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Written by Rob Schultz (human).

The Mega Kickstarter Review Post, Part 3

I'm an optimist. That's why I throw money down the Kickstarter hole and hope for the best. But there are a lot of duds that come back too, and today I think we're going to be talking about a bunch of them.

Books

  • The Devastator - This is a quarterly (?) magazine / book / comedy publication of some sort, to which some of my comedy friends sometimes contribute. Perhaps like McSweeney's, I love for this to exist, but I don't know if I love to actually read it. And being a submissions editor for The Higgs Weldon for about 2 years has left me super critical and suspicious of attempted literary humor. The project netted me a print edition of their first issue. I think they ran the project well, and the aforementioned is mainly my own weird baggage.
  • Second Quest - An adventure story inspired by The Legend of Zelda. I only backed at the digital level. The printed book was too expensive for me at the time. Either way, the project is 1 year past its estimated delivery and has yet to be completed. I'm sure it's going just great though!
  • The Tomorrow Girl - Similar to most of my music category, I backed this even though I'd never read this comic, but I liked the creator's blog, and wanted to support his general deal. A bunch of stretch goal stuff I wasn't really expecting came with it. The book looks nice. 👍
  • The Magazine: The Book - I heard about this a lot because of the kind of people I read on the Internet. A low-level pledge was cheaper than a year's subscription, so I gave it a shot. I don't really know anything about how their book turned out.
  • Island of Ignorance and Tales from the Crescent City - two books of adventures and content for the Call of Cthulhu RPG by Golden Goblin Press, a third party publisher. Reading these before playing them kind of spoils the fun, but they seem cool on casual browsing. Both books have been delivered, but of course, the base game hasn't… I'll be skipping their next project. Stockpiling these is kind of assuming a lot about a potential gaming group. Speaking of which, anyone want to join a Call of Cthulhu club? Couple sessions a month? I think it sounds really neat.
  • Littlest Lovecraft - The Dunwich Horror - Reading Lovecraftian horror to children is the sort of thing I would think is funny. I ordered this book and threw in their last one. The project appears to be on time, but has yet to be completed.

Both of our first two categories today are great subjects for Kickstarter, since what we're backing is mainly the creation of physical goods. It's only Second Quest, the project kickstarted from merely an idea, that's horribly behind. It's the exception to the categorical rule to match with FTL from last week, a game that was just about done before going public for cash.

Gadgets

  • The Glif - This is a little kickstand for an iPhone 4 that also adds a tripod mount. I liked it so much I bought another one for my iPhone 5. 👍
  • The Hexbright - A super bright flashlight, rechargable via USB, and featuring a reprogrammable interface. I played with the programming features for a day or two and there wasn't much going on with it at the time. However, as a super bright flashlight, it's great, and I carry it in my laptop bag or whenever I'm on set. 👍
  • The Packlight - A series of 45 LEDs in a bendy rubber thing with magnets on. This seemed like it would be a handy indie film production thing, but instead it kind of sucks. The first one arrived with the USB charging connector rattling around inside. The replacement seems to be impossible to charge. Maybe if I cut them open I could find some way to power them up, but as delivered it's been a big let down. 👎
  • The Tilt - This is a base for a Mac Book Pro. The MBP I had at the time ran extremely hot, so this device puts a layer between you and it, adds a USB-powered fan for cooling, and also there's a tripod mount. The first one I received was warped and couldn't attach to the computer. The second one seemed better, but it was inconvenient enough that I didn't use it much on what already felt like a large laptop. It answered a real problem I was having at the time, but the clip-on plastic shell just never quite matched the quality of the aluminum machine it was painted to look like, and now I have a new laptop. This speaks somewhat to why I'm suspicious of any project that is supposed to be a device for use with my phone - the odds of them delivering before a phone with a new form factor comes to market appear to be vanishingly small.
  • QR Light - Okay, I look at a lot of flashlights on here, I guess. This one is great. One AAA-battery provides so much power that I've never run out (although in the past year I've swapped rechargeables twice as a precautionary measure). It has two brightness modes and is meant to go on a keychain - hence the "Quick Release" socket. I carry it almost every day. 👍

A lot of the gadgets were early projects in my backing history, and pretty discouraging at that. Successful projects rapidly outpace the expectations of creators who thought they were going to be making these devices in their garages. They usually don't have any experience with manufacturing, and they certainly don't have any experience with contracting Chinese corporations to do the work for them. A reliable and trustworthy broker for factories and manufacturing would probably really clean up in mentoring suddenly successful kickstarters the way sites like backer kit seem to be doing for fulfillment.

