Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Kickstarter Handbook: A Real Life Guide

We highly recommend this new guide to Kickstarter to anyone who is contemplating or planning a Kickstarter fundraiser.... Read this book before you launch. It is a small volume filled with practical advice and real-life examples of both successful and less-than-successful Kickstarter projects.

Author Don Steinberg begins with the basics of a Kickstarter campaign, such as what kinds of projects do and do not qualify, then segues into strategies for setting funding levels and reward structures, ideas for publicizing a campaign, and tips on how to plan ahead for the fulfillment stage. And as the title says, he provides real-life stories of successful Kickstarter campaigns and the people and ideas behind them.

Chapter 11 is one that the would-be, first-time Kickstarter will definitely want to study carefully: "Learning from Failure: Kickstarter misfires, redemptions, and second acts." Steinberg interviews several Kickstarters who initially failed, then retooled their ideas and eventually succeeded. In the chapter opening, he points out that the 2011 success rate on Kickstarter was 46%... that's truly phenomenal, but on the flip side, the majority of campaigns failed that year. Steinberg would be remiss if he didn't present the downside of the story... Experience is the best teacher, as Benjamin Franklin famously pointed out, so Steinberg has included Chapter 11 because it's best to learn from the experience of others.

Kickstarter is a powerful tool with global reach, but it is not a magic money machine. Read this book before you launch a campaign, learn from it, and your odds of success will improve.

Note: Crossposted from the Cool Stuff We Like blog.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spark Core: Arduino-Compatible "Wi-Fi for Everything"

Spark Core Board
The "Spark Core" from Spark Devices is an open-source, Arduino-compatible board  designed to greatly simplify the task of adding wireless Internet connectivity to things, especially DIY projects. The Spark Core Kickstarter project just closed on June 1st, and was a huge success with over 5,500 backers pledging $568K, vastly exceeding its $10K funding threshold.

The essential Spark Core components are a 72MHz ARM Cortex M3 microprocessor, a Wi-Fi wireless module, and a USB interface. Microprocessor input and output pins provide interfaces for controlling and communicating with the target hardware. The user develops software for the Spark Core with the popular, easy-to-learn and easy-to-use "Wiring" software development platform. Programs can be uploaded through the Wi-Fi or USB interfaces.

As an aside, for further information on the concepts and ideas behind the Spark Core, we recommend this TechCrunch article on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Kickback Machine: A Research Tool for Kickstarters

The Kickback Machine is a research tool that allows Kickstarter candidates to compare successful and failed Kickstarter projects side-by-side so that they can get an idea of what works and what doesn't work. It's taglines are clear warnings to those who have dreams of Kickstarter success and glory: "Do your homework" and "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

The Kickback Machine is the brainchild of Dan Misener, a radio producer and tech writer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Misener got the idea for the site a bit over a year ago when he realized that Kickstarter makes it hard for the reader to find the records of failed projects. (He was quick to note at the time, however, that he doesn't think there is anything "nefarious or ill-intentioned" in this, just that it's "an interesting design decision" when it comes to how failed projects are or are not displayed.) Note that The Kickback Machine's project records go back only to mid-June of last year.

The Kickback Machine gives the reader tools to search for and browse projects by Kickstarter categories. Readers can further refine the search to view only successful or unsuccessful projects in the category, and to further filter by goal (i.e., dollar amount). For example, we searched for successful projects in the Comics category with a goal of approximately $10,000 and got these results.

In collaboration with Daniel Woelfel's CanHeKickIt project, Misener added a checkbox option last October to the projects display page that replaces each project thumbnail with a chart of its funding trajectory, so you can see the progress of its funding over time.

For more interesting news about Kickstarter, also keep an eye on Dan Misener's blog using his "kickstarter" search tag.

Tip of the hat to the Digital Trends blog.