Wanelo

Cool Stores

I’m inspired by the stores I’ve been finding lately. I’ve written about cool independent stores before, but the frequency of my encounters with them has increased dramatically and the stores have been getting more international. Most of them I find through Wanelo; a few via Instagram. I’m unsure how people discover cool stores elsewhere on the internet currently, other than the occasional Google search and clicks within the walls of marketplaces.

Nine products from nine of these cool stores:

· Laikingland sells finely crafted kinetic objects, and creepy ones like these disembodied drumming fingers.

· CKIE, pronounced “seeky,” is the ecommerce extension of Yanko Design web magazine (blog). It’s named after Ruth Noller’s symbolic equation for creativity, C=f(K,I,E), which holds that creativity (C) is a function of knowledge (K), imagination (I) and evaluation (E). They sell the kind of eye-catching things people like to share on the internet.

· More & Co. is a bright, designy shop and creative studio in Portland, Maine. Well aware of the importance of visuals in this game, their product photos are huge.

· Portland, Maine also happens to be the homebase of another favorite coolstore: Wary Meyers. Their blog is as interesting as their store (almost one and the same, as with a lot of these stores), and has so far led me to track down and watch at least three movies almost solely for the furniture: Play It Again, Sam (Woody Allen in San Francisco!), Emmanuelle (more stylish than I remembered it from Showtime in the ’80s) and Model Couple (1977), which really resonates these days:

· Generalgood is “an online store that stocks a diverse range of products from around the world, designed for life, crafted with care and built to last.” These include 1960s-style digital radios and hermetic bottle resealers. Sort of on their way to becoming a British Best Made Company.

· See also Labour and Wait, who “believe in a simple, honest approach to design, where quality and utility are intrinsic.” Think giant aluminum dustpans, bright tool bags and Stanley steel pocket flasks.

· Everyday Needs is yet another store “for people who want to make informed decisions in their consumption, ensuring that what they get is not only good-looking, but is carefully manufactured and with a quality that will last the test of time.” They sell many beautiful, useful objects out of New Zealand.

· And The Minimalist out of Sydney is “all about beauty, quality and style with a handmade touch.” They can make you want to buy paper weights and magnetic towers.

· LN-CC stands for “LATE NIGHT CHAMELEON CAFE” in all caps and is a far-out-looking store space (see below) in London with a mystical library, clothes and records you can peruse in person by appointment.

At first glance, the LN-CC site looks like many high-end fashion stores, but they grabbed hold of my attention with their excellent book selection which includes at least one category close to my heart (1970s utopian living classics OMG).

· Flatspot is another legit store in England (Devon) selling some hard-to-find kicks.

· Marchandise of Montreal sells “carefully picked objects of desire,” photographed against bright backgrounds that stand out around the internet.

MARCHANDISE

· Papa Foxtrot is a toy company dedicated to the modern marvels of infrastructure, teaching the world about satellites and container ships. Their toys are now stocked in Paul Smith stores, among other places around the planet.

GEOTAIL by Papa Foxtrot

Incidentally, a Paul Smith store in London is also hosting an exhibition featuring another coolstore all-time fave: das programm.

· Finally, MODULE R is a highly likeable store out of Brooklyn specializing in “customizable, interactive and modular” objects.

These stores are like blogs or editorial operations that sell things, and sometimes pay rent. Shopping online is finally starting to feel like the entertainment it is in the real world.

So You Want to Sell Products On the Internet

Great! It’s getting dramatically easier to do so every few months, and the playing field keeps getting leveled.

There’s also a rapidly evolving set of best practices worth paying attention to, whether you’re a small independent seller or giant global retail organization.

First off, accept that the products you post online are going to be reposted, saved, shared, commented on and recontextualized by people using a variety of services and devices, if you’re successful. They’ll be stripped of the context of your store, as people are increasingly taking control of their content, including products found online. The products of yours that get reposted will become beacons leading new customers to your store, and you don’t have to pay anyone to get them there. (How often do you click on ads?) You just have to sell products that people think are worth sharing. And people really like to share.

