Saturday, October 9, 2010

I have too been playing with fifty-two cards; just 'cause I play so far from my vest

So, more on the Dare Designs thing.

First off, while I was surprised that Dare, himself, commented on the blog (yeah, I'm still occasionally under the delusion no one reads this thing), I think we aired our concerns with tact and restraint. I want to make this plain--I am not attacking the man, nor what he does, because what he does makes up a fair bit of my wardrobe. (And a lot of my Hallows trees are his.) I like his business, is the main point.

Having said that, I'd point your attention towards his own blog entry on the topic, which addresses pretty much everything said so far. And repeats this paragraph from his first (first? Maybe second) reply to me:

With search broken, with picks and traffic no longer counting towards search rankings, and NO tool available to us (merchants) working any longer – leaving us no real way (except good old-fashioned word of mouth) to introduce our work to new customers as old ones leave SL in droves… it’s time to be creative, and invite loyal customers to work WITH us, and get something back for it.

That's incredibly relevant, and it points to the huge frustration that all merchants on Second Life are having currently. Search has been broken in all main clients for nearly an entire year. This, by itself, would be enough to kill a lot of businesses--and it has--but it seems like every single marketing technique that's discovered, the Labs step in between two and six months down the line, and say it's "gaming the system".

With Dare, at least, and the way this new group works, the one thing the Labs cannot say is that he's using Search, or Profile Picks, or any other previously-declared 'gaming' game anything. This is clearly stated, and he's even further refined it in the blog post he made.

If this works out the way he hopes it will, he'll have a moderately devoted (to insanely devoted) core of customers, who are dedicated both out of pure admiration for the business, and a fair bit of enlightened self-interest--to keep that business going.

Now, flaw one for this plan has always been that strong trace, for me, of MLM marketing. And I automatically connect this with pyramid schemes, but to be absolutely fair here, they are separate. Multi-level marketing businesses are legal. Pyramid schemes aren't.

So I read through the blog post, and the note card again. I still don't like it, but I am removing my objection on the 'pyramid scheme' accusation. Because that's really not what's going on at all.

If I sign up (which won't happen, at least not for a while; I'll explain that next), I get a basic group tag, and really, that's all I have to do. I shop, I talk to folks, I follow sales notices; nothing really changes. If I sign up and then sign up ten other people--meaning, each one of them sends a notecard to Dare Munro with my name as the referrer and their desire to join the group--I go up one level, and get 5% of everything I spend in the store back.

Say I sign up twenty-five people to the group--I move up one more level, and get 10% of everything I spend back. If I sign up fifty people that's one more level, and I get 15% of all purchase funds returned. And if I truly lose my mind, and sign up one hundred people, I move to the last level--appropriately called "Cursed"--and I get 20% of all purchases back.

There's also a bit about, if you have these "circles" of people in your downlines, then everything they spend--if they spend anything at all--becomes a part of your total, and you can earn a (negligible, but definite) amount of their purchases per month, just for having them in your circle.

Okay, fair enough, it makes sense--but there is a catch. I have to keep these people to keep my standing. Each one of those ten avatars have to stay in the group. That's why he says sign up and maintain those people.

This brings me to my second objection--group space. Until (and I really doubt this will ever happen) the Lindens increase group space, group space is at a premium for most of us, and that premium is high. For example, let's talk my groups. In alphabetical order, they are:

*Delicatessen*: Part landscaping, part art installation; I got into their group right as their sim closed, and I feel honor-bound to stay in at least until they reopen after the rebuild. How'ver, if something else comes up that strikes me as more valid, this is what I consider a "mobile" group spot.

+ | DV8 Deviants | +: DV8 is latex, cybertech, futuristic hair and neko attachments, quirky steampunk outfits, and bizarre fishing frocks. They throw a lot of freebies to the group--in fact, I sacrificed a pick space to them (though honestly, I may end up ditching that at some point, because I wear the things I buy from them, and I tend not to wear--or keep--most of what Vasha throws in the picks prize giver)--but also, they have frequent discounts for group members, and parties. (Also, if I stay in the group, I feel it gives me some partial bit of 'bitching rights' over the Twisted hunts. That's pure undiluted justification, but it works for me.) This one may or may not be mobile; it depends on how I feel. I have left it at times, I generally join right up again.

::: B@R ::: VIP: If you don't know who Bare Rose is, wau, you live under a rock. Bare Rose is my second-longest running group slot. I've been in their group one year younger than they've existed on the grid. I adore them, their designs, and the people who run the place, and I've even made it onto at least one product box. (I think just the one, but it may be two.) Bare Rose I consider a non-mobile slot, which means I never leave this group.

