Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Western General Store... & a Chinese Market

...Been doing some inventory housekeeping, XStreet listing fine tuning, and working on some new items for the Deadwood reset in March, and the result is "The Western General Store" role play kit, which can now be viewed on XStreet.

This General Store Kit is designed to decorate Victorian & Old West merchantiles, grocery stores, grocers, outfitters, provisioners, sundries and dry goods shops.

Among the items included are antique advertising signs, crates of Arbuckles coffee, beer and coal, barrels with flour, cornmeal and nails, sacks of potatoes, sugar and salt, a fresh fish stand and a vegetable stand.

There are fancy Victorian cabinets and counters, as well as more improvised shelving with modifiable planks and barrels. In fact, most items are modifiable, and some are also copy/mod, so the variations on your store layout are endless.

Plus, most items are one prim unless otherwise indicated. Purchasing this set at 995L saves more than 500L if items are purchased separately.

If you're looking to set up a Chinese Market, Miss Ji Yheng offers her own role play version on XStreet as well.

Miss Yheng's kit features Chinese style bamboo shades, lanterns, an apothecary cabinet, gunpowder keg, "gunpowder tea" crates, liquor crate, merchant's cupboard, a rice barrel & rice basket, a traditional quilted Shan Ku merchant garment, "coolie" straw hats and much more. Her set retails for 750L, 300L off the individual purchase prices.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Second Life viewer 2.0 -- Go where you are wanted.

'Oh, sick I am to see you, will you never let me be?
You may be good for something, but you are not good for me.
Oh, go where you are wanted, for you are not wanted here.'
And that was all the farewell when I parted from my dear.

Mr. Housman would be boggled were he alive to witness my torturous use of a stanza from his A Shropshire Lad.

I have yet to download the beta viewer that the Lindens rolled out today with much puffery and circumstance. That's because after reading the Linden blog, the comments there, the subsequent new threads in that gawd awful blogorum, and reviews on other sites by people I know and trust -- I am truly wary of it.

What I realized after doing the reading, as Miss Emily Orr said so eloquently in her blog, "... but damn it, I'm in the middle of trying to get a store that I can stand up and running and I DO NOT NEED TO DEAL WITH THIS CRAP. (emphasis mine)

Frankly, the only people I saw who spoke glowingly of the new viewer were... people who don't do business in SL, i.e. residents that come to SL for "social networking"... people who have the time to learn all the new bells and whistles, who like bells and whistles and love Farmville and Mafia Wars don't have much interest in the underlying architecture of what allows them to be in SL.

For "business minded" people in SL, i.e. content creators, merchants, estate owners, we enjoy our share of socializing -- at least I hope other people do, otherwise they risk monumental burnout. But I digress.

However, it's already a technical challenge to be a business person in SL. There is a level of tedium in navigating SL as a content creator or service provider that I have not experienced in RL business, mostly to do with glitches in the existing architecture. Last night it took me a half dozen tries to rez something -- anything -- out of my inventory. Several times.

Now I'm not a nuts and bolts IT professional, but I seem to have a better than average grasp among my co-workers on new technology, and adapt to change pretty quickly. However, I'm actively working to expand MNC/MNF right now, and I just don't have the luxury to spend on the adjustment curve this new viewer is going to require right now. Especially when they have buried tools I use regularly, and brought to the platform's forefront what looks to me like a lot of cosmetic frou-frou.

Basically, I don't have time to be Linden Lab's guinea pig.

For the time being, I'm sticking with what works for me. I gave Snowglobe a try last week on my PC at work, and was pleased at how less laggy that was, so I am considering right now downloading that viewer here at home on my Mac.

After I finish a few more things on my business to do list.

"with rue my heart is laden..." Apologies to Mr. Housman.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An emerald ball gown for St. Patrick's Day

The next gown in our new ball gown line has arrived, coinciding with the celebration of St. Patrick's Day next month.

