Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Am I a boy or a lady, I don't know which?

Have you seen this article in the New York Times? (Thanks to Impetuous for the link)

One has the feeling that the author, Ellen Rosen could scarcely contain raucous hoots of laughter from start to finish. Let's deconstruct this little gem, shall we?

1. The skateboard ramp at Etsy, long a staple subject of snark, apparently disappeared six months ago. This, for Rob, marked the end of Etsy's status as a "start-up". Way cool definition, Rob. I get the feeling Ms. Rosen was impressed, too. So, although we all mourn the demise of the halfpipe, we must ask, why on earth has Rob been kicked upstairs with searing business analysis like that?

2. So Rob knew he needed professional management. “We hit a point in growth that we needed people who have done this before". Etsy sellers have known for some time (even before Caterpillar Cowboy let the lab rat out of the bag) that we're chiefly of interest to our Handmade Overlords as test subjects and experimental fodder. Now we have confirmation from Mr Swimmy himself. We also have confirmation (if confirmation was needed) that the people running Etsy don't have a frickin' clue. And yet, when some of us have pointed this out, over the years, while begging Etsy to take its (and our) business seriously, we've been rebuffed. Etsy knows what it's doing, went the refrain. Trust Etsy.

3. "Mr. Kalin will remain as chairman and will focus on creative efforts as well as the establishment of, intended to coach vendors on producing their wares and also to establish an educational arm to guide them in running and expanding their businesses." Translation: "Mr Swimmy has been stripped of any real power, and will now have lots of money and lots and lots of free time to work on what he does best: suckering craftspeople into believing that he actually knows something about running and expanding a business".

4. The Coral Nail Polish Incident. The New York Times (no strangers, they, to eccentricity) clearly loved this. I picture Ms. Rosen gamely trying to keep a straight face when Rob shared this tidbit of creepy oddness with her, then dashing off a quick email from her BlackBerry to share this with her friends and colleagues. Oh, how the corridors of the NY Times rang with merry laughter on that day!

Seriously, how creepy is this? You're at work (which for most Etsy Admin, admittedly, consists of making shrinky-dink moustaches and videoing each other). The head of the company calls a "all-hands" meeting. "All hands on deck", he cries! You show up for this very important meeting, to find the company's charismatic leader sporting bright nail polish. He explains brilliantly, "I'm a boy, but boy CEOs can't wear nail polish, but I AM wearing nail polish, therefore I must not be the CEO of Etsy anymore".

It's this brand of hard-hitting, diamond-sharp logic that has made Rob a colossus currently bestriding the Handmade Universe. Did anyone at the meeting stop to point out one of the other logical conclusions, "Um, Rob, maybe it means you're not a boy anymore"? "Are you getting a sex change operation so you can be our female CEO"?

And one hopes that at least a couple of people trapped in that meeting thought, in the privacy of their own skulls, "This guy is a total wacko". I'm betting that Matt and Stella entertained that thought for at least a moment.

So, to sum up. What have we learned today about "running and expanding our businesses"? The lesson I take away is this: start up your business with absolutely no expertise, take no advice, exploit other people along the way, and when your finely-honed skills tell you it's time to expand (i.e. when things are getting really tough and your customers are complaining and everything is going pear-shaped), ditch the halfpipe, paint your nails in a bizarre, passive-aggressive display of indirect communication and bring in someone who actually knows what he or she is doing while you are put somewhere where you can no longer harm innocent passersby.

I only have one question left.

Was it handmade nail polish?


omhhd said...

I'm not a fan of Rob (*cough*pompous*cough*) , but, I do admit, I think the nailpolish thing was cute in a strange sort of way.

The Funny One said...

OMG this explains so much, oh so so much! I had no idea Etsy was in its THIRD YEAR of Start-Up mode, and that is why it's still so completely unprofessional!!!
***Etsy has no formal customer service function at all (too start-up to figure out how to put one together).
***Etsy does no advertising because start-ups (piss-poor in most cases) have no ad money to spend.
***Etsy can stay young at heart and write everything in cool, trendy, unintelligible "code" because=======you got it! They are still a Start-Up and all is forgiven!

Because we all know history repeats itself, when you get stuck in fun fun fun Start-Up mode, and forget to mind the store, those front door office (ok, playground) padlocks are just around the corner.........

neither, just a fuckup said...

eh, I read that on Sunday and actually thought it was pretty benign and just made him seem kinda odd but basically harmless. I remember wondering how different the piece would have looked if the writer had even the slightest inkling of what a fuckup he is...

in any case, not sure it warranted a post. if you want something REALLY interesting, check out this thread

so-sorry-this-happened-to-etsy said...

