Discover DIY Electronics

There are so many projects on Kickstarter. Every day someone will send us one and be like, "Did you see this?" and we'll look at it and be like, "No, but this is incredible." It's sort of like walking down the same street every day and noticing a cool new thing every single time. To help us (and you) keep abreast of all these great projects, we thought we'd start highlighting specific categories and sub-categories in offbeat combinations. Look out for future installments featuring dogs that like to row boats, dogs in space, cats in wallets, wallets in space, and row boats full of wallets. Just kidding. Maybe? This week we're taking a look at DIY electronics.

SAM: The Ultimate Internet Connected Electronics Kit

Do you enjoy making stuff? The answer is probably yes. This electronics kit brings meaning to the admittedly vague term "maker." Want to make a game? What about music? Architectural models? You can do all that with this.

The Solar Lantern

File this under useful item we didn't even know we needed. The Solar Lantern is exactly what it sounds like: a lantern that is solar-powered, and works indoors and outdoors. There's a bunch of designs, but we're partial to the one up above, which depicts the world.

SocketCircuits: Build Electronic Circuits on Paper!

Combining two of our favorite things—electronics and paper—in one handy package. SocketCircuits weds actual circuits to actual paper, which means you can download designs online and print them out and begin wiring and building immediately.

nuFLip: A Do-it-Yourself Wireless Light Switch Adapter

Who needs to actually touch light switches? Not us anymore! This allows you to build your own light switch adapter so you can control them remotely from your smartphone. The future is here and we are living in it.

Chromatic Chronometer: A Rainbow LED Wall Clock

If you follow Kickstarter with any regularity, you'll know that there are a number of interesting and innovative wall clock projects. The Chromatic Chronometer now joins their ranks, while also sounding like a device that Dr. Emmett Brown would use in Back to the Future. Numbers are played out now — we only tell the time with lights.

Hack Day 2014

The other day was our company-wide Hack Day. It must be said that Hack Day at Kickstarter is an all-encompassing affair. For a single workday, we work on projects that we otherwise wouldn't have the time or space for in our everyday schedules. We collaborate in new ways and learn new things — sometimes, it's a crash course in a totally new skill.

This year, there were music projects, art projects, Kickstarter office improvement projects, engineering projects (of course), and everything in between. We had a blast.

What even is happening here?
What even is happening here?

For starters, there were four Kickstarter projects launched that day: 

  • our evening with four thirty three, by Hayley Rosenblum. You know the classic John Cage composition 4'33"? It's a recording of musicians playing nothing, where the audience (with its rustlings, noises, and shifts) becomes the score. Hayley decided she would record a new version of it, because "we are all capable of making something beautiful and producing art of our own."
  • 8-Hour Comic, by Jamie Tanner. In the comics world, there exists a challenge to draw a comic in 24 hours. Jamie decided to draw a mini-comic in eight. We've already seen him ink a page so we're pretty sure he can do it.
  • Cold 97, by Nicole He and Nitsuh Abebe. We all have feelings, and pop music lets us channel those feelings. Nicole and Nitsuh made a way to translate your feelings directly, with the use of pop music and bananas. It's complicated, we know, but it's real (we tried it). 
  • Portraits over Gchat, by Jake Loeterman. All day, Jake hung out with people on Google Hangouts, drawing their portraits using the NeoLucida. Many were friends and coworkers, but some were strangers, too. The project resulted in over 40 individual drawings. 
Jake, with finished portraits
Jake, with finished portraits

Then there were data projects. In this one, Ben, Emma, Jackson, Katie, and Kevin made a visualization of all the pledges ever made on Kickstarter over the last five years. Each pledge is marked by a dot, and it was awesome seeing the dots spread across the world. See for yourself: 

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Two people worked on accessibility-related projects: David P. made our project editor accessible for people with impaired vision (look out for a post about his larger work on accessibility in the future). And Ryan made a Morse code version of Kickstarter: using the space bar, people can tap out Morse on the website(!) "It allows users to get back to the roots of information transfer by using a technology that predates the keyboard by at least one hundred years," he said. 

