Crowd-Funding Campaigns

Every few days, someone messages me on a new and great crowd funding campaign.

Generally, this comes in the form of sharing a video – a video that makes many grandiose promises if I only donate a few bucks to the cause.  As a few of these campaigns have raised crazy amounts of cash, it seems that they are becoming more popular. Throw a coin at any “Make” fair, and see what I mean.

Now, this may be common sense, but I’d like to share my general way of looking at these crowd-funding campaigns in the hope that I won’t have to deal with people finding me a “Kill-Joy” when the next “big thing” comes along.

Questions I ask when seeing a campaign

What’s in it for me?

If I donate money to your cause, am I preordering a product, or buying a t-shirt that says “I liked it before it was cool”?

Pinonccio – $49 donation gets me a prototype

While kickstarter won’t run them, other crowd funding  sites will host “get a t-shirt” with donation campaigns. If you donate to these, you’ll get a t-shirt, but don’t plan on that t-shirt being anything more than a statement that you can easily be separated from you money.

Why hasn’t this been done before and how is it different?

Let’s say I run across a campaign for creating a garden time-lapse camera system. All I get until the $250 is a thank you and a t-shirt.

At this point, the campaign has satisfied the “something in it for me” angle. There is a real product, and I’m at least somewhat interested. But, is that product out there already?

A quick search on amazon shows me that producers of garden cameras do exist. And, a few of them are substantially cheaper than the $250 this campaign will cost me for one. Does this product provide something new? I may simply not like the company that provides the competing product. Maybe that company hasn’t listened to customer feedback. Perhaps there is a specialized feature I want. Or, maybe I’m just feeling generous.

If the product hasn’t been done – why not? Is there something fundamentally flawed with the idea? It’s possible that this particular product fits a very small niche, and that the only way  of seeing it released is a crowd funded campaign. Or, maybe this product has no real hope for success as the design itself has serious flaws.

Does the group have the expertise to pull the product off?

So, now we have agreed that they have enough of a “hook” for me to bite. At this point, the question becomes, can they make it happen?

Let’s say the campaign is for a desktop Fusion power generator, suitable for fitting into my flying car.

Does the group include a physicist? If not, do they have a good one on standby? If not, would anyone in the group have any way of knowing a good physicist? If not, has the group provided any evidence that they can solve the whole “fusion” part of the problem?

Is there any evidence suggesting that other companies have looked into this problem? Are there solutions out on the market now?

If the group lacks the expertise to build the idea, what are they bringing to the table?

Building a product takes more than having a bad comb over and the ability to shout “your fired”. If the group is going to pay to have the actual development done, have they shown a reasonable budget and plan for doing so?

In the case of a desktop Fusion generator, the evidence would need to be overwhelming before I’d even consider a donation. In fact, I’m not sure anything would convince me it wasn’t a scam. Extremely innovative products tend to have large money backing quickly. Large enough that crowd funding wouldn’t be talked about.

Returning to the Garden Camera, I’d probably look for a meaningful prototype, a good product manager with a gardening background, or simply some good engineers. The technology is known, and I wouldn’t need to worry about development of specialized high technology.

Are they over promising?

If I see a video of something so truly beyond the state of the art to be amazing, the question becomes, how is it real?

If a video advertises some whizz bang Artificial Intelligence, is there research that shows something is possible. For anything computerized, just imagine that instead of the ideal computer shown in the video – it’s your cell phone. How would your cell phone do at the tasks shown? If they are doing similar tasks with significantly better ability – how are they accomplishing it?

Or, are they just lying?

Very talented people are working on lots of the ‘space age’ devices we want to see. Every day. If those devices don’t exist yet, it may be for a reason. Just remember the ‘pet robots’ in the 90s. Yeah, they are cool, but they weren’t R2D2.

Does the group have a valid business plan? Do I care if they vanish?

Let’s say that I really hate the companies producing the garden cameras, and want to donate to this new garden camera company. Does this group demonstrate that my donation will help create a sustainable competitor?

If not, will I care that I’ve purchased a one-off product? In a year, how much will I care if the product breaks?

Perhaps I’m happy that I’ll get my garden camera and can worry about the same problem again later, if need be. That’s a perfectly good answer, but one I should be aware of.

Responding to a Campaign

I’ll generally ignore campaigns that I come across, unless either poked or prodded about it directly.

If so, I’ll walk through these questions until I hit a reason not to donate, and if I hit that reason, I’ll try to let whoever know why I’m not. If the campaign has gone “viral” and I think other people might donate, I might be more proactive about criticism. And, it’s also possible that I’ll share a campaign I’d want to see succeed.

