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Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed? 247

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-people-get-angry-on-the-internet dept.
skywiseguy writes "I have only used Kickstarter to back a single project so far, but one of the backers of that project pointed us to a project promising video capable glasses which was once one of the top 10 highest funded projects in Kickstarter history. After reading through the comments, it is obvious that the project has not met its expected deadline of 'Winter 2011,' but the project team rarely gives any updates with concrete information. All emails sent to them by backers get a form letter in reply, they routinely delete negative comments from their Facebook page, and apparently very soon after the project was funded, they posted pictures of themselves on a tropical beach with the tagline, 'We are not on a beach in Thailand.' Their early promotions were featured on Engadget and other tech sites but since the project was funded they've rarely, if ever, communicated in more than a form letter. So at what point can a project like this be considered to have failed? And if you had backed a project with this kind of lack of communication from the project team, what would you consider to be the best course of action? Disclaimer: I have not backed this project, but I am very interested in funding Kickstarter projects and I do not want to get caught sending money to a less than reputable project. According to the above project's backers, Kickstarter claims to have no mechanism for refunding money to backers of failed projects and no way to hold the project team accountable to their backers. This does not seem like a healthy environment for someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists."
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Ask Slashdot: At What Point Has a Kickstarter Project Failed?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:22AM (#39641799)

    Other than requiring a sign agreement with project meetings, milestones and checkpoints you'll have to go on faith.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:28AM (#39642027)

      Wasn't that projected delivery date around the same as the Raspberry Pi's one?

    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      And that could be a differential for requesting the backing. One could officially sign a public contract with penalties (e.g. donation to charities) in the case of failure. The legality of the contract would have to be possible to verify by anyone interested.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        A public contract is fine, but how would you sign a contract with "the public"? Somebody would have to be the other party to sign off on deliveries, resolve disputes, have a standing to sue if they don't adhere to it and so on. I doubt the charities want to mediate between unhappy contributors and unscrupulous companies and individuals. There's also the chance the person would default on his penalties after spending/running off with the money.

        If it's only a fraction of the money a scammer could still take a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is one of the major problems with the recent legislation allowing scam artists to target everyone for startup financing. There's a reason that was very regulated, and why this round of deregulation was poorly thought out and poorly implemented. While it's good to have a larger pool of money to draw from, and it's good to have more options for investing, there's a reason ultra-high risk investments have been limited to accredited investors.

    • For the most part if you don't feel comfortable then you drop out. You may like the project idea, but if they are not going to be professional about it, drop out, and put your money somewhere else.

      I know as a tech guy I hate having to fill out documentation and give detail status, however when someone is paying you bills, you ought to keep them up to date on what you are doing. Failure to do so, is a mistake on my part.

      There is complaining on home useless stuff you need to do at work... However if you are
    • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:34AM (#39642641) Journal

      It seems pretty idiotic to whine about a product having gone past the release date. Even a simple view of the kickstarter page shows they're working on things. Acting like they're scamming or nonresponsive seems a bit of bullshit since they've been posting every couple weeks or so.

      However, yes, it's a buy in to hope it happens - they are not shareholders and this is not stock.

    • by Zadaz (950521)

      You can go on more than faith. If you have access to Kickstarter.com you have access to a stalker's paradise of tools to find out how legit a project is.

      Do your research:

      1) Does the process pass the sniff test. Is it too good to be true? Does the money-side seem legit? Does it violate any physical laws, or laws of common sense [kickstarter.com]? A surprising number will fail here.

      2) Look at the project docs. Do they have a real thing to produce? If it's for an object do they have an actual working one or do they have just s

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You don't give your money to strangers without some kind of collateral. All this "microfunding" or "crowdfunding" nonsense will not work, for the same reason that we don't have a gift economy: there are incompetent fools (who will fail to use the money well), or just greedy bastards who will take the money for themselves. Try investing in individual stocks after researching them.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:32AM (#39641819)

      It will work, it just won't always work. Hell, I'm willing to bet the majority of people couldn't manage it. But remove the people who are uninterested in the buisness model, or with poor to no reputations, and you're left with people with a history of develiering who have the freedom to deliver their image, as opposed to that which is likely "dumbed down" for the masses. You're still going to get some failures, but I'm willing to bet at least some of them will deliver a quality product, and a few of them will be complete gems which would be unfeasible or comprimised with a standard publisher.

      • It will work until the recipients realize that if they take the money and don't pay it back there won't be much of a recourse against them, as each person had only loss a little bit.

        The housing collapse had these sub-prime loans where the bank would sell portions of the loans out to different organizations (A lot like micropayments) that way they are not holding the Risk of a full loan, and could give loans to riskier people. Then the economy dropped. A lot of people defaulted so a lot of people who had a
      • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @10:18AM (#39643739) Homepage

        It will work, it just won't always work.

        I agree, and nothing *always* works. There is no sure-fire route to success. Direct investments with iron-clad contracts does not guarantee that you'll get your money's worth.

        If you're willing to take the risk of donating some money to a project that you'd really like to see get off the ground, then Kickstarter seems to be a way to do that. It's not a good idea to donate to Kickstarter funds of total strangers without any track-record of completing projects, but there are real professionals who have used Kickstarter to get funding for sensible projects with feasible goals.