Here’s what I would be sure to do if I was opening a new store online right now (and I just might):

1. Make a nice About page

People want to get some idea of who they’re buying from; it’s only natural. Include pictures of your face or team members’ faces and note your physical location in the world. Offer contact information and a real email address, not just a set of form fields. Pictures of your workspace, storefront or office are great. So is a full address. So is a paragraph or two about why you’re selling these things. Here’s a recent favorite About page.

All about MODULE-R, Brooklyn, NY

2. Take compelling photos of your products, and do not underestimate their importance

Photos are everything, almost, in this increasingly visual internet world. Make your product photos interesting and the kind of thing people will want to share and collect. Buying will happen in the midst of all that sharing and collecting. Photograph your product with a hand holding it. Here’s a classic Etsy blog post on the subject.

It’s worth spending time on this.

Remember cameras?

3. Write your copy with people in mind, not search engines

You want your products to be shared by people, which will help with search engines, but people will not share things that are written for robots. Be conversational, direct, detailed and vivid. Write the kind of copy people will want to copy and paste when they share your product because it strikes them as humorous, surprising or fascinating.

(I didn't write this copy.)

4. Make your shipping and return policy simple and prominent

Try to anticipate the questions people will have. Write these policies directly, like you’re talking to a friend. Keep them as brief as possible. Link to them from your product pages.

5. Juice up your product pages with metadata

You want Google, Facebook, Wanelo, Twitter and other platforms to know that your products are products, so that they can present them as products. I would use Facebook Open Graph tags and/or Wanelo tags. Schema.org tags (supported by Google) and Twitter cards are also worth your while. Here’s a good article about this with easy-to-use templates.

How to Build Your Own Living Structures

For example, if I were selling a collectible copy of Ken Isaacs’ How to Build Your Own Living Structures (1974) (I just bought one after years of searching, so I won’t be, but for the sake of argument), I would include all this in the <head> of my product page’s HTML:

    <head>
    ...
      <meta property="og:title" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)" />
      <meta property="og:description" content="A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s." />
      <meta property="og:type" content="product" />
      <meta property="og:url" content="http://www.example.com/product/12345" />
      <meta property="og:site_name" content="Cool New Store" />
      <meta property="og:price:amount" content="75.00" />
      <meta property="og:price:currency" content="USD" />
      <meta property="og:availability" content="instock" />

      <meta property="wanelo:product:name" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)" />
      <meta property="wanelo:product:price" content="75.00" />
      <meta property="wanelo:product:price:currency" content="USD" />
      <meta property="wanelo:product:availability" content="InStock" />
      <meta property="wanelo:product:url" content="http://www.example.com/product/12345"  />

      <meta name="twitter:card" value="product" />
      <meta name="twitter:domain" value="example.com" />
      <meta name="twitter:title" value="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)" />
      <meta name="twitter:description" value="A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s." />
      <meta name="twitter:image" content="http://example.com/product/image.jpg" />
      <meta name="twitter:url" value="http://www.example.com/product/12345">
      <meta name="twitter:data1" value="$75.00" />
      <meta name="twitter:label1" value="USD" />
      <meta name="twitter:data2" value="0" />
      <meta name="twitter:label2" value="Available" />
    ...
    </head>

And these Schema.org tags in the HTML body of my product page:

    <body>
    ...
      <div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Product">
        <meta itemprop="name" content="How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs (1974)" />
        <meta itemprop="url" content="http://www.example.com/product/12345" />
        <span itemprop="description">A very collectible vintage instructional book from the 1970s.</span>
      </div>
      <div itemprop="offers" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Offer">
        <span itemprop="price">$75.00</span>
        <meta itemprop="priceCurrency" content="USD" />
        <meta itemprop="availability" itemtype="http://schema.org/ItemAvailability"
        content="http://schema.org/InStock" />
      </div>
    ...
    </body>

6. Just say yes to canonical URLs

Canonical URLs on your product pages will ensure that your products get indexed efficiently. They’re Good for Google, Good for Wanelo, Good for Business ™. They’re good for any new platforms that emerge in the future. These platforms all want a single, primary URL to link to your product, even if many different permutations of your URL can get people there, because they don’t want to create duplicate links to your products and waste everyone’s time.

