Wednesday, November 18, 2009

if dirt were dollars we'd all be in the black

Decals for Second Life? It's a JIRA I voted for, admittedly, but it would ease some texturing worries. I just can't see a way to do it technically...

This Friday, the Transgender Day of Remembrance will be held in SL, at three times during November 20th, so that anyone who wishes to attend, hopefully can. It will be a candlelight vigil with guest speakers and all are welcome. This year alone, from January 1st to October 22nd, ninety-five people--that we know of--died by their own hands or in violent ways at the hands of others, simply for being transgendered and visible.

That's RL, people. Though in SL, the prejudice is widely felt.

For more information, interviews in advance of the day, or to sign up as a partner site, please contact Winnie Sweetwater in-world, or via email to winnie_h@yamail.com.

Now, a certain ralph Anderton, someone's not-very-well-disguised alt (Prokovy Neva mentioned he may be an economics student named Jason, in which case, it's an even stupider idea) proposed a L$500 filing fee--per item--to list items on XStreet.

We need to raise standards and create a fair and level playing field for all, without product spamming or traffic gaming the system [.]

I agree with that. I do. I think that's a great concept. It has some significant flaws, how'ver.

* How are we raising those standards? Whose standards are we imposing?

* How do we level the playing field? Do we offer building classes to everyone so we can be "assured" they are producing "quality" items? Who is judging what counts as a "quality" item? Do we certify builders and scripters in world, so they can add on a specially-designed checkmark logo to their wares?

* Do we offer everyone a set budget for advertising? Or high and low restrictions--to advertise at all, say, each resident must spend no less than L$50 per item, no more than L$3000 per item to have items listed? Do we control keywords? Do we control product names?

Most importantly, how in the hell does in-world traffic apply to XStreet sales?!?

The thread has a lot of replies already, most of them saying some variant of ralph, yer a loon, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Linden Labs--in their *cough* "infinite wisdom"--have already taken some of Mr. Anderton's ridiculous suggestions to heart.

Witness Exhibit A. And I quote:

The Roadmap:
We will enact the following new controls for the Xstreet SL Marketplace within 90 days, with at least two weeks' notice, in order to improve the shopping experience:

Monthly Listing Fee for Freebies of L$99:

  • Listings for free items will now be treated as a marketing/promotional tool and thus will have a price.
  • L$99 is the price of our least expensive listing enhancement and so we will start there.
  • Depending upon desire for this marketing opportunity and perceived value given such demand, we will adjust the price as necessary to maximize this value and keep the freebie listings from becoming bloated again.
  • Expected Delivery: 30 - 60 days
Minimum Commission of L$3 on all items priced L$1 or greater:
  • We will enact a minimum commission of L$3 on all sales of non-freebie listings.
  • Since Freebie listings are now considered marketing and are charged as such, they will not incur this fee.
  • A L$3 commission will raise the commission on all listings under L$50. This was a range suggested by residents, but it turns out that this is the price range where there is a very high transaction volume and low commission income which combine to cover the costs of those transactions.
  • We may adjust this minimum commission as we see its effects on the marketplace. L$3 does not cover the full cost of a transaction, but the goal here is first to manage freebie growth first.
  • Expected Delivery: 30 - 60 days
Monthly Listing Fee of L$10 for all items L$1 or greater:
  • All non-freebie listings will now be charged L$10 per month to remain listed in the Xstreet SL Marketplace
  • Currently, less than 20% of Xstreet SL listings make at least one sale per month. This displays just how much clutter of unsold items exists on Xstreet SL.
  • Doing this will provide an incentive for merchants to remove listings which are not selling, while keeping this fee low enough to have a minimal effect on listings which are selling and are desired by shoppers.
  • By reducing the overall number of listings on Xstreet SL, the shopping experience will drastically improve which will please our shoppers and be a boon to the business of all of our merchants.
  • Expected Delivery: 60 - 90 days
Oh, just WONderful.

