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Monday, September 24, 2012

"Kickstarter Is Not a Store"


Kickstarter recently published a post with the same title trying to address the issue of projects being funded, but the creators not being able to successfully manufacture the product (whether it is due to cost, manufacturing, or other restrictions) or deliver in a timely manner.
It's hard to know how many people feel like they're shopping at a store when they're backing projects on Kickstarter, but we want to make sure that it's no one. Today we're introducing a number of changes to reinforce that Kickstarter isn’t a store — it’s a new way for creators and audiences to work together to make things.
To prevent this from happening further, the company has instituted several new changes to project creators' rules and guild lines:

One was:
Creators must talk about “Risks and Challenges” 

Today we added a new section to the project page called "Risks and Challenges." All project creators are now required to answer the following question when creating their project:

“What are the risks and challenges this project faces, and what qualifies you to overcome them?” 

We added the "Risks and Challenges" section to reinforce that creators' projects are in development. Before backing a project, people can judge both the creator's ability to complete their project as promised and whether they feel the creator is being open and honest about the risks and challenges they face.
This make sense, but I'm a bit surprised creators were not addressing this issue already. How were they coming up with their funding goals if they did not already consider potential issues and, more importantly, costs?

But I think this requirement is a good change and should help direct funds to more competent creators who have thought out their products in detail; and divert funds away from conceptual artists, and scammers, who throw up ideas with the hopes of making a quick buck.

The more idiotic policy is the following:
New Hardware and Product Design Project Guidelines

The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and seductive to backers. Today we’re adding additional guidelines for Hardware and Product Design projects.

They are:

  • Product simulations are prohibited. Projects cannot simulate events to demonstrate what a product might do in the future. Products can only be shown performing actions that they’re able to perform in their current state of development.
  • Product renderings are prohibited. Product images must be photos of the prototype as it currently exists.
Products should be presented as they are. Over-promising leads to higher expectations for backers. The best rule of thumb: under-promise and over-deliver.

We've also added the following guideline for Hardware and Product Design projects:

  • Offering multiple quantities of a reward is prohibited. Hardware and Product Design projects can only offer rewards in single quantities or a sensible set (some items only make sense as a pair or as a kit of several items, for instance). The development of new products can be especially complex for creators and offering multiple quantities feels premature, and can imply that products are shrink-wrapped and ready to ship.
This makes no sense at all.
Unless Kickstarter's goals have changed, I was under the impression that it wanted to help creators find funding to create.
How does the company expect the creator to fund these prototypes? Many projects are manufacturing intensive (ex. require plastic molds, circuit boards, etc) and cannot be built within reasonable specifications by hand. Also, the creators may not have the knowledge to create their idea and need funding to hire additional resources to do so.
Requiring working prototypes prevents potentially thousands of products from even being submitted.

These changes were implemented under the misguided impression that the issue was consumer protection; however, the consumer does not need protection in this case. Investing in anything (Kickstarter, companies, stocks, etc) is full of risk. It is the consumer/investor's responsibility to properly research the project and creator. The "Risks and Challenges" section is a good place to start this research, but it is ridiculous to believe a fully packaged, plastic-cased, electronics product could be made with such little effort and so little money.

Of course, this is not all on the consumer. As I mentioned before, the creator needs to do his/her research to find a reasonable target fundraising goal and timeline to production.

I repeat, it should be the users' (creators and consumers) responsibility to improve the success rate of these projects and not Kickstarter's. I can only imagine the new hardware and product design policies harming the overall community.
Eventually, creators will move away from Kickstarter and find another site that enables them to market themselves as openly as they choose. Detailed and accurate presentations of their ideas will be rewarded with well-informed consumers that will want to invest in their concept.

Of course, I am only basing this off the success of a free-market economy. I could be wrong.
Thoughts?

(Kickstarter blog via core77)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you read the q/a under Kickstarter's article, they specify that the "renderings" that they are prohibiting are only realistic photo-like images or simulations of non-existent products that could be mistaken as photographs or videos of a real working product. They still allow plans, CAD designs, blueprints, etc. So no one has to have working prototypes...