May 042011
 

There is a very large freebie culture in Second Life, and many blogs (such as this one!) are dedicated – or partially dedicated – to writing about it. There are also some unspoken rules – the do’s and don’ts of freebie culture – which most people in the ‘freebiesphere’ adhere to. However, a few do not.

Just because a rule is unspoken that doesn’t mean it should go unheeded. And, if you think, “Who is she to tell me what the rules are?” then I only have this to say: they’re not really even ‘rules’. They are, in the main, simple and common courtesy.

Hop behind the cut for a few do’s and don’ts: the basics of Freebie Etiquette :)

Firstly, let me let you into a little secret. The main reason why creators give away things for free… is because they want you to return to their stores and spend money there.

*GASP!* How horribly mercenary of them!

Well, you know, Second Life is – to most people – not just a game. The money in it isn’t “play money”. It’s purchased with real life money. The land that store sits on that you just grabbed the freebie from? Paid for with real life money. The textures, sculpted prims, scripts, and other things used to create that freebie you just snagged? Paid for with real life money.

Yes, of course, there are not a few wonderful philanthropists in Second Life. There are many great free avatar kits available that are offered for no reason other than the store’s creator wants to help out newbies, possibly in the same way they were once helped (or, sometimes, because they weren’t helped and they don’t want other newbies to have that experience).

But in the main? They would really love for you to see the quality of their freebie and remember their store when you eventually decide to buy a full-priced version of something. Those creators have overheads: the land tier, the cost of textures, scripts, sculpts, advertising, etc. If nobody actually buys anything from their store, they can’t afford to keep it open. They’ll shut up shop and, eventually… no more freebies.

Second Life is a business for these people. Linden Lab have systematically borked Search, have driven traffic to SL Marketplace (where they get a cut of everything sold – did you know that?) and have done many other things that have made it increasingly difficult for merchants to keep a foothold for their in-world businesses.

Just bear that in mind as you read the following post, and next time you feel like doing any of these things, stop and remember it.

1. You got it for nothing, so don’t demand something else.

What do you mean, you don’t like the freebie because it’s green? You want it in blue? Sure! The blue version is right over there, at full price. What’s that? You don’t want to pay full price; you want the blue one free?

Well guess what? The creator has given you the green one free. Because she loves you? Maybe, but more likely she knows that’s the colour that will sell the least at full price, but she still wants to give you a sample of the quality of her work, in the hopes that you will pony up and buy the blue version if you like it enough.

2. You got it for nothing, so don’t blog that it’s horrible.

Why would you even do that? Don’t like it? Chuck it away! Maybe the creator has only just started out and is still learning. If you’d paid L$500 for it and it was crappy, then you might want to have a discreet word with her about lowering her prices while she’s still getting the hang of making stuff. But why waste your energy on blogging a freebie you don’t like? Use that time and energy to blog about something you love.

3. Doesn’t matter that it’s free, it still costs the creator time and money to make.

Yes, of course that skin designer has the time to make you a custom skin, absolutely free. I’m quite certain they have a spare couple of weeks to tailor something perfectly to suit you and then give it to you for absolutely no remuneration whatsoever.

Are you kidding me?! Well no, you’re probably not. I read a forum thread not too long ago where someone was asking for a custom skin and shape, FREE.

People, these things cost time. I’m probably being conservative there, by saying it would take a couple of weeks. A custom skin from scratch would probably take months of work, and you expect someone to put in all that work for nothing? Would you expect someone to build you a house in real life for nothing? Of course not. Remember: this isn’t a play world with play money.

4. Was it a limited-time offer that’s now finished? Don’t demand that the creator gives you a copy because you missed it.

You snooze, you lose. The creator put it out for a limited time and the offer is now over. Don’t bug them because you didn’t manage to grab it. Just shrug your shoulders and maybe join their update group or Subscribe-O-Matic so you don’t miss alerts of future offers they give out.

5. The couple of minutes you take to write a ‘thank you’ notecard can make a creator’s day.

It’s something of a thankless task being a merchant in Second Life. The only time most people think to contact a creator is when something goes wrong. Imagine what it must be like to only ever hear negative feedback for something you’ve made, even if that feedback is only, “I bought this skybox, how the hell do I get in?!” or, “I bought this on SL Marketplace and your store didn’t deliver it!”