If you share a campaign video, remember – you are sharing a request for money. Requesting money, in my book, removes much of your ability to complain when someone tells you where to go. Manipulative videos may insist that criticism is fighting against a greater good.

We enjoy the right to ask the public for money. In return, the public may criticize that request. Don’t like it? Build the product first using traditional means. And remember, if you are sharing a funding request, then realize the social dynamic of seeking contributions.

Saying Yes can be a Bad Thing

I watched closely as the Diaspora project got going. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it was one of the first kickstarter campaigns to go viral. Earning $200,000+ in very little time.

Any experienced engineer watching would have smelled trouble. The grand yet completely undefined scope of the project. The lack of real requirements. The lack of any experienced or skilled developers. The poor choices of technology, showing blatant ignorance of the current challenges of competitors trying to do the exact same thing.

In the end, the group of students working this project put themselves through some very rough times. It’s impossible to say what might have happened if the product just fizzled out. And indeed, the tragedies associated with the project, may have happened anyway. Windfall earnings does weird things to a group and to friends. Still, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the eventual suicide of one of the initial members. I don’t think the success of the funding campaign can be directly blamed, but it definitely didn’t help.

Kickstarter does a lot of work to prefilter applicants and campaigns, and even there, people have found a real “bit” in terms of taxes and fees eating into the cash intended for development of a product.

A lot of campaigns fail, but that doesn’t mean the dream has to die. And many campaigns, on their second try, find and fix the errors with the first.

TL;DR

  1. Try to apply some common sense before sending random people on the internet your money.
  2. Asking someone for money gives them a right to ask why and determine if you deserve it.
  3. Giving someone money isn’t always helpful.

There’s a lot of cool kick starter projects out there. Fin and I have sent money to a few. We’ve gotten some cool stuff in return. Do your search before. And if somethings viral?

My experience with viral campaigns is that they are rotten. The cool ones I’ve found and funded tend to be more niche oriented. Though, sometimes, lots of people get onboard for a reason.

— Fate

Missouri Election Info

While I’d like to avoid this becoming a super-political blog, Tuesday is election day and there are a few big-issues coming up for a vote. There’s not much going on with our State / County officials, but the Amendments are important.

If you’re voting on Tuesday, take some time to learn what’s up. These amendments all have some hidden agendas and funny business going on.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Amendment #2

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that it will be permissible to allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age?

If more resources are needed to defend increased prosecutions additional costs to governmental entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise the fiscal impact is expected to be limited.

Most press sources are endorsing this particular amendment. It’s very hard to not get the “for the children” element. That said, there are a few that have some arguments against.

Amendment #3

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

• require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding;

• require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system;

• require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts; and

• prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system?

Decisions by school districts regarding provisions allowed or required by this proposal and their implementation will influence the potential costs or savings impacting each district. Significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new/additional evaluation instruments must be developed to satisfy the proposal’s performance evaluation requirements.

If any conservatives are out there, I’ll warn you – while the collective bargaining elements of this might sound good to you, I promise you’ll likely see a fairly immediate move to “Common Core“.

I’m not as rabidly anti-common-core as some of those tea party people out there, but as someone that’s spent a lot of time in classrooms, I hate standardize testing. I’ll be voting NO.

Amendment #6

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to permit voting in person or by mail for a period of six business days prior to and including the Wednesday before the election day in general elections, but only if the legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting?

State governmental entities estimated startup costs of about $2 million and costs to reimburse local election authorities of at least $100,000 per election. Local election authorities estimated higher reimbursable costs per election. Those costs will depend on the compensation, staffing, and, planning decisions of election authorities with the total costs being unknown.

Call me a traditionalist / snob, but I’m not generally a fan of week-long election cycles. That said, if you ARE a fan, it looks like this Amendment has a few provisos that would potentially kill early voting in MO for the foreseeable future.

Amendment #10

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the governor to pay the public debt, to prohibit the governor from relying on revenue from legislation not yet passed when proposing a budget, and to provide a legislative check on the governor’s decisions to restrict funding for education and other state services?

State governmental entities expect no direct costs or savings. Local governmental entities expect an unknown fiscal impact.

The KC Star calls this a “vindictive” amendment. I may not agree with the reasons it was created, but prefer strong legislative oversight.

Ambition, Drive, and Burn Out

It’s been a bit since I posted an actual update here. I set a goal to post regularly here at the beginning of the year. The weekly updates proved an easy way to do it.

