Thursday, March 10, 2011

Etsy PipeGate

Rainbow disc glass art, courtesy of glasscoast on Etsy
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?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Still more on Etsy circles

More admin factoids and opinions about the continuing Etsy circle experiment:

"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.

Have we seen the February Weather Report yet?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More on Etsy circles

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.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Etsy Glamourgate

This lovely wedding dress was featured in a Glamour magazine spread about handmade wedding dresses you can buy on Etsy. Great news, right? Bring more traffic to Etsy! Support handmade!

Right. Except, you'll notice that the dress is no longer in the Glamour spread. Why? Because the dress is actually from Alibaba and is being resold on Etsy as handmade.
Threads about Glamourgate were closed here, here, and here.
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.

How many Etsy circles are you in?

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.

Can I be in your circle?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Etsy is more fun with friends

I have decided that this condescending, grade school primer language is causing me to curse more than usual.

Today's Admin Annoucement: Find your friends on Etsy.

I didn't realize my friends were lost.

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.

I think the clock is striking thirteen.