How does it work? Just include a line like this with the simplest version of your product’s URL in the <head> of your product pages’ HTML:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/product/12345" />

Then, if your website is one that creates different URLs for pages based on how people navigate to them, or if you append various parameters to your URLs for tracking purposes, external platforms will still be able to point to your products effectively.

7. Treat visitors on mobile devices differently than visitors on desktop computers, and vice versa

This doesn’t mean use different URLs for these two cases (in fact, do not do that if you want to be successful). Just detect the customer’s browser user agent and optimize the experience for the kind of device they’re on.

You may end up with a lot of people posting and sharing your products from their phones. Those posts will be consumed by people on desktop computers. Don’t send those desktop users sitting there with their wallets handy to the mobile version of your website—it will feel broken to them and they won’t buy your product. Instead, try and use a single website that adapts intelligently to the different devices visitors use to view your content.

8. Keep your product pages up, forever

After all this, when your products sell out because they’re so incredibly shareable, note that they’re sold but don’t give up on the interested visitors who keep landing there thanks to the links you acquired. Give them options. If possible, give them a way to tell you that they are interested in the product—it feels productive for them and will be valuable for you. Then you can alert them when the product becomes available again. Best Made Company and ModCloth are both doing this well.

Or, show them lots of related products to check out, as on these new intensive sold-out Etsy listing pages:

A new sold-out view on Etsy

Of course, there’s a whole lot more to selling online, but these are some of the things I often see missing out there in the wide, diverse world of ecommerce websites.

The Discovery of Fascinating Objects

The Flickr iPhone app is the most addictive app on my phone at the moment after Wanelo. The kind of app I’ll start using and then blissfully ignore text messages and the outside world until I get my fill.

It’s not because of the great photos my friends continue to upload there (Instagram owns that part of my brain now and isn’t giving it back), but because of all the things collectors of vintage design, furniture, calculators, magazines, advertising, architecture, artwork, matchbooks, postcards, book covers, product packaging, candy and toys are sharing there. I don’t use it to look at photos per se but objects. It’s like the difference between inspirational images and products you can buy. An “upload-only Tumblr for collectors” was how I first thought to describe it (there’s no reblogging). Now I’m realizing how similar the mobile experience is to Wanelo.

Because it’s all that content plus the intense scrollability of the app, which is so important on mobile and currently lacking on the Flickr website. You can see a lot of stuff quickly on the profile and favorites views, where I spend most of my energy, using it like I first used Etsy and now use Wanelo: tracing back the people behind the things I like and seeing what else they like, then continuing on into infinity.

Flickr faves of the moment

More Richly Interpretable Information

Wanelo gets a lot of press in high school and college newspapers, which appear to be thriving. I did an interview for one recently that’s print-only—The Arrowhead from Souderton Area High School in Souderton, Pennsylvania—and it seemed worth reposting the Q&A online because it’s so comprehensive. It also reminded me of the interviews my friend Dylan and I did in high school for our hardcore music fanzine. The piece is by Arianna Carlson.

How did you get started at Wanelo?

I joined Wanelo last year, and moved from New York City to San Francisco for the opportunity. Previously I was working at Etsy until Deena, Wanelo’s founder, successfully persuaded me to help build Wanelo. She can be pretty persuasive.

What kind of ideas do you come up with at Wanelo?

I come up with ideas for features for Wanelo, and try to nail down their initial details and designs so that they can be built effectively and quickly by our amazing engineers. Then we all iterate on them and tweak and refine them obsessively. An example of a feature idea would be: let members share products with one another via @-mentions in comments. Or: allow store owners to claim their store pages on Wanelo, and give them tools to manage them.

What is your position at Wanelo?

I lead the development and design of features on Wanelo, do a lot of product marketing, business development and community management, and help with whatever it takes for Wanelo to grow. My title is VP of Product Development. Product management is pretty interdisciplinary and can end up involving a bit of everything, particularly for a company at Wanelo’s stage: prioritizing, analyzing, designing, writing, guiding, testing, fixing, strategizing, marketing, partnering, managing and hiring, to start.

What is your favorite thing about Wanelo?

