Entries tagged with “social networking”.

Lincoln Apparel "Equality" T-shirt

"Equality", the first Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

In September of last year, I officially registered Lincoln Apparel as a business. I had finally decided that after my success earlier that year with my “Back to Springfield” and “Equality” designs, that I’d take my artistic Lincoln T-shirts seriously and turn them into a clothing line. I had always loved creating Lincoln T-shirts; I feel they are a great way to spread Lincoln and his legacy, and their large canvas size makes them perfect for creating large, colorful, complex wearable art.

The month prior, I had set up an Etsy store, and later, my own website, with the one design I had printed to sell on line at the time – “Equality”. It wasn’t long until I made my own run of “Back to Springfield” shirts (my most popular design in 2009) to sell on my own website and elsewhere.

"Back to Springfield" T-shirt (Black) by Lincoln Apparel

"Back to Springfield" is the second Lincoln Apparel T-shirt, and is when I started to have all of my shirts made in the USA. Copyright © 2008 Lincoln Apparel.

That run of shirts is when I decided to have all of my shirts be American made, and printed as close to Springfield as possible. I didn’t like how so many of the shirts for sale in Springfield are cheaply made in China or other third world countries (likely with sweatshop labor), nor did I like how so many of them are poorly designed by large companies who probably have never even been to Springfield. I wanted my shirts to be high quality, something that would still look and feel great after many washings. And with the economy being the way it was (and still is) I thought it was time to focus on our own prosperity, so with all of these factors in mind, I decided I’d make my T-shirts right here in the USA, in ways in which Lincoln would approve of – no sweatshop labor or anything. I wanted my Lincoln T-shirt line to be something Lincoln would be proud of, something that respects his legacy, something people would wear and that he would want to see other people wearing – and NOT something that Lincoln would have a moral problem with. I just don’t think Lincoln would sleep well at night knowing that T-shirts with his image on it are being produced with the very thing he fought so hard against – slavery.

Lincoln Apparel "Immortal Words at Gettysburg" T-shirt

"Immortal Words at Gettysburg", the third Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. This is the second and current version of the shirt, which features a printthat fills the front of the shirt. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

So, I eagerly posted the new run of made-in-the-USA “Back to Springfield” shirts to my website (after taking out the extra shirts I ordered for myself to wear, something I always do with each design), and gradually posted them to my Etsy store (since I read on the Etsy forums that it’s not a good idea to post everything at once). I did the same in late October of last year for my 3rd design, “Immortal Words at Gettysburg”.

It’s hard to believe that at this time last year I was only selling two designs through my website and Etsy. Lincoln Apparel has now grown to 6 designs, and my shirts are available locally now as well. Some highlights from the past year:

  • Mid-November 2009: My shirts begin to be carried by Springfield Novelties and Gifts on 6th Street, near Monroe Street, in historic downtown Springfield, on a special order basis. This included all three of the designs I had at the time – “Equality”, “Back to Springfield” (in all 3 color variants), and “Immortal Words at Gettysburg”.
  • Late November 2009: I sell my first shirt under the Lincoln Apparel name, an “Immortal Words at Gettysburg” T-shirt to someone from Ireland. The sale was made on my Etsy store. I was ecstatic when it happened. It still gives me a great sense of pride and excitement to this day whenever I sell one of my T-shirts. It makes me feel like I’m furthering my mission to spread Lincoln and his legacy, through my artistic T-shirts.
  • "80s Abe" Lincoln T-shirt

    "80s Abe", the fourth Lincoln Apparel T-shirt, and the most popular. I feel this shirt, and "Back to Springfield", are the best representations of the Lincoln Apparel style. Copyright © 2009 Lincoln Apparel.

