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

Broody Chickens

Two of my chickens decided to go broody on me.

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One has gone broody three times on me since I got her.   I tried putting a golf ball in the other nest box to try to move her over but she went right back to the original nest and then another of them decided she was going to sit on the golf ball.

Well,  since the one has gone broody so many times now I decided she could be productive and hatch out some eggs for me.  I decided to check Craigslist to see if anyone out there was selling fertilized eggs.  I really had no plan in mind on what kind of eggs I wanted but I was hoping for one of the heirloom breeds.  I ended up with birchen marans.

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The eggs are really dark brown and quite a bit bigger then the eggs my hens lay.  I’d say my hens lay a large egg and these were an extra large if you go by the ones from the grocery store.

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I should have taken a comparison picture,  but didn’t think of it.

I bought 16 eggs,  8 for each hen.  The guy gave me 18, two extra to account for non fertility of a couple.   I picked up the eggs on June 2 and put them under the hens that night.   We should be looking at having them hatch around June 22nd or so.

Last night we candeled the eggs. Out of 18 we found 2 that were definitely bad, and one we weren’t sure about so we just went ahead and left it just in case. I imagine it will end up not hatching but since this was our first time we figured better safe then sorry.

I tried to take pictures of the candeling but my camera phone was just not up to the task. We opened the two bad eggs when we got inside just out of curiosity. One was completely unfertile with no blood spot or anything. The other was a dime sized chick that had obviously not made it past the first several days. I would imagine if we were to open the other one that we suspect is bad we would find a quarter sized chick that had died a couple days past the other one.

I am looking forward to the hatching. I am very excited to watch the hens raise their broods. 10 more days and they should be all hatched out!

-Fin

Water Bath Canning: Part 1

I have,  for the longest time,  had a mental block of some kind regarding canning.  I’ve always intended on learing how to can,  I just thought,  for some reason,  that I needed someone to show me EXACTLY what to do,  or I wouldn’t be able to get it right.  This isn’t because I thought it was too hard,  or there was a special trick to be learned,  or anything like that,  it just seemed to me like something that needed to be learned from someone,  in person.  Like I said,  it was just a mental block about the whole thing. 

I had grand plans of going to South Dakota to visit a friend of my mother’s to learn everything there is to know about canning.  In retrospect this seems silly,  but at the time I was convinced it was the way to go about it.  The trip seemed to be a hazy plan “in the fall,  during canning season” about every year since I got serious about gardening several years ago.  Every year something came up and it just never seemed like “the right time. ”  

This spring,  came the tipping point. 

This year,  I have had an absolutely amazing crop from my rhubarb that I planted 4 years ago.  This is the biggest crop I’ve had from it yet.  I was determined that this would be the year that I finally managed to can something,  and I decided that that “something” was going to be shrawberry-rhubarb jelly.  I LOVE strawberry – rhubarb jelly.  Like,  can eat it straight out of the jar love it,  and boy is it be hard to find (especially organic),  and when you do (most of the time at a farmers market) it is usually very expensive.  Now,  I don’t begrudge the cost,  since I know organic produce is more expensive in general,  and organic strawberries even more so, but that just makes it a rare treat indeed. 

I was absolutely determined I would figure out this whole canning “thing.”   This year.  In fact,  this spring.  Right now,  while my rhubarb was producing a luscious crop and strawberries were in season. 

My first major hurdle was finding organic strawberries that actually smelled like strawberrys and weren’t rotting.  This actually proved to be harder then I expected.   Everywhere I went it seemed like their organic strawberries were in one of three categories: 1. Unripe 2. Rotting 3. Nonexistent.  Non organic strawberries were found by the billions everywhere I went,  however,  strawberries are one of the things I insist on buying organic since they are part of the dirty dozen.  Apple’s are another big one for me,  and man,  it’s getting ridiculously hard to find organic granny smith apples these days,  for any price!  I finally lucked out at Costco,  where they were selling 2 lb containers for $7, which,  although double the price of non organic,  is a good price for organic strawberries.  I bought 10 lbs since I wasn’t sure how many I would need for the amount of rhubarb I had.

Allright,  organic rhubarb? Check.  Organic strawberries? Check.  Organic sugar? Check (also from Costco, that’s the best price I’ve found on organic CANE sugar,  since I refuse to buy beet sugar.)  Organic lemons? Check.  Organic pectin? Che…… errrr,  what? I didn’t think this one through apparently.   I actually have no idea if you can get organic pectin or not,  sadly I just grabbed the first thing off the shelf I saw in the canning section at my local Ace Hardware,  which is where I got the canning lids I used as well.  I have since discovered they are almost half the price at the local big blue box store (which I absolutely loathe shopping at with a passion I can not even begin to describe),  which might be enough to get me to shop there if I start doing a whole bunch of canning in the future.  I do plan on investing in some of the Tattler reusable canning lids in the future,  however,  I didn’t want to make the investment until I was sure I was going to be comfortable canning in the future. 

I already had a whole bunch of canning jars that I’ve collected over the years in sizes ranging from 4 oz all the way up to 1 gallon,  in both the wide mouth variety and the regular ones.   For years now I have been using glass jars for storing food both in the fridge and in the cupboards.   Not canning things,  just using them as dry storage for beans,  lentils,  chips,  popcorn,  and things like that.   I’ve also discovered if you store things in glass in the fridge they both last longer AND taste better.   No funky refrigerator taste in the food and no food adding funky smells to the refrigerator.

This has gotten so long that I am just going to end the first installment here and continue on with part 2 in another post.  

-Fin

Planning out the Garden and Shovels

This weekend was a super busy weekend but a whole lot of stuff got done!

