Etsy is cracking down on creators of glass pipes that are being sold for medicinal and tobacco purposes, as discussed in this protest thread in Ideas. These pipes, or pieces of glass art for display, have been sold on Etsy since the site began. Sellers are being contacted via email by the content team about the listings that need to be removed. Etsy will refund their listing fees for the banned listings.
From prohibited items listed in the Etsy Dos and Don'ts: Drugs, drug-like substances and drug paraphernalia; items or listings that promote or support illegal activity or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.
Is the pipe drug paraphernalia? Is it handmade? Is it an artistic piece of work? Is it beautiful? Does it promote something illegal? Does it instruct you on how to use it to do something illegal? Can I use it to hold up a liquor store?
Here's the twist. If you click on Etsy help (Etsy likes it when you click stuff) and check out "What items can't I sell on Etsy?," the first thing mentioned is "All items in the handmade Categories must be made by the Etsy seller." No reselling. Also, vintage items must comply with the policies for Vintage. At least twenty years old.
As an Etsian, what do you find more distressing? Glass pipes? Resellers? Vintage that isn't vintage?
By the way, glasscoast, the artist who made the gorgeous piece above, is located in California, where it is indeed legal to smoke marijuana for medical reasons. I'm sure there are other listings on Etsy that are not legal in some corners of the globe. Do we need to remove listings for women's clothing that does not cover the entire body except for the eyes?
Or do glass pipes look worse than resold mass manufactured junk or 2001 vintage to potential investors?
"The number of circles someone is in some ways an indicator of their influence [sic]."
First of all, this sentence is missing a verb. Secondly, an indicator of their influence over whom or what, exactly? And again, how does one build the number of circles they are in? If this metric is going to serve as a yardstick against which Etsy measures a member's influence, how does a member improve this number, without resorting to spam? So far, the answer seems to be that you circle every single Etsy name you can find. Also, does "influence" equal "sales"? If not, who cares how influential you are?
"Many members are in hundreds of circles, and their favoriting and circling activity can end up having far-reaching impact."
Impact on whom or what, exactly? Honestly, who has time to look at all of this clutter in an activity feed, process the clutter, and then. . . shocker. . . buy something? I have never bought a listing I saw in my activity feed. Have you?
"It's a number that can be increased by sharing and be generous."
There's no doubt the number can be increased. Generosity has nothing to do with it. People are now madly circling anything in a blind act to be influential and impactful. It no longer has anything to do with personal taste, much less generosity. It's now become a desperate attempt to unlock the Etsy Success Code in the new social commerce experiment.
"Circles are about people, and people are behind shops."
I have to call bullshit here. Circles are about clicks, possibly about marketing the site and not the seller, maybe oh so slightly about actual sales. Circles are not at all about people, in this incarnation.
"Soon people will be able to have multiple shops on Etsy."
I'm sure that's news to many peoople who already have multiple shops on Etsy. If the intention here is to be able to run multiple shops without having to sign out and sign back in, that is one change that would be useful to many sellers.
"I've heard folks here [in the forums] refer to it as a popularity contest, but it's a much more democratic one than anything that has come before it here."
I want to diagram this sentence. People have refered to the Circlization as a popularity contest, yes. So, this sentence says it's a "more democratic" popularity contest? Like voting on Homecoming King and Queen? Also, this is the first time I've ever seen an admin admit that Etsy has not been democratic in the past.
sean11 is starting to crack.
I would like to summarize this from my point of view. I'm in a lot of circles. I'm signed in to Etsy for hours a day. I don't look at my Activity Feed, except to clear the number. I have never bought anything from my Activity Feed.
My perception is that it all comes down to clicks over commerce. The site looks more popular without actually selling more. It is a commerce site, after all.
Etsy Admin is listening to your circle concerns! Sort of.
Today they posted a thread in announcements, answering frequently asked questions about conerns.
What are circles about? ". . . connecting people and surfacing items that you wouldn't have thought to search for." Surfacing items? What an odd phrase. Translation: People can see stuff you like, if they use their activity feed. They can't see your stuff in their activity feed, unless someone in their circle likes it. Clear? Right.
What does it mean if you're in a lot of circles? ". . . says more about the quality of items shared by that person than it says about their own shop. Circles aren't currently intended to be a promotional tool directly benefitting the person encircled." I loathe the use of the word "encircled" in this sentence. Translation: Your own circle does absolutely nothing in terms of promoting your own shop. When you list new items, they will not show in anyone's activity feed. New listings only register in an activity feed when someone hearts or favorites them. So why should we take the time to "encircle" others, if it won't promote our items?
Will circles affect the relevancy in searches? No. Good news, because rumors were running wild earlier this week.
Why is your number of circles visible on so many pages? Short answer, visual consistency. Plus, it's "interesting" and "encourages participation." Translation: Circles = more clicks. More clicks = more value implied for the Etsy site. Do circle clicks translate to sales? I haven't seen that personally. Like I said before, I think sellers may be using circles and activity feeds, but I don't see most buyers bothering with it. I just do not see it as realistic at all. As a seller, I don't find it all that interesting at this point. I can't imagine using it strictly as a buyer.
