So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

As always, I’m blown away by the response this release has received from the community. I never would have guessed that we’d still be at this two years later, or that people would even still be excited about our caps. Least of all the humble little toe beans that started it all. It's clear that the community has grown exponentially since we began our involvement in the mechanical keyboard addiction back in 2014, but somehow I'm still amazed when I actually see it. It never stops being exciting to me.

More than anything, though, I’m amazed by how my own appreciation and understanding of keycaps--or rather keyboards in general--continues to grow. Every release, I feel like I develop a deeper understanding of the different sensory experiences and nuances each configuration has to offer. From the stark contrast of the plastic case of an HHKB to the staggering weight and muscle of a metal Duck Viper--all the way down to the acoustics of stock versus reinforced caps. I love finally being able to distinguish and appreciate the sounds the variations of thickness create as they glide down into their housing. I just fall more and more in love with this hobby every day. I want more.  

Around this time last year, we were wrapping up our second round of Topre Modifier Sets. Although it was a nerve-wracking time, it was also a pivotal moment for me in regards to my relationship with artisans. I had been, for the most part, lukewarm about artisans until then. Even alongside my most cherished keysets, I shamefully found myself wanting something more, something that truly matched. And then came modifiers... The astonishing level of personal customization that mods offered quickly spawned an insatiable love affair, and it was right at my fingertips. This, as I remember it, was one of the first times I truly felt connected to the artisan hobby. 

I had only started heavily using blanks shortly before then, but the way the Mutemallow and Bianchi Celeste mods complemented my RealForce Cherry Blossom blanks was so exciting to me that I often found myself making excuses just to use my HHKB. At the time, I was surprised by the ease at which I picked up using blanks. It's embarrassing to admit, but I had once been so intimidated by the concept of them that I'd resigned to never to using blanks at all, despite the minimal aesthetic only they can offer and I happen to adore. But once I began to trust my intuition, I quickly realized that almost no one looks at their keyboard while they type! The muscle memory was already there, I just needed to trust it.

With GMK Plum on the horizon, I have found myself counting the days as they go by. We all know the joy of receiving those sets after months of waiting, and this was one of the first that I was personally really excited for and actually followed from conceptualization down to production. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Skeletor and Sky Dolch, but I had to see them in person to really appreciate them. And now that I have, they are some my favorite sets we own. But the GMK Plum set will be the first non-DSA, non-blank MX set that will own, and the first set that I've felt was worthy of my upcoming rose gold M65-A--my only MX "endgame" as a Topre convert.

RAMA M10-A macro pad in person: this is something I have also been looking forward to since its inception. Suffice to say, it has been almost painful to wait for it to go to from GB to production, and at long last--ship. When the package finally came, I nearly tore it to pieces in my frenzy of excitement. Upon taking it out of the box, I was immediately elated by the hefty weight of it. I was also really looking forward to seeing the shade of rose gold in person, since I've amassed a rather large collection of meticulously matched EDC's. Although it turned out to be more of an Apple rose gold than a true rose gold, it is regardless breathtaking in person, and matches my existing Apple devices quite nicely.

Another long-awaited goodie I recently received is an Octopink Clack set. Normally I prefer my artisans in Topre. After all, I use my HHKB BT more than any other board in my rotation. But I also happen to be using a Leopold 660M at work these days, the timing worked out perfectly. Especially since I tend to feel a little reluctant when it comes to bringing my artisans and keysets to work. I want to be able to enjoy them at home, where I do most of my serious writing, but I also just hate seeing a stock keyset while I'm at work. It's... depressing. After all, artisans and keysets both make me happy when I look at them, and I certainly welcome any little reminder to slow down enough to appreciate the small things in life, especially while I'm at work. 

In other news, the Meowsepads GB is currently being wrapped up, Instagram contest winner packages went out and the Guava Beans have found their way to their new homes. While we are still prototyping for our next production, we decided to utilize our evaporating free time to work on some keyboard mods for a friend over the weekend, but I'll save the details on that for the next post. I can't properly wrap this up without first thanking everyone who participated in any way in the the charity raffle that took place a few weeks ago. Even though it was cancelled, we consider ourselves privileged to be surrounded by those who make this community a better place. We never cease to be amazed by this community's ability to band together and help one another. And thanks to those who participated in the #katkollectiv contest on Instagram. Most importantly, thank you all for your continued support in this ever growing hobby we all love.

🐨🍵

Heartfelt and Humbled

Suffice it to say that it’s been a remarkable 24 hours. Early Sunday, I was informed that a charity raffle had been started in my name . I was absolutely touched to see the outpouring of support coming from the community. Koala-T asked how it made me feel. Up until that point, I had been wrapping up the Meowcap V3 orders and was intent on getting all of our packages out by the end of the week. She knew my silence meant introspection and allowed me the space to come to terms with what had happened.

