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Nintendo Pokes Fun At Crowdfunding With Wario’s “Crowdfarter”

22 May
Image © 2013 Nintendo

Image © 2013 Nintendo

Ask any musician that’s been parodied by Weird Al Yankovic, and they’ll tell you: you’ve only truly made it when someone parodies you. Which is why I’m thrilled to death that crowdfunding is such a big deal that videogame giant Nintendo has lampooned it to sell their new Wii U game, Game & Wario.

Crowdfunding was popularized by sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that present underfunded projects for people to throw money at if they want to see them completed. Nintendo’s parody, the maturely-named “Crowdfarter”, copies elements from the source material in a manner that shows that Nintendo isn’t just trying to cash in on a buzzword. They’ve made a conscious effort here to find the funniest and most ripe-for-parody elements of crowdfunding sites, and to represent them through their “lazy greedy corporate slob” character, Mario’s unscrupulous brother Wario.

Wario is a great fit for this parody; he wants to cash in on the new Wii U system, so he needs a game to do it. But of course, he doesn’t want to pay his own money to make the game, and that’s where we come in. Through Facebook “Likes” and Twitter shares, Wario will “fund” his game and spread awareness at the same time.

Nintendo went to notable lengths to rip on crowdfunding as lovingly as possible. All the elements that make crowdfunding unique are here: we’ve got the poorly-produced introduction video, the lofty and over-hyped funding goal rewards, the updates from Wario where he professes that his project will be “the best Wii U game ever”, and the less-than-subtle indication that the entire thing is less about the final product and more of a huge cash grab.

This parody would feel disingenuous if done poorly, but Wario’s characterization is absolutely perfect for this campaign. He’s unarguably the type of character who would see a system like crowdfunding and immediately attempt to game it for his own self-interested and lazy purposes. Wario might have even inadvertently touched on a deeper crowdsourcing issue with one off-the-cuff line: “Why should I pay for everything when other people will do it for me?” The best parodies always contain a kernel of truth.

Well done, Nintendo. I don’t own a Wii U so I probably won’t buy Game & Wario, but this is a marketing home run.  Check out the parody site here, and throw Wario a Tweet or a Like if you’re so inclined. Goodness knows his lazy ass could use the help.

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Reflections on Boston: People Screwed Up, Not Crowdsourcing

23 Apr
Image © 2013 Next Media Animation

Image © 2013 Next Media Animation

Ohh, these have been a maddening last few days. The U.S. sort of went to hell last week, and at the center of it all we had the Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent panic, finger-pointing, racism, media incompetence, armchair investigation, death threats, and basic reminders that we, as a species, are not that great.

But of course, you’re here because you want to read about crowdsourcing. Throughout this story unfolding, internet denizens gathered on social media outlets, mainly Reddit, to collect information, speculate on as-yet-uncovered details, and attempt to reduce confusion. Which is fine! That’s what Reddit is for; collecting all of the Internet into one place where just the good stuff rises to the surface. The problem arises when certain people decide to take this information and, because they are obviously smarter than the FBI, CIA, and Boston PD combined, attempt to find the perpetrators of the bombings before the authorities do.

Alright, let’s do a rundown of who in this narrative is making me angry (hint: everyone):

