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January 31 2014

In eigener Sache: Was passiert, wenn wir die Kontrolle verloren haben?

Michael Seemann alias @mspro schreibt bis zum Sommer 2014 das Buch “Das neue Spiel – Nach dem Kontrollverlust”. Das Thema ist spannend, will er doch neue Perspektiven zur Frage von Plattformneutralität und Strategien des gesellschaftlichen Umgangs mit dem digitalen Umbruch und seinen Folgen beleuchten. Seemann finanziert das Projekt dabei über die Crowdfunding-Plattform Startnext. Unser Verlag iRights.Media wird eine E-Book-Fassung des Werkes produzieren.

Im Untertitel zum Projekt spitzt Seemann zu:

Wir haben die Kontrolle verloren. Daten, von denen wir nicht wussten, dass es sie gibt, finden Wege, die nicht vorgesehen waren und sagen Dinge aus, auf die wir nie gekommen wären. Wir wurden in ein neues Spiel geworfen und niemand hat uns die Regeln verraten.

Und:

Der Kontrollverlust ist das Scheitern an falschen Erwartungen. Unser Handeln basiert immer noch auf der Erwartung einer Kontrolle, die es längst nicht mehr gibt. Daten, von denen wir nicht wussten, dass es sie gibt, finden Wege, die wir nicht für möglich hielten und sagen Dinge aus, auf die wir nie gekommen wären. Mit anderen Worten: Wir wurden in ein neues Spiel geworfen und niemand hat uns die Regeln verraten.

Dass das Thema ankommt, zeigt die massive Unterstützung die Seemann bei seiner Crowdfunding-Kampagne erfährt. Nach wenigen Tagen war die Finanzierungsschwelle von 8.000 Euro erreicht, aktuell haben die Nutzer bereits über 17.000 Euro in das Projekt investiert. Heute endet die Frist. Seemann hat inzwischen mehrere Upgrades für das Buch versprochen. So soll es ein Hörbuch geben, geplant ist – wenn die Schwelle von 20.000 Euro erreicht wird – auch eine englischsprachige Fassung der wichtigsten Thesen des Buches. Der Erfolg lässt sich bereits in Zahlen messen: “Es ist jetzt schon das dritterfolgreichste Crowdfunding-Buchprojekt in deutscher Sprache”, so Seemann.

Hier kann man einen ersten Blick in das Inhaltsverzeichnis werfen. Ein Thema liegt Seemann dabei besonders am Herzen, die Frage nach neuen Regeln für Plattformen, er nennt es “Plattformneutralität” In einem Interview mit Carta.info führt er dazu aus:

Mein Vorschlag der Plattformneutralität orientiert sich an der Idee der Netzneutralität. Als erstes muss es einen diskriminierungsfreien Zugang zu Plattformen geben, denn wenn sich dort vermehrt Gesellschaft abspielt, kann ein Ausschluss ein Ausschluss aus wichtigen gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhängen sein. Das ist gar nicht so einfach, weil Plattformen speziellen ökonomischen Gesetzen unterworfen sind, wie ich im Buch ausführen werde.
Darüber hinaus ist das Konzept der Plattformneutralität ebenso gut auf andere politische Bereiche übertragbar. Der ständig lauter werdende Ruf nach einem bedingungslosen Grundeinkommen ist z.B. ein plattformneutraler Gedanke.

Wer die Entstehung dieses Buches unterstützen will, kann dies heute via Startnext noch tun. Neben verschiedenen Unterstützungsmöglichkeiten offeriert Seemann auch gewidmete Nudeln.

Unser Verlag iRights.Media begleitet Seemann bei diesem Projekt und wird auf jeden Fall zumindest die elektronische Fassung des Buches als E-Book produzieren und zur Frankfurter Buchmesse im Herbst 2014 veröffentlichen.

October 01 2013

Neue Verwertungsgesellschaft C3S sammelt 118.923 Euro

79 Tage hat sie gesammelt, 118.923 Euro sind es geworden: Das hat die Cultural Commons Collecting Society bis gestern Mitternacht per Crowdfunding erreicht. Die erste Etappe – 50.000 Euro Eigenkapital für die Gründung – hatte die GEMA-Alternative, die langsam Konturen annimmt, schon nach drei Wochen genommen. Am Mittwoch hat sich die C3S dann auch formell als Europäische Genossenschaft gegründet. Bis Ende Oktober läuft nun die Frist, mit der die Unterstützer offiziell Mitglied der Genossenschaft werden können.