Adam n Eve sachi Vixen update group: I joined Adam & Eve's group before I inveigled them into designing the 300 movie avatars and outfits three years back. But I was part of that promotional juggernaut, and because of that, and because I adore sachi Vixen and Damen Gorilla, this I consider a non-mobile slot.

Autogenica: This is Autogenic Alchemy, Mr. Allen's business. Considering the last update was back in January of this year, this is very nearly a dead group. But it's one I can't leave; unfortunately, since I set the group up for Mr. Allen, if I leave it, it dies. So this is a non-mobile group slot for me.

Caverna Obscura: Caverna Obscura makes lovely medieval fashions, fae fashions, and also tosses group gifts to their members once a month. In fact, the Lalaith gown is their October offering, and it is divine. For me, Miss Ewing is up there with Evie's Closet and Kouse's Sanctum. This I consider a semi-mobile spot--it's a group I like to stay in, sometimes have to leave, and try my best not to.

Distressed Textures: Jewell Lamourfou of Distressed does amazing work on wood, siding, and combined aged fabrics. (She does other great work as well, but those, she's stellar with.) I'm in and out of her main group; I'm always in her subscribe-o-matic. This is a semi-mobile spot--it's a group I like to stay in, sometimes have to leave, and try my best not to.

FallnAngel Creations: I have been in and out of this group, over the years, but I always try for more in than out (so to speak). I love Azriel's dress designs, I am enchanted and appalled at his art, his zombies are mass fun to converse with, and he's an amazing builder. Plus, he and Tomoyuki Batra represent one of the few long-standing SL relationships: they prove it is possible. Which is an excellent example.

This group wavers between semi-mobile and non-mobile; I want to stay in, and if I have to leave, I make sure as I can that I'm leaving before a group gift goes out--because I can't rejoin the group if one's out for the group members!

HAR Landgroup & Investments: At one point, long, long ago, I lived in Rivula. Very dear friends of mine, Hank and Alex Rucker, lived there too. I am still very dear friends with them, but I no longer live in Rivula, nor, once Rivula sold and Lunitarium was acquired, Lunitarium. How'ver, I'm still a land officer for the land group, and I won't give it up.

Independent State of Caledon: Do I need to explain Caledon to people? I still have one parcel of Caledon left; I suppose that means I can't leave the group.

Lucky Kitty Crew: Founded by one of the officers in Bare Rose, I joined her group back when there were maybe thirty people overall. There's more now, and there are people I don't get on with (and who don't get on well with me), but by and large, we stand by each other, support how we can, and make our way--cheaply if possible--through Second Life. This I consider a non-mobile group slot.

Octoberville!: Cannot leave Octoberville. I leave, I don't get my rank when I solve the puzzle this year. (Which reminds me, now that it's back on, I should kick myself into gear on the haunt, and get to solving Octoberville!)

Sanguinarius.Org for Real Vampires: One of the few groups I'm in that traces to an RL affiliation, as well. I could leave the group; I have problems with some of the group members; but by the same extension, I've had most of those same problems with the community at large. I am known and past known to be cranky beyond all reason on "otherkin" and other fluffy terms, and less than sympathetic to anyone who read Twilight and "woke up" to their supposedly "true vampiric natures". And I will happily kick people out of my way with a smile who say these things to me. Still, it's a group I feel profoundly uncomfortable about leaving. I class this as semi-mobile...but it's really not.

Sensual Paradyce: Sensual Paradyce is where the weekly (or nearly weekly) Wednesday discussions are held on BDSM practices, customs, traditions, fashions, and fetishes are held. I'm in the group in case one of the girls has to sub out; I can fill in as an alternate host. The owner, Dyce Underwood, also gives me an insane discount on advertising in the store, and considering that's practically the only advertising I do, I stay in this group. I'm also an officer, in case I am called on to send out a notice. So this is one I can't leave, either.

Shadows' Eaves: My land group. Really, enough said; I set the group up, it's what all my land is under, I can't leave it.

Solace Beach Event Staff: Job-related; the tag I need to work in the land office. I can't leave it.

Solace Beach Staff: Also job-related; the tag I need to build and/or repair/return built items by others in and around the Solace sims. I can't leave it, either.

Tainted Hunts: To get clues on the Hunt of the Living Dead. May or may not stay in after that hunt's over; they're encouraging people to stay in for more events and future hunts. Jury's still out, because, while I really like Yellow Jester and Mefo Alcar's design ethic--it would be yet another non-mobile group. Due to that, I'd call this one semi-mobile.

