Entries in Etsy (9)


Amend the CPSIA and save the vibrant p2p e-commerce community

I'm not usually much of an activist, but this is a micro-cause worth fighting for. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act needs to be amended to exempt small-batch toy producers from draconian testing requirements that were created in response to unethical massive toy distributors but will serve to make much of the safe, handmade market illegal.

In its current form, the bill advantages large Chinese-based firms that mass-produce toys and kills small home-based shops where personal care is put into every item. The latter simply cannot afford the marginal cost of testing each item.

From the Handmade Toy Alliance:

The CPSIA simply forgot to exclude the class of children's goods that have earned and kept the public's trust: Toys, clothes, and accessories made by small businesses where the owners are personally involved in the creation of their goods.  The result, unless the law is modified, is that handmade children's products will no longer be legal in the US.

A good summary of the arguments can be found here on Etsy's blog. I've followed the developments beginning here when the bill first passed the house, here when the community scored a temporary win in convincing the regulatory commission to put a one year stay on implementation, and here as the Handmade Toy Alliance sought to rally the artistic and crafting community to a unified approach to repeal. As I've said before, it's time for the law to recognize that an online community of trust can incentivize better behavior than the threat of government recall.

Graphic: Hilary Williams of Blynken & Nod


The API that strengthens an already vibrant e-commerce community by letting artists embrace their inner developer

The dedicated buyer and seller communities on Etsy, from the active discussion boards to the Community Council to the "hearting" of products, are behind the site's explosive growth. Nearly 250,000 new members are joining monthly. Now the developer community is joining the mix, taking advantage of the Etsy API to build new applications on Etsy's platform.

Perusing the featured developers who are part of the project Etsy dubs "Handmade Code", it's interesting to note that most all of them are also sellers themselves and their applications (with the exception of the iPhone app) are all free. I doubt that most other sites that provide APIs see their own users morph into developers.

The photographer Red Row Studio who sells prints "mainly inspired by outdoor life in and around Lothian, Scotland where I live", for example, developed one of the coolest Etsy app that I've seen. His Craft Weasel's Tag Finder helps sellers choose the most effective tags for their listings. As tags are how items are both initially categorized (Etsy uses a very detailed categorization scheme) and how they are searched, choosing effective tags is paramount for a seller looking to highlight his product among the 1,931,988 that were listed in October 2009 alone.

As a knitter, you can tag your products in a variety of ways, such as "wool" and "scarf", but taking a look at Tag Finder's tag cloud can help you choose to add, say "organic" to gain more page views and also maybe sell it at a higher price.

Another favorite app of mine is ColorMatch by 26 Olive Street, a shop "obsessed with anything vintage". ColorMatch is "designed to allow anyone to easily upload an inspiration jpeg and have the hues analyzed into a paint palette used for searching items on Etsy by color." So if you just bought a beautiful organic creme wool scarf, you can easily find a matching set of legwarmers.

The Etsy API is yet another way that the p2p community site continues to shake up the e-commerce model.


My favorite websites for self discovery; still looking for the integration

I love recommendation engines. My 2009 purchase history was notable in that I *nearly* managed to do all of my Christmas shopping online and that a large number of sites got to "know me" extremely well over the year, becoming near friends in their accuracy of what I would surely like to purchase. My favorites:

Pandora's Music Genome Project causes me to discover and purchase more music than traditional radio or MTV videos ever could. I have 39 fairly well-refined stations, about half of which were born from the initial artists that I chose.

Etsy's "handpicked items" while not at all reflective of my past purchases or browsing habits, still send me down a path of discovery of new artists that could amuse me for hours and nearly always ends in a purchase.

Amazon's "Recommendations for You" is always my first stop for new books to purchase.

Last.fm makes me understand crazy facts about my own music collection, such as the fact that my most played song of all time is one that was introduced to me 3 months ago (too much "repeat" clearly) and that my music tastes have evolved considerably in the past few years (with some embarrasing legacy artists still in my most played).

iTunes's Genius Recommendations make me buy almost as much music as Pandora, mainly because of the convenience.

Bluefly's recommendations on designer handbags lead me effectively from one that is not quite right to the perfect bag that I am more likely to buy.

Facebook's network effects let me type in the name "Greg G" for example and in the top few hits I will see the Greg whose last name I forgot, but who I was looking for.

Mint's My Financial Summary and pie charts make me far more self-aware of little expenses (ATM fees) and large ones (vast fortunes spent at Whole Foods).

Bandsintown scans my Pandora tastes to find the best upcoming concerts in the area for me.

My6Sense I'm just beginning to experience, but I am impressed so far at how it filters content to determine what is most valuable to me.

Now I have sites that know me inside and out in so many domains: music, crafts, books, designer bags, friends, concerts, financial transactions, blogs. I'm still looking for a good recommendation site for restaurants (don't say Urban Spoon; it's too random and while I love Yelp to check out restaurants, it doesn't recommend well). So far the best substitute is Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide, especially because we share the same favorite Korean restaurant (Seoul Gool Dae Gee (Honey Pig Restaurant)). 

But most of all, I lament that I can't take my well-refined music preferences honed on Pandora over to Amazon to recommend cross-domain purchases. What additional factors could my eventual universal ID recognize that would make the connection between my recent purchases of the Horse Feathers collection on iTunes; Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanisi on Amazon; a handmade alligator skin wallet on Etsy; and a designer leather hobo on Bluefly?

I'm looking at you, MyType.


