Friday, June 23, 2017

Within the Dungeon Interview: Kicksnarker in Charge Eric Franklin

Armed with a well-bristled beard and a healthy thirst for games, Eric Franklin joins me for a chat about Kicksnarker, a G+ community focused on providing a critical, often cynical, and sometimes comical take on all things crowdsourcing.

Eric thanks for agreeing to this and welcome. So, for those poor and downtrodden souls who have no idea… What is Kicksnarker? What motivated, or why did you decide to create this community?

The man behind the beard (link to blog)
Kicksnarker is a community which was originally there so people could vent their frustrations with crowdfunding. Late projects, uncommunicative creators, and (of course) things that were just plain stupid. There was a project I had backed that I was venting about, and someone tagged the project creator into my (personal) vent post. It was awkward and weird, so I decided that I needed a rant space.
Is there a method to all this madness? Any tips for Snarker Sleuths?
Snarker Sleuths? I assume you mean "people who are looking for stupid things in crowdfunding."  If you're looking for stupid, it's really not hard to find. Pick your hobby, and search that category on Kickstarter (or IndieGoGo or your platform of choice). I guarantee you'll find dozens of stupid projects that aren't worth anyone's time or attention.

“Just plain stupid” and “stupid things” are you thinking of specific crowdfunding projects? Or what is an example of a project or two, which spikes the stupid meter?
I find projects that re-invent the wheel to be stupid. Like this one, that reinvents the bundling board. This project is an example of a zero-effort project where someone heard there is money to be had, but doesn't actually demonstrate how or why they deserve your money. People who overestimate their own talent create projects that are accidentally funny, like this one.  All three of those, by the way, have appeared in the community in the last month.  Projects that fix imaginary problems are another thing that, for me, falls into the category of "stupid."  Like this. Or this.

If there was such a thing as the “Seven Deadly Snarks” or a ranked list of the most common campaign crowdfunding mistakes, (before funding) what would that list start with? Why?
Here's some of what I look for when deciding whether or not to back a project:
- Is the pitch coherent? When you're selling yourself, grammar and punctuation (and spelling) do matter.

- Do your pledge levels make sense?  There was a project a few years ago that had the game for one price, the dice as an add-on for another price, and the game with the dice for a third price. It was cheaper to buy the game and add the dice on than it was to buy the bundled pledge level. I've also seen a number of projects that have limited pledge levels where even if every level sold out, it wouldn't hit its goal.
- What do your stretch goals look like? I've seen too many projects sunk because the stretch goals cost way too much.

What’s been your best experience with building the Kicksnarker community? What’s been the worst experience? Or at least, one you’re willing to share. Is being a moderator in the community really like herding cats? Do you think the community is successful? Why or why not?
My favorite thing about the community is how it's grown. Most of the community members are gamers, and nearly all of them have a well-developed sense of sarcasm and the absurd. It's led to a unique culture that I really appreciate. My favorite thing ever? It was the April Fool's gag that Sarah and I pulled on the community in 2016.  We spent months putting that together.  My least favorite? Drama. We have a number of strong personalities in the community, and they occasionally do clash. Usually it's a respectful clash, but (despite what the FAQ says), we hate banning people.

April Fool’s gag? Does it have anything to do with your Top 100 List: Things that Eric Franklin Dislikes? (or stage left) 
That top 100 was a direct response to the community from Lee's Lists, because we mocked their product a few times. To be fair, we mocked several other rip-off products that were similar, too - it's not like we singled them out.  The April Fool's Gag is linked above.

Since founding Kicksnarker you’ve found new and interesting ways to spend more money, or less money?
I've become pickier about what I'll back, but it seems like I wind up spending the same amount of money.

Have you ever backed a project which didn’t deliver, or one which you were so disappointed in the final product, that you considered pulling your beard out in pure angst? Care to name it? 
Yes.  I backed Far West, which is infamous in tabletop RPG circles. I also backed Power Chords, which was well before Far West, and has yet to deliver. And Alas, Vegas, but that might be delivering eventually.  MIskatonic School for Girls delivered, and I kindaZ wish it hadn't. It needed quite a bit more playtesting, and they forgot to include the fun in that one.

The complete list of what I've backed is here.  If it's in orange, it's completed. If it's in blue, it's only waiting for stretch goals. That doesn't give you good/bad on the fulfilled, though.

Who is the target audience for your community?  What do you wish new members of the community knew before posting?

The target audience for the community is human beings. Because monkeys have terrible grammar. My preference would be to have members join the community and just read for a few weeks before posting.  Read and/or comment only. Don't just link things, either. We want content. Tell us what you find stupid or objectionable or cause for concern. If you want us to check your project for red flags, it's best to do that prior to launch. And don't expect us to help - if all you do is "help make my project better," we'll probably ignore you.

What sort of advice would you give a first timer who is interested in backing a crowdfunding project?

Keep your eyes open. If it looks too good to be true, don't sink a lot of money into it. Don't pledge money you can't afford to do without, just in case. Assume that the project will be late and won't be as awesome as it looks. There are awesome things out there, but they are few and far between. Before you pledge, check Amazon to see if something similar already exists cheaper. Because it probably does.

What sort of advice would you give a first timer who is running a crowdfunding campaign?

Project creators? Don't jump in blind. Back a few projects - and wait for them to complete. This teaches you what the climate and culture is like. Be VERY careful with your stretch goals.  Double and triple-check your math on everything. If it's a writing project (including an RPG), have it written before you start. Remember that Kickstarter takes a cut of your total and so does their credit card processor. Remember that some cards won't go through. And don't drag your feet - freight costs go up regularly and never go down. Don't just do a blanket "rest of world $X" for freight, either, because Brazil and Australian freight will kill you if you're not prepared for them.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: If you owned and ran a crowdfunding site how would it differ, from what is currently available? What do think crowdfunding companies can do to improve their future?

Kickstarter used to review every submitted project. Unfortunately, they grew too quickly to be able to keep that up. My ideal platform would be very similar to Kickstarter, but it'd still have that personal touch. It'd also have better protection for backers in case of non-delivery. I have no idea how I'd work that, though. It's why I'm a backer and not a crowdfunding site.

Some folks say, “Backing a crowdsource project is an investment.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

It's not an investment. It's a gamble. Kickstarter especially has gone out of their way to state that they're not an investment, because there are a number of laws and regulations that apply to investment, and they don't want to be tied up by those regs (and I don't blame them).

Eric thanks for doing this and we are just about at the end… Do you have an elevator pitch for Kicksnarker? It’s not for monkeys for sure (damn those monkeys), but why should humans consider joining the community?

Kicksnarker's tagline is a pretty good elevator pitch: "Mocking things we might be capable of loving."  So many of the things we feature are almost good. People who are thinking about starting a project should join and read the "Tools for Tool-Users" category - it has useful links and post-mortems and the like. The FAQ is long, but it really should be read. It gives you an idea of the culture we have in the community.

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