The Guilt of Delivery

I don’t like ordering food when it’s snowing, raining, or ever really. It’s lazy, unhealthy (the not moving and the food part), and it makes me feel guilty. I can afford to order cookies and ice cream and get it delivered to my house and that just sounds absurd. Maybe it’s because I grew up in home situated in a fairly rural area, overseen by a mom who would never order such things. She would make them herself, damn it.

It’s also weird because I see how waiters and waitresses are sometimes treated poorly in restaurants, and that makes me feel guilty for taking the services of someone who probably isn’t working their dream job.

Or maybe they are, who am I to judge. This isn’t about me.

I’ve been thinking about this recently since I’m busier and thus, order food more often. And the smartphone makes the process of ordering things a whole lot more convenient. And now it’s happening to everything. Not only can you get pretty much anything delivered from Seamless or Instacart or whatever—you can also pay people to do pretty much anything for you with services like TaskRabbit.

Which leads me to this article, The Shut-In Economy. It illuminates something I was trying to get at… that it’s good my mom made stuff for us and didn’t rely on other people to make things for us.

The luxuries usually afforded to one-percenters now stretch to the urban upper-middle class, or so the technology industry cheers. But can you democratize the province of the rich without getting a new class acting, well, entitled? My parents made me put away the dishes not to “outsource” their workload — they could have done it faster. They did it so I wouldn’t turn out to be a brat.

After all, either you’re behind the door, receiving your dinner in the tower. Or you’re like the food delivery guy who, while checking in with the concierge, said, “This is my dream place to live.” He’s the opposite of a shut-in. He’s stuck outside, hustling.

Check out the article (posted on Medium, incidentally…).

Text Is Dead; Long/ Live/ Text

Maybe one day we will talk to our computers and have them send messages to other humans on behalf of us. But for now we can text our friends ourselves or talk to computers via text.

For all the nonsense out there about people not reading any more and how our culture is increasingly led by visuals, there is still an awful lot of text-based innovations going on.

Sure you can use post an image in Twitter, but that platform was built on text and it’s still the most used medium. That’s a guess but it’s probably right.

This cool article, Futures of Text, was making the rounds on Twitter a couple weeks back. The author, Jonathan Libov, talks about text-based services like Bus Time as an antidote to the there’s-an-app-for-everything-I-have-too-many-apps thing.

It’s also where I heard about this cool text-based health app, Lark. He calls it “GUI-aided chat:”

Lark for iPhone is a virtual health coach that interfaces with HealthKit on the iPhone. They do an excellent job at weaving free-form chat with GUI.

Lark is also excellent at message design. The tone is natural and the tempo is fast but not so fast as to make you feel like your responses are perfunctory.

I find myself checking in with Lark a lot during the day. It makes me feel good about all the activity I get, even though I don’t think it would motivate me to get my butt outside if the weather’s crappy.

I’d attach a screen shot of Lark talking to me but the app has been crashing lately.

Here’s the video they have on their site:

The Platform Is the Message

There’s no doubt about it: The blogging/writing platform founded by Blogger and Twitter entrepreneur Evan Williams, Medium, is beautiful. Lots of great writers like the late great David Carr used it and wrote about it:

Because it is such a pleasure to work with, Medium has become something of a fetish object for writers. In the last year, Medium has published the biographer Walter Isaacson, the author Emily Gould, the journalist Ben Smith, the entrepreneur Elon Musk and many, many others.

The focus on typography, on the reading experience, is unparalleled in the online publishing space.

Not that I’ve done much research to the alternatives: I prefer to go at it my own. I want to own the experience, and I’ve been doing that in some incarnation or the other since 2001, with my first blog that I cobbled together using Dreamweaver MX, back before it was Adobe Dreamweaver. (Now we’re using a self-hosted incarnation of WordPress, thank you very much.)

My reasons for doing so are equal parts stubbornness, curiosity, and mistrust of others. I think it’s fun to experiment with new storytelling media. And I’m really picky… so being in control of everything is the only thing I’ll accept.

