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Kickstarter Enters A New Era

on Tuesday, Jun. 3rd

Kickstarter is all but synonymous with “crowdfunding”.

Unless you’re the creator of a project that falls outside what has been some modestly restrictive guideline on the site. Those restrictions have helped grow rival crowdfunding sites, chiefly IndieGoGo, while at the same time giving Kickstarter the role of “premiere” crowdfunding service.

Starting today, that all changes.

In a blog post Kickstarter co-founder and CEO Yancey Strickler announced two major changes to the way the site does business.

The first is “Launch Now,” an initiative that will move the project curation process out of the hands of the service’s community managers over to an algorithm that will check for a variety of factors. Projects that clear the automated process will then have the option to either submit for feedback from a live human or go ahead and “Launch Now.”

The second change is a stripping down on the rules that govern Kickstarter.

After taking a long hard look at every one of our guidelines, we boiled them down to three basic principles:

• Projects must create something to share with others.

• Projects must be honest and clearly presented.

• Projects cannot fundraise for charity, offer financial incentives, or involve prohibited items.

These three rules highlight exactly what Kickstarter’s all about: making things, sharing them with others, and being honest with the people helping you do it.

(The full version of the rules are here.)

The list of prohibited projects and rewards would still prevent would-be Pick Up Artist manual creators and home brewers alike from using the site. Along with anything that claimed to “cure, treat, or prevent an illness or condition,” which might keep some of the dumbest scams off Kickstarter’s doorstep.

(Get a sense of Strickler’s current philosophy in this interview at The Verge.)

The site was definitely facing a challenge. IndieGoGo has been growing thanks to its Wild West ethos, and serious vetting of projects is a laborious process that Kickstarter was never actually providing as a service. The question now is if this loosening of the rules will create a slush pile of shoddy projects.

When it does—oops, I meant if it does—the next challenge will be for some entity to form around the idea of vetting the claims in projects. As things exist in the crowdfunding space right now this is largely done randomly by the equivalent of crowdfunding vigilantes who surf the pages of IndieGoGo and Kickstarter for scams. That process leaves a lot to be desired, as questionable projects have to appear on their radar in time to be stopped.

What’s needed is something along the lines of a Consumer Reports or a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”: a set of standards held by a group with no vested financial interest in a campaign that can give an assessment of the health of a project.

How to get such a group going is beyond me… perhaps we could Kickstart one? (Actually, even in the revised rules, that would probably have to go to IndieGoGo.)

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