The emerald "Reine du Bal" (French, "Belle of the Ball"), is a rich velveteen brocade and satin evening gown featuring a bustle and train adorned with... shamrocks.

Yes, I was a bit skeptical of the idea of putting little satin shamrocks on the bodice and bustle of a ball gown. It seems a little too -- forced. Corny, even.

Surprisingly, the results are very pleasing to the eye. Three and four leaf varieties of green clover adorn the gown's bodice, accenting the decolletage. Clover garlands frame the gown's bustle in back, gently floating over the landscape of the fabric.

The gown is available at a special sale price of L$175 -- 50 percent off the retail price -- now through St. Patrick's Day, March 17. The gown can be found at either our Caledon, Antiquity or Fatima locations.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A new ship captain's Davenport desk set!

New to Montagne Noire Furnishings, a replica 19th century Sea Captain's Desk. Also also known as a Davenport Desk, it's said to have been commissioned by a real life clipper ship captain named John Davenport.

Designed for optimal comfort in the close quarters of a ship, the desk typically stored the crew's papers, sealed sailing instructions, logbooks, charts, instruments and a pair of flintlock pistols in the locked drawers on the sides. The desk also featured a storage well beneath the hinged desktop, and a narrow hinged lid concealing a flat storage compartment for writing supplies.

Montagne Noire's captain's desk has been designed for the Second Life captain who, like his real life counterpart, has limited space to conduct his ship's business (in this case, prim count). The desk is seven prims, the chair just two. The chair features a writing animation and an inkwell that provides a quill pen, so you can write in your captain's log. Also included are maps of the Mediterranean and West Indies.

Of course, this desk is also very functional for other sorts of captains -- captains of industry, Captains Courageous, and captains of I-prefer-to-remain-on-solid-ground...

The desk set retails for 200L, and is now available at our Caledon & Antiquity locations, as well as on XStreet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"This is no social crisis... it's just another tricky day"

I recently joined an in-world, Linden directed group called "Second Life Commerce Merchants." The purpose of the group is described as thus:

A place for merchants in second life and on XStreet SL to talk business.

There hasn't been a great deal of activity in the group since I joined a few weeks ago, partly because I don't think merchants have a clear idea as to how much we can or should utilize the group for discussing business... I'm not sure the Lindens running the group -- which includes Pink and Colossus -- are certain of its purpose either.

In the last two weeks there have been two notices sent out, both by Colossus Linden -- the first, encouraging us to put all of our Valentine's Day related merchandise into the recently expanded Valentine's Day category.

Sounds good, but I already did that a few weeks ago when I saw the notice in the blogorums.

But then there was this additional tidbit:

But, don't stop at finding what you like... share your favorite items with your friends. We've just added share links to Xstreet SL. Log in, go to the detail page of an item you like and try it out. The share link is in the box on the right side of the detail page beneath the purchase options.

Okay... I'm sure this is a good idea, but in the larger scope of things, this is what the Commerce Team has made a priority?

Today's notecard missive was more promising. The Commerce Team has launched a trial program to assist shoppers in finding merchants on XStreet, by using tags. To wit:

We presented an idea awhile back of adding some common tags to item descriptions in order to make it easier for shoppers to see the subset of items they are most interested in. We'd like to give this a shot with an initial set of tags and if things go well, we'll expand and refine our official tag set.

Okay, this is interesting, do go on...

Merchants, if you have goods that fit into the following communities, please add the respective tag(s) to the end of your item description:

* tagTiny
* tagGorean
* tagFurry
* tagEmo
* tagVampire
* tagSteampunk
* tagGoth
* tagNeko
* tagPirate
* tagFantasy
* tagCyberpunk
* tagScifi
* tagMedieval
* tagSpace
* tagBeach

*the Victorian seamstress waits*

Okay, maybe they cut off the end of the list... I'm not seeing a "tagVictorian"... or even a "tagWestern." Nope, no "tag:Historical."