  • Redditors. Not as a whole. Reddit is everyone; that is its beauty. I’m mad at the Redditors who had the gall to think they were smarter than the tens of thousands of investigating officials. What leads a person to believe that just because they have a few blurry citizen photographs and some other Internet Detectives on their side, they are better at solving crimes than entities with sophisticated investigation techniques, access to innumerable surveillance sources, a network of collaborators, and the support of the U.S. Government? Glory, maybe. The idea that they can achieve Internet fame for cracking the case. But, that’s The Internet. Some people on it are idiots. I know that, and you know that, but do you know who apparently didn’t know that?
  • Mass Media. The Internet will wildly speculate on anything and everything, but that doesn’t make it fact. What makes a fact is confirmation, proof, and sources. You know, things major news outlets are supposed to get before they report that some random student is probably the bomber. But, of course, as soon as Reddit came up with the name of a dark-skinned male who was possibly a little suspicious, news outlets unfortunately ran with it. With the help of Reddit itself, this poor individual’s family was harassed with countless accusations that their relative was the Boston Bomber. All false, of course. No one knew the identity of the suspects until (surprise!) their names were released by the FBI. Not Reddit, not NBC, not Twitter: the real, honest-to-God government agents who were investigating the case. Turns out they can do their jobs after all!
  • Internet Journalists. Specifically the ones who are liberal with their use of the word “crowdsourcing”. After the events of this story shook out, many were quick to blame crowdsourcing for the colossal amount of incompetence that went down. I’ve got a news flash for all of them: what happened here wasn’t an example of “crowdsourcing” by any definition of the word. What many forget is that aside from the presence of a crowd, the equally important component of crowdsourcing is the controlling entity, the person or people directing the crowd. It’s what separates this story from the time that crowdsourcing actually did solve a murder mystery. What we have here is crowdsourcing with a complete lack of compartmentalization; without a leader steering them towards a common goal, the crowd governs themselves. I should hope I don’t have to tell you how well that sort of thing typically works out.
  • Media Consumers. Yeah, I’m in this boat and so are all of you. We’re the reason for the 24-hour news cycle, we’re the reason that fact-checking is passé and editorialized headlines are the norm. We’re the reason the media will jump on the opportunity to place the blame on any brown kid they can find. And we’re the reason that Reddit posts saying “hey guys, maybe we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and let the authorities do their jobs” got downvoted straight to hell. We demand answers more than we demand correct answers, and our constant yearning for entertainment has turned the news into what at times feels like a constant stream of barely-relevant information. I know this is well-trodden ground at this point, and that I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said fifty times before by people much smarter than me. I don’t care. I’m angry anyway.

I think if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s that the Internet has made many people forget their places. The fact that information can travel so quickly from brain to fingers to keyboard to THE WHOLE WORLD and onto a new brain makes people think that they can solve mysteries better than the pros. These are people who dedicate their lives to these things, and chances are they’re better at it than the random Internet denizen. Let them do their jobs.

People on Reddit are supposed to gather and share information; they don’t investigate crimes, finger suspects, or make Facebook raids. The media reports what is happening in the world, once they’re absolutely sure that it is indeed happening. If they see something worth reporting on Reddit, they are perfectly within their rights to do so, but they are obligated to make sure it’s true first. And the viewers of the news are supposed to watch it, not demand it. Demand for news leads to fabrication of news.

Everyone, please take a breather, recoup, and kindly go about your business.

PucaTrade is a Collaborative Way To Trade Magic Cards

15 Apr

Image © 2013 PucaTrade

It’s been well-established by this point that I am a fan of Magic: The Gathering. There’s just something about shuffling up your deck and launching a barrage of monsters, weapons, and sorcery at an opponent’s tender, innocent face. The only downside is that the cards themselves, the fundamental building blocks of the entire game, are not cheap. It’s not uncommon to see highly-played cards for some formats valued at $100 each.

PucaTrade.com aims to change the game by making the process of trading cards between players crazy simple, and it’s doing it through crowdsourcing. The driving concept is that of Collaborative Consumption, where people share things they own instead of maintaining permanent ownership. Zipcar has used this concept to great success with their car-sharing service, and PucaTrade extends the concept to Magic cards.

With PucaTrade, users mail out cards they own that other users also happen to want. In return, they receive some amount of “PucaPoints”, which in turn can be spent on cards the user wants. It’s dead simple, and PucaTrade plays fair by keeping a constant eye on card values and making sure no users are getting ripped off by uneven trades. In another act of crowdsourcing, the site developers have teamed up with the users to create PucaBot. The site-owned “user” identifies and buys surplus cards in order to even out the economy and make a little money to keep the site running.

