BLKMKT.org review part 1

BLKMKT.org is a dedicated marketplace for tactical and firearms equipment. The founder and the site itself may refer to it as a social media site, but it’s probably best to consider it as a direct alternative to trolling the various forums, Armslist and Gunbroker for deals and sales.

I was aware of this site for some time. Since it’s inaugural post on SSD, I had bookmarked their site and had made a tentative plan to post about them whenever I cleared my backlog.

However, I was solicited by the founder, Justin, a couple weeks ago to write a review. I currently don’t accept money for advertising nor is it planned.  I argued that since I wouldn’t be doing a review based off of user experience the only way I’d do it is if the founder sat down for an interview. He happily agreed.

The transcript from the interview and further commentary is posted below. I will be making a second post detailing the website itself and my short experience navigating the UI.

Q“The Users of BLKMKT retain the right to all created content”. This is an abnormal stance for a social media platform, considering other prominent sites sneak language into their TOU that allows the company to take possession of any user created content. Has the current climate with consumer rights and data collection by big companies on the internet influenced this decision or was this language included in order to ensure small business are attracted to the service?

Justin: BLKMKT is a peer to peer marketplace. We are not here to sell user data or user provided imagery. Privacy and ownership of assets is greatly important to us – same as it is to you. A good rule of thumb – when the service is free (like Facebook), you are the product. At BLKMKT, the selling platform is our product. You don’t have to worry.

Virgil’s guidance: This is very important for military and law enforcement professionals. With the government’s lackadaisical handling of PII for thousands of troops and government workers it inevitably falls to the individual to protect their own identity. BLKMKT appears to be maintaining a clear and open policy on privacy, which is crucial to establishing a safe space for MIL/LE professionals to use their site. 

Q:You acknowledge that, like most websites, you run analytics. Is any of that data sold or transferred to third parties? You mention handing data over to researchers but are those researchers first or third party?

Justin: We are collecting user activity data – time spent on site, frequency visited and track how users utilize the tools and services we provided. We collect “use” data so we can learn how and where people are spending time on the platform. This helps us understand what works and what does not. Our goal is to learn from our community so we can do a better job supporting the gear buying, selling and discovery process. From time to time we contract outside specialists to help us review the anonymized data but that is as far as it goes. No data that is collected is sold and no one will be hitting you up to sell you a mortgage.

Q:With regard to transactions and service fees, how much data do you retain on each transaction committed by members?

Justin: On transactions: we collect name, address, email address, item, transaction value, date shipped, date received and feedback provided by both parties. We collect this information purely to help protect the parties involved (Buyers + Sellers) should there be an issue/dispute on an item.

Q: Over the years we’ve seen NGOs and private companies launder dual use and ITAR controlled military items to combatants in Ukraine, Iraq and all over the globe. Are there any restrictions, monitoring, or archival process to help prevent BLKMKT from becoming a front for this type of activity?

Justin: Users are required by law to follow their local/federal regulations regarding the sale and shipment of items they sell. Our community is composed of responsible grown adults (18+). Provided the seller and buyer are in good standing they get the benefit of the doubt. Being human we can get busy and make mistakes. With that said, we actively monitor transactions so that in the event of a mistake – we can proactively reach out to the seller and make them aware.

Q: Has BLKMKT made a ruling on the usage of VPNs or proxies? Ex: A non-advertised IP range ban on popular VPN cascades would be considered a ruling in this case.

Justin: Encryption and information security is greatly important and an area we support. Virtual private networks or VPN’s allow users to tunnel to a secure location and then reach out to the greater web. In our experience we find that the VPN type of tools help users stay safe while browsing from public/at risk locations such as coffee shops, universities, hotels etc.

Virgil’s guidance: I’m a user of both VPN and Proxy tools in order to help maintain a level of PERSEC that I find necessary for my career. For BLKMKT to come out publicly in favor of the use of security and encryption tools is encouraging.  By using VPNs proactively, with the knowledge that certain WIFI’s are heavily monitored, you may avoid being raided by SWAT for abnormal activity.

Q: Is the registrant information encrypted? If so, what level of encryption? You refer to potentially storing it overseas. Can you clarify where? Ex. Different countries have different data retention & privacy laws/regulations. Does that mean it’s no greater than 128-bit?

Justin: Sensitive information is hashed and encrypted in the database. All communication and connections are fully encrypted with SHA256. Data is stored in the United States.

In regards to storing data overseas – we are not doing so at this time. At a future date we may expand BLKMKT into other countries/territories. The European Union is a great example. If and when that happens users will be notified. For sake of conversation, BLKMKT would deploy a server instance in a major European Metro area to maintain fast and steady connections for all members of the marketplace.

Q: Are there any plans for steps, groups or tiers of membership to the site?

Justin: This is definitely on the drawing board.

Q: Do businesses pay a higher fee than individual users for utilizing the site?

Justin: Not at this time.

Q: Are there plans to fill the empty spaces up on BLKMKT with advertising or can the user always expect a dedicated and clean UI?

Justin: We are big believers on clean, user friendly experiences. No plans to run external ads at this time.

