The weekly geek

Hi everybody! I liked the way the weekly summary post turned out last week so I thought I would try it again. I hope you all had a good week.

As I continue to explore the various data sources for good ways to find projects, I’ve found a number of sites doing similar work to what I’m trying to do. This may be self defeating, but I love you all so much that I’m going to share what I find. So here they are: G4TV (Nerdsourcing), io9 (Crowdfund This) and SparkFun (A curated Kickstarter page).

Via ShackNews, a new games-only crowdfunding site, Gamesplanet Labs was recently launched.

Here are a few quick project updates on some of our favorites. Kickstarter-funded Fireside Magazine will now be open for submissions beginning in August, for one month.

Escape Pod Comics had a few more interesting updates, including more on the inspiration for the campaign. Menachem was also interviewed here.

Final Frontier Design was a featured project this week. Curious to see what effect that has.

Here also are a few new projects. Also via the Kickstarter Projects We Love Email (give me a break, it was a holiday week), come two projects, an open source robot submarine…

OpenROV is an open source robotic submarine designed to make underwater exploration possible for everyone. It’s also an online community of professional and amateur ROV (remotely operated vehicle) enthusiasts on OpenROV.com.

The Goal: to inspire and enable anyone to become a DIY Ocean Explorer.

We believe in the power of open source communities to create amazing tools and experiences. This is an invitation to become a co-developer of the OpenROV project.

…and a new magazine.

Tomorrow is a one-shot magazine about creative destruction—a fitting concept for eight recently unemployed journalists and designers. Our next move: Pushing others to jump out of their comfort zones, too, and writing and designing the hell out of the results. For the next month, we will crash on one issue of a magazine. No salaries, no health care, no ergonomic office chairs. No foundation grants, no advisory boards, no independently wealthy vanity investors—for now, at least. That means no filler, no product placement, no luxury gift guides. It means we won’t be afraid to publish things that are complicated or sexy or weird… the kinds of things that might just get you fired. (We’ve been there.) Tomorrow will feature original articles and essays about what’s on the cusp, plus fresh design, illustrations, and photography in a quality print publication.

And here’s a bit of information in the media I found interesting this week on crowdfunding in general.

Kickstarter’s release of their stats page has created a lot of coverage of the types and amounts of projects that get funded, but what I found most interesting was the 30% tipping point, after which funding becomes much more likely. People have known about the tipping point for some time but the release of project stats has provided significant support for this theory. My initial reaction was that 30% seems a low bar to clear. My guess is that most projects that break through the 30% barrier do so in their first week and pick up steam from there. I believe many campaigns stall out in the middle two weeks, and so getting to 30% quickly is a good test of the viability of the campaign. When you reach the Kickstarter doldrums, you have enough interest to sustain the project, and get to the last 25% of the funding period more than half funded. This can encourage those on the fence to take the plunge. Planning on how to get the first 30% quickly seems a good strategy to follow, either through priming your audience ahead of time to get them to back as soon as possible, or perhaps trying to find backers before the campaign starts, specifically those who might be interested in the big rewards.

This past week I ran across a number of good “food for thought” discussions on how to use crowdfunding to raise money.  First is Kevin Clark, a composer discussing how to plan your Kickstarter. He has a series of posts going, of which I’ve linked to the third such post. And here’s one talking about how Kickstarter is not a magical pony, and that hard work and building an audience are still the key. Lastly, Northwestern University students are on the case, researching how to design a successful campaign. Meta-alert: They are running their own campaign to distribute their findings.

I could be wrong, but there seemed to be a lot of traditional media coverage of crowdfunding this week. This seems due to some new US laws that will soon allow small businesses to use crowdfunding to find true investors as opposed to donors or backers. The distinction is important in that donors, of course, are owed nothing further, backers are usually sold a reward, but investors get a share of your business. They become part owners with you. These new laws are leading to new platforms. I’m curious to see whether the investment-banking mindset is able to copy with the wisdom of crowds or whether the platforms are too limiting in what they allow to be placed on offer. The Atlantic also weighed in on the perils and promise of our crowdfunded future, including a good discussion of what the new laws mean.

Happy funding!

