Umamiblog

written by john lewis

Life Category Archive


T-shirt t-short: Itself review

Imagine it’s lunch-time. You’re sitting at your desk stuffing your face with some kind of nutrition-less processed snack and you think to yourself: “Ooh, I better check my bank balance”.

Trawling through your credit card transactions, buried between Hell Pizza and numerous iTunes charges, you see:

80000 TANITIM ILETISIM ISTANBUL (27.06 Turkish Lira)

Simultaneous thoughts of “Oh crap” & “WTF!?” rush through your brain. Followed immediately by: “How’d they get my credit card? I better ring the bank, reverse the charge, and get a new card…”

itself.gifThen suddenly you remember. Could TANITIM ILETISIM ISTANBUL be Itself, that cute t-shirt site you bought a t-shirt from last week? A quick email to their support team answered my question in the positive. Phew.

The review:

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The good
Itself is a well designed site that is clean and visually appealing. The checkout process is easy to complete and they’ve definitely thought about most of the interactions users are going to have with them and worked to make them simple. Given how much Threadless has led the charge in this area it’s not surprising to see others follow.

I do like the t-shirts they offer and the fact they’ve limited it to only a handful of designs. Itself’s shipping costs to NZ were quite reasonable and they definitely out perform Threadless when it comes to packaging – beautiful in comparison. Their comms and support are also very good – for instance they don’t charge you until your t-shirt has been shipped.

The bad
The whole credit card charging scenario I went through above is a major let down for Itself. I felt they weren’t upfront about being a Turkish company or what I could expect to see on my credit card bill. I just don’t understand why companies don’t charge with their brand name!?

It’s not an issue about Itself being Turkish, the problem is purely that my expectations are that when I order a t-shirt in US Dollars from a .com English language website, then I’m going to expect to see a US-based charge. Not an Istanbul charge in Turkish Lira with a name I don’t recognise! Seriously Itself has no idea how close they came to having the transaction reversed/canceled.

The t-shirts themselves are ok – but they’re the kind of t-shirts that only look good on people who go to the gym. A lot. (If you’re one of those people then this won’t be a bad thing…) This is purely a style call. :)

Here’s the actual t-shirt I bought. Love the simplicity quote so had to have the tee:

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Wee note: Part of the reason I’m posting this is in case anyone else has the same freak-out when seeing their credit card and Google’s the charge name. If that’s you, do leave a comment…

Posted in: Design, Rants, Web

A cynic and a comic

Busker (puts down guitar, pulls out ciggies): I bet you I make more money during my smoko break than I do actually playing… because that’s HOW STUPID PEOPLE ARE!!

- Opera House Lane

Posted in: Overheard in Welly

Plugging the “drain”

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Interesting reading yesterday, I thought, with the following title on Stuff: Pacific migrants ‘drain on economy’.To be perfectly honest, when I read that I thought what’s our beloved Foreign Minister up to now?

However the article is about a study conducted by one of Massey University’s Economists, Greg Clydesdale, on the “significant and enduring under-achievement” of NZ’s Polynesian immigrants and the problems that presents to NZ as a whole.

To quote the article:

Issued last week, the document says Polynesians are less productive and less likely to contribute to economic growth. They have the highest unemployment in every age group, are less likely to start businesses and have lower rates of self-employment.

Polynesians are over-represented in crime statistics and have higher rates of convictions and prosecutions. They are also more likely to be victims of violent crime. They are more likely to need Government assistance for housing and income.

It helps me confirm a thought I’ve had for a while that, as a country, we have quite a lot at stake in terms of the quality of life and education in our neighbouring Polynesian nations. We do contribute a lot of aid already, but China is generally surpassing us as it works to increase its influence in the Pacific, and I think we need to do more.

It’s in our best interests to invest in public education in Polynesian nations. We, as a country, would benefit as much, if not more, than the nations we were investing in. Better education and quality of life fights each of the negative points in the quote above – something that would benefit New Zealand and every single Polynesian nation. It would improve productivity, contribute more to economic growth, increase employability, reduce the over-repesentation in crime, and reduce reliance of Govt assistance.

Naturally, there would be a lot of issues that would come with any sort of focus or approach like I think I’m suggesting. We need to respect their sovereignty for one. We need to respect their culture and values as another. But I don’t think these are insurmountable especially given 6.9% of NZ’s population are Polynesian – that’s a large pool to draw upon. I imagine a lot of NZ primary and secondary teachers would love to do a ‘tour of duty’ in one of the Islands for instance…

Surely this is an idea worth pursuing?

Update: Had a bit more time to think about this and I think it’s a pretty stupid idea now. How could you, in good faith, subject anyone else to our education system and bureaucracy??

