Saturday, February 6, 2010

A special case from the editorial desk about repeats

This blog is not supposed to make people happy. I think you all know that. At least, I hope you all know that. The purpose of this blog is to make people angry or at the very least make them very uncomfortable.

I stated my mission statement in the first entry of this blog, if you need a refresher, then seek it out.

Regarding front page favoritism:
Naming names is a necessary tactic. It is imperative. It isn't supposed to feel good.

Etsy has a policy of not naming names. Except, in etsy's own childish and immature fashion their policy refers to "calling out." What a stupid phrase. It's naming names.

As an etsy member you are not allowed to publicly on etsy specifically refer to anything when there is a problem. If you do, then you are in violation of their terms of use.

If you email a problem or concern to etsy, you get an immediate form letter, and days or weeks later you may get a short, generally non-helpful response from a staff member.

You can't actually get in touch with anyone in a reasonable amount of time, and when you do, the communication is generally useless. That is not good social commerce. Societies communicate. The good ones communicate effectively.

So, this blog names names. This blog also suggests that you should not patronize those who are named. Why? Because activism is necessary. Otherwise, some forum assholes would just try to misdirect and pretend like this was free advertising. This is advertising, just not the good kind.

You should all be angry, or, at the very least, very uncomfortable with the fact that etsy has a front page treasury that is curated by paid staff members that continues to feature the same sellers repeatedly with no explanation, accountability, or transparency. If those were paid spots, like their showcases, then there would be nothing to gripe about (unless, of course, the ability to purchase such paid spots was somehow limited to the same small group of people). The front page treasury is not a paid spot. Essentially, it is free advertising.

Now, some goonie moron is going to throw up some half assed tripe about "front page doesn't equal instantaneous sales." First off, fuck you -- you moron. Seriously, you're an asswipe. Don't you have better things to do with your time, you idiot motherfucker, than to not understand anything about sales or marketing and have the gall and stupidity to put forth something so absolutely mentally void as a counter opinion. Really, dipshit? C'mon. That is the dumbest fucking canned response on earth, emphasis on dumb. The room is all stupider from having heard your moron ass give that for the millionth time. Shut the fuck up.

Answer: being featured on the front page treasury is exposure. Exposure is very important in every business. Every time I drive through a new city, and go down main street, do I see the shops (we'll assume I'm not speeding or blind)? Yes. Do I stop my car immediately and go in? Maybe, maybe not. But I've seen them, and unless I have some sort of memory problem, then chances are, I will remember them, and if I have a need in the future, since I know where they are, then I will probably patronize their businesses instead of lugging out the phone book and trying to figure out what glossary term I am actually trying to look under.

Exposure is important in business. Is is everything? No.
So, if the front page treasury is theoretically free to all users with reasonably non-offensive products who are presumably within the bounds of acceptable items in terms of etsy's handmade, supply, and vintage categories, then why do we see the same people getting featured there with regularity?

There are 2 simple answers, and actually, one of them is a gateway to the other: laziness and favoritism.

Laziness, by the way, is the gateway to favoritism.

Why should I see slinkymalinkicat on the front page every week? Could that possibly be the only person with an endless supply of "vintage" prints? I could name 3 sellers off the top of my head who sell similar items. And yet I don't see them on the front page every week.

Why should I see prints by GollyBard on the front page multiple times in a week? Is GollyBard the only person selling prints of badly drawn illustrations? No, there are tons of people on etsy selling badly drawn illustrations. Just like there are tons of people on etsy selling prints of big-eyed girls.

Why should I know by heart that those baby-doll hand shaped molded soaps are by foliage every time I see them? Because I've seen them that many god damned times. One of these days I'm actually going to order some just to see if they have their original molded copyrights on them just so that I can contact the company from which those are molded to ascertain whether or not that's legal. Fortunately, I'm lazy and I don't like buying crap that I find distasteful.

But I see the same things on the front page by the same sellers because of incompetency on the part of the etsy staff which stems from laziness and favoritism. I'm tired of seeing the same 40 people get all the exposure, and the rest of you should be tired of it as well... especially if you see etsy as a venue for full time employment. A responsible social commerce site would have a level playing field for all of its selling members with items within the bounds of its categories that are not mis-representational or offensive. Yeah, I'm saying no nazi crap on the front page, and really, I don't want to see gay-hating crazy christian jesus freak shit there either, or your genitals (whichever they may be). And, yes, your listing needs to have a picture. So, what, that leaves 80% of the 3 million items on the site up for consideration.
2.4 million items could not possibly all be by the same 40 shops that I have seen constantly for the past eternity. Lirola could not possibly currently have 60,000 ruffle shirts in stock... unless, of course, she's a factory, which she isn't.

So, Lirola doesn't have a current standing inventory of 60,000 items, and yet, not a week goes by without her shop specifically making the front page? Why is that? I know people who haven't made the front page in over a year, let alone the last 6 months. Why is Lirola on the front page on a weekly basis? Why is GollyBard on the front page on a weekly basis while being featured multiple times in a week and also appearing in a current Storque article. Are the spots in Storque articles paid advertising? No. So, why do the same people get the same free opportunities for exposure over and over again?

