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Tag Archives: woot

Lewis N Clark Urban Gear Duffel Review

I have two fetishes and I’m not exactly shy about them.  The fetishes are office supplies and luggage.  Both center around the concept of organization.  Like when I go to Staples, I fantasize about owning all this office equipment which necessitates the need for organizational supplies like binders and filing drawers and stands and on and on.

And luggage, well, I just appreciate a well-designed bag that holds just what you need.  Because of this, I am constantly trying to find the right size bag for what I need at the time.  And style has to be considered of course.

So, this bag came up on Woot:

And I really liked it.  I’ve been using the bag for a while now and I still really like it.  But one thing I never got around to testing was the bag’s capacity.  I assumed I could use it for a week’s vacation, but would that really work?  I mean, it’s only one bag.  But then again, I am a guy.  Guys don’t pack like women, am I right?

Therefore, this post is now the inaugural ManPack Experience.

You can see the empty bag above.  First thing I’m going to pack is t-shirts.  I am an advocate of the “rolled” packing style, so if you pack differently, you may get different results.

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Nine t-shirts on layer 1.  That also includes sleep shirts.  I also expect I will buy a shirt or two on vacation.  Next up, shorts – because I’m not going to go somewhere that’s cold, duh.

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Five pairs of shorts and one pair of jeans.  I could probably swap out a couple of the shorts for pants. Next up, Shirts, socks and underwear.  These fill in the front.

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Two button-down shirts, six pairs of socks, eight pairs of underwear.  Next, toiletry bag, shoes and a belt.  Of course, I’ll have the shoes and belt I’m wearing, too, so adding extra shoes is just an example.

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A pair of sandals, a pair of loafers, and a belt.  There is still room for more, too.  Probably another pair of pants or a couple shirts.  Now, will the bag close?

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Sure it closes, and there’s more room on the outside.  On the left, I keep a laundry bag for dirty clothes.  On the right, I have my Kindle keyboard in its case.  It’s shown vertically, but does fit horizontally.  Front pocket holds a small tablet, which does fit horizontally.  And I couldn’t think of what else to put in the front.  So fully loaded, what’s the weight?

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It’s 17 pounds loaded pretty full.  You could stuff it further if you wanted.

So, this is a great travel bag for multi-day trips.  If you had two bags, you could go for quite a while.  But I don’t travel for long periods, so I am glad for another nice feature of the Lewis N Clark Urban series.  I also bought their laptop bag, and it is a perfect fit inside the duffel.

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The laptop bag fits my 15.6” Toshiba laptop just right.  The interior of the bag is very sparse, with just one zippered mesh pouch that I use to hold the power cords.  There is room in the bag for a legal padfolio, which I make use of.  The front pockets hold cables, pens, and a flash drive.

Overall, I think the Urban Gear line of bags from Lewis N Clark is great stuff.

On Community

The big, huge, #1, all-important “thing” right now in online business is “community”.  No matter who you listen to, you will hear that you have to build a community with your customers.  There’s one case where I feel this business dream was present long before it became a “thing” and just as the concept of “community” was gaining traction, they went and blew it all away.  That business is Woot.

Woot has had spectacular growth in its relatively short life.  It started as a deal-a-day website, offering one different product every day until it was sold out.  We’ll call that Woot 1.0.  Then there was the idea that Woot could offer more than one product a day, in multiple  specific categories.  Thus became Woot 2.0.  Then there was the idea that Woot could offer many products in each category for periods longer than a day.  This ushered in Woot 3.0, where it continues today.

Back in the 1.0 days, there was a very active community in the product forums.  You could discuss a product all day.  When 2.0 came along, this community became diluted.  And if it wasn’t diluted, it was stressed in that the members had to participate even more.  They didn’t have to, of course, but they wanted to because the brand was fun and all their friends were there.  When 3.0 landed, there was simply no way to keep up with the sheer amount of products begging for discussion.  And it showed.  Products would go days without any discussion on them.  Maybe due to lack of interest, maybe due to people not finding them or maybe not even bothering to look for them.

