Kickstarter’s Dirty Shipping Secret?

In the past 96 hours I’ve heard two interesting reports from successful Kickstarter project creators about the hazards and dangers that shipping present to the profitability – and potentially even the viability – of their projects.

Amanda Fucking Palmer addressed a session at SXSW (a podcast will supposedly be up at some point). She raised $1,192,793. After Kickstarter’s fees, Amazon’s fees, and bad pledges, let’s assume she netted $1M. Amanda stated that their shipping costs ate up $250K of the funds they raised. 25%. WOW! I was astonished. She spoke specifically about the AU and NZ folks (though she clearly bears them no ill will!) where shipping generally well exceeded what they pledged – never mind the COGS.

The second interaction was a private conversation that I’ve summarized as follows:

Shipping is the dirty secret of Kickstarter that no one talks about partly because you come off as petty and trying to justify how much you’ve raised. They make no allowances for anything other than domestic shipping, so you have to come up with a flat rate for the rest of the world. Then because of the development time between the end of your Kickstarter and the product release, the postage rates go up. In our case, they nearly doubled, absolutely killing us on hundreds of international packages. Some countries came to $80-90 to ship – where we up-charged a flat $30.

The flat-rate international thing seems like a real problem that Kickstarter needs to address. Canadians presumably end up pissed off because they grossly over-pay, and folks in Kinshasa and Sydney get an amazing deal. Fascinating problem!

Renaming SFO…

I was unaware that there was an effort underway to rename SFO to “Harvey Milk International Airport.” This particular quote in the article made me laugh out loud:

And, of course, flights between Harvey Milk International Airport and Reagan National Airport would be joyous for those travelers who prefer their flights laden with as much irony as possible.

Irony FTW 🙂

Good luck with the ballot, San Francisco!

Must-Have App for Space Nuts :-)

I’ve been totally digging the ISS Detector app from RunaR and wanted to give ’em a shout out. I have it set up to automatically notify me, with 15 minutes notice or so, when the ISS is going to be overhead. It has some VERY cool options whereby it only notifies me when the station will be high enough above the horizon to see (10 degrees max = no thank you) AND only when the weather is cooperating (if it’s rainy, please don’t bother me!). The app has a built-in compass to help you orient yourself, and as per the screen snap below, it’ll tell you where it’s gonna show up, when, how it’s gonna travel across the sky, how long it’ll be visible for, and how high it’ll get.

The ISS is visible with the naked eye. However, if you can scrounge up a pair of binoculars you can make out the outline of its PV wings. The ISS in toto is roughly the size of a football field. Note that the ISS moves fast. In fact, it’s orbiting Earth every 92 minutes at a speed of 17,500 MPH (more than 25X faster than the last jet you were on!). As you look up, it’ll almost certainly be the fastest moving  object in the sky.

Net-net, if you’re a space geek, this is a must-have app IMO. Enjoy!

Workin’ Late in Madison

I haven’t spent a ton of time in Madison WI so far during my budding tenure with Murfie, but the days are certainly starting to (happily) add up. I’ve definitely had enough time to find my favorite “late night at the non-office” haunt: Maduro Cigar Bar on East Main – about a block off the Capital.

Maduro is a smoking bar. They serve no food, but you’re welcome to bring in your own – or the barkeep will even help you order some up for delivery. What they DO offer is an impressive selection of cigars, a stellar array of liquors, and a nicely-curated collection of fine wines. Their selection of whiskeys is excellent, and it includes nearly a dozen bourbons – including two I’d never heard of before from FEW and New Holland (yeah, I know, neither is from Kentucky, but they seem to know what they’re doing regardless!). Maduro also clearly knows its way around their classic jazz library, which is on constant rotation FTW!

