Let's Make Robots!

Why would you buy anything from Sparkfun?

Just to be able to serve you better in future LMR shop, I'd like to get any random thoughts'n inputs to why you might shop at Sparkfun instead of the LMR shop we are building?

Please don't hold back - we need to know where the sore points are, thanks :)

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I think the "Categories" menu looks messy.

The frontpage lacks the TLC of a good graphic designer. It doesnt need more eyecandy, but could need a cleanup.
I want to find the stuff I'm looking for fast. Now I have to "understand" the site before I get where I want.
When I go to for instans "Sensors", I'd like if it apeared an undermenu with different types of sensors (like pushbuttons, lightsensors etc)

Uh, Yeah.. I have to agree!!

This whole site evolved over the last 10 months or so. I need to get it reorganized and that's (cliche warning) On My List.

YourDuino is a 2-guy operation, plus one more person working on Shipping. Good thing I am "retired" so I can work on it fulltime about 50 hours a week, on my Social Security check :-) 

No, that sounds defensive, and that's not it.. I am having a great time doing what I love which is scrounging parts bargains and prototyping stuff and writing How-Tos.  

With help and comments from LMR people it will keep getting better.

Regards, Terry

Hi Guys, 

*** Quick response:  THANKS!! For the great and insightful comments.  ***

I was aware of some of the problems and challenges, but now I understand more...  I have 3 pages of extracts from this and I'll be going over those to see what solutions and improvements can be made.  

Sparkfun is great and I have been a customer for a couple of years. I HOPE to get somewhere close as far as support and How-To on every product I can. 

The unique thing YourDuino has (Oh: I REALLY have to get more PicAxe literate and find out how to sell them at a decent price).. I have used almost every micro out there for many years, and nothing the perfect one answer). 

The unique thing is the parts-scrounger guy in Shenzhen Wonderland.  So we find some pretty good things at a very good price. Take a look at this one we found a week ago:


I'll be going over all the suggestions for parts and things you'd like to see, and then try to figure out what's workable.. 

OK, 5 hours until I need to open the Robotics part of YD so good night for now... AGain Thanks for the honest and helpful comments!

Regards Terry

----( Original post)-----

I don't want to delay stopping in here for the discussion but I've been totally swamped with all the new products and Dagu products I've been trying to get into the shop for February 1st. Tomorrow should be interesting!

SO I'm going back to the beginning and reading this through.  I really appreciate all the detailed comments and opinions.. 

I'll try to figure out what to do about things that aren't too good. Shipping is one major hassle, although we do really get most simpler orders out the next day. My partner and good friend Jun Peng is really dedicated to making customers happy.  I'm the Engineer guy, Parts Freak and Wiki writer, so I have it a little easier.

OK, I'll be back soon with some comments and I hope some meaningful replies to,your suggestions and problems.

Regards, Terry 

... but I had to know how the orders will arrive in Romania. I prefere the door2door delivery mode so I do not have to visit the customs. I think DHL will handle this but the shipping is 20$. I do not know about the HongKongAir_Registered_7-14Days which have a very good shipping of 4$

What I think there should be nice to find there:

  • "decent" motor drivers, let's say VNH5019 based
  • 12 V motors with encoders and wheels
  • 3+V motors with encoders and suitable drivers and wheels
  • pan and tilt modules
  • arduino compatible boards with RF (event the simple RFM12)
  • arduino compatible boards with ethernet
  • the boards made by members of LMR (Ro-Bot-X, CtC, OddBot, ...)
  • bluetooth modules at decent prices

I like the good prices, the good selection of cables, the small stepper and his driver, and some wireless modules.

I didn't realize YourDuino products were shipped from China.  The shipping is too high to the US.  If I'm going to buy from China, I might as well use eBay.  I was dissapointed, because I liked the selection of components and cables YourDuino has.

This won't exactly answer your question, but to be honest when I thought there was going to be a LMR store, it would be a place where in one spot I could order CtC, Rbx, OddBot & Dagus robots all in one place.

Having something that is a "graduation" of sorts from the robot project page to being in the store available for everyone would be really fun! :)

Indeed.All in 1 place

i like the "graduation " idea ,i think it go's with skill badges ,recognized contribution

Why would you buy anything from sparkfun? Well actually I haven't. I have a guilt about that too because they are really cool guys and I have even more reason than most to say that because I was one of the lucky ones that won on their first freeday.

However everytime I look at their stuff and make up shopping lists and then go to checkout I hesitate at the shipping. I seem to recall that even though I got 100 bucks worth of freestuff I had to pay 26 dollars shipping to Australia. I guess it's a lot less if you are US based. So yeah, when I find I can get just about any components I want on ebay from China and other Asian countries that are closer for shipping at best prices and often free shipping I go for gold. With free shipping it doesn't matter if you buy something for 2 bucks or 200 bucks shipping is free. I don't have to remember everything I need at once.  So I'm often buying daily even multiple times a day. Just microtransactions, because of my commitments, I have limited funds left over for my hobbies.

I understand the idea about the shop and I do want it to be successful. However for me if I was to buy from it would only be out of loyalty because LMR gives me much happiness. However loyalty aside, I couldn't see myself buying regularly as the range is somewhat limited. Also very common. I mean the items are available everywhere. So the question should really be why would you buy anywhere else because that is the wider picture of things.

