The Problem With Kickstarter: A Lack Of Transparency

Since 2010, over one and a half billion dollars has been transferred from Kickstarter backers to project creators, and with Kickstarter’s 5% cut taken on each dollar collected, that means Kickstarter has had somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 to 80 million dollars in revenue in the last five years. That’s a success by any measure, and as with this huge amount of money, questions must be asked about the transparency of Kickstarter.

This is not a post about a Kickstarter project for an impossible project, a project that breaks the laws of physics, or one that is hyped beyond all reasonable expectations. This is a post about Kickstarter itself, and it’s been a long time coming. In the past, Kickstarter has shown at least some transparency by cancelling projects that are obvious rebrandings of white label goods – a direct violation of their rules. Kickstarter has even cancelled projects that violate the laws of physics, like this wireless charging Bluetooth tag. It’s a start, but Kickstarter has a much larger problem on its plate: the Staff Pick problem.

The Staff Pick badge can be a powerful tool that virtually ensures a project will meet its goal. The sorting algorithm used by Kickstarter takes the Staff Pick status of a project into account. If a Kickstarter staffer likes a project, it is guaranteed to have more eyeballs land on it, and one would imagine more funds pledged towards the project.

Staff Picks “Make” the Campaign

Staff-Pick-KickstarterThis Staff Pick badge is so powerful, in fact, it can determine the success or failure of a crowdfunding campaign. [Ethan Mollic] of the Wharton Business School and one of the world’s leading researchers in the business of crowdfunding found a Kickstarter campaign that is selected by a member of the Kickstarter staff has an 89% chance of being successful. Without the Staff Pick status, the success rate drops to 30%. This is not to say the Staff Pick status of a project causes a project to succeed; Kickstarter staff may just be very good at picking winners. It does, however, incentivize project creators to independently label their projects as Staff Picks, even though Kickstarter officially discourages this practice.

The Staff Pick problem recently came to a head with the Holus project, a Pepper’s Ghost illusion that initially claimed to sell an interactive holographic display for about $600. This project did not incorporate any holographic technology, and could be replicated by a sheet of glass and a computer monitor. It’s a century-old parlor trick, and not something that deserves to be written about in every tech blog ever.

In an open letter to Kickstarter CEO [Yancey Strickler], [Joanie Lemercier] — an artist with years of experience in visual arts and projection displays — pointed out misleading claims made by the Holus project: it was not a holographic display, only a parlor trick. It used photorealistic renderings in violation of Kickstarter rules. In addition, it used the Kickstarter Staff Pick badge in its campaign, even though it was not a staff pick. Yes, apparently if you have a Kickstarter campaign, you can just add that staff pick badge to your campaign.

The Staff Aren’t Responsible for the Staff Pick Badges

Yancy Stricker, Kickstarter CEO
Yancey Strickler, Kickstarter CEO

And so we come to the crux of the matter. [Yancey Strickler] has said, “staff pick badges aren’t part of our system.” This claim clearly contradicts the Kickstarter search and sorting algorithms. Since Staff Pick badges themselves are one of the greatest indicators of the success of a Kickstarter campaign, it will be abused by those who have something to gain. Yet somehow, it is not a part of the Kickstarter system.

There is no clearly defined way a project on Kickstarter becomes a Staff Pick. There are plenty of people on crowdfunding blogs with suggestions on how a project can have the best odds of becoming a Staff Pick. There are, however, no answers. The best anyone can tell you about the Staff Pick process is, ‘someone who works at Kickstarter likes a project’. This would be fine if the Staff Pick badge was equivalent of a ‘like’ on Facebook. This is not the case, though: the Staff Pick status of a project is ingrained into the sorting algorithm of Kickstarter, and serves as social proof the project is not complete hogwash.

