Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas To All!

Peace on Earth, good will to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Jingle My Bells

Dot Lane Wearing Fleur's Biba

So many posts to do, so little time to complete them, what with the holiday rush hitting from all angles. Still, I'm taking the opportunity to do a few quick hits before the holiday and first up is a reminder that Fleur has redone its Biba skins as part of the Allure line. I'm planning a longer blog post about Biba (which has long been my second favorite Fleur skin, after the Parfaits) but Fleur is giving out holiday gifts via lucky stocking and the stocking includes the limited edition Biba skin I am wearing in the photo above. I won't even tell you what I had to do to get myself taken off of Santa's naughty list so that I would come up a winner when I clicked the stocking. All of you nice girls won't have that problem, so go try your luck. While you're there, be sure to take a walk around the sim to see the new Biba skins. Best of all there is a huge discount if you buy skins using the Fleur card--a 3000L card lets you buy 6000L worth of skin and clothes. That's 50% off people, for the skins that make me a vision of wondrous beauty. And if I can look this good, just think what they will do for you! The gloves I'm wearing also came from the lucky stocking and really set off the dress by Yuli. The hair is from booN (duh!) and the lights nestled all snug in my curls are a group gift from Deviant Kitties. The eyes are a new group gift from Fleur.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Viral Marketing Strategy

For the past two Halloweens in SL, I have worn a collar rigged to give out candy if you click on it. This leads me to a question: have designers tried rigging hair, shoes, and other attachable objects to give out demos and landmarks? The script is easy and free, and it is simply a matter of boxing the demo and landmark together. While you wouldn't want to put it in every copy of every hair you sell because of lag issues, why wouldn't you rig your own personal hair this way, or the things worn by your customer service reps? I see it going something like this:

Person: "I love the hair you have on!"

Hair Designer: "Thank you. You can click it if you want and get a demo and landmark."

Person: "Thank you so much!"

How easy is that? The potential drawback is that I'm not sure about the ins and outs of transferring objects which contain no transfer items however--is this possible?

Now what's the flaw in my viral marketing plan? And has this been tried before?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fair Isle Fleur

Fleur "Fair Isle" Dress

While global warming might be raising the annual average temperature in RL, it doesn't mean that winter has disappeared completely. And, as the poets say, in winter a young woman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of chunky sweaters and woolly dresses. Thankfully Fleur has stepped up to fill a gaping void in my wardrobe by creating a set of Fair Isle patterned dresses and socks, with ribbed turtlenecks to wear underneath. To me, Fair Isle is one of the holy trinity of patterns, along with plaid and argyle, and I just don't see enough of it in-world. The new dresses are available in six colors and you'll want to wear them by the fire with a nice cup of cocoa. Best of all--you can get all the dresses, turtlenecks, (which will work great with other outfits) and socks for $1000L. You'll also want to make sure to see the new Fleur skins as well--I'm wearing Fleur's Vanilla Parfait Trois 4. A little birdie told me some selected skins might be on go try on some demos and maybe you'll find a bargain!

I'm also wearing hair and tights from booN.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dot Lane Takes The Dress Me Up Challenge

I have accepted Achariya Maktoum's "Dress Me Up Challenge"!

The rules, according to Achariya:

1. Post a picture of yourself in your underpants.
2. In this post, invite your readers to suggest a particular outfit (or hair, jewelry, shoes, skin, etc.) from a designer for you to purchase and write about. (Designers, feel free to suggest items from your own line - why not, after all?) People who respond should explain why they like these items.
3. In the next few weeks, look back over the suggestion list and incorporate these ideas into your regular blogging, marking these entries with the tag "dress me up." Post in as many or few suggestions as you want. It's up to the blogger's discretion to pick which items to wear, so no complaining if they don't pick your idea, K? :D


So there you have it, the floor is open for your suggestions dear readers. And yes, I already own a bag to put over my head so no recommendations for that, please.....

The Objects of My Affection

Giving Pancakes the Eye

Garden announced a group holiday gift a few days ago so this afternoon I made my way over to the store. While there, I found a table set with food and you know how I feel about pancakes. Any bets about whether or not I can eat them all?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Sachi Vixen and her partner Damen Gorilla are now making bonsai under the auspices of their Artis Natur brand, and she kindly sent me one which I promptly put out. I think the snowman likes it too!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Spirit? Well, Maybe....

