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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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  • 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!

  • by undulato (2146486) on Wednesday April 11, 2012 @05:47AM (#39641865) Homepage
    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 thing that projects should do is at least try to keep their backers in the loop. However we can only hope that the JOBS act isn't going to give this type of investment/funding a bad name.
  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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

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