The Thrifty Goth group: Man, I'm conflicted about this one. I had to join the group because I had to be in this group to go on the Gother than Thou hunt, and some of those hunt items were well worth the aggravation. In return, though, I'm yelled at nearly constantly (not directly, but impartially; it still adds up) not to call from this store, or that store, or only call the stores on the list, or ask a mod before any call...and NEVER EVER NEVER to call anything furry, fae or neko.

I have a biiiig problem with that. When I have fur, I generally have pale fur and I dress in black. When I'm neko, I'm generally either black or white, even though I do have other skins. When I'm fae, I'm Unseelie. I not only know I'm gothic, I have been a goth for more than enough years to know exactly what it is. I resent being treated like a child and I further resent being told what I can and cannot call, based on whether someone else entirely thinks is--or isn't--goth.

I wrestle daily with the thought of leaving the group. I feel marginalized, institutionalized, restricted, and it's just not at all fun when you toss in the rampant spelling errors of nearly every single person not me in that damned group. If I get a good reason to leave--I am gone. But so far, it's still slightly less hassle to stay in than leave.

The Unknown Hunt: I'm in this group because my store's in the hunt. The hunt's over, I leave this group. This is a mobile slot.

The Woeful Wednesday Collective: I admit, I'm in this one simply because they're one with my ethos; items (that generally retail between L$50 and L$100) every week, from merchants I already favor. It works for me. I could leave this group, if needed, but right now I'm trying to stay in.

Twisted Thorn Textures:: I own far too many Twisted Thorn textures to ever leave this group. Besides which, they're a generally intelligent, helpful group of people who are great at pointing out where a certain sculpt might be found, or where a certain texture is in the now-sprawling complex that is TTT.

Victorian Shopkeepers Association: Founded by Jarl Otenth Paderborn, it's sort of the equivalent of Woeful Wednesday--only for Victorian/steampunk sorts, not goths. Tacitly, I have posting permission; I rarely use it these days because I haven't put out anything s eriously Victorian in two years. Even so, I consider it a group I would like to try to stay in.

Virtual Haiti Relief: Because they still need help. As long as I have a kiosk out, I'm going to be in this group.

Winterfell: Because I live there now. Because it's Winterfell. Because I loved it before I lived there, and I belonged to the group before I moved. NOT leaving.

By my count, objectively, I have sixteen groups I cannot--in my own mind--see my way clear to leaving, ever. That leaves nine, and of those nine, I really, honestly, feel I can only leave at will three. And I have to really be devoted to those three, because at least one of those is iffy. Maybe two of those, if you toss in Distressed Textures (because I am on her subscribe-o-matic).

I just don't generally have the room for new groups that would have to remain a fixed spot; I generally only take on new groups that may stay in a month to four months, then rotate out again. I'm always maxed out on group slots, it's an insane thing to ask.

That, plus the fact I just don't coddle people well, pretty much guarantees that if I want to toss Dare Munro press--and I mean good press, not this back-and-forth we've been having--then I'll go down and buy something and review it. I just don't see it happening. It's like Tiny Empires, Fashion Edition.

All that being said--and kudos to anyone who read all the way down!--I will say this: I admire Dare for not taking the quick way out and just finding an affiliate vending program, so his brand can join the hundreds, if not thousands, populating vendor malls that exist as nothing more than to make people incremental percentages of sales per month. That really is gaming the system; Dare's not doing that.

What he seems to be doing--and a friend of mine is joining the group, so we'll see how her experience jibes with this perception--is far harder, will take more effort, will take a lot of hands-on--but seriously, here: if SL is your RL income, you need to do something like this. It's this or taking the route June Dion and Adam & Even took--diversification. Used to be A&E didn't do shoes. Now they do. Used to be they didn't do landscaping, either--now they do.

For that matter, so does Dare Munro. Survivors are survivors not only because they live through the dark times, but because they keep finding new ways to keep living. So here's to Dare Designs surviving. Fight on.


Anonymous said...

This is a good post, and you should feel good.

I agree with you about group space. It is, as always, a perpetual problem. I'm at 21? groups myself right now and am always looking for ways to drop more if I can. I want to point out in that same vein that if all people are looking for are the sale/hunt/discount/newrelease/blahblahblah fishstick notices(and there's totally, utterly nothing wrong with just wanting that- if I wasn't on the administrative end of this new program that's what I would have done) that their best bet is to *save* their group space, go down to the store, hit the subscribo kiosk and they will get *exactly that*, without having to do anything else at all.

Emilly Orr said...

Which is also why I'm not leaving your subscribe-o. :p

It does lead to some duplication on occasion--being in your subscribe-o and the Thrifty Goth group, I get a lot of doubled notices now--but that's okay. I'd rather hear about things twice than miss hearing about things.

(And I did buy the Dangerous outfit. Tch. The lace pattern is lush, though.)

