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The Lindens Are Giving Search a Facelift, But Not Fixing It


Prokofy Neva
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So I try to think like a Linden, truly I do, I gather data about their thinking from these office hours, scant as it is, and try to reason from their perspective to understand why they could so badly break search/places and search/names. And *possibly* they might say, "But Prokofy, why are you using search/places to put 120 ads for your rentals? That's like putting 120 ads on the Marketplace with every colour of a dress you designed."

To which I would say: because the system enables this, you charge 30L for it and are happy to take 30L per ad each week automatically, and I've never heard you tell us we "must" use Land Rentals/Sales category instead. And search/places is simply better (was better) because it is easier, cleaner, and often once a person rents a parcel, they change its name and still want it to stay in search, such as for a store or perhaps just a friends' hangout. 

Land Rentals/Sales is an abyss, a wasteland. I'd be curious to hear if anyone uses it. I stopped using it years ago because it is so clunky, wrong, and stupid and whenever I poll a customer as to how they found my rentals, they say "search everything," or "search/places," or someone's picks, or classifieds, or word of mouth. I never, ever hear them say "The Land Rentals/Sales list." Some people might not be sure WHAT category they use in search, they don't study it as we do, but once probed, they never, ever say, "I used that." And who does? 

Because when you tap it, and put in a search term, it defaults to SALES, not rentals -- it is used primarily by land barons to see if they are on top, and to lower prices or make land cutting smaller, in their race to the bottom. It's part of a whole series of unscrupulous practices so I view it as just a device in the land baron game, not a real thing.

But let's click the radio button to "rentals" -- away from its default -- let's select "512-1024" and $400-$500" and use the term "Ravenglass Rentals" and see what we get. And we get...WHOOPS, because it doesn't work. Even though there are such lots which you can find even on the broken search/places.

Generally I find this tool doesn't like all that specificity. The more general you can make it like no search word, search on just Mainland, just 1024, you get some sort of big, messy list, but you can kind of work with it. Then try again maybe with one more term. But...this is why I don't use it. Do you?

Usually when you try all kinds of things to try to get a bad interface in SL to work, or back into it with various tricks, you are told that you "don't know how to use it." That you are "doing it wrong." The interface is never to blame, ever.

But truly, I'd love to hear how you can "do it right" with this balky, clunky thing. I'm all ears. I think the only use case it has is in "sales" when land barons want to see if their rivals put up something for 0.2/meter -- the end.

If you try to wrest information from it about rentals, you get a lot of Bay City entries on top but if you go there, they aren't available because they aren't actually for rent. They aren't in search/places with a consciously checked box, after all; at some point, perhaps at the dawn of time, they put their land as "rentals". It may have been rented permanently in 2010. But if they didn't toggle to "residential," it keeps showing up.

My tenants have the right to "change parcel" and many of them think to change out of "rentals" to "residential" just on the off chance someone will come swooping down on them thinking it's still for rent. That never happens, because people don't use this clunky interface, and I mainly concentrate on taking a parcel out of search/places instead. Then I try to remember to toggle it out of rentals, but forget sometimes. So then I do a check on this idiotic UI now and then and rush to remove all the private residences out of it, plus the prim land that is technically in our group and part of the rentals, but needs to be toggled to "other". I just find it an awful lot of work. If it was broken and killed tomorrow, I wouldn't miss it. I mean the "rentals" part of "Land for Rent/Sale". I don't buy and sell land (unless in duress from the "natural disasters" that beset Mainland," but if I ever get a yen to buy land, or desperately need to buy land to salvages my tenants out of a bad auction situation on my sim, I *fly around*. I look for yellow land. I take of volume and water and study it.

The last thing I do is try to keep plugging operands into that interface over and over again.

So the first screenshot shows that exact information plugged into two many boxes makes it not work, for no good reason. the next screenshot show that if you try to limit it to tjust one word, the first returns contain a) land already rented long ago b) land not for rent, but in a commons c) land just rented. That's because a) the tenants didn't toggle the description; b) I didn't change the description on commons that is still part of a rentals system and therefore didn't seem to be "Nature"; c) I policed the land and toggled it to residence, but this list only updates every 24-48 hours apparently. In other words, besides being a clunky interface, it's just creates more work for you. You have to constantly be on guard against it forcing up to search what doesn't want to be searched any more; you have to constantly decide whether something is "Art" or "Nature" or "Other" when really it's none of that, etc. Fortunately, no one cares because no one uses it AFAIK.

