Or, caveat emptor always applies.
If you’re at all like me and follow the crowdfunding world with a sense of excited curiosity, then you can’t help but to have noticed the crop of “how not to get scammed” articles littering the tech writing world in the wake of the FTC ruling over a known Kickstarter based fraud. I think the thing that surprises me the most about all of this is the apparent naivety it seems to reveal about the crowdfunding world.
Don’t get me wrong, because I don’t think even most crowdfunders are naive. Rather, I think enough of them are that their collective outcry when a campaign fails or turns out to be a scam gets a lot of attention. And that attention seems to come from the fact that not a small number of people think the crowdfunding world is somehow immune from the risks that have attended all ventures since the beginning of mankind.
Quite to the contrary, crowdfunding is its own unique kind of risky venture because it lets anyone who wants to help incubate ideas that other forms of venture would never would probably never let see the light of day. It democratizes the incubation of ideas, and as anyone who has paid attention to democracy will note, it’s a messy, error-prone process.
So, yes, crowdfunding efforts are going to fail. Even ones for great ideas. Scamsters are going to succeed in separating people from their cash. Even seasoned venture capitalists fall for that (Dot.com bubble or Enron anyone?). Neither of those facts make the process bad. Rather, they reveal crowdfunding has risk. If that bothers you, don’t participate.
As for me, I take the risk because I enjoy the potential outcome. That’s worth losing some money once or twice, because the potential reward so often outstrips the risk.
So, Amazon engaged in an amazing bit of free advertising Sunday night when it announced its research initiative, Prime Air, on 60 Minutes. From the moment the piece aired, sectors of the internet have been abuzz with the news.
But what has amused me the most has been the response of the technology media, led by the likes of Wired. If these writers are to be believed, if man was meant to receive packages by air, God would have given bicycle messengers wings.
Certainly, I’m being sarcastic, but I wonder if these writers really look around themselves at the age we actually live in very often . There is a very good chance you are reading this post on a device you pulled from your pocket that contains more processing power than the entire Apollo 13 mission–spacecraft and ground stations combined–that functions as a phone, network access device, and computer and was produced just 137 years after the phone was invented, 40 years after the cell phone was invented, and 21 years after the smartphone was invented.
That’s a course of development 40 times faster than it took to get from the wheel to the car.
My point here is that history is replete with examples of people, especially the so-called well informed, declaring that something is impossible because it is different or outside the mold of what we consider normal or beyond our current technological means. It’s actually quite amusing how often the march of progress has proven such Luddites wrong.
Now, I am not saying that Amazon will succeed, or that drone delivery is the thing of the future, but I am saying that the idea is now there and that someone is going to figure out how to make some version of it–maybe even a version we haven’t imagined yet–work. And when they do, we can look back at these prognostications and laugh like we do at the early 19th century writers who said people would not be able to breath if they went faster than twenty miles per hour.
For whatever reason, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about science recently, especially as it applies to getting kids interested in science and keeping them interested.
One of the points I keep coming back to in this thinking is how often science is sold to kids in a very narrow and limited view of the universe. This view seems to say that science is this small set of things and that anything that lies outside that set is not real science.
What I see in this view is teaching a worldview to kids that does not mesh with what scientists, especially physicists and biologists, are revealing to all of us about the universe. Even as scientific inquiry reveals the universe to be more complex and more bizarre than we imagined, the worldview sold to kids seems to be becoming narrower and more boring.
What I would love to see happening in the scientific world is encouraging kids to explore their environments free of preconceptions. Sure, teach them what we think we already know, but be sure to emphasize we only know it until new or better evidence comes along. We should teach kids to find the flaws in what we think we know instead of proclaiming we already know it.
After all, isn’t that what the scientific world demands of other ways of thinking? That should be a demand that cuts both ways.
I have to hand it to the people at Google. They managed to create a lot of buzz about their latest project, getting millions of people to start using it in less than a month. Unfortunately for Google, my first reaction to Google+ is, “So what?”
It’s not that Google+ is a bad product. It’s more that it’s a product that does not yet have a need. It’s a superficial clone of all the other social media experiments going on out there that doesn’t add a whole lot new to what people are already doing.
That’s not to say it couldn’t. Google has the potential to weave together its impressive array of products using Google+ in a way that could revolutionize the way people use computers and the internet. But, so far that hasn’t happened. Instead, Google+ is a sophisticated chat board.
So, what would I like to see in Google+ that would get me excited? Here are a few things:
- I already use a battery of different services to maintain an online presence. Having to migrate all of that information to Google+ by hand is the single biggest detriment to me using it. If Google wants its product to be amazing, figure out a way to let me import information from places like Facebook and LinkedIn so I don’t have to reproduce it.
- Create a way to support groups. Facebook may have botched the attempt, but it had a good idea in introducing the concept.
- Tie Blogger, Google Docs, Sites, and other Google based web presence applications into Google+. For me, my Facebook pages, especially for my businesses, are valuable enough to deal with the annoyance of the rest of Google.
- Figure out a way to tell me my streams have updated in some sort of unobtrusive way.
I think the biggest thing Google could do is develop Google+ with business applications in mind. Make Google+ a clearinghouse for small businesses trying to get the word out about who they are and what they do, and I think people would join in droves.