Tag Archives: commentary

On the hunt part 1: suggestions for merchants

Today is the first day for the TOSL Hunt, which appears to be one of the best hunts so far this year in terms of quality and quantity of items. I began the hunt this morning, and immediately this topic came to mind for a timely post.

This post’s focus is on what merchants could do to improve the hunt experience, both for themselves and hunters. The follow up post will be about how hunters can contribute to a better hunt experience (both for ourselves and for others).

Merchants: leverage the hunt!

I’m sure many merchants join hunts to increase their visibility on the grid. However…IMO most merchants don’t build on the visibility as a means to drive business and increase their customer base. Or maybe they just don’t know how to do that. Here are a few suggestions on how to further engage  hunt participants and use the hunt to drive more business.

  1. Your group joiner should be very visible, either at what is clearly the “hub” of your store layout, or at the entrance. It never ceases to amaze me how many merchants don’t do this.
  2. Consider displaying a very appealing group gift next to the group sign as an incentive to join the group.
  3. If your group is normally fee-based, consider temporarily dropping the fee, and use signage to indicate that promotion.
  4.  If it’s not against hunt rules, how about including a gift card in the hunt prize? You’re giving the hunter an incentive to revisit your store!

And finally…here’s a big one, and one that shocks me when I consider how seldom it’s tried. You’ve got increased traffic into your store, so how about doing something special to tempt those hunters to…you know…buy something?

Most of the time I see this idea implemented, it’s signage for a store-wide sale, or a clearance section of the store, and that’s not bad, but there are other things that could be done.  Like putting some very appealing creations on sale for an appealing price near the “hub” of your store layout, or near the entrance. Or, even more radical, make sure there’s some kind of special, appealing promotion near the actual hunt item!

And on the topic of the hunt item and it’s location…

Merchants…don’t frustrate current and potential customers!

Ask yourself why you are participating in the hunt. Is it because you like hunting? Possibly, but I’ll bet most of you also want to increase the visibility of your business and drive sales. Well, frustrating current and potential customers is detrimental to improving sales. Therefore, you need to consider how you can encourage a fun hunting experience and NOT frustrate hunting participants. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Consider your landing point. There may be reasons why you can’t change your landing point, but if that’s something you can control, your landing point should either be the entrance of your store or the central “hub” of your store. I know some merchants have a ton of land and want to show off their big majestic entrance, but guess what? Tick, tick, time is passing, and the hunter that is new to your store is confused and getting more aggravated by the second.
  2. Thinking about putting the hunt item on the second, third, or higher floor? Think again. What do you think you’re going to gain by putting it there? I suspect that a lot of hunters abandon the store after going through the first floor.
  3. You’ve got all these ideas for hard-to-find spots for hunt items. Step back for a second and ask yourself WHY you want to make the item that challenging to find. Yeah, you might get kudos from a few people regarding how clever you are. On the other hand, you’ll frustrate tons of people trying to find that item, and it’s unlikely those people are leaving your store thinking how great it is. Trust me on this, I’ve been there, many times, and my frustration was shared by many others.
  4. On the subject of hints…there is an art to coming up with a hint that gives most hunters a good clue, without completely giving everything away. Here’s a point where you can be really clever. But don’t make it too obscure or difficult to figure out. Here’s an example I’ll throw out that I used to help a fellow hunter on a recent hunt – “Your camming skills need to be in good SHAPE to find this gift.” Now right away, the other hunter knew that they would need to use the ability to move the camera view (camming) to find something that was hidden. And that it would be hidden somewhere around a shape for sale (this was a skin and shape store). For a general audience, my hint should have avoided the term “camming” because many people wouldn’t have understood it.

And finally, since that hunt prize may be the first item someone tries from your store, make it a good reflection of your creativity and quality, and make it something that is visually appealing. It seems to me that in most hunts, somewhere between 40% to 80% of the prizes are pretty blah (From what I’ve seen of TOSL, that does not seem to be the case). Remember the reasons why you are participating, and don’t blow the opportunity with an unappealing or low quality prize.

Next time…how hunters can improve the hunt experience!

