How Projects Launch on Kickstarter

Over the past five years, more than 200,000 creators have shared their projects with the team at Kickstarter. We work with creators to provide advice and support, and to review whether their projects align with our focus on bringing creative projects to life. Last year we made an important change to our review process. Today we’d like to update you on what’s happened since.

It’s important to note that every project on Kickstarter is reviewed — first by an algorithm and then, if needed, by a member of our team. How does the algorithm work? It analyzes thousands of attributes in a project and looks at how our team has handled similar projects. If the algorithm gives a green light, the creator can launch their project immediately, or get personal feedback from a member of our team first. If the algorithm puts up a red light, the project is manually reviewed by our team to make sure it meets our rules. Simple as that.

Here’s how this has played out since we finished rolling out a new version of the system in June:

As you can see, 31% of projects chose to launch on their own, 9% asked for additional help from our team, and 60% were manually reviewed by a team member. 

This new process is a big improvement in three important ways: it creates a fast track for projects that have historically been simple approvals; it makes our team even more available to creators who want additional support; and it gives us more time to make informed decisions about the projects we need to review. As more projects come in, we’ll continue to refine the algorithm and process to help more creators share their creative projects with the world. 

Why do we put so much attention into reviewing projects? Because it's our job to make sure we're fostering a healthy community — one where everybody's clear on how things work, people can trust one another, and projects of all shapes and sizes can succeed. We have a few simple rules, built to make sure that happens. A healthy Kickstarter means being diligent about making sure new projects fit those guidelines — and taking the time to talk with anyone who could use a little help. 

Have a project of your own you’d like to share with the Kickstarter community? Get started here. We look forward to working with you — as much or as little as you need.

A Few Things to Watch on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day—or not! Maybe it's not your thing, and that is totally cool. In the grand scheme of holidays, it's a pretty divisive one. Whatever your stance, though, there are plenty of movies that celebrate, disparage, explore, grapple with, and examine the concept of love and relationships. We combed through our very own Watch Now page to pick a few, which you can preview below, and watch here

Obvious Child

Lust for Love

I Used to Be Darker

Daylight Savings

Barmy

Good Night

Newlyweeds

Wish I Was Here

Seeking Asian Female

Bridegroom

I Do 

Keep The Lights On

The Process: Letterpress

Eric Mersmann has just completed his Kickstarter project for Valentine's Day cards featuring an amorous octopus, dubbed the Cephalovepod. This past fall he ran a project to create a limited run of Cthulhu holiday cards. Mersmann clearly knows his way around a letterpress, so we asked him to walk us through the process.

Pre-press

Most of my work begins life as digital files. There are some great letterpress outfits who work with movable type, but that's not feasible for something like Cephalovepod. With Cephalovepod, most of the pre-press work was done by the original artist, Phineas X. Jones, who had originally designed the work as a screen print.

I had to make a few adjustments to prepare the work for letterpress printing, and then I sent the files off to Boxcar to have photopolymer plates made. About 95% of what I print is from photopolymer, a highly malleable plastic that cures when exposed to UV light.

While I wait for the plates to arrive (usually 3-5 days) I make sure that my paper stock is in order and ready to go. For Cephalovepod, I was using the same stock that I used for my previous project, so this time around it was mostly a matter of ordering more matching envelopes from French Paper Company, a great, family-owned mill out of Niles, Michigan.

On Press

Once the photopolymer plates have arrived (and funding on the project was completed) I head into the printshop to make the cards. For Cephalovepod, I printed at The Arm, a public-access letterpress shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Presses are huge and I live in a fifth-floor walkup, so it's not feasible for me to own my own press; having access to a place like The Arm is a lifesaver for me.

The printing presses at The Arm are a mix of motorized and hand-powered. For Cephalovepod, I was fortunate to be able to use the Vandercook Universal III, a 2350-pound beast with a powered carriage return which saved me from having to pace the floor for seven days.

I averaged around 150 impressions per hour (which is pretty good for me) so the whole process of printing the Cephalovepod cards took about 55 hours over the course of two weeks, printing the colors in a certain order to make sure the overprinting worked the right way—Pink, Yellow, Red, Grey, Black.

Post-Press

Once everything is printed, I do a quality check to make sure everything is perfect. The Vandercook presses are great at getting precise registration, but mistakes do happen.

I typically estimate 10% waste per color, and then am consistently pleasantly surprised when I manage less than that. On Cephalovepod, I did have some extras, which I was able to offer to folks who missed out on the 800-count edition for my backers.

Then it's into envelopes and out the door! Post-press on this project including QC and fulfillment took about five days. I was a little more rushed than I would have liked because I knew my backers would want the cards with plenty of time before Valentine's Day, so I made sure to get everything out the door with plenty of time to spare.

Open-Sourcing the Code from Our 2013 Year in Review (and the White House's 2014)

Top: a president. Bottom: a co-worker.
Top: a president. Bottom: a co-worker.

