COMMENTS SECTION IS FULLY ACTIVE - PLEASE POST YOUR THOUGHTS, ANONYMOUSLY OR OTHERWISE!
Base concept # 1 : if FM wants to make money, here's a radical concept - instead of trying to force people to pay for things they DON'T want, how about offering some stuff they WILL want to buy...
* set up a graduated system of ClubFoo packages, starting with an economical one that includes Club benefits WITHOUT the foodollar bang for perhaps $10 a year, then the current style, and an enhanced one that gives advance refusal on limited edition collectibles, and possibly a tax exemption and/or other special perks.
* put ALL Fooshelter neuters at the minimum ($50f) price point - and offer NEUTERING REVERSAL for $300f.
* offer RE-POKEYING of converted dogs for $1000f - as many as there are on the site now, a few more shouldn't make any difference, and as it's obvious that they aren't going to be able to get rid of them altogether, they might as well turn them into an asset - twice, at that, as people will also purchase foo$ in order to buy the "new" Legacy Pokeys.
* animals unvisited by the owner for, say, a year, would automatically go on public sale for whatever would be their "list" value in the fooshelter.
* put back the Fashion Shows - with a fee to vote. if they set the amounts (gems for gem show, scaled rates for the other two) so that in order to cast enough "ringer" votes for a shot at winning, a multiprofiled player would end up breaking even, that should level the playing field nicely...and the site ought to show a nice little profit, as well, not to mention the shot in the arm it would give the Boutique.
(of course, they could also just use the same protocol they have in the Feedback section, where multiple votes by the same IP don't stay registered...wouldn't make extra money, but would allow them to put back the feature, make members happy, and get their original nut.)
* set up a licensing system for member shelters, with an application fee and a monthly charge - and a profile symbol indicating that they are registered with the site.
this would not only provide income for the site, but ought to weed out a lot of the scam and "hobby" shelters, or at least let folks know that they may not be reputable.
in exchange for the money received, the site would provide perks like allowing contests, raffles, etc. - subject to approval - for fundraising purposes, and a tax exemption. be nice if they could activate the "give a pet free" mode for this, too, but that may not be selectively codable. a way for members to donate pets, food, meds, gems, or foo$ to licensed shelters without either side taking a loss would be nice, too.
legitimate shelters cost money to run - believe me, i know, lol - so this ought to work quite beautifully if equable terms can be developed.
* provide, or allow a member to set up and post publicly whether it involves an outside link or not, a complete Pets For Sale section (NOT a Forum!), segmented by breed, age, and gender. if they want people to spend money, they have to be able to shop properly.
members would register their pets on public sale by going to the appropriate category and pasting the pet's link and asking price into the list, and it would (or should) also be the member's responsibility to remove their listings once the pet(s) sell. too many complaints of ineligible pets listed by a given member could result in their being denied access to the service for a to-be-determined length of time. perhaps it could be set up so that members posting multiple listings would need to register with the service.
were the site to do this, a 5% service charge could be built in here, as well.
* and for pity's sake get the site adoptables section OFF the Play Page and out where it's properly accessible...preferably in the top-tabbed style and original format where you could access a pet's complete information for all except new creates.
add a "Search" mode for foosheltereds rather than a limited selection, with a menu by breed (subheaded to gender and age) and/or link. again, if you want to sell, your customers have to be able to find the product.
* set up an Auction House, for both pets and collectibles, etc - with a percentage commission going to the site. as is done elsewhere, the member whose item is going up would set opening and minimum bids, tender method, and duration, with the thread automatically locking at the end of the time period.
it probably wouldn't be a bad idea for the item transfer to be automated as well, with the item/tender transfer handled by the site. in the event that the high bid lacks the resources for the purchase, the item would either go to the next-highest bidder, or the auction be voided and restarted, at the seller's preference.
* sell pet treats in the Food section of the FooMart, utilizing the coding already in place for flea meds to inventory and give them for the time being. like flea meds (used to), their use should result in an proportionate point/gem reward.
in the long run, recoding the Play page to show treats, and giving the pets special behaviors in response to receiving them, would be delightful, and justify a premium price for those items.