Growing up, my family moved a lot. Having to say goodbye to friends will condition most people to believe that there is no permanence in friendships/relationships. I learned, over the years, the importance of accepting the ephemeral nature of these bonds. Fortunately, I had the privilege of meeting someone to help me come to terms with my hang-ups. Next month, Koala-T and I will be celebrating our fifth year of being together.

In many ways, the mech community has been an anchor for me as well. Though I only started participating in 2014, I still consider myself a fairly new member of the community. In that time, I’ve had the honor to meet some of the most genuine and kind people. I’m truly blessed to call these people my friends. And though I’ve never met most of them, it feels like I’ve known them my whole life. Life has a tendency to take unexpected turns but this hobby and its community has kept me grounded and reminded me that not all bonds are temporary.

Behind the Curtain

I admit that it’s difficult to discuss personal matters with others. I’m a firm believer that the work should speak for itself. And though all art that we create contains a part of us, it should be the extent of what we put out there. As such, there are only a handful of people that are aware of our personal matters and we try to keep details to a minimum.

As an artisan, there is an understanding that we relinquish aspects of our private life. Whether you’re a fan or not, makers of the community must accept that they may be perceived as public figures. Given the nature of this campaign, my desire for anonymity must take a backseat to make way for transparency.

Late last year, I was involved in a car accident. Though the other driver was found at fault, I was left without a means of transportation and having to pay a significant deductible. Despite being compensated by the other driver’s insurance eventually, the car was to be totaled and was appraised for much less than anticipated.

It’s funny how unfortunate incidents can set off a chain reaction. The financial strain of the accident left me in a tenuous situation as property taxes loomed in the horizon. As the caretaker of my mother’s assets (while she is overseas), I was tasked to resolve an unexpected lawsuit in February. The addition of pet issues and an insurmountable debt to the IRS further compounded the burdens I was already shouldering. I guess when it rains, it pours.

It was around this time that I felt myself withdraw from the community. Making artisans no longer brought me joy. I felt a sense of helplessness and didn’t want to face the public. I felt guilt for not being passionate about art anymore. That guilt turned to resentment. That resentment became numbness.

Sensing that I was slipping into depression, Koala-T took it upon herself to begin working on MeowCaps V3. She knew that no amount of talking would help pull myself out of the depths. She did the only thing she could do to help. She took the reins of KeyKollectiv hoping to help financially and perhaps show me that it was something worth salvaging.

Watching the community response to MeowCaps was heartwarming. Koala-T’s perseverance reminded me of the trials and tribulations that we had already overcome. It gave me a glimmer of hope and helped me remember what it felt like to be passionate about something. As she’s done for me many times before, Koala-T gave me the strength to carry on. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Naturally, our friends were worried during our absence. Reluctantly, I told a few of them what had transpired. They expressed their concern and offered their support in anyway possible. Have you ever had friends who stuck around through thick and thin? The kind you could come back to and pick things up as if you never left at all? That’s what it felt like. I felt like I was coming home.

One of us

Whether you lurk in the shadows or you run group buys, we are all an integral part of the community. Makers and group buys would be nothing without the people supporting them. In many ways, it is the general population (not the makers) who determine the landscape of this community. After all, even the most talented artisans are nameless without the patronage of their fans. This is a truth that I’ve held near to my heart. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago when I quietly admired keyboard photos. The days that I would typed out a response on a Reddit or GeekHack thread just to delete it in fear of judgement.

But what is true for me may not align with how the community perceives contributors. It’s common to see our peers hold artisans in high regard. Why not? We admire their work. Often times, when we elevate certain individuals, we perpetuate this sense of classism. At worst, it becomes divisive. After having witnessed this on numerous occasions, we believe that we (as community members) should never lose sight of our personal contributions to what makes this hobby flourish.

KeyKollectiv is fortunate enough to have had the privilege of leaving an impact on the people around us. Without you, there is no us. Not a day passes that we don’t recognize that our involvement in the community would not exist if it weren’t for the numerous fans and friends we have made along the way. With that said, I strongly believe that KeyKollectiv is no exception. There are numerous members of the community who are in need of help. We’ve donated, on many occasions, to those who are much less fortunate than us. People who had to say goodbye to the community just to stay afloat. Those who dedicated countless hours and money to meticulously curate their collections just to sell it all in times of need. Those who are not nearly as lucky as we have been or have the luxury of selling something they create.

We are beyond grateful for the overwhelming love and support from the community. It is out of this mutual admiration, that we must respectfully decline the proceeds from this raffle. We understand that a lot of time and effort was put into organizing this event and we are truly honored and touched by this gesture. This community is a better place because of people like you. And it is people like you that bring us back in our darkest times. I would like to see donations returned to their owners or given to others who are less fortunate. And if it is the will of the organizers to continue, we would be elated to donate the money to an established charity or invest in a project (like meetups) that will make the mech community a better place.