Because of the nature of the Kickstarter Staff Pick, there are obvious ethical dilemmas faced by each and every person that can apply a Staff Pick badge to a project. That is to say, every person that works at Kickstarter. Theoretically, it’s even a system that could be gamed; Kickstarter staffer [Shannon Ferguson], ‘…basically just tries to back projects from her home state of Missouri.’ Gaming this system isn’t even advanced social engineering – it could be as simple as finding a Kickstarter staffer on the Internet and tossing a project on their Facebook, hoping for the best. It could be as simple as correlating the geographic location of projects with their Staff Pick status. For a system that has such a large effect on the success of a Kickstarter campaign, I would be surprised if this hasn’t happened before.

Kickstarter has a long way to go before it can be considered a transparent crowdfunding platform. The discovery algorithm is awash in prejudice that can be easily gamed to the benefit of crowdfunding creators. The official line from Kickstarter regarding the Staff Pick status of a project is that it is not part of the system, even though it obviously is. A transparent system of selecting a Staff Pick is needed not only to limit the possibility of gaming the system, but also to serve as proof of Kickstarter vetting projects.

There is a problem with Kickstarter, and that problem is of obvious scams, fraud, and deceit. You only need to look at the project that needs a million dollars to write a book titled How To Become A Millionaire for evidence of that. Some of these scams are a little more sophisticated, and for that, a Staff Pick badge is waiting in the wings. As it stands, the Staff Pick status of a Kickstarter project will remain mired in controversy. We have no way of determining how or why it was applied, yet it serves as a social proof for the campaign. It is one of Kickstarter’s greatest shortcomings, and until it is fixed (or removed), it will remain something that should be ignored completely but unfortunately won’t be.

66 thoughts on “The Problem With Kickstarter: A Lack Of Transparency

  1. This is why crowdfunding scares me–there’s so much trash out there, I’m afraid the pendulum will swing far in the other direction at some point and real projects won’t be able to use the platform for its originally intended purpose.

  2. Kickstarter founders are thieves.. It is that simple.

    They know the only outcome on many of the projects on their site – and then when the projects fail, they quietly take this split of the filthy lucre and move on to the next scam.

    Most normal citizens would not take part in such scam-artistry, which is why Kickstarter founders are thieves..

    Internet != excuse to upend traditional universal morality.

      1. It is quite a bit different.

        It is similar to an old fashioned confidence game. A con.

        VC is a mixed bag, but generally this thing called the SEC is there to protect investors.

        Calling presales on crowdfunding sites ‘ investments’ is an abuse of the word and concept.

      2. Venture Capitalism is not crowd funding. There may be similarities but way different. One thing right off the bat, is in the real world a VC deals directly with the company and owners/investors, no middle man. Second is they own a portion of the company after they make an investment. In crowd funding, its the biggest way to get tons of money for free. You sell your product before its developed, and with enough margin, you make a profit, before you’ve actually distributed anything. That’s definitely not the way the real world works. Its pretty much a presale, not funding campaign. No VC would give any money if they don’t get actual stock back.

  3. Does kickstarter have a logistics team or anything like that to help the campaigns? It seems like most of the kickstarters have the marketing down, but getting it to the production level seems to be an issue.

    1. There is at least one company that has popped up to help kickstarters deliver their products. (I’ve seen them mentioned several times).. they help mostly in logistics, I think, although they may have manufacturing and other ties into some common processes.
      not sure how much they cost, but I wouldn’t be surprised if about 15% of the total collected goes to ‘facilitator’ companies. (kickstarter takes 5%, paypal (I Think) takes 5%.. etc. )
      cost of doing business. :-)
      it’s nice to see the companies that can capitalize on their initial success and become an actual (even though small) company providing for their niche. :-)

  4. A couple-few years ago, I tried to make a Kickstarter for a cheap open source USBHID board that’d make it easy for people to make game controllers or any kind of USB input device they wanted from any switches, buttons, etc… They denied it out of hand. After pressing them for an explanation, they gave me some cock and bull story about how “Kickstarter is for creative arts projects” and my project “didn’t fit that description” (Actual quotes) even though at the time there were at least half a dozen blatant Arduino knockoffs of one sort or another with active campaigns.