Last December, as 2014 was packing its bags, we received a pretty flattering request from the White House. Their digital office was creating a presentation reviewing the administration’s work over the past year, and they had a favor to ask: would we mind if they built on some code we’d written for our own 2013 “Year in Kickstarter?”

We didn’t mind at all, so we hopped on the phone, sorted out what they needed, and bundled up a bit of code for them to use. You can take a look at the results in their “2014: The Year in Review” — a very handsome presentation, if you ask us!

Of course, the folks at the White House are far from the only people who can find a use for a nice, all-in-one, full-screen slideshow. And so long as we had the whole thing cleaned up and ready to share, it only seemed right to release the bundle as open-source code. Here goes: you can find the code and documentation on GitHub, right over here. And you can click the image below for a quick tour of what's included.

Have fun with it! The design has some great features, from the ones that make things simple (it’s mobile-friendly, it’s equipped for sharing, and you can link to individual slides) to the ones that let you get more complex (background color can be controlled for each slide, videos load predictively, and full-screen modal dialogs let you embed pages using iframes).

The White House, you’ll be happy to hear, sent over a very nice thank-you note. And we can’t say it wasn’t a nice feeling to get to the end of their presentation and see this:

Talking Shop: Preserving Film History

"If film history has proved anything, it's that work that was deemed very important fades into obscurity, and work that was totally ignored becomes very important," says Jake Perlin, moderator of this panel on the importance of restoration and preservation. It's impossible to predict what will be considered an influential work in the future, and sometimes things get lost to time.

This round-table we hosted a few weeks back features five panelists on the subject of highlighting forgotten works. The panelists also shared clips from the works themselves, including:

  • A lost Oreo commercial (at 7:26
  • A film about a Brooklyn neighborhood as it was in 1984 (at 12:56
  • Forgotten classics of African-American cinema (at 24:17), 
  • The unfinished insanity of low-budget director James Bryan's last film (at 35:27)
  • Director Kelly Reichardt's first film River of Grass (at 43:38)
  • German exploitation classic Bloody Friday (at 51:55)

Featured speakers are Elijah Drenner of Subkultur, Christopher Allen of UnionDocs, Zack Carlson of Bleeding Skull, Bret Wood and Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) of Kino Lorber, Debra McClutchy of Oscilloscope Labs, and Jake Perlin of Cinema Conservancy (as moderator).

How Do You Do ... A One-Page Zine? (This post comes with a one-page zine!)

"What Was Your First Zine?" Click here to download, print, and fold

Zines are skinny publications, usually self-made and self-published, with a smallish circulation. The purpose of zines is not profit but the communication of an idea about music, art, philosophy, whatever — many are distributed for free at zine fests and shows, or sold for a buck or two at bookstores. They exist primarily in print, and they feel very immediate. Many are cut and pasted together, then reproduced on a copy machine (sometimes in the dead hours of a campus library, or while holding up the line at a Kinko's store, or, speaking from personal experience, as quickly as possible on your last day at a corporate job).

The best thing about zines is that they're not beholden to anything. You can run off a zine on any topic, and make as many (or as few) as you choose. Zines have always been connection-makers, ever since their inception, and all the zines we've loved best have felt like a cool friend who's talking directly to us.

An easy way to try your hand at zine-making is to print up a one-page zine. It's awfully simple: you just fold your page into eighths, make one neat scissor cut, and you're ready to go. Watch the video above to see how it's done. And if you ever need a layout refresher, just look here:

Better still? We asked a few of our zinemaker friends about their first experiences with the medium, and put their thoughts together in a little one-page zine made just for you. Here's a PDF — all you need to do is print it out and fold it up. If you like what you end up with, well, maybe you'll be pressing your own one-pager into a new friend's hand soon enough. 

Gina Abelkop, Michael Barnes, Elly Blue, Suzy Exposito, and Tommy Pico all contributed words and/or art to our zine.

An Interview with Amber Gordon, Creator of Femsplain

Femsplain already exists. You can look at it right now. It's a community that is still forming, but it is forming very rapidly. Developed by Amber Gordon, who envisioned Femsplain as a safe place to discuss women's issues, both overt and not, the site is as much a writing platform as it is a community. We spoke to Gordon about how and why it came into existence.

Can you talk about how you came up with the idea for Femsplain?

The way it started is weird. I met the girls that I built it with on Twitter. We were huge fans of each other and things we’d written. We eventually decided to meet up and get dinner. We were nervous, but we met each other and it was amazing. One of the biggest things we noticed is that we all have these opinions about media. We wanted to write to each other about things we saw being talked about. We came up with this idea for a Tumblr called Sad Drunk Girls. We were like, we’re going to write to each other when we were either sad or drunk or both, but it never happened. The idea was still there: writing open letters to each other, our real experiences. 

Was there any single moment where you were like, okay, now is the time to launch my own thing?

Five or six months ago, I worked at Tumblr. I was feeling uninspired, but wanted to boost the conversation online among women voices. I was like, let’s take this idea of sharing our real stories to each other and make it bigger. Femsplain was born. The name was an accident, I was telling my friend I was building the platform, and he was like why don't you call it Femsplain? "Mansplain" is generally a negative term, but maybe Femsplain can reshape the way women are discussed. 

