Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inventory Overhaul: Landmarks

Warning: What you're about to read is LONG. Feel free to skim. I'm a loquacious person, and some of the tips are broken way down because I won't take for granted what people do and don't know. The only problem with so much detail is if it allows important stuff to get lost, so I've played around with the typeface to make those things easier to find or re-find.

Oh, and: Please approach my suggestions as you would a cookbook, not a user's manual. Improvisation is welcome. Alternative ingredients might be tasty. Enjoy!

Handling Landmarks

Reproductively speaking, landmarks are the bunnies of the inventory. You get them from friends, you get them when you land someplace, you get them in store packages, and you make them yourself. They multiply before you know it, in every folder of your inventory. You end up with duplicates of duplicates of quintuplicates from the same location, and because SL's landscape changes constantly, there's about a 50/50 chance that the one for the hair store you went to once a year ago will drop you in a vampire BDSM dungeon. Which might be cool if you're a kinky vampire, but you still haven't found the hair place.

Because they multiply so easily, LMs can bloat your inventory. I use the word "bloat" on purpose because it's unnecessary excess that you can lose pretty painlessly. Linden Lab considers an inventory of over 10,000 items to be "extremely large" and cautions that bulk can slow down performance.

I'll start with the radical proposition that for the most part, you don't need LMs at all. They don't do anything that you can't do by hand, using the grid map, if you know where you're going. Many (though not all) locations can be looked up via Search (in "All" or in "Places"). You can reach locations by using SLURLs on the web, in a notecard, or stored elsewhere on your computer. Don't worry -- I'm not advising a full-scale mega-mass deletion -- but LMs are not commodities or creations, they're infinitely replaceable shortcuts. This makes them the perfect place to start in your inventory overhaul not only because they make up so much bloat for so many inventories but because it will get you into the habit of deleting without guilt.

To put it another way, LMs have no intrinsic value, they have only use value. Those you don't use -- or might potentially use before they become extinct -- simply have no value. You can't use those you can't find, and you can't use two for the same place simultaneously. Let's get rid of this useless junk, shall we?

I. Quarantine

Consider resolving to quarantine all landmarks to your landmark folder. We'll get into subfolders a little later, but the important thing is to have them all in one place so that you can easily see if you're breeding LMs of the same location. Maybe you keep LMs along with purchased products so that they're easy to locate when you want to shop for something from the same place. If so, here are a couple of quick suggestions. If not, skip to the next paragraph.

  • => Keeping one store LM with the products from that store is not going to lead to bloat. Keeping an LM in every folder from the same store absolutely will. I would strongly recommend organizing your inventory by store/designer if that is the case. Then you can have all of the product subfolders in one store folder along with one LM and get rid of the multiple copies.
  • => Alternatively, get out of that habit. If you keep the LMs with the items because the items do not have useful names (e.g., a skin called "Lisa skin - tan"), and they cannot be renamed because they are set to no mod, then rename the folder to include the name of the store.
  • => In either case, here's a quick tip for users of the Emerald viewer: you can filter your inventory by creator. Select Search >> By Creator in the Inventory menu, and type the creator name in the search field. Anything that the person was the sole creator of will appear in the window. Similarly, you can find out who an object's creator is (in any viewer) by opening that item's Properties or, if it is a prim object, rezzing or wearing it and opening the Edit window. Ultimately, there are several ways to match inventory items with their sources without stapling an LM to them.

If you're all set to move your LMs into your LM folder, here is the fastest way I know to do it. This is going to be a "For Dummies" version of the instructions. If you already know how to use these steps, I trust you know what to skim, but nearly all of these steps were tools I figured out over the past two years I've been in SL, including those that later made me slap my forehead for not realizing they were there this whole time.

  • 1. Open your inventory and then create another inventory window by selecting File >> New Window from the Inventory Menu.

  • 2. In one window, right-click on the Landmark folder and select "New Folder." Label it something like "Temp LM folder" or "LMs to sort." If you already have a large number of unsorted LMs in your Landmark folder, you might want to put them into that folder for starters.

  • 3. In the other window, filter the LMs so that they are all visible and easy to find.
  • 3a. Official viewer: Select File >> Show Filters in your inventory menu. Uncheck all of the boxes except for Landmarks (or click on "None" and recheck Landmarks).
  • 3b. Emerald viewer: Simply use the drop-down menu in between the search field and the item tabs and select Landmarks.

Soon enough, all of the LMs in your inventory will be visible and accessible.