There was also a super useful calendar hack: Tieg was tired of the unwieldiness of Google Calendar when we booked rooms for meetings, so he made it prettier and more functional. Now, instead of just guessing what letter corresponded to what room (or trying to memorize it), we can look at an actual map of where each one is. Progress! 

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And it wouldn't be Kickstarter without a handful of library projects (seriously, many of us are book nerds) — Maris began documenting the fiction from our office library (follow the progress here), Bridget catalogued the library's children's books, and Margot organized all the books in our collection that were made with Kickstarter.

Cold 97 before the bananas
Cold 97 before the bananas

Hack Day doesn't have to be functional. It can be a chance to explore ideas and far-fetched notions that might not ever go anywhere, but this year we saw so many projects that can improve life in office office as well as your use of the site. It was inspiring and also sometimes pretty weird (in a good way).

Kickstarter in London!

For the past two years, it’s been our honor and joy to help creative projects in the UK come to life. That’s why Kickstarter is coming to London to celebrate with a series of events — seven events in four days, to be more specific! October 14-18th, we’ll host a series of talks with artists, creators, and Kickstarter staff on topics surrounding creativity and community. See the schedule here — there's something for everyone.

It all culminates on the evening of the 18th at the Prince Charles Cinema, where we'll gather for a special screening of the Kickstarter Film Fest. We did it in New York and LA already, so you might have heard a bit about the program, but it's worth it to note that this UK-specific viewing includes all-new episodes of Morph, the much-loved clay puppet from the 1970s program Take Hart

If you’re in London, please join us for any and all of the festivities!

Meet the Team: Katie N. and Nigel

We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. So every so often, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)

This week, meet Katie N. and Nigel:

Katie Needs (@katieneeds)

Job: "I help folks who have questions about Kickstarter, and I try to make sure that all the projects on Kickstarter fall within our rules." (Note: If you're having a hard time guessing where Katie is from, here's a hint.)

Nigel Warren (@nigelw)

Job: "I’m a product manager. It’s pretty much like being an astronaut re-enacting M.I.A.’s "Bad Girls" video in a rover on the moon. In other words, crazy multiplied by cool. In other words, it involves working on improvements to the Kickstarter website. Researchifying, stategerizing, designificating… It’s a great job."

  • Pancake in the Mail — "Imagine picking up your mail after work and mixed in with your bills is an envelope with three pancakes inside and no explanation. Someday soon, one of my friends will experience this when I send them pancakes anonymously. I won’t be there to experience it, but it makes me laugh thinking about it."
  • Heat Seek NYC — "New York is freezing in the winter. I can’t imagine living in a building where the landlord refused to turn on the heat. This internet-connected thermometer helps low-income tenants document landlords that are breaking the law by under-heating their building. Love the cause, love the approach to tackling the problem."
  • A One Year Student Reporting Lab within Homicide Watch DC — "Homicide Watch DC reports a huge number of crimes that newspapers aren’t covering. It has created an essential source of reporting for some of those most in need, using an innovative journalism model."
  • 'Submarine Sandwich' - A Film by PES — "PES creates amazing stop-motion animations. He turns pick-up-sticks into spaghetti, grenades into avocados, and yellow sticky notes into pads of butter. I came across his Western Spaghetti short 6 years ago and have been a fan ever since. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for this latest project."

Independence and the Creative Life: Thoughts From XOXO

One theme kept popping up at the XOXO conference and festival in Portland earlier this month: being a creative person on the Internet in 2014 can be both awesome and scary. XOXO, which first launched on Kickstarter in 2010, attracts a broad spectrum of independent-minded makers and creators. Here are some snippets from talks and conversations at the conference, touching on what independence means, how to measure success when the old standards don’t apply, and the ups and downs of the creative life.

Jonathan Mann is a singer and songwriter in New York who has been writing and posting a “Song a Day” for more than five years, winning fans like Steve Jobs and Rachel Maddow (and Microsoft). That project generated a Kickstarter-funded album in 2011. Excerpts from a chat with Jonathan:

There are days when it feels like a great gift and a privilege, the fact that I get to write a song today. That I have the skills necessary to do that, and that I have the creative freedom in my life, that I have the time and wherewithal. There are other days when it feels like a burden, and something that is...

