definitely have some items in our list of requests form users, and as we’re able to address them after fixing other issues, we will evaluate those.
Am I understanding that we will be able to do bulk deletions of listings much easier? (Now, you have to remove one listing at a time and it’s very tedious)
[27:42] We are supporting bulk deletions in VMM, but we aren’t in Direct Delivery, and that’s due to great technical cost. So going forward with VMM, life will be better where it would still be painful with Direct Delivery.
There are quite a lot of old passive merchants – people who were active back in the magic boxes days and no longer check – or hardly ever check – their MP store or SL account. What will happen to their listings and do you have any idea how big percentage of the MP listings that is?
[28:52] BL: We don’t have an idea of how big a percentage of Marketplace listings that is, but people who have Magic Box listings … their inventory will still be in-world in their Magic Boxes, but their listings will no longer work if they don’t go through the manual migration process.
One of the things that happened when people migrated from Magic Boxes to Direct Delivery we saw some of those items get cleaned-up.
Will those listings become “defunct” or will they auto-unlist?
[29:32] BL: They will auto-unlist. The listings will auto-unlist once we’re no longer supporting Magic Boxes.
Will items automatically be put in the right categories? I was flagged a couple times for listing in wrong category
[30:22] BL: If only we could read your minds, we would be able to put items in the right category!
When do you plan to remove the naughty word filter and treat us as adults? *ducks*
[31:13] BL: We do have some work going on with respect to the adult filters. That’s yet another one of those things that has plagued us for a long time and we have to take some time to fix it, because it’s expensive when we have to add new words, and it has unanticipated effects. So one of the things we have done, is we’ve decided that we’re going to limit the number of new words that we add to the one that we really need to have in there. But that’s the best that we can do right now.
Are you encouraging manual migration? do you think that is in our best interest?
[32:10] BL: I think it’s entirely up to you. In the past we have had Merchants who really want that level of control over their stores, and we’re happy to provide it. So we’re testing and asking for volunteers [and] by the time we’ve rolled-out to everyone, we will hopefully have caught any unusual cases that Merchants somehow manage to figure out how to do, and we expect not to have significant issues [with automatic migration]. We will be monitoring them with our engineers, and if there is something we need to address, we will.
One thing to note that if there is any problem, we will cancel the migration, and your store will remain in Direct Delivery until we have had a chance to look at it.
Will rollback of a store be an option, it’s not enough to just cancel IF it goes wrong?
[34:47] BL: you mean rollback after we’ve completed a migration? Individual stores? Let’s say you screw up a store. Stopping for everyone else is helpful, but what about that store?
[35:29] BL: If, for example, we migrated a store, and there was some problem and we did not complete the migration, we would address that before we tried to migrate again. If there was an unexpected problem and the migration completed, we would work to resolve that as quickly as possible.
So you will be able and prepared to rollback to DD temporarily right away if the migration goes wrong for a merchant?
[37:08] Basically, if the migration goes wrong, we will not complete it. And if it completes and there is some rare issue that we have to deal with, we will fix it immediately.
Will Inventory maintenance effect VMM deliveries?
[33:37] BL: Yes it will. Inventory maintenance already affects Direct Delivery.
Will there be an option in future to include product photos in inventory for the listings?
[33:54] BL: That’s a great idea, but it’s not planned.
We continue to use DD if we don’t have the LL viewer?
[36:12] BL: Nope, everyone has to migrate, and we’ve been working closely with third-party developers to make sure they know what our schedule is … and its really good to get feedback from third-party viewer developers and give them as much information as we can about timelines
Will auto-migrate work the same on TPVS or will TPV users need to use the LL viewer to migrate?
[37:45] BL: Once the third-party viewers support the functionality [the Marketplace Listing panel, etc.] that the Linden Lab viewer supports, i would imagine that would be possible, but I imagine that should be possible, but it’s going to be a case-by-case basis. All i can speak to is that the Linden Lab viewer will allow you to do this.
Jessica Lyon (in text): Firestorm will have VMM released soon! (trademark), And it should work exactly the same in Firestorm as it does on the LL viewer. “Should work” is also trademarked! The goal is that it will work the same.
Do you anticipate any issues in regard to inventory loss…because at times inventory ‘maintenance’ occurs and some creators may have challenges during these times? Since the increase of folders…for the new management style will this double our inventory items and i.e. load times for the history / items etc..for each account/user?
[38:22] BL: We don’t. Obviously, we can’t predict everything, but in addition to Viewer-Managed Marketplace there has been work to help make sure that our inventory continues to be stable and not have any inventory loss issue going forward.
Will inventory loss affect listings?
[41:30] BL: If inventory is lost in your listing, there could be a problem there. Really the goal is not to have any inventory loss, and we continue to work on that and make sure this is not an issue for Merchants. It is very, very rare for something like this to happen, and we have not been seeing this very often at all.
How much time will we have to migrate once VMM goes live?
[39:08] BL: We will be giving you at least a month before we start the auto-migration.
How long do you plan to run in “beta” mode?
[39:20] BL: We’ve been addressing bug fixes, and we will be pushing the project viewer into the release channel. Once that is in the released version we’ll be able to leave beta.
I’ve noticed that certain places I go my inventory ceases to work due to ~ whatever reason. As in I cannot equip things from my inventory. Will these sorts odd glitches ever have a chance of affecting my VMM deliveries?
[40:07] BL: That, I cannot answer. Have you ever filed a JIRA on this? I just don’t have the knowledge to be able to answer that question. If you’ve filed a JIRA on that problem, can you point us to it, and if you haven’t, it would be great if you could file a JIRA with an example scenario, and I can ensure that the correct people are taking a look at it.
[There was some confusion over this. However, the majority of inventory of the kind mentioned in the conversation failure of items to attach, note cards to open, etc., tend to be related to simulator / inventory system communications, rather than actual issues with the inventory system itself. So, in theory, as VMM operations are between the effectively asset movements within the inventory system itself, triggered by the Marketplace, simulator-side issues people experience with inventory shouldn’t impact on VMM deliveries.]
Not directly related to VMM but it seems to me the greatest thing about this is that we’re having this meeting, LL opened a thread on the SL forum about it and showed an openness and willingness to communicate with their customers at a level I’ve never seen before. Is this how you’ll be doing upgrades from now on? If so, that is really great news!
[42:54} BL: Well thanks for the feedback; we’ve been doing our best over the past year to make sure that we’re really communicating with our customers, and getting their feedback and working closely with them on this. And obviously, we’ve done that before, though maybe not as publicly as we have in the recent year or year and a half.
[43:45] As you all know, we have a variety of ways to provide feedback, and as we are able to address items, we’re gathering your feedback. I know we did the survey a while ago on search, and it took us a long time to get to that; we will be putting out something for you to try in the not-too-distant future. And that will help get your feedback and make sure that we took it and did what you were asking for, and we will continue to do our best to solicit feedback in a variety of ways to make changes. Not just on the Marketplace, but with Second Life in general.
We really appreciate the number of people who have attended, this is really fantastic, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed and let you know what’s going on. Stay tuned Monday for a Viewer-Managed Marketplace Linden bear, and we’ll also be launching a way for Merchants to volunteer to be the early adopters for the migration.
[End of meeting.]