Anonymous said...

*laughing* So help me I think for real, I have to go *down to the store* to see which one Dangerous IS. We've reshot so many in the past six weeks or so that I can't remember which name is which.

Aside from correcting prim parts issues on the older outfits, as we're fixing/reshooting we're also trying to solve the inworld search issues, which as you brilliantly pointed out are a *real* problem for all inworld merchants.

You are 100% correct to point out that every single method by which merchants have relied on to get traffic/sales, have all been systematically dismantled and not replaced with anything *workable* by LL. I _get_ why they changed picks. I _get_ why they're changing inworld algorithms. I _get_ why they created the bot policy, and the pick/rewards ban. I *get* it. Honest. But what I don't get is why they haven't put anything in to replace it that actually *works*.

I think Dare is bananas to want to try to handle all this paperwork but he assures me it's not a problem for him. Hey- it's his coffin, he can do whatever he wants, you know?

(and then on top of that, they broke Marketplace, but Ive already screamed about that this morning.)


Emilly Orr said...

*facepalms* So of course I forget which creator I'm talking to. :)

I had heard Marketplace was non-workable from a tracking standpoint--as in, I go in, buy something, something's missing in the box; the merchant I'd send a helpful little request on to may have zero record of my purchase, even if I do. That makes it beyond difficult to track things.

But it's broken worse beyond that?

I'm still carefully keeping my pet theory to one side in all of this--the one that goes Everything over the past two years has been a systematic attack on creators so that eventually, the Lindens won't have to worry about user content because there will be no user content left. This used to be pure paranoid hyperbole, but the more time passes, the more it's sounding reasonable...and that's scary.

Anonymous said...

It's broken way worse beyond that. On the merchant end it's far more broken than on the buying end. The migration did not go very well. Several merchants (self included- and Dare as well) have to manually fix hundreds of listings. Further, there's issues with deliveries, tracking (as you mentioned) and payments. People are paying for items, but the lab isnt properly distributing the money, and since the tracking is messed up it can be hard to find.

There's no way to set up multiple stores under one name- so for example if you have a store that sells clothes, and one that sells, say... poses- there's no way to set up a separate store on Marketplace for each of them under your name. (that's what my post at NFTL was about this morning.)

A showstopper issue was reported months ago on the JIRA- there was a bug that allowed creators to rate their own items, completely gaming the system. When told about this, Brodesky Linden (who as much as people say that Jack is the most hated one, I think theyre wrong) obnoxiously said in public in the comments section that since they can't stop people from gaming the system in other ways, they're not going to bother to try, which made everyone go "You just said WHAT?"

Marketplace is *broken*. It will take me weeks to fix what theyve done wrong to my 568 listings, and I have no confidence that they won't do something else and wipe out all the work I just did (that happened to someone else this past week.)


Anonymous said...

just saw this in the incoming links: gee, i guess i should be thrilled you put me "up there with Evie's Closet" (imagine that! o.O ) who doesn't shun to "be inspired" by still more of my designs... How ironic!

Anyway, this week i closed free enrollment to my group so that those who only join to snatch a free ride will get bubkes this time...
Thnx for nice words though, i'm sure you meant it good.

Emilly Orr said...

I am so confused. I consider Evangeline Miles one of the premier fantasy designers in Second Life, with you and Kouse Singh at her level--all three of you produce stunningly crafted, well-designed outfits and accessories that can be worn easily in fantasy sims, medieval sims, or at home (my home is in Winterfell).

And, you'll note, I'm in your group; I don't have the group space to be in the Sanctum group, and Miss Miles decided to close her in-world group, so there's only the subscribe-o-matic for her.

But...if it's necessary, I'm sorry I offended you? I take it there's bad blood between you and Miss Miles?

If so, I'm sorry to have brought it up; the point of the post was not to single anyone out, per se, but to outline how few of my groups I consider to be 'throwaways', and how group space is ever at a premium.

sachi Vixen said...

I'd cry if you left, you are part of the 'family' you've been with the group so long!

Emilly Orr said...

Yes, but if I leave your group, I'm pretty much leaving SL! Which will likely make me cry a bit too.

Nah, I'm in to stay. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Emilly!

This is a terrific post and I appreciate being included in it, even if as a sidebar. You're very kind. :)

I'm not one to hold a grudge, so I'd hate to think that anyone believed I was holding one against the owner of Caverna Obscura.

You (and anybody else) are welcome to read Elvina's comments - left on my blog - and my subsequent response, for some clarification.

They can be found here:

I hope that helps, and thanks again for all of your efforts to disclose your favorite in-world groups and why.

Personally, I'm looking forward to Linden Labs raising our limit to 40!

Warm wishes,