I broke what I thought was my last shovel on Friday trying to get that tree stump out of the ground, which sucks, because I have a whole lot more stuff to do with a shovel before the season even begins this year. We went to several estate sales yesterday trying to find a new shovel with absolutely NO luck. Isn’t it usually the case that every time you’re not looking for something that they are all over the place but as soon as you go looking for it there is none to be found? That was the case with shovels yesterday. The only one we found was a really crappy short handled one and I really wanted a long handled shovel. I did end up getting a couple new large sized tomato cages tho, and when we opened the trunk of the car to stick the cages in there we found a shovel! Go figure. It must have been in my car when I hit the deer and gotten stuck in Fates car without me realizing it. Unfortunately it was a short handled one, which wasn’t what I wanted.

We went to Ace Hardware on the way home thinking to maybe pick up a new handle so I could replace the handle that I broke. Man, those things are expensive! They wanted like $15 for a new one. I started looking at the shovels on the wall and saw a all steel one for $29, with a lifetime warranty! Considering I’ve broken about 5 shovels or more in the last 3 years I figured the lifetime warranty was the way to go. I ended up getting this Fiskars long handled shovel. The wider base for stepping on and the life time warranty were the major attractions for me. Its a bit heavier then the other shovels I have used but I guess that works out well in the goal of I have of building more muscle! I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but will be sure to post a review when I do.

Today was spent sorting out our massive seed order. 172 different varieties! I think we might be a bit insane. We have 4 different places we are planting. My parents house, my brothers girlfriends friends farm (in three different places), my brothers house, and my house. Seeing the amount of seeds we have I am having trouble believing that we have ENOUGH seeds. Then the other part of me wonders where in the hell we are going to even put everything. Its crazy.

We started a google document that listed out all the starting times for getting things started indoors, transplanting, and direct seeding for both the spring and fall time. I am super excited to get everything going. We should be starting out the first of our seeds here very soon as our last expected frost date is April 15th. I’m really wondering how that is going to go this year since we don’t seem to have had a winter around here. Knowing this area tho, even tho the winter has been super mild, I can see our last frost happening the end of May. A freak June snow storm isn’t out of the question either.

My brother took a bunch of the salvaged wood I brought home and made out quite a few of the boxes for the garden for me. I’m happy about that as it will save me a ton of work. There are quite a few to go, but he made a whole lot of progress on them today. I will be concentrating on getting those into the garden this week along with getting the rest of the hugelkulture beds in the front yard dug out and filled up. I have the wood now to get those going, and the new shovel to get them dug out! I need to get that little tree moved and then I am in business.

Things are really coming along around here!

-Fin

Ding dong the tree is gone!

Or at least the tree stump is gone now! We took the tree down about 3 years ago and I’ve been waiting for the stump to rot enough to get out since. I decided to take it out this week so I wouldn’t have to now around it anymore. Instead I will have to now around the new tree I am putting in there.

The tree we took out was some kind of pine tree that died about 5 years ago due to some kind of bug infestation. Mine was one of the first in the area to go, but it seems to be attacking pretty much every other pine I see these days. It was a hard loss, since that provided late day shade to my biggest windows in the house. It has made a real difference on how hot the living room gets in the summer.

I already have the tree I am planning on putting in there, I just need to move it from where I decided to put it last year. Hopefully moving it doesn’t kill it, I grew it from a seedling.


– Fin

On getting a new truck and reusing stuff

I totaled my car last week, which is a major bummer to me.  I really loved that car.  It was getting old, no bones about that, and had some issues that were going to need fixing coming up sooner rather then later, but I still loved that car.  It got amazing gas mileage and I could haul a lot of stuff around.  I got an average of 40 mpg….and it cost around $20 for me to fill the tank.

Man, oh man does owning a truck after a car like that turn into major shock at the gas pump.  I got a 2004 Ford ranger xlt.  It’s a nice truck.  Super comfortable, power everything, not too big to drive around.  I get 18mpg.  18.  Bleh. It costs me $40+ to fill it up.  I can’t even go as far on a tank of gas as I could in my car! So not happy about that.  I think I’m in for a lifestyle change about the way I drive around.

I’m having trouble with the halving of my gas mileage, using twice as much gas as I was before.   I’m not even sure if I think this truck can haul any more then my car could.  Using twice as much of a non renewable resource as I was before just does not sit right with me at all.

However…

I was able to respond to an ad on Craigslist for some weathered wood.  A lot of weathered wood.  A whole decks top of wood someone had pulled off to replace and wanted to get rid of.   Non chemically treated weathered wood as far as I can tell.

It’s not any good for a deck anymore, a lot of the ends are rotted and the screws that were left in it are rusted through.  They are mostly 2 x 6’s as far as I can tell of all various lengths mostly over 6 foot.  Most of the screws are gone and I didn’t see any nails.  The boards are solid for the most part if you’d cut off about 2-6 inches off the ends.

Absolutely perfect for my uses.

I am planning on making raised beds in my front yard to hold the dirt I dig out of my new bigger pond project.  The beds will be used to plant various garden crops this spring and in future years.  What doesn’t get used in the front yard will be used in the garden for the same purpose.

I’m got something for free that was someone else’s trash I get to put to a new purpose and it stays out of the landfill.  I got to save money by having the truck to haul it in, it would have never fit in my car at all.  I got to save new lumber from being used for this purpose, saving trees from being cut down needlessly.

Is this one thing worth the environmental hit on halving my gas mileage over all?  Not in my mind.  Not just this one thing.  I hope in the overall ownership of the truck to keep being able to do this kind of thing.  Keep offsetting my overall greater gas useage with an even bigger overall greater ability to reuse various things in my projects going forward.

Balance is an important thing in my life.  I hope to be able to achieve it with this truck.  I think so far with what I’ve done its been a net win, but I will have to be very aware of this in the future to be able to keep it that way.

-Fin