Like a job?

Yeah, or even worse than a job. Like, I'm not being directly paid for it. It's like a task before me that I have to perform, not so much for myself but... to feed the Internet machine, the monster of content. And then there are other days when it feels like what I'm doing is really affecting people, and it feels like I get really amazing feedback. There are days when it feels very lonely, and there are days that I feel very connected. After 2,083 days, it sort of runs the gamut of experience.

Attention and popularity on the Internet is a weird thing. I often find that people think I have, on a daily basis, a lot more views than I do, that I have a lot more attention… I don't know why, when I get a day when there's a million people looking at it, why that doesn't translate into more over time. I've thought a lot about it, and there could be a million different reasons. But I just kind of keep going, and I keep trying shit, and doing what I can.

Rachel Binx’s many projects include Gifpop (on screen above), a Kickstarter project that brought animated GIFs into the real world, and Meshu, a line of 3-D printed data-driven jewelry. Her project this summer to start a conference didn’t reach its funding goal, prompting her to say that “failing on the Internet is like crying in public.” Her talk hit on some of the frustrations and freedoms of being creative online:

I was looking at my bank account and realized that I have enough money to feed myself until the end of the month before I dip back into my savings… But you know, in the end, this is the life that I chose, and it is entirely on me. If I wanted to I could go find a job and I could have a stable income, and I wouldn't be giving a talk complaining about my lack of income. We take the time to focus on the things that are important to us. [Shows a note she wrote to herself about wanting to travel 25% of the year.] This is my year so far, January through planned stuff in November:

And it's kind of a lot. And some of you might be thinking, well Rachel, I figured out how you can save some money. And yes, you have a point, but all this is facilitated by the fact that I've officially lived somewhere for only four months this year. All of my stuff has been in storage, and I've been living out of a suitcase since February… This becomes surprisingly easy when you just turn your rent money into plane tickets. When your life has no routine and no structure and no safety net, it becomes really easy to find the time to work on your seven concurrent projects.

So what's important to me is to be able to explore these different interests of mine, and to be able to spend my time working on the things that are important to me, and travel around, and, you know... mostly making it work!

Erin McKean is a word person. Among many other word-related pursuits, she founded Reverb, which makes the online dictionary Wordnik. Her company has taken venture-capital funding, which, as she noted, made her stick out a bit at a conference focused on creative independence. But she told the XOXO crowd that “independence is a myth”:

Every maker is dependent on somebody! You might be depending on investors, or your Kickstarter backers or your day job or Patreon or your spouse or your subscribers or your 1,000 true fans or your mom, but unless you are an independently wealthy and incredibly reclusive maker, you are depending on someone. It might be for money, or for emotional support, or obsequious fawning, or external deadlines so you actually get stuff done, but you’re depending on someone, for something.

In the vacuum of space, no one can help you make.

But you should know what you need from other people.

Kevin Kelly is the founding editor of Wired, the former editor and publisher of the Whole Earth Review, and the author of "Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities." His “1,000 true fans” theory suggests that “there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom.” He told the crowd at XOXO about how new digital tools allowed a photographic nobody like himself to publish a photo book in 2002. Some excerpts from a conversation after his talk:

Technology is increasing the number of ways we measure success. What you don't want to do is imitate the metrics of success from other models. Mass education, mass society, mass entertainment had a measure of success that was mass — in the billions. So the new measures could be things like durability: Is this piece going to be appreciated in 10 years or 100 years? Or it could be, how much time does it free up in our lives? Or it could be, can we optimize its impact on people's lives? How many people came up to you and said your book changed their lives? That's a metric that the industrial system of technology couldn’t endorse.

So we have new metrics and new ways we can succeed — becoming ubiquitous, or becoming rare, or becoming special, or becoming common. Those are all different kinds of successes. And so what we are seeing with Kickstarter and other things like that, is that we have more ways to succeed than we had last year or 10 years ago. An individual or an organization's success path is going to look less and less like someone else's success.