So the cost of my--so far ONLY--selling item these days on XStreet--a dollarbie collection of two hand-drawn madras textures in light and dark, Caledon tartan varieties--will go up by L$109 per month, plus for every single Linden I make, XStreet will gouge me L$3 for that. Resulting in a net loss of L$109 every month, and a loss of L$2 every sale I make.

Now, why am I bothering to sell on XStreet again? I only have nine items listed--one is for L$50, one is for L$75, none are over L$300--which would hit me with a L$13 per month fee to carry each one, which is, I grant you, considerably LESS but still damaging.

Bits and pieces from some of the office hours held on the freebies/cheapies topic:

[9:18] Ciaran Laval: Can we just get Meta to throw out some sexy stats, I'm a big fan of stats
[9:18] Ann Otoole: LL is not congress and any attempts to make law will be fought in DC
[9:18] Colossus Linden: Yoshi, how many freebies do you have and how many do you feel you actually need for marketing?
[9:19] Pink Linden: Ann, points are noted. Please stay on topic.
[9:19] Colossus Linden: That is the biggest use I've heard of - using freebies as a marketing tool to drive shoppers to your other items
[9:19] Yoshi Zhangsun: i think ive got about 5 up at the moment and yeah they definitely bring faces onto my sim
[9:19] Ann Otoole: it is on topic pink. go get your lawyer in here
[9:19] Yoshi Zhangsun: to be honest ive always seen slx as marketing over a sales space, althoug i make sales most customers i find from slx have tp'd in from the advert
[9:19] Suella Ember: personally i have 5 dollarbies and one freebie - i think that is enough to highlighy my style and items. Then again - if every merchant has that many its an awful lot!
[9:19] Yoshi Zhangsun: perhaps because i sell a lot of furniture and thy want to see in the prims but i dont know
[9:20] Rachel Darling: nods at Suella and yoshi's comments and numbers, noting that hers are comparable
[9:20]TriloByte Zanzibar: yeah, i'd like to see some stats as well. Specifically, what's the cost (in lindens) per item to actually process a transaction and deliver an item in-world. Secondly, what are total freebie admin/overhead costs compared with XSL's commission revenue?
[9:20] Ann Otoole: let's be specific. boot sellers are mad about people selling all colors boots for L$10. well that is all they are worth.
[9:21] Ann Otoole: takes 30 minutes to make the script. boom done. there is no inherent value in them anymore
[9:21] Pink Linden: TriloByte, we don't release specifics on that...but I will say that a disproportionate amount of costs are being caused by items that do not provide offsetting revenue.

So they won't release statistics to prove any of this, but when pressed, Pink did admit the goal--they haven't been able to charge, under the old structure, any percentage of the profit on XStreet items costing one Linden or less. This is about profit loss. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, since Linden Labs bought out the company that used to be SLX, they have suffered a total loss of profits across the board--but because freebies pop up under most searches, they're being noticed more often, so are penalized soonest.

[9:22] Pink Linden: we can no longer afford to support these items.

[9:22] JB Hancroft: So, Pink... it's a LL problem, not a merchant or consumer problem? Just trying to understand what population has the hurt.
[9:23] Pink Linden: JB, it's both an LL problem and an merchant problem
[9:23] Colossus Linden: It is both. Frankly, any merchant problem is an LL problem

Now, I am editing here and there to make points, obviously--you can grab the Commerce office hours link above to read the whole thing in unedited form--but the main point being made is:

1. The Labs aren't making enough money.
2. There are too many freebies in the XStreetSL Marketplace.
3. There is rampant copyright infringement in XStreet.
4. Charging for freebies will make this stop, and give the Labs money.

I can see why they're going there, believe me; but in SL, I don't think A plus B is going to equal C, here...in the least.