  • 4. You might spot right away a lot of multiple LMs for the same location or single LMs that you already know are obsolete. Feel free to delete what you don't want at any time. If unwanted LMs aren't jumping out at you, then move into that new folder everything that isn't already someplace in the Landmarks system folder.

Whether you're moving or deleting, do it in bulk. As I said, these are the "For Dummies" instructions, so this is a part a lot of people can skip, but it actually took me a long time to figure out how to do this, so I won't embarrass anyone by assuming they already know.

  • Selecting consecutive items: You can select a batch of items that are listed consecutively by left-clicking an item at one end and holding down the Shift key while left-clicking the item at the opposite end of the list. Everything in between the two items will be highlighted. Be careful of selecting items in different folders in this way; just because only the landmarks are filtered at this time, it doesn't mean only the landmarks will be moved or deleted if you select in this fashion.

  • Selecting non-consecutive items: To choose more than one inventory item when they are not listed consecutively, left-click on one and then hold down the Control key on your keyboard while you left-click each of the items you want to move or delete together.

Here I've selected the LMs from the Invitation Only Hunt folders by holding Ctrl down as I click each one. They'll soon be moved into a temporary folder before getting sorted.

Once you have a number of items selected, you can left-click on any one of them and drag them to the temporary folder you made earlier (or right-click on one and select Delete, which will move all of them to the Trash). Although there is no maximum number of items you can select at once, larger numbers of items will take longer to move into the new folder once you've dropped them there.

You might not feel like quarantining is important for you, and it might not be. But if you move all those LMs into one place and get into the habit of either moving or deleting LMs as soon as they enter your inventory, then 1) you'll know where they are; 2) you'll more easily see when you're accumulating multiples of the same LM; 3) the inside of your other folders will have less distracting clutter... even if you're just moving them into one big, massive clusterfuck folder. If you do something with them once they're there, then that's even better.

The text is small here, but this is what the folders look like after I've moved them from individual folders (right) into one large folder (left). Duplicates become visible immediately and I'll be able to start making some major deletions.

Overall, I'd advise having at least one folder, or possibly one folder per system folder, designated for unsorted items so that even when you don't have time to be pristine, you can at least keep the mess from invading the parts of your inventory that you have already organized.

II. Chucking expired LMs

Once you've moved all of the LMs into one part of your inventory (and likely deleted a lot of them in the process), you can see more easily whether you've been breeding unnecessary ones. The "Temp LM folder" in these pictures contains almost 1200 LMs that I culled out of the general mass of inventory items. None of them came from the LM system folder. If I simply chose to delete them, I'd be reducing my item count by nearly 5%. And honestly, I'd probably never miss them. But while we have them available, let's see what else we can do with them.

As you can see, I've been to Fire Good a few times because it shows up in gridwide hunts a lot. I accumulated several of the same LM without realizing it because they were all hiding in their respective item folders. Just skimming through the list, sorted by name at the moment, I could find five in a row. Tossing "fire good" into the search field found me one more that was out of place because it had its hunt label (TTLG=Through the Looking Glass) taking it out of alphabetical order. I have one LM from this store already where it belongs, so now I can just delete the rest.

Take a look at what is in the name of the LM if you never have before. When you create an LM, it includes the name of the parcel, the name of the sim, and the x/y/z coordinates where the LM was created. Sometimes people change or delete parts because there is a character maximum, because it might look cleaner without the coordinates or sim name, or because there is a more specific name for the destination than the parcel.

In any case, the info is still there, and you can view it if necessary by right-clicking the LM in inventory and opening up the "About Landmark" window. So in the Fire Good example, I can make sure that the LM that does not have the sim included in the LM name is the same store location as all of the other duplicates. Since it is, there's no need to keep it, and it will get deleted with the rest.

Some other useful stuff you can check on by opening up an LM's About window concerns whether it still exists or not. This LM is for the Blackstar store on what used to be Ducknipple sim. But LMs don't follow stores, or even sims, when they move. They stick to the precise point on the grid they were created on, and changes take place around them. And although there is still currently a Ducknipple sim on the grid, it's not in the same place.

When you open the About window, you see the same Description that has been there since the LM was made, plus information that is updated by the server when the LM is opened. While the description might be out of date, the Name above the Description and the Location information at the bottom are current, and if we used this LM, we'd land at some guy Chrlie's place on a sim that is now called Sleeping Bear. And most likely get ejected. So I run Blackstar through my inventory search to make sure I don't have any duplicates of that outdated LM and delete any I find.

