PermaLink And then he blogs about wabbits.04/21/2009 12:13 PM
Not really about wabbits, per se, but about the low-tech wabbit world

Nora and I have gotten into rabbit breeding with considerably more interest since the kits were born. We've been to a couple of shows this year so far, and will be going to a couple more in the next month or so.

One thing that really amazes me, living as I do in a world where everything -- literally everything -- is or can be connected, is the degree to which enormous segments of the United States is almost blissfully not connected to anything more high-tech than a wall telephone.

I'm not even gonna talk about the rest of the world, but at a time when they're targeting low-cost, connected laptops to the Third World, I have to remind people that there are big parts of the First World that has this stuff readily available to them, and ignores it all, often to their detriment.

There's a major show coming up in May. It's the National Show for Flemish Giant breeders, people coming from all over the country to Reading, Michigan in the third week of May to show off their wabbits to scores of other Flemish breeders. Nora and I have been around the Flemish community long enough to realize that (a) we're among the youngest people in the Flemish community and (b) there ain't a whole lot of younger people coming behind us. I'll remind you that we're in our mid to late 40s.

Flemish, being a special sort of breed, needs a little more push when it comes to getting people interested. They're enormous wabbits, they eat a lot, they poop a lot, they take up a lot of space, they have big personalities and you can herniate yourself lifting more than a few at a time. Smaller "dwarf" breeds seem to get lots of attention from the young people who are commonly involved in 4-H and other organizations that promote agricultural interests, mostly because they're small, easily carried, don't take up a lot of space, don't poop a lot, don't eat a lot and can't chew your thumb off if they get mad at you. That means that the Flemish community has to do something extra to get younger people interested in these behemoths, and... they're not doing it.

We have, if you haven't seen it, a site for our rabbitry, South Mountain Rabbitry. Nora has her blog, Wabbits! We even have our webcam set up at When people email us about Flemish giants, we email them back. We have pictures up on Flickr, and movies up on YouTube. We have spreadsheets of the weights of the kits in iWork Numbers on our Apples.

And we don't think anything of it.

We can't count the number of times we've heard from people who were interested in Flemish giants that they "tried to email somebody we found online but never heard back," or the email was bounced, or they didn't call back when they left a message, or just never got anyone to answer the phone. In other words, we get the contacts and the interest from people because they can find us and we respond. We provide lots of information before they even hit the mailto links or call us on the phone to help people decide if they're really interested or not.

And you're sitting there thinking, "well, that's all well and good for rabbits, but this doesn't mean anything to me."

Well, yes it can.

Just change some of the nouns, here. Then think about this: how many times have you gone to a vendor's website, it was loaded with good information, offered many no-strings ways to contact them, and when you did, you heard back quickly, and you ended up buying something or doing business with them... or at least just letting other people know about it? And then think about how many times you've gone to a maddening, content-free website that demanded all sorts of "contact information" or demanded that you "create an account" before you could email them to ask just what the hell their product actually does? And then you do contact them and weeks later maybe you hear back? Or maybe never? And then, surprise, you never waste your time on those people again?

The wabbit people have lessons for all of us..

How To Make Sure No New People Upset Your Quiet Little Hobby

Lately I feel fairly comfortable in dismissing most people who aren't connected if the majority of the interactions they could have with people are likely to be made better over the net. Nora said that the people running this major, national show in May "don't have email." Thus, the question, "if you don't have an email address, why the hell not?"

I mean, if anybody in the rabbit world has ideas that they want to get younger people into breeding and showing, and "younger" is pretty much anyone our age on down, then the surest way to make sure those people lose interest is pretty much exactly what most of the breeders and show coordinators and national or regional clubs seem to do:

1. Don't have an email address. Make people try to call you on the phone and interrupt what you're doing and what they're doing.
2. Have a shitty website or no website at all. If you do have a site, make sure you wait at least three years between updates. In the interim, be the only way people can get any information about what you're doing.
3. Make people waste trees, time and money by sending in pieces of paper through the US Mail and waiting an uncertain amount of time to get the little information you send them.
4. If you do have an email address, make sure it's on AOL or Yahoo so that you can use the excuse of "too much spam" when you accidentally delete real emails. Or, just don't check it very often and when someone finally calls you on the phone, say, "well, I don't really check email much."

There is absolutely no excuse of any kind for people who are running a show not to have an email address and a decent website. There is not.

Now, think about all the businesses -- local auto parts stores, bakeries, farm supply stores, vacuum repair places, lawn-care places, restaurants, whatever -- who think they "don't need to be on the internet" because all their current customers are old farts just like them who "aren't on the internet."

Your customer base is dying quite rapidly. Where do you think the next customers are going to come from, hmmm?

The fucking Yellow Pages?

Wake up.

The wabbits may pass you by.

For those of you who make your living making a presence for these sorts of people on the net, yes, you still have plenty of opportunities (refer to my 'Mom & Pop' essay a few months ago -- I'd link it but I need to go eat something). And by extension, IBM and Lotus and all the other players in that market still have plenty of opportunities.

Every time someone says, "we don't have email," you are hearing an opportunity.

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Blabber :v

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2. Maggie06/02/2009 10:10:35 AM

THANK YOU! lol I've been casually researching flemish for a year now (unfortunately I'm really not in a position right now to own one) and I can't tell you how abysmal some of these sites are (if there are any top begin with). At first I thought the Breeders Association would be a great place to start, but maybe 15 rabbitries tops actually have websites. When I did visit them, it was like pulling teeth. Granted, I'm in my 20s, and a content manager, so my technology toolbox has a bit more in it than the age group you were talking about--still, it's frustrating. I would add that I thoroughly enjoyed the SMR site. It's very straightforward, and the fact that you can speak to the individual temperaments of your kits really says something about what you do. Keep on truckin'!!!!

3. Bill04/24/2009 03:40:35 PM

"'But I got the crystal ball', he said"

Umm, yeah.

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