The challenge is that you don't have a lot of models. It's very easy to say, we'll make our corporation like GM, and the more like GM it is, the more it will succeed. Or the more like Google. Well, when you have this world where there’s a brand of one, the role models, the pathway is unclear. So it becomes more and more difficult to actually see what that path is.

You have to figure out your own path, and that's hard work — unbelievably hard work. So the “brand of you” has no competitors but also no models. I think that's the challenge.

Andy Baio is the co-founder of XOXO (and helped build Kickstarter in its early days). In his closing remarks he picked up a thread that was woven through many of the weekend’s talks:

Independence is hard. Independence is lonely. And it takes a unique kind of bravery to create something and to put it out into the world in this unfiltered way that is enabled through technology… Every one of you needs to remember this when you are getting pummeled by the morons that are out there. It's so easy to criticize, it's so easy to be the knee-jerk contrarian, the anonymous Internet commenter that tears you down. And it’s so hard to make something new. And that is a lot of what we're celebrating here. We just want more of it. We want more people making amazing things and just pushing through the noise.

Games You Can Play: Wasteland 2 Backers' Picks

Brian Fargo rocked Kickstarter and the gaming world in 2012 when his company launched a project to make Wasteland 2, a modern reimagining of the classic ’80s sci-fi PC game. Along with Double Fine’s Broken Age, it kicked off the first wave of big, ambitious video game projects on Kickstarter, bringing in $2.9 million in pledges. Today, 26 years after the first Wasteland was released, and 16 years after that game's fictional apocalypse, the wait is over: the finished sequel is out in the world for everyone to play.

It’s a big day for gamers, and especially for the 61,290 backers who helped make Wasteland 2 happen. To celebrate, we invited some of those backers to talk about favorite Kickstarter-funded games they’ve been playing while Wasteland 2 has been in the works. Here are their picks, which you can play right now on Steam:

Gareth Hodges, Melbourne, Australia
Pick: Sunless Sea

Kickstarter has launched many great games that now stand proudly beside AAA titles on Steam, but closest to my heart is Sunless Sea. The depth of story and setting, the engaging narrative, and the creeping weirdness of the world of Fallen London translated beautifully from browser-based card game to interactive exploration.

Karl Malm, Kalmar, Sweden
Pick: Shadowrun Returns

Shadowrun Returns is a grand story-driven RPG that can be modded to a great degree, that plays on almost any device, and is quite challenging to boot. It realized all this on a small budget (and it helps that I took part in providing it).  

Sam Cole, developer at Kickstarter, NYC, USA
Pick: Shovel Knight

One of my favorite Kickstarter games is Shovel Knight, for those times when you are really raging out about how lame Destiny is, and want to get back some of that NES good good. I mean basically, they’ve continued the tradition of NES sprite 2D platformers with the added gloss of nostalgia! (Seriously, don’t go back and play actual NES games. It’s pretty bad.)  

Thomas Schwarz, Würzburg, Germany
Pick: Battle Worlds: Kronos

For me clearly it is Battle Worlds: Kronos! The revival of turn-based tactics. I long waited for some true successor to the Battle Isle games, and this was it, finally!  

Rachel Kirkendall, Moscow, Idaho, USA
Pick: Quest for Infamy

My favorite Kickstarter-funded game that has released on Steam has got to be Quest for Infamy. It's a well-crafted love letter to fans of the Sierra adventures of yore (in particular the Quest for Glory series). Anyone with fond memories from the heyday of point-and-click adventures should check it out!  

Anthony Burch, Plano, Texas, USA
Pick: Distance

Distance combines racing and platforming with a cyberpunk aesthetic, and it basically tickles all the pleasure centers of my brain at the same time. And this is coming from somebody who generally hates racing games.  

Philip Tan, MIT Game Lab, Boston, USA
Pick: Retro Game Crunch 

This project shows how self-imposed creative constraints can result in great work. The team of Rusty Moyher, Shaun Inman, and Matt Grimm put together six games in six months. Every game is expertly executed within the limits of the retro-game aesthetic, while looking and playing very differently from each other.

