Author Topic: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams  (Read 10735 times)

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Offline EEVblog

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EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« on: May 05, 2013, 11:04:42 pm »
Dave talks about crowd source funding projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and a new forum section to discuss them.

Mµ Thermal Imager: https://www.eevblog.com/forum/buysellwanted/m-thermal-imager-real-or-fake/
EMC SafeSleeve: https://www.eevblog.com/forum/chat/stuff-on-indiegogo-that-manages-funding/

« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 10:37:57 am by EEVblog »
 

Offline BravoV

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2013, 01:00:23 am »
 :-+ , hope the traffic will slowly picking up and gain popularity.

Offline amspire

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2013, 03:57:23 am »
I can see the good in this idea, but something makes me feel really uncomfortable about it.

I don't like bagging people who have an idea that they often cannot fully make public and who genuinely put in the effort. I am not sure how people like us can really know what is going on, unless there is a personal reason for following a project intimately.

I couldn't be bothered spending 10 minutes researching the IR sensor, but if this project has a potential source for a sensor and lens, perhaps it is possible. Does anyone know if the people behind this have actually put in thousands of man hours of work or if they have been faking it? If there is a single source for the sensor or lens, then the whole project will be totally at the mercy of the component supplier and will have to work to the suppliers own timescale. If there is no source for the sensor or lens, then yes the project will fail and what happens next will be between the people who paid the money and the people who took the money. Not sure it is any of my business.

I wouldn't spend money to buy a shield to protect my kneecaps from stray magnetic fields generated by a notebook, but it seems there are some people who have this need. Good luck to them!

People have genuine attempts and often fail. The investors on these sites should know the investments are speculative when the actual products do not exist at the time of investment. If they do not, it is the job of the investment raising sites to inform investors, and if they do not, the sites themselves may find they get sued for a failed project hosted on their site. In consumer law, the the expectations of a "reasonable" person can often override any small print legalese the investment site may try and publish.

If the Eevblog forum tries to be the internet police of bad electronic development project ideas, we will probably do absolutely nothing to stop the ripoff artists, but we may sabotage some genuine projects along the way through our ignorance and faulty judgement. I really do not like bagging people just because they fail if they have really put in the work. I do not think people who invest in vaporware should be protected from learning they have bought vapor.

Lots of people very good and talented people have failed many times along the way. They take risks. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

Richard.


 

Offline c4757p

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2013, 03:59:49 am »
Richard, I was going to say something similar but couldn't put it nearly as well as you have. Agreed  :-+
No longer active here - try the IRC channel if you just can't be without me :)
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2013, 05:21:21 am »
If the Eevblog forum tries to be the internet police of bad electronic development project ideas

This forum is not, will not, and cannot be the internet police.
It is a discussion forum. The end.
You know, that old worn out expression that information is power.

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, we will probably do absolutely nothing to stop the ripoff artists, but we may sabotage some genuine projects along the way through our ignorance and faulty judgement.

So we should say nothing when we smell something dodgy going on?
Not me, no thanks.

You can't sabotage a project by asking genuine questions and having discussions!
If the creators don't show a prototype, is it wrong to ask why not?
If the creators are wrong on some technical aspect, is it wrong to point it out?
If the creators continually won't answer reasonable questions, is it wrong to suspect that something is up?

If the creators of projects provide proper information and have good communication and operate above board , then no project will ever get wrongly "sabotaged"

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I really do not like bagging people just because they fail if they have really put in the work

Neither do I.

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I do not think people who invest in vaporware should be protected from learning they have bought vapor.

Are you saying that if we find a deliberate scam, we should keep quiet so that the investors can "learn their lesson"?
If so, I do not agree.

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Lots of people very good and talented people have failed many times along the way. They take risks. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

I totally agree.

There is nothing new at all here I'm proposing, it's already happening, I just created a dedicated section to discuss these projects.
Good crowd source funded projects already get talked about and applauded.
Dodgy crowd source funded projects already get talked about and questioned.
Welcome to the internet.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2013, 05:26:34 am »
Does anyone know if the people behind this have actually put in thousands of man hours of work or if they have been faking it?