How do circles work as a promotional tool? Get this. "Circles cater to showcasing items and shops based on their quality and their genuine interest to people. Activity Feeds could definitely be seen as a way to tap into niche audiences to target your market. . ." Translation: No idea. How would you go about getting people to favorite your items? First, they have to find them, most likely by searching the site and getting your item in a result. If the site search can't find your item, then chances of it being favorited are fairly low. So we have to self-promote, just as we have always had to self-promote. Unless I'm missing something automagical here.
Is there a team for making Circles? Translation: Please, no. This idea is discredited by saying that nothing good could come from a group of people acting in concert to favorite each other's listings, and there is no way this kind of mass action could lead to sales and Etsy promotion. However, we have certainly see that exact thing happen with treasury teams many times over. This is a nefarious possible development to keep an eye on.
Here's something interesting: How can anyone keep up with 1000 shops? "The feed as it currently works will not show you everything if you have that many people in your circle.' What? How does the feed determine what is relevant and what is not? Which activities are given more weight? ". . . we need to figure out which stories on the feed are likely to be most interesting to you, and display those at the top." And how do you know what might be most interesting to me? By judging from my past favorites and purchases? From other members of my circle and what they are most interested in? From what most fits the Etsy brand? What is more expensive? What is blue? What has seagulls on it? This is quite vague, and the most disturbing statement in the announcement.
This statement implies that the activity won't be either complete or entirely democratic. Will your circle further determine what you see? Will your circle further determine who might see you?
Overly complicated and not getting clearer on many points.
I don't want to address resellers here, as a habit, but this is a big deal. Etsy lost credibility with a major publication that was providing free adverstising for the entire site. I doubt that Glamour will feature Etsy again.
Glamour magazine is published by Conde Nast Publications, a corporation that also publishes Vogue, GQ, House and Garden, Brides, Bon Appetit and Vanity Fair, in addition to many other popular magazines. Not a good corporation to lose credibility with.
So, today's Etsy shenanigans, Circle count competition.
"Circle counts are now visible throughout the site: on profiles, shop pages and listing pages." More or less every single page that comes up on Etsy will now show the number of circles to which you belong.
What is the purpose of this? Besides jamming home the complete, all-encompassing point of the social commerce experiment that Etsy has become in 2011?
To quote the announcement thread: "If you're a shop owner, being favorited by someone with a high circle count means exposure--everyone who's added that person to their circle will become aware of your shop through their activity feeds. Items are going viral this way every day now on Etsy."
Three issues: Issue one: How in heaven's name are we, as shop owners, supposed to campaign to become favorited by someone with a high circle count? I have avoided this phrase thus far, although it has been thrown around Etsy a lot in the last couple of months: This is like a high school clique, in the worst possible sense.
You have to make the popular kids like you. The Etsy popular kids are the sellers making the stuff that has been on the Etsy front page for years. You know the stuff I'm talking about, just like you know who made that stuff.
I'm going to make what I want. That's why I make stuff, and one-of-a-kind stuff, at that. I want the person who buys something of mine to have the only one in existence. That's also the kind of stuff I buy on Etsy. I don't want it to look like everything else.
Issue two: Are buyers even using circles? Casual buyers who drop in and shop a bit and pick up something? I highly doubt it. That pretty much nullifies the entire concept of circles, unless the idea truly is that circles are designed to keep sellers from buying from one another in a true spiralling circle of no profits for sellers.
Issue three: Notice that I emphasized viral in the statement above. Viral? Really? Listings are going viral on Etsy? How? Why? What? Are they selling? Or just spinning around in a claustrophobic Spirograph of self-reference?
"[P]eople will add you to their circles if they like what you're finding."
I don't want people to like what I'm finding. I want people to buy my stuff.
How are your sales for the past six weeks? Because mine are not good.
Etsy has added a "Find Your Friends" button, with no filter for finding those who still owe you money. THAT is a function a lot of us could use, but I digress. You then click which email service you want to use, and sign into your email. Automagically, Etsy connects to your address book as fast as you can say "Hocus Pocus" or "Walla Walla, Washington."
Etsy "fetches" your contacts, matches them with people who haven't opted out of the automagical email id on Etsy, and you can add them to your circle, spam them, or convo them for that $40.00 they borrowed back in college.
You can also send invitations (i.e. "spam") to people who don't even have an Etsy account! "Invitations are limited right now to 20 per day -- use them well!" Translation: "You can only send 20 spam emails a day. Remember when we used to tell you you were not allowed, under any circumstance, to spam Etsians? Well, forget about that, and please spam non-Etsians as well. Twenty a day. Get clicking and typing!"
And anyone you connect to through Find Your Friends will be able to connect to others through Find Your Friends, and so on and so forth. It can spread like a virus! Like H1-N1!
I would like to repeat something glaringly obvious here. If my friends are in my address book, they are not lost. If I want them to know about my Etsy shop, believe me, they know about my Etsy shop. I know how to copy and paste a link, and put it in an email to a friend.