Das selbstgesetzte Ziel, 200.000 Euro für weitere Entwicklungsarbeit zu sammeln, hat die C3S aber nicht erreicht. Sammelt die C3S den Betrag noch bis zum Ende des Jahres, will der Innovationswettbewerb Digitale Medien des Landes NRW denselben Betrag als Förderung drauflegen. Auch darunter kann gefördert werden, dann aber anteilig weniger. Weniger Geld heißt für die C3S vor allem: Weniger Zeit, die das bis jetzt ehrenamtlich arbeitende Team aufwenden kann – damit auch mehr Zeit bis zum Start, den die Initiatoren schon 2015 für möglich halten.

Welche Motivation und Ideen hinter der C3S stehen, haben die Gründer gerade auch in einem Manifest festgehalten. Für die C3S steht aber vor allem noch viel Arbeit bevor: Sie muss Mitglieder gewinnen und eine Infrastruktur aufbauen, um beim Patent- und Markenamt als Verwertungsgesellschaft zugelassen zu werden.

Das Crowdfunding ist dabei nur ein Punkt, an dem deutlich wird: Eine Verwertungsgesellschaft aufbauen ist eine Mammutaufgabe. Zumal dann, wenn die Erwartungen an eine faire Alternative so hoch sind. Aber was das alte Mammut GEMA wohl gesammelt hätte?

Update: Die C3S hat jetzt auch eine Presseerklärung veröffentlicht.

September 02 2013

Ghost : Just a Blogging Platform

Ghost : Just a Blogging Platform
http://tryghost.org

encore un #CMS en #JS avec #Markdown ; ceux-là ont levé 125k$ de #crowdfunding

August 31 2013

SkyTruth : Help SkyTruth Study Fracking from the Edge of Space

SkyTruth : Help SkyTruth Study Fracking from the Edge of Space
http://blog.skytruth.org/2013/08/skytruth-the-bakken.html

#Crowdfunding pour financer un ballon météorologique à la détection des torchères liées au #gaz_de_schiste dans le Dakota du Nord

To study this issue further, we are teaming up with a non-profit called Space For All to send cameras and instruments on a weather-balloon to the edge of space (well, the upper tropopause), to examine air quality and infrared emissions from oil shale fracking and flaring.

http://vimeo.com/73005851

August 29 2013

Four short links: 29 August 2013

  1. textfsmPython module which implements a template based state machine for parsing semi-formatted text. Originally developed to allow programmatic access to information returned from the command line interface (CLI) of networking devices. TextFSM was developed internally at Google and released under the Apache 2.0 licence for the benefit of the wider community.
  2. The Money is in the Bitcoin Protocol (Vikram Kumar) — some of the basics in this post as well as how people are thinking about using the Bitcoin protocol to do some very innovative things. MUST. READ.
  3. Parsing C++ is Literally Undecidable — any system with enough moving parts will generate eddies of chaotic behaviour, where the interactions between the components are unpredictable. (via Pete Warden)
  4. Kickstarter Raises 6x Indiegogo Money (Medium) — a reminder of the importance of network effects. Crowdfunding is the online auction side of the 2010s.

August 20 2013

Im Neuland: Die Buchverlage und Creative Commons

Bei vielen Buchverlagen herrschen noch immer Vorurteile über Creative-Commons-Lizenzen. Es raube Einnahmen, alles müsse dann verschenkt werden. Ausnahmen sind selten. Dirk von Gehlen über seine Erfahrungen mit dem neuen Buch „Eine neue Version ist verfügbar”.

Im Wiki von Creative Commons Books gibt es eine Liste von Büchern, die unter Creative-Commons-Lizenz erschienen sind. Die Liste ist nicht besonders lang, sie enthält aber große Namen wie Lawrence Lessig und Cory Doctorow. Anfang September darf ich mich auch in diese Liste eintragen, denn dann erscheint mein Buch „Eine neue Version ist verfügbar” bei Metrolit – unter CC-Lizenz. Das klingt weniger spektakulär als es in Wahrheit ist. Denn auch zehn Jahre nach den ersten Creative-Commons-Lizenzen sind diese für klassische Verlage noch immer eine fremde Welt.

Hartnäckig hält sich das erst unlängst von der GEMA verbreitete Gerücht, wer Creative-Commons-Lizenzen nutze, verzichte damit automatisch auf Vergütung. Es gibt kaum Erfahrungen mit alternativen Lizenzen und wenig Mut, diese auszuprobieren, weil – und hier dreht sich die Spirale der Bewegungslosigkeit – es kaum Erfahrungen damit gibt. Nur wenige Verlage durchbrechen diesen Kreislauf und wagen Experimente. Das ist keine leere Behauptung, sondern meine Erfahrung der vergangenen Monate.