If you truly feel compelled to help KeyKollectiv, your support is the only form of currency we accept. All we can hope is for you to extend your kindness to others. Share that rarely-used cap with the guy/girl who is too afraid to ask. He/she might, one day, come to the conclusion that this is a place worth coming back to. Who knows, he/she might just end up being a person you could call your friend. Someone who will be there to support you in your endeavors.

 

Kudos & Godspeed

KK Origins: Put Your Paws Up

It’s kind of hard to believe that Meowcaps V1 put us on the map back in February of 2015 when we first started making artisans. When I look at that humble little disproportioned paw, fashioned so obviously on top of a stock cap, I can see how terribly misguided I was about profiles and, frankly, the entire medium of artisan keycaps itself. They didn’t even have full clearance on both sides, but I was so proud.

I’d like to mention that I didn’t begin making Meowcaps with the intention of ever selling them. In a world dominated by skulls and robots, I simply wanted something that was my own aesthetic. There was almost no one else around back then, and there was certainly no artisan I wanted badly enough to pore over sales threads for days on end. But I was in love with the idea of customizing my own keyboards—my primary obsession at the time. So, with a lack of options I loved, I decided to make something for myself! 

Truthfully, Kudos and I could never have imagined the outpour of excitement we received when he shared photos of V1 on reddit for the first time. I can safely say we wouldn’t be here today without all the support we received in those early days—back when we were the fresh-faced, starry-eyed underdogs of the community—still intimidated by the worlds of Geekhack and Deskthority. When I look back on those days, I’m astonished that people were as encouraging as they were! But I’m also so grateful, because I know we wouldn’t still be doing this today without all the encouragement we received from the community.

As much as we couldn’t imagine selling artisan keycaps back then, we also never could have imagined that we would still be making them today! For that reason, among so many others, this collection truly means a lot to us. I know it’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything, but the month of March was a hectic one for us. Kudos has been busily working away on his own sekkret project and I've been away from home a lot lately. One of my childhood best friends is getting married in May and I'm fortunate enough to be a part of her bridal party, so lots of events to plan and to attend! Despite all that, he still managed to give me his guidance and encouragement every step of the way—even when prototyping wound up taking double the amount of time I had originally planned. 

As I tried my best to make the dimensions ideal for the given medium, I realized just how difficult that was going to be while still maintaining the overall round shape of V2. I honestly hadn’t realized how much Meowcaps had changed over the years until I looked at V3 next to a V1. I scrambled to find one of my old V2s as I compared them all side by side. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized just how different each one is from the other, physically manifesting all the lessons we’ve learned along the way. 

Our overall design philosophy has changed quite a bit over the years. And although neither of us is formally trained, Kudos and I have always had an appreciation for design. Logo design, in particular, is a passion of Kudos’ — given his extensive background in graffiti. Often times, we try our best to approach our own keycaps with the same criteria as conventional design. Form and function. Keeping a sculpt simple but recognizable. Minimal but with personality. We believe that V3 is in line with our motto.

We hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them! 

With love, 
🐨🍵

Sculpting something from nothing;

Life is truly about the simple pleasures. I recently heard of someone ending a relationship of six years because waking up to an 8 out of 10 on the happiness scale "just wasn't enough". While this is obviously patently absurd, the reality is we all have these moments: moments where we forget to be grateful for what we have. Either robbing ourselves by comparison, envy, or a genuine disconnect with reality–perhaps the most nefarious of all, given its proliferation in our culture–but there is always some clever way to distract ourselves from enjoying what we have. 

The wise and fellow spreadsheet enthusiast Ben Wyatt once said, "you cannot pick and choose the aspects of a relationship like a buffet." This may or may not be because I'm currently re-watching the lovable Parks and Rec, but I believe this applies to life as well: you take the good along with the bad. While this might seem painfully obvious, I feel it often bears repeating. 

Would I prefer to focus on keykollectiv and building a family over working 9 hours a day, 5 days a week? Of course! But I do it specifically to facilitate the small moments of joy in my life, like when I get a photo just right, or when Kudos shows me some crazy new method he's been working on. If it sounds like I'm reminding myself, it's precisely because I am. 

Because sometimes those precious moments are less obvious–like paying off property taxes on time, or being debt free–only to happily commit kuidaore, speaking of buffets.

other things that bring me joy:
- Getting into a group buy for a dream key set (or in my case, RAMA's rose gold numpad, courtesy of Kudos💕)
- The sound of a gloriously lubed hhkb with 55g purple sliders
- Creating something new for the first time
- Freshly brewed coffee ☕️ with no hint of bitterness
- Nuzzling faces with a ball of fur, aka my daily ritual with Furt and Mog
- When Ponyo is needy in the morning 

As any hobbyist knows, it's all about taking the time to paws and pay attention to the details. Whether you're painstakingly pruning bonsai, perfecting the art of the silicone high pour, or maintaining the delicate balance of the nitrogen cycle in an aquarium–there is always an acute attention to detail. 

