41

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I have no community. And it feels fake to actively build one. Thoughts?
Last activity 3 days ago  |  19 answers
I've been reading "The Art of Community" by Jono Bacon, and it's made me realize I had been carrying a fundamentally flawed conception of what community is ha. When I heard that word, I for some reason always thought of a group of people who all liked each other from a friendship perspective, who actually knew each other and had invested in one another. That isn't what community is, and frankly I'm a little surprised at myself that I had such an inaccurate and unrealistic picture of it. I'm far from being a community expert, but I'm going to share my updated thoughts and how they relate to my original question.Community is a group of people who share a common goal or belief and who regularly participate or collaborate with one another in some way to further that goal or belief. That's it. No more is required ha, they don't have to be friends, they don't have to know deep details of each other's lives, they don't even strictly speaking have to like each other, as long as they can work together in their common goal or belief then they're a community (at least this is the definition for our purposes).The way this relates to my original question is really important. I thought that in order to bring a person into your community you had to have some sort of personal relationship with them, you had to be interested and aware in the details of their life, how they're mother's doing and what their childhood was like etc etc. To me, since I'm a little more of an introvert and am very logical and goal oriented, it seemed like for me to actively build community in that way required that I reach out to valuable people and feign interest in their personal lives (let's face it, if the only thing you know about a complete stranger is that they could potentially be valuable to your ambitions, you have absolutely no good reason to really be interested in their personal life). I of course recoiled from that whole idea, because, well, that's a dick move. So I simply thought that this whole "community" thing was for extroverts and mine would always stay as small as my family and close friends.You don't have to pretend or be fake in any way to build a community, but you do have to stand for something that other people can be involved in somehow. With things like big collaborative projects like open source software or political movements it's obvious how that would work. With things like art or business pursuits it's less obvious, but it can still absolutely work. I'm going to use myself as an example.I'm a Classical Pianist, I have been since I was little and it's arguably the thing closest to my heart. I also believe in Classical Music, it has a set of values and outlooks that I think are very unique and could be really valuable if they were applied to other genres. Classical Music values complexity and depth, it focuses on the "surprise" side of the surprise/repetition balance, it places craftsmanship and discipline in a central role, and I think most importantly it has a very high emphasis on the written score and live performances rather than just recordings, which means each piece of Classical Music can create a perpetual dialogue between the composer and the various performers, and is given new life with each performer rather than being crystallized forever by the original recording like modern music very often is. Those are the things I believe are really special about Classical Music.I also think the genre isn't living up to it's potential in our time, and I would love to update those values and outlooks in a way that was emotionally relevant to our lives by composing new music along those lines.That's how I would build community. Simply sharing those values in a public way and creating work that furthers them would be the seeds of the community. Then anyone who could share those values would be interested in my work because they would want to see that change happen in the world as well, and that would give them a reason to invest in me and my work. If they chose to make derivative works based on mine, if they were evangelists for my projects, if they volunteered to help with events, hosted get-togethers, or even if they just shared my work with others, all of what would help the community grow. And none of that would be inauthentic at all. We would simply be sharing in a common goal and furthering it.When I asked my original question I was really worried about being selfish under the guise of being selfless. It seemed to me like community building was just the term people used when they marketed for more fans to make more money, fooling people into paying up while believing they were part of a cause. Is it really "community" if it's all essentially focused on one person or company that's making all the money? Well, it all depends on how honest that one person or company is. It's okay to want to make money, as long as you're upfront about what it's for and where it's going. And if you legitimately have beliefs motivating your work, that gives people a real cause to join and a reason to engage with your work beyond just paying you. Yes the selfish motivations exist, but if we're honest about them existing, and if they exist alongside real beliefs, everything's okay. And if you're open about your work and allow people to freely share in it then people can utilize it for their own goals as well.As for community and friendship, just because there's a big goal doesn't mean you can't form friendships with people. The goal will be the original reason for people to talk, but of course eventually friendships will form and people will gain more personal knowledge of each other. This is where the more selfless behavior starts popping up. Appreciate the people who've joined your community, invest in them and care about them. You should never pretend of course, but allow the foundation of the practical goal to build a more emotional network.So there you go, I guess you can consider this an explanation of community for the skeptical or confused ha.(I actually think a big chunk of my misconception came from Amanda Palmer's "The Art of Asking", because she's a super emotional extrovert who loves getting to know new people, so this was the way she naturally approached community building. She's great, but not everyone has her personality and outlook so not everyone can have her methods.)
Blaine Hansen

18

subscribers
How did you estimate the amount it was going to cost to do your project? How close were you?
Last activity on  |  11 answers
We analysed it to *death* we accounted for every penny - we weighed each reward and looked up the US and international postage rates - we included the cost of a new laptop and estimated the amount of electricity we'd use.   We priced shipping boxes, the plastic bags the product went into, the stickers that sealed the bags down.  But it's still very hard because some costs are 'fixed' (that laptop) no matter whether you just make goal or whether you sell $10,000,000 worth - and others scale with the number of rewards you ship.  Some other things like leasing a workshop or employing someone to make rewards when it's too much for you to do it cause sudden 'jumps' in the income-versus-profit curve.  So we did the math for every $10,000 increment from our minimum goal up to 50 times what we thought we could *possibly* make and made sure that we'd be happy and safe from financial ruin at every single increment.You simply cannot over-analyze this stuff.As others have said, postage is a major pain.   Most projects offer free local shipping - which is fairly easy to estimate - but overseas is a nightmare.   Some places have it where the size of the box matters, others where it's the weight.   If (for example) you live in the USA and you estimate that 20% of your stuff will go to Europe and 20% to Australia and you find that you get a cult following in Japan - then you might get utterly screwed on postage....but if all your overseas sales are to Canada then you'll be overpricing your international shipping for those guys.   So make BIG allowances for that.Don't forget that you'll be paying taxes on your sales - either personal income tax or business tax or both.Depending on the nature and complexity of your rewards, expect perhaps around 5% of your shipments to go wrong in some way - you may have to re-ship items that the backer claims went missing (maybe they did, maybe they didn't - you'll never know).   Stuff may be faulty, you'll probably end up posting the wrong thing to some of your backers.Just analyze the heck out of it all.
Renee Launer

