FINDING MY VOICE
The Hypergrid Inspiration
Maria of Hypergrid Business sent me an email and while writing my response I thought this would actually be a good opportunity to speak to folks in a more personal manner - not just as the COO for SpotON3D but also as a life long artist, mother, manager of talented folks and being biz savvy tech gurl. So here it goes.
The Linda Influence
I have to thank Linda for this. She's been a big inspiration for me for years as I watched her take on some of the most bullying bloggers and forum trolls .. as I've learned they are called. I think she's the bravest women I know. That's why I'm doing this. She's been encouraging me to come outta my cave and let people get to know the person behind the company - the ME better through bloggings like this.
I've become a bit scared to do this because, in the past, I've been called out for spelling things wrong and such and ridiculed even after explaining that I am dyslexic, so turned it over to others. I didn't want to get into defending my problems or casting an unfavorable or ignorant light on the community and company, just because I can't always say what I want in the most polished manner. The few times I've tried to say something publicly ... well let's just say it got pretty scary for me with the venom that resulted. And it not only affected me, but hurt another long time friend of mine, Luna Bliss. I didn't ever want to be responsible for that happening again, so I just decided to take a back seat. But I can see Linda's point. And she's right. People will judge me no matter what. If I remain silent then they only hear one side, so I'm trying to be brave like Linda and stick my head out of my cave and pray I can handle the bow and arrows that will surely fly as a result. LOL So here it goes ...
WARNING ... THIS IS A LONG BLOG!!! I don't know how to write small. Maybe because I hold it all in for so long? :P
Maria of Hypergrid Business asked me in email, in response to our most recent newsletter:
"Any reason for the name change? Is there an ownership or management change at the company?"
My first impulse was to simply say ...
"No ... but surely there will be as we grow."
After all, that's just evolution of a business. :)
But then that seemed a little vague and didn't really explain things the way I prefer to. If you know me you know I am one who strives to be as transparent as possible in my business dealings, so here I am giving it to you straight from the horse's mouth.
What Changed On Our End
The corruption wasn't just one thing. We had a lot of our services scattered on different servers and it made more sense to combine them to open up another one for more region hosting as we're getting more residents and wanted to make sure we had the servers needed. Then, you add in all the new and old government regulations put upon PayPal now that they are seen as a legal banking institution, and you get them being picky when we ask for special things like helping us fix our mess here. We're not a nice tidy box business. We color outside the lines and that presents a challenge in running things through services like PayPal.
What Changed On PayPal's End
We'd hoped PayPal could merge all our existing subscriptions over to ease the pain with our users, but alas they said they could not without contacting each and every subscriber for permission. We have no control over our users' subscriptions unless it's a legal thing that we go through PayPal's dispute channels. This was a conscious decision we made so that our members would always have control over their choices to remain a paying resident with us or not. The move to the "new" PayPal, per their suggestion, meant we would have to ask everyone to re-subscribe. The "new" PayPal account is actually my old one from my design firm that's been laying about stagnant, so we figured why not put it into service again and get things up and running again asap.
Putting Our Members First
The discounts and grandfathered pricing was our way to take a bit of the sting away and thank our users for going to all the trouble to help us get through these changes.
What has surprised us the most in the last 24 hours is the support we're seeing in this switch over. Some of our members are outright refusing to take advantage of the new prices, insisting on paying the regular price in support of our community and business. I cannot express how honored and appreciative we all are of such loyalty and support. Yes ... giving you a great big hug here MsVelvet!
The End Results
While all of this is frustrating for us, the reality of PayPal becoming a legit banking entity is all good in the long run; it means better security and more accountability. We just look at this as growing pains for them and us. And heck! I'll take growing pains over "the sky is falling" type rants any day! LOL
The Next Challenge
Having said that, many know we're coming to the most challenging part of any start up, and that's getting the word out to people beyond the existing virtual world user base and expanding our reach to a larger mainstream audience. An audience that will need the skills and talents of our creative community to enjoy and take full advantage of our 3DWeb perspective. The aren't going to be mechanics like us tech-heads and graphic guru's. They will dabble here and there, but mostly they will look for that instant gratification thang.
To prepare to reach out to this audience has required years of work adding extra ease of use functionality on top of the awesome OpenSim base, stripping away basics that no other grids would even think to live without, such as the standard inworld money systems, and creating a truly new way of creating accounts and access permissions to keep kids safe without dummying down the grownup's experience to an 8th grader's.
Accomplishing all this has required hard cold cash to the tune of about 10k-15k a month. Now we need to pay for marketing, which can cost up to 3K per month for at least 6 months. That's 12K-18K we need to raise, which can be earned through our new subscriptions that are definitely helping to get us there. We've even been talking about doing a Kickstarter crowd sourcing campaign. And while giving money is great, we'd actually prefer folks pledge to help spreading the word about us through their social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIN. That is honestly far more valuable to us than an advertising campaign ... but we'd not turn down donations from those who feel more comfy helping out that way :D
Type in My3DWebSpace@gmail.com to PayPal if you feel the urge. Just be sure to leave us a note that its for our social media push.