Well, some idiot fuck asshole will try to feed you some tripe about "photo quality" or "quality products" or "photo quality" or "photo quality." Yes, I said it 3 times just to demonstrate what an asshole someone sounds like when they say that shit about photos. You moron motherfuckers are really willing to passively insult your fellow etsians with this "photo quality" bullshit? What an unbelievable bunch of cunts you are.

Some of the most successful sellers on etsy have some of the crappiest photos. There's someone who sells an awful lot of soap that comes to mind. Beyond that, most people's photos don't actually suck. That's like telling someone who buys a medium cardigan from the misses department of an average clothing store that they're fat. You're fat when you're buying the one with the label that says 3X, not the one that says M. If some moron motherfucker blanketly says the reason you never make front page is probably your photos, then know that they have just insulted you, remember them, and let's say: don't buy from them.

Speak with your dollar.
Speak with your dollar because you're not allowed to speak freely with your mouth. You're not allowed to pop onto the forums and wonder why artmind is featured on the front page treasury on average of 3 times per week, every week... when so many people haven't had that level of exposure ever or in the past 6 months. So, speak with you dollar, and don't buy what their paid staff, who earn their salaries from your listing fees, are specifically using company time to promote: the same 40 sellers with regularity while leaving the vast majority of their sellers with no free exposure or promotion.

Every time you pay to list, you are paying for the operation of the website. When the website's employees can do so much to promote 40 specific people with regularity — if you are not one of them, what are you really paying for? Why don't your listing and selling fees go into time and energy exerted by the staff to freely and indiscriminately promote your work?

Etsy needs to answer for that.

Now, there are the whiners and bitchers and complainers and bellyachers who will tell you that the 40 people who get the constant front page exposure that your listing and selling fees pay for the salaries of the company employees who promote them are not to be named, blamed, or take any level of responsibility or negative publicity for being favorites.
What an utter line of bullshit, eclipse.
If you're "in it to win it" as some recent forum thread suggested (e.g. you are listing here to make money) then you ought to be paying attention to all aspects of your business. From you materials and craftsmanship, to the accuracy of all parts of your listing, to your packing and shipping, and all other business expenses and necessities. The ones who are paying attention know how much materials cost, the cost of labor, shipping, packing, and possibly advertising... and that just popping onto a site like etsy and simply listing stuff with no extra effort probably isn't going to get you a whole hell of a lot.
There are plenty of people who do that: take care in making the item, the listing, shipping it... every thing but promoting the product... and generally, their stuff just sits there. Mostly because etsy's searching system is almost completely useless.

So, if your shop seems extra busy and you know you spent no money on advertising, aren't part of a team, group, faceboook fuckery, twitter nonsense, etc. Then, as a "business person" it is your responsibility to figure out where your exposure came from. You know, it's what Google Analytics is for. Pop into your account every now and then and you'll be able to find if you were featured on the ultra popular some crazy fuck's blog, or craftgawker, or art wall, or whatever the hell. How fucking arrogant it is it to just assume that you're spectacular? If you can't be bothered to figure out how your shop is getting exposure, then I really doubt you're reading the forums, random blogs, or whatever other source of information would require a nominal amount of effort to ascertain.
If you are, and you're bothered about the way you've been treated, then consider contacting someone who is not me, like say the etsy employees who are being paid to do your promotion for you while not promoting a damned thing for the vast majority of the site users whose fees are generating their salaries. Drop them a line that says "I'm grateful and all, really... but uhmn, maybe cool it a little, the natives are starting to get restless and I think someone just threw a stone at my window."

Etsy's paid staff and what the items they place in the front page treasury, the storque articles, and wherever else on the site there is room for non-paid spots are acting as the invisible hand of the market by specifically choosing what gets into those spots. Why not make them accountable for only promoting the same 40 people repeatedly? Oh, wait, because we're not allowed to say anything.

So, you know what, if we can't say anything, then the responsibility in an atmosphere of social commerce does fall on the heads of the people who are getting all the exposure: the front page repeats.

Don't want to be on this blog? The act on behalf of your own best interests and the interests of the rest of your social commerce etsians — start privately holding the staff accountable.
You see the repeats and the favoritism, then contact a valid staff member every time and point it out.
Look at which staff member wrote the article and specifically contact them with your concerns about having seen the same items featured repeatedly. Ask why, specifically request an accurate explanation. Be polite, don't get yourself kicked off the site, but be firm and criticize the repeats and the favoritism, and specifically name the shops you have seen repeatedly.

These etsy employees get paid because you sell and pay fees. Have them work for you.

Better yet, start a movement to specifically identify the etsy staff members who curate the front pages. Transparency is like light to mold. Once you know who they are, then you can ask them directly.