Finally, you can see, oh, yes, when you make your search as general as possible with no term, why yes, there's my land. But did I mention that I don't care about being on the first page? That I make ZERO effort to do so? That I am small, not one of the big boys? That their traffic gimmicks, bots, techniques are of zero interest to me? That's why I use search/places and pay money -- it's a directory. I can easily uncheck it and its gone. It's either in, and not rented, or out, and rented. No extraneous rocks, beaches, prim land or God knows what is ever put in it - what Land for Rent/Sale picks up because it picks up all land, regardless of whether you decided to put in in search/places for 30L, and once it has a ID tag on it like "Art" or "Rentals," it slots it into search. I personally find that a ridiculous system all the way around, but perhaps you can justify it.

 

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Land for Rent.png

Edited by Prokofy Neva
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On 11/9/2021 at 12:51 AM, Lindal Kidd said:

It sounds to me as if the flaw is that the current Search is treating each word separately.

That's not a flaw. That's exactly how it should be as, long as the results prioritise those pages with the exact phrase, such as 'ravenglass rentals' (without quotes). And that's exactly what the results in the SL viewer do.

To try it, I had to get the latest update of the SL viewer. Then I did a search on 'ravenglass rentals' (without the single quotes). Of the 5335 results  the first 100 and more are dominated by Ravenglass Rentals. There are very few others, and I didn't look any further. It looks like it's all working as it should. It's the same when the search is 'Everything' and 'Places'.
 

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On 11/9/2021 at 4:00 PM, ChinRey said:

If I remember right, what happened was that LL used to use Google's search algorithm but then they decided it was not worth the license fee so they made their own instead and they're not very good at that.

That's not quite what happened. LL did use the Google search engine - 3 of them, at enormous monthly cost each. They ditched them but they didn't make their own. Not back then, anyway. They started to use a free Apache one because it's open source and they could alter the programming as needed. So they did get their hands into the programming, but only to manipulate the existing free engine. They may have written one from scratch since then, of course, but they didn't do it at that time. A search engine isn't difficult to write, but there was probably never a need to write one since the freebie Apache one is very good, and only ever needed a few modifications.

Edited by Phil Deakins
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On 11/9/2021 at 11:18 PM, Coffee Pancake said:

There could be an account setting that removes a person from search

I don't know if it was applied to either the GSA or the Apache engine or not but, while LL was using the GSA, they, in an attempt to shrink the index a bit, were looking at not including agents that hadn't logged in for a certain length of time. It wouldn't surprise me to find that absent agents don't appear in the search results.

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14 hours ago, Phil Deakins said:

That's not a flaw. That's exactly how it should be as, long as the results prioritise those pages with the exact phrase, such as 'ravenglass rentals' (without quotes). And that's exactly what the results in the SL viewer do.

To try it, I had to get the latest update of the SL viewer. Then I did a search on 'ravenglass rentals' (without the single quotes). Of the 5335 results  the first 100 and more are dominated by Ravenglass Rentals. There are very few others, and I didn't look any further. It looks like it's all working as it should. It's the same when the search is 'Everything' and 'Places'.
 

Maybe I should put "models" in my rental homes to make search "work better"?

First, I don't get the results Phil gets, using the latest SL viewer, and typing "Ravenglass Rentals" in search/places WITHOUT quotes because you never had to before, and doing it now doesn't change the results that much -- the same problem of too many results and wrong results persists. And he is using "everything" and not sure what else, but this has always been a discussion about "search/places" and nothing else.

Second, before December 2020 or thereabouts, if I typed "Ravenglass Rentals" into search/places, I got 120 or 150 parcels with that exact name, the search ads I paid for at 30L a pop. And that's it. And that's all I would expect for an exact name of a business.

Whether it's 2,000 or 5,000 returns, that's about 1,800 or 4,800 returns too many, compared to its previous behaviour for years.

