Tag Archives: kickstarter

Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler Apologizes For Hackers Unauthorized Access via. Email

“On Wednesday night, law enforcement officials contacted Kickstarter and alerted us that hackers had sought and gained unauthorized access to some of our customers’ data. Upon learning this, we immediately closed the security breach and began strengthening security measures throughout the Kickstarter system.

No credit card data of any kind was accessed by hackers. There is no evidence of unauthorized activity of any kind on your account.

While no credit card data was accessed, some information about our customers was. Accessed information included usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords. Actual passwords were not revealed, however it is possible for a malicious person with enough computing power to guess and crack an encrypted password, particularly a weak or obvious one.

As a precaution, we strongly recommend that you change the password of your Kickstarter account, and other accounts where you use this password.

To change your password, log in to your account at Kickstarter.com and look for the banner at the top of the page to create a new, secure password. We recommend you do the same on other sites where you use this password. For additional help with password security, we recommend tools like 1Password and LastPass.

We’re incredibly sorry that this happened. We set a very high bar for how we serve our community, and this incident is frustrating and upsetting. We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come. We are working closely with law enforcement, and we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.

Kickstarter is a vibrant community like no other, and we can’t thank you enough for being a part of it. Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. You can reach us at accountsecurity@kickstarter.com.

Thank you,

Yancey Strickler
Kickstarter CEO”

Kickstarter gets hacked, tells users to change passwords

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Summary:Kickstarter was hacked earlier this week, the crowdfunding site informed users on Saturday. While the company says the hackers didn’t gain access to credit card numbers and only two users were affected, it advised all users to change their passwords.

Kickstarter was hacked Wednesday night and the crowdfunding site advised users to change their passwords late Saturday afternoon.

The hack appeared limited to just two users’ accounts, Kickstarter said. While the company says that “No credit card data of any kind was accessed by hackers. There is no evidence of unauthorized activity of any kind on all but two Kickstarter user accounts,” the hackers did gain access to other types of information — including “usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords.”

In a blog post, Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler offered a Q&A:

“How were passwords encrypted?

Older passwords were uniquely salted and digested with SHA-1 multiple times. More recent passwords are hashed with bcrypt.

Does Kickstarter store credit card data?

Kickstarter does not store full credit card numbers. For pledges to projects outside of the US, we store the last four digits and expiration dates for credit cards. None of this data was in any way accessed.

If Kickstarter was notified Wednesday night, why were people notified on Saturday?

We immediately closed the breach and notified everyone as soon we had thoroughly investigated the situation.

Will Kickstarter work with the two people whose accounts were compromised?

Yes. We have reached out to them and have secured their accounts.

I use Facebook to log in to Kickstarter. Is my login compromised?

No. As a precaution we reset all Facebook login credentials. Facebook users can simply reconnect when they come to Kickstarter.”

Kickstarter said it’s improved its security measures and will continue to do so in coming weeks.

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Kickstarter Hacked, Customer Addresses and Other Info Accessed

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These days, it really seems we can’t go a week without some big site getting hacked. The latest target? Kickstarter.

Kickstarter announced on its blog (and via an email sent to customers) that hackers had found their way into certain parts of their database.

The good news: No credit card information was accessed — and even if it somehow would’ve been, Kickstarter doesn’t store full credit card numbers.

The not-so-good-news: they’ve detected that the hackers were able to access a database that contained usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords. That “encrypted” bit is a bit of a plus — but given that no encryption is uncrackable with the right resources, you should absolutely change your password anyway.

Kickstarter says they were alerted to the breach by law enforcement officials (which law enforcement group, specifically, wasn’t mentioned) on Wednesday night, that they immediately closed the exploit that allowed the breach to occur, and that the last four days have been spent investigating exactly what was accessed.

Update: Kickstarter has updated its blog to answer a few questions that they were seeing a lot of. Here’s what we can glean from it:

  • Passwords were protected in one of two ways. Old passwords were salted and hashed with the SHA-1 protocol. Newer passwords were hashed with bcrypt
  • The company says it took 4 days to alert customers because they had to wait until they’d “thoroughly investigated the situation.”
  • Two accounts showed (unspecified) unauthorized activity; both of those accounts have been re-secured.
  • If you use Facebook to login to Kickstarter, the company says your FB account hasn’t been compromised. They’ve reset all Facebook tokens, which severs any ties Kickstarter has to your Facebook account until you manually give it permission again.
  • http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/15/kickstarter-hacked-customer-addresses-and-other-info-accessed/

Dollar for dollar raised, Kickstarter dominates Indiegogo SIX times over

Insights we discovered when we scraped and analyzed all of Indiegogo’s campaigns

While freelancing in the crowdfunding space, Edward (@ejunprung) and I noticed a huge size discrepancy between Kickstarter and Indiegogo. We decided to fully size Indiegogo up and compare their numbers with Kickstarter’s publicly available statistics to see just how much bigger Kickstarter is.

