Iris Rants: The SL Marketplace's Mad Men-Inspired Mad Style Featurette is a Mad Failure
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of virtual world and MMO fashion
I was pretty excited when I heard about the Mad Style promo that would be running on the Second Life Marketplace. There's a lot of great retro and vintage inspired fashions in SL, and I'm always on the lookout for new stuff that can be incorporated into any of my possible future Mad Men-inspired avatars. Unfortunately, in spite of the adorable Mad Style banner which evokes the theme almost perfectly, the contents of the Mad Style feature are a complete and utter fail. It also illustrates poor communication and categorization on Linden Lab's part, two problems that are hurting the Marketplace.
Let me explain:
Few Were Told About It -- Including SL's Best Retro Designers
The first problem is communication. The only official mention I can find of this promotion is a locked post on the SL commerce forum, which not only limits peoples ability to ask questions about what does and does not fit the theme if they aren't sure, but only reaches a fraction of the audience that would be interested in participating. A forum post is a great start, but a blog post is better.
Better still would be IMs or notecards from the organizer to designers whose work fits this category naturally (and there have been plenty of Mad Men inspired posts beyond my own to research for these applicable designers.) This probably accounts for why virtually none of the designers or brands that I associate with retro fashion in SL are accounted for in the Mad Style featurette-- they just didn't get the memo. These stores (like Artilleri, Icing, Ingenue, and Ivalde for example) would be at the very top of my list if someone asked me to reccomend shops to kit out a Mad Men inspired avatar are conspicuous absences in this feature. It's not just the absence of key brands that's spoiling Mad Style, though...
Poor Keyword Categorization and No Human Filtering
I'd really like someone to tell me which of the items listed above evokes Mad Men even a little bit, yet all of them pop up when you're sifting through the Mad Style results. I would expect a few items to have slipped through the cracks, but the fact is that the vast majority of the products featured in Mad Style could not be farther from the intended theme. Results that are on theme are in a tremendous minority, and tend to get lost in seas of slutwear and trash.That may seem overly harsh, but I'm not mincing my words here. This is such a wasted opportunity and it drives me crazy.
Here's the key problem: Vendors were asked to put a keyword in their product listings so it would be included in the featurette. All that clicking the Mad Style banner does is do a keyword search on the Marketplace for "madstyle", with no human filter in between the vendors and us. I don't know how many of these people were confused about the theme, were using "madstyle" in a more modern sense without being aware of the promotion, or were consciously taking advantage of LL's honor system approach, but the result is a complete waste of a really great idea.
Solution: SL Marketplace Needs Categorization by Theme
What this highlights is a pretty significant gap in Marketplace functionality which Kala Bijoux brought up on the forums: For this kind of feature to work, the Marketplace desperately needs the ability for users to create lists or "treasuries" like those on sites like Etsy and Amazon. The ability to add or remove content based on a theme not only would have saved this feature, but it would have allowed LL to outsource it to a fashion savvy resident for free. Better still, they could regularly feature these chic treasuries like Etsy does to promote Marketplace commerce and help users find great items that may otherwise be buried... And isn't that the point of these Marketplace features anyway?
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.