Over ten years ago, in September 2003, I launched a little website called Upcoming.org into the world.
Upcoming was a collaborative event calendar focused on interesting arts and tech events around the world. Entirely curated by the community, Upcoming surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies.
Most importantly, it surfaced what your friends were interested in attending. Upcoming was among the first generation of web apps to use the social network for anything beyond Friendster-like connections, helping to define Web 2.0.
After the first year, my friends Gordon Luk and Leonard Lin joined me as co-founders to help expand it. As Upcoming took off, we decided to sell it to Yahoo in 2005, hoping they could provide the resources to help it thrive.
Unfortunately, things didn't go according to plan and it quickly fell into disrepair after we left in 2007. Last year, Yahoo shut it down with little notice and no way to back up events. Fortunately, through a herculean volunteer effort organized by Archive Team, the complete site was saved to the Internet Archive.
For the last year, the domain didn't even resolve. I thought that was the end of the story.
Last month, I got an unexpected email from Yahoo out of the blue, offering to sell me back the original domain. I jumped at the chance, and am thrilled to announce I own Upcoming.org once again.
So, what now?
Like many of the people that used it, I miss Upcoming. Nothing's come to replace it in the years since, and I have the same problems that motivated me to build it a decade ago—I'm missing interesting events in my city and struggling to discover interesting events when I travel. I don't know what my friends are going to, and I lose track of the events I hear about on a regular basis.
I want to bring back Upcoming, rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available at the time I started it. I started Upcoming long before Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, or OAuth.
Like my other Kickstarter projects, most of the rewards are exclusive access to what I'm making—in this case, early access to the Upcoming.org beta as I develop it, giving you first dibs at registering your username and helping guide the direction of the site.
I'll keep a development blog exclusively for backers, keeping you up-to-date on my progress, and every backer gets a special badge on their profile, showing the world that you helped get Upcoming off the ground.
Yahoo graciously gave me permission to use the original logo for an exclusive print run of t-shirts, printed only for this Kickstarter project. Some samples are below, and I'll announce the final design before the Kickstarter project ends.
For higher levels of patronage, adopt a city on Upcoming for you or your project, or a mega-classy site-wide dedication for the first full year after launch.
If we hit the goal, awesome. I'll use those funds to bring Upcoming back from the dead, covering the costs of the domain, infrastructure, and development time to build it independently again.
And if not, that's okay too! I'd rather know now there wasn't enough interest than devote a big chunk of my life to working on it.
- Independence. With any other form of funding, I'd sacrifice creative or financial control over Upcoming. Taking investment would set it on a path towards an exit, which I don't have any intention of doing.
- All-or-nothing. I don't want to begin building Upcoming unless there's interest in it, and this is a perfect way to gauge whether this is something you want to exist. If not, we all walk away.
Undoubtedly, there will be cynics asking why they should invest in something without taking any equity. My answer to that is simple—this isn't an investment. You're paying me to build something you want to exist; that's your return. If you don't want it to exist, don't back it! Yay!
My goal is to build Upcoming into a self-sustaining, independent project that keeps to the ethics that made it great. An open API, an embrace of open standards, and a belief that your data belongs to you. And I won't sell it again.
Ten years ago, the community made Upcoming great. With your help, we can make it great again.
Huge thank you to Paul Searle for shooting the pitch video. It was filmed in Panic's lovely offices in downtown Portland, Oregon. The background music is Chris J. Hampton's "So What" from Kind of Bloop. (If you made it this far, backers can message me on Kickstarter for a free copy.)
Thank you to Yahoo for taking the unprecedented founder-friendly move of offering Upcoming back to me.
And a massive debt of gratitude to Leonard and Gordon. I love you guys.
Risks and challenges
I have a long history building and releasing web apps on my own, including Upcoming.org, Playfic, and Supercut.org. But inevitably, things can go wrong and timelines can go awry. I try to minimize this risk by reducing dependencies and costs—I have projects that I've run for over a decade with little support and zero budget.
One dependency I plan to use to make the site better are the APIs provided by Twitter and Foursquare for authentication, network graph, and placename database. Any of those services may choose to change their Terms of Service or disappear entirely, which could impact development time.
The biggest risk, to me, is that the success of a site like Upcoming hinges on network effects which may never materialize. Even if the project succeeds and the site launches according to plan, it's entirely plausible that enough people won't use it in your city to make it useful. I've thought deeply about that problem and how to solve it, but it's definitely a fundamental challenge and risk.
And, of course, software always takes longer than you'd expect. My hope is to have a public beta by March 2015, but the scope may expand or change, dependent on countless variables, and timelines may shift. Whatever twists and turns happen, I promise to take you along for the ride. \m/Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (23 days)