It’s a solid concept. People who play Magic often have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of unplayed and unwanted cards in their collections that would be better off in the hands of someone who’d actually appreciate them. PucaTrade also circumvents the entire economy of online card shopping, where prices can vary drastically and shipping snafus can prevent cards from arriving for days. With PucaTrade, the grassroots approach means its users can send and receive a steady stream of cards to each other at no cost except postage. Brilliant.

PucaTrade is growing quickly, and has already traded over $80,000 worth of cards between its users. They are currently doing an Indiegogo project to get out of beta and add some really great features to the site, including a redesigned interface and more tools for user interaction. If you’re as into Magic as I am, or if you just think these cards are getting crazy stupid expensive, donate to the campaign and/or register on the website and start trading. You get free PucaPoints if you share the campaign on Facebook or Twitter, too!

It’s Back! Magic: The Gathering Announces You Make The Card 4

12 Mar

Image © 1995-2013 Wizards of the Coast LLC

Turns out the number-one cure for the Mondays is your favorite company announcing the revival of an incredibly popular and successful crowdsourcing campaign. Game company Wizards of the Coast announced today that their trading card game Magic: The Gathering, of which I am a huge fan, would be beginning the fourth iteration of their You Make The Card (YMTC) project, starting immediately. Using the ideas and voting power of their fans, Wizards will create a brand-new card that will be released in a future set.

Like the last few contests, YMTC4 will involve an iterative approach. One decision at a time will be presented to the fans, and they will discuss, submit ideas, and vote on that aspect before moving onto the next one. This campaign starts with deciding what card type this card will be; the first three campaigns began by choosing the card’s color or art. It’s similar to the approach Nissan used when soliciting the crowd’s help to design a car.

I’ve previously discussed the past YMTC campaigns, so I’ll take this space to briefly reiterate why they were so popular and such a good example of a company effectively reaching out to their audience. Wizards expertly hits all three of the tenets of successful crowdsourcing:

  • Since Magic research and development is usually very secretive and confidential, fans are incentivized by the rare and significant opportunity to be this closely involved
  • The iterative way in which the contest is compartmentalized prevents the people running it from being overwhelmed with too many disparate ideas, and ensures that each part of the card will work properly with the previously-designed parts
  • Hosting the campaign on the official website ensures that only people who are already sufficiently interested in Magic will find it, and that they will also have access to the massive archive of articles about Magic design that are hosted there.

I can’t wait to see what kind of crazy card we end up with when this contest is over. The first three cards designed by YMTC were fun to build decks around and provided effects that were previously underexplored in the game, so there’s no reason to believe this one won’t do the same.

Get in on the contest while it’s fresh and new by voting in the first phase and following the contest on Twitter under the #ymtc tag, and then pop down to the comments to tell me what kind of cool card you hope will be designed in the upcoming weeks.

 

EDIT 3/18/12 4:30pm EST: Thank you Maro for retweeting my article, and welcome all followers of Maro on Twitter!

Crowdfunding Crash Course: How To Make Your Campaign A Successful One

6 Feb

Marguerite Caruana Galizia - CrowdfundingI used to have a sort of embargo against articles about crowdfunding. It wasn’t that I didn’t see a place for it, or thought it was an illegitimate way to make money; I just thought that there wasn’t really any depth to the topic worth talking about.

But, times change, and a few articles later, I find that crowdfunding has really come into its own as a subject worth introducing to my readers. To that end, I was thrilled when I discovered that a dancing blog, of all places, had written up an excellent guide on how someone with no knowledge of crowdfunding could set up a project and get their dreams funded. Below, you will find my summary of the guide’s sticking points, originally compiled by Marguerite Galizia and presented on her personal blog.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way to get your projects, personal campaigns, and product ideas funded without going to a wealthy backer or company with deep pockets, and anyone with a dream and a video camera can do it.