        If you want to be extremely cautious, only put your money into extremely safe investments. Still, don't assume that it's impossible to get ripped off that way too. There have been plenty of people who have been scammed by reputable investment firms. Hell, the whole world has been scammed by Goldman Sachs.

    • Yes, because there's absolutely no way around this problem. Uh-uh, no way. Just give up and buy some bonds. You should love the money more than whatever it is you were backing anyway.

    • by Troed (102527) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:31AM (#39642035) Homepage Journal

      for the same reason that we don't have a gift economy

      Humans have always had a gift economy, including today. Book tip: "The generous man" by Tor Norretranders.

      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/142903.The_Generous_Man [goodreads.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Yup that is why Linux is an utter failure and not used anywhere.

      Oh wait, Linux is used in more places than Windows and OSX combined.... Wait, a slashdot AC has no clue as to how these things really work? OMG!

      If you go to google, you can find tens of thousands of things like this that are a wild success.

      Oh and most businesses are built this way, if you think you have collateral when you buy stocks you are completely delusional.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What does Linux have to do with gifts/donations?
        (Most contributions to the Linux codebase are made by paid developers)

      • I would imagine that the number of Windows desktops is significantly greater than the number of Linux servers.

        Not that Linux ISNT bigger in the "places where it matters", but I think you underestimate the number of PCs, laptops, etc out there running Windows.

        • by Bert64 (520050)

          Most people i know have more linux boxes (Without realising it) than windows...

          Most non geeks will have 1 computer, maybe its a laptop or maybe they have a laptop aswell...
          They are also likely to have a cellphone, if its android, webos or meego then it runs linux.
          They probably also have an internet connection, which uses a router and/or wifi ap, that could easily be linux.
          They almost certainly have a tv, and if its relatively modern its highly likely to be running linux.
          Most people also have a (cable/sat/ot

        • by Americano (920576)

          bigger in the "places where it matters"

          "She said it was a good size!"

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        People don't develop Linux purely out of an altruistic desire to give something to someone else... It is a collaborative effort between a large number of individuals and organisations who realise that doing their small part (with many others doing the same) is much cheaper for them than having to develop an entire system from scratch.

    • by sirlark (1676276) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:27AM (#39642233)
      You mean like a financial institution perhaps, yeah they definitely won't try to screw you over. Trust is an issue regardless of the funding channel and the same guidelines apply, rule #1 being: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:34AM (#39641827)

    Pretty much what you said - there's no way to guarantee people will use the funds for the purpose you've donated them for.

    I was talking about a Kickstarter-type model ages ago on my blog, and I pretty much got it all right with Kickstarter except for one thing: I said that a crowdfunding system would have to essentially operate a trust, that released funds as certain project milestones were released, or on receipt of invoices, etc.

    Obviously, Kickstarter managed to operate without such a mechanism, but I think it's definitely needed if the crowdfunding concept is going to grow. Maybe not for all projects, but ones that reach a certain amount of capitalisation, certainly.

    • Re:Trust (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mark Hood (1630) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:32AM (#39642041) Homepage

      Hear hear. From Kickstarter's own FAQ [kickstarter.com] (oddly, no-one's quoted this yet):

      Who is responsible for fulfilling the promises of a project?

      It is the responsibility of the project creator to fulfill the promises of their project. Kickstarter reviews projects to ensure they do not violate the Project Guidelines, however Kickstarter does not investigate a creator's ability to complete their project.

      Creators are encouraged to share links to any websites that show work related to the project, or past projects. It's up to them to make the case for their project and their ability to complete it. Because projects are usually funded by the friends, fans, and communities around its creator, there are powerful social forces that keep creators accountable.

      The web is an excellent resource for learning about someone’s prior experience. If someone has no demonstrable prior history of doing something like their project, or is unwilling to share information, backers should consider that when weighing a pledge. If something sounds too good to be true, it very well may be.

      So there you have it - caveat emptor. If you throw money at a stranger, based on a promise, it's down to you. Most of the Kickstarter projects I've seen have been 'hey fans, you love our website, help us make a book' kind of things, which would certainly bite the owner in the ass if they let you down.

      • by DaneM (810927)

        ...caveat emptor.

        I think that this whole discussion could be summarized with those words; since there's no (legal) accountability, it's all up to how much you care to risk, and how much you trust the folks receiving your money.

        The instructions above (in the parent comment), from the site, are quite apt, of course, so if you aren't going to fund an already-established-and-reputable project, they're probably the best you'll do for a "guarantee" of sorts.

      • It looked like it was a pledge and they had to meet deadlines in order to receive the funding? Is that not accurate?

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        I think kickstarter is a great idea for some projects. Projects where you get physical goods in hand. Because with most physical goods, the cost is reduced greatly if you can get 5000 people pledging to buy your product. However I'm seeing a lot of kickstarter projects for intangible items [kickstarter.com] (Just the first example I thought of). This seems odd to me. If there are no physical goods, then what start-up costs do they have, other than the time spent on the creative part. Which personally, I think the old mode
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Americano (920576)

          If there are no physical goods, then what start-up costs do they have, other than the time spent on the creative part.