This change, while certainly increasing the bottom line of the Woot company – because stuff did still sell – created an environment totally different from past versions.  Imagine walking into a room and there’s a product on a display stand in the middle.  Also in the room are 50 friendly (sometimes sarcastic) people chatting.  All of these people have an opinion about this displayed product and you can listen to them talk about it or you can directly ask anyone about it.  Now, imagine a room with 20 products on display.  Still 50 people, but some are huddled around one or another product.  Your source of feedback is lessened and the credibility of the products and your business suffer.

So that’s the business aspect in favor of remaining small.  You have a group of loyal followers and they’re going to support your choice of product (or limited products) because that’s what you offer.  You’ve made the work easy for them to help support because your product offerings are limited.  As much as it pains me to make the comparison, look at Apple.  They have, what, like 5 products?  Anyone can help you to some degree on those.  On the other end of that comparison, just as painfully, look at Microsoft.  Such a massive selection, it’s so difficult to find any assistance with some obscure product like Small Business Accounting.

But getting back to “community” in Woot, you have to look back to the 1.0 days to find where that community really shined: the Woot-off.  Because you had one site, but the products constantly refreshed after being sold out, you’d have people discussing products all day.  And if the products were slow sellers, the people would stick around and chat about anything else.  It was normal for people to admit their work productivity dropping to zero because of involvement in the Woot-off.  Today, in the current 3.0 incarnation, there is a Woot-off happening on five different sites.  How are you going to possibly keep up on conversations on five different sites?  Why would you want to?  And the effect is very obvious.  Products now turn over much, much more slowly during a Woot-off.

So you have a brand community that is stretched too thin over too diverse a product base.  Could it be made any worse?  Sure.  These changes I described are also creating a strong sense of community apathy.  No one really cares anymore because there’s just too much.  I see some people becoming specialists in one category or another,  and bravo to them.  But you have to wonder if there’s any benefit to being a lone expert.  Where are your peers?  If you leave, then what happens?

There’s another change in Woot that is feeding this apathy – actually two changes.  The first change is the “no dead air” policy Woot seems to have adopted.  If a product sells out too quickly, another product is posted in its place.  This goes against the old policy of “you snooze, you lose”.  Yeah, you still lose out on the earlier offering, but there’s still something for you to buy, so no hurries.  The other change is the recurring items.  When you see Gunnar glasses sold for a week on one site, then sold for the next week on another site, then sold in a woot-off, then back again afterwards.  Or if you see another product on a side sale also appearing in a Woot-off, or like what just happened – a product comes back a second time in a Woot-off, what are you supposed to think?  There’s no shortage of supply, there’s no exclusivity, there’s nothing special about the sale at all.  You are cheapening your offerings.  Call it the Starbucks effect; or the Best Buy effect.  When it’s always available, the desire to have it drops.

So in conclusion, just when other companies are discovering how to rally their customer base and make strong advocates for their brand, Woot has figured out how to lose one of the most valuable company assets it could ever have.  If you’ve lived through Woot 1.0 and 2.0, you can see what you need to do with your business (and what not to do).  If you came in with Woot 3.0, you can only read history of what it was like.

Triple Gunnars

Ok, so now I have three pairs of Gunnar glasses.  I figure I have enough experience with them now to make a compare and contrast review if you are considering any of these models.

My first pair was the Groove model.  When I got it, I was somewhat disappointed by the rubber arms  – I was thinking they were metal from what I saw in the pictures.  The Groove has good-sized lenses and a decent wraparound design.  However, the Groove’s nosepads are not articulating.  If they don’t fit right, you need to bend them into a comfortable position.  I actually gave up on the Groove for an extended period because I could not get the nosepads to stop digging into my nose.  That is what led me to my second purchase.  But while waiting for shipment of my second pair, I was able to find a position that fit and felt excellent, and they became my standard work glasses.

