Making the World’s Ends Meet
Originally, kaplak is an old maritime judicial term of Dutch origin. For bringing a shipment of stores safely to port, a skipper could be paid a bonus, i.e. káplak, calculated as a percentage of the shipment’s value. This served as financial compensation for the risks taken and hazards overcome at sea. Káplak literally means ‘fabric for a cap’, with a reference to the incentive it provided to stay on deck even in bad weather.
Kaplak’s focus is to connect products and producers on the ‘slim end of the long tail’ as we call it, with their potentially larger markets, audiences and customers on the other end of the internet.
In order to do this, we build and offer a framework of niche micro sites (we call them “vessels”), which work as incubators for products, contexts and messages which cannot yet uphold sufficient income or funding to maintain their own websites and administrative costs. Therefore we strive to make it as easy and convenient as possible to create and maintain vessels, so that each vessel in and of itself won’t cost more to maintain, than it can potentially gain in income.
In Kaplak’s first phase, our aim is simply to build our network and find a scalable, easily-grasped working model for creating these connections, and in the process get in touch with talented people who are as interested in taking a crack at the problems we have set out to solve, as we are.
This is how Kaplak.net currently works :
Each vessel has a responsible “skipper”, who are dedicated to the niche subject and product at hand. Skippers share stuff they find in their everyday courses on the web with Kaplak.net, using the tools that Kaplak provide. Initially, Kaplak.net uses state-of-the-art open source software tools such as WordPress and FeedWordPress and popular sharing services such as Posterous, Google+ and Ifttt, which do not require us to do any expensive additional coding beyond maintenance tasks.
Each vessel has just one or very few products on offer, which are offered via third party partners – niche producers. These products can be anything from Google Ads, Amazon affiliate links to speaking engagements or locally crafted products. Paypal donations, fund drives and charity can be ‘products’ as well. Often, a simple link to something rare and sought after, can be the product carried by a vessel, but usually there will be some type of exchange where money changes hands (say a PayPal button on a site which provides a simple but valuable hyperlink).
Now, items shared by skippers to their vessels via Kaplak.net help create the connection between producer/product and customer/market. Sometimes products may not even sell – most will probably sell very little. This doesn’t matter, as long as all Kaplak.net sites in aggregate do not cost more to maintain than they are capable of pulling in.
Initially, all ressources in Kaplak.net are pooled, i.e. shared items are all first posted to our “main channel” Kaplak.net, because items may very well be of interest to more than just one vessel at the given time. Skippers tap into this common pool of shared stuff, using tags to designate items to be fed on to their vessels. Donations and sales are also pooled into a common account, but books are carefully kept on how well each vessel and skipper is “performing”, so that skippers can be paid accordingly.
As we (in our later phase) move from affiliate links to building our own distribution network, producers may assign a percentage of the value of their product as kaplak to skippers – and increasingly, skippers will pick and choose themselves what type of product to carry on their vessels (taking product as well as kaplak percentage into account). This will help create true incentives for skippers to take the trips and long, arduous “journeys” for really “hard to sell” items. Eventually, as some vessels become successful (and others most certainly do not) they will outgrow the boundaries of Kaplak.net as an incubator and shoot off as possibly a new hub beyond the Kaplak network.
Want to know more?
Kaplak is based in Odense, Denmark, where the current captain resides with his family. Kaplak.net is Kaplak’s second installment. We have come a long troubled way since the first ideas for Kaplak as a concept and company grew out of Crewscut.com (now NotatWiki) in 2006 and 2007. For various reasons Kaplak’s first attempts ultimately failed, if somewhat informatively. Kaplak’s current attempt is still in an experimental stage, with the aim to build a scalable working model.
Organization-wise and operation-wise, until further notice, we aim to keep Kaplak as simple as possible, with as little overhead as possible. Most users will hardly notice anything but that they’ve found a site of interest, and which happens to be a vessel in the Kaplak network. They may or may not take part in an economic transaction on this site or linked to from this site, but will simply find something of interest, which is a good thing.
Please contact us by email if you want to know more or come along onboard, as someone who has a niche product which is hard to sell, or if you’d like to sign up as a skipper for a vessel. Please also follow our company blog, the Captain’s log.
Morten Blaabjerg, November 26th, 2011. (Slightly updated December 7th, 2011).