6 Eye Opening Insights

  • Cumulatively, Kickstarter (KS) has over 110,000 campaigns while our scrape found 44,000 campaigns on Indiegogo (IGG). However, through multiple scrapes over a month, we discovered that IGG de-list failed campaigns that raised less than $500.
  • KS ($612M) has successfully raised over 6 times more dollars than IGG ($99M).
  • KS has had 40 projects raise $1M+ while IGG only has had 4.
  • The average success rate on KS is 44%. Based on the total number of campaigns we found in our scrape, we calculate IGG’s success rate to be 34%. However, if we factor in the de-listed failed campaigns, IGG’s success rate drops significantly.
  • At the time of the scrape, KS and IGG had near the same unsuccessful dollars (KS $83M vs IGG $71M) despite KS raising over 6 times more money
  • 40% of dollars that IGG raised were generated from campaigns that raised more than $100,000
Side by side statistic comparison

See the full side by side comparison table.

Our Thoughts

Widely considered the number two crowdfunding site based on volume, it is shocking to see that Indiegogo is so massively behind Kickstarter. It looks to us that Kickstarter has cornered the most lucrative part of the crowdfunding market, leaving competitors like Indiegogo to fight for the scraps in far poorer niches. With its openness, Indiegogo was supposed to take advantage of the lucrative long tail of crowdfunding, but that is turning out to be a worth a lot less than expected as evidenced by the huge long tail of failed projects. For the crowdfunding market, it seems that quality is worth a lot more than quantity.


We tried our best to confirm our numbers, but the only data about Indiegogo we could find regarding the amount of projects or money raised was in a Verge article, which stated that there were 142,301 campaigns with a 9.3% success rate. The Verge’s 9.3% success rate out of 142,301 projects corresponds with the total number of successful campaigns we counted.


We built a bot that scraped IGG’s projects section, which supposedly contains all campaigns ever launched. On August 17th when we ran our bot, Indiegogo had about 4900 pages of campaigns. The bot navigated through each page and grabbed the campaign page URL, amount raised, percentage of goal raised, category and time remaining on the campaign. We then threw the numbers into Excel and replicated Kickstarter’s stats table using IGG’s numbers.

See the raw data here.


  • Indiegogo categories video/web and transmedia were all merged into the Film category to make more accurate comparison with Kickstarter’s Film category
  • The Indiegogo category Writing was filed with the Kickstarter Publishing category
  • Indiegogo has 9 categories not covered by Kickstarter. They generate about ⅓ of their total revenue
  • The Ubuntu Edge campaign really skews the live dollar numbers for Indiegogo, discounting this outlier campaign will give you a much better estimate of the typical live dollar amount.

If you are interested in more of my work, check out my personal blog at www.jonlau.me

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Crowdfunding Site Pozible Offers A Kickstarter Alternative For Asia-Based Projects

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Kickstarter is undoubtedly the top crowdfunding site in the world, with over $480 million pledged in 2013. For projects outside of the five countries (the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) the platform is available in, however, launching a campaign is very difficult. That’s where Melbourne-based Pozible comes in. The site recently launched in Singapore and Malaysia, the first step in its Asia-focused international expansion strategy. Over the last three years, more than 5,000 projects have raised a total of $16 million AUD (about $14.3 million USD) on Pozible, which also offers a low-cost e-commerce platform.

Pozible still faces competition from Kickstarter (if an international team has a member with residency in one of the five countries it is officially available in, it can still submit a campaign), as well as other crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo, which allows projects from around the world.

But Pozible wants to differentiate with its ‘grassroots engagement’ strategy, as well as being the first global platform to focus on Southeast Asia, co-founder and director Rick Chen told me in an email.

Pozible’s wide-range of funding option, including Bitcoin, is meant to make international contributions easier. It accepts more than 25 currencies.

Chen told me in an email that Pozible, which is open to creators in every country, is “a ‘wide open’ platform, in the sense that as long as the project has a clearly defined creative outcome, we are very happy to accept them.”

The site does have a review process, but it is a quick one, and Chen says the platform is especially popular for film, music and art projects. Pozible takes a 5% cut of the total amount pledged for successful campaigns. It also allows creators to continue using their campaign pages to sell products and takes 5% off a product’s selling price, but does not charge monthly or transactional fees.

The startup is tracking support for projects in more than 105 countries and has “big plans for international growth.”