          It's the patronage model. And it's been practical and workable for centuries. A rich patron gives the artist money for living expenses, supplies, etc., and in return, the artist focuses on producing new art, without the distractions of having to work a 9-5 to pay the rent. Except now, rather than one wealthy patron, an artist can search for 500 middle class patrons who can each kick in $3

    • Re:Trust (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:45AM (#39642087) Homepage

      You can mitigate and manage risk though. by funding projects that are backed by people that actually have a proven track record of completing a job or task. for example the Double Fine kickstarter or the Shadowrun kickstarter. Both are from people that actually make a finished product and have examples of finished products.

      The glasses example was a bunch of kids that never had anything to show that they ever finished, and the transition from concept to product is a hard one. It also had a lot of other red flags that made me back away.

      It's why I funded the two games from people with a reputation of success and ignored completely the full of red flags it will fail video glasses project ran by unknowns that did not even have a business plan.

      • by Thuktun (221615)

        You can mitigate and manage risk though. by funding projects that are backed by people that actually have a proven track record of completing a job or task.

        ...and consequently that have a reputation that will be harmed if things go significantly wrong.

    • 1. Give them the money concept: The first people to completely meet the requirements get all the money plus interest. I would expect the goal to be some sort of working prototype for whatever it is they want to fund.

      2. Invest the money in their company concept: The first people to meet the requirements get all the money plus interest in exchange for a minority stake of non voting stock. This is how to encourage people to hand their "crowdsourced" money over.

      i.e. They have to already have something more than

      • Hmmm... prizes have been in for a bit of criticism as effectively slave labour. Get 100 teams coding a solution to your program/drafting an advertising campaign/designing your new corporate headquarters, and then pay one of them what would have been a living wage for 4 or 5 of them -- even 10, maybe-- and what looks like a major bonus to each and every one of them. In the end, the backer gets a better end product than it would have got if it had hired ten teams to start off with, and 99 teams go hungry.

        Ha

    • I'd call it ClassActionLawsuitStarter.

  • by enz (744942) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:35AM (#39641831)
    Crowdfunding works only together with reputation. If you simply give money to any unknown person who starts a project, then it's your own fault if they run away with it. Reputation means that creators seeking funding need to do their first few projects for free until there are enough fans who believe that the creator will really deliver and who like the quality of the previous products.
    • Re:No reputation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @06:19AM (#39641991) Homepage

      Crowdfunding works only together with reputation. If you simply give money to any unknown person who starts a project, then it's your own fault if they run away with it. Reputation means that creators seeking funding need to do their first few projects for free until there are enough fans who believe that the creator will really deliver and who like the quality of the previous products.

      Exactly. I donated through Kickstarter to Musopen [kickstarter.com] which was also prominently featured here on slashdot because they were already a registered non-profit and had done quite a bit of work to produce and distribute free music before, not to mention they had a semi-tangible goal. Good thing too, because this was in September 2010 and they didn't get to recording until this January with the Prague Symphony Orchestra - it's now in editing and still not released yet. I'd not give money to any random dude who said he'd do the same and I wouldn't trust them to deliver almost two years down the road.

      Of course you still don't have a real guarantee, I don't have a contract, I can't get a refund. But you have to consider the value proposition, for example if a person has worked long and hard on an open source project and asks for Kickstarter funding to work full time on some features. If he goes AWOL then that project is scorched earth, he can't use it as reference anywhere because it'll be full of stories about how he took the money and ran. Same with anyone pursuing any kind of career who'd use it in their portfolio. But people with no proven commitment wanting money up front? No way.

      • Of course you still don't have a real guarantee, I don't have a contract, I can't get a refund.

        While you don't have a guarantee, at least one lawyer (registered with AZ state bar) believes you as a project backer do, in fact, have a contract with the project creator.

        Therefore any failure to deliver as promised can be seen as a breach of contract, subject to whatever laws apply in your jurisdiction.

        That lawyer is exploring filing a court case as a matter of principle. I'd point you to him, but 1. he's limit

        • Reply to self, would post anon if there weren't that annoying timer telling me it's only been 15 minutes since I last posted when I do so.

          ----

          IndieGoGo, another crowdfunding platform, does actually spell out the option of taking the project creator to court yourself:
          http://support.indiegogo.com/entries/20501033-how-does-indiegogo-deal-with-fraudulent-campaigns [indiegogo.com]

          Indiegogo requires campaign owners to fufill their Perks as a part of our Terms of Service. Perks are manged solely by campaign owners; we do not gua

        • A lawyer thinks you have a reason to sue. Amazing.
        • While you don't have a guarantee, at least one lawyer (registered with AZ state bar) believes you as a project backer do, in fact, have a contract with the project creator.

          That lawyer is exploring filing a court case as a matter of principle.

          What a lawyer thinks is more or less irrelevant until a judge gavels the issue.

      • IANAL, but it seems to me that backers of a project that doesn't actually happen (not referring to your Musopen example, which is merely progressing slower than promised, in part due to expanded goals from its high funding) might have grounds for a breach-of-contract suit, and possibly outright fraud charges could be filed.