Over the past few years, Fins shouted, repeatedly, that I was running myself into the ground. I didn’t realize it for a while, but 4 years ago I left a frustrating job for an even more stressful one. I wanted out of corporate America to do something more interesting. The opportunities for advancement seemed endless.

I’m not sure when the new gig took a turn for the worse. The first year or so centered around building and releasing a cool product. For the longest time, I’ve defined success in my profession as “getting products out the door”. When company tasked a team to build a new product, but failed to create an environment to build it, the end result was a slow, lingering, failure.

They’ve since tried to address several of the perceived root causes, but, I feel, in negative ways.

In the end, the new job proved both stressful and frustrating, and that was too much. I’ve left and gone back to corporate America. Funny enough, my current big company allows me to talk a bit about working there (with a few caveats). They do require me to add a disclaimer though.

The opinions of this blog are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions, business practices, plans, etc… of my employer.

I’ve changed it slightly from the HR mandated version on account of not actually acknowledging who they are here. If you figure it out, then there usual disclaimer applies. In any case, this blog isn’t about whizz-bang ultra cool electronic gadgets.

Fate & Fin are entering yet another “building year”, but with a renewed focus. The past several months have been hard for both of us. On the positive side, I spent some time analyzing whats important, where Fin and I want to go, and how we’re going to get there.

Fin has informed me that I’m not allowed to make any new big plans right now. So, I won’t promise to more interesting / better content here. However, I’m now working toward a new priority: getting healthy. I read multiple times about burnout, and never really figured it could impact so many different areas of my health the way it has. Until it did.

In the past I’ve had goals along the lines of ‘get up earlier’, ‘work out more’, ‘eat healthier’. Little did I realize that those goals would be difficult or impossible without asking why I feel a need to sleep in more, why do I have little desire to work out, and why do I crave constant junk food.

So, for the time being, I’m focused on… “being”.

— Fate

Fate's Weekend Update v.13

Haunted House Season – West Bottoms haunted houses have opened up for all the horror fans out there.

Traffic Camera Lawsuit – Got a red light camera ticket in KC? There’s a settlement for you.

Vagina Cupcakes Uproar – While I once identified as a feminist the continual stupidity of “feminists” has me backing away from using the term at all. And… if a guy talked about teaching children to “please the penis”… Well, that’s more than a little pedo.

State Line Facts – Facts about the state line between KS and MO in KC.

Sachs Recordings – An interesting podcast on the inside of working at the Fed.

3d printed skin grafts – 3d printing advancing older technologies in new ways…

Microsoft threatens – In the midst of mass layoffs, Microsoft is threatening to move offices to Canada unless H1B visas expand.

Australian Surveillance – The US is not alone in wanting to watch your network traffic.

FBI doesn’t like privacy – Not surprising given their history. Watch for efforts to make  programmable / consumer encryption illegal…

Russia going to the moon – In 15 years, Russia will put another man on the moon.

Water is old – Apparently, older than the sun. Given the human body is 60% is water… We are all really old.

Enjoy the weekend, it’s nice out.

— Fate

Fate's Weekend Update v.12

Metcalf South Closes – I’m only slightly surprised, and just because I expected the “Great Mall” in Olathe to close first. This comes slightly after the property was purchased. I’m hoping they plan to redevelop rather than let it sit empty.

Plaza Art Fair – Hipsters on parade. Fin and I forgot the fair was going on when we decided to celebrate our anniversary by making a trek out to some nice restaurants there. It worked out, with the exception of some random “Woo Girls” providing moderate annoyance. Fin and I ran into a rare artist that hits on both or our tastes.

Layoffs – Perceptive is laying off multiple workers. I noticed that they seemed to be freezing hiring locally. It appears that most of these layoffs are focused on removing redundancy after Pacman-ing multiple companies. Microsoft has also gone through with Round-2 of their reorganization. It seems us “little people” have to either work at small shops for little money, or choose our allegiances carefully to currently growing organizations. At least Microsoft is focusing its ax currently on middle management dead-weights.

Star in a star – I’m sure there’s an appropriate meme here… but, looks like astronomers found something cool recently.

NFL Domestic Violence – The media is actively attacking the NFL for “domestic violence” issues. Instead of focusing on the NFL breeding domestic violence issues, maybe we should have a frank conversation about how money makers and athletes get a lot of lenience. Hint: Ray Rice should be in jail, not missing games.

NonUnited Kingdom – Scotland votes to not leave the UK. A stronger transition plan would have likely shifted the vote the other way. Cartographers will not need to update that particular region for the time being.