Q: Ebay is often considered the number one place to look for out-of-production gear, rare samples and other oddities. I myself have used Ebay to get a hold of some hard to find pouches. Does BLKMKT see itself expanding its categorization process or taking any other steps to try and compete with Ebay in that regard?

Justin: Yes, this is definitely an area we feel we can improve on. There is a ton of historical, experimental, rare and limited gear floating around. These pieces occasionally wind up on ebay but in many cases they are not highlighted, that story isn’t told and the items are mismarked. BLKMKT was built for and by gearheads. Our goal is to improve the discovery process – helping the community to quickly buy and sell items they would have otherwise had difficulty locating.

BLKMKT is a peer to peer marketplace. Through continued growth (tell your friends!) we will see a more diverse listing of items that are out of production, rare, experimental and other oddities.

Q: Do you offer a referral incentive?

Justin: This is a great idea! We are currently exploring promotion/discount codes and will add referral incentives to the list.

Q:You had mentioned bitcoin in a post on SSD. Has BLKTMKT considered any other crypto currency as an alternative payment method?

Justin: Crypto Currency is a relatively new field. There is a considerable amount of instability due to the new nature of the technology. At this time Bitcoin is by far the most successful and one that we are considering. We are always open to suggestions and will continue monitoring the Crypto field for future integration options.

Q:Beyond Clothing arguably maintains a close relationship with various military units, specifically SOF. Are there any plans to pipeline verified professional end-users so that they may deal with each other? As a professional end user, I would often prefer my gear go to another guy on a work up rather than a civilian.

Justin: That is happening naturally on BLKMKT. People that are interested in certain types of gear are finding one another organically – many of these folks are active professionals. We have heard loud and clear that the community on BLKMKT is taking the transaction process very seriously. That makes us proud as this gear might find itself going down range. We are very open to feedback and if enough users request this we can put a project into development.

Q: Putting aside fees, advertising and the minutia that do set you apart, where do you plan to take the company in the next five years that will really make the difference between armslist, the various EEs and the now defunct “cool guy yardsale”?

Justin: Great question. We don’t want to give away too much here. First and foremost we are going to continue our focus on building a great community. At the same time we are actively working to increase the platforms ability to sell gear quickly. Our user-first focus will help us make these goals a reality. We plan to stay true as we rapidly develop the next generation mission gear oriented marketplace.

Q: Obviously there is such a thing as positive corporate personhood. Are you considering integrating a donation widget for voluntary use during transactions with 2A agencies or veteran NGOs? Ex. Midway and Gunbroker utilize this function.

Justin: Absolutely! This has been on the list since day one. BLKMKT was launched as soon as we could get a working concept to market. Now that we have validated the concept and received feedback from our users, we have an extensive list of development in the works. Stay tuned.

Virgil’s guidance: I hope that any NGOs/Charities that are added are thoroughly vetted through watch dog sites to ensure that we aren’t simply paying for a lavish expense account.

Q: Ok, I have to be honest. Easily 50% of the time I go to your site I get directed to a fashion company. Is BLKTMKT considering poaching their registrar on expiry or expanding your list of redirects to help us wayward souls find our way back?

Justin: You and me both! This is in progress. 🙂

Q: Do you see the company ever instituting a minimum posting requirement? Ex. 3 photos, character minimum on description or condition of the item. In my short time browsing the inventory I found a few items that were lacking a description of the item’s condition, whether the item was new, used, or somewhere in between, etc.

Justin: This is an area we are actively working to improve. We have been manually reaching out to sellers with listing suggestions. The biggest areas that we find needing improvement are pricing, information, and better photos. In the future we plan to improve our Listing creation process to automatically provide these tips to potential sellers.

We are finding that once sellers understand how BLKMKT works they are happy to go back and make the necessary improvements.

Virgil’s guidance: I’d be happy to see a certain level of quality and performance across the board at BLKMKT. With the crowd you are attempting to attract I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want everyone to post with the same thoughtfulness.

It’s a big frustration for me to have to wade through forum posts or ad listings that have no standards on how to post whatsoever.

Q: Considering the market this website is geared toward, do you foresee further specialization of the UI to reflect that? Currently there is three options, “new” “used” “open box”. Let’s be frank here. I own a number of pieces of gear that have been used in tactical environments, exposed to a variety of different elements. Will you ever considering expanding your condition boxes to include whether or not something has been used in a tactical or training environment?

Justin: We are definitely open to suggestions. What types of conditions would you like to see incorporated?

Virgil’s Guidance: I’m relegating this to an email discussion with Justin.

Q: Is consignment or centralized shipping on the board at all? Consignment for LE/MIL/PMCs on rotation?

Justin: This is absolutely a possibility in the future – especially due to the nature of the market and customer base we are serving. Our focus now is on improvements to the core platform. The future is wide open.

Virgil’s Guidance: This may not be the opinion of every single SOF, PMC, sailor, but I don’t always have the time to go through my gear, take pictures, price everything, post everything. Especially when making big transitions in your career, going from infantry to PSD or convoy security to law enforcement, you might be dumping entire trunks of stuff.

As a reminder, a second post detailing the website itself and my short experience navigating the UI will follow shortly.

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