In the fall of 1997, a massive, unmanned rocket—one of the largest ever—took off on American soil, bound to Venus. It swung around that planet, entering deep-space so it could take advantage of the sun’s gravitational pull. Then it took a tour of the solar system, passing Venus again, Earth, and, a day before the new millennium began, Jupiter.
It kept flying and flying—until, on the first of July, 2004, its payload arrived in the orbit of Saturn.
And there the Cassini probe remains, taking observations, collecting data. Launched over a decade and a half ago, the spacecraft still works. It continues its mission of advancing science and informing us of our planetary neighborhood.
Except … except. If sequestration of the U.S. federal budget continues into 2014, NASA’s budget will lose hundreds of millions in funding. Today, according to early reports, agency leaders suggested to their employees that those cuts would come from the planetary sciences division. NASA might have to terminate the Cassini mission while it is still scientifically productive.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
Cards Against Humanity’s “$5 More” Black Friday Sale
A lot of people have been curious about how our “everything costs $5 more" Black Friday sale worked, and if it was successful for us.
This is a difficult time of year for us because we spend almost no money on marketing, and it’s easy for us to get lost in the noise and money of the holiday season.
We initially started talking about doing a Black Friday sale over the summer, and came up with the idea of a “$0.01 off” coupon. I liked the idea, but have always maintained a policy of no deals, no discounts, and no sales for Cards Against Humanity, even during our Kickstarter. To me the game is always $25, it’s never another price, and doing any kind of deal or discount undermines the simplicity and honesty of the game.
After some discussion, Ben came up with the idea of raising the price for Black Friday and that was so outrageous that I fell in love with it instantly. Two books I read recently that informed my decision were Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath and Marty Neumeier’s Zag, which are both kind of shitty business/science books that make the somewhat-obvious point that being small and nimble can give you advantages that huge lumbering opponents don’t have. Anyone can do a sale for Black Friday, but nobody but us could get away with raising their prices and risking a ton of sales just to make a joke.
The other guys were pretty skeptical, but Ben and I convinced them one by one, 12 Angry Men style, until they agreed to let us try a truly insane pricing experiment. The final piece needed to convince everyone was the mockup of the landing page that I designed, with the glowing “consume!” button. Once everyone saw how funny that looked, they knew we had to go through with it.
Nothing crazy here. I put together a landing page and we replaced all the “buy” buttons on our site with the new pricing. I edited the FAQ to include:
Why do all of your products cost more today?
We’re participating in the tradition of “Black Friday,” an American holiday celebrating a time when the Wampanoag tribe saved the settlers of Plymouth Colony with incredible deals. All of our products are $5 more today only, so you can enjoy buying them that much more.
I’m mad that you’re making a joke about Black Friday.
You’re probably a bad person.
We called our contact at Amazon and explained the idea for the sale to them. They thought it was funny but were also pretty annoyed - apparently monkeying with pricing on the biggest sales day of the year isn’t as funny to Amazon as it is to us.
The sale made people laugh, it was widely shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and it was the top post on Reddit. The press picked it up, and it was reported in The Guardian, USA Today, Polygon, BuzzFeed, All Things D, Chicagoist, and AdWeek. It was even the top comment on The Wirecutter’s front page AMA, which had nothing to do with us.
I was pretty sure that our fans would be into the “$5 more” sale, but I had no idea that it would turn a day where we’d normally be totally overlooked into a huge press hit for the game.
So how did we do? A little better than last year. We kept our position as the best-selling toy or game on Amazon. My guess is that peoples’ buying decisions just weren’t that affected by $5.
The interesting thing to note is that we got a nice lift in our sales the day after Black Friday (“Regret Saturday”). That might be from people who were waiting to buy the game until it came back down in price, or, more likely, those are sales from people who heard about the game after our Black Friday press. Not bad for an ad that paid us to run it.
I hate superheroes. I think they’re abominations. They don’t mean what they used to mean. They were originally in the hands of writers who would actively expand the imagination of their nine- to 13-year-old audience. That was completely what they were meant to do and they were doing it excellently. These days, superhero comics think the audience is certainly not nine to 13, it’s nothing to do with them. It’s an audience largely of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60-year old men, usually men. Someone came up with the term graphic novel. These readers latched on to it; they were simply interested in a way that could validate their continued love of Green Lantern or Spider-Man without appearing in some way emotionally subnormal. This is a significant rump of the superhero-addicted, mainstream-addicted audience. I don’t think the superhero stands for anything good. I think it’s a rather alarming sign if we’ve got audiences of adults going to see the Avengers movie and delighting in concepts and characters meant to entertain the 12-year-old boys of the 1950s.Alan Moore (via richardrushfield)
Limbaugh is right. Somebody did get to Pope Francis. It was Jesus. Self-styled “defenders of Christianity,” like Palin and Limbaugh, peddle a profoundly unhistorical view of Jesus. Indeed, if you listened to those on the far right you would think that all Jesus ever spoke about was guns and gays.
Reza Aslan, a man known for his sick burns on religious issues, dropping more sick burns.(via shortformblog)
Hawaii became the latest state to offer same-sex marriages on Monday. Here’s a look at photos from the first days of legal gay marriage across the country: http://nyr.kr/1bdhuuL
Above: Several couples held a group wedding at the Sheraton Waikiki, on December 2, 2013. Photograph by Marco Garcia/AP.