Integrity in a Vitrual Universe

The story of U.S. congressional representative Anthony Weiner has dominated news in my country for the last week, as well as provided tons of fuel for late-nite talk show comics on television. Much has been said, and there’s likely much more that will be said in the coming weeks – in congress, on television news, on radio talk shows, around dinner tables,  and throughout the internet.

I’m going to take a little different approach in my discussion here, bringing the topic around to a bigger issue. The Representative’s behavior occurred within the context of social networking, which is closely linked to (and related to) the virtual universe of Second Life. While Rep. Weiner made no effort to hide his identity (which actually may give us a lot of clues regarding his psychological state), many others engage in similar behavior behind the apparent anonymity of the internet. Many people even “try on” behaviors that they would never be associated with in the non-virtual world. And that brings me to the topic of this post…

What does it mean to be a person of integrity in the virtual world?

Is that something important to you personally?

I’m going to be focusing on this topic for some upcoming posts. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts,  you are welcome to add your comments.  I encourage you to explore this topic, or similar topics on your own blog as well.

Get out now!

A reminder why it’s not a good idea to make the rounds of SL’s Friday deals at 3:30 am, when your dogs have woken you up so you can let them out, and you are still under the influence of the Ambien you took last night…

A certain merchant in SL is participating in two weekly events that begin at 12 am on Friday mornings. The SLURL to that merchant’s store is listed on the blog pages for both these events.

This morning, at 3:30 am, while waiting for the doggies to finish their requested bathroom time, I decided to visit said merchant’s store and hopefully purchase one of those special deals.

I teleported…twice at least. Fell through the sky and landed on the ground. In a garden of some kind. Started going through anything that looked like a building. The area (not sure it was an entire sim) was named the same as the store’s name.

I came to one big building. Meanwhile, in the non-virtual world, my dogs barked to be let in. I let them in and went back upstairs to sleep.

A few hours later…when I normally wake up…I come back down, and see that SL is still open on my computer. I sit down and look through the building. It looks like it could be a store, but I don’t see any merchandise.

Sometimes stores have lobbies, so I keep looking.

And then I see the avatar standing in the room.

A few seconds later, I see an avatar…and an IM comes up on my SL client, demanding that I leave immediately (or be banned). And letting me know that this is a private residence, not the store. With exclamation points and the like.

Oops.

So the  SLURL was wrong  (it was the same on BOTH web sites, for the two different weekly events)…maybe the store is in a skybox and the SLURL is just a little “off”?

Who really lost out here?

I don’t think I did. It was a pretty outfit, but there will be others, from other merchants. And while I don’t relish potentially being banned anywhere in SL, I had no intentions of causing harm, and I can live without going back to that store.

The person who lost out was the merchant, who lost my business today. It would be so ironic if the avatar I saw in the private residence was actually the merchant themselves. I may never know if it was.

If the merchant and/or resident,  reads this, please understand that I am sorry, and I did not mean to intrude. I just don’t think I’m going to try to go to that shop any time soon.

Pop and Sizzle Update

I think we fared about as well as I could hope.

Most of the damage from the lightning strike  was to Verizon’s equipment. We had to call them back a second time because they had enabled internet and tv access but not the phone, which we didn’t think to check at the time. They had to replace components in our garage and in their main “box” at the back of our yard.

However, Ethernet is definitely dead on my Mac Mini and that’s likely a damaged motherboard. I’ve canceled my appointment at the Apple Store but will ask them about it when I bring in my younger daughter’s laptop for an appointment this week. WiFi is still working on the Mini but it’s not as fast as Ethernet.

I’m still moving forward on my project and have been posting some teaser pics on 117Prims. The first houses should be for sale on the SL Marketplace later this week.

Pop and Sizzle

So, there I was, sitting at my Mac last night, working in Second Life on color scheme #2 for my top secret project, and the second wave of severe thunderstorms for the evening hit our area. As the thunder got more intense, I decided to shut down the computer till after the storm passed.

Suddenly there was a loud POP and the computer’s two monitors went blank. I powered down all the computer related stuff, and looked around the room.

The television set was on but FIOS was not showing up (for those who aren’t in the US, Verizon FIOS is like cable but a slightly different technology…our family gets “cable” TV service, internet and phone from them). The router, sitting on top of the entertainment center, didn’t have all the typical lights lit up. Turning the cable box off and then back on only produced a message telling me to call Verizon and giving me a bunch of codes to feed back to them.

