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Answering your questions, #1

Dec 22, 2009

by Rokali

Hello! I'm back here in the forums, and have been reading as much as I can. To get things going, I've gathered some questions from pages 1 – 25 of this forum thread:

I'll answer these questions here in the admin forum, and then create another couple sets of answers to cover the remaining pages in that thread. Feel free to keep adding q's over there.

I'll do my best to get to everything. (Please forgive any typos.)

– Will Rob be tweaking or altering Etsy's focus in any way? (GreenMamba)

Yes, I'll be (re)focusing Etsy more on what we call "social commerce," and less on retail. To get an idea of what this means, let's look at merchandising. For a retailer, merchandising means putting products on display that are likely to sell. In social commerce, our focus is on people, not products. It's our job to build tools for you to use, that help you promote items as you'd like to.

Etsy's gift guides are a good example of this. These guides are a retail-oriented way of merchandising, and this isn't what Etsy is about. As such, we'll be shutting down the gift guides in early January. (We'll shut them down in phases, at first leaving them on the site without linking to them anywhere, so any existing links still work.)

I am here to make sure Etsy's focus remains on people over products.

– Now that Etsy is at last profitable and the structure/foundation presumably stable, will Etsy be adding more member-requested tools and improvements? (GreenMamba)

Yes. We have to reorganize the company around what we're building, not disciplines.

Right now, Etsy is structured in such a way that all the product people work in one area, the engineers in another, etc. People come together as needed for a project, and then move on. Customer support handles email q's, and the community crew is in here. This isn't working well for us, in terms of building and supporting features. It's too monolithic, requires lots of meetings, and makes it difficult for the community to see what we're up to.

Instead, we will create teams inside Etsy around site features. There will be a team dedicated to seller tools, a team for community tools, a Showcase team, and so forth. These teams will support what they build (with extra help if needed), and iterate to improve things.

We will redo our about page to show who at Etsy is on each team: both to let them sign their work (so to speak), and to help you understand who is doing what. This structure is something we're looking forward to, and something Chad has been pushing for.

I'd also like to point out that while nobody specifically requests site uptime as a feature, this is one area where Etsy has done a great job. The site has been online all the time, throughout the holidays.

– Will the project list that Maria and Sarah and Chad have loosely outlined in their several Storque articles be preserved and adhered to? (GreenMamba)

It will be revisited. Our goal is to be doing many things in parallel, not many things in succession. This is why we're reorganizing things. We have a lot to do, and I really, really, want to get things done.

We will be more transparent about what we're building. and who is building it. (Hence the redesign of our about page.)

– I noticed that now reroutes back to What of Rob's other ventures, like 'parachutes' and what, if any, impact will those projects have on the e-commerce venue? (GreenMamba)

I hope that we can find a way for Etsy to benefit from what I've worked on, while away. I had two big projects:, for which I built a new version of the Virtual Labs, called the Workshop, which has a lot of improvements (1,000 people in a room, real private messaging, anyone can create new rooms); Dopple Analytics, a system for tracking web stats in real-time. Right now, I'm focused on Etsy proper, so it'll be some time before we explore any connections.

– Will there be another Etsy 5? (goatmountainarts)

In a way similar to the gift guides, Etsy's job should be to build tools that help you make the site what you want it to be. We need to create a thousand more forums for people to talk (i.e. groups), and of course we can't moderate this. We need to scale back moderation, and focus on making tools that empower people to moderate things for themselves.

– Accel is still the backer right? Who is in charge of who is in charge? (goatmountainarts)

The board of directors hires the CEO. Etsy's board is: Caterina Fake, Fred Wilson and Jim Breyer. I also sit on the board. Accel is still a major Etsy investor, alongside Union Square Ventures.

As a board, we believe that focusing on revenue is not what will make Etsy continue to grow. We are focused on our service: building the best tools and supporting this community. If we do this well, revenue will follow. Now that we are profitable, we can redouble our efforts here, and I'm really excited about this. Our success as a company follows your success as members.

– My question is what will happen to the structure that Maria has given Etsy? There does seem to be a proper management/reporting structure to the company and it's a lot more organised in terms of who is responsible for what now. There is also lot more consistency in communicating with members. (stamp)

Great question. I imagine that Etsy's internal structure will always be changing a bit, just as the site will be. We need to work as a team to find the best way to work together. We're constantly learning. (One person cannot force a structure on an entire company, either. That's just cruel.)

While consistency is important in Etsy's communications, I think it can be taken too far. It means that the people who work here are not being allowed to speak in their own voice. This is a difficult balance to strike, and something everyone here has seen both sides of, I imagine.

– As a seller, I have not benefited from the Etsy controlled or curated areas of the site. I feel that I will actually never benefit from any admin-curated anything. (silverdotjewelry)

We're working to minimize the admin-curated areas of the site. In addition to letting the gift guides go, we're rethinking how to make the homepage much more dynamic. Some things ,like related items in a blog post, I think are great. Other things, like the gift guides, are bad. Keep in mind I'm not saying the guides themselves are bad — I've bought some things that I first saw in a gift guide. It's how these guides don't reflect the values of our community.

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You can also put your q's here, I'll be following this thread, too:

(thanks, AprilMarieMai)