Val Kendal Made A Stocking For Me

Christmas Lights by Deviant Kitties and Mistletoe by Chapeau Tres Mignon

Everyone is fortunate that the prim limit at my apartment keeps me from fully indulging in the spirit of Christmas, because God knows if I were left to my own devices my place would be full of blinking crap. As it stands, blinking lights stuck in my hair don't count against my prim limit, which is good because these Christmas lights from Deviant Kitties weigh in at 55 prims, but aren't they just the best? When combined with the high prim hair from booN, it means I'm giving everyone a big box o' lag for the holidays. You can thank me later. I've hung the stocking my friend Val made for me on my washing machine since I don't have a fireplace. I'm not sure if my washing machine is a teleport point from the North Pole, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I also put up my violet feathered Christmas tree from Schadenfreude. If you go to the store, you can ride a mouse which will take you to a tree farm filled with these lovely creations. Finally, if you see me in-world wearing my mistletoe, be sure to come get your kiss. After all, everyone deserves the oscular equivalent of a lump of coal because I know you're not good all the time....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tonight, On A Very Special Episode of Dot Lane, Girl Reporter.....

Dot Lane, Ready For Slings And Arrows

On Plurk, Sachi Vixen recently asked "if people think that the freebie/hunt culture in SL is damaging to the economy and to designers. What do you think the future holds?" Since Sachi and I have talked about this issue in world, and God knows I'm not shy about offering an opinion, I thought I would take a crack at an answer, free of the 140 character limit Plurk imposes.

Shopping and Self

Is shopping in Second Life® (SL) a transmutation of the real life (rl) desire to acquire? I'm sure it is, in combination with a transmutation of real life desires for attention and praise and beauty. I mean, really, why do you think I write my blog? I'm alternately embarrassed and secretly pleased by the praise I get. But this can be a difficult trap: one has to keep finding new ways of being fresh, different, not like everyone else. We regularly seek to reinvent ourselves and this means buying new clothes, becoming a space demon or a giant jello mold, or having sex with unicorns, among the myriad choices which are available to us. But after a certain point, we find, just as in real life, that our desires are limited by our ability to pay for them, except for unicorn sex, which is apparently always free.

As I noted in a post a few days ago, it is difficult not to feel overwhelmed in SL these days. While hardware and information distribution systems may be scalable, our attention span is not. Fashion Consolidated notices, generated through the group created by an SL business promoting new fashion releases, come out at an astounding rate when I'm in world, and I can only imagine how many I miss when offline. The number of blogs about SL appear to grow exponentially and most seem to be about fashion, but I have to confess I read very few of them, and, judging from my blog's traffic, I assume the converse is true. Then again, I've always considered myself to be the licorice of bloggers and something of an acquired taste, so I'm not surprised at my traffic, but the ever increasing demands on people's time makes it hard to build a readership no matter how well done or widely appealing one's blog is. What's that? Right. An astute reader just noted that, Sachi asked about the state of the SL economy, not my own personal issues, which are legion. I do think my experience points to a larger problem however, one that has a real world analog, and that is the idea that the increasing overload of information and shopping opportunities slows the SL economy by creating paralysis of choice.

(/me waits for you to read the New York Times article)

(no, really, you need to read it /me taps her foot and points to the link above)

(I know you know how to read, since there aren't any pictures in this post. Oh, you're done? Good. Carry on.)

How does paralysis of choice manifest itself in world? Think about what happens when someone asks you for fashion advice. How many times have you heard someone ask for the "best" of something? You can generally answer that question, perhaps with a few caveats, but at least you know what is best for you. Now think about the responses that same question gets when asked of the Fashion Emergency group. You may as well count the grains of sand on a beach.

What is going on? First, in SL, it is hard to know the universe of choices. Asking someone what "is the best [insert product type here]" , is a way of doing research, of making sure if one is going to spend money that ten minutes later he or she will not come across a better, more appealing choice. Second, asking for advice can also be a way of confirming preconceptions about a brand. “Oh, you recommend skin x? I've always liked their work too.” Third, and perhaps most of all, people, especially when new, are limited by their account balances and are afraid to spend precious lindens on clothes they won't wear or hair they end up hating or on something which other people think is uncool. Choices in world are virtually unlimited, and for things we don't normally buy in RL: skin, hair, talking private parts. If there were only three hairstyles in world, it would be easy to make a choice, when there are thousands, well, good luck. Have you shopped for black knee high boots? A little black dress? It's much easier not to buy and wait for the new new thing to come out and then not buy that either.