        As part of the deal between and backer and the project, the backer is promised one of various rewards, typically including a copy of the finished work. If I fulfilled my side of the deal

        • Would the site itself have standing to do so? Can any lawyers answer whether it would be worth a site taking a policy of going after those cases, with a provision in the ToS saying that breach violations were persued by the site?

          Seems to me the site would receive a financial incentive for doing so, as well as tamping down on such fraud.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Similarly, if someone says that they're raising money to do one thing, then take the money and immediately do something entirely different with it (e.g. going on a tropical vacation), then they solicited the money under false pretenses, and that's fraud.

          Ah, but they only awarded themselves lavish salaries as project managers/team members on a project that failed, then spent that money to go on a tropical vacation. It works for charity frauds at least, even if 95%+ of the funds went away in "administration" they didn't find anything to pin them on legally. The only thing they could do is recommend people only give money to serious organizations that make public account for their finances. This may also be an issue for foundations too if the manager's compen

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:39AM (#39641845) Homepage

    "Someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists" shouldn't be giving their money to random people on Kickstarter without some sort of contract or reputation. Full stop.

    Which is why I don't touch Kickstarter. Sure, it'd be nice to get a few "crowdsourced" ideas up and running but, you know what? Those that *CAN* make sense, end up getting made anyway, and often making money anyway.

    As soon as someone says "We need X amount of money to do Y", you have to look into exactly who they are and why they need it and what they'll do with it. Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then! One of the "big" ones a while ago had signed up a famous voice artist before the project had even been funded - sorry, but that's the LAST thing to worry about and probably the LAST thing I'd ever want added to a game I was funding (no matter how small) - the bloody janitor probably has a good enough voice that you'd never notice the difference.

    Save your cash. Give it to established developers, those who have written games you've enjoyed, and those with proven results. Like indie developers in the Humble bundles, or things like Altitude, or whatever. Don't give it on the basis of promises of what they *think* they *could* do until they've actually done it.

    Now, if we were talking about things like hardware manufacturing costs, etc. of something that someone has designed in order to get into mass production, then that's a different matter but the same principles apply. Too many "crowdfunded" projects (OpenPandora, etc.) fail miserably even when they have the best will in the world, purely because they've never done certain parts of it, or only handled smaller projects, etc. Where's my "Open Graphics Card" that was being designed / manufactured what? Ten years ago? Hell, it had AGP as an "option" last I looked, so it's already dead in the water for any commercial backer.

    Making a video card work is far from easy - but you have to consider your investment like any other. If you don't trust the people involved to follow through, or you just think that throwing money at these sorts of problems is what's lacking, then you're going to be doomed to failure.

    • For the record, Pandora didn't fail completely. At the moment they are manufacturing the boards in Germany and assemble the devices in Germany and Great Britain and finally started shipping them. Yes, they did piss off plenty of people along the way with poor communications, but they still managed to start building and shipping them, and new ones are of quite a good quality. Besides they finally have newer kernel, 2.4.27 made tinkering with the OS quite painful. I've got myself one on ebay, and even thoug
    • by dabadab (126782)

      There ARE projects on Kickstarter where the reputation bit is more than sorted out: a project (to create a new adventure game) run by Tim Schafer, Al Lowe or even Andrew Plotkin is as reputable as it ever gets.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:39AM (#39642287)

        Have you ever watched Dragon's Den? (Shark Tank, I believe the US version is called). In essence, small business owners approach venture capitalists asking them to fund the business in exchange for a percentage. The VCs generally don't mince their words - if an idea or a business owner is totally uninvestable, they'll certainly be told.

        It's been going some years yet probably 40% of the people who go on there still have their priorities completely backwards. "Indie game studio hires a famous voiceover artist before first ensuring they have a vaguely playable game" (as the GP alluded) is an absolutely classic example of this.

        Another 40% haven't got their priorities backwards - but they've got an idea that for whatever reason is unlikely to make any VC a fortune. It's simply too niche.

        I don't see Kickstarter as being terribly different, except the VCs are the general public and so you have to make your own judgement call as to whether it's a worthwhile investment. The niche business in particular could do quite well with the Kickstarter model.

    • by Danathar (267989)

      If what you say is true then Wasteland 2 would of been made years ago. Fargo plainly states he could not get the funding from the traditional sources to make it. Now he can.

      Success of some kick starter projects point to situations where it can work

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ledow (319597)

        It couldn't have been made before 2003 - Konami still had the rights and no interest in making a sequel.

        These same people owned the rights from then on and even as far as 2007, work and progress was being reported on it. Nothing happened. That's four years of actual work seemingly wasted. They could have been coding, or looking for funding, or just sitting on their bottoms. We don't know.

        And, let's not forget, there's NOTHING yet. Nothing at all. Not a dickie-bird.

        And what's the Kickstarter done? May

        • Well that's certainly a cynical point of view, but I can understand why, and at least you adhere to it yourself. How is Project X coming along anyway? To a cynic, that 'donate' button doesn't look all that tempting.

