December 21, 2009

Holiday freebie at K2 Gallery

Kristine has put out a very nice etched glass artwork freebie at her gallery. It features a stylized tree with two dark red ornaments and "kinetic" snowflakes (they fall slowly in the background). Stop by and grab it! (Make sure you check out her other pieces too!) It looks more awesome in person than this photo.

K2 Gallery

December 19, 2009

K2 Gallery - Etched & stained glass in Second Life

Taking a break from my last few rants against Linden Lab & their XStreet foolishness, I'm featuring an artist and her gallery! I first became aware of Kristine Kristan when we connected via Twitter (@Krix). She's funny, edgey and makes a cute kitty too. When I met her for the first time inworld, I found out she's also a wonderful etched and stained/fused glass artist in both real life and Second Life! Her virtual etched pieces have amazing details and often look like they are four or five layers deep.

Click on the photos above and below for full size pictures so you can see how much detail is in her work.

If you are looking for that perfect piece of art for your home or business or just want to see some very cool stuff, visit Kristine's K2 Gallery soon. She does custom work too!

December 16, 2009

An Open Letter to Linden Lab over its XStreet SL policies!!

This is essentially the contents of a notecard I passed to Pink Linden after yesterday's Linden Lab Commerce Team Office Hours (the 4pm session).


Premise 1: Linden Lab runs and develops Second Life to make money for Linden Lab. I have nooo problem with this. In fact, as long as you do it in a legal, moral, ethical and sustainable way, do more of it!

Premise 2: Linden Lab has some stated Linden ethics for operation (the Tao of Linden) that, at times, seem to be in clear conflict with #1.

Premise 3: There are good people who work at LL and there are also some ego-tripping control freeks who treat residents and their ideas as nothing more that dog doo.


If you are reading this, you are probably aware of the "Roadmap for Managing Freebies" as published by Colossus Linden in the official SL blogs.

If not, the announced changes are:
  • minimum commission charged on all items of $3L or 5% whichever is greater (vs 4% on everything)
  • listing fee of $10L/month per item for any item listed at $1L or more
  • listing fee of $99L/month per item for any item listed at $0L

The rationale for the changes is to "improve the shopping experience" by reducing "clutter" on XStreet SL.
Per Colossus:
We've received feedback from our users that the volume of free, cheap (L$ 10 and under) & stale listings in the Xstreet SL Marketplace did not make for an optimal experience for shoppers or merchants.
There are several problems with the above statement, the least of which is that Linden Lab really did not solicit feedback from ordinary USERS of Second Life. I can't think of a single user who would honestly say, "OMG, free and cheap items on XStreet are negatively affecting my shopping! I don't want them!"

LL certainly didn't discuss the proposed changes or problems with any shoppers that I know AND they only mentioned the changes in passing to a very small subset of merchants during a well-hidden office hour session (which only 40 people can attend due to SIM capacity).

In fact, most XStreet SL merchants, including myself, were completely caught by surprise over the announcement. There was never any attempt to solicit feedback through normal mechanisms (like polls or emails). Yes I'm a merchant, and yes, they have my email, and no, not one communication with me.


First, there are problems with shopping on XStreet but the solutions offered by the Lab will NOT address the real fundamental issues created by poor design and organization of the site. Using fee increases to solve structural problems may be more about short term profits than about actually making shopping better for users and encouraging long term, profitable growth in the XStreet SL marketplace.

While the protest against the new fees has been incredibly loud in the blogs, there is still a committed group of larger merchants with higher priced items who are strongly in favor of the fees. Probably since they will be the least affected by them and/or they will decrease the competition and/or they are part of what Prokofy likes to call the Feted Inner Core (people close to Linden Lab who get special privileges). Still, it's short-sighted.


What may actually happen from the fee changes are:
  1. A massive reduction in the number of good freebies available. Many merchants who are giving back to the community will no longer be able to afford keeping their freebies active on XStreet SL. There are many great building tools, HUDs and AOs that are only available as freebies because their creators GPL'd them. It will become harder to find some of these items since they will only be inworld. The result will be less new content (ie. from loss of building tools).
  2. Freebies will now be used purely as advertising items. That's bad.
  3. No more or a lot fewer demos for hair, skins and shoes. Many merchants have to have demos because their products aren't compatible with all avatars.
  4. Increased prices in general due to the listing fees and minimum commissions as merchants have to recover costs somewhere.
  5. Increased competition from other third-party shopping sites. Already many merchants have left XStreet and/or have relisted their items elsewhere.
  6. Reduced overall sales from XStreet SL if merchants leave completely.
  7. A lowering of confidence in using Second Life as a platform for new business ventures as the rules constantly change.
  8. One unintended consequence will be moving a lot of freebies into the $3L class where the item's sale effectively zero's out the minimum commission. HOWEVER, merchants may not realize that ALL these $3L sales will be triggered and reported to the avatar. $0L sales can be excluded from your popups.
  9. Should sales simply move to the $3L - $5L mark, XStreet will STILL be faced with a "clutter" problem.
  10. $10L per item per month is too much and it unfairly impacts sellers of low end items such as textures which often sell for $10L - $20L and are an important part of the overall shopping experience on XStreet SL. XStreet SL is an awesome site for selling and finding textures!! My guess is that once the fees go into place, texture sellers will be gone from XStreet completely.