Sometimes you open the About window and find that the location doesn't exist anymore at all. Easy deletion there.

Above is an expired LM when I first open it up. The old location is still visible until the server has had a chance to send me the message that there is no longer a sim in that spot on the grid (below).

Opening them one by one is actually somewhat time-consuming -- it can sometimes take longer than just teleporting to the spot -- but it's an easy inventory maintenance task to do when you're otherwise occupied in SL, whereas you can't really zip around from place to place while multi-tasking. Many LMs you can simply delete on sight, of course, for whatever reasons you might have. Others you might know exactly where to put them immediately. I check the accuracy of old LMs in this way while standing around at trivia.

What you do with all this info is up to you; I'm just throwing it out there for those who never thought of paring down the stockpile in this way or even looking at their About windows for any reason. Even if these very detailed instructions would be of no use to you, it will hopefully make you think of practices that suit your needs.

III. Sorting

I bet at least a few people reading this piece thought that sorting would take up a large part of the article, but really, that's going to be the most personal part of the process, and though I can share a few tips, it's the most important aspect for you to develop on your own.

Here's the main level of subfolders in my Landmarks system folder. I have most of the subfolders in my entire inventory numbered so that they'll be in the order I want them to be in. Just because "Clubs" comes before "Trivia" in the alphabet doesn't mean it should come first in my inventory. Numbering is only one way to do it, but I do recommend ordering your subfolders in a way that makes sense to you. Trivia is at the top for me because those are, by far, the LMs I use the most. I probably use Stores more often than People's Houses, but when I need to find an LM to someone's home, I like it to be close at hand.

My trivia LMs are broken down by potential frequency of use, too. The top folder contains the trivia LMs I'm most likely to use. "Occasional" means irregular or unpredictable events. "Old Trivia" is for defunct games whose LMs I've held onto out of sheer hopefulness and/or nostalgia.

One other thing you might notice about my LMs is that I've changed their name format to be consistent down the line. As I mentioned above, sometimes between the time an LM is made and the time it reaches your inventory -- for stores and clubs and other establishments especially -- the name will be edited for various reasons. I'm just kind of anal about wanting my LMs to follow a consistent format. I know most people aren't going to go this far in their organizing, but I'll quickly explain why I do it in case it gives anyone ideas for themselves.

Most importantly, I slice off any kind of punctuation from the beginning of an LM because it screws with alphabetical order, and it's easier to do so than to memorize where brackets or tildes or spaces register in SL's version of the alphabet. There's no reason this store needs to have exclamation points at the beginning of its name... except to make it appear closer to the top of lists. I'll be able to find it more easily if it's located under "R." Second, I put the sim name back in because stores sometimes have multiple locations, and it's useful to know if you're collecting LMs of different spots or the same one. I include the xyz coordinates because I actually do use them, though I'd be surprised if that's common. As for the lower case, I just feel it makes the list look cleaner. Personal preference is all.

IV. Maintenance

Once you have your LMs' bloat somewhat reduced and your subfolders organized by frequency of use, the tricky part is keeping it that way. Other types of inventory items, be they objects, clothing, or body parts, will still exist if you forget they're there and then relocate them months or years later. But as I said at the beginning, LMs have no value except for if and when you actually use them. In addition, even their potential use value can disappear at any moment. It's thus worthwhile to be aware of what you have in there and to open up those About Landmark windows every so often to see if they're even there anymore.

Here are some things to consider doing in the name of LM maintenance:

  • 1. For every LM that shows up in your inventory, either delete or file it immediately, even if you're just tossing it into a "sort this later" folder. At the very least, doing so will reduce the clutter in whatever folder you're moving it out of, and if you continue doing it, duplicate LMs will become more visible in that folder.

  • 2. Change the LM names to whatever is most useful to you. One of the reasons why inventory contents in general -- not just LMs but everything -- are so hard to organize is that the labels attached to items before they reach you are all determined by the various creators' divergent preferences and priorities. They aren't going to line up unless you do it yourself. Even if you've never had a problem with the creators' LM descriptions before, renaming is a form of engagement that can help you remember what-all you've got in there.

  • 3. Get into the habit of using SL down-time to peek at your LMs and see if they can use some pruning. By "down-time," I just mean when you're doing anything in SL that isn't so engaging that you can't open up your LM folder and give it a skim. If you maintain your subfolders according to frequency of use, you'll be able to see easily enough which LMs are up for review. If you see a location with a name you don't recognize or that you haven't been to in a very long time, just open it up real quick and see if the correct info appears. (Even if the LM is still usable, a location you no longer recall is probably a good candidate for trimming the stock.)