Continuing the lobbying for micro, or bringing sense to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Micro businesses, like micro-lending and micro-finance, offer vitality and depth to our economy. Regulation, allegedly to protect the consumer, has dogged all of these industries. I wrote a while back about the threat of regulation to, of all things, small batch children's toys makers : the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed hastily in response to the lead-in-Chinese-toys fiasco, mandating stringent testing procedures to prevent such a reoccurence. Savvy analysts noted that the most immediate result would be that small toy producers unable to afford such commercial testing would be forced out of business, leaving behind only the mega-toy companies (ironically, in China) to compete.

Etsy has been a vocal and important advocate for the handmade toy community. Small crafting community organizations have scored minor wins, such as exempting fabric from the law, as well as losses, such as failing to convince the commision to exempt rhinestones. A guest Etsy post from the Handmade Toy Alliance spells out well the challenges of this piecemeal approach. Artists are now fighting for their livelihood rather than focusing on creating the original and valuable pieces that so many consumers love and prefer.

This is what Umair Haque terms unconstructive capitalism -- government regulations are squashing vitality and p2p connections that people love, instead favoring the big toy companies or the big banks that can meet the requirements. I would trust a handmade toy from Etsy over a Chinese manufactured toy from Mattell any day: the engaged Etsy community is a stronger enforcement mechanism than the threat of government recall.

Flickr credit: Merwing


Broadband enables access to employment through online markets

With $7.2 billion in stimulus money slated to go towards expanding broadband access and closing the "digital divide" in rural areas, debate is ongoing whether these increasing opportunities actually lead to job growth. Many commentators agree that access is not enough; adoption must be encouraged and training provided to take advantage of technology-driven jobs.

For large-scale growth, this is absolutely true, but access is an important first step. On a micro-level, broadband access can open up opportunities to create value in dignified and entrepreneurial ways. We are well beyond the home-based Ebay businesses. Here are a few sites where high speed internet access and only a little training enable individuals to be their own boss and generate income. No one will claim to become a millionaire this way, but micro steps in the right direction can be a powerful enabler, and online markets can connect labor to those who need it. How?

  • Sell your crafts on Etsy. The crafter marketplace has a whole section, "Quit Your Day Job", on success stories of artists who turned their online businesses through the site into a full time gig.
  • Expand your small business from a p2p loan. For small rural businesses, p2p loan marketplaces like Lending Club and Prosper can open up access to small loans that might make a big difference to their operations.
  • Perform Human Intelligence Tasks on Mechanical Turk. Mturk has thousands of opportunities to complete small tasks for money that often require little technical skill.

Nonprofits like Samasource show how providing marginalized people with basic technological training and internet access can open up diverse opportunities to earn a living wage. Rural communities in the United States with fewer traditional employment opportunities could benefit immensely from access to these online markets. What other online opportunities exist?


Integrating even more community into the marketplace at Etsy

Etsy announced today that they are launching a trial run of a "Community Council" to discuss the state of the Etsy marketplace. From The Storque:

In order to better serve the entire Etsy community, we are forming a council of community members on Etsy with whom we will meet directly. This council will help us test new products and features, report on the the state of the marketplace and generally just let us know how things on Etsy are for them. At the same time, we will make ourselves available to them to answer questions about Etsy — past, present and future. Our hope is to expand on those things we learn via our forums, virtual labs, usability sessions, customer support emails, and social media by engaging in still more direct, two-way conversation.

Yet another example why Etsy is a great place to be both a buyer and a seller. The community makes the market stronger.


My favorite online p2p marketplace--Etsy

Happy #Etsyday!!

Today the online marketplace for all things handmade is celebrating a special day for sellers to unite for "guerrilla marketing". So far, it's a success: #1 hashtag on Twitter according to Twazzup.

This event also reminded me to check out Etsy's recently relased March statistics. The numbers prove it; Etsy is an incredibly vibrant marketplace:

In March 2009:

  • $12 million in goods sold (up 18% from Februrary)
  • 788,235 items sold
  • 157,000 new members
  • 502,705,157 page views

It's February 10. Not shut down yet...but stay vigilent!

Kid in a handknit hat. This type of product would have been subject to rigorous and expensive testing under the CPSIA.The government has made a wise and practical decision. The Consumer Product and Saftety Commission is granting 1 year stay for CPSIA testing requirements that were supposed to come into effect today. As we've stated, CPSIA is a heavy-handed, poorly conceived and economically disasterous product safety law rushed into passage following the Chinese leaded toy scandal.

Etsy artists and other handmade producers in the p2p e-commerce market are relieved that they are not shut out of business, but they still warn that the law has not been repealed, only delayed. Government fearmongering around toys threatens the vitality of a flourishing on-line p2p community. Stay vigilent. The CPSIA is bad for freedom and bad for the economy.

Flickr credit: Bockstark Knits


Toy trainwreck approaching February 10

Legislation hastily passed by an overzealous Congress regarding children’s product safety threatens to shutter the vitality of a large portion of the p2p e-commerce community. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) requires all manufacturers who create items for children 12 and under to submit their products for individual testing for safety.

These $10 handmade baby booties may cost more like $500 once the costs of compliance with the CPSIA are passed on to consumers.The law is a response to the Chinese lead in toy fiasco, but it also means that the seventeen year old girl who knits custom-made kids’ hats for sale on Etsy now needs to submit her $10 “product” for testing. For small scale crafters and traders, the thousands of dollars required for testing will simply put them out of business. [Never mind the VAST waste the law will induce by requiring EVERY toy on the shelves to be pulled and tested or else thrown into the landfill]. For more on the effects that Congress failed to foresee, see HERE and HERE.

Today crafters at Etsy and other markets are hosting a CPSIA Blog-In. We lend our support.


Image credit: CK Photography