Back to War – I don’t think the resurgence and “need” to return to Iraq/Syria will play well for the democrats. If the Repubs focus on foreign policy over the next few election cycles… We might see some serious shifts in congress.

Pat Roberts In Trouble – As a (likely) future Kansas resident, I’m cheering to see an Independent Senator. (Ok, a Democrat in Independents clothing, but an Independent nontheless). Kansans – PLEASE get out and support ousting the Democrat/Republican duopoly. Also… Pat Roberts is a douche.

Alibaba IPO – A sign of things to come? The largest ever IPO in the US was for, essentially, the Chinese variant of Amazon. In other news, if you’re wondering where that corner-store tobacco store gets all those random cheap TVs, Hookahs, and novelties….

Home Depot Breach – Just when I thought I missed out on cancelling my CC because of a big data breach…

Apple Removes Backdoor – iPad/iPhone won’t have a nice little backdoor to unlock anymore. Curious if we’ll see this legislated back in.

Bono Sucks – As if having U2 shoved down your throat with a recent “free album”, they’re no advocating creating a new “media format”. This simply adds to my list of reasons to avoid Apple products, burn any existing U2 CDs/records, and continue my support for non-asshat music distributors.

More California Stupidity – Don’t share lunch. No sharing! Really…. Yeah…. really. Yet another reason why I don’t want to move to California. Yay safety!

Have a Good Weekend Folks.

— Fate

Fate's Interesting News Bits v.11

Death Valley Rocks – I remember talking about this in Science class… Now, no more fun with endless hours of speculation…

Movies Suck – “Worst Summer Since 1997” of movie sales. Why? Rehashed garbage. Guardians of the Galaxy / Lego, did make up some ground though.

That “Other” Shooting – No real coverage for this guy in the media, probably because of where it happened. But… there’s actual evidence and he wasn’t fresh off robbing a store. Can we pick our cases for outrage a bit better?

Second Cold War – EU v. Russia, aided by a lukewarm foreign policy in the States. I really hope I don’t end up seeing World War III.

8TB Hard drive – That’s a lotta movies… Or about 4 1/2 days of high-def pr0n…

Fate's Interesting News Bits v.10

The long running stories of ISIS and Ferguson are still going on. Otherwise, not much catching my eye this week, but I’ve been more busy than usual.

Mythbusters Cuts – Mythbusters is going back to just Adam and Jamie. I’m guessing due to reduced ratings. Don’t watch it much anymore, but … I’m less likely to now.

20140 Hugo Awards –  Fresh of the press

Police Lawsuit – This just in, police can’t arrest you for recording them, though, apparently they don’t care if you’ll win the lawsuit. Maybe they should have to?

Forwards Forwards Forwards! – Balmer’s left Microsoft to do the whole NBA thing. I guess he’ll be more at home throwing chairs with Mark Cuban than in the tech sector.

C++14 Released – Given the general uptake of C++11, I’ll probably get to work with C++14 sometime around… 2024…

China Nukes GMO – apparently China is getting out of creating / allowing GMO crops

ISS Plankton – It’s alliveeeeeeee

 

Fate's Interesting News Bits V.9

Ferguson Unreset – Police brutality, rioting, and racial tension make for a good media shit-storm. Vox has some relatively unbiased / fact based coverage.

Iraq Airstrikes – Continuing fights against ISIS, the new villain for 2014.

Spray Cake – From fridge to cake in 30 seconds. And this is why you’re fat.

Internet Crash – Ok, they call it a “hiccup”. While we’re creatively seeking ways to avoid switching to new protocols, the continued expansion of the internet is hitting some real limits…

First Female Field’s Medalist – Not much more to say, pretty cool story.

New GM Crops – Immediately on schedule as multiple patents begin expiring, a new round of GM crops will save the pro… er… increase value for farmers.

Reporters Protest – A group of reporters stood up for journalistic integrity and the ability to have anonymous sources. We’ll see if Obama really does deliver any “change” as his justice department threatens to prosecute.

Internet Pope -Now that the Vatican has a twitter feed, the Pope is telling young people to not waste time online.

Google Can See You – New satellites with greater resolution abilities are being approved and released into space. While the media might indicate that these are good enough to ‘make out faces’, a “face” in that case would be a single pixel. So, you could watch someone run, but not really see who.

Last, but not least, the world lost a great comedian, and by many accounts, person. Rest in Peace. This past week, we also learned of a new ongoing battle with Parkinsons, in addition to the repeated previous battles with Depression.

