Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Island Moves and Profile Picks

Considering how congested the grid has become, it's no wonder that some estate owners choose to take advantage of Linden Lab's undocumented policy of moving entire estates for free if they are surrounded by other islands or reservations in such a way that expansion is impossible. Unfortunately, while you may not be paying $150 USD per island to relocate your estate if you choose to do this, the move does come at a cost: After the move, any profile picks entries that residents may have had to parcels on your islands will be invalidated- to an extent. What follows is a summary of exactly what breaks and what doesn't, and the potential impact on any businesses that might be located on your islands.

Two Kinds of Profiles
First off, you must understand that at this time, Second Life maintains two profiles for every resident. There is the old-style "Full Profile" that you see when you use Search > Places, and then the newer "HTML Profile" that's used when you use the Search > All feature or conduct Second Life searches from the web. (Here is the HTML profile for the famous builder, Light Waves.)

HTML Profiles only contain information from the 2nd Life and Picks tabs of the Full Profile, and are indexed by Linden Lab's search appliances and factored into search rankings in Search > All and web-based searches. Full Profiles contain a lot more information and changes in them are reflected immediately in Search > People results, whereas it can sometimes take days before the changes are reflected in Search > All.

To business owners, the primary effect of HTML profiles is that any Picks entries that payment-info-on-file residents have to their businesses help boost their rankings in Search > All results, even more than Traffic.

I should also note that in a similar manner to resident profiles, places in Second Life have two listings: The Search > Places listing and the HTML listing. The HTML listing works just the same for places as the HTML profile does for residents.

What Breaks
You will see different results, depending on which search method you use to look at someone's profile:
  • If you use Search > Places to view a person's profile and look at their Picks tab, the picks to moved locations that were created before the island move will appear to be intact (they won't say "no parcel" like stale picks often do), however when you attempt to teleport to them, you'll be greeted with the following error: "Could not teleport. Unable to find teleport destination. The destination may be temporarily unavailable or no longer exists. Please try again in a few minutes."
  • If you use Search > All to find the person's profile, and instead of clicking the picks link on the HTML page, you click View Full Profile and look the the Picks tab, you will have the same problem.
What Still Works
  • If you use Search > All to find the person's profile, and you click the picks link on the HTML page, you will actually be taken to the HTML listing for the place in question. You will successfully be able to teleport from the HTML listing.
  • Search rankings are not immediately affected. The island move does not cause Second Life to generate a new HTML listing for parcels on the moved island. As evidence of this, see the following:

    The roleplaying location, Space Colony Necronom VI is located on an estate which was recently relocated. Here is the HTML Picks link from a resident's profile that was created before the island move:


    And here is the link from another resident who added the place to her Picks after the move:


    The links are identical, and take you to the same page. This means that Search > All is oblivious to island moves, which is a good thing.

What This Means to Businesses
Profile Picks can influence your business in a number of ways, some more subtle than others:
  • Your search rankings will not immediately be affected. You will have some time to get some new residents to update their Picks before the change begins to make an effect on Search > All results. (Picks do not factor into Search > Places results.)
  • Residents who use Search > All exclusively will not see a difference. If you stick to the HTML profiles when browsing people's picks, you won't even know that anything changed.
  • Residents who use Search > People or who click View Full Profile from an HTML Profile might think that your business no longer exists. The misleading wording of the error message they get if they attempt to follow a pick to your place could prompt some folks to go elsewhere. Remember that Picks are a great, free "soft advertising" campaign. People might discover your business through other folks' picks, and may not have ever heard about it otherwise.
  • Residents who discover their own picks are broken will likely remove the malfunctioning pick from their profile, but might forget to add a new one after the move. This may have a gradual negative impact on your Search > All rankings if no one new adds picks to your place.
Advice for Estate Owners
While the effect of island moves on profile picks is mitigated by the fact that HTML profiles still work, it can affect traffic at the businesses on your islands, and the effects might be slow and gradual as residents weed out broken links from their profiles. If other businesses rent land on your islands, you should warn them about the consequences so they can notify their info groups and friends to update their profiles after the move.

I have been in contact with Linden Lab about this topic, and it sounds like they will be documenting this problem as a known side-effect of an island move- but don't expect a fix any time soon.