    Not only do they lack transparency, but they don’t even make sense most of the time.

      1. For a USBHID to reach market, it needs out.

        A couple of recent offerings aren’t doing well. They reach market but they’re struggling. One from what I suspect is bad brown-out circuit design which causes the device to permanently disconnect from the host until it gets a hard reset. The designer has also failed to follow through with KS, OSHW and OS promises to the letter and has bickered with the community and even well established developers offering assistance.

        Another HID device was a blatant ripoff in its design (a strict vanilla AVR board) and can be serviced in a more timely manner using off the shelf hardware and open source software.

        Look at the existing USBHID device and see what they have to offer then try to offer something more for less. Let the backers have their cake and eat it too and they’ll probably beat a path to your door.

        1. Well, back in 2011 when I tried to make the Kickstarter, all the prebuilt boards I could find had a fairly specific purpose in mind, like arcade controllers, and/or were strictly closed source. (Hell, most of the time they even tried to obfuscate what chip it was running on by sanding off the markings.)

          I was aiming for ‘best of both worlds’; prebuilt and easy to use, while still being open source and highly extensible for advanced users. Another key design feature was that I made screw terminals *optional* instead of the norm; It always irks me when I find a great controller PCB and the only means of connection is screw terminals… I’d much rather just make a proper wiring harness, with nice solid connectors.

          With that in mind, I made the standard connections on the board a DB25 and a polarized 2×20 header, for a ribbon cable. (The latter also allowing for a screw terminal daughterboard, for prototyping.)

          If I were to redesign the board today, I’d make the following changes: make the USB port optional, adding a connector to support a ‘remote’ USB port so the board doesn’t have to be mounted along the side of the enclosure. (Also allowing for the use of a Neutrik Ethercon port and an RJ45 to USB cable, with or without the Ethercon shroud.) Move the DB25 to an optional daughterboard that also has footprints for 2xDB15, instead adding a handful of 5P JST XH-series connectors to the board for more robust internal wiring, relegating the 2×20 header to primarily being a board interconnect.

  5. My biggest problem with kickstarter (last time i checked) is that there is no way to publicly ask a question so everyone can see the reaction of the project members. For example, “how is your project different than product X that exists on the market” would have killed a lot of campaigns because people might see that there is already something existing on the market.

    1. You can. People routinely back a project for a dollar, and then undo that before it completes to accomplish this exact task. Many people did this on the PocketCHIP campaign, I recall. I’m new to kickstarter. Backed the Domino Core and they just arrived yesterday and I’m just thrilled. hehe. I also backed the PaPiRus and we’ll see how that one goes. But you can ask question, you just have to play with the system a little to get it to let you.

  6. kick starter is a sales guy circle jerk.

    develop a product, put it in stores and then maybe ill buy it. Kick starter exists because funding for these stupid ideas is impossible, After all if the product actually had some merit there would be a large number of private investors wanting to get in on it and they would be looking to fund a major chunk of it

    1. Kickstarter funding IS “private investing”. Not everyone has access to “Shark Tank” or other VC (venture capital) venues, either as an inventor or as an investor. Properly done, kickstarter (note the small “k”) sites provide a means for little guys to fund little guys. Improperly done, it can be another way to launder drug money.

      1. Investment = return of invested capital. Since they make a profit off you, that means you lose money from your “investment”. Therefore if you really think your investing, you need to go back to school and learn math, most importantly, negative numbers. Example. Invest $50 now to get product A. Product A costs $20 to manufacture, distribute etc. You lost a $30 investment. To put it more plainly, tell me how any kickstarter “investment” will return a profit for the investor? That’s is the opposite of VC.

  7. … and at Google engineers tweak search result rankings without transparency, and at HAD editors select hacks to write up without transparency, etc. pp. apply grain of salt to your taste and move on

      1. I think his point is that his examples aren’t transparent in the ways they do the things they do so why is kickstarter expected to be transparent?