Kultur als Software: Die Probe aufs Exempel

Nach Veröffentlichung meines Buches „Mashup” bei Suhrkamp, in dem ich die digitale Kopie lobe, war ich immer wieder gefragt worden, wie Kultur denn mit der digitalen Kopie funktionieren könne. Ich habe darauf keine Antwort, ich würde mich aber gerne auf die Suche nach einer machen. Deshalb startete ich im Herbst 2012 ein Crowdfunding-Projekt, um mein Buch „Eine neue Version ist verfügbar” gemeinsam mit meinen Lesern zu finanzieren.

Die These des Buches – Kultur wird zur Software – legte es nahe, dies nicht nur zu behaupten, sondern in die Tat umzusetzen und den Lesern Einblick in die Entstehung, also in die Versionierung, des Buches zu geben. 350 Leser nahmen das Angebot an und kauften sowohl ein Buch, von dem noch keine Zeile geschrieben war, als auch den Einblick in dessen Entstehungsprozess. Im Frühjahr dieses Jahres beobachteten sie mich dabei, wie ich ein Buch darüber schrieb, wie die Digitalisierung Kunst und Kultur verändert. Im Mai wurde dieser Prozess mit einer Tagung in der Evangelischen Akademie Tutzing und einer fertigen Buchversion in Exklusiv-Auflage abgeschlossen.

Mythen über Creative Commons

Ich wollte aber noch mehr Leute für meine These interessieren und suchte deshalb nach einem Verlag, der mir als Partner genau dabei helfen sollte. Dazu zählte für mich auch, das Buch mit einer alternativen Lizenz zu veröffentlichen. Die Suche gestaltete sich vergleichsweise einfach, weil ich in Metrolit sehr schnell einen mutigen Partner fand, der die Thesen des Buches und die damit verbundene Haltung unterstützt.

Die Gespräche mit anderen Verlagen zeigten mir aber auch: Dieser Mut ist sehr ungewöhnlich. Der Hauptgrund dafür ist die fehlende Erfahrung im Umgang mit Creative-Commons-Lizenzen. Verlagsmanager denken, sie würden so lizenzierte Werke komplett verschenken, sie nehmen an, sie müssten sie für diese Lizenzierung in eine Liste eintragen oder Referenzausgaben an Creative Commons schicken. Und sie befürchten vor allem: Creative-Commons-Lizenzen raubten ihnen in erster Linie Einnahmen.

Die neue Realität anerkennen

Beispiele, die das Gegenteil beweisen – wie die erwähnten Lessig oder Doctorow – lassen sie meist nicht gelten. Beide sind für sie Ausnahmen, die ihre angenommene Regel nur bestätigen. Die Option, dass eine leichtere Verfügbarkeit von Werken, deren Popularität erhöhen und damit womöglich Verkäufe steigern könnten, kommt für sie also gar nicht erst in Frage. Das ist schade, denn das Netz liefert diese leichtere Verfügbarkeit völlig unabhängig davon, ob Verlagsmanager und Autoren sie gut heißen oder nicht. Sie stellt also eine Realität dar, mit der künftige Kulturproduktion konfrontiert ist.

„Eine neue Version ist verfügbar” versucht Antworten auf genau diese Realität zu finden. Deshalb ist es nur konsequent, dass das Buch unter einer CC-Lizenz erscheint – unter der BY-NC-SA-Lizenz, die für viele Menschen, die mit Creative Commons vertraut sind, als schlechte Variante gilt. In der Welt der klassischen Verlage ist sie aber ein Anfang, ein Versuch neue Wege zu gehen und vielleicht Ansporn, selber Titel zu produzieren, die man dann im CC-Wiki eintragen kann.

Dirk von Gehlens Buch „Eine neue Version ist verfügbar” erscheint Anfang September bei Metrolit.

July 24 2013

*Walls of Freedom* The definitive book on Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution crowdfunding pour…

Walls of Freedom
The definitive book on Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution

#crowdfunding pour cet ouvrage ; l’objectif initial a été atteint rapidement, le deuxième va bientôt l’être.
http://vimeo.com/67113570

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/walls-of-freedom

July 15 2013

Krautfunding.net

Krautfunding.net
http://www.krautfunding.net

Deutschland entdeckt die Dankeschön-Ökonomie

L’auteur du livre sur le #crowdfunding en Allemagne ne fait pas confiance à la Dankeschön-Ökonomie . Son livre n’est pas publié sous une license CC et son site ne propose que des extraits du texte. Krautfunding nous fait apparemment pas découvrir de nouvelles perspectives mais ne s’intéresse qu’à une vision plus collaborative du #capitalisme habituel.

