A strange calm, regrouping, and some thoughts about the crowd-funding boom

The weather has suddenly shifted — feels like fall now with a cool front moving in (the high was merely in the 90s today!). We finished up an unsuccessful (72%!) Kickstarter after cancelling a more ambitious one. I spent that whole time — like a month and half — trying to catch up, because I really just wasn’t ready when I had planned to be. Some things, you just cannot make up, no matter how many hours you work in the week.

On the other hand, the next step in the “Lunatics” project, which I was trying to get funded, is happening anyway, because the beautiful people I’m working with are going ahead on a volunteer basis. I hope to be able to justify that faith in the project once we have a bit more to show and can start working up towards the animation phase again. So, that’s a really great, albeit slightly disconcerting “I can’t believe this is working — gee I hope it keeps working — don’t jinx it by looking too hard at it!” kind of experience.

Now, between these things, I’m feeling a strange and sudden sense of calm. I slept quite a bit today, and it felt pretty good to do so, though now my day-night schedule is probably screwed up again. But I’m grateful to  have a bit more time to slow down and take on some of the more time-intensive and unpredictable tasks I have to do. With the pressure off a bit, I think I’m going to be creatively productive this week.

Still, it was probably worth going ahead with all this on the original schedule for the “threat of flight” experience. Even if you crash, you gain a better understanding of what exactly you are missing in order to fly on the next attempt. We will get this off the ground in time — possibly even in time to catch up with the original schedule, which would be really cool.

Of course, this is also a chance to put in a few very-needed days on my other big project these days, which is “Lib-Ray“. It was meant to be a spin-off of “Lunatics” — just a technical hurdle, but since it got funded and “Lunatics” didn’t, it’s now “real job” I need to deliver on. Fortunately, that’s looking like it’s going to be easier than predicted, not harder, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to satisfy the backers, meet my deadline easily, and build up a little good karma.

That’s becoming important, because there is a little bit of backlash against crowd-funding projects now. The honeymoon is over. I knew this would happen: there are not a lot of guarantees that you’ll get what you pay for with crowd-funding, and so reputation will become very important. Every time you back a project, you’re taking a risk that the person you’re backing can actually deliver on what they promise with the funds they ask for to do it. I know this, and I’ve backed some 20 projects, and so far, I feel good about every one of them — even though some of them delivered months later than predicted. Which is nice, because I’m delivering months late on my first Kickstarter project.

For myself, though, the important thing is that a project delivers, not so much that they deliver on time.

I’ve gotten amazingly cool things, though. I was in on both the Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer CD and Amanda Palmer’s new project “Theatre is Evil”. They’re both interesting, more artistically challenging, and not the sort of thing I would expect to get through normal  channels. I’m not 100% sure that I “like” them more than processed/polished commercial works, but I feel good to be exposed to them as well.

I’ve also backed some craft projects, one “new space” project — backing a private spacesuit manufacturer’s start-up, graphic-adventure games by some of the authors I remember from the 1990s (a nice little rebirth of that genre is happening through crowd-funding!), and bought a kit for building a hexapod robot — something my children have expressed a lot of interest in doing. That’s a really cool thing, which I’m hoping doesn’t come too awfully late. I costed out doing such a project in two different ways before, and both came out considerably more expensive than this kit — which will also have the advantage of having been tested!

I’ve backed a several movie projects, including two free-licensed projects and four non-free ones (even though I give preference to free ones — there aren’t so many out there yet), and two open-source software projects (a game and a new video editor).

I missed the first opportunity to back the MusOpen Symphony Orchestra recording project and the Open Goldberg Variations project, though I covered them in my Free Software Magazine column. I was really happy to get in on Kimiko Ishizaka’s new Well-Tempered Clavier  recording (and get a copy of Open Goldberg Variations on CD). These are all public-domain music recordings of public domain music. This is stuff I can use directly in my own future projects if I want. And they are really excellent quality work — every bit professional.

So, I feel the world (and my own quality of life) have really been improved by the recent boom in crowd-funded projects. It’s a great opportunity. It’s going to be tempered by some recognition of ways it can be abused — and there is a certain amount of intrinsic risk to the idea (I don’t doubt I’ll get burned on some project I back at some point), but I think it’s a worthwhile risk.

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About Terry Hancock

Terry Hancock is the producer and director of "Lunatics" ( http://lunatics.tv ). He is also a regular columnist for Free Software Magazine ( http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles_by/5 ), and a lifelong advocate for space, science, and technology. More at http://terryhancock.narya.net
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