          On the other hand, just because it seems implausible doesn't mean it's impossible. Sometimes the exposure from e.g. KickStarter is exactly what you needed - whether that is because you didn't put in enough effort before you went that route or whether that's because outside investors only get c

          • by ledow (319597)

            "How is Project X coming along anyway? To a cynic, that 'donate' button doesn't look all that tempting."

            When I have anything vaguely worth other people's time or investment, they will see. Until then, I intend to get it to the point where it's obvious that I'm not just trying to scam money from people but have actually put years of back-breaking into making something they might actually want to BUY rather than speculatively invest in. If someone'd given me $30,000 (or, hell, $3000) a few years ago, it mig

            • I'm a cynic, yes, but not a hypocrite. :-)

              oh absolutely not, I did say "and at least you adhere to it yourself" - I've seen my share of hypocrites in traditional funding models just as in crowdfunding - crowdfunding just tends to dupe (if it is a dupe) more people at once, rather than a single lump-sum investor.

              Thanks for the update - you did get me wondering. On the other hand... if you already have code, just not code you're perfectly pleased with, and you need to hire an artist to make you some good gra

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JamesP (688957) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:37AM (#39642285)

      Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then!

      THIS. SO MUCH THIS

      A lot of people think kickstarter is a "poor me, I have his idea but no one will finance me to do it." Or even " Look, I've already drawn the iPhone icon for this app "

      Well, guess what, you're making yourself look like an 'e-homeless' person.

      There are a lot of worthy projects on kickstarter, but they usually are:

      1 - more specific
      2 - the project leaders have already shown what they are capable of doing
      3 - the money is really an issue (materials, manufacturing, etc) and not like "you are paying me to do something I could do in my free time for free"

    • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by C60 (546704) * <salad@carbon6 0 . n et> on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:51AM (#39642375) Homepage

      As soon as someone says "We need X amount of money to do Y", you have to look into exactly who they are and why they need it and what they'll do with it. Those Kickstarter projects that are basically "We'd like to make an indie game that does X" really annoy me. You do? Bugger off and do it then!

      I'm one of those developers who is saying "I need X to do Y". Who also just happens to be working on an indie game. Who also just happens to be using Kickstarter to fund our second stage of development. You know why I know what resources I need? I've been working in the startup industry for the last 25 years.

        Kickstarter is fairly picky about projects they let in. These days you have to either talk a good game, or really show a working proof of concept. Yeah, a few stinkers get through, but I've backed 21 projects so far, and not a single one has failed (admitedly only 3 are software). YMMV, but don't assume a group of developers are full of it because they're using Kickstarter as a funding option. It's an excellent way to guage interest and spur innovation, even if you've never heard of them before.

        Look at the project, determine if it *is* possible based on it's merits and the current technology available, investigate the people involved as much as possible and treat it like a high risk investment that might just get you a t-shirt and a nifty piece of software.

      • by ledow (319597)

        I said: "As soon as someone says "We need X amount of money to do Y", you have to look into exactly who they are and why they need it and what they'll do with it."

        You said: "Look at the project, determine if it *is* possible based on it's merits and the current technology available, investigate the people involved as much as possible and treat it like a high risk investment that might just get you a t-shirt and a nifty piece of software."

        So we basically agree. When you specify what the project is doing a

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Those that *CAN* make sense, end up getting made anyway, and often making money anyway.

      So Wasteland 2 would have gotten made in todays game industry without crowd sourcing? I think Brian Fargo would know if there was funding available for such a project. Or are you suggesting that Wasteland 2 is an infeasible project to begin with?

    • "Someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists" shouldn't be giving their money to random people on Kickstarter without some sort of contract or reputation. Full stop.

      You're exaggerating.

      I'm averse to giving my money to scam artists, but I'm willing to donate to people I know (either personally or because of reputation and past work) without a guarantee of success. I've given money to the Wasteland 2 kickstarter, for example, because it's being headed by Brian Fargo, who was involved in making the original Wasteland and Fallout games. They've gotten Obsidian to sign on to the development team, which means they're putting together a bunch of old Black Isle people toget

  • by gl4ss (559668) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:39AM (#39641847) Homepage Journal

    from the description.. and when the description makes no mention of actual how they're going to hide the electronics in the frame(at the sides?).

    that hiding of the electronics is what would have made their product unique.

    btw the frames look like shit and look like they'll be shit for your nose at that weight(add prescription lenses and it's only worse)

  • The real problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by narcc (412956) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:45AM (#39641863) Journal

    The real problem is a lack of accountability.

    There are no consequences at for creating a "scam" project, collecting donations, and doing no work at all.

    It's difficult to tell those from projects that fail honestly, either from lack of funds or mismanagement.

    Required communication won't really help; that's too easy to fake. They'd need required deliverables, which won't work for ultimately commercial software projects or hardware projects.

    Short of only releasing funds after certain milestones have been met might help, but the project would need enough capital already to achieve each milestone ahead of time. (To say nothing of intermediaries to verify progress!) The trouble is that honest groups may not be able to even begin a project until there were enough promised funds. Even then, if they fail they'd be on the hook for more than they may be able to reasonably afford. But that's the very risk that programs like KickStarter are designed to mitigate!

