What if furry fandom had a Central Fursuit Supply?
by Patch O'Furr
Furry auction site Furbuy recently went down. It left a gap now filled by just one comparable site, The Dealer’s Den. (Read more at Flayrah — FurBuy down for ‘months’ after spat with security researcher.)
Loss of a long-time specialized service brought up a fandom paradox. People want more professional services, but there’s a conflict in the way fandom is organized. Furry websites and “institutions” depend on volunteering and cooperation without high resources or efficiency. That’s like every socialistic organization ever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it can make more access with less elitism. Would you rather have a rag-tag fandom full of freewheeling freaks, or a cleaned up corporate Mickey Mouse Club? A subculture or a fad? It’s a tradeoff when The Fans control their Means Of Production. (Read more — Furry Socialism: You’re Soaking in It! – by Tempe O’Kun and Dralen Dragonfox.)
This fandom can work like a social lab. That’s why a few furries had a round-table chat about a thought experiment. What if services (like Furbuy) were more centralized for furry makers, but still independent under fan control?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell popular fursuit makers apart if they crank out lots of work. What if there was some kind of pedigree system where each suit is registered? It would make it easier to tell who made or owns what suit. Then collecting or commissioning could be more fun (yeah, a pricey hobby, but compare fursuiting to collecting cars).
One fur started a fursuit supply business, Fabric Mountain… Not a bad idea but I’m not sure there could be that much margin in the supplies to make it really worthwhile… Maybe if you invest and stockpile a lot. I’ll bet the best margin would be in having rare stuff that goes out of production.
A business like that could be a place to host some kind of fan friendly registry. You could charge a fee to keep it up by providing something like custom art certificates, a library of reference art, a library of tutorials, or design templates to inspire people to make stuff and build a community. That would be a cool niche business. I think there’s been attempts to make sites like that without a supply business attached?
There’s this fursuit database, but I don’t hear much about it. https://db.fursuit.me/ I could make a good article by collecting reference sites, supply sites, etc. Collecting makers would be really hard and I’d leave it separate, theres too many quasi active ones who don’t last long.
The problem with people wanting to maintain databases of whatever in the fandom is that people don’t contribute to the ones that already exist. Each person wants to be the one that created and owns their own database, so you have dozens of unaffiliated ones, each missing swaths of info, but rather than coordinate and compile them, people just get bored with their pet projects and let them gather dust.
Yup, that’s an open source fandom in general. I think the effort is easily dropped if it isn’t self sustaining with some sort of revenue attached. Look at Furbuy being such a long lasting service that seemed to be MacGuyvered from basic ingredients. It always solicited donations and never paid for itself, and fell apart. FA itself is like that except for IMVU backing it. That brings up the dreaded commercialism topic.
You have things like Wikifur. Open Community projects like that can totally work, but people have to be willing to contribute to the greater good and not have their name plastered all over it you know? If it’s all about ego and revenue, of course none of the projects will last.
Wikifur seems like it’s doing pretty well.
If I had a dime for every furry who has tried to create a database of fursuits, their owner and their maker, without coordinating that project with others who are doing the same thing…
How many have there been? Imagine if the Dealers Den, the Fursuit Database, a library of reference art and maker tutorials, and a Fabric Mountain type of supply business were all one thing. Rating makers and customers would become much more reliable, and fly by night scamming a lot harder. Kinda monopolistic but also convenient? And I don’t think you could easily monopolize anything with an imaginary Central Fursuit Supply when the real product the fandom revolves around is individual art labor.
Not a literal monopoly but more like how FA “monopolizes” the free furry art posting market.
Circle the wagons, make the furry community a completely closed ecosystem.
Furries owning their con hotels, staffed by anarcho-syndicalist labor unions. That’s the logic of that kind of idealism. Gotta love it. 🙂
People are concerned about the mainstreaming and commercialization of “Furry” but furry is an enormous fandom. There are furries in every industry, there are furries in law, law enforcement, industry, IT, travel, retail, owning restaurants, whatever.
I feel like the concerns about ‘mainstreaming’ are focused on who owns cultural production, not how large or how visible furries are. Currently we basically own it all – cons, media, cultural production in whole – for better or worse, we have complete ingroup ownership over our fandom. (IMVU’s investment in FA notwithstanding, as it’s still furry-run).