So what could LL be doing instead of blindly increasing fees? Here are some of the suggestions that have been floated:
  • More categories and better categories.
  • Separation of freebies and demos within search (exclude them or include them in results).
  • Improved search (right now, it returns a LOT of irrelevant items). Add search by merchant, size/color, custom price ranges, title ONLY, perms, etc.
  • Allow multiple items within single listings (for example, color or size choices). This by itself would cut the clutter in the hair and apparel categories dramatically.
  • Better organization of the website itself. For most people, XStreet SL has become a more difficult place to shop since LL integrated it with the main website.
  • Real merchant storefronts with sub-URLs that show a merchant's entire line.
  • "Sticky" over-18 mature content selection.
  • Better listing tools for merchants.
  • Eliminate "stale" listings by expiring any item that hasn't sold for three months and deleting listings that can't be delivered for more than a month due to a missing magic box.
  • Allow real seasonal listings (Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc.).
  • Allow merchants to list products with actual keywords (limit of 10) instead of indexing to the description copy (which is easily gamed).
  • Stronger enforcement of keyword spamming and alt abuse of ratings.
  • Add a shopping cart and wishlist feature.
  • Integrated logins and logouts across ALL SL web content.
  • Fix broken delivery problems.
All of these solutions would "improve the shopping experience" without tampering with the existing economics of XStreet SL as Linden Lab is about to do. Yes, some may take a little work on the Lab's part and some will take a lot! However, in the end, if they make XStreet SL more successful, they'll reap the profits from increased sales. FURTHER, the Lab could THEN justify some level of increased fees since everyone will be benefitting.

What was telling from the office hours was that Linden Lab unveiled a plan to add a Wishlist feature by integrating XStreet SL with Facebook. Of all the priority problems XStreet has, this was surely one of the lowest on the list to be solved. Yet, the Lab chose to put resources behind it. WHY?


Even IF the listing fees are still viewed by the Lab as a first solution, they could be better structured that what is currently proposed. For example:

  • Tiered listing fees as a percentage of the item's listing price with a $5L minimum. I think 2% would be reasonable. List an item for $50L, it costs $5L. List one for $1000L and it costs $20L and so on. Any price change would trigger an new listing fee so you couldn't game it by listing low and repricing. I believe this approach would generate MORE $L for Linden Lab WITHOUT penalizing the low price merchants.
  • The only distinction between a freebie and a regular listing is price. It should be subject to the same listing fees above as regular items. $99L because an item is free is just silly. There are many good reasons for freebies that outweigh their possible negative affect on search.
  •  Listing fees should be charged bi-monthly instead of monthly.
  • Any solution MUST have a flag as "demo" feature or any easy way to link a demo to the main product so you can remove DEMOs from search. Honestly, they are more annoying to me than the freebies.

This is a huge risk for Linden Lab. As currently outlined, the fee increases are a MAJOR change and not an incremental one. They can't be tested. If the fee increases drive a lot of merchants out of XStreet SL, it will be very difficult to bring them back. 

I am convinced that, if the Lab were to approach this with smaller fees and a less drastic change to handling freebies, the outcry might be tempered, the risk of failure lowered and if it proves successful, they can insert another increase later. It will be about "what the market can bear".

Are the current economic times right for drastic, random and ill-considered fee increases? I don't think so.

Office Hours with Lindens AKA Land That Time Forgot!

I might just be tilting at windmills now over the changes Linden Lab is proposing for XStreet SL but I have this masochistic streak that just won't let go. So yesterday I attended the 4pm SLT session hosted by Colossus (Big Ava - Big Ego) Linden and Pink (Bunneh Cute So I Can't be Evil) Linden.

There were about 40 avas there including some well known merchants. One thing was clear -- save a few "Linden Shills", most of the attendees were not in favor of the new fee structure and pretty much everyone would far prefer LL devote resources to fixing things that are actually broken vs. adding new features into XStreet SL that may or may not have  real world benefit.

