Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'll pay you back in plastic eyes

The CAPTCHA system has been re-enabled; I just can't take the spam input on the blog right now. As fun as it was to translate from Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Korean and Portuguese into vaguely understandable, severely broken English, I'm giving up and declaring the battle theirs, and re-enabling the not-really-very-secure-but-better-than-nothing verification system.

In the meantime, what's happening on the Marketplace JIRA? Let's go see!

First of all, Josh Susanto is really starting to scare me. He's not been banned from the JIRA--yet--but he has been banned from the community forums, and it may well be because of messages like this:
1) San Francisco District Attorney's Office - Consumer Fraud and Environmental Unit 732 Brannan St., 94103 415-551-9595 M-F: 10am-12pm, 1pm-4pm
2) Small Claims Courts in San Francisco
Wau. Just wau. Insert sound of jaw hitting the floor here. As is somewhat well known, I've been annoying Second Life for six years now, if not more, and I don't think I've ever seen anything on the forums--or the JIRA--that drives people directly to small claims filing, or consumer fraud investigation.

MartinRJ Fayray gently pushed Susanto towards the rules of conduct on the JIRA, and Susanto replied:
Conduct??? Lindens need to start policing their own ranks at least as well as they intend these these fora to be policed, or the silencing of critics can very easily be construed as effort to conceal criminal activity.
He's really harping on this issue, that the severely broken state of the Marketplace equates to criminal consumer fraud. Does it? Does it really? I'm upset about this issue--I think I have good reason--but to cross that bridge into criminal action...yeah, I don't think I can do that in good conscience.

From Vick Forcella:
This is clearly a database issue. LL should advice Merchants not to touch their listings. That way it's easier to match the two (three or more) databases up.
It is clearly a database issue, which begs the question--why was Linden customer service telling people to delete the old entries, and remake new ones, if that just added to the problem?

This is another prime case of group A people not telling group B people what's happening, even when group B people are in a room down the hall. It's not like the commerce team can't just walk down the corridor and say hey--they're not in different countries, they're not even in different buildings.

It seems like Linden communication breakdowns also occur in-house.

Sera Lok again:
The only way LL could stop people from not touching their listings is to shut the Marketplace down, as was suggested by multiple people, multiple times, in this JIRA.

At this point I'm certainly not holding my breath for an informative/helpful comment from any Linden on this JIRA, or for the Marketplace to be shut down. Once again we are left to flounder around wondering what to do with little assistance or understanding from the Lab.
Pretty damned much, yeah.

Pearl Vollmar again:
We have all found out the hard way that not only it doesn't help, but makes matters worse.
And yeah, pretty much, that's it too--everything customer service has told people to do has just made it harder to fix the problem the Lindens aren't fixing in the first place.

Sera again:
I have mentioned above that I have already manually fixed several of my listings that I had power to do something about. Without any helpful input or any show of actual concern from the Lindens on what/why/how/when/where, for days and days and days, merchants cannot be blamed for trying to fix things themselves. I have done it because I'm tired of my storefront looking so sloppy because of LL's messed up policies/coding/lack of proper communication to its paying customers about how we should be dealing with this problem. Half the information we get from Lindens is incorrect or misdirected; it's just appalling that the CEO of this company has not stepped in to let us know why the communication is SO crappy, what is being done about it, and try to reduce some of the outrage and frustration resulting from what has become a ridiculous circus-like rollout of a system that's supposed to improve everything for everyone...
Hells, I wouldn't care if it's Rodvik at this point, I just want someone to step up and tell us what's going on!

Vick again:
Idea: if it's limited to a specified range of numbers, what would happen is a listing is withdrawn and [put] up again? Will it receive another number? Will others unknowingly step into the range and get their listing messed up?
I can't speak for everyone, but considering I just did this...When I realized all my Marketplace listings were dead, I tried to resubmit them, and they wouldn't go. Nothing. At all. I literally couldn't tie anything to the old Magic Box I had and push it through.

So I abandoned Lady Disdain, renamed the business, and converted to Direct Delivery, where my items listed in the 30xxxx cluster of the database. I can't be sure, because I can't see everywhere, but at least the few listings I show have not corrupted.

Sera in response:
I had several listings that weren't messed up that were in the 14xxxx range (see comment on this JIRA from 28/Mar/12 9:45 PM), that I unlisted and relisted (not deleted, though), because it was hard to tell which set of 4 items was affected... all of a sudden the ones that hadn't been affected had incorrect images. Heh. The listings do retain the same listing number in that case. Since then I have corrected the images where I can, but there is no way to fix the items that show your picture, but someone else's title, description, price, etc. I am not going to unlist and relist just to find out if my work gets reversed.

