Direct Delivery: 21st March launch

In keeping with the time scale indicated by Oz Linden (as pointed to in these pages by Latif Khalifa), Direct Delivery will be launching on March 21st.

The news came via a post from CommerceTeam Linden in the Merchant’s Forum, which states:

Beginning on March 21, purchases on the Marketplace using Direct Delivery will go directly to recipient’s Received Items folder. The Received Items folder will NOT be used for other inventory transfers at this time. Magic Box purchases will continue to go to the Objects folder.

The Delivery folder will appear on the order and in all email notifications to the recipient.

At launch, we will be sharing additional details as well as updated Knowledge Base articles in all four languages supported on the Marketplace. We will also provide more details on migration.

Direct Delivery is the mechanism that will replace Magic Boxes for merchants using the SL Marketplace and which should bring improvements to the overall delivery of items purchased on the Marketplace. It has been in development now for around a year, and reached public beta in January this year, which presented the first real opportunity to report on the system in detail to a wider audience.

No Wider Use of Received Items – Yet

A core part of Direct Delivery is the Received Items panel. This was originally going to be a sub-section of the inventory floater and would be used to received items purchased on the Marketplace into your inventory. However, Linden Lab recently sought to extend the functionality of Received Items so that all new incoming items to your inventory would arrive in Received Items, essentially breaking-out the idea into a project of its own, which was not particularly well received by the community.

As a result of feedback on Received Items, and because of wider impacts of the system on SL functionality, LL have started revising aspects of the broader Received Items functionality. Because of this, and to repeat LL’s own statement, Received Items will only be used for SL Marketplace Deliveries at the March 21st launch. All other items incoming to your inventory will continue to be handled as they are now

Merchants have requested as to when the wider functionality might be rolled out, but LL has, at this time, declined to comment beyond re-confirming that the project is “on hold”.

While it would be nice to have a clearer roadmap as to Received Items itself, the fact that LL have listened to concerns from all parties – merchants, RLV users, those providing feedback to the initial survey and the follow-up is to be applauded, and one hopes that the dialogue will continue in the run-up to the Direct Delivery launch and thereafter through to the roll-out of the wider Received Items functionality (assuming this goes ahead), in order to ensure all potential adverse impacts are either avoided or at least reduced to manageable levels.

Problems

Direct Delivery itself, as a long-term project, both serves as demonstrating the complexities involved in making alterations to the overall SL infrastructure, and the need for open and on-going dialogue between the Lab and the merchant community / community as a whole; something that many feel has been distinctly lacking at times, with the project almost rolled-out inspect of known issues.

Even now problems potential remain, with questions still being asked about ANS functionality once Direct Delivery goes live, a subject Darrius Gothly gave considerable insight to last November. Potentially more damaging is the fact that little further communication on Direct Delivery appears to be on the cards prior to the launch, again as noted in the forum post:

At launch, we will be sharing additional details as well as updated Knowledge Base articles in all four languages supported on the Marketplace. We will also provide more details on migration

Direct Delivery is a major change in functionality, especially for merchants. While many have been involved in the development of the project and the initial “private beta” (even with its daft requirement to complete an NDA before merchants could find out what they were signing-up for) prior to the public beta, many equally have not – and precisely what has changed as a result of the public beta – if anything – many be equally unclear.

As such, there needs to be a positive communications campaign ahead of the launch in order to ensure merchants have all the information at their fingertips prior to the launch, and have time to ensure they are fully prepared for Direct Delivery going live. Similarly, a more pro-active approach to announcing the roll-out needs to be taken towards the user community as a whole – preferably through a full blog posting ahead of March 21st announcing the arrival of Direct Delivery and informing / reassuring users as to what to expect, with a follow-up on the day of the launch.

If nothing else, a more pro-active approach to the launch will help restore some of the trust between merchants and the Commerce Team / Linden Lab, which has been somewhat eroded during the development of Direct Delivery and through earlier projects, such as the morphing of XStreet into SL Marketplace (itself frequently a morass of conflicting communications) and other breakages.

I’m not alone in being concerned over the “wait until the day” approach when it comes to further information, as implied by the forum post: Tateru points to this with a comment on her blog about allowing 14 days for information absorption, and Darrius Gothly also posts on the subject as well.

It’s good that LL have been listening to concerns over Received Items and that they are responding to such fully and carefully by placing the broader aspects of the project on hold. I very much hope that they do listen to concerns being voiced around the matter of Dirrect Delivery announcements and documentation and continue to respond positively to these concerns by addressing them ahead of time, as suggested here and elsewhere.