Go read the thread and see for yourself.
They have been continually asked by their investors to show at least a photo of a real board to prove they have something. They have refused.

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If there is a single source for the sensor or lens, then the whole project will be totally at the mercy of the component supplier and will have to work to the suppliers own timescale. If there is no source for the sensor or lens, then yes the project will fail and what happens next will be between the people who paid the money and the people who took the money. Not sure it is any of my business.

Then you are free not to comment on it.
And others are free to discuss it, look at the claims made, the official responses, and come to reasonable conclusions based on that information.
Again, welcome to the internet.
 

Offline envisionelec

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2013, 05:36:53 am »
When I was developing my last product I, too, was accused of making vaporware because nobody for years was able to produce a working product.  I only had to show a running prototype to completely change the discussion. My product had a very key piece of IP that made it work. But it was in code, so there was no chance of anyone finding out by looking at pictures. The proof was in the prototype. And anyone of these guys can show off while obfuscating certain parts if they're legit.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2013, 06:04:51 am »
Does anyone know if the people behind this have actually put in thousands of man hours of work or if they have been faking it?

Go read the thread and see for yourself.
They have been continually asked by their investors to show at least a photo of a real board to prove they have something. They have refused.
They obviously have problems and are not communicating with investors, but that might not mean it is any scam. A lawyer may have told the principals that until you have resolved a few big problems, do not say anything as anything you say to an investor could be taken as a contract.

It is also possible that the project is at a point where the principal just has to put all his time into development and cannot answer emails from a multitude of worried investors.

Not a great situation, but it can happen. Definitely uncomfortable if you are an investor.  I am definitely not going to speculate that it is probably a scam based on a lack of knowledge into what is happening.
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If there is a single source for the sensor or lens, then the whole project will be totally at the mercy of the component supplier and will have to work to the suppliers own timescale. If there is no source for the sensor or lens, then yes the project will fail and what happens next will be between the people who paid the money and the people who took the money. Not sure it is any of my business.

Then you are free not to comment on it.
And others are free to discuss it, look at the claims made, the official responses, and come to reasonable conclusions based on that information.
Again, welcome to the internet.
I never even suggested that people were not free to comment on it. I am uncomfortable with the idea of public comments based on what you do not know - that is all. I haven't liked it when I have seen it in the past in the forum, and I still don't like it now. I like to see criticism based on fact, not speculation.

I do not like the idea of guessing motives for the actions, particularly if I am not an investor and so I am not in any communication loop whatsoever. So as you have invited, I am giving my views. I am sure that there will be others that will say that because there are third party reports that the principal did not reply to emails of certain people, then he must be running a scam.

Has anyone here actually invested?
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2013, 06:59:42 am »
They obviously have problems and are not communicating with investors, but that might not mean it is any scam.

That's why at first I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately they only came through with more double talk, more really poor excuses, and more technical contradictions.
In this particular case, if you look at it, they are very clearly hiding something, and it has all the hallmarks of now being a scam (even if it started as a genuine attempt). I am not the first person to suspect, many people have come to the same conclusion, to the point of there almost being a "run on the bank" for refunds.

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A lawyer may have told the principals that until you have resolved a few big problems, do not say anything as anything you say to an investor could be taken as a contract.

They did not have to say a thing. Al they had to show is some form of prototype, or at least a genuine thermal image. And as envisionelec sad, that is easily done without giving away anything you won't want known yet.

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It is also possible that the project is at a point where the principal just has to put all his time into development and cannot answer emails from a multitude of worried investors.

Showing one thermal image would have shut everyone up, no individual emails required.

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Not a great situation, but it can happen. Definitely uncomfortable if you are an investor.  I am definitely not going to speculate that it is probably a scam based on a lack of knowledge into what is happening.

No one is asking you too, other people have done that already  ;D
And ironically, it's the lack of knowledge in this case that is the dead giveaway.