*the Victorian seamstress reads on*

We're also providing a few which are a bit more purpose related than community related:

* tagEducation
* tagAdultContent
* tagGaming
* tagSports

Merchants, this system will only be useful if these tags provide shoppers items in the area of their interest, so please do not spam these tags in unrelated listings.

*the Victorian seamstress realizes she's holding her breath and is starting to turn blue*

Uh... hmm.

The immediate issue I see is that my business does not necessarily fit into any of those categories -- yes, I have a few items that might be useful to vampires, goths and possibly pirates, and even one or two that are vaguely "steampunk." (Perhaps it's time to put that steampowered corset back on the drawing table...)

Will that mean we get dinged for keyword spamming if we put my items in those categories? Because without a Victorian or Western or Historical tag, our potential customers will not be seeing work by merchants in those categories. We'll be lumped in with the whorewear and BIABs.... which makes for an interesting dichotomy.

Addressing consumers, LL has this to say:

Shoppers, we don't yet have a true tagging system, but we're making use of the search system. You can click on the tags above to search on that tag, or you can type a tag in with your search query when searching on Xstreet SL. Remember that if you're using multiple words in a search query, adding a '+' before a keyword makes it required within all results.

So, once again we have an example of Linden Lab's reverse engineering strategy. They claim they presented this idea awhile back. If they did, I never heard of it, and I try to skim the blogorums on a regular basis, to keep up with announcements.

Nor is it likely many of my fellow Victorian merchants did either. LL has implemented yet another program in a half-assed manner before it's been properly researched. If you've been following the Avatars United debacle, or the XStreet revamping, you know exactly what I mean.

We will look to expose these tags/communities from the homepage and if this system increases sales and shopper satisfaction, then we will look to expand on the tags we are promoting.

That's all nice and well, but historically, LL's movement on fixing any of their hastily thought out plans is like watching moss grow. So we have a few months to wait. Wonderful.

Good luck.
--The Commerce Team

Good luck, indeed... *sighs*

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When an idea doesn't pan out

Being a business owner -- being a successful one -- sometimes means taking chances. The tight RL economy, in addition to various changes Linden Lab has recently made which make doing business in SL more challenging, are weighing on many SL merchants these days.

Although I don't feel I'm in competition with my fellow Victorian and Western merchants, right now many businesses are looking at smaller revenue streams, some more than others.

It's said that the biggest failing of most business owners is that they are afraid of change. But change is necessary in times like these -- and acting on new ideas could make the difference in whether your business is still open in six months.

So an idea comes to you that seems like a smart one, a logical move, until you sit back after implementing it and you watch it wither on the vine.

How long does it take before you should declare it a success or failure? Is this dip in sales and/or traffic a blip on the screen, or the sign of a steady decline?

I've had several of these ideas lately that, for no discernible reason, are not performing as I expected. I invested some capital to see them through to completion, only to see a rather dismal response.

That's scary when you have come to rely on the income you're making in SL to help you through tight finances in real life. But I should feel lucky that I even have this second source of income right now, because there don't seem to be any second sources of income to be had in RL at the moment.

For now, all I can do is keep moving ahead, keep trying new things, and hope for the best.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Expansion, 10L secret sale, discounted ball gowns

Montagne Noire is pleased to announce that we are making some changes to our shops in Caledon Oxbridge Village and Antiquity Township!

Our inventory has been growing quickly, and in response we have renovated each location -- our Caledon location will continue to specialize in clothing and accessories, and our Antiquity shop will now exclusively feature our Victorian & Old West low prim furnishings.

And just for fun, this weekend only, at each shop I have put one item at each location on sale for 10L -- items that are regularly 100-250L. It is up to your sleuthing skills to hunt the items out!

Also, the third floor clearance section at the Caledon shop now has more of our 2008 and 2009 holiday ball gowns available, priced at 20-50L, 80% off the original price.

We're in the process of adding more furnishings, and will announce new items as they become available.