When Kickstarter goes bad

As a service website Kickstarter is very successful, it seems a day doesn’t pass without hearing about some new innovative Kickstarter project either being launched or getting funded. It has enabled some great new products which possibly might not exist without it. But what happens when a Kickstarter project goes wrong? Well, I thought I’d share an example of exactly that, to illustrate how it can happen and to also bring attention to what I consider an unethical element of Kickstarters modus operandi.

So far I’ve backed 16 Kickstarter projects, totalling US$2,014 with the highest single commitment being US$585 (for the excellent Rhino camera slider/dolly) and the lowest being US$1. Most have been delivered pretty close to the projected deadline, one (the Astro camera motion controller) was maybe 8 or 9 months later than their projected delivery date and while that was a little frustrating, great communication from the project creators meant that everyone was kept up to date with why it was running late, and the ramificiations. And they have since delivered a great product.

But there was one project which looked interesting in concept, a set of inflatable tracks for a camera dolly, which could be super useful when wanting to shoot in remote locations ie when you have hand carry all your gear. Interesting enough that on 26th October 2012 I committed US$375 to it. From my perspective that is a decent chunk of funds, but based on previous experiences I had faith in both the project AND in Kickstarter. But over the following year it turned out the guy who started the project simply disappeared with US$30k of other peoples funds. And Kickstarter? Well Kickstarter basically did nothing, NOTHING AT ALL.


So Tom Baker originally estimated delivery for March 2013 and the last & final time he logged in to Kickstarter was August 2nd 2013, promising delivery 7 months late for October 2013. Then nothing…. No further communication. So this guy Tom Baker who did the runner with the $30k has been pursued, not by Kickstarter but by other people who lost their money to him. But one by one his contacts dried up – he disappeared from Facebook, so someone contacted the church that he attends. Someone else contacted a company he was partners in, only to find out he had done a runner from them as well. The local police were contacted, and credit card companies were contacted in the hope the payments could be reversed. But it seems there is no hope, I can basically kiss my US$375 goodbye and all that I am left with is a life lesson. But what is that life lesson?

Well, first Kickstarter is all care, no responsibility. As time passed many people who supported the project contacted Kickstarter support to no avail. At a certain point I got motivated & also contacted Kickstarter support – the reason for my motivation? Well as it turns out, the dodgy guy took off with most of the US$30k, but Kickstarter themselves ALSO took off with some of our money. See it doesn’t matter whether a project turns out to be an illegal fraud or a legitmate project, Kickstarter get paid regardless. When I discovered this fact I was appalled. Does it not mean that money is ‘dirty money’ and basically collected fraudulently? I can see no other answer than yes, YES IT IS! This was like rubbing salt & lemon on a cut.

I contacted Kickstarter support myself, explaining how we had been ripped off, and therefore can they please refund the illicit fee they took for the fraudulent behaviour. What I received was a series of platitudes, the first replies suggested I should contact the project creator asking for an update… My response:

Thanks for the reply.

This is clearly a case of fraudulent behaviour. Reach out to him all you like, he has not replied to any forms of communication – not just on Kickstarter, but anywhere online. There is no doubt in my mind that he has taken the money & disappeared.

> While we’re unable to issue refunds on behalf of creators

I appreciate this, but that does not include the fee that Kickstarter took, the dirty money I referred to & which your message does not address at all. As a first step I want to see that money refunded. If you do not refund it I feel Kickstarter is in effect complicit with his deception & dishonest behaviour. I have seen how banks who harbour illegal funds are forced to repay them – does Kickstarter want to be associated with that sort of behaviour?

Please do the right thing.

And their reply:

Thanks for the response. We’ve reached out to Tom to offer some best practices with regards to communicating setbacks and future production timelines to backers. I hope that this encourages Tom to break his silence and let his backers know what’s up – even if there’s no new news or good news to share.

I would recommend that you reach out to the creator again if you don’t hear from him in a while, but I would also encourage you to do so in a compassionate manner. Creators are only human, and being understanding and coming from an empathetic place may make Tom more receptive to letting his backers know about the project’s current situation.


This, after there has been no response at all, after months of people asking polite questions??? I think its a bit late to be offering ‘best practices’ FFS!


So the moral of this story: if you are going to get ripped off by someone on Kickstarter, be aware that you are also going to get ripped off by Kickstarter as well. They will take their fee regardless of fraud.

But one has to wonder why?

- are they ‘tight’ for money?
Is the cashflow of the business so scarce that they simply can’t afford to spare the funds and ‘make good’ on fraudulent behaviour by people using their website? (Note I wasn’t asking them to refund the money Tom Baker took, I just wanted the Kickstarter fee refunded) Apparently not, this article mentions in 2012 they turned over $274 million, which if you calculate based on their fee of 5% (not counting the 3% payment processing fee) = US$13.7 million in 2012. Yet they still can’t bring themselves to refund the 5% fee of the stolen $30,000! Its US$1,500 of money they have no right to have. It seems such a small amount, especially when you consider the reputation damage instances such as this one create.

