Tuesday, May 15, 2007

GridMarker vs. Sloog

Being Sloog user for some time recently I decided to try another, analogous service: GridMarker. An overall model is pretty similar to Sloog: HUD attachment which allows you to tag second life locations and to view/manage bookmarks on web page.

There are several key differences between GridMarker and Sloog:

GridMarker is more precise: it tags specific coordinates, while sloog tags a current parcel. For bigger parcels it is certainly an advantage, since it allows you to tag different parts of the parcel with different tags. You can read more about this feature in GridMarker blog. On the other hand, you can end up with several distinct bookmarks for the same SIM which are basically tagging a same place, for example, different parts of the same island. GridMarker has a neat feature which allows you to set up tagging precision "threshold" in meters, but I think it is mostly for expert users.

The gridmarker web site has a notion of "Resolution" which allows you to see other gridmarks in the vicinity of the one you are currently looking at. In my opinion, this feature overestimates the importance of spatial proximity in the Second Life. Most people are moving around the wold via teleports, and the fact that two bookmarks are located not far from each other in SecondLife coordinate system usually does not mean much.

My favorite feature of GridMarker is support for geotagging in RSS feeds. That alone is enough to make me switch to it from Sloog.

Another extremely useful feature of GridMarker is ability to accept drag-and-drop of landmarks objects. Select all your landmarks, drag and drop them to GridMarker HUD and they would be automatically imported into your GridMarker account!

The biggest shortcoming of GridMarker (compared to Sloog) is that you could not search your bookmarks from within the world. In Sloog you can use "search:" command, while GridMarker required you to launch your browser.

Sloog certainly looks better. Both Sloog HUD and web site show more love from good designers. GridMarker looks like best effort of graphics design done by programmers. You can't blame them for that - they did their best, but my advice is to seek help of professional designer to give it more polished look and feel.

I found GridMarker HUD buttons confusing at first. However the are OK, once you figure out how they work.

GridMarker is using by default same channel (#7) as Sloog. I wanted to test both HUDs simultaneously. Luckily GridMarker allows to change channel number, which is very useful feature.

Compared to Sloog, GridMarker certainly has more features, but I doubt that majority of the users would appreciate them. For example, I doubt that many users would really use "Title" command to give custom titles to their bookmarks. Comments feature could be useful, but it would not necessary find widespread use from within the game.

I think GridMarker shows great potential and certainly could evolve into very nice service. If they keep their architectures open (which they are trying to do with open APIs and open source HUD code) and put some work into design and usability it could become very popular. I am not familiar with their motivation or business model, but I would love to see this project going open source (say on SourceForge or Google Code). I am sure many users would be glad to contribute to the code and the web site design to make better service.

1 comment:

Sebastian Pedro said...

Lev, thanks for the write up!

First, you’ve got me pegged! I confess that I, humble programmer, did indeed design the website and HUD. I was going to defend myself by saying that much of it is modeled after del.icio.us, but then I realized that they are also a bunch of programmers. Oh well...

Anyways, one thing you mention is that the resolution feature overestimates the importance of nearby gridmarks. I am not really sure what you mean, but this feature was meant to be analogous to Sloog's "Tagged by X people" feature. Both features are attempting to measure the popularity of location in Second Life. Sloog, being limited to a parcel (from what I can tell), just counts the number of people who have tagged a parcel. Gridmarker's solution is to count the number of other gridmarks within a distance (the resolution) of a given gridmark. The key is that Gridmarker gives the user control over the resolution (the search radius), so that one can change how far to search for other gridmarks. This is certainly not the only (or the best) way to measure popularity, and I plan on improving this feature at some point.

You also mention that Gridmarker doesn't support inworld search. This is something I have put off implementing, but I hope to have this feature in the next release of the HUD.