The TL, DR:
The long version:
Happy 2020, Normcore readers!
This post is just a bit of housekeeping that’s accumulated and that I want to get out of the way so as to not clutter up actual posts. I’ll have an actual, fresh post out later this week.
If you’re new to Normcore, welcome! This newsletter is mainly about exploring issues all across the spectrum of the tech industry that I’m not seeing covered in the tech press, or that are covered with way too much hype. There are also, from time to time, community discussions around the posts. If you’re tired of all the hype and ignorance in the tech media and looking for something more nuanced and different, this newsletter and community is for you!
This newsletter goes out once a week, at the beginning of the week to all subscribers and once more, at the end to paid subscribers. Here’s how paid subscriptions work and how much money I’ve made from them. (I should probably update this to include what I’ve done up to the end of the year.)
The main idea is that the more subscribers I have, the more time I can spend on the newsletter, so by paying you’re paying for the idea of the newsletter to exist. I’m back to work as of last week, so bear with me as I recalibrate again to balance child 1, child 2, work, and child 3 - this newsletter. :)
✨💰 And finally, merchandising!💰✨
I thought it would be a neat experiment to see what it was like to sell stickers and other merchandising based on the logo that Ben created for Normcore, and I’ve been researching and working out the process for the past month.
I’m selling the stickers through Shopify and shiping them directly to you. Mugs and notepads are fulfilled by RedBubble and shipped from RedBubble itself. I purchased all four products myself and tested them out and confirmed that they’re good quality. In fact, the reason I didn’t do everything through RedBubble and just leave fulfillment to them was that I wasn’t happy with the quality of their custom stickers, but StickerMule has been great for that. The only problem is they don’t do shipping, but Shopify does, so the stickers are fulfilled through there. My Shopify experience has been great so far.
Why merchandising? As Yogurt says in Spaceballs, merchandising is where the money happens. Fun fact from the YouTube comments, which I usually never read because they’re worse than WeWork:
According to Mel Brooks he went to George Lucas to get the dos and don'ts when making Spaceballs so he wouldn't get sued and found that George Lucas was fine with him spoofing just about anything from Star Wars even helped him get Industrial Light and Magic to work on the movie, but Lucas laid out one major condition and that is not to sell any Spaceballs merchandise which was fine with Brooks because he just wanted to make a movie, but got him thinking about how a lot of these major movie and entertainment franchises make more money on toys and merchandise than the actual movie and this is how we got this scene.
I’m curious to see how it goes. It’s really more of an experiment than anything, because so far, based on my calculations, I make about $1 per sticker after buying envelopes, stamps, the stickers themselves from StickerMule, and paying for Shopify a monthly store fee (more on all of this in a future newsletter, hopefully). It’s not a very high-margin business, which means I think that I’m ready for SoftBank investment.
However, as Paul Graham said before he lived in Silicon Valley too long, it’s important to do things that don’t scale. And that thing for me has been handwriting the addresses of all the people who order stickers. Last week, I made the stickers available to paid subscribers for free, both as a thank-you and to test out shipping and transactions through Shopify, and so far about 70 people have requested stickers, many from the United States, but also from Canada, Israel, Great Britain, Germany, and Spain, which is really, really cool. And, apparently it only costs $1.15 to ship a sticker about anywhere in the world, which is amazing.
I didn’t anticipate this, but it has been so much fun writing out the addresses and thinking about these stickers going to the recipient. There really is something to doing some things analog, and I feel like, instead of mostly typing at a vast abyss on an lifeless screen, I’m connecting with real humans.
It’s been really fun seeing what people do with the stickers. Here it is on my own laptop:
And here are some that have already arrived:
Vicki Boykis @vboykisFirst batch of Normcore stickers just went out to paid subscribers! If you sign up for a paid subscription and want a sticker, DM me. They’re on sale for real next week ☺️. https://t.co/EJb1j2l5bq
And here’s one from Alex, all the way in the UK:
If you do end up buying MERCHANDISE, email or tweet me a pic. I’ll do a newsletter compilation. It would be cool to see what the Normcore community looks like!
That’s it for now, see you for real later this week!
What I’m reading lately:
This paper on the ironies of automation is a must-read.
This profile of Larry David, one of my favorites.
This thread on negotiations:
About the Newsletter
This newsletter is about issues in tech that I’m not seeing covered in the media or blogs and want to read about. It goes out once a week to free subscribers, and once more to paid subscribers. If you like it, forward it to friends!
Select previous free Normcore editions:
Keybase and the chaos of crypto · What’s up with Russia’s Internet· I spent $1 billion and all I got was this Rubik’s cube· Die Gedanken sind frei · Neural nets are just people· Le tweet, c’est moi· The curse of being big on the internet· How do you like THAT, Elon Musk?·Do we need tech management books? ·Two Python Paths
Select previous paid Normcore editions:
Sidewalks for the internet· Imgur is bad now · Eric Schmidt and the great revolving door· No photos please · Deep thoughts of Cal Newport
About the Author:
I’m a data scientist in Philadelphia. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. I also have longer opinions on things. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.