Posted in: Life, Rants

Just GST

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I’m astounded at today’s Fairfax Media poll that suggests almost 3 out of 4 Kiwis think removing GST on food is a good idea. If it is just a reaction to 9 years of unchanging taxation combined with climbing living costs, then it does make some sense.

However, removing GST on food would have to be one of the most counter-productive “solutions” we could come up with for the problems and pressures New Zealanders are feeling today.

Petrol, mortgage/rent, and food form the core of most families’ expenses and all three have risen higher than wage growth for a number of years. Voters also feel overtaxed. They probably should. Govt spending has been of a quality which doesn’t match or justify the current level of taxation (but that is just an opinion of this one voter). :)

Throw in a resurgent National with this as their main election plank and a finance minister making their job easy and we have today’s situation. I honestly do think that Cullen has good intentions (like Muldoon), but he’s just the wrong person for the job (like Muldoon). Thankfully Cullen likes to horde and spend rather than spend and bankrupt (like Muldoon).

The first problem with removing GST on food is that it’s a really lousy way of helping those who need help the most while reducing revenue for the Govt. It is much more efficient to tax them less in the first place rather than change the rules of GST. This leads directly onto the next problem.

If we remove GST on food, we break the simplicity that is our GST. This would raise compliance costs significantly and this really should be reason enough. Personally I think GST is probably the most efficient and effective method of taxation we have. Businesses know how much money they’ve earned and they know how much they’ve spent – it’s easy to calculate and plan for GST payments. In fact, in my dream world GST would be raised and be the only form of taxation (encourages saving, encourages exporting, Govt revenue tied even more closely to the current health of the economy, etc).

Lastly, if we break the “rule” we have of almost no exceptions to GST then we’re at the mercy of future politicians pandering to voters to exempt further items from GST. What’s next? Would, for instance, the Greens say we should exempt GST on NZ-made goods to further their buy NZ campaign? Would United Future say we should remove GST on anything child-related as part of their focus on families? It would be a rather slippery slope that would only end in higher compliance costs and higher taxation in other areas.

I hope our politicians show some leadership on this point and refuse to make it an issue or to consider it a real option to better the lot of New Zealanders, well-off or not. I’m very interested though, do 3 of my 4 readers think it’s a good idea too?

Posted in: Life

Woah Mozy, WTF?

When I still worked at Intergen, Trey put me onto Mozy. It’s an insanely-great online backup tool. It works on a PC or a Mac, it works in the background with minimal fuss, keeps the different versions of your files, is very lightweight, and has a very generous free account.

I love it. It has saved my bacon while I’ve been working on Ponoko more than a couple of times.

Today, as a Mozy user, I received their May newsletter (don’t think we’ve seen one at all before…). A big part of my role at Ponoko is email marketing so I pay a lot of attention to what others are doing. Below is the “lead” story in their newsletter:

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First thought: WTF was he thinking!? I’m almost speechless beyond that…

It has nothing to do with their product (which is awesome) and manages to insult Americans, Canadians, Quebecois, hockey supporters, and probably his staff as well.

Then again, had he not insulted all those people I could probably guarantee I wouldn’t be blogging about his newsletter or his company or his product.

What do you think? Insanely stupid or insanely smart?

Posted in: Advertising, Rants, Web

When it rains it pours

Boy: It’s not my fault!

Girl: I know! It’s not like I actually think you control the weather

- cnr Dixon and Egmont

Posted in: Overheard in Welly

Guerrilla marketing: brothel-style

every-blog-needs-a-photo-of-spitzer.jpg The smartest thing a brothel could probably do is campaign against itself.

Yesterday I found out I live in the same suburb as Simple and Loveable ‘s Nat. As she reported, Mt Vic residents received a letter from the banana-republic-styled “Mt Victoria Resident’s Association about Brothels in Mt Victoria”. It was a simple petition/submission letter asking you, as a resident, to let the council know you don’t want brothels in our suburb.

I really don’t know if I could care less. Moral panic is boring and generally turns me off. If a brothel respects the regulations those business have to follow… then the law says it’s a completely legal enterprise.

It’s an interesting contrast with Mt Vic’s recreational drug users, from the social dope smokers to the drum’n'bass munters. While some of these are probably next in line for legalisation (once Jim ‘need to protect you from yourself’ Anderton departs) and tolerated like they already are legalised… the law does quite plainly state… they are illegal.

These concerned residents and other moral outrage activists never seem to learn from each other that the very thing they crusade against is what they end up helping the most.

I remember when the “Society for Promotion of Community Standards” protested against Baise-Moi being screened in NZ. Essentially all it did was bring attention and coverage to the film. If they wanted to stop people from watching then they suffered an excellent failure. Their rampant attention grabbing probably increased the film’s patronage in NZ by a factor of 100.