Dunno if the nail polish was handmade, but typical nailpolish is a fairly nasty concoction. Not clean-n-green, not good for humans or where on earth its remnants happen to get thrown away. Yuck.

ShrugItOff said...

I don't think it is cute at all. I think it strange and creepy. And you can't tell me there's not some Etsy employees passing around the nail-polish jokes and photos!

He's become the Etsy laughing stock. Like a giant Swimmy pinata.

Kali said...

The half-pipe was a freaking joke.

First off, it was built with one end facing the windows. The windows! It was unusable by anyone with half a brain. (Yeah, yeah, I know.)

And when I was there last August, there were tables in it. With computers on them.

(I only regret that I didn't take pictures of that fucked up place.)

emndyaz said...

The nail polish incident makes me understand Rokali's need for all his evil eye beeding, as he is clearly insane.

I am SO glad I do not have to have




with him.

wristeroni said...

My favorite quote from the FOX news story. Not only is he stupid enough to think it; but stupid enough to share it with the press . . .(

2. What was the one thing you didn't know that you had to bluff your way through?

There's more than one thing and I wouldn't call it bluffing. It's learning as you go, even if you're making up the knowledge. For example, I was interviewed by AdWeek on the future of advertising."

Ladies Auxilliary said...

Awww, come now, no need to sully the validity of myriads of transgender and other "other" type humans who ride unique lines in our culture by tossing them in with the uniquely wishy washy Mr. Swimmy :)

He's silly...and I'm just glad he realized he's not the guy to take the Big E to the next step...

theoriginalwtf said...

He's silly...and I'm just glad he realized he's not the guy to take the Big E to the next step...


realized? or was told by the new investors? my money's on the latter.

ChristinaP said...

Rob has now admitted that he is not qualified to run Etsy. Ok.

But now he thinks he is somehow qualified to advise others on how to run their business?

What is going to be his advice?
1. Bullshit your way through it.
2. Lie about everything.
3. Never give out any important information.
4. Do NOT under any circumstances provide customer service.
5. When you finally realize you are an idiot hire some one to take your place.

I don't think Rob should be allowed to speak on behalf of Etsy anymore. He gives young entrepreneurs, like myself, a bad name.

I won't be visiting

glimmerista said...

Did you notice how the Fox Business article mentioned that the "Geekery" section contained "Nintendo Super Mario" coasters? No copyright infringements there.

see no evil, hear no evil.

I'm not saying that copyright is evil, just that Etsy is sticking its head in the sand on this topic.

eclipse said...

“We hit a point in growth that we needed people who have done this before"

Great. That is progress. At what point will you get rid of people who were hired with no experience and still don't know what they are doing?

not-a-rob-k-supporter said...

Rob's statement that male CEOs don't wear nail polish was insensitive, immature, and incorrect. I know men who wear nail polish and any of them could be a CEO of their own company.

I'm *thrilled* that Rob is being shunted to the side. I can't wait for him to get the hell out of the way on I hope he takes the amateur articles out of the Storque, ALL of the crafty how-to videos and articles, and the craptastic flash toys with him.

Smarty Pants said...

I, fo one, don't see anything wrong with having a skate ramp at the office. My kids skate, and that would mean I could take them to work and they would get to have fun.
The whole nail polish thing is ridiculous, but Rob thinks his own way and I don't fault him for being a little silly. (though being the cool alternative hipster that he is, he should know that plenty of males wear nail polish.)
When he sells this pig and runs off to an island with milions in his pocket, mentally broken with a battered ego, the NY Times will write another article about how smart he was.
ps. Bitches, please stop with the word verification! why you want to make my eyes hurt like that?

sulking said...


The bit about the cup ("I don't just see a paper cup...") was bad enough but the bit about faking an ID for MIT? Didn't he say elsewhere that he "borrowed" other peoples IDs to go to classes and now he says he made a fake ID for a whole year? ARGH.

I am very, very glad he is no longer in charge.

newreader said...

"Pictures or it didn't happen".

Are the coral talons on the Net someplace?

Hep a beyotch out heah!

impetuous said...

I think he should have dressed up like a farmer. Overalls, stick of straw in his mouth. That would not have needed any explaining.

Everyone at the table would just be like, "Oh, Rob is a farmer, he can't be CEO."

Next time you need to convey a message to your staff Rob, you should start a thread in the forums. We have lots of good IDEAS.

The Disgruntled One said...