Okay, phew, I think I'm done. This was lengthy, in part, because a lot of my more general sorting strategies come into play in organizing LMs. You'll see them come up in future entries. Suggestions for future posts are welcome!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introduction to the Inventory: Why Bother?

If you've been in Second Life for at least a couple of months, you've probably been involved in or witness to a frequently recurring topic of conversation: the inventory. Someone mentions how their inventory size is getting out of control, item numbers get compared, a few people moan about how much they need to spend time unloading junk, and sooner or later some really annoying person chimes in about how theirs is, on the contrary, rather well organized thankyouverymuch, and possibly even how they enjoy their daily routine of invving.

Often, that annoying person would be me. And once I come out as an inventory obsessive, someone usually asks jokingly if I'd do their inv for them, and as a matter of fact I'd be happy to hire out my services. But since that carries along with it all sorts of issues of passwords and trust and, oh, Terms of Service, I'll do the next best thing and blog about it.

Before getting to the nitty gritty, let's talk for a bit about why inventory seems to give people so much grief and lay down a game plan. Yeah, I know, structure already. Like it or hate it, order is an inherent part of the process, as determined by LL and the little default folders they gave us to inspire organization and all that.

Why a messy inv is a pain in the butt

The main reason a disorganized inventory can be frustrating is simply that you can't find anything in it quickly or easily. You watch the total item number grow and grow while the number of those same items you can remember having shrinks and shrinks. It also gets harder to find items even when you know what folder they're in if you need to scroll through long lists of unsorted objects. If you build and aren't in the habit of relabeling as you go, you also might have numerous objects simply titled "object," and there is nothing useful about that.

Where the problem came from

We let our inventories get this way for a lot of different reasons. Keeping the inv orderly is just a plain old time investment. I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours on it a day and I still only make small dents each time. Why would most people start or end their SL day cleaning house when they could be shopping, building, exploring, or hitting events? There are some aspects of inventory organization that you can do at any time, but rezzing high-prim objects in the middle of a dance club or tai chi area is not generally one of them.

Another reason has to do with the natural progression of going from newbie to veteran in a world where accumulation comes more easily than you're used to. When you're a newbie and your inventory is a manageable size, you don't necessarily know which items you need or like the most or how they'll be easiest to find later on. A month and several thousand freebies later, you're more likely to have a clue. And by that time, the inv is somewhat less manageable and more daunting, and it's only going to get worse.

Injecting realism

However it gets that way, though, nearly everyone I know believes their inventory could be tidier. There's one important reason for this perpetual dissatisfaction that it's important to internalize if you haven't already: inventory management is ongoing. It's not something you spend one day on and then hope it stays neat. Such a statement might sound obvious, but the reason I mention it is that if you're a perfectionist or if you've put off starting to become organized because finishing seems such a long way off, well, it is... it's so far off, I'd venture to say it's unattainable. So get used to a new definition of success: when it comes to inventory, success isn't completion, it's continuous engagement.

That's actually the good news, believe it or not. If progress, rather than completion, is your goal, then success suddenly is attainable. Not only that, but the amount of attention you pay to organizing your inventory will fill in a lot of the gaps in your memory of what you have in there. You'll become able to find things that aren't organized into their proper subfolders because you'll have passed over them many times on the way to organizing or looking for something else. And if you can find what you're looking for, then getting the items into the right folders is a secondary concern.

Game plan

My recomendations are intended for people who aren't happy with the state of their inventories. They are emphatically not meant to criticize the means of organization that work for people who, like me, are comfortable with the way their inventories are laid out, or to suggest that mine is the only right way to manage possessions. There are as many ways of organizing as there are avatars (I myself have several different avatars, each with slightly different inventory needs), but some people haven't figured out what works for them yet. As is the case with many other activities -- cooking, RL housekeeping, learning a craft -- it's often helpful to see what works for those for whom something does. Similarly, if I make a suggestion that wouldn't be useful to you, it doesn't mean my suggestion is wrong. I welcome alternative recommendations in comments. I don't have the final say; I'm just the chick who decided to blog it (and I'm neither the first nor the last to do so).

So let's get started. My first and, I believe, most universally applicable tip for reducing excess inventory bulk has to do with landmarks. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on how purging excess landmarks can be one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin streamlining your stash.