I love how lively and subversive Wanelo is, because it’s truly run by the users. We don’t tell anyone what products to post or what to buy, and our members post some of the most incredible (and occasionally hilarious) products.

What is your favorite thing about working at Wanelo?

I would say the team (a very special group of hardcore individuals and one of the most productive teams I’ve been a part of), and the community (we’re all addicted to reading what users have to say about Wanelo), and how quickly ideas become reality here.

'The manliest of engineering men at @wanelo watching Mean Girls' by @varshavskaya

What is the most interesting thing you’ve seen on Wanelo?

I find interesting things every single day, so it’s hard to say :) Today these “carpet skates” caught my eye, because they’re kind of thing I would have begged for when I was little. And this mat made of smooth river stones struck me as something that might be cool to have by the shower. These super-rare Apple Computer sneakers from the early ’90s are a standout as well.

What is Wanelo?

Wanelo is a global platform for shopping organized around people.

How do you feel about Wanelo?

I <333 Wanelo. It's amazing to watch it become a real force in the world, and I think it's a good, subversive, democratizing force.

Why do you think Wanelo is trending?

Wanelo is simple and fun, and filled with interesting things you can buy that aren’t being pushed on you by advertisers but simply shared by other people. I think the endless stream of product images on Wanelo is what one neuroscientist I’ve encountered would call “really richly interpretable information“—because there’s the possibility of owning all these eye-catching things you’ve never encountered before, and because they’re all being shared by other people just like you, Wanelo can draw you in in a unique way and become addictive. Many people just can’t believe Wanelo contains so much good stuff from so many different stores they’ve never heard of, and that it’s being presented with no ulterior motive.

People also seem to appreciate the down-to-earth nature of Wanelo—we (the people building it) are all active users ourselves, and we don’t talk down to or advertise to users the way some traditional retail sites do.

What kind of demographics does Wanelo attract?

Wanelo attracts all kinds of people. Many of our members are young and female right now. We are not targeting any specific demographic however (we don’t even tolerate the use of that word at Wanelo :), and we’re busy building a platform for shopping that’s open-ended and powerful enough for anyone in the world to use.

How did Wanelo start?

Deena launched the first version of Wanelo in 2010. It originally started as an experiment and a reaction to traditional advertising—something neither of us think has much of a future in this century because it doesn’t provide value for most people or empower them. She also just wanted to be aware of what products her friends liked to buy, and there wasn’t a good natural way to do that. She was working as a designer and was obsessed with social networks and saw an opportunity to build an immersive social experience around shopping.

We redesigned and relaunched Wanelo last summer, had our first iPhone app out by September 2012, and added Android as a platform in December.

What new ideas are you coming up with at Wanelo?

Lots! At the moment I’m thinking about store owners and finding ways to bring them into the Wanelo community in a constructive way that creates value for everyone. Also always trying to find ways to better enable conversations around products. And we’re just beginning to dig into all the product data we have, experimenting with new ways to view the many different kinds of products people have posted.

What appeal do you think Wanelo has to teenagers?

Young people are the real arbiters of the future when it comes to the internet, and Wanelo definitely appeals immediately to a lot of teens right now. The Trending feed in its current form works right away for many people in this group, whereas other users like myself spend much more time in My Feed. I think the most popular products on Wanelo and the energy surrounding them (all the people posting and commenting on them) appeals to a lot of teens. It’s a form of entertainment, seeing what products people are talking about. Teens are often the ones posting these products and helping them become popular, and in some cases they’re the products’ makers and designers.

What is the most popular feature at Wanelo?

The most popular feature is saving products, followed closely by buying products. The most popular page or view on Wanelo is Trending, which we have big plans for.

What is the price range for items on Wanelo?

It really varies, as I’ve seen prices at the two extremes, but a lot of the most popular products are under $100 USD.

How has Wanelo grown since it started?

Wanelo’s growth has been tremendous since the relaunch last summer, and it really hit a new level when the iOS app started catching on in November. Now that app is often the #1 app in the App Store’s Lifestyle category, and we’ve managed to stay in the top 50 or so free apps overall lately. The Android app is also seeing solid growth. Meanwhile, store owners and retailers are beginning to help spread Wanelo even further.