Yet, like good foot soldiers on the front lines, Pink & Colossus with, assistance from Grant Linden and those shills I mentioned tried valiantly to keep their picked topics on track.
  1. Making the XStreet SL Homepage look nicer
  2. Wishlists via Facebook
  3. Merging inworld accounts with xstreet accounts
  4. Improving search
With the exception of improving search, wishlists have never been on anyone's radar screen that i know. And while the homepage is a muddle, that too is pretty low on the priority list for most merchants.

Fixing search, improving merchant tools and getting rid of or modifying potential sales killing fees might just be a teeny weeny bit more important. But noooooo, we had to wade through a dull presentation of here's how we're going to screw you and why you'll like it. Any attempt to discuss the fees was dealt with by the obvious cold shoulder or by answering different questions that weren't asked. Lovely. It was a total dog & pony show only you didn't even get to ride the pony or pet the dog.

What we also saw where some strategically placed Linden Alts whose roles were to support Pink & Colossus with timely fan-boi comments.When an alt starts saying "well I know you Lindens have to get to dinner", you know the conversation is being "managed" to the extreme.

NONE of the tough questions any of the merchants posed regarding the new fees or how the would be handled were ever dealt with. In fact, they became officially "off-topic" about 1/2 way through the event. I think my funniest moment came when Pink asked if there were any other shopping sites we individuals thought were good examples for SL to use in developing XStreet SL.

I said yes followed by (something to the effect), "ONREZ, they had real store fronts, easy listings, search that worked, a simple interface, multiple select items. But then you bought them and shut the place down." I got a fair measure of applause and agreement over that.

The rest of the event was mostly Pink & Colossus figuring out new ways to dance around the same old issues. Even some valiant attempts at re-opening the process for new feedback went nowhere. Linden Lab is interested in your input only when it matches their carefully nurtured and insular world view.

So I wouldn't count on any brilliance out the Commerce Team. They've set their sites on a vision that goes no further than the tip of Mark Kingdon's nose. Like it our not, our shopping and selling experience is going to roll in whatever they decide, regardless of the sheer number of intelligent and reasonable people who've offered great suggestions as alternative paths. Disappointing yes. Unexpected no.

Any future office hours,  please bring your box of popcorn.

December 9, 2009

XStreet SL Changes Protest Kit

One of the many suggestions from other merchants that I found intriguing was to attend the next Linden Lab Commerce Team office hours in silent protest. You eat popcorn instead. The idea is that Teh Lab is not going to do anything based on what you say and you're screwed anyway so just register your displeasure.

For those that want to take this approach, I put together a little kit:

You get two t-shirts hastily made by me (full perms) and a bucket o' Protest Popcorn with a munching gesture (also full perms but only partially made by me). There's also a nice notecard with some thoughts, ideas and other crap in it.

To get your free kit, visit my mini-sky-shop here and snag it for yourself:

December 8, 2009

Linden Lab Office Hours for XStreet SL

All merchants who are concerned over the Lab's current direction with XStreet SL should attend one of these sessions. The official "topic" of discussion is "TBD" (haha). I plan to be there for at least one of them.

DATE:  Tuesday December 15th (next Tuesday), 2009
   -  Session 1 =  10am SLT
   -  Session 2 =  4pm SLT
   -  Session 3 =  8pm SLT
PLACE:  "XSTREET SL Garden Park" :

Here are a couple of freebie protest T-shirts on XStreet SL if you want to wear one to the office hours:

December 7, 2009

*Snickers* - Cobalt Butterfly Outfit

This is one of the first full outfits I ever made and sold in SL. I'm wondering how it stands up to current offerings. Personally, I think it's still pretty nice. The only thing I can see that could be improved a tiny bit is some very light fringing on the edges of the prim skirt. Comments welcome!

December 6, 2009

New Outfit - Inga Wind *Lorelai*

It's time I blogged about something less depressing than Linden Lab's latest ventures into stupidity soooooo -- here's another fashion writeup!

This new outfit from Inga Wind reminded me a little of a gondolier in Venice so that's how I shot it!

Unfortunately, I can't show as much detail as I'd like since it's a natural Windlight photo and not in my usual studio setup. Anyway, like all of Inga's outfits, this one is beautifully done with lots of attention to small details. It's also a departure for her since the outfit comes with HAIR (in both hat and no-hat versions)! And OMG, it's very nice hair! Not sim-crashingly prim-heavy and detailed like Damselfly but very pretty and it moves very naturally. Very similar to one of my regular hairs so it's a keeper regardless!