Third, instead of the parcels with my exact business name, in my search, I get the first item is a sim named "rentals" in some other company, not my company. The system doesn't look up bound phrases; it looks up individual words. Again adding quotations or "+" does not change this much.

The second term is the sim named "Ravenglass," which in my view, should not show up in search -- people don't look for entire sims named something; they look for a parcel on a sim; and if some business in fact takes up an entire sim, they still want a landing point on a parcel which is what should show up in search. And that's how it worked for years, until last year. If you need to find a whole sim to teleport to, you use the World Map, not search/places.

As you push down the pages, you see some parcels meant to be round as "rentals" and available, and some not -- and that's not because when you uncheck the search/places box, it takes 24 hours or more to update. 

Was the breaking caused by the switch from GSA to Apache? No, because that switch happened long before it broke last year (unless a Linden can correct me, and give an exact date). No, they tweaked something one day while tinkering, they forever broke search as we knew it and used it effectively. They were not conscious of this, and now they are giving it a facelift without changing it. 

So again, I need to hear a Linden explain their vision of how search works (mechanically, functionally, not the issue of "who gets to be on top"), and how they view the role of the paid 30L ads in this context. I doubt they ever thought about those two things together at the same time.

 

 

 

Searching Ravenglass Rentals.png

Edited by Prokofy Neva
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@Prokofy Neva

I used Everything AND Places for my searches, and you get the same results that I get. I conclude that there's nothing wrong with them. Apart from the first 2 results, they are all Ravenglass Rentals. What's wrong with that?

The first 2 results are regions. LL started putting regions at the top of the results almost 15 years ago. I do agree that the 2 that are listed for a search on 'Ravenglass Rentals' with quotes aren't what we'd expect, because we expect quotes to mean exact matches, and they are not. But it's LL's choice to do it that way. It doesn't look broken but, even if it isn't LL's intention, it's only 2 results that are clearly not what was searched for, so it doesn't matter. They are right to be there for a search without quotes though. Putting regions at the top of the results is intentional.

The rest of the results that you posted pics of are exactly what you'd expect and want when searching on Ravenglass Rentals. I honestly can't see what you think is broken in them. Are you saying that it's broken because nothing else should be listed after your myriad Ravenglass Rentals results when quotes are used? You might have a point if that's what you mean, but it's a very small point, imo, and it doesn't mean that search is broken. If LL intends it, it's not broken.

Another point is that the 30L/wk is to show in search, and that's all. It doesn't pay for any sort of placement. It doesn't buy us the right to be at or near the top, with or without quotes. LL can choose to produce results in any way they see fit. If they intend that quotes mean exact matches and nothing else, then the current search isn't working as intended, but it does look like adding non-exact matches is intentional. It may not be what we want, but that doesn't mean it's not what LL intends.

You've mentioned how things used to be a few times, and assumed that something is broken because it's changed since then. Search engines constantly develope, and results change. LL's engine is no different. Heck, they used to have a whole team on it, with a manager, when they didn't even have access to the code and couldn't make any changes to it. Now they have access and I'm sure they do develope it from time to time. The results you've shown look fine to me. I don't see the problem.

Edited by Phil Deakins
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On 11/12/2021 at 6:28 AM, Prokofy Neva said:

Second, before December 2020 or thereabouts, if I typed "Ravenglass Rentals" into search/places, I got 120 or 150 parcels with that exact name, the search ads I paid for at 30L a pop. And that's it. And that's all I would expect for an exact name of a business.

That seems to sum up what I said about search engines developing. For the quoted searchterm, there used to be 120 to 150 results, but now there are thousands. And places that are not Ravenglass Rentals are included, with Ravenglass Rentals parcels getting a good deal of priority. It certainly looks like the factors taken into account when producing the results were intentionally changed, meaning that search didn't get broken. It was developed.

On the other hand, a couple of years ago LL may have made some change that had the unintentional side-effect of including non-exact matches in the results where exact matches were intended, in which case it would have been broken. If that happened, and it hasn't been put right in years, then I'd have to assume that LL saw the results, decided they were happy with them (like the ones you posted pics of), and decided to leave it as is, meaning that, although it did get broken, it's not 'broken' now. That's a bit of imagination though. Since I see nothing wrong with the results you showed, and the results I see for myself, I prefer to think that they are intentional, and not caused by a mistake. They may not be exactly what YOU want, or what you think they should be, but that doesn't mean the system is broken.