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I never even suggested that people were not free to comment on it. I am uncomfortable with the idea of public comments based on what you do not know - that is all. I haven't liked it when I have seen it in the past in the forum, and I still don't like it now. I like to see criticism based on fact, not speculation.

So do I.
And that's how forums operate, they are essentially self regulating in this respect.
If someone comes along and says something outlandish and unwarranted, they will get put in their place pretty quick.

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I do not like the idea of guessing motives for the actions, particularly if I am not an investor and so I am not in any communication loop whatsoever. So as you have invited, I am giving my views.

And it's always welcome. And for the most part I agree with you entirely.

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Has anyone here actually invested?

Yes, a few people on the forum are investors, either existing members, or have come here and joined to discuss their investment. That's how the whole thread started.
 

Offline AndreasF

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2013, 08:15:38 am »
 :-+ I think it's a good idea; I can even see a few other benefits from it.

1) For people here on the forum, who aren't as experienced with manufacturing (e.g. hobbyists like myself), and who may be thinking about going the crowd-funding route with their own idea, a discussion of already proposed projects and their perceived shortcomings could be a valuable learning experience. They might be able to avoid some of the mistakes that other enthusiastic makers have made.

2) Being able to point to an independent, external site that discusses the technical merits of a project by a group of people who at least know a little bit (sometimes lots) about electronic engineering may actually be beneficial for a project. It's a bit like peer-review. This will obviously depend a little bit on the trust you can put in the reviewers, but at least with the link to the rest of the forum you can easily see other post from a commenter to get a feeling if they know what they are talking about.
my random ramblings mind-dump.net
 

Offline amspire

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2013, 08:46:32 am »
I am not the first person to suspect, many people have come to the same conclusion, to the point of there almost being a "run on the bank" for refunds.
I thought there were no refunds. If a contributor tried to cancel their payment, they may easily be committing an offence that could result in Indiegogo and Mu Optics taking the contributor to court for a refund of the money plus expenses. If inappropriate credit card refunds to contributors damaged the project, Mu Optics could sue the contributors for damages. The contributor would have to prove they were deceived, and I couldn't see anything in the project description or blog that they could base such an argument on at this stage except perhaps the delivery date and the delivery date was never more then an estimate.  I didn't go through the 900+ posts.

If they cannot deliver at all, that will be a different issue, but Mu Optics has never stated it will not eventually deliver.

In fact, if the project is not delivered, Indiegogo keeps 9% of the funds as opposed to 4% if the project succeeds. So Indiegogo would seem to do very well out of a failed project.
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A lawyer may have told the principals that until you have resolved a few big problems, do not say anything as anything you say to an investor could be taken as a contract.

They did not have to say a thing. Al they had to show is some form of prototype, or at least a genuine thermal image. And as envisionelec sad, that is easily done without giving away anything you won't want known yet.
I didn't know they had to show anything now they are in development. According to the rules, a contributor has no "rights to control or otherwise direct the Campaign Owner" and so the Owner has no obligation to respond to any such request for photos during development. A contributor has no right to demand a photo. An Owner can post information if it suits them.  Mu Optics have said from the start that they have NDA with some suppliers, so no photos of the prototypes is not at all surprising.

If/when they fail to deliver the "perks" in May, they have to responds to emails from the contributors about the perks and come to an amicable arrangement, but outside the perks, the contributor has no rights at all it seems. Until May, Mu Optics probably doesn't even have to respond to emails, particularly if the time taken answering emails hurts the speed of the project development.

And contributors actually agreed to invest? Amazing!

The fundraising ended 30th of March and people expected delivery of the product in May? I think they may be a little very late.
 

Offline Skimask

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2013, 08:53:15 am »
Out in the weeds here a bit...

Have you thought about using youtube's 'stabilize' option when uploading the walk time rants?

Or is the "shaky-cam" a 'feature'?  ;D
I didn't take it apart.
I turned it on.

The only stupid question is, well, most of them...

Save a fuse...Blow an electrician.
 

