Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Small single-plate dishes on a chilly autumn day . . .

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Comics journalist Heidi MacDonald has been writing about a Kickstarter twist I'd never heard of called "Kicktrolling." It sounds bad.

Background: Kickstarter is a website/service that helps creative people raise money for their projects. Supporters pledge money to a sort of escrow account, with promises of better rewards for higher amounts. A Kickstarter project only gets the money if it's fully funded; if a $10,000 campaign expires with $9,999 pledged, the project fails and nobody pays. On the other hand, if a project raises much more than its target, creators often set up "stretch goals" with extra rewards.

So in Kicktrolling, someone pledges a large amount. It may be enough to surpass the campaign target, even enough to hit some stretch goals. The project looks funded, everybody's happy! Then shortly before the campaign ends, the Kicktroll withdraws their pledge after it's dissuaded potential backers (for example, I've considered supporting Kickstarters until I saw they'd already met their goals and I figured, "eh, they don't need my help"). OR, after the campaign ends, the Kicktroll formally disputes the amount of their pledge. Now, as far as Kickstarter is concerned, the pledge has been paid; it's sitting right there in the escrow account. But the creator can't touch it until the Kicktroll's dispute is resolved. Meanwhile, they're on the hook for all the fees associated with the campaign, plus all the rewards (and stretch rewards) they owe to the legitimate supporters of an evidently successful fundraiser.

There seems to be no point to Kicktrolling other than being a jerk. Kicktrolls don't make any money; they just make it impossible for innocent creators to achieve their goals or make money either. It's purely spiteful and plain mean.

I have a few friends who've successfully used Kickstarter to publish books, comics collections, etc. When it works, it works well. But Kicktrolling is a challenge to the model that Kickstarter needs to fix. So is the fact that growing numbers of Kickstarter supporters have backed projects that never get completed because the creators flaked out or underestimated the work and expense involved. When that happens, you don't get your money back. If creators and funders can't trust the process, Kickstarter could be in trouble.

Kickstarter projects I've backed have been by people I know who have a track record of getting things done. Even so, I regard the $10 or $25 I commit to their cause as a donation that may never yield a return. A couple of people have let me down but by and large I enjoy being a small-scale patron of the arts.

Why do jerks have to go and ruin everything?

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Cartoonist Richard Thompson, whose comic strip "Cul de Sac" I called "the best comic strip being drawn today" before he stopped drawing it late last year, is having some health problems. Richard retired his strip because the progression of his Parkinson's disease made it too difficult to draw; he inspired the Team Cul de Sac fundraising book and auction to which I was proud to contribute.

Well, last Sunday Richard fell and broke his hip, and is now in the hospital awaiting hip replacement surgery. Everyone I know who's had a joint replaced came through fine and liked the results, but I'm sure this was the last thing Richard needed. Unfortunately, being a good person and creative genius who's already had more than his share of "unfair" in life didn't inoculate him from getting even more "unfair" piled on.

The best place to follow Richard's progress online seems to be the "Art of Richard Thompson" Facebook page. I'm thinking of him.

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I didn't start this post intending it to be such a bummer. Here, the first 1:12 of this will fix everything:

'Tis the season. Go boldly.

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