Opinion » Cybernaut

Kickstarter changes everything

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It used to be that to launch a product you would start with a design, approach investors, enlist a manufacturer, make a few demos, send them around to drum up some buzz and then work with distributors or retailers to secure its release — then, and only then, would customers have an opportunity to buy, or not buy, the product.

Then along came Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com), which describes itself as the "world's largest funding platform for creative projects." Rather than go through all the usual steps, Kickstarter takes concepts directly to the public first, sometimes with a working demo to showcase and sometimes with just the kernel of an idea. If members of the public like what they see they can invest, and sometimes even preorder the product itself — and if the creative idea hits its target for fundraising, then the product immediately goes into production.

Virtually everything can be — and has been — promoted through Kickstarter, from dance and musical theatre productions to some pretty incredible high-tech products.

The Kickstarter model lets entrepreneurs and low-budget start-ups move ahead with projects without rounding up investors, giving them the independence to succeed or fail without risking their own personal money. If there's a market for an idea, then that market makes the idea into a reality.

And if an idea doesn't reach its fundraising goal? No one who pledged any money to the project gets charged a penny unless the fundraising target is hit .

It's also up to you how much to contribute. For example, a video game concept called Double Fine Adventure raised over $3.3 million dollars, eight times it's original goal of $400,000. If you pledged $15 you were promised a copy of the game. If you pledged $30 you'd also receive a documentary on the making of the game and a copy of the soundtrack. For $60, Double Fine would throw in a 100-page booklet with the video game's concept art, photos, script excerpts and more. For $100 or more, an investor would get a special edition box with the game, a DVD of the documentary, the music, the book, a Double Fine Adventure T-shirt and special thanks in the games closing credits.

More important than the money for investors is the chance to be part of an idea before it becomes big and to be the first person on your block to have something. It lets people invest in the thing that interest them and that suit their conscience. You won't hold shares in the company unless specified — some Kickstarter projects do offer that as an option — but in a way that's a good thing because the inventor gets to keep control of their invention.

Given the success of Kickstarter projects, especially high tech projects like CloudFTP, Twine, video games by Double Fine and BioWare, Printrbot, OpenBeam and more, it's safe to say that Kickstarter has the ability to change technology itself, giving power back to people with ideas. Who knows? The next Apple or Google could get its start on Kickstarter.

Cut your high-tech power bill

BC Hydro recently increased rates by seven percent, or about $140 per year for the average Whistler customer that pays $2,000 a year for Hydro. All told, past, present and future increases through 2013 add up to 17 per cent.

While space heating, water heating and appliances like the dryer and fridge take up most of that power, technology is also a drain. An HD television can cost $30 to $70 per year to run with average use, depending how big it is and what technology it uses. A desktop computer with high-end components and a large screen can cost hundreds of dollars a year to run, depending on how it's used. Video game consoles, if left on, can draw a lot of power.

The simple solution is to turn off the appliances that aren't in use yourself, although many of them will continue to draw power anyway. A better solution is to hook up non-essential appliances — toasters, toaster ovens, televisions, microwaves, video game consoles, stereos, surround sound systems, laptop chargers, etc. to power bars that you only turn on when needed. Modems, wireless routers, television receivers, etc. should stay on.

Have a video game idea?

Programming a video game is hard. Modding is slightly easier, but still pretty hard. And then there's Jamula (www.jamula.com), the new PC game development tool that lets you design games in a real 3D environment without any programming skills at all. They've also created a development currency, the "Spark" which will help you to unlock tooks, items, textures and more from the in-game store, turning the art of making a game into a game itself. You can play other Jamula games and share yours to earn more Sparks.

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