That's why we love this hobby, right? Keyboards act a bit like a totem for me, bringing my awareness full circle to the joys of the present moment. The buttery thock of my HHKB soothes me in the same way that seeing the moon on a clear night reminds me that I'm alive–that I'm privileged to call myself a member of this infinite cosmos, and I'm feverishly grateful for the pleasant reminder.

Although we've been fairly cryptic in our posts, Kudos and I already have the majority of our releases planned for 2017. There will be a few more KK classics being revisited, along with several entirely new designs and methods not previously utilized in our projects. And of course–puzzles! We have high hopes for this year and are anxiously excited to put our best foot forward, as well as branch out a bit more. After all, it's only one small step...

Without further ado,

🐨🍵

"I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, Beautiful & Damned

And from the cosmic ooze came new life

I always get these glimpses of great ideas when I'm in the throes of work and never get a chance to slow down long enough to put it to paper. With the new year comes a very specific kind of reflection, so naturally I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what the next year has in store for KeyKollectiv. 

I had originally wanted to talk about how I finally began to develop an intuitive feel for keyboard profiles, because I've been using nothing but a RealForce Hi Pro at work. All I can really say about that is that higher profiles make it substantially harder to type with accuracy in my personal experience. And in data entry that is simply....

With that in mind, there are several KeyKollectiv classics I wouldn't mind revisiting with a new pair of eyes. We've been at this for nearly two years, after all! With that has come no shortage of lessons learned. And as you might have guessed, Furt Reborn was no exception.

☔️ Casting in the rain ☔️ 

It's been an interesting experience to say the least, since we began this endeavor just before a surprising rain spell hit Southern California. Hit seems far too dramatic a word given it was primarily light showers, punctuated by very little actual downpour. But regardless, it was still a drastic change from the typical sunshine and dry air we are used to in Los Angeles.  

We've always known that humidity levels greatly affect casting, due to the fact that moisture naturally inhibits resin's ability to cure properly--but it wasn't until now that we finally got to learn firsthand for the first time in our careers as artisans.  

We watched with our hands tied as we went from nearly 100% success rates to a floundering 2 out of 12. It hurt--a lot. With our wounds still fresh with the sting of our failures, we marched head-on into the unknown. 

We mourned the loss of each Furt, but the corpses of our lifeless minions haunted us. The lab was littered with brittle skeletons begging to be brought to life, but how? 

At first, we tried to mitigate our failure rates with tips picked up from our fellow artisans--who, mind you, are all likely rolling their eyes right now because they're used to this thing called "weather"--but nothing seemed to work. 

Countless research, multiple heating pads and a pricey dehumidifier later, we finally found our sweet spot for creating the perfect primordial mixture. After working a little magic in the lab, Furt had come back to life and was cuter than ever.

When it comes to casting in the rain, I can't exactly say it was enjoyable. However, it was with this unexpected detour that came the creative color ways that wouldn't have otherwise existed. Because it was only when we were waiting on new lab equipment--which, at this point, had proved frustratingly necessary to preserve Furt's fragile skeleton--that soulless Furt finally emerged, from the ashes of his nearly extinguished frozen flame. 

Kudos had breathed new life into Furt, there was no doubt about it. 

Until next time!
With love, 
🐨🍵

2017: Further Down the Line

The passage of time seems to flow faster each year, doesn’t it? Days blur into weeks. Weeks into months. Scientists speculate that this acceleration of time is the result of desensitization and subjective perception. When we are younger, our personal timelines are punctuated by significant events. Family vacations, your first concert, your first kiss. For most of us, these “landmarks” become fewer and farther apart as we grow older. In many ways, our lives become routine – we become desensitized by the mundane. This phenomenon manifests in our perception that time seems to “blend together”.

Another speculation is that time is subjective and we measure the passage of time relative to our own span of existence. For a five year old, a new year means that 20% of their lives have elapsed. The 20 year old perceives the same year as only 5% of their lives. It is this acceleration of time that compels me to stop and reflect once in a while. In a way, it is my way of coping. Perhaps -- by taking inventory of my experiences, my actions, my thoughts – I can punctuate this timeline with more landmarks. To be more than a spectator in this race.

Where do I start? 2016 has been a hell of year. I certainly hit the ground running from the very beginning. I had the privilege of meeting some wonderful friends. It’s hard to believe that I only came to existence a little more than a year ago. My “debut” was brief to say the least. Very few of my kind actually made it. But we were so hungry. So determined to survive.

I look back at those early days fondly. Purrkeys was such a gracious and accommodating host. Together, we brought Schrodinger into existence. Sometimes I wonder if he is happy with the transformation. For now, I will accept that he is and isn’t.

