January 2022 Web User Group summary: Premium Plus, Search

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes cover the key points from the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022.

These meetings are generally held on the first Wednesday of the month, with dates and venue details available via the SL public calendar. A video of the meeting, courtesy of Pantera, can be found embedded at the end of this article (my thanks to her as always!). Again, the following is a summary of key topics / discussions, not a full transcript of everything mentioned.

2022 “Roadmap”

In the 2021 year-end review blog post the Lab issued in December 2021, several projects for 2022 were mentioned, some of which fall wholly or in part under the Web team’s responsibility. Reed Linden used this meeting to discuss some of them, as summarised below.

Premium Plus

  • The Lab has a full list of features and options they would like to include in Premium Plus. However, what is actually delivered (and I assume when / how it is delivered) is still subject to a number of factors.
  • Because of the above, Reed could not offer definitive statements on what “will” be included, only hints to what might be present when the option is rolled out, such as:
    • The potential for a higher amount of free tier than Premium’s 1024 sq m.
    • The potential for specific Marketplace options to the available to Premium Plus subscribers.
    • The potential for reduced upload and other fees (Name Changes?) for Premium Plus.
    • The potential for a high-than-the-current Premium weekly stipend.
  • Also, because the final list of what is to be released is potentially still subject to change, final pricing has yet to be agreed, although it will be higher than the current Premium subscription fees.
    • The current plan is to introduce Premium Plus as “single level” offering at a set fee level (presumably monthly, quarterly, and annual, as per the current Premium). However, functionality has been provided to allow the Lab to offer further levels of “Premium” options, should this prove to be wanted.
    • However, Reed also indicated that Premium offerings might and in an unspecified future become à la carte, allowing users to pick and pay for the options they want.
  • The introduction of Premium Plus will not see any “downgrading” of current Premium subscription benefits or any changes to the current Premium subscription fees.
  • A major question still to be answered by the Lab is how are upgrades / down grades handled (e.g. a user goes from Premium with grandfathered stipend (L$500) to Premium Plus then back down to Premium; does their stipend revert to the current L$300 a week, or go back to the grandfathered amount?).

Search Improvements

  • The “next few quarters” will be focused on an overhaul of Second Life Search, with the aim of “making it work “the way we expect it to work, with all the little features we all as good Internet residents have come to expect from a robust and well rounded search engine”. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Making the search filters more universal and offering more options for searching for things (e.g. such as being able to search for a region through Search → Places in addition to via the World Map).
    • Improving both the relevancy and the ranking of Search results.
  • To achieve this, the Lab has hired in specific experts in Search systems to carry out the work.
  • Specifics on precisely how changes will be made and implemented are currently unclear, as a lot is dependent on further metrics gathering on the way Search objectively functions and then working with the incoming expects to recognise where and how things can be improved.

Marketplace Variants and Performance

  • Described as the “big ticket item” for the Marketplace in 2022, is listing variants
    • This will introduce the ability to have variants (e.g. different colours of an article of clothing) within a single listing – perhaps the single longest-running request for Marketplace functionality, reaching back to beyond the days of Pink Linden.
    • The focus for Quarter 1 2022 (January through the end of March) is on putting in place the back-end support for this, including ensuring all of the required infrastructure is in place to support the functionality.
    • Work will then switch to build-out the user-facing aspects of the capability, with the expectations that new features could start surfacing for users in late spring / early summer, with work then continuing.
  • It has been noted that Marketplace performance can be very variable, depending on overall usage at any given time, and it is hoped that time in 2022 can be allotted to making some performance improvements.

In Brief

  • Another aspect of work that will be continuing through 2022 is the revamp of SL web properties to bring them more into line with the flat design seen within the web search pages, splash and log-in pages, etc.
  • Opening grid-wide experience capabilities to users is still under consideration, as is allowing larger script sizes – although technically, neither of these capabilities are the remit of the Web Team.
  • Marketplace:
    • There appears to be some confusion over the current status of commenting on reviews left on the Marketplace after recent changes. It keep things before, at present, only the seller of an item can leave a comment (reply) to a review of their item; all other changes were rolled back.
    • Marketplace Q&A option: as noted in a couple of past meeting summaries, it has been suggested LL provide a facility where questions concerning products on the MP can be asked and responded to by the seller or those who have purchased the item (similar to the “Customer Questions and Answers” section of many Amazon listing pages).  Precisely how this should look and be managed is to be a topic for discussion at the next WUG meeting.
  • Events (including searching events and how they are presented on the Event page) is also something that has been earmarked for possible work during 2022.
  • Date of next meeting: Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022, starting at 14:00 SLT.

