As is to be expected for people not very experienced there were a couple of botches during the processes but I believe we worked out all of them (and we double or even triple checked):
- We lost a lot of time in the beginning (after an hour of work we had finished only the very first package) due to preparatory work (which partially wasn't useful as we learned later).
- The stickers I bought were the first thing to go... it took too long to get the back off from the sticky side (because we had to manually cut the stickers to size due to vast differences in the lengths of global shipping addresses... never believe that 200 characters are enough for street addresses). This probably was the biggest problem that caught up with us.
- While packing I found a total of 3 bugs in my code that generated the ordered sequence of the numbered RPG issues people receive (based on the point in time when they donated). Luckily all bugs were caught early enough and everyone gets the right number. But my heart stopped all three times because we had finished dozens or a hundred packages when those things popped up and I feared we would have to unpack a vast majority. But the gods and the RNG were with us... none of the bugs had affected packed packages. Whew... This probably was the second biggest problem that caught up with us because I again and again had to print new picking lists.
- Closing the shipping envelopes with those metal gizmos proved to be very time-consuming (and painful to our appendages). I'm very grateful to both Melanie and Claudia who took the brunt of the pain. Lesson learned: Don't be part of a crowdfunding campaign that has to ships thousands or tens of thousands of physical goods (only if you are so organized that someone else is doing the fulfillment... but then take care that you don't have to sign or personalize thousands of goods ;-) ).
- Filling out the customs form on each envelope took a lot longer than expected. As the physical value of the books is not very high (you basically paid for writing the stuff... printing it costs about $3.94 per issue with Lulu) I hope that there won't be any problems with customs for you. But I noticed that I have no actual idea (keeping my fingers crossed).
- Only once we got briefly confused with the order of shipping labels - which proved time consuming to sort out. But due to the extreme structured organization of Claudia and Melanie this went surprisingly smooth although we worked on increasing our level of parallelism all the time.
- At some point we ran out of boxes to use for storing the packed envelopes. Luckily that was close to the end so that it was easy to find an alternative.
In the end we went form one package per hour to probably 80 to 90 per hour (how's that for a learning system, eh?) and finished the final envelope at 2:22am on the 1st of December, 2016.
I just awoke from my coma and now have a long business day ahead of me but I'm so much looking forward to dropping off the envelopes (which BTW are very nice and sturdy so that your RPGs should arrive in perfect shape). It will be fun to see the reaction of our tiny local post office but they had been warned in advance :-)
I'm not sure if the second shipping run is going to occur before Christmas (probably not) because we want to have an as large as possible batch to process (due to the overhead of organizing the work).
Here are some impressions from a long night...
The raw materials (envelopes, RPGs and sticking labels) before we started:
Our work table at the beginning... we yet had to refine our process and work on parallelizing stuff. But if you never packed huge amounts of similar stuff you'll learn a lot very fast (or die trying ;-) ):
Work had started and we were processing the first batches of RPGs:
First blood... the first couple of envelopes are finished:
The middle of the night... slowly we are becoming desperate because now the crunch is taking our souls... being stuck somewhere in the middle with the clock ticking (we all have to work today), a feeling of "we can make it", an impression of "but the way to success is still quite long... to put it carefully) and the will to win makes for strange feelings:
But... in the end... we succeeded in our quest, slew the dragon and got everything finished:
And here is the glorious crew of rogues that managed to pull it off in incredible team play (don't believe that roguelikes are single player all the time ;-D ):
I am deeply indebted to Melanie and Claudia for their amazing support - without them it would have taken weeks to get this finished. And now I'll get some food and then drop off those envelopes at the post office. See you later!
Thomas (& Melanie & Claudia)