August 5, 2022

A very personal message to everyone, from the maker of the TE-2. 

 

Like thousands of other small manufacturing endeavors impacted by the shutdowns, this company faced a slowly unfurling obstacle course amidst successive contractor disappearances and revolving supply chain shortages. 

 

This quickly became a one-person company, so I’m speaking here as such. It was brutal timing for the product prototyping, and for public anticipation and expectations, but I pushed through and rebuilt the whole workflow to exist independently of contractors. This required absorbing several new major technical trades. 

 

That summarizes an endlessly straining adventure, but one that turned into a growth opportunity.

I’ve been doing my best, and for a long time now, to bridge this over and through the covid situation. I had no way of knowing what I was up against at the onset of covid, including most technical and fiscal outlooks going forward nor for how long anything would shift around, and did not have the capability to act with much security or expedience. It was a complicated web of things affecting other things affecting other things affecting other things.. a horror show version of whack-a-mole!

I’m not sure how to recap this phase other than to say that it was a success in keeping the product alive, a success in not collapsing at a time when so many other small entities were throwing in the towel, and a success in setting this company up for a far better and more controlled workflow future than it had before. And for the most part, buyers have received steady bi-weekly email updates detailing various status reports of the prototype outlook. 

It’s been taking a long time. 

Throughout this covid phase I’ve steadily received supportive kind words from some pre-ordered buyers, which have gone a long way to helping keep momentum through these dark waters. Thank you for these kind words. Seriously it makes a big difference. Sometimes these supportive folks are more technically aware of product builds and thus have more sympathy for the shutdown impacts, but often times these folks are just more patient in general and are happy just to watch things proceed even if they’d placed their order now years ago. 

However, throughout the pandemic I have received a far greater number of angry messages than supportive ones. Vocal minority? I’m not sure. These messages come via all avenues and can be any combination of public, private, or anonymous... emails, texts, Instagram messages, Facebook messages, IG/FB post comments, voicemails, forum threads, FaceTime calls, etc. They can contain a lot of frustration with the time this product release has been taking, heavy criticism of the process, accusations of selfish business behavior, anger with feeling trapped in this due to holding a pre-order position, and of course fuming requests for refunds which I’ve fulfilled a good number of in respect to the total situation and despite what it imposes on the business operations. The sad thing is that once someone gets a refund they disappear outright and no longer have the anger left to post in public, so nobody else knows that this business has really strained and respectfully satisfied that aspect quite a bit. At the outset of the pandemic a lot of buyers lost jobs. You can imagine the logical and sensible pressure and obligation I faced from that. But frequently I wouldn’t respond to hateful messages or respond quick enough, just to stay focused on the work, and what routinely happens next is the person will then post online somewhere that the customer service is non existent and concluding that this project is tanked.

It is already very challenging to learn to wear all of the new tech hats at once, not making tiny mistakes that can each add weeks of delays, and remain focused through it. So, you can imagine how much more strenuous it is to do all of this very particular work alone while fire breathes at me from all sides. You can see from the circuit boards on Instagram that this instrument is thick, riddled with parts, increasing the risk factor of design file mistakes. Buyers can also tell that the PCB’s have been routinely turning out as well as hoped. The tech is going well. 

In the fall I had to step away from all communications for several weeks to keep some clarity of mind while proceeding with the work. It was unfortunate but necessary. Following that we got back in gear for some months with standard bi-weekly buyers updates via email and saw lots of nice progress on Instagram. It was a good push, and some was a result of the work put in during that silent stint. One of those updates at that time was a particularly vulnerable buyers update asking for a bit of compassion and understanding of the situation and to just try to remain on my side. I’d hoped that with that message and with more continued proof of progress that the “negative” climate would slow or be minimal.

But they didn’t let up. The public and private flack simply continued and in some ways grew. At some point during this time, the main TE-2 forum thread apparently spun up to become quite heated and skeptical. I hadn’t been following, but a mod reached out to me and requested that I either call the project off or “make good “ somehow. So I made one appearance there putting together a brief post explaining some positives upcoming and stating that the project is not “dead”, but I didn’t read back from there nor visit the thread after that. The direct heat continued building. 

I proceeded with the work and updates but around a couple months ago now the pile up of sentiment became too much once again. I had very mixed feelings about what to do but something had to dramatically change. I was starting to have pretty dangerous health consequences from the long lasting human pressure on top of the stressful tech work itself. I simply hit a limit and had to step away and completely log out. And that’s where I’ve been, trying to establish a new personal relationship with the situation that won’t be destructive to me, and otherwise remaining disconnected from every means of communication. 

I just recently had someone go into Instagram on my behalf and disable commenting on all posts in the past since that is an open playing field for public lambasting. Speech is free and you are allowed to put your thoughts and blames and accusations and anger anywhere you want to put it on the interwebs, and I know that your frustrations are only amplified by your own personal sufferings caused by the pandemic and some of you may end up taking certain statements back some day, but believe it or not I am a standard human being and not a purported “criminal mastermind” nor a “lying pos” nor a “crazy person” nor a “scam artist” nor a “sociopath” and so the negative feedback is in fact going to impact me because I do care and I do lose sleep and I do collapse each time I open a hard hitting message accusing me of some of the above. Every single one. I’d say that maybe I’m not cut out for this kind of work, but this is an unprecedented situation involving advanced tech and traumatic customer service and nobody was built to endure it on their own.

There are not a lot of technical unknowns remaining regarding finishing the TE-2. So much has been accomplished during the pandemic. This message covers none of it, and it is all displayed on social media. What remains is mostly about connecting a bunch of dots to tie the unit all together. 

So I will move forward with a healthy relationship with the work, ignore criticism, and also continue to reduce the avenues that allow for criticism to reach me directly. You’ll see more progress as posts on Instagram, and comments will remain off. The facebook page will receive the same treatment shortly or may just be deleted since it’s a buggy garbage platform anyways. I have some helpers in my personal life that will field and filter all messages and emails. I am not in a position to be offering refunds anymore. So many have been issued already, and has made this all the more strenuous for obvious budgeting and company survival reasons through a worldwide disaster.

I remain committed to fulfilling all TE-2 orders. Due to this current climate that surrounds the company, the TE-2 may be the only product that this company ever ships out aside from the TE-1’s of the past and the small batches of eurorack cases that have already all sold out. This would be a shame because I now have all of the know how to almost completely manufacturer electronic musical devices in one shop. In the past couple years I think I have sustained a lifetime’s worth of stress, and the goal right now is just getting out of this particular prison while still doing good work to finish the unit. 

So that’s the status update right now. If you are a buyer reading this, I need you to know that it’ll be a while before bi-weekly buyers updates go out again since they consistently instigate some buyers to reply immediately with hate which I don’t have space for absorbing anymore. I’ll figure it out at some point though. For now, public content will have to suffice in keeping buyers knowing that progress is being made. If you have been a supportive person, I sincerely am sorry that this is happening. Your messages will make their way to me if you write. And my kindest regards go to you. Thank you, I would not have gotten this far without it. 

 

I’m still excited about seeing the TE-2 come to life and get in people’s hands to see what happens.

 

Jim