Let me start out by saying that I’m a huge fan of what Kickstarter has put in place.
They’ve more or less built up a simple and easy to use platform to allow all kinds of creative folks a way to “fan fund” a variety of projects (music, books, software, performance art, movies, etc…) by using a “tiered” support model. If you’re not familiar with the site, it lets people setup a project with a funding “goal” and a deadline. Then, they can set up a series of tiers for how people can fund the project, with promises to get back certain things in response to those tiers. This is the model we’ve spoken about a few times in the past — such as what Jill Sobule did a couple years ago to fund her album.
While I definitely believe this sort of model can make a lot of sense in certain areas, I don’t think it’s right for everyone, and it certainly can create some potential problems — especially if the content creator doesn’t live up to expectations. Kickstarter got a lot of publicity back in May when one of its projects, called Diaspora, for a “distributed” social network got covered in the NY Times at the same time as there was a lot of fuss about privacy concerns on Facebook. That resulted in the project — which had only been seeking $10,000 to let four college kids work on this project over the summer — raising over $100,000.
Now, many have looked at this as showing off the power of Kickstarter (though, others might argue it really showed off the power of the NY Times). However, Clay Shirky pointed us to a critique of the Diaspora/Kickstarter “success” that points out that it could actually end up being bad for both Kickstarter and Diaspora: