Pardon the mess

So here’s the story.

About a year ago, I started a 2-pronged effort to revitalize Eclectic Randomness.

1. Increase options and reduce delivery time.

This first part was simple, in terms of what needed to be done. I needed better vendors, and a better color changing solution. I needed to be able to offer more products in more colors, and on those items with color change, I needed to break through the 12-button wall on menus. Better vendors and a roomier store were relatively easy (Healy’s closure was about this, it was too darned small!), and we saw those show up last autumn. The appearance changer HUD followed fairly soon thereafter, and ER got the Jouet Doll and the Plateau boots as part of that.

A second phase of that part is still ongoing, in that once I redid the color change stuff using the new HUD system, I’d need to get some kind of locking functionality to replace that currently in use in the old products. Like I say, that’s still work in progress.

But all of that.. the store, the vendors, the new scripts and so on, was just one half of the project. The other half was:

2. Reduce operating costs.

This part of the project also began around the same time. The closure of the Fusilier (G rated) store was part of this. Migrating away from the “Store Mailing List” in favour of the “Store Group” was part of this as well.

The mailing lists rely on a mySQL database to get the user IDs for mailing the notecards out. It’s a relatively simple thing, but it’s costing me money every year to keep the server space just to host that database.

Of course, I also make use of the hosting for my store’s webpage, and my personal blog (both of which are just pretty simple wordpress blogs.) But the bottom line is, I’ve been trying to find ways to ‘clear out’ of that web space, because it really is just too darned expensive for what I use it for.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll begin migrating things over to a new set of blogs over on Blogger.com. I’ve already begun with the ER website, building out the framework for that and getting it looking decent.

When the moves are complete, I’ll set up auto-forwarding at the old pages, so you will easily be able to find them, but here’s the ER link in the meantime:

ER Site: http://eclectic-randomness.blogspot.com

I haven’t quite decided where this blog needs to go. I may end up making a blog linked to the “WinterVentura” google+ account, or I might make it a bit less SL related.

Stay tuned for news on that front.

13.9 Affiliate Vendors now available!

After a week and a couple of days of testing, the 13.9 release of the ER Affiliate vendors are now available.

What’s new?

Well they run on CasperVend now! And that’s huge!

Caspervend is a really nice, modern vendor system with live delivery tracking, that allows customers to see their purchase processing ‘in real time’. From the moment they pay the vendor, until the item is delivered. Cas[ervend also supports alternate payment options through the Virwox L$ exchange, which means that customers can purchase ER products using a paypal balance, or a credit card, or any number of other methods supported by Virwox.

The new vendors also offer a host of new features for affiliates to use, including an option to view sales data from your vendors.. so you can track which items are selling best in what locations. Additionally there’s an oft-requested option to be able to turn the affiliate commission into a discount for customers.. for places like RP sims or groups that make use of ER products in their uniforms. You can turn that 20% commission into a 20% off coupon for all your members!

The ER affiliate vendors are 100% mesh now, and all three types clock in at just 1LI (prim) each! Whether you use the single item vendors, or the big 7-panel multi-vendor, you’ll just use one LI per machine.

I’ve sent them out via the notification system today, and I’ve loaded them into the update server as well, so you can get a new box simply by rezzing the update checker included in the old box, or drop by one of ER’s locations and pick one up.. or of course, you can grab it off the Marketplace too!

Why you don't voice-verify trans-women

I’m sad that I have a use for this icon again.

In the 90′s, it was a common practice in “Lesbian” or “Women’s” chatrooms, to subject new users to a process called “Voice Verification”. The idea was simple enough on it’s surface.. how can you tell the ‘real women’ from the ‘men pretending to be women’ in a text-based chatroom? Call them up on the phone and listen to their voice.

The idea seems simple on it’s surface, but it fails to consider the existence of transgendered people.

There is no voice marker for what a transgendered woman sounds like. In fact, a transwoman can sound like a man, or a woman, or like a man trying to sound like a woman. The same is true for transmen (Transgendered Men). A transman can sound like a woman, or a man, or a teenage boy trying to sound older. A few of the luckier ones can sound so ambiguous that the listener simply can’t know which is which.