  • December 2009: I come up with my “80s Abe” design. The design was literally something I thought of after looking at that “crew cut” portrait of Lincoln in one of my Lincoln books as I was falling asleep. I remembered it after I woke up the following morning, and felt that it would be cool to make an 80s-style “full front print” Lincoln design out of it. Over the following days I spent many hours (and a lot of fun) working on the design, combining my Lincoln interest with my 80s interest. Due to the Christmas holiday it was not printed until January, and it became my first design of 2010. It is now my most popular design, and one of the designs that (along with “Back to Springfield”) I am the most proud of. “80s Abe” and “Back to Springfield” both share the bright colors and large, complex, detailed artwork that typify my designs, and I feel they represent my work the best.
  • March 2010: My 5th design, “Purpose”, is created. Like “80s Abe”, it’s a full front print shirt, as are all of my designs from “80s Abe” and this design onward. I was going through a rough couple of weeks and decided to create an inspiring Lincoln T-shirt. It also became my first women’s T-shirt. The original design featured pink highlights in Lincoln’s face and hair, so I created a turquoise version for guys after the original one was finished. The shirt remains more popular amongst women than men (my other designs I sell about equally to both men and women). Also this month, my main site’s traffic and sales surpass Etsy, which suffers a traffic nosedive this month.
  • "Purpose" Lincoln T-shirt

    "Purpose", the fifth Lincoln Apparel T-shirt. Shown is the original design, using pink colors, made into a women’s T-shirt. A men’s version, using turquoise, was also made. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

  • April 2010: I apply to become an artisan in the artisan area of the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market. I find out later that month that I am accepted. I’m excited (and nervous) to do my first craft fairs.
  • June 2010: Springfield Novelties and Gifts begins stocking my T-shirts (all 5 of my designs, and all the color variants). No longer are they only on special order. They begin to sell rather well there, and at the market which begins this month. In fact, due to selling locally my sales explode by 10-fold. I also have “Immortal Words at Gettysburg” reprinted as a full front print design, the way it was originally intended. (Most of the original shirts had sold out by this point). Due to my presence at the Old Captiol Farmer’s Market I also get noticed by the Abraham Lincoln Observer, a Springfield blog at the State Journal Register newspaper, who interviews me about my Lincoln T-shirts (though he does not have one yet – tsk tsk).
  • July 2010: I come out with my 6th design, “Wide Awake Club”. I designed it in the spring to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s election in 1860. I just didn’t have the money to print it until now.
  • Lincoln Apparel "Wide Awake Club" T-shirt

    "Wide Awake Club", the sixth and latest Lincoln Apparel design. Copyright © 2010 Lincoln Apparel.

  • August 2010: “80s Abe” sells so well that I get it reprinted and add a new color – yellow.

And finally, some observations and things I’ve learned in the past year:

  • All of my designs so far have sold well overall. I have yet to have one that turned out to be a dud.
  • While my T-shirts remain the most popular amongst people who are relatively young (in their 20s or 30s), I’ve sold to people of all ages. You’re never too old to love a good artistic Lincoln T-shirt.
  • Different designs sell well in different places. I have some that sell well at the market, some that do well at Springfield Novelties, and some that do well on my site. What sells well at one venue won’t at another, and vice versa. It’s helped me greatly to diversify selling venues.
  • Selling locally generates lots of exposure and sales and doing shows allows you to see how people react to your designs. It’s also very much helped legitimize Lincoln Apparel and make people realize it is a serious T-shirt line created by a serious T-shirt artist. I’ve even had other shops contact me due to my local presence – maybe some of them will start carrying my shirts in the future. I can’t imagine how much I’d still be struggling if I only sold online.
  • Lincoln Apparel at the Old Capitol Farmer's Market in June.

    Lincoln Apparel at the Old Capitol Farmer’s Market in June.

