Mapping the grid

I don’t know about you, but I have seen a phenomenon well known from my early days of web browsing repeat itself in Second Life, namely the hassle of managing bookmarks. Linden Lab’s system of landmarks organized by folder is virtually identical to the bookmark system built into web browsers to this day. And as in web browsers, it sorely lacks in flexibility when it comes to managing large collections of bookmarks.

Now, on the web, people have been moving towards online bookmark services. They offer a wider range of management options, most useful among these direct access to descriptions (which really help when you’re not sure what that bookmark you set ages ago was for, believe me), a freeform categorization system (the ubiquitous tags, which allow topical access, unlike the taxonomical, hierarchical approach of nested folders) and a social component, allowing for the aggregation of similar locations collected from other people. The best known of these is, of course, del.icio.us.

As a convert to social bookmarking, and not so recent one as my Second Life centric del.icio.us membership might suggest, I have been wishing for a similar system in world. Unluckily, and I think for the near future (unless Linden Lab really change things about the extensibility of their software), no such system seems ready to emerge. Still, clever people have launched the next best thing : web based landmarking systems, based on Second Life’s SLURLY-K-W-URL protocol. Basically, you add and tag landmarks in world through a HUD or chat commands, and a script adds these to a web service very similar to the well known social bookmarking ones.

Two such contenders I am aware of : Sloog and Gridmarker. Of these, I prefer Gridmarker for several reasons :

  • It offers descriptions, while Sloog does not ; see my remark above. Plus the landmark titles are editable.
  • It identifies the landmarks through proximity, which allows for more precise landmarking, while Sloog uses the parcel as landmark unit. I often want to landmark places inside parcels, shops especially, not the whole thing (ever been lost in the Sensations Store ?). Plus it makes for finer grained grouping across users and landmarks, as only landmarks close enough (on a selectable scale) are considered related.
  • It converts SL landmarks to gridmarks : simply drag and drop them on the HUD. Great for getting all those legacy landmarks into the system.
  • It goes less for flashiness than for technical maturity (where it has got a head start, as it is based on the Scuttle open source project). Some might find its design a bit drab, but I prefer it that way.

I have also found I can further simplify entry with a set of gestures using the nifty « replace text » function, which allows me to type « /tag nice fast » instead of the cumbersome « /7 tags: clunky slow ». Contact me in world if you want a copy.

There is a downside to both systems, besides jumping out of world of course, as held in common with all script based extensions to SL Y-K-W : you can’t use it in no script areas. The fallback is to create a landmark with the native landmarking function and convert it afterwards (if you use Gridmarker — see above). Not quite perfect for the power shopper I am, as many shops have disabled scripts to ensure vendor security, but the whole thing is still attractive enough for my expanding collection of landmarks.

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