Linden Lab Unleash Marketplace Search Beta

Linden Lab yesterday blogged; Introducing Marketplace Search Beta :

We’re pleased to share that improvements to the existing Marketplace search functionality are now available through Marketplace Search Beta. We’ve made infrastructure changes to improve the relevance of search results – making it easier for you to find what you’re looking for! We have also made changes for search to scale better as more content and categories are added to the Marketplace – and that means the newest creations and additions are at your fingertips.

Search in Second Life, be it inworld or on The Marketplace, will always be a bone of contention. There are many reasons for this, a lot of them human. For example items may not be listed with keywords people are using as a search term for those sort of items. People may act in an unscrupulous fashion and use strategies that poison the well in the hope of people stumbling across their listing and the search engine itself may not contain enough tools to help people refine their search terms to find that special item. There’s only so much Linden Lab or any other search provider can do to mitigate these sort of circumstances.

However with the launch of Marketplace Search Beta Linden Lab are trying to provide an improved search experience for merchants and customers. Therefore they need feedback and they are seeking feedback in a couple of locations.

One place is the Jira, which is an avenue if you want to report a bug. However many people find the Jira a tad cumbersome, shall we say, so another location where feedback can be left is on the official forum and this is a very useful forum where some questions may well be answered, indeed one question has already been answered. Some people have observed that search results are slow on Marketplace Search Beta, Grumpity Linden has already provided an answer on that score :

This may seem counterintuitive, but Beta Search will be slow at first because it’s not getting enough traffic. The web servers spin down if they’re not getting requests. The speed in beta is not representative of what you will see once it’s in production.

This is good information to take forward, the more traffic that Marketplace Search Beta gets, the better it should perform in terms of the speed of returning results.

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Viewer Managed Marketplace Migration Seems To Be Going Smoothly

Merchant Outbox RIP

Hopefully many Second Life Marketplace merchants have received an email like this :

We have finished upgrading the listings in your store to work with the Viewer-Managed Marketplace feature. You must use a Viewer that supports VMM (http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Release_Notes/Second_Life_Release/3.8.2.303583), and will need to restart the viewer if you had it open during the migration. Your stores should now be fully functional.

If you would like more information on the upgrades and how to manage your Marketplace inventory items from here on, please see the Knowledge Base Article on the Viewer-Managed Marketplace https://community.secondlife.com/t5/English-Knowledge-Base/Viewer-managed-Marketplace-Beta/ta-p/2854226.

Thank you for using the Second Life Marketplace

That should indicate that everything has gone smoothly with your migration to the new Viewer Managed Marketplace, then you’ll just need to get your head around how everything works with the Viewer Managed Marketplace, but fear not, Linden Lab have provided plenty of helpful assistance there. A really good place to start is with the comprehensive knowledge-base article linked in the email.

I haven’t seen too many complaints about the migration, some people have reported that they’ve received an email stating there was a problem with the migration and that Linden Lab are investigating. In those circumstances you will still need to manage your Marketplace listings as you usually would.

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Viewer-Managed Marketplace Available on Aditi

Finding Marketplace settings in viewer

Linden Lab have blogged that the new Viewer-Managed Marketplace is available on Aditi, better known as The Beta Grid. The blog post informs us that :

The new Viewer-Managed Marketplace (VMM), now available* on Aditi, allows you to easily manage your inventory on the Second Life Marketplace using the Second Life Viewer. Items no longer need to be loaded into the Merchant Outbox or a Magic Box, and are instead sold directly from your inventory.

VMM will allow all Merchants to get off of Magic Boxes in addition to supporting modification of listing inventory directly from the Viewer. While Merchants will still need to go to the Marketplace web site in order to edit listings, they will be able to create listings and list or unlist them from the Viewer.

The blog post is accompanied by a Wiki article and a Knowledgebase Article which both have extra information and instructions on how to use the coming new feature. The Viewer-Managed Marketplace (AKA VMM) addresses some outstanding issues from Direct Delivery. The first is a biggie, VMM allows you to list no copy items. Currently, Direct Delivery does not support no copy items and merchants selling no copy items have had to continue to use magic boxes.

Another issue is that there have been intermittent issues with the Merchant Outbox and VMM addresses those issues too because once this is fully rolled out there will be no need to move items to the Marketplace because they will be being sold directly from your inventory. At this point can I just add, I remain unconvinced that this will end well, but we’ll see!

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The Trouble With Search

Linden Lab have issued a call to arms with a recent blog post about plans to improve SL Marketplace search. There’s a survey link in the blog post.

Search has been done and redone and done again in Second Life. There’s only so much you can do with search relevancy because people are gits when it comes to trying to manipulate search results. In Second Life we’ve seen the use of bots to increase traffic and therefore relevancy. We’ve seen the age old classic of using search terms that have no bearing on what the parcel or marketplace listing offers.

I can recall in the 0ld days, possibly whilst it was still XStreetSL, people using white text on a white background to hide keywords that were not remotely related to the listing. People abusing the system, unsettles any search engine and unfortunately, people will abuse the system.

Then there are issues that are pretty unique to the SL Marketplace which are caused by the system itself. The free listing forever policy means search results are cluttered with lots of old content that has been created by people who are no longer active in Second Life. There’s an argument for keeping content around, old content doesn’t mean bad content but content should ideally be tied to an active avatar.

Then there are issues such as demos and colours. Demos are an important tool for customers. Different colours offer different options for customers. However they should not be individual listings. Different colours and the demo should be available via one item display. This would make browsing stores on the SL Marketplace easier for a start.

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Forget PIOF, New Marketplace Merchants Should Provide Tax documentation

Over the last few weeks Linden Lab have announced some changes for account holders. The first, back on November 11th was that new marketplace merchants would be required to put payment info on file before being able to open a store.

The second was more recently, on November 19th Linden Lab blogged about required tax documentation. These issues aren’t linked but I feel they should be and in doing so, Linden Lab would be killing two birds with one stone.

Wait wait wait, the tax documentation is only for those who have gross income of USD$20,000 and make 200 transactions in a calendar year, right? Well not quite, the tax documentation is certainly required if people meet that threshold, but at that point Linden Lab will file a 1099-K with the IRS, the documentation is required for Linden Lab to be able to file a 1099-K, but Linden Lab can ask for this information anyway.

Amazon do this with Kindle Direct Publishing. I haven’t yet published my international best seller and award winning novel, but if I wanted to do that via KDP, I have to fill out a W8-BEN for Amazon to file. The W8-BEN is the non US Citizen equivalent of a W9 form. When I logged into KDP today I saw this:

An Image Should Be Here
Tax Information Incomplete

The missing account information was soon revealed to me after I clicked Update Now:

An Image Should Be Here
Update tax Information

You may need to squint to read that so I’ll type it:

Amazon is required by US tax regulations to request information regarding your tax status under US law. Required US tax identification and information has not yet been submitted. Complete your tax information to begin selling on Amazon.

Let’s just bold that last sentence to emphasise the point: “Complete your tax information to begin selling on Amazon.” So that’s before I’ve sold a single book, before I’m anywhere near 200 transactions, indeed it prevents me from making 1 transaction.

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