Through sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe, users can create “project pages” where they show their idea to the world. These pages typically consist of a video, showing off the idea and its creator, and a written statement that goes into a little more detail. They specify their goal, or how much money they need to fully find their project, and a time frame for completion. The public views these entries, and donates money to those that they wish to see carried through. They are rewarded for donating certain amounts with a gift from the project creator, usually some sort of token of esteem or similar “thank you”. Depending on the site this project is posted on, the creator may get to keep all the money they’ve been given, or may only get paid if their project reaches its goal amount.

Step 1: Choosing Your Platform

When starting your campaign, the first thing to decide is where to host it. There are a multitude of crowdfunding sites available, and more keep popping up every day, so this is not a decision to be taken lightly. When choosing a site, one should consider factors such as the fees involved, the site’s level of professionalism, the countries the platform caters to, and which types of projects the site has made successful in the past.

Galizia’s article goes into more detail on things like the fee structures of these sites, if you’re curious, but the important thing to remember is to find a site that looks like a good fit for whatever type of project you’re doing. If you’re trying to start an art school, sites that fund scientific discoveries probably won’t do you much good. Similarly, if the site you’re using isn’t doesn’t provide service to your country, you’ll likely find it impossible to get any funding at all.

Step 2: Make Your Pitch

Arguably the most important step! Your pitch will introduce your idea to the world, and more importantly, it will introduce you to your potential donors. The strength of your pitch can make or break a campaign, so it’s important to make sure there are a few things you absolutely don’t miss. First among those is to have a clearly defined goal; your aim should be a finished, tangible thing that other people can use or consume. This can be a finished product, a book or movie, or even an entire company, but few people will fork over their money for the promise of things to come. Have something to show for your campaign when it’s over.

Also important to include in your pitch is some personal background on your project and yourself. Nothing opens wallets faster than when someone feels personally involved in your project, so start by making them personally involved in you! Explain your passion in a way that is simple and genuine, and emphasize that your donors are investing not only in the finished project, but in your own future. If they fund this project, who knows what else they’ll see from you someday!

Finally, choose your rewards carefully. For some donors, the rewards provide a large portion of their incentive to help, so make it worth their while. This doesn’t mean pull out all the stops, of course; your budget is obviously limited if you’re crowdfunding in the first place! But it does mean to cater your rewards to your audience. Galizia emphasizes that you should offer “bragging rights” rewards over “involvement” rewards. What this means is that people want to show off that they helped the project, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be a direct part of it. Put their name in the credits, or send them a prop from your movie, or a signed picture from the people involved, but don’t ask them to, for example, put their lives on hold to appear in a cameo role.

Step 3: Promote, Promote, Promote!

If you’ve got your pitch all set up, your final step is to get that page in front of as many eyes as humanly possible before your campaign ends. For someone who doesn’t have extensive experience in promotion, where to begin could be a bit of a mystery, but rule of thumb says to start with people you know. Friends and family are already invested in your future, and early donations from them will appear on your page and help your project gain traction.

Standard print materials can also be a good bet. Having a physical flyer or card to hand to your personal contacts could encourage them to tell someone else about it, with the added bonus that they don’t have to memorize the project’s details. Posters could also be a good bet, especially if they are displayed in areas where people likely to support your project gather. And there’s always real-world newspapers, which may be interested in running a story or advertisement calling attention to your campaign. Besides, senior citizens read newspapers, and they’ve got that retirement money.

Naturally, there is also the Internet and social media, which are as always fantastic channels for spreading the word. Facebook and Twitter blasts will make sure your followers are aware of what you’re doing, and that they can in turn tell their friends about it. You can also locate online communities, forums, and blogs that may be interested in your project, and make posts on their sites promoting your idea. You could even start your own blog about the project, which has the dual benefit of providing publicity and keeping your donors abreast of current project developments.

