Too Long for Twitter

My friend Adam said something which is too long for twitter or Facebook, but realy to excellent to be confined to my inbox. We were discussing the topics of the upcoming Ignite NYC, and how it’s become (always was?) a bit… buzz-wordy.

Ignite is leveraged to provide out-of-the-box solutions for thinking
outside of the box!  By inner left joining your assets to the
blogosphere’s most whuffie-laden creatives, you can provide a rich
canvas for your stakeholders to express their content-driven buy-in.
Generate partnerships, leads, and “branded civil unions” while
managing your passionate identity and getting hella sticky eyeball
clickthru!  You’ll can’t best these practices, folks.

Synergy. Pure synergy.


Lased: Miniature Embroidery Hoops

I spent a decent portion of yesterday on the laser, prototyping a tiny embroidery hoop for (duh) tiny embroidery. I’m pretty happy with the results. So much in fact that I’ve decided to start offering tiny embroidery kits along side my tiny dinosaur kits.

The embroidery hoop is made from laser cut acrylic, and the rubber band provides tension to keep everything in place. The whole thing measures 1.5″ across, a standard sewing machine bobbin is show for scale in the picture above. I actually neglected to save the cut file (oops) but it’s pretty simple: two concentric rings (0.2″ wide), with the outside diameter of the smaller ring being 0.05″ smaller than the inside diameter of the larger ring. The large ring has a “nub” on the side for the rubber band, and is split down the middle on that side.

There’s about a 1″ diameter working area. I used 28 count aida fabric, which gave me approximately 28 “pixels” across to work with. Chris helped me design a cupcake chart for counted cross stitch. It uses 7 colors: white, red, light pink, dark pink, pink, grey, and light grey. It’s a nice portable project because it fits in your pocket. I’ve listed a kit for sale on Etsy and may bring a few down to Spring BadaBing in Richmond, VA this weekend.

Here’s the chart for your cross-stitch pleasure:


Rainy Day Crafts

Paper Terrarium
Today is gross and rainy. I’ve spent most of it working, which as you can imagine is tons of fun. While packing up some tiny glass jars for Tinysaurs I decided to take a break and make a tiny display of my own.

I had some tiny 1cm paper cranes left over from when I used to make crane earrings.  I covered the basswood stand in origami paper, and glued two of the cranes to straight pins. The whole thing is about an inch and a half tall.

Now I’m trying to decide what I should do with it. Should I just be happy with my crafty Saturday, or try to make it into a new product for Everything Tiny?


Dear Businesses: Get off Twitter


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The Twitter fail whale error message.
Image via Wikipedia

… and back on to customer support.

Twitter has become a necessity for reputation management. Don’t want people to talk crap about you on Twitter? Use it to respond to all the naysayers and whiners! Nip those problems in the bud! Twitter is so great, you can interact directly with your customers! Hooray!

Let’s back up a minute. You know what’s great for interacting directly with your customers? Email. Over the years email based customer support tools have evolved beyond your standard POP3 mail client. I do some customer support work for NearlyFreeSpeech.Net and we have a system that makes it relatively painless.

So why are all these companies putting so much money into twitter management software like CoTweet and yet leaving their customer service departments in the last century?

The result of this Twitter madness is we’re training our customers to go there first, because it’s faster than trying to get help through the official support channel. Case in point: I was having problems with my Amazon Payments account. I sent an email to their customer support team. I was told someone would look at and respond to my request in “1-2 days.” This infuriated me more, as I was already pretty ticked off at Amazon, and so I went to Twitter to complain. Lo and behold, within a few hours of my tweet I had a response from a director at Amazon Payments.

Using Twitter to catch users who fall through the cracks is great, but it should never be a company’s first line of defense. Customer service hinges on the customer’s expectation. Exceed their expectation and you win, fall short and you lose. But the expectation varies, and isn’t always based on “rational” assumptions.

A few years ago I worked at a scooter shop in Richmond, VA. The owner had a habit of staying there late to work on things, and would often take customers’ late night phone calls to help them with their scooters. As business picked up and she had less time in the evenings, she stopped taking the late night calls. And the customers who had been calling her got mad. They had come to expect free scooter help in the middle of the night, and when the shop owner didn’t meet their expectations, they felt it was bad customer service. Never mind the fact that expecting free live scooter help at 9pm is ridiculous in the first place.

Good customer support is partially about training the customer to have rational expectations. And meeting them. Tell customers up front how long it should take to respond, and then respond in about that amount of time. If you say “1-2 days,” getting back to them on day 3 is not acceptable. On the flip side, if you say “1-2 days” but usually get back within a few hours, you’re creating the expectation that your time estimate is bogus. So if it does take you 1-2 days next time you fail, regardless of what your website says, because you already created the expectation that you’ll reply considerably faster.

