Wrist Mounted Gadgets Ahoy!
December 6, 2013 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Drop Kicker is a blog that investigates products on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that look scientifically implausible, outright impossible, or completely scammy
posted by The Whelk (15 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Hah, I was just reading their article on the food spectrometer. Very interesting stuff.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2013

Let me guess, Spike Trottman's twitter?
posted by The Whelk at 5:28 PM on December 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was thinking of asking you the same thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:39 PM on December 6, 2013

it's a small web aaaafter all
posted by The Whelk at 5:45 PM on December 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, back in college I spent some quality time building a Ramen spectrometer (if by building you mean arranging several tens of thousands of dollars worth of pump and dye laser, monochrometer and optical chopper jauntily on a 500 lb steel table and then screwing around with the beam path for hours on end trying to line everything up just so) and, as a result, have spent a lot of spare time explaining to people I know that their claims are pretty much physically impossible.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:02 PM on December 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Ohhh: next, do the free energy from water hydrolysis/zero point/chakra alignment people.
posted by lalochezia at 6:12 PM on December 6, 2013

These are great. I'm surprised at the amount of (bad) photoshoppery going on, especially in cases where you could mock up an actual physical object fairly easily (like that lucid dream thingy).
posted by quaking fajita at 6:46 PM on December 6, 2013

So, I study crowdfunding, especially Kickstarter. One of the things I research is fraud rates, and, it turns out, the crowd is pretty good at detecting fraud. Less than 4% of large projects, and less than .3% of projects by dollars invested completely fail to deliver in a way that might indicate fraud. Now, over 85% of projects deliver late, so there is a lot of overconfidence as well, which is what the site is mostly pointing out. This is a good addition to that process, since with enough people looking, it is likely that someone in the crowd can spot technical problems rather well, or, as Linus's Law says, "with enough eyes all bugs are shallow." I haven't studied IndieGogo, but suspect the record there may not be as good, due in part to the flexible campaigns.

Thus, when I glanced through this, it seemed that most of the projects on Kickstarter they were highlighting were not so much fraudulent as worried that they might turn out to be a bad idea. In almost every case, those debates were also going on in other venues (witness the press attention to the coin card). I am not actually sure that they spotted any real fraudulent things on Kickstarter that the crowd had missed, though they are adding to the discussion in really useful ways and forcing people to thinks hard about dubious claims. So, thanks for the link!
posted by blahblahblah at 7:02 PM on December 6, 2013 [17 favorites]

Yeah it's interesting that it's NOT hurf durf scammy snark, it's really practical "um I don't think you can promise what you're promising because of xyz." analysis. It's not a blog that's hitting low hanging fruit, and I really appreciate that.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 PM on December 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Now that I've finished winching my jaw up from the floor about the Raman food analyser (as someone who's worked in chemical sensing for food and drink production, though using different methods, I was pretty appalled by their claims), I can thank you for the link, The Whelk. I like the attention to detail of the writers and their following up on projects. To quote from this post,
I want to make it clear that this is precisely the email I asked James to write when he called me on the phone. As stated in our About the Blog page, our goal is always to pressure crowd-funded campaigns to be more transparent and delve into the details that a more informed consumer might want to know about.
Seems like a useful goal to me.
posted by daisyk at 5:50 AM on December 7, 2013

I have funded 60+ KickStarter campaigns, most of which achieved their goal. The only fraudulent campaign I've gotten suckered on was one of the first ones. It was an artist who had
Lost an eye and was seeking funding for a fancy replacement eyeball with a micro-camera. She talked to us about her plans, took our money, and promptly traveled to Italy for a talk about her project.. That was the first warning sign. Her updates became very, very infrequent, and she only appears to comment when someone threatens action. She explained that she had joined the 'slow tech movement' and that she was still working, that our rewards would go out soon, she even sent out a form to get our addresses. No reward.

I don't care about the loss of my reward, but I do wish she would simply come clean, admit that she has already spent all of the money on other things, and state that the campaign is over. I stated we get to hear, over a year later, about her partnership with new people.

Maybe I am lucky. I'm fairly tech savvy, and have been involved in enough projects that I have some sense of ambitious vs. unlikely. I agree that the one thing I do notice is how unrealistic the timelines are for many projects, especially those involving hardware. I wish every project would go ahead and double their estimates.

I wrote KickStarter about the project I mentioned above. I never heard from them. In some ways I am more disappointed in that than the project. Regardless of their claims, I do think they bare some responsibilties. I wish they had a feature to set and be reminded of project milestones and deadlines for the sake of finders and recipients. I wish they kept statistics on such things. I wish they prodded folks to revise their timelines.
posted by grimjeer at 6:33 AM on December 7, 2013

Indiegogo funds all sorts of "free energy" schemes - the level of bogus ranges from "quite" to "super-obvious fake, how could anyone believe this?". If you write to them, they'll write back to you, once with a form letter, if you write back then once from a real person, and then never respond again.

The worst is that they also allow people to censor comments about their projects - so if you make a polite request for more information, say, it'll get deleted from the list of comments - and yet their prime suggestion for dealing with fraud is "make a comment on the website" (and if you write back saying, "I did but but it was deleted" they won't answer). REALLY offensive - these free energy schemes get hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If anyone is suing them and reads this, I warned them very explicitly of their liability early this year and I have the records.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:36 AM on December 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had someone who just wuvs to link stuff from RealFarmacy want to argue with me about the Raman spectroscopy thing, the crux of their argument being, basically, how wonderful such a thing would be if it did exist. So yeah, a lot like the free energy crowd.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:22 AM on December 7, 2013

As much as I am a fan of Kickstarter, I still like that this exists, as every week I seem to find an eyeroll-worthy project, so it's good to have a whole blog dedicated to showcasing the weirder looking ones.

About the only thing that surprised me about this was how many blog entries were responses and defenses from the project owners being highlighted/mocked. I didn't think project creators would jump on blowback so quickly or completely as it's kind of risky and you can sometimes clear things up but also risk making your project look worse if the owner is petty and jerky about public criticism. I hope the blog owner doesn't get threatened with legal action by one of the well-funded crazy projects featured there, as I assume that's the next logical thing to happen here with so much money being thrown around.
posted by mathowie at 12:16 PM on December 7, 2013

See what gets me about Coin is that it simply won't work, from what I can tell. In the past few days since I heard of it I was asked for the four digits on the front of my Amex card, and been refused to have the card accepted if I didn't show ID / ID with signature that matched the card. At times I've had to leave an imprint when transmission lines were down for hotel stays. (No, I've never had my cards compromised outside of the gigantic Payless/TJMaxx breaches).

People are cruddy enough about taking visa/mc amex logo cards without adding "black box" versions of the cards.
posted by tilde at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2013

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