May 09 2013

Four short links: 9 May 2013

  1. On Google’s Ingress Game (ReadWrite Web) — By rolling out Ingress to developers at I/O, Google hopes to show how mobile, location, multi-player and augmented reality functions can be integrated into developer application offerings. In that way, Ingress becomes a kind of “how-to” template to developers looking to create vibrant new offerings for Android games and apps. (via Mike Loukides)
  2. Nanoscribe Micro-3D Printerin contrast to stereolithography (SLA), the resolution is between 1 and 2 orders of magnitude higher: Feature sizes in the order of 1 µm and less are standard. (via BoingBoing)
  3. ThingpunkThe problem of the persistence of these traditional values is that they prevent us from addressing the most pressing design questions of the digital era: How can we create these forms of beauty and fulfill this promise of authenticity within the large and growing portions of our lives that are lived digitally? Or, conversely, can we learn to move past these older ideas of value, to embrace the transience and changeability offered by the digital as virtues in themselves? Thus far, instead of approaching these (extremely difficult) questions directly, traditional design thinking has lead us to avoid them by trying to make our digital things more like physical things (building in artificial scarcity, designing them skeumorphically, etc.) and by treating the digital as a supplemental add-on to primarily physical devices and experiences (the Internet of Things, digital fabrication).
  4. Kickstarter and NPRThe internet turns everything into public radio. There’s a truth here about audience-supported media and the kinds of money-extraction systems necessary to beat freeloading in a medium that makes money-collection hard and freeloading easy.

March 28 2013

How crowdfunding and the JOBS Act will shape open source companies

Currently, anyone can crowdfund products, projectscauses, and sometimes debt. Current U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations make crowdfunding companies (i.e. selling stocks rather than products on crowdfund platforms) illegal. The only way to sell stocks to the public at large under the current law is through the heavily regulated Initial Public Offering (IPO) process.

The JOBS Act will soon change these rules. This will mean that platforms like Kickstarter will be able to sell shares in companies, assuming those companies follow certain strict rules. This change in finance law will enable open source companies to access capital and dominate the technology industry. This is the dawn of crowdfunded finance, and with it comes the dawn of open source technology everywhere.

The JOBS Act is already law, and it required the SEC to create specific rules by specific deadlines. The SEC is working on the rulemaking, but it has made it clear that given the complexity of this new finance structure, meeting the deadlines is not achievable. No one is happy with the delay but the rules should be done in late 2013 or early 2014.

When those rules are addressed, thousands of open source companies will use this financial instrument to create new types of enterprise open source software, hardware, and bioware. These companies will be comfortably funded by their open source communities. Unlike traditional venture-capital-backed companies, these new companies will narrowly focus on getting the technology right and putting their communities first. Eventually, I think these companies will make most proprietary software companies obsolete.

How are companies like Oracle, Apple, Microsoft, SAS and Cisco able to make so much money in markets that have capable commercial open source competitors? In a word: capital. These companies have access to guaranteed cash flows from locked-in users of their products.

Therefore, venture capital investors are willing to provide startup capital to new business only when they demonstrate the capacity for new lock-in. Investors that start technology companies avoid investments that do not trap their user bases. That means entrenched proprietary players frequently face no serious threats from open source alternatives. The result? Lots of lock-in and lots of customers trapped in long-term relationships with proprietary companies that have little motivation to treat them fairly.

The only real argument against business models that respect software freedom have always been about access to capital. Startups are afraid to release using a FOSS license because that decision limits their access to investment. Early-stage investors love to hear the words “proprietary,” “patent-pending” and “trade secret,” which they mentally translate into “exit strategy.” For these investors, trapping users is a hedge against their inability to evaluate early-stage technology startups. (I am sympathetic; predicting the future is hard.) As a result, most successfully funded technology startups are either proprietary, patented platforms or software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms.

This is all going to change.

Crowdfunded finance is going to shift the funding of software forever, and it is going to create a new class of tech organization: freedom-first technology companies.

Now, open source projects will be able to seek and find crowds of investors from within their own communities. These companies will have both the traditional advantages of proprietary companies (well-capitalized companies recruit armies of competent programmers and sales forces that can survive long sales cycles) and the advantages of the open source development model (open code review and the ability to integrate the insights of outsiders).

Yesterday, it was a big deal if you could get Intel to invest in your company. Tomorrow, you will seek funding from 500 Intel employees, who are all better qualified to vet your technology startup than 90% of the people in Intel’s investment arm. These crowdfunders are also willing to make a decision to invest in six hours rather than six months.