        We don’t get explicit transparency from how GM, McDonalds and Wal-Mart turn a profit so why do we expect kickstarter to do any different?

  8. What is equally disturbing is that Kickstarter and the like keep their “fee” even if the campaign never fulfills … As a consequence Kickstarter has no real motivation to weed out the bogus campaigns.
    It is scary to say the least…

    1. It would be most enlightening to see the books or even a distribution of projects (capitalization goals versus numbers of projects). My hunch is that they quietly depend on large numbers of smaller projects with modest goals – not a bad thing in and of itself, but as others have noted the vetting of projects seems whimsical at best, and malfeasance at worst.

      There is also a certain amount of bias in what is thrown out as evil since large and grossly dishonest projects get turned into clickbait. Even if a particular project is a PR meltdown and scam, Kickstarter themselves claim they are simply a conduit and usually not held to fault for the misdeeds of one of the campaigns.

    2. because what kickstarter offers is a service to the people starting something.
      like a DIY web-store. (like wordpress for blogging, but different)
      one of the features they offer is monetary transactions.
      for each transaction they take a fee (from the starter, not the backer).
      if the store doesn’t deliver the goods to the client, that’s between the store and the client.
      the store still owes their transaction fee to the credit card company, to the provider, or whomever.
      those third parties don’t need to return the fee for the transaction.
      people get confused with kickstarter because each kickstarter isn’t privately labeled, and people think kickstarter.com is an involved party, when it really isn’t. it’s directly (contractually) involved with the starter, not the backers.
      having jumbled through that, kickstarter DOES have an interest in keeping illegitimate attempts off their website. because if people (backers) think the general provided offering is junk they will not shop there.
      if they won’t shop there, the starters won’t waste their time trying to get backers from there.

      1. There is a difference between meeting the funding goal and meeting the “deliver the good” goal.
        Let’s say: I do a campaign and meet the funding goal, then I get all the money and KS gets it’s share of that. Even if I do literally nothing after that, KS keeps the money. (If I keep it depends on if I get sued successfully).
        Sadly this can be summarized in “the higher the fraud sum, the more money KS gets”.
        The solution would be a crowdfounding, where the platform only gets money if the promised pledges are delivered.
        That would need a platform with significant more competent stuff and perhaps supervising control over the campaigns and thus much higher fees.

        Another idea for kickstarter would be to use the collected fees in two ways:
        campaign successful: all fees for kickstarter
        campaign unsuccessful: all fees to nonprofit organisations (like: fraud awareness, business training, startup supports etc.)
        This way kickstarter claims some responsibility of the outcome of their doing and failed campaigns would be avoided in long term view.

    3. Wonder what the FTC thinks about Kickstarter’s lack of transparency.It’s cut of the profit from backers’ funds regardless of a project’s success?Let alone the lack of “rules” to maintain the integrity in a funded project,where backers are on their own if somethings goes wrong.The Coolest Cooler as an example,where many of its Kickstarter backers were taking a back seat to the retail consumer on Amazon.This should have represented a breach of Kickstarter’s terms,and agreement between itself and creator,Coolest since the backers’ money wasn’t used for the intended purpose given the funding source.

      Basic administration,backers should be provided with proof of payment/ its history within their Kickstarter account.As of today’s date,a backer can’t see the ACTUAL date they were charged so one has a record that includes your payment method. Yes, this crowd funding platform’s very different from VC,with a requisite business plan ,sometimes a prospectus,binding agreement,plus exit plan.

  9. I was part of an (unsuccessful) kickstarter project last year, and we got “staff pick” status just by asking nicely. Due to timing constraints we could only run the campaign for about 2 weeks, and knew we needed as much marketing as possible in that time (it was a holiday-themed board, and we had it planned out so we could deliver before christmas.) So, we emailed the kickstarter staff, told them our story, and asked nicely if they would “pick” us… and they did. In the end I’m not sure if being a staff pick helped at all or not, but it didn’t push us over the edge.