Two hours (and two phone calls with Verizon tech support) later, it was determined that a lightning strike had taken out at least some of the Verizon hardware.

Of course, the Verizon people in this part of the US are rather busy right now, because of all the weather-related issues, so it will be tomorrow before a tech rep is able to come to our house.

A few  questions remain…the Mac Mini is booting up but not sensing that it has an Ethernet connection (it can still “see” the router via WiFi but not Ethernet). Did the lightning strike go through the router and along the Ethernet cable into my Mac? And if the Ethernet connection is burnt out, was anything else inside the Mini affected by the strike? An appointment has already been set for the Apple Store on Monday.

And, the power outlets in my garage, where the Verizon FIOS battery backup was plugged in,  are out too. A tripped GFI outlet? Or did the strike blow out  those outlets? After the Verizon repairman comes, I may have to call an electrician. Tonight I go through all the house checking outlets. Oh, joy.

“However will you stand being unplugged from Second Life, Mom?” my older daughter asked when she called in from college. I told her I could well manage that for a few days (I was planning to unplug for a short break after finishing my project). What does bother me is the impact of suddenly disconnecting from always available  internet and cable at home. The TV in the family room was purchased pre-digital TV days, and we don’t have a converter box for it, so it’s basically dead till the FIOS connection is fixed.  The TV upstairs is digital, so I am scanning for local over-the-air stations, only to find out the antenna currently connected to it is so weak it can’t pick up the local NBC affiliate (at least 30 Rock is not on this week).  My husband is used to coming home from his work-related travels to find all the TV shows he likes recorded and waiting for him.  I have gotten  used to watching television On Demand if there’s nothing interesting live; of watching TV and movies on the internet (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)  if there’s nothing interesting on television.  I expect to wake up in the morning and turn on a news channel, to check my email any time I’m at home, to purchase a song, show or app via iTunes whenever I think about it; and, yes, to connect to things like Second Life when I have the time.

And Dear Daughter Number Two called me this morning asking if I could come home at lunchtime and “fix the internet.” Nope.  Sorry. You’re just going to have to unplug for a few days like me. Bummer, I know. Pick up one of those rectangular shaped things called a book, and savor the disconnection while it lasts.

It could be so much worse. There have been a number of tornadoes spawned in the last few days by that weather system as it moved from the mid-west US off the east coast.  Many people had extensive damage to their homes. We’ve just been inconvenienced.

As for me, the project will be waiting till I get back to it, unless Linden Labs looses that part of my inventory. And…maybe it all will work out better, to release it after the Halloween frenzy.

A few comments for event attendees and designers

Ampersand Artful over on The Rumor blog has a few reminders about how to do your part to prevent lag at events like Hair Fair. This may be far from the last comment of this nature that we see on the feeds. I noticed this weekend at Hair Fair that a good number of people really seemed to be losing patience with those who may be contributing to lag. I didn’t see any physical smackdowns, but I sure saw a few verbal smackdowns in local chat! It’s a good idea to remember that among the high-prim-wearers are the uninformed as well as those who are doing it deliberately.  At one time each of us was ignorant of the whole ARC thing.  I’m glad Ampersand’s post had more of an educational tone to it. I noticed that participants in some of my in-world groups were also trying to spread the word in a non-threatening manner. I ended up wearing jeans, a simple top, and a makeup-layer hair base from Tiny Bird in order to get my ARC number down.

I’m not sure how I feel about the design and layout of Hair Fair. I appreciated that it was more minimalist than many recent events, and that things were laid out on some kind of grid.  However, all the winding through booths was confusing. And without some kind of guide/map to the Fair, I have still not located several of my favorite hair vendors. I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it now…organizers of big events should publish a legible map of the event on their event’s web site. And make it a PDF so we can zoom in to read it! It’s not a difficult thing to do. Given the unavoidable lag that attendees are going to have to deal with, can’t you organizers do this one thing to help us find our favorite vendors?

