Hey, Linden Labs…want to make SL fast, easy and fun? Then tackle inventory management!

It seems like these days I spend most of my time in Second Life attempting to organize and sift through inventory…and admittedly, I am loosing patience with not being able to get better control over it. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest weaknesses of Second Life This issue is so frustrating that many SL users just give up, create a new alt avatar, and start fresh. The existing inventory management (or lack thereof) is also a frustration for new users.

If I was Phillip Linden, I would consider this issue one of the greatest barriers to making Second Life “fast, easy and fun.” I would be directing my development teams to look at different ways of organizing user content – from the desktops of operating systems, to software like iTunes, to Content Management Systems, and figure out…what are we missing here? What can we give the end user that would make managing their inventory easier? What can we build into the software to make the ongoing experience of acquiring and using inventory better, faster, and easier?

What I think is needed is to extend the taxonomy-related information for user created content, and then to develop the means within the Second Life viewers to take advantage of that extended taxonomy.

A taxonomy, for those who aren’t familiar with the term,  is a structure for organizing information. Online catalogs have a taxonomy (departments, types of items, etc.). And yes, XStreetSL/SL Marketplace utilize a taxonomy. When you, as a computer user, go on to your desktop and arrange files and folders in a way that makes sense to you, you are creating a taxonomy.

There’s already a limited taxonomy built into Second Life objects – one that recognizes that a notecard is a notecard and not a landmark, for example. Other information that is already attached to items includes content creator, content permissions, etc. Prims that are part of an outfit have a default attachment point. For apparel and body parts, standard “types” exist (jacket, pants, skirt, sock, skin, shape, etc.) and items are tied to that type whether the item name identifies it or not.

How could  an extended taxonomy benefit a typical  SL user? They could recognize immediately what category a box or a folder falls into without having to open and investigate the contents.  A user could understand what objects belong together at a glance. A thumbnail image could be directly tied to a group of inventory objects instead of just sitting in the same folder with them.  . Prim attachments could have a “type” attribute (necklace, hat, shoe upper, etc.)  in addition to the existing attachment points information). And every individual item in outfit is tied to all the others, from an inventory perspective, so the item knows where it’s “home” folder is located. That doesn’t prohibit ditching the one skin shade out of a fat back that you as a user can’t stand. It simply means that while that skin shade is in your inventory, it’s “home” folder is the one with the related skins.  “Take” a rug back into your inventory from your house, and you have the option to either take it back to the default folder (Perhaps Home Furnishings > Rugs), or the user-created folder where you manually moved it a few days ago (Home Furnishings > Victorian > Rugs > Green)

Customize the organization as much as you want, but when you click the “clean up inventory” button, the objects you have in inventory return to their default folders.

Looking to SL Marketplace provides a starting point for organization of items into categories.

Tagging would further assist end users, as well as content creators,  in inventory management. Styles, colors, etc. could all be identified through tagging. However…it is important to remember that free form content creator tagging (vs. directed tagging) does not necessarily produce consistent descriptors (“Pink” could be any color from a light baby pink to fushia).

And while we’re at it, how about standardization in naming objects? Shouldn’t a hair always have “Hair” in the title, regardless of what else the content creator wants to put in the name?

The idea behind this improved taxonomy is NOT to replace custom user organization. It is to provide a starting point for organization and a means of users more easily finding content.  Linden Labs could go a long way towards making Second Life more “fast, easy and fun” by focusing on improving how users interact with inventory items.

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