How to Win Friends and Fail a Kickstarter
It’s been a bit over a week since we launched Flarum on Kickstarter. If you’ve been following the campaign, you might be a little curious about the lack of updates on our part. Although we have been reading and responding to feedback, we haven’t been pushing and promoting the campaign nearly as much as we should’ve been.
As it turns out, while we have been really happy with the initial response to Flarum, the feedback we’ve received has given us a lot of food for thought. What are we actually building? How? Why? After some lengthy consideration, we’ve made a decision:
We are pulling the plug on the Kickstarter, in favour of openly and collaboratively building Flarum on GitHub from the beginning.
Why are we doing this? First, let us be clear about our number-one mission with Flarum: we want to make forums better for everyone. We don’t care about money, status, or personal gain. We simply see that the forum software scene — particlarly in self-hosted PHP land — is far less than ideal, and we want to fix it. That is our mission with Flarum. That has always been my mission since the conception of esoTalk back in 2009.
Admittedly, then, one could suggest that we were a tad hasty with the decision to launch Flarum as a Kickstarter. The idea of crowdfunding appealed to me, especially after seeing the success of similar open-source projects. I would take a year off studying medicine to do something that I loved, to build something that I believed in. We would work out a way to set up a cloud hosting platform and achieve a sustainable business model.
In the past week, though, we’ve realised that this probably isn’t the best way to make Flarum happen, nor the best way to achieve our mission. The forum software market is a saturated one. There are well-established modern platforms out there, and it isn’t easy to justify $50K of pledges for yet another player.
Additionally, it has become apparent that the idea of username centralization is a bad one. Take a scenario where a paying business customer wants to use their own name on their own forum... but they can’t, because a stranger from the other side of the world has already reserved it. This proposal is easy enough to retract, but things are complicated by the fact that we have already started pre-selling usernames through the campaign.
This is all OK, and it doesn’t make us believe any less in what we’re doing. Flarum certainly does solve some big problems with forum design, ease-of-use, and customizability. Account centralization still seems like something that is worth looking into (sans global usernames, of course.) But we have come to believe that building Flarum by ourselves, while surviving on donations, is an unnecessarily covert and expensive way to build open software — one that is probably doomed to failure.
Instead, we want to harness the power of open-source right from the start. Among all the feedback, we’ve been blown away by the huge number of developers who have expressed interest in helping. Building Flarum as an open-source project means that we can do it without funding and without risk, and we believe it will ultimately lead to better forum software.
Before we can get started, we need to consolidate our progress into a workable foundation and surround it with solid logistics — and all the while I have exams I need to study for. But within two months, we’ll push everything we’ve got so far to GitHub and lead a collaborative effort to build Flarum. Follow @Flarum on Twitter to stay in the loop and get involved!
Thank you to everyone who made a pledge on the Kickstarter, asked questions, and left feedback. We are immensely grateful for your support and advice.
Together, let's build the best forum software out there.