  • Between this [theregister.co.uk] and the above it might signal the end of the road for this form of funding. Lots more people are probably going to get burned. I backed the MARIE music robots [kickstarter.com] after reading about them on Slashdot. It gave me a good feeling plus the promise of stuff sent to me in the post was a nice thing to have. I eventually got the stuff out of the blue, over a year later, and was very pleased to receive it having pretty much given up on it. When kickstarter works - it works well as in this case. One t
    • Kickstarter works really well for funding albums and art projects from people who have already established a reputation in their art form, because if you scam your fans your done. I'm not sure anyone is really dumb enough to fund a startup that way...
  • Well, a Kickstarter project fails like any other project.
    Deadlines mostly are guesstimates and no project ever can give guarantees that it will finish within budget, in the timeframe given and the featureset that was actually envisioned.
    Their plan was actually ambitious. They'd need components to build that damn thing. They need to be small enough so it's not a helmet rather than a pair of glasses. They need the apps. They need a manufacturer. They need to find out how many of these things they'd sell so
    • by ledow (319597)

      "If you can't afford reps to handle customer relations then a techies last resort would possibly be to delete posts. The alternative would be to spend time to deal with potential customers instead of building the damn thing. Any engineer will tell you what he'd rather do. It's clumsy, it's not wise, but if you don't have the time..."

      Sorry, this is the sort of excuse that lots of projects hide behind.

      You know, it takes NOTHING to put up a small update at the end of your working day saying what you've done th

      • by bfandreas (603438)

        They (and others looking at that page) are also CUSTOMERS.

        I single this one out because there is quite a lot of things wrong with the rest of your post.
        No, you are not a customer when you give money via Kickstarter. This is not a preorder. You give them money and they promise you to give you a goodie when they are done. If the project goes nowhere(as projects quite often do) or gets delayed(as projects always do) or change their feature set due to time/money running out(as projects always do) then you may be out of luck. No, BBB won't help you. This is not a preo

  • by maroberts (15852) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:49AM (#39641875) Homepage Journal

    Money put into Kickstarter is probably best regarded as venture capital, where there is a significant failure rate of projects.

    The question perhaps ought to be how can failing projects be detected and prevented from being a complete waste of "investors" money?

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      in this case they were using it for taking in preorders.

      hardly the same as vc.

    • by Saxerman (253676) *

      This is not venture capital, but donations. In my limited exposure to venture capital and other business investments, there is usually an ownership stake or some other form of equity being purchased.

      Society has been dealing with snake oil salesmen for centuries. And civilization has come up with some novel concepts to fund ideas and protect against fraud. Back before we called it crowd sourcing, we called it the stock market. I think that might still be around in some form or another...

  • Alright, to start, full disclaimer is that I don't see anyway how I will get around mentioning projects I've kickstarted so I'll try to stick to ones that are done and no longer able to hit.

    But the simple answer to me is "What do these people have to lose if they meet their goal and don't deliver? And would it be worth 'cashing' out all of your good faith with the community at that price?" I've never kickstarted something that costs more than a million dollars and if I kickstarted something over a hundred dollars, it had a company's name and site associated with it that was already in the business and would be smeared with mud if they decided to fleece a bunch of people trying to help them out. Using this guidance, I haven't had many poor experiences -- although a lot of my experiences are funding musicians to record albums or video. That's something that's pretty hard to fail at although, they're musicians, so I'm still waiting on a movie that was started filming over a year or more ago ("Flood Tide"). I kickstarted a book on programming ("The Nature of Code Book") and this dude has been sending me links to PDFs left and right and I'll probably review the book here on Slashdot when he has it finalized. So far we're talking $25 donations to each of these projects. But I did dump a couple hundred into the NASA space MMO and I sort of expect to be waiting 2-3 years on that one because it's a team of 20 developers making an MMO and I want them to make a nice product. But also, they have a reputation at stake and I know they'll put out something.

    Anyway, keep your donations at levels you can afford to lose -- don't ever think you're "buying" something on kickstarter. And look at the reputation of the individuals involved with your project. Also keep in mind it takes a long time to go through all stages of development and you'll find projects at all stages. It looks like ZionEyez started at concept. Do you know how long it takes to go from concept to hardware product? Large companies with massive budgets who are in those businesses take a longtime, I would imagine smaller teams would take even longer. You might get your ZionEyez in 4-5 years and, like a lot of vaporware, maybe never. ZionEyez looks like they were offering you $50 off MSRP to kickstart them and you got some "limited edition" run of them. So ... I'd pretty much pass on this one and just buy them when they're out.

    As for criticism, if this is a scam, they're sure committed to it with updates from yesterday [kickstarter.com]. Hell, their site looks like it would cost 10-20k to develop so they're spending their money somewhere. These guys sound like they'll probably come through, they just don't understand FCC testing, engineering problems, etc. So I'd expect your ZionEyez 4 years from now when some Chinese manufacturer already has some knockoff out there. But it's a bad idea to kickstart a lot of money to these guys as I don't see them at risk of losing any reputation, just losing a really good idea (people are obsessed with putting their boring personal status updates online, think about them putting their mundane day-to-day video up).
    • by bfandreas (603438)
      Yes, it is what you get when you start a hardware project with little to no experience. So like any startup it may or may not work. So far, so old common sense.