Crazy pipe smokers like YT are welcome as well. Note that cigarettes are not welcome at all – apparently a function of some city ordinance, which is just fine with me. Primarily it is a cigar spot, but there always seem to be one or two pipe guys to add some diversity to the hand-rolled crowd. I’d like to see them carry a selection of pipe tobacco blends that include cigar leaf. Maduro is a must-check-out spot in Madison if you’re a whiskey fan, cigar lover, or pipe nut.

Oh, and the place is positively hoppin’ after 2200 on a Tuesday night. Enjoy!

No Longer a Grandson :-(

My last grandparent, my maternal grandmother Florence Blongastainer, passed yesterday.

She was 91 years old, and until 18 days ago, she was living on her own, still driving, and happily causing trouble. She grew up during the Great Depression in a family of six kids. As a very sickly child, the doctors told her parents she probably wouldn’t live to be a teenager. She made it just a tad past that ;-). Along the way she brought up two fantastic children, thoroughly enjoyed her six grandchildren, and doted on her fourteen great-grandchildren. I’m extremely grateful that she and my kids got to know each other well. They, like me, are going to miss her a lot.

In 2011 we had a big family party to celebrate her 90th birthday. There are lots of pictures extant that include me with my tongue hangin’ out and a bourbon in my hand. My grandmother however actually possessed some decorum. During the session with the photographer at her 90th, I managed to cajole her to raise her glass and (nearly) stick her tongue out. I’m glad I did, as I really love this picture and will treasure it.

When I shuffle off, I can only hope to be half as fondly-remembered as my grandmother is. Miss you, grammy.

Knowledge of the universe is not to be obtained by metaphysics.

Most philosophers – or, at any rate, very many – profess to be able to prove, by a priori metaphysical reasoning, such things as the fundamental dogmas of religion, the essential rationality of the universe, the illusoriness of matter, the unreality of all evil, and so on. There can be no doubt that the hope of finding reason to believe such theses as these has been the chief inspiration of many life-long students of philosophy. This hope, I believe, is vain. It would seem that knowledge concerning the universe as a whole is not to be obtained by metaphysics, and that the proposed proofs that, in virtue of the laws of logic such-and-such things must exist and such-and-such others cannot, are not capable of surviving a critical scrutiny.

Bertrand Russell

When Local Retail = Internet Retail…

Is it time to short every US retailer?

According to an article in Slate today, Amazon is gearing up to stop fighting about sales tax and to begin local – even hyper-local – distribution. If this is true, and it does come to pass, we will witness the near-complete creative destruction of the centuries-old retail industry (admittedly, a middle-man business) in a matter of a score of months or so. Amazon does now, or will soon, collect sales tax in twelve (12) states. That’s over 25% of the states that have sales taxes. Based on this report, we can only assume the other 35 states won’t be too far behind.

In theory, you will soon be able to order something on Amazon, and pick it up via their locker service as early as later that same day. Hell, it’s easy to imagine an army of daylight-idle pizza delivery peeps working with Amazon to provide same-day – or even same-hour – delivery. In this case though, it most certainly won’t be an E-Dream – it’ll be viable business, and serious as a fucking heart attack.

From the article:

Physical retailers have long argued that once Amazon plays fairly on taxes, the company wouldn’t look like such a great deal to most consumers. If prices were equal, you’d always go with the “instant gratification” of shopping in the real world. The trouble with that argument is that shopping offline isn’t really “instant”—it takes time to get in the car, go to the store, find what you want, stand in line, and drive back home.

This chart sure-as-shit won’t look so rosy:

By the way, those six retailers, combined, represent almost half a trillion dollars in market cap. What should be scaring folks is that if Amazon (et. al., presumably) can pull this off, what we will see will be a creative destruction of value – a negative sum gain – not a simple shifting of value. For sake of (bad) example, Amazon will double to $200B market cap and those six retailers will lose 80% of their market caps. That’d amount to $300B in market cap “up and vanish[ing] like a fart in the wind.”