Sounds like you are referring to deleting an item and relisting it, which is against the Marketplace TOS, plus any relevance and ratings one might have gained over time would be lost. So it doesn't seem like a good way to go unless specifically directed to do so by LL.
It is? But to be fair, I wasn't deleting and relisting with my items; they weren't listed at all! Still, how many merchants now have deleted and relisted their items? Whether it's against the TOS or not?

Finally, CommerceTeam Linden chimes in again:
Updates have been made to support updating store search results, which we will process over the next week; we continue to work on the issue related to mismatched data on listings.
So, translated from the corporate:
  • Product mismatches might be fixed...maybe; check your listings.
  • They'll continue working on the problem and not communicating as usual. Carry on.
Which is...good? It's so hard to tell.

Then Josh again:
You can keep hiding behind that, CTL, but we know who you are, we know what you've done, and we know why. Your best option is to come clean before you get any deeper into legal trouble.
Did I mention Josh is seriously starting to scare me?

However, according to Josh:
That's the only way to get merchants to go back to the grid to rent land, making the oversized grid profitable again.
And I hate to say this, because it sounds like I'm supporting the paranoid conspiracy theorist that Josh might be, but...he just may have a point here.

With the advent of XStreet, and SL Boutique originally, it was a supplemental feature to an embattled grid. Most residents still wanted to shop in person, so both services pretty much functioned as catalog shopping in RL--we liked going to the stores, but in a pinch, we'd peruse the pages and order out.

The grid (slowly) became more stable, then the Lindens bought SL Boutique and made it not work. Then they bought XStreet and made that not work. We started going back to the stores again., pick a feature. Windlight. Mesh. Estate land. Mainland crashing. Instability from all directions. The grid was not reliable, and more of us started shopping online not just as a diversion of an afternoon, or while we were at work and away from the grid. We started using Marketplace, as broken as it was, because sims kept crashing, or our viewers wouldn't rez everything in we wanted; there was a multitude of reasons behind it. But it all boils down to it becoming easier to shop online than to shop in world, flat out.

So what's the end result? For a lot of reasons--not all of them financial, but in large part because both the SL and the RL economies tanked--people dropped their in-world stores, and/or sims, and--if they wanted to remain connected to Second Life at all at that point--moved their inventory over to Marketplace.

So. Pretend you're a company whose main reason to exist is selling virtual land. And, of course, protecting your company name and offerings. This is a stretch, but if you see a serious drop in sales of virtual property, and a serious upswing in online usage (over on-the-grid usage) hours...would you come up with a plan to try to drive the herd back to the virtual property?

But see, this opens up a whole new can of worms, because--and this is leading ever so directly into tin-foil hat territory--would your best option be to sit down and talk to merchants, and get an idea of how they wanted to operate? Or--and this seems to be Susanto's conclusion--would you try to deceive everyone, break things that merchants relied on to work, to be paid, concurrently to pay you and your company for virtual land and storefront property--just to get those selfsame people back into buying more virtual land?

I think, realistically, this just doesn't work. Most companies, by and large, go for the easiest option. This may not be the easiest option in the long run, but they'll generally go for what looks like the easiest. It's just how we're wired as a species.

I really, truly don't think the Lindens would have mapped out this convoluted, labyrinthine plan to cause months of economic instability on their own grid--seeing the end result of mass business closures, sim closures, and people abandoning Second Life once and for all along the way out of utter frustration--just to get people to rent more virtual property.

What's the easiest plan to get people to rent more virtual land? Lower rates you're selling that land for. Flat out. I just don't believe that the Lindens would be so arcane about this. That they want more people to rent land is a given.

That they'd break Marketplace and cut off 98% of all avenues of communications, and feed bad information to customer support in the meantime...yeah, that's the part I'm having trouble buying.


Sphynx Soleil said...

That they'd break Marketplace and cut off 98% of all avenues of communications, and feed bad information to customer support in the meantime...yeah, that's the part I'm having trouble buying.

I've seen this before with other companies. I *can* believe they'd be that shortsighted, especially if someone made a sell-a-freezer-to-eskimos quality sales pitch of "yea, this is a great idea" to management.

They call 'em pointy-haired-bosses for a reason...

Emilly Orr said...

True, but I guess I'm nurturing this feeble hope that Linden Lab is run by someone closer to Phil Knight than Dilbert's boss.

Of course, I've been wrong before...