Thursday, March 20, 2008
Etsy's Alchemy is Back
Alchemy was a feature of the first version of Etsy.com, where buyers who wanted a custom-made "whatever" could make requests, and sellers could bid on those requests -- a bit like submitting a tender for handcrafted goods.
Well, it's back.
Unfortunately, although it's a great idea, its current incarnation is anything but great.
There are no categories in Alchemy, so all the requests are lumped in together, making it darned hard for potential bidders to find items they can bid on.
Quite a few people are attempting to use Alchemy for trading, or for requesting non-handmade goods. There aren't enough Etsy admins assigned to policing Alchemy, so it's a bit of a mess. There's also no built in way for people to easily flag items that may be breaking the Alchemy Terms of Service -- strange for a website that depends almost entirely on its members policing other members (in the fora, for listings, etc.)
A huge ideological problem is that Alchemy, as it stands now, seems designed for bargain hunters. There are so many sellers on Etsy now (listing and relisting of items FAR outweighs sales) that there are invariably many who will make almost anything for almost nothing. This has encouraged potential buyers to list risible "ideal prices" for everything from sterling silver jewellery to logo design.
A lot of sellers are not happy about this.
As is the case with nearly every feature roll out since I joined last May, Etsy has apparently not thought the darned thing out before it foisted the feature on its community. They've had a LOT of time to work on this one -- it's just not good enough to release a half-assed version of what could be a great feature, and then just leave the community without answers.
The only update they've bothered to publish in their PR magazine is a list of all the good press they've received about the relaunch of Alchemy, noting that some online reviewer dubbed the feature "Genius".
Sorry, guys, it's not genius yet.