* open FooMart submissions to member voting - X number of votes (NOT from the submitter's IP) qualifying an item for sale.
this would effectively guarantee a demand, increasing site income, and saving them wasting setup time on items they may like, but purchasing members may not. a suggestion box attached for members to post and vote on what they'd like to see isn't a bad idea, either.
rework the submission process to include a gem equivalent, and raise the fee in exchange for going back to a sales commission for the submitting artist rather than a minimal flat fee.
* make Collectibles valuable again by limiting availability (close the "loopholes" that allow the purchase of previously issued year-dated and discontinued items, and set a known, predetermined quantity for new limited edition items that does not vary), and include a subscription system whereby serious collectors can pay a fee for first refusal - possibly incorporating this into a higher-level ClubFoo membership.
reset the member-to-member "sales tax" to either 5% in line with the tender-conversion fee, or the original 10% rate. the site will make far more off new purchases in this manner than they can hope for by taxing resales off the charts.
* set a fixed conversion rate for gems-to-dollars - and offer the service to members for a 5% commission, as a division of the FooBank.
Base Concept # 2 - if FP is going to claim to be an "educational site", how about teaching something other than rampant capitalism and how to hustle your marks (er, customers).
* get rid of the compulsory fee to open a new account - if the site shows good faith by offering value, people will spend money willingly, if they have it...and blowing them off at the gate if they don't cuts off all future revenue from that source, as well as damaging the site's educational and charitable credibility.
another, possibly better alternative would be offering choices in starter adopts - a "new create" with a paid membership, an under-4-month fooshelter adopt with a free one (without the option of seeing the pets' stats), and perhaps a bonus package (goods, gems, whatever) for selecting a neutered pet. this would tie in nicely with the non-foodollar membership package and fooshelter reorganization advocated in other sections.
* get that wheel OFF the Play page - or at least have it come up only after all pets have been tended.
also, get all the OTHER irrelevancies off the Play page - Adopt a Pet, Scenes, Decorate (which would no longer be necessary if they restore the Scenes tab), and so forth - which would allow them to put the new Care Bar BELOW the pet's scene, where it belongs...and get RID of that idiotic, useless, dysfunctional, distracting "hand" with petting!
* offer an incentive bonus for maintaining Bonding Badges, in gems or, preferably, foodollars, to kick in at perhaps 30 days, and increase gradually for each additional month of bonding. (sorry guys, but to be fair it can't be grandfathered - all badges regardless of day count when the program starts would have to begin even and accrue rewards at the same 30-day intervals.)
also, it would be an excellent care incentive if pets gained a stat point for each month of 100% bonding...either automatically going to the lowest of the five, or coming to the member as a "gift" to be added where they choose, though the coding for that option might be prohibitive.
* instead of outdated, never invoked FAQs about worming and shots for offspring - and absurdly overpricing the only medical item they DO carry - set up a well-pet veterinary protocol (preferably voluntary, at least for everything but bred offspring) that would include inoculations, wormings, and other such "maintenance" items and services, for a fair price.
while they're at it, how about flea collars and natural remedies like cedar/pennyroyal beds joining the 30-day options?
* set things up so that in order to tend pets other than your own, you must have a track record good enough to maintain a Bonding Badge...and pets in the red for food/water should not be accessible to be poop-scooped. you can't pet or play with them - this should be the same. No more "Brown Stars".
for that matter, the reward bang for tending your own pets ought to be higher than for those of others.
* pets must have 100% bonding in order to be sold. additional pets cannot be purchased by someone whose Bonding Badge is not active.
* LLs can be purchased by anyone, but in order to breed the member must have a Bonding Badge in good standing. No more absentee litters - if you have time to breed, you have time to feed. if a breeding member's badge lapses during the gestation and weaning process, the process should "freeze", though with two-party breeding i don't see how this can be done fairly. suggestions? i'd recommend that the litter be forfeited to the other player, but unavoidable things do happen.
* set up a Forum system that WORKS - with subcategories within groups, a fully-functional Search mode, automatic deletion of threads inactive for a given period, and PROPER MODERATION, including the ability to transfer an incorrectly-placed thread to the appropriate category.
ditch flagging for all categories except "inappropriate", and have these flags go directly to moderation rather than permitting possibly-biased members to make the call. if the Mod(s) decide a post is truly inappropriate, it would be their call to remove it and/or issue warnings or penalties, and if the flagging was frivolous or vengeful, to warn or penalize the flagger.