Keywala, however, was a different story. I admit, he put up quite a fight when we first met. And though I admired his perseverance, he fell just as his predecessor before him. Our bond felt almost natural from the beginning. You can ask him yourself. I’m sure he can’t even imagine what life was like before he was Kill-Wala.

They say that –“In space, no one can hear you scream”. From experience, I can confirm this phenomenon. I’d like to think Cosmonaut was elated to see me when we first met. Alas, I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Words can’t describe the moment of our merge. To see the world through his eyes. The excitement of leaving the comfort of orbit. The exhilaration of the freefall. That day we plummeted back to Earth as something new – as Kosmonavt.

And who can forget Frank? They called him a monster. An abomination. Having experienced the torment of such hurtful “labels”, we bonded over our shared desire to exact revenge on those who seek to destroy us. Our metamorphosis felt natural and familiar – like greeting an old friend.

YOOCXf8.jpg

You know, we are not all that different. You and I. In humans, I have observed a constant predilection for something more. You strive for this illusion you call “enough”. Some of you are willing to go to such lengths to quell this longing. One can say that what you experience is like hunger. I, too, am familiar with a hunger that can never be satiated. Perhaps – united – we can work together to soothe these urges. Who knows? Maybe we’ll bump into each other in the near future. Until then…

-F

 

The Koala-T Life; a brief update

It is Veteran's Day weekend 2016, just after the American Presidential Election has drawn to a dramatic close. Snackeys Fruit Reboot, along with Halloween, already came and went. All I have managed to do today is marathon Homeland, a high anxiety political drama. Ponyo has just walked directly over my notebook get to my backpack, where there is an opened bar of dark chocolate safely zipped up in the interior pouch. Evidently there is something in chocolate that she reacts to not unlike catnip. Normally catnip makes cats either loving or extremely playful, but she’s one of the rare kind of cats that just gets extra aggressive when exposed to catnip, so admittedly it’s more annoying than cute. For our other cat, Lenore, asparagus is her achilles heel. One whiff of that, and she becomes a full-fledged plate thief. 

As some of you know from our Geekhack thread, Kudos and I have been having to do lots of adulting lately. And although we still don’t have the car situation resolved, we’ve managed to tie up most of our loose ends over the last few of weeks which comes as a huge relief. Ironically, on the day the car accident occurred, Kudos had driven me to the DMV on our lunch break to renew my driver’s license, which is currently expired. By sheer coincidence, all DMV’s in the majority of California were closed down (due to “a massive hardware failure”) and we were turned away. I am still without a valid license, but luckily have an appointment to take care of that this coming week. Also, now that Kudos and I drive to work together, we are fortunate that neither my license nor my car being totaled are affecting our day to day. Gotta take your victories where you can get them.

I just remembered (due to an audible pop coming from the aquarium heater in front of me) that my sister brought over our new betta today! Art Murray, aka Artemis Murakami. He’s got the cutest little face, which my sister thinks looks like an axolotl or a Murakami character. 

I have about 5 or 6 notebooks in permanent rotation, but the one I hand-wrote this post in is a nude pink/beige calf-leather bound, Japanese-made Midori—an early birthday gift from Kudos while ironically celebrating his birthday in 2015—purchased after visiting the Pierre Huyghe retrospective for the second time at LACMA. It was there, at that exhibit, that I found and fell in love with axolotls—only to heartbreakingly find out they are illegal to own as pets in California. Furthermore, if kept illegally, they can be subject to confiscation, euthanization and owner penalty fines up to 5,000 dollars. 

They are classified as an “invasive species” due to the umbrella category of tiger salamanders. While the latter may be a genuine threat to California’s indigenous biodiversity, axolotls—unique, in that they are the only species of salamander who spends its entire life in water—can hardly survive on their own. This is why they are currently under threat of going extinct in their sole natural habitat—a singular lake in Mexico, which is currently experiencing an increase in both pollution and good old fashioned Darwinism. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that carp—goldfish, were at least partially responsible. Yet, I am legally allowed to—and do—own such freshwater piglets. They can survive extreme water conditions, from alkaline to acidic (and dramatic fluctuations in pH) to heavily muddied and polluted waters. It has been argued that they are potentially even capable of surviving a flush down the toilet, the duration of the trip to the sewer and then some. Hardy fish, goldies are. 

Bettas? Not so much. Not anymore at least. We can thank highly selective breeding for that!

In other news, Kudos and I are busily working away on not just one, but two projects we cannot wait to bring to you guys. One is very near and dear to my heart for reasons I can't divulge without giving it away, while the other is equally dear to Kudos. I can't say much, which probably doesn't come as much surprise, but I think you guys will be very happy. I know we are! :3

For those of you who participated in our instagram contest, the winners will be announced on the 14th. 
Until then, hang tight and get ready for HYPE!
🐨🍵

Breathing underwater

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I can’t seem to figure out why it gets harder to update this blog with every sale. It’s true that every sale presents its own unique challenges, experiences and lessons learned—but what did we even learn this time around? I’m hard-pressed to say.