  • Generating attention online is very difficult. I didn’t sell in significant amounts until I started to sell locally. One of my biggest mistakes was spending 100 hours or so on Facebook and Twitter earlier this year (and late last year) talking about Lincoln and trying to get the right people to notice my Lincoln T-shirts. I learned that those sites are mostly a (very frustrating) waste of time, filled with chit chat and white noise. “Social networking” (in the modern sense of the term) is an oxymoron. It’s hard to get replies to anything you say, and everybody writes stuff (often the most mundane things), but nobody reads anything. So much for the much hyped “ineraction” in “social media”. This is in stark contrast to forums and message boards I’ve participated in, and blogs I’ve commented on and read. I maintain a minimal presence on Twitter now (I’ve got a few Lincoln friends there), and I quit Facebook in February. I absolutely love to spend the time I’ve saved by not using “social” sites on new designs and other Lincoln related creative projects, or on fun activities out in the city, not to mention I feel better too, since I don’t have to care about how many online “friends” I have, or wonder why somebody’s post about what they had for dinner gets more attention than my post about Lincoln. As Lincoln said, "This habit of uselessly wasting time, is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly important to you [...] that you should break this habit." I wish the whole “social networking is free, it only takes time, you gotta be there or else” proponents would listen to Lincoln and realize that time is the most important resource.
  • Etsy never worked out for me. My main site, lincolnapparel.com, does the vast majority of my online traffic and sales now (over 90% of it). I thought that Etsy would take off first and that my main site would take longer, but that wasn’t the case – it took all of two weeks after my first sale on Etsy to get my first sale on my main site (and that was for two shirts, not just one). I started to realize after my traffic crashed in March there that it might not work out, and during the busy summer tourist season I pretty much quit doing anything on Etsy (unless I got a sale). I was never able to get my shop to take off, but my main site always had steadily increasing traffic and sales. I started to realize Etsy was more expensive than my main site, with a lot less control – 20 cents to list something for 4 months plus 3.5% commission if it sells. And there’s no size dropdowns for T-shirts, so that makes listing things there a pain. To list my entire inventory over there (all the size and color variants) now would be over $15 for only 4 months, and if a shirt sells, I have to pay about $1 extra for the 3.5% commission. I’m not selling anywhere near $15 worth of listings every 4 months on Etsy so most of that is wasted. To top it all off, Etsy doesn’t properly advertise, and as a result a lot of people don’t know about Etsy and are confused about what it is or how to spell it, so my main site is trusted more. I can list as much as I want on my main site for $10/month, and only pay PayPal fees when I sell something, and as my site has become more well known, that cost has more than paid for itself.
  • It’s one of the greatest feelings to see people in your shirts. It’s part of why I made a “Wearing Lincoln Apparel” page – so that people can show off their purchases. If you have one of my shirts I’d love it if you added your picture to the page!
The Wearing Lincoln Apparel page.

The Wearing Lincoln Apparel page as it looked on October 4, 2010

So, what’s the next year going to be like? I hope it’s even better than the last one! I plan to release my next design, tentatively titled “Young Abe Lincoln”, sometime this month, which will be the first design that includes long-sleeve shirts. "Equality" and "Back to Springfield" will eventually get replaced by new designs, once they start to sell out. I’m not sure what will happen to my Etsy shop, but my main site at lincolnapparel.com will always be there, and contain my full selection of T-shirts. I think I might list a few popular shirts on Etsy for the Christmas season, then close it, or maybe just keep a minimal amount of shirts there “just in case” somebody finds me there. I also plan to look for other shows in Springfield, particularly towards Christmas time, where I can sell my shirts, and at other shops here that might be interested in my shirts also. Hopefully next year, you’ll be able to find my shirts in more places!

And, lastly, thanks to all of my customers, both local and online, in the past year who have purchased Lincoln Apparel T-shirts and helped make Lincoln Apparel a success. I appreciate every one of you. You’re supporting a small, local artist who lives in Mr. Lincoln’s Hometown who is dedicated to keeping Lincoln and his memory, and his legacy, alive. Thank you!

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I’ve just never gotten along with Facebook.Failbook

The start of the rocky relationship began 3 months ago, when I was pushed into creating an account just because everybody else was doing it, and because everybody else thought it would be a good way to showcase my T-shirts.

Right from the start, Facebook decided that its UI didn’t want to work the same as other website’s UIs. It presented ridiculous choices for the type of my “fan page”. Is it an “online store”? “Products”? Can’t I just enter in “T-shirts”? It didn’t even call them “fan pages”, even though they have a button that says “become a fan”, and they term their members “fans”. It called it “create a page for my business”.

I fought Facebook and eventually managed to create my personal page and fan page. Except I couldn’t find them. You’d think there’d be a list of all the pages I’ve created, so I could click on which one I wanted to post on. Except I couldn’t find that anywhere. I couldn’t even find anything that said “pages”. I went searching for a little “help” link. I eventually found it, but Facebook’s lackluster help section didn’t help me at all.