Every now and then, when you find a freebie you like (and this goes for anything you find that you love in-world, not just freebies) take the time to write a quick little notecard to the creator and drop it onto their profile. Thank them for the freebie, compliment them on a really fun store build, tell them you loved exploring the sim they’ve created; anything that’s just nice and out-of-the-blue. Trust me: they will love you for it. It will encourage them, and heck knows, SL’s merchants and creators need all the encouragement they can get!

6. When you have some money, remember their store.

Remember that gorgeous freebie gown that Fabulous Frocks Store gave away in red for Christmas last year? Well, when you have that in-world wedding to attend, remember Fabulous Frocks Store and hop over there to see if they have something in a more suitable colour that you can wear to the event. You know the quality of their work is good, so give them your patronage. It is, after all, one of the main reasons why they offered that Christmas freebie in the first place: to get their name out there.

7. Don’t be a dick.

This is pretty much what 1 – 6 up there boil down to. There are real people on the other side of that computer. Fabulous Frocks Store isn’t some massive conglomerate or faceless department store. It’s probably a 40-something wife sitting at home and getting to do something she never had the chance to do in real life – design and make clothing – and to make just enough money to be able to continue buying the textures and sculpts that help her continue doing what she loves, as well as hopefully enough to pay the tier on her store.

We’re all doing what we love in-world. Don’t spoil it for someone by being demanding and dickish. And try that thank-you notecard thing sometimes. You might be surprised at the response :)

  9 Responses to “Freebie etiquette”

Comments (9)
  1. Leaving a sense of entitlement at the door, acknowledging the humanity in situations that come up, and taking a pleasant approach even when there’s a problem with a purchase makes everyone’s SL more fun. And even if I don’t get the response I might hope for, sometimes I imagine why a creator might be having a bad day. I try not to take too many things personally.

    • I think entitlement is one of the biggest problems that the freebie culture has. I’m not sure whether that stems from the fact that a lot of people just don’t realise there’s another human being (rather than a company like Linden Lab) on the other side of the computer, or what. I hate to see it, and I’ll call it out any time I do see it in-world.

  2. Great post! And especially about saying Thank You, I hope it catches on.

    • Thank you! I hope it catches on, too. The time that it takes to type out a quick notecard, find the creator’s profile, and drop the card onto it is so insignificantly small (five minutes, maybe, out of several hours one may spend in-world) but the effect it can have on the creator’s morale – even if only for that one day – is tremendous. A time when I make an especial effort to thank a creator is when I hear that a store I’ve loved is closing. I will always make a point of composing a notecard thanking them for their creations, especially if they’ve been a store that I’ve blogged or one that has helped newbies in some way.

      • Sometimes when I find an item that just absolutely completes an outfit, I will thank the creator and sometimes even send them a pic. I also thank creators for things like low script items, or my favorite, jewelry that is mod (hello KOSH I love you), and I have thanked creators for particularly generous/spectacular hunt gifts. This actually serves more than one purpose…it also helps fix the store in my mind so that if I need something fast in the future I’m more likely to recall a store where I have written a nc to the creator.

    • I’ve had creators so amazed that I took the time to thank them that they’ve given me free stuff… :P

      It was really awkward though. I guess six years of living with SL builders makes one see things in a different light.

      • It can feel a bit awkward, yes, but I think a lot of creators are under-appreciated in SL. It’s all well and good for those that have large groups whose members pop up to thank them in group chat after they’ve put out a new freebie item, but for every creator like that there’s one who just has a Subscribe-o-matic and probably hears very little in the way of thanks or feedback. All too often, the only time we think to contact creators is when we have a problem or a query about something; I figure it has to be nice for them to hear some thanks sometimes :)

  3. I just want to hug you i hope everyone in sl reads this post.I am a creator and let me just say a small ty does encourage me to keep creating and it does make my day. I enjoy knowing that the items i have created have brought enjoyment to someone else.

    • Aww! Well i know how much it encourages me to keep going whenever I receive nice comments on the blog, so just as equally (if not more so, because there’s less of an obvious avenue in-world for giving feedback; clicking a comment link is easy, whereas a lot of people don’t even think to notecard a creator unless something goes wrong!) it applies in Second Life itself.

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