Crackerjack on Kickstarter


Over on Kickstarter is a project called Crackerjack, which happens to be a comedy that will (possibly) be shot here in southern Wisconsin.

I should have mentioned it a few weeks back, because now there are only 19 days left to fund it.

They’ve raised only a small portion of their goal, and if they don’t reach it, the fallback is to fund the film on credit cards and go into debt, which is pretty common with low-budget films…

The most interesting thing to me has been the approach they’ve taken in their campaign, as well as the management of it. I’ve looked at a lot of Kickstarter campaigns in the last year. Some I’ve funded, and many I haven’t. It’s interesting to see which succeed and which fail, and try to come up with a formula that will work… if such a thing exists.

(Disclaimer: While I do know one person involved in this project, I had nothing to do with this campaign. I was told that they may want me to do some “technical consulting” though, which will probably just involve talking about the RED DIT workflow.)


Arduino Education

Arduino EDU

As you probably know, I’m a big fan of the Arduino microcontroller… Why? Well, for one thing, it’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering and building things, and when I was in school I did take electronics classes, and liked them. I’ve also been programming “things” forever, and while programming can be mundane, it can also be fun.

So fun is great, but where does the learning come in? Well, the Arduino can (and should) have a place in education. In fact, the Arduino started in the education world, so to me, it makes sense to see it there.

Steve Dickie is a teacher who is incorporating the Arduino into his teachings, and you can check out some of his work at Pre-Engineering: Electronics with Micro-controllers and the Arduino Education Blog.

Besides being fun, I think the Arduino is a good choice because it’s open source hardware, supported by open source software, and it’s got a supportive community and ecosystem. I think open source should play a role in our schools for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the cost associated with many proprietary systems. I’ve seen schools implement solutions that are too costly, or over-engineered, or that get abandoned, or whatever… Open source could be a solution to some of these issues.

Steve’s also got an "Open Source Microcontroller in Education" Kickstarter project going to take his project to a higher level. The project may or may not get funded, and Steve may or may not complete the project, but either way, I’m glad to see someone promoting (and using) open source in schools.


Kickstarter: Gameduino


The most interesting Kickstarter project I’ve come across recently has to be Gameduino:

Gameduino connects your Arduino to a VGA monitor and speakers, so anyone who can write an Arduino sketch can create video games. It’s packed full of 8-bit game goodness: hundreds of sprites, smooth scrolling, multi-channel stereo sound.

James Bowman was hoping to raise $3,333 to do a manufacturing run of the Gameduino, but with the deadline tomorrow, it’s now at $35,253 raised. Amazing!

I also think the pledge levels were chosen wisely…

$3 or more gets you a zip file containing all the raw video and audio.

$53 or more gets you a Gameduino from the production run, assembled and tested.

$113 or more gets you a Gameduino, a printed reference poster, a joystick, and an Arduino Uno, preloaded with the Asteroids game.

$263 or more gets you all of the above, plus your 64-byte message burned into an easter-egg section of every Gameduino’s boot ROM. (8 of these were available.)

$433 or more gets you all of the above, plus the Arduino preloaded with a game of your devising. Just supply the graphics, describe gameplay, and I’ll have a weekend hackathon to put it on the Gameduino. (4 of these available.)


At the base, you can toss $3 towards the effort, just to show your support and help make things happen. For $53 you get an actual Gameduino from the production run. One would hope that they do more production runs, based on the money raised, I’d say that’s a sure bet. But will it cost more or less than $53 next time? If you don’t want to risk it costing more, or you just want to be one of the first to have one, this is a great option.

And for the people who really want to support the project, there were 12 higher-end support options, 4 of which get you custom game development. (All of them sold out.)

Also worth noting: The Gameduino is open-source hardware (BSD license) and all its code is GPL licensed. Nice! This means that once it’s created, others should be able to build and sell them as well. I’d expect kits to appear in the future.

Check out the Gameduino project page for a sweet video showing it’s capabilities, and if you want one, hurry up and pledge today!


