Hello Etsy! Highlights
by James Glazebrook
The opening introduction to Etsy’s first summit on small business and sustainability included the smart observation, “a conference is only as good as the people make it”. And sure enough, Hello Etsy felt like giant meetup, giving us a chance to get some hactual face-time with our online friends Raquel of Capital Sisters, Cheryl Howard, Georg AKA Digital Cosmonaut, Simon of Berlin Unlike, Melissa Rachel Black, Katja from glamcanyon, as well as Nina from the travelettes crew.
As outsiders to the Etsy/craft community – with the exception of Melissa, who makes gangster rap greeting cards – we found some of the sessions either irrelevant or a little basic. (Although as a journalist, blogger and former social media PR, I can vouch that Rachel Bremer of Twitter’s tips “secrets to good PR” were solid.)
However, some of the talks were truly inspirational. Here are our highlights from two days of eye-opening events:
1) Urban Farming and Local Empowerment
The most Berlin-centric talk we saw, and the greatest surprise.
Prinzessinnengarten is an urban (mobile!) farm cultivated on wasteland in the middle of the city by the couple behind Nomadic Green, and countless volunteers.
Today, the not-for-profit project includes a garden restaurant and cafe and has inspired similar projects in Cologne and other cities. Its open garden days bring together different communities (old turkish women, hipsters, even “normal people”!) and when young people help out, they are paid a wage (“we don’t do social work”).
Far from the special interest greenie talk I was expecting, this passed on valuable lessons that can be applied further afield, such as the project’s approach to informal learning: you don’t know, we don’t know, let’s find out together.
2) On Tour with the Grateful Thread
I love Threadless. The social-before-social-existed company has been crowdsourcing t-shirt designs from its online community for ten years now. Its held a special place in my heart, providing some of my favourite tees and my stock answer to the interview questions, “who does social well?”
Basically, Charles Festa had my dream job and now sports my dream beard. And he’s hilarious. Queue awkward jokes, Lionel Richie impressions and anecdotes about throwing shit off roofs.
The embodiment of rule #1 of social media: be yourself.
3) Douglas Rushkoff: Program or be programmed
Not really about programming, but a dissection of the biases inherent in systems like the internet and free market capitalism. Rushkoff will change the way you think about technology, media, even money.
Almost as an aside, he explains how communities like Etsy can help free the world from its dependence on jobs, big business and top-down economies.
Forget what you think you know.
4) Welcome to the Future
A round table between the social media bods at Etsy, TOMS, Holstee, and Bitly, and my man Festa. A great introduction to social strategy, tools and analytics, and a good reminder of fundamentals principles. In fact, Matt from Bitly was a one-man fountain of wisdom:
“social media IS writing”
“you don’t know until you know”
“the best tool for social analytics is not Bitly, it’s basic human intelligence”
5) The venue
We went clubbing in ewerk two years ago to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mauerfall. So we’d already seen the former power station’s main hall – but not the stunning views from the roof or the control room, which retains the original equipment. All the sharp edges were softened with handmade banners, cushions and other knickknacks, to make for a truly unique setting.