    1. I thought tindie is more “after the fact”…
      Someone has a neat little device, too small for a big company to fund or steal, and tindie ties the buyers and sellers together. Am I wrong? Do I need to spend more time on the tindie site?

      1. Tindie does (or did) offer crowdfunding, from what I remember, but most of their business seems to be as a store for people to buy existing items. Also, all the stuff I saw on there was already designed and just needed enough funds to meet the volume thresholds that’d make it viable. (Though that’s no panacea – plenty of stuff on Kickstarter claims to be at that stage and still fails spectacularly.)

  10. How is this any different that which apps get featured by Apple on the iTunes store. Which apps get features by Google on the Play store. Which games get features on Steam. Which Toys get the largest displays at Toys R’ Us. Which books get put in the front of the store at any large chain bookstore? At least at retail it all comes down to negotiation and money. I suspect similar things are true for music on iTunes. Some staff will not be putting their favorite 1000 fan indie band on the front page of iTunes. Instead negotiation (which means who you know) and ad spend decide that. Why would we expect it’s any different on Kickstarter?

  11. I’ve gotten the staff pick 3 times in the last year or so (more in previous years where it actually mattered)- I can without a slightest doubt state that it’s no where near the value you assign it. We’ve gotten it and the same day show up on the 4th or 8th or 12th pages of their staff picks. Of the recent campaigns the most I ever got was 12 new backers from this “award”. The awarding of this “pick” is to common and to hard to shine any spot light on that it is more or less worthless to any regular campaign creators who are already known.

    1. Jame Mathe, btw, is the owner of the “KickStarter Best Practices” Facebook group and has written numerous crowdfunding articles providing advice to (mostly boardgaming) crowdfunding creators. We have, indeed, discussed the “Staff Pick” on the Best Practices board.

      As a backer, I’ve never let a “Staff Pick” influence by decision to back a project. Backers should do their research behind the creator, as well as have an understanding of how the project is made. This takes far more work and dedication than blindly backing a project because it’s a “Staff Pick”. A lazy funder and his money are soon parted.

      And if you whitewash KS with blanket statements, you’re not the person who is doing the necessary research to find out which projects are more likely to succeed than others.

  12. In the interest of full disclosure, I’d just like to say that as much as I dislike and distrust Kickstarter– the company –I’ve backed 19 campaigns, and of the 18 that were successful, 6 are still outstanding, with only one that is past due.

    Out of all of the completed campaigns, there’s only been 3-4 that have failed to deliver on time by more than a few weeks. I’m only still waiting on one…and it’s because they’re delivering far more than was originally promised, having added numerous backer-requested features to their product, and it looks like it should actually be shipping out soon. (I’m speaking of the BBP 1S board for 3D printers)

    Though I guess in the end it comes down to common sense… I hear plenty of horror stories, but out of everything I’ve backed, there’s just one campaign I’m even hesitant about, and that’s the Tiko… (But, really, who didn’t back that just for the potential?)

    Then again, maybe it’s because I hardly back technology and that’s where the majority of the scamming is? I mostly just back videogames, tabletop games, webcomics, and bluray releases of anime localized by the co-creator of one of the all-time greatest (And earliest) CRPGs. ;P

    1. I don’t back technology because I don’t understand it. That is, how do I know this new gizmo can be made in the time the creator says it can? Why aren’t you providing a white paper explaining the technology? Am I motiviated enough to read it? Additionally, having worked in technology, it doesn’t matter if you have an idea or concept now, it’s who gets it to market first. And if you don’t have funding while some other company does, I’m gonna guess that it’s the other company who has an edge on you on fulfilling first. And, of course, like any technology, the price drops dramatically after a few years. I don’t need most KS projects RIGHT NOW, so can wait.

