Hyperrational's Missive

First released June 29, 2021

Missive screenshot

Missive is a tool to enable 3D model creators to distribute their creations to their customers. The best model of how the service works is to think of it like a digital postal service.

Each collection is like a parcel, and if you want to send that parcel to someone, you need to buy a stamp. So if you want to send that parcel to 3000 people, you will need 3000 stamps. Don’t worry, digital stamps aren’t the same price as real stamps! Read on for thoughts on pricing.

Current state

The core technology all works, and operated in a live environment. The creation of model collections and the entitlement system is functional, but not optimal.

This means the two core workflows for creator and customer are fully functional.

For the creator:

For the customer:

What happened?

The live demo was completed during May 2021. We deliberately paused development while we went seeking collaborators, since we believe products are infinitely better if they’re built in partnership with customers.

The customers we talked to about this loved the features, but we needed content to deliver to them.

As of August 2021, the creators we spoke to were mostly interested in “one-stop-shop” solutions. For distribution this include either baked-in storefronts, or things like Shopify integrations. Missive is a tightly focused delivery solution, and the feedback we got said the unique features were nice but were not enough to move creators off their existing platforms.

So this project page lives as a reminder that without collaborators there can be no product.

What would have been next?

The three major remaining pieces on our internal roadmap are:

These would allow a creator to automatically send parcels (and consume stamps) to any customer, either new or existing, who is a paid-for Patreon subscriber, and for that subscriber to receive files on the web and/or locally.

In order to make the service sustainable for us to run in isolation, stamps are priced somewhere between US$0.15 and US$0.30. This cost is proportional to the collection size, and we settled on 5GB collections as our standard “parcel size”. The cost and parcel size could be configurable, but we wanted to provide an easy-to-understand payment model that didn’t risk bankrupting us.

Since most Patreon campaigns would find the cost of digital delivery a shock to the system when the alternatives were nominally “free”, the features here were intended to be delivered as a separate Patreon tier, for early access, or just nicer access: a “Premium” delivery option. This would allow creators to start charging customers for “experiences” without forcing platform moves.

We never got this far, unfortunately. If you use this business model, we’d love to hear if it works for you!

What’s the history of the project?

In March 2020, one of the founders of Hyperrational got his first resin 3D printer, and over the next 6 months got overwhelmed by the explosion of 3D printable Patreon campaigns. The business model that had emerged was $10 a month for a bucket of models, and the campaigns were busy doing whatever they could to up their subscriber numbers, so that $10 was getting you more and more. First came pre-supported models, then the model quantity crept up.

Missive was conceived as a bridge between Patreon and highly asymmetric file distribution (eg 1 creator, 10k consumers). The entitlement system was designed to be driven by other APIs, like Patreon, and has a permission system to allow delegation of various aspects of the creation process, such as allowing 3rd parties to upload files into the collections (like when a creator subcontracts the pre-support work for their models).