 

Edited by Phil Deakins
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22 minutes ago, Phil Deakins said:

@Prokofy Neva

I used Everything AND Places for my searches, and you get the same results that I get. I conclude that there's nothing wrong with them. Apart from the first 2 results, they are all Ravenglass Rentals. What's wrong with that?

The first 2 results are regions. LL started putting regions at the top of the results almost 15 years ago. I do agree that the 2 that are listed for a search on 'Ravenglass Rentals' with quotes aren't what we'd expect, because we expect quotes to mean exact matches, and they are not. But it's LL's choice to do it that way. It doesn't look broken but, even if it isn't LL's intention, it's only 2 results that are clearly not what was searched for, so it doesn't matter. They are right to be there for a search without quotes though. Putting regions at the top of the results is intentional.

The rest of the results that you posted pics of are exactly what you'd expect and want when searching on Ravenglass Rentals. I honestly can't see what you think is broken in them. Are you saying that it's broken because nothing else should be listed after your myriad Ravenglass Rentals results when quotes are used? You might have a point if that's what you mean, but it's a very small point, imo, and it doesn't mean that search is broken. If LL intends it, it's not broken.

Another point is that the 30L/wk is to show in search, and that's all. It doesn't pay for any sort of placement. It doesn't buy us the right to be at or near the top, with or without quotes. LL can choose to produce results in any way they see fit. If they intend that quotes mean exact matches and nothing else, then the current search isn't working as intended, but it does look like adding non-exact matches is intentional. It may not be what we want, but that doesn't mean it's not what LL intends.

You've mentioned how things used to be a few times, and assumed that something is broken because it's changed since then. Search engines constantly develope, and results change. LL's engine is no different. Heck, they used to have a whole team on it, with a manager, when they didn't even have access to the code and couldn't make any changes to it. Now they have access and I'm sure they do develope it from time to time. The results you've shown look fine to me. I don't see the problem.

The Lindens did not start putting regions at the top of search 15 years ago; I am 17 years old and would notice that. They started recently, since breaking search.

Your results are more than mine curiously but that may be explained by "everything".

The results are not "all Ravenglass Rentals" when the first one is another company with an island named "Rentals".

The results are 100 times more than they used to be, and therefore aren't clean; they do not contain the paid ads of search/place which is the expectation for searches of places -- and not only the expectation, the but actual behaviour of ryears and years.

It's not a small point when there are hundreds of pages because people can't efficiently scroll through the 100 or 150 listings which you paid for. The rest in fact are often not even supposed to be in search and not checked off for the 30L ad.

I've already said 1000 times that the search ad is NOT for placement; it is not about "being on top". But it should be for *making a serviceable list*. If you search on a specific company name, you should ONLY get results of that company's parcels in search. 

Search engines might "constantly change," but they sure didn't for 10 years or whenever 2.0 was installed (2012?) -- on THIS issue of searches under exact names, they were the same, with only those parcels with that end, the end. Why is this so hard to understand? It's very basic.

The idea that "if LL intends it, it's not broken" is so fundamentally totalitarian in nature that I don't know where to begin. LL/the Moles "intended" the Trick or Treet pumpkin to be a fun game in Bellisseria, but immediately a half dozen problems developed, some because they didn't take into account the social setting (ban lines, people, especially non-Americans and non-English speakers in Bellisseria, who had no interest in Halloween and didn't expect it. Then technical problems developed as they seemed to "fill up" with clicks and had to be reset. The Moles *intended* one thing but got another. My God, this is like a reprisal of the Russian standing joke, how Chernomyrdin, the Prime Minister, said "We wanted it to be better, but it turned out the way it always does."

So the pumpkin players found this vast desert of Bellisseria where perhaps only 300 out of tens of thousands were interested in this game. So the Moles realize that now; but we are supposed to bless their every "intention" and say therefore "it is not broken"? I absolutely marvel at this thinking.

Why do the Lindens collect bug reports and thank residents who find them? They "intended" the latest edition to be perfect but it wasn't, it had bugs. We're therefore to pretend the bugs don't mean anything is broken when there are two suns?

