Troubled Waters (without a bridge)

Prior to learning of FooSpyGlass’ interview with Jesse Janasov (or someone speaking in his name), my original intent for this “comeback” post was to assemble a timeline of the changes made to the FooPets site since its “creation” from Go-Pokey 12/22/08, and (among other things) try to pin down just how far back they really had been planning the pay-to-play-only conversion, as opposed to when they deigned to inform us, the membership. As I read over the interview, however, I see many things that will color the information in the timeline, so I feel a bit of – er – translation might be useful first.

Right out of the gate, Mr. Janasov/Rivet engages in what would be charitably called “creative spin” … Ron Hornbaker was considerably more than “an ex-vet(erinarian) with a dream” – he was, and is, someone with quite a bit of experience with internet startups and ventures, as well as acquiring capital from investors, and has a sound working knowledge of how internet sites operate and what can be gained from them, by fair means or foul – hardly the babe in the digital woods he is painted by Janasov (Scott, by the way, now appears in Rivet’s FooPet spinoff app on FaceBook, Pet Tales, thinly disguised as “Zack”). The “building a house” reference is pure nonsense, for this and other reasons – there was no dearth of online experience and expertise involved in the genesis of Go-Pokey/FooPets, just a shortage of honesty and a regrettable tendency to use prefab components instead of custom-building their own…an economy measure for which we as members are still paying.

He continues with another misleading statement – that as the FooPets audience grew, it was necessary to change the site (and distress the original, lucrative, adult clientele) to accomodate the younger players beginning to join. I find that quite intriguing, as I have looked into a great many VA sites, ALL of whose audience composition has changed over time in one direction or the other, and NONE of whom found that sort of draconian modification required – first, because people tend to join a site because they like it as it is, and second, because they didn’t see any reason to insult and/or discommode their existing membership to indulge new joins. Presumably these other sites are going on the theory that if someone joins a site, they wanted to, for reason(s) connected to the way it was at that point, and have little or no trouble adapting to its existing mode of play. I know of no VA site that does not have a mixed audience.

He continues with the assertion that, like most startups, FooPets was not showing a profit. Hm. Most VA sites aren’t operated to make a killing, granted, but i have yet to find any with as vast a need for capital as this one. What, exactly, costs so much? Not the coding, certainly, it’s mostly adapted (hence its problems), nor its net-access facilities – and while we have a TON of A’s, they can’t ALL be collecting a full living wage from the site…can they?
All along, we have begged management to level with us – not only about what they are doing for (or, more accurately, TO) us on the site, but about its/their needs…if these colossal (over 10 million in investment capital, PLUS all our contributions to date) expenses are legitimate, it would seem in their best interests to open their books and ask our help – I for one would give it gladly (well, I would have up to about 6 months ago…), as I have on every other site I’m involved in, when they had a financial crisis of some sort, and, knowing their membership cared about the future of the site as much as they did, were honest with us about their needs.

Janasov then moves on to so-called financial realities. Supposedly FooPets is “bleeding cash” – where, how, and why unspecified – and initimates that its present butchered state was merciful, as the preferred option was to shut it down. (makes you wonder why they bought out FooMojo in the first place, if it was in such sad shape…) He upholds the claim that FooPets’ primary audience is children, and ignores the fact that independently published demographics for the site still do not bear that out, despite Rivet’s strenuous and no doubt costly efforts to woo this new, unplanned-for in the original site design, and generally impecunious audience – which we only have now because management actively sought it, rather than courting the intended target market of adults. FooPets is NOT a children’s site – by most under-12’s standards, it is too slow and complicated to hold their interest. Retrofitting it to be “safe” will not solve this fundamental problem. And sticking the spinoff Pet Tales, a site that IS better-paced and -designed for youngsters, on FaceBook where they can (or at least should) not go, then claiming that THIS one is for the ADULTS, verges on the laughable. One can only assume that a FB app is cheaper than an indie like FooPets. Odd, though – there are dozens if not hundreds of stand-alone VA gaming sites out there, made for (and in many cases, BY) children, that do quite nicely – some of which have been running longer than Go-Pokey and FooPets combined. They’re free, too.

So. We have the “expensive” original app, which now has to be paid for in advance to be used by new members or old, supposedly intended for children – and a free, simplified app suitable for youngsters being offered to adults with incomes. Anybody else see something strange here?
I see no real justification made for what has been done to FooPets – and none of it speaks to the basic issue… why any site that wishes to succeed (and that may well be the key phrase right there) would attempt to dictate to its membership what they ought to be or want, or even try to remake them in its chosen image, rather than the reverse.
Last I heard, members played the game … the game was not supposed to play them.