UberDork Café

UberDork Café
I recently posted about Kickstarter and Natali, who wants to start an “UberDork Café” in Milwaukee, and just came across an interview with her about her project over at Game Couch.

I’ve got a few views on this project… First, I’m behind it. Why? Because I love to see someone who is passionate about building community take action and make things happen. Will it work? I don’t know… but it’s great to see it take shape, and hope for the best possible outcome.

Popsicle Sticks 2.0 From another angle, I see this as related to things like BarCampMilwaukee, where we pull together people who aren’t afraid to call themselves geeks or nerds and do some pretty interesting things. One of my favorite BarCamp memories is the “Popsicle Sticks 2.0” session I lead at BarCampMilwaukee2, where it ended up being almost totally dominated by kids. I didn’t plan it that way (but then, what type of planning do I ever do for sessions besides facilitating them?) but it was great to see people comfortable bringing their kids to BarCamp, and providing a creative environment for them. (Bucketworks also provided paper, crayons, markers, and plenty of art supplies.)

Kids Draw in Circles! DrawCamp was a similar experience, where we created an environment where everyone who came (young, old, people who could draw well, people who could barely draw at all) seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves, and fit in just fine with people of similar interests.

A lot of Natali’s concerns seem to be based around wanting a place where she (and her kids) feel comfortable being themselves, and building a community of people who “get” who and what they are… and I applaud that.

Secretly (ok, not so secretly) I hope that there can be connections made between things like BarCamp, Bucketworks, and the UberDork Café.

I also admire Natali’s attitude. I grew up in the punk rock music scene, where if we had an idea, we executed it. If we didn’t know how to do something we figured it out, we tried it, and if we failed, we tried again… This is where I got my DIY ethics from, and they continue today it almost everything I do. We don’t wait around for someone else to do it, we do it. Is something stopping you from doing what you want to do? Find a way around the obstacle, find partners in crime… Don’t sit back and wait for others, stand up and make it happen, and get others to go along with you for the ride…

Stay excited, keep building communities, and share the stories… We could all use a bit more inspiration in our lives.


Funding by Kickstarter

Kickstarter is described as a new way to fund and follow creativity.

While I’m pretty sure this model of fund raising isn’t entirely new, I don’t know if it’s been used this successfully before. Kickstarter got it’s biggest boost from the Diaspora* project which was profiled in the New York Times. The Diaspora* team gave themselves 39 days to raise $10,000, and amazingly enough, they raised it in just 12 days. At this point 6,479 people had donated over $200,642 to help them make their project happen. (Yeah, I’m one of them.)

Since Kickstarter got it’s name out there, more and more people have been utilizing it to help fund their projects. Right now if you go to you’ll see people trying to find funding for their projects dealing with such things as art, film, food, technology, dance, books, comics, and on and on. Pitch a dollar here and there – it may be the cheapest way to support the arts.

And Kickstarter doesn’t just provide an infrastructure to make this happen, they actively work towards publicizing projects. On the home page you’ll find a “Project of the Day”, and on Twitter you can follow @kickstarter, or for the real highlights, see the Kickstarter Blog.

As for the people looking to fund their projects, it’s in their best interest to promote what they are doing, and to drive people to their project page. For instance, Natali wants to start an “UberDork Cafe” in Milwaukee. You can track the progress of how much money has been raised, who is backing the project, any comments from people, and updates from the project starter. (There’s even a film starring Leslie Nielsen listed on the site!)

When I started my film a few years ago, people told me they would back it, but none (except for KeVRoN) really followed through (which is fine, as I’m committed to finishing it with our without external funding.) If Kickstarter had been an option for me back then, I probably would have considered using it. While I said I would complete the project even without funding, there’s no doubt funding would have a hand it making things happen much faster, because as it is, it’s a “passion project” and it always ends up taking the back seat to paying work, because if the bills don’t get paid, well, we’ve got a bigger problem.

I plan on keeping an eye on Kickstarter though, and pitching in when projects come along and interest me, and as a supporter of the arts, I’d love to see you do the same.

Worth reading: Kickstarter FAQ, Kickstarter Guidelines.