The next set I purchased were the E11vens.  My primary reason for buying them was the hard plastic, fixed bridge.  I figured that would be better than the nosepads that were burrowing into my skin on the Groove.  When I got the E11vens, I was disappointed by the cheap black plastic.  Plastic doesn’t have to be cheap-sounding, but this is.  Very tinny and light sounding.  However, despite that,  the E11vens are lighter than the Groove and the bridge is comfortable.   Also, this model excels in an area that the others don’t.  It’s wraparound design is totally up on your face, like goggles.  Because of this, if you get dry eyes, these will keep the moisture in your eyes and you will praise them at the end of the day.  The other positive about the E11vens is they have the largest lenses of the models I own.  This means you can look all around without needing to move your head as much.  While I was using the Grooves at work and the E11vens at home, Woot had yet another Gunnar sale.  This time, they had a model I’d been watching and hoping for.

I purchased the Emissary model last week and just got them today.  The full name is Attache Emissary, to give you an idea of the image they are trying to convey.  And when I opened the box and pulled the glasses out, I was stunned.  They were beautiful.  Where I was disappointed with the materials used in the other two, I was highly impressed with the sturdy feel of the metal frames and their hinged arms.  The glasses felt feather-light, but they probably weigh about as much as the E11vens.  It’s probably just a perceptual trick because the Emissary frames are so thin and the E11vens are so bulky.   The lenses were tiny, unlike the other two.  The Emissary looked very similar to the Ray Ban prescription glasses I wear.  So from a stylistic perspective, there is no comparison.  If you want style, this is the one to have.  But that style comes at a price.  The lenses are very small, so you need to move your head more to keep the your vision through them.  Because they are small, they don’t have any of the wrap-around benefits like the E11vens, so your eyes may dry out quicker.

Looking at the Gunnar online store, The Groove isn’t available anymore, nor is the E11ven, and the color of Emissary I bought isn’t available.  That’s all fine.  Woot is a clearinghouse for older and discontinued stuff, and the glasses work just as well as the new models.  The model I have my eye on now is the Epoch, which is similar to the Emissary, but with thicker frame lines.  Go for four?  Why not?  I used to have a massive collection of sunglasses in my younger days.  I guess this is the adult computer geek version of that hobby.

Gunnars

I’ve been a Woot buyer for a while, from back when Woot was cool.  But even now, you can still get some good deals.  Anyway, that aside, it was a few months ago that I saw one of my co-workers wearing these yellow glasses.  He said he got them on Woot.  I recognized them as Gunnars and was curious as to whether they were worth the money.  He said he noticed the difference.  I tried them on and because of the slight magnification of the lens, I took them right off and said “no way.”

Weeks go by and my co-worker is wearing his Gunnars every day.  Every once in a while I ask, “they’re working ok?” and he says they’re great.  The joke in our department is that they are future glasses and when wearing them you can “see future.”  On a more practical level, if the glasses didn’t work, he would’ve stopped using them.  So, the next time Gunnars showed up on Woot, I went for it.

I purchased the Groove model.  When I got them, I was slightly underwhelmed.  The arms were simple rubber and the nose pads were stationary and tiny.  But I got over that and wore them to work.  After an extended time, the nose pads started really hurting me.  I adjusted them over and over but couldn’t find a good position.  So I ended up wearing the glasses less and less and eventually they just ended up in a drawer.

Another Woot sale came along and I decided to purchase another pair, one with a different bridge.  I decided on the e11vens, since they had a solid plastic bridge.  When I got the glasses, again, I was slightly underwhelmed.  The whole frame was a glossy black plastic and felt a little on the cheap side.  But the glasses look like something Tony Stark would wear, so there’s that, anyway.  At the time I ordered the e11vens, I played around with my Groove’s one more time and found a very comfortable nose pad position.  With that modification, I started wearing the Groove’s consistently.  Now I had a pair for work and one for home.