Offline Joules

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2013, 09:16:33 am »
The "shaky-cam" gives it that Californian feel.
 

Offline elgonzo

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2013, 10:16:10 am »
@amspire: Small but important correction.
Look at their perks. With the exception of the 5$ donation, they more or less constitute non-formal purchasing agreements for their product. Essentially, when you pay for one of these perks you are becoming a customer, not an investor.
 

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2013, 10:44:28 am »
EEVBlog can be a great source of informed opinion. I think Dave is actually rendering a great service to the backers without getting anything tangible in return. It would also serve to weed out the scammers and the riff-raff from  honest inventive people.
Overall  :-+
 

Offline tnt

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2013, 11:18:49 am »
@Dave: How do you record those ?  Is someone filming you and walking backwards or do you hold a tripod at a distance or something ?

EDIT: And nevermind, I should have waited untile the very end of the video to write this post instead of writing it while listening ....
« Last Edit: May 06, 2013, 11:25:30 am by tnt »
 

Offline nitro2k01

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2013, 12:09:14 pm »
The "shaky-cam" gives it that Californian feel.
¿l??? ,,u??u?o??l??,, ???? u??? no?

Edit: That was supposed to be upside down text, but the forum software is not set up to handle extended characters...
Whoa! How the hell did Dave know that Bob is my uncle? Amazing!
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2013, 12:19:49 pm »
Have you thought about using youtube's 'stabilize' option when uploading the walk time rants?

I tried it once, it's AWFUL!  :--
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2013, 01:15:44 pm »
I thought there were no refunds.

It's done manually through PayPal.
The owner has offered refunds, and has done a few, but seems to be ignoring requests for many more.

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If a contributor tried to cancel their payment, they may easily be committing an offence that could result in Indiegogo and Mu Optics taking the contributor to court for a refund of the money plus expenses.

For a few hundred bucks? I don't think so  :-DD
Also, not when the owner willing gives the manual refund.

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If inappropriate credit card refunds to contributors damaged the project, Mu Optics could sue the contributors for damages.

In a dozen countries, and all individuals? Ain't going to happen.

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The contributor would have to prove they were deceived.

They didn't meet their shipping date (or won't come end of May), that's all you need if it came to that.

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, and I couldn't see anything in the project description or blog that they could base such an argument on at this stage except perhaps the delivery date and the delivery date was never more then an estimate.  I didn't go through the 900+ posts.

To get a feel for it, you need to read a lot of the posts, and also the other thread on here.

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If they cannot deliver at all, that will be a different issue, but Mu Optics has never stated it will not eventually deliver.

Of course they aren't going to say that!
It is now quite clear and beyond reasonable doubt that no actual hardware exists.

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In fact, if the project is not delivered, Indiegogo keeps 9% of the funds as opposed to 4% if the project succeeds. So Indiegogo would seem to do very well out of a failed project.

I didn't know about that?  :-//

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I didn't know they had to show anything now they are in development.

They are technically at the delivery date (May), and still have not shown a single thermal image, or any form of prototype, PCB, or anything.

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According to the rules, a contributor has no "rights to control or otherwise direct the Campaign Owner" and so the Owner has no obligation to respond to any such request for photos during development. A contributor has no right to demand a photo.

A contributor always has the right to ask any question or for any information like. Ain't no law stopping them asking.

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An Owner can post information if it suits them.  Mu Optics have said from the start that they have NDA with some suppliers, so no photos of the prototypes is not at all surprising.

No, it's not. You can easily show a blank PCB without violating any supplier NDA.
And as far as chips goes, unless it's a pre-release chip or sensor, I've never heard of an NDA that prevents you showing a photo of the board with a chip.

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If/when they fail to deliver the "perks" in May, they have to responds to emails from the contributors about the perks and come to an amicable arrangement, but outside the perks, the contributor has no rights at all it seems. Until May, Mu Optics probably doesn't even have to respond to emails, particularly if the time taken answering emails hurts the speed of the project development.