      So I don’t think technology is scamming, but I think it’s too much work to make an informed decision, so don’t back it. Yes, I’m whitewashing here. :D

  13. Initially Kickstarter was awesome and I got some really cool toys, but it quickly turbed into a scamming platform with the staff washing their hands in innocence and absolutely NO recourse if your creators turns out to be a fraud.
    Kickstarter only cares about profit. Bugger the fools who give the money.
    After losing $60 (a lot when the exchange rate is R13,3/$) I have stopped browsing Kickstarter. And I’ve seen so many scams since. Getting worse every day.

  14. My Kickstarter was pretty simple. We launched the campaign, posted a couple updates, and a couple days later got a Staff Pick notification. Made the badge and posted it because that’s what everyone does. The campaign overfunded about 250%, we shipped our hardware about 2-3 months late after our estimated ship date. If you’re a smart backer and aren’t buying into some crazy hyped up campaign, Kickstarter has plenty of solid projects that will work out fine. Just research the project creators to see what else they’ve done before you back anything.

    And if you’re running a project, be as open as you can…and have something cool, and have a track record that inspires confidence. If you don’t have these things, then you shouldn’t be running a campaign anyway…you’ll have to resort to all the tricks mentioned in the article, and aim for successful funding as the end-game instead of shipping the product.

  15. I’d also suggest one simple rule for Kickstarters: if you don’t understand the process of how your money will be turned into a shipped reward, then don’t back the project. It’s not a good platform for uninformed backers, and that’s what all the scams depend upon.

        1. the thing to check is see how many of the same investors are involved in the scam and the tech blogs (or just Kickstarter and the tech blogs) and benefit both ways by the hype.

          Follow the Money is the greatest wisdom anyone can take advantage of these days.

          1. The money flows to kickstarter.

            SEC still might decide, one day, that kickstarter founders\owners are parties to serial investment-scams.

            They want to call it ‘an investment’ – maybe someday they will get treated like anyone else offering scam investments.

    1. Absolutely. additionally, if a shipped reward is a “bargain”, look closer into the creator’s history. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scam — if the creator overpromises, he may go out of business and not deliver. I think poorly managed projects are a MUCH likelier problem than scams. I have yet to pledge for a scam, but have backed projects knowing that that they are likelier to be poorly managed than others (“First Created” is a big tip off!). Naturally, I don’t pledge as much towards these projects — and many of them have fulfilled and were very good purchases.

  16. I’m worried this will go the way of eBay. Instead of a bunch of normal people getting rid of unwanted stuff like an online garage sale, it became mostly a commercial ecommerce site, where established companies and fly-by-nights alike set up what are essentially “stores” and sell the same stuff at the same prices usually as normal etailers. Used stuff mostly by resellers and speculators who are using the framework as a simpler internet retail presence-even car dealers (new and used) in on the act. Diluting what I felt was the unique “product” of eBay.

    Kickstarter projects from larger or well known corporate entities looking to shift their dev costs onto a speculating public instead of investing themselves seems to be growing, and aside from the scammers, the organizations and projects are getting bigger and more expensive, to where little projects are buried while start-ups with financiers co-invested in prominent tech blogs play what looks suspiciously like “pump and dump” games with hype to get the eyeballs and wallets engaged. The signal to noise ratio is worsening.

    And like eBay, Kickstarter doesn’t care where its percentage of money comes from, whether it’s a college kid trying to break a paradigm, or multimillion dollar MMO corporation getting paid to develop the next color palette swap and new character for it’s latest Yards of Yarncraft “expansion”.

    What’s next? Boeing “kickstarting” a SSTO launcher? the US Government “kickstarting” a national lottery program? Microsoft “kickstarting” Windows 11?

    1. ” Diluting what I felt was the unique “product” of eBay.” Companies grow, change and collapse all the time. ebay’s original mission seems to have been take over by Craigslist. If there’s a market gap, it’ll be filled eventually. If Kickstarter leaves it, someone else will step in with a different spin.