I was really tired of waiting for things to happen. I was tired of telling brands not to make memes, so I was like, I need to do something for myself and something for other people. After I got the domain—I think I didn't sleep that night. My roommates were worried about me.

Was there any publication or site that inspired you?

Growing up, I didn't know it—but I was super into fandom. Being in a part of these internet communities that really praised the people that were creating content and we were all there because we had one general interest—it didn't matter where we came from, being part of that forged my love for community. Now Rookie Mag is doing an amazing job. I love the writing, and I love how they are catering to the younger generation who will eventually become who we are today. Model View Culture is great. The Toast is another favorite. The Hairpin also.

Your bio on the project page mentions that you’re passionate about online community building. How does that factor in here?

My background is primarily in online community building. Building something that’s more about sharing content with your peers and people who are likeminded is so much more powerful, because when you’re writing you’re writing to connect with other people, I think that connection is way more powerful than just speaking out into the void. The relationships that are formed on Femsplain... it's so amazing to hear stories about people being like, oh I met her in the comments section of her women's reproductive issues article. The connections that are coming from people meeting and creating community are so powerful.

What would you say the message is?

At its core—we’re trying to redefine the way people talk about women's issues. We have a monthly theme, it’s a guide for contributors, we’re not putting categories on it. We’re really making people feel comfortable and building a safe space for them to talk about things they don’t put anywhere else. 

We’re also getting compared to other women’s communities, we’re not shouting into the void. We’re trying to have a discussion. We welcome anyone, regardless of gender, to participate. We’re just highlighting female voices. We’re publishing social media managers. We’re publishing nurses. We’re publishing lawyers who want to share their experiences anonymously.

What are you hoping to achieve? What are you hoping to change?

I experience online harassment. I know that world. Those people exist. But I also feel like the people who are likely to harass you are insecure, so we’re trying to build a place where even though you might be directly affected by what someone is talking about, you can still read it and understand, and maybe your view might be changed a bit. We’re trying to create offline events and workshops to get these people together to support each other and strengthen that bond. We’re having a comedy show in the middle of February to promote some of our community members who are also comedians, but anyone is welcome to meet people who are likeminded to create a stronger community. We’re also having these workshops—we’re having a coding workshop, a basic introduction—anyone can come.

You're very adamant about compensating people for their work, at a time when this isn't exactly an assumption. Can you talk about that?

We’ve definitely had people ask us, "Why are you paying your contributors? You know they’ll do it for free." But we believe that if they’re taking the time out of their workday to open up and be honest and provide us with content, of course they deserve to be compensated. Quality work deserves compensation. It’s good to know that your voice is valued, even though you would contribute for free — having that direct deposit to show that this place values what you’ve contributed, that means so much to me. 

Who is the ideal audience for Femsplain?

We want the people that support us, but it would be great to get people that might not necessarily agree with our values. A good example is people who don’t feel welcome because of their gender, who might look at us and say, "I don't know if I feel safe here." Anyone that might have second thoughts. we want them to see that we’re trying to cover a diverse voice, it’s not just by women for women. It’s for anyone.

A Few Great Indie Bookstores

A lot of us here at Kickstarter are passionate book lovers, so we're always stoked to see new independent bookstores popping up and growing into community hubs. Here are six that are doing incredibly cool things.

Ancestry Books, North Minneapolis, MN

Ancestry Books is a community bookstore dedicated to featuring books by authors of color and Indigenous authors who are under-represented in other places. It was originally envisioned as pop-up bookstore that would be run from the creators' porch over the summer, but as people started responding to the idea with excitement, Chaun Webster and Verna Wong decided to find a real storefront.  

Boneshaker Books, Minneapolis, MN

Also in Minneapolis, Boneshaker Books established itself as a radical and progressive bookstore in 2010. Do you need a book delivered by bicycle? No problem! They've done that.

In 2012, they expanded their store to include a nano-cinema, gallery, and larger children's books area. 

Reading Frenzy, Portland, OR

After losing their lease in 2012, this twenty-year-old Portland institution triumphantly relaunched its bookstore and space for indie presses to share their wares. They carry a great selection of zines and small press items, and they also boast a space for art and gatherings. We're big fans of their website, too. 

Hullabaloo Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Michael de Zayas wanted to create a bookstore and cultural space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to support local writers and readers — and so Hullabaloo Books was born. He also established an events series, which host adult literacy classes, teen writing workshops, and poetry readings.

Books and Brews, Indianapolis, IN

This is not just a used bookstore — Books and Brews is also a nanobrewery, with beers named after classic books and literary figures. You can try their Canterbury Tales Pale Ale or Clifford the Big Red Ale while reading — another interpretation of getting lit.

Uncharted Books, Chicago, IL

The folks at Uncharted Books wanted to do more than make a bookstore — they wanted to create a haven for writers and artists (and dogs). They encourage "browsing, loitering, chit-chatting, socializing, drinking, eating, writing, working, hanging out, and staying in," which seems like pretty much every activity possible.