Most of this is relevant to only repeat users of customer support. If you check out some customer support statistics published at NearlyFreeSpeech.Net a few years ago, you’ll see that 50% of their support requests come from 5% of their users. So while most of your users won’t interact with your support system more than once, most of your support issues will come from repeat users.

So why, why, why, why, are we training our users to go whine on Twitter? Twitter is a mediocre place to do customer support at best, and puts the user’s private information at risk in worse case scenarios. Users can’t be trusted to know when it is / is not appropriate to share information, I don’t even want to think about the amount of personal data you could scrape off Twitter from customers replying to service reps.

If you’ve got people manning the Twitter lines and yet it takes you more than a day to respond to email based customer support inquiries, you have a problem. Yes, Twitter is new and exciting, and everyone is rushing to figure out how they can control the flood of information that’s suddenly pouring from our computer screens. But you can’t play on Twitter until your homework is done, and in this case your homework is building up a good traditional customer support system.

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Startup Life

Well, I Suppose It's Official…

… I am going full-time with my startup. In a moment, I’ll tell you what it is, but in the meantime, let’s look at how I got here:

At any given point I have probably a dozen half-finished and half-baked projects lying around. Some of these are business ideas, some of these are just projects with no intent of monetization. Invariably they take a backseat to things like paid work. What can I say, I’m a sucker for things like paying rent and eating food besides Top Ramen.

About three weeks ago, I haphazardly mentioned one of them, called Tastemob, to a friend of mine. I’d been listlessly searching for a co-founder, and had mostly decided to set the project aside and maybe get a desk job, mostly because I miss working with other people. Around the same time, a friend of mine forwarded me a job opening at a social gaming company in Manhattan.

What happened next is kind of a blur. My aforementioned friend, whose name is Katherine, started going full steam ahead with the Tastemob project, doing all viagra for women sorts of business-y things I had previously not really taken the time to do. She started getting really excited about the project, and that reignited my interest in it. Meanwhile I had an interview at the game company, and after a bit of phone tag with my references they offered me a position. In the time between the interview and the offer (barely two weeks) we had applied to a few startup incubators with Tastemob and gotten generally positive responses to the idea.

My boyfriend Chris maintains that I am the only person who would ever get upset by an offer for a job they wanted. He may be right. But faced with choosing between a job that sounded pretty good versus putting my all into a startup that might just have some legs… it was hard. I talked it over with a variety of my friends. In the end, almost everyone said to go for the startup, that I’d be plagued with “what ifs” if I didn’t. One person suggested I take the job and then just quit if the startup got funded, which is a bit too shady for me. It took me a good half hour to write the email declining the job, and probably another 10 minutes to hit “send.” I made my now business partner, Katherine, swear she really did think Tastemob was a viable product and that we were going to try our damnedest to make it work.

Now that I’ve turned down a job in favor of Tastemob, I have a distinct sense of “no going back.” Sure, I’m freelancing now anyway so it’s not as if I’ve suddenly committed to a giant decrease in pay the way quitting an existing job might. But it still brings a sense of finality to the decision.

This post has gotten a bit lengthy, so I’ll save another post for blathering on about Tastemob itself. In short, it’s a social shopping tool, meant to solve the problem of “I want to buy something but I can’t find the exact thing I’m looking for.” I built the prototype in November, and now we’re hoping to have a beta up in mid March (having not worked on it all winter). And now that I’m in it for real, it appears we’re gong to be building a real company on it.

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Zahra's Paradise

For the past month I’ve been doing some freelance with First Second, working on a website for an upcoming comic book. It’s called Zahra’s Paradise and we launched today. I’m amazed at how much traffic we’ve had in the nine hours since the site went live. So far we’ve blown through about two gigs of bandwidth. Not bad for a site that’s less than a day old.

Of course it helps that it was picked up by a few local newspapers and blogs.

The project has been interesting for a few purchase cheapest viagra different reasons. First, it’s being simultaneously published in 7 different languages. 7. More than anything else it’s a logistical challenge to communicate with a dozen different people each speaking a few of the languages. I think by the end I was emailed 4 different copies of the Farsi version by various people. I had to be very careful to keep the Farsi and Arabic files separate, because I admittedly can’t distinguish them very well. Side by side I can see some clear differences (Farsi is more curvy looking) but looking at single words I’m hopeless. Getting the software to play nice with both the comic plugin and the language plugin was also tricky. Not so much difficult as “fiddly.”

Reading the comments I feel like I can tell who came from BoingBoing, they’re the ultimate Unimpressable Connosoirs. They have useful comments like “no one who prays would keep alcohol in the house!” Uh ok, whatever dude.

It’s an interesting and well written comic, so seriously check it out.