Uniqueness is a good way to survive in a world where good ideas are copied rapidly. If you're the only one offering a particular product then all potential customers will come to you. So maybe you should look at making the shop with a uniqueness which matches the LMR site. And I can't see anything but success in that.

A couple of ideas to be unique... well the first is the elephant in the room. Robot kits. Why wouldn't the LMR shop sell the SHR kit? What about the YDM? and of course we have had many mixed attempts at the logobot on LMR some really good and other also rans. Why not offer a logobot kit? That I'm sure would appeal to the hardcore fanbase. How about wallracers? And so on.

With the parts sales would it not be a good idea to have pictures from projects on LMR that have used that particular part and a link to the project for people to spark creativity and feed the knowledge. There's a huge database of projects to pick from but in all fairness probably only 10 percent are adequately documented to be of use in this way. Actually you could encourage better documenting of projects on LMR by offering credits to anyone who uses a part from the shop in a project and documents it well. Of course you don't need a zillion examples but if there was a thumbsup system and a documented project got more thumbs for a part than the existing one then it could be added and credits offered? This would improve both sites. LMR itself and the shop.

How about supporting members with small businesses themselves. I realise that logistics make it difficult to have inventory from them in the shop but by working together couldn't the display of rbx's ctc'c dagu etc be in the shop and purchases shipped from the respective suppliers instead of Yourduino hq. It would be between you and them how the financial side works I imagine a commission of some sort for each sale might be possible?

One last note would be Yourduino's web presence. It's ok to say LMR has 10000 members who will buy from us but getting Yourduino into top search results for google would expose it to infinitely more customers. Which in turn could direct more people to become members on LMR.

Ok I better stop before this becomes a novel. But I hope these points are not lost.

I have held myself back on this one until now. I only respond because the subject was asked directly in this post. I am not a huge fan of Yourduino. I have a issue with the fact that Yourduino showed up and sorta fell ass-first into the biggest collection of potential customers on the internet. No content was added to the site, no help had been offered to anyone, just, "I'm here, I have cheap stuff" and boom --he's the "Official supplier" now. I say this only because there are countless members here who have paid their dues. Ro Bot X worked his ass off on his builders shield with support and input from the community. He has offered help, posted robots, answered questions etc. Propellerheadgeek sells a few chassis and again, has been here a while and participated. Hell, Oddbot and Dagu are major contribitors as well. There are countless others who are trying to make a few bucks so they can buy parts and continue with their hobby. Where is/was the love for all these guys?

Now, I truly understand that there are few, if any, active members who have a full-blown shop such as YourDuino and don't carry the invintory that he does. I understand that YourDuino's stock "fits a need" here and he is willing to carry items as requested by members here. I will offer that Yourduino does indeed fit the bill in terms of a LMR shop and the prices are only 10%-20% higher than can be found directly on Ebay. I simply wish that some dues would have been paid for this privilege. I will also offer that this opinon is an emotional one and not one grounded in a nuts-and-bolts assesment of his shop --I acknowledge this. That said, I stand by my thoughts.

In terms of my personal experience (and I hesitate to offer this as it seems this may have been a one-off event) but I got hosed on shipping. My all-time #1 pet-peeve is shipping time. If one is running a business that consists of taking orders, then putting those orders in a box, then a full 50% of one's duties is just that --putting items in a box and afixing a lable. My last order took 2 weeks, 13 days before it shipped. That is a full 312 hours to put 3 items in a box. I received no email telling me of a delay, no notice during the order process, nothing. It is simply beyond unacceptable that it would take 2 weeks to put 3 things in a damn box. This one singular event will prevent my 2nd order from ever happening. Once again, I would like to acknowledge that it seems others have had different experiences, but this is what happened with me.



I personally have nothing but good things to say about SparkFun. Next day shipping every single time --no exceptions, no mistakes, not a single problem after 40+ orders. Datasheets, schematics, eagle files, measured drawings, tutorials are all easily found on each and every product. Their breakout boards have saved me a huge amount of time on many projects. On top of all this, I will relay a personal story with SparkFun: I was alone in the house for 5 days while my wife and kids were on holiday. I managed to fry all of my sharp sensors in one go and thus, this wonderful 5 day work-vacation for me was over. 5 days of quiet house were going to be wasted. I called Sparkfun and ended up talking directly to Nathan himself. He listened to my story, and in the end let me buy 4 new sensors which he shipped overnight for free. The man gives a shit about helping fellow nerds and that counts for a whole lot in my book. 

Or did you leave out what you really had in mind just to be polite? I suspect you did.

We have multiple members who make really cool products. Make them by them self, the true LMR spirit. From my point of view the current "official shop" gives an unfair advantage to one particular shop, at the expense of the other ones trying to get their business running. The ones who made their own unique products.

On the other hand, I'm not allergic to ads. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pro spammer, but a single add, a predictable place on the pages, I can live with that. Take google's way of doing it, discrete and sometimes even well targeted.

And if we could actually get theandroidman's structured, well defined and relevant ad concept working, it could be useful at the same time. We could even let Frits designate a committee who decides which LMR members (sellers) should get a discount on their ads. Even that would be more fair to the members. (yes I know I'm controversial but at least I did not yell TITS!)