Where RL and virtual design collide into a cataclysm of failure.

I often talk about that place in the Venn diagram (what? I like Venn diagrams) where RL and VW (in my case, SL) design skills overlap. I think it’s interesting to note the ways that design is design is design, and that when humans are utilizing a product or space that their needs basically remain the same no matter where that design is ultimately located.

Of course this works both ways- when a design is good, it tends to be good pretty much everywhere. When a design fails spectacularly…yeah, it fails everywhere too.

So let’s talk about a couple of things.

1. You don’t fuck up a charity project.

Now, I have more experience with charity projects than the vast majority of people. Big ones. Small ones. International ones. I’m gonna repeat this:

You don’t fuck up a charity project. When you want people to donate to charity, your goal is to first and foremost make it *easy* for them to do so. Every obstacle you put in their way loses money for your chosen cause. Every time someone hits a barrier to giving you their hard earned cash, a certain percentage of them will decide that the hassle for them to give YOU money is too much, and walk away. The more barriers, the more money lost. It MUST be an easy experience.

2. When planning a large event like a convention, trade show or something similar, you need to keep several things in mind:

a) You must keep traffic flowing. Bottlenecks are bad, mkay?

b) You must create a traffic pattern in which people can walk in *one* path, *one* direction, and go from start to finish and see *everything* at the show. See point 1 above. People want to see everything at a show. If you get them lost, make it difficult for them to track their progress, or determine what they’ve seen and what they haven’t, *you will lose money and attendees*. They will not stick around long enough to buy anything, because they will be too busy being pissed off at your shitty layout. This is *not* the time to get crazy with the cheez whiz. Simplicity is key.

c) you must allow your vendors to sufficiently differentiate their spaces from one to another so that customers can easily create their own mental landmarks (i.e.: the giant booth with the castle on top, the booth with the lollipops in front, the booth with the dragons to either side- you get the idea). Forcing a great degree of continuity and sameness is contrary to your goal. People are visual- they will remember a visual cue much better and more quickly than a store name. They will also be more likely to tell their friends using that method as well, but if they forget a name? They will not bother to tell anyone.

Now, there’s a lot of other things involved in this kind of design, but those things up there? They’re not negotiable. They apply to every large scale event everywhere. It applies in the real world, and in any and all virtual worlds.

And then…

We have this year’s Hair Fair. Which is *precisely the opposite* of all the things I said just now. It is a colossal, epic cataclysm of design failure. The vendors have every right and reason to be *furious*, and I have no doubt at all that the unbelievable level of failure on the part of the physical layout is costing the vendors and the charity for whom they’re raising money, a LOT of cash.

Hair Fair raises money for charity. In this case it’s Wigs for Kids, which helps out kids who are dealing with cancer. However, see point one, above. There are problems that are unique to SL (lag, sculpties and rez time) that are problematic here also (the lag is unavoidable- the sheer volume of sculpties is plain old garden variety stupid), but the main issues are related to basic and fundamental design principles which exist *everywhere*.

Previous Hair Fairs were not like this. You *could* walk all the way around all of it (all four sims worth) in one path. This one is markedly different, and not for the better. The vendors are stuck into tents, creating a confusing warren of disconnected buildings and seemingly unpredictable entrances and exits. In reality, the layout is symmetrical, along a central axis. But since the tents are not open to the front, once inside, you lose your sense of direction easily, particularly when faced with the enormous amount of lag one expects at an event like this.

Hair Fair 2010

Hair Fair 2010

The tents themselves are ugly. They look like a cross between the set of M*A*S*H* and the backstage area of a cut rate fashion show. There’s no connection between them and the outside, which is a shame, since they would feel far less claustrophobic were they open to the front. There’s a strong sense of disorientation, and it’s nearly impossible to determine what you’ve seen and what you haven’t from a distance, because the visual cues of differentiation from booth to booth are almost nonexistent.

There's no room for differentiation

between one booth and another.