So Dot, What's Your Story And Do You Need A Ladder To Get On That High Horse?

When I was new in SL, I did the usual tour of freebie spots, finding odds and ends that seemed to suit my style at the various freebie stores, ragpicking through folders of full perm clothing people dropped on me, taking advantage of free skin and hair offers from places like Sin Skins and Gurl 6. I was essentially clueless: I hadn't even thought to look for blogs about style, and most people I met weren't particularly well dressed. There were exceptions however, and I was lucky that early on someone took mercy on me and gave me 5000L as a gift. With advice from a few people, like the girl at Popscene who told me about CKS Designs, and some investigation on my own, I started to build a wardrobe. Those early purchases are easy to remember--the “Tweed Mod” outfit from Tres Blah, the “bem querer” dress from Bossa Nova (now comme il faut), "Earthy" from CKS Designs--because each was made after careful consideration. I had to watch my pennies. It wasn't until I received a group gift from Tete a Pied (now Fleur) that fashion really clicked for me. Yes, a freebie changed my life.

But when thinking back about my early shopping, I don't recall many freebies in stores themselves. Rather, I think freebies were found at the freebie megastore type places or came via group gifts. In a way this makes sense, because stores presumably wanted to reach new players where they congregated, and a store owner couldn't assume the new player would ever find the main store on their own (has everyone forgotten exactly how bad search was in 2007?). It seemed to me at the time that a designer would make something simple like a t-shirt, a skirt, sandals, or a basic dress, and set it out in a box at The Free Dove or wherever and hope for the best. What changed?

The Rise of Freebie Culture

I suppose there have been freebie blogs since the start of SL, but in October of 2007 Creamy Cooljoke's Free*Style came onto the scene. I met Creamy in late September 2007, picking up a “Free Burma” t-shirt Iris Seale had made for Punch Drunk, and we hit it off and have remained friends since. Why do I mention this? Because, to my mind at least, Free*Style has become the dominant force in shaping freebie culture. I'm not writing this to be critical of Creamy, but rather to explain a phenomenon. I don't think Creamy had any idea what Free*Style would morph into: a taste maker for people of limited means, a freebie store, a group with almost 5,000 members, and a blog with some of the most stylish contributors in SL. Why the rapid growth of the Free*Style brand, which is coming up on a million page views at the blog? I think choice paralysis stimulates the desire for freebies. After all, it's hard to make a bad buying decision and suffer from buyer's remorse if something is free, and free means you can conserve your lindens. So freebies become a little hit of guilt free pleasure. Buy it, try it, trash it if you don't like it. Easy right? It is for the shopper, but what about the other side of the equation?

If you're a designer, Free*Style is hard to ignore. Given the size of the Free*Style group, the traffic to the blog, and the blog's syndication into the major fashion feeds, a mention in Free*Style has to be seen as major p.r. coup—I know when I'm mentioned in Free*Style, I see a significant traffic spike to my blog, and I don't even make clothes. Then think about the secondary and tertiary blogs, and then work your way down to Dot Lane, Girl Reporter. Most blogs which write about fashion cover freebies in one way or another and if you're a designer competing for the consumer's limited attention span, a freebie (or a review item, which I also have strong opinions about, but won't get into here) is a good way to do that but it had better be of high quality to get noticed. While there are some bloggers who will “poop rainbows” over just about anything, most are increasingly discerning about what they choose to feature. Do you see the spiral here? More designers making more top quality free items means it is less important for a consumer to become one who uses real money for purchases. In short, it is entirely possible to have an economy where more is consumed, but the total size of the economy stagnates.

But what else can a store owner do but get into the freebie game? Designers want people wearing their clothes, talking about them, and recommending them to their friends. Freebie promotion isn't the sole province of freebie blogs either. How many Fashion Consolidated notices come telling of new releases and an in-store freebie? There seems to be an expectation of free stuff these days, and anecdotal reports of people complaining about demos being priced at a dollar or wanting to know where a free gift is when a store has a new release only serves to reinforce the idea that something is rotten. A secondary problem is the 25 group limit. Freebies used to come more frequently via group gift but a the group limit again means stores are competing for increasingly scarce resources: one's group slots. It seems to be it would be much easier to just put a free gift out in one's store, and the let the fashion press do your promotion for you.