On to the other parts. The heels are dreamy by themselves with cute little bows and the pants have prim cuffs that blend in perfectly. The jacket uses a system skirt to flare the bottom which is a very clever idea although it can create very slight mismatches in color depending on the lighting. My only criticism is with the prim mini-skirt. Being a single sculpty, you have to be careful about your poses since your legs will stick out the sides in certain positions. But then, that isn't a whole lot worse than regular flexi prim outfits either.

Another winner for Inga Wind!

Outfit includes top, pants, glitch pants, prim mini-skirt, jacket, hair (with & without hat), hat and shoes.

Update template for my blog

Just curious as to what people think of the new look.

December 3, 2009

The "Merchants roundtable" in Second Life

In case you don't know, the "Merchants roundtable" in Second Life is a special non-public section of the official Linden Lab blogs where residents who sell things on XStreet SL supposedly discuss things related to XStreet SL. This is a short detailing of my experiences there.

First, a pet peeve of mine: failure to use the possessive form of a noun. It should be Merchants' Roundtable and, if you're following the naming conventions used elsewhere on the LL blogs, Roundtable should be capitalized. Oh well.

Second peeve, the LL blogs suck. They are extremely slow to load. The editor is buggy and the insert cursor is hopelessly jumpy. Threaded view doesn't page forcing you to look at thousands of posts in one long screen. Navigation is obtuse and, unlike the regular SL forums, there is no easy-simple-normal way to see all the sections for posting at once.

OK, 'nuff said about that.

My adventures into the Roundtable started when Colossus Linden dropped his bombshell "Roadmap for Managing Freebies on XStreet SL" into the PUBLIC section of the Commerce Forums blog. A friend pointed me to the post and after reading it, all I could see was red. As if the issues over Openspace SIMs, adult content and third-party viewers weren't enough, here was Linden Lab once again springing more half-baked ideas on the Second Life Community using what can only be described as the most arrogant, condescending, confusing and poorly-worded corporate double-speak I've ever read coming from a Linden.

I'll leave the furor and fallout over the post itself aside. Enough's been written on the official blogs and elsewhere about the consequences and merchant reactions to fill several novels. What really ticked me off was the Colussus announcing the Roadmap as though it was something most merchants wanted and that the whole idea was based on resident feedback!! Ackk!!! No one asked me for feedback. I hadn't heard of a single merchant saying, "Hey, LL, give us listing fees so we have to increase our prices."

Then, reading through the huge volume of (overwhelmingly negative) replies to Colossus, I saw another seller mention the "Merchant roundtable" forum. Huh?? I've been selling on XStreet SL since it was SLX and I'd never heard of that section. Nothing ever showed up in my Merchant control panel on XStreet about it. I follow the blogs & official SL Forums pretty regularly and this was news to me.

OK, so how do you get in? Hmm. Searching the SL website is no help. No answers there. So, another person in a similar situation asks the question -- how DO you get in? Answer? You have to file a support ticket! Then Pink Linden will give you the magic key. Yeah that's obvious.

I dutifully filed my ticket (and it's not really obvious which category the ticket is under) and, to LL's credit, I had access about 24 hours later. However, I've heard several stories about people who've applied and actually had their SL profile accounts messed up. Instead of getting access to the Roundtable, they've been shut out of the blogs entirely (bugs).

Now, once I'm in, here's what I found (and that's really the whole point of this long-winded diatribe):
  • A small but highly vocal "clique" of LL fan-bois & fan-grrls who possess the critical thinking and communication skills of a crayon. As a relatively newbie looking at how they post, I get the impression that they are more interested in currying favor and privileges with the Lab than actually paying attention to what the long-term ramifications of these new policies might be.
  • A small but highly vocal "clique" of anti-LL residents who possess the critical thinking and communication skills of a crayon. Many of these people will see evil in everything the Lab does.
  • Thoughtful discussions easily derailed by both cliques.
  • Almost ZERO participation by LL employees. They start threads, comment maybe once, then disappear.
  • A huge volume of rather spammy posts by two LL fans in particular who seem to have more interest in getting their advertising sigs repeated as often as possible versus actually contributing. No, I really don't need to know how great a creator you think you are and I don't need or want your fake food for my non-existent dining room or kitchen!! These two also manage to give new meaning to the word condescending.
  • Lots of "atta boy" and "I agree with this" posts.
  • Lots of extremely rude posts with foul language. I'm sorry but putting s*** into a sentence doesn't help your argument one bit.
My impression is that the Roundtable is like a grade school class where the teacher has left it unattended -- spitwad fights, hair pulling, yelling & screaming. It certainly isn't the professional, well-mannered island of logic I had imagined when I first requested access.

Oh well.