I’m a huge Amazon fan. I’ve been so for a LONG time. I was a huge Kozmo fan (RIP). The vast majority of the things I purchase do not materially benefit by me having to go to an actual Home Depot or Target location. Bring it on, Amazon!

PS: You might also want to short mall owners. Though maybe they could turn all the malls into weird apartments and condos and dog grooming centers 🙂

PLEASE Help Xeko!

So I don’t often make unabashed pleas for help, but this is one of those times 🙂 .

I NEED A FAVOR! Please help bring Xeko back from the brink of extinction!

I am part of the Xeko project that JUST LAUNCHED (w00t!) on Kickstarter! Xeko is a paper-based collectible/tradable card game that was created a number of years ago, was launched, and, sadly, failed. We are bringing the game “back from the brink of extinction” by moving it ONLINE.

Our goals with this Kickstarter effort are to leverage the crowdfunding community to:

  • find and build a passionate pre-release user base for the game – from alpha testers to beta testers and beyond;
  • learn from our backer community what they want from THEIR game that we haven’t thought of yet; and finally
  • get the funding we need so we can get the game made and released!

Crowdfunding only works if, well, the ‘crowd’ ‘funds’ (Q.E.D.!). So I’m asking for your support. You can do any and/or all of the following things to be helpful:

  1. Tell your friends about the Kickstarter campaign! The more the merrier! The words ‘crowdfunding’ and ‘bashful’ don’t work together well :-).
  2. Support the Kickstarter campaign! You can back Xeko with as little as one single dollar to show your love!
  3. Tell your friends!!!! Yes, it’s in there twice – it’s THAT important!
  4. Follow Xeko on Facebook, Twitter, and beyond – details below.

Here’s where you can find Xeko online to help in your SHARING efforts (please help!):


Now Causing Trouble at …. Oomba!

The news is out that the company I co-founded in 2010 – play140 – has been acquired by Oomba!

I have to tell you that I’m exceptionally jazzed with this! It’s a great outcome for play140. Oomba is doing some amazing things. With this merger, I get to do what I love re: play140 and get back to some compelling, old roots of mine that I love just as much!

Unfortunately, Oomba is not quite yet ready for the public. You can visit the Oomba teaser site and play with the collectible Oomba spinning tops! But for now, that’s all that’s really out there about what we’re up to. Or at least, that’s all I can say without subsequently killing you.

play140’s technology and games are being merged into Oomba. Our beloved T.A.G. The Acronym Game keeps pushing forward happily and funly (yeah, I know that’s not a word, sue me). The extensive technology we’ve built around bridging text-based game platforms (Twitter, SMS, Facebook, etc.) is going to play some important roles in Oomba’s future. Oomba is attacking a > $10B market and we aim to kill it!

I have joined Oomba as President & COO via the acquisition. Of course my official title will remain “Chief Troublemaker”. How could it not?  I even have my own Oomba top collectible, as illustrated below – complete with bass guitar, pipe, nomex suit, and quite a bit more gray hair than seems reasonable 😉 😉 😉

Wish me, and us, luck!


It being “that time of year” when flowers start poking their small, colored, wonderfully-odiferous heads up out of the winter’s cold soil, I happened to be sitting next to a vase of yellow flowers in my living room this evening wondering “are those daffies or jonquils?”

It turns out that ‘daffodil’ is a common language name for the plant genus Narcissus. Linguists believe that the ‘daffodil’ sobriquet derived from the Dutch – but they’re apparently not 100% certain how it came about! The jonquil is a specific type of daffy: Narcissus jonquilla. Some folks refer to all daffies as jonquils, but that’s technically incorrect, as jonquils are just one species witin the genus Narcissus.

Additionally, it turns out that Narcissus jonquilla is one of the two species of Narcissus primarily used in perfumery – alongside Narcissus poeticus. So when you see a scent that includes daffodil or narcissus, it may contain the odor of our friendly, spring jonquil.

Ya learn sumthin’ new every day!