For this reason, I believe there will be a treasure trove of companies that will soon be born out of open source/libre software/hardware/bioware projects by asking their communities to crowdfund their initial rounds of financing. Large community projects will give birth to one or several different companies that are designed from the ground up to support those projects. GitHub and Thingiverse will become the new hubs for investors. Developers who have demonstrated competence in projects will be rewarded with access to financing that is both cheaper and faster than seed or angel funding.

With this fundamental change in incentive structures, open source projects will have the capital they need to try truly radical approaches to the design of their projects. Currently, open source projects have to choose between begging for capital or living without that capital. Many open source projects choose slow and gradual development not because they prefer it, but because this is what the developers involved can afford to do in their spare time. The Debian and Ubuntu projects are illustrative of the differences in style and result when the same community is “shoestringing it” versus having access to capital. The people running many open source projects know that no angel investor would touch them, so they make slow and steady progress to “good” software releases rather than rapid progress to “amazing” software releases.

These new freedom-first companies will be able to prioritize what is best for their projects and their communities without bearing the wrath of their investors. That’s because their communities are their investors.

This is not going to merely create a class of software that can rival current proprietary software vendors. In a sense, current commercial open source companies are already doing a fine job of that. But those open source companies typically have investors who are similarly desperate for hockey-stick returns. Even they must choose software development strategies that will pay off for investors. This new class of company will prefer technical strategies that will pay off for end users.

That might seem like a small distinction, but this incentive tweak will change everything about how software is made.

The new companies that leverage this funding option will look a lot like Canonical. Canonical is the kind of company you get when the geeks are fully in charge, and you have investors who are very tolerant of long-term risk because they grok the underlying technical problems that sometimes take decades to entirely resolve. Also, the investors probably know what the word “grok” means. But, unfortunately, there are only so many Mark Shuttleworth-types around (one as far as I know, but a guy who can get himself into space can probably be first in line for human cloning, too).

Shuttleworth is famous for reading printouts of the Debian mailing list on vacation as he figured out which Debian developers to hire for Canonical, the new Linux startup he was funding. That kind of behavior is not what most financial analysts do before making an investment, but this, and other similar efforts, allowed Shuttleworth to predict and control the future of a very technical financial opportunity. It is this kind of focus that allowed Shuttleworth to make one great investment and know that it would work, rather than making hundreds of investments hoping that one of them would work. Using the JOBS Act, community members that already sustain that level of research about an open source project can make the same kinds of bets, but with much less money. (It is ironic that so many of the critics of the JOBS Act presume that the crowd is ignorant rather than recognizing the potential for hyper-informed investor communities.)

In addition, companies like Canonical, Rackspace, Google, Amazon, and Red Hat might acquire these new companies. All of these established organizations can afford billion-dollar acquisitions, and they are either entirely open source or they are very open-source friendly. This kind of acquisition potential will ensure that once open source technology companies prove themselves, they will have access to series A and B financing. I also expect there will be several new open source mega-companies that emerge that are even more devoted to community and end-user experience than these current open source leaders.

This new class of company will have lots and lots of hockey sticks and plenty of billion-dollar exits. Companies will achieve these exits precisely because they do not focus on them (it’s very Zen). They will choose and execute visionary technical strategies that no outside investor could understand. These strategies will seem obvious to their communities of users/investors. These companies will be able to move into capitalization as soon as their communities are convinced the technical strategies and execution capabilities are sound. All of this will lead to better, faster, bigger open source stuff.


If you’d like to talk with other people who are interested in getting and giving funding for open source companies, I set up a related mailing list and Twitter account (@WeInvestInUs).

Related:

March 17 2013

Crowdfunding: iPhoneChina – ein Filmprojekt über Apple und China

Der Filmemacher Christian von Borries stellt die Systemfrage: „Stellen wir uns vor, Apple wäre ein Staat – würde man lieber in Apple oder lieber in China leben?” In einem dokumentarischen Essayfilm geht er der dahinterliegenden Frage nach, ob Staaten wie Unternehmen oder Unternehmen wie Staaten geführt werden. Das Rohmaterial wurde in den USA, in Frankreich, Deutschland und China gedreht. Nun geht es darum, den Film fertig zu stellen. Von Borries hat dafür bei Indigogo ein Crowdfunding-Projekt gestartet.

Bis zum 19. April werden 10.000 US-Dollar für Schnitt, Farbkorrektur und Fertigstellung benötigt. Man kann die Produktion ganz einfach mit Überweisung per Kreditkarte über die Projektseite bei Indigogo unterstützen. Zu Beginn des Sommers wird der Dokumentarfilm dann auf Filmfestivals und kostenlos auf Youtube und anderen Video-Plattformen zu sehen sein. Der Autor verzichtet dabei bewusst auf Copyright-Maßnahmen und Lizenzen. Zum Charakter des Films schreibt von Borries:

IPHONECHINA, the new documentary essay film by Christian von Borries, is not another film about Apple or about China. By comparing two epitomes of the world, it turns out that software might be a new form of governance. But on the ground, there is real desire and real exploitation.