Films

Alright, and here is, in my estimation, the worst deal available on the site, or at least the most one-sided. Movies take a long time to make, and they're so hard to get right. Plus, like the video games, if the movie gets made at all you can almost certainly get it for less later on. I suspect it's a good deal for the filmmakers if they happen to have the fan base ready and waiting to make it happen. For one thing, kickstarters are a great way to mark up your DVD. By a lot. Assuming of course that DVD even still exists by the time your movie is shot, edited, toured around to festivals, and then released to your backers.

  • This is Not a Conspiracy Theory - By now I should have a word for 'I enjoyed this creator's previous work enough to support their future goals.' In this case, the previous work was Everything's a Remix. This documentary is being made as a web series, with parts gradually released as they are ready. Me, I'd rather just see the whole thing when it's done. So far, the first couple segments have been released, but the project is far from being completed.
  • Out of Print - I'm a fan of the New Beverly, but it seems to me now that I overspent on this one. I assume I was making good money at some job at the time. The movie is produced, but this project has yet to be completed. UPDATE: Due to reasons, the movie itself has been made available online for free. I don't know what this will mean for fulfillment of the rest of the projects rewards, or if that matters.

Other

Some projects defy polite categorization. Or I didn't file them correctly. They include:

  • Notebooks on Cities & Culture: Seasons Two, Three, and Four - Although I've met the host of this show once, this is not a friendship-based backing. This is a backing based on my opinion that Colin Marshall is a fantastic interviewer, and that his show is something that should exist. As a listener, I am hopelessly behind. Each season of this show has delivered on time, and he is currently producing a fifth.
  • Cthulhu Idol Narrative - This is a neat project. The creators main deal is sculpture, but the idol he is sculpting will be preceded by a series of letters from the fictional character who has "discovered" it. I couldn't justify springing for the full size idol, so my hope is that the small one will make an interesting first player marker in a board game. I just received my final package and I'm looking forward to reading it. 👍
  • The Writhing Dark - This project is for decks of playing cards and tarot cards, which I don't care about it all. What caught my eye was the mention that they also wanted to print an anthology of weird fiction selected from submissions by their backers. I signed up so that I could have a shot at submitting, which would give me a reason and a deadline to try writing in a brand-new genre. Although my story was accepted, the project is wildly overdue, so by the time it arrives I worry I'll be more embarrassed than proud. It was neat to work with an actual literary editor though. That doesn't seem to ever happen in comedy.
  • Flag - I guess it's silly to back an app that will eventually be free but I did a low-level pledge to get production updates, and I will theoretically be reimbursed with their premium services. If they actually launch this thing, I think I'm looking forward to using it.
  • iOS 8 Developer Course in Swift - Software development is like my white whale. This seemed like an inexpensive way to try and get my feet wet, and once my current job ends I'm looking forward to playing around with this. Being more of a presale, this project delivered almost immediately.

And that's my backing history to date. I thought it would be fun to cover projects that I missed out on, and projects that failed to fund despite my support, but I think we'll save that for another time.

Time to tally up the scores! This week I mentioned 21 different projects. Of those, an astounding 14 of them have completed. And of those, I know approximately 4 of them to awesome.

Grand totals: 47 backed, 31 complete, and 11 certified rad. It doesn't sound encouraging. But are more than 1/3 of all products you buy via normal means amazing? I've probably bought plenty of underwhelming movies and books in stores too.

We've learned that the more realized a project is before it asks you for money, the more rad (re: thoughtful, prepared, cautious(?), fun, prompt, smooth) the project is likely to be. Maybe there are other useful guidelines to good backing that we can take from this aggregated look at projects. In the meantime, I'm holding out hope for a lot of 👍 signs from the 16 projects I'm waiting to receive.

Now I'm also interested in tabulating the average amount of time between backing and fulfillment, and how late the late projects tend to be. Maybe that stuff will make it into the 'missed-out' post.

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