3 thoughts on “January 2022 Web User Group summary: Premium Plus, Search

  1. I like the idea of more free tier, but I’d really love to be able to buy additional land impact. I cut my parcel in half when my laptop died and I’m worried about LI for my house and store on the same parcel.

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  2. I think we went to different meetings. And I’m always surprised that you all who understand their technical jargon are so docile and don’t question their obvious absurdities. And that some of you regulars are pestering the Lindens with new and exotic features, some of which are not even the subject of that meeting. If you cared about the world, you would be using every single one of these meetings to hammer them about their destruction of Search in the last year, which — coupled with the gatcha ban — has seriously damaged the economy. But I totally understand that you don’t care, because you’re all on Firestorm and it’s not broken there.

    So to correct one thing you’ve said here: It’s not an upcoming feature, but already a reality regarding regions in Search. You can already get regions in the returns on Search on the regular SL viewer, and that’s exactly what is wrong with it! Regions were not included in search before and with good reason — you have the World Map to find regions, which enables you to look at the map and pick the point where you will p2p. Why? Because if you just click on a Region name in search and go there, you will land at the 128/128 point. Most of the time this is in water, inside a wall, a tree, etc. Just because it’s the numerical center of the sim doesn’t mean it is an open clearing in the forest like some tale of old. Most of the time in fact it’s built over. When the Lindens had telehubs on sims, they placed the teleport object in such a way (as one does on islands) to force the landing where their build was. When they removed them, the landings when back to 128/128 and now you land in the water or inside builds you can’t get out much of the time.

    There is never a reason to find a region by name in search and go to it — without the ability to pick your landing. Most of what people need from search is *parcels* on regions, not the entire region. This is an example of technical thinking utterly stripped from real use.

    So the use case for putting Regions in search is completely elusive, and my question about this did not get a rational answer. Reed said in this meeting that the reason that regions were included was that Search had to include everything, anything that people might search for, even if it was on the World Map. But why? It’s precisely because it’s including so much irrelevant stuff now that we have returns of 2000 and 3000 even with exact name searches (coupled with an utterly crippled user interface showing less than 25 returns). The TPVs still have Search that returns rational, neat rows of 100 per page without the confusion and excessive arty space of the new “facelift”.

    I wonder why none of you question the use of GSA in the SL search. There is much to question about it given the results we see.

    The ONLY reason Reed Linden and the others responsible for search do not hear wailing and screaming about the breaking of Search in the last year and the preposterous facelift is that 95% of the user base uses Firestorm or other TPVs where Search has not been mangled. If they all had Search in the regular viewer only, as I and a handful of newbies or creators do, there would be 10,000 people trying to get on the sim of this meeting to protest. I, like others, have been forced to keep an alt on Alchemy open along side the SL viewer, adding to lag, merely to be able to find my own land and teleport it to help a customer, especially those who haven’t figured out how to offer a teleport. Why don’t I use my land groups and teleport from the group? Because they don’t load and because since 1 in 10 or more teleports end in a freeze and/or crash, I don’t maximize that risk by using land groups to teleport. (PS I can’t get groups to load at all in Alchemy but that’s another topic.)

    I usually have enough stamina to attend these technical meetings only once a year. They are eye-opening to the point of acute shock. The changes to the Marketplace in fact are quite terrible. Reed’s glib formula of “engineering to the lowest common denominator” is nothing to be proud of. The (now removed) ability to put comments on reviews even if you had not bought the product enabled two VITAL behaviours:

    1. Access to the review by those who bought the product inworld (to save the creator from the Linden tax) who actually were using it happily, to be able to correct gratuitously nasty reviews by people who either did not really look at their purchase or who didn’t understand how to use it despite copious instructions. I literally have made a duplicate purchase on the MP after a purchase inworld to be able to write a review and change the star count for deserving creators. And some merchants will urge you to buy the product again and refund you. When the Lindens do social engineering through their technical religious beliefs, all they do is create a whole series of other unwanted behaviours. Everything is gamed, so it is better to allow more freedom to overcome the gaming than add technical restrictions which only increases manipulative behaviours.

