Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rob is BACK!!

Not Rob my husband, I'm talking about Rob Kalin aka "Rokali" on Etsy. The original creator and CEO of Etsy is back at the reigns after almost two years away and I couldn't be happier. When I opened up shop in 2006 as livefunky, I was welcomed into a blossoming community of artisans and it felt like home. I had almost instant satisfaction getting views and sales with a fraction of the investment I had been pouring into my eBay shop. In a matter of a few days I left eBay "for good" (I've tested the waters again every now and then and the report is still, bla, no thanks. I can't go backwards and that's what it feels like when I try eBay again). Were there problems on Etsy in 06/07? For sure. But they were all the sorts of aches and pains that something growing will naturally experience. When Maria Thomas became the CEO of Etsy in early 2008, I assumed Etsy had evolved, as many sellers were individually evolving, from small mom and pop to a larger scaled business, and as far as I was concerned bigger was better, right? I assumed it needed to be that way, things change and people need to roll with what's best for the company. I assumed the best.

The positive changes that Maria brought to Etsy were many and (not that she'd be reading my little blog but...) I'd like to thank her for her time and service to a company that I care about and belong to. However, somehow the more "pro" Etsy seemed to become the less magic it exuded. It became predictable. Even though Etsy has always seemed to have a bit of favoritism (speaking of which, in a way how can you blame them?) we found ourselves getting to the point where we saw the same items over and over in admin created elements of the site (gift guides, front pages made by admin). I didn't feel sour grapes, it was more frustration because it seemed like an act of laziness more than favoritism. It's one of those deals where you think "I could do a better job than that!" and really, how do I know - I've never done it. There's just so much great work on Etsy, if I had the job of picking front pages I'd be constantly on the hunt for new and unique items to heart and feature. As for the gift guides, repeats of favs are expected but it was a regular thing to see misplaced items in the various categories. If you say "these are all items under $50" they should all be under $50. It's not that difficult to scan a page and see. I know we all make mistakes, and I may be sounding harsh right now, but the frequency of seeing the same "mistakes" starts to lessen understanding and compassion for the one/s making those mistakes. It was a great idea, but if you don't do it right, it just looks sloppy.

(Now I know what you're thinking... who made you the expert on Etsy? No one and I'm not, these are just my own personal reactions to the big new year's news. Every member of Etsy has their own unique perspective on the company and what it should be/do/look like/operate/etc. That just shows how invested we all are, and it's beyond just business, it's personal. How could it not be when so much of the Etsy population is made up of creative people sharing their hearts and souls woven into a blanket that was thoughtfully designed or a work of art painted with passion?)

That being said, I shall continue with my opinion piece on the matter at hand. ;) When the news of Rob's return hit Etsy, he followed up with these two posts that begin to answer all of the questions and concerns of the Etsy community.

Right off the bat I'm tickled pink by these posts. He's here, he's present and he's talking to us AND listening to us AND responding with honesty rather than vague blanket statements or talking in circles. I am particularly pleased to read these quotes from his posts.

"I'd like to know (am asking this for the fine art artists on etsy) if etsy is planning on doing more promotion of 'fine art' on etsy? Are the fine art artists going to have a more defined category and sub categories of art? (MysticSilks)
Yes, we'll be redoing all the category structures. We've spent a lot of time researching this. Etsy has also been talking with art schools and museums to help push this further, and Matt (who was heading this up) can speak more about it."

Communicating with the art world for our advantage? Hooray! Can't wait to hear what Matt says...

- Will there be more open lines of communication with admin? More personalized answers rather than canned responses? (MNHPhotography)
Yes, yes, yes. We have a long way to go, but we're moving in this direction.--

Weekend Deals: Will Etsy still be trying to get us to do the SMARMY SAMMY'S USED CAR BLOWOUT EXTRAVAGANZA type of deals with free shipping, BOGO, and other stuff that simply isn't feasible for most of us? (peaseblossomstudio)
No, no, no. Weekend deals have been scrapped, you won't see them again.

Thank goodness for both of these responses! No more gift guides (mentioned in another quote) and no more weekend deals that reflect poorly on the quality aspect of the site. If individual shops want to have sales that's great but to encourage sellers to slash their earnings for a bit of exposure was, in my opinion, insulting and denegrating to the whole.

Some members in the Etsy forums express concern in Rob's use of words, particularly the term social commerce. I'm not worried by that, to me it means getting back to the people behind the scenes - the creators, the makers, the collectors, the buyers. Also, the people behind the scenes of Etsy, who Rob wants to welcome into the public converstation again, starting here. I believe this is a return to the heart of Etsy, the spirit that made you take notice and want to explore further.

I'm reminded of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (which my husband and I love) and the many businesses you see that have something special about them but they try all of the other gimmicks in the book and it's the gimmicks that bury them. Ramsay always comes along to find the one or two great elements of the place and focus on them, simplify the menu and get the staff to work as a well oiled machine, as a team. Along the way Chez Etsy got distracted and tried to be something it's not, something that fought against the very thing that made it special to begin with. I'm hoping Rob can come in like Ramsay (perhaps with less cursing, but hey, whatever works for you!) and get this place back on it's feet and better than ever before.

We can't go back, nor should we, so looking forward is the best answer harnessing our strongest assets, our lessons learned and our biggest and brightest dreams. Cheers to a New Year my friends - and cheers to a new Etsy!

Let the games begin - What are your comments on the matter?????


becca.elpy said...

I would have to agree with you. I haven't ventured back into forums (I think I'm allergic, haha) but when the news broke on Twitter/the Storque yesterday, I was ambivalent and then thought, "I don't know why he ever left." Shortly after Maria took over there was talk of Etsy trying to emulate Ebay/Amazon and my heart sank. That's not what Etsy was...or should be.

I could prolly write a long post about this myself, but I won't here in your comments. I just hope that the good things mentioned now are things they will do.

Marissa L. Swinghammer said...

I'm with Becca in hoping that this time they will do the good things they mention. I've totally lost touch with the community but maybe that will change now.

CountryDreaming said...

Thanks for this post, Jessica.

As one who started my Etsy shop a year ago and has hung out in the forums out of curiosity and to learn, I'm glad to see Rob back. I immediately noticed a change for the better in how responsive he is to the forum community.

I'm glad if Etsy doesn't care to emulate Ebay. I know an Ebay seller ... we differ when it comes to customer service. Me, I treat my customers like gold when it comes to things like sending thank-you cards, communicating order details in convos, and making sure the customer is satisfied even if it's going to cost me money.

The friendly, personal touch and ability for interaction between artists and art lovers is super attractive to me. Am looking forward to 2010 on Etsy ... Happy New Year!