You're absolutely right, Ladies Auxiliary -- I certainly didn't mean to put Rob into the same category as all the lovely transgendered and intersexed folks out there. My apologies for not making that clearer.

The nail polish thing makes me scratch my head, not because it's a guy wearing nail polish (I'm cool with that) -- it's the way he used it (badly) to communicate something else.

And, taken together with his penchant for lying, self-congratulations, martyrdom and reading children's books to journalists, Rob comes across as a very odd duck indeed.

That's why Mr. Swimmy gets my special award for being a creepy, self-involved hipster.

maria, you watch it, too! said...

Everyone who sells on etsy should watch the video in the link above.

The founder of etsy admits to fraud.
Kalin forged documents to get access to classrooms at MIT. Wow, Rob-- your mom must be so proud.

Arrogant, an astounding lack of integrity and a cheat.
Oh- and dumb enough to spill it in a videotaped interview.

Kalin, what else do you modify or create in your spare time in addition to counterfeit student IDs?
I wonder if those students who got accepted to MIT & paid tuition think your story is clever.


ja said...

Rob isn't odd, he's posing as odd (at least with the nail polish bit). True oddballs don't think to spill their oddities to the NY Times, because they don't consider what they do to be eccentric and odd. But Rob seems to need to proclaim it: "Look at me! I'm odd! I'm different! I'm indie!"

so-sorry-this-happened-to-etsy said...

I guess I'm in the minority here because I doubt Rob's personal quirks, self-misrepresentation, or style have much to do with Etsy's departure IMO from the damn cool site it was when I first found it a few years ago.

Does anyone actually know (as in facts to back up opinion) that the devolution of Etsy into phoney hipsterism + silly girl estrogen overdose, wrapped up in cold corporate unfeeling customer dis-service + poor tech planning/execution is all/mostly Rob's doing -- against the wishes of the $27M investors?

Or is the site growing bigger, fatter, slower, dumber because what $$$ wants in corporate America is growth, just growth, healthy or not in the long term.

No, I don't find Rob's personality appealing myself, but that is not what changed for the worse at Etsy. Rob was there, like, from the beginning?

impetuous said...

Or is the site growing bigger, fatter, slower, dumber because what $$$ wants in corporate America is growth, just growth, healthy or not in the long term.

Nope. It's all Robs fault. He can't only be responsible for the brilliant stuff. The site itself is defective and I don't know about you, but when I am dealing with a defective item I blame the maker not the investors.

eclipse said...

He faked a student ID at MIT, made it in art class, is that the ultimate DIY?
Who needs a real ID when you can make it yourself? Paying tuition and following laws is for suckers!
Rob's next DIY art project: counterfeiting.
Why bother to earn money when you can just make it yourself?

lessa said...

I would maybe get with the idea that the investors are behind all the problems with Etsy except for two rather large examples that were both prior to the 27 million.

1) V2 rollout that took away more then it gave back and left many sellers ham stringed during the holiday shopping season.

2) 'The Constitution'.

sulking said...

The really disturbing thing for me about the fake ID thing though is that he can't even get his story straight about it - in one version he "borrowed" from friends and attended "a few classes" and in this one he made a fake ID and studied "for a year".

It's almost like he's making it up or elaborating because he thinks somehow it makes him sound cool and indie.

Lying and stealing is NOT COOL, Rob. You don't have to go to a fancy business school and wear a tie to know that.

This is where things like "you can copy up to three items from other sellers" (a la the first draft of the constitution) comes from, it's where the blind eye to copyright issues comes from, it's where all the double-dealing and lying comes from.

I thought before that he was just a bit eccentric (Swimmy, ironing boards, etc) but but I just think: GOOD RIDDANCE.

lurker said...

The major fuck-ups were happening long before the 27 million was given.
I was around for the V2 debut (debacles); Rob has been at the helm since the beginning.
He had a great idea and soon after made a colossal mess of it.

It became painfully apparent they didn't know what the hell they were doing right around the time they decided having a Labs (kiddie playhouse) was a great idea.

With each new incompetent employee they hired before Maria, their image became more tarnished. Hopefully the investors can salvage what's left from the train wreck.

Ladies Auxilliary said...

"so-sorry", many times the things about someone and their ideas that make someone invent something cool (like Etsy) are also the thing that make them the worst person to carry that same idea forward. So...yeah, he's been there since the beginning, and the fact that he's the "unique" silly person he is has been, in the past, a blessing...but is also now a bit of a curse...

I actually love men in nail polish...but coral...I can't handle coral...on anyone...

the insightful one (not affiliated with etsy bitch) said...