Go Forth and Get Funded!

If ideas are the only currency you trade in (out of necessity), crowdfunding is a great way to get your name out there, promote your dreams, and have a ready-made fanbase when your project comes to fruition. I’d like to thank Marguerite Galizia for putting together a great guide on the subject, which again, you should view in its original form if you’d like more information on any part of this guide.

Until next time, may the crowd be ever in your favor!

 

CrowdsUnite Is Your One-Stop Shop for Crowdfunding

16 Jan

CrowdsUnite

Attention entrepreneurs! CrowdsUnite has emerged as a deadly useful new service, making its way onto the scene with the intention of connecting you with the perfect platform for crowdfunding your dream business, product or artistic endeavor.

What is crowdfunding, you may ask? A fair question; it’s a topic I’ve only addressed a couple times on this blog. Crowdfunding is a specific type of crowdsourcing that aims to change the way that large projects receive funding. Instead of the people behind these projects appealing to an official board or a wealthy corporation for their startup money, they turn the challenge to the “crowd”.

Crowdfunding sites typically consist of a large collection of project plans, and allow individuals browsing the site to donate money to projects they wish to see carried out. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two of the most popular of these brand of sites; Kickstarter users alone pledged over $319 million in 2012.

In addition, users typically receive some sort of compensation in exchange for their donation to up-and-coming projects. Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects offer prizes to donors depending on how much money they chip in; the looser your purse-strings, the greater the reward. Other sites offer a return on your investment once the project takes off, and still others even offer equity, allowing you to share in your project’s success.

CrowdsUnite aims to become the main compendium of crowdfunding sites. “What Amazon did for retail, we want to do for the crowdfunding industry,” says Alex Feldman, the CEO and founder of CrowdsUnite. Since many crowdfunding platforms are specifically geared towards certain types of projects, and since more of them keep popping up every day, a single place where they are all collected, sorted, and categorized is extremely useful. In the future, Feldman says he hopes that CrowdsUnite will be the first stop for any individual who wants to find the perfect platform to start their crowdfunding campaign.

The site’s features, while constantly improving, are already quite robust. All of the most popular and successful platforms have detailed profile pages on CrowdsUnite, where potential campaign managers can view information such as fee structure, the nature of how the platform handles compensation, and if the platform is specific to certain countries. Additionally, CrowdUnite’s visitors can view reviews, comments, and articles  for each platform, submitted by their fellow users. Possibly the most useful feature is the ability to compare two or more platforms side-by-side to see how they stack up against each other.

If you’d like to help CrowdUnite on its way to becoming the go-to Wikipedia for crowdfunding, the best thing to do it hop over to the site and register an account. Fleshing out the information on various platforms by submitting content is a great way to get your favorite platform noticed and discover new ones. Feldman also adds that he is looking for business partners; if you are an industry professional or consultant that wants to explore the crowdfunding space, the relationship that CrowdsUnite holds with these platform administrators would be useful to you.

5 Oct

My first article for Ziptask’s blog, Work 3.0! I won’t make a habit of posting my Ziptask stuff here, but this is an exception.

Work 3.0

Don’t get ahead of me.

Freelancers, for many industries, are a fact of life. Media outlets hire them constantly to get fresh perspectives on newsworthy events. Programming development firms often include a revolving door of freelance or third-party programming and QA teams. And many artists subside entirely on freelancing, taking different jobs every few weeks or even every few days. According to this survey from CareerBuilder.com, one in three companies will turn to staffing/recruitment firms and freelancers this year.

But the process of employing freelancers? Sucks. No denying.

At your basest level is the initial act of simply finding a worker you want on your team. You spend money on job ads and spend time posting and responding to offers on Craigslist or LinkedIn or Freelancer or oDesk, hoping against hope to find the one useful name in a pile of thousands. And we haven’t even gotten to the interview…

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