For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is one of those ingenious ideas that makes you love the Internet. Here’s how it works: people post creative project ideas that they need funding for, and Kickstarter members pledge to provide that funding, a few dollars at a time. Creators provide a full proposal for their project, detailing their plans, expenses and current efforts towards reaching their goal, much like any other grant proposal. They also include descriptions of various pledge levels, explaining what donors will receive for their contributions — for example, $5 might get you a thank-you postcard and $150 might get you an original song.
Each project has a certain amount of time to reach its pledge goal. If it does, the pledges are collected and the project goes forward. If time runs out, the project receives no money at all. This ensures that applicants are not on the hook to finish projects that are only half-funded, and donors are not on the hook to fund projects that are not fully supported.
Even if you don’t propose a project or pledge to fund one, there are more than a few inspiring ideas to browse at Kickstarter. One project I found particularly compelling is “1024 bits of you and me,” in which the artist crowdsources ideas for 1024 individual paintings that will be displayed as one giant work in the Artprize competition in Grand Rapids, MI. It’s like a Thing-A-Day project on steroids.
Right now Kickstarter is still in Beta mode, so you can’t just post a project and start collecting pledges. Your proposal needs to be sent to the Kickstarter team for approval first. I’m not sure how I feel about this current set-up. On the one hand, it means that I don’t have to wade through a bunch of idiotic vanity projects to find the ones that make meaningful contributions. On the other hand, it means that a very small panel of profit-conscious judges decides which projects are worthy of presenting to the larger community. What do you think?