Has anyone checked out the most recent edition of AdBusters?

"Hipster: The Dead End of Civilization

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality, and is leaving a generation pointlessly obsessing over fashion, faux individuality, cultural capital and the commodities of style."

An awesome read...

Turdknocker said...

What a fucking embarassment.

cactuspants said...

Does anyone see the nail polish thing as a comment on his being replaced by a woman?

eclipse said...

sulking said...
in one version he "borrowed" from friends and attended "a few classes" and in this one he made a fake ID and studied "for a year".

I think these were two separate times. He made the fake ID for MIT and I think he used the "borrowed" IDs for NYU.
He says he attended 6 different schools so that could be up to 6 different kinds of lies and scams.
If he's even telling the truth about the 6 schools, that is.

I wonder if he borrowed term papers and borrowed test answers too? Or maybe he didn't even bother taking tests since none of these grades would go on his real transcript, since he was not an officially enrolled student. More like auditing a class.

whatever said...

I think the stolen/forged ID story is to make himself seem educated. If he lied about being enrolled in college without the fake id part, someone could discover that he has no record there.

ShrugItOff said...

Whatever, that is a perspective of the store I had never thought of! It makes sense....

eclipse said...

Oh that is a good possibility, whatever!
He could be lying about cheating, in order to cover up a different lie.
Wow I hope he has a scoreboard to keep track of these lies because I am already confused.

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, you ladies are SO obsessed with Rokali!

Grace said...

I was trying to explain Etsy's business model to a friend of mine today. Especially the part about getting sellers in, renewing, etc. but not doing anything to bring in more buyers.

He looks at me and says "OMG, they're the Underpants Gnomes".

If anyone has watched South Park, you'll know immediately what I mean.

Step One: Steal underpants.
Step Two: um, ...
Step Three: PROFIT!!!

I think Rob stole my underpants.

binud said...

"Does anyone see the nail polish thing as a comment on his being replaced by a woman?" I do.

Huh...he's such an odd (and I hate to do this to ducks) duck that I never read the coral polish past him being a self imposed uber unprofessional freak.

But now that I put the whole thing into a genderific context, I guess I could see the episode as a way for Swimmy to lash out at being demoted in favour of a professonal lady.

When I don't dislike him for being such a stubborn asshat, I feel kinda bad for him.

Julie said...

All these fake ID stories kinda make you wonder what the statute of limitations on fraud is, doesn't it?

The thing I think many of the etsy employees and Rob keep missing is - you can be 'eccentric' and 'indie' and 'hipster' and 'fun.' That's fine - but you still gotta get the job done!

I know I personally wouldn't mind the skate ramp, OR the nail polish if things like seller stats, improved search, and vacation mode had been accomplished.

The Righteous One said...

Absolutely julie! We don't mind them having free time, just not at work...constantly

We pay them for a service with certain expected attributes based on conditions upon signing up, one that has yet to be provided in full for many customers.

The Disgruntled One said...

The idea that Rokali was commenting (consciously or not) on being replaced by a woman is a really interesting one that hadn't occured to me at all.

But it's all of a piece with the feeling I get that he doesn't really like the huge number of women sellers on Etsy.

Or maybe he's just being a passive aggressive, condescending asshole.

justalongfortheride said...

Coral nail polish? "I'm not the CEO?" What the fuck? Who thinks that way? What?

Jesus, that's the weirdest thing I've heard in a long time.

WindysDesigns said...

Rob Kailin in a weirdo. They say there is this fine line between insanity and genius, and I think he frequently hops on either side of that line.

I mentioned a few discussions ago, that I felt there was some bad feelings on gold street and I still feel them.

He's trying to do his best to make light of it, act like it's his idea and that he has better things to work on. He's trying to save face. I think that there is seriously a lot more going on behind the scenes than we are privy to and that not everyone is happy.

The Disgruntled One said...

I agree, Windys, he's trying to save face.

And failing.

It must be very painful, being forced out. I know I'd be a bit defensive if I was cut out of any of the projects I've started.

But then I actually realize which areas I'm competent in and which I suck at. And I hire other (talented) people to do the things I suck at. So people don't get quite so angry at me.

And no one is going to buy me out for millions of dollars, either, sadly. *wistful grin*

Frantastic said...

They're totally turning it into eBay, when Pierre cashed out with billions and they begged Meg Whitman to take the rains.

Etsy is basically following the path that eBay took back in '98/'99

kittyfur said...


now *SobbingInShame*

I am earning that bozo how much money by keeping my shop open?