So I resorted to Google. It said that I should have a little “f” icon on the little taskbar Facebook gave me. (The sheer ridiculousness of using a “taskbar” inside a browser on a website made me laugh and cry at the same time.) Except Facebook decided that I shouldn’t have a little “f” icon. So I gave up, and eventually “deactivated” my account in frustration. (Apparently Facebook is kind of like the Hotel California – you can’t leave, only “deactivate”.) I told Facebook their UI sucks as my reason for deactivating. They said they’d look into my complaint, but they never did.

About a week later I decided to see if I could have a better relationship with Facebook. So I reactivated my account. I eventually found I could access my pages by clicking on the little “Create an Ad” link. Oh, how intuitive – you want to get me to buy an ad before I can even do anything!

Then Facebook decided I needed to have an identity crisis. I didn’t know which identity (personal or business) I was posting as when I posted something on one of my pages. It didn’t make any sense – shouldn’t I be able to choose which identity to post as? Apparently Facebook didn’t want to let me!

All the while, I was constantly encountering bugs and inconsistent UI behavior. Sometimes something would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t. Deleting my profile picture didn’t mean “delete” – it just meant it got saved in an album somewhere else, and I had to go delete them there. To “like” something, sometimes I had to hit the button twice. Sometimes it wouldn’t upload pictures properly. Sometimes it would just crash. It was also slow. It reminded me of Windows 95 running on a 486 with 4 megabytes of RAM.

Eventually, Facebook crashed big time. It locked up my browser tab, and I couldn’t log out. I closed the Facebook tab, and I couldn’t log back in again. I waited awhile, and it let me log in, but it gave me a “page not found” error. What the… ? All my work setting up this thing was lost for nothing!

I heard reports of pages disappearing and reappearing before, so I Googled the problem. I figured out you might be able to get it to work by using https:// instead of http:// in the URL. So I did, and it worked. However, this meant that for every internal Facebook link I clicked on, I had to copy and paste the URL, and put that little “s” in, because Facebook links are http://. Annoying. Can’t they code this thing right? Why would anyone want to use Facebook if it didn’t work half the time?

Still, I continued to use it, because I thought I could make it work. Shortly afterward, Facebook decided that it wanted to make my personal posts more private public, and forced its new privacy policy on me. I knew before that Facebook’s privacy policies weren’t very good, and I never felt comfortable sharing information on the Internet without knowing who exactly would be able to see it. So, for awhile, I just didn’t log on.

I eventually decided to fix my privacy settings in Facebook’s labyrinthine inner workings, and continued using it despite that. Then Facebook decided that it didn’t look good enough, so it changed the way it looked. Except the new look, though different, wasn’t any better. It was still hard to find things, still confusing to use, still lacking rhyme or reason to its UI.

And then there were the things people posted. I wasn’t interested in the minute details of everyone’s life. I wasn’t interested in gossip. It bored me real fast. It felt so juvenile, like high school all over again. Sure, it’s nice to know what people are up to, but you don’t have to give me every single detail! I was just drowning in all the noise. There was barely any signal, just noise. It made it hard to reply to other people’s posts, and hard to get replies on my own, defeating the purpose of “social networking”. I was spending too much time just trying to find the signal, all while trying to fight the site’s poor interface.

During my constant frustration, not to mention waste of time, I started thinking to myself, “Why am I using this thing?” “Why am I wasting my time on this site?” I asked myself that, and I reminded myself that I started using Facebook “because everybody else wanted me to use it”. I never liked doing things just because they’re “cool”. I like doing things because I like doing things.

So I decided I needed to de-friend Facebook. I logged out one last time a few days ago. I’ll see if I feel like returning in a month or so. Sure, it’s cool to be friends with the cool kid, but the relationship is shallow and it only makes you feel bad in the end. I’d rather be friends with somebody whose company I truly enjoy – wouldn’t you? It’s interesting what comes up as the first result in Google if you do a search for “why I quit”. It’s not smoking, it’s not dope, it’s… well, do it and find out!

Oh, and the fact that yesterday, Facebook was granted a patent for the news feed doesn’t make me like Facebook either. We’ve had “news feeds” since Lincoln used telegraph office in the war department to keep track of the war effort. You can’t tell me the news feed is really anything new right now.

