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Flabbergasted! Thank you SO much!

I laughed… I cried (repeatedly… like a lot)… I gasped in disbelief…

I speak for myself and everyone on the team when I say that we are all absolutely flabbergasted, floored, shocked, astonished, gobsmacked and most of all humbled beyond all meanings of the words. There are just not enough words to describe our appreciation; you have all been so incredibly generous.

At the time of writing this, 12:46PM SLT, the balance is L$2,087,455. Our target goal—which I didn’t think we had much hope of hitting—was L$1.6 million. This would give us enough for our Kakadu license, some money for marketing and some money for an accountant, a lawyer and the taxes which we’ll certainly have to pay because of this fund drive. We are over 2 million linden dollars right now, and actually it is too much! Really it is!

The unfortunate reality in what we do is that most of the time we only hear from the disgruntled, upset, screaming, frustrated, angry users while only occasionally hearing from the folks who genuinely appreciate what we do and offer us a thank you. That thank you, while not much to most, is usually all we ever need. It is what fuels our fire and drives us to push forward. To merge the next code drop, to help the next user requesting help, to write reproductions of bugs, to respond to JIRAs and to carry on in all the facets of what we all do.

It is so easy to forget just how much impact we make here and just how many people we help. But this weekend you have all, so many thousands of you, thanked us in the loudest voices ever possible through demonstration, example, action and sacrifice. Your contributions this weekend have been so much more than financial, and as a result morale on the team right now has never been so high. You have renewed our spirits, dedication and commitment and our resolve to keep doing what we do. You have validated to us that it is all worth it, all the hours… Your thanks has been heard so incredibly loudly.

You have my solemn word that every single cent donated to this project will go back towards our operating costs. Every dollar will in some way or another go back into the community that has so generously contributed. And as always, we will all remain purely volunteers in what we do, with our reward being your thanks. None of us have ever, nor will ever, gain monetarily from our efforts.

Because we have well surpassed our goal I am tempted to remove the jackets from Marketplace now, but I also understand that doing so may upset folks who still want to contribute but haven’t yet had a chance to. So I will leave them available but with the mention that we really don’t need any more financial support at this point.

You have been so incredibly amazing, thank you all so very very much!

Love always,
Jessica Lyon and the entire Firestorm Team.

Firestorm Fund Raising

Firestorm in Need of Funding

The Phoenix Firestorm Project is now in its sixth year with a team of over 80 volunteers providing development, quality assurance, management, support in 10 languages and now marketing to bring new users into Second Life, increase the overall population and improve the new user experience. Only once in the past did we find ourselves in need of financial support, when we needed to cover some of our startup costs in the very beginning. Since then, we have managed to afford our ongoing operating expenses by way of Google Adsense and the Linden AdBuy program. We rent two servers for hosting our website, JIRA, wiki, and downloads, and we are responsible for various licensing expenses like digital certificate code signing, Kakadu software, etc.

We have practiced a rule of declining the countless generous offers of donations we have received from you, our users, over the years for many reasons. First, we’ve managed to stay in the black. Second, I have a personal aversion to accepting charity. Third, we’ve wanted to avoid sending the message that donating to the project would entitle the donor to any kind of special advantages from a support or development perspective; we consider all of our users and their needs to be equally important, and that will not change.

However, these operating expenses have, like everything monetary, increased over time, while Adsense revenue has decreased with less traffic to our site. What’s more, the exchange rate from Mens Ad RegularUS dollars to Canadian (where I live and pay our bills from) has taken a turn towards the horrendous. For quite a while now we have been operating in the red, and I’ve made up for it out-of-pocket in hopes that things might pick up again. Unfortunately, though, we are approaching the renewal for our Kakadu license, and though I’m not permitted to say how much it costs us, I can say that it is, by a very big margin, our largest annual expense. Kakadu, or KDU, helps improve rendering performance and reliability significantly enough that we feel it is worth the price (for those familiar with how a codec works for videos, it’s kind of like that). Last year we had the help of OnLive, which covered half that expense, but we don’t have that now. We also hope to raise some revenue to put towards marketing in hopes of attracting new users into Second Life and keeping them.

This project was founded on the principle of giving, not taking, but a time has come where we are in need of funds. We will be placing a small Google Adsense advertisement on our login splash screen. But more excitingly…!!!

Limited-edition Firestorm-branded his-and-hers leather jackets!

I have been busily trying to learn how to create a line of clothing we can offer our donors as a thank you for your donations. We are starting out with these jackets, though, which will be sold on SL Marketplace in tiers based on what you are willing or able to donate. In tiers of L$250, L$500 and Womans Dakota RegularL$1000 you will receive the Tier One Jacket with our logo on the back. Then there are Bronze, Silver and Gold Tier Jackets for backing levels of L$5,000, L$10,000 and L$25,000. I expect we won’t sell many of those, so the few who buy them will really stand out as our biggest supporters. The jackets are rigged mesh, have a color change HUD and come in all the standard sizes. You will be able to read more details and purchase them from our Marketplace store here.

FIRESTORM STORE https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/92041

For the sake of transparency I will be happy to provide a summary of our monthly revenue on request; just drop me an email. If you would rather provide a donation without a purchase, we have placed a tip jar in the Firestorm Gateway Event Space SLURL

On behalf of the Firestorm Team, thank you for your generous support!

Sincerely,

Jessica Lyon
Project Manager
The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Inc.

Share your love of Second Life: Sharing Pages now have RL testimonials!

Firestorm AB Test

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was unable to use bonafide Second Life user testimonials in the first batch of sharing pages due to time constraints. Well, I’m pleased to share that I’ve had several submissions from SL users to our Flickr Gateway Page and directly to my email. We now have more than the required 18 testimonials for all six pages, including RL pics!

First things first: Thank you to all of you who shared your testimonials and images!

You can see (and SHARE!) all the RL testimonial sharing pages here:

If you submitted a testimonial and did not see it in these pages:

There are five possible reasons:

  1. You submitted an image that did not comply with the design requirements (e.g. I couldn’t use images with faces that were too far to the right or left of the frame, or else they would not appear correctly in my circle crop. I couldn’t use too many images where the faces were too small)
  2. You submitted an avatar image and not an RL image
  3. You did not supply an RL location (I made exceptions to this in some cases if the testimonials were compelling)
  4. Your testimonial did not fit the topic of the page (i.e. I received some great testimonials about topics that the page wasn’t about, so I’m reserving those for subsequent pages when I make them)
  5. I received your recommendation too late. If that’s the case, I may use it on subsequent pages.

You may still see the original pages with mock testimonials

I am conducting content experiments on all these pages (i.e. A/B tests). A/B testing is a method of comparing two versions of a web page against each other to determine which one performs better. By creating an A and B variant and testing them against each other (e.g. some with RL testimonials, some with mock testimonials), I can use data & statistics to validate new design changes and improve our conversion rates. That’s better than conducting a survey or responding to opinions from those who comment because we’re not making decisions based on what people think; but rather observing what the target markets do.

All the old URLs still work! There’s no need to change any of them. A random 50% of users will see the original pages and the other 50% of users will see the variant pages. Whichever version results in the most conversions wins! So, if you really think RL testimonials will get more Second Life users, share these pages listed above!

Let the games begin!

Canary Beck
Marketing Manager
Phoenix Firestorm Project