[9:26] Colossus Linden: As a number of you have said, you use it for marketing. It attracts different types of shoppers
[9:26] TriloByte Zanzibar: agreed, i think xstreet is an invaluable tool for sellers
[9:26] Colossus Linden: So, Xstreet does not have to mimic or support everything that in-world shopping and selling supports
[9:27] Colossus Linden: So, the biggest thing that I've heard is that freebies and cheapies have value, but the market has become a bit flooded with them
[9:27] Colossus Linden: Some of you would support a minimum price, but many of you oppose the idea of "price fixing"

Yes, but I think the same folks who will shy off at a "fixed price" minimum are the same folks who will shy off at a fixed price minimum of L$99 per month to list a dollarbie! How can the Lindens not see that?!?

[9:30] Colossus Linden: Okay, let me go into some of the ideas we've had. I have some responses to the questions you have all asked, but I am doing my best not to drive you to 1 solution before you have some time to think
[9:30] Colossus Linden: Okay, options:
[9:30] Colossus Linden: 1. Limit to free listings or listings under price L$X
[9:31] Colossus Linden: - Hard limit of 3 per merchant. Perhaps a monthly fee to list those 3 or to have a higher limit
[9:31] Colossus Linden: 2. Time Limit - add an incentive to remove cheap items. No item under L$X can remain listed for more than a month
[9:31] Ann Otoole: charge me for freebies and they just move in world and go out in groups
[9:32] Ann Otoole: LL cannot beat this [unless] LL bans all sales and transfers in world
[9:32] TriloByte Zanzibar: a time limit would be a problem for me, we only make/offer a few freebie items per year
[9:32] Colossus Linden: 3. Marketing Enhancement. - Freebies and cheapies are used as a marketing tool. Just like listing enhancements they should be priced by the month. Make a monthly fee of L$99-L$2899 to list a freebie (just like listing enhancements)
[9:33] Colossus Linden: 4. Freebie Marketplace - Separate freebies into a separate shopping experience which is designed to better advertise the items which are not free. - create a new advertising opportunity
[9:33] Colossus Linden: 5. Removal - ban all freebies and all items below L$X

Thankfully--I guess thankfully--they didn't decide, when they decided earlier today, to stick with #2 and #5, and the latter part of #1. I suppose we should be grateful for small favors.

[9:36] Ann Otoole: basically look at everyone doing well and destroy their business and the rest will be pleased

Ann is very, very cynical, but I can't say I disagree. This just seems more cost fostering than anything else--forcing people (many of whom already pay the Lindens at minimum premium account fees, if not the equivalent of, or more than, each month) to pay more, to sell lesser-priced items. That seems insanely unfair, and unbalanced.

[9:41] Colossus Linden: Additionally, if you really want to distribute a freebie when the rest of the merchant and shopper base foots the expenses, why does that merchant not want to do it when they are asked to cover the expense of distribution of those freebies?
[9:41] Ann Otoole: what is the expense of distributing a freebie [Colossus]?
[9:42] Ann Otoole: excactly what does LL pay?

More to the point--for me, at least--I don't think it's about sharing the cost of the expenses. I think there comes a point where spending over L$100 to list one dollarbie item just isn't worth it. If I'm passionately committed to some religious, socially conscious, or empowering bit of frippery that I want to put up and keep up--well, likely that might fall under their educational category anyway, and the costs might well be defrayed. But textures? Outfits? Ornaments?

Oh, hell no. I'll sell them in world--if I sell them at all.

[9:42] Colossus Linden: Ann, I can't share hard costs, but for any item on Xstreet there are data storage, data transfer, listing review, item delivery, etc. costs.
[9:43] Ann Otoole: and if those messages are that expensive why isn't LL charging for every object message in and out of SL?

Which is a damned good point--if they're going to get all finicky about things now, is this a sign of things to come? Are they soon going to charge per IM? Are they going to charge people out of their own game entirely??

More and more, I'm thinking, this is their incredibly arcane way of not just kicking everyone out of the pool at once, but suffering the slow death of user attrition as a net loss, before sealing the entire playground and paving it over with office complexes. Because it's really starting to sound like the Lindens don't want residents in world anymore.

[9:52] Colossus Linden: Yoshi, sounds like I should reach out to Arcadia Asylum. But, I will warn that they may not be best served by Xstreet.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Your world, your imagination? Only if you can afford the fees.

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