True. But like I said, they don't have the respond to individual emails, just a simple photo of a blank PCB and thermal image would be enough to prove they are genuine.
Given the number of people complaining for that simple and reasonable request, if they were genuine they should be address that as #1 priority. It's 5 minutes work to post photos.

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The fundraising ended 30th of March and people expected delivery of the product in May? I think they may be a little very late.

Yup. They never had a hope in hell of meeting their target.
 

Offline Winston

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2013, 02:04:48 pm »
You should provide not only a topic here to discuss probable crowd-sourced scams, but also one to list and discuss very promising projects.  I scan Kickstarter and Tindie daily (any other suggested places to scan?), but still manage to miss interesting stuff I only learn about via mention in electronics blogs.  I'm not going to list here the interesting projects I know about right now because I don't want to associate them with this forum topic heading.
 

Offline EEVblog

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2013, 02:06:39 pm »
You should provide not only a topic here to discuss probable crowd-sourced scams, but also one to list and discuss very promising projects.

Yes, it's not just for scams.
Feel free to discuss any crowd source funded project.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #21 on: May 06, 2013, 02:26:43 pm »
Quote from: amspire
In fact, if the project is not delivered, Indiegogo keeps 9% of the funds as opposed to 4% if the project succeeds. So Indiegogo would seem to do very well out of a failed project.

Are you not confusing that the fact that Indiegogo keep 9% of the funds if the funding goal is not met?
« Last Edit: May 06, 2013, 09:00:49 pm by cybergibbons »
 

Offline amspire

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #22 on: May 06, 2013, 03:19:13 pm »
I thought there were no refunds.

It's done manually through PayPal.
The owner has offered refunds, and has done a few, but seems to be ignoring requests for many more.
I just found a mention of a refund in the other thread. Mu Optics was happy to refund $150 instead of posting out a $325 camera in the future.

Is it only the $150 contributors getting their money back? If the initial production (assuming they are still trying to make the thing) costs over $150 per unit, then it makes sense to refund as many $150 contributors as possible.

I hope the contributors did read this line in the proposal before contributing:  "Shipping fees are additional".

In other words, before you get any perks, you have to pay an unknown amount of extra money. Especially if they include handling costs in the shipping costs.
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Yup. They never had a hope in hell of meeting their target.
That is something I agree with. You cannot be a fair way from a working prototype hardware and software in April and be manufacturing your first 1000+ production run in May.
 

Offline amspire

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #23 on: May 06, 2013, 03:23:07 pm »
In fact, if the project is not delivered, Indiegogo keeps 9% of the funds as opposed to 4% if the project succeeds. So Indiegogo would seem to do very well out of a failed project.
Quote

Are you not confusing that the fact that Indiegogo keep 9% of the funds if the funding goal is not met?
You are right. I was assuming the "goal" meant the goal of the project in the project's proposal, rather then the campaign's fund raising goal.
 

Offline Razor512

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Re: EEVblog #467 - Walktime Rant Crowd Funding Scams
« Reply #24 on: May 07, 2013, 04:06:24 am »
youtube stabilize never works. The problem is that in trying to reduce the processing required, the footage is rendered at half to 1/4th the resolution with almost no interpolation, and you lose a ton of detail and color quality.

A more effective stabilization would require the use of an application such as adobe premiere pro, and while it will get good results, it will likely add 1-2 hours to your render time, especially if you are going through with 10-20 minutes of footage.

anyway, the video was not really shaky and I personally have no problem with it.


As for discussing crowd funded projects, it is important to make any issues with a project known, from ones that are shady, to ones that are just business in bad faith, (eg selling snake oil or milking people for money then disappearing (eg the skydog router which charges users a ton of money for the router, then milks them for money through a cloud service subscription, then leave users with a paperweight when the business model begins to crumble and they decide to shut the service down)

overall, I don't feel ti is in any way bad for honest people trying to crowd fund something without taking advantage of people or lying to people.

If a project or product cant stand up to people looking past the marketing crap then it is not a good project.
 


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