Empire Avenue and the Case of the More Dessert Fiasco
As someone who has been active on Empire Avenue for nearly a year (my anniversary is less than a week away), one of the things I've enjoyed about the site is that--for the most part--the people it attracts who actually stick around and become regular users are some of the smartest folks on the Internet. They really get social media, they see value in the important stuff that other people don't understand, and for the most part they manage to avoid the whiny mentality that infects so much of the Internet. I've met some amazing people on Empire Avenue, and it's difficult not to attribute that to the strengths of the platform.
Recently, however, I've noticed that a lot of people are complaining about what I will call the "More Dessert Fiasco." There were some rough spots along the way, but eventually Empire Avenue reached a satisfactory resolution to a string of unfortunate events. That resolution should have made everyone happy. Instead, people are calling out the site's co-founder on his profile, posting anonymously on blog posts that Empire Avenue is the worst social media site ever, and in general behaving like, well... the parts of the Internet that most rational people try to avoid.
Some of this is a side effect of Empire Avenue's continued success. Some of it is the result of people who are too busy to read blog updates (after all, we all have lives offline), so they don't realize that their issues have been resolved. Some of it is people with poor reading comprehension due to a variety of possible factors. However, might there not also be a legitimate beef? Is Empire Avenue starting to make some persistent mistakes? I can't help but wonder. Maybe that vocal and vicious minority isn't missing anything at all. Maybe such people are the only ones who really see the frightening truth!
So let me summarize the whole scenario as I see it, and maybe you can tell me where I got something wrong. I'm genuinely interested, because I love the Empire Avenue platform and I hope to continue using it to drive up my social media engagement for a long time to come.
As far as I can tell, the More Dessert Fiasco began when Empire Avenue started offering the "More Dessert" and "Even More Dessert" bonus items in the Empire Avenue shop. For 10,000e, users could purchase a 10-use bonus item that raised the number of shares that it was possible to invest in someone's ticker by 100, or they could purchase a 10-use item that raised that limit by 200 if they invested $10.00. This was on top of "slices of pie" that more permanently extended purchase maximums.
When you first sign up for Empire Avenue, your limit for investment is 200 shares. You can then purchase upgrades, either with eaves or with a combination of eaves and real-world cash (if you're in a hurry). By the time More Dessert was introduced, that hard limit rested at 600 and there was reason to believe that it would not increase from there. I had managed to purchase upgrades that took me to that point, using eaves and cash both, so I had a vested interest in the More Dessert and Even More Dessert bonus items.
The first apparent source of frustration for users is that these were presented as limited-time items, only intended to be available through the end of a particular month. As often happens on sites around the Internet, the deadline eventually shifted due to strong participation. So the bonus deadline kept shifting and (most recently) it has disappeared altogether. More Dessert and Even More Dessert now appear to be upgrades that will be available permanently, or at least for a very long time. I'm not sure why, but this natural occurrence seems to irritate some people. All I can figure is that they were hoping it would stay gone--never something that was presented as a certainty, with the reasonable assumption always being that it would be available off and on as part of a rotation for the foreseeable future--so that they could have an advantage over their fellow users.
Fine. There's nothing wrong with wanting to have an advantage, and being willing to pay a premium for that advantage. I was interested myself, and I purchased the More Dessert bonus a number of times. Each time, the cost for investment went up, so that right now I have to pay 23,000e if I want to invest in another such bonus. Meanwhile, Even More Dessert lies untouched because I don't have $10.00 to spare right now. There was also the problem that--at first--the More Dessert upgrade required one use each time you invested above the 600 shares mark. So for instance, if I made two separate investments to take someone up to 700 shares in my portfolio, I was down 2 of my potential 10 uses. Not only that, but the bonus goes away 7 days after activation, so there were times when I didn't get a full 10 uses because I was saving up to invest in more expensive investment sources.
Eventually, Dups (the site's co-founder and the person who typically communicates with the community) announced that a change was in order. He posted on his blog and presented users with three options. The most popular option, with around 80% of people voting for it, was a change so that two additional slices of pie would be added. This would raise the new hard limit to 800 shares (with proper investment), but there was a down side: More Dessert and Even More Dessert purchases would not be saved. Translation: those who spent $10.00 on upgrades, or who spent a large number of eaves (larger for some than others) would be in a position where they had wasted their money.
I didn't like that solution, though I felt that permanent pie upgrades were an important idea that needed to be implemented. I presented Dups with one possible solution (out of many, I can only assume) that would allow the site's coders to keep the desert bonuses in effect. I know enough about relational databases to say with confidence that my idea would have worked (and in fact, there were a number of approaches that would have worked). Along with others, I pointed out that people who spend eaves and money need to be able to do with confidence. They need to know that later site changes won't come along and render their investment meaningless (or close to it).
Dups announced that he would return with an announcement, and when he did it was all good news... in my opinion. I'm not taking any credit for his decision, as I'm sure there were a lot of more noteworthy people saying the same things, but I am expressing my pleasure. Dups revealed that the permanent pie upgrades that almost everyone wanted would be implemented within a week (that has happened), and that the bonuses would remain on file. The change was outlined in no uncertain terms, with specific numbers so that nothing should have been unclear. The new hard limit for investment was 800 shares in any ticker, and any More Dessert and Even More Dessert bonuses that you may have purchased could take that limit to 900 or even 1000 shares... but only if you had invested in those bonus upgrades.
The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive, but there have been a few people who respond angrily that any investment in the bonuses was a wasted investment. So I'm left with the question: what am I missing? As someone who bought a large number of More Dessert upgrades--as many as I could reasonably afford--I don't feel cheated at all. People are saying that they wasted their time, because now anyone can purchase up to 800 shares in someone (after buying enough pie upgrades). However, not just anyone can invest in 900 or 1000 shares, so what's the big difference? The More Dessert and Even More Dessert upgrades presently have the same benefit that they always did: they allow you to purchase 100 or 200 shares more than the current hard limit. Any advantage that you gained by purchasing those bonuses have not gone away.
The only point I feel such people may have is that in order to stay ahead of the people who don't purchase those bonus upgrades (but who invest in more pie), it will be necessary to purchase two additional slices of pie for a total cost of $100 or 1,100,000 eaves. To me, this is a complete non-issue. Most people who are likely to benefit from investing in someone to that extent already earn enough eaves that such an expenditure is hardly worthy of notice.
So I repeat my question: what am I missing? How does this suddenly make Empire Avenue a horrible social media platform, and what social media platforms presented with similar situations have handled their evolution with more grace? If you have any thoughts, I'd love for you to share them below.