“As we’ve only opened up access to non-Australian markets recently, our user base is still heavily Australian (more than >60% of traffic), followed closely by U.S., Europe and Asia traffic,” Chen tells me. “We’re working to build up our user base in Asia, and these efforts are already starting to show developments, with an increase in Asian projects and Asian web traffic.”

Pozible offers several funding models, including private crowdfunding, subscription crowdfunding, and self-hosted crowdfunding, which launched earlier this week. Private crowdfunding works is similar to CrowdTilt and is meant for small businesses or groups of friends who don’t want to make their project public. Subscription-based crowdfunding allows people to open monthly subscriptions to their supporters. Pozible’s self-hosted crowdfunding allows project creators who already have large following on their sites to launch their own crowdfunding service.

The platform puts extra effort into building community engagement by holding workshops and programs throughout Australia to familarize people with Pozible. Chen says they plan to duplicate those events in various Asian cities.

Though the site is especially popular among artists and musicians, it has hosted a wide variety of projects ranging from academic research to “Patient 0,” a ‘real-life’ zombie role-player game, which raised $243,480 AUD (about $217,000 USD), the highest amount by a Pozible campaign so far.

“Pozible works very closely with our projects, which is why we have a far higher success rate (56% vs Kickstarter’s 43%),” says Chen. “We constantly host Pozible workshos in the cities we work in; at these workshops, we reach out to specific communities and interest groups and we tailor our approach to make sure they get the education they need in order to optimize their chances of crowdfunding success.”


Baby’s First Kickstarter

The Pros and Cons of Internet Panhandling

So, I’m doing a Kickstarter for my debut novel Nefarious Twit …

… and I’m halfway through the campaign and I’ve reached a little more than half the funds I need to achieve my goal and I am quietly dying inside not knowing if I’m going to make it. It’s been absolutely marvelous. So what’s your book about, McMillen? Why thank you for asking, attractive reader.

Madness. Murder. Children’s literature. Nefarious Twit is about all those things.

It’s also about 300 pages long, contains 14 full-page illustrations, and took me about 6 years to finish.

Oh wait, here’s my Kickstarter video for it to explain more:


It is, and I only have until November 9th to raise the cash for it, so feel free to throw money at it and get yourself a copy now, thanks.

You may have noticed by now that this article appears to be a thinly veiled piece of propaganda created by the author to promote the Kickstarter for his debut novel. Well yeah, of course it is.

This book is my baby, what wouldn’t you do for your baby if it needed help?

Didn’t you listen to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan speech from Star Trek Into Mediocrity when he was like, “Yeah, to save our families (grown ass babies) we’d all do terrible things.”

Didn’t you see John Q with Denzel? You know, Denzel Washington, the best actor ever? He’s so darn cool, he’s so darn clever.


(The dude from Malcolm X and Mo’ Better Blues, also Remember the Titans. Did you forget abut the Titans?)

In John Q, Denzel takes an entire hospital hostage to get his kid the operation he needs. So yeah, I will straight up John Q 5 minutes of your internet reading time and get my baby Nefarious Twitwhat it needs to survive. But hey, at least this is fun propaganda.

But here’s the other reason why I’m writing this. One lesson I’ve learned again and again while launching this Kickstarter and whenever I set goals for myself in general is this:

Ultimately, you’re on your own. At least at first.

So, if you plan on doing any sort of creative endeavor, listen to what I’m about to spread on your bread.

You’re on your own? But isn’t the whole idea of Kickstarter that you’re reaching out into the cozy, nurturing arms of Mother Internet and asking her to help you nurse your precious, beautiful dreams into fragile existence?

Yeah, but to get the old broad to listen, you’re going to have to do a lot of work in order for your cries not to be drowned out by the countless similar pleas for attention that every other artist without a checkbook is flinging her way. And this is not the internet’s fault.

Some art from my book Nefarious Twit

We are all bombarded every day with so much information online that it’s a wonder we’re not all drooling George Romero extras. Though sometimes….

And just to clarify:

Absolutely, I have been lucky enough to get help for my book even before Kickstarter.

I have had friends read drafts of it, my good buddy Daniel Singleton made the logo for the book (and it turned out exactly how I wanted it, which never happens) another good friend Tom Majkut from the excellent band Look Sharp shot my Kickstarter video for me. I’ve also had other authors, editors, and agents who’ve taken the time to give me their opinions on my writing.

Plus, all the people who have already donated their hard-earned money to the Kickstarter and/or shared the project online, to all of them I sincerely say thank you so much.

Even if this kickstarter doesn’t make it, I thank you for trying on this thing with me, for supporting and believing in me.

But even with all that, nobody is going to believe in your dreams like you are.

How could they? This is your dream, not theirs.

