Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Story About Leather that is not Kinky

Some years ago, I needed a new wallet. My old wallet had fit perfectly. It was thin, with only two pockets to hold my license, credit card, and metro card. It had a subtle clip to secure what little cash I keep on hand. Sadly, the leather on the clip had worn through and the protruding metal was tearing holes in my pants' pockets.

No store sold a precise replica of my ideal wallet, so I bought new pants instead.

Fast forward to a Saturday afternoon walking through SoHo where I stumble across a leather boutique. This looked to be the sort of store that sold foolishly expensive handbags my sister would love, but eyeing a window display of leather wallets and fingering the growing hole in my back right pocket, I stepped inside. I placed my worn out wallet on the counter and said, "I want to buy this but not broken."

At this point, the leather vendor cringed. After regaining his composure, he brought two wallets identical to my own to his counter, one brown and one black. "These are like your wallet, but better," he said.

"Of course," I replied, "because these ones aren't broken."

"No, no, that is not why." Taking a full minute, the leather vendor described the perfection of these wallets, closing with, "For a long time I couldn't even sell wallets because no one made them right."

I didn't care at the time. A wallet only needs to hold money and not have excess pockets for things I don't carry, so I bought the black one. Years later, my wallet is still in perfect condition and I realize it is a spectacular, invincible, truly fine little wallet.

The vendor could have sold me a lower quality wallet. He could have sold me a lower quality wallet at a higher price, but he didn't. He wouldn't even allow a lower quality wallet into his store. He cringed--was visibly emotionally affected--at the presence of my broken, imperfect wallet.

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I've flown every major airline. Except for JetBlue, I've sworn to never again use each of them. But JetBlue doesn't fly everywhere, so I'm often stuck using American or United despite the poor service I've come to expect.

We face this problem in MMOs. CCP and Mythic don't fly to Azeroth. An MMO, like any social network, has an inherent lock-in quality. MySpace never has to improve because it already has the users. Right now, Activision-Blizzard is acting like MySpace, but I want them to act like the leather vendor in SoHo. I want them to be sad about yesterday's extended maintenance the same way our leather vendor was sad about my broken wallet, not because 11 million customers were annoyed but because somewhere in the world a nerdy guy's cartoon bear didn't get to tank Zul'Farrak on Veteran's Day.

This is an immensely high standard, but as a customer I am entitled to place my expectations wherever I choose. Where do you place the bar?

Like many Warcraft bloggers, I have a programming background and have spent time in both IT and web services. I'm not sure where the Activision-Blizzard sympathizers are employeed, but even in my extremely lenient industries, less than 99% uptime was not acceptable. Ten hours of unexpected downtime would cause heads to roll.

In a perfect week, World of Warcraft's scheduled maintenance periods and rolling restarts drop it below 95% uptime. Various industries like finance, healthcare, and the military use networked mission critical services with a 99.999% reliability standard. Could Activision-Blizzard be more reliable? If so, should we expect them to?

Years ago, WoW became popular by doing the same things as other MMOs but doing them better. WoW still does the same things as other MMOs. Does it still do them better?

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I'm thinking of naming my wallet Sonny.

1 comment:

Devv said...

That was hands down the best post I've read on a WoW blog in a LONG time. I read a lot of blogs because, well... I just might be that nerdy guy whose cartoon bear didn't get to tank Zul'Farrak on Veteran's Day. At any rate, I read a lot of blogs and that one was quite the enjoyable read. You make an excellent point and I really like how you tied the whole thing together. I'm adding you to my blogroll because I love the way you write. Between you and Euripedes, you're going to give me an inferiority complex!