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News Flash: Shark Jump in Progress?

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Jumping the shark (per Wikipedia🙂 Jumping the shark is an idiom created by Jon Hein that is used to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of “gimmick” in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

No reader of this blog could accuse me of hating on crowdfunding, but I cannot believe that Kickstarter is walking down this road, and worry that the escalating cycle of ridiculousness could in fact mark the start of Kickstarter’s downhill slide. Want to know why? Read on.

Last night I commented on the first project in this series of bad jokes, The Death Star, and it was very polarizing. Many online (including me) hated it, thinking that it eroded Kickstarter’s credibility. Others, including the 1,300 backers that have currently pledged almost a quarter of a million dollars to the project, and dozens of online pundits love the project.

Today this trend goes a step further, as the Rebel Alliance has responded, from China of all places.

For $11,000,000 the creators of this project will create a starfighter and use it to blow up the Death Star should it ever see the light of day. They plan to make this untried and untested technology for less than 10% of the (estimated) $130,000,000 price tag of the F-35. Of course you can pick any number out of the air when you are making a joke.

The punchline to this one is that “In the hilarious and unlikely event that we come close to reaching our Funding Goal, we’ll pull the plug on the project. We might have an actual engineer on our team, but Simon has no clue how to build an X-Wing. Well, nothing more complex than a Lego model, anyways.”

How can any creator ever be clearer in saying something is not a project (and thus should not be on Kickstarter.) Trading traffic for credibility is neither prudent nor wise in a fledgling funding model that still  faces plenty of skepticism for totally legitimate projects. Sloppy enforcement of Kickstarter’s internal rules is one thing, but flagrantly set them aside like this?

This substantially shakes my faith in Kickstarter as a market maker.

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This entry was posted by David Winchester.

14 thoughts on “News Flash: Shark Jump in Progress?

  1. These “joke” Kickstarters are basically insults to people who put their real projects up and then struggle to get whatever bit of funding they can to make their long-time dream come true. Having someone who spent years about making a music album, comic book, or video-game fail when they could genuinely make their product is all the more depressing when their failure has as its mirror image a fake project someone designed as a joke racking up money.

    Not to mention, what if one of these things reached their goal and didn’t cancel the Kickstarter? They just took the money and made a cute little model Death-Star, claiming they did what they said so they get to keep the 20 mil? That’s far-fetched, but people wouldn’t be laughing then…

  2. That’s funny stuff about the Rebel Alliance, but none of that stuff belongs on Kickstarter. I’d rather not see any joke projects there at all.

    David, you are the go-to guy whenever I want to know the latest regarding Kickstarter, so maybe you are the one that was talking about this those guys who did a Kickstarter hoping to earn enough money to buy wings for their unicorns so they could pull the Earth out of the way of a potential asteroid and also throw an End of the World party? I don’t know why Kickstarter allows such nonsense.

    • Yup, I was the winged unicorn hater.

      I don’t know why Kickstarter allows these sorts of projects either, though in the case of the Rebel Alliance I would hazard a guess: the Death Star created a traffic spike worth noticing, so they thought they would double down.

      If the X-Wing project does the same, why not allow a project to genetically engineer wookies, or even ewoks. If someone wants to raise money to make a set of storm trooper armor, that is a project, but if someone wants to raise money to build an AT-AT, that is a waste of time, and an invitation for further nonsense.

  3. Yes, these projects are ridiculous, but only by a matter of degrees over many of the “legitimate” projects that have unrealistic expectations and naive goals. I think they show how crowdfunding can be gamed.

    • A cynical if correct summation, and to think, usually I’m the cynical one.

      Kickstarter could do with tightened standards across the board, but I think drawing the line at impossible would be a good start.

      There are plenty of good projects out there though, I just want to keep the weeds out of the garden to give real creators room to flourish.

  4. If Kickstarter’s model is so rickety that a couple of obvious joke projects can spoil the whole bunch, then Kickstarter needs to die sooner rather than later.

    If, however, it can withstand some of the awkward, irritating, completely ridiculous projects that actually meet its guidelines, then it can survive a couple of jokes every now and again. I really think you’re worrying over nothing, and giving these projects the attention they’re seeking in the process.

    I see backers on these projects who’ve backed anything from 2 to 250 projects. You don’t think any of them are actually expecting a Death Star or an X-Wing, do you?

    Have you reported these projects to Kickstarter yet?

    • Of course. The day I found them, but I find Kickstarter rarely reacts to reports on projects, even when the violation is blatantly in opposition to the rules (as opposed to my perhaps over-strict interpretation of the same.)

      And of course, you are probably right, a failure of the Pebble or Ouya would be infinitely more damaging than a dozen Death Stars, but does that mean joke projects should start to become a thing on the site? Should there be a couple dozen of them up at any give time? Should they get their own category?

      • Don’t get me wrong, I don’t support joke projects. I just don’t think they matter as much as you do. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any jokes on Kickstarter. Then again, in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be projects with products that someone might conceivably want, but with backer levels like this:

        “Pledge $111 or more

        This level pledge is a general support donation. Thank you.”

        I think that shit’s way more harmful for Kickstarter in the long run.

      • “OS Cubes”. http://kck.st/V4YiMf

        Math symbols on dice. Not sure what they’re good for, as the video doesn’t say any more than the project text. Also, there’s a $22 “Player’s Set” level that gets you one set of dice, a $25 level that doesn’t give you anything, then a $33 “First Responder’s Player’s Set” that gives you the same rewards as the “Player’s Set.”

        Give me the Death Star any day.

      • It appears that $33 level also gets you some recognition.

        I confess I’m not sure what these cubes are for, or why they are worthwhile, but I would much prefer a clumsily implemented project by a genuine creator than a farce. After all, abject failure will cause this creator to dig deep and do much better the second time around, where as I expect all the Death Star project will do is encourage the creator to try to Kickstart a Borg cube next.

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