18

subscribers
How do you handle customs declarations for international shipping?
Last activity 3 days ago  |  9 answers
A great question!Here's the facts: Your backer rewards are absolutely Merchandise.  They are not gifts, and no government in the world will see them as such.  Period.  : OCan you mark it "gift" and get away with it?  Probably, but it is international tax evasion.  If you get caught... you're gonna find yourself in a lot of trouble.  : /  Simply not worth it.-Anecdote: We sent out rewards all over the world.  We sent all items to the EU with properly declared customs forms as merchandise and the actual values of the products.  Many of them came back to us anyway because the customs agent (as every one is different) couldn't find a packing slip with item-by-item value declaration on it, and he wanted to be 100% certain to milk the person of every penny ..err euro.  -  And that was on properly declared items.So yes: Merchandise.  And yes, you should mark it the full value (of the pledge level).  If you included shipping in the pledge value you can reduce the declared value of the package by the amount of included shipping.  When they are charged VAT it will be on the value of the package + the cost of shipping.  This new total will roughly reflect the actual pledge amount, and thus they will charged the correct amount of VAT without being charged on shipping twice.-Suggestion: Use E-declarations by using an online service like USPS.com, Stamps.com, or paypal.com/shipnow. - Filling out paper forms by hand is murder; the e-declaration is really really easy as it imports data from previously filled out fields, then asks simple questions like: Merchandise or Gift? ; )Always open to private or specific help as well,John Wrot!
John Wrot!

70

subscribers
The feeling of "omigodwhatif..."
Last activity on  |  32 answers
We're a husband and wife team and we've run four projects so far.  We've also had those same mixed feelings of doubt and elation.  The first project (a toy castle that I'd have killed for as a kid) seemed to us like a sure-fire hit.  We dressed up in nice clothes, sat behind a nice desk and gave a heavily rehearsed and much practiced and edited speech for the video.  It bombed...not just by a little bit...it didn't even make 1% of goal.   We were entirely dejected and would probably have given up right there and then....except...One of our backers had a suggestion to re-think the product for a different market - so what had been a toy for little kids shrank in size and became scenery for adult tabletop gamers.   He also put us in touch with a Kickstarter veteran who offered to do a joint promotion - a competition featuring his product and ours as prizes - we donated a few hundred dollars of product and that got us an instant 500 person mailing list.Despite this, we entered our second kickstarter with very low expectations - we thought we'd just see a repeat of the first one.  Rather than go to the hassle of making a nice video, we literally sat at our kitchen island and ad-libbed - we used the very first take and didn't even bother to edit it.The tabletop gamers loved it!   We made goal in a little over a week and hit about 350% of goal by the end.   We were totally elated!  There was plenty enough income to let us invest $10,000 in a laser cutter to make the rewards - and we had a small, part-time, business of our own that we could run from our tiny apartment.The third Kickstarter was an odd mix...we knew it could be done in principle, but we had an entirely new project idea and we had no idea whether it would take off or fail.  We were nervous of screwing up a successful formula - so we went back to the kitchen island to make our video and made NO effort to do anything fancy.  This time, we got 500% of goal...and an incredibly enthusiastic set of backers.   We thought we'd reached the big-time...for one of us, it became our full-time job...we invested another $10,000 in equipment, moved out of our apartment and rented a bigger house with a nice big garage to do it all.Our fourth, most recent, project had us being very cocky.  We made the most elaborate set of rewards with incredibly flashy photos.  We sweated every tiny detail although we still ad-libbed the video.  We were pretty darned sure of doubling our previous success...but sadly, we had over-complicated things, confused many of our backers and inadvertently timed the project very badly.   So we earned almost exactly the same dollar amount as the second time - but with a LOT more preparation work.   An odd mix of "Yeah!  We made a big pile of money again" and "Oh....we did *SO* much worse than we expected".  :-(Kickstarter is immense fun to do...the stresses and the elation...the ever-present possiblity of disaster.   It's an incredible rush.  But without risk of failure, no activity can be all that exciting.It definitely makes us feel more 'alive'.Our many hundreds of repeat-backers are our friends, we know many of them by name now.   We put in rewards that we know will specifically push someone's button because they asked for it personally.  When someone has an idea for a new reward that's good enough for us to want to make it next time, we give them a free copy of it.   One of them happened to mention that it was his birthday close to the day we were due to ship to him, so we made an extra reward and stuck it in his package with a "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" written on the box.  We routinely give away freebies for funny posts, clever ideas or just for being the 100th backer or the 1000th poster...and that makes us feel very good about ourselves.We'll be back for KS #4...older and wiser!  We're planning KS #5 and #6 as we do it!  Gunning for the viral win that'll spell early retirement!
Renee Launer

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