What if I had invested my time and resources into a writing platform that went bankrupt? What if they decided to sell ads next to my work without compensating me?

And we’re back to Medium and this fantastic piece about the platform that was published on a non-publishing-platform website by Matthew Butterick.

[...] Medium pays for only a small frac­tion of its sto­ries. The rest are sub­mit­ted—for free—by writ­ers like you. Af­ter a long time be­ing elu­sive about its busi­ness model, Medium re­vealed that it plans to make money by—sur­prise!—sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. This means dis­play­ing ads, but also col­lect­ing and sell­ing data about read­ers and writ­ers. So Medium will ex­tract rev­enue from every story, whether it paid for that story or not. (By the way, will that rev­enue be shared with writ­ers? Um, no.)

So there you go. My stubbornness/curiosity/mistrust of others seems well-advised after all.

Especially when you put it this way:

In truth, Medium’s main prod­uct is not a pub­lish­ing plat­form, but the pro­mo­tion of a pub­lish­ing plat­form. This pro­mo­tion brings read­ers and writ­ers onto the site. This, in turn, gen­er­ates the us­age data that’s valuable to advertisers. Boiled down, Medium is sim­ply mar­ket­ing in the ser­vice of more mar­ket­ing. It is not a “place for ideas.” It is a place for advertisers. It is, there­fore, ut­terly superfluous.

Read the full piece here: The Billionaire’s Typewriter.

Full disclosure: I have a Medium account but haven’t found a use for it yet.

Via {daring fireball}.

Etsy’s Growth Problem

It’s tough to be an ambitious crafter.

When I started my bicycle apparel company, BMINUS, back in 2004, I was determined to do everything by myself. What sounded romantic to me on paper quickly became annoying. Finding a place for all those tee-shirts to dry, drying them by hand with an iron, taping up the envelopes, running to the post office, keeping track of the money, figuring out a marketing plan, re-listing stuff on Etsy… It was exciting and I learned a lot. But if I quickly realized the limits of my 1-man show.

BMINUS was never going to be a big thing. I just didn’t have the time, energy, dedication, or business acumen. But if I wanted to grow the business, I could see how I’d need to outsource some steps in the process. Maybe get the tees made by someone else. That would satiate my ambition, but would it still be a DIY/handmade business?

A recent article, Etsy’s Success Gives Rise to Problems of Credibility and Scale {nyt} explores this conundrum handily:

But as stores took off, sellers started to complain that one person could not possibly keep up with the flood of orders. The logical next step, they said, would be to take on investment and hire employees, or outsource the manufacturing, but doing so would run afoul of Etsy’s rules.

Still, Etsy stuck to its ban [...] until late 2013, when, under its new chief executive, Chad Dickerson, the site relaxed those standards. The change allowed sellers to hire workers or outsource the production to small-scale manufacturers that met a set of labor and ecological criteria. Almost 30 percent of sellers on Etsy took part in support groups in 2014, according to Etsy’s I.P.O. prospectus, and there are already over 5,000 instances of Etsy sellers outsourcing their manufacturing. The company said 6 percent hired paid help in 2013, the most recent year that statistic was available.

Read the article then check out posts about BMINUS on this blog.

Kroll’s Walk in the Park

Great piece {buzzfeed} about one of my favorite comedians, NICK KROLL.

Kroll says his goal for the show “was to make stuff that’s funny to us, that would help me work down the line with people I respect: Seth Rogen, or Craig Robinson, or Bill Burr — I want Bill Burr to think I’m funny.” According to editor and director Daniel Gray, they aimed for a mix of “the lowest of the lowbrow — just complete garbage,” and “the complete highbrow.” Watching the show is like channel-surfing, but also a commentary on that experience. It’s dizzying and hilarious and incites a sort of semi-nauseous glee.

The Pawnsylvania sketches are my favorite—and not just because they speak to my Philly/Philadelphia roots.