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P. Craig Russell’s Guide to Graphic Storytelling, Series 2

A new campaign, P. Craig Russell’s Guide to Graphic Storytelling Series 2, is exactly the sort of project that makes Kickstarter a wonderful way to launch or expand a project. This project is a series of films that teach the use of visual techniques in the creation of comics. Russell has decades of experience in the field, having worked on many, many books and garnering such respect as to be made the subject of an Eisner-nominated career retrospective. The film series, the second such series to be made, plans to use Russell’s artwork to teach viewers the art of telling a story with pictures.

I imagine that the creative class will be most interested in these films, most certainly artists, but also filmmakers and writers. And this is why Kickstarter is so useful. The campaign can be used both to gather the funds needed to make the films, and as a tool to reach the intended audience to make them aware of the project. This benefits audience and creator alike. As an outside observer, I’ve noticed that artists are a deeply supportive community, and are encouraging and helpful, and always eager to learn from one another and tout each other’s accomplishments. A campaign like this, examining storytelling and art, will surely find great interest among such a community.

Beyond that, the campaign itself has terrific rewards. With the exception of the $5 level, each level of support is entitled to a copy of the films, with higher reward levels receiving a study guide as well, and several opportunities to obtain artwork. If you are interested in using pictures to tell a story, or in how to tell stories at all, I’d recommend this project to you.

The Garlicks

I have a little guilt about not giving this campaign more attention sooner. I was aware that Neil Gaiman had already mentioned the campaign to his mighty following. What possible added impact could I have? I would guess that 100% of you lot already follow him, and it seemed like I’d just be parroting him, and what’s the point in that? Still, I wish I’d written this post last week, before there were only double-digit hours to go. I was trying to avoid being a brain-dead retweet-machine, and because Neil had mentioned this campaign already, I didn’t give this one enough of a look. Now, I feel it’s no better for me to fail to talk about a project because others already are, than it is to support a project for the same reason.

The Garlicks is a graphic novel about a vampire girl, to be published as a webcomic at http://thegarlicks.net. The artist and writer, Lea Hernandez, is an industry veteran, and the comic is a creator-owned property. The campaign and chosen subject matter call to mind a delicious stew of timely trends: kid-lit/YA, creator-owned webcomics, vampires, and the sadly common questions about whether “women read comics” (they do).

But all that industry claptrap aside, the pilot of the book, as available via the Kickstarter, is charming, funny and well-written and drawn. The campaign is ambitious, and intended to allow Lea a full year to concentrate on the book. It’s a book that, if it’s given the chance to see the light of day, seems likely to be a great read and a lot of fun. I’m not sure why the campaign is stalling. With 60 plus hours to go it’s about 30% funded.

I’m talking about it here because I think the book should exist. I’m glad that Lea is out there still talking about it and not giving up. A big part of why I’m doing this is to try to draw attention to creators that I think are worthy of support, and art that should get to be made. For that reason, I hope you’ll take a look at The Garlicks, and consider if you agree with me. And with Neil.

Escape Pod Comics

My first Kickstarter recommendation is Escape Pod Comics, a comic shop in New York with a different spin. Rather than having a newsstand-like feel, Escape Pod wants to be more like a cozy, comfortable bookstore, one that’s packed with comics, with something appropriate for everyone regardless of age. The plans for the shop sound appealing, and I like that they plan to be friendly to customers of all ages, even including a drawing area for kids.

What I like most is their plan to hold classes on how to make comics. This adds an element of community and shared experience to the place, and I’m a big nerd about the creative process. I think you can never go wrong by getting people excited about creativity. Moreover, the founders’ passion is evident from the campaign. And, according to Twitter and their Kickstarter page, Lev Grossman, author of THE MAGICIANS, THE MAGICIAN KING, Time Magazine book critic, and general super geek, will be a part of their lecture series.

The rewards are, well, comics. What did you expect? There’s a variety of comics created by one of the owners, and many, many reward levels for hand-selected comic choices based on your likes and dislikes, signed comics from some heavy hitters (like Neil Gaiman, whose reward has sold), store membership, grab bags, and original artwork. The top-level reward is a day at the store for you and 25 friends for $5,000.

All in all, if you like comics, I think Escape Pod is worth a look. They are on Twitter at @EscapePodComics. Check them out, and drop me a line if you give them a shot.