Thursday, August 12, 2010

to once again shatter my windows

John Carter McKnight turns in an excellent analysis of the difference between achievement and reputation systems, vis a vis Second Life's original reputation system. Now, I'm one of those folks who've been around SL long enough to remember life under the rep system and life without it. I remember feeling a distinct sense of loss after it was removed, but sufficient thought on the issue (like, five minutes or so) should be enough to convince anyone how primed for abuse that system was.

The basic thrust of the concept was simple: someone liked you, they voted for you in four areas. If you were high on all four, whee, everyone liked you, you were popular! Popularity mystifyingly builds trust, or something, so people with high scores were looked on favorably. People with low scores were either 1) bad people or 2) really new in the game and no one knew who they were.

Even when I was a neophyte on SL, how'ver, there were tales of people offering Linden incentives to up their ratings. So it was a system gamed from the very start.

In other news...
Hello everyone,

I find myself in a predicament. I send out gifts thru my subscribo quite often, and the result is that I get extremely large numbers of new subscribers. However, because the subscribo does not take up a group space, and because the items I send out are free and just as good quality as those sold in my store, I feel very slighted and abused.
This hit my inbox today, from Rogue Falconer at Rotten Defiance, and it's still mystifying to me. First of all, this baffling assumption that freebies should, somehow, be of less quality make/construction, because they are freebies. Like freebies are the place you put that fuschia dress you just didn't think came out well.

When in actuality, what someone puts out for free should be the very best of what they can do. It should be something beautiful, functional, lovely; this is what you are showing off to anyone who happens by your shop! They should see this, try it on, sit on it, pop it out--house, dress, flower vase, shoes, whatever--and immediately recognize the craft and effort it took to make that thing for your store. They should want to come back. They should see it as a good thing to spend money on the rest of what you make!

This is not a hard concept.
I send out these gifts to my loyal customers and those that just like what I make. But I've found that a lot of people join the subscribo JUST for the free gifts, they do not shop at the store, they may not even read the notecards I send out unless the word GIFT is in it.

So because of this, I will no longer be sending out gifts through my subscribo. Updates and other pertinent information only will be sent out through the subscribo.
Admittedly, there is a downside to the subscribe-o-matic system, and the makers of the system know this well. Anywhere below a thousand names on the system, and it's absolutely free to own and operate. Anywhere above a thousand--and now you start paying their monthly fees to keep that subscription list going.

Now, are there other ways of doing this? Of course, but they generally require more technical know-how and, on occasion, dedicated server space, which not everyone has. But it can be done. There's not a lot of outcry against the system, either, as it's generally assumed that if one has 1700 members in a shop group, then there are sales made. If there are sales made, tier is being paid on that store parcel, fees are met, and profit can be turned into payments with ease.
The Group *RoTtEn DefiAnCe* will now be opened to join. It is through the group that I will send out gifts, just as often if not more so than previously, this includes hunt gifts that I've made for the many hunts that I participate in.

In addition, there will be a fee to join the group, simply because of the amount of time that I spend making even my free items, the fee will be a one time payment of 250.

If you decide to leave the group at any time, then you will also have to pay to rejoin the group.
This is the part that killed me as a customer. Look: I know Boxed Heroes puts out a group gift, they slap a fee on their store group, and I pay it if I want that gift. (Though to be brutally honest, I do that because I feel I had some hand in the reduction of their store stock; it wasn't the point of my post mentioning them by name, but it was partially the end result of my actions. I accept this and consider it a tithe to assuage--slightly--that personal feeling of guilt.) The same thing happens when Azriel Demain of FallnAngel Designs, or Nighty Goodspeed of Twisted Thorn Textures, put out group gifts--for the time that that gift is out (or, in Twisted Thorn's case, for the weekends that the courtyard giveaways are held), there is a fee on the group.

This makes sense to me. This is a rational conclusion.

But to penalize customers? Who may just want to know what's going on with the group? Who may not have extra group space to begin with?

Moreover, to charge people to join--every time they join? If they have to ditch the group for a work concern? If they have to ditch the group because they're trying to cut down on their spending? If they ditch all the groups they're in because they're going on vacation, and they're struggling to ensure their IMs don't cap?

This? Is an insult to customers, especially with that 'one time fee' mention before that. It's not a one time fee if it's assessed every time someone joins the group. It's not a one time fee if it happens even twice. That's also pretty much beating the carrot to death with the stick, because in this economy, that's enough to make a lot of people think twice about joining the group.
I'm not doing this to be mean, but to protect my business and my sanity. It angers me to no end to have people join my group ONLY because of the free gifts, and that is why I am taking it into my own hands to preserve my business.