I don’t care if it’s your girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, husband, wife, life partner, brother, sister, mother, or father. Yes, they’re going to give a shit, but not any more than is reasonable. After all, these people have their own lives, and their own dreams to make real.

Support them and let them support you back.

Just don’t get too disappointed if their zeal for your one-person, alt-history, feminist reimagining of ThunderCats performed entirely in a language you made up does not exactly match your own. It doesn’t mean your idea sucks, it doesn’t mean your supporter sucks. It just means no one is going to love your baby like you are. That’s what makes it your baby.

So you’re on your own there. But you will get some help. Here’s why:

Remember back when I said we’re bombarded everyday online with so much information? I was wrong. The truth is that we actually subject ourselves to our daily deluge of information. Which is a good thing for DIY’s like us who want to get the word out about our projects.

Because it means that people online voluntarily open themselves up to new ideas.

New stuff, new people, new creativity. Sure, some people just want to watch Hulu and play Farmville, but you don’t want to reach those sociopaths anyway.

You want your project to get in the paws of likeminded seekers, that like you, are all about getting in on the ground floor of the cool new things that pop culture is doing.

Some call these folks early adopters, I just know that when it comes to creative pursuits and the kindhearted and forward-thinking people who take a chance on them, that these are the people I want to hang with.

These are the same people who got into punk when the first snarled “1,2,3,4!” erupted from Dee Dee Ramone.

They’re the same people who discovered modern poetry when they listened to Ginsberg’s Howl read aloud by its author for the first time at Six Gallery in San Francisco.

They’re the same people who saw Star Wars when it first opened and told their friends that they had to go see this movie.

Kickstarter isn’t some lemonade stand, it’s Virginia Woolf selling the first copies of Orlando out the back of a truck.

(An old timey truck, sure)

It’s Jack Kirby going door-to-door telling neighbors the good news that Galactus is coming and that Kirby can sell you a front row seat to his arrival.

It’s Kurt Cobain filming a video showing him playing his guitar and singing something about feeling stupid and contagious then telling you that he needs your help so he can record his band’s second record with a good producer like Butch Vig.

I’m not saying that all the various creative industries are dying out or even that they should be. I am saying though that things are changing and Kickstarter is becoming more and more of a viable option to help people reach a wider audience . And that the internet helps those that first help themselves.

Also I’m comparing myself to geniuses.

Thanks, bye.


Written by

Author of the ferociously clever novel Nefarious Twit. Now available at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0991240405/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_

PowerUp racks up $850K on Kickstarter for iPhone-controlled paper airplanes

PowerUp racks up $850K on Kickstarter for iPhone-controlled paper airplanes

Paper airplanes are not just for teasing the boy or girl you like anymore.

PowerUp is building a little device that converts paper airplanes into smartphone-controlled flyers.

This project has raised nearly $850,000 on Kickstarter, raising 1,688 percent of its $50,000 goal — and it still has 24 days to go.

“Our goal is to make you feel like the Wright Brothers when Flyer I took to the skies,” inventor Shai Gotein told VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi in November. “We want to empower you to design your own flyer and conquer the skies with our module.”

PowerUp’s module has an ultralight weight mini-computer on one side that is about the size of a quarter. Bluetooth low energy connects it to your smartphone, and a lithium battery power pack charges it. A thin carbon-fiber frame connects the computer to a little propeller on the other end.

The basic package comes with one module and one spare propeller and costs $30.

Read more: PowerUp Toys will make iPhone-controlled paper airplanes fly for 10 minutes

You attach the module to the paper airplane using PowerUps clips. From the iPhone app, you can tell the plane to ascend and descend using the “throttle lever,” tilt the phone right or left for maneuvering, and check indicators for charging status, battery level, thrust level, direction, and range.

Goitein said the plane can get 10 minutes of flight on one charge and has a controllable range of 180 feet.

He first found the inspiration for this project in 2008 when he was teaching aerodynamics to underprivileged kids in the evenings. The product has gone through multiple iterations over the years. The Kickstarter campaign for PowerUp 3.0 launched in November.

PowerUp should ship to all backers in May. It should be available for wider purchase in June. An Android version is in the works.


How He Met My Mother – The unlikely sequences that lead to a new life.

[This story is reprinted from the December 6, 2012 edition of The Magazine. The Magazine is currently running a Kickstarter campaign featuring a “best-of” book (in hardcover and ebook formats) featuring lots of great stories, including this one. Please consider pledging to this sure-to-be-awesome book project.]

I’m driving my parents’ car down a two-lane desert highway, my father in the passenger seat. Chauffeuring him feels a little odd, but despite his fierce independence he seems to acknowledge that it’s a kindness.

