Designer Showcase Network

I started describing this in Plurk, and the response has, so far, been overwhelmingly positive, so I actually started coding. But for those who do not plurk, I’m going to clean it all up, and turn it into a more coherent text.

Gridwide hunts are legion. Gridwide hunts are popular. And the problems with the currently popular variety of gridwide hunts are numerous, so numerous, in fact, that they put the whole idea in question.

  1. Order of the hunt is strict, largely immutable, and prevents designers at the far end of the chain from getting any return from the hunt at all, regardless of how much work have they put in, because getting stuck somewhere on the way will be an insurmountable obstacle for the majority of the hunters. Handling those obstacles creates extra tension between the designers and the hunters.
  2. The tendency of the designers to hide the items, brought on by the word ‘hunt’, creates undue hardship for the shoppers with the current scale of gridwide hunts (Find 30 tiny items, ok, 300? 500?!) and turns them off from the whole idea.
  3. Limited time during which prizes can be collected creates a requirement for the shoppers who wish to have complete coverage of the hunt offerings (It’s obsessive-compulsive but everyone’s entitled to that.) to spend many hours — and days! — looking for prizes nonstop, which annoys them further.
  4. Pressure on the designer to participate in a hunt like right now causes them to offer prizes which do not represent their full ability and are often simply a poor excuse to participate, which further decreases the chance of positive return from the hunt.
  5. The designers are severely affected by the quality of work of other designers participating in the hunt through no fault of their own. One piece of trash spoils it for everyone else, lots of trash and even the really good stuff gets ignored.
  6. Large numbers of hunt prizes collected in a short period of time create mountains of unsorted inventory which frequently get deleted wholesale with no consideration of their merits or possible merits of the designer’s other offerings.

In short, as they are now, gridwide hunts do not increase sales or exposure significantly, and are a waste of time of the organisers and shoppers and designer effort — like someone said to me just today, People are so busy HUNTING for free, they dont have time to SHOP! Free things as such do not kill the economy, since actual demand for virtual objects is almost limitless, but time spent looking for them is a limited resource, it’s the time that could be spent deciding whether to buy something else.

Nevertheless, the gridwide hunts have certain points which are beneficial for both the shoppers and the designers:

  • Shoppers have the opportunity to become aware of new, potentially interesting shops, that they would not have otherwise, or are reminded of places they could have otherwise forgotten.
  • Designers get extra exposure of their brand and actual work through samples distributed to the stream of shoppers that actually gets to them, never mind that they run away immediately.

Well, it is possible to create a system that has all of the good points and none of the bad, and I’m almost done doing it. It achieves that through being neither gridwide, nor a hunt. The working title is Designer Showcase Network.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Designers receive a kit, which contains a few varieties of a billboard to put in their shops, and a copyable dropbox. They put the free sample that they think best represents their design efforts into a box and let it register with the central server.
  2. Shoppers see a billboard, and upon clicking it are given the option to subscribe to the network. They are now subscribers in the network.
  3. Every morning, (05:00 GMT right now, but that’s immaterial) for every subscriber, the server selects exactly one random designer from the list of registered designers, and commands their dropbox to send the free sample contained therein to that subscriber.
    • A different free sample is selected independently for every subscriber.
    • No subscriber will ever receive the same free sample twice, or, for that matter, get it in any other manner.
    • After M days, where M is the number of designers, every subscriber will have received a sample from every designer.
    • Every day, every designer’s dropbox will send it’s contents to N subscribers, where N depends on the total number of subscribers and a random element. I.e. if there’s 100 designers in the system and 1000 subscribers, every day, every sample will be picked for sending to about 10 subscribers.

It’s a bit more complex than that in practice, because the network offers seven independent ‘channels’ subdivided by type of items (Female Fashion, Male Fashion, House and Garden, Vehicles and Gadgets, Skins and Hair, Animations and Poses, Jewelry and Accessories) and designers active in more than one field can set up more than one dropbox, but that’s the gist of it.

What’s in it for the subscribers?

  • You start every morning with news of a new, possibly unknown shop (or several, if you subscribed to more than one channel) to check out, and a sample of what they have to offer, that you can examine before you go there to decide whether it’s worth going there at all.
  • You don’t end up with a mountain of inventory to sort and can make your decisions on the new offerings as they come.
  • No need to go anywhere or hunt for anything and suffer the lag — the samples will find you all on their own.

What’s in it for the designers?

  • Instead of a flock of visitors who come, grab your stuff, lag everything up and don’t buy anything, you will get a small but steady stream of actual clients, (actually, steadily increasing, as more subscribers join) people who have come to your shop on a lead from a free sample that they have already seen, and are far more likely to give your merchandise a fair chance — otherwise they just don’t come. I.e. instead of traffic, this system promotes actual sales, which should have been the point in the first place.
  • Your free sample arrives alone, giving the subscriber ample time to think about it seriously rather than consider it among a mountain of other inventory. It will be evaluated on it’s merits alone, which makes those merits more likely to be seen.
  • The network doesn’t have to stop or start and can continue into infinity, it is never too late to join it as a designer or subscribe to it. No matter when did you join the network, your chance of being exposed to potential clients is exactly the same as everyone else’s.

In short, everyone’s going to be happy and nobody has to get nailed to anything.

The project progresses nicely, with all the core code complete, I just need to finish debugging and testing it, and writing all the documentation and associated materials.

I hope it goes live by the weekend.