      1. Absolutely. KS is maturing. I think, with companies using KS additional times, this also lowers the risk of their projects, which attracts more backers. As a boardgame backer, I almost NEVER hear about this “I want this company to succeed”. Small companies and new projects *still* participate on KS *because* of these backers attracted by the larger companies.

        Maybe IndieGoGo can fill the void. Except that small companies *still* prefer KS. Just ask game developer James Mathe who ran campaigns on both platforms!

  17. The reason I’m trying to use Kickstarter to raise funds for my hydroMazing project is because I want to use it also as a way to advertise that I would not otherwise have the ability to do. It is also helping me to better develop my project into something more useful because I receive feedback from people all over the World!

  18. This is like complaining ebay and Etsy aren’t “transparent” because they won’t disclose how listings are selected for the front page, or that Google isn’t “transparent” because it won’t detail its search algorithm. Arguably, it’s all true – but so what? Kickstarter is very clear about what staff picks are – which is simply stuff their staff like.

  19. This is like demanding ebay and Etsy be “transparent” with the way they select products for their front pages, or Google disclose its search algorithms. Kickstarter is super transparent – A staff pick is simply a project they thought was cool. Breaking it down beyond that is stupid – it seems to be a purely personal take of their internal collective. It’s like asking you what you think is cool, and why. WTF?

    1. The problem (that unusually for HAD the summary actually mentions it), is that anyone can (and do) slap ‘Staff Pick!’ on their project. It’s even written in in really big letters and stuff.

      Kickstarter don’t police it.

      Presumably Kickstarter knows the difference between real & fake staff picks, and sorts the real ones higher. Or not. The ‘lack of transparency’ is Kickstarter not saying how the staff picks work, although if fake ones didn’t exist then it wouldn’t be a problem.

      1. http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/recommended – the staff picks can’t be faked on this list and is where most of the discovery comes from.

        From https://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creator+questions

        “How does a project become a Staff Pick?

        At Kickstarter HQ, we spend a big part of our day keeping up with projects. Every morning our editorial team watches all of the project videos that launched in the last 24 hours. When something sticks out as particularly compelling we make the project a Staff Pick. While projects are live on Kickstarter, they can be staff picked at any time.”

        Not sure what more you’d expect Kickstarter to say. In fact it’s easier to game a system if it’s transparent, which is why Google doesn’t disclose its search placement algorithm and has to play a constant cat and mouse game with black hat SEO.

        The article also makes a strawman argument – saying Kickstarter fails at being transparent assumes its mission is to be completely transparent in the first place. It’s not a publicly funded institution or NGO, and really how it exposes projects is pretty much none of anyone’s busness except theirs (if they’re good at it, they survive, if they’re bad it, they eventually fail). It’s like saying airlines should be transparent about how airfares are priced (fuel, unions, airplane ownership costs, competitors, pure profit – what else? Gimme your spreadsheet!). I don’t think Kickstarter really gives a shit about being a “transparent crowdfunding platform”, but rather being and staying a “successful crowdfunding platform”, or perhaps even the “most successful rewards based crowdfunding platform.” Please point me to a rewards crowdfunding platform that does both. It’s basically no one’s business but theirs how they run their business – if they are good at selecting projects to promote, they thrive, if they are bad at it, they fail.

        Even Lendingclub, that crowdfunds personal loans based on a “transparent” credit ratings, don’t disclose how they arrive at the credit ratings – they claim to look at more than your credit report, but what? – “The loan grade is the result of a formula that takes into account not only credit score, but also a combination of several indicators of credit risk from the credit report and loan application. All loans have either a 36- or 60-month term, with fixed interest rates and equal payments.”

        Let’s not be naive idiots with pitchforks, Kickstarter is a company and is behaving like any other (successful) company.

  20. I live next door to Kickstarter. They built out beautiful new offices here in Greenoint, Brooklyn and since they have moved in I have noticed something quite remarkable, and telling. The building is empty. I am not kidding. I have only ever on one occasion witnessed more than 1 or 2 people in the building. Something very odd is going on there.

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