4 Houston Kickstarters That Made Me Quit Writing About Crowdsourcing

Categories: The Intertubes

Albert Hsu's Kickstarter Page
For two years, I've done a monthly column on local Kickstarters. From the first moment I heard about the crowdsourcing site, I fell in love with the idea. It's birthed great web series like Video Game High School and the remake of Shadowgate I'd been asking for year after year. Locally, we've produced great tabletop games, virtual reality, incredible art and stage performances, and all kind of magic.

I enjoyed being a part of that, helping to spread around noteworthy endeavors. Unfortunately, I just don't have the heart for it anymore. Kickstarter didn't just go mainstream, it turned into an endless, pointless joke.

I am making a Paper Airplane

Mostly it's because of hipster bullshit like this. It all started with that guy who raised $55,000 to make a potato salad. Granted, he spent the extra money to throw a huge party and donated a big chunk to charity, but it sparked a whole movement of "ironic" Kickstarters full of people hoping to hit the right wacky note in order go viral for something stupid.

In this case, Sugar Land resident Albert Hsu, who raised $12 to make a single paper airplane. His stretch goal was $70 to make one out of poster board, but he totally admits he hasn't made one since middle school. Big deal, right? It's just a joke, but it's infected the whole of the site. Here's someone who wanted us to buy a pumpkin for a jack o' lantern, and another for a new pair of socks. All funded, by the way, and all just complete wastes of time and space.

Ebay, Amazon and Elance combined website startup

On top of the silly and pointless, Houston was so good at representing people with no damned idea what they were doing I made mocking one a regular feature of the column. People who had never made a film before asking for a million dollars to do so, or the woman who needed nearly half a million to complete her graphic novel.

Those are artists, though. Lots of brilliant people are nuts, but you expect better out of tech guys. Suleman Khoja, for instance, thinks he's going to take on Amazon, eBay and eLance all at once with a $20,000 start-up. $20,000 isn't even enough money to buy enough drugs to hallucinate you could be successful in this project, and it makes the whole damned city look like it's full of idiots.

This story continues on the next page.

Help wounded warrior band " VETTED " complete its first EP.

Harder to take are the people who aren't greedy but who still just don't get it. Albeit they don't get it in the name of a good cause, but it's very hard to watch such earnestness crash and burn.

Like these dudes. They want to make an EP and tour military bases with songs that raise awareness about PTSD,TBI, suicide prevention and other disabilities. That's so lofty, and embarrassingly better than anything I've ever done. It's never going to happen because they want $25,000 to do it despite the fact that no one knows who they are and there's no promise that anything will really come from this. That's a big chunk of change to spring on a proven indie band, let alone a completely unknown factor.

The fact that it's tied to such a nice thing to do just makes saying no to hitting the fund button harder. I've mentioned more than a few of these types of initiatives in the column before, only to watch them spiral and flame, and it's depressing as hell.

Bring my workshop to life.

Less hard to say no to but endlessly more infuriating are people who essentially want you to pay for their hobbies. They tell stories of how much they enjoyed woodworking as kids, like this guy, and offer to build you furniture if you'll agree to help them build a workshop. The value of the pieces he offers, even without seeing the actual quality, still amounts to us paying an added niceness tax on every single thing he does. Imagine if every time you went to buy a car, a salesman's main pitch was how he'd always wanted to go to Disneyland and that is why you should pay an extra 5 percent interest on financing.

Then there's this girl, who, God bless her, just wants to learn to draw but wants us to pay for the tablet. Again, it's a lovingly written ode to her own dreams, but very short on why an investor should really care about her other than because she's such a special snowflake. Kickstarter is supposed to be this great tool for raising otherwise unraisable funding for something people want. It's not supposed to replace student loans or home improvement loans.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of worthwhile projects still to be funded, and I plan on checking in on them from time to time. There's just too much of this sort of thing lately, though, to keep doing it every month. I imagine I'll have to wait for the next big idea...at least until that one also gets railroaded.

Jef has a new story, a tale of mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

Video Game High School Releases Trailer for Third/Final Season

In a pleasant surprise the trailer for the last season of the acclaimed web series Video Game High School hit the web this month.

