The Expert Beginner Store
The Expert Beginner Store
About this project
The Expert Beginner, always an enthusiastic supporter of self-promotion, is branching out into the glamorous world of merch.
Now, the DaedTech team is now looking to create an online store that will allow you to display the Expert Beginner's smug face on your desk, your computer, your wall, or even your well-proportioned body.
So, Who is This Expert Beginner Guy?
Some say he is the main character in of a (sadly non-fiction) book about the decay of software groups...
Some say he is a Twitter user that they look to for inspiration in their pursuit of mediocrity...
But one thing is certain. Whether you know it or not, if you're a software engineer, you've encountered him.
The Expert Beginner is responsible for world-famous nuggets of truth, such as
- "I think Git is broken. I tried it, but other people in my team could edit the files that I checked out."
- "Empty catch blocks are fine as long as you put a comment in there apologizing."
- "I like to use a lot of acronyms and no vowels in my variable names. Oh, I'm fired, am I? Then you figure out what tvsdrrsttHFC=6 means."
- "It's not my job to be consistent with code reviews; it's your job to keep track of what I like this week."
In all seriousness, the Expert Beginner, as defined by Erik Dietrich in this post, is based on the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. When people acquire enough skill to confuse themselves with being an expert without grasping the big picture, they have the potential to become an expert beginner: a toxic element in a software team that imagines they are an expert and refuses to grow.
So many engineers that want to grow have felt hampered by the presence of an expert beginner in their company's management. We suspect that's why the Expert Beginner character on Twitter has resounded with the tech community. In times of frustration, he's an avenue for catharsis and a reminder that they're not alone.
We think that this merch can be more than just fun. An Expert Beginner laptop sticker seen by a similarly-minded programmer can start a conversation. Or placing a mug on your desk, right in view of your own personal expert beginner, can be a satisfying silent protest.
What We're Looking to Fund, Specifically
This Kickstarter project is to open an Expert-Beginner-themed online store that will offer, at bare minimum, shirts, mugs, and laptop stickers.
The project money you donate will go to
- The sustainability of that store for at least one year, meaning the purchase of a one-year Shopify account and a Fulfillrite account
- The initial purchase of high-quality items to stock the store, and the ability to purchase enough of that merchandise to financially justify a reasonable price tag
What We'll Sell in the Store
Let's start with the creme de la creme, the flagship in the Expert Beginner store fleet: our Expert Beginner shirts.
These shirts are not only the ideal tongue-in-cheek way to promote the tenets of Expert Beginner Software; they're also soft and cozy to relax in.
Printed on DaedTech founder Erik's favorite t-shirt brand of all time, Next Level, these heather gray shirts are thin but high quality, soft as a cloud, and lay flat across the chest.
They're printed with a grayscale version of that enviable chiseled-cheekbone EB face, accompanied by a EB-tweet-inspired tagline: "Expert Beginner Software: It's Only a Bug if Someone's Angry." On the back, another classic tweet is printed, saying, "Innovation is fine as long as you innovate within our framework."
The shirts will come in sizes S to XXL.
If your office is business casual and an Expert Beginner shirt isn't going to fly, fear not! You can still sport Expert Beginner swag at work.
NOTE: Our prototypes are NOT examples of the final product.
We just wanted to get a quick, cheap version that was a proof of concept, so we ordered a plain Cafe Press photo mug.
The mugs we will order for the store (and that we'll send as rewards) will look like this:
They're 12 oz. two-toned ceramic mugs from Custom Ink, and they'll be black on the outside and white on the inside--a lot more classy than the ones we actually received and will be pictured from now on.
The mugs have a picture of the Expert Beginner on the front and has one of Erik's personal favorite quotes: "There must be a bug in the compiler"
And finally, we have...
We've got some EB-themed laptop stickers to hawk. They're clear, oval, vinyl, and resistant to scratches and sunlight.
The stickers are graced with the Expert Beginner's noble visage, of course. Below him, the stickers say, "It's not like you can expect us to ship every project we start."
A natural place for these stickers are laptops.
But don't count out other uses, like decorating the home...
Or as an added identifier to place on the box you're using to ship your cat.
How Did We Come to the Goal Figure?
Extensive planning was done to come to this figure. The DaedTech team researched
- Platforms to host the store
- The cost of fulfillment services
- The estimated man-hours spent packing and shipping cost of merchandise (not accounted for in the goal total)
- How many items would need to be ordered to bring the cost down
- The cost of color vs black & white printing
- What manufacturers provide most universally loved merchandise
- How much domestic and international shipping would cost
- How much we would have to raise to break even, make a profit, and take a loss
- Potential pitfalls, as told by other Kickstarter campaigners
We also bought prototypes of all items and have been testing them out personally. This has helped guide us into understanding what products will be not only fun items to show off at work or home but also be items you'd be happy to integrate into your everyday life, Expert-Beginner-themed or not.
We chose Shopify as our sales platform because it has a low learning curve and it's affordable and well-respected. We decided on Fulfillrite for fulfillment after a phone conversation with the company and the realization that we're frequently out of the country and unable to ship ourselves. We choose Custom Ink as the provider of shirts and mugs because they stock high quality merchandise and have excellent customer service. And we chose Sticker Mule for their prices, reported quality, and the possibility of expanded designs later.
One more thing...
We know. These rewards are expensive.
We're using Kickstarter as a way to fund the launch of the store. If you wait until the store opens, you'd probably pay less than the donation price point here on Kickstarter for these items (if we're funded, of course!). We ask that you see the tiers as they're intended--you're donating money to back our venture, and as a thank you, we'll send you more and more gifts.
Risks and challenges
The only real challenge is that this will be the first time dabbling in e-commerce. As busy freelancers and consultants, we'll be outsourcing every part of the store, so it's only a matter of setting things up.
There's also the fact that we had to buy different prototypes for the mugs and stickers, since the minimum order for the higher quality items were enormous. We did work with Custom Ink for the t-shirts and saw that they did a good job with printing and customer service, so it's a pretty safe bet that the mugs we order from them will also turn out well. We haven't ordered from Sticker Mule yet because the minimum order was too high to justify buying prototypes. However, we figure that, between their great reviews, their specialty being stickers, and their responsiveness, we'll get a high quality product.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Short answer: we now do! Check for items labeled "NEW! NON U.S. BACKERS" on the rewards tier.
Long answer: in planning for this project, we found international shipping to be extraordinarily expensive, especially for heavier items like mugs. Often, it was more expensive to ship than the cost of the donation tier itself.
We assumed people wouldn't want to pay for that, but now that the project is live, we're getting feedback to the contrary. If you're from a non-U.S. country, you can now get shirts and stickers. Look for "NEW! NON U.S. BACKERS" in the rewards column.
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