      But that's not what worries me. The truly problematic stuff are the comments they get. All of those negative comments basically come from people who seem to have the misconception that they are preordering stuff. Which they are not. One fool even mentioned the BBB who might be intrigued at first but will ultimately laugh you out of the office. Most
  • by vkg (158234) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:59AM (#39641913) Homepage

    I ran a $2000 Kickstarter to fund a book called The Future We Deserve. [thefuturewedeserve.com] The project was to collect 100 essays about the future from 100 people, and then write an analysis which drew out common threads and told a story about the future. The material that came in was so strong, individualistic and subtle that it was simply impossible, after a year of trying off-and-on to make an analysis so we simply accepted that the original task didn't make sense in the face of such strong material, and published it as-is.

    We've had a few people be like "where's the book, man?" in that year, and we kept in pretty good touch ("it's in the oven, refusing to cook!")

    The book is up on PediaPress now, and people are buying copies and are well pleased with the results, but it was an akward year!

    • by daid303 (843777)

      I took a quick look on the kickstarter of your book. And it didn't make a time promise. Most kickstarter projects set themselves unrealistic deadlines. And then people will get pissed if you mis them.

      Or look at the pre-kickstarter example of OpenPandora, original promised to deliver in a year. Finally took 3 years. In those 2 extra years they kept saying "in 2 more months". Even if they delivered in the end, I consider that project failed.

  • How much do Eyez weigh?
    Eyez will weigh less than 200 grams

    Mmmm. How can someone find anything serious in this answer ?

    • You should have quoted the entire answer:

      Eyez will weigh less than 200 grams, slightly more than a standard pair of sunglasses. When the glasses are worn the weight will be distributed equally on both ears.

      Assuming 200 grams is the maximum, this is not just *slightly* more than a standard pair of sunglasses. even 100 grams would be pretty heavy for sunglasses, and heavy for 3D glasses. Around 80 grams would be the weight of two Twinkies (international standard of weight), which is fine for 3D glasses that are typically worn when seated. These things are going to have to be pretty light to be worn while physically active. Also, anyone seen the quality of video that norm

  • I'd expect 90% chance for a good techie startup with a cool innovative idea to go under, without producing a product or getting bought out, in 2 years. (Number can be radically different if it's a "copycat" techie startup. Ironically the copycats have a substantially better chance of getting bought out by a bigger company.)

    Maybe 9% chance that the startup will get bought out by a bigger company if they had any vaguely promising technologies.

    Maybe 0.9% chance that an actual product will be produced (if
  • by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:10AM (#39642181)

    Startups don't all work out (not even fucking close).

    The idea of kickstarter, the entire idea of it, is to distribute the costs among many people so that each is investing no more than an amount they are comfortable losing.

    Instead of a share of profits like you would get with a large investment in the business, you get token rewards if and when it succeeds.

    Kickstarter is entirely clear about all of this, and anyone who invests in something should a) do their homework and ask the right questions and b) not give up more than they can walk away from.

    The whole idea is that for the price of a theatre trip (for one!) you can help fund a cool idea, and lots of people are willing to do that. It's not about contracts and buying stuff it's about good will and helping something you believe in come to life.

  • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @07:27AM (#39642237)

    Failure depends on your personal definition.

    I think we can all agree that if the project creator takes the money and goes vacationing on a tropical island with it, then the project definitely failed as it was little more than a scam. Unless that's actually what the project was (not applicable to KickStarter, but there's plenty of fund-my-life crowdfunding platforms).

    So that leaves failure modes that are a bit more intricate.

    Say the developer throws in the towel - so you don't get the 'thing' you pledged for (be that a widget or a book or a movie or whatever) - after trying to make things work, and there's good reason to believe that they did indeed try.
    That's a failure to deliver, but was the project a failure? Maybe they learned something from it, maybe others can take what they did and expand on it, etc.
    Personally I still see it as a failure, but in the grand scheme of things, there are people who pledge just because they think the idea is interesting and deserves a chance. If in the end it doesn't work out, at least it was tried, and that's good enough for them.

    Then there's those projects that do deliver, but they deliver late. How late is too late?
    If a movie takes not 3 months to complete as written in the pitch, but ends up taking 9 months instead, does that mean the project failed?
    You did, after all, get the movie in the end, so how is that failure?
    Well, if the movie is supposed to be on-topic for fairly recent events (let's say the movie is supposed to come out just before the U.S. presidential elections to make people think about their choice) and ends up being so late that it becomes irrelevant, then I'd say it probably still failed. Otherwise, i.e. if the movie isn't really time-sensitive, then I don't see the problem other than the frustration of having to wait longer than expected to see it. That's enough for people to download movies rather than wait for release in their countries, so movie project creators can take away from that what they wish.
    For widgets, it's much the same thing. The HexBright Open Source light, for example, is running late - way late - and some people are requesting refunds despite the progress shown in updates. In some ways, it has been overtaken by other flashlights (i.e. brighter, maybe more compact). If that's what a person backed that project for, then that project has failed. On the other hand, it still has the unique programmable features, its grip, the tailcap indicator, and open source implementation - so it still has an edge over other flashlights in that area and those who backed it for those reasons are less likely to consider the project failed.