Mika Flinkman, Joensuu, Finland
Pick: Shadowrun Returns
There are a few things that make Shadowrun Returns a great game: The setting and plot, especially in the add-on Dragonfall DLC campaign, are really interesting and the combat system works really well. (The Director’s Cut promises to make it even better.) And as an RPG fan I really like the way character advancement is done.  

Brian Allred, Manhattan Beach, CA, USA 
Pick: FTL: Faster Than Light

While I'm looking forward to playing Wasteland 2 and a number of other games, I'd have to say that I've had a lot of fun with FTL. I really enjoy roguelike games in general, and it's one of the better (if not only) starship simulators.

Nicole Aptekar, San Francisco, USA
Pick: Mercenary Kings 

Mercenary Kings is a super-fun throwback to Metal Slug, with gorgeous animation and character design. Hopefully it's done well on Steam; it seems too niche to have been made any other way than Kickstarter. ;)

Post a comment below and tell us about your favorite Kickstarter-funded video game. If you liked this post, you should read the one where we asked game creators for their picks. And you might find some new favorites on our Play Now page.

An update to our Terms of Use

Over the past year, we’ve been working to make sure every part of the Kickstarter system is clear and straightforward. We’ve done everything from improving our rules and community guidelines to creating a real-talk Trust & Safety page that explains how we work with our community to keep Kickstarter healthy. And today, we’re updating our Terms of Use. The updated terms go into effect for all projects launched on or after October 19, 2014.

So what’s different? To begin with, we simplified the language, subtracted lots of legal jargon, and made the terms as straightforward and to-the-point as we could. We encourage you to read the full update here.

We also added a detailed outline of what’s expected from everyone involved in a project. For the overwhelming majority of projects, it’s pretty simple: creators finish the work they planned, backers are happy, and nobody sweats the details. But there are exceptions. Sometimes problems come up, projects don’t go according to plan, and people wind up in the dark about what’s supposed to happen next. So we’re spelling it out — what’s expected from backers, what’s expected from creators, and what needs to happen if a project runs into trouble.

You can read that section of the terms right here. This update reflects the best practices we’ve seen from our community to get the best possible outcomes from challenging situations. Incorporating them into these terms is a small but important part of building a healthy, trusted environment where people work together to bring creative projects to life.

If you have thoughts you’d like to share with us, just get in touch here.

Thank you for reading. 

Kickstarter Film Fest LA!

Fun fact: there are more Kickstarter creators in Los Angeles than in any other city in the world. That's why it was a no-brainer to host the second stop of our 2014 Film Fest there. On September 12th in Griffith Park, about 3,000 people joined us for film selections, food, music, and fun. 

We've talked a lot about the programming already — you can see the lineup of the film selections we showed right here — but it's worth mentioning that both Night of the Living Deb and Little Feet were audience favorites (probably for all of their LA references). 

Carpool DeVille looking majestic
Carpool DeVille looking majestic

A not-so-surprising hit of the evening was the Carpool DeVille, aka the World's Fastest Hot Tub — because who wouldn't want to see a working jacuzzi that's built into a 1960 Caddy? All evening, the creators of this wondrous aquamobile had their lights on, and they were gracious about popping the hood to let kids get a look at how it worked. Some people even got to dip their feet in. 

Setting up Black Rock Observatory
Setting up Black Rock Observatory

Another highlight was the Black Rock Observatory, a working observatory containing a powerful telescope housed in a geometric dome. The Black Rock folks (dressed in orange NASA suits) arrived straight after Burning Man, where they'd been just days before. There was a long line to get in all night. They were also pointing lasers at stars. Something cool about the Observatory is that it has no nails or screws; the entire thing fits together without attachers.

As for food, the Reuben Truck and Max City BBQ were super popular. The Reuben Truck even featured their backers' names painted all over it. Lots of people tried out the Bureo skateboard and Acton RocketSkates, and kids were really into the 3D printers that LA Makerspace brought. 

We saw planters with feet. The wonderful John Vanderslice covered "Graceland" by Paul Simon. And (last but not least) there were tons of adorable dogs, proving that the coasts can agree on the importance of bringing man's best friend along. Thanks, LA, see you again soon!