Which makes me think: if I was a brothel, the cheapest most effective way to promote myself would be… to campaign against myself. It would be brilliantly effective at grabbing attention compared to the newspaper ad examples included in the petition, has amazing stickiness, word-of-mouth appeal, efficient (read: cheap).

These guys have just advertised “convenient” brothel services to Mt Vic’s 5000+ residents for the price of a ream of A4 paper. Well done.

It has all the makings of a brilliant guerrilla marketing campaign. Remember, you read it here first. ;)

Posted in: Advertising, Wellington

Oh garden city, how I love thee (sometimes)

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Day 1: Building hits tram


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Day 2: Car hits tram


Day 3: ???

Best comment gets a Ponoko spinning top!

Update: All aboard the failtram

Update #2: UR STILL DOIN IT WRONG (thanks to Bwooce)

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Day 3 (or 4): Bus hits tram

Posted in: Life

Crafty people

I got a chance (like several thousand others) to head to Craft 2.0 last Saturday at the New Dowse. I always enjoy walking around the stalls – the whole event has such a great feel.

sueq.jpg First person I bumped into was Sue Quigley, also formerly of Intergen, who was selling her jewelry. “I haven’t got that much left, it has been a good day”. Fantastic.

jeffw.jpg Moving around I then saw Jeff and got to witness him selling one of his excellent tikis to an eager punter. I think I can now say I’ve witnessed every single phase of Ponoko end-to-end. Brilliant!

Got to say a quick hello to SuperVery Sue who was busy making sure things were running smoothly. Apparently 1000 people had made it through in the first 30 mins alone, at which point the New Dowse people decided to give up counting… Wow.

wswlogo.gif Grabbed a copy of Hannah and Thomas’ new baby, World Sweet World. The first issue, for autumn, made its debut at Craft 2.0. It looks and feels great, I love the size of the magazine and I really want to try out the beer glass article. I’m quite inspired that they’ve been able to create a magazine in as few as 4 months. Thinking cap is on to work out if/where/how Ponoko could contribute to the next one. Spiffy!

yana.jpg Then on my way out I saw Yana Skala aka Chromatophobic who was also reporting a good day. Can’t wait to see how her Retarded Raven turns out.

Craft 2.0 is simply awesome. If you haven’t been to one yet you really need to make the effort and head out for the next one. It also has sooo much potential – can’t wait to see it grow and develop (when is the online shop coming?).

Posted in: Wellington

Evening in Hataitai

S and I have been house-sitting for a friend in Hataitai for the month of March. Torture, as you can imagine, having to babysit a view like this (and one very very independent cat) every evening:

This is a timelapse looking over Evans Bay towards Miramar and Wellington Aiport. The lens kept adjusting for the lowering light in bursts which is why the timelapse looks like it’s almost flickering. I was surprised by the amount of activity on the water while playing it back. And if you look really closely you can see the odd plane heading in to land at the airport as well.

Beats staring at the side of another building in town…

Posted in: Life, Wellington

Woh-mad

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were spent in the Taranaki sunshine while eating, drinking, and listening to a World of Music, Arts, and Dance or Womad for short (I’d been pronouncing it “WO-mad” but some of the locals liked to call it “the WOM-id”).

It was most excellent and the venue was ideal. They’re putting on a world-class event in New Plymouth, trek up one year to check it out.

Highlights were the food, more food, yet more food. Kora, Phoenix Foundation, Neil Finn, and SJD for the locals. Sharon Jones & the Dap-kings, Clube de Balanco, and Beirut for the foreigners.

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Posted in: Life

Bookcase creation

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Dogfood is tasty. Well, sometimes it is.

The weekend just gone S mentioned she wanted to buy a bookcase for a specific nook in our lounge. After a fruitless search through the interior design shops on Thorndon Quay I remembered this cool web start-up I’ve been working at for the last 7+ months where you can make your own stuff!

It was great fun. Actually it was lots of hard work but sooo much more fun than I thought it would be. It spins me out a little that I made my own bookcase (and it works…).

So the process went something like this:

Measure area and scribble down ideas on paper.

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Choose a material to work with and get designing in Illustrator. I ended up going for the Double-sided Whiteboard MDF 9mm

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Get it laser cut through Ponoko :)

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Get the pieces and peel protective tape off

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Tolerance is never perfect first time and it took ages to get the pieces fitting together. A trusty hammer helped a lot…

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Putting the pieces together it starts to look like a “real” bookcase.

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Slowly the shelves start to build…

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Almost complete… just making sure everything is fitting together snuggly… with no glue or screws either!

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Here is the bookcase in the nook I had designed it for. It ended up being a whole lot tighter than I though it would be…

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Now here is the completed bookcase, in place, and filled up with stuff.

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If you like the look of it you can buy one off me or download the .eps file for free, customise it, and make it yourself.

My head is spinning with more Ponoko ideas now…

Posted in: Design, Work