I think your capacity to argue this away with non-essentials will be endless but the Lindens do need to explain why they collect 30L listings that they don't show at all on exact business name searches -- not on key word searches where one can be up or down, on the first page or page 100. On exact term searches. THAT is the issue and always has been, and it's not trivial.

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4 minutes ago, Phil Deakins said:

Development :)

 

I guess you didn't listen closely to Reed Linden, see above. He said they have not changed the algorithms; they are not changing search (and they did NOT change it all year after breaking it); they are only making the interface prettier.

That's not development; that's a distraction.

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Just now, Prokofy Neva said:

I guess you didn't listen closely to Reed Linden, see above. He said they have not changed the algorithms; they are not changing search (and they did NOT change it all year after breaking it); they are only making the interface prettier.

That's not development; that's a distraction.

I didn't listen at all to him. If I listened to him, would I hear him say that the search engine is actually broken? If he says that, then I'll agree with you, but it doesn't look broken to me, and you haven't shown anything to indicate that it's broken.

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1 minute ago, Phil Deakins said:

I didn't listen at all to him. If I listened to him, would I hear him say that the search engine is actually broken? If he says that, then I'll agree with you, but it doesn't look broken to me, and you haven't shown anything to indicate that it's broken.

The search isn't broken for you, Phil, because you don't have a store any more, or if you do, you aren't as obsessed about search as you once were.

Those past obsession of yours were about why, despite your models, you weren't on top.

I don't need to be on top nor wish to be; I just need a clean list to be made of search ads I paid for when I search on an exact term like a business name.

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55 minutes ago, Prokofy Neva said:

The Lindens did not start putting regions at the top of search 15 years ago; I am 17 years old and would notice that. They started recently, since breaking search.

You are mistaken. I remember it happening back in approximately 2007/8, when I was in the low prim furniture business. My main competitor bought a sim and named it Low Prim Furniture. From then on, it was always at the very top of the results for that phrase. That's when they did it. I wasn't recent. You obviously didn't notice it like I did,

Edited by Phil Deakins
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1 minute ago, Prokofy Neva said:

Those past obsession of yours were about why, despite your models, you weren't on top.

Again you are mistaken. I controlled the top results (apart from the mandatory matching sim name). You've seen me say that before. I used to move other people's places up and down the top results, and they had no idea that I was doing it. I did it for two reasons. (1) so that I didn't have too many store departments in the top 10, and (2) to keep a particular place out of the top 10 and below the fold. It was fun :)

Incidentally, it didn't need 'models' to do it. The method was totally different, and may still work.

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8 minutes ago, Phil Deakins said:

Again you are mistaken. I controlled the top results (apart from the mandatory matching sim name). You've seen me say that before. I used to move other people's places up and down the top results, and they had no idea that I was doing it. I did it for two reasons. (1) so that I didn't have too many store departments in the top 10, and (2) to keep a particular place out of the top 10 and below the fold. It was fun :)

Incidentally, it didn't need 'models' to do it. The method was totally different, and may still work.

I think there may be some re-writing of history there, Phil. And I would have thought manipulating search, especially moving other people downward, even if you claim your models weren't at issue, would be an actionable offense.

But here's what is relevant TODAY. Here's a transcript of Reed Linden in the clip above:

Fairly small update this month. We've been working as I explained last month I believe. We started our search facelift. So inworld search facelift. Super excited about it. We should be able to deploy that in the next two weeks? So keep your eyes peeled, you can't possibly not see it it. Important thing to note here: we've only really changed the way it looks. We have not changed any of the actual results. So the algorithm working behind search has not been touched in any way. So all of your search results will continue to work the same way they did before. So any optimization you that you've been doing with categories, any active optimization you were doing with your listings, that
will also continue to work.

That being said, going forward, we are going to the next phase of this, of our overall search overhaul, is to start looking at ways to improve the relevancy of our search results.

This has been going on for a long time. We are aware that right now our search implementation is uh...a...uh...you know...a bit of a dull instrument. So we are working with third parties, and true experts in the field, to get, you know, a really first-class, first rate search implementation. So that will be inworld search, clicking on your little search bar inworld, and also on the marketplace. So we are going to start toying around with this but that will be in the New Year.