The only way to successfully navigate this mess is to teleport from location to location- except the notecard of the SLurls contains a listing of *unlinked* ones. (again, adding yet another step- see point one. Oh also, the Slurl for Analog Dog is incorrect- this is the correct one: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Hair%20Fair/228/86/25 )

However, not even THIS will help you, because on three of the four sims, point to point teleportation has been disabled- forcing you to a landing point or to follow a beacon, adding to the confusion. Only the most determined (and I really mean the MOST) determined hair shoppers will bother with this for four sims worth(roughly 200 vendors) worth of stuff. The percentage of people who will see everything or even bother to try is vanishingly small.

Four sims worth of this kind of insanity? Oh hell no.

Now, before everyone jumps my shit for “picking on a charity”, I want to say a couple of things- the reason why Im so annoyed by this is *because* it’s for charity.  The  CHARITY and the vendors deserve better than this.  Also, I am part of the vanishingly small percentage of people who saw *every single vendor*.  I spent over $30,000L.  So I paid my nickel for my stance on this.  I know that if I did not have a *vested* and deep interest in getting this stuff (I do, for modeling purposes) I would have gotten my ass out of there after the first half sim- not because of the lag (which is expected) because of the layout.

I am sure the people who run Hair Fair are lovely and good people. But I am begging them to find a professional designer to lay out their fair next year.  Hell, I’ll even do it for free. But this? This is a fiasco. No. Do not want.



  1. I have to agree with you tho I have not been to Hair fair. I can think of several events where the organisers have no real grasp on SL life/mechanics and superimpose some stupid RL marketing idea on the hapless participants. SL6B/7B/orBL is probably the most famous, but even that wasn’t in tents (how stupid can you get).
    …and this stupid idea that you can’t tp where you like is because the idiot bean-counters want to list everyone who comes… they love statistics (because they need to quantify success).
    Why oh why do people have no common sense?

    • The first sim allows point to point teleportation. I was shocked and horrified, frankly, to learn the other three didn’t. Considering the lag (again, expected- I am not complaining about the lag.), forcing a TP point creates a bigger issue- you have to walk or fly anyway, *regardless*. You’re still attempting to walk across that mess. Hair Fair 1 went down completely last night while I was on it- full crash, due to traffic. It took 20 minutes to reboot it. I am using a more powerful computer than most to access SL the majority of the time. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people who are on laptops, or wifi. The sculpted fans, the sculpted studio lights (as seen in the photos)- all add to the lag problem. Either allow the vendors to use sculpts to design their booths and keep the booths/accessories provided by the fair straight prims only, or ban the vendors from using sculpts (I strongly recommend the former). But to do both is madness. On my computer with 1gb video memory and 8gb ram it took 20 full minutes for the first booth at Hair Fair 1 to rez up because of the sculpties.

      I must say though, that even in RL? This would have been disappointing, confusing, and unattractive. The tents feel extremely claustrophobic, and because of the restrictions of the way the tents are set up (and I presume prim limits for the vendors), very few of them are memorable. The majority look so much alike I could barely tell you who was who.

  2. I kept getting turned around. I was constantly having to pan out and keep a note of vendors I’d seen. The tents aren’t even all set out the same inside either. I was rather horrified to see all the prim stuff that was obviously part of the set dressing. I expected the lag, but seeing so many prims that didn’t need to be there was driving me nuts. It was slow as hell for me and my computer is as beefy as yours.

    I have 1 sim left and I will get through it, but it’s sheer tenacity that I will.

  3. Interesting stuff! I’m sure people lose sense of reality in virtuality, so to have you drive home some common sense is really useful. Also, I really like your point about differentiating spaces – and can see how that applies just as much if not more, given what is possible, in a virtual environment as a real one. And it’s weirdly comforting to know that vendors will be disappointed as disappointed in SL as real life, yet markets hold the same promise and impulse spending as they would in RL.

  4. wow … sane, common sense … with practical advice and suggestions …I would love it if this kind of thinking could catch on and we might approach all our problems this way … ok that does it .. BRONXELF for president!!!!

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