Startup Life

Keeping Your Startup Organized

In the few days since my post on finding a co-founder I have, to my surprise, found a co-founder! It’s funny how things work out like that. My co-founder, Katherine, has actually been a friend of mine for a while. So unfortunately I don’t have any sage advice for those still on the hunt for a partner in crime business. Or maybe I do: talk to buy cialis viagra everyone you know about your business idea. If it’s any good, someone is bound to get excited by it.

The next step is figuring out how we stay organized. We have a lot to do: apply to various startup incubators, put together something resembling a business plan (or at least an outline of what we’re doing), sit down with a lawyer and become a real business, etc. Oh, and build the prototype. Actually the prototype is built, but it’s kind of hideous, so it needs work.

What do other startups use to stay organized? At Etsy we used Trac, which is decent software but has a somewhat miserable UI. It’s powerful, but the amount of work I’d have to put in to get it to do what I want is more than I can handle right now. We’re already using Google Docs and Google Calendar, but I can’t find anything that ties those together with a nice project management interface. We need to keep track of who is working on what incubator app, what still needs to be done for the incorporation, etc etc. I feel like just about everyone has this problem these days, so I’m interested in hearing everyone else’s solutions.

Startup Life

Finding a cofounder

When you’re looking to start a company, how do you find a cofounder?

I have an idea I’m trying to build into a company, but need a partner on it to stay focused and keep at it. It’s just too big to do by myself. I’ve been trying to think of aquaintences on either the product management side or the dev side of things who might be interested. A lot of people I know who start companies do so with former coworkers, so I started there.

Luckily, I have one former coworker who would be just fantastic to start a company with. She’s smart, motivated, and knows the market we’re going after. She was laid off from our former employer about a year ago. Of course, being as awesome as she is, she’s started her own company in the year since then (which is quite successful!) and quite understandably wants to stay with it.

Other friends, such as those at NYC Resistor, are either happy in their current jobs or already started their own companies. I’m feeling a little late to the startup party.

At the crux of my issue is the fact that I’m inherently bad at networking. This is an awful quality for an entrepreneur, I know. I also know some people who are equally bad or worse who managed to find people to start a company. So what I want to know is how viagra with no prescription in britain they did it.


Luddism for Fun and Profit

One of the things I’m doing this January is revamping how I handle shipping. Which means investing in a little bit of hardware. I picked up a nice USB postage scale to replace the food scale I’d been using. Aside from more precise measuring, it interfaces with my shipping software to automatically enter the correct postage amount. And I’m viagra next day delivery finally graduating from sheets of Avery shipping labels to a thermal printer.

But let’s back up a second. Let’s talk about thermal printers. Specifically, the LP 2844.


The Zebra LP2844 is an exceptionally common printer. Both UPS and DHL give them out to their shippers, and provide free labels for them. They’re fairly compact, versatile, and since they’re thermal there’s never any ribbon or toner to replace. All in all a decent little printer. Unfortunately I do most of my shipping through the US Postal Service, who don’t seem to have any interest in rewarding me with free hardware.

There have been a number of iterations of the LP 2844 over the years. DHL has their own bright yellow branded one, and the new ones have entered the modern age and now support USB. Which means there are now a ton of the older ones for sale on Ebay. The current models go for about $400, but if you’ve got a machine which still sports a parallel port, you can grab an older one for $40. If you’re not the sort of person who keeps a parallel port around for kicks, but have an open PCI slot, you can get a parallel card for about $15. They even throw two USB ports on it so you don’t feel like a total chump.

The printer also supports serial, so in theory if you have a USB serial adapter lying around (most good hackers do) you could use that. But the data transfer is so painfully slow it’s not something you’d ever want to use in production. I’ve also seen a few USB to parallel cables, but reviews on those are mixed. Apparently getting the drivers happy is a bit of a pain.

So thanks to my Luddite boyfriend, who insists on purchasing motherboards which still have parallel ports, I was able to get a super cheap label printer. That coupled with my new scale should make the whole postage printing process much faster and smoother.


Oh look, jewelry!

Things have been quiet here because I haven’t been doing much hacking; mostly I’ve been shipping things. Hello, busy retail season.

Somehow in all this selling madness I found time to eek out a new line. A line of jewelry, none the less! For those of you who don’t know, I actually got my degree in metalsmithing / jewelrymaking. So in some ways it’s not surprising. Except to the cheep viagra uk people who heard me swear up and down I was done with production jewelry years ago. I think I swore off craft shows around the same time. That might explain why I have 2 scheduled for December.

The pendants are all laser cut acrylic. There are 10 different designs, and they can be theoretically put on any color background although I’ve found there are only a handful of colors which look particularly good. You can find them at Everything Tiny, or on Etsy, or at either of the craft shows I’ll be doing this month:

Squidfire Art Mart – Baltimore, MD on December 12
Brooklyn Lyceum – Brooklyn, NY on December 19th and 20th