Thursday, April 26, 2012

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Iris Rants: The SL Marketplace's Mad Men-Inspired Mad Style Featurette is a Mad Failure

Screen shot 2012-04-24 at 10.53.56 PM

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...

Screen shot 2012-04-26 at 3.49.05 AM

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?

Mixed_reality_iris2010 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.

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Marianne McCann

One *would* have been better served by Bay City Fashion Week. ;-)

Iggy

"I'd really like someone to tell me which of the items listed above evokes Mad Men even a little bit."

Um...all of them? Pete Campbell would have tried to build his squalid career at Sterling Cooper selling these items to consumers.

Otherwise, no. I suspect that creators of lowbrow content just wanted eyeballs on their hootchie-wear and stupid doo-dads.

Pity, too. I like the show and the marketing idea that LL botched.

Frans Charming

I'm glad you called them out Iris. I had noticed the same thing. We really need some well curated categories.

Scarp Godenot

You are SO right about the categorization of the marketplace being completely inept.

No matter what you are selling, the categories don't go nearly deep enough to make a decent search easy or in many cases even possible. What possible good does it to to go to the end of the subcategories and still have 8000 or more items? This is no better than keyword searching at random. Again with keywording: another dumb to the point of being broken search engine.

Also, the categories and subcategories lump things that aren't that similar together.

An example: Home and Garden as a major category instead of having a major category for Landscaping and Garden, and a separate category for Home and Housewares. The next level in the landscaping subcategory: Flowers and Plants with 18000 items. AND NO FURTHER SUBCATEGORIES! What good it that? Nobody can look past the first thousand without giving up totally.

Just a little thinking could easily solve these problems, I could go in with a couple of friends and in a single day completely redo these categories in a way which would work far better. Why can't they?

It is pretty frustrating. Another example: In the Art category it has subcategories for 'Animated and 3D Art' and 'Sculpture and Statues'. Well first of all, Sculpture IS 3D art, and SL sculpture can be animated or not. Also Statues needs to be a subcategory of Sculpture not concurrent with it. So do you put an abstract sculpture in the statue category or the 3D art category? No thinking at all in these categories. I of course could make this critiques of virtually every category with the exception of only a few.

The biggest problem throughout the marketplace is a complete lack of decent sub subcategories, making the category searches next to unusable and worthless.

Listen Lab people, since you actually make a comission on every transaction here, fixing this can make you MONEY! get it?????

Rant over! hahaha

Pussycat Catnap

In world expos, events, and hunts - that's the way to go for themes.

The above mentioned Bay City one for example. When you've got someone managing the land, and its all rezzed on the land - its very easy for human actors to cull out the junk.

The more Marketplace is relied on for the solution to SL, the less SL remains... so I'm personally glad its failing at this.

Meanwhile I can go to things like the unofficial mesh expo a few months back, or a themed mall - and see a whole lot of this next to that which is still akin to the something I had been aware of - and gets me happy with product, and a merchant happy with a sale.

Shauna

Just a note. I made the woman's outfit which is featured in the main picture. My store is called Subculture, and the outfit the model is wearing is called *Subculture* B&W Mod Skirt.

Leo

At last someone posted this annoying issue. I've always been wondering why the shopping link pointed out to everything else except the avatars and attire from that picture! There's hardly anything Mad Men themed stuff when searching with the "madstyle" keyword. Confuses the hell out of me and probably everyone else.

Yffaa Ka Duffa

See the White guy is an Arian New World type and the woman.blindly follows him. THAT is the madness...

Connie Arida

Botched. I agree the makers you mentioned would be the first off the top of my head. They are also much loved "oldies" in SL too. For LL to not even think of them strikes me as symptomatic of the disconnect between the gods and their world.

Arya Markova

Completely agree, what was even the point? I clicked through the ad, saw one page of results and thought "WTF?" and didn't bother looking any further.

They probably didn't want to appear as if they were bestowing special favors upon chosen designers, but instead they just sent out an open invitation for keyword spamming.

Sophia Trefusis

I felt the same way,grungy streetwear isnt a Mad Men style at all.

I think the promotion was taken advantage of by peoplr,and that the Lindens ought to have checked out what was submitted.

Whats the idea of themes when nothing in it fits the theme?

Ridicilous.

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