- is it because there is so much fraud they can’t afford to ‘make good’ on it?
One would hope not, but if thats the case then I doubt they should be considered a platform worth risking your funds with. To puruse this line of reasoning I asked google to search for ‘Kickstarter goes bad’ – there were 19,400,000 hits! Holy sh+t! Now some of them would be Kickstarter projects that didn’t make their target (although the first few pages of results that I checked were almost all Kickstarter scams/fraud) so I tried a search for ‘Kickstarter fraud’ – 723,000 hits!

Amongst those 723,000 hits was the answer to my question, in an investigation into Kickstarter and how it handles disputes, this article provides the answer:

‘Kickstarter advisor and board member Sunny Bates doesn’t deny the risks of pledging but argues the price of individual Kickstarter pledges is so low that even if fraud did rear its head it wouldn’t be worth the legal action from a backer.’

So I interpret this to mean: we don’t have to do the right thing, because your pledge won’t be big enough in value for you to come after us via legal action. Its a bit like saying: Ethics? We dont need ethics, unless they are legally enforceable.

And one of the comments on that article nails another aspect of their facade:

“it’s funny how they say they’re not a business. Your 5% cut says otherwise.”

As I quoted above they made US$13.7 million in fees in 2012, if they aren’t a business with a US$13.7 million turnover then what are they? And how come they are allowed to make & keep some of that money when it is made via fraudulent Kickstarter Projects?


For me losing US$375 totally sucks but who knows, maybe the guy was a crack addict? Or was run over by a bus & killed or something. But surely if the latter was true, it would have been discovered by now. But what bugs me even more is the 5% fee Kickstarter took, it is a matter of principal and responsibility. But it appears Kickstarter are a bit sketchy on the principals part, and responsibility? Well, they are effectively complicit with the fraudster, thank you very much, call again!

So I guess thats it for me, I won’t be using Kickstarter ever again. And I strongly advise you to fully investigate the background of the individual people behind any Kickstarter project you might consider putting your funds into. And if you can’t find out much of their history online, do not back them.

Know this: if you get ripped off, there is nothing you can do, and Kickstarter will be of little help (but they will still profit from you)



Music Friday 06

> in the realm of grand gestures & tired rock/edm theatrics, James Blake is so incredibly great for his sublime restraint… set aside an hour or so & check out his entire set on vimeo from glastonbury 2014 (gumboots optional)


> dubby folk? folky dub? Greg Haines gently dubs out Peter Broderick

buy Greg Gives Peter Space here


> ever tried time travel? well, you know… pretend time travel? for example, someone posted this link/photo to FB – I was too young to go to that gig & wasn’t a huge Bowie fan (altho my brother was & I certainly heard the evolution of Bowies music between albums) but intrigued by the setlist, my next stop was google & while there wasn’t a bootleg recording available of that actual concert, there was one of the same concert in Quebec (the mirror link worked) so if you have any interest in his music, connect that photo with that bootleg recording (a bit of EQ helped me enjoy it) & bobs your uncle! (& for some trivia: Dave Lebolt plays keyboards on that tour, the same Dave LeBolt who was GM at Digidesign for six years – mention of his exit in 2009 here)


If you’d like a nostalgia overdose, check out Music Vault on youtube – a massive archive of live videos, a few I’ve tagged to watch later:
- Lou Reed 1986
- James Brown 1986
- Bob Marley 1979





repost: Sub Rattlers

A repost from April 2011

Prompted by Nathans post about rattling windows I thought I’d dig some files out of my library/archive that are related, but self generated rather than naturally occurring. But first the back story as to why I made these sounds….

Back in 2004 I was working on a horror film called Boogeyman – it wasn’t the greatest horror film ever made, we were stuck with a not-so-great VFX bad guy who really wasn’t very scary. We’d be working on the film for a month or so and had tried a lot of approaches as to how to make him more scary. We’d tried all the obvious approaches – stings, tones etc and were kind of stuck… Back then my kitchen & dining room was right next door to my laundry i.e. they shared a wall. I’d put some clothes in the tumble drier one night and set it going and when I went back to the kitchen I noticed all the wine glasses were rattling due to the vibrations from the tumble drier. Hmmmm I thought… This has possibilities – not in itself, I couldn’t record the glass rattles without the tumble drier in the background. But the idea was interesting….

I thought about it overnight & came up with this concept: what if just before the Boogeyman appeared, everything in the room began to resonate. If this happened in real life it would freak me out and in hindsight I guess an earthquake would be the only real way it could. But the next issue was how to generate the sounds in a way I could control them.

