My 2015 Crowdfunding Recap

I’m one of those people that occasionally gets swept up in the wave of crowdfunded projects. I don’t know it’s because I think I’m getting an incredible deal, or want to be a new product hipster (“I bought that back when it was on Kickstarter.”), or maybe just because a lot of people have cool ideas that I want to see made into reality. Luckily, I’m also capable of a little restraint, so even when every project on Kickstarter is screaming at me to buy it, I’ve managed to keep my purchases to (what I think) is a reasonable level. Since we’ve rolled into 2016, it seemed like a good time to review what has materialized at my doorstop as an actual product, and if I ultimately liked it. I’ll just review them in chronological order, so off we go:

Exploding Kittens

This one broke all sorts of records on Kickstarter (most backers, most funded game, etc.) and I was drawn in for a few reasons:

  • I’ve always enjoyed The Oatmeal and had purchased from there in the past (I had this coffee poster in my cube at work for a while.)
  • I thought the kids would possibly like playing it
  • I thought it would make me laugh

Well, although I’ve yet to play a game with the NSFW deck that came in addition to the regular one, the verdict is in: The kids love playing this game (even though they play a simplified version). They love it so much, that it always ends like this: someone’s gloating, someone’s angry, and someone’s crying. Which kid it is which varies by outcome, but this does not deter them from asking to play again, all the time. So, it’s been worth it, and might even be fun if I can get some adults to play some time! You can now buy it here if you’d like.

Dash 4.0 Wallet

I made the switch from full wallet to money-clip style wallet many years ago, and have never looked back. However, that wallet was getting pretty worn, and I had just started thinking about replacing it when I saw this project. It took a few days to break in, and now the cards slide in and out easily. It’s now my daily wallet, and I don’t miss the money clip at all. If you’re interested, the campaign is over, but it looks like you can preorder one here.

My Dash 4.0 wallet, loaded up for daily use.
My Dash 4.0 wallet, loaded up for daily use.

RuitBag Backpack

Because I’m an IT guy, I go to work like a school kid with all my tech-y goodness (laptop, kindle, tablet, assorted chargers and cables) stuffed into a backpack. My NorthFace backpack was starting to self-destruct a bit, and I was looking into sending it back for some repairs when I came across this backpack campaign. As a daily public transportation rider, I loved the idea of a backpack that wasn’t accessible from the outside. On top of that, the compartments inside the smaller of the bags (R10) looked well suited to my needs: basically room for everything I normally carry and not much more (which is great, because you may have noticed with the wallet, I’m trying not to carry anything more then I need. When it arrived, I loaded it up and began using it as my daily bag.

A look at the RuitBag all loaded up for my commute.
A look at the RuitBag all loaded up for my commute.

I think it’s been a month or so now now and I have no regrets. It’s a well made backpack, it stores all my stuff conveniently, and I’m a little less paranoid now when traveling through crowded places. The bag came with a couple of cards for the company, and I’ve given most of them away already to interested people, so I’m not the only one that thinks this idea’s got legs. You can preorder one for yourself here if you’re so inclined!

Olio Smartwatch

This was my only non-Kickstarter crowdfunded purchase. I don’t know if it’s truly crowdfunded, or if it’s just small batch, but the implications to me were basically the same, so I’m including it in my recap. I don’t remember how I found out about them, but their website completely sold me on the thing.

I soooooooo wanted to love this watch. It looked like a real watch, solid, with a nice band. I like the idea behind it: just the barest amount of notifications necessary, and most visible at a glance. I waited for months for my shipping notification, unboxed, and it fit great, and I thought despite being larger then my daily watch, was a good size for me.

The Olio watch, which I thought was a nice fit for me.
The Olio watch, which I thought was a nice fit for me.

Unfortunately, then the bumps started. Before I detail them, I will say that I wasn’t expecting in a magically perfect experience. I knew that it’s a startup, and that the software would be a work in progress, and that things would (hopefully) just continue to get incrementally better. As a software developer, I was willing to look past a lot of these (minor) bugs. So, I fire the thing up, try to follow the directions to pair the watch, and I’m met with a message saying I don’t own the watch. Without going into all the details, and with the help of their support, it took me, without exaggerating, half a day to properly pair this thing with my phone. At this point I was starting to get the feeling that maybe quality control/testing wasn’t what it should have been for a watch that does not come with a small sticker price. BUT! Given all that, it was paired with my phone and setup. The phone software could use a little polish, and make things like re-doing the initial setup a whole lot easier, but I was ready to roll.

So, I make it to day 1, watch having been on the charger all night, pop it on, and head to work. I was intentionally not messing with the thing more then I normally would have. Just glancing at the notifications as they came in, and the usual occasional time check. However, around lunch time I was started to get nervous about the amount of battery left, and by 1:30pm, it was completely dead. Unfortunately, this is it for me. I am willing to put up with a lot, but battery life is something I just can’t tolerate. I NEED my devices to make it through the day. Perhaps it was bad quality control, or I just have bad luck with batteries (my Samsung S6 edge experience ended in much the same way, couldn’t last a day), but that was it for me and my Olio. It went right back and the process was smooth (got an RMA from support, and received my refund after 10 or so business days.) Ultimately, it turns out I’m not the only one with these experiences, as there’s been enough that there’s even a parody twitter account out there injecting itself into conversations:

Wrapping it Up

At the end of the day (year?) I’m batting .750 on the crowdfunding purchases, two items which already get daily use. I’d call that a pretty good 2015! I’ve already got a few items lined up for 2016, so the fun will continue.

Browser Popularity – Knowledge@Wharton Edition

Everyone once in a while, I think it’s useful to take a look at the browser usage of your sites. You can see what the overall industry trends with a little googling (I like this page), and that’s important to know, but it’s also good to know if your users follow those trends. In the spirit of sharing, I thought I’d throw up a few quick graphs using the numbers from the main Knowledge@Wharton site. I basically just took the number our of Google Analytics for the month of February.

For the developers that have to fight with IE every day, I also thing it’s work breaking down that IE Pie:

My quick hitting thoughts are:

  1. IE6 is down to <5% of our total browser picture. Thank god.
  2. IE overall is no longer the majority browser. It’s just the biggest minority, and it’s trending down.
  3. Chrome as entered the double digits.

Now, a little history. Here’s every month for the past 3 years (Feb 2008 – Feb 2011), which I like to call “Chrome is eating IE”:

Imagine if you will…

… a world in which you can use all the HTML5 and CSS3 goodness you can handle. Imagine if everyone had the exact same monitor resolution, and to boot, is using the same browser! No CSS sanity checks, no conditional IE tags, no cringing when you view your site in IE6 because some people/corporations refuse to perform basic updates. What you have just imagined is the blissful experience of designing a web-app for the iPad only. It’s been a refreshing glance into what web-design would be more like if standards were, you know, followed.