A Word to the Nay Sayers
I do want to say something to those who think that our monthly membership fees are unfair, or those who would feel the urge to bash us around a bit for even considering doing a Kickstarter campaign. We are only here out of the generosity of our users and supporters. We have never accepted any outside investor funding, because their focus was on money rather than community. By us asking YOU ... our users, to help fund us, that makes YOU our primary concern and keeps us focused on YOUR NEEDS AND WANTS - not investors or advertisers. That's what our whole platform and business model is based upon. Otherwise, I think we'd run the risk of becoming more corporate than we are really designed to be as a community.
Why We Court Business, Education and Government Projects
How else are we to make it possible for our creators to earn a living income, but by bringing them in on big budget projects? But, we feel strongly that should not come at the cost of the spirit of creativity we've tried to foster on SpotON3D. Everything we've done has been in support of creators to help them leverage their offerings securely in a new way and be able to turn it into a career that they could really live off of.
My History as an Artist
Being an artist who has lived off my skills, augmented with "real world" jobs, I know how valuable its is to be able to whole heartily pursue your artistic dreams without that "real" job. I think everyone should have the opportunity to make that a reality and that's been my vision for SpotON3D since day one .... starting 17 years ago in Active Worlds. Yep ... that makes me the old lady of the 3DWeb as I've always called this, and I wear that badge with pride. It takes a great deal of energy, persistence, faith and love to stick with something like this for that long. Just ask anyone who knows me. I am a mothering type, just trying to have a positive impact on the people I am fortunate enough to come in contact with.
We HAVE Given Back to the Community ... With Paying Jobs & MORE!
Our biggest expenses to date have been our team member contractors. Our actual costs for the technology only add up to about $1K a month. As I said on Vanishes blog, if asking for a premium account and rational but affordable rental sim fees to keep our most talented folks working in this industry is selfish, then so be it. I'm the biggest oinker there is then! :D
Yeah .... I know we'll get same old people saying things like, "Why haven't you been submitting code". We have, but we didn't think we needed to raise banners and shout out about it. Especially since doing so was against the rules due to the difference in the licenses.
OpenSim is a BSD license which gives you to right to do anything you want without restrictions or requirements to submit your changes back.
SL/Linden's Client is GPL, which requires anyone who uses it to submit all their code back to the community.
The rule was that you could not submit code to OpenSim if you'd viewed the SL client code in the last six months and all our coders who worked on the back end of our flavor of OpenSim also regularly viewed and work with the client code. This mean we were actually blocked from contributing. I hope that clarifies that and puts that old dead argument to rest! LOL
Our Vision for This Technology - The 3DWeb
If you're looking for an SL look-a-like, then we're not the place for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for what SL COULD HAVE BEEN, then come on in for a visit. Our team and community have built what is said by most to be the single most stable, secure, responsibly run and innovative grid built upon the OpenSim base code.
Its NOT About Money or Even the Science For Us
We believe in this technology - not as a science of 1's and 0's, but as a means to literally bring the world together in a way that simply has not been possible before - an extension of the already proven strengths of our current two dimensional web. This MUST go forward and MUST do more than just act as a hook up venue or a glorified chat room. That's good stuff for sure, but definitely marginalizes the capability of this technology if we don't strive to push the functionality to the max and expose it to a broader audience.
Its About Bringing the Metaverse Together
I truly believe that the 3DWeb has the potential to pave the way to a new way of working that respects our earth's resources, allows families to be more connected and responsible, and for businesses to grow a heart and a brain and view their employees in a new light ... and vice versa ... to steer the world's controls back into a more balanced position. And everything we say and do as members of this Metaversian community affects the speed and power of this drive to change. That's why I've been adamant about this not being just about SpotON3D, Second Life, InWorlds, Gay Nation Grid or any other grid out there. We all should be working together to raise awareness of ourselves AS A COMMUNITY AND INDUSTRY ... not just as a single grid or business. Why? Because we all offer something special that meets the needs of a niche audience. One grid's presences does not mean the others have no value or importance.
For all the anti-patent folks ... you've had your say on every single blog out there so I feel no need to have it repeated here. If you'd like to paste a link to a previous blog you've expressed your opinions, I'll consider putting that link up, but otherwise I think it would be boring and redundant to have all that repeated here.
Yes ... we've patented stuff and
Yes ... we understand you think patents are evil devices to block the road map for Opensim and
Yes ... we know you think we're legalistic, even though we've never threatened anyone legally - no lawsuits, no cease and desist letters, no letters threatening to squish anyone's rights to make their own path to their goals in a new and innovative way.
And NO ... we aren't like the Mob, shaking down users to user our plugin. Its actually free for any member of our community to use: https://spoton3d.com/world/get_your_plugin_here/
AND YES ... our old 3DURL system is still open to anyone to use for other grids if you know the hack *winks*, though I can't promise that will always be the case so i'd not recommend anyone use that for a production level tool.
So, now that all that's outta the way, let the blogging begin, but I should tell you that I will reserve the right to no publish repetitive, redundant and non factual rude postings. I do not believe in encouraging blog spamming to support another business either. I don't go on other people's blogs and spam their comments section to generate business buzz for myself, so I not going to allow that here on ours either. Yes ... you know who you are that I am speaking to. :)