Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well, everyone else has, so I might as well too...Xstreet


My good buddy Headburro has added his concise two cents worth regarding LL's fumbled handling of the Xstreet changes. He concludes that he doesn't like greed, and I responded, at some length (as I am wont to do). I've been think some more, and I decided that I wanted to expand on what I wrote, in part to try prune out some of the profanity (I'm trying, Rhia, I'm really trying). But I also want to be as fair as I could to the Lab, because after all, they are a necessary partner with us in making the platform what it is. The staff at LL obviously includes individuals of good intent, who work very hard trying to keep something running that is by now probably the coders' equivalent of Rube Goldberg's steampowered back-scratcher and catbox-cleaning device, Mk II. The bottom line is they need to make this turkey as profitable as it possibly can be.

So as far as greed, know, in a lot of ways, I’m ok with greed. It’s a wonderful basic human motivator. To a great extent I am much more conformable with LL displaying signs of good old fashioned, cold, hard avarice than I ever was with their whole laissez-faire, hippy-dippy love machine philosophy where they seemed to ignore or even buddy up with griefers, and evidently let key staff focus on their own priorities rather than focusing on what the customer base wanted or needed. Improvements, as often as not, were not something the general population really wanted or needed. Sometimes, yes they were great...but just as frequently, they broke something else when they were put into play.

This Xstreet thing is a bit different from those artistic and structural improvments that may or may not have enhanced the product itself. These changes may in fact actually serve to reduce clutter on the Xstreet catalog of content, and make looking for something more efficient. But is it really something the population was asking for? Or was it simply a move calculated to increase the profitability of the operation? Clearly the Lab folks did not handle this well from a customer relations point of view.

Look, I really have no big issue with them trying to maximize profits--HOWEVER, if they are going to embrace the Dark Side and try to squeeze the population for all the turnip blood they can drink, they really need to make sure that platform also runs reliably and smoothly, and issues with inventory etc. are resolved as well as possible. Otherwise all the turnips will eventually give up and go do something else in some other turnip patch.

Quite simply, an increase in the cost of utilizing the platform must be accompanied by at least some incremental improvement in how it functions, or eventually even the most hardy, dedicated customers will get frustrated and discouraged, and they shall migrate to bright, shiny new lands.

Go ahead and embrace your greed, but by golly, give me something in return.

Mind you, I say that with the qualification that this Xstreet fiasco is something that affects me in a largely symbolic way, rather than the very real way that it affects my friends and acquaintances who are content creators and who actually try to sell their products there. In fact, I personally always found Xstreet of little use as anything other than a convenient product catalog to search for objects that I couldn’t locate using SL’s wretched search function.

My usual pattern was this: I’d think something like, "Hmm I sure could use an anvil and forge," (just because a girl needs to treat herself to something pretty now and then). So I'd go to the in-world SL "search" function, looking for something like “Blacksmith” or "forge" in the classified and places sections. After I would end up sufficiently irritated and annoyed, I would then proceed to Xstreet, put "blacksmith forge" into the search box, get a long list of stuff, and sort through it. Once I had found some actual blacksmith equipment, I'd get the info about who made the examples worth considering, and then go look at them in-world. Finally, I would buy one directly from the maker’s store or vending gizmo.

But, If something I wanted was only sold on Xstreet, then I’d say the heck with it, I don’t need it badly enough to fiddle around with actually using the meshugga thing to buy something.

Well, with one recent exception.

The only thing I ever bought off Xstreet was, ironically enough, a freebie: Gigs Taggert's target overlay, a handy gizmo which allows you to make anything into an handy adjunct to shooting practice. I understood from various people you could possibly locate these in-world somewhere, but by golly, I never could find them. It was the only case where I actually really needed something that I could only find on Xstreet–and it just happened to be a freebie. If it had cost something, you know, I probably would have still gone ahead and coughed up the lindens for it. I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with giving folks who spend their time building and scripting something in return for efforts. But I really don't like buying things on Xstreet. I prefer seeing what I am purchasing in-world and thinking it over. This target gizmo really was an exception.

And as for the Lindens--just like I want to see success and profits for all the content creators, even people who make stuff I don't particularly like or care about--I want to see LL succeed. I want to see them attract and retain oodles of happy, shiny recreational users, like me and all my literary and rp buds. I hope LL finds huge stinking piles of lovely corporate clients who will buy their "corporate silo in a box" packages, so they can hold lots and lots of lovely meetings where the participants are able to go take a dump and get coffee in rl, while their avatars sit there and help create the illusion that someone actually gives a rat's tookus about what Lois from marketing is droning on about.