Voice can betray secondary sex characteristics.. but not gender.

My voice betrays years of discomfort, with a lifelong lisp, with my teeth, with my voice and an indicator of which hormones were most active during puberty, a body gone the wrong way at the fork in the road, a lifetime of shyness and a decade of withdrawal and isolation. A friend of mine from Second Life, on hearing my voice for the first time, said it was weird.

I have a weird voice.

What I don’t have, is a passable voice.

Sure, with some surgery, and years of voice therapy, I might be able to pass as genetically female to the occasional telemarketer.

In the 90′s, in the chatrooms, those voice verifying gatekeepers to #Lesbian, were trying to keep the horny guys of the net out of their boys-free-zone. But in the process, they also created a barrier for transwomen who were also lesbians. In the process, they created hurt, when they established a barrier that said “you’re not woman enough, if you can’t pass 100% on the phone.”

That was the 90′s.. and a lot of shitty things happened to transgendered people back then. Many times at the hands of the LGB people we called allies. 20 years later, things have changed somewhat. The Transgender umbrella has gotten bigger, and more people have started being more ‘out’ about their varying perceptions of Gender. There are terms now for people who switch back and forth on a whim, for people who see themselves as both genders at once, for people who see themselves entirely outside of gender as well.

And yet, even today, when I was invited by a friend to visit a “Lesbian Club” in Second Life, I was subjected to the same decades old hurts, when a gatekeeper at the door insisted that to gain entry, I must be voice verified.

I asked why, and got no direct answer. “It’s a rule” I was told time and again.

I was ready to give up, retract back into my shell and go hide in my skybox alone while my friends had their good time at the club. Fuck this stupid club. Instead, I got angry.

There is nothing you can tell, via voice, that differentiates a ‘real trans-woman’ from a ‘guy just saying he’s a trans-woman’… Unless we were very lucky and transitioned before puberty, blessed with supportive parents we could come out to at an early age, we’re both going to have voices deepened by puberty’s waves of testosterone.. only in the case of a transwoman, that happened against our hopes and dreams.

Transwomen face a life near constant microagressions, tiny little digs and insults, little hurts and injuries to the will and soul. Death of a thousand papercuts. Every hour of every day. We’re excluded from women’s groups, women’s sports, women’s shelters and support groups, women’s clothing stores don’t cater to our size, and god.. finding shoes in our sizes can be impossible. We settle, we compromise, and we learn to shrink away from confrontation, and sulk alone in the face of exclusion.

When you place a gender screening barrier in front of a transwoman, asking them to prove they’re ‘really a woman’, you resurrect every barrier they’ve ever faced over their sex or gender. Every betrayal of trust, every dream destroyed by puberty, every indignity caused by a dirty look at the fitting rooms, or terror at having to use the boy’s locker room. You’re reaching into their psyche, and finding that moment when for the first time, someone said “no boys allowed” and made the little trans girl cry inconsolably.. and you’re poking that memory of hurt with a sharp stick.

Estimates place the suicide rate of transgendered people at between 30% and 50%.

Light at the end of the tunnel

This is the stuff my nightmares are made of. Repetitive tasks.. done dozens and dozens of times over and over. Click click click, drag, click, enter, tab, repeat until hands cramp.

This is where the errors creep in. The tiny mistakes that at best, slip by unnoticed in a group of vendors done right.. at worst that one tiny error has been repeated 104 times and I have to fix them all, one by one.

As far as I can tell, ALL SL vending systems suffer similar issues. Whether it’s HippoVend or Caspervend, or Jevn or even the SL Marketplace.. setting up large numbers of listings in one sitting is beyond tedious. All the systems have their problems… lack of ability to do search and replace on a single setting across all vendors, lack of global settings for things like profit shares, or whether to allow the customers to redeem gift cards at the vendor, or whatever feature.