Dirk von Gehlen, Chefredakteur von jetzt.de, hat den Filmemacher zu seiner Motivation interviewt: „Ich mache einen Film, den ich noch nicht gesehen habe und der fehlt.

„Design is how it works, right?“ – hier haben wir den Trailer zum Film bereitgestellt:

Meine Empfehlung: Unterstützen!

February 05 2013

Crowdfunding science

In our first science-as-a-service post, I highlighted some of the participants in the ecosystem. In this one, I want to share the changing face of funding.

Throughout the 20th century, most scientific research funding has come from one of two sources: government grants or private corporations. Government funding is often a function of the political and economic climate, so researchers who rely on it risk having to deal with funding cuts and delays. Those who are studying something truly innovative or risky often find it difficult to get funded at all. Corporate research is most often undertaken with an eye toward profit, so projects that are unlikely to produce a return on investment are often ignored or discarded.

If one looks to history, however, scientific research was originally funded by individual inventors and wealthy patrons. These patrons were frequently rewarded with effusive acknowledgements of their contributions; Galileo, for example, named the moons of Jupiter after the Medicis (though the names he chose ultimately did not stick).

There has been a resurgence of that model — though perhaps more democratic — in the modern concept of crowdfunding. Kickstarter, the most well-known of the crowdfunding startups, enables inventors, artists, and makers to source the funds they need for their projects by connecting to patrons on the platform. Contributors donate money to a project and are kept updated on its progress. Eventually, they may receive some sort of reward — a sticker acknowledging their participation or an example of the completed work. Scientists have begun to use the site, in many cases, to supplement their funding. Anyone can be a micro-patron!

Petridish.org screenshot - funded scientific projectPetridish.org screenshot - funded scientific project

Deceiving the Superorganism: Ant-Exploiting Beetles” met its goal through Petridish, a funding site.

Science-specific platforms have also appeared on the scene. Petridish is currently showcasing projects looking for funding to study everything from rare butterflies to mass-fatality events. On Microryza, you can fund investigations into cannibalism in T-Rex or viral causes of lung cancer. RocketHub also has a science-specific project roster and recently had a researcher raise funds to study the psycopharmacology of amphetamines. Widely covered as “Help scientist build a meth lab,” the researcher’s write-up of his proposal, including his reasons for crowdfunding it, is excellent and worth a read. And newcomer Iamscientist is combining fundraising help with a community, KnowledgeXchange, which helps researchers to recruit team members and find mentors. While these sites show great promise, several similar platforms founded a few years ago have failed. The extent to which this new crop is popularly adopted remains to be seen, though the excitement around crowdfunding may indicate the time is now right.

While anyone can submit a project to the sites above, there are also hybrid models that enable individuals to “top up” more traditionally funded research. In the UK, MyProjects enables individuals to fund research targeting specific types of cancer; the underlying projects have already been pre-approved and funded by Cancer Research UK. The process is more specific than traditional charitable giving, so contributors feel that they’re making a difference in a specific area that matters to them. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has begun to teach its members about crowdfunding.

For more expensive research, of course, micro-patronage falls short. Breakout Labs, run by the Thiel Foundation, has begun awarding grants of up to $350,000 to “to fill the funding gap that exists for innovative research outside the confines of an academic institution, large corporation, or government.” In exchange, the company retains the rights to its IP, and Breakout Labs is given a percentage of future revenue and an option to invest in an equity round.

Under the traditional grant model, the average researcher spends up to 40% of his or her time chasing funding, and 80% of grant applications are rejected. In addition, the necessity of ties to an academic or industrial organization means that researchers don’t retain control of their IP. The new models of funding can speed up the process, while enabling scientists to keep 100% of their research and results. They also enable citizen scientists to publicize their projects and built communities of involvement.

If you’ve participated in funding scientific research via one of these platforms, or are a scientist who has run a campaign on a crowdfunding site, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the experience in the comments below.