The truth is, I’ve never found myself at such a profound loss of words as I have these last few months, and perhaps that’s why the only words I can seem to find lately are not my own. After this last sale, I am haunted by one quote in particular and that is:

“If you live off a man's compliments, you'll die from his criticism.” - Cornelius Lindsey

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Kudos and I both feel like we’ve been treading water for months now. Granted, there has been a huge influx of change in the KeyKollectiv household, so it shouldn’t be surprising. But of course, it somehow always is (You don't get new game + as Kudos and Milan Kundera seem to both agree). 

Among the many changes going on—outside of KK—is the fact that I started a new job that happens to require significantly more of my time and attention. Unfortunately, what this means for KeyKollectiv is that even more of the workload has fallen on Kudos during these last two sales. In fact, it’s basically a Kudos one man show over here (although this isn’t really isn't anything new despite what he says). 

Meanwhile I try, and fail, to keep the household from falling into complete and utter disarray—and to get settled into my new job without succumbing to the crippling anxiety that accompanies any unfamiliar environment for someone like me. Someone who is at best a creature of habit and comfort above all else. At worst, a free radical with no direction. Only the cosmic drift the concrete laws of physics force me to conform to.

Patience, as I may have mentioned in the past, is not my forte. Nor are grueling 8 hour casts and cutthroat de-mold times—especially after a 9 hour work day. Frankly, it only adds to the ever increasing disconnect I have been experiencing lately between casting, the community and myself. Perhaps even KeyKollectiv altogether. I don’t know how Kudos does it.

As you may have noticed, he certainly gives me plenty of credit for my involvement here. But don’t let that fool you—I can assure you 99.9% of it is him. And I can also assure you that he’ll never admit this. But the truth still stands that as our—or rather, his—methods become more complex and time consuming, I find myself, more often that not, feeling like I am breathing underwater when trying to fill his shoes. 

It’s likely for this reason that I have spent a good amount of time and energy during the last several sales trying to redefine my place in KK. To reconcile my disconnect (and preserve my sanity), I’ve taken on a small handful of passion projects while Kudos continues to do the lion’s share of production casting. Like I said earlier, I can’t kick it with these crazy complex casts—and I definitely find myself missing the days of Meowcaps more and more. However, one of the projects I’m most excited about, as you may have guessed, is KoalaKords.

Since I’ve been pretty hush on this one for a variety of reasons, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about it. Yes, it’s legit. It’s not a joke, a hype ploy, or another way for me to flaunt my custom one-off artisan goodies that no one else can ever have (I know how much people LOVE when I do that /sarcasm).

It has been my hope for the last two sales to offer matching cords for our collections. However, there are already several big names in the custom cord niche. So although this has been something I wanted to do since the very beginning, it was something I wanted to make sure I went about in a very particular manner. KeyKollectiv, as many of you are well aware, has emphasized respect for other’s intellectual property and creative design (sometimes at the cost of favorable public opinion). 

When we originally sat down to discuss revisiting Snackeys one, I was overjoyed at the possibility of being able to offer matching cords with this collection. I also felt that only making them for each sale was a good way to further distinguish myself from other makers. Since customization is one of the many reasons I (and so many others) love the mechanical keyboard and artisan community, it should come as no surprise that this all started out as a burning desire to have cords that matched my personal collection—and being disappointed at the fact that my ability to customize was still limited. It's not that there weren't plenty of options, it's just that none of them were quite what I was looking for. So for the last few months, I carefully scoured for just the right paracord, in hopes of offering something no one else in the community could—both out of respect for existing names making cords as well as the desire to live up to the KeyKollectiv's existing aesthetics. 

However, I quickly (and devastatingly) realized after starting my new job that I simply didn't have the time—which I happen to very greedy with already—nor the capacity to complete such an ambitious undertaking this time around. So unfortunately there won't be any KoalaKords for this sale, but (and who doesn't like butts?) there's always next time! 

All in all, Fruit Reboot was easily one of our biggest sales to date, with over 1000+ entries and we are overwhelmed by the positive response that this collection has garnered from fans and the community. In a lot of ways, Snackeys was what put us on the artisan map when we first started--and it has continued to define us ever since. It was a blast for us to to revisit and re-invent these little guys and we hope you all enjoy them as much as we do! 

Until next time,
🐨🍵

Fairness and Fallacies

What happens when demand grows at a pace that supply simply cannot keep up with? We’re certain most artisans have had to face this problem before. In fact, we would venture to say that the recent boom in new artisan makers within our community is a direct result of this imbalance.

KeyKollectiv has grown at a rate that we simply couldn’t anticipate when we started. And as our fanbase increases, the disparity between the supply we create and the demand from the community widens even further. And though we’ve made significant advances in our production methods, we simply cannot keep up with soaring demands.