Last season saw the series blossom into full primetime TV format at a time when web series and streaming content are all finding a new kind of freedom in the ability to not adhere to thirty-minute or hour templates. It was a bold move that could have done some real damaged to VGHS, but ultimately the show came out with a strong second act leading us to an explosive conclusion.

The trailer promises us back all of our old cast, with increasing focus given to Dean Calhoun. Though mostly a background character early on in the series, Harley Morenstein has increasingly clawed his way to star billing through his combination of classic old school gamer misanthropy and occasional hints at a troubled, but deeply caring personality underneath all of it.

Brian D (Josh Blaylock), Jenny Matrix (Johanna Braddy), Ted Wong Jimmy Wong), and Ki Swan (Ellary Porterfield) are still suffering from the lines that began to divide them last season as they each pursue their separate paths and find themselves sin competition. I got to tell you, watching the break-up of the bromance between Brian and Ted was hard. Sure, it's nice to see Ted come into his own outside the shadow of his wunderkind best friend, but judging from the upcoming action he's probably going to need Brian at his back.

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August Kickstarter Round-Up: Gun Art and Video Games

Categories: The Intertubes

Once a month we'll be bringing you a look at some of the best local Kickstarter campaigns in order to let you know what's getting ready to be unleashed through the help of small investors.

Engauge!: Ever since I started up my new Free Game Day column showing off some of the simple flash games available to play on PC for no charge I've rediscovered a new love for the minimalist and the old school. Engauge! from Toastie Republic certainly fits the mold, calling to mind things like Vectorman and Shiny titles like Earthworm Jim and the severely underappreciated Wild 9.

It's pretty basic stuff, but fun-looking for all that. $10 gets you a basic digital download of the game itself, which is a fair price by any measure. If you're the kind with money to burn the $125 package includes a box set full of swag including the physical copy of the game.

Goal: $50,000 by September 1

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5 Creepiest Quotes From Craigslist Houston M4W Ads

Categories: The Intertubes

Why are so many guys looking for sex robots that clean dishes?
One of my more deplorable habits is that I like to troll Craigslist ads looking for the worst of humanity. I started doing it back when I ran a column that looked for weird band advertisements, but like all junkies I started hitting the hard stuff over in the Men for Women classified. There the finest freaks in Houston put all their psychosis in print for the world to see, and today we're going to look at the ones that made me throw up in my mouth a little.

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July Kickstarter Round-Up: LARP, Pugs and Brain Injuries

Categories: The Intertubes

Once a month we'll be bringing you a look at some of the best local Kickstarter campaigns in order to let you know what's getting ready to be unleashed through the help of small investors.

Larpe Diem: Have you ever seen Darkon, the documentary someone made about foam sword fighting, live action RPGs? It's awesome. If they had that every Monday like football I would crash my car in order to get home on time to watch it.

Coming to us from the Fat Kids on the Block film crew, this is a similar film, except this time it's fictional. An average man named James is dragged by a friend to an underground LARP event where it turns out he is a naturally gifted foam weapons expert. Soon, he is an sensation in the LARP underworld, but success always makes you enemies.

Seriously, this is Kickboxer for the nerd crowd and I want it made yesterday. The only downside is that it's $75 to get a copy of the film (And a digital at that). Seems like a bit of a rip-off, but if they're angling for a theatrical release I can understand.

Goal: $7,500 by August 6

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Proper Etiquette for Leaving a Facebook Conversation

You totally sure about this?
"John Smith left the conversation."

For some, these words a simple fact of messaging via social media. For others, them's fightin' words. Every since Facebook gave people the power to exit a group message sent to them, they have loomed large over anyone who dares send one. Is it the easy way out of a conversation you didn't want into in the first place or a breach of "netiquette?" Sometimes, it's both. Of course, there isn't anything inherently wrong with vacating a message thread, but because Facebook decides to tell those stragglers left behind that you did leave, it can get a little awkward.

All things being equal, no one should really leave a Facebook conversation shared through a private message. Sure, it's the opt out we all wish we had when coworkers or family members continue to Reply All over and over again, but it is also the Internet version of turning around and walking away in the middle of someone's sentence, something very few of us would do during polite conversation. Frankly, this could all be solved if Facebook would simply remove the notification, but since that isn't an option, there are some guidelines you might want to follow if you are thinking of uninviting yourself from a conversation.

