My concern with Kickstarter

Shawn Blanc has posted a review of The Hidden Radio, A Bluetooth speaker he backed on Kickstarter about  a year ago. It’s brutal.

“The device is little more than a giant volume knob with a speaker inside, and yet, ironically, it’s the most difficult-to-use volume knob in my home.”


“Perhaps the most maddening shortcoming of all is the Hidden Radio’s irrational desire to power off.

This can happen when you least expect it, and usually when you least desire it. My Hidden Radio powers itself down after about 60 seconds of inactivity. And so, if I pause the music on my iPad in order to take a phone call or have a conversation, I have to turn the Hidden Radio off and back on before resuming music playback.

What’s worse, on Saturday evening the Hidden Radio refused to play music for longer than 15 minutes at a time.”


“At best it sounds a bit like a cheap boombox. At worst it sounds like a muffled, cheap boombox.”

Shawn’s buying advice:

“If you’re going to spend $150 or $190 on a Bluetooth speaker, get the Jawbone Jambox.”

This is why I hesitate to back gadgets on Kickstarter. To do so is an act of pure faith. You’re committing to buy before a single review has been written, or before even one real-world customer has had a chance to try said gadget. I’m sure that many fantastic items get backed every day. But Shawn’s experience only solidifies my position on Kickstarter: buy after the product ships.

Incidentally, I’ve been using a Tivoli iPAL for many years. No Bluetooth and only a single speaker, but it’s a workhorse and I love it.

The people you work with

Shawn Blanc recently wrote about the importance of unity in the workplace. Here’s my favorite bit:

“When you feel safe around your team then you’ll go ahead and try out that crazy, out-of-the-box idea of yours. If you were afraid of your peers criticizing you, then you’d probably stick to what is safe and boring. Unity and trust amongst your team means you’re safe to fail.”

This is precisely what I like about Star Trek: The Next Generation. Everyone on the Enterprise is 100% competent in his/her job and everyone else knows it. Plus, those relationships extend beyond the merely professional; the genuinely like and trust each other. That’s why when there’s a problem, Picard is instantly open to hearing La Forge’s crackpot solution.

As we set up for Macworld Expo, I see the TUAW crew come together in the same way. Everyone does his/her job very well, and individual members’ splinter skills compliment the abilities of the others. Plus, we just get along.

It’s a great thing.

On PR emails

Shawn Blanc has linked to a super piece from David Pogue on his favorite PR email. I get several of these per day and now that Macworld Expo is imminent it’s really ramped up, bringing out the good and the bad.

For example, I’m surprised at how many misspell Macworld, instead writing “MacWorld” or even “Mac World.” Others go on and on, pushing 700 or 800 words. Honestly, I tuned out during the first paragraph.

The better ones come from the small firms and the best come from independent developers and very small companies. My favorite from last year mentioned a recent snowfall my town experienced, the New England Patriots’ trouncing of the Buffalo Bills just days prior and some funny things I had said on Twitter.

I’m testing their product right now.

Another pitchman referenced my over-the-top Van Halen fandom and included a photo of a vintage program from the 1984 tour.

Of course, you needn’t get so personal to gain my attention. At the same time, you should be able to spell the name of the biggest Apple-themed trade show of the year. In the end, I appreciate those who make an effort, and gladly give them a look.