Related:

December 04 2012

November 01 2012

Four short links: 1 November 2012

  1. Selfstarter (Github) — open source roll-your-own crowdfunding platform. (Kickstarter has its own audience, of course, which why they could release their source-code and still be top of the heap)
  2. 100 Year Business Plan (Unlimited) — New Zealand Maori tribe has a 100-year business plan, reflecting their values of sustainability and continuity.
  3. Given Tablets, Kids Teach Themselves to Read (Mashable) — Story from two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa [...] Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said.
  4. snippets (Github) — mail out updates on coworker progress, a-la Google’s internal system. (via Pamela Fox)

September 21 2012

Four short links: 21 September 2012

  1. Business Intelligence on FarmsMachines keep track of all kinds of data about each cow, including the chemical properties of its milk, and flag when a particular cow is having problems or could be sick. The software can compare current data with historical patterns for the entire herd, and relate to weather conditions and other seasonal variations. Now a farmer can track his herd on his iPad without having to get out of bed, or even from another state. (via Slashdot)
  2. USAxGITHUB — monitor activity on all the US Federal Government’s github repositories. (via Sarah Milstein)
  3. Rethinking Robotics — $22k general purpose industrial robot. “‘It feels like a true Macintosh moment for the robot world,’ said Tony Fadell, the former Apple executive who oversaw the development of the iPod and the iPhone. Baxter will come equipped with a library of simple tasks, or behaviors — for example, a “common sense” capability to recognize it must have an object in its hand before it can move and release it.” (via David ten Have)
  4. Shift LabsShift Labs makes low-cost medical devices for resource-limited settings. [Crowd]Fund the manufacture and field testing of the Drip Clip [...] a replacement for expensive pumps that dose fluid from IV bags.

August 22 2012

Four short links: 22 August 2012

  1. Minecraft Experiment Devolves into Devastating Resource War — life imitates art, but artificial life imitates, well, Haiti.
  2. Finding Unity in the Math WarsI recently heard a quote about constructive dialog: “Don’t argue the exact point a person made. Consider their position and respond to the best point they could have made.” I like this! (and the point that math teachers fighting with each other is missing an opportunity to fight for the existence of math education) (ps, “unity … math”, I see what you did there)
  3. Tesla Museum Funded — Matthew Inman, cartoonist behind , used IndieGogo to raise over $850k to buy Tesla’s old building in New York and turn it into a museum. In five days. There are still 39 days to run. Impressive channeling of his audience for good.
  4. Printers Spontaneously Printing “SQL” Strings (Hacker News) — it’s a sign that someone’s scanning your network for vulnerable web apps, found the exposed printer port, and sent an malignant HTTP request to it.

August 13 2012

With new maps and apps, the case for open transit gets stronger

OpenTripPlanner logoEarlier this year, the news broke that Apple would be dropping default support for transit in iOS 6. For people (like me) who use the iPhone to check transit routes and times when they travel, that would mean losing a key feature. It also has the potential to decrease the demand for open transit data from cities, which has open government advocates like Clay Johnson concerned about public transportation and iOS 6.

This summer, New York City-based non-profit Open Plans launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new iPhone transit app to fill in the gap.

“From the public perspective, this campaign is about putting an important feature back on the iPhone,” wrote Kevin Webb, a principal at Open Plans, via email. “But for those of us in the open government community, this is about demonstrating why open data matters. There’s no reason why important civic infrastructure should get bound up in a fight between Apple and Google. And in communities with public GTFS, it won’t.”

Open Plans already had a head start in creating a patch for the problem: they’ve been working with transit agencies over the past few years to build OpenTripPlanner, an open source application that uses open transit data to help citizens make transit decisions.

“We were already working on the back-end to support this application but decided to pursue the app development when we heard about Apple’s plans with iOS,” explained Webb. “We were surprised by the public response around this issue (the tens of thousands who joined Walkscore’s petition and wanted to offer a constructive response).”

Crowdfunding digital city infrastructure?

That’s where Kickstarter and crowdfunding come into the picture. The Kickstarter campaign would help Open Plans make OpenTripPlanner a native iPhone app, followed by Android and HTML5 apps down the road. Open Plans’ developers have decided that given mobile browser limitations in iOS, particularly the speed of JavaScript apps, an HTML5 app isn’t a replacement for a native app.

Kickstarter has emerged as a platform for more than backing ideas for cool iPod watches or services. Increasingly, it’s looking like Kickstarter could be a new way for communities to collectively fund the creation of civic apps or services for their towns that government isn’t agile enough to deliver for them. While that’s sure to make some people in traditional positions of power uneasy, it also might be a way to do an end-around traditional procurement processes — contingent upon cities acting as platforms for civic startups to build upon.

“We get foundation and agency-based contract support for our work already,” wrote Webb. “However, we’ve discovered that foundations aren’t interested in these kinds of rider-facing tools, and most agencies don’t have the discretion or the budget to support the development of something universal. As a result, these kinds of projects require speculative investment. One of the awesome things about open data is that it lets folks respond directly and constructively by building something to solve a need, rather than waiting on others to fix it for them.

