4 Houston Kickstarters That Made Me Quit Writing About Crowdsourcing

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For two years, I've done a monthly column on local Kickstarters. From the first moment I heard about the crowdsourcing site, I fell in love with the idea. It's birthed great web series like Video Game High School and the remake of Shadowgate I'd been asking for year after year. Locally, we've produced great tabletop games, virtual reality, incredible art and stage performances, and all kind of magic.

I enjoyed being a part of that, helping to spread around noteworthy endeavors. Unfortunately, I just don't have the heart for it anymore. Kickstarter didn't just go mainstream, it turned into an endless, pointless joke.

I am making a Paper Airplane

Mostly it's because of hipster bullshit like this. It all started with that guy who raised $55,000 to make a potato salad. Granted, he spent the extra money to throw a huge party and donated a big chunk to charity, but it sparked a whole movement of "ironic" Kickstarters full of people hoping to hit the right wacky note in order go viral for something stupid.

In this case, Sugar Land resident Albert Hsu, who raised $12 to make a single paper airplane. His stretch goal was $70 to make one out of poster board, but he totally admits he hasn't made one since middle school. Big deal, right? It's just a joke, but it's infected the whole of the site. Here's someone who wanted us to buy a pumpkin for a jack o' lantern, and another for a new pair of socks. All funded, by the way, and all just complete wastes of time and space.

Ebay, Amazon and Elance combined website startup

On top of the silly and pointless, Houston was so good at representing people with no damned idea what they were doing I made mocking one a regular feature of the column. People who had never made a film before asking for a million dollars to do so, or the woman who needed nearly half a million to complete her graphic novel.

Those are artists, though. Lots of brilliant people are nuts, but you expect better out of tech guys. Suleman Khoja, for instance, thinks he's going to take on Amazon, eBay and eLance all at once with a $20,000 start-up. $20,000 isn't even enough money to buy enough drugs to hallucinate you could be successful in this project, and it makes the whole damned city look like it's full of idiots.

This story continues on the next page.

Help wounded warrior band " VETTED " complete its first EP.

Harder to take are the people who aren't greedy but who still just don't get it. Albeit they don't get it in the name of a good cause, but it's very hard to watch such earnestness crash and burn.

Like these dudes. They want to make an EP and tour military bases with songs that raise awareness about PTSD,TBI, suicide prevention and other disabilities. That's so lofty, and embarrassingly better than anything I've ever done. It's never going to happen because they want $25,000 to do it despite the fact that no one knows who they are and there's no promise that anything will really come from this. That's a big chunk of change to spring on a proven indie band, let alone a completely unknown factor.

The fact that it's tied to such a nice thing to do just makes saying no to hitting the fund button harder. I've mentioned more than a few of these types of initiatives in the column before, only to watch them spiral and flame, and it's depressing as hell.

Bring my workshop to life.

Less hard to say no to but endlessly more infuriating are people who essentially want you to pay for their hobbies. They tell stories of how much they enjoyed woodworking as kids, like this guy, and offer to build you furniture if you'll agree to help them build a workshop. The value of the pieces he offers, even without seeing the actual quality, still amounts to us paying an added niceness tax on every single thing he does. Imagine if every time you went to buy a car, a salesman's main pitch was how he'd always wanted to go to Disneyland and that is why you should pay an extra 5 percent interest on financing.

Then there's this girl, who, God bless her, just wants to learn to draw but wants us to pay for the tablet. Again, it's a lovingly written ode to her own dreams, but very short on why an investor should really care about her other than because she's such a special snowflake. Kickstarter is supposed to be this great tool for raising otherwise unraisable funding for something people want. It's not supposed to replace student loans or home improvement loans.

Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of worthwhile projects still to be funded, and I plan on checking in on them from time to time. There's just too much of this sort of thing lately, though, to keep doing it every month. I imagine I'll have to wait for the next big idea...at least until that one also gets railroaded.

Jef has a new story, a tale of mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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