I do want to say thank you to all of you that have stuck by me as I have grown not only in my skills but as my store has grown and more and more exciting things happen because of it. And I'm sorry that it has to come to this, but there it is.

The group joiner will be in the store next to the subscribo, or you can join it via search.

Thank you, and have a good night.

She's not doing this to be mean? No, of course not. She is a saint. Why, we should be lucky we are given the chance to pay her the cost of an outfit every time we want to join her in-world group--


I'll tell you something else--Silent Sparrow pulled this same trick, several months back. I didn't have group space to make the switch then, nor the money she wanted for me to join. And she, like Miss Falconer, made no concession for people who had been in the group for long periods of time--in my case, I was a Sparrow for years before she sent out that ultimatum.

And what has happened since? I've missed out on group gifts, true, though there haven't been that many at all since I left. I've missed out on Lucky Bird specially-tinted sets--but the ones that I've really wanted, I've bought outright--because she gives us the option to with a vendor to the side of the bird. And when I've found new items I've wanted, I've bought them, too.

In fact, my being in Miss Tiramisu's subscribe-o group, rather than her in-world group? Has resulted in my actually spending more at her store than I would have otherwise! Were I in her in-world group still, I would be weighing the fee to join against benefits received; as I am, in her subscribe-o group, I hear about sales (and buy things then); plus, I have an extra group space (which I then needed, as it happened, for a work concern).

In clear fact, not to put too fine a point on this--my not being in her in-world group has freed me of resentment, anxiety, and stress. I don't feel as if I am being compelled to wander her store. I don't feel as if I must participate somehow, whether I can afford it or not. I browse for new items; I fill in blanks on lines she has that I still want; I attend sales; I buy full-price things I wouldn't have dreamed of paying full-price for in the past.

I am able to celebrate the art, and the artist, and not feel as if my arm was twisted in the process.

Unlike Miss Falconer--who is very much trying to guilt people, stress people, and do a fair amount of arm-twisting in the process. What originally drew me to her eye-searingly jangled store in the first place? Are mostly things she doesn't make anymore, anyway. I'm not saying she makes bad clothes; she doesn't. It's just that what she makes, and what I want, are no longer in line with each other. And this just continues confirming that point.

You can unsubscribe here, if you feel the same way. You're welcome.


Serenity said...

Man, I've been dealing with this problem forever. Just constantly I've been fighting the battle to say freebies aren't evil. I swear I need to make a hunt or something for it. But a lot of places treat it like, well I'm giving out a gift - where's my gift? It's like wtf? But still people have these crazy expectations. You may have been offline in LKC (btw thanks for staying with the group even though you're limited on space). but there's been heated (well kinda one person vs the crew) but heated none the less about - are pay hunts any better than free hunts? You know me I'm going to argue that both have good and bad sides. For the pay groups, I dunno overall it seems like a big scam. You pay and SOMETIMES get a gift each month. I know Love Soul does that religiously but they've been a pay group before all the drama for them happened. Kies, just rambling a bit. XD Good post Emi.

Emilly Orr said...

Love Soul had a specific ethic for going into it, though. Plus, they're HUGE on hunts, lucky chairs, they seem to know that not everyone can afford to pay retail.

But I think of the excitement every time <3 Cupcakes lowers its insane entrance fee, and there's this feeding frenzy to get in. I mean, yes, they're a known name, and yes, they've got a lot of group members, and yes, they throw out a ton of group gifts--but I swear, they have more members who just hang out and wait for group gifts...

*ponders that*

No, see, I still think the way Falconer went about it is mental. Groups may go pay--hells, until it became a land group, my personal group had a fee (all of five Lindens, but still)--but it's not the fee, per se, it's the attitude.

We're going to start charging for the group. In 24 hours, we'll switch it over, so if you want to get your friends in, get them in now!

is a LOT different from

You're all evil, and you're sucking me dry, and you never buy things, so I'm taking my toys and going home, nyaaah.

Well, let me clarify. Falconer did that. Miss Tiramisu didn't. (Though she did send out this huge tirade on how it was all of eighty cents, Jesus, you'd think she'd stabbed your favorite doll personally, get over it...which irked people.)

Far as the freebie thing, some stores get it, some don't, but yeah, there's this overall impression (at least partially started and reinforced by Prokovy Neva) that freebies are evil and lead to grid communism and economy failures and people starving on the pixel streets.

Which frankly, I just don't get. Want to make a freebie? Make it. Make it good, people will come back to look over what's NOT a freebie.

Don't want to have "the freebie crowd" (or, hee, Stringer's term, "freeb harpies") hanging around your store? Then--nothing simpler! Gut your lucky chair, your Midnight Mania board, any lucky letter boards, and don't put out anything free. Problem solved.