Other fandoms are an industry, too. Of course they mostly started as media events or properties. Take a look at the Star Trek fandom. It’s a huge industry with books and comics and games and themed restaurants and cons. Furry has all of that, but mostly it serves all of those things to itself. Books and comics published by in-fandom publishers. Games made by furry indie game devs. Cons, obviously run by fandom members (for the vast majority).
Themed restaurants and bars seem like something I could see emerging soon. Already there are venues who are welcoming to furries, usually because we host events there and they get to love us.
I love the venue where we run Howl Toronto, and they love us. The head of security has gone fully native and is halfway to wanting a suit already. I think a place like Toronto could support a hot club that was furry inclusive, and had furry infrastructure in place (headless lounge, secure suit storage, etc…) but I don’t know anyone with the capital to open a venue.
The Fursuit Database has inputs for who owns the suit, previous owners, makers, and front/back/side photos of the suit itself. It’s just not as heavily used as it used to be. It’s also searchable by owner/maker/species. And there’s these: furaffinity.net/user/fursuitreview/ – fursuitreview.com/
Scritch.es is apparently making headway and may take over from FSDB, depending on who you talk to. But mostly it’s just got screen scraped data going for it, and a lot is wrong… but the idea is making it easier to find them and exchange photos. “Hey swip, here’s a photo of you from EF” sort of thing.
I’ve been adding some photos on there, and it’s a tad clunky, but I like it — I know it’s in infancy, but I hope it gains traction and gets more refined.
— scritch (@pixelscritch) May 10, 2019
It seems like the fursuit database idea could go farther. I think the fursuit making market has some big gaps in it, like the commissioning process is really complicated and could be smoother. I think you have to be pretty dedicated to start a commission.
Yeah. I think a better idea would need to be made in association of makers.
Creating a database of everyone who owns a fursuit huh. It could be a good idea. A momentous undertaking to be sure.
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Why do we need one? What service is missing that isn’t already being filled? You’ve already got FA and social media providing platforms for people to show off their work. You’ve got Ebay for auctions. You’ve got plenty of ways for furries to find and sell/buy work PLUS in regards to Ebay you’ve got an established business where there’s a dedication reputation system in place, plenty of recourse available should someone screw you over and it’s run by professionals not volunteers.
The biggest issue here is the fandoms poor history when it comes to doing anything professional. Nobody expects quality. Everyone wants to be cheap which means you’re not providing any reason for business people to be legitimate or people to put time into doing all the work required to provide a good service.
As far as a database why? What for? Maybe someone wonders if there’s such and such a suit out there but aside from the rare few times people try to look up a suit to give photo credit I really doubt there’s a need for it.
The quality and depth and transparency of the services never quite reach what people want. FA has a never ending reputation for being poorly coded, behind the times, people don’t like the management style, but it keeps going because it has a lock on the network. Meanwhile nonfandom social media is full of limitations on what people can do without control by the people using it (look what happened to Tumblr). Ebay isn’t good for a furry auction, furries just don’t look there. A database is a great idea for lots of reasons… like for Scritch.es, they mention how difficult it is to find any particular photo of your own suit (I know, I’ve searched random galleries and only occasionally found ones I know exist) and such a thing could make a fantastic reference for makers to learn and improve. There’s tons of inefficiencies in overlapping but half-assed services that could be smoothed and improved if only there was enough will and cooperation for a group effort to make it happen. That usually doesn’t happen because people go for short-term personal gain over longer term wider benefit, but that doesn’t mean ideals aren’t good.
Another commenter on Facebook brought up another service they would use if it existed — fursuit cleaning and refurbishing. And then there’s a constant issue with not knowing who to trust in commissioning. There’s no reliable rating or review service, just some patchwork ones that have little staying power. So people make do with a process full of insecurity and difficulty to even figure out how to commission a fursuit, for example. That’s why newcomers go to ones like crappy bootleg Chinese sites — they might only do it once, but those exist because the process is murky, and it affords more space for scammers than there would be with a smoother process.
Reality is full of tradeoffs, of course there is no ideal situation, but that’s why this was a thought experiment and people will always be wanting better. Vision makes better things happen.