Tech Weekly: Out of This World

Space: the coolest frontier. We all want to go—to boldly follow in the footsteps of legends like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the other ones. While consumer space flight may still be a few years off, that's not going to stop some intrepid creators from shooting for the moon. Our Technology category is brimming with space-age modern marvels like the ones you see below.

Vulcan I: Rocket Powered by 3D Printed Engine

According to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, "The next logical step in human civilization is not only to explore, but to evolve into a spacefaring civilization." SEDS is a group of undergraduate students at the Universtiy of California, San Diego, and their project is called Vulcan 1. The mission is to design, print, and test a fully 3D-printed rocket engine. If all goes well, they'll launch the Vulcan I in June, and take the record for highest flight of a rocket powered by a 3D-printed engine.

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Ten Creators, One Question: What's Your Shipping Advice?

After you've reached your project goal, it's time to celebrate. But as we all know, the project is far from over. Now it's time to begin shipping out your rewards. It can seem like monumental task, and everyone does it slightly differently — but there's no reason to reinvent the wheel each time. We asked ten creators to share their best shipping advice with us.

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An Interview with De La Soul's Dave AKA Trugoy the Dove

Hip-hop can be tricky. The genre is about perpetual forward movement, and it's easy for artists to move from legendary to forgotten in no time at all. De La Soul have avoided that their entire career, perpetually reinventing themselves and exploring new territory even as they stay true to who they are as musicians. From their debut LP, Three Feet High and Rising, to today, the trio has consistently changed the way we think about music and pioneered new ways of making albums through off-kilter concepts and tonal shifts.

When they launched their Kickstarter project to fund their new album, we knew it'd do well, but we couldn't have predicted this magnitude of success. Here was a legendary group notorious for their willingness to experiment, taking a huge risk, putting the existence of their next record in the hands of their fans. Now, as their time on Kickstarter winds down, we spoke to Dave Jude Jolicoeur—who you may also know as Trugoy the Dove or Plug Two, depending on where your entry point into the De La Soul catalogue happens to be—about the group's past, the music industry, and what they're up to now.

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Introducing Google Analytics — and an inside look at the creator dashboard

If you’ve never launched a project on Kickstarter — or if it’s just been a while since your last — you might not know about all the tools and data waiting for creators behind the scenes.

Take the project dashboard, for instance. It’s pretty much Mission Control for monitoring everything going on with a project, with at-a-glance tracking of key data: funding, top referrers, reward breakdowns, even a continuous feed of all project activity. It’s our way of making sure everyone has all the information they need to run a great project, while keeping the whole thing simple and intuitive enough that creators can focus their energies on, you know, creating.

There are some, however, who need even more advanced, more granular methods of monitoring their projects. That’s why we’ve now enabled creators to connect their projects to Google Analytics. It’s simple and seamless — just add a Google Analytics tracking ID to any Kickstarter project, and all the right data will flow over for analysis. For larger, more complex projects, it opens up a whole new world of trusted, powerful tools, from custom reports and dashboards to the ability to track how many visits to the project page are converting into pledges.

It’s just one of a host of new features and upgrades we’ve been rolling out for creators over the past months, from big changes to small improvements — things like shipping tools, spotlight pages, easier payment setup, and subtitles and captions. And of course there’s still a terrific suite of data already waiting on every project’s dashboard, no setup required. Never seen it? Here’s a quick spin through what’s available.

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Discover Webcomics

Picture a comic. Assuming you don't immediately think of a person that practices comedy in some form, you probably picture a newspaper comic strip or a stapled, magazine-style comic book. It's the beauty of the format. You can do whatever you want with the structure built into the medium.

But what about webcomics? For as long as they've been around (longer than you think! The first webcomic was actually distributed through Compuserve) no one's ever been quite sure what to do with them. Do you treat them as you would any paper comic, only on a screen? Or do you use the freedom of that screen to push boundaries? To make them interactive? To take what was printed on the web and convert it to an actual, physical book? True to comics history, rather than figure out one definitive way, all manner of work in all manner of format is available to read online, and if looking at hundreds of these projects a day tells us anything, it's that the community around webcomics is thriving just as much as the projects themselves. Here's a few that are live right now.

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Talking Shop: An Evening with Bill Plympton

From the moment the first full-length computer-animated feature film, Toy Story, came out in 1995, people recognized the computer's potential with regard to animation. Much later, in 2009, television's longest-running sitcom, The Simpsons, finally updated their introduction, replacing the hand-drawn sequence with computer-aided animation and effects. There's no longer any question that technology has revolutionized animation.

So why would an animator work harder than they now have to? 

Bill Plympton has been illustrating and animating professionally for the past 40 years. He's perhaps best known for his 1987 animated short Your Face, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Plympton is an animation legend, as well-known for his iconic style as the fact that he still draws every single frame by hand.

After a screening of his most recent film, Cheatin', at Kickstarter HQ, Plympton fielded some questions from the audience and fellow animator/moderator Signe Baumane. He shared the details of his process, thoughts on his style, and one incredible story about how he turned down a job at Disney.

Please enjoy this candid conversation with Bill Plympton in the video above. And when you're done, seek out more of his work, like his hand-drawn couch gag for The Simpsons, or his eighth hand-drawn animated feature film, REVENGEANCE.

Revolution Revisited: Stanley Nelson Explains the Black Panther Movement

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is coming to theaters at a critical point in time. When the Black Panther Party was founded in 1966, it was in reaction to unjust conditions: police violence, substandard education, and joblessness. Nelson writes: “As we witness the similarities between the injustices of yesterday and the tragedies of today, we feel a sense of urgency to share the story of the Black Panther Party. We are struck by the way today's movement around police brutality and accountability is being led by young people seeking change, just as it was with the Black Panther Party almost 50 years ago.”

Nelson has won literally every major award in broadcasting, including a National Medal from President Barack Obama, a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, and a Primetime Emmy, to name just a few. Since Nelson is currently running a Kickstarter project to help fund the theatrical release of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, we asked him to share his impactful and inspiring insights with us. What follows is an annotated series of archival photos from the Black Panther movement, plus his thoughts on how we can learn from our past, and how today's filmmakers can best use storytelling for positive social impact.

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