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The Simple Moxie of Tech Under 10

Tech Under 10 is an Amazon affiliate store that aggregates inexpensive gadgets. The creator posted on Reddit about launching the site and how well it’s done so far. Amusingly, he’s made almost $10 — $9.39 as of three hours ago — but I think he has the potential to make quite a bit more.

Tech Under 10’s primary assets are its memorable name and beautifully no-nonsense implementation:

Tech Under 10’s homepage on 5/22/2016.
Tech Under 10’s homepage on 5/22/2016.

I found the products very alluring when I was scrolling through the homepage, and I’m a vehemently anti-clutter, anti-buying-useless-stuff person, so that’s pretty impressive. (I just really want a moon light, okay?!)

Each of the product images links to Amazon. I almost wonder if this wouldn’t work better as a Tumblr account (still using the custom domain name, of course). There are Tumblr themes with a similar layout and design, and that version of the site would leverage Tumblr’s distribution network. On the other hand, then you’re dependent on a platform’s whims, which is never comfortable.

At first I was quite critical of the business concept — 10% of $8.50 or whatever is only $0.85, and you need a lot of those small purchases to add up to the endeavor being worth your time. But then someone in the comments reminded me that Amazon Associates cash out whenever a shopper who’s clicked on one of their links buys anything within twenty-four hours. That drives the potential earnings way up.

The creator said in his Reddit post:

“I’m launching reddit, Bing, Facebook and Google ads on June 1st. In addition, I’m creating a weekly newsletter, Instagram, and Facebook page. The delay gives me more time to add a few hundred new products. […] I’m coming up on 4,000 sessions, and 1,000 clicks on my site, with a 1.2% conversion rate. My main demographic is males 18-30 from the US. Reddit’s proven that there is a market for my site, and I’d love the chance to compete with the big niche sites out there.”

1.2% is a pretty decent conversion rate. And I really like the guy’s attitude — he had an idea, he executed a minimum viable product, and now he’s spreading the word in a likable and enthusiastic way. Kudos.

Iterative Personal Development

Currently I am slightly obsessed with the concept of iteration. (That was the intent behind my “communicational pliancy” post.) When people talk about iteration in terms of software development — which is the context that I’m familiar with — they mean gradual improvement, tweaking and changing things after “shipping the minimum viable product”.

I want to live my life along the same lines: trying things, gathering information about how well they worked, and then trying something else. Built into this approach is room to experiment, even to fail.

Evolution by Kevin Dooley, made with Ultra Fractal software.
Evolution by Kevin Dooley, made with Ultra Fractal software.

I was talking with a new friend recently about designing systems, especially systems meant to organize people. I cited one of my takeaways from The Design of Everyday Things: you have to expect people to try the “wrong” thing, to misunderstand how the design is supposed to work. People will press every button in every bizarre combination and you have to plan for that. Systems (of all kinds) have to be designed to accommodate failure — if they aren’t, they will eventually self-catastrophize, to coin a phrase. (Just give Zappos a year or two.)

If you squint, this principle applies to one-person systems also. For optimal productivity and happiness, I have to design my own habits and attitudes to accommodate the quirks of human nature, my own specific personality, and the inevitable ill-advised impulse. Iteration seems like a great framework for this, since it’s all about incremental change that leads to gradual improvement.

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