Adam n Eve is trying something different, a customer loyalty card in which one receives points for each purchase redeemable for merchandise. This seems to be a happy compromise. After all, many marketing experts will tell you that creating brand loyalty and word of mouth from satisfied customers are the keys to success. This program is in its infancy however, and there is no guarantee it will be successful and meet its goals. But at least something different is being tried. What other ways can content creators develop to attract and retain customers?

I consider freebies to be an amuse bouche, a treat given with the expectation that I will be buying a full meal at some point. One can't live on the free popcorn given out at your local bar. Eventually you're going to need to step up and buy a drink or maybe a meal too, otherwise we'll all starve to death at the banquet. Now I hear the complaints. They go something like this: “Oh, Dot Lane is encouraging mindless consumerism and SL should really be a libertarian paradise where people make what they need and don't worry about capitalistic concerns." Perhaps SL should be like that. But maintaining stores and sims and uploading textures and creating takes time and real money and that means at some point, consumers have to buy.

The Thrill of the Hunt.

When I first started SL hunts were rare and smaller in scale and usually confined to a single store or sim. I always enjoyed doing them, because they became a social event. You'd go with a friend and poke around a store searching and chatting while you did so. I particularly remember doing the Mischief “Panty Raid” with Kit Maitland, and it was a pleasant way to kill an evening, with the panties (most of which are lovely) being of secondary importance to the camaraderie. I don't remember when hunts became quite so epic, culminating in the ongoing Peace on Earth hunt, which has over 300 prizes. I do know that hung has been the source of ongoing chatter in several groups I belong too (I can't find globe 79...any help?)

Of course, there are cheat sheets which pop up almost immediately after a hunt begins, like new movie releases showing up on New York City street corners as DVDs the day after the movie hits the theater. I'm of two minds regarding them. First, if there is a hunt with over a hundred locations, chances are I'm not going to want 85% of what I find. A cheat sheet is a handy way to know which stores are participating and which I might be interested in. But cheat sheets also encourage a completist mentality, where one needs to have everything in order to have finished the hunt. As human beings we like order and completeness and a sense of accomplishment. But do we honestly need all of what we hunt for? I know I'm guilty of having things in my inventory from hunts six months ago that I have never opened—certainly this isn't the type of marketing boost stores participating in hunts are hoping for.

Can hunts be improved? Perhaps not, but there are other models for distributing gifts and getting traffic. The Creators Stamp Rally (CSR) is a good model, I think, of a way to distribute gifts. You buy a marked item at a participating store and then take the special card enclosed with the item to other stores to get your card "stamped". Once you've visited all the store, you can redeem your stamped card for a prize. The beauty of this is you can get as many cards as you want, but you have to buy an item to get them. You can also simultaneously wear all of the cards you acquire so you only have to make one circuit of participating stores. {Edit}: after more thought, there is another facet of CSR I like. Even though you may buy one item in one store to get a card to redeem, you can redeem it for a prize from a completely different store. It is this type of recognition of mutual dependency that seems to be missing from many of the hunts, an acknowledgement that the SL economy doesn't have to be a zero sum game.

Other hunts have more convoluted set ups, requiring some effort to complete the hunt. The Albero mall has had two hunts in which I've participated. You find numbered boxes at the mall, each of which has a word attached to it. You then go to the main stores of the shops at the mall, where you will find more numbered boxes. You say the word associated with the proper box number, and receive your gift. While time consuming (the last Albero hunt took several hours, and I had a little help) it slows the pace of frenetic acquisition.

Other hunts have successfully introduced an element of humor, like the D-Hunt at Blockheadsville which recently took place in a sim built especially for the hunt. In short, hunts should be fun and sociable, not a recreation of the running of the brides at Filene's Basement.

Bonus film clip of the running of the brides:

The Future.

Does SL end up resembling third world countries with an established oligarchy and a mass of poor residents?

Much of the problem in the SL economy lies on the demand side. People have wants, but they don't have the means. SL, for all of its ability to unleash the creative side of people to create what they envision, has very limited employment opportunities for those of us who don't create. Camping for 1L every ten minutes doesn't work, prostitution is legal but apparently high effort/low reward as the search for paying clients becomes more difficult. I'm not even sure how much models make. The lack of adequate employment needs to be addressed. But how? I don't really know. If waged employment isn't the answer, there needs to be an expectation that if someone stays in world for a substantial length of time, that they will eventually invest some of their own money in world and yes, that means the creation of a true consumer culture in which one uses money. Freebie culture militates against this by adequately satisfying many wants.