Do you think Wanelo is a good opportunity for teens to find trendy items?

Wanelo can be a fun way to see what products people are talking about, for sure. We see some far-out things suddenly catch on and become popular. It’s also a good source of shopping inspiration, because you come across products you would have never thought to search for.

What age groups do you think Wanelo appeals to other than teens?

A lot of Wanelo users are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. Wanelo users definitely skew younger than users of other sites in this general category, but we at Wanelo are not doing anything to target a particular age group, and we’re seeing Wanelo appeal to a really wide range of people.

For real.

The Company Your Company Keeps

If you have an app or web service out there with a rapidly increasing number of people using it, one of the most interesting things in the world for you is how people talk about it.

Wanelo has a lot of young users who like to post screenshots of their home screens, and these images of personal app arrangement are worth a thousand tweets.

In these shots, Wanelo is almost never grouped with existing shopping or commerce apps, though they’re doing a lot of shopping with it. I like to think that it’s because shopping as it’s existed online to date has been disconnected from people’s reality, which contains other people and involves a continual quest for entertainment and stimulation (not just a desire to search for a solution that meets a need).

#wanelo

Please Don’t Use the S-word

I was interviewed by Sandi MacPherson the other day for Quibb, which is gradually growing into something really great. Here’s the post and here’s the repost:

WANELO WANELO WANELO

What are you working on? What does your role entail?

Wanelo is a catalog of products organized by people. Members post products that they think are worth sharing, and those products get bought, saved, collected, tagged and sent to friends by other members. It’s growing very fast and is addictive to both build and use, and to read what members have to say about it.

I joined in May of this year and we immediately set out to rewrite, redesign, rebuild, rebrand and relaunch the service. That relaunch happened in late June, and since then we’ve managed to grow the value of the product and all the key numbers, and launch an iOS app that’s been climbing the charts (#8 in Lifestyle and #66 overall at the moment, not that I’m checking constantly or anything) [Ed.: #3 and #49 now, and version 2.0 just launched, but anyways]. We’re about to launch a version for Android.

My role entails a lot of prioritizing, analyzing, designing, writing, making, refining, guiding, testing, editing, synthesizing, hiring (world-class product designers wanted!) and engaging in heated debates with Deena, the founder.

What are your favorite tech/startup news sites and blogs?

I still find Hacker News to be the best filter for what’s going on out there, though it’s not as good as it used to be. A VC is an old standby. Chris Dixon’s blog is always worth your time. Platformed is a recent entrant I’ve been giving a chance. And I’m getting sucked into Quibb!

What is the most innovative company right now in the social commerce space?

A lot of the notable commerce startups that come to mind are working on making selling incredibly easy, like Gumroad, Ribbon and ShopLocket. They’re built to allow people to use existing networks (like Facebook and Twitter) to sell, which is great for some sellers. I like the simplicity they’re aiming for.

There are actually a lot of people doing interesting things around commerce, but I honestly look more toward non-commerce services for guidance right now. At Wanelo, we’ve learned more from Instagram and Tumblr than any commerce site.

Many commerce sites set out to “add a social layer” and the result is inauthentic and ineffective. But that “social part” — enabling real discovery and growing the kind of community where transactions can flourish — is a lot more challenging than facilitating transactions in some ways. At the same time, non-commerce networks often have a hard time when it comes time to make money. Maybe the ideal scenario is a commerce-oriented network that focuses on the social aspect first?

You spent a few years at Etsy — what did you learn there that you’ve been able to apply at Wanelo? What hasn’t been applicable?

I learned a ton about product design and development at Etsy, as well as community management, as well as Greek, beer-brewing, dog breeds and craft techniques :) Many of the things we try and do at Wanelo — designing in code, iterating quickly, experimenting continuously, pushing to production frequently, making use of feature flags, questioning assumptions, being open and communicative with members — are things that became ingrained in me at Etsy.