    2. The ability to call creators to account on products that you interacted with, but had not purchased either on the MP or inworld. Example: security devices that are too hard to calibrate and cause havoc and TP people home instead of merely bouncing them away. Or a house where the physics shell was poorly constructed, so that while it had an open door and a finished hallway, it could not be entered by the user because of the physics resistance in convexed items. This can be fixed but tinkering with physics shells can cause other problems.

    The creator obviously has the option to answer any hostile comments and can of course correct falsehoods and also point out that the person making the critique is a competitor of a buyer who failed to read the instructions.

    The Lindens are focusing only on nasty reviews left as warfare over other issues or by disgruntled ex-partners or competitors (this is common). And we get all that. But there is another theory of civil society: the good content will drive out the bad when you allow freedom. Now there is absolutely no way to either come to the defense of a good creator being hammered by morons and rivals AND there is no way to call to account creators who never actually walk into and live in the houses they creator, for example. We have lost a very important tool of accountability because some divas got the ears of the Lindens over their bad reviews and got this “fix”.

    Claiming that this is about saving their comrades in Governance an overload of abuse tickets is patently absurd, as few ARs, really get action and most are ignored, especially on the MP as distinct from inworld.

    Perhaps the Questions & Answers feature could compensate for this mangling of what was a good MP feature often used to good outcome but ONLY if the Lindens allow *prospective buyers* i.e. the general public and not just actual buyers into the Q&A. Otherwise, it has no sense, as you can IM a merchant without exposing them to firing squads in public Q&A sessions.

    Finally, it’s odd the way you all accept placidly that the Lindens will really roll out Premium Plus this year with anything like features really in demand for a price that will be higher, of course, but still feasible. Did you not hear what Reed said when I pointed out that providing multiple choices on avatar interactions with the world went against the servers’ religion? The world — and their thinking processes as people who adapted themselves to computers — is totally binary, 0/1, 99/100. To through a multiple choice into this ringer is to invite utter havoc — lag, crashes, errors, etc. If each time I walk into a sim, the server has to figure out not only if I am NPIOF or Premium Plus, but Premium Plus with XYZ set of “a la carte” special features, it will be no surprise that said server will not do its job most of the time or crash.

    What the Lindens will end up doing to something like duplicating Bellisseria only, or a pumped-up Bellisseria, on a separate server farm, not interactive with the legacy SL, in which the Premium Plus features are the default. Then the special friends of the Moles and Lindens will get a world that works, and works with their ideal set of features and paid-for pluses. While the rest of us will languish in the Old World, at least the sims won’t crash as they try to figure out whether we are Asian or Hispanic and offer us its imagined notions of purchasing patterns based on a recent survey.

    For a year, the Lindens have not had a CEO (and Ebbe was the best we ever had) and have not had any adult supervision (and say what you will about Oz’s authoritarianism, he kept the trains running on time.) Is Philip Linden going to get this Love Machine back on track?

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  3. I should add that when I protested the irrationality of adding regions to Search results, Reed placidly assured me that there would be a filter to remove them. But that’s yet another absurdity. They’re going to spend time to code a complex filtering feature to take regions out of search results? Why? Just leave them out to start with because no one is demanding them — they are already on World

    I didn’t even get into challenging Reed about *another* surgery the Lindens committed which in fact was based on the notion that “it’s elsewhere so we don’t need it here.” They removed “rentals” as one of the categories to pull down and filter search because “land for sale and rent” is a separate Search option all its own. But that search option has no ability to search for rentals by price (it simply won’t work if you try); it can only search for land for *sale* by price; hence the need for search/places for rentals.

    So the argument “but we don’t need regions to be in Search/places because they are already on World Map Search” is dismissed because “we need to put everything in Search,” but the argument that rentals shouldn’t be excised from the categories for search/places is countered with “But rentals already have Land for Sale & Rent” all their own. They are exactly parallel — World Map and its Search are outside Search/places just as Land for Sale & Rent is. For the one we must accept duplication that adds needless clutter; for the other we must accept surgical removal to avoid duplication. It’s hard not to see this as deliberately ideological.

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