“Given our experience with transit and open data, we knew that this was a solvable problem; it just required someone to step up to the challenge. We were well positioned to take on that role. However, as a non-profit, we don’t have unlimited resources, so we’d ask for help. Kickstarter seems like the right fit, given the widespread public interest in the problem, and an interesting way to get the message out about our perspective. Not only do we get to raise a little money, but we’re also sharing the story about why open data and open source matter for public infrastructure with a new audience.”

Civic code in active re-use

Webb, who has previously staked out a position that iOS 6 will promote innovation in public transit, says that OpenTripPlanner is already a thriving open source project, with a recent open transit launch in New Orleans, a refresh in Portland and other betas soon to come.

In a welcome development for DC cyclists (including this writer), a version of OpenTripPlanner went live recently at BikePlanner.org. The web app, which notably uses OpenStreetMap as a base layer, lets users either plot a course for their own bike or tap into the Capital Bikeshare network in DC. BikePlanner is a responsive HTML5 app, which means that it looks good and works well on a laptop, iPad, iPhone or Android device.

Focusing on just open transit apps, however, would be to miss the larger picture of new opportunities to build improvements to digital city infrastructure.

There’s a lot more at stake than just rider-facing tools, in Webb’s view — from urban accessibility to extending the GTFS data ecosystem.

“There’s a real need to build a national (and eventually international) transit data infrastructure,” said Webb. “Right now, the USDOT has completely fallen down on the job. The GTFS support we see today is entirely organic, and there’s no clear guidance anywhere about making data public or even creating GTFS in the first place. That means building universal apps takes a lot of effort just wrangling data.”

July 23 2012

Four short links: 23 July 2012

  1. Unmanned Systems North America 2012 — huge tradeshow for drones. (via Directions Magazine)
  2. On Thneeds and the Death of Display Ads (John Battelle) — the video interstitial. Once anathema to nearly every publisher on the planet, this full page unit is now standard on the New York Times, Wired, Forbes, and countless other publishing sites. And while audiences may balk at seeing a full-page video ad after clicking from a search engine or other referring agent, the fact is, skipping the ad is about as hard as turning the page in a magazine. And in magazines, full page ads work for marketers. If you’d raised a kid on AdBlocker, and then at age 15 she saw the ad-filled Internet for the first time, she’d think her browser had been taken over by malware. (via Tim Bray)
  3. The Most Important Social Network: GitHubI suspect that GitHub’s servers now contain the world’s largest corpus of commentary around intellectual production.
  4. Crowdfunded Genomics — a girl with a never-before-seen developmental disorder had her exome (the useful bits of DNA) sequenced, and a never-before-seen DNA mutation found. The money for it was raised by crowdfunding. (via Ed Yong)

June 21 2012

Four short links: 21 June 2012

  1. Test, Learn, Adapt (PDF) -- UK Cabinet Office paper on randomised trials for public policy. Ben Goldacre cowrote.
  2. UK EscapeTheCity Raises GBP600k in Crowd Equity -- took just eight days, using the Crowdcube platform for equity-based crowd investment.
  3. DIY Bio SOPs -- CC-licensed set of standard operating procedures for a bio lab. These are the SOPs that I provided to the Irish EPA as part of my "Consent Conditions" for "Contained Use of Class 1 Genetically Modified Microorganisms". (via Alison Marigold)
  4. Shuffling Cards -- shuffle a deck of cards until it's randomised. That order of cards probably hasn't ever been seen before in the history of mankind.

March 16 2012

Top Stories: March 12-16, 2012

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

Understanding place and space in a digital Babel
Computational linguist Robert Munro says the subtleties of spatial distinctions are growing in importance as more of the world's digital information takes the form of non-English, unstructured text.

When game development met Kickstarter
Several game developers have decided that game funding and Kickstarter are two great tastes that taste great together.

The state of ebook pricing
Joe Wikert looks at the agency model, efficiencies, fixed pricing and other major trends that will drive ebook pricing in the months ahead.

Foxconn and Ford, Emerson and Jobs
Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on "Compensation" was a source of inspiration for Henry Ford. It also affirms some of the cosmic truths Steve Jobs held dear.

Three of our best data interviews from Strata CA 12
Featuring: Hadoop creator Doug Cutting on the similarities between Linux and the big data world, Max Gadney from After the Flood explains the benefits of video data graphics, and Kaggle's Jeremy Howard looks at the difference between big data and analytics.


Where Conference 2012 is where the people working on and using location technologies explore emerging trends in software development, tools, business strategies and marketing. Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20.

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