Kickstarter changes community guidelines


Forced by appeals regarding a popular project, the crowdfunding site increases transparency.

Kickstarter has changed its community guidelines in the wake of a recent appeal from John McGinnis and his Synergy Aircraft project.

The new guidelines include an amendment to section 2 of its project guidelines, adding new stipulations to the vetting of design and technology projects.

Kickstarter now requires “additional information from design and technology projects so backers can make informed decisions about the projects they support. These requirements include detailed information about the creator’s background and experience, a manufacturing plan (for hardware projects), and a functional prototype.”

The company also added information regarding the types of projects that it prefers to see on the site: DIY projects from the hacker and maker communities, “products with strong aesthetics,” and “projects that can be completed, not things that require maintenance to exist.” (That third point leaves room for projects that blur the line between project and sustainable business, like the smartwatch Pebble, which is well positioned for future success.)

Kickstarter made the changes after a month-long appeals process in which McGinnis was able to overturn a ruling on his Synergy Aircraft project, a campaign to begin preliminary developments on a new privatized, fuel-efficient airplane with a $65,000 price tag. Kickstarter had originally rejected the idea, saying that the project “was not the best fit” for the crowdfunding site.

“For reasons that do not make any sense to us, Kickstarter has declined our project and our 500-character-limited ‘appeal’ of their decision,” the project’s organizer wrote in an April 23 Facebook post.

Supporters of the project stepped into action a week later with the Friends of Synergy campaign, a Kickstarter-style crowdfunding effort that helped get independent funding off the ground. Synergy quickly raised over $5,000 for the project. Supporters sent emails to Kickstarter pleading for Synergy’s case.

On May 13, Synergy announced that the company received an unexpected email from Kickstarter’s Callan Lamb: “We’ve reconsidered your project submission… this is an incredibly ambitious creative project that we’d be excited to see on Kickstarter.”

Back on the site and with 16 days left in its campaign, Synergy has raised more than $20,000 of its $65,000 goal.

Synergy also accomplished something else: It forced Kickstarter’s hand and made the site’s project vetting process more transparent and accountable.

“Informed decisions.” That’s the new name of the Kickstarter game.

Photo via Jeff Mays

Chase Hoffberger

Chase Hoffberger

Chase Hoffberger reported on YouTube, web culture, and crime for the Daily Dot until 2013, when he joined the Austin Chronicle. Until late 2018, he served as that paper’s news editor and reported on criminal justice and politics.