Kickstarter: What the Hell (redux)

One of the things that bug me about internet culture is how reactionary it can be. People have knee-jerk reactions to perceived slights without gathering all (or any) of the facts, and there is a large portion of it that reacts to the extreme, countering a small offense with death threats, thus invalidating any point they might have.

stitch eyesSo I try to avoid that. Patience isn’t really my thing, but I try not to go overboard just because I don’t agree with something. For a while now, I’ve harped on the issues Kickstarter is facing from it’s rapid success, namely what the NCAA would term ‘lack of institutional control‘ and coping with the fact that big names are getting involved to the tune if millions of dollars. But recently, it’s been more than just a couple of dumb projects that don’t quite meet the guidelines, plus more and more big names are turning to crowdfunding with less and less definition around their projects.

I go back and forth on the issue of ‘big’ names in Crowdfunding- my personal thought is, if you have the money to invest yourself and the name recognition, why do you need the crowd? Heck, I have neither of those things and when my Kickstarter wasn’t funded, I ended up doing it myself anyway. And now I have a book out, and even made sure the people who backed the Kickstarter got a copy (what can I say? I’m a nice guy). But the downside of people with name recognition and money turning to the crowd is that half the fun and suspense is removed. Watching the Veronica Mars movie take off was cool, and certainly showed that people want to see it, but after day two, their only struggle would be meeting demand. There was no down-to-the-wire suspense like with the Fireside Kickstarters.

This shouldn’t take away from the great projects that ARE out there, on Kickstarter and other platforms, but the fact is there is a lot of crap from a whole variety of outlets. But guess what? That’s true of damn near anything.

Which brings us to the salient point- blatant lack of control. For a while, as I pointed out, stuff has slipped through that does not meet Kickstarters own criteria (IndieGoGo is more permissive, so this doesn’t apply as broadly)- things that aren’t actually projects or are otherwise suspect. The good thing about crowdfunding is that people simply don’t fund these, and they fall by the wayside, for the most part. The Kickstarted documentary guys put a stop to a fraud that would have taken backers for a total of $120,000. So crowdfunding sort of works both ways- by funding, and by not.

And then there is this: At best, a handbook for sexual harassment that is insulting to women by reducing them to some manner of game, and to men because it assumes that we’re all just that base. At worst, well, if a handbook for rape seems strong, this is an excerpt:

“All the greatest seducers in history could not keep their hands off of women. They aggressively escalated physically with every woman they were flirting with. They began touching them immediately, kept great body language and eye contact, and were shameless in their physicality. Even when a girl rejects your advances, she KNOWS that you desire her. That’s hot. It arouses her physically and psychologically.”

(note to dudes: THIS IS A BALD-FACED LIE).

Reading that sentence makes my blood boil. The fact that this was massively overfunded doesn’t help. The fact that after numerous complaints, Kickstarter didn’t step in is, at the very least, irresponsible.

I think Kickstarter is a victim of its own success and the instant-reaction culture of the internet and is essentially understaffed to review every project that comes through in any depth. This, to me, is pretty forgivable- after all, they’re in the business of making money as well. Things are going to slip through that are either unfit for Kickstarter or offensive in some way. It happens. They do need to take action when a lot of people complain, though, particularly about offensive projects. What Kickstarter REALLY needs to do is hire (or heck, ask for volunteers) more people to review projects in more detail. The larger it gets, the more it will attract people looking for a quick buck or who are likely to have something like ‘Above the Game’, and they need to protect themselves and the people who use their platform from such individuals.

Is all of this a reason to stop using Kickstarter? A lot of people are saying so, but I think it’s hardly fair to punish people with legitimate and noble endeavors because of a few bad seeds. There are a lot of good projects, and I think it is better to vote with your dollar in support of those rather than abandon the platform altogether- otherwise the successful projects will just be ones such as these, and that will be all that’s left.

Quick Update: This does, however, mean that, as a creator, I would likely take my project elsewhere unless/until Kickstarter addressed these issues.


Monday Morning Randomness

My new Adventures in Indie Publishing is up over at Nerds Feather, and I talk about small, hybrid-style presses and their growing popularity. Enjoy.

In Kickstarter-related geekiness, the Machine of Death Kickstarter ends today, and will hit nearly $500,000 (with a push, will clear it), while Veronica Mars continues its quest to take all the money in the world, now nearing $3.7 million. Craaazy. As usual, Chuck Wendig has a must-read post on the subject.

OK, I’m gonna speak to that point for just a second, RE: everyone who is freaking out. A lot of people like Veronica Mars. So far, 55,365 have chipped in at an average of $65 apiece. This is obviously higher than the average $25-35 pledge, but it doesn’t mean people are taking their Kickstarter dollars and forgetting everything else. Most projects don’t need tens of thousands of supporters or millions of dollars. If every one of those people takes $10 and throws it to some other projects, a lot of projects will get funded- and that’s what is likely to happen. So keep your pants on.

Not a huge mixed drink guy (extra dry martini, please. And no, martinis are not made from vodka), but the Bicyclette is something I’ll mix up this summer.

I want a room decorated in oversized books.

More on this in a bit, but April 23rd is the release date for 3024AD: Series One. I’ll have some cool promo stuff this week, as well as review copies. If you want to write a review (preferably a glowing, five-star one), let me know.

Today in Cyclical Arguments: The Fame Threshold

So there is a Kickstarter for a Veronica Mars movie, which in and of itself I have exactly zero opinion about. Maybe it’s great; I never saw it. But the inestimable Janna O’Shea (and others, I’m sure) have expressed concern over it; to whit:

I’m really excited about this movie idea, but I’m not sure how into the Kickstarter part of it I am.

I guess it just bugs me that this forum is being used to fund a movie like this. Can’t really put my finger on exactly why.

Veronica Mars on Kickstarter.

I wager that sentiment comes from the fact that Veronica Mars and the people associated with this project are already pretty well known. It creates “what do you need ME for?” type of feeling. Likewise, the number of other well known people that are endorsing it lend to that feeling, when Kickstarter is generally a platform for new projects, the person who otherwise might not be able to raise the capital for something like that.

A few tweets or a blog post from people like Gabe of Penny Arcade, or even Janna, would make most Kickstarter projects. Brian from Kickstarter has noted that early recognition from Niel Gaiman helped the Fireside Kickstarters.

$2,000,000 is a fair chuck of change, so maybe this is the route to go. Without a major studio willing to invest in it, why not turn to the fans? If it’s something they want, well, that kinda seems like the definition of crowdfunding, doesn’t it? And if it fails, it’s no money out of anyone’s pocket.

My concern is saturation- at what point do enough big names join Kickstarter that the little guy gets crowded out? Based on what I’ve seen lately, that might not be the worst thing ever, but how do we go about getting new blood? The Stripped documentary has some big names behind it, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Is that crowding out a budding filmmaker? Possibly. Welcome to capitalism, kids.

No matter what, I think we can all agree Joss Whedon should Kickstart more seasons of Firefly, right? I thought so.