The real question is, do they work?  Yes, they do.  You’ll see a lot of reviews saying that Gunnar’s are overhyped, overpriced, and pointless.  After using them, I have to disagree.  I’ll admit, when I first researched Gunnars, I was totally put off by the hyper-aggressive, buzzword-laden marketing they used.  Since that time, the company seems to have toned the hyperbole down and the message is a lot more palatable.  I read some quotes from their founder and they made a lot of practical sense.  Basically, Gunnars are safety eyewear, and that’s not sexy.  It wouldn’t be very cool to be wearing “safety glasses” at work, and who would ever buy them with that label?  So I understand why they did what they needed to.  Now, with some real testimonials and word-of-mouth behind them, they can afford to be more realistic and practical with their message.

Now, some of the arguments against Gunnars say that that all they are is tinted glasses and all you need to do is go out and buy blu-blockers from the dollar store to get the same effect.  That’s fairly untrue.  Some of the features that Gunnars profess (and probably way over-hyped) are actually beneficial.  I’m not going to look up what their special marketing words are when discussing the features, because they don’t matter.

One feature -  I ‘m pretty sure they call this “microclimate” – is the wraparound style of the lenses.  It doesn’t need a buzzword to be effective.  I know this works because my eyes don’t dry out throughout the day.  You may think it’s a placebo effect, but physical proof that my eyes aren’t drying out is that I get “sleep” in my eyes at the end of the day, which means my eyes are tearing more than sufficiently.

Another feature is the slight magnification, the part that freaked me out when I first put the Gunnars on.  This magnification is optimized for up to about a 3 foot distance.  Don’t wear Gunnars for driving or even for walking around, they don’t work for far distances and you’ll get a headache. 

Gunnars hype the optically pure lens material and anti-glare coating.  Eh, I would hope glasses would be clear and anti-glare, especially at that price.  And the tinting, it’s not sunglass tint, it’s like shooting glasses.

So, can you use blu-blockers?  Sure, but you won’t get a wraparound fit, so your eyes will dry out.  The tinting will be darker and more pronounced, which I can’t see that doing any good.  You could use shooting glasses, but you won’t get the near-range magnification.  Cheap sunglasses probably aren’t as optically pure as specialized glasses, so maybe there would be a bit of distortion.  And, purely for vanity’s sake, in an office environment, wearing Gunnars may be considered edgy, but wearing actual sunglasses would be either tacky or plain weird.

The other real question is, are they worth it?  For $100, I wouldn’t think so.  Luckily, they are a Woot recurring item, so you shouldn’t have to pay that much.  At Woot prices, they are definitely worth the money.

Crap on

Thanks Mark for turning me on to Woot… maybe.
 
I just got my second Bag of Crap today.  For those not in the Woot culture, the Bag of Crap (or BOC) is buying random products for a buck.  The great majority of people get stuff that lives up to the product name: crap.  Not literally, but crappy items.  Some people get good stuff.  So it’s a lottery and you get what you get and that’s that.
 
One of the fun aspects of the BOC is the mad rush to get it.  There’s usually less than 5000 of them and you have a constantly-growing audience waiting for this item to appear.  When it does, it’s like Cabbage Patch Doll Christmas.  A Black Friday of Internet proportions.  This product usually marks the end of another Woot culture phenom: the Woot-off.  I’ve always likened the Woot-off to a rock concert, where everyone gets all built up then the band plays their huge hit and the crowd goes wild, rushes the stage, and trashes everything.  Such is the Woot-off, with product after product building up the audience and finally the BOC comes on and the fans rush the servers, taking them down in seconds.
 
So the first BOC I did ok, with an RCA Lyra 20GB MP3 player.  Not that I’d ever use it, but it would be the ultimate embarrassment present for a teen relative:
 
Here’s that MP3 player you’ve been asking for.  It’s not an Apple, but RCA is a good brand; they’ve been around longer than Apple.  I hope you enjoy it.
 
To illustrate the magnitude of uncool it would be…
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That’s the Lyra next to my Zune.
 
But back to the point, this recent BOC was crap.  One of the items was a broken RC car, returned to whatever dollar store it came from as defective.  But I showed them.  I opened that plastic crap up, glued the broken pieces back together and now I have a piece of crap RC car.  That’s the game.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you have to make do with what you get.