It’s time for a special review, where I have a look at other media, and this time I want to talk about crowdfunding. I did support some projects in the past, so I wanted to look into Kickstarter.com, the biggest crowdfunding website, to see if there are some interesting books to be found.
For those of you who don’t know what crowdfunding is, here is a short introduction. A creator initiates a project by opening a project page on Kickstarter (or another crowdfunding platform). There, he or she presents a pitch and every information that they think will get people to fund (“back”) their project. The backers decide if they want to pledge some money, to receive rewards. These rewards usually come in tiers, where a higher pledge means a better reward. Typical reward tiers range from adding the backer to a mailing list (for a very low amount of money pledged) over the thing that the project is about (like a pair of shoes or a book or tickets for a performance) to special editions, meetings with the creators and other goodies at a higher price. The creator will get the backers money if, and only if, the specified amount (needed for project fulfilment) is reached in the campaign duration (usually 30 or 45 days). This all-or-nothing funding is specific for Kickstarter, however, other crowdfunding platforms offer different funding schemes.
Backing a crowdfunding project is a mixture of a donation (as you help out a creator to realize their idea), a preorder (as you claim your backer rewards by paying in advance) and an investment (as you carry the risk of losing your pledge money). Kickstarter does not impose strong quality control on creators, so the platform is swarmed with joke projects or just generally bad projects. Even some well thought out and promising projects had to throw the towel after mismanaging, unexpected setbacks and running out of backer money. It is therefore the backer’s responsibility to perform due dilligence to the creator and investigate the project’s presentation, risks, reward tiers, and fulfillment plan to make sure that everything looks competently done. A residual risk remains nevertheless.
I’m into business and self-improvement books, so I checked Kickstarter’s Publishing->Nonfiction section. After wading through a sea of fringe christian teachings (which seem to be super important to some people) and anti-christian teachings (which seem to be important to other people), biographies written by 25-year olds, and lots of stuff on marriage and raising children I found a number of book projects that warranted a closer look. Some of those were terrible, some were good and some were strange. I’m not going to give explicit reviews of the projects (keep in mind, these are about books that do not exist yet), but I think you can deduce it in most cases. Enjoy and click the embedded cards to get to the project descriptions. Most projects are active at the time of publishing, so feel free to back them, if you like them.
The image has zero to do with the book, and the blurb text is not at all informative (to definitive red flags for a prudent backer), but at least Will Gaddy gives some text examples:
“A social network company printing money faster than you can pile it up into a bonfire is what happens here – they don’t give a shit about money (we are out to change the world/increase empowerment/insert your social justice warrior naïve moon-bat drivel/sunbeam-rainbow imbecilic empty twaddle here). …
If you live in, say, Nova Scotia, and you have about 8 feet of snow in your front yard, and here we come – “we can double the amount of snow in your front yard!” – it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to give nary a shit – in fact, you may give less than negative 10 fucks because you have too much of it already.”
The metaphor works ok, but all the swearing and ranting isn’t cute. In fact, it looks rather strained. Also, judging from the examples, this guy’s life is not as extraordinary and interesting as he thinks. That may also be the reason for the lack of backers.
Principles of Scientific Management
Ahead of the Chains
Matt Prostko needs $9000 to self-publish a book of management strategies inspired by american football. He has done his homework, got a nice video, gives good example content, has reasonable reward tiers and generally appears competent. The problem I have is that I don’t know a thing about football. I think it is mostly burly men hugging and shouting, and somtimes the balls gets kicked, but the second part is so detatched that it takes only place on the side of the field. Where I live, people like to obsess over the other kind of football (the one with an actual ball that is actually played by foot). What I want to say is that even if linking football to management is a good idea, there are many people in the world who will not get the metaphors. Lets look at some example text:
“An example from Dino Babers at Syracuse is paired with Starbucks and Coca-Cola to provide insight on how to define your destination.
Mack Brown from the University of Texas and Southwest Airlines provide a backdrop for connect stakeholders to your Vision.
We revisit Babers’ example through the lens of Home Depot to learn new ways to close the gap between your Current State and Desired State of your Vision.
Finally, like in every section, I provide a “Game Plan” for taking this framework and tools back to your company, with step-by-step instructions.”
Again, I know the companies, and I guess the other names are football guys, but I have no idea if the connection makes sense. Also, all the talk about visions and desired states sounds like a lot of management consultant babble. The book may still be good, though.
Is Intelligence an Algorythm?
Answer: yes, it is. This aside, the design of the cover and the intro video look promising (except for that vaguely Sanskrit looking font, that’s just stupid), so whats it about?
“From these concepts I will provide strategies, heuristics and architectural plans to create a new generation of Artificial Intelligence. A conceptualisation of Artificial Consciousness and a blueprint for an Artificial Webmind. …
This is the abstraction of the dissecting knife of the intellect and the great integrator of cliques allowing to spawn a plethora of novel and inventive solutions which are screened and pruned to generate an apotheosis of ever increasing complexity.”
I am a pretty smart guy, PhD and everything, and I don’t understand this. It sounds like tech jargon mixed with New Age gibberish. However, the book is completely written and a publisher is already in line, so what’s the money even for?
“In order to be able to make this book a success I need to launch a serious marketing campaign. This is a costly process. In total I will be needing at least 2500 Euros for a very simple campaign carried out by John Hunt Publishing.”
Running marketing campaigns is actually one of the core functions of publishers. If your publisher demands that you fork over some money in advance for them doing their job, then they are not really a publisher. They’re a vanity press. Why should I even buy this?
“And as a bonus I will provide you with tools. Tools to organise your thoughts, tools to solve any kind of problem, tools to navigate through the wild waves of our emotions.”
If he has tools at for sovling any problem, how come he needs €2500 of other people’s money while working as a patent examiner at the European Patent Office, one of the highest paying employments out there?
It looks like he’s going to reach the minimum funding goal after all, so what do I know. Maybe he really is on to something.
How to spot a seriously bad project:
- The project image is a blurry US flag photographed at a weird angle. No video, of course. Check.
- The creator brings up vague implications that the USA (arguably the most prosperous and priviledged nation of the world) somehow is on the decline. Check again.
- The project description contains zero information on what the problem might be and what solution will be proposed in the book. Check number three.
If the creator would actually reach his goal and write the book, I would expect lots of borderline racist conspiracy theories. Luckily, because of everything right about the internet, he won’t get any money.
“It will focus on facts and study moreso than just my opinion. … I won’t lean any way or the other, except the proper way.”
Glad to hear that you settled all controversies.
Get Your Money Together: your purr-fect finance workbook
Needless insertion of memes (like cats or zombies) is usually a staple of bad projects, but I think we have an exception here. The creator knows what she is talking about, the presentation looks promising, the risks and challenges are assessed and the backer rewards are sensible. The only downside is that a good portion of it will be specific for the american insurance, pension and education system. Still the most competent and propitious project in this roundup. Full disclosure: I backed this.
Maybe not all the rewards make sense…
Write in a book. Inspire others. Share.
I wasn’t going to cover projects that were already closed by the time this goes online, but I wanted to end with something that looks well-made but is intirely bullshit from top to bottom. Luckily, the creators tried the exact same thing before, and everything has already been written by someone else (read it here).
Kickstarter may not be a reliable source for good books to read, but it does give a pretty dependable supply of bad projects to laugh at, bullshit projects to fuel your righteous anger and sometimes even great projects to back (and then cross your fingers that the creators can follow through). If you read this a month in, alls projects presented here will be closed (successfully or not) and other will be open, offering new chances to read new different and wild content. Go explore!