Moderators should be set up in adequate numbers, and in shifts, to provide accessibility to all users, and an Admin or ambassador tasked to reviewing their impartiality in the case of a dispute, with a specific system for reporting abuse of power...and stated penalties for unjustified or petty complaints.
this CAN be done, and without undue expense - we have seen it in action on other sites, staffed entirely by volunteers.
* a highly visible Member Resource Center needs to be set up, rather than having information scattered around profiles and the Forums, with a section included for the posting of site news and updates well in advance of the implementation of changes. contrary to FM's apparent opinion, informed members SOLVE problems - they rarely cause them.
this would ideally be a tabbed item on the member profile, rather than something people must go looking for - lack of access rather defeats the purpose.
* an organized mentoring system for new joins, with a list of volunteers that can be contacted for guidance and advice, wouldn't hurt, either...the existing ambassadors who are willing to serve this purpose are few, and overextended.
* activate - and USE - the Members' Review Board implemented at Admin's request during the initial beta controversy...and take it public. subcommittees and a wider "test" group would be good, too. this would be an excellent item for the new Resource Center.
MISCELLANEOUS NOTES :
the whole point of doing this is to present solutions that work for them AND us.
a lot of complaints and threats have been sent to them, to no avail...i'm trying to pitch for an actual hit, and something accomplished.
i've seen it stated that the site is "boring" - to high-speed gamers it may well be - but i still believe there is a big market out there for this level of VA interaction if it can only be made workable, and enjoyable, for all involved.
the site also needs to be aware that its original core membership - and those that have and spend the most money - are adults. the present trend of catering primarily if not exclusively to children, who are accustomed to faster, flashier, less demanding adoptables/gaming sites is likely to prove damaging to FooPets for a plethora of reasons. there are a bushel of VA sites targeted to youngsters - many of them started and operated BY youngsters - this was the ONLY one that was, originally at least, intended for adults. why throw away a successful exclusive market niche to compete in one already overcrowded?
FooPets is - or at least was - unique among VA sites in its animations and level of involvement with them - and it shows in member devotion to their "pixels", despite the negatives that have been becoming more and more prevalent.
alone among VA sites, FP achieved that rare thing - the suspension of disbelief required for people to take virtual animals seriously. this is now being eroded, but i hope not irretrievably.
the potential for pet education and contribution to RL animal care and charities alone demands we at least TRY to get things back on track before it's too late.
who knows? ...maybe we CAN turn "us and them" into "WE".
there are a lot of little nuts-and-bolts things that would be nice, like a kennel icon for the profiles of pets checked in showing the days remaining, that can be addressed down the road - for now i think we should concentrate on critical matters.
the UltraStats will tend to self-level, as their offspring's stats balance high-low against the medians when they are calculated - i have followed a number of litters, and as with any pet with an unusually high stat, the boomerang effect sets in. after a while people will get sick of spending money to get BELOW average youngsters as often as not, and they'll become collectibles at best - and "normal" pet stats will rebalance to pretty much their previous levels. we may recommend that they don't issue any more, but as the new-create pets are currently turning up either with average stats or "Ultra" in BOTH directions, high AND low, i think we can treat it as a nonissue, and concentrate our forces on more critical points.
there are a ton of VA sites out there, and i have yet to see any of the others trying to beg, blackmail, or beat money out of their members. those that are pay-to-play started that way, and offer value for the dollar. none, paid OR free, change their rules or play modes at random, or without adequate notice.
FooMojo might well consider segmenting the site into Junior, Teen, and Adult sections, either in lieu of or addition to the present General, with the option for existing players to choose their group - and appropriate systems for each.
it would also be seriously worth their while to consider eliminating the foodollar package from ClubFoo - or at least creating a less-costly option without it. that is the true source of the runaway inflation on the site - AND the dropoff in foodollar purchases...at least, it was until recently. at this point i suspect most folks will be damned if they'll put any money into the site, it's too busy trying to take it from them by force.
90% or better of the current problems with the site - both from the point of view of members, and management - could have been prevented by better communication. the secretive, almost sneaky tactics employed at FP are unprecedented, destructive...and unnecessary. they must CEASE. if we accomplish nothing else here, we MUST get open, timely communication going between staff and users.