Of course Hair Fair wasn’t the only big event this last weekend. In addition to normal weekly promotions, there was also Designers United and Project Donate. I felt that Designers United is a stronger event from the perspective of consistency of quality merchandise.  I certainly spent more there, and contemplated buying even more.  OTOH, Project Donate is for such a worthy cause (relief to flood victims in Pakistan) that I encourage everyone to at least find something there to purchase (and you likely will, there are many nice quality things there, it’s just that there are also overpriced lower quality items as well).

A final point, and this is something that bothered me both at Designers United and at Project Donate. I am sick and tired of designers slapping out slip dresses, tube dresses, and cami-topped sundresses as if they are doing something appealing and unique.  I have dozens of these in my inventory already, and I will not purchase a dress in these styles at this point unless there is something extremely different and unique about it (texture, details, etc.). I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Designers, please get over it, and move on. Please.

Hey, Linden Labs…want to make SL fast, easy and fun? Then tackle inventory management!

It seems like these days I spend most of my time in Second Life attempting to organize and sift through inventory…and admittedly, I am loosing patience with not being able to get better control over it. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest weaknesses of Second Life This issue is so frustrating that many SL users just give up, create a new alt avatar, and start fresh. The existing inventory management (or lack thereof) is also a frustration for new users.

If I was Phillip Linden, I would consider this issue one of the greatest barriers to making Second Life “fast, easy and fun.” I would be directing my development teams to look at different ways of organizing user content – from the desktops of operating systems, to software like iTunes, to Content Management Systems, and figure out…what are we missing here? What can we give the end user that would make managing their inventory easier? What can we build into the software to make the ongoing experience of acquiring and using inventory better, faster, and easier?

What I think is needed is to extend the taxonomy-related information for user created content, and then to develop the means within the Second Life viewers to take advantage of that extended taxonomy.

A taxonomy, for those who aren’t familiar with the term,  is a structure for organizing information. Online catalogs have a taxonomy (departments, types of items, etc.). And yes, XStreetSL/SL Marketplace utilize a taxonomy. When you, as a computer user, go on to your desktop and arrange files and folders in a way that makes sense to you, you are creating a taxonomy.

There’s already a limited taxonomy built into Second Life objects – one that recognizes that a notecard is a notecard and not a landmark, for example. Other information that is already attached to items includes content creator, content permissions, etc. Prims that are part of an outfit have a default attachment point. For apparel and body parts, standard “types” exist (jacket, pants, skirt, sock, skin, shape, etc.) and items are tied to that type whether the item name identifies it or not.

How could  an extended taxonomy benefit a typical  SL user? They could recognize immediately what category a box or a folder falls into without having to open and investigate the contents.  A user could understand what objects belong together at a glance. A thumbnail image could be directly tied to a group of inventory objects instead of just sitting in the same folder with them.  . Prim attachments could have a “type” attribute (necklace, hat, shoe upper, etc.)  in addition to the existing attachment points information). And every individual item in outfit is tied to all the others, from an inventory perspective, so the item knows where it’s “home” folder is located. That doesn’t prohibit ditching the one skin shade out of a fat back that you as a user can’t stand. It simply means that while that skin shade is in your inventory, it’s “home” folder is the one with the related skins.  “Take” a rug back into your inventory from your house, and you have the option to either take it back to the default folder (Perhaps Home Furnishings > Rugs), or the user-created folder where you manually moved it a few days ago (Home Furnishings > Victorian > Rugs > Green)

Customize the organization as much as you want, but when you click the “clean up inventory” button, the objects you have in inventory return to their default folders.

Looking to SL Marketplace provides a starting point for organization of items into categories.

Tagging would further assist end users, as well as content creators,  in inventory management. Styles, colors, etc. could all be identified through tagging. However…it is important to remember that free form content creator tagging (vs. directed tagging) does not necessarily produce consistent descriptors (“Pink” could be any color from a light baby pink to fushia).

And while we’re at it, how about standardization in naming objects? Shouldn’t a hair always have “Hair” in the title, regardless of what else the content creator wants to put in the name?

The idea behind this improved taxonomy is NOT to replace custom user organization. It is to provide a starting point for organization and a means of users more easily finding content.  Linden Labs could go a long way towards making Second Life more “fast, easy and fun” by focusing on improving how users interact with inventory items.