August 2022 Web User Group summary: 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, August 3rd, 2022.

These meetings are generally held in-world on the first Wednesday of the month, with dates and venue details available via the SL public calendar. They are usually chaired by Reed Linden, who is the Lab’s Product Manager for the Second Life front-end web properties (Marketplace, secondlife.com, the sign-up pages, the Lab’s corporate pages, etc.).

A video of the meeting, courtesy of Pantera, can be found embedded at the end of this article (my thanks to her as always!), and subject timestamps to the relevant points in the video are provided. Again, the following is a summary of key topics / discussions, not a full transcript of everything mentioned.

Forum Policy Changes

[Video: 1:48-17:12]

Note: Forum governance (and governance & policy topics in general do not fall under the remit of the web team, and so are usually not a part of discussions at the Web User Group. However, an exception was made at this meeting, to allow Keira Linden to discuss the recent policy and moderation changes made to the SL forums.

As her comments and the feedback from some attending the meeting have no bearing on the Lab’s Web properties per se, I have separated them into a separate article, Forum changes: Keira Linden speaks, and I refer those interested to that summary (video included). This article will focus pure on the discussions concerned the Lab’s web projects.

Premium Plus and Name Changes

[Video: 17:38-23:15]

  • Features continue to be added, and tweaks made to the service.
  • Most recently, Name Changes were added to Premium Plus for a fee of US $14.99, with the Premium price lowered, and the service extended to Basic accounts as well – see: SL Name Change fees updated & service extended to Basic accounts for more.
  • In addition, the one-time price reduction for those joining Premium Plus on the monthly payment plan (so $24.99 for the first month instead of $29.99) has been extended through to Monday, August 8th, 2022 – see Premium Plus sale last chance (via linden Lab) for more.
  • [Video 51:40-51:53] An upcoming feature for Premium Plus is “VIP Regions”.
    • The grid infrastructure to support these is now in place.
    • Exactly how these will be used was not specified.

Search Relevance

[Video: 23:34-31:15]

Note: the following refers the web Search and the in-viewer Search, it does not currently apply to the Marketplace.

  • As a part of (continuing) work to improve web Search, LL implemented a “search relevance engine” machine learning tool, designed to observe how Search performs and gradually improving the relevancy of results.
  • This tool has now been in use for a couple of months or so, and LL is now has some meaningful results from it.
  • Prior to the tool being implemented, it was possible:
    • To search for the same term using different case sensitivities (e.g. “apple” and “APPLE”) and get completely different search results.
    • To search for a precise brand name (e.g. “Maitreya”), but have to scroll through multiple result before finding the brand store itself.
  • With the new tool, issues such as these are gradually being identified and corrected (based on searches users are making) by the tool itself, without the need for human intervention.
  • As more searches are made and recorded by the tool, so it is anticipated that more users should start seeing the relevance of their search results improve.
  • In addition:
    • More data is being gathered on users’ search behaviours (e.g. how often do people click on items on the first page of a set of search results as opposed to scrolling down the list), so this information can also be fed back into the search relevance engine.
    • The Search team is starting to work on fuzzy matching, which it is hoped will assist those who have typing issues, or form whom English is a second language, so so may mis-spell terms / names.
  • TPV developers repeated a request for an API to be provided, so the updated search capabilities can be leveraged by legacy search capabilities used by TPVs.

Marketplace

[Video: 31:20]

  • Work on Marketplace variances – now called Styles – is progressing, with al the required infrastructure now in place.
  • The remaining work for this is front-end related, and is targeted for completion later in the year.
  • The Marketplace rebuild (see my June 2022 and July 2022 summaries) is targeted as a 2023 project.

In Brief

  • There are a “lot of struggles” going on around a mobile / web client, and is “not a straightforward product”.
    • Some of these “struggles” revolve around whether the Lab should being its own solution or partner with a third-party (perhaps one already providing a solution for mobile / browser access to SL) to develop a solution.
    • In this, LL has been working with the Speedlight team, but there is nothing that should be currently perceived as a formal partnership between the two.
  • TPVs representatives also requested:
    • LL give serious thought to a long-promised Events API to allow TPVs to pull events from the web events lists and promote them through the viewer (e.g. via the Splash screen).
    • BUG-231714 “[WEB] Please make Linden Lab splash screen data public in documented XML or JSON files” be given greater consideration.
  • Access to real-time traffic data (avatars within a region / parcel) was again been requested in relation to search results (so when you search for a place you can see how many are there).
    • This is described as difficult to provide, as simulators would have to be polled every single time a location on them is searched – which could be multiple times, with search having to be frequently re-indexed to reflect the updated traffic figures.
    • Search indexing rates are being increased, but they are not at a point where that indexing is frequent enough to support real-time traffic data.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication: no further progress since extending it to the viewer. However, the Lab still hopes to move away from a wholly third-party app based approach, although there are no time frames for when this might be achieved.
  • There is a (non-Web) discussion on the “secret sauce” of SL, the complexities of the viewer, questions around splitting the viewer into two modes (as seen with the Basic and Full viewer, circa 2010-11), none of which is particularly relevant to this summary, but can be video in the video.

Next Meeting

  • Wednesday, September 7th, 2022. Venue and time per top of this summary.

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