Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

20 Sep 2011, 22:38 p.m.

UN Convention On the Rights of the Mild

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2011 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

For professional development reasons, I'm starting a four-week course that'll teach me JavaScript/jQuery/CSS/JSON stuff in the context of the Etsy API. This meant that today I read the Etsy terms of use, and had to email the Etsy legal department about multiple errors in it (which, to their credit, they fixed the same day). Some fun facts from that document, and from their other documents incorporated by reference:

  • Listing guidelines get all philosophical: "You should only state what the item is, not what the item may become or potential uses for the item (for example: yarn should not be labeled as 'sweater,' beads should not be labeled as 'bracelet,' small gift items should not be labeled as 'stocking stuffer')."
  • "The Vintage category is for items that are at least 20 years old." Well, that settles it!
  • "You can become a team captain by creating a team or by being appointed by the captain of a pre-existing team." So I thought, "they're missing the third legitimate way to get property: homesteading/squatting!" But then later: "If a captain becomes inactive, doesn’t respond to members for an extended amount of time, or otherwise abandons the responsibilities of being a team captain, Etsy may promote a team leader or team member to be a new captain." So the title must be bestowed upon you, instead of just falling on you once you've mixed your labor with the land. Still, at least there is a way to turn unused powers & responsibilities over to energetic folks, which that suits me.
  • The API terms of service specifically declare: "The parties hereby disclaim the application of the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods." But that's not in the general Terms of Use, lightly implying that it's API users who specifically disclaim the application of that UN convention. Weird. The relevant convention.
  • "You may price an item how you choose; however, a listing should not be created with an inaccurate price in order to keep it from selling." Isn't it funny how the Terms of Service tell you all the ways people try to arbitrage and manipulate things, all by way of comprehensively delineating what territory's forbidden? In this case, the pricing guideline steers you away from "fee avoidance," where a seller uses Etsy's platform to publicize listings, then sells them outside of Etsy to avoid Etsy's fees.
Speaking of business/arbitrage/game theory musings, today I picked up and started REAMDE, the Neal Stephenson thousand-pager that came out today. I'm on page 283. Themes/references that carry over from Cryptonomicon include: Hakka, Manila, Shekondar, discovering facts that make a job hard but your isolated boss thinks it should be easy, being compelled to do a task under duress, gold, military and hacker habits, silly/revealing business meetings. Carried over from Anathem (and less from Snow Crash/Diamond Age): ikonographies/narratives and the importance of story.

I think the last book I picked up on the day of release was Book 7 of Harry Potter. I was working on a farm in northwest New Jersey and we had to cross the state line into Pennsylvania to get to the closest bookstore that was selling it at midnight. If there were midnight Stephenson release parties where people dress up, I'd expect to have heard about them already, but then again I don't read Boing Boing much anymore.