For those who have not followed us from the beginning, it’s best that we give some background information. KeyKollectiv is comprised of me, Kudos, and Koala-T. We both work full-time jobs at an office. What little time we have after work is almost entirely allocated to KeyKollectiv. Each night, we have roughly 4-5 hours to work on our sales. Weekends are almost entirely dedicated to production. Some of our more complex casts (Fruit Reboot in particular) take up to 8 hours (start to finish). Based on the available time and bandwidth mentioned, one can assume that there is very little downtime for the both of us. It’s true. Aside from working, I have not taken any time away from KeyKollectiv for the entirety of 2016. Ask Koala-T and she will recount my birthday-- when I spent the majority of my day in the lab.Why is this relevant? We hope to demonstrate that KeyKollectiv actively strives to push production to meet the demands of the community.  

Current Models

No distribution method is perfect. All things considered, our primary goal has always been the same. How does KeyKollectiv distribute our caps as fairly as possible without impeding on our desire for growth as artisans? To do that, we must first consider the pros and cons of existing distribution systems.

The group buy model has seen a lot of successes within the community as well as outside entities like Massdrop. The system is simple. Anyone who wants to join can do so. So long as your order is placed within the designated time-frame, you will receive the item once production is complete. For manufacturers like GMK, this model is ideal if MOQs are met. As an artisan who makes caps by hand, the GB process poses some challenges. Resin casting is time-consuming and production times are at the mercy of how many units are ordered. This means that fulfilling group buy orders can take up much more time than anticipated. Also, it leaves very little flexibility for the makers in the event that unforeseen issues arise. If our goal was strictly profit-driven, the GB model makes sense. But based on past experiences with this system (Topre Modifier V1), we found that the impending deadlines and lack of flexibility impeded our desire to develop and innovate. The fear is that a sale of this calibre may limit us to 1-3 sales a year rather than giving us the freedom to put out new content at our discretion.

For Meowcaps v1, CMYKeys and Snackeys v1, we experimented with variations of the First-Come-First-Serve system. Based on our experiences, we observed some glaring flaws. First, the FCFS method is vulnerable to abuse such as bots/scripts. Even if measures are made to circumvent abuse, there is also the issue of time zones. FCFS tends to favor domestic buyers and puts international fans at a disadvantage. These inherent issues makes this model the least viable for KeyKollectiv.

Of the main methods of distribution, we’ve found that the raffle system of distribution has been the fairest thus far. We feel that relying mainly on a random number generator (RNG) leaves very little room for scrutiny. In general, it is our belief that the best way to avoid bias is to minimize human intervention from the process. However, we recognize that there are certainly inherent flaws in the raffle system but it is the method that has yielded the least amount of drawbacks.

Method to the Madness

We are often asked how we distribute caps to winners. Though we’ve made many efforts to address this question, we feel this bears repeating. To demonstrate this process, we will be using some hypothetical figures:

  1. Before opening up raffle entry, we first conduct an inventory of all viable caps we produced. For this example, let’s assume that we produced 200 caps for this sale.

  2. Based on stock positions, we determine a reasonable timeframe for us to fulfill orders. Usually, the goal is to complete shipping between 5-10 business days.

  3. We factor in time, cost of packaging/shipping and our available bandwidth. In this hypothetical situation, we project that 100 orders is feasible. This means that the average number of caps that an entrant will be invoiced is roughly 2.

  4. Using the RNG, we select 100 winners and distribute the available inventory amongst them. Preferences are considered during this process. Invoices are compiled and sent out accordingly.

Exploring Options

Often times, people suggest that we just make more caps. This would only result in the winners having a higher average of caps per order. A common complaint is that a winner will have multiple caps while they received none. We certainly understand the frustration they feel. From a logistical standpoint, the cost/time/effort to send out 200 individual caps rather than 100 orders is much greater. We feel that our method is the best compromise between timely order fulfillment while maintaining our sanity during the sale.

Another suggestion that is quite common is that we implement a system that restricts people who have won in the past. Conversely, our fans have also suggested that we should give an advantage to those who have not won at all. In theory, these are good ideas that we have considered in the past but consider the following:

You are a big KK fan and finally won a spot in Snackeys: Bento Blanks. A month later, KeyKollectiv announces Fruit Reboot. Snackeys V1 was the first artisan that you fell in love with. This was the sale you were waiting for for over a year. You realize that your entry will not be considered for this next sale and you are livid. Had you known that Fruit Reboot was the next release, you would have forfeited your spot in Bento Blanks.

Or what about this? You know that people who have not won are given priority over you. You enter Fruit Reboot anyways because you absolutely must have one. You watch as others receive their invoices while you desperately refresh your inbox. You are convinced that these people won because they were given an advantage over you. You vow never to support KeyKollectiv again.