Lindens are always better, and act in better faith than forums regulars. This Linden admits at least it is a "blunt instrument". They admit it needs even "an overhaull". They don't seem to realize they broke a working and useful feature of it last year, however. A feature that CONTINUED TO WORK AS BEFORE in Firestorm. See, that's the part that proves your dismissal of this issue every time. The beloved FS developers didn't break search the way their Lindens did. They didn't. And it's is actually one of the reasons that people who shop a lot use FS - the search works better.

So either he is unaware or is unwilling to note that it worked before he and his fellows began "toying" with search late last year, and then whatever they discovered there as they tinkered -- that it was over their head, that they needed to bring in experts -- happened as a result of toying that *they did not put back, the way they had in 2018.*

Either because they didn't realize it (most likely) or it was too hard. I am willing to bet real money that the fate of search/place ads, as distinct with the "optimization" that their office hour denizens are obsessed with, was never seriously contemplated.

I personally don't need to continue this discussion with you, as you didn't even listen to Reed and even reading the transcript I have provided her, you will still find ways to say I'm wrong, even though a Linden here has admitted that search is "uh, a blunt instrument."

Edited by Prokofy Neva
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Your other post that replies to me is much too long for me to write responses to all that's in it. Suffice it to say that the search results may not be what YOU want them to be, or what they used to be, but the ones you posted, and the ones I see for myself, look perfectly good to me for the searchterm. You keep mentioning your 30Ls, but they don't buy you anything other than the right to be shown in search. They don't buy you the right that only pages with your exact business name are the ones to be listed when you search on that name.

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Just now, Prokofy Neva said:

I think there may be some re-writing of history there, Phil. 

No rewriting whatsoever. Controlling the results was easy. Remember that, when I came to SL, I was well known in the world for search engine optimisation. It really was easy to do in SL. It required the smallest of parcels and prims ;)

 

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I just read what you quoted of Reed Linden. He doesn't suggest or even hint that search is broken. He does say what I've said - that search engines get developed over time, and that's what they are going to do. "Blunt instrument" doesn't mean a broken instrument. It means more like an unrefined instrument. 'Broken' means not working as intended, and that's quite different.

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27 minutes ago, Prokofy Neva said:

The beloved FS developers didn't break search the way their Lindens did. They didn't.

To see what you mean, I had to download the latest Firestorm as mine was way out of date, but I did it :)

The results for a search on Ravenglass Rentals are no different to what they are with the LL viewer and with the ones you posted. 2388 results, with the 2 regions listed at the top. Only the odd few non-Ravenglass Rentals places listed in the first 100 and more. There is no difference.

So you're right that the FS developers didn't break search but, in my very strong opinion, neither did LL.

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3 hours ago, Phil Deakins said:

I just read what you quoted of Reed Linden. He doesn't suggest or even hint that search is broken. He does say what I've said - that search engines get developed over time, and that's what they are going to do. "Blunt instrument" doesn't mean a broken instrument. It means more like an unrefined instrument. 'Broken' means not working as intended, and that's quite different.

I didn't say HE said it was broken. Lindens seldom say that about their own code. I indicated that he admitted it didn't work well -- it's a blunt instrument.

Yeah, returning 2000+ on an exact name search, yeah, that's a blunt instrument. Something he admits, and you don't.

 

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5 hours ago, Phil Deakins said:

To see what you mean, I had to download the latest Firestorm as mine was way out of date, but I did it :)

The results for a search on Ravenglass Rentals are no different to what they are with the LL viewer and with the ones you posted. 2388 results, with the 2 regions listed at the top. Only the odd few non-Ravenglass Rentals places listed in the first 100 and more. There is no difference.

So you're right that the FS developers didn't break search but, in my very strong opinion, neither did LL.

That still doesn't explain why my alt does not come up in search at all on the website as you can plainly see earlier in this thread.  

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1 minute ago, Rowan Amore said:

That still doesn't explain why my alt does not come up in search at all on the website as you can plainly see earlier in this thread.  

Probably a combination of unknown hidden factors and edge cases, we also don't know how frequently the search is updated or what actions would trigger an update. 

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