written by john lewis

Rants 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:


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:


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

Plugging the “drain”

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

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:


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

Social commentary for the week

$92,000 per prisoner per year
That title appeared outside most corner stores this morning with the Dom Post running an article on the soaring cost of prisoner upkeep. This shows perfectly, to me, one of the fundamental problems with our justice system and our thinking on justice. We never focus on victims of crime (unless it will sell newspapers), we only focus on the offenders.

How much money do we spend each year on victims of crime? I would love to see some figures… my guess is that it’s less than 1% of that total. If that.

For your reading: Restorative Justice

Maori leaders standing up
At the risk of offending every single New Zealander, I’m extremely heartened to see Maori community leaders stand up and say recent stories of horrific child abuse in Rotorua are a “national scandal”. It is. We have to stop feeling sick when reading stories like that of Lillybing or Nia Glassie and get off our collective proverbial and take responsibility. All we seem to be able to do is debate Section 59

Our nation’s child abuse record is shocking and is one of many factors that indicate we’re losing our first-world status. What are we going to do about it?

These two stories are probably more closely connected than we think.

- JohnL (born: Rotorua)

Posted in: Life, Rants

Mythbusting above the fold

I wish I had this article on blasting the myth of the fold earlier. I think it’ll be useful to anyone working in services and gets that common request from clients to cram all the “important” stuff on the page above the fold.

The next great frontier in web page design has to be bottom of the page. You’ve done your job and the user scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page because they were so engaged with your content. Now what? Is a footer really all we can offer them?
- Milissa Tarquini on Blasting the Myth of the Fold

Now I just need a similar article for why you don’t want a liquid design for your website. (No, its not wasted space, it’s called design.)

Posted in: Design, Rants, Web, Work

Christchurch traffic worse than Auckland? Yeah right!

People use statistics as a drunken man uses a lamppost; for support, not illumination.

If you needed further proof of Andrew Lang’s quote you needn’t look further than reports in the media this week proclaiming “Christchurch traffic worse than Auckland’s?”

The basis of such a statement? The statistic that Christchurch drivers average 36km/h during peak time versus Auckland drivers who enjoy an average speed of 39km/h.

What a load of complete bollocks if you’re not going to take into account any other factor. How about the average distance that each city’s average commuters have to drive during peak times at average speeds? I bet Christchurch’s drivers spend less time in their cars each day compared to their Auckland counterparts.

We could (moderately unscientifically) compare the journey from each city’s airport into the central city. For Christchurch you’d travel roughly 10kms, for Auckland you’d travel roughly 18kms.

Average time travelling at average speeds would bring you to an almost 17 minute journey in Christchurch versus a 27 minute journey in Auckland.

Media people! Please please please explore an issue with just a tiny bit more balance. Especially when you’re dealing with one-eyed Cantabs!

Posted in: Rants

Student vs. Education

“I don’t feel safe at this school” Vs. “I want to go to school”.

Education is broken.

Posted in: Rants

Exceeding your customers expectations… yeah right!

S had an interesting experience late last week with everyone’s favourite state-owned postal service. We’ve been living to a bit of a tighter budget lately in an effort to save some dosh. So with S’s younger sister having her 23rd birthday S collected a bunch of wee presents and went to the post shop to send them down to Dunedin.

The task she wanted to complete was simple:

  • send items to Dunedin
  • but at a reasonable price
  • and quickly enough so they would make it by Monday (this was on Friday)

After watching the person ahead of her in line get mauled by a particularly shitty service representative while trying to pay a bill, S walked up and started to communicate what she wanted. Needless to say, she received some pretty crappy service.

S learned for the first time that NZ Post has stopped the “Fast Post” option for packages so she now had two choices. Normal post for $10 which would take 3 days or courier post for $33 which would arrive overnight. So faced with having to choose between the package arriving a day late for the birthday date or paying 3 times the price S decided on the slower and cheaper option. Understandably she was a little disappointed that her sister wouldn’t receive the package in time for her birthday.

S then received a text message from her sister the next day… the package had arrived!

Now, the service S received was hopelessly poor. She left feeling absolutely wild and in no way did the representative try to help S complete her task – she just wanted to go through the motions/process.

So NZ Post technically exceed her expectations. The package arrived early and that meant it was there in time for her sister’s birthday – and this meant something personally to S.

Normally when a customer has their expectations exceeded, they like to tell a few people and spread the word. When they’re not meet at all they’ll tell around 10 people of their negative experience.

Because of the needlessly bad service S received while trying to complete her task, she has told a number of people of her negative experience even though her expectations were exceeded! Having the package arrive early means she feels that the service representative didn’t know her job or what she was talking about.

So congratulations NZ Post, as far as you’re probably concerned you did a great job and got a package to a destination in a fraction of the time you said it would take. But you’ve also just ensured your customer will tell people of a bad experience and you’ve also ensured she’ll never pay for the more expensive (and more profitable) option.

If you want to exceed someone’s expectations and create a positive experience, you have to treat people like they’re your valued customers…

Posted in: Rants, Work

Reason and logic prevail – strong vote against raising the drinking age

In a stunningly reassuring vote, Parliament has voted 72-49 against raising the legal drinking age.

I’ve been fearing and stewing on this private members’ bill for the last couple of weeks and I’m very very pleased to see reason and logic prevail.

More on the reasons why I believe this is the better outcome as well as the letter I meant to send to my MP after the jump (unfortunately it’ll probably be the weekend before I get a chance to put it up).

Please feel free to leave your own comments on this bill in the meantime.

Posted in: Life, Rants, Wellington

Quitting TV

David Seah hits the nail on the head when it comes to TV addiction:

“it’s just so easy to get into the groove and watch a half-dozen documentaries and dramas. I tell myself It’s OK…you’re learning about human psychology! You’re learning about WWII! You’re getting new ideas that spark new ideas!”
“If I want to go get new ideas, I should go out and meet ACTUAL PEOPLE in INTERESTING PLACES I’ve NEVER BEEN TO.”

Update: My own TV habits are probably somewhat different but I can empathise with the quote made above. For me now, the only time the TV goes on seems to be the weekend. Otherwise there is far more interesting stuff elsewhere (in books, on the net, outside, etc). I could never justify spending money on a Sky subscription either.

I used to be someone who would lose several hours to the telly each night but I found that that changed dramatically when I moved to Wellington. For a start I was spending more time at work which meant there was less time to spend on other personal things, and well, TV just started to suck.

I have a problem with the broadcast model that TV operates under. I don’t want you to tell me what I can watch and when. I want the control, not you. I can’t remember how many times I’ve missed a show and then grabbed it (illegally I might add) from the net to catch up. You’re missing out on those advertising dollars because you are choosing not to be flexible for me.

One thing I’m finding extremely interesting is how much time I’m spending on You Tube and indeed other online video sites. This is time I’m spending at the cost or detriment of TV. If you look at the content on the two models, it is inherently different. On You Tube, its content is generally low quality, low budget and short but it also holds content that would never make it to broadcast TV.

Consider this small video of Steve Jobs presenting to his local city council. This would never justify making it to broadcast TV and yet it is an excellent example of Steve Jobs’ presentation abilities, something many people would learn from and find useful (myself and over 17,000 other people included).

Broadcast TV is on a hiding to nothing…

Posted in: Productivity, Rants

How to Raise $500,000 from Middle Class White Kids (and Why the Red Cross Never Will)

This is brilliant on soooo many different levels.

Makes me wonder what the flick I’m doing with my life.
“Yeah, I help develop websites… No, it matters. Really”

Posted in: Rants