Fate's Interesting News V.8

Well, Fin and I were out on vacation for a bit. I’m back now and ready to catch up on some blogging, so here’s the interesting stories from the past week.

Your Password’s Broken – yet another large data breach. Some people (I will call them idiots) are proposing a centralized password database as a solution. Web admins – please learn about the joys of salt, kthx.

Missouri Constitutional Amendments – “Right to Farm” passed, giving a boon to Big-Ag, but nothing really for gardeners.  75% of us value our electornic privacy.  And no-new sales tax for roads.

No to Toy Street Car – I’m glad I don’t live or work in KC proper, given the bullshit they like to spend that nice 1% cut of annual income from everybody. Voters actually developed some stones and told the city to not waste thousands on yet another expensive boondoggle while infrastructure crumbles.

Back to Iraq – Air strikes, and renewed conflict. ISIS is the new Taliban.

Near Miss – So, apparently, a solar flare barely missed us. Had it hit? Well, we’d be largely without GPS, internet, and a good part of the grid would be down.

Personal Audio on the Ropes – I’m not a big fan of Adam Carolla, but maybe he can knock this company out for good.

Ebola Outbreak – WHO has declared the Ebola Outbreak an international emergency. Scary shit.

SkyNet Comes – IBM has created a new ‘brain’ processor. If you put a couple million of these together, (ignoring the interconnect issues), you’d have something resembling a human brain. This comes only months after a super-computer modeled 1% of the human brain.

Legal Cellphone Unlock – At least, for now. Let’s hope the right to own our devices continues.

Nintendo Still Sucking – I kinda regret the Wii U, Fin and I loved the new Mario game, but there’s little other content, and I refuse to invest any money in the virtual console until I can transfer my account to another unit.

CIA Spys on Congress – Or, I should say, finally admits to it.

Post ACA Medical Bills Still Stupid – Hey, my nasty cut finger only cost $1200 for the insurance company. $8,200 for a bandage? Yeah… that makes a lot of sense.

Sprint Breaks up with T-Mobile – The on-again of-again merger talks are now off-again, and probably for good. Sprint is still loosing customers. Given Sprint’s efforts to destroy net neutrality with an H-bomb, I’m not to broke up about them getting “adjusted” by the market.

Fate's Interesting News Bits V.7

Ukraine Crash – No funny things to say about this. It’s sad, tragic, and disgusting.

Microsoft Resizes – 18,000 people to be laid off. It really sucks to be a Nokia employee right now, but I doubt that anyone there is completely surprised by what’s going on. If Microsoft is SMART, they’ll be axing or refreshing most of the management structure there. From the sound of things…. they’re being smart, but I’ve yet to see any real detail.

New York Lyft – The courts have basically barred Lyft from operating in its designed model in New York. Lyft will have to work with regulators to get “approval” for how they dispatch vehicles and pricing. Regulatory Capture isn’t real at all, nope…

Most Awesome 3d Printer Ever – 3d printed ice cream.

Marvell Goes PC – Instead of inventing new Super-Heroes, Marvell is rebranding old ones to help add diversity. The purist in me says don’t mess with my childhood. At some point, does modifying characters so drastically and intentionally stop becoming inclusive, and start becoming condescending?

Eating Electricity – Bacteria that lives directly off electricity. Sounds like Sci-Fi, but it’s out there. How cool is that?

Comcast Still Sucks – 20 minutes to cancel. I’m not surprised. Of course, they have “more work to do”. I’d guess in figuring out how to detect and avoid people recording the 20 minutes it takes to cancel. Just another reason to say no to the TWC/Comcast merger.

“Greens” Use More – Shocked! Shocked! There’s a reason I’m more a fan of “sustainable” culture than “green”. And even then, the terms are coopted and abused. If you insist on buying the latest / greatest gadgets because they are “better for the environment”, then your just a mindless consumer, not an environmentalist. The article is a bit more mild than that, but it does reveal that people saying they care about climate change don’t move that into their personal use of energy.

Craigs List Danger – Use caution buying / selling on craigslist… people can suck. Looks like police have hopefully broken up a robbery ring locally, but I’d give some time in case other people decide to copy the idea.

Park Pianos – Seattle, WA is doing the community piano thing. This has been done around the world multiple times, maybe it’d be fun to try to do it locally. More exposure to music, art, and the outdoors. Less exposure to video games. Good things.

Obama Goes Conservative – Mind you, the talking heads didn’t really notice, except a few to criticize for this being very “Reagan”.