From my parents’ house in the Arizona outback to the suburban Phoenix hospital is an hour’s drive. My father is 81. A year ago, nearly to the day, he had a pretty severe heart attack. He doesn’t have much energy to begin with, and what little he had this morning he depleted at my mother’s bedside.

My dad has always been a storyteller. My mother would retreat from a room as he regaled the guests with a favorite anecdote—entirely new to the appreciative crowd, but one she had heard dozens of times before. These days, his short-term memory in disrepair, he repeats those oft-told stories even more than he already did.

The car stereo is off for the entire drive. A child of the pre-rock era, my father has no interest in the music on my iPhone. And I’m not interested in listening to his preferred political talk-radio programs just a few days before a presidential election.

So instead, he tells me stories. And to my amazement, after knowing him for 42 years, he tells me one I haven’t heard before.

It’s 1963, just months before Kennedy will be assassinated, and the man who will one day be my father has finished a long shift at the Victor Equipment Company on Folsom Street in the grungy, industrial South of Market area that four decades later will host shiny conferences put on Macworld, Apple, Oracle, and many other companies not yet founded.

The neighborhood will change a lot, but the weather won’t. It’s July in San Francisco, which generally means cold fog, but not today: it’s sunny and warm. Driving south toward his house on the Peninsula, my father impulsively detours to Half Moon Bay. He’s never been there, but he knows it’s got a beach, and today he can have that rarest of things for a San Francisco summer: a walk on the beach with no jacket.

He parks his blue MGB and walks out on the beach. There’s a blonde in her early 20s sitting on a blanket, her nose in a book. The woman who will one day be my mother has come to the beach as a reprieve after several days of entertaining her parents and teenaged brother, out from Pennsylvania to visit her and her sister.

She doesn’t want to talk to this strange man—she wants to be left alone. He’s persistent and apparently somehow successful, because they talk for an hour or two. But the ultimate prize eludes him: She doesn’t give him her full name or her phone number and drives off in her Corvair. He thought they had hit it off, but in the end, it’s an opportunity missed.

I had known bits of the story before. I knew my parents had met on the beach at Half Moon Bay. And I clearly recall the moment when I was 18 that they mentioned the meeting had happened a full five years before they were married. My half brother, the youngest of the three children from my father’s first marriage, was born in 1964. But if they had been married in 1968 and met five years before that…

In that moment, my understanding of my relationship with my older half-siblings changed completely. Before, with barely any inkling of the complexities of adult relationships, I just knew they had a different mother, and that it was awkward when they came to visit my dad and his new family.

What I hadn’t understood was that my mother was the Other Woman, and that my father met her nearly a year before my half-brother was born.

My father is free to drive to Half Moon Bay and chat up a skeptical blonde reader because his wife and two daughters are spending a few weeks of their summer vacation with her parents in Southern California.

From the perspective of the far future, when the Other Woman would be his wife of 44 years, it’s easier to forgive his actions. I have no doubt he was unhappy in his marriage. Was there some special spark with that blonde 24 year old on the beach, right from the start? Or is that too much to project onto a 32-year-old father of two trying to pick up someone up while his young family is safely out of reach?

Regardless, my father doesn’t shrug off the conversation with the blonde girl. He’d learned that she works for county health, and that she drives a rear-engine Corvair. In those innocent days, car registrations had to be in public view, so once he finds her car by checking out public-health parking lots, he gets her name by simply looking at the steering column. He calls the health department, finds out where she works, and leaves her a message, using a fake last name so she can’t look him up and discover that he’s married.

Now the ball is back in her court. She can ignore him again, but he’s shown his interest. She must have been interested, too, or maybe just intrigued by his persistence. In any event, the girl with the Corvair relents, and returns the call of the man with the MGB.

My mother is the healthy one. She’s eight years younger and has a statistically longer life expectancy. Women on her side of the family are extremely long-lived. My father was diagnosed with serious carotid blockages in the late 1980s and has been talking about his imminent demise for the intervening two decades. He’s had four major surgeries and two monthlong hospital stays.

So, in a sense, I have been preparing for my father’s death since 1988. My wife and I talk about what we can do to support my mother after he’s gone. We always figured she’d outlive him, maybe by decades.

I think about this as we pull into my parents’ driveway and unload the shopping bags from the car, and prepare to make us some dinner. An hour away, my mother is in intensive care, recovering from her emergency triple bypass.

Four years after meeting my mother, my father is planning his exit strategy. He and his wife are enmeshed in the professional community of Walnut Creek, a suburb at the eastern edge of the Bay Area. But he plans to open a second orthodontic practice nearly a hundred miles away in the rural Sierra Nevada foothills, a move to leave his old life behind for a new one.