Some things, you really do have to go in and edit every single listing for every single vendor, one at a time.

I’ve been through that several times today. While I was thankfully able to devise ways to shorten the time spent, I couldn’t avoid having to edit all the vendors, several times.. and even re-packing the vendors a second time when I noticed a last-minute oversight.

But they’re done. In the boxes, loaded and prepped. I’ve contacted a couple of affiliate locations where I’ve noticed the most delivery issues with the old vendors, and I’ve asked them if they’d like to test the new ones in their locations for a week or so.

I don’t expect problems, but if they occur, I want to have only a small cluster of affiliates affected, so I can easily replace them. If things are still running smoothly on the new system by next week at this time, I’ll send out the vendor pack to everyone.

If any of you WOULD like to be part of the pilot program, and test the new vendors, drop me an IM inworld!

Meanwhile, I sorely need a break. (and my “CTRL-V” fingers do too!).

CasperVend. Credit where credit is due.

I have to give credit to Casper Warden, creator of the CasperVend system. These vendors are BUILT with the kind of modding I’m doing, in mind. Right off the bat, there’s simple instructions for making your own vendors, even mesh vendors.

DESIGNING the new affiliate vendors hasn’t been as easy as I’d have liked, but since there is a difference in functionality, I really wanted to change up the vendor’s looks a little bit to make sure that affiliate resellers *KNEW* when they were using the new vendors. I wanted there to be a visual difference, something I could ask about in an IM if they were having trouble with their vendors.. something they’d recognize. “Is it an ‘arrow vendor’? Is the arrow panel greenish grey? Or is it black?”

The mesh models for the vendors are done, and the good news is that all three vendor models clock in at less than 1 land impact (1 prim) each. Even the 7 panel one!

It’s going to take a bit of effort to properly program the vendor so that all the buttons on the control-bar work properly, but the product panels on my model are already usable ‘out of the box’ just by dropping the scripts in! It’s very exciting.

In terms of the profiles and product listings and such, everything seems to be properly configured on that end. Once the vendor machines are working properly and loaded with their various offline/problem textures, then it will probably be on to the “making the individual vendors” stage, where I make one vendor for every product.

Progress is coming at a reasonably quick pace. When this project started, I have to admit I dreaded it, thinking it would take me weeks to finish. At the rate it’s been going, I should be able to have a test package of vendors available sometime early next week.

I’ve decided to do short testing phase, where I’ll hand the new vendors to a couple of the affiliate locations where we’ve seen the most delivery failures, have them install these, and see how it goes. After a few days (possibly a week) if things are looking good, I’ll make the package available to all affiliates using the standard delivery and notification systems.

The only question I’m still mulling over, is whether the single-item vendors should be “headless”.. which is to say, whether or not they should have a control bar below the vendor (with the “help” Question mark button). Default action is still “touch”, and there’s a “help” button in the customer-facing menu, so the bottom bar really isn’t “necessary”.. and it does look nicer if all the single item vendors are squares.

Good news for RP group discounts!

As I’ve been messing with Caspervend, I’ve noticed a really cool feature I’d like to share with you.

Traditionally, I’ve offered a 20% commission on sales through the affiliate vendors. This has worked out quite well, and I’ve got no intention of removing or reducing that amount, so don’t anyone worry about that.. but CasperVend comes with a nifty extra feature.

It seems that an affiliate reseller (a person who owns the affiliate vendors) can flip a switch to turn off their percentage, and turn it into a refund!

So if you’ve got an RP group, and you’d like to use some ER products in your group’s uniform (as an example), you can set up one of the affiliate vendors, flip that little switch, and when your group members purchase their items through your vendors, THEY will get the 20% returned to them after the sale!

That’s pretty cool, honestly.

There’s a lot of new features to this that I’m really going to have to look into.

Another really cool element, is that you, as the affiliate reseller, can look at your sales statistics on a given vendor, to get an idea of which items are selling best in your location, which locations  (if you have several) are doing best, etc.

Documenting all of this is going to be a nightmare, but I’ll do my best. Meanwhile, it’s time to get back to building vendors!

click click select, click click enter

88 products.