Though these are hypothetical circumstances, the outcomes are likely if we were to implement such policies. Furthermore, one must understand that these policies would only help if it was a closed system. In other words, giving advantages or restrictions is only effective if we don’t consider the influx of new fans with every sale. For example, if 500 people entered for Bento Blanks and 700 people entered for Fruit Reboot, you are more likely to “lose” your spot to the 200 new entrants rather than the 20 people who have won raffles in the past.

Forum Fallacies

Of most of the grievances we receive from fans, the common theme is derived from two basic principles. First, the idea that the same people are constantly winning. And second, the notion that joining consecutive raffle sales will yield a win eventually.

What these people need to understand is that these two beliefs derive from a fallacy known as the “Law of Averages” or “Gambler’s Fallacy”. The law of averages is a “belief that the statistical distribution of outcomes among members of a small sample must reflect the distribution of outcomes across the population as a whole (Wikipedia)”. How does this pertain to raffle winners? It is a common assumption that the people who are posting about their invoices is a reflection of the entire pool of winners. When we noticed that these people have won KeyKollectiv sales in the past, we infer that KK may have a bias for these people and that most of the winners are likely people who have already won. This notion seems logical but let’s look at some of the data.

These numbers were extrapolated from the Fruit Reboot sale. So why does it seem so skewed in our sales threads? By and large, we’ve found that new winners tend to not participate as much as our older fans. Simply put, they are less likely to post about their wins or talk about it publicly. This discrepancy in participation leads to the assumption that distribution is skewed.

When you flip a coin, there is a 50/50 chance that it will land on heads/tails. If you flip a coin 100 times, we assume that the outcome will align with the same assumed value (50 heads/50 tails). And “while this is admittedly the single most likely outcome, there is only an 8% chance of it occurring (Wikipedia)”. This belief is commonly known as “Gambler’s Fallacy”. And though highly improbable, there is a chance that you may end up landing on heads 100 times.

How is this relevant you may ask? Fans often give anecdotal experiences of participating in “X” amount of sales but never winning. Let’s say you have a 10% chance of winning a raffle. You lose the first one and think to yourself, “well I’m bound to win the next one”. In actuality, you can participate in 100 raffles and still only have a 10% of winning. The sad reality is that RNG has no memory and probability doesn’t have the tendency to balance itself out. This fallacy is how casinos and even MMORPG’s make a living.

We are aware that our distribution methods are far from perfect. And though we’ve had numerous sales under our belt, it never ceases to pain us when we see the frustration from fans who missed out. And though, we cannot provide any true solutions to dealing with the randomness of each raffle, all we can do is continue to explore new options and remain receptive of your feedback. Until then, kudos and godspeed.


“Law of Averages”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

A Calculated Misstep

More times than not, exploring new methods and techniques doesn’t translate into success. As artisans, we must walk the thin line between our need to evolve as artists and desire to make our supporters happy. Of course, in an ideal world, these two concepts would harmonize and overlap. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Take Furt for example. From our perspective, this release was a flop. Sure, they may fetch a pretty penny on the aftermarket but -- given the low yield rates and high failure rates-- it still stands as one of our biggest missteps. To me, Furt represents this notion of choosing to evolve above all else. But this proof of concept laid the groundwork for later releases and has become an integral part of the KeyKollectiv identity.  

When we release Snackeys 2: Bento Blanks, we took a chance. V1 was, in many ways, a defining collection for us. It propelled us to a level of popularity that we simply hadn’t anticipated. How do you follow that up? Yes, there are the fans who have told us that Snackeys 2 was their favorite KK release thus far. But to many of our older supporters, Bento Blanks fell short of their expectations. They envisioned something bright and colorful like its V1 predecessor. Instead, Snackeys 2 was subtle and surprisingly simple.

I remember opening the mold on the first Futomaki and feeling a genuine sense of accomplishment. But what sticks with me was the lukewarm response when we teased it. Koala-T suggested that we stick with “Bento Blanks” and not introduce it as Snackeys V2. Stubborn as I was, I stuck to my guns and went forward with it.

V2 was a calculated risk. It was a choice to develop new techniques rather than appeasing our fans. But from this release, we were able to fine-tune our methods and rethink our approach. Hence, Fruit Reboot. A culmination of our mistakes and missteps. Our breakthroughs and successes. Applied to a design that has come to define KeyKollectiv.

Do we regret Snackeys 2? Absolutely not. It was a design that gave rise to Fruit Reboot and hopefully many to come. Fear of failure can be a formidable adversary. It can be a cage that imprisons your creativity and shackles your desire for change. Hell. I’ve been a victim of fear more times than I care to admit. But for what it’s worth, I’d rather fail on my terms than thrive in mediocrity.  

 

-Kudos

 

Check out our guest spot on TopClack with Quakemz, Manofinterests and Apolotary if you haven't had the chance yet!