His wife knows there’s another woman. One night, my mother had picked up the phone at her apartment, and a woman’s voice had said, “May I speak to Dr. Snell, please.” My father took the phone. It was his wife. The cat was out of the bag.

It’s 1968, and it all still hangs in the balance. Even if his marriage his over, does he know he really wants to flee to the countryside and marry his girlfriend? She wants children. He’s already fathered four and raised three. Does he want to be a parent again at nearly forty?

This is all going through his mind as he’s setting up his new office, a small space built directly over a small creek in downtown Sonora. He’s installing the furniture and equipment himself. My mother goes off to do some shopping downtown as he installs Formica countertops using contact cement. When she returns, opening the front door creates just enough air movement to waft the contact cement’s fumes over the office’s gas pilot light.

There’s an explosion that bows the office’s windows outward and creates a fireball that engulfs my father. He crawls across the burning countertops and out the door, then drops 20 feet off a deck and into the creek below. There’s enough water in the creek to put out the flames, but not enough to insulate him from smashing into the rocks and cracking his ribs. He climbs out of the creek and helps put out the fire in the office.

Hours later, my mother knocks on the front door of my father’s house. “Your husband is in the hospital,” she says.

Forty-two years after my birth, my father tells me that this is the moment that led directly to him divorcing his wife, selling his practice, giving her the house and custody of the kids and a monthly support check, and marrying my mother. In that moment he’s on fire and dropping 20 feet into a rocky creek. And he knows what he wants: He wants to marry my mother, and have children—well, maybe one will be enough—and leave his old, successful, unhappy life behind. Three months later the divorce is final and my parents are married.

He’s telling me this part of the story at the kitchen table in their little retirement house, while 40 miles away the woman he married, the one he’s always expected would outlive him, is heavily sedated after having her ribs cracked open and three veins grafted to her heart to save her life.

Two days before, I was in San Francisco and she was going in for an angiogram to find out what was causing her some chest pains. Now the two of us, husband and son, are eating breakfast by ourselves in the middle of her kitchen.

What he’s telling me is the story of his true love, a story in hindsight of nearly 50 years together, no matter how messy it might have been when they were living it. What I’m hearing is the complicated chain of events that explain my existence.

From “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

In the landmark comic-book series “Watchmen,” the nigh-omnipotent character Dr. Manhattan can see the entirety of space and time. To him, humans—even his long-time girlfriend, Laurie—are no more relevant than ants in an anthill.

But in this dark work of fiction, set against the backdrop of Cold War-era nuclear annihilation, there comes a surprising glimmer of light. Laurie discovers that her biological father is the man who had once attempted to rape her mother. She believes this proves her life is a meaningless joke, but Dr. Manhattan views it as an affirmation that every human life is itself a miracle:

Thermodynamic miracles…events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter…

Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold…that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget…I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another’s vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away…For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly.

It’s 1963, and a man impulsively decides to go to a beach he’s never been to.

It’s 1967, and he’s on fire, falling into a shallow creek.

It’s 1970, and a baby is coming into the world.

It’s 1989, and a new chain of circumstances is created when I’m introduced to the woman who will become my wife.

It’s 2012, and I’m serving Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen of my parents’ house in Arizona. My children are there, both with their own stories of a series of choices my wife and I made that led to their existence. My father sits at the head of the table, turkey and mashed potatoes in front of him. And next to him, home from the hospital for three weeks and recovering from her heart surgery, is his wife, my mother.

There we sit, eating dinner. Thermodynamic miracles all.

The Author with his parents, wife, and children, December 2012.

[Addendum: My father passed away a few months after I wrote this. The time I spent with him in the car seems all the more special now.]

Jason Snell is editorial director at IDG Consumer & SMB, publishers of Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive. Prior to that, he was editor-in-chief of Macworld for seven years. His projects outside of work include The Incomparable, an award-winning podcast about geek culture. He lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife and two children.

Further Reading

Life Story

 — [This is an adaptation of something I read at the Arizona National Memorial Cemetery on February 28, 2013.]

Written by

Editorial director for @Macworld/@TechHive/@PCWorld. @theincomparable podcaster. Writer, primate, parent. IDG Consumer & SMB SVP/Editorial Director

Published December 11, 2013


10 Startups That Changed The Narrative In 2013

We’re taking a look at the most intriguing startups of 2013 that we will be paying attention to in the coming year.


Selena Larson December 31, 2013 Reflect


ReadWriteReflect offers a look back at major technology trends, products and companies of the past year.

Real companies making real products that real people, you know, spend real money on. That’s what ReadWrite predicted would be the hottest of hot startups in 2013 and, for the most part, we were right.