It doesn’t seem like all that many. But multiply the time to set up one product in a vendor system, times 88, and in quickly becomes a lot of time. Adding the amount of time it takes to set up a vendor profile.. multiplying that times 88 again, then add the amount of time it takes to set up a vendor, and multiply that times 88, or more likely 114, and you start to see how this becomes a big project.

Unfortunately, life within and without the virtual world, doesn’t stop just because I’m working on vendors. People want to IM and chat, customers have issues that need resolving, and personal drama always seems to reach it’s highest levels of urgency whenever there’s work to be done.

Last night, I managed to get about 75% of the products ‘defined’ within the caspervend system. Which item to deliver, what permissions were available, product name, which image to display, and what price to charge. This morning, the rest. As I started defining the product groups (“G rated avatars and accessories” for example) I discovered a bug in the system that made customizing the product order within a group.. tedious and fragile. Requireing me to come back and check the order half a dozen times to make sure my changes had stuck properly.

That, thankfully is done now, and I’m on to defining the profiles that will actually determine what’s in a vendor, or isn’t. I’ve run into a small snag or two, with the items that exist in both “adult” and “pg” branches (the Jouet Doll, the Robot and Latex SoundFX, the Plateau Ankle Boots, etc.) Things that would appeal to people in adult venues, that aren’t necessarily adult in nature. Unfortunately when the “Adult Avatars” and “PG Avatars” groups get added to the same profile, those items that appear in both groups, appear twice in the vendor. It only affects about 6 items, so it’s not a huge big deal, but it was a bit confusing at first.

At this point, the next step is to make a few more profiles, and then check to see if I can make a single-item vendor without using a profile to do it. I’d rather not be forced to make 88 individual profiles for one product each.. that would mean more ‘click click select, click click enter’ kind of tedium.

We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll keep you posted.

The ER Affiliate Network and the Migration to Caspervend

Today, I sent out a letter to the ER affiliate resellers.

I am keenly aware that the new HippoVend Elite affiliate vendors are not operating at the level we’d all like them to. To quote a popular internet meme, “The number of delivery failures is too damn high!” I know it, and you know it too.

I’ve spend the last month in discussions with the HippoVend people concerning the delivery failures we’ve been seeing, and they seem to be no closer to a solution than the first day I contacted them about it.

I’m going to be migrating the ER Affiliate Network over to the CasperVend system. I’ve heard a lot of good things about their vendor system, and they do seem to have an active support channel.

Sadly, this is not going to be a small task, and I won’t lie to you, it’s going to take me a while to get all of the ER products migrated over to the new system, get the new vendors assembled, named, set, and packaged, and to get them all boxed up and sent back out to you.

I’m beginning work on the project today, and I’ll be posting updates on how the projects is going, on my blog

My hope is that I’ll be done with the project within a week, but it may take longer than that. When they’re done, I’ll send the replacement package out through the same system that delivered this notecard to you, and of course you can use the “update checker” device that was included in the most recent affiliate pack.

For now, please leave the vendors online if you can. If customers encounter a delivery failure, simply send me a notecard, IM, or email with the customer’s name, the time of their purchase, and the item they were trying to purchase, and I’ll manually deliver it as soon as I get the info.

Like I said in the letter, it’s going to be a rather large undertaking. It’ll be a while before I have a working set of vendors to offer the affiliates, too. Adding insult to injury, it was just a couple of months ago that I redid all the affiliate vendors for the HippoVend Elite system. But the delivery failures are running way too high, and something needs to be done ASAP.

I’ll check back in with more, when I have some progress to report.

Seriously Awesome Tartar Sauce

In a kitchen teacup

  • dried minced onion (enough to cover bottom)
  • one fork-full of dill pickle relish
  • 2-3 fork-fulls of Kraft mayonaise
  • small dash of lemon juice.
  • pinch of celery seed
  • pinch of dill
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Stir and cover, allow to meld in fridge while fish is cooking.