The main difference between the two experiences is that Etsy is a much larger company than Wanelo, and with large companies quite a lot of energy becomes focused internally rather than externally. When a company is small enough for everyone to fit comfortably in the same room, and you’re all racing in the same direction and staring at the same numbers, different dynamics apply. You “do” more than talk. Some of the things I learned at Etsy about getting things done at a large company are not applicable at Wanelo (yet).

Social products are built on networks — friends (Facebook), close friends (Path), professional colleagues (LinkedIn), etc. Do networks exist for social commerce? How are they different and/or similar?

Commerce-oriented social networks exist — I helped build one at Etsy — but I think they have a long way to go. Many of the existing ones are populated largely by sellers. Unlike the examples you mention, there are usually two distinct roles in commerce-oriented networks: sellers and buyers. Sellers are often much more motivated and engaged, because they’re making money and have more of themselves invested in the system. The buyer perspective gets drowned out, which is one of the core deficiencies I find in a lot of marketplaces today.

A good, robust network populated by buyers that enables commerce and is untainted by spamminess is not easy to build. (But it’s a lot of fun to try :)

What do you see as the key benefits of social shopping, from the perspectives of both shoppers and merchants?

I think the act of shopping for the kind of unique or unusual products that people feel are worth sharing is so inherently social that qualifying it with “social” feels weird. It’s like saying talking is social. People are the best path to these products, because they aren’t things you search for specifically. When people discover these products, they share them with other people. And the internet is enabling this at a grand scale.

A platform for this kind of shopping gets out of the way of the users, and doesn’t talk down to them with heavy-handed merchandising or intricate product taxonomies. It’s about helping people help each other out (whether they’re conscious of it or not), and letting the good things happen.

From the shopper’s perspective, the benefit of this kind of platform is in the thrill of discovery, and the sharing of those discoveries, which is addictive and life-enhancing.

From the merchant’s perspective, the benefit is sales, and the opportunity to engage with customers as peers. Many of the merchants behind these products really don’t have the time, budget or expertise to fully figure out marketing on this conversational medium we use called the internet. Their energy goes into making the cool things that they sell.

Luckily for everyone, it’s easier than ever to discover and sell these things.

Some comments over on Quibb.

Small Stores, Big Ideas

I discover a lot of small independent stores through Wanelo. These are relatively small operations, larger than your average Etsy shop or eBay business, but much smaller than your average corporation or retail operation with more than one address. You might call them boutiques, but they’re quite different from what that word conjures up on sites like FarFetch. They have a ton of personality, sell a wide variety of things, often have a physical address but primarily exist on their own domain online, and write copy about their products in a way that happens to be highly entertaining to read. Sometimes they make their products and sometimes they source them, and they always tell you the details of how they sourced them and from whom. They’re curators, to use a word I can barely stomach now.

Best Made Company is probably the canonical example of this type of store in my head. I discovered them before I started working on Wanelo, and now regularly open their emails and get excited about new offerings they come up with, like the Less Is Muir patch and the Shawl Neck Sweater Coat they created in collaboration with Dehen. They have a really strong brand with strong values, and as a consequence people pay attention to the things they choose to sell and why. I was pretty excited about the books they chose to sell when I first discovered them, as it seemed like a sort of cross-section of old DIY wilderness faves last featured in the Whole Earth Catalog.

Less Is Muir from Best Made Co

You can read about how Best Made came about here. They have ~24K followers at the moment on Wanelo.

Occulter is a new Wanelo discovery and the inspiration for this post. They’re based in New York and sell a lot of fascinating things.

Their Binchotan Toothbrush is blended with Binchotan charcoal powder, which is apparently “known to radiate negative ions, has a powerful deodorizing effect, removes plaque and attacks the causes of bad breath.” Occult dental products pretty much have my attention right away.

Binchotan toothbrush from Occulter

They also sell a sharp-looking Smith & Wesson pen, which is something I’m surprised I’ve never heard referenced before in rap lyrics.

Smith & Wesson pen from Occulter

And they sell these Woolly Mammoth ivory razors with quartz lenses featuring vintage micro-photography.

Mammoth straight razor from Occulter

Plus: very, very dark honey sourced from a beekeeper in Schenectady.

Occulter Black Honey

And, the perfect gift for any former philosophy major: Platonic solids!