The next morning I did a quick experiment and realised I was definitely on to something, so I spent half the day playing with this new technique. Basically I took my subwoofer, a JBL LSR 12P, and lay it on its back. I then collected up a few props and very carefully lay them above the sub, supported so they could move/rattle without falling into the subwoofer. Then I got my SH101 analog synth and made a nice pure sine wave sub bass sound and played it through the subwoofer. Depending on how I bent the pitch, the subwoofer would pass through the resonant frequency of whatever object I sat near it. Wood seemed to have a narrow range of frequency whereas hollow metal objects and glass was broader & more sensitive to vibration. So I set up a mic and recorded the objects rattling as well as a split direct feed of the sub bass sound. When I came to use the sounds in the film I could check what sub was generating it and choose whether to use it seperately or not. And because the sub was so low in frequency it was very easy to use a HPF to filter the sub sound out of the rattles, so I ended up with discrete elements….

I processed some of the sounds further. In the film there is a scene where the hero is at an office party and thinks he hears the Boogeyman in the air conditioning duct. I got a 2m long piece of air conditioning duct and lay it on top of my subwoofer and it was easy enough to find resonance in it and make it vibrate like crazy. I then took some of those resonance recordings and printed them through impulse responses to give them some distance, and then printed the results of that through the Waves Doppler plugin. You’ll hear some of these sounds at the end of the soundcloud file below… Have a listen but be warned, if you’ve got a subwoofer prepare to have your room shaken up a bit… and if you don’t have a sub prepare to have your monitors distort as they try to replay some seriously low frequencies!

Sub Rattlers by timprebble

I used a similar technique to create elements for an earthquake for the film Under The Mountain back in 2009… By recording seperate resonating elements it meant we could pan & place them around you in the theatre, and also move them, making it seem like the earthquake passed through the house, from the kitchen to the lounge & down the hall….

As with many techniques, the results are vary greatly depending on what props you use, so I’m sure its a technique I’ll use again in the future when the occasion arises….. Its really a form of worldizing, except rather than re-recording the natural acoustics you are re-recording resonance… fun!

Detritus 308

> World Listening Day 2014 – Call for Recordings



> I’ve often wondered about this: what happens if you’re a journalist who can’t help getting caught up in the subject?


> fascinating durational art: Swedish artist Anders Weberg is working on a film that will be 720 hours long, and just released the first teaser trailer (below) its 72 minutes long – the first ‘proper’ trailer due for release in 2016 will be 7 hours 20



> History of the microphone


what a beautifully conceived & executed promo! but some sad news – sending positive thoughts to Sakamoto san :/


> I love long exposure photos but one day long? wow


> jellyfish in an abandoned building? of course!


via kottke


> this Kickstartered Electric Object art display device is interesting, basically a digital photo frame with enough CPU & memory to stream ‘art’ from the internet… but… from the FAQ:
Does EO1 support landscape orientation?
“It does technically, but consistency of user experience is an important part of any creative platform and community, so we’re launching with software support for portrait only.”
now THAT is the lamest thing I’ve ever heard! Its like saying for consistency we are disabling interest for anyone who prefers shooting/viewing in landscape mode. I’d call that an own goal, especially, ESPECIALLY for a software based product. Maybe its part of some lame marketing ruse: create an obvious flaw that takes no effort to fix? #whatever



> abandoned AND beautiful?


Watch full film here


> drawings by robots? beautiful, thanks Guy!



Canon Crackers of the pistol shrimp from Ambient Recording on Vimeo.


> Schematics: A Love Story in Geometric Diagrams


Scattered Light 129

3 notes

a triad? 3 note phrase? catching up on birdly gossip?

shot with Fuji x100S on 14th July 2014

Torturing Wood

Tortured Wood

Tortured Wood

Tortured Wood

From todays recording session, first up in the bush reserve & then in my driveway creating large scale Jenga stacks & triggering them..

Tortured Wood

all shot with Fuji x100S

Scattered Light 128


shot in Plimmerton Friday 11th July, 2014 with infra red Canon 40D and EFs10-22 lens

Engage Stealth Mode


stealth binaural recording – doesn’t work quite so well in the wide shot :/


‘Mummy, that man has no legs! or arms! or body!?!’


Scattered Light 127


I’d driven past this photo dozens of times & always planned to come shoot it… & when i finally got around to it, the bird below was waiting for me….


Heres a wider shot…


& the weirdest thing? I drove back the same way about 2 hours later & there were more jetty poles!


the outgoing tide was slowly revealing more!

It reminded me of the dry garden at Ryoanji in Kyoto, famous for its design in that it contains 15 rocks but no matter where you observe from, only 14 can be seen…

shot Friday 11th July, 2014 with Canon 5D and EF16-35L lens