2013 showed us new hardware built by smaller companies for what seems like the first time in a long time. They were birthed from places like Kickstarter and delivered (almost) as promised. The Pebble smartwatch had its humble origins on the crowdfunding platform and so did the top startup on our list, Ouya. Leap Motion promised to change how we interact with computers and got off to a pretty good start in accomplishing that goal.

Snapchat may be a company with no revenue and an unrealistic valuation, but it is changing the way people think of messaging. This has power, even if it is another one of those smoke & mirror San Francisco startups that ultimately dies off in a few years. Or it could be the next Facebook. Time will tell.

While there are certainly still products and services fetching big price tags with little to no revenue, the majority of companies in our year-end roundup are building products that will have an impact on how we think about technology. The hottest startups may not have been in enterprise and business-to-business channels (through companies like Parse, StackMob were acquired and Dropbox is growing like gangbusters), but the big business startup market performed well this year.

Startups abounded in every sector. Humanized robots are making headlines. Machine and home automation, 3D printing and “smart manufacturing” are all of a sudden popular. Hack stars making app development and learning to code easier are abundant. Evolution and innovation continue in 2013, unabated and unafraid.

Here’s our list of 10 of the top small companies that helped define the ever burgeoning startup industry in 2013.


Ouya is an open source Android-based gaming platform that is looking to compete with PlayStation and Xbox. It was a Kickstarter success, and the anything-goes game system appeals to gamers and developers alike.

As Lauren Orsini pointed out in her review this year, “Today’s gaming landscape is shrinking, filled with increasing DRM limits that keep us from fully owning the games and consoles we thought we bought.” Which makes the Ouya game system that gives players unlimited ability to hack and build software and games to their liking, a leg up on other gaming platforms.


The custom Android ROM company that has found favor with hackers and hobbyists is looking to become the next mobile operating system. CyanogenMod can reboot your Android’s OS, improving memory, features and the operation of the device. The company picked up $23 million in additional funding and now boasts over 11 million active users.

CyanogenMod is looking to become more mainstream and announced its first device partnership earlier this year with Oppo, a Chinese hardware manufacturer.

Unbounded Robotics

Unbounded Robotics is a spinoff of robotics studio Willow Garage, makers of the PR2, which was, at its time, the country’s most sophisticated robot. Unbounded Robotics new UBR-1 (pronounced Uber One) is the latest and greatest of humanoid robots.

The one-armed robot fetches a $35,000 price tag, and in the world of robotics, is relatively inexpensive. Unbounded Robotics is paving the way of robotic development and the UBR-1 could be the granddaddy of your in-home future robot.

Leap Motion

Leap Motion, the device that lets you control a computer interface with hand gestures, is ideal for gaming and design and also lets you explore cities or the environment via Google Earth and other apps. The gadget is three inches long and plugs into your computer through its USB port.

The Leap Motion Controller tracks your hands and fingers, and is hypersensitive to movements including pinching, grasping and swiping. This year, the company partnered with HP and plans on embedding the motion-control technology on future HP devices. Leap Motion retails for $79.99, so it’s an inexpensive way to begin experimenting with gesture-controlled technologies.


Source: Snapchat Source: Snapchat

The ephemeral messaging service launched itself into the hearts of teens everywhere and was, in large part, a driver of the competitive messaging trend. Snapchat lets users send disappearing photos and videos to friends. However, the messages aren’t entirely deleted from the server.

Snapchat made waves earlier this year when the company reportedly rebuffed a $3 billion acquisition attempt from Facebook and $4 billion from Google. The public scoffed at the startup led by 23-year-old cofounder Evan Spiegel dismissing billion-dollar buyouts when his company has zero revenue, but with the red-hot messaging market growing in 2014, Snapchat might prove the naysayers wrong.


IFTTT=If This Then That. The service is a productivity tool that combines a variety of APIs to enable your online accounts to communicate with each other. IFTTT is built on channels—or different platforms and services that can send and receive triggers and actions—the if and then requests.

IFTTT users can create “recipes” that connect different channels; for instance, a recipe can save all your favorite tweets to Evernote, email you every Instagram photo tagged from a certain location, or turn on lights in your home at sunset.

Right now IFTTT has 71 channels, but it’s likely the company will support hundreds connected services with open APIs soon.


Readers who have been following our coverage of the connected home might recognize SmartThings. The home automation platform lets users control their homes from a mobile device. Whether it’s unlocking the door, turning on the lights, or setting a thermostat, SmartThings simplifies home automation.

The company has its roots in crowdfunding; it raised over $1 million on Kickstarter in 2012, more than four times its original goal. As more people begin to adopt connected home technologies, SmartThings, popular with early adopters, could become one of the leaders in its field.


The affordable cleaning company provides house cleaning for just $20 an hour. Homejoy is now in over 30 cities nationwide, and backs its services with a guarantee that if you’re not satisfied with the job, it will re-clean it for free.