Platonic Solids from Occulter

And these are just the things I’ve saved to my Wanelo.

ThinkGeek is another store of this dimension I’ve come into a lot more contact with since Wanelo, most recently with these rare earth magnets.

Rare Earth Magnets

You could even consider making your own. How? It’s very simple! You just find yourself a nice chunk of some Misch metal from the Earth’s substrate, then carefully extract any Neodymium, purify it, mold it, coat it in a small amount of nickel, and then wrap some plastic around it in the shape of a thumbtack.

They have ~118K followers at the moment on Wanelo.

Opulent Items is another store of this type. Operated out of Miami, I would probably never have come into contact with the astounding products they sell if it weren’t for Wanelo, where they have over 100K followers.

And there’s many more, like Fred Flare, straight out of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with ~118K followers on Wanelo. And MoMAStore, RISDworks, Selekkt, Photojojo, Buy Olympia, House 8810, Moon Marble, Hammacher, Uncommon Goods, Poketo, Present and Correct, Street Market, FriendsWithYou, MollaSpace, Little Paper Planes, The Future Perfect, Totokaelo, Solitary Arts, Matter and others.

The point is that there’s a fast-growing audience for products worth sharing, and a rapidly expanding definition of what that entails.

My Wanelo Feed Erupted with Goodness Last Night

Feeding on Wanelo

This natural event occurred because we began surfacing the individual shops behind the hundreds of thousands of products from Etsy that have been posted to Wanelo by members. Members who had been following the etsy.com “store” on Wanelo and had saved Etsy products are now following the shops behind those products. If you happen to be following people like TouMou or anastridendeavor on Wanelo (or me, or Deena), your feed just erupted with goodness as well.

Store pages on Wanelo are created when members post products from a store. You can follow stores and get updates in your feed when new products from those stores are posted by members. (Did I mention that the new Wanelo feed is simple, lickable and alive?)

This is something I happen to have wanted for a long time: the ability to follow Etsy shops. I’ve favorited hundreds of excellent Etsy shops but when you favorite a shop today you don’t get updates from them, and you forget about them.

Another thing I’ve long wanted that now exists is attribution and ownership for products I’ve saved. When I save a product on Wanelo with a comment, I create a page with that context. If I tweet that save and someone resaves it from me or comments on my save, I get notified. It’s not unlike how reblogging works on Tumblr, and check-ins work on Foursquare.

A Wanelo save page

It’s a step toward helping every active member of Wanelo create content and get feedback on their activity.

Because shopping, since the Industrial Revolution anyway, has been about passive consumption. “Consumption” from “consumer”: a word with a telling etymology that didn’t take off until the late 19th century, after factories had begun manufacturing uniform products en masse and needed to advertise to generate demand:

early 15c., “one who squanders or wastes,” agent noun from consume. In economic sense, “one who uses up goods or articles” (opposite of producer) from 1745. Consumer goods is attested from 1890.

The internet was not designed for passive consumption (that’s what TV was for, and I like to think that the internet began with the creation of the Whole Earth Catalog). And I don’t think consuming in the traditional sense has much of a future. Buying things can be a lot more creative, meaningful and fun. Payment is a form of communication, as Jack Dorsey likes to say, and people prefer to communicate with other people. Left to their own devices, people also tend to seek out unique products and customize things for themselves.

Wanelo is reorganizing shopping around people. That can sound vague if you haven’t picked up Paul Adams’ book Grouped for example, but it’s simple and powerful, and I think soon to be obvious and inevitable: people first. People organize the content and help it get discovered. A typical content-driven ecommerce site will have lots of categories to drill down into, carefully organized by the retailer and created by the retailer. Social context around the products is usually minimal or plastered on, and the experience is often one-dimensional, with the retailer talking at you. On Wanelo you discover products through people, and through the entities that people create while using the site (stores, collections, saves and *more*, coming soon). People look to other people for clues and guidance, just like in real life. And we don’t tell them who to listen to or what to buy.

Tons and tons to do (I’m making commits and writing tickets in another window as I type), but OMG it’s fun. And my Wanelo feed keeps getting better.