    Then there's projects that promise thing A, but end up delivering thing A'.
    Recently there was a metal iPhone case, for example, that looked pretty good and - being an iThing project - got plenty of backers. Turns out that once delivered, people realized their signal dropped significantly.
    Did that project fail, in terms of exploring whether what they wanted to do was actually a good thing?
    To those who could no longer actually place any calls - yes.
    To those who still could, and thought their iPhone now looks like the hottest thing since the iPhone - nope.
    In fact, that project's creator adjusted their FAQ to indicate that some signal loss may be apparent, but if you like the look then you'll just take that for granted.
    Another project was a capacitive touch stylus for tablets - it initially shipped with a nib that didn't work very well for some people. Did it fail? Largely, no. Why? Because the project creator got right on top of it, had better nibs made, and sent those out at no cost on request.

    In this particular project, the Eyez, it really depends on whether or not you believe the project creators' updates (and their lack of updates for a long time does not instill confidence), and whether or not the product is quickly becoming irrelevant ('spy' glasses are available on ebay for cheap - they just generally don't connect to your

  • I was surprised at how little I could find about what happens if a project just fails in its goals. It seems like that should be a fairly common occurrence, the backers just simply made a bad estimate of the funds needed or underestimated the difficulty of completing what they planned (or simply found that what they found as not feasible.) This is an unfortunate but understandable result. I kind of figure in this case the backers have to chalk it up to a failed investment and move on. They do deserve an upd

  • by paiute (550198) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:04AM (#39642437)
    Kickstarter and the like are not investment vehicles. They are supposed to be a fun way to give a few dollars of disposable income to an interesting project. If you are considering sending so much money that you start to worry it might vaporize, then stop and put that money into stocks, bonds, or canned goods.
  • by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:15AM (#39642507) Homepage

    I "invested" in ZionEyez, since it sounded like an interesting project, and something that I'd be pleased to see come to market. I use "invested" liberally here, since I don't for a second think that this gave me ownership in the project, or anything like that. Perhaps "gambling" would be a better term.

    I gave my money to help a project get sufficient funding to go ahead. The "reward" level I paid for was listed as "You will receive the Eyez by ZionEyez HD video recording glasses with clear and shaded removable lenses" but I read this as being dependent on the project succeeding — if I don't receive the glasses, I'll be disappointed, but I wouldn't consider it a breach of contract. I expected the project to give it its best shot, and to put effort into attempting to succeed, rather than taking the money with no intention of creating the project, but it's inevitable that some projects will fail.

    Whilst I'm disappointed that the project has been delayed quite considerably, and I'm mindful of the fact that I may never see the glasses, to me, this was an "investment" which did not materialise the way I had hoped rather than buying a product which was not delivered.

    I feel particularly sorry for some of the feedback posted to the creator of the Hanfree [kickstarter.com] project too...

  • by fooslacker (961470) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @08:39AM (#39642661)
    First you won't and shouldn't get your money back, at least in my opinion. I get that you don't want to get caught up in the fraud side of things but that's just a risk that supporting people you don't personally know (and sometimes people you do) carries. The whole point of investing is to spread the risk of failure out to as many people as possible while also spreading the rewards of success out.

    The real question to me is how to make the system better and discourage the bad actors. I believe there needs to be some sort of reputation management features added to things like Kickstarter. First there should be a mechanism to identify users of the service (maybe a premium service that certifies identities of those asking for money). Verified accounts should carry more clout and be safer investments than unverified accounts. There should also be a reputation/feedback system that lets you know the success rates, communication frequency, general satisfaction of investors, etc. associated with a verified account on past projects. The more information that is out there and the more there is a threat of loosing something valuable (i.e. verified status and reputation) the more likely that the bad actors will be the anomolies not the rule.

    None of this fixes the problem but it gradually makes things better which is all you can really achieve when you're trying to manage risks.
  • I have backed a half dozen projects so far. Even if none returns with a result, i will not be angry. I spent the money on an idea, not a product.

    The only disturbing info was about the beaches. If they didn't even try, i would go from kickstart to kickass ;-)-

  • They're very good marketers, for sure. The positive press that they got (they got coverage in PopSci [popsci.com], Engadget [engadget.com], and various other places) made it seem like a good bet. That they had a working prototype was a good selling point. That's where the good news ended. Their most recent update (#19) shows that they're still working on basic design problems such as cable durability, size of components, chip selection, etc.. I have the feeling that they're stringing us along and we'll never see the glasses.

    It has t

  • My wife and I backed a kickstarter project that, as of last night, is finished and we're proud of it. The Blue Like Jazz movie. It opens this Friday.
  • You thought kickstarter was bad? You will REALLY enjoy the JOBS Act which formalizes into law all the bad things of Kickstarter and MORE.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-19882_3-57409949-250/jobs-act-5-things-to-look-forward-to-and-5-to-dread/

    Finally, after years of repression, scammers can come out of the shadows and legally screw you over. With the intrusive government off the back of scammers they can now be realized as the job creators they are and drive our economic engine forward!

    Sigh.

"Out of register space (ugh)" -- vi

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