Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Search within Second Life: challenge or disaster?

Meetings held: 1 (good); Computer crashes: zero (v. good)

Held 2nd discussion session in Centre for Information Literacy Research ( Eduserv Island 200 240 43 – the SLURL is http://tinyurl.com/28ef2t ) Search within Second Life: challenge or disaster? Decided not to publicise meeting too much, as still learning about facilitating discussions in SL, also only just back from a few days on RL holiday. Meeting was at 9pm UK time, and had brief panic when took ages to login via computer in student lab which has better graphics than mine (sigh).

Attended by 3 people from UK, one from USA and one from France. Had prepared notecard with questions for discussion and put notecard in Butterfly picture for people to retrieve.

BTW if you want to read no further we agreed the answer to question posed by title was "disaster", point proved by fact that inworld search function was mostly down during our session. Have posted discussion, with permission of participants, on web at http://sleeds.org/chatlog/?c=70. This is using a nice publishing tool created by someone at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Blurb and questions in notecard were as follows:
1. What are the strong and weak points of the inbuilt search function in SL?
2. What are the types of search where it is invaluable?
3. Are there good inworld search services developed by others?
4. Are there types of search where you always have to go outside?
5. Are there search engines on the web that people turn to repeatedly?
6. How could Search in SL be improved?
7. How can residents be encouraged to search effectively?

As can see from chat transcript, we identified a few strengths in inbuilt SL search e.g. that can do different types of search with tabs, and no. of visitors does give some indication of sites worth visiting. However, identified more weaknesses e.g. that search very crude, can't refine search, a good number of "stop" words that can't search on (which is not obvious), also people not always good at putting meaningful words in titles and description thus making stuff harder to find.
No-one had tried any of the inworld-type search options created by others except that Ishbel had tried second411 (see URL below) and at that time it didn't function. Old friend Google, and (in particular) using other people, in world and in RL, was more useful. Ishbel mentioned a specialist search site created by chemists to find molecular structures in SL (web address given in chat transcript).

Since we didn't know of a good place to go for advice on SL searching, the official help site being generally agreed to be rubbish, have decided will try to set something up e.g. a wiki. Don't want to duplicate others' work so will do a few checks first.

Also in notecard (which can be obtained in CILR office) were links to pages on the web, as follows:

Second Life Resident Resources (links, with descriptions supplied by suppliers): Search tools: http://secondlife.com/community/resident_resource.php?category=6
Second411: http://second411.com/ - search on the web and inworld using the search HUD (Ishbel had tried this but it wasn't functioning)
Second life search toolbar: http://secondlifesearch.ourtoolbar.com/ (I just downloaded this, will report on its utility)
Second life search blog: http://secondlifesearch.blogspot.com/
Sloog: http://www.sloog.org/ - can add tags (keywords) to sites etc that you have found
SLquery http://www.slquery.com./
An article on search engine optimization in SL: it's interesting to see things from the seller’s perspective: Berkowitz, D. (2006) Second Life optimization. October 24th. http://blogs.mediapost.com/search_insider/?p=387

Forgot to take photos til near the end of the discussion, so grateful to Harumi W for 1st photo. Last photo was taken after the meeting when was overrun by cats having discovered had 3 living and one deceased in inventory (Mitsy usually ends up falling out of the office to the ground below and being returned to my Lost and Found Inventory). One Mitsy is quite enough, frankly.

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The blog of Sheila Yoshikawa on her adventures in Second Life. This may be very thrilling. Or possibly not.