But if the Lindens are going to succeed, they need to be more thoughtful and less arrogant about how they deal with us, and how they look at their product and their customers. I have said it before and I will say it again up until my avatar's de-rezzing day: they need to genuinely and sincerely try to get in touch with who their customers are, and seek to understand what we want and need, and to grasp how we are seeking to make the most of their product.



  1. Hey, I never said you should cut down - go with your strengths, I always say. Rather, it's a useful exercise to have to constrain yourself that way every once in a while. Sort of like writing a story without using the letter "e." But perhaps harder. :)

    I hate to gang up on Mr. A, but I agree that greed isn't the problem. Greed is just peachy keen in an economy that relies on producers figuring out how to separate consumers from their money. Without greed, we're all just fibbing about the latest Five Year Plan. But yeah, if a seller wants to charge more for its product, it needs to convince its customers that the extra cost is worth it. (Or just be honest and say that the previous owners were running the business into the ground by not charging enough and, by God, we're going to make some money at this.) And the Lab hasn't done a good job of that so far.

  2. Hey Rhia,

    Listen Hon, I know it's a good thing for me to try to forswear swearing now and then--yeah, it builds character, or strong bodies 12 ways, or something like that.

    It's just that cussin' is so much dang fun. And in certain circumstances I find it can lighten the heart and help you to get done that which needs to be done.

    But anyhow...I hope when Lindens look at the spleeny crap that gets written by some frothing, flap-mouthed old harpy like myself, I hope they don't take this all too personally...well, except for the ones who actually are arrogant, dissembling clotpolls. Like whoever was responsible for how this whole Xstreet thing was handled.

    Yeah, you. You should definitely take this personally whoever you are. Do what you gotta do, but don't be a condescending douche in the process.

    On the whole, the dedicated user base of SL--the people who have figured out how to make it work for them in positive ways and have stuck with it--those folks are extremely bright, creative,and aware. In many cases they are downright goddam brilliant. Don't try talking to them like they are slack-jawed dolts who were somehow foolish enough to use your product.

    I swear, it's like the intelligent core of the user base has more respect for the product than many of the Lindens do. It makes me wonder what percentage of the folks working at the company actually use the product themselves in anything like the intensive and inventive ways that so many of the customers do.

    And yes, Rhia, you really hit the nail on the head. If they feel they need to do something that is going to be unpopular, or change something that will be hard on us, or charge more, or whatever, they need to just frakkin' man up and be honest and direct about it.

  3. Gang up ladies, I can handle it!

    I'm a dreamer - and a lefty too, Rhia ;-) so I'm cursed to always want the best of humanity to come out even when I know that's not going to help matters :)

    I still don't think greed is good - the desire to make money, yes, but greed blinds people to what is the right thing to do. And I mean the moral right thing to do, a hard concept to define I know. Bottom line, clean up Xstreet and charge, but run a loss making service for freebies and the like. Fuck me, it's not like they ahve a shortage of computers is it?

  4. Oh hell's britches Hon, the fact that you're an idealist is one o' the reasons why I love you, ya big fuzzy lug.

    I find myself sometimes being too much like Homer Simpson on that memorable occasion when he told Lisa, "I understand honey. I used to believe in things when I was a kid."

    It's rather sad that I have no illusions that a company like LL isn't someday going to sneak up behind us, shit in our hats and then laugh uproariously when when we try to put them on. Especially having lived through the extended conceit-driven, hate-filled cluster-fuck that was Electronic Arts running The Sims Online, I have little faith in the sorts of people who seem to be calling the shots at Linden Lab. But shit, to be honest, I think I was even more distrustful when Phillip was in charge, running things with his own wacky mixture of genius and incompetence, hippy ideals and narrow-minded elitism.

    The ironic thing here HB, is that I really believe that for LL to "do the right thing" as you call it, would not only be a moral victory, ultimately it would be the most profitable course for the company to take. Listen to the customers, respect them, understand them--find out what they want and what they need, and above all, don't fucking lie to them. Do so and they shall stick with thee and forgive thee thy many asset server well as the fact that if they are happy and not continually hopin' and prayin' that something better will come along so they can jump ship, they are going to be your best and most cost-effective advertising medium. LL's bottom line would be greatly helped by positive word of mouth generated by hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers (many of whom are the academics, educators, government folks and businesspeople who could potentially bring in their organizations as those lucrative, big ticket customers).


    Idealism and the bottom line don't have to be mutually exclusive.

    Just don't change HB. Keep believing. Cuz if you stop believing, Tinkerbelle will fucking die.