I don’t care if Facebook is cool or not. I wish another social network would come along and kill Facebook. I hate Facebook. There, I said it. That made me feel better.

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225 Social Networks screenshot

225 channels and nothing’s on?

Short answer: Two. We only need one standardized method per communication medium that does the job right – just like with face-to-face contact, phone, email, etc.

The long answer: Social networking is not a novel concept. It has existed since the dawn of humanity. Since then, we’ve had inventions – like the written word and letters, telegraph, telephone, radio, TV, and email. In the past decade, hundreds of “social networking” sites have appeared. Recently, I’ve been getting burned out using them, and that has got me thinking “why are there so many?” Part of the reason they’re referred to as a time sink by so many people is because there are too many. Google Buzz just added itself last week – do we really need another social network?

Those of us that grew up in the 80s know of a time when there was no Internet. If you wanted to talk to someone remotely, you got their phone number and called them. You didn’t have to have the same phone or the same phone company as them to talk to them, you just dialed their number. Think about that for a minute – isn’t that incredible? You didn’t have to have AT&T to talk to somebody on Sprint, you just dialed a number, and talked. The system didn’t care what network you used, or what model of phone you used. You could use one of those fancy office phones to call somebody using a simple touch tone phone, and it’d work just as well.

When the Internet became commonplace, everybody had email. Just like the phone, you simply typed the person’s email address and your message and hit “Send” – off it went. It didn’t matter if they used a different ISP or email program. I still remember how neat it was to see a message arrive in somebody’s inbox in a different part of the world, nearly instantly.

Now, we have the so-called Web 2.0 “social networking” websites. There’s over 200 of them! And on each one, you can pretty much only talk to other people on the same network. They all work in different ways, each serving as their own “walled garden” where you can only talk to other people in the same network. This leads to a lot of repetition of information.

What’s more, each of these social networking sites has their own rules and etiquette – for each site you have to remember what the rules are and how they work. Because you have to spend so much time on these sites to actually communicate, very little of that gets done – I often feel like social networking is just a bunch of people shouting at each other on a street corner, rather than a group of people having a discussion in a coffee shop. It can be hard to get a reply to what you’re saying, which just creates frustration and noise, and makes “social networking” feel more like “social notworking”. It makes me long for the “social networking” of the Web 1.0 era that worked perfectly well – like forums and bulletin boards and chat rooms. People actually listened on those (although I must admit I never really cared for chat rooms).

Touch Tone Phone Keypad

If only it was this simple…

It’s interesting how social networking has evolved in my lifetime. Over the years we’ve gone from:
1985: “What’s your phone number? I’ll call you”.
1998: “What’s your email? I’ll email you.”
2010: “Do you have a Facebook? Do you have a Twitter? Do you have a Flickr? Do you have a MySpace?”

How many ways do we need to contact someone? I really wish the open source community would get together and make a single social networking protocol. It could be accessed using an appropriate client, like how a web browser acts as an HTTP client for websites, or how an email program acts as an SMTP/POP3 client for sending/receiving email. The Internet would not be what it is today without these standards. Social networking now is like if Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but somebody else made another phone that worked differently, and another person made another one… you get the story. The phone would’ve never taken off as mode of communication if it wasn’t standardized. Imagine how the phone would work today, using the models the social networks use right now:

Twitter: You can only make a phone call that’s up to 1 minute long. If you want to reference someone, you might have to use an abbreviation for their name because speaking it would take too long. To call someone, you’d have to find out their phone number and add them to your followers list. The phone would have a “retweet” button that would allow you to share the call with a third party.

Facebook: This phone would allow you to send pictures as well as text. It would also come with little games you could play with other people if you called them, or if they called you. You could only call someone if you added them as a friend first in your phone. If you wanted to reach a business, you would have to go there first and tell the owner that you were a fan, and then you could add them as a contact in your phone. There would be no yellow pages, only a generic search for an exact business name, so unless you knew the name of the business you wouldn’t know they existed, let alone their location or what kind of business they are, unless one of your friends told you first. The phone would have “like” and “share” buttons instead of the # and * buttons.

Feel free to add your own analogy to the comments section!

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