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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Finding your spirit geek

Last week on Twitter it was suggested that the reason I had such a fascination with bees was that they were my totem animal. While I maintain that my fascination has more to do with their role in the ecosystem and its impending collapse, the suggestion helped me to finally find a good name for an idea I’ve had for quite some time: the spirit geek.

The spirit geek sits at the top of your influence pyramid. They are the discovery that leads to all of the other discoveries. They inspire you to learn more about a subject, be it a fictional world, a technique for creating software, or anything you might geek out about. They might be a fictional character, a writer or journalist, a historical figure, or your mom or dad.

Whoever they are, the spirit geek is the one person, and I think there can be only one at a time, who most inspires you to seek whatever it is that you seek.

My spirit geek is Michael Chabon, though Joe Hill is ever closer to supplanting him. His essays, more than his fiction, are what puts him at the top for me. I love his novels, but it was his book MAPS AND LEGENDS that clarified for me how empty the distinction was between genre and so-called literary fiction. It’s also full of references to writers and artists who influenced him. I’ve gone on to read some of those writers, who led me to other writers, who led me here.

So, who is your spirit geek? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter. Who knows, some of us might even find a new spirit geek to follow.

Being geek

Over the weekend on Twitter, I asked what people thought it meant to be a geek. I decided to ask after sending out a link to crime writer Christa Faust’s (possibly NSFW) current campaign, when it occurred to me that crime fiction might not be considered geeky. I get excited about it, so it’s geeky to me, but I wanted to know what a bunch of other self-proclaimed geeks might think.

The responses I heard were interesting. Here’s a paraphrased sample: geeks are creators; are passionate, loving enthusiasts and not just fans; want to pursue knowledge beyond what’s just needed for normal application; are odd or non-mainstream people; willing to show unfashionable enthusiasm. You’re a geek if you get excited about something, regardless of what that might be. You’re a geek if you take joy in knowledge. Genre is irrelevant.

Two aspects jump out at me from these responses: knowledge and love. It’s incredibly easy to state a shallow definition of a geek; you like computers, or fantasy/sf, or comics, or RPG, and those interests are what make you a geek. But we who self-identify as geeks think the specific interests are less relevant than the depth of interest. We think the level of enthusiasm and study or even scholarship is what makes us geeks.

This isn’t exactly new ground. Michael Chabon covered it in his essay, The Amateur Family. (Sidebar: I have an abiding love for Chabon’s writing, and you may get sick of me talking about him if you’re here a lot.) The word he uses instead of geek is amateur, which I have no quarrel with aside from it making a lousy and opaque and possibly risque handle: @amateurstarter.

Knowledge and love. If you ask me, self-assigning to a group of people who believe that joy in knowledge and love are among their defining characteristics is a pretty great place to be.

Here’s a few quick links to currently running projects that sound cool:

Clang, a gaming project to build realistic swordfighting: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/260688528/clang?ref=live (h/t @elquesogrande1)

The Garlicks, a graphic novel about a family of vampires: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/divalea/the-garlicks-pandora-orange-fail-vampire (h/t @EscapePodComics)

Ace Detective: a storytelling card game set in the 1940s noir era: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1545517208/ace-detective-storytelling-game-featuring-black-ma (h/t @eFridayPfender)

Thanks to all who responded with their thoughts on geekery: @syntheticbrain, @eFridayPfender, @NotTimothy, @FryingSkyline, @PatrickStedem, @jemaleddin, @berkbig, @1000mortsDotCom, @derrangedferret, @nerderypublic, @BlessedStSean.