What would I do if I had a store? I'd set a few items for 10L or 20L and opt out of the in-store freebie altogether. I'd have a robust group gift program or rewards point system in which customers who bought something in the past month received items in group exclusive colors or designs, while group members who didn't buy something in the past month would be entered into a drawing with other non-buyers for the month to win the same outfit. After all, I want loyal customers, not people who simply join a group to grab the freebie (as an aside, why can't we have more groups? I'm guilty of group jumping from time-to-time but, before I leave the group, I try to buy something from the store as a mea culpa).

But really, what's a reasonable amount of real money for someone to put into SL? What is SL worth to you? $10 a month, which is the current cost of a movie in most of the United States? My own budget allows me to put $200 a year into the SL economy and I could go higher except that I've found that $200 satisfies my wants and even allows me to write blog posts bitching about how much choice I have. We're fortunate that Linden Labs® doesn't require a monthly fee for entry into the world. But think about that. Other online forms of recreation often require a fee to participate. SL offers so much and asks so little of us in exchange. In return, I would argue, we all bear some of the burden for supporting those who create what we value most.

And that is how I would answer Sachi's question, although I have much more to say on the issue and hope to get to it in future blog posts, so long as someone doesn't try to kill me for this one.


In the way of disclosure, I suppose it is worth reading this post of mine from several months ago. The only significant change is that I am now also a Fleur Insider. Needless to say, my opinions are my own and not those of any other person or store with which I may be associated.


Monday, December 1, 2008

The Dark Streets of London

The Black Canary's "Frigid Belle" in Rivet Town

Back home for a close up....

It's hard not to feel overwhelmed in SL these days. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, when I signed on I kept seeing between 70,000 and 75,000 users logged in, a significant jump over where SL was even two months ago, if I recall correctly. FashCon seems to have grown exponentially to judge from the notecards, store hunts are a permanent fixture (note to content creators: my rez day is 11 July, so you may as well start the planning the hunt for that important occasion), and more people are blogging and plurking and flickring.

My natural inclination is to shut down, clean my inventory, and putter about, hoping that the tidal wave of information doesn't drown me. I've been avoiding hunts and I've been deleting FashCon notices fairly regularly without looking at them, pausing only if I recognize the store or if the description really really grabs me. So I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the notecard from The Black Canary which came over the transom a few hours ago. First, the notecard was charmingly written and second, there was an outfit called "Winter in London".
Now, if I could choose a time and place to move to, it would be 19th century London, so I eagerly waited for the pic to load. An hour later (okay, okay, it was only twenty-eight minutes) when the pic had rezzed I saw a beautiful outfit that made me jump over to The Black Canary post haste. I decided against "Winter in London", but did buy the "Frigid Belle", another new outfit. The lucky chair also went into wildcard mode while I was there so I picked up another outfit and then, after TPing in Creamy to the lucky chair for a "C" (an epic fail on her part, since things didn't rez fast enough) the lucky chair went back to "D". Well now. That's certainly a sign of something.

As soon as I put on "Frigid Belle" (please, no jokes about how this might actually be an entry in the "Dot Lane Design Challenge") I knew I had something special. Beautiful fur trim, a grey wool coat and skirt with a sheer black crinoline underneath, "Frigid Belle" harkens back to a simpler time. And even though you might be as overwhelmed as me, I suggest a trip to The Black Canary and a visit to Rivet Town, where these pictures were taken, and let yourself be transported.

I'm also wearing Diversity Hair's "Ruby" (thank you Aleri!) which is currently a group gift with five colors in the pack, none of which are the black I have on, but you do get a blue-black version according to Sasy, who says I should have opened the group gift, but that would be like reading the instruction manual to something, now wouldn't it? Rezit Sideways gave me the White Roses Barbed Wire Tiara which is available from her Designs of Darkness store, and the skin is a brand spanking new (please note, no actual spanking took place) Fleur Vanilla Trois Parfait 4. Have I mentioned before that I love Fleur skins? I have? Maybe once or twice? Well, go check them out and the amazing new store which recreates Greenwich Village in the winter time.

Hat tip to Kaycee Nightfire for suggesting Rivet Town as a location....

Also, if you don't have it, you need to own The Pogues "Red Roses for Me", which has one of my favorite songs, "The Dark Streets of London".