Kickstarting Common Sense

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services, but I think it’s time the internet started to enforce some real-world economics on the idea.  Yes, raising a five-figure sum to make potato salad is a great story, but that’s not a sustainable event.  Too many people see crowdfunding as an internet-powered money machine.  Here are some lessons Kickstarter wannabes have to learn, from a backer’s point of view:

  • If you’re making a product, my pledge should allow me to buy that product.  Asking me for $50 with the promise that one day, I’ll have the opportunity to give you even more money doesn’t fly.
  • Downloads are all well and good, but they will always inherently have less value than a physical item.  In money terms, CDs are worth more than mp3s, BluRays are worth more than mp4s, and books are worth more than PDFs.  You can run your trap all you want about “the all-digital future”, I’m not giving you $100 for a download.  Offer me a real product for a reasonable price.
  • If you take my money, I do expect you to deliver.  Kickstarter might have a hands-off approach to dead-end projects, but I don’t have a hands-off approach to my money.  If your project is funded, you better deliver.  That said, I think Kickstarter needs some form of “return policy” for projects that go so far past their target date with no results.
  • That said, I think most people get that delays DO happen.  When they do, you NEED to communicate.  Tell people what’s going wrong, and why.  I can think of a number of high-profile projects that “go dark” when things get tough, and the backers are convinced it’s a scam.  Remember, they are both your customers and your investors… you owe them.
  • Finally, and arguably most importantly, don’t go to Kickstarter until you absolutely have to.  Wait until you’re at the point in your project when you absolutely cannot do one more thing until you get money.  If you’re inventing something, have a pre-production prototype ready.  If you’re writing something, have your final draft ready.  Video games should be coded and in the late debugging stages.  If the product is done before anyone knows about it, most of the previous complaints would never have been issues at all.

I can hear a lot of Kickstarter newbies saying “Yeah, but…”  No, I don’t want to hear about the brave new internet world, or that your project is a special snowflake.  Contrary to popular belief, crowdfunding is still bound by basic economics.  You still need to offer something substantial, at a reasonable price, and deliver.

Long Live Shiny Discs!

Like most MST3K fans, who still haven’t come to terms with the fact that their favorite TV show ended 15 years ago, I love RiffTrax.  While I can’t turn on the TV and see a new episode, I can at least download a movie or a short featuring the same talent.   So imagine my glee when RiffTrax decided to take on all 15 chapters of  the 1949 Batman serial.  Yes, even before Adam West was Batman, there was Robert Lowery in the cape and cowl (and truth be told, Lewis Wilson played the part prior to Lowery).  This serial has always been one of my favorite live-action iterations of Batman.

So I was excited to see RiffTrax tackle it, and the preview looked really promising.  However, I held off on buying the shorts, because for something I’d enjoy that much, I’d love to have it on an actual DVD.  I waited patiently for them to finish the whole series, and then longer for them to release a disc.  Then I decided to just ask if a disc was in the works.

Capture

That’s a little distressing.  Look, I know I can buy movies as downloads and streaming, but I don’t consider it to be as good.  Not only does the bitrate tend to be reduced, but when I have a physical disc, I don’t have to worry about my hard drive failing or losing the rights to play the movie because of a DRM issue.  In addition, I can make my own digital file from a disc, so by purchasing a disc, I get the best of both worlds.  By pushing us toward downloads and streaming only, I think content providers are ultimately going to be giving us less for more money.

This isn’t intended to pick on RiffTrax in particular, who are in fact releasing a DVD of the Batman shorts.  There are FAR worse offenders when it comes to trying to force consumers to adopt streaming as a standard.  And, to be honest, many consumers don’t need to be forced and are happy to give up discs for good.  I just don’t see a world without physical media as a total win.   If you saw my movie collection, you’d know why.  I have tons of obscure movies and TV shows, which might have been worth printing in a small run, but would never be worth keeping as content in a streaming service (it costs money to run servers, and to maintain distribution rights).  Why should I make my ability to watch something dependent on someone else’s ability to renew a contract?  With a movie on physical media, that’s never a concern.

So thank you, RiffTrax, for providing both options.   I’ll think of you the next time Netflix irritates a bunch of subscribers by dropping a popular show.

My Starfleet Wardrobe

Can I confess something?  I absolutely, positively hate the word “cosplay”.  I prefer calling it just plain “costuming”, since that’s what it is.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like actually using the full word, and it’s not right to call it “play” when it involves this much work!  Now having said that, I’ll still use the word “cosplay” since at least then everyone knows what I’m talking about.  But thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Anyway, I’ve got a few costumes in my closet…. I’ve done stuff from Ghostbusters, and DC comics, and even a little Mario here and there.  But I have the most fun doing Star Trek uniforms.  Here are two of the ones of which I’m most proud.

403538_3388895518001_1840907120_nHere’s a TOS uniform.  Tunic by Anovos, pants by J. Kerezman, and boots by Caboots.  What I love about this is that everything in it is completely screen-authentic.  Short of enterprisefiguring out what underwear Starfleet issues, this is 100%

On the other side of the aisle is my Enterprise uniform, and other J. Kerezman creation.  Rank pips obtained on eBay.  The pattern and colors are also screen-authentic, which means nearly every visible part of this costume is perfect.  I would like to find a screen-perfect undershirt.  The boots are my TOS boots, sadly.  Perhaps one day I’ll be able to track down the Enterprise boots.  But it’s close!

Programming Class Flashbacks

So I want to write the inaugural post to this blog, which I intend to use to keep track of all my geeky projects, and WordPress suggests I start with “Hello World!”  If you’ve ever taken a programming class, that’s almost always the first constructive thing you ever do– learn how to make the computer use that exact phrase.  So, me being me, I never liked doing that.  Borrowing from an old C textbook, took to writing “Goodbye, cruel world!” Because nothing gets your attention like a suicidal computer.  Betcha didn’t see that coming.

My friends, I hope to take you by surprise more than once!  Cheers.