Why does Etsy want the email addresses of the people I know? I already understand how to steer them toward my shop, and even to other listings on Etsy that I think they might like.
I understand that this is part of the great "social commerce experiment" and all, but I value my friends' privacy more than I value Etsy's desire to mine my email data to grow their business by spamming people who trusted me with their information.
Please remember, not to venture too far into conspiracy paranoia country, that verified email addresses are some of the most valuable pieces of information to any online marketing company. Remember also that current Etsy board members have fingers in all sorts of other online venues.
Rob Kalin, aka Rokali, spoke up in the Forums last week to address the Etsy community's concerns about recent changes. Rob is the current CEO of Etsy.
He explained that the words in the header had been replaced with icons to facilitate a more international market, and to make the shopping cart more visible.
He said that the icons were handmade, "pixel by pixel."
He said that he appreciates all of the "negativity" and "criticism" in the forums, because they are more interesting and instructive than compliments.
He said that, "Over $1000.00 per minute is sold on Etsy," and they're monitoring how the changes affect sellers.
So far, so good.
On Etsy's new social networking focus:
"Shopping is itself a unique social experience. This is what we're designing for."
I would argue that online shopping is not a social experience. It's me being able to find what I want, at the price I want to pay, quickly and efficiently. A better search is more important than a social experience. If I want to browse, I will take the time to browse, and enjoy what I come across. I don't often involve anyone else in this process. Maybe I am abnormal.
On Etsy's new homepage:
"Etsy's curated spaces are going away. . . Instead of an admin deciding that every single visitor to Etsy should see a particular Treasury on the homepage, the homepage will be personalized."
I'm not sure how to translate this. On a positive note, we can hope that this will give a wider selection of Etsy sellers more exposure. On a negative note, I have to wonder how they will choose what will pop up on your homepage. Will these be treasuries curated from your teams, those in your circle, those with shops Etsy would suggest?
On finding friends on Etsy, or sending them to Etsy:
"For the 90% of people here on Etsy who don't have shops, we're seeing that finding people they know on Etsy has a huge impact on getting them to register, buy stuff, and stick around. . . we're building tools that ultimately help customers find you, which can be quite different than the tools that help you find customers."
I don't believe this theory, but then I don't buy into the entire "social commerce" vision. I'm not approaching this as a buyer only, though. I'm approaching it as a seller/buyer. Everyone I know also has heard about Etsy, through me. As a buyer, I shop a site and buy what I want to buy. If I enjoy a shopping experience, I will tell others about it. I would never use a "find your friends" function on a site as a buyer. Would you?
On improving sales numbers:
"The total $ value of sales on Etsy is up, so the changes we're making are improving the commerce side of this marketplace."
Actual January numbers showed that growth is slowing. Many of the changes Rob Kalin is discussing have been in place for less than a month. The figures for February have not been published yet.
On "Forum Migration":
"Our old forums ran on an outmoded infrastructure, one that we're not supporting anymore. The teams codebase was the future, and we migrated forums to teams."
I don't believe this one. The public forums that Etsy kept were converted to public teams. Others were killed off. Why? Teams (1) require more clicks to navigate, and (2) are not immediately visible to the ninety percent of Etsians who are buyers only. All forums could have been migrated to public teams, and the community would have been kept intact.
"If someone left Etsy in let's say 2006, and came back today in 2011, my hunch is that it'd still feel like the same place."
No. There are still people signing in, asking where the forums are. There are regulars who are confused about the new layout, and convinced that the changes in layout, forum structure, alchemy's "rest" and search have negatively impacted their businesses. If someone took a break around Thanksgiving last year and returned now, it would not feel like the same place.
In response to a seller saying they just want to sell their stuff, and have no interest in circles:
"What you're saying is you don't want to help yourself."
No, what the seller is saying is that they don't believe in your vision that circles will sell their stuff.
On how people buy online by searching, not by looking at favorites, either their own or others:
"That is how commerce currently works. . . we here at Etsy are not trying to uphold the status quo. . . I hope we discover much more, because that is the future I wish to invent."
Here we're getting down to the nitty gritty. Please, Etsy, uphold the status quo while it is still the status quo. I can appreciate wanting to predict the future and adapt to that, but I can also appreciate that people shop most of the time by searching for what they want to buy. Do you look at other people's favorite items in order to buy something 99% of the time?
Also, they're working on the search, tripling the content team which takes care of resellers et al, and working on a new listing process.
Sean11 goes on to explain how Circles and other networking are just extensions of the word of mouth advertising that has helped Etsy achieve the success it has seen thus far--word of mouth that was done by those of us who have been on Etsy for awhile. If you're favorited by someone with a "high circle count," this gets you seen by more potential buyers. Also, clicks on the Circle icon are growing by leaps and bounds.
Again, I can only speak for myself. I have quit using Circles pretty much completely. I'm just not interested in them. I don't spend nearly the time on Etsy that I used to a couple of months ago. I can't imagine most of the buyers I know personally using circles the way these guys think Circles will be used.
What do you think? This is a lot of information to process. What is it saying? And are you buying it?