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June Kickstarter Round-Up: Transyltown and Postcards From WW1

Categories: The Intertubes

Once a month we'll be bringing you a look at some of the best local Kickstarter campaigns in order to let you know what's getting ready to be unleashed through the help of small investors.

Transyltown Volume 1: Moon Glow Tempo: There are very, very few reasons why authors should ever be on Kickstarter. In this day and age it's simply madness to ask investors to pony up $12,000 for hard copies of a book.

That said, there are occasions when it's necessary, and Bruce Small's desire to get a printed trade of his hit web comic Transyltown actually makes sense. If you made it to Comicpalooza you likely saw the rows and rows of wares in Artists Alley, and Small was there among a ton of other local talent. For comic artists looking to get discovered convention appearances are a must, even if your primary vehicle is web comics like Small. You need hard copy to play your product just like a band needs CDs to sell at shows still.

Plus, it's a good deal. It takes just $15 to get the printed version, and with the price of all ages comic literature these days that is a steal. The comic shop perks in particular have some nice bundles, so if you're a retailer you'll really make out on a comic I guarantee will sell.

Goal: $2,000 by July 9

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Is There a Point to LinkedIn's Endorsements?

It happened again. Usually it happens about once a month, but sometimes it happens once a day. This week it happened to me five times: I'm talking about getting endorsed on LinkedIn.

There's one thing about getting endorsed for skills you have by those who are familiar with them, but what about getting endorsed for expertise you know nothing about by people who you have never met in your life? Do you ever find yourself wondering, "How do they know that about me?" or "I don't even know how to open Excel; why would I be endorsed for that?" Me too, and it seems to be happening with more regularity.

The whole concept of "endorsing" someone on LinkedIn feels strange. But let's back up for a moment because the whole concept of LinkedIn, to me, feels strange. LinkedIn, for those of you who don't know, is a social networking site dedicated to career building. Launched in 2003, the site is one of the fastest growing and now boasts over 300 million users worldwide. Some have called it the "grown up Facebook," a comparison that I don't find all that accurate, but gives you a broad idea.

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May Kickstarter Round-Up: A Video Game Console Bar and Stories From Space

Categories: The Intertubes

Once a month we'll be bringing you a look at some of the best local Kickstarter campaigns in order to let you know what's getting ready to be unleashed through the help of small investors.

Press Start Bar: I love video games, and I also love drinking, and for a long time my venue of choice when I wanted to combine those loves was Joystix. There's a problem with Joystiz, though... get a bunch of drunks trying to pull a win out of a 30-year-old Donkey Kong cabinet and you're going to see a lot of out of order signs. Ryan Thauburn has the answer.

His plan is to open a bar where gaming is console based, both classic and current systems. Want to take a girl out for drinks and a few rounds of Mario Kart? This is the place to be, and it's an idea that is long overdue. Did I mention that by the time it's built there will be a light rail line that takes you straight from the University of Houston right by it?

Obviously this isn't a cheap idea, and if you want to see some real rewards you'll have to go in pretty big. $100 is the best bet as it nets you swag, a member's card that gets you into special events, and a ticket to a burlesque show. Those who really want to see this happen should think about dropping $1,000, which gets you out of fees for booths and rooms and let's you help craft a signature drink for the venue.

Goal: $50,000 by June 2

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April Kickstarter Round-Up: Geeks and a Rotten Film

Categories: The Intertubes

Once a month we'll be bringing you a look at some of the best local Kickstarter campaigns in order to let you know what's getting ready to be unleashed through the help of small investors.

Magic: The Gathering Documentary: Though I don't play much anymore I am a longtime fan of Magic: The Gathering. I still think it's the greatest battle card game ever made, and the mythology that it's developed is staggering in its depth. All it took was a couple of late-night commercials on MTV and suddenly I was giving Wizards of the Coast all my money.

Kyle Bryan wants to film a documentary following professional M:tG players (Yes, that's a thing) as they prepare and hone their skills for tournament play. It's not a history of the game or anything like that, but more of an exploration on the people it has hooked so deeply. $25 seems a little steep to be the lowest you can get a copy of the movie for (It is a DVD, not just a digital copy at least), but if you're looking to add a producer credit on an IMDB page then $50 is not a bad deal.

Goal: $10,000 by May 22

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