The company picked up $38 million in Series B funding earlier this month, so it’s likely we’ll see Homejoy appear in more cities this year. While dusting and mopping might not be glamorous (we like non-traditional startups here at ReadWrite), many people want an inexpensive cleaning service that prevents them from getting their own hands dirty.


The controversial startup aims to simplify in-person transactions. Coin puts the information from all your credit cards into one digital credit card that has a button on the card to switch payment forms. The idea behind Coin is that people have too many credit cards that take up space in wallets and are often forgotten at home or in stores. Coin eliminates both problems by storing credit card information on the smart card and alerting users via push notifications that their Coin was left behind.

Some pundits have dubbed Coin “vaporware”, as the product is still in its development phase, but the company promises to start shipping the cards next summer. Coin is available to pre-order now for $100.


Twitter cofounders Ev Williams and Biz Stone created another content distribution platform, this time letting users write more than 140 characters. Medium, the blogging site that got all the best online writers to forget about their personal blogs, became exceedingly popular this year. Originally an invite-only platform, Medium opened up to everyone in October.

Of course, there is some controversy over whether or not you own the content you write for Medium. The difference between Medium and platforms like WordPress or Blogger is that the company lays claim to your words.

It will be interesting to see what the company does with the quality writing generated on Medium. Whether or not the company turns into a publication remains to be seen, but the high-quality content published on the site keeps me coming back.

Honorable Mentions

  • Pebble – The smartwatch that’s leading the wearable revolution.
  • Circa – Circa is taking news and current events and breaking it down into mobile, digestible chunks.
  • Freight Farms – By using industrial freights to grow produce, FreightFarms is poised to bring sustainable agriculture to urban centers across the U.S.
  • The Startup Institute – The eight week program helps people build the skills necessary to work in an entrepreneurial business environment and, after graduation, helps students find jobs.
  • littleBits – Tiny modules that can snap together, programmed to help people create and prototype engineering projects.

What were the startups that interested you the most this year? Let us know in the comments!

Lead image by mightyohm on Flickr, CyanogenMod image via johanl on Flickr, Ouya photo via Lauren Orsini for ReadWrite, all other images provided by company mentioned.



It’s good to share. So share!

MATTER readers now have the tools to share stories for free with their friends.

There are many problems that journalism struggles with at the moment — some of them important, some of them sideshows. But one of the biggest, knottiest issues that tangles everyone up time and time again is the dilemma of payment versus visibility.

That is: if you don’t give your work away for free, nobody sees it. But if you give it away for free, it’s very hard to pay for the journalism you’re making.

It’s a Catch 22. On the one hand, you can operate at massive scale and chase dwindling ad revenues with ever-greater traffic (hello, Buzzfeed). On the other, you find a form of cross-subsidy that helps pay the bills a little (this is where I wave to The Guardian). Then there are those who come from the opposite end: struggling to get visibility from behind a subscription barrier. That’s why you see so many variants on the so-called “leaky paywall”: it’s free if you come from Twitter, it’s free for the first 10 or 20 articles, and so on.

Oh wait. That’s three hands. Don’t worry: stick with me — and my trio of mitts. We’re getting there.

Here’s what we think:

Being visible doesn’t have to mean being cheap

At MATTER, we’re not playing the volume game. It’s fine for some people, but we don’t think it would support the kind of time-consuming, expensive, in-depth work we do. And that means we’re faced with the same payment/visibility problem as other people.

So what are we doing? We’re giving you the tools.

We’ve decided to give readers the ability to share stories with friends right on our pages. On every single article, you’ll find a new feature that gives anyone who reads a MATTER piece — people who have bought one-off singles, our Members, our Kickstarter backers — the ability to share it with other people. For free.

That’s right. Paying 99c gives you access to our great journalism, and a bunch. But it also gives you the ability to let other people read our stories too.

Each story now includes this little box of magic.

Sharing is straightforward. You just enter your name in the box, plug in the email address of the person you want to send it to, and hit “Invite”. They get an email that invites them to read the article, and you get a namecheck. And, importantly, they don’t pay a cent: it’s the equivalent of letting a friend read over your shoulder, or lending them the book you enjoyed.

For us, it’s a way to try and get through the visibility barrier. For readers, it’s a way to spread great ideas.

So please, give it a try.

MATTER is a micropublisher that got its first footing on Kickstarter and became part of Medium — the site you’re reading now — earlier this year. It produces award-winning, in-depth, longform journalism on science, technology